The Italian Society of Statistical Physics
Roberto Livi, Bernardo Spagnolo
1 Introducing the SIFS
On the occasion of a meeting held in Florence on the 20th of May 2019, the Italian Society of Statistical Physics (SIFS) was founded as a non-profit voluntary association, according to the Italian law. This meeting was the final step of a long-standing aggregation process, that went through debates and discussions among the Italian members of the statistical physics community, in particular on the occasion of the yearly congresses held in Parma for more than 25 years. The founding members of SIFS, see fig. 2, were: Raffaella Burioni (University of Parma), Guido Caldarelli (IMT, School of Advanced Studies, Lucca), Sergio Caracciolo (University of Milan), Lucilla de Arcangelis (University of Campania), Roberto Livi (University of Florence), Enzo Marinari (La Sapienza University, Rome), Paolo Politi (ISC, National Research Council), Flavio Seno (University of Padua).
Presently, SIFS has its headquarter at the Department of Mathematical, Physical and Computer Sciences of the University of Parma.
The interdisciplinary nature of the SIFS is essentially due to the possibility of applying the typical conceptual and computational tools of statistical physics to other fields of research, ranging from nuclear physics to astrophysics, black hole physics (see fig. 3), material science, chemistry, biology, medicine and even social sciences (as already previewed many year ago by the great physicist E. Majorana, in Scientia 1942, a posthumous publication). In this respect, one should consider that statistical physics is a fundamental discipline, dealing with phenomena involving a large number of interacting elements. These can represent particles, such as electrons or quarks, atoms or simple molecules in the different states of aggregation of matter, but also chemical interacting compounds, complex molecules or polymers, interacting cells of an organism, neurons that carry information through synapses (see fig. 4), animal or vegetal species interacting in an environment (see fig. 5), speculative agents trading in a competitive financial market and social networks (see fig. 6), or even stars in a galaxy and also galaxies in the Universe (see fig. 7). All of the above, is traditionally summarized by the term “complexity” and one can certainly affirm that statistical physics is the cradle of complexity. As declared by Stephen Hawking “The 21st century will be the century of complexity”, while L. P. Kadanoff wrote “the next few years will likely lead to an increasing study of complexity in the context of statistical dynamics, with a view of better understanding physical, economic, social, and especially biological systems” (Science, 1999).
Both these great scientists recognized the general importance of a basic principle of statistical physics: the collective properties of a large number of interacting elements is not just the sum their individual features. As pointed out by the Nobel Prize P. Anderson “More is different” (Science, 1972), meaning that any complex system may appear and behave in an unexpectedly different way from its individual components, because of a phenomenon known as emergence, typically yielding non-trivial collective structures and large-scale behaviors.
Coming back to SIFS, by pursuing its institutional goals it aims at enhancing the considerable potentialities of statistical physics also as an interdisciplinary domain of science, through a series of actions coordinated by its Executive Committee. SIFS is not for profit and pursues civic, solidarity and social utility purposes in favor of its members, their families or third parties, mainly making use of the voluntary work of its members.
In particular, SIFS promotes the training, research and dissemination of statistical physics and its interdisciplinary aspects. The object of its main activities is education, university and postgraduate training, scientific research, organization and dissemination of cultural activities, including popularization of science.
More precisely, according to its statute, the mission of SIFS comprises the following institutional aims:
• promote scientific exchanges among Italian scientists working in statistical physics, and in particular relations between university staff and those of public research institutions;
• organize Ph.D. and postdoctoral schools as well as national and international conferences;
• favour and promote the relationship between the Italian and the international communities of statistical physics, with particular reference to the C3 Commission (Statistical Physics) of the IUPAP (International Union of Pure and Applied Physics);
• establish prizes for young and senior researchers in statistical physics;
• support the participation of SIFS members to national and international research calls, with the possibility of participating itself as SIFS;
• promote the dissemination at all levels of any topic of interest for SIFS;
• promote the participation in national and international public debates, on any area of interest for SIFS;
• collaborate with all public and private bodies having similar areas of interest.
The governing bodies of the SIFS are: i) the Assembly of Members; ii) the Executive Board; iii) the President.
2 SIFS main activities
2.1 Plenary Colloquia
SIFS organizes online Plenary Colloquia on various topics related to statistical physics, as a cultural activity and a time of sharing for all members. Here is the official link: https://www.fisicastatistica.org/ plenary-colloquia-sifs.
The seminars are organized on a monthly basis and are then made available online via the official SIFS YouTube channel, for those interested and unable to follow them live: https://www.youtube. com/channel/UCEDS7s5_RFSI6ymG12xHkyA featured. This is the official YouTube channel of the Italian Society of Statistical Physics. There all the videos and contents related to SIFS activities, regarding statistical physics, are uploaded, for example colloquia, lessons and conferences. Interviews are held online on the Microsoft Teams platform.
2.2 Young Seminars
The SIFS organizes also the ‘‘SIFS Young Seminars’’ on various topics related to statistical physics, as a cultural activity to give a space to younger researchers, that is students, PhD students and those who have received the doctorate title since less than 5 years. Here is the official link: https://www.fisicastatistica. org/young-seminars-sifs.
The seminars are held monthly, with two speeches in the same session, and will then be made available online via the official SIFS YouTube channel, for those interested and unable to follow them live.
Who are statistical physicists and what do they do? The SIFS organizes interviews with statistical physicists. The main questions of the interviews made in 2021 and which can be listened to by the YouTube recording at the web site of the SIFS are available at the following link: https://www.fisicastatistica.org/ interviste.
What can physics say about biodiversity? Sandro Azaele, who works at the Physics Department of the University of Padua and studies ecosystems, answered the following questions: How and why do the populations of the various species that make up an ecosystem evolve over time? What makes an ecosystem complex? He was interviewed on February 5, 2021, by Paolo Politi of the Institute of Complex Systems of the CNR in Florence.
The physics of prime numbers. Giuseppe Mussardo, statistical physicist at SISSA in Trieste and studying field theories, in this interview tells us about some very important natural numbers, prime numbers, and he explains why, quite unexpectedly, they are of great interest to physicists as well. He was interviewed on January 29, 2021 by Franco Bagnoli of the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Florence.
3 SIFS editorial activity and Forum
A collection of some contributions on the issues of editorial policies of scientific journals and open access has been prepared. These contributions are intended to be the starting point for a discussion on issues which, although fundamental for the scientific community, seem to us to be very little debated.
Moreover, the SIFS Editorial Committee has prepared a form to collect the information and guidance material known to SIFS members, available at the following link: https://forms. gle/1NVRvyLtv4uQviEy9. With this module, the Editorial Committee intends to collect information and orientation material (preferably in Italian) to be used for the SIFS website and social networks, and with the aim of assembling a didactic corpus useful for all members.
In the section news, at the link https:// www.fisicastatistica.org/home/notizie, reviews on statistical physics and popular science books are also available.
Two recent interesting books by Giuseppe Mussardo have been reviewed: i) The Alphabet of Science, From Abel to Absolute Zero, 26 stories of ordinary genius; and ii) Statistical Field Theory: An Introduction to Exactly Solved Models in Statistical Physics.
SIFS has decided to create a Google group for members, called SIFS Forum (https:// groups.google.com/g/forum-sifs), to encourage interactions and discussions within the community. The Forum represents an environment where the society will open discussions of interest to the SIFS community: members will be able to actively participate also by opening new discussions. It will also be the place for sharing documents reserved for members.
4 Events, news and other various activities
Information on international events related to statistical physics and those sponsored by SIFS are also available on the Society’s website. Among these we mention the following events: i) 46th Conference of the Middle European Cooperation in Statistical Physics (MECO46), 11-13 May 2021, hosted by Riga Technical University (Latvia), online conference. The conference aims at bringing together theoreticians and experimentalists working in various domains of statistical physics and condensed matter. More info on the link: https://meco46. sciencesconf.org/; ii) Summer School: Fundamental Problems in Statistical Physics XV (FPSP XV), Bruneck, Italy. This School is the 15th of a long-standing series of schools for PhD students and junior postdocs. It consists of a number of pedagogical introductions to fundamental areas of statistical physics given by leading experts. The format of the school leaves ample time for discussions and interaction with the speakers and the other participants. All participants are invited to present a poster on their own research. More info on the link: https://fpspxv. sciencesconf.org/; iii) Statistical and quantum mechanics: reconsidering their foundations in the light of the new cutting edge experiments and theoretical models, Gran Sasso Science Institute (GSSI), L’Aquila (Italy), on 22-24 September 2021. The workshop aims at pondering over interest and relevance of fundamental aspects of physics. The main topics will be quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, models, simulation and numerical computation. It is intended for researchers at all level, and it will consist in several invited talks by recognized researchers. Two summary presentations in Italian, meant to engage a non-expert audience (high school teachers, university students, etc.), are planned at the end of the first two days. More info on the link: https://indico.gssi.it/event/93/.
4.1 Recent SIFS activities
Among many other activities involving the SIFS we mention the following ones: i) The Open Letter on the #PianoAmaldi for public research. ii) A couple of initiatives to encourage the dissemination of information on activities related to artificial intelligence (understood above all as machine learning) in the field of hard sciences, particularly in physics and mathematics have been undertaken. It is a blog and a Facebook page where events such as conferences and lectures will be posted but also links to works on the subject. These are the sites: https://hardsciencesai. blogspot.com/ and https://www. facebook.com/hardsciencesai/. The second in particular can be, and plans to be, enriched with the contributions of all those concerned. We therefore invite you to like and follow the page as well as forward this message to all interested people. iii) Analysis on the spread of COVID-19 (new Coronavirus) in Italy by Enzo Marinari, Enrico Bucci, Giorgio Parisi, Federico Ricci Tersenghi and Simone Franchini. See the link: https://www. scienzainrete.it/.
5 SIFS awards
The SIFS has established the “Giovanni Paladin” award, to honor the memory of our friend and colleague Giovanni Paladin. Giovanni was a very gifted and creative scientist. He mastered the techniques of statistical mechanics and dynamical systems to perfection and was able to draw analogies between the various subjects he worked on in a very elegant and productive way. Beyond his technical contributions in research, he was also a very good teacher, with a keen interest in the education of young scientists. The prize is awarded annually to a young PhD in physics who has discussed a doctoral thesis in the field of statistical physics and complex systems. The winner of the first edition of the “Giovanni Paladin” award, 2021, is Lorenzo Caprini with the following citation: “For the quality and originality of the work done and the clarity of presentation of the doctoral thesis, and the interesting contributions made to the statistical mechanics of non-equilibrium systems and in particular to the study of the space-time properties of active matter.” Special ex-aequo mentions were obtained by Matteo Borgnino, Pasquale Di Gregorio, and Lorenzo Piroli.
6 Conferences and Schools
The first Conference of the SIFS, or the XXV National Conference of Statistical Physics and Complex Systems, was held from 23 to 25 June 2021. The conference was held on-line, due to the continuing health emergency linked to the COVID19 pandemic. The Assembly of Members of the SIFS will take place in the afternoon session on June 24th. Participation is as always free. All information on the conference is available on the following website: http://www. fisicastatistica.unipr.it/conf/ PARMA2021/welcome.php.
The Conference will be dedicated to the main topics of interest in statistical physics: statistical physics of equilibrium and non-equilibrium, disordered systems and complex systems, phase transitions and statistical physics of quantum systems, statistical physics of soft, active and biological matter, machine learning: theory and applications to data science, statistical physics of networks, and interdisciplinary applications of statistical physics.
The SIFS 2020 Conference has been officially canceled, due to the emergency linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first edition of the SIFS Advanced Training School, which will be held in the Campus of the IMT School for Advanced Studies, Lucca, has been postponed to summer 2022, due to the persistence of the emergency linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. All relevant information can be found on the school’s official website: https://sifsschool2020. imtlucca.it/ or by contacting the school: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The school will be structured in two main courses, four seminar courses, and in tutoring activities. The two morning courses will be held by Roberto Benzi (Hydrodynamics and Turbulence) and by Alessandro Sarracino (Stochastic Thermodynamics). The four afternoon seminar courses will be held by Franco Bagnoli (Computational Lab), Diego Garlaschelli (Statistical Physics of Networks), Andrea Puglisi (Granular materials) and Luca Salasnich (Quantum Statistical Physics with cold atoms). The registration is opened to students from any country.
7 Agreement between SIFS and SIF
Recently, on 30 June 2020, an agreement was signed between SIFS and SIF by their respective presidents, Roberto Livi and Angela Bracco. SIFS and SIF will encourage scientific contacts between their members through the exchange of information on their activities, in particular in relation to events in the area of interest, conferences, workshops and publication activities. Both societies will work to increase the participation and visibility of their members in organizational activities and programs, especially supporting the activities of the young members by organizing events dedicated to them, such as workshops and summer schools, disseminating information to schools through specific publications and awarding of prizes, promoting scholarships for the implementation of joint projects. We believe that an expanding collaboration between our societies will be very fruitful, promoting at the same time the importance of physics to society, which not only expands the frontiers of our knowledge about Nature but also extends and enhances our understanding of other disciplines, and contributes to improving our quality of life.