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Mathematics Colloquium


Date:  Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Title:  Universality for Mathematical and Physical Systems

Abstract:  All physical systems in equilibrium obey the laws of thermodynamics. In other words, whatever the precise nature of the interaction between the atoms and molecules at the microscopic level, at the macroscopic level, physical systems exhibit universal behavior in the sense of being governed by the same laws and formulae of thermodynamics. This talk recounts some recent history of universality ideas in physics, starting with Wigner's model for the scattering of neutrons off large nuclei. It shows how these ideas have led mathematicians to investigate universal behavior for a variety of mathematical systems. These include not only systems which have a physical origin, but also systems which arise in a purely mathematical context, such as the Riemann hypothesis and a version of the card game solitaire (patience sorting).

Speaker:  Percy Deift
Institution:  Courant Institute-NYU


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