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Disorder, chance and large numbers

Laure Saint-Raymond

Professor at the École normale supérieure in Lyon Bôcher Memorial Prize in 2020

Free entrance, on registration

Disorder increases irreversibly. This statement does not necessarily apply at any given time to a child’s bedroom or to the way the world works. Rather, it is the statement of the second principle of thermodynamics, expressed by the physicist Sadi Carnot in 1824. It is a principle that can be experienced every day. When milk is poured into water, for example, the two liquids mix and do not remain separated from each other. Playing balls in a bag will not spontaneously line up according to their colour but will mix randomly. While it is easy to mix two gases together, it is almost impossible to separate them once they have been brought together. This talk takes a look at a simple mathematical model that explains why we can observe spontaneous mixing but not the opposite phenomenon. Spoiler alert: the key to understanding this temporal irreversibility lies in probability theory and more precisely in the law of large numbers.

Before the lectures, from 17:30, the University’s public science labs, Scienscope, offer activities.

3 November 2020 - 18:30

Venue : Auditoire Piaget, Uni Dufour 24 rue Général-Dufour, 1204 Genève

Info : Simultaneous translation to French and English
- Lecture live streamed on this page.

Due to the health situation:

  • Face mask is mandatory in university buildings and for the duration of the event.
  • Dispensers of hydroalcoholic solution are available at the entrance.
  • The cleanliness of the premises is ensured in accordance with the UNIGE protection plan.

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