The behaviour of most systems of interest in chemical physics, including structural glasses, spin glasses, and biopolymers, is characterized by the presence of competing interactions. As a consequence, the topography and topology defined by the potential energy function is very complex, with an exponential number of local minima separated by energy barriers. Usually no suitable approximation schemes are available to compute dynamical or thermodynamical properties directly from the Hamiltonian of such a complex many-body system. Nevertheless, in many cases, predictions can be made from knowledge of the stationary points of the potential energy function, i.e., from points with vanishing gradient. Such techniques are now commonly referred to as energy landscape methods. Since this approach allows us to map dynamical as well as thermodynamic phenomena onto properties of the energy landscape, they are particularly powerful, and of fundamental importance for a broad spectrum of applications.
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