Self-Organizing Systems FAQ for Usenet newsgroup comp.theory.self-org-sys

Ξ October 24th, 2005 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Misc |

      The Science of Self-Organizing Systems

      The scientific study of self-organizing systems is relatively new, although questions about how organization arises have of course been raised since ancient times. The forms we identify around us are only a small sub-set of those theoretically possible. So why don't we see more variety ? To answer such a question is the reason why we study self-organization.

      Many natural systems show organization (e.g. galaxies, planets, chemical compounds, cells, organisms and societies). Traditional scientific fields attempt to explain these features by referencing the micro properties or laws applicable to their component parts, for example gravitation or chemical bonds. Yet we can also approach the subject in a very different way, looking instead for system properties applicable to all such collections of parts, regardless of size or nature. It is here that modern computers prove essential, allowing us to investigate the dynamic changes that occur over vast numbers of time steps and with a large numbers of initial options.

      Studying nature requires timescales appropriate for the natural system, and this restricts our studies to identifiable qualities that are easily reproduced, precluding investigations involving the full range of possibilities that may be encountered. However, mathematics deals easily with generalised and abstract systems and produces theorems applicable to all possible members of a class of systems. By creating mathematical models, and running computer simulations, we are able to quickly explore large numbers of possible starting positions and to analyse the common features that result. Even small systems have almost infinite initial options, so even with the fastest computer currently available, we usually can only sample the possibility space. Yet this is often enough for us to discover interesting properties that can then be tested against real systems, thus generating new theories applicable to complex systems and their spontaneous organization.



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