Three states – now that is exciting! And I’m not kidding. You are poised to understand critical timescales in nonequilibrium statistical mechanics.
We have been studying the linear threestate system.
Let’s quickly go over the answers from last time.

Write down the ODEs for this system.

These are a straightforward generalization of the twostate case:
(1)

These are a straightforward generalization of the twostate case:

Solve for the equilibrium populations of this system.

These can be determined “by inspection” as people more experienced than you always said in a most annoying way. Well, you could solve the detailed balance equations () along with the probability normalization condition (). Or for, say , you could ask: what fraction can be multiplied by the outgoing rate so that it has to balance the incoming probability flow from state 2? That’s the “by inspection” strategy. Stare at these for a while and you’ll see they have to be correct.
Here, is the sum of the numerators to ensure normalization.

These can be determined “by inspection” as people more experienced than you always said in a most annoying way. Well, you could solve the detailed balance equations () along with the probability normalization condition (). Or for, say , you could ask: what fraction can be multiplied by the outgoing rate so that it has to balance the incoming probability flow from state 2? That’s the “by inspection” strategy. Stare at these for a while and you’ll see they have to be correct.

Sketch and write down the ODEs for a nonequilibrium steady state in which transition events from state 2 to 3 immediately generate feedback to state 1. That is, no transitions from 3 to 2 are allowed (so 3 can be called an absorbing state) and transitions from 2 to 3 effectively become transitions from 2 to 1 (though governed by the 2to3 rate constant).

Here’s a sketch.
And here are the ODEs:(2)
As intended, the flow from state 2 to 3 has been diverted (or ‘recycled’ or ‘fed back’) to state 1. State 3 is an absorber which directly feeds state 1.

Here’s a sketch.
Did you see what we did? The set of equations (2) have just two states, because for all times by our assumption that probability that reaches state 3 immediately gets fed to state 1.
Now you can do some more simple math and learn a lot, really a lot. I’m not kidding – this is going to be HUGE! Here are the new questions, with more to come next time to complete your understanding. We are still roughly following along with material from my website, so please cheat! But remember to force yourself to do the exercises from scratch the next day.
 Write down the exact solution to the set of ODEs (2). No math is required at all. Instead, use the solutions you already know for the twostate system, and just substitute in the rates.
 What is the new relaxation time (time constant of the exponential)? Does the (algebraic) dependence of this timescale on the various rate constants make sense?
 As , the system does not relax to equilibrium. Find the state probabilities and show that detailed balance does not hold – at least in the usual sense. That is, show that .
 Instead the system relaxes to a nonequilibrium steady state. Describe in words the basic property of any steady state and show that the steady probabilities satisfy this property for both states.
 Remind yourself that equilibrium is a special steady state. Explain why detailed balance implies steady state, but note that our system shows the reverse is not true in general.