Defects and the dynamics of phase transitions
Phase transitions are one of the most common physical phenomena. Symmetry breaking phase transitions where a system changes not only its state but also its symmetry properties are a particularly interesting example of this phenomenon and the dynamics of how the phase transition occurs in this case is extremely generic. One particular generic feature of symmetry breaking in phase transitions is the formation of what are called topological defects. In this article we explore the physical reasons for such universal behaviour and then go on to describe how the researchers involved have exploited the formation of topological defects to probe the dynamics of symmetry breaking phase transitions.