Rundle Group
Statistical Physics of Complex Earth Systems
Understanding and Managing Risk in a Changing World











Driven nonlinear threshold systems are known to be some of the most important and interesting systems in nature. They include networks of earthquake faults, neural networks, superconductors and semiconductors, and the World Wide Web, as well as political, social, and ecological systems. All of these systems have self-organizing dynamics that are strongly correlated in space and time, and all typically display a multiplicity of spatial and temporal scales. They are usually characterized by observable phenomena that can be understood with modern methods of space-time pattern analysis, and by a highly nonlinear, complex underlying dynamics whose evolution in space in time is extremely difficult to observe, understand, or predict.

Our group focuses on developing the theoretical and computational methods needed to understand these classes of driven, non-equilibrium threshold systems, for both the earth and for human systems, including financial systems. We are particularly interested in developing the computational tools necessary to simulate these high-dimensional complex systems within the context of modern, web-based, high performance computing methods using HPC clusters and other types of parallel, SMP machines. We view the development of the emergent, Semantic Grid as a particulary promising technology, and we are pursuing the development of emergent computational paradigms. Computational simulations thus represent a major tool and a major focus of our research. Much of our work is concerned with a particularly important threshold system in nature, earthquake fault systems.

We also focus on a systems approach to the development of simulations of earthquake faults, with a view towards developing the software and theoretical infrastructure needed to understand and predict these potentially catastrophic events. Emergent computing for such systems arising from the grid and clouds will incorporate certain key capabilities to produce the desired effect of digital brilliance. These capabilities will be capable of 1) coupling code execution with code performance; 2) supporting and fusing multiple observational sources; and 3) simultaneously reconciling computations at multiple scales.

A new interest of our group is to develop and implement new ways of managing hazard and risk, especially as it relates to risk from natural catastrophes, such as earthquakes, wildfires, floods, landslides, hurricanes, and the like. We are also beginning to work on applying some of our risk analysis techniques to financial market data, which offers interesting, in many ways, complementary data sets. In much of this work, we collaborate with members of the Santa Fe Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


John Rundle, Professor of Physics and Geology, UCD
     Also: External Professor, The Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM
Donald Turcotte, Distinguished Professor of Geology, UCD
Louise Kellogg, Professor of Geology, UCD
James Crutchfield, Professor of Physics, UCD
Raissa D'Souza, Associate Professor of Mechanical & Aerospace Eng., UCD
Andrea Donnellan, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena
Dennis McLeod, Professor of Computer Science, USC, Los Angeles, CA
Geoffrey Fox, Professor of Informatics, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Bill Klein, Professor of Physics, Boston University, Boston, MA
Kristy Tiampo, Professor of Geophysics, University of Western Ontario, Canada
Chien-chih Chen, Professor of Geophysics, National Central University, Taiwan
Jose Fernandez,Tenured Scientist, Universidad Complutense Madrid, Spain     
Research Associates
Mark Yoder, PhD, Department of Physics, UCD   
Students Kasey Schultz, Department of Physics, UCD Quinn Norris, Department of Physics, UCD