Stochastic Processes in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology

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The theory of stochastic processes originally grew out of efforts to describe Brownian motion quantitatively. Today it provides a huge arsenal of methods suitable for analyzing the influence of noise on a wide range of systems. The credit for acquiring all the deep insights and powerful methods is due ma- ly to a handful of physicists and mathematicians: Einstein, Smoluchowski, Langevin, Wiener, Stratonovich, etc. Hence it is no surprise that until - cently the bulk of basic and applied stochastic research was devoted to purely mathematical and physical questions. However, in the last decade we have witnessed an enormous growth of results achieved in other sciences - especially chemistry and biology - based on applying methods of stochastic processes. One reason for this stochastics boom may be that the realization that noise plays a constructive rather than the expected deteriorating role has spread to communities beyond physics. Besides their aesthetic appeal these noise-induced, noise-supported or noise-enhanced effects sometimes offer an explanation for so far open pr- lems (information transmission in the nervous system and information p- cessing in the brain, processes at the cell level, enzymatic reactions, etc.). They may also pave the way to novel technological applications (noise-- hanced reaction rates, noise-induced transport and separation on the na- scale, etc.). Key words to be mentioned in this context are stochastic r- onance, Brownian motors or ratchets, and noise-supported phenomena in excitable systems.