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From the human body to the structure of the universe, we live in a world of complexity. It is natural to wonder why and how such complexity arises. Over the past 100 years scientists have made great progress in answering this question and have come to a conclusion: highly complex behaviours and structures often emerge from very simple rules. Moreover, complex systems may be sensitive to small changes to their environment leading to unpredictable shocks. In our talks we will illustrate these ideas with a few examples. The event will be in the first floor function room.
Pretty Pictures and Butterflies: Fractals and Chaos
Dr Olalla Castro Alvaredo (Senior Lecturer in Mathematics)
In 1859 Charles Darwin ended his book “On the Origin of Species” with the words: “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved”. This sentence expresses how great complexity can emerge from simple rules. One field where we find examples of this is in Mathematics. In this talk I will introduce a class of mathematical objects called fractals, which can be created by the repetition of simple mathematical rules. I will also speak about chaos, or the “butterfly effect”, a feature of many equations describing real life properties.
Life, Magnets, and the Financial Crash: Criticality
Dr Benjamin Doyon (Reader in Theoretical Physics)
About 4 billion years ago, life began on earth. In 2008, the global financial system crashed. If you heat a magnet just right, it becomes overly sensitive to magnetic fields. Surprisingly, these three facts are related to each other, by a very profound idea in physics, that of criticality. Criticality says that unexpected large-scale behaviours can emerge when many small things – say molecules or stock market traders – interact with each other. I will introduce this beautiful and far-reaching concept by touching upon phase transitions, bubbles and supercooling.