Research Articles

Cosmology in the Laboratory: Defect Dynamics in Liquid Crystals

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Science  15 Mar 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 4999, pp. 1336-1342
DOI: 10.1126/science.251.4999.1336


Liquid crystals are remarkably useful for laboratory exploration of the dynamics of cosmologically relevant defects. They are convenient to work with, they allow the direct study of the "scaling solution" for a network of strings, and they provide a model for the evolution of monopoles and texture. Experiments described here support the simple "one-scale" model for cosmic string evolution, as well as some qualitative predictions of string statistical mechanics. The structure of monopoles and their apparent cylindrical but not spherical symmetry is discussed. A particular kind of defect known as texture is described and is shown to have a dynamical instability—it can decay into a monopole-antimonopole pair. This decay process has been observed occurring in the liquid crystal, and studied with numerical simulations.

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