Edward (Eddie) Lee

I am a scientist at the intersection of physics and society--using physics models, ideas, and intuition to look for general principles in human behavior. I focus on systems where detailed data permit rigorous quantitative tests of theory. I've worked on the emergence of blocs in group decision making (e.g. voting in the US Supreme Court), the spread of conflict (e.g. in a primate society), and universality in models for how avalanches spread--like in a collapsing material or a social network.

In particular, I am interested in harnessing the tools of statistical physics to investigate universal behavior in conflict and decision making across human societies. Universality is a remarkable concept from statistical physics where apparently different systems behave in the same way. Such universal principles might offer a powerful framework for understanding human society and its place in the natural sciences.

Here's a nice review that mentions what Physics has been done on social behavior, and Philip Ball has written an inspiring book, Critical Mass, showing how conceptual frameworks from physics might provide insights about social behavior.


My current projects include synchronization of human motion, Supreme Court voting across time, parallels between human and primate conflict, and making maximum entropy methods more widely accessible. I am now a PhD candidate in Theoretical Physics at Cornell University under Professor Paul Ginsparg. I graduated from Princeton University in 2012 with an A. B. in Physics and a Certificate in Biophysics and received an M. S. in Physics from Cornell University in 2018. Previously, I was at the Center for Complexity & Collective Computation at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and in the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics in the Biophysics Theory Group.

You can contact me at [email protected] My github is http://github.com/eltrompetero.

My CV is available here.

One of my main, non-science activities is breakdance. I am part of Absolute Zero, the breakdancing group at Cornell. I also enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy, drinking tea, and writing about science.