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Recently a lot of attention has been devoted to non-equilibrium properties of strongly interacting systems, in both high energy physics (the quark-gluon plasma at RHIC and at the LHC experiments) and condensed matter physics (quantum quenches in cold atomic gases).
In the absence of established and robust first-principles methods to describe time-dependent configurations of strongly interacting media, an alternative approach based on the gauge-gravity duality emerged. In this new paradigm, certain strongly coupled media can be “holographically” described in terms of higher dimensional curved geometries involving black holes.
Remarkable progress has been made in the last 10 years in understanding equilibrium and near-equilibrium properties of holographic strongly coupled systems. Little is known, though, on the far-from-equilibrium regime relevant to the approach to local equilibrium. Holographic investigations of this regime may help understand the mechanism behind the fast thermalization of the quark-gluon plasma observed in heavy ion collisions. They are also relevant to studies of entropy production and various measures of departure from equilibrium in non-equilibrium systems, and can be useful to understand the physics of non-equilibrium condensates in condensed matter experiments, as well as fundamental aspects of black hole physics. Numerical methods are usually required to construct the highly time-dependent dual geometries describing black hole formation and equilibration.
Therefore, these investigations require ideas and tools from string theory (the gauge/gravity duality), numerical relativity, as well as many-body physics (QCD and condensed matter theory). Success will require collaboration between members of these communities, whose interactions in the past have been rather limited.
The “Holographic Thermalization” workshop aimed to facilitate and initiate such interactions by bringing together leading experts on applications of the gauge-gravity duality with a number of key players from the QCD, condensed matter theory and numerical relativity communities. Although initially the organizers planned a meeting with about 40 participants, an overwhelming interest led to the workshop with 55 researchers. The number would be higher, if not logistic constraints on the organizational side.
The workshop had a relaxed schedule with a moderate number of speakers among which nine were invited as leading figures interested in equilibration problems within their disciplines. The remaining eight talks were given to registered participants with four shorter talks delivered by junior researchers. There were also four discussion sessions led by the experts in string theory, information theory, QCD and numerical methods and for each discussion its leaders tried to choose the most interesting set of subjects related to the holographic thermalization. The schedule had generous three hour long lunch breaks, part of which the participants used for working on their own projects and private discussions.
The interdisciplinary character of the workshop led to a couple of interesting group discussions, e.g. about the relation between the so-called global AdS spacetime used in their studies by relativists and the so-called Poincare patch of AdS used in most of the studies by string theorists working on holography.