Portal:Systems science

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The systems science portal

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Complex systems approach

Systems science is an interdisciplinary field that studies the nature of systems—from simple to complex—in nature, society, cognition, engineering, technology and science itself. To systems scientists, the world can be understood as a system of systems. The field aims to develop interdisciplinary foundations that are applicable in a variety of areas, such as psychology, biology, medicine, communication, business management, engineering, and social sciences.

Systems science covers formal sciences such as complex systems, cybernetics, dynamical systems theory, information theory, linguistics or systems theory. It has applications in the field of the natural and social sciences and engineering, such as control theory, operations research, social systems theory, systems biology, system dynamics, human factors, systems ecology, systems engineering and systems psychology. Themes commonly stressed in system science are (a) holistic view, (b) interaction between a system and its embedding environment, and (c) complex (often subtle) trajectories of dynamic behavior that sometimes are stable (and thus reinforcing), while at various 'boundary conditions' can become wildly unstable (and thus destructive). Concerns about Earth-scale biosphere/geosphere dynamics is an example of the nature of problems to which systems science seeks to contribute meaningful insights.

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Systems engineering techniques are used in complex projects: printed-circuit-board design, robotics, bridge building, software integration, and spacecraft design. Systems engineering uses a host of tools that include modeling and simulation, requirements analysis, and scheduling to manage complexity.

Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary field of engineering and engineering management that focuses on how to design, integrate, and manage complex systems over their life cycles. At its core, systems engineering utilizes systems thinking principles to organize this body of knowledge. The individual outcome of such efforts, an engineered system, can be defined as a combination of components that work in synergy to collectively perform a useful function.

Issues such as requirements engineering, reliability, logistics, coordination of different teams, testing and evaluation, maintainability and many other disciplines necessary for successful system design, development, implementation, and ultimate decommission become more difficult when dealing with large or complex projects. Systems engineering deals with work-processes, optimization methods, and risk management tools in such projects. It overlaps technical and human-centered disciplines such as industrial engineering, production systems engineering, process systems engineering, mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering, production engineering, control engineering, software engineering, electrical engineering, cybernetics, aerospace engineering, organizational studies, civil engineering and project management. Systems engineering ensures that all likely aspects of a project or system are considered and integrated into a whole. (Full article...)
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Wiener in undated photograph

Norbert Wiener (November 26, 1894 – March 18, 1964) was an American mathematician and philosopher. He was a professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A child prodigy, Wiener later became an early researcher in stochastic and mathematical noise processes, contributing work relevant to electronic engineering, electronic communication, and control systems.

Wiener is considered the originator of cybernetics, the science of communication as it relates to living things and machines, with implications for engineering, systems control, computer science, biology, neuroscience, philosophy, and the organization of society. His work heavily influenced a computer pioneer John von Neumann, information theorist Claude Shannon, anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson and others. (Full article...)

Did you know

  • ... that the anthropologist, linguist, and cyberneticist Gregory Bateson's most noted writings are Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972) and Mind and Nature (1980).
  • ... that the American neurophysiologist Ralph W. Gerard late 1940s developed an intracellular recording microelectrode, that revolutionized research in neurobiology?
  • ... that a successful experimental system must be stable and reproducible enough for scientists to make sense of the system's behavior, but unpredictable enough that it can produce useful results?
  • ... that the Austrian American Heinz von Foerster in 1960 in Science magazine stated, that the human population would reach "infinity" and he proposed a formula for predicting future population growth.


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