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Richard Field

Contributor II
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Field_Richard.jpgRichard J. Field was born in Attleboro, MA in 1941. He received a B.S. degree from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1963, an M.S. degree from the College of the Holy Cross in 1964, and a Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from the University of Rhode Island in 1968. He was Research Associate/Visiting Professor with Richard Noyes at the University of Oregon 1968-1974, where he became interested in the oscillatory Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction. He joined The University of Montana in 1975 as assistant professor and became Professor Emeritus in 2008. He continues to maintain a research program in nonlinear chemical dynamics. He was department chair 1990-95 and has been visiting professor at The University of Notre Dame (1980), Universität Würzburg (1985-86), and The National Center for Atmospheric Research, NCAR (1995-6). He was a member of the Editorial Board of The Journal of Physical Chemistry 1986-91.

Professor Field taught General Chemistry, junior-level Physical Chemistry, and a spectrum of upper-division physical chemistry courses for over 30 years at The University of Montana. He has presented about 150 research seminars at universities around the world, and made about 25 presentations at various national and international scientific meetings. He has made nearly 20 ACS Speaker tours since 1983, several on repeat invitations. He has hosted two Science Cafes as an ACS Speaker.

Although Dick Field is a chemical kineticist and as such is interested in any chemical system not at equilibrium, his major interests are in the area of oscillating chemical reactions. Oscillatory chemical systems are excellent examples of the remarkable behavior of systems maintained far from equilibrium and governed by nonlinear dynamic laws. From this work, he has developed an interest in mathematical biology, especially the mechanisms by which living organisms organize and evolve. He has become interested over the last decade in nonlinear problems involving atmospheric, climatic and psychological dynamics.


The Oscillatory Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) Reaction

The classic Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction is the cerium-ion catalyzed oxidation of malonic acid by bromate ion in an aqueous, approximately 1 M sulfuric acid medium. The BZ reaction is a well-understood chemical example of a far-from-equilibrium system governed by a nonlinear dynamic law. When the overall chemical reaction (the oxidation of malonic acid by bromate ion) rushes toward chemical equilibrium in a well-stirred system, oscillations may occur in the concentrations of the oxidized and reduced forms of the metal-ion catalyst and many other reaction intermediates, e.g., bromide ion, bromine dioxide and bromous acid. Spatial concentration patterns, e.g., traveling waves of oxidative activity, occur when the reagent is unstirred. The history, phenomenology and chemical mechanism of the BZ reaction are described in detail, and a skeleton model (the Oregonator) of its dynamics is developed. The idea of steady-state instability is introduced and discussed in terms of the classic Hopf bifurcation from steady state to oscillatory behavior. Videos of various BZ behaviors are shown.

Deterministic Chaos: Why Some Things that Appear To Be Random Are Not.

Periodic oscillations in time are ubiquitous in our world. They usually appear in deterministic chemical, physical and biological dynamic systems described by nonlinear differential equations. Under some conditions, such oscillations may become aperiodic, that is, they have random periods and amplitudes. However, the source of this apparent randomness is not stochastic; the aperiodic dynamics is still described by deterministic differential equations. Despite their deterministic nature, however, it is not possible to predict behavior of such systems beyond a few cycles (e.g., a few days for the weather). This uncertainty results from an extreme sensitivity to initial conditions such that identical systems initially in very similar states evolve in very different ways. This phenomenon is referred to as Chaos. We start out with some basic dynamics, e.g., the flight of a projectile, and then define and illustrate geometrically more advanced dynamical concepts including trajectories, attractors, limit cycles, and bifurcations. We finally reach the concept of a chaotic trajectory approaching a strange attractor. Various routes from periodicity to chaos, e.g., the period-doubling sequence, are described. Experimental examples are presented throughout the talk.

Erwin Schrodinger: The Discoverer (Inventor?) of Wave Mechanics.

The ancestry, childhood, early adulthood, and early scientific work of Erwin Schrodinger is discussed. The development of quantum theory (wave mechanics) is qualitatively traced from Max Planck and black-body radiation to Einstein and Debye's low-temperature heat-capacity work, through Neils Bohr and the interpretation of atomic spectra, and finally to Peter Debye's suggestion to Erwin Schrodinger that substitution of the DeBroglie wavelength into a standard wave equation might lead to interesting results. I describe the extraordinary accomplishment of Erwin Schrodinger during Christmas break 1925 (spent in the company an unknown woman at a Swiss Gastehaus) in making this simple suggestion into the most powerful and in some ways most disturbing physical theory known to us. Erwin Schrodinger was one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. He was also one of the most interesting personalities of his time. See Schrodinger, Life and Work, by Walter Moore, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989.


The University of Montana

Department of Chemistry

Missoula, MT, United States, 59812


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