Publications & Presentations

Publication list

I have published over 180 papers in simple systems (nuclear physics, Compton profile, superionic conductor, liquid crystal), complex systems (pattern formation, active walk), and the humanities (arts, history, philosophy) as well as in science education and science communication.

Selected Paper 

  1. L. Lam et al, Europhys. Lett.91, 68004 (2010). “Bilinear effect in complex systems.”
  2. L. Lam, Int. J. Bifurcation and Chaos15, 2317 (2005). “Active Walks: The first twelve years (Part I).”
  3. L. Lam, Mod. Phys. Lett. B16, 1163 (2002). “Histophysics: A new discipline.”
  4. L. Lam, in Defect Structure, Morphology and Properties of Deposits, edited by H. Merchant (The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, 1995). “Electrodeposition pattern formation: An overview.”
  5. L. Lam, Chaos Solitons Fractals5, 2463 (1995). “Solitons in liquid crystals: Recent developments.”
  6. L. Lam (Lin Lei), Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst.146, 41 (1987) [Wuli 16, 195 (1987)]. “Bowlic liquid crystals.”
  7. R. Ribotta, A. Joets and L. Lam (Lin Lei), Phys. Rev. Lett.56, 1595 (1986). “Oblique roll instability in an electroconvective anisotropic fluid.”
  8. L. Lam (Lin Lei) et al, Phys. Rev. Lett.49, 1335 (1982). “Soliton propagation in liquid crystals.”
  9. L. Lam (Lin Lei), Phys. Rev. Lett.43, 1603 (1979). “Nematic-isotropic transitions in liquid crystals.”
  10. L. Lam and P.M. Platzman, Phys. Rev. B9, 5122 (1974). “Momentum density and Compton Profile of the inhomogeneous interacting electronic system. I. Formalism”. 



  1. Introduction to Nonlinear Physics, L. Lam, ed. (Springer, 1997). [Reprinted in China by Beijing World Publishing Corporation, 1999.]
  2. Nonlinear Physics for Beginners, L. Lam (World Scientific, 1998).

Research Monograph

  1. Solitons in Liquid Crystals, L. Lam and J. Prost, eds. (Springer, 1992).
  2. Liquid Crystalline and Mesomorphic Polymers, V. P. Shibaev and L. Lam, eds. (Springer, 1994).
  3. Science Matters: Humanities as Complex Systems, M. Burguete and L. Lam, eds. (World Scientific, 2008)
  4. Arts: A Science Matter, Burguete and L. Lam, eds. (World Scientific, 2011).
  5. 人科: 作为复杂系统的人文科学, M. Burguete and L. Lam, eds.; trans. Chen Yu and Fang Meiqi (China Renmin University Press, Beijing, 2013).
  6. All About Science: Philosophy, History, Sociology & Communications, M. Burguete and L. Lam, eds. (World Scientific, 2014).
  7. Ciência Humana: Uma Perspectiva Unificada em Humanidades e Ciências, M. Burguete and L. Lam, eds. (Instituto Rocha Cabral, 2015).


  1. Wave Phenomena: Theoretical, Computational, and Practical Aspects, L. Lam and H. Morris, eds. (Springer, 1989).
  2. Nonlinear Structures in Physical Systems: Pattern Formation, Chaos, and Waves, L. Lam and H. Morris, eds. (Springer, 1990).
  3. Nonlinear Dynamical Structures in Simple and Complex Liquids, Proceedings of NATO Advanced Research Workshop (Vol. 64, No. 5/6 of Journal of Statistical Physics), L. Lam, F. Dowell, H. Brand and G. Ahlers, eds.  (Plenum, 1991).
  4. Modeling Complex Phenomena, L. Lam and V. Naroditsky, eds. (Springer, 1992).
  5. Novel Laser Sources and Applications, J. Becker, A. Tam, J. Gruber and L. Lam, eds. (SPIE, 1994).
  6. Complex Systems in Computational Physics (Vol. 6 of Chaos Solitons Fractals), G. Marshall and L. Lam, eds. (North Holland, 1995).

Popular Science

  1. This Pale Blue Dot: Science, History, God, L. Lam (Tamkang University Press, Tamsui, 2004). 

Selected Abstract

  • M. Burguete and L. Lam (eds.). "Arts: A Science Matter" World Scientific. Book. Singpapore: World Scientific (2011).

    Abstract: This book treats arts as part of science, from the unified perspective of Science Matters. It contains 17 chapters, with 18 contributors who are prominent humanists, professional artists, or scientists. It consists of three parts: Part I: Philosophy and History of Arts; Part II: Arts in Action; Part III: Understanding Arts. The book is aimed at both research scholars and lay people, and is unique in two important aspects. It is probably the first and only book to which academic professionals and practicing artists contribute, as equals, on the common theme of creating and understanding arts. (Artists here include Cristina Leiria whose huge Kun Iam (Goddess of Mercy) sculpture is an important landmark in Macau, and the famous movie director, Hark Tsui, who is publishing his first ever article on movie-making). Perhaps more importantly, a new understanding of the origin and nature of art is offere, better supported than those put forth previously in the last two thousand years.

  • L. Lam. "Chapter 1: Arts: A Science Matter" World Scientific. Book Chapter. Singapore: World Scientific (2011).

    Abstract: The nature and origin of arts, and its relationship to “science” have been under much debate since Plato about 2,400 years ago. Here, a new perspective on these issues is presented. Science is to understand how nature works, while nature consists of (human and nonhuman) living systems and nonliving systems. Consequently all human-dependent matters are part of science—the premise underlying the new discipline called Science Matters (SciMat), which covers all topics in humanities and social sciences, arts in particular. (Arts here refer to visual arts, literature, film, performance arts, music, architecture, new media arts and so on.) In fact, arts are a subset of humans’ creative activities that aim to excite the receiver’s neurons in a certain manner, through that person’s senses, with or without significant consequences. The usual kind of “science” is to understand mostly inanimate, simple systems and how the world/universe works; it is part of science in general. Arts as a science matter is to find out everything about arts, including arts’ origin and nature, and how and why arts work at both ends of the creator and the receiver. Like physics and any other discipline, arts can be classified into two types—pure arts and applied arts. Some arts, such as drawing and performance art, could start a million years ago. All arts evolved over time and space, and the contents kept on changing as humans invented language and writing and as they migrated out of Africa and spread over the world; arts contain both global universal elements and local features. Here, all these issues as well as how arts as a science matter could be studied are elaborated, after a brief introduction to SciMat and humans’ development history and inheritance mechanism (genes and epigenes) is given.

  • Hark Tsui and Lui Lam. "Chapter 10: Making Movies and Making Physics" World Scientific. Book chapter. Singapore: World Scientific (2011).

    Abstract: The characteristics and experiences of making movies and making physics are discussed, respectively, by a movie director/producer and a physicist. Similari- ties and differences between the making of movies and the making of physics are presented. Discussions on the nature of movies and physics, on creativity and innovation as well as on the joy of making movies and making physics are provided.

  • L. Lam and L.-M. Qiu. "Chapter 17: Su Tungpo’s Bambo and Cezanne’s Apple" World Scientific. Book chapter. Singapore: World Scientific (2011).

    Abstract: Su Dong-Po (1037-1101) of the Song Dynasty is arguably the most well-known poet and writer in China. He is also a distinguished painter; he liked to paint bamboos and rocks. Unlike his contemporaries and painters before him, the leaves in Su’s bamboo painting are not necessarily attached to the stem. Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), a French post-impressionist, is recognized by Picasso, Matisse and many others as the father of modern art. He went beyond impressionism and painted many things including apples. Both these two artists tried to go beyond the appearance and show the essence of the objects they painted, in their own new ways. It was not by accident that these two painters—one from the East and the other from the West, separated from each other by about 800 years—had the same idea about painting. There must be something basic behind this. As shown in this chapter, the mechanism behind their techniques is based on how we see things, the cognitive science of vision in the human brain. The fact that Su’s style was not adopted as mainstream, unlike that of Cézanne, is discussed; it is related to the unique nature of China’s ultra-stable feudal system in the past, in which science and technology are implicitly or explicitly discouraged. Finally, the possible origin of Dong-Po Pork, for which Su is also famous for, is presented in an appendix.

  • L. Lam, D. C. Bellavia, X.-P. Han, C.-H. A. Liu, C.-Q. Shu, Z. Wei, T. Zhou and J. Zhu. "Bilinear Effect in Complex Systems" Article. Europhys. Lett. 91, 68004 (2010).

    Abstract: The distribution of the lifetime of Chinese dynasties (as well as that of the British Isles and Japan) in a linear Zipf plot is found to consist of two straight lines intersecting at a transition point. This two-section piecewise-linear distribution is different from the power law or the stretched exponent distribution, and is called the Bilinear Effect for short. With assumptions mimicking the organization of ancient Chinese regimes, a 3-layer network model is constructed. Numerical results of this model show the bilinear effect, providing a plausible explanation of the historical data. The bilinear effect in two other social systems is presented, indicating that such a piecewise-linear effect is widespread in social systems.

  • M. Burguete and L. Lam (eds.). "Science Matters: Humanities as Complex Systems" World Scientific. Book. Singapore: World Scientific (2008).

    Abstract: All earnest and honest human quests for knowledge are efforts to understand Nature, which includes both human and nonhuman systems, the objects of study in science. Thus, broadly speaking, all these quests are in the science domain. The methods and tools used may be different; for example, the literary people use mainly their bodily sensors and their brain as the information processor, while natural scientists may use, in addition, measuring instruments and computers. Yet, all these activities could be viewed in a unified perspective—they are scientific developments at varying stages of maturity and have a lot to learn from each other. That “everything in Nature is part of science” was well recognized by Aristotle and da Vinci and many others. Yet, it is only recently, with the advent of modern science and experiences gathered in the study of statistical physics, complex systems and other disciplines, that we know how the human-related disciplines can be studied scientifically. Science Matters is about all human-dependent knowledge, wherein, humans (the material system of Homo sapiens) are studied scientifically from the perspective of complex systems. Science Matters includes all the topics covered in humanities and social sciences. This book contains contributions from knowledgeable humanists, social scientists and physicists. It is intended for those, from artists to scientists, who are curious about the world and are interested in understanding it with a unified perspective.

  • L. Lam. "Chapter 1: Science Matters: A Unified Perspective" world Scientific. Book chapter. Singapore: world Scientific (2008). pp.1-38.

    Abstract: What is science? The answer is that “everything in Nature is part of science.” On the one hand, what we called “natural science” is actually the science of (mostly) simple systems; they are human-independent knowledge. On the other hand, humanities/social sciences—human-dependent knowledge—belong to the science of complex systems. Demarcation of Nature according to human and nonhuman systems, and the recognition that complex systems are distinct from simple systems allow us to understand the world differently and profitably. For completeness, the nature of simple and complex systems is briefly presented. The origin of the two cultures (made famous by C. P. Snow), humanities and “science,” is traced and some confusing issues clarified. While a gap between humanists and “scientists” does exist due to historical reasons, there is no intrinsic gap between humanities/social science and “natural science.” If these disciplines look different from each other, it is because they are at various level of development, scientifically speaking. To properly bridge the gap and to advance the search for human-dependent knowledge, a new discipline—Science Matters (SciMat or scimat)—is introduced. SciMat treats all human-related matters as part of science, wherein, humans are studied scientifically from the perspective of complex systems with the help of experiences gained in physics, neuroscience and other disciplines. Consequently, all the topics covered in humanities and social sciences are included in SciMat. The motivation and concept of SciMat, and a successful example (histophysics, the physics of human history) are presented and discussed. Four major implications of SciMat are described. In particular, a new answer to the Needham Question is offered for the first time. This chapter ends with discussion and conclusion.

  • L. Lam. "Chapter 5: SciComm, PopSci and The Real World". World Scientific. Book chapter. Singapore: World Scientific, (2008). pp.89-118.

    Abstract: A physicist’s experience in science communication (SciComm), popular science (PopSci) and the teaching of a Science Matters (SciMat) course The Real World is presented and discussed. Recommendations for others are provided.

  • L. Lam. "Chapter 13: Human History: A Science Matter". World Scientific. Book chapter. Singapore: World Scientific (2008). pp.234-254.

    Abstract: Human history is the most important discipline of study. The complex system under study in history is a many-body system consisting of Homo sapiens—a (biological) material system. Consequently, history is a legitimate branch of science, since science is the study of Nature which includes all material systems. A historical process, expressed in the physics language, is the time development of a subset of or the whole system of Homo sapiens that happened during a time period of interest in the past. History is therefore the study of the past dynamics of this system. Historical processes are stochastic, resulting from a combination of contingency and necessity. Here, the nature of history is discussed from the perspective of complex systems. Human history is presented as an example of Science Matters. Examples of various scientific techniques in analyzing history are given. In particular, two unsuspected quantitative laws in Chinese history are shown. Applications of active walks to history are summarized. The “differences” between history and the natural sciences erroneously expressed in some history textbooks are clarified. The future of history, as a discipline in the universities, is discussed; recommendations are provided.

  • L. Lam. "Active Walks: The First Twelve Years (Part II)" World Scientific. Review article. Int. J. Bifurcation and Chaos, Vol. 16. Singapore: World Scientific (2006) pp. 239-268 .

    Abstract: Active walk (AW) is a paradigm for self-organization and pattern formation in simple and complex systems, originated by Lam in 1992. In an AW, the walker changes the deformable landscape as it walks and is influenced by the changed landscape in choosing its next step. Active walk models have been applied successfully to various biological, physical, geological and economic systems from both the natural and social sciences. More recently, it has been used to model human history. In Part I of this review, the birth of the AW paradigm, its basic concepts and formulations, a solvable two-site model, and the experiments and AW modeling of surface-reaction filamentary patterns are presented. Part II here continues with properties of AW, and applications of AW in non-living and living systems—including those from the social sciences and human history. (In particular, unsuspected quantitative laws and a prediction about the Chinese history are given.) A comment on the relationship between physics, social science and complex systems is provided. The review concludes with open problems in the form of workable research projects and general discussions.

  • L. Lam. "Active Walks: The First Twelve Years (Part I)". World Scientific. Review article. Int. J. Bifurcation and Chaos, Vol. 15. Singapore: World Scientific (2005) pp. 2317-2348 .

    Abstract: Active walk is a paradigm for self-organization and pattern formation in simple and complex systems, originated by Lam in 1992. In an active walk, the walker (an agent) changes the deformable landscape as it walks and is influenced by the changed landscape in choosing its next step. Active walk models have been applied successfully to various biological, chemical and physical systems from the natural sciences, and to economics and many other systems from the social sciences. More recently, it has been used to model human history. In this review, the history, basic concepts, formulation, theories, applications, new developments and open problems of active walk are summarized and discussed. New experimental, theoretical and computer modeling results are included.

  • L. Lam. "This Pale Blue Dot: Science, History, God" Tamkang University. Book. Tamsui, Taiwan: Tamkang University (2004).

    Abstract: The year is 1989. When NASA’s Voyager 2 encountered with Neptune, images of six of the Sun’s nine planets were taken. In this rare picture, our dear Earth appears as a pale blue dot. The blue are reflections from the sea and the sky while the white comes from the clouds. It is this pale blue dot we share everyday. It is on this pale blue dot our joy and sorrow come and go. We are curious about the real world happening on this pale blue dot and beyond. We are curious about the trees, ants, sunset and the stars up in the sky. We are curious about the fate of the humans—past, present and future. And we keep on wondering whether there is a God out there. These questions were raised systematically about 600 B.C. by the Greeks in the West, and by Lao Tzu and others in the East. The complete answer did not come, not even today. However, in the past 400 years since the time of Galileo, modern science prospers and we know much more. We even have the answer to some of the big questions raised by our ancestors. Our understanding of this pale blue dot comes from all branches of science, but especially from the study of nonlinear and complex systems in the last two decades. In these three lectures, some of these understandings are presented, spanning from science to human history and to the God question.

  • L. Lam. "Histophysics: A New Discipline" World Scientific. Article. Modern Physics Letters B, Vol. 16. Issue 30. Singapore: World Scientific (2002) pp.1163-1176.

    Abstract: History is the most important discipline of study. The system investigated in history is a many-body system consisting of biological material bodies, Homo sapiens, and hence can be studied scientifically. The unique role physicists can play in advancing the science of human history is presented. We will discuss the methods of study in history; worldviews; modeling history as a complex, dynamical system; predicting the future and retrodicting the past; and artificial history. In particular, active walk is shown to provide the foundation for a new worldview, and found to be widely applicable in modeling history, as illustrated by three examples from economic, evolutionary and social histories, respectively.

  • L. Lam. "How Nature Self-Organizes: Active Walk in Complex Systems". Skeptic Magazine. Magazine article. Vol. 8. Issue 3. California: Skeptic Magazine, (January 2000) pp.71-77.

    Abstract: Ants do it. Birds do it. Humans do it. When ants go out and look for food, they do not know where the food is initially. Somehow they find it, carry it home, and recruit more ants from the nest to join them. Some kinds of trails are formed spontaneously. There is no central planning, no central command. The ants just self-organize and get the job done efficiently. How do they do it? On telephone wires or building ledges we often see birds sitting side by side, chatting, or so it seems. Do they have a chat group? Or even a chat group leader? No. They just self-organize. In early human history people self-organized to form groups, and groups self-organized to form societies. More recently, prompted by an external event—the Second World War—countries self-organized to form the United Nations. On a smaller scale, in the city of San Jose (where I teach), everyone (or almost everyone) gets his or her hair cut, in one way or another. The number and locations of the barbershops are not decided by any organization or committee. It just happens, seemingly by a miracle. But it is not a miracle; it is self-organization. Self-organization does not happen in a vacuum. It depends on the nature of the individuals, the interaction between the participants, and the environment. All three of these components mutually influence each other. We have a good understanding of self-organization from physics—for example, thermal convection in a glass of beer. However, for complex systems like ant and human societies, we know much less. The aim of scientists is to find a unified description of self-organization that covers all complex systems. Exciting headway has been made in the last eight years in describing complex self-organization through a theory called "active walks."