Ryan Woodard

From Santa Fe Institute Events Wiki


I have recently started my first post-doc position as part of the Natural Complexity Programme at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). My main role is to study the cryosphere (the frozen part of the Earth), not because I have a background in glaciers and ice sheets (I do not) but because I have one in using simple models to study complex systems. A longer elaboration on our ice work can be found here.

For my Ph.D. research in physics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I studied a type of self-organized criticality (SOC) model, the running sandpile, that was used to model transport of density and temperature fluctuations in confined plasmas for fusion research. I analyzed the long time correlations that exist in the model and how they are characterised by power laws in probability distribution functions, power spectra and rescaled range analysis, among other measures.

I am most interested in this more general research and try to understand how it fits in with the larger theory of nonequilibrium statistical mechanics and absorbing state phase transitions. I think that somewhere deep down in the bowels of the Theory of Everything That There Is, we will find that brains, power laws, critical phenomena, computation and information will all converge in a grand fiesta of clarity and understanding. I want to be around for that.

1. What topics do you have some expertise in and would you be willing to help others learn them?

Self-organized criticality, indentifying and interpreting power laws in physical systems, probability distribution functions, power spectra and rescaled range analysis, the diffusion equation, songwriting, python programming. I would be more than happy to discuss any of these.

2. What do you want to learn?

The basics of quantum computation, anything to do with the brain and consciousness, renormalization group theory and the location of Santa Fe's best sopapillas.

3. Do you have any projects that would benefit from interdisciplinary approach?

I will continue to think about a specific project but I would be very happy to work with others on their project(s).

4. Do you have any ideas for what sort of project you would like to attack this summer?

I would like to choose a system and apply renormalization group theory and/or mean field theory to it as an exercise to try to learn those techniques. I will continue to ponder possibilities.

5. What's your favorite "big problem"?

How the brain works:

6. If you were given the opportunity to see where we were in one hundred years with respect to progress on one problem/subject, what would it be?

The world's water/food/hunger/poverty/oil/population/energy/selfishness issues: Were there any pandemics? Was there a population crash?

(Though I sure would be interested to know if Ray Kurzweil was right about the singularity; if we have a theory of nonequilibrium statistical mechanics; if AIDS, cancer, et. al were cured; what the current paradigm is for a 'personal computer'; what Bob Dylan's final album sounded like; how technology has (hopefully) evolved beyond the QWERTY keyboard for input; did I successfully solve any cryocomplexity issues.)