Many-body problem

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The many-body problem is a general name for a vast category of physical problems pertaining to the properties of microscopic systems made of a large number of interacting particles. Microscopic here implies that quantum mechanics has to be used to provide an accurate description of the system. A large number can be anywhere from 3 to infinity (in the case of a practically infinite, homogeneous or periodic system, such as a crystal), although three- and four-body systems can be treated by specific means (respectively the Faddeev and Faddeev-Yakubovsky equations) and are thus sometimes separately classified as few-body systems. In such a quantum system, the repeated interactions between particles create quantum correlations, or entanglement. As a consequence, the wave function of the system is a complicated object holding a large amount of information, which usually makes exact or analytical calculations impractical. Thus, many-body theoretical physics most often relies on a set of approximations specific to the problem at hand, and ranks among the most computationally intensive fields of science.

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"It would indeed be remarkable if Nature fortified herself against further advances in knowledge behind the analytical difficulties of the many-body problem."

Max Born, 1960

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