A statistical mechanical model of economics
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Statistical mechanics pursues low-dimensional descriptions of systems with a very large number of degrees of freedom. I explore this theme in two contexts. The main body of this dissertation explores and extends the Yard Sale Model (YSM) of economic transactions using a combination of simulations and theory. The YSM is a simple interacting model for wealth distributions which has the potential to explain the empirical observation of Pareto distributions of wealth. I develop the link between wealth condensation and the breakdown of ergodicity due to nonlinear diffusion effects which are analogous to the geometric random walk. Using this, I develop a deterministic effective theory of wealth transfer in the YSM that is useful for explaining many quantitative results. I introduce various forms of growth to the model, paying attention to the effect of growth on wealth condensation, inequality, and ergodicity. Arithmetic growth is found to partially break condensation, and geometric growth is found to completely break condensation. Further generalizations of geometric growth with growth in- equality show that the system is divided into two phases by a tipping point in the inequality parameter. The tipping point marks the line between systems which are ergodic and systems which exhibit wealth condensation. I explore generalizations of the YSM transaction scheme to arbitrary betting functions to develop notions of universality in YSM-like models. I find that wealth condensation is universal to a large class of models which can be divided into two phases. The first exhibits slow, power-law condensation dynamics, and the second exhibits fast, finite-time condensation dynamics. I find that the YSM, which exhibits exponential dynamics, is the critical, self-similar model which marks the dividing line between the two phases. The final chapter develops a low-dimensional approach to materials microstructure quantification. Modern materials design harnesses complex microstructure effects to develop high-performance materials, but general microstructure quantification is an unsolved problem. Motivated by statistical physics, I envision microstructure as a low-dimensional manifold, and construct this manifold by leveraging multiple machine learning approaches including transfer learning, dimensionality reduction, and computer vision breakthroughs with convolutional neural networks.
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