CLASSROOM AND TIME: R.L. Moore Hall 15.216B, MW 4:00-5:15
PROFESSOR: John Scalo
OFFICE: R.L. Moore 17.220
PHONE: 471-6446 (office); 478-2748 (home)
OFFICE HOURS: MW1-3. Meetings at other times can also be arranged by appointment. However, I urge you to feel free to call me at home any time between 9:00 a.m. and midnight (I do much of my work there, and it's really no intrusion) or at my office, or to talk to me after class. For short questions there is usually no need for you to walk all the way to my office or to break up your day just because you can only talk to me at some appointed times.
You are urged to take notes on the readings, partly because you will be tested on them (see below). The types of questions you should consider in your notes will be discussed in class.
Some math will be used in the presentations and some of the readings, but it will be extremely simple, and you will not need to reproduce any of it for the exam or for papers.
Major paper (1): 30%. A research paper, about 10-15 pages long, will be due near the end of the semester. Two broad choices for this paper are: 1. An investigation of the ways in which a particular field of study (e.g. sociology, medicine, marketing, communications, linguistics, psychology, anthropology, . . .) has attempted to conform to the image of a "natural science" and/or has aligned itself with the language and models of complex systems research. 2. An in-depth look at the ways in which complex systems models have become used as tools in a specific field, like the use of neural networks in astronomy or financial prediction or medical diagnosis. (The paper topics will be made clearer in a detailed assignment sheet.) The subject is to be chosen by the student, possibly related to your major, or some subject in which you have had a couple of classes, or just some area you've read about that interests you. Other possible topics may be suggested by the student, and will be mentioned as the class progresses. Much of the research will be carried out using various periodicals databases available at UT, at least to begin. I will also provide a list of starting references, world wide web sites, etc., for many areas. I expect this paper to reflect at least half a semester's worth of consistent work; please don't plan on waiting until the end of the semester.
Short papers (2-3): 30%. These are mostly aimed at demonstrating the ability of the students to view the readings from several perspectives, and to explain the broader implications in a clear way. Criteria for my grading of papers will be handed out separately and discussed in class.
Participation: 10%. Includes attendance, contributions to class discussions, and an alternate "contributions from the literature" which will be explained in class. I am hoping for interesting and lively discussion, so be sure to have read the assignments before class.
Note: Since this class only meets twice per week, and because these class meetings will review the readings, discuss assignments, etc., attendance may play an important role in your final grade, beyond the "participation" component.
On one level, you will read and learn about the basic ideas in the area of research called "complex systems": chaos, self-organization, fractals, cellular automata, artificial life, neural networks, and other types of models. Some of the applications include collective patterns in diverse phenomena like Jupiter's Red Spot, ant colonies, automobile traffic; the dynamics of galaxy evolution, brain activity, legal systems, urban development, and human organizations; and predictability in the weather, in the solar system, in economic forecasts, and in general. These general topics are of interest in their own right, and as examples of the types of interdisciplinary research to which science may be opening, for better or worse.
A second level of the course, pursued at the same time, involves a critical examination of the nature of science and model-making in general (even in everyday life), using these complex systems models as an example.
Topics that will be emphasized are: