Micro-to-Macro

Investigating How and If We Can Aggregate Microscale Processes to Consistently Match Macroscale Patterns 

This research seeks fundamental knowledge via applications in energy and economic systems. We ask the following “How do we understand how the world works? How does this understanding depend on how we count and connect elements in the economy in models? How do these modeling decisions affect energy and economic policy and investment decisions?” These are largely questions of epistemology, or how we obtain knowledge about the world.  We recognize multiple types of decision-making entities, or agents (people, companies, cities, countries, etc.), and the physical laws of the world (e.g., laws of thermodynamics).  Even though we agree the economy is composed of human agents and physical machines that consume energy, we do not all agree how to represent them to interpret historical data and project future possibilities.  Thus, this research seeks enhanced understanding of how different scales of spatial, temporal, and conceptual aggregation of data affect our modeling and views of how energy and economic systems function. 

An example shows differences in perspectives across scales and perceptions of agents. Today, everyone in the U.S. could choose to fly to Paris tomorrow.  Practically, however, this is impossible because there are not enough planes and time.  Hence, there are constraints at the macro scale (number of planes, time) that do not pose apparent restrictions at the micro scale (e.g., 1 individual getting on a single 7-hour flight).  This is not simply a matter of changing prices to meet demand: there are simply not enough planes in the immediate term.

In a similar manner, we know it is technically possible to power the economy via low-carbon technologies, and some individual persons and companies have done so, but these technologies are not yet installed to replace unmitigated use of fossil fuels for the entire global or US economy.  What are the micro and macro-scale constraints that influence the makeup of our energy system?

This research has potential impact on a wide range of energy, economic, and environmental issues such as shifting to low-carbon energy and a circular economy. These major economic transformations ultimately involve hundreds to billions of individual choices and investments, and each one might constrain the others.

Energy Institute

Faculty and Researchers

Eric Abelson, Research Scientist

College of Natural Sciences | Department of Integrative Biology

Chandrajit Bajaj, Professor

College of Natural Sciences | Department of Computer Science

Kasey Faust, Assistant Professor

Cockrell School | Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

John Hasenbein, Professor

Cockrell School | Graduate Program in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering

Timothy Keitt, Professor

College of Natural Sciences | Department of Integrative Biology

Erhan Kutanoglu, Associate Professor

Cockrell School | Graduate Program in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering

Larry Lake, Professor

Cockrell School | Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering

Benjamin Leibowicz, Assistant Professor

Cockrell School | Graduate Program in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering

Michael Marder, Professor

College of Natural Sciences | Department of Physics

Zoltan Nagy, Assistant Professor

Cockrell School | Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Geeta Persad, Assistant Professor

Jackson School | Department of Geological Sciences

Varun Rai, Associate Dean for Research

LBJ School | Department of Public Affairs

Peter Stone, Professor

College of Natural Sciences | Department of Computer Science


Calculator on text book

Physics

Statistical mechanics to thermodynamics

climate-earth orbit

Climate Modelling

Weather forecasts to climate change predictions


cells

Biology

Single cell functions to eusocial organism cooperation and allometric scaling

ERCOT control room

Energy & Economic Systems

Short-term electric grid dispatches to integrated energy infrastructure [ERIK - NEED COPY REVIEW]


Rock Core Samples

Porous Media Flow

Rock core permeability to carbon storage reservoirs

Technology

Technology Diffusion

Agent-based consumer behavior models to widespread technology adoption


Market graph

Economics

Consumer day-to-day choices to energy gross domestic product and deficit

Fossil - Evolution

Evolution

Genotypes to phenotypes