So where am I and what am I doing? I’m in chilly Cambridge. The one in the UK. It is super cold over here. When we landed in Heathrow at lunchtime yesterday it was below freezing, and the thick cloud of the London sky was right down to the tops of the airport terminals. Everybody seemed to be talking about how cold it was. My wandering in central London for a few hours dragging my suitcase (before heading to Kings Cross and the train to Cambridge) was quite a bit uncomfortable – at least until I realized that a key mission should be to find on Oxford Street a branch of Marks and Spencer’s (now called M&S it seems… interestingly across the street from an H&M, and not so far from where the doomed C&A store used to be…) and buy some long thermal underwear. A bit elderly, perhaps, but very snug and warm against the icy winds and snow flurries, so I don’t care. (Yes, that probably falls under the category of “oversharing”, one of the words of the year 2008….)

icam board of governers meeting

One of the various governance boards I managed to accept to be on last year (despite trying hard to try to say “no” more last year) was that of ICAM, the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter. For the first time in ICAM’s ten year history, its annual meeting is abroad, and in Cambridge, where they are also having a scientific meeting in combination with INTELBIOMAT (Interdisciplinary approaches to functional electronic and biological materials). Right now I’m participating in the board of governers, where there’s considerable discussion and planning about future activities of the organization. Tomorrow sees the joint scientific activity start, with lots of interesting presentations and discussions on a wide range of topics form biology to condensed matter and atomic physics. Programme here.

ICAM has a great deal of interest in outreach -communicating science to the general public- and education, and this is one of the reasons I’ve been added to the board, since I’ve some experience and ideas to share in an advisory role. I’ll be giving a talk about some of these things using some projects of mine as examples (ASTI, blogging, etc). They’ve already been doing wonderful things in education and outreach, and have made it a priority to make it a major part of future activity. You might find interesting the (currently under construction) websites Emergent Universe and Emergent Labs. Be sure to keep alert for more from ICAM via these sites and more.

Right now (board meeting over) we have James Bradburne giving a plenary lecture to all of us about the topic of learning, focusing on museums and Science Centres – “informal” science learning – and the dissemination and educational challenges for the future. So far he’s great. (“Nobody ever failed a museum” – Frank Oppenheimer)


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4 Responses to Complex

  1. Dr M says:

    Welcome to our chilly little academic village! Today is a nice and warm 9 degrees C, though, here in Cambridge. 😉

    Hope you will enjoy your stay, and that you’ll have a good meeting!

  2. Elliot says:

    This sounds pretty interesting. Keep us posted. I bookmarked the site and plan to visit.



  3. When are you coming to visit me? Somewhat counterintuitively, it’s rather warmer as you go north at the mo.

    (Curious aside: I always think of Cambridge as being in the north of England, except when I am in Scotland, and then I think of Newcastle as being in the south. Funny how many times a year “The South” changes meaning for me.)


  4. Plato says:


    One thing I can tell you, though, is that most string theorist’s suspect that spacetime is a emergent Phenomena in the language of condensed matter physics. Edward Witten

    I was wondering if my assumption is wrong here in terms of what string theory hoped to accomplish, while looking at Robert Laughlins approach method. Doe sit not seem as part of the vision of Edward Witten’s, in contrast to the statement above. I seen this as a attempt to “validate string theory” in Robert Laughlin’s approach as a Condense Matter theorist point of view. Dates and time of Witten’s statement seem to coincide with ICAM formation?

    The Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (ICAM) is a University of California multicampus research project devoted to revealing the principles by which matter, both living and inanimate, organizes itself to reveal surprising, emergent behavior. See: