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Is There a Physics of Society? January 10-12, 2008, Santa Fe NM

Organizers: Michelle Girvan (University of Maryland) and Aaron Clauset (Santa Fe Institute)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

1:10 - 1:50 John M. Roberts Jr. (homepage)

Examining the modern history of interaction between social science and physics

Whether there is a "physics of society" probably depends to a great extent on how "physics" is defined. Related lower level questions are "on what sort of problems do the interests of physicists and social scientists overlap?" and "is such overlap occurring due to changing interests of physicists, or changing interests of social scientists, or both?" Here I attempt to investigate some aspects of these questions by considering some relevant themes in modern social science, and by examining instances in which sociologists and anthropologists have drawn on physical sciences in their work (either simply by analogy or by more explicit borrowing). Does this history offer any clues as to the prospects for continuing and meaningful interaction between work (and workers) in the two disciplines?