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Superfluid and Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless dynamics of light

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Topological Dynamics in the Physical and Biological Sciences

There are many advantages to interpreting coherent light as a superfluid. From an optics perspective, fluid language gives new insight into old problems and leads to new physics, e.g. instabilities. From a physics perspective, the ability to control input conditions and directly image the output means that optical experiments enable the observation of features that are difficult, if not impossible, to see in other fields. This is particularly true of coherence dynamics, as phase relationships are relatively easy to uncover through interference. Here, we review our recent results on vortex dynamics and optical thermodynamics, with an emphasis on condensation phenomena and the BKT transition. In the former process, the approach to thermal equilibrium drives the largest-scale mode of the system to become macroscopically occupied. In the latter process, vortex generation becomes more favorable than entropy production, and attempts at long-range order are destroyed. These two processes compete yet can co-exist, with many aspects of their many-body physics still outstanding. Optical experiments are beginning to map the dynamical phase space, through direct measurement of energy and momentum density, vortex number, and coherence properties. While still in their early stages, the results demonstrate condensed matter physics using only light and reinforce the use of photonic systems as an experimental testbed for fluid and statistical physics.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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