Three scientists have been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work to understand complex systems like the planet’s climate. They are Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi who will share the prize money of 10 million krona (£842,611).
Manabe and Hasselmann’s research has resulted in computer models of Earth’s climate which can foretell the impact of global warming. As climate is a complex physical system, predicting its long-term behaviour is difficult and hence computer models that can anticipate how it will respond to increase in the quantity of greenhouse gases are extremely vital to comprehend global warming.
Prof Parisi’s work may seem unconnected with climate change as his research is concerned with a metal alloy called spin glass in which iron atoms were randomly mixed into a grid of copper atoms leading to radical changes in the material’s magnetic properties.
According to the Nobel Committee, this spin glass is a microcosm for the complex behaviour of the Earth's climate. Complex systems, on atomic and planetary scales, may share certain features, such as being chaotic and disordered, with behaviour that seems to be governed by chance.