Breaking classical barriers
Simple elements interacting in networks can give rise to intricate emergent behaviors. Examples such as synchronization and phase transitions often apply in many contexts, as many different systems may reduce to the same effective model. Here, we demonstrate such a behavior in a model inspired by memristors. When weakly driven, the system is described by movement in an effective potential, but when strongly driven, instabilities cause escapes from local minima, which can be interpreted as an unstable tunneling mechanism. We dub this collective and nonperturbative effect a “Lyapunov force,” which steers the system toward the global minimum of the potential function, even if the full system has a constellation of equilibrium points growing exponentially with the system size. This mechanism is appealing for its physical relevance in nanoscale physics and for its possible applications in optimization, Monte Carlo schemes, and machine learning.