Physics and Astronomy Colloquium: "Quantifying Hidden Order Out of Equilibrium"

Paul Chaikin (New York University)
- | David Rittenhouse Laboratory, A8
 Pollock is more“disordered” than Mondrian. How can we tell?

We introduce a simple idea enabling the quantification of organization in non-equilibrium and equilibrium systems, even when the form of order is unknown: 'It takes less information to describe an ordered system than a disordered one'. 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, correlation lengths, critical exponents and deviations from detailed balance 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.