Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Complexity Explorer

October 1st, 2014 / in Research News / by Helen Wright

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The following is a special contribution to this blog by Melanie Mitchell, Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University, and External Professor and Member of the Science Board at the Santa Fe Institute. Melanie is the Director of the Santa Fe Institute’s Complexity Explorer project. 

The Santa Fe Institute (SFI) has launched a web-based educational platform, Complexity Explorer. SFI is a private research institute well known for its cross-disciplinary approach to complex systems such as ant colonies, biological cells, economies, and social systems.   The stated mission of the institute is to “discover, comprehend, and communicate the common fundamental principles in complex physical, computational, biological, and social systems that underlie many of the most profound problems facing science and society today.”

As part of the institute’s outreach mission, SFI’s Complexity Explorer offers free open online courses (“MOOCs”) as well as searchable repositories of education-related resources. Past SFI MOOCs have attracted over 20,000 enrollees from nearly 100 countries.

This Fall SFI is offering three free MOOCS for people at different levels of expertise to learn about complex systems:

  • Introduction to Complexity , taught by Melanie Mitchell of SFI and Portland State University, is an accessible introduction to several foundational topics, including dynamics, chaos, fractals, information theory, self-organization, agent-based modeling, and networks.   This course has no prerequisites and is appropriate for anyone interested in learning what the field of complexity is all about.
  • Nonlinear Dynamics: Mathematical and Computational Approaches, is taught by CCC Council member Elizabeth Bradley, a Computer Science professor at University of Colorado, Boulder, and SFI.   This course provides a broad introduction to the field of nonlinear dynamics, focusing both on the mathematics and the computational tools that are so important in the study of chaotic systems.  The course is aimed at students who have had at least one semester of college-level calculus and physics, and who can program in at least one high-level language.
  •  Mathematics for Complex Systems presents tutorials on several mathematical techniques that are frequently used in complex systems science. These range from beginning topics such as the basic idea of functions and iteration, to more advanced topics such as differential equations, Bayesian inference, and maximum entropy methods, among many other topics.   The tutorials will be taught by a variety of SFI faculty. Most students will want to pick and choose among the various topics for ones that are most relevant to their own field of study.

The first two courses will be available through December 14; people can enroll at any time during the course period, and the topics can be covered at one’s own pace.   The third course will be available for at least a nine-month period, while the various tutorials are being developed and posted to the site.

For more information, to enroll in one or more of these courses, and to see a list of future courses, go to

Complexity Explorer

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