Van Vleck Public Colloquium: Paul Chaikin, New York University

Quantifying Hidden Order Out of Equilibrium

About the Talk: 

While the equilibrium properties, states, and phase transitions of interacting systems are well described by statistical mechanics, the lack of suitable state parameters has hindered the understanding of non-equilibrium phenomena in divers settings, from glasses to driven systems to biology. Here we introduce a simple idea enabling the quantification of organization in non-equilibrium and equilibrium systems, even when the form of order is unknown. The length of a losslessly compressed data file is a direct measure of its information content. We use lossless data compression to study several equilibrium and out-of-equilibrium systems, and show that it identifies ordering, phase transitions, critical behavior and critical exponents in thermodynamic and dynamic phase transitions. Our technique should provide a quantitative measure of organization in systems ranging from condensed matter systems in and out of equilibrium, to cosmology, biology and possibly economic and social systems. More recently we have demonstrated that similar techniques can reveal local entropy production and the ability to extract work from non-equilibrium systems.

About the Speaker: 
Paul Chaikin is originally from New York City. He earned his Bachelors at Caltech in 1966, and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971 working with Kondo superconductors. He joined the physics faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1972 where he studied thermopower, density waves, and high field phenomena mostly in organic superconductors. The lure of actually seeing the microscopics of a system led him to soft matter. He helped develop techniques to measure elasticity and motion and understand colloidal interactions. Hard and soft matter interests continued after joining the faculty at UPenn (1983), the staff at Exxon Research (1983) and the faculty at Princeton University (1988).

His interests in geometry/topology led to his founding contributions to diblock copolymer nanolithography, and studies of defects, annealing, and pattern formation. He helped demonstrate and explain why ellipsoids pack more densely than spheres. In 2005 he helped found the Center for Soft Matter Research at New York University. His more recent research centers on artificial self-replication, self-assembly, active matter, DNA nanotechnology, topological defects on curved surfaces, and quantifying order far from equilibrium.

Professor Chaikin is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Science and a Oliver Buckley Prize recipient (2018). He is currently a Silver professor of Physics at New York University.


Start date
Thursday, April 4, 2024, 3:35 p.m.
End date
Thursday, April 4, 2024, 4:35 p.m.

B50 John Tate Hall