The 27th Ockham Lecture - 'Reductionism vs Bootstrap: Are Things Big Always Made of Things Elementary?'

Date: Monday 30 April 2018
Time: 17:00 - 19:00
TS Eliot Theatre, Merton College

Given by Professor Slava Rychkov, Professeur permanent, Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, MHI-ENS Chair Professor in High-Energy Physics, École normale supérieure, Paris, and Research Staff Member, Theoretical Physics Department, CERN.

The lecture was introduced by Professor Alex Schekochihin, and was followed by a Q&A session.

Watch the lecture


We love to reduce physical systems to a few elementary blocks, which we can operate as a LEGO game to build more complicated 'composite' objects. Geoffrey Chew in the 1960s hypothesized, in connection with high-energy physics, a different type of situation when there are infinitely many particles, all of them equally elementary (or equally composite), and whose mutual existence is forced by tight requirements of self-consistency. He called this scheme 'bootstrap', referring to a magical act of lifting oneself by one's shoelaces. I will explain how the 'bootstrap' idea recently found a concrete realisation in the theory of critical phenomena, the three-dimensional Ising model being the simplest bootstrap system.

The Ockham Lecture series

The Merton College Physics Lecture (the Ockham, or Occam, Lecture, so named in honour of one of the greatest—if unattested—alumni of the College and of his philosophical principle of intellectual discipline) started in 2009 and is held once a term. It is organised by the physics tutors of the College to promote both intellectual curiosity and social cohesion of the Merton Physics community.

Attendance is by invitation: All Merton physicists (and sympathisers!) belonging to the three Common Rooms (JCR, MCR and SCR) are invited, as are the Old Members. Their guests are also accommodated, space permitting.