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(by Arturo Belano)

AN associate professor from the University of the Philippines Diliman discovered a special class of subatomic particles that can be described using concepts from Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

Dr. Gennevieve Macam of UPD’s College of Science National Institute of Physics investigated Weyl fermions, exotic subatomic particles that are similar to electrons but have no mass.

Macam collaborated with Prof. Guoqing Chang of Nanyang Technological University and his team.

“Our work shows how Einstein’s equations can be adapted to describe quantum materials. This paves the way to a better understanding of how the strange quantum world and our everyday reality are intertwined,” Macam said.

They discovered that adapting Einstein’s ideas on causality can help explain the behavior of these particles, applying these concepts typically associated with space and time to describe Weyl fermions’ behavior in relation to energy and momentum.

“Causality refers to how one event can directly lead to another event in a cause-and-effect relationship. Einstein took this idea further when he realized that nothing can travel faster than light. This led to the concept of ‘light cones’, which represent all the possible paths that light—or any signal moving at the speed of light—can take from a given event in space and time,” UPD-CS NIP explained.

“Anything inside the light cone of an event could potentially be influenced by that event, while anything outside the light cone cannot be affected by it due to the limitation imposed by the speed of light. The outer boundary of this cone is called the ‘event horizon’” it added.

Weyl fermions were first theorized by German physicist Hermann Weyl in 1929 but their existence was only proven almost a century later, in 2015. Due to their charged but massless nature, Weyl fermions may have future applications in electronics and computers.