Microscopic irreversibility and chaos

Jerry Gollub, David Pine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The fundamental microscopic law including, both Newton's law and quantum mechanics, are reversible in nature. A small perturbation to an initial configuration of particles becomes amplified exponentially over time. The evolution of fluid is governed by the Navier-Stokes equations, which involves chaos arising from the nonlinear dynamics of these equations. A set of Stokes equations are obtained from the Navier-Stokes equations for incompressible fluids by omitting the nonlinear term and the time derivative if the velocity field. Irreversibility of fluid motion also occurs at a high Reynolds number as the equations are nonlinear and time dependent. The Ir reversibility due to chaos is different from the violation of time reversal symmetry that occurs in weak interactions governing the K-meson system. It doesn't require any fundamental asymmetry between future and past and provide a mechanism for both macroscopic and microscopic irreversibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-9
Number of pages2
JournalPhysics Today
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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