Madison Chaos and Complex Systems Seminar

Fall 2016 Seminars

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

Short List


September 6, 2016

Teaching science fiction:  Milton College 1969-73

Jim Blair, Milton and Edgewood College

I Why & How

II Class structure & Pedagogy

  A Bulletin board

  B Reading list & small group discussions

  C Lectures: History & Themes,   How to Predict the Future,   Is there Humanoid life on other planets?

      Time Travel & Theories of History,   SF Fans,  Culture & Awards (Hugo & Nebula)

III Visiting Authors

IV SF on Audio

V Film Series

VI Authors and Lectures on Film

VII Secondary Universe Conferences: Toronto & Drake

Jim Blair Abstract

September 13, 2016

Correspondence between intonation and expression in music

Trevor Stephenson, Madison Bach Musicians

For demonstration in the lecture I will bring my 17th-century Italian harpsichord and tuning lever (this harpsichord weighs only 40 pounds and has a lovely, clear sound). I will explain and demonstrate how various temperament systems are created (with a wee-bit of the math behind them) and show how different temperaments affect the expressive possibilities of a piece.

September 20, 2016

Numerical modeling: Error, stability, and chaos

George Hrabovsky, Madison Area Science and Technology

We rely heavily on approximation methods in science, as it is often the case that exact methods of solution are impossible with known mathematics. In this talk I will discuss the issues of approximation error, the stability of approximate solution methods, and the role of chaos in numerical modeling.

This talk is available in pdf and html format.

September 27, 2016

Brooke Bateman, UW Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology

Forecasting change in U.S. breeding bird distributions

Species are already coping with climate change by shifting their distributions. The rate at which these shifts are occurring is, however, much faster than faced by species in the past. In an uncertain future, we must be able to recognize and forecast how species distributions have and will continue to change. We used the species distribution modeling algorithm Maxent, occurrences, and annual climate and extreme weather covariates to predict breeding bird distributions for nearly 400 breeding bird species in the U.S. from 1950 through 2100, using 19 GCMs and two rcp scenarios. I will highlight how breeding distributions, in relation to annual climate and extreme weather covariates, have changed over the recent past and what change is forecasted for the future. Given the broad scale nature of climate change and widespread modification of the landscape with agriculture and development, we will need to coordinate and implement efforts at broad spatial scales and across many species.

October 4, 2016

Making sense of the 2016 presidential election

David Canon, UW Department of Political Science

David Canon, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, will discuss the most unusual presidential election of our lifetimes. He will discuss the importance of election rules on the outcome of elections, analyze the most recent election forecasts, and talk about possible electoral reforms.

October 11, 2016

Categorizing and visualizing basins of attraction

Anda Xiong, UW Department of Physics

With chaos research, the attention has been most often been given to topics like the chaotic attractor and the Lyapunov exponent, while less attention has been paid to the basin of attraction, yet the latter is essential for determining and calculating the multi-stability of a dynamical system. I will explain the concept of a basin of attraction and show a means for classifying basins into four different types and quantifying their size. I will show examples of attractor basins produced using a 3-D printer including the famous Lorenz system in an unusual regime where three attractors coexist.

October 18, 2016

Everyone is Listening for Something”, a musical celebration of the nature writings of Aldo Leopold, Sigurd F. Olson, Henry David Thoreau, and August Derleth

Douglas Hill, UW School of Music

One composer’s interpretive considerations, experimentations, and eventual solutions while setting such writings to music. (Including recorded examples.)

October 25, 2016

Footprints on Black Mountain: science and the subtlety of influence

Marjorie Senechal, Mathematics and History of Science and Technology, Smith College

When C. P. Snow  decried the "two cultures" in 1959, he not only named a problem, he created one.  For better or worse, the humanities and sciences have been cast through his prism ever since.  But, in the immortal words of Poul Anderson, "I have yet to see a problem, no matter how complicated, that if you look at it in the right way, does not become still more complicated."  In that spirit, we will look at the legendary, every-more-celebrated crucible of the arts, Black Mountain College,  through the stories of  several scientists who taught there. And through the eyes of someone (me) who grew up in a curiously similar milieu, in that era.

November 1, 2016

Jean-Luc Thiffeault, UW Department of Mathematics

The mathematics of taffy pulling

Taffy is a type of candy made by repeated 'pulling' (stretching and folding) a mass of heated sugar. The purpose of pulling is to get air bubbles into the taffy, which gives it a nicer texture. Until the late 19th century, taffy was pulled by hand, an arduous task. The early 20th century saw an avalanche of new devices to mechanize the process. These devices have fascinating connections to the topological dynamics of surfaces, in particular with pseudo-Anosov maps, which are a prototypical chaotic system. Special algebraic integers such as the Golden ratio and the lesser-known Silver ratio make an appearance, as well as more exotic numbers. We examine different designs from a mathematical perspective, and discuss their efficiency.

November 8, 2016

Simulating reality: Using virtual reality to explore the complexities of the world around us

Kevin Ponto, UW Department of Design Studies

Virtual reality technologies have provided a new means to experience digital worlds.  While much of the commercial interest in this technology has been focused on creating artificial worlds, our lab has instead focused on utilizing this technology to better understand real physical spaces.  In this talk I will describe how our lab is using new technology to capture and create simulated experiences in order to better understand the world around us.

November 15, 2016

Macro-evolution: A new model emerging from modern genome data

Periannan Senapathy, Genome International Corporation

Origin of life is an unsolved phenomenon.  Charles Darwin’s mechanism assumes a universal ancestor, and elaborates the natural selection model to show how this ancestor could have evolved into all other organisms on earth, thus leaving the question open.  While it has been known that natural selection mechanisms are able to clearly explain the “micro-evolution" of an organism into its varieties (for example, a crab into many different crab varieties), natural selection is unable to explain how an organism, such as a worm, could evolve into an entirely distinct organism such as a crab (termed "macro-evolution").  In this context, a theory formulated by Senapathy, that complex organisms could arise directly in prebiotic chemistry based on the easy origin of split genes in prebiotic random DNA, offers an explanation for macroevolution.  This model shows that the genomes of complex organisms based on split genes are easy to arise from prebiotic chemistry, whereas the genomes of the apparently "simple" bacterial organisms could not. The implications of this model contrasting the conventional model will be discussed.

November 22, 2016

Asleep or awake? Local sleep in health and disease

Stephanie Jones, UW Department of Medicine and Public Health

The group of researchers at the Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness at UW-Madison is arguably one of the best in the world, and some truly ground-breaking work on the function of sleep has been generated here.  This talk will highlight much of this work and will focus, in particular, on the brain’s remarkable capacity for sleeping (and waking) at the same time, and the implications this has for brain health, development and disease.

November 29, 2016

The chemistry of primes

Melanie Matchett Wood, UW Department of Mathematics

We are familiar with the prime numbers as those integers which cannot be factored into smaller integers, but if we consider systems of numbers larger than the integers, the primes may indeed factor in those larger systems.  We discuss various questions mathematicians ask about how primes may factor in larger systems, talk about both classical results and current research on the topic, and give a sense of the kind of tools needed to tackle these questions.

December 6, 2016

2016 Polling in Nation and State: A scorecard

Charles Franklin, Law and Public Policy and Director of the Marquette University Law School Poll

How did the pre-election polls of 2016, at both national and state levels, perform? What did we learn about the dynamics of the campaign and the issues affecting public polling? How accurate were the polls and were some methods better than others?

December 13, 2016

Climate change and chaos: The impact on people through a human rights lens

Sumudu Atapattu, Director, Research Centers, UW Law School

Climate change is referred to as the most complex global issue facing humanity today. It has repercussions for not just the current generations but for generations to come. The current projections are that we are heading towards a temperature increase of 4 degrees Celsius although the international community has pledged to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius which is considered as a “safe” limit even though it could mean the total inundation for small island states. Even a global temperature increase of 2 degrees can have far reaching implications for human beings. A recent World Bank report suggests that a 4-degree increase could be catastrophic for people and the environment. 

This presentation looks at the implications of climate change on human beings through a human rights lens. Climate change also raises profound justice issues as the impact on poor and vulnerable states and communities will be disproportionate to their greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change will undermine many of the rights protected under international human rights law and disproportionately affect poor, marginalized communities.  The presentation also discusses the impact on small island states and their inhabitants who stand to lose everything including statehood. It will also discuss “climate refugees” and the potential impact of the movement of a large number of people on the world order.