Ultraslow dynamics, fragile fragmentation, and geometric group theory
An ongoing program of work in statistical physics and quantum dynamics is concerned with understanding the character of systems which follow an unconventional approach towards thermal equilibrium. In this talk, I will add to this story by introducing examples of simple 1D systems---both classical and quantum---which thermalize in very unusual ways. These examples have dynamics which is strictly local and translation-invariant, but in spite of this, they: a) can have very long thermalization times, with expectation values of local operators relaxing only over times exponential in the system size; and b) can thermalize only when they are placed in extremely large baths, with the required bath size growing exponentially (or even faster) in system size. Proofs of these results will be given using techniques from geometric group theory, a beautiful area of mathematics concerned with the complexity and geometry of infinite discrete groups. This talk will be based on a paper in preparation with Shankar Balasubramanian, Sarang Golaparakrishnan, and Alexey Khudorozhkov.