Madison Chaos and Complex Systems Seminar

Spring 2002 Seminars

All seminars are Tuesday at 12:05 pm in 4274 Chamberlin except as noted.

Short List


February 5, 2002

Space informatics and human centered systems

Christine Lee, UW Department of Industrial Engineering

February 12, 2002

Social rank communication & everyday life: R-Theory explained & applied

Russ Gardner, Medical College of Wisconsin

Conversation and other interpersonal communications can be understood for their informational value, but they can also be examined for their effect on the participants. R refers to a "value" that each person self-assesses his/her own worth, esteem, power, prestige, holdings or other descriptor of value to be. Also, any person can be assumed to make an R assessment of each other person with whom he/she is in contact. Anathetic signals from person A to person B aim at B's enhancement whereas catathetic signals aim to reduce B's R; compliments or boosting remarks exemplify the former and put-downs the latter. A casual conversation about the weather tends to be anathetic for both participants: affirming and respectful in purpose and effect. The presentation will entail a brief history of R (that stems from the use of resource holding potential or RHP in game theory applied to animal contests) and its present use in the psychiatric clinical setting. John Price's concept of R-gap or the tendency to maintain the same R relatedness in a pair of persons who connect strongly will be discussed as well as its use to explain otherwise puzzling phenomena in human communication.

February 19, 2002

Historical forest landscapes: mapping pattern and quantifying disturbance at regional scales

Lisa Schulte, UW Department of Forest Ecology and Management

The research that I present focuses on the interactions between ecological patterns and processes in northern Wisconsin.  Because the effects of humans are pervasive on the current landscape, we used historical data collected prior to Euro-American settlement to improve our understanding of pattern and process under non-anthropogenic controls.

A quantitative and replicable classification system was developed to reveal the composition and structure of vegetation, wind and fire disturbance patterns were mapped and described, and a model was developed to explain the distribution of these disturbances on the historical landscape.

This work is broadly applicable for regional scale scientific and forest management uses, including 1) understanding the role of multiple disturbances in shaping vegetation pattern, 2) assessing historical variability in vegetation types and disturbance rates, 3) pinpointing regions and setting goals for ecological restoration, and 4) calculating landscape change through time.

February 26, 2002

From Blacksmoke to Backlash-A hstory of the US environmental movement

Douglas LaFollette, Wisconsin Secretary of State

The first Earth Day in 1970 and the modern environmental movement were born out of the crises of the 1960s.  They were motivated by an aversion to choking on the air we breathe,  being poisoned by the water we drink, and burying ourselves in the garbage we discard.

Reflecting on the past 30 years of environmental politics in this country I would break this brief history into three stages.  The first, which I call the “big chunks period”, was our response to the obvious environmental insults that inspired the first Earth Day.

The response to this realization was some environmental awareness and some action to deal with the most obvious insults to Planet Earth.  Clean Air, Water and Superfund Acts were passed by Congress, and the Environmental Protection Agency was created.

The black smoke may be gone, but the invisible gases, CO2 and SO2, are causing the planet-threatening crises of global warming and acid rain.  Fish have returned to our lakes and streams, but we are warned not to eat them because of high levels of  toxins such as mercury, PCBs and a host of other human-made poisons.

The general public’s reluctance to change has allowed the powerful corporate interests to be quite successful in creating an anti-environmental mood in the country.  This is the third and current stage—“the backlash”.  Funded with big money from mining, timber, oil and chemical industries and aided by the superficial natterings of the right wing talk radio, those who profit from the status quo have succeeded in creating an effective backlash to 20 years of progress in environmental protection.

What will follow this “Backlash’ Period?  The “new wave” thinking in Congress is trying to scrap 20 years of meaningful progress and sell off our national parks and forests to the highest bidder.  The anti-government mood is running high in this country, but recent polls show that large majorities of the public still favor protecting the environment.  How will this schism between public opinion and corporate financed politicians turn out?

March 5, 2002

The NASA, shuttle-launch, dark-moon-ray mystery

Robert Greenler, Department of Physics, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

See abstract with photo at

March 12, 2002

The statistics of accretion disks and soccer

George Rowlands, Department of Physics, University of Warwick

The study of X-ray emission from certain cosmological sources has much in common with scores in soccer matches. Thinking about the soccer matches may give some insight into what is happening in outer space.

March 19, 2002

Wasp forager traffic at the nest entrance: evidence for self-organized criticality?

Robert L. Jeanne, UW Department of Entomology

The German yellowjacket is the wasp most likely to pester you on the Union Terrace in late summer and fall. Colonies nest either in the ground or in crevices in the walls of buildings, and can reach populations of 2-3,000 workers at their peak late in the season, when forager traffic in and out of the nest can reach rates of 1-2 per second.

For decades, there has been disagreement over whether the temporal distribution of these comings and goings has any pattern to it. British workers in the 1950s concluded that it was non-random and clumped, that is, foragers came and went in little "packs." A Canadian researcher in 1970s reanalyzed those results and added new data purporting to show that the British conclusion was based on a statistical artifact, and that traffic was in fact random after all. However, his work was based on very small colonies with low traffic rates.

We have taken advantage of modern videorecording equipment and spreadsheets to revisit the issue by collecting more extensive and more precise data on traffic in large colonies. Our preliminary analyses suggest that departures are indeed non-random. Further, some datasets seem to obey the power law, suggesting that the system may be at self-organized criticality, a la Per Bak's sandpiles.

April 2, 2002

The behavior of a weird spring.

George Hrabovsky, UW Department of Physics

For many years one of the classic illustrations of chaotic behavior has been the Duffing oscillator. I will show lots of pretty pictures that illustrate why this oscillator is so heavily studied, and I will discuss some of the ramifications of work currently underway.

April 9, 2002

Multi-Antenna wireless channels made simple

Akbar Sayeed, UW Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

The use of arrays of antennas at both the transmitter and receiver has emerged as a promising technology for increasing the spectral efficiency of wireless communication systems. For a given chunk of physical spectrum, recent studies indicate a dramatic linear increase in information capacity with the number of antennas. However, these results are based on an idealized model of the propagation environment consisting of a rich distribution of scatterers between the transmitter and receiver. In this talk I will describe a representation of multi-antenna channels that yields a simple geometric interpretation of the effects of arbitrary scattering environments on channel capacity. In particular, the representation provides a simple and intuitive explanation for the capacity gains and also reveals the conditions under which we can expect to reap them in practice.

April 16, 2002

Migration and oscillation in mediated performance

Douglas Rosenberg, UW Department of Kinesiology

Performance in a mediatized culture is often negotiated in one of two ways.  Either it is subject to migration from one media or architecture to another or it is in constant oscillation between specific media practices. In other words, performance in contemporary culture is never autonomous and always subject to mediatization either tacitly or by default.  My talk will address the nature of performance in a mediatized culture.

April 23, 2002

Structuring chaos:  An artist's view

Katherine Steichen Rosing
Part Time Faculty, MATC College Transfer Art
Art Instructor UW-Madison  Department of Continuing Studies in the Arts
Internationally exhibiting artist.

Artists use principles of design to provide structure to an infinite range of possible combinations of the art elements.  Repetition, one of the most fundamental organizing principles employed by artists  plays a significant role in structuring my paintings which are informed by cycles of nature and human experience.   My slide lecture will follow recent developments in my paintings as my work has grown more minimal and repetition has become a dominant force in my abstract, symbolic work

April 30, 2002

Development of speech and chewing:  A physiologic framework

Jordan Green, UW Department of Communicative Disorders

Recent advances in methodologies for studying oromotor function are providing new insights into articulatory behavior during the first several years of life. Investigators are now able to directly address long-standing questions about the biologic basis of babble, early speech, and feeding. This talk summarizes several recent findings regarding the development of lip and jaw coordination for speech and chewing. Special consideration is given to understanding how physiologic processes influence early phonologic development.

May 7, 2002

Symbolic dynamics and temporal patterns of brain activity in human memory processes.

Stephen Guastello & Kristy Nielson, Department of Psychology, Marquette University. KN is also affilated with the Foley Center for Aging, Medical College of Wisconsin.

We are examining elementary neural circuits for how they interact over brief spans of time to produce integrated cognition and memory. K. Nielson will present the results from studies of several types of memory that involved FMRI scans from normal adults in age groups 18-40 and 60-85. Different activation patterns were evident in the different age groups as well as in the separate tasks. S. Guastello will present an analytic technique based on symbolic dynamics for nonlinear and potentially chaotic processes. The technique is ideally suited to the task of  identifying temporal patterns within system outputs and determining how they integrate into a hierarchical process. The research program aims to identify neural circuitry, which is thought to change over the lifespan, from this perspective.