Complex Systems seminar proves science works in real life

2 August 2012

This reporter attended a seminar on “Complex Systems” aimed mainly at the secondary school crowd, organized by the Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) — a department under the Agency of Science, Technology and Research, Singapore (A* STAR).

Upon arrival at the lecture venue (Genexis Theatre, Fusionopolis building) at 1430pm, attendees were treated to a sumptuous lunch reception and received a goodie bag filled with IHPC leaflets, geeky tchotchkes and informative publications, courtesy of A*STAR.

According to first speaker, Dr Erika Fille, the term “Complex systems” refers to many parts within an intricate arrangement. She explained how “Complex Systems” could be used in the Political, Social and Economic frontiers to help governments make policy decisions. One key concept that she introduced was the “Data + Model = Forecast” equation which scientists use to evaluate the effectiveness of their studies.

The next speaker, Associate Professor Cheong Siew Ann provided some insight into how scientists extract data from Complex Systems through a variety of mathematical analysis methods such as the Phase Diagram, Clustering, the “spending tree” model and the Correlation graph.

The final speaker, Dr Alexander Erath explained the use of Complex Systems theory in Transport systems. He introduced concepts such as the “Time-scale map” and the “Urban modeling agent-based model” used by scientific researchers to help plan transport policy issues, such as the adjustment of Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) rates, as well as the location of ERP gantries to adequately tackle traffic congestion on expressways and arterial roads.

The session concluded with a Question-and-Answer session with the speakers and the audience. Of course, there were some unique and interesting questions that undoubtedly struck a chord with members of the audience and speakers alike (refer to photographs)

In conclusion, the seminar helped shed some light on the uses of scientific theory in our daily lives. It was heartening to realize that despite believing that we will never again use most of what we learn in school, some knowledge might actually have some application in the real world after all.


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