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Duncan O’Dell (McMaster University)
Catastrophe theory provides a unified description of a broad range of singularities and defects in fields and has been applied extensively in optics. A key idea is that of scale: at large scales the catastrophe appears singular but at smaller scales it is smoothed, e.g. by wave interference. In 2004 Michael Berry and Mark Dennis suggested that waves might themselves display singularities which are only smoothed by the fundamental discreteness of quantum field excitations (e.g. photons). In this talk I will give examples of such “quantum catastrophes” appearing in the dynamics of simple quantum systems such as a Josephson junction made from two BECs following a quench. I will emphasize that, owing to the structural stability of catastrophes and their scaling properties, quantum catastrophes represent a universal aspect of quantum dynamics.