Helmut Katzgraber, Jonathan Machta, Wenlong Wang

Paper #: 14-09-029

A theoretical description of the low-temperature phase of short-range spin glasses has remained elusive for decades. In particular, it is unclear if theories that assert a single pair of pure states, or theories that are based infinitely many pure states---such as replica symmetry breaking---best describe realistic short-range systems. To resolve this controversy, the three-dimensional Edwards-Anderson Ising spin glass in thermal boundary conditions is studied numerically using population annealing Monte Carlo. In thermal boundary conditions all eight combinations of periodic vs anti periodic boundary conditions in the three spatial directions appear in the ensemble with their respective Boltzmann weights, thus minimizing finite-size corrections due to domain walls. From the relative weighting of the eight boundary conditions for each disorder instance a sample stiffness is defined, and its typical value is shown to grow with system size according to a stiffness exponent. An extrapolation to the large-system-size limit is in agreement with a description that supports the droplet picture and other theories that assert a single pair of pure states. The results are, however, incompatible with the mean-field replica symmetry breaking picture, thus highlighting the need to go beyond mean-field descriptions to accurately describe short-range spin-glass systems.