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Complexity conference to feature Nobel laureate Gell-Mann

Engineering is in the midst of an explosion of complexity. New semiconductor chips contain a billion subcircuits. A new car contains 20 microprocessors. Home health care systems are being designed that monitor the heartbeat and temperature of a home's occupants.

A conference November 19-20 at the University Hotel in Cambridge, sponsored by MIT and the Santa Fe Institute, will address this trend by bringing together a variety of people from academia and industry who are working on complex systems. Speakers include Nobel laureate Murray Gell Mann and Alex d'Arbeloff (SB 1949), Chairman of Teradyne and of the MIT Corporation.

"Cars, computers, and even toasters are more complex than they were 10 years ago. But greater complexity brings both new benefits and new problems. For example, the new computerized cars can be more flexible and reliable than the old `dumb' ones, but when they break down, they do so in weird new ways. The purpose of the conference is to determine the implications this `complexification' has for society, and to develop techniques and strategies for engineering complex but reliable systems," said Seth Lloyd, organizer of the Complexity in Engineering Conference and the Finmeccanica Career Development Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The conference includes three plenary speakers and sessions on man-machine interactions, networks, dynamics, design, computation, instrumentation (including talks on nanowalkers and polymer-based intelligent systems) and biology.

Plenary speakers are:

  • Alex d'Arbeloff, Chairman of Teradyne and of the MIT Corporation, "Managing Complexity in Industry," 1:45pm Friday, Nov. 19.
  • Murray Gell-Mann, Nobel Laureate in Physics and Distinguished Fellow of the Santa Fe Institute, "Simplicity and Complexity in Physical Law," 9:15am Saturday, Nov. 20.
  • Paul Penfield, Professor the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, "Making Complexity Simple," 10am Saturday, Nov. 20.

The conference is free for students, academics and members of the press. Members of the public are invited to attend for a $50 fee, payable upon admission. Please preregister with Susan Ballati at the Santa Fe Institute Business Network for Complex Systems Research at or (505) 820-0122. Non-preregistered participants will be admitted on a first-come first-served basis. Further inquiries can be directed to Professor Lloyd at or x2-1803.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 10, 1999.

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