Monday, May 18, 2009

Towards broken symmetry

Tomorrow's lecture looks at an amazing experiment on the space shuttle that was used to determine one of the critical exponents for the superfluid transition to 6 significant figures. I then introduce the idea of an order parameter and broken symmetry. A nice simple illustration of the latter is the problem of optimising the total lengths of the roads joining four cities at the corner of a square. The solution can be seen in the shape of soap films and in the honeycomb structure found in bee hives.

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