**4/9/2003**

**Percy
Deift
New York University
**

*Universality for mathematical and physical
systems*

**Abstract**

All physical systems in equilibrium
obey the laws of thermodynamics. In other words, whatever the precise nature of
the interaction between the atoms and molecules at the microscopic level, at the
macroscopic level, physical systems exhibit universal behavior in the sense that
they are all governed by the same laws and formulae of thermodynamics.

The speaker will recount some recent history of universality ideas in physics
starting with Wigner's model for the scattering of neutrons off large nuclei and
show how these ideas have led mathematicians to investigate universal behavior
for a variety of mathematical systems. This is true not only for systems which
have a physical origin, but also for systems which arise in a purely
mathematical context such as the Riemann hypothesis, and a version of the card
game solitaire called patience sorting.