The Physics of Complex Systems



Dr. Harold Soodak

24 December 1920 - 30 September 2008


Synopsis of background:

Harry Soodak worked at the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he gave courses in nuclear physics and reactor theory.  In 1945 Harry Soodak and Eugene Wigner published the first design of a sodium-cooled breeder reactor.  In 1949 Soodak joined the Physics Department of his alma mater, CCNY where he was widely admired for the brilliance and depth of his understanding of the worlds of physics and mathematics, receiving an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1987. He retired in 1992. Soodak and Iberall had a close connection, having met in college at CCNY. They talked together, sometimes on a daily basis, developing the principles of homeokinetics. This work is seen in their papers together, especially the 1978 paper in Science that outlined five propositions that bridge the levels of natural phenomenon making up complex systems.

On Homeokinetics:

"Homeokinesis is a required extension of thermodynamics/statistical mechanics to systems which are too complex to describe by one or several equation sets. Of necessity, it is less mathematical than standard thermodynamics, and emphasizes a set of physically based fundamental principles and processes, and a strategy of using these principles and processes to describe and understand the behaviors of the complex systems.

"It treats all complex systems on an equal footing, animate and inanimate, thus providing a common viewpoint for all systems. One simple example is that of modes of behavior; every complex system operates via a set of behavioral modes that characterize the system. A more involved example is that of language; every complex system, animate or not, conscious or not, uses language. Homeokinetic physics contains an objective definition of the concept of language, applicable to all complex systems.

"It is applicable, and has been applied by Iberall and colleagues, to geological and biological evolution of our planet, to the operation of individual biological organisms as complex as mammals, including humans, and to the operation of human societies at all stages of our history."

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