The Physics of Phase Transitions
Welearnedinschoolthatmatterexistsinthreeforms:solid,liquidandgas,as well as other more subtle things such as the fact that “evaporation produces cold.” The science of the states of matter was born in the 19th century. It has now grown enormously in two directions: (1) Thetransitionshavemultiplied:?rstbetweenasolidandasolid,parti- larlyformetallurgists.Thenformagnetism,illustratedinFrancebyLouis N´ eel, and ferroelectricity. In addition, the extraordinary phenomenon of superconductivityincertainmetalsappearedatthebeginningofthe20th century. And other super?uids were recognized later: helium 4, helium 3, the matter constituting atomic nuclei and neutron stars.Thereisnow a real zoology of transitions, but we know how to classify them based on Landau’s superb idea. (2) Ourprofoundviewofthemechanismshasevolved:inparticular,thevery universal properties of ?uctuations near a critical point – described by Kadano?’s qualitative analysis and speci?ed by an extraordinary th- retical tool: the renormalization group. Without exaggerating, we can say that our view of condensed matter has undergone two revolutions in the 20th century: ?rst, the introduction of quantum physics in 1930, then the recognition of “self-similar” structures and the resulting scaling laws around 1970. It would be na¨ ?ve to make too much of these advances: despite all of this sophistication,wearestillveryunsureaboutcertainpoints–forexample,the mechanism governing superconducting oxides or the laws of the glass tran- tion. However, a body of doctrines has been formed, and it is an important element of scienti?c culture in the 21st century.
Authoritative course of phase transitions well written and illustratedOutstanding without competitionIncludes 42 problems with complete answersWith a foreword by Pierre-Gilles de Gennes