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Chaos, complexity, and random matrices

A preprint version of the article is available at arXiv.


Chaos and complexity entail an entropic and computational obstruction to describing a system, and thus are intrinsically difficult to characterize. In this paper, we consider time evolution by Gaussian Unitary Ensemble (GUE) Hamiltonians and analytically compute out-of-time-ordered correlation functions (OTOCs) and frame potentials to quantify scrambling, Haar-randomness, and circuit complexity. While our random matrix analysis gives a qualitatively correct prediction of the late-time behavior of chaotic systems, we find unphysical behavior at early times including an \( \mathcal{O}(1) \) scrambling time and the apparent breakdown of spatial and temporal locality. The salient feature of GUE Hamiltonians which gives us computational traction is the Haar-invariance of the ensemble, meaning that the ensemble-averaged dynamics look the same in any basis. Motivated by this property of the GUE, we introduce k-invariance as a precise definition of what it means for the dynamics of a quantum system to be described by random matrix theory. We envision that the dynamical onset of approximate k-invariance will be a useful tool for capturing the transition from early-time chaos, as seen by OTOCs, to late-time chaos, as seen by random matrix theory.


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Cotler, J., Hunter-Jones, N., Liu, J. et al. Chaos, complexity, and random matrices. J. High Energ. Phys. 2017, 48 (2017).

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  • AdS-CFT Correspondence
  • Black Holes
  • Matrix Models
  • Random Systems