July 16, 2016 – Sept 2, 2016
Postdoctoral Researcher, Dartmouth College
Damian Sowinski is fascinated with understanding physical systems through an informational narrative, gaining insight into the information storage and processing capabilities of matter close to a phase transition between ordered and disordered states. Global complexity lends itself to the emergence of large-scale phenomena even when the underlying physics is quite simple, and applying information theoretic measures has shown to be a fruitful way of classifying this emergence while complementing standard classification schemes of statistical physics using order parameters. Since biological systems have very unique, top-down, informational dynamics, understanding how matter processes information is crucial in gaining insight into the question of whether life itself is a critical phenomenon: matter at the precarious cusp of two far less interesting phases.
His work involves in silico modeling of finite temperature field theories. Vast amounts of ensemble data then reveal the probabilistic properties of in-equilibrium systems, which makes them amenable to an information theoretic description. He is focusing on a particular information measure dubbed Configurational Entropy, which has been shown to be related to the deviation from expectation of information gain as a system "measures itself.” This fascinating quantity is being applied to models that display instabilities, shedding light on how localized objects made of myriad parts integrate themselves into a cohesive whole.