Dear CMT readers, it is my pleasure to introduce you to this topical issue dealing with a new research field of great interest, nonextensive statistical mechanics. This theory was initiated by Constantino Tsallis’ work in 1998, as a possible generalization of Boltzmann-Gibbs thermostatistics. It is based on a nonadditive entropy, nowadays referred to as the Tsallis entropy.
Nonextensive statistical mechanics is expected to be a consistent and unified theoretical framework for describing the macroscopic properties of complex systems that are anomalous in view of ordinary thermostatistics. In such systems, the long-standing problem regarding the relationship between statistical and dynamical laws becomes highlighted, since ergodicity and mixing may not be well realized in situations such as the edge of chaos. The phase space appears to self-organize in a structure that is not simply Euclidean but (multi)fractal. Due to this nontrivial structure, the concept of homogeneity of the system, which is the basic premise in ordinary thermodynamics, is violated and accordingly the additivity postulate for the thermodynamic quantities such as the internal energy and entropy may not be justified, in general. (Physically, nonadditivity is deeply relevant to nonextensivity of a system, in which the thermodynamic quantities do not scale with size in a simple way. Typical examples are systems with long-range interactions like self-gravitating systems as well as nonneutral charged ones.) A point of crucial importance here is that, phenomenologically, such an exotic phase-space structure has a fairly long lifetime. Therefore, this state, referred to as a metaequilibrium state or a nonequilibrium stationary state, appears to be described by a generalized entropic principle different from the traditional Boltzmann-Gibbs form, even though it may eventually approach the Boltzmann-Gibbs equilibrium state. The limits
$t\to \infty $
$N\to \infty $
do not commute, where t and N are time and the number of particles, respectively.
The present topical issue is devoted to summarizing the current status of nonextensive statistical mechanics from various perspectives. It is my hope that this issue can inform the reader of one of the foremost research areas in thermostatistics.
This issue consists of eight articles. The first one by Tsallis and Brigatti presents a general introduction and an overview of nonextensive statistical mechanics. At first glance, generalization of the ordinary Boltzmann-Gibbs-Shannon entropy might be completely arbitrary. But Abe’s article explains how Tsallis’ generalization of the statistical entropy can uniquely be characterized by both physical and mathematical principles. Then, the article by Pluchino, Latora, and Rapisarda presents a strong evidence that nonextensive statistical mechanics is in fact relevant to nonextensive systems with long-range interactions. The articles by Rajagopal, by Wada, and by Plastino, Miller, and Plastino are concerned with the macroscopic thermodynamic properties of nonextensive statistical mechanics. Rajagopal discusses the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Wada develops a discussion about the condition under which the nonextensive statistical-mechanical formalism is thermodynamically stable. The work of Plastino, Miller, and Plastino addresses the thermodynamic Legendre-transform structure and its robustness for generalizations of entropy. After these fundamental investigations, Sakagami and Taruya examine the theory for self-gravitating systems. Finally, Beck presents a novel idea of the so-called superstatistics, which provides nonextensive statistical mechanics with a physical interpretation based on nonequilibrium concepts including temperature fluctuations. Its applications to hydrodynamic turbulence and pattern formation in thermal convection states are also discussed.
Nonextensive statistical mechanics is already a well-studied field, and a number of works are available in the literature. It is recommended that the interested reader visit the URL http: //tsallis.cat.cbpf.br/TEMUCO.pdf. There, one can find a comprehensive list of references to more than one thousand papers including important results that, due to lack of space, have not been mentioned in the present issue. Though there are so many published works, nonextensive statistical mechanics is still a developing field. This can naturally be understood, since the program that has been undertaken is an extremely ambitious one that makes a serious attempt to enlarge the horizons of the realm of statistical mechanics.
The possible influence of nonextensive statistical mechanics on continuum mechanics and thermodynamics seems to be wide and deep. I will therefore be happy if this issue contributes to attracting the interest of researchers and stimulates research activities not only in the very field of nonextensive statistical mechanics but also in the field of continuum mechanics and thermodynamics in a wider context.
As the editor of the present topical issue, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those who joined up to make this issue. I cordially thank Professor S. Abe for advising me on the editorial policy. Without his help, the present topical issue would never have been brought out.