Parameter Space Compression Underlies Emergent Theories and Predictive Models

TitleParameter Space Compression Underlies Emergent Theories and Predictive Models
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsMachta, Benjamin B., Chachra Ricky, Transtrum Mark K., and Sethna James P.

The microscopically complicated real world exhibits behavior that often yields to simple yet quantitatively accurate descriptions. Predictions are possible despite large uncertainties in microscopic parameters, both in physics and in multiparameter models in other areas of science. We connect the two by analyzing parameter sensitivities in a prototypical continuum theory (diffusion) and at a self-similar critical point (the Ising model). We trace the emergence of an effective theory for long-scale observables to a compression of the parameter space quantified by the eigenvalues of the Fisher Information Matrix. A similar compression appears ubiquitously in models taken from diverse areas of science, suggesting that the parameter space structure underlying effective continuum and universal theories in physics also permits predictive modeling more generally.