Nonlinear and Non-equilibrium Physics Unit
Complex phenomena in nature, by virtue of being familiar to us, are easily recognizable. This familiarity however does not extend to our understanding of the processes underlying such phenomena. Their occurrence in noisy, natural environments renders them robust, with most effort then dedicated to designing the simplest experiments that capture the important governing variables capable of providing their minimal parameter description.
Such phenomena arise in systems driven far from equilibrium with nonlinear responses, for which theoretical understanding has yet to be gleaned from careful construction of experimental evidence. Our group’s experimental efforts are trained in large measure towards gaining such understanding of fundamental phenomena, but whose answers find use in the applied realm.
Our research is organized along four strongly overlapping themes: Energy & Sustainability, Quantitative Life Sciences, Statistical Hydrodynamics, and Amorphous Media. Examples of our efforts include studying fluctuations in wind and solar photovoltaic power, how fungi exploit wind patterns to disperse spores, how friction controls behavior of granular materials that cause earthquakes and mudslides, but also determines packing of pills or cereal, how surfactants spread on water with implications from detergent action to oil spills, how stiffness emerged in the foot as we humans evolved from our arboreal ancestors to our current terrestrial forms, and more.