Eric Chaisson, CFA, Harvard

Topic: "Cosmic Evolution and the Arrow of Time"  (Video)

Abstract: All things considered, Nature writ large is a mess. Yet, underlying unities pervade the long and storied, albeit meandering, path from big bang to humankind. Evolution is one of those unifiers, incorporating physical, biological, and cultural changes within a broad scenario of cosmic evolution. Complexity is another such unifier, delineating the growth of structure, function, and diversity within and among galaxies, stars, planets, life, and society.

This interdisciplinary talk summarizes a research agenda now underway not only to search for unity in Nature, but also to quantify widely, deeply, and phenomenologically both unceasing evolution and increasing complexity by modeling energy, whose flows through non-equilibrium thermodynamic systems arguably grant opportunities for evolution to create yet more complexity. I shall explore a great array of organized systems, seek commonalities among them all, and examine a single, uniform metric that arguably quantifies, perhaps even drives, changes toward increased complexity throughout natural history. The potential result is an expansive evolutionary scenario extending across the arrow of time and a consistent, comprehensive worldview of material reality for the new millennium.