Memory Formation in Matter

Coordinators: Susan Coppersmith, Alan Middleton, Sidney Nagel, and Srikanth Sastry

Scientific Advisors: Michael Brenner and Stanislas Leibler

Memory formation in matter is a theme of broad intellectual relevance; it sits at the interdisciplinary crossroads of physics, biology, chemistry, and computer science. In common usage and in scientific parlance, memory connotes the ability to encode, access, and erase signatures of past history in the state of a system. Very generally, memory formation requires broken symmetry or broken ergodicity, the ability to drive a system to reside in particular ergodicity-broken states, and to make a small number of measurements that may reveal the characteristics of such states. Memory arises in diverse contexts in condensed matter physics and materials: phase change memory, shape memory, echoes, memory effects in glasses, return point memory in disordered magnets, as well as related contexts in computer science and biology. The goal of the program on memory formation is to develop unifying conceptual underpinnings for understanding memory effects in materials, and to explore the connections with other areas of science and mathematics.