Physics and Social Science

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This page is a marker to open discussion on physics and social sciences.


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Physics and Social Science

Physics and Social Science: Figure 10.1 Citation patterns in the Small World literature. (c) 2004 Linton C. Freeman, The Development of Social Network Analysis, p. 166, Vancouver, CA: Empirical Press. Image courtesy of Kieran Healy.

Bill Mace comment

SFI Jan 08 Conf: Is There a Physics of Society?

Bill Mace asks: Is the wheel being reinvented? And refers to Arthur Iberall and

Wikipedia:John Quincy Stewart. 1948. Demographic Gravitation: Evidence and Applications", Sociometry, Vol. 11, No. 1/2. (Feb. - May, 1948), pp. 31-58.[2]

Scott L. Feld American Scientist review: Looking at Patterns, Not People see: The Social Atom by Mark Buchanan (his blog)


Doug answers Bill and adds a post to:

Why are there no social physics?” In 1979 Bernard and Killworth proposed two reasons for our failure to develop adequate theory: focus on detail rather than generality - on behaviours, not underlying principles people are embedded in highly dynamic non-linear processes, difficult to describe using relatively brief ‘slices’ of observations.


On July 5, 2008, Mike Turvey (with Gene Yates) invites Doug to give the Iberall memorial lecture

Doug starts to write Social physics: Networks and causal chains

and finishes with a powerpoint with a workshop presentation in part 2 - at

Workshop Public lecture


Flyer for this talk: Social Physics: Networks and Causal Chains Douglas R. White

Afterthought: In a series of articles on kinship groups and organizations over time, and at the historical dynamics of monetized commodity exchange, cities, states and empires, the empirical data on dynamics points to distinct types of metastable dynamics in the various systems based pon monetized commodity exchange, i.e., characterized by partially coordinated tendencies (not states) in which individual coordinating elements are neither completely independent of each other (‘locally segregated’) nor fully linked in a fixed mutual relationship (‘globally integrated’).” These are characterized by fluctuations of varying periodicities, depending on scale. Our recent publications on economic networks (Science, SFI Working paper) start to show how our group is studying these phenomena dynamically.
The varying periodicities seem to follow a 2:1 embedding, that is, each of the slower oscillations embeds two faster oscillation. One speculative possibility, given that conflicts and intense competition often occur between internal and external units at the end of an oscillation, is that these operate as switches, removing the boundary constraints for neighbors in one time frame, and restoring them in the next.
Without monetized commodity exchange social dynamics often has different dynamical tendencies.

Later Talks

Great Ideas Before Their Time: Iberall¹s Homeokinetics and Webb¹s Mechanical Counterpressure Revolutionize Performance on Earth and Mars Dava Newman, MacVicar Faculty Fellow and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems, is Director of the Technology and Policy Program at MIT. Her research on human performance across the gravity spectrum has been conducted on the Space Shuttle and the Russian Mir space station. Her research in extravehicular activity addresses life support technologies, human-robotic cooperation, and space suit design. She was named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventors of 2007 for her BioSuit™ system.

Earlier Talks

Flyers for some earlier talks:

Life and the Sciences of Complexity F. Eugene Yates has held appointments in physiology and medicine at Stanford University, Harvard University, University of Southern California, and most recently UCLA (from 1980 until retirement in 2001). He has published extensively on physical biology, endocrine/metabolic systems, cardiovascular physiology, bioengineering, semiotics, and aging. He is currently a science advisor to the John Douglas French Alzheimer’s Foundation and to the National Space Biomedical Research Institute in respect to NASA’s planning for a manned trip to Mars.

Understanding the Mind J. A. Scott Kelso

See: Tensegrity

Met in Storrs CESPA with

names of those with whom I spoke while visiting CESPA. This was the schedule:

  • 12:00 Zsolt Palatinus: Torso Wielding
  • 12:30 Paula Silva: Remote force in oscillatory coupling
  • 1:00 Nigel Stepp: Strong Anticipation/Irvine
  • 1:30 Stacy Lopresti-Goodman: Social Affordances
  • 2:00 Rob Isenhower: Rocking Chair Synchrony/ Emotional dynamics
  • 2:30 Claire Michaels: Direct perception and direct learning

Thanks again for coming. I learned a lot. Best, Claire Carello

Later Talks

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