The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order
Steven H. Strogatz
Theoretical and Applied Mathematics
What caused hundreds of Japanese children to fall into seizures while watching an episode of the cartoon show Pokemon? Why do women roommates sometimes find that their menstrual periods occur in sync?
The tendency to synchronize is one of the most mysterious and pervasive drives in all of nature. Every night along the tidal rivers of Malaysia, thousands of fireflies flash in silent, hypnotic unison; the moon spins in perfect resonance with its orbit around the Earth; the intense coherence of a laser comes from trillions of atoms pulsing together. On the surface, these phenomena might seem unrelated. After all, the forces that synchronize fireflies have nothing to do with those in a laser.
But at a deeper level, they are all connected by the same mathematical theme: self-organization, the spontaneous emergence of order out of chaos.
Video footage of synchronous fireflies, and the notorious crowd synchrony that triggered the wobbling of London's Millennium Bridge, will be shown.
After receiving his bachelor's degree, Strogatz spent two years as a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge University. He did his doctoral work in applied mathematics at Harvard, and then stayed for three years as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow. From 1989 to 1994, Strogatz taught in the Department of Mathematics at MIT. He has received awards for both his teaching and his research, including MIT's highest teaching prize, the E. M. Baker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. Strogatz joined the Cornell faculty in 1994. He is a member of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the Society for Mathematical Biology.
This special presentation is jointly sponsored by the Institute for Systems Research and the Department of Physics. It is hosted by ISR Director Eyad Abed and Institute for Physical Science and Technology Director Rajarshi Roy.