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What degree should I get to study complexity?

  1. Sep 30, 2011 #1
    I want to study complexity and emergence, but I am not sure what degree I should get. I am a second year college biology student, but I feel like biology lacks the math needed to understand a lot of these concepts. I am now veering towards a math degree, but I have not taken enough math to know if I can do it/love it enough to do it. I have developed an intense interest in math though, so I am optimistic.

    I am considering looking into physics as well, possibly as a minor, to round out my studies/fulfill a random interest in optics and quantum mechanics. So right now I am looking at a BS in math, with a minor in quantitative biology and physics. Does this sound like a workable degree to have in the areas I want to study?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2011 #2
    Hello! Lately I have been asking the same thing myself! I'm on my first year of chemistry and recently I've been more and more inclined towards complexity theory (and essentially general system theory after I found this book: https://www.amazon.com/General-System-Theory-Foundations-Applications/dp/0807604534).

    My current resolution is to go on with the course curriculum, taking math and physics subjects whenever appliable (much like bio kid, I also have a random interest in quantum physics, and virtually everything else, thus ended up settling on chemistry as a compromise between my divergent interests. The discovery of complexity theory seemed too good to be true, as a "excuse" to study all I liked..from evolution to information theory. You can thus imagine I almost freaked out when started Bertallanfy's book, where he goes from Brave New World and 1984 to basic science in a leap... I strongly agree with his views.).

    Comments from someone within the field would be greatly appreciated. For the moment I'm trying to narrow down what are the important areas in order to organize a viable study plan. Also, I'm brazilian and we don't have minors (tho I love the concept), and so would be taking the subjects outside the scope of the chemistry course on their own.
  4. Oct 10, 2011 #3
    As an undergraduate I'm at the same level as you guys, so I'm not an expert or anything, but I assume a strong foundation in non-linear dynamics is necessary. Hence you would need a lot of ODE/PDE theory and also some numerical analysis as well.

    I'm currently in a reading course based on the textbook Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos by Stephen Strogatz. It's pretty fascinating! Strogatz is a well-known professor of applied math at Cornell who has done a lot of work in mathematical biology. I strongly suggest you look him up if you don't know about him already. He even has a TED lecture (http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_strogatz_on_sync.html), as well as a book on the phenomenon of sync, i.e. how birds fly in formation, how schools of fish stay together...stuff like that. These are perfect examples of emergence.
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