Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Talks by Jeremy England
Boltzmann's Dog and Darwin's Finch: The statistical thermodynamics of self-replication and evolution
Living things operate according to well-known physical laws, yet it is challenging to discern specific, non-trivial consequences of these constraints for how an organism that is a product of evolution must behave. Part of the difficulty here is that life lives very far from thermal equilibrium, where many of our traditional theoretical tools fail us. However, recent developments in nonequilibrium statistical mechanics may help light a way forward.
In the last few decades, substantial advances have been made in our ability to make general statements about the thermodynamics of systems driven far from thermal equilibrium. In this talk, I will give a brief overview of some the most basic results in this area and explain their connection to classic results in linear response theory. I will then describe how to formally construct the generalization of free energy for macrostates in a far-from-equilibrium system and discuss possible connections to self-organization phenomena in both biological and other contexts.