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Experiments With Complexity Science In a City of Mythical Grandeur and Grit

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, March 11, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011
"A place of healing, since tuberculosis sufferers started coming over a century ago. A spiritual mini-mecca for a godless age. A sumptuous adobe haven for a few super rich. A land of hope for thousands of illegal immigrants. A hothouse of talent and IQ, with  an extraordinary concentration of PhDs, and more artist than any other American city its size."
That's how the writer Henry Shukman describes Santa Fe in hiswonderfully enticing  New York Times feature story. He speaks of anarrival almostmythical in its grandeur, as he approaches the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on a highway that is "like a long drawbridge into a castle."
The City of Santa Fe was first occupied in the eleventh century by Pueblo Indians. Early Spanish settlers called it  La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís, the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi. It's the third oldest city settled by European colonists. Its Palace of Governors, built in the early sixteenth century as the seat of Spain's regional government, is the oldest continually occupied municipal building in the nation. Its history has seen flux of the traditions and disruptions and Shukman's story notes that a century ago city elders celebrated that tension by adopting a building code requiring ancient adobe style for new buildings. Preservation has been a passion.In 1880, the first train of the Acheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway arrived with great fanfare at the Santa Fe station. Today The Railyard is a community gathering place.  
Diane Karp, director of the Santa Fe Art Institute, calls the institute a "center of exploration, education, experimentation and conversation." The famed Santa Fe Institute was founded in 1984 to enable multi-disciplinary collaborations in natural, physical and social sciences. It has wide-ranging practical programs as well as scholars seeking to "uncover the mechanisms that underlie the deep simplicity present in our complex world."  Luminaries at the Institute range from such scholars as particle scientist Murray Gell-Mann to the writer Cormak McCarthy. The Times story describes a Hungarian born engineer and inventor, Alfonz Viszolay, who is studying algae in his lab in the city. He nourishes it with waste water so he can make it grow fast and harvest it for biofuel He keeps a snazzy sports car ready to show how well-and how fast-it can run on bioethanol and alcohol. In the local tradition of blending the novel and the ancient, he has often invited Navajo dancers to bless his projects.
Ed Angel is president of the New Santa Fe Complex, another organization that brings together teams of creative scientists, artists, andpeople practiced in innovative technology to apply complexity science to real world problems.  
"We bring creative people together but we are not here to achieve certain results," he explained to Shukman. Like an experiment in complexity? he was asked. "Exactly," he replied. "We don't want to know the outcome. We're here to see what happens, that's all." 

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