Part of science involves taking things apart, and then understand how the parts work together to generate the whole. Thus, the strength of bridges and the speed of sound waves can be deduced from the properties of atoms and molecules, atoms are built from electrons, protons, and neutrons, protons and neutrons are built from quarks and gluons. But we often discover simple patterns long before we know how the parts work. What makes it possible for us to create useful theories of economics, climate, or biology before we have complete understanding of people, glaciers, or proteins?
Speakers: Katherine Quinn, postdoctoral fellow at The Graduate Center’s Initiative for the Theoretical Sciences, where she developed general approaches to searching for simpler models of complex systems. James Sethna, Professor at Cornell University, has worked on a wide range of theoretical physics problems, and is the author of the acclaimed textbook Statistical mechanics: entropy, order parameters, and complexity (Oxford University Press 2006).
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