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Social Physics

Recent decades have seen a rise in the use of physics methods to study different societal phenomena. This development has been due to physicists venturing outside of their traditional domains of interest, but also due to scientists from other disciplines taking from physics the methods that have proven so successful throughout the 19th and the 20th century.

Here we characterise the field with the term ‘social physics’ and pay our respect to intellectual mavericks who nurtured it to maturity. We do so by reviewing the current state of the art. Starting with a set of topics that are at the heart of modern human societies, we review research dedicated to urban development and traffic, the functioning of financial markets, cooperation as the basis for our evolutionary success, the structure of social networks, and the integration of intelligent machines into these networks.

We then shift our attention to a set of topics that explore potential threats to society. These include criminal behaviour, large-scale migration, epidemics, environmental challenges, and climate change. We end the coverage of each topic with promising directions for future research.

Based on this, we conclude that the future for social physics is bright. Physicists studying societal phenomena are no longer a curiosity, but rather a force to be reckoned with. Notwithstanding, it remains of the utmost importance that we continue to foster constructive dialogue and mutual respect at the interfaces of different scientific disciplines.

M. Jusup, P. Holme, K. Kanazawa, M. Takayasu, I. Romic, Z. Wang, S. Gecek, T. Lipic, B. Podobnik, L. Wang, W. Luo, T. Klanjscek, J. Fan, S. Boccaletti, M. Perc, Social Physics, Physics Reports 948 (2022) 1-148.

Matjaz Perc

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