Non-equilibrium Statistical Mechanics: a growing frontier of "pure and applied" theoretical physics

Non-equilibrium Statistical Mechanics: a growing frontier of "pure and applied" theoretical physics

Physics Colloquia

Date

September 25, 2017 - 3:00pm

Location

Marcus Nanotechnology Building

Room

Rm 1116-1118

Speaker

Affiliation

Professor Emeritus in Residence- Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University Department of Physics

Non-equilibrium Statistical Mechanics: a growing frontier of "pure and applied" theoretical physics Founded over a century ago, statistical mechanics for systems in thermal equilibrium has been so successful that, nowadays, it forms part of our physics core curriculum. On the other hand, most of "real life" phenomena occur under non-equilibrium conditions. Unfortunately, statistical mechanics for such systems is far from being well established. The goal of understanding complex collective behavior from simple microscopic rules (for how the system evolves, say) remains elusive. As an example of the difficulties we face, consider predicting the existence of a tree from an appropriate collection of H,C,O,N,... atoms!

Over the last three decades, an increasing number of condensed matter theorists are devoting their efforts to this frontier. After a brief summary of the crucial differences between text-book equilibrium statistical mechanics and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, I will give a bird's-eye view of some key issues, ranging from the "fundamental" to the "applied." The methods used also span a wide spectrum, from simple computer simulations to sophisticated field theoretic techniques.