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ISSUE 117 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/14/2004

Science lectures stimulate

By Tiffany Ayres
News Editor

Friday, May 14, 2004

St. Olaf hosted its sixth annual Science Symposium on Friday, May 7. The symposium focused on chaos theory and its applications in the scientific world and in broader society. Symposium events began at 9 a.m. in the Buntrock Commons Crossroads and ended around 8:30 p.m. in Science Center 280. The events included student research poster presentations and several guest lectures. Dr. Larry S. Liebovitch of Florida Atlantic University addressed chaos theory and how it changes the way people see the world. Liebovitch pointed out the differences between random chaos and determinate chaos, which can be represented mathematically. Deterministic chaos exhibits sensitivity to minute changes in the initial conditions of a system. "For a chaotic system, as you compute further and further in time, you lose decimal places and soon you cant tell what the variable is," Liebovitch said. "This has strong implications for physics and economics. We can understand everything about the system, but predictions of outcome are still uncertain." Liebovitch ended his presentation with recommendations for management using lessons from chaos theory. Planning as you go along, adapting to changes, recognizing that there are unforeseeable consequences, and realizing that cause and effect are not so easy to see are ways to put chaos theory into practice. Liebovitch delivered his lecture to a packed auditorium and much applause. "The underlying order behind chaos theory and chaotic systems is often impressive," Benjamin Heidgerken 07 said. Following Liebovitchs speech, Walter Freeman of the University of California Berkeley spoke about how chaos theory applies to brain activity patterns. Chaos theory has many applications in deciphering how the brain works. "Brain theory is used to conceive how billions of neurons use genetic and environmental information to create intentional behaviors," Freeman said. "Some people also think that schizophrenia is a response that follows a system of chaotic patterns." After the lectures, the crowd from the Science Center moved to Buntrock Commons Crossroads for student poster presentations. Fifty-three students from the biology, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, computer science, physics and psychology departments participated. Biology major Lauren Lucas 04 presented her research on genetic variations among populations of Chaoborus flavicans. "Its cool to talk to people about [my research] to get new ideas, Lucas said. I feel like I know how to do research now when before I couldnt picture myself ever doing this." Bunkhoun Chhun, who presented his research on the learning abilities of drone flies, said "I think its great to have the Science Symposium because it gives the ability for everybody, science and non-science, to learn something new. Attendance was high for the fifth annual St. Olaf Science Symposium, and the science department and St. Olaf look forward to high participation in the coming years.

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