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Condensed-Matter and Materials Physics: The Science of the World Around Us
advances in technology have been the main driver of economic growth over the past 60 years.
In this report, the Committee on CMMP 2010 looks ahead to ask: What are the prospects for CMMP in the early part of the 21st century? One of the main findings of the report is the identification of six grand challenge areas in which CMMP research is poised to have a large and enduring impact in the next decade. These research areas reflect both fundamental intellectual challenges and societal challenges, in keeping with CMMP’s dual pure and applied nature. While CMMP has been developing many of the key tools and is central to addressing many of these challenge areas, meeting all of the challenges successfully will require the combined efforts of researchers from many disciplines in order to succeed. The broad spectrum of research covered by CMMP includes many important problems beyond those identified in this report, and areas currently not foreseen are certain to arise from discoveries in the next decade. Nonetheless, as CMMP moves into the next decade, the intellectual vitality and breadth of the field are captured to a considerable extent in the following challenges:
How do complex phenomena emerge from simple ingredients?
How will the energy demands of future generations be met?
What is the physics of life?
What happens far from equilibrium and why?
What new discoveries await us in the nanoworld?
How will the information technology revolution be extended?
U.S. CMMP researchers will not be alone in tackling these challenges. The United States remains a leader in CMMP worldwide, but its premier position is in jeopardy. There are several contributing factors, which are detailed in Chapters 9 and 10 of this report:
Other parts of the world are investing heavily in research and development (R&D) in CMMP.
In the United States, industrial laboratories are now focused on much-shorter-term R&D goals, with little emphasis on fundamental, basic research.
Federal research funding for CMMP has been approximately flat in the United States in inflation-adjusted dollars over the past decade.
The consequences of the decline of industrial involvement and nearly flat federal funding for CMMP are serious indeed:
Many of the key technological innovations responsible for U.S. leadership in communications and computing were shepherded from fundamental