Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos – Steven Strogatz, Cornell University.

From the description:

This course of 25 lectures, filmed at Cornell University in Spring 2014, is intended for newcomers to nonlinear dynamics and chaos. It closely follows Prof. Strogatz’s book, “Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos: With Applications to Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering.” The mathematical treatment is friendly and informal, but still careful. Analytical methods, concrete examples, and geometric intuition are stressed. The theory is developed systematically, starting with first-order differential equations and their bifurcations, followed by phase plane analysis, limit cycles and their bifurcations, and culminating with the Lorenz equations, chaos, iterated maps, period doubling, renormalization, fractals, and strange attractors. A unique feature of the course is its emphasis on applications. These include airplane wing vibrations, biological rhythms, insect outbreaks, chemical oscillators, chaotic waterwheels, and even a technique for using chaos to send secret messages. In each case, the scientific background is explained at an elementary level and closely integrated with the mathematical theory. The theoretical work is enlivened by frequent use of computer graphics, simulations, and videotaped demonstrations of nonlinear phenomena. The essential prerequisite is single-variable calculus, including curve sketching, Taylor series, and separable differential equations. In a few places, multivariable calculus (partial derivatives, Jacobian matrix, divergence theorem) and linear algebra (eigenvalues and eigenvectors) are used. Fourier analysis is not assumed, and is developed where needed. Introductory physics is used throughout. Other scientific prerequisites would depend on the applications considered, but in all cases, a first course should be adequate preparation.

Storgatz’s book “Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos: With Applications to Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering,” is due out in a second edition in July of 2014. First edition was 2001.

Mastering the class and Stogatz’s book will enable you to call **BS** on projects with authority. Social groups are one example of chaotic systems. As a consequence, the near religious certainly of policy wonks on outcomes of particular policies is mis-guided.

Be cautious with those who response to social dynamics being chaotic by saying: “…yes, but …(here follows their method of controlling the chaotic system).” Chaotic systems by definition cannot be controlled nor can we account for all the influences and variables in such systems.

The best you can do is what seems to work, most of the time.