Emergence and Minimal Models in Condensed Matter Physics and Biology

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Our ability to understand the physical world has to a large extent depended on the existence of emergent properties, and the separation of scales that permits effective field theory descriptions to be useful. Exploiting this fact, we can construct minimal models that enable efficient calculation of desired quantities, as long as they are insensitive to microscopic details. This works in many instances in physics, and I give some examples drawn from the kinetics of phase transitions mediated by topological defects. In other fields, such as biology, it is not so clear that these concepts are useful, and I will discuss to what extent emergence and effective theories might be useful.