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Experiment: Toward a Thermostatistics for Complex Systems

Crowdfunding experiment: a data scientist at Radius.com believes that physics for complex systems and Big Data is just around the corner, and asks you to support his experiment on open-source Complex Thermostatistics.

Toward a Thermostatistics for Complex Systems Toward a Thermostatistics for Complex Systems

By Shaun Swanson, Aug 2014.

Let's grow a community of researchers and science-lovers who are passionate about understanding complex systems. We will be working on an adaptation of Thermostatistics together for this purpose! Your contributions will provide a year-long runway for a collaborative infrastructure as well as educational materials for this emerging field.

What is the context of this research?

In the late 1800s, a growing belief in the atomic theory of matter solidified the importance of Statistical Mechanics as a means of deriving Thermodynamics. Thermostatistics focuses on this connection between the "microscopic" Statistical Mechanics of atoms and molecules and the "macroscopic" Thermodynamics of the behavior of systems at our scale and beyond.

Thermodynamics was originally developed during the industrial revolution to better understand the properties of steam engines. With great accuracy, it is assumed that the molecules of steam in the engine do not interact. Unsurprisingly, scientists have had trouble applying Thermostatistics to "complex" systems, where interactions between the system components overwhelmingly determine the macroscopic system behavior that emerges

What is the significance of this project?

The emergence of this field coincides with the rapid growth of complex internet technologies and the "big data" they collect. As a data scientist at Radius.com, I engage every day with a database of 27 million small businesses in the United States - an incredibly complex system. Many important systems are complex, such as metabolism, social networks, the behavior of cities, and food webs. Thermostatistics is increasingly referenced as potential bedrock for a theoretical understanding of these types of systems.

It's time that we apply the scientific method to this big data we are accumulating. This project is a push to generalize the classical Thermostatistics of steam engines so that we might fit this data we are gathering and pave the way toward a physics of complex systems.

What are the goals of the project?

This project hopes to empower and grow a community of researchers who are passionate about adapting Thermostatistics to better describe the behavior of complex systems. If you would like to join our research community, check out our public Facebook group, our curated Google group, and our public GitHub repo.

If this campaign succeeds, I will give away:
  • 4 popular science videos covering the four laws of Thermodynamics, delivered at a level accessible to anyone
  • 24-hour access to a cloud computing system dedicated to this research for at least a year

Additionally, you can expect the following for contributing:
  • A laptop sticker
  • 10 "Khan academy"-style videos summarizing important insights gained from the purchased references, delivered at an upper-undergraduate level

Contribute to this experiment at


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