The next time you get caught in a downpour, think about how wet you are, not how wet you are. After all, rain is just a molecule made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and nothing wets itself in hydrogen or oxygen. There is nothing wet about a single water molecule. However, if you put a lot of them under the right conditions, they will get wet.
The wetness of water is an example of an “emergent” property. In other words, it is a phenomenon that cannot be explained by the basic properties of the constituents of something, and only appears when there are very many of those constituents. Emergent phenomena are inherently ubiquitous, and a proper grasp of how they come about could be the key to solving some of our greatest mysteries.
“There is a sense that science is nothing without emergence,” he says. Eric Hoela neuroscientist and author based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
For example, in physics, some materials are superconducting, allowing large numbers of electrons to move without resistance, but it is not always clear why. Neuroscientists, on the other hand, have found that consciousness appears to arise from the collective actions of neurons. In either case, understanding the basic building blocks of the system does not explain the problem symptoms. The problem symptom cannot be recreated from scratch.
“Ultimately, we want to explain under what circumstances we see the new properties,” he says. Larissa Albantakisa computational neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
However, the study of emergence is both promising and terrifyingly difficult. The standard “reductionist” approach to scientific inquiry destroys large-scale or macroscopic systems…