Conference honoring topological physics pioneer Prof. Joshua Zak hosted by the Technion
“Topology and Physics on Mount Carmel” conference took place last week at the Technion. The conference, organized by Professors Ari Turner and Eric Akkermans from the Technion Department of Physics, was dedicated to Prof. Emeritus Joshua Zak, recipient of the Israel Prize. Its aim was not only to discuss the most recent developments in the field of topological physics, but also to allow as many students and young researchers as possible to attend and to learn from some of the best researchers in this field worldwide.
Topology, like group theory, is an elegant field of mathematics that allows one to describe geometrical forms, wherever they occur. It is surprising how dramatic the implications of some of its concepts can be for physics experiments. The conference aims to bring together many of the physicists contributing creatively to the “topological revolution” in condensed matter physics, in honor of one of its pioneers, professor Joshua Zak.
Prof. Zak was awarded the Israel Prize in 2022 for his development of ‘Zak Transform’, an advanced mathematical operation that studies quantum phenomena in crystalline solids, and his discovery of ‘Zak Phase’, a unique 1D crystal phase. Zak Transform is already being used in signal processing, and the Zak Phase has been widely cited and verified in numerous experiments. These tools pave the way to build and predict the capabilities of electronic devices using materials with unique properties.
Among the speakers at the conference was Prof. Immanuel Bloch from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Prof. Bloch was the first to show experimentally the ‘Zak Phase’, discovered by Prof. Zak.
Joshua Zak, 93, was born in Vilnius in 1929. Aged twelve, he was placed in a ghetto together with his family. Later, he found himself in concentration camps, where he lost both parents and two brothers. After the war, Zak studied physics in the University of Vienna, and graduated Cum Laude in 1955. In 1957 he made Aliyah, and in 1960 completed his PhD at the Technion. After some time at MIT, Prof. Zak returned to the Technion, where he received tenure and was among the establishers of the Solid State Institute.