New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

An Interdisciplinary Investigation into Complex Systems

Pier Luigi Gentili, University of Perugia (Italy)


In the last three hundred years or so, the scientific knowledge has allowed an outstanding technological development. Despite many efforts, there are still compelling challenges that must be won. We are unable to predict catastrophic events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. We struggle to avoid climate change and the warming of the Earth. We want to exploit the energy and food resources without deteriorating the stability of the ecosystems and their biodiversity. There are still incurable diseases that must be defeated. We want to predict the economic and financial crisis. Moreover, we would like to guarantee stability in our societies. Whenever we tackle such challenges, we deal with Complex Systems, which are the geology and the climate of the Earth; the ecosystems; the living beings, particularly, the human immune system and nervous system; the global economy and the human societies. In order to prepare the new generations of students to be ready to tackle the challenges that regard the Complex Systems, I have written a book titled “Untangling Complex Systems: A Grand Challenge for Science.” This book is an account of a marvelous interdisciplinary journey I have made to understand the properties of the Complex Systems. I have undertaken my trip, equipped with the fundamental principles of physical chemistry, in particular, the Second Law of Thermodynamics that describes the spontaneous evolution of our universe, and the tools of Non-linear dynamics. By dealing with many disciplines, in particular, chemistry, biology, physics, economy, and philosophy, I show that Complex Systems are intertwined networks, working in out-of-equilibrium conditions, which exhibit emergent properties, such as self-organization phenomena and chaotic behaviors in time and space. It is not possible to describe Complex Systems accurately from their ultimate constituents (i.e., atoms and molecules) due to computational reasons. Therefore, it is necessary to develop models. In my book, I propose the interdisciplinary research line of Natural Computing as a promising strategy to comprehend Complex Systems and win the challenges that humankind is facing.

Keywords: Complexity, Interdisciplinarity, Out-of-equilibrium Thermodynamics, Non-linear Dynamics, Natural Computing, Self-Organization and Chaos, Fractals;

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