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Nature Physics Insight: Issue on Complexity, Order, and Chaos – free access!


But only till January 31, we are told.  Here.

In many large ensembles, the property of the system as a whole cannot be understood from studying the individual entities alone — these ensembles can be made up by neurons in the brain, transport users in traffic networks or data packages in the Internet. The past decade has seen important progress in our fundamental understanding of what such seemingly disparate ‘complex systems’ have in common; some of these advances are surveyed here.

For example, here’s Albert-László Barabási:

Although physics has owned complexity research for many decades, it is not without competition any longer. Computer science, fuelled by its poster progenies, such as Google or Facebook, is mounting a successful attack on complexity, fuelled by the conviction that a sufficiently fast algorithm can tackle any problem, no matter how complex. This confidence has prompted the US Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering to establish the first network-science programme within the US National Science Foundation. Bioinformatics, with its rich resources backed by the National Institutes of Health, is pushing from a different direction, aiming to quantify biological complexity. Complexity and network science need both the intellectual and financial resources that different communities can muster. But as the field enters the spotlight, physics must assert its engagement if it wants to continue to be present at the table.

As I follow the debate surrounding the faster-than-light neutrinos, I wish deep down for it to be true. Physics needs the shot in the arm that such a development could deliver. Our children no longer want to become physicists and astronauts. They want to invent the next Facebook instead. Short of that, they are happy to land a job at Google. They don’t talk quanta — they dream bits. They don’t see entanglement but recognize with ease nodes and links. As complexity takes a driving seat in science, engineering and business, we physicists cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. We helped to create it. We owned it for decades. We must learn to take pride in it. And this means, as our forerunners did a century ago with quantum mechanics, that we must invest in it and take it to its conclusion.


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