Chaotic Dynamics

Course Overview

Instructor: Dave Feldman Email:
Office: Third Floor Arts and Sciences Phone: x249, 244-9836
Mailing List: Office Hours: TBA
Tutors: None. Web page:

Course Overview

I have several main goals for this course:

  1. I want to have fun. There are a ton of fun math topics that I would like to cover in this course. Tastes vary, but hope that you'll find most of them to be pretty neat.
  2. I want to expose you to a variety of different styles and flavors of mathematics. This includes some discrete math (no calculus), differential equations (calculus), some computer work, and some fairly abstract and symbolic stuff.
  3. I want you to continue to hone your quantitative reasoning skills.


Our primary text will be Understanding Nonlinear Dynamics (UND) by Daniel Kaplan and Leon Glass. We will also be using The Computational Beauty of Nature (CBN) by Gary Flake. You might wish to purchase a copy of the latter. We'll discuss this in class.

At a bare minimum, I would like to cover all of chapters 1 and 3, and much of chapter 2, from UND. I anticipate augmenting chapter 2 with some readings and assignments from another source, most likely CBN. Additionally, I would like to spend about a week on symbolic dynamics. This topic is not covered in either UND or CBN; I will probably provide some lecture notes for this material and we'll go over it carefully in class.

This should still leave plenty of time to cover additional topics. I'm counting on input from you to determine which way we go. In the first half of the course I'll aim to give you a taste of a bunch of different topics. It's up to you to help me select a menu for the rest of the course.


Your evaluation will be based on the following: There will be no exams. I will assign grades (for those who so opt) by following the guidelines on page 8 of the COA Course Catalog. I do not have any quota of A's, B's, etc.

Final Project

Personal Essay

Towards the end of the term, I'd like you to write a paper in which you think critically some about what we've been learning. This should not be a research paper. The paper should be about three pages in length and will be evaluated on the basis of the clarity of your writing and the degree to which your paper exhibits original and critical thought. Don't worry about this for now; we'll discuss this more fully around week 3.

Policies and Stuff

  1. The final version of the course syllabus will be on the course web page. The syllabus and all policies are open to negotiation.
  2. All course work must be completed by the end of the term. I will not grant an incomplete except in extreme circumstances.
  3. More than two missing homework assignments will result in a grade no higher than a C.
  4. I expect you to attend class. Please let me know if you going to miss a class.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 statement on academic misconduct passed unanimously by the faculty last winter.

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