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Predicting the Collapse of Complex Systems

Sunday, June 1, 2014
11:00 am - 12:30 pm

What do our bodies, financial markets, fisheries, and the world’s food supply have in common? They are all complex systems that, under stress, can collapse catastrophically without warning. Scientists today are looking to mathematical models to help predict instability in a system before it’s on the verge of collapse. Could there be a universal set of rules that apply across different systems? If so what do these models tell us about the state of our world?

The World Science Festival’s annual salon series offers in-depth conversations with leading scientists, extending the discussion of the Festival’s premiere public programs to graduate students, postdocs, faculty and well-informed members of the general public.

This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.


Steven StrogatzMathematician

Steven Strogatz is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. He studied at Princeton, Cambridge, and Harvard and taught at MIT before moving to Cornell. He is a renowned teacher and one of the world’s most highly cited mathematicians.

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James FowlerSocial Scientist

James Fowler is a social scientist studying networks, behavior, evolution, and genetics. He is a professor of political science and medical genetics at the University of California, San Diego, and a 2010 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

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Seth LloydQuantum Mechanical Engineer, MIT

Seth Lloyd was the first person to develop a realizable model for quantum computation and is working with a variety of groups to construct and operate quantum computers and quantum …

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Andrew W. LoFinancial Engineer

Andrew W. Lo is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the director of MIT’s Laboratory for Financial Engineering, a principal investigator at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, and an affiliated faculty member of the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

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Simon LevinEcologist

Simon Levin is a professor of biology and director of the Center for BioComplexity at Princeton University. His research centers on understanding how macroscopic patterns are maintained at the level of ecosystems and finding parallels between ecological and economic systems.

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