Carlson online in Montreal on Reductionism, Emergence, and Free Will

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Event Details

FREE PUBLIC EVENT: CSCA’s Montreal chapter presents an online lecture with Erica Carlson (Professor of Physics, Purdue University).


Erica Carlson
"Reductionism, Emergence, and Free Will: Are We Bound by the Laws of Physics?"

Thursday | 7:00 pm EDT | Zoom

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Reductionism, Emergence, and Free Will: Are We Bound by the Laws of Physics?

For centuries, physicists have tried to understand the universe through a reductionist paradigm, by breaking things down into smaller and smaller pieces, in an attempt to reconstruct their large-scale behavior through deterministic laws. Given the immense success of this endeavor, it’s not surprising that we even began to apply the idea to ourselves.  However, viewing humanity through the lens of reductionism and determinism has the unsatisfying implication that we’re nothing more than a collection of atoms controlled by our DNA.   Is there a way out of this dilemma?  Quantum indeterminism began to challenge the deterministic view a few decades ago.   More recently, new discoveries in condensed matter physics have begun to challenge the paradigm of reductionism in favor of emergence.  I’ll address the inadequacy of quantum indeterminism to relieve the dilemma, and also explain what emergence is, how we know it’s real, and discuss some of the implications of the emergence paradigm both for scientific progress and also for the larger question of whether human behavior can ever be captured by the laws of nature.

Erica W. Carlson, PhD, is Professor of Physics at Purdue University. She holds a BS in Physics from the California Institute of Technology (1994), as well as a PhD in Physics from UCLA (2000). A theoretical physicist, Erica researches electronic phase transitions in quantum materials. In 2015, she was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society “for theoretical insights into the critical role of electron nematicity, disorder, and noise in novel phases of strongly correlated electron systems and predicting unique characteristics.”

Erica has been on the faculty at Purdue University since 2003, where she was recently named a “150th Anniversary Professor” in recognition of teaching excellence. Her latest work popularizing science can be found on The Great Courses and YouTube.

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