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The University of Southampton
Interdisciplinary Research Excellence

Thermodynamics, information, complexity: A conceptual triple point for understanding the evolution of the Earth system THURSDAY INSTEAD OF FRIDAY THIS WEEK Event

Time:
16:00 - 17:00
Date:
23 June 2011
Venue:
Building 58, Room 1003

Event details

The Earth is arguably the most complex system in the known universe. We may tend to think of this complexity in terms of the abundant forms of life we see alive today and preserved in the fossil record. The modern evolutionary synthesis, has significant explanatory power with respect to this abundance. Indeed, as Dobzhansky claimed "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution". However, evolutionary theory may struggle to account for the observed changes in complexity of the biosphere, as evolution is characterised as a fundamentally directionless process.

http://cmg.soton.ac.uk/events/event-347/

Complex Systems Simulation Seminar Series (CS^4)

from the Institute for Complex Systems Simulation, the Complexity in Real-World Contexts USRG, and the Computational Modelling Group.

PLEASE NOTE THIS WEEK'S SEMINAR IS ON THURSDAY INSTEAD OF FRIDAY.

Abstract

The Earth is arguably the most complex system in the known universe. We may tend to think of this complexity in terms of the abundant forms of life we see alive today and preserved in the fossil record. The modern evolutionary synthesis, has significant explanatory power with respect to this abundance. Indeed, as Dobzhansky claimed "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution". However, evolutionary theory may struggle to account for the observed changes in complexity of the biosphere, as evolution is characterised as a fundamentally directionless process.

In this talk I will argue that the self organisation of the Earth system and the increase in its order or structure or complexity is explicable in terms of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. The emergence and evolution of life on Earth has led to significant increases in rates of power generation. This has produced a cascade of energetic processes that includes trophic webs and much more. This is not to be understood as a physical law, but rather an understanding of thermodynamics in terms of probabilities and ultimately information. Consequently, when faced with Earth system challenges such as climate change or dwindling ecosystem services, we would do well to explicitly formulate our models in terms of what we know and what we suspect or believe. Rigorous inference techniques may not only be effective tools, but also reflect deeper insights into science and how we understand the natural word.

Speaker

James Dyke, Max-Planck-Institut fur Biogeochemie, Germany

Refreshments

Available from 3:30pm, lecture starts at 4pm.

Complex Systems Simulation Seminar Series

For the complete CS^4 schedule please click here: http://www.interdisciplinary.soton.ac.uk/cs4.html

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