Questions that keep physicists up at night

New Scientist describes seven questions that keep physicists up at night. I liked this one:

How does complexity happen? From the unpredictable behaviour of financial markets to the rise of life from inert matter, Leo Kadananoff physicist and applied mathematician at the University of Chicago, finds the most engaging questions deal with the rise of complex systems. Kadanoff worries that particle physicists and cosmologists are missing an important trick if they only focus on the very small and the very large. “We still don’t know how ordinary window glass works and keeps it shape,” says Kadanoff. “The investigation of familiar things is just as important in the search for understanding.” Life itself, he says, will only be truly understood by decoding how simple constituents with simple interactions can lead to complex phenomena.

This reminds me of the richness in human relationships when we slow down enough to see how much we affect each other, simply by being with each other. Most organisational conversations seem to wrestle with grand strategy and delete the lower-status but real stuff that’s going on moment-by-moment with those immediately around us.

I also liked the section which explored how the act of observation affects the phenomenon being observed. Especially when put like this:

No one has yet fathomed how the universe seems to know when it is being watched.

Hat tip: Boing Boing

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