Spatial Systems Laboratory

Identity State

(The identity configuration for the abelian sandpile model on a 198 by 198 grid; taken from page 18 of Michael Creutz's excellent article Cellular Automata and Self-Organized Criticality. If you like this picture, you can wear it on a tee-shirt!)

The University's of Wisconsin's Spatial Systems Laboratory (that's SSL for short -- pronounced "sizzle") is a gathering of undergraduates, graduate students, and UW faculty engaged in exploring mathematical systems drawn from or inspired by the real world. These models are simple enough for us to simulate and prove theorems about, but rich enough in phenomena that we hope that our explorations will generate insights that may be of interest to people outside of mathematics.

The featured project for Spring 2000 is a team research effort focusing on a class of models called abelian sandpile models (though they have been invented several times, under names such as "the probabilistic abacus" or "the chip-firing game"). You can find a little more information about the rules --- or you can get software that'll let you make some pictures of your own!

To learn more about these models, click here. You can also look at the minutes of our meetings during the Spring 2000 semester (written by the undergraduate participants), or go to the chip-firing web-pages of the student participants themselves. (For access to other project-related material, contact Jim Propp.)

There is also a project involving the modeling of traffic flow (and traffic jams!), under the supervision of David Griffeath. This will be the focus of SSL during Fall 2000.

The Spatial Systems Laboratory during Spring2000 consists of the following people:

Undergraduate participants:
Mark Chapman
Maureen Donahoe
Dan Drake
Adam Engelhart
Geir Helleloid
Pavle Juranic
Arthur Kantor
Sean McHugh
Boytcho Peytchev
Ann Scheels
Scott Simon
Abraham Smith
Michael Waddell
Graduate students:
Josh Rushton
Winston Yang
Principal investigator:
Prof. Jim Propp : (608) 263-5148

SSL is sponsored by the National Science Foundation through their VIGRE (Vertical Integration of Graduate Research and Education) program, with supplemental support from the National Science Foundation's REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program and from the National Security Agency.

This page maintained by Jim Propp
Last updated February 16, 2000