Department Colloquium: Familiar Physics in New Problems

Date and Time


SSC 1511



Greg van Anders, Queen’s University



Statistical mechanics was developed to meld micro- and macroscale understanding of the physics of the systems that drove the industrial revolution in the 19th century. Steam engines are no longer our literal and figurative engines of economic growth, but systems with many degrees of freedom in which micro/macro connections are difficult to trace occur in contemporary problems, such as in the design of new materials, in additive manufacturing, and in forecasting climate-change induced land-use change, among others. Although many of these problems fall outside conventional physics, in this talk I will show that, when we view these problems through the lens of statistical mechanics, these ostensibly non-physical problems manifest familiar physical behaviour. I will argue that "non-physics" problems that drive today's economic engines will provide significant fuel for statistical mechanics in the decades ahead.

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