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LIQUID CRYSTALS: WHAT THEY ARE AND WHY YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THEM

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Liquid crystals are materials that have properties, like the ability to flow, normally associated with fluids and others, like optical birefringence, normally associated with crystalline solids. They have symmetries that fill the gap between the full rotational and translational invariance of homogeneous and isotropic fluids and the periodic structure of crystals. This talk will review the menagerie of liquid crystalline phases. It will then discuss, using examples from liquid crystals, those properties of any condensed system – long-wave-length elasticity, hydrodynamics, and topological defect structure - that can be determined from symmetry alone.

This talk is part of the Cavendish Physical Society series.

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