Introduction to Chaos and Fractals

Winter 2001

Course Overview

Instructor: Dave Feldman Email:
Office: Third Floor Arts and Sciences Phone: x249, 244-9836
Mailing List: Office Hours: Basically whenever I'm around.
Tutors: Rita Turner, Jenn Atkinson Help Sessions: Wednesdays, 6:30 - 8:00 pm, TAB.

Course Overview

I have several goals for this course:

  1. I want you to gain a solid understanding of the basic mathematical ideas behind chaos and fractals.
  2. I want to help you improve your quantitative literacy, problem solving skills, and mathematical confidence.
  3. I want you to gain a sense of how math and physics is done, and gain an awareness that these are not static, "dead" disciplines.

Textual Materials: We will read Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick. This is a "popular science" book and is not a traditional text. For more mathy information, we will use a number of worksheets and handouts developed by Bob Devaney and co-workers. I will hand these out in class.


Your evaluation will be based on the following: I will assign grades (for those who so opt) by following the guidelines in the COA Course Catalog. I do not have any quota of A's, B's, etc.

Policies and Stuff: First Draft

  1. The final version of this and related documents can be found on the course web page,
  2. Homework will be due Fridays at the end of the day. More than one unexcused late homework assignment will result in me mentioning this in your narrative evaluation and may result in a lowering of your grade.
  3. You are strongly encouraged to work together on homework. You can also consult me, class tutors, other faculty, friends, and family. However, the homework you hand in should represent your own understanding. This means that if your friends get a homework problem and you don't understand how they did it, you shouldn't photocopy their solution and turn it in.
  4. There will be no exams. However, there may be a large-ish, synthetic assignment toward the end of the term.
  5. Collaborating with two other students, you will do a final project. Your group will give a presentation of around 45 minutes towards the end of the term. Your group should also produce something tangible -- i.e. a paper, some artwork, or a scientific poster. For more info, see the project guidelines and a list of possible project topics.
  6. I will almost always assign reading for each class. You should do the reading, and come prepared with some questions or areas that you want to discuss.
  7. You will write three short (2 page) papers exploring ideas from the book by Gleick. Information about what's expected for the short papers can be found here.
  8. We will probably need to schedule an extra class or two during weeks 9 or 10 so we have enough time for the presentations.
  9. More than two missing homework assignments will result in a grade no higher than a C.
  10. As I plan on sending out homework assignments and other information via email, it is important that you check your email regularly. Also, you will need to use the www for some of your assignments.
  11. I expect you to attend class.
  12. Academic misconduct -- cheating, plagarizing, etc. -- is bad. Any cases of academic misconduct will result in a judicial hearing, as per pp. 14-15 of the COA handbook. Possible consequences range from failure of the assignment to expulsion. For more, see the revised statement on academic integrity passed by the faculty last winter.
  13. For more, see a list of what to expect.

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