Symmetry Breaking and Far-from-Equilibrium Order

  • Peter Ortoleva


If a drop of ink is placed in a glass of water the eventual outcome is macroscopically homogeneous inky water. This randomization is a result of the second law of thermodynamics. In contrast to this is the familiar Bénard instability1 wherein a temperature inversion (i.e. heating a layer of liquid from below) causes the onset of an organized flow pattern when the temperature difference between the top and the bottom exceeds a critical value. This transition from purely conductive to convective transport of energy is sustained under the influence of a net driving force that maintains the system sufficiently far from equilibrium. The self organization of the molecular motion in the layer of liquid is not a violation of the second law of thermodynamics. Indeed the onset and sustance of pattern is at the expense of a net overall increase of entropy of the universe as energy is transported from a hot to a cold reservoir.


Symmetry Breaking Spiral Wave Multiple Time Scale Move Boundary Problem Chemical Wave 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Ortoleva
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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