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Statistical physics of design

Andrei Klishin

University of Michigan and Harvard University


Physical manufacturing is no longer the main part of new product manufacturing costs, surpassed by design. At the same time, the complexity of designed systems is rapidly rising, as they attempt to integrate more and more functions. Together these trends call for new perspectives on not just the outcomes of the design process, but on the process itself. Here we propose a new approach to design investigations that we term “Systems Physics”, leveraging the methods of statistical physics and materials science. Drawing example problems from Naval Engineering, we use Systems Physics to pose principally new questions about design, delineate the qualitatively different regimes of problem behavior and illuminate a host of new physical phenomena that occur in design spaces. We also develop new computational methods based on tensor networks that can be readily applied to conventional statistical physics problems.