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Physical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation, and Cosmology


We propose a measure of order in the context of nonequilibrium field theory and argue that this measure, which we call relative configurational entropy (RCE), may be used to quantify the emergence of coherent low-entropy configurations, such as time-dependent or time-independent topological and nontopological spatially extended structures. As an illustration, we investigate the nonequilibrium dynamics of spontaneous symmetry breaking in three spatial dimensions. In particular, we focus on a model where a real scalar field, prepared initially in a symmetric thermal state, is quenched to a broken-symmetric state. For a certain range of initial temperatures, spatially localized, long-lived structures known as oscillons emerge in synchrony and remain until the field reaches equilibrium again. We show that the RCE correlates with the number density of oscillons, thus offering a quantitative measure of the emergence of nonperturbative spatiotemporal patterns that can be generalized to a variety of physical systems.