Northwestern Events Calendar


Complex Systems Seminar: Professor Hyejin Youn: Scaling in physics, biology, cities and beyond

When: Thursday, November 5, 2020
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM Central

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Cristian Pennington   (847) 491-3645

Group: Physics and Astronomy Complex Systems Seminars

Category: Academic


In this talk, we will have a quick summary of scaling theory's applications in physics, biology, and social science. In particular, I will elaborate on urban scaling and its relation to the universality and self-similarity lurking in the urban systems. The universality and self-similarity of various urban phenomena seem both trivial and non-trivial. On one hand, the dynamics of cities are so complex, entangled with geographic factors and idiosyncratic historical paths, that it is inconceivable to explain them in a simple way, and thus even a well-designed plan often results in unintended consequences. This high level of complexity contradicts the universality and self-similarity that we surprisingly observe in almost every property of cities (population distribution, crime rate, productivity and even economic diversity). On the other hand, universality is a natural, even trivial, consequence from a common set of functionalities of cities. Fundamental units, people, are biologically not so much different from each other. In addition, people share reasons to be attracted to cities: more interaction, greater opportunity, higher productivity, and better infrastructure. These basic dynamics of urbanization is manifested as a strong signal of universality and self-similarity under a single scaling law. 

Professor Hyejin Youn, Northwestern University

Host: István Kovács

Keywords: Physics, Astronomy, Complex Systems

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