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Emergence without limits: The case of phonons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-78
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Early online date23 Jun 2018
Accepted/In press6 Jun 2018
E-pub ahead of print23 Jun 2018
PublishedNov 2018


King's Authors


Recent discussions of emergence in physics have focussed on the use of limiting relations, and often particularly on singular or asymptotic limits. We discuss a putative example of emergence that does not fit into this narrative: the case of phonons. These quasi-particles have some claim to be emergent, not least because the way in which they relate to the underlying crystal is almost precisely analogous to the way in which quantum particles relate to the underlying quantum field theory. We offer an account of emergence which encompasses phonons, and argue both that emergence may thus be found in cases where the use of limits is not required, and that it provides a way of understanding cases that do involve limits.

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