Madison Chaos and Complex Systems Seminar

Fall 2014 Seminars

All seminars are Tuesday at 12:05 pm in 4274 Chamberlin Hall except as noted. Refreshments will be served.

Short List


September 2, 2014

Writing a novel

Russell Gardner, Jr., Freelance scholar after psychiatry career without present institutional affiliation

Many people write novels. For example, I find many columns of the New York Times seem to have writers as intended readership  (or those who wish to write). My own focus started suddenly on a late night near the end of February, 2012. In O’Hare Airport, standing on the tarmac I suddenly decided to include myself amongst the group, and from that moment began. I tell how this happened, and how I have tried to attain compositional skills in fiction, including lessons from books, conversations and trial runs, and now formal courses sponsored by the Madison Writers Studio taught by two novelists ( At the time of this abstract, I am half through a year-long course entitled “Novel in a Year.” It involves writing 25-pages per month (in my case, sequential chapters) to accumulate by year’s end in a first draft. The structure itself has helped me. Previously I’ve felt stymied with lengthy prose of any kind, and suspect that it will stand me in good stead for efforts in the future.

In this presentation I plan to relate:

September 9, 2014

Upstairs/downstairs in our brains - What’s running our show?

Deric Bownds, UW Department of Zoology

This talk starts with some brief brain 101 elementary anatomy and then offers a cherry picking review of  recent trends in brain systems research that correlate what is going on in our brains with our behaviors. We want to know what normally makes us tick,  what distortions might underlie addictive, impulsive, aggressive, stressed, depressed, or anxious behaviors, and what therapies might counter these distortions.   I will focus on structure-activity-behavior correlations in three brain state distinctions that are currently being emphasized:   Upstairs/downstairs and attentional/default mode systems that are a spontaneous part of our normal behavioral repertoire, and the cognitive therapy or meditation systems whose training, development, and expression can alter them.

This talk is available in written form.

September 16, 2014

Cyclin-dependent kinase-confined cortical chaos

Bill Bement, UW Department of Zoology

Cytokinesis--the final step in cell division--is restricted to a discrete point in the cell division cycle referred to as "C-phase". In C-phase, the cortex of the cell is uniquely competent to respond to signals from the spindle by assembling the cytokinetic apparatus. C-phase follows anaphase onset and varies in length according to cell type. We have discovered that anaphase onset in frog and echinoderm embryos is associated with cortical excitability, manifest as waves of Rho activity and F-actin that traverse the underside of the plasma membrane. The waves are suppressed by cyclin dependent kinase 1 (Cdk1) and can be driven into a chaotic form when Cdk1 activity is experimentally suppressed. Remarkably, the excitability entails F-actin mediated Rho inhibition. We propose that C-phase is explained by the development of cortical excitability which is normally restricted to a discrete portion of the cell cycle Cdk1 and that excitability provides the cell with the means to balance the conflicting needs of speed, precision and flexibility during cell fission.

September 23, 2014

Wisconsin State Energy Office – Forecasting, monitoring, and responding to energy crises

Jim Mapp, Dark Energy Associates

Since the 1970s Wisconsin has experienced several petroleum crises, natural gas supply limitations, coal shortages, and electric power brownouts, blackouts and supply uncertainty.  There have been crises related to propane shortages, extremes in cold weather, hot weather, rain events, and floods.  We will discuss the role of the Wisconsin State Energy Office in forecasting, preparing for, monitoring and responding to these various energy related crises and the often chaotic conditions surrounding these events.  This past winter’s propane shortage provided an example of a recent energy crisis.  Propane as a liquid fuel is used for crop drying, home heating in rural areas, and as a supplemental fuel in areas where natural gas is not available.  The coming fall and winter heating season may provide an example of the various factors that combine to generate chaos in the supply and demand of propane and steps that can be taken to respond to a possible crisis.  Possible supply constraints may include; propane pipeline supply limitations, expanded propane export market, limitations on rail car availability, wet harvest conditions and record corn harvest leading to increased demand for propane for crop drying. Early onset of cold weather could increase the demand for heating fuels such as propane.  Possible responses may include coordinating efforts with other Wisconsin agencies, other states, various federal authorities, or various national organizations.

September 30, 2014

The chaos in vocal fold vibration and sound production

Jack Jiang, UW Department of Surgery

Vocal fold vibration is key for human speech and communication. This vibration is driven by airflow and can be regular, irregular, or chaotic. Our study focuses on in what conditions vocal fold vibration will be regular or irregular. Many voice disorders, such as lesions or paralysis, can lead to irregular voice. We can surgically intervene to restore healthy and more regular vibration. We also use acoustic parameters, such as perturbation analysis (jitter and shimmer) and nonlinear dynamic analysis (correlation dimension, second order entropy, and Lyapunov exponents), to describe the irregularity of voice production. Clinically, these chaotic parameters show discriminatory power for pathological voice. Typically, we classify four types of voice: Type 1 (nearly periodic), Type 2 (contains strong modulations or subharmonics), Type 3 (aperiodic), and Type 4 (predominated by stochastic noise characteristics). The challenge is that when the voice has too much turbulence the degree of freedom approaches infinity. Such voice is difficult to quantitatively describe.

October 7, 2014

Using distance correlation and SS-ANOVA to assess associations of familial relationships, lifestyle factors, diseases and mortality

Jing Kong, UW Department of Statistics

We present a method for examining mortality as it is seen to run in families, and lifestyle factors that are also seen to run in families, in a sub-population of the Beaver Dam Eye Study that has died by 2011. We observe that pairwise distance between death age in related persons is on average less than pairwise distance in death age between random pairs of unrelated persons. Our goal is to examine the hypothesis that pairwise di fferences in lifestyle factors correlate with the observed pairwise diff erences in death age that run in families. Szekely and coworkers have recently developed a method called distance correlation, that is suitable for this task with some enhancements relevant to the particular task at hand. We build a Smoothing Spline ANOVA (SS-ANOVA) model for predicting death age based on four major lifestyle factors generally known to be related to mortality and four of the major diseases contributing to mortality, to develop a lifestyle mortality risk vector and a disease mortality risk vector. We then examine to what extent pairwise diff erences in these scores correlate with the pairwise di fferences in mortality as they occur between family members and between unrelated persons. We fi nd signfi cant distance correlations between death ages, lifestyle factors, and family relationships. Considering only sib pairs compared to unrelated persons, distance correlation between siblings and mortality is, not surprisingly, stronger than that between more distantly related family members and mortality. The overall methodological approach here easily adapts to exploring relationships between multiple clusters of variables with observable (real-valued) attributes, and other factors for which only possibly nonmetric pairwise dissimilarities are observed.

October 14, 2014

Human Longevity: Where are we going and how are we getting there?

Alberto Palloni, UW Department of Sociology

Our species has been around for 250,000 years or so. During nearly 249,800  of these, life expectancy at birth was steady at a level hovering around 25 years. But over the last 200 years, that is 0.1 percent of our species' lifetime on the planet, life expectancy at birth increased from about 25 years to about 80 years or, equivalently, Homo added 2.6 months of life per year. Some countries have cruised along with a pace of gains in survival twice as large as this average. It turns out that,  on average and contrary to most past forecasts, life expectancy at birth has been going up linearly for a long time.

How did this happen? Can we keep it going? Aside from occasional setbacks (HIV, collapse of social organizations, wars, Ebola(?)) can one harbor the hope that by the year 2050 newborn cohorts will be expected to live 90-100 years? And if so, how healthy could the 90% of newborns who will make it to their 90th birthday expected to be? And what does this do to the course of human evolution?

October 21, 2014

Complex multi-systems redesign: regional food for regional markets

Michelle Miller, UW Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems

As much as we enjoy our farmers markets and CSAs, most of our food makes its way to us via freight truck. As fuel prices continue a decades-long rise, shippers and carriers shoulder the cost.  They are controlling costs in ways that increase transportation efficiencies for them as individual actors, not for the entire supply chain. These shifts, such as placement of distribution centers and big box stores, have unintended consequences for other parts of the food supply chain. Highway congestion and related fuel waste, poor labor conditions for truck drivers, creation of ”food deserts” in urban and rural areas, and limited market access for midsize farmers are some of the negative feedback that result.  Hidden costs, such as the vehicle costs necessary to drive to supermarkets or warehouse stores, are borne by consumers rather than shippers. At the same time, consumers are separated from the source of their food, fueling concentration in agriculture, another positive feedback loop. Separating food production from the population creates a brittle food system with environmental, economic and social consequences. This project takes a systems look at the current wholesale food supply chain, from farmer to consumer, and begins to model logistical innovations that reconfigure agricultural and transportation systems to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. We expect to see reduced GHG emissions, reduced highway congestion, increased redundancy in food production, and a move from food supply chains to a more web-like structure, better use of public investment in transportation and food provisioning, and improved labor conditions throughout. Using a complex adapative systems approach, early work brought representatives from regional food supply chains together to discuss various perspectives. Current work, advised by food freight stakeholders, is modeling logistical interventions based on actual movement data that we think may improve the movement of food and catalyze this cascade of other benefits across the supply chain.

October 28, 2014

On reactive model-free stock trading in a complex financial market

Bob Barmish, UW Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

In this seminar, I will describe a new paradigm for stock trading in a complex financial market.  The theory does not make use of a predictive model for the time-varying stock price. Instead, based on the use of a feedback control loop, the investment level is dynamically adjusted over time via a "reactive adaptation'' mechanism. In the finance literature, such a scheme falls under the umbrella of  "technical analysis.'' After explaining what is meant by technical analysis, I will address a long standing conundrum in finance: Why is it that so many asset managers, hedge funds and individual investors trade stock using technical analysis despite the existence of a significant body of literature claiming that such methods are of questionable worth with little or no theoretical rationale?  Whereas existing work on this question by academics and practitioners in finance involves extensive statistical analysis of a trading algorithm via back-testing with historical data, our new feedback-based approach is aimed at providing a theoretical rationale which explains both successes and failures.

November 4, 2014

Organic chromophores for optoelectronic devices

Trisha Andrew, UW Department of Chemistry

Molecular and polymeric organic materials are promising replacements for the inorganic semiconductors in photovoltaic cells due to their large absorption coefficients and easy processing and deposition procedures. Non-traditional nanostructured devices on inexpensive and arbitrary substrates can be fabricated with high throughput using organic materials, leading to vanishingly low module costs. Recent highlights in incorporating organic dyes into photovoltaics devices of varying architectures will be discussed.

November 11, 2014

The narrative structure of the default mode network and REM dreaming

Art Schmaltz, Prairie State College

This presentation will build upon the structural architecture of the default mode network outlined here by Deric Bownds on September 9th. My focus will be on the functional aspects of the human brain's default mode network.
  1. I will argue that the default mode network is an evolved brain system with adaptive functions.
  2. The default mode network and REM dreaming-- both "hard wired" brain systems-- are complementary and work in concert with each other.
  3. Both systems are intrinsically intersubjective and variational praxis orientated.
  4. Both systems create new narratives, or novel behavioral scripts: an ongoing eco-hermeneutics for optimal adaptation to ever shifting environments.
This talk is available in PDF format.

November 18, 2014

Frac sand and related natural resources in Wisconsin

Jay Zambito, Wisconsin Geological Survey

Wisconsin has some of the best frac sand in the world, and since 2011 the state has seen a large increase in frac sand mines, processing plants, and rail loading facilities. This talk will provide information on what frac sand is, how it is used, why it is being mined in Wisconsin, and its connection to other natural resources.

November 25, 2014

Mechanoreceptors and laryngeal motor control-Why such a touchy subject?

Michael J. Hammer, UW Department of Surgery/Division of Otolaryngology

The larynx is essential for many of life's essential and elegant actions such as breathing, airway protection, and voice. Neural control of the larynx for these actions is aided by mechanoreceptors within the laryngeal mucosa. These mechanoreceptors enable the central nervous system to monitor the position and movement of the larynx, the pressure and flow of respiratory air, and provide a surveillance system to protect the airway from aspiration. However, much remains unknown about neural control of the larynx and the role of mechanoreceptors in these activities. Therefore, we have developed new technology to define how mechanosensory mechanisms are associated with laryngeal control, are affected by neurodegenerative disease, and can be improved with neurorehabilitation.

December 2, 2014

'Real School' :  The tension of standard structures and varied social processes in schools

Mary Metz, School of Education

Over the last century and a half many aspects of schooling, especially secondary schooling, have been standardized and their form, despite some changes, has been remarkably resilient.  Patterns of legitimate, “real” school are deeply embedded in social expectations.  At the same time, we know that effective teachers create routines and atmospheres that vary widely. Some individual students thrive better with some approaches, others with others.  Further, (though less well documented) community context and students’ social class and ethnicity have a big effect on what happens in classrooms.   Nonetheless, over the last 35 years, there has been increasing societal pressure to standardize the substance and practice of K-12 education yet further. This presentation explores the reasons for the persistent tension between standardization of routines and the need for wide variation and flexibility in actual instruction inside the classroom.

December 9, 2014

Chasing fast dynamos in the Plasma Lab

Cary Forest, UW Department of Physics

The Madison Plasma Dynamo eXperiment is now exploring a hitherto unexplored part of  parameter space where dynamos operate in nature. Dynamos are systems which continuously transform kinetic energy from plasma flow into magnetic energy. Discovering the conditions under which dynamos self-generate magnetic fields and then understanding how this field changes plasma dynamics is one of the most compelling questions in all of plasma astrophysics. In plasma astrophysics, the most important issue to be resolved is the fast large scale dynamo problem, namely "How does a highly conducting turbulent plasma self-generate magnetic energy at small-scales that ultimately self-organizes into large scale field?" MPDX has the potential to study dynamos, including fast dynamos, and related processes experimentally. I'll explain what this is and how we can make this happen in my talk.