Physicist’s approach to complex systems: search for fundamental laws by data analysis

Lecture description

Physics is an archetypal natural science with a primacy of experiment, a language of mathematics and an essential interplay between theory, simulation, and empirics. The curiosity of physicists is taking the discipline to a wider set of fields, tackling problems traditionally seen to belong to the remits of other sciences and academic domains. One of these, the nature of complex systems, is the subject of this lecture.

Complex systems are characterized by specific time-dependent interactions among their many constituents. As a consequence, they often manifest rich, non-trivial and unexpected behavior. The study of complex systems forms a new interdisciplinary research area that cuts across physics, biology, ecology, economics, sociology, and the humanities. My goal is to demonstrate how the description of complex systems may be conceptualized in quantitative and predictive terms by extending notions from statistical physics and network science.

As case studies, I will consider examples from three areas of complex-systems science that are currently studied extensively: the science of cities, dynamics of societies, and the representation of texts as evolutionary objects. In all examples, data analysis plays a crucial role and I will argue that there still exists plenty of new land for physicists and data scientists to explore. I will put special emphasis on universality in complex system behavior in the sense that their statistical features are governed by similar laws (often by power laws). On contrary to the laws imposed by humans, the universal laws we discuss in this lecture cannot be circumvented 🙂

Some of the ideas expressed in this lecture can be found in a recent review: Yu. Holovatch, R. Kenna, S. Thurner. Complex systems: physics beyond physics. Eur. Journ. Phys. vol. 38 (2017) 023002


Dr. Yurij Holovatch

Laboratory for Statistical Physics of Complex Systems, Institute for Condensed Matter Physics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Yurij Holovatch is a doctor of physical and mathematical sciences (1998), professor (2005), full member of the Shevchenko Scientific Society (2006), corresponding member of the National Acad. Sci. of Ukraine (2015). Graduated from the Ivan Franko University of Lviv (1979). After postgraduate studies he worked at the Lviv department of the Bogolyubov Institute for Theoretical Physics, from 1990 – at the Institute for Condensed Matter Physics, NAS of Ukraine. An invited professor at: Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Johannes Kepler Univerität Linz (Austria), Université Henri Poincaré (Nancy, France), Ukrainian Catholic University (Lviv). Scientific interests: complex systems, physics of macromolecules (topological properties of complex polymers), phase transitions and critical phenomena (field theory methods in condensed matter physics), complex networks, sociophysics, history of science.

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