Statistical mechanics is set up to handle the complexity that emerges in physical systems that comprise many interacting particles and that are governed by some known (classical or quantum mechanical) equations of motion. Many other systems exist where interactions between many entities lead to emergent regularities, but where we don't have the luxury of knowing the underlying equations of motion. Social systems provide pertinent examples. Why do some new ideas or technologies (such as low-energy light bulbs) become widely adopted among a community when others fail? What governs the pace at which a language change takes place?
To answer questions like this, we need to understand the dynamics of imitation and learning in human populations. In collaboration with linguists and psychologists, we have devised stochastic models for cultural learning and change that have been applied to field and experimental studies. Nevertheless, many gaps in our understanding of how cultural change takes place remain. Your work in developing our current mathematical theories and/or computational models of social learning, cultural change and related processes will be instrumental in plugging these gaps.
- Dr Richard Blythe (School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Edinburgh)
The project supervisor welcomes informal enquiries about this project.
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The links below summarise our research in the area(s) relevant to this project:
- Find out more about Statistical Physics and Complexity.
- Find out more about the Institute for Condensed Matter and Complex Systems.
- Find out how to apply for our PhD degrees.
- Find out about fees and funding and studentship opportunities.
- View and complete the application form (on the main University website).
- Find out how to contact us for more information.