Lifting the Fog of Complexity

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Science  24 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6169, pp. 382-383
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248868

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Identifying the microscopic origin of materials' complex properties is one of the main intellectual challenges in condensed matter physics. The emergence of complexity is often tied to novel forms of collective behavior driven by strong interactions. Unconventional superconductors, such as the high-temperature (cuprate) or iron pnictide superconductors, and heavy fermion compounds are archetypical examples for materials in which the competition and entwining of collective forms of behavior give rise not only to a complex phase diagram but also to unexpected properties that have resisted all attempts of a theoretical explanation. In the phase diagram of the cuprate superconductors, these properties are associated with the pseudogap region, a region located in close proximity to magnetic, charge, and superconducting orders. Whether the competing nature of these various orders is the underlying cause for the pseudogap and its unconventional properties is one of the central questions in this field. On pages 390 and 393 in this issue, Comin et al. (1) and da Silva Neto et al. (2) answer a crucial part of this question by elucidating the relation among superconductivity, charge order, and the pseudogap region, as well as establishing the ubiquitous nature of charge order across different families of cuprate superconductors.