Wednesday, 19 October, 2011
Glowing beacons reveal hidden order in dynamical systems
Experimental confirmation of a fundamental physical theorem
The so-called ergodic theorem formulates a fundamental physical principle relating to the behavior of dynamical systems. Essentially the theorem states that in a multiparticle system each individual particle behaves just as “chaotically” as does the system as a whole. In other words, one can extrapolate from the behavior of a single element to that of the whole system. Strangely enough, in spite of its wide-ranging implications, the theorem has not been rigorously tested experimentally. A collaborative effort mounted by Professor Christoph Bräuchle’s team in the Department of Chemistry at LMU Munich and Professor Jörg Kärger’s group at Leipzig University has now confirmed the validity of the theorem by measuring the diffusive behavior of ensembles of particles and the trajectories of single molecules in the same system. Using fluorescent molecules as tracers and high-resolution imaging methods, the LMU investigators were able to track the paths of individual molecules, while the Leipzig group studied the collective behavior of the whole ensemble. “It will be very interesting to take a closer look at systems that do not conform to the tenets of the ergodic theorem and to determine the reasons for their aberrant behavior,” says Bräuchle.