Statistical Physics and Algorithms (Invited Talk)

Author Dana Randall

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Dana Randall
  • School of Computer Science, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0765, USA

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Dana Randall. Statistical Physics and Algorithms (Invited Talk). In 37th International Symposium on Theoretical Aspects of Computer Science (STACS 2020). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 154, pp. 1:1-1:6, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)


The field of randomized algorithms has benefitted greatly from insights from statistical physics. We give examples in two distinct settings. The first is in the context of Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithms, which have become ubiquitous across science and engineering as a means of exploring large configuration spaces. One of the most striking discoveries was the realization that many natural Markov chains undergo phase transitions, whereby they are efficient for some parameter settings and then suddenly become inefficient as a parameter of the system is slowly modified. The second is in the context of distributed algorithms for programmable matter. Self-organizing particle systems based on statistical models with phase changes have been used to achieve basic tasks involving coordination, movement, and conformation in a fully distributed, local setting. We briefly describe these two settings to demonstrate how computing and statistical physics together provide powerful insights that apply across multiple domains.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Random walks and Markov chains
  • Mathematics of computing → Stochastic processes
  • Theory of computation → Self-organization
  • Markov chains
  • mixing times
  • phase transitions
  • programmable matter


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