Ivy League Prof explains chaos theory, prisoner's dilemma, and why math isn't really boring
Posted: Posted November 5th, 2017 by Kaot0
Kinda lengthy. would recommend going to link^ with pictures
Math is a cool way for us to understand the world we live in. And to that end Business Insider recently spoke with Steven Strogatz , the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University.
Strogatz specializes in areas of nonlinear dynamics and complex systems, and he is the author of the wonderful "Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity."
He talked to us about game theory, "elegant" math, math education, and the effectiveness of models in different fields.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Elena Holodny: What's interesting in chaos theory right now?
Steven Strogatz: I’m often very interested in whatever my students get interested in. I primarily think of myself as a teacher and a guide. I try to help them — especially my Ph.D. students — become the mathematicians they’re trying to become. The answer often depends on what they want to do.
In broad terms, the question of how order emerges out of chaos. Even though we talk about it as “chaos theory,” I’m really more interested in the orderly side of nature than the chaotic side. And I love the idea that things can organize themselves. Whether those things are our system of morality or our universe or our bodies as we grow from a single cell to the people we eventually become. All this kind of unfolding of structure and organization all around us and inside of us, to me, is inspiring and baffling. I live for that kind of thing, to try to understand where these patterns come from.
Holodny: How do things organize themselves in nature even when there's no "central command" — like when birds fly in formation or people organize themselves in a power structure?
Strogatz: We’re learning a lot about this all the time — bird flocks, fish schools, herds of animals. You can have human organization both within companies or even frivolous examples like people in a soccer match who want to start doing the wave or clapping in unison. So we do sometimes spontaneously organize.
There are also cases when it’s really serious, like when buildings are on fire and people need to escape. You can study the motion of people as they escape the building. And they actually will go out like water flowing through a pipe … There’s a kind of “fluid dynamics of people” as well as of cars. When traffic engineers are trying to figure out how people are driving ... sometimes you’ll be stuck in traffic and there’s a jam, and you’re thinking, “Oh there must be an accident somewhere down the road,” but then you never see an accident and you wonder why was there this traffic jam? There was no reason for this.
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