Team:ETH Zurich/project/overview/emergencesimple


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Emergence, Complexity and Simplicity

"The whole is more than the sum of its parts" Aristotle

When one considers an object, it is always made of sub-parts. For example, a human is made of cells. A table is made of molecules. Each sub-part has some properties. Nonetheless, the object has other properties. These global properties can, more or less directly, be linked to the sub-part properties. This is called Emergence. Another way to see it is that an object is more than only the juxtaposition of sub-parts. For instance, interactions between sub-parts have a huge influence on the property of the system.

Water is made of H20 molecules. Water can be hot or cold. The temperature is a property of water. However, a H2O molecule has no temperature. It is not one of its property. Only a set of molecules can have a temperature.

In nature, emergence is a common phenomenon. For instance, those sea snails have a colorful shell. Those colors are not completely ordered. We would detect a repetitive motif on the shells. Those colors are not randomly put on the shells. We can recognize some geometrical forms. This mixture of randomness and order is a characteristic called complexity. As complexity is a buzz word in science, we chose to investigate it more in our Human Practice section and throughout our project.

Figure 1 Three different sorts of sea snails from a private collection