In a Flight of Starlings: The Wonder of Complex Systems

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In a Flight of Starlings: The Wonder of Complex Systems

In a Flight of Starlings: The Wonder of Complex Systems

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This has happened thanks to a re- jection of science that becomes even more serious when it occurs in relation to climate change. It is as if we were driving at night: the sciences are our headlights, but it is the responsibility of the driver to not leave the road and to take into account that the headlights have a limited range.

I wanted to start there to emphasize how difficult it is to understand the many phenomena that we observe almost daily and to convey that complexity is not about what happens in laboratories. We have seen during the pandemic the tragedy of the many people who have died refusing to be vaccinated, despite the millions of COVID-related deaths.Photograph: Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/PA Images View image in fullscreen Giorgio Parisi: ‘Trying to describe some sophisticated physics problem without formulae takes real effort. Sometimes it takes years to develop them, and all it took was another physicist asking a pointed question. He explains the way in which he is able to to see connections hidden from others simply because of the multiplicity of the projects he has worked on over time. Earlier this year, he suggested that when cooking pasta, one should turn the burner off after adding the noodles to boiling water.

Giorgio Parisi has written a slim, flight-length primer on the ways that “scientists toil, doubt, succeed, and fail. Giorgio Parisi: ‘Trying to describe some sophisticated physics problem without formulae takes real effort. Now that climate change is starting to affect people’s lives, there is perhaps a stronger reaction, but we need much more forceful measures to be taken.At this moment in time, perhaps more than any before it, it is essential that the public have a fundamental understanding of the practice of science—that is to say, not only the results at which scientists arrive but how they do so. In Rome in the winter, every evening we see starlings flocking above the trees, forming these amazing patterns.

To create a 3D image, we positioned two cameras 25 metres apart on the roof of the Palazzo Massimo in Rome, to track each individual as they moved. In this delightful and deeply thoughtful book, Giorgio Parisi weaves a tapestry of experiences and ideas that connects disciplines and prepares us to appreciate the beauty, importance, and cultural value of science. A bunch of Italian physicists concocted a gizmo of numerous synced cameras, each taking stills of a murmuration.We don’t share your credit card details with third-party sellers, and we don’t sell your information to others. Parisi knows, knew or at least acknowledges pretty much everyone who ever won a Nobel Prize in Physics (He won his in 2021). If citizens and politicians do not trust science, we will move inexorably in the wrong direction, and the struggle against any number of global ills—global warming, infectious disease, hunger and poverty, the depletion of the planet’s natural resources— will fail. For, even with my limited insight into the dynamics of magnetic interactions or the basics of combinatorial calculus (a term wisely left off the book’s cover), I did grasp the main thrust of Parisi’s argument: We live in an intricate web of ever more complicated dynamics, but that web is shaped, stretched, and spun by our little choices and chats. The first 18 pages was about his experience trying to define and capture how a collective gathering of starlings can move with incredible unison.



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