Physicists Create Elusive Particles That Remember Their Pasts

Charlie Wood in Quanta:

Forty years ago, Frank Wilczek was mulling over a bizarre type of particle that could live only in a flat universe. Had he put pen to paper and done the calculations, Wilczek would have found that these then-theoretical particles held an otherworldly memory of their past, one woven too thoroughly into the fabric of reality for any one disturbance to erase it.

However, seeing no reason that nature should allow such strange beasts to exist, the future Nobel prize-winning physicist chose not to follow his thought experiments to their most outlandish conclusions — despite the objections of his collaborator Anthony Zee, a renowned theoretical physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“I said, ‘Come on, Tony, people are going to make fun of us,’” said Wilczek, now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Others weren’t so reluctant. Researchers have spent millions of dollars over the past three decades or so trying to capture and tame the particlelike objects, which go by the cryptic moniker of non-abelian anyons.

More here.