Madison Chaos and Complex Systems Seminar

Spring 2016 Seminars

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

Short List
Join us for lunch during the summer on the Memorial Union Terrace at noon each Tuesday, starting May 10th!


January 19, 2016

The Universe: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow

Ed Churchwell, UW Department of Astronomy

Based on the current Standard Model, we will take an excursion in time to examine the properties of the Universe from just after the Big Bang to the present and into the future.  This will begin with a discussion of the primary observations that underpin the Standard Model and the basic physical principles that connect the observations to the current model.  We will end with the current best values for the Standard Model and their implications for the future evolution of the universe.

January 26, 2016

Turbulence, the manifestation of eddies and their role in conservation laws

George Hrabovsky, Madison Area Science and Technology
Only in technically dry fluids can you get away from the phenomena of turbulence. Such phenomena serve to transport important quantities across scales. Why is this important? Because two thirds of the classical states of matter are composed of fluids. Fluids exist on most scales of distance measurement—some surprising. Where there are non-perfect fluids, there is turbulence. Why is the transport of these quantities across scales important? What are the ramifications for physical and predictive modeling? Come to the talk and find out...

February 2, 2016

Developing value-added novel biopolymers

Dani Zhu, UW Department of Food Science

The complexity of biopolymers renders a good opportunity to create novel bio-based materials. In this talk, the approaches to develop value-added biopolymers at a molecular level, i.e., by manipulating interaction forces among the molecules (such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids) will be presented.

February 9, 2016

Making computer networks work (Part II)

Aditya Akella, UW Department of Computer Sciences

We depend on computer networks for literally every aspect of our daily lives, e.g., work, family, education, socializing, entertainment, and finances. Yet, the quality of experience that we as users derive from these networks is far from satisfactory. We're routinely hit by poor or variable page-load times and download speeds, and even outright unavailability of critical network-accessible services. Researchers and practitioners alike work round the clock to develop fixes, but disruptive applications, protocols, and hardware quickly render them ineffective.

In this talk, I will argue that design and operational deficiencies in key components of the network infrastructure play a crucial role in this unfortunate predicament. I will then describe two sets of technologies my group has developed to ensure that network infrastructure offers good performance, and remains robust and agile, even in the face of unforeseen disruptive trends. One is a suite of analytics-driven management plane designs for ensuring robust and flexible operation of complex networks. The other is content-aware systems that ensure bandwidth-efficient and low-latency content delivery. These technologies have been incorporated into a variety of commercial systems in operation today.

February 16, 2016

The dynamics of message-carrying between combatants

Joe Elder, UW Department of Sociology
Combatants have sometimes tried to communicate with each other through neutral channels such as Quakers. This presentation will analyze Quaker message-carrying efforts between combatants in India, Pakistan, Korea, and Sri Lanka, highlighting the limitations, possibilities, and risks of such message carrying.

February 23, 2016

Walking and stroke: A delicate balance

Kreg Gruben, UW Department of Kenesiology

Human walking requires precise control of numerous muscles acting on a complex skeletal structure. Stroke disrupts that control, leading to walking difficulty. Through research discoveries explaining how that control maintains upright posture and is altered by neurological injury, we are developing means to restore walking.

March 1, 2016

Bracketology: How to rank sports teams and forecast game outcomes using math models

Laura McLay, UW Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Selecting the teams for the College Football Playoff for NCAA Division IA men's football is a controversial process performed by the selection committee. We present a method for forecasting the four team playoff weeks before the selection committee makes this decision. Our method uses a modified logistic regression/Markov chain model for rating the teams, predicting the outcomes of the unplayed games, and simulating the unplayed games in the remainder of the season to forecast the teams that will be selected for the four team playoff. We will discuss how the method can be applied to rank NCAA basketball teams and fill out a bracket in the tournament.

You can check out the methodology and results at

March 8, 2016

Cultural-responsivity, education, and health in Anishinaabe communities

Tim Frandy, UW Department of Medicine and Public Health

For the past few decades, culture and cultural-responsivity have increasingly been viewed as important within indigenous communities to improve educational systems and public health outcomes. More than a decade of research has shown the positive impacts of culturally-responsive teaching in Native communities, and recent research has shown correlation with language and cultural maintenance programs in First Nations communities to dramatically lower diabetes rates.  This presentation will discuss discuss research conducted in partnership between UW-Madison and the Lac du Flambeau Anishinaabe community that has used indigenous methodologies and cultural revitalization to improve health and educational outcomes.  This work raises new possibilities for interdisciplinary collaborative research and lower-cost solutions to improve complex social problems in marginalized communities.

March 15, 2016

Coping with climate change and environmental degradation science, universities, and a great American challenge

Bernard Z. Friedlander and Noah M. Friedlander

Under pressures of Climate Change, national political stasis, and other potent factors, American universities, colleges, and schools face harsh challenges unlike any our professions have ever encountered. This is due largely to profound contradictions between national needs in our changing society and pressures within and between our varied and competing American sub-cultures. This presentation views the issues in four major categories:
  1. Evidence: facts about suppressive forces affecting science, academia, and education.
  2. Limited Time: an urgently critical factor.
  3. Suppressive Impacts: Climate Change and Environmental Degradation as force multipliers.
This talk is available in pdf format.

March 29, 2016

Star-beings and stones: Origins and legends

Herman Bender, Freelance Geologist

Native American myths, legends and oral traditions are rich with stories of giant beings existing in ancient times. They all talk of giant Thunderers or Thunder-beings, giant snakes and great Thunderbirds. Even the first humans were said to be giants, some half man, half animal. The Tsistsistas (Cheyenne) have a name for the giant beings their ancestors encountered during the early migration to the grasslands of the Great Plains. They called them haztova hotoxceo or “two-faced star people”.  Other Plains tribes such as the Black Feet, Gros Ventres and Lakota have similar stories. 

These old stories may have real world counterparts. Discovered in a prehistoric effigy-mound group (the Kolterman Mounds) in southeastern Wisconsin (USA) is a human-like petroform effigy with a serpentine body and wing-like arms known as the ‘Star-Being’. Configured in stone, it is approximately 20 meters in length with a red colored, bison-shaped headstone aligned to face the summer solstice sunrise. However, it is not a lone or singular occurrence.  The ‘Star-Being’ is but one of two human-like petroforms effigies discovered in southeastern Wisconsin. There is another of almost the same size called the Starman which also has a red-colored, bison-shaped headstone aligned to face the summer solstice sunrise.  Both the Starman and Star-Being petroform complexes are codified by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin as archeological sites of Archaic age.

Each giant effigy appears to be a reflection of certain constellations and stars, the ‘Star-Being’ a mirror-image of the (western) constellations of Scorpius and Libra (with Sagittarius); the Starman an almost exact representation of Taurus and the Pleiades. Both giant effigies are estimated to be 3500-6000 years old, embodiments of ancient legends and traditions writ large in stone and connected to ‘The People’ through ceremony and acts of cosmic renewal.

April 5, 2016

Toward an atlas of the physical internet

Paul Barford, UW Department of Computer Sciences

The availability of accurate and timely maps of the Internet would be a compelling starting point for diverse research topics such as assessing infrastructure vulnerabilities, understanding routing behavior, and analyzing application performance. However, despite the many and varied efforts over the years, there remains no central repository of accurate Internet maps. In this talk, I will describe the challenges in assembling maps of Internet topology based on standard data sources. I will also describes Internet Atlas, a repository and visualization portal of the physical interconnection structure of the Internet that has been under construction at the University of Wisconsin for four years. Atlas currently contains PoP/colo and link location data for over 1K networks (including all tier 1 providers) around the world. The Atlas repository was the starting point for our recent study of Internet long haul infrastructure. I will describe key results from that study on deployment characteristics and risks in US long haul infrastructure, and opportunities to improve performance and robustness.

April 12, 2016

Data centric computing in emerging nonvolatile memory technologies

Jing Li, UW Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

The confluence of disruptive technologies beyond CMOS and "Big Data" workloads calls for a fundamental paradigm shift from homogenous compute-centric system to heterogeneous data-centric system for better innovation, competition and productivity. With the objective of rethinking data-centric system from ground up, through a concrete example, I will show how to leverage emerging memory technology such as phase-change memory (PCM) to realize a new IC building block for future data-centric system. A novel chip was designed and fabricated for the first time, blurring the boundary between computation and storage, i.e., it can either be configured as a compute unit - a high performance search engine or as a storage media - storage class memory. It achieves >10x area reduction compared to homogenous CMOS-based design at the same technology node and reliably operates at ultra-low voltage down to 750mV. In the talk I will briefly highlight a few critical enabling techniques from material, circuit, architecture and algorithm perspectives. I will also highlight the major research activities in my lab in developing collaborative software/hardware solutions to address classical von Neumann bottlenecks.

April 19, 2016

Novel-writing as a way to organize data

Russell Gardner, Jr., freelance scholar  

This is a follow-up presentation to a CCSS presentation, “Writing a Novel,” in September, 2014. This talk includes lessons learned from that first effort. I call myself a novelist not because I’ve published (yet), but because I have a daily routine of writing (it’s my occupation), have studied the process in readings and courses, and have presented ongoing work to others. The present twelve chapter first draft of a second novel, Different Windows, has been done independently, this time, of any formal class (although I employ a paid editor). Each chapter includes about 25-manuscript pages.
I will focus on
  1. Novel-writing to organize data and its relations to other forms of scientific, and “ordinary,” means of human data-processing,
  2. Fiction as a way to talk publically and formally about matters that worry and interest me, namely,
  3. Formulations of Professor and Chairman of UW’s Department of English, Caroline Levine, who has written The Serious Pleasure of Suspense (2003).
  4. Process of working out a second draft of Different Windows and envisioned attempts to publish the completed work.
The Table of Contents at present of Different Windows follow:
Chapter 1. Windows in a Tree House: December, 2014
Chapter 2. There’s Something You Want To Do: January, 2015
Chapter 3. Super Bowls Near and Far: February
Chapter 4. Paternity Issues: March
Chapter 5. Compartments & Suspicions: April
Chapter 6. Talks: Wheres & Structures: May
Chapter 7. The Many Kinds of Silence: June
Chapter 8. Big World Small Planet: July
Chapter 9. Crossings: August
Chapter 10. Looks Down From Above: September            
Chapter 11. Light in October, October Lights: October 
Chapter 12. Clearing Buckthorn: November

April 26, 2016

Green flexible electronics and the potential impact to our society and environment

Jack (Zhenqiang) Ma, UW Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Electronics industry helps sustain the GDP growth in developed countries. However, consumer electronics, such as cell phones, tablets and other portable electronic devices, are made with the consumption of large amount of precious non-renewable natural resources, such as indium and gallium etc. These consumer electronics are frequently upgraded or discarded, leading to serious environmental contamination. Thus, electronic systems consuming the minimum amount of natural resource that could also naturally degrade over a period of time are desirable which can potentially reduce the accumulation of persistent electronic waste disposed of daily. We demonstrate high performance flexible microwave and digital electronics that consume the smallest amount of natural resources on a biobased, biodegradable and microwave compatible cellulose nanofibril (CNF) paper, along with degradation of these electronic systems. With rapid technological advances leading to significant decrease in the lifetime of consumer electronics, such green chip technology with high-performance would be ideal replacement for future electronic chips where nonrenewable resources are consumed.

May 3, 2016

Year-end celebration

Following the tradition of recent years in which we had a delightful discussion of where we have come and where we might go with the seminars, this last seminar of the semester will be devoted to a continuation of that discussion without any formal speaker. We will also discuss what we want to do during our informal weekly lunches on the Memorial Union Terrace which begin on May 10th. This celebration will include expanded refreshments, to which your own culinary contribution is welcome.