Complex systems: Physics beyond physics

Yurij Holovatch, Ralph Kenna, Stefan Thurner

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    77 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Complex systems are characterised by specific time-dependent interactions among their many constituents. As a consequence they often manifest rich, non-trivial and unexpected behaviour. Examples arise both in the physical and non-physical worlds. The study of complex systems forms a new interdisciplinary research area that cuts across physics, biology, ecology, economics, sociology, and the humanities. In this paper we review the essence of complex systems from a physicists point of view, and try to clarify what makes them conceptually different from systems that are traditionally studied in physics. Our goal is to demonstrate how the dynamics of such systems may be conceptualised in quantitative and predictive terms by extending notions from statistical physics and how they can often be captured in a framework of co-evolving multiplex network structures. We mention 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. We discuss why these areas form complex systems in the above sense. We argue that there exists plenty of new ground for physicists to explore and that methodical and conceptual progress is needed most.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number023002
    Number of pages19
    JournalEuropean Journal of Physics
    Volume38
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2017

    Keywords

    • Complex systems
    • Complexity
    • Review article

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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