Metastate approach to thermodynamic chaos

C. M. Newman, D. L. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In realistic disordered systems, such as the Edwards-Anderson (EA) spin glass, no order parameter, such as the Parisi overlap distribution, can be both translation-invariant and non-self-averaging. The standard mean-field picture of the EA spin glass phase can therefore not be valid in any dimension and at any temperature. Further analysis shows that, in general, when systems have many competing (pure) thermodynamic states, a single state which is a mixture of many of them (as in the standard mean-field picture) contains insufficient information to reveal the full thermodynamic structure. We propose a different approach, in which an appropriate thermodynamic description of such a system is instead based on a metastate, which is an ensemble of (possibly mixed) thermodynamic states. This approach, modeled on chaotic dynamical systems, is needed when chaotic size dependence (of finite volume correlations) is present. Here replicas arise in a natural way, when a metastate is specified by its (meta)correlations. The metastate approach explains, connects, and unifies such concepts as replica symmetry breaking, chaotic size dependence and replica nonindependence. Furthermore, it replaces the older idea of non-self-averaging as dependence on the bulk couplings with the concept of dependence on the state within the metastate at fixed coupling realization. We use these ideas to classify possible metastates for the EA model, and discuss two scenarios introduced by us earlier—a nonstandard mean-field picture and a picture intermediate between that and the usual scaling-droplet picture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5194-5211
Number of pages18
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical Physics, Plasmas, Fluids, and Related Interdisciplinary Topics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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