The Science of Complex Systems, recognized with the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics • Trends21

Although last year’s Nobel Prize in Physics had a clear quantum component, in 2021 the distinction of the most important scientific prize has indirectly fallen on the Complex Systems Science, which is what sustains the knowledge about global warming.

Last year, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded on the one hand to Roger Penrose for “the discovery that the formation of black holes is a robust prediction of the Theory of General Relativity”, and on the other hand to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for the “discovery of a compact supermassive object in the center of our galaxy.”

This year the bipolar scheme is repeated: on the one hand, the Italian physicist Giorgio Parisi is awarded for “the discovery of the interaction between disorder and fluctuations in physical systems, from the atom to the planetary system.”

On the other hand, the Nobel Committee honors Syukuro Manabe, a physicist from Princeton University, and Klaus Hesselmann, from the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology, for their «contributions to modeling the Earth’s climate, quantifying the variability and predicting global warming ».

Science of complexity

In other words, the Nobel Committee has distinguished, on the one hand, science from complexity, and on the other, an application of this discipline to the climate crisis, which has become a threat to the survival of life on Earth.

Complex systems are those in which the behavior of each of their parts creates properties that do not come from their individual parts, but from the interactions between them. Their behavior is largely unpredictable.

Examples of complex systems include ants, cities, the weather, the nervous system, cells, and living things, including humans, as well as modern energy or telecommunications infrastructure.

It is a science that ranges from the smallest to the almost infinite, such as the atomic and planetary scales, the quantum scales and the universe: it affects both the behavior of electrons and the climate of the planet or the evolution of galaxies.

Related topic: The brain knows how to anticipate the future and simplify the complexity of life

New perspective

It is still early to determine the extent that the science of complexity is having on human knowledge. Arisen in the 70s and 80s of the last century, complexity is initially considered as a way of understanding the crisis of scientific knowledge.

From that crisis, to which, among others, Ortega referred, complex thinking arises, which began to take shape in France at the hands of Edgar Morin: he put an end to the attempt to reduce science to the simple sum of specialized knowledge.

Nothing that we pretend to know is simple, but rather it is surrounded by immense complexity: we have barely managed to understand it and, furthermore, it is everywhere. The universe is the highest expression of a complex system.

This finding has generated a new field of knowledge that, on the one hand, focuses on the systemic-cybernetic tradition and, on the other, on a more mathematical approach that has even given rise to the chaos theory.

Other understanding

The Science of Complex Systems has provided new ways of understanding the physical, biological, ecological and social universe, Explain the Complex System Society.

Across all domains, complex systems are studied through ever-increasing amounts of data, spurring revolutionary scientific breakthroughs, he adds.

This new science crosses traditional scientific frontiers, creates new and shorter paths between scientists and accelerates the flow of scientific knowledge, he concludes.

A clear example of this impact is the contribution made by Parisi, which has earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi, 2021 Nobel Prize Winner in Physics. Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach.

Atomic complexity

Nature magazine stand out In this regard, Parisi inaugurated a way of seeing and interpreting complex phenomena that until then had been overlooked in the field of fundamental physics.

He was able to penetrate the complexity of the infinitely small, to analyze the apparent chaos that reigns in the world of atoms, and to predict even emergent behavior.

He developed a mathematical solution that allowed understanding the basic principles underlying the apparent quantum randomness, points out the journal Investigation and Science.

That emergent behavior can only be predicted if all the individual processes that penetrate a system are taken into account and analyzed together, Nature adds.

Parisi’s fundamental discoveries have been applied to problems in mathematics, neuroscience and machine learning, and he has studied other phenomena in which random processes play a decisive role, stand out the American Institute of Physics.

Recognized complexity

Only from a complex perspective can we better understand the climate system, the Nobel Committee has stressed.

Göran Hansson, Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, explained the meaning of this award: “Global warming is based on sound science. That is the message “, collects Nature.

That is why Research and Science points out that the science of complexity is, in fact, the one that has been distinguished in 2021 with the Nobel Prize in Physics.

After controversial beginnings, Complex Systems Science wins for the first time the highest award to which the plethora of scientists who have given it shape and consistency over time could aspire, including Edward Lorenz, Benoit Mandelbrot or Ilya Prigogine, although they are no longer with us to celebrate.

Top photo: Pixabay.

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The Science of Complex Systems, recognized with the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics • Trends21