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Institute of Advanced Study


Understanding and Representing Scale: Physics and Scale: from femtophysics to atoms, biology and the Universe - workshop

Room OC218, Department of Physics, Durham University

Physics has proven remarkably successful in describing Nature at length scales that range from the subatomic realm of basic particles up to the size of the Universe itself. Scale is a vital notion on modern physics. Its use has led to the identification new physics at several length scales that each enjoy a strong claim to being regarded as fundamental. However, although accounts of scale in subfields of physics are plentiful, there is a surprising lack of coherent discussion linking the concepts across the subject and beyond. This is particularly true of cutting-edge research, where many close links in the use of scaling remain unexploited. This workshop intends to fill a gap, extending the discussion beyond physics to make contact with philosophy, aesthetics and the life sciences.

This one day workshop will explore the notion of scale in physics from an interdisciplinary perspective. It will cover the history, notions and uses of scale from the smallest lengths accessible in particle physics, via the emergence of phenomena at intermediate scales, and on to the large-scale structure of space and time. The workshop will feature introductory and general presentations from high-profile scientists and philosophers on aspects of scale, including measurement, history, our understanding of scale and the use of scaling in fundamental particles, statistical physics, cosmology and the life sciences. Speakers will be encouraged to present leading-edge examples from their subfields which are not yet be widely known, but which form the basis of links across physics.

It is expected that talk topics will include:

  1. Cosmology, geometry and the large-scale structure of space-time.
  2. The philosophy of scale and structure in Chemistry.
  3. The measurement of short time and length scales in particle physics.
  4. The renormalization group as a unifying way of understanding scale in physics with applications inparticle physics, condensed matter, statistical andthermal physics and philosophy.
  5. Scaling, dimensionality and measurements: how studying two dimensions led to the discovery of the quantum of resistance.
  6. Scaling and emergence in soft matter and biology.
  7. Topological physics: a scale-free world without clocksand rulers.
  8. History of measurement (examples of temperature,atomic clocks, lunar ranging, particle properties).
  9. Scale, fractals, power laws and their aesthetics.

All are welcome to attend the workshop, space permitting.

For more information relating to this workshop, please click on this link;

Contact Dr Tom Lancaster for further information.

Contact for more information about this event.

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Register now for the IAS Annual IAS London Debate

Thursday 22 June 2017 at the ICAEW, Chartered Accountants’ Hall, One Moorgate Place, London.

Panellists include: Professor Dame Sandra Dawson (University of Cambridge); Dr Giles Fraser (journalist and broadcaster); Professor Kristine Kern (Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS)), and Professor Ulrike Guérot (European Democracy Lab). 


DATE Change:
Understanding and Representing Scale: Physics and Scale: from femtophysics to atoms, biology and the Universe - workshop.
Now takes place on 4th & 5th July (not 3rd and 4th July).