HONORS MODULES

SPRING, SUMMER & FALL

INSTRUCTOR: D. C. Mikulecky, Prof. of Physiology, Affiliate Prof. of Biology

THE NEW LIFE SCIENCES INITIATIVE AND BIOCOMPLEXITY

The new Life Sciences Initiative being organized by Dr. Tom Huff, the new Vice-Provost for Life Sciences is very much involved in matters discussed in these three modules.  A better grasp of these issues will be of benefit to anyone who is able to sense the trends developing in the Life Sciences or in related disciplines

e-mail: mikuleck@hsc.vcu.edu

Home pages:     COMPLEXITY RESEARCH GROUP

                        DR. MIKULECKY

TEXT FOR ALL THREE MODULES: Robert Rosen’s book: Essays on Life Itself, Columbia University Press, 1999 [Available in bookstore]

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF ALL THREE MODULES:

This series of modules starts with "Vitalism Old and New" followed by "The Changing Model of Life" and ends with "Artificial Intelligence/Artificial Life". All three are now based on Robert Rosen’s book: Essays on Life Itself. These modules started out having a tentative tone and seeming somewhat speculative more than a decade ago. Today, they are at the center of a revolution in science that has been the subject of numerous volumes on "complexity" and "artificial life" in the lay press as well as in new scientific journals and institutes. We will focus on the meaning of this change and its impact on science as well as on society in general. The place where much of what is happening is happening is the Internet. We will therefore have access to discussions with others via the net! Diagrammatic techniques and pictorial presentations will be used in place of equations, when such concepts are needed; therefore the course should be suitable for students of all disciplines. Because of the applications of some of these ideas in the arts, psychology, economics, literature and other areas, students with any interests should find the material interesting.

METHOD OF EVALUATION

CLASS PARTICIPATION: 50%

SHORT TERM PAPER: 50%

DISCUSSION FORMAT

SUMMER HONORS MODULE - VITALISM OLD AND NEW:COMPLEXITY AND LIFE

 

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF MODULE:

This module is the first in a series and focuses on the core question: "Why is the whole more than the mere sum of its parts?" The quest for an answer will take us through some very thought provoking ideas that challenge much of what is taken for granted as "fundamental" The "new science of complexity", self-organization, and entanglement will be part of the postmodern jargon we will try to understand. We will look at our society and its organization for signs that these ideas have gone far beyond science itself.

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

WHAT IS "LIFE"?

REDUCTIONISM VS HOLISM

SCIENCE AS AN OBJECT OF STUDY: "HARD" VS "SOFT" SCIENCE

COMPLEXITY IN SOCIAL STRUCTURES

-ECONOMICS

-GOVERNMENT

-HEALTH CARE DELIVERY

COMPLEXITY IN ART AND MUSIC

SPRING HONORS MODULE: THE CHANGING MODEL OF LIFE

This module traces some exciting changes in our models of reality including catastrophe and bifurcation theory, the theory of chaos, and fractal theory. Diagrammatic techniques and pictorial presentations will be used in place of equations, when such concepts are needed; therefore the course should be suitable for students of all disciplines. Because of the applications of some of these ideas in the arts, psychology, economics, literature and other areas, students with any interests should find the material interesting.

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

CATASTROPHE THEORY, FRACTALS AND CHAOS

SCIENCE AS AN OBJECT OF STUDY

-"HARD" vs. "SOFT" SCIENCE

-THE END OF SCIENCE?

COMPLEXITY AND ORIENTAL PHILOSOPHY

 

FALL HONORS MODULE

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND ARTIFICIAL LIFE: COMPLEXITY, LIFE, CONTROL, AND COMPUTERS

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF MODULE:

This module deals with claims for artificial life and machine based artificial intelligence. It also will deal with the question: "Do we control computers or are they controlling us?

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

CAN MACHINES "THINK"?

IS A COMPUTER SIMULATION "ALIVE"?

IS THE INTERNET A GIANT "BRAIN"?

THE ROLE OF COMPUTERS IN SOCIAL STRUCTURES

COMPUTER GENERATED ART AND MUSIC