HNRS195I-005: Complex systems

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Syllabus Fall 201658.22 KB 58.22 KB

Complex systems in biology, engineering, and social science: connectedness, network analysis, and an introduction to modeling

The class will meet at 2pm (-2:50pm) on Mondays in ENR2, room S495.

Readings and other material are available on the D2L course website, which is accessible to enrolled students from the beginning of the semester.

'Complex systems' are composed on multiple interacting units, and often show sophisticated behavior that is not easily predicted even knowing the capabilities of individuals. For example, how does our perception of the world result from just simple nerve cells sending essentially binary signals? How does an ant colony make a collective decision among nest sites that vary in a series of traits? How does a complex multicellular organism emerge from initially identical embryonal cells? The science of complexity studies how such collective behaviors emerge from the actions and interactions of individuals in a system. This research has generated both philosophical questions (what is emergence?) and engineering applications (how to manage an efficient internet).

We will read about and discuss these topics; students in the class will also complete two projects, one of which will involve writing scripts for network analysis (using 'R'), the other implementing an individual-based simulation (using 'Netlogo'). No prior programming experience is required. The goal of the class is to introduce students to these important skills (script writing and programming) in a stepwise fashion; both R and Netlogo provide a wealth of tutorials, some of which will be used in class. We will also discuss the role of modeling, mathematics, statistics, and computer simulations in science more generally.

Please email me if you have any questions about the class: