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Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking at the Fluctuating Level

Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking at the Fluctuating Level

This video was recorded at Workshop on Statistical Physics of Inference and Control Theory, Granada 2012. Phase transitions not allowed in equilibrium steady states may happen however at the fluctuating level. We observe for the first time this striking and general phenomenon measuring current fluctuations in an isolated diffusive system. While small fluctuations result from the sum of weakly-correlated local events, for currents above a critical threshold the system self-organizes into a coherent traveling wave which facilitates the current deviation by gathering energy in a localized packet, thus breaking translation invariance. This results in Gaussian statistics for small fluctuations but non-Gaussian tails above the critical current. Our observations, which agree with predictions derived from hydrodynamic fluctuation theory, strongly suggest that rare events are generically associated with coherent, self-organized patterns which enhance their probability.

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