Soft matter - an emergent interdisciplinary science of emergent entities

Tom McLeish*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter deals with a discussion of two relevant examples of philosophical interest and closes with an assessment of the application of soft matter physics to biological systems. First, the energy scale of internal interactions in soft matter is comparable to the quantum of thermal energy. Second, mesoscopic structure or order at the length scale of several nanometers is almost ubiquitous in soft matter systems. The scientific history of soft matter science was propelled by a combination of communication within the scientific community, intrinsic conceptual overlap and commonality and visionary leadership from a small number of pioneering scientists. The language strongly indicates not simply a summation of research programmes, but the recognised emergence of a new field of science. The application of soft matter science to the analysis of biological and bio-inspired phenomena increases the interdisciplinary palette even further. The interdisciplinary nature of the sub-discipline of soft matter is remarkably broad.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Emergence
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781317381501
ISBN (Print)9781138925083
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

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