Biology 361 = Computer Science 361

Bryn Mawr College
Spring 2007

Introduction to computer models/modelling as inquiry

"Simple things interacting in simple ways can yield surprisingly complex outcomes"

Therefore, one get study/learn from computer models just like one can study/learn from "natural" phenomena

Game of Life as an example. Understandings from it

What other understandings/new questions can we obtain from the Game of Life? Play with it and let's find out ...

To play

Other's explorations

Continued, 29 January

Forum Thoughts from Week 1

The idea that there are similarities between such diverse phenomena as traffic, blood flow, neurons, and life itself, is pretty incredible. It reminded me of "Gödel, Escher, Bach," ... Sam

A mystery of sorts...one that I've come across in every discipline from computer science to biology to economics to education, etc. I also developed a bit of an appetite on the subject from Duncan Watts's "Six Degrees" ... Lauren

I agree with Lauren about the "mystery", the questions that come up now and again and yet they stay unanswered. I think Emergence is something that works toward trying to solve this mystery ... mgupta


Something that came to my mind when I was thinking about emergence was language ... Natsui

The idea of all of humanity existing as an emergent system is extremely interesting, but the idea that we could be "robbed" of free will is frightening ... isn't it also possible that, at the beginning of life, the simple rules that governed existence allowed for the creation of randomness? And if randomness was created, could free will have also been created? ... falverez

Creating computer models in the emergence context
(Some Tips for Further Exploration of and Drawing Conclusions from Computer Models and Reflections and Further Considerations)

NetLogo as a modelling environment

Continued, 31 January

Create your own version of Langton's Ant in NetLogo, play with it, modify it to create something further "surprising". Email me your resulting .nlogo file.

Continued, 5 February

Forum Thoughts from Week 2

I've been thinking about Emegernce as a logical model to explain a variety of phenomena including incidents in everyday life. One example occurred to me on Saturday when I went down to DC with a group of other Haverford students to attend a large protest on the National Mall. Seeing this crowd of tens of thousands of activists swarm and cluster around the large open space led me to wonder what logical systems could be generated to explain the behavior of such a crowd ... Rob

an object that is moving in a deterministic way is fixed in four dimensions ... for a system to be non-deterministic ... its four dimensional coordinates cannot be fixed ... Where is the randomness: ... in the subjective conscious of the observer or ... intrinsically in the system itself? ... If faced with a system who's logic you can't figure out, it is better to assure that the system is in fact random or to assume that it has been organized by a logic you don't see? Is there a practical difference between these two assumptions? ... Rob

http://www.dangermouse.net/esoteric ... Sam

i wonder what i would have to do if i punished the program for something but then later wanted it to do that very thing ... Shika

Even though there have been beautiful forms of dance, music, art etc. from thousands of years ago, many many new forms of art have continued to emerge. I think that the major reason for this is because of the power of language. Our need to expand on what we say/ write makes us start going in new directions. I don't know if I'm making myself clear, but i guess what i really want to say, is that all these forms of art are also language, just not the same kind... Natsu

I would say that all languages "emerge." Visual art and dance are both certainly forms of communication, but they lack a universally accepted code that maps meaning to various commonly accepted symbols ... Sam

Developing the capability for a relatively unambiguous method of communication was arguably one of the most important steps in human evolution ... Heather

Explore the rest of the netlogo documentation. Browse the library of models, select one, modify it. Think about how models should be motivated/described (compare netlogo Life with Serendip The Game of Life).

Continued, 12 February

Forum Thoughts from Week 3

The patterns that people see are quite simple (both the set of rules and the actually patterns) but something about the beauty in the simplicity makes us feel like we are seeing something so interesting, and maybe even complex, that we can't help saying "Wow, that is so cool...!" ... Natsu

I will endeavor to somehow modify Langston's ant to produce musicŃif this is even possible. I think it will be very interesting to hear the exact point when pattern arises out of chaos ... objectively speaking, something can have a pattern or something can not have a pattern ... Sam

I found that as I increased the complexity of the code for Langton's ant, the effects it produced were generally less interesting than those produced by the original, simpler code ... I've been plagued by this idea of free will in an emergent system, and one idea is to have interacting agents on the computer reproducing and making basic "decisions." Is it plausible to think that interacting agents would be more likely to create interesting effects with each other than the ones these same agents make on the world around them? ... Frank

I was able to make the turtles create symmetry as they moved. I noticed that only an even number of turtles can lead to symmetry, and that is quite understandable. However, the surprising thing is that each even number would not lead to symmetry if moved a certain number of steps - for example, 2 turtles would not make symmetry if they were moved 8 steps forward, 10 turtles wouldnt work if moved 2 steps and so on and so forth. Another thing to notice was that 6 turtles never made symmetry, no matter how many number of steps and 8 turtles always made symmetry no matter how many number of steps. I was trying to look for a pattern in this pattern of symmetry, but couldnt find one ... Mansi

Bergson disagreed with Darwin's theory of evolution in that it did not explain the evolution of instinct or of consciousness ... does anyone think that the emergence of life is inevitable given reasonable conditions? ... Heather

In order to have a purpose, there must be a subject (john) with consciousness who is having the purpose ... Rob

Convention states that for something to be considered science, it must be quantitative with measurements and equations that will, in theory, demystify the scenarios and questions that surface in any scientific field and explain phenomena like Langston's Ant. In reality, if every issue could be reduced to a simple calculation, most of ManŐs enduring questions about himself and the world around him would have, in all likelihood, been put to rest in the last few centuries of unprecedented inquiry and "progress". Therefore, science must exist in a more qualitative nature and should be approached instead by studying the logical contexts of these computations--through a context like emergence ... Lauren

i was wondering about an interesting idea that was brought up in class, on how religion fits into emergence. As most religions would like us to believe, life was planned by its architect, God. However this does not fit in with the definition of emergence ... Shikha

Explore the rest of the netlogo documentation. Browse the library of models, select one, modify it. Think about how models should be motivated/described (compare netlogo Life with Serendip The Game of Life).

Email me by next Monday a modified model, with commentary.

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