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Monday, March 17, 2008
2:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Oppenheimer Study Center (2nd Floor, Jemez Room)


Atoms and Ions; Universality, Singularity and Particularity: On Boltzmann's Vision a Century Later

Michael E. Fisher
Institute for Physical Science and Technology, University of Maryland

2008 Kac Lecture Series Reception/Refreshments Served at 2:00pm Ludwig Boltzmann died by his own hand 101 years ago last September. He was a passionate believer in atoms: underlying thermodynamics, he felt, lay a statistical world governed by the mechanics of individual particles. His struggles against critics "Have you ever seen an atom?" taunted Ernst Mach left him pessimistic. Nevertheless, following Maxwell and clarified by Gibbs, he established the science of Statistical Mechanics. But today, especially granted our understanding of critical singularities and their universality, how much do atomic particles and their charged partners, ions, really matter? The answers we have also met opposition. But Boltzmann would have welcomed the insights gained and approved of applications of statistical dynamics to biology, sociology, and other enterprises.

Host: Robert Ecke