We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - More is Different

9th November 2017, 17:30 to 18:30, Sir James Knott Hall, Trevelyan College, Dr Andy Martin (University of Melbourne)

More is different is the title of a seminal paper written by Nobel Laureate Phillip Anderson in 1972 [1]. This paper focused on arguing that a reductionist approach, in science, does not enable us to explain many “common” phenomena. Put more specifically, the emergent properties of a complex system are often not predicted by an understanding of the behaviour of the constituent parts, i.e.

  • one water molecule is not fluid
  • one gold atom is not metallic
  • one neuron is not conscious
  • one amino acid molecule is not alive
  • one fish is not a school
  • one person is not a society

In this talk Dr Andy Martin will introduce in general terms how physicists try to understand emergent phenomena in complex systems. Then he will focus on some specific examples, such as (i) how can the properties, such as pressure, energy, entropy and temperature, of a gas be explained without having to know the precise individual motion of every element of a gas and (ii) how do the metallic properties of a collection gold atoms emerge. Then he will show how the methods used to deepen our understanding of the properties of complex physical systems may be used to investigate complex biological phenomena, such as flocking.

Finally, Dr Martin hopes you will leave the talk feeling that not only “more is different” but also that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”.

[1] P.W. Anderson, Science 177, 393 (1972)

This lecture is free and open to all.

Details about Dr Andy Martin

Directions to Sir James Knott Hall, Trevelyan College

Map - Trevelyan College is denoted as building No. 9

Contact for more information about this event.