Many complex phenomena are so familiar that we hardly realize that they defy our normal intuition.  Examples include the anomalous flow of granular material, the long messy tendrils left by honey spooned from one dish to another, the pesky rings deposited by spilled coffee on a table after the liquid evaporates or the common splash of a drop of liquid onto a countertop.  Aside from being uncommonly beautiful to see, many of these phenomena involve non-linear behavior where the system is far from equilibrium.  Although most of the world we know is beyond description by equilibrium theories, we are still only at the threshold of learning how to deal with such deep and complex behavior.  Thus, these are phenomena that can lead the inquisitive into new realms of physics.  Problems such as these fuel much of our research effort.

“Experiment - where theory comes to die”

Nagel Group

University of Chicago

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