This is a guideline for developing an understanding of our world that is based on natural sciences but that opens a more comprehensive and cross-cutting perspective than usual. The aim is to recognize and understand underlying fundamental principles. This is not the reductionist’s search of some elementary Lego-set and its couplings, however, but the search for principles that do have the power to describe the world’s observed complexity and its unfolding.
The material collected here corresponds to a Master-level course in a physics curriculum. It demands a solid scientific basis including some affinity to mathematics. It indeed originated in the lecture Chaotic, Complex, and Evolving Environmental Systems, which I developed and offered in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Heidelberg University for 7 years, the last time during the winter term 2020/21. Still, be warned that this is part of the Werk|Statt with fairly complete parts standing right next to first attempts.
I wish this material to be useful, for students to explore it on their own, but also for teachers whom I invite to follow this line, entirely or from their own point of view. You are welcome to use the material made available here. I just ask that you acknowledge this page as the source. If you have any questions, criticisms, or suggestions, please drop me a note.
A collection of legacy slide sets for learning on your own as well as for teaching.
The videos recorded for the online lecture during the winter term 2020/21.
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related slide sets
in transition: looking back – looking ahead
April 22, 2021, Institute of Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University
While we are mostly concerned with understanding and managing dynamic quasi-equilibrium states, both in science and society, our world and all its subsystems unfold through transitions into novel regimes. These may be minor (easy), like the mutation of some virus, SARS-CoV-2, say, which occurs within months, or they may be major (difficult) like the combination of two bacterial photosystems into a single and more powerful one, which was some 800 My in the making before it radically changed the path of system Earth for good, including that of its subsequently unfolding life.
In my talk, I will just touch on some aspects, stepping stones: (i) the major evolutionary transitions in individuality so far, together with some fundamentals on evolution, (ii) the emergence of oxygenic photosynthesis as the most dramatic transition so far, (iii) the evolutionary spiral, our proposed larger framework, and (iv) humankind’s cultural evolution as the high end, with a glimpse on COVID-19 as a (painful) spotlight on societal forms.
last modified March 25, 2022