Statistical Physics: from startling Flocks to Eco-Networks

Prof. Samir Suweis
University of Padova

DATE: 1st September 2018 
TIME: 11:15 – 12:30 am
LOCATION: Rigoni Stern Institute, Asiago

Despite the diversity of shapes and forms (spanning 21 orders of magnitude in mass), living systems are characterized by the recurrent emergence of patterns/regularities independent of their biological details. In ecological communities species interact forming networks with typical topological structures; power-law distributions and long-range correlations are pervasive and can be found both at the level of single organisms, as in gene and protein networks, neuronal activity or individual behaviour, and at the community level, as in bacterial clustering and ecosystems. These features are also typically seen in thermo-dynamical systems in vicinity of a critical phase transition. The great lesson from physics is that criticality can emerge as a collective behaviour in a many-body system with simple (e.g. pairwise) interactions and its characteristics depend only on few details like dimensionality of the system and its symmetries. Data reveal that the key feature of living systems may be related to the architecture of their interaction networks. The topology of the interaction network may actually represent the “parameter” that nature somehow tunes so that the system’s responses to stimuli behave like a system near criticality, giving to living systems their unique ability to adapt and respond to perturbations. In this lecture I will give an overview on modelling approaches allowing to explain emergent patterns and critical-like behaviour in living systems.

Samir Suweis graduated (cum laude) in Physics in 2008 at the University of Padova, and in 2011 earned his doctorate in Environmental Engineering at the Ecole École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. After a visiting period as a researcher at the University of Princeton (NJ, USA ), since 2012 he works in the Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Physics at the Physics and Astronomy department, University of Padua, where – from 2016 -he holds the position of assistant professor (RTDa). His research work is at the interface between hydrology, ecology, and biology in the context of a theoretical framework provided by the physics of complex systems. He is author of numerous scientific publications in internationally renowned journals such as Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Nature Communications. From 2013 he teaches at the Master in Communication Sciences at the University of Padova.

Will be provided during the lecture