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International Conference on Complex Systems (ICCS2006)

Universality away from critical points in a thermostatistical model

Cintia Lapilli
Department of Physics and Astronomy - University of Missouri

Peter Pfeifer
Department of Physics and Astronomy - University of Missouri-Columbia

Carlos Wexler
Department of Physics and Astronomy - University of Missouri-Columbia

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     Last modified: May 29, 2006

Nature uses phase transitions as powerful regulators of processes ranging from climate to the alteration of phase behavior of cell membranes to protect cells from cold, building on the fact that thermodynamic properties of a solid, liquid, or gas are sensitive fingerprints of intermolecular interactions. The only known exceptions from this sensitivity are critical points. At a critical point, two phases become indistinguishable and thermodynamic properties exhibit universal behavior: systems with widely different intermolecular interactions behave identically. Here we report a major counterexample. We show that different members of a family of two-dimensional systems —the discrete -state clock model— with different Hamiltonians describing different microscopic interactions between molecules or spins, may exhibit identical thermodynamic behavior over a wide range of temperatures.
The results generate a comprehensive map of the phase diagram of the model and, by virtue of the discrete rotors behaving like continuous rotors, an emergent symmetry, not present in the Hamiltonian. This symmetry, or many-to-one map of intermolecular interactions onto thermodynamic states, demonstrates previously unknown limits for macroscopic distinguishability of different microscopic interactions.

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