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Complex Systems
Computer Science degree, University of Bologna, 2013/2014

[ News | Syllabus and Books | Exams | Class Hours | Lecture Slides | Student Presentations ]


This edition of the course is over.

Course Description

The study of Complex systems is concerned with understanding the global behaviour arising from local interactions among a large number of simple, independent components. Very often, this global behaviour, called emergent dynamics, is complex, not prespecified by design, and difficult or impossible to predict solely from knowledge of the system's constituent parts. Complex systems arise in a wide range of contexts including social, biological and physical sciences and have been used to study biological evolution, the brain, the mammalian immune systems, insect colonies, financial markets, social networks and technological networks such as the electrical power grid, the Internet and the web.

In this course, we will survey relevant literature on complex systems arising in natural and social systems and explore the possibility of applying similar ideas to technological systems. We will also delve into the related topic of complex networks by studying the structures and properties of graphs representing collections of nodes that are linked to each other.

For the Academic Year 2013/2014 this course will be jointly lectured by Moreno Marzolla and Stefano Ferretti. Most of the material in this page was provided by prof. Ozalp Babaoglu.


The Computational Beauty of Nature book cover Networks, Crowds and Markets book cover Graph Theory and Complex Networks book cover

The following book covers some of the topics we survey in the course:

The following books are interesting in that they include ideas originating from complex systems that have found their way into more popular topics such as economics, medicine, sociology and psychology.

Books, Surveys, Tutorials, Papers

Other Stuff


The exam consists of two parts:

  1. A programming project on a topic selected by each student, or selected from a short list of proposals provided by the instructors. Projects must be done individually.
  2. A 20 minutes presentation fo be given at the end of the course on a research paper selected by each student from a reading list (see below). Those that are unable of unwilling to give the presentation are required to pass an oral exam during any of the six official examination sessions.

Programming project

Each student can choose a programming project on any of the topics covered during the lectures. Projects must be done individually, and must be accompanied by a written technical paper of at most 16 pages in LNCS format (a Word/Libreoffice template and a LaTeX template are available).

Some project proposals are available; each student can also make a short proposal of a different project (for example, it is perfectly acceptable to propose a project based on the paper presented during the seminar, wee below); in this case we check the proposal and accept/reject it.

Projects can be turned in at any time. However, they will be evaluated at the three dates listed in the exam dates section.

Student presentations

You may select papers among the publications from the following sources. As a general rule, short abstracts or brief communication type papers that are less than 3 pages should be excluded. Please send me via email the URLs to the pdf files (not the files themselves) for your top two choices, in order of preference, before april 11, 2015. Check the presentation schedule to see whether your papers have already been assigned (in this case, pick a different one).

Student presentations are scheduled to begin on april 15. Presentations will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis. Each presentation will be allocated a 20 minutes slot. To speed things up I will provide my own netbook; you will be able to upload your presentation (in PDF format only) from your pen drive at the beginning of each lecture.

The table below lists the dates of the six oral exams, plus the three deadlines at which we collect and evaluate all submitted projects. Note that the oral exam is required only for those who did not give the presentation at the end of the course.

Dates for the oral exam

Note: the oral exam is only for those who did NOT give the paper presentation during the course. Therefore, those who already did the presentation do not need to register through AlmaEsami.

Oral exams of the Complex Systems course, academic year 2013/2014
Summer term
I 2014/06/10, 10:00, aula Ercolani 3
II 2014/07/01, 10:00, aula Ercolani 3
III 2014/07/17, 10:00, aula Seminari 2 (seminterrato palazzina)
Project First project submission deadline: 2014/07/17 (Projects can be submitted at any time, but here we will grade those submitted at this date)
Fall term
I 2014/09/23, 10:00, aula seminari N. Busi
Project Second project submission deadline: 2014/09/23 (Projects can be submitted at any time, but here we will start grading those submitted until this date)
Winter term
I 2015/01/12, 10:00, aula seminari N. Busi
II 2015/02/04, 10:00, aula seminari N. Busi
Project Last project submission deadline: 2015/02/02.

Class Hours

Timetable for the Complex Systems course 2013/2014
Tuesday 13:30—16:30 Ercolani 2
Wednesday 10:30—12:30 Medicina Legale
Friday 14:30—16:30 Ercolani 2

Lecture Slides

[Marzolla] Course Introduction (Flake ch. 1)
[Marzolla] Numbering systems and infinity (Flake ch. 2)
[Marzolla] Fractals (Flake ch. 5)
[Marzolla] L-Systems and Affine Transformations (Flake ch. 6)
[Marzolla] Nonlinear Dynamics (Flake parts of ch. 7, 10, 11, 12)
12/3/2014, 14/3/2014
[Marzolla] Cellular Automata (Flake ch. 15, 16)
[Marzolla] Introduction to NetLogo
[Marzolla] Agent-Based Systems and Self-Organization (Flake ch. 16)

(Some links can be accessed only through the University of Bologna network)

[Marzolla] Cooperation and Competition (Flake ch. 17, EK ch. 6)
[Marzolla] Genetic Algorithms (Flake ch. 20)
[Marzolla] The Structure of the Web (EK ch. 13)
[Marzolla] Link Analysis and Web Search (EK ch. 14)
[Marzolla] Network Effects (EK ch. 17)
[Marzolla] PeerSim
Deadline for submitting your presentation proposal. See the final exam section.
Course evaluation forms will be distributed at the beginning of the class. Please be there on time to fill the evaluation form.
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