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Week 7 (emergence)

Paul Grobstein's picture

And so?  Thoughts as we move into the second half of the course?  From spring break?  From the books you've been reading?  From ... ?



natsu's picture

Mathematical modelling


I found the notion of "synchronization" that you presented about really interesting, and your presentation made me want to read the book to learn more about the various phenomena that have been observed and studied. I agree that there is something pleasing and comforting about seeing things in sync. I tend to feel like there is an aspect of beuty that we are attracted to.

I was also interested to hear about your idea that everything can be modelled mathematically. Now, after going through years and years of math and having a tiny bit of knowledge about mathematical modelling, I think your argument makes sense, but I do not think I had any sense of mathematical models when I was young. I know it definatley did not occur to me that mathematical models can be used to address phenomena that exist  in the real world. I was surprised to hear that you had this idea even when you were much younger. Do you think that there was something special about your environment that allowed you to sense that, or is this a notion that everybody (except me) develops at a fairly young age?

biophile's picture

Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order

I chose to read about synchronization for the paper and presentation. Although most of the titles looked intriguing, Strogatz's book popped out at me. I've always been fascinated by synchronization in nature and in engineering. I think that everyone is at some level and I often wonder why. We're drawn to it. We find harmony in singing appealing, we like organized dances, we even clap in unison sometimes. And even though it isn't true, people like to perpetuate the old wives' tale that crime spikes around the full moon. Why is synchronization so pleasing? Why does it occur so often in inanimate and unthinking things?

And why is math the underlying tie in all of this? Even when I was much younger I intuitively understood that the world around me could be modelled mathematically, that the answer to how so many things in the world works could be solved in mathematical terms. Granted, I'm not too advanced in math and I doubt I ever will be. But it's easy to let one's mind wonder, to think of the possibilities. As I said before, it's very pleasing on an intuitive level. It reminds me of the philosopher Spencer and how he said that everything is guided by rhythms. Even though I thought his conclusions were flawed (i.e. that one day the rhythms behind the universe would slow down and blinker out) that idea of a world based on rhythms and synchrony delighted me.

Although I couldn't go through all of the details that Strogatz pours out in his book, I learned so much from it. From chaos theory to pulse-coupled oscillators to complexity theory to Josephson junctions to network theory to quantum mechanics to mathematical biology, he drew connections that I hadn't been able to articulate before. That's what I enjoyed most about my book, I think. Today, we're constantly searching for connectedness. We need to organize our thoughts and put all of these complex networks in our lives into perspective. This book makes many of those connections more clear.