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Physics Colloquium - Friday, Sept. 5th, 2008, 4:00 P.M.

E300 Math/Science Center; Refreshments at 3:30 P.M. in Room E200

Beate Schmittmann - Physics Department, Virginia Tech

Physics far from Equilibrium: Why is it important, why is it interesting, and what can we learn?

Though nonequilibrium phenomena abound in nature, they are still only very poorly understood at a fundamental level. Even the study of nonequilibrium steady states, being the simplest generalizations of thermal equilibrium, is still in its early stages. However, investigations of simple model systems have revealed a wealth of unexpected behaviors which differ remarkably from our equilibrium-trained expectations. In my talk, I will introduce some distinguishing features of equilibrium and far-from-equilibrium statistical mechanics and then discuss a paradigmatic model for stochastic particle transport far from equilibrium: the asymmetric simple exclusion process. I will describe recent efforts to develop a comprehensive theory for protein synthesis, building on asymmetric exclusion processes with extended objects, modeling ribosomes covering multiple codons. Some intriguing results for real genes will be presented.