Round Table Discussion on Theoretical Models for Active Matter

A screenshot taken during the round table discussion of 16 September 2021.

The fourth round table of the theoretical training took place with the participation of our panelists: Hartmut Löwen, Joakim Stenhammar, Holger Stark and Ramin Golestanian. The organizing ESRs were Ayten Gülce Bayram, Chun-Jen Chen, Jérémie Bertrand, Jesus Manuel Antunez Dominguez, Ojus Satish Bagal, Alireza Khoshzaban and Umar Rauf. The discussion mainly addressed to “Theoretical Models for Active matter”.

The discussion started with how the activity is included in theoretical models and how activity terms change depending on the particles system. It is followed by the theoretical aspects of going from one particle to the many-particle system and the relevant interaction terms in the theoretical models. Next, we mentioned the challenges behind the solvent-particle interaction, especially where we have complex solvents like a viscoelastic solvent. In this regard, our guests pointed out the importance of hydrodynamics. The meeting was concluded with the final remarks of our guests on the discussion that we should keep in mind in our future studies on active matter physics.

Round Table Discussion on Introduction to Theoretical Active Matter

A screenshot taken during the round table discussion of 7 September 20201.

The first round table in the theoretical training gave a chance to start an interesting discussion which will continue in the following meetings.

The organizing ESRs were Ayten Gülce Bayram, Laura Natali, Liam Ruske, Jérémie Bertrand, Davide Breoni and Audrey Nsamela. They welcomed and introduced the three guests of the session: Nuno Araújo from the University of Lisbon, Jan Wehr from the University of Arizona and Denis Bartolo from École normale supérieure de Lyon.

The round table started with a personal question to the speakers about their interests and motivations for working in theoretical active matter. Having different backgrounds, the answers were very different, Nuno was attracted by non-intuitive behaviors observed in active matter experiments, while Jan started from a purely mathematical point of view and then moved towards physics of active systems. Denis provided another motivation, being head of a lab that deals with both theory and experiments.

The following discussion focused on the interaction and hierarchy between theory, simulations, and experiments. They all agree that establishing a constructive collaboration with experimental groups is not easy, but at the same time, it can have many benefits for both sides. However, none of the three elements is necessary for the others: a good paper can be presenting a theory not connected with experiments, even if its possible applications are not foreseeable yet. Denis firmly pointed out the difference between the observations and the tools (theoretical, numerical, and experimental) employed to explain it.

We also had a few more specific questions for the speakers, such as the distinctions in thinking between mathematicians and theoretical physicists, the possible applications to financial markets, and the differences in modeling artificial flocks and human crowds, which are often controlled by non-hydrodynamic variables.

We concluded the meeting by asking every one of our guests their tips for communicating the theory of active matter to a larger public. Here the answers were more relaxed and can be summed up as: trying to avoid technical and mathematical details while explaining the importance of the research problems, also using more familiar examples such as simulations employed in animation movies.