Submitted by PeterOMalley on Mon, 2006-01-23 01:25
I've heard the term "emergence" applied to astronomy, and since I seem to be the only person studying astronomy in the class (though if I'm not, please say so!), I feel like I should say something about it. I admittedly don't know to much about it, but my understanding is that the concept of emergence is applied to the origin of large-scale structure in the universe; that is, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and superclusters, the biggest structures after the universe itself. A Haverford alum, Ravi Sheth, came to give a talk about this last semester, but I don't believe he used the term "emergence." He works with computer models of galaxies and such, and linked it to, among other things, the stock market and traffic. I attended the recent AAS meeting, and although I didn't hear any talks about emergence, there was one fascinating press release about a computer model of star formation (I can't find a link to it, however). The model attempted to explain (successfully, it seemed to me) the observed huge spikes in luminosity (i.e. bright flashes) in forming stars. The computer model was of a condensing gas cloud (where stars form) which had already centrally condensed enough to form a star. What the model showed was that "planetary embryos" (gas clots that had the potential to form planets) would form and then be swallowed by the young star, creating these luminosity spikes. I'm not sure whether or not the astronomer (whose name I can't remember) programmed the model to produce these planetary embryos or whether they were the (emergent) result of his model, so I don't know how much this was an emergence phenomenon rather than a regular computer model, but it was fascinating nonetheless. I'll keep looking for it online.