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Spin Glasses and Complexity by Charles M. Newman, Daniel L. Stein

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2

GLASSES AND QUENCHED DISORDER

When we discussed in section 1.6 the discontinuous behavior of thermodynamic functions at a phase transition, we referred (somewhat obliquely) to “carefully controlled conditions.” To proceed to the next part of our story, we need to explain just what we meant by this. To do so, we turn to the central notion of thermodynamic equilibrium.

2.1 Equilibrium and Nonequilibrium

The goal of thermodynamics is to obtain as economical a description as possible of a macroscopic system comprising a huge collection of interacting atomic- or subatomic-sized units. A glass of water consists of order 1024 water molecules; how do we describe its physical state? What we don’t need, even if it could be obtained (and it can’t), is ...

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