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Experts Will Use Plain Talk to Break Down Complex Systems

International experts in the emerging science of complexity will discuss important issues facing researchers in the interdisciplinary field March 28 and 29 at Northwestern University's annual Complexity Conference.

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March 5, 2007 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- International experts in the emerging science of complexity will discuss important issues facing researchers in the interdisciplinary field March 28 and 29 at Northwestern University's annual Complexity Conference.

The free conference, held by the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO), will be from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, and from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Thursday, March 29, in the James L. Allen Center, 2169 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus. Designed to stimulate discussion and collaboration across traditional boundaries, the event is open to the Northwestern and Chicago-area research communities.

The brain, the transportation network that carries goods and services and the collective behavior of markets are all examples of complex systems, in which outcomes cannot be predicted because each system's performance is more than the sum of its parts.

Speakers from a variety of disciplines -- sociology, neuroscience, engineering, computer science and physics -- will use plain English to deliver an overview of a complexity problem. A panel discussion will conclude each session.

General topics and speakers are:

• “Networks and Chains -- Suppliers and Customers” (Wednesday, March 28, 1:45-4:15 p.m.), David Simchi-Levi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Duncan Watts, Columbia University

• “Cortical Neural Circuits -- Structure and Function” (Thursday, March 29, 9 a.m.-12:45 p.m.), Marcus Kaiser, Newcastle University; Dietmar Plenz, National Institutes of Health; and Ivan Soltesz, University of California, Irvine

• “Firms and Markets” (Thursday, March 29, 2-5:45 p.m.), Robert Axtell, George Mason University; J. Doyne Farmer, Santa Fe Institute; and Felix Reed-Tsochas, University of Oxford

Nine Northwestern doctoral students also will present their complex systems-related research at the conference; three will deliver an oral presentation of their work (Wednesday, March 28, 4:45-5:30 p.m.) and six will display posters (Thursday, March 29, 1:15-2 p.m.).

Established in 2004, the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems stimulates path-breaking research of complex systems across traditional boundaries with membership representing the fields of engineering, business, natural sciences, education, medicine, law and the social sciences.

Registration for the Complexity Conference is required and can be completed at <http://www.northwestern.edu/nico/complexity-conference/>. For more information, send e-mail to <complexity-conference@northwestern.edu>.