Symmetry Breaking

Symmetry breaking in physics describes a phenomenon where (infinitesimally) small fluctuations acting on a system which is crossing a critical point decide the system's fate, by determining which branch of a bifurcation is taken. To an outside observer unaware of the fluctuations (or "noise"), the choice will appear arbitrary. This process is called symmetry "breaking", because such transitions usually bring the system from a disorderly state into one of two definite states. Symmetry breaking is supposed to play a major role in pattern formation.

Symmetry breaking is distinguished into two types as:

  • Explicit symmetry breaking where the laws describing a system are themselves not invariant under the symmetry in question.
  • Spontaneous symmetry breaking where the laws are invariant but the system is not because the background of the system, its vacuum, is non-invariant. Such a symmetry breaking is parametrized by an order parameter. A special case of this type of symmetry breaking is dynamical symmetry breaking.

In 1972, Nobel laureate P.W. Anderson used the idea of symmetry breaking to show some of the drawbacks of Reductionism in his paper titled More is different in Science.

One of the first cases of broken symmetry discussed in the physics literature is related to the form taken by a uniformly rotating body of incompressible fluid in gravitational and hydrostatic equilibrium. Jacobi and soon later Liouville, in 1834, discussed the fact that a tri-axial ellipsoid was an equilibrium solution for this problem when the kinetic energy compared to the gravitational energy of the rotating body exceeded a certain critical value. The axial symmetry presented by the McLaurin spheroids is broken at this bifurcation point. Furthermore, above this bifurcation point, and for constant angular momentum, the solutions that minimize the kinetic energy are the non-axially symmetric Jacobi ellipsoids instead of the Maclaurin spheroids.

Other articles related to "symmetry breaking, symmetry":

An Exceptionally Simple Theory Of Everything - Overview
... Also, Lisi notes the use of explicit symmetry breaking in building his action, rather than offering a more desirable spontaneous symmetry breaking ... About it, Lee Smolin proposed a spontaneous symmetry breaking mechanism for obtaining the action in Lisi's model, and speculates on the path to its quantization as a spin foam ...
Chicken (game) - Symmetry Breaking - Uncorrelated Asymmetries and Solutions To The Hawk-Dove Game
... The standard biological interpretation of this uncorrelated asymmetry is that one player is the territory owner, while the other is an intruder on the territory ... In most cases, the territory owner plays Hawk while the intruder plays Dove ...
Louis Michel (physicist) - Biography
... Physics to Crystals, and provided pioneering insights in spontaneous symmetry breaking in many contexts ... field, the theory of phase transitions as a symmetry-breaking, the Michel–Radicati theory for the SU(3) octet, and more generally his geometric theory of spontaneous symmetry breaking, and to several ...
Higgs Boson - Public Discussion - Media Explanations and Analogies
... – is a useful analogy for the Higgs field's symmetry breaking and mass-causing effect ... Symmetry breaking in optics In a vacuum, light of all colours (or photons of all wavelengths) travels at the same velocity, a symmetrical situation ... some substances such as glass, water or air, this symmetry is broken (See Photons in matter) ...

Famous quotes containing the words breaking and/or symmetry:

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    George Gordon Noel Byron (1788–1824)