Complex Systems

Our Research

The study of Complex Systems considers the ability of individual components of a large system to work together to give rise to dramatic and diverse behaviour. Complex emergent phenomena are often not predicted by an understanding of the behaviour of the constituent parts underlying them, 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 trader is not a market

In other words, the emergent properties of complex systems are considered to be greater than the sum of their parts. As Nobel laureate Philip Anderson said: "More is different!".

In physics, magnetism of everyday materials emerges from the spontaneous alignment of the magnetic moment of billions of electrons. Similarly, phenomena such as superconductivity and superfluidity emerge from the cooperative flow of electrons and atoms, respectively, at temperatures close to absolute zero. On a much larger scale, the structure of the universe emerges from the gravitational attraction of matter.

Researchers with in the School of Physics investigate the properties of Complex Systems in a variety of settings. These include the investigation avalanche processes in Neutron stars, the formation of new states of matter in strongly interacting condensed matter systems, the investigation of structure and function in biological systems, the study of flocking in biological systems and the development of econophysics to investigate credit flows in the Australian banking system and the resulting long-term stability of their networks.