Thursday, January 30, 2014

West's call for a Grand Unified Theory of Complexity

In a recent post I commented on some problems that physics is working on 
 One of them was on complexity. in this years annual question of, talks about what scientific idea needs to be retired.  Physicist Geoffrey West of the Santa Fe Institute talks about getting read of the idea of the Theory of Everything,  I've never liked the phrase the Theory of Everything ever since I first heard it years ago back in the 90's.  Colleagues used to bring me articles from newspapers and magazines about this topic.  I never heard much about string theory in the 80's since I was busy working on nuclear physics projects and string theory had nothing to say on the subject.  This is true even today.  Even mathematical techniques from string theory describing the quark-gluon plasma fails .  That was the first time I'd ever heard of string theory methods being applied to experimental data.  I have no idea if it was some physicists working on string theory or the media who thought of calling string theory the theory of everything.  A pretty arrogant statement by whoever and also incredibly misleading.

In his response to this years Edge's question West, a former particle theorist, is calling for a Grand Unified Theory of Complexity.  I don't know if this is a new concept or not but the area of complexity is not a subject that gets much attention from the public, except for a few years back when chaos was a buzz word. I wonder how many physics programs offer classes in complexity?  How many PhD's do physics departments grant in the study of Complexity?   I'm not talking biophysics or solid state physics, but the abstract field of complexity.  Is this a subject that belongs in a physics department?   Just curious.

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