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  • Writer's pictureNirvana Belén Caballero

Complex systems: Nobel Prize in Physics 2021

This year, Giorgio Parisi, Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselman shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for their "groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex systems". This are great news for Physics!.

Hasselman (Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Germany) and Manabe (Princeton University, USA) share one half of the prize for the physical modelling of Earth's climate. The other half of the prize is for Parisi (Sapienza, University of Rome, Italy), for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.

This recognition is very important for Physics and society at large.

It highlights how Complex Physics are useful to decode, understand, and predict the behaviour of Nature around us. As mentioned today in the announcement of the Nobel Prize, "we are awash in complexity at every scale".

All systems of Nature are extremely complex. Systems might look ordered at certain scales. They are, however, immensely messy. Is this messiness a useful property for Nature, or is it just noise?. When we want to predict and control a system, do we need to know every detail of every minimal particle in the system? Is the field of Complex Physics the one that solves these questions. Usually, not every detail and interaction in a system matter. Through the field of Complex Physics, we aim at detecting which are the interactions that matter.

If we look around us, nothing is simple. The most minimal device that we can fabricate has still a few nanometers. That means that there is room for many atoms, many defects, many things that could go wrong. However, at the same time, with all these Messines, Nature is still capable of developing the most amazing perfectly functioning systems at many scales (like an animal or a plant). Complex Physics brings a platform and a framework to detect what is important in a system. I celebrate that the importance of this vision of the world has been put in the spotlight through a Nobel Prize!.


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