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Boolean delay equations: A simple way of looking at complex systems. (English) Zbl 1153.37315
Summary: Boolean Delay Equations (BDEs) are semi-discrete dynamical models with Boolean-valued variables that evolve in continuous time. Systems of BDEs can be classified into conservative or dissipative, in a manner that parallels the classification of ordinary or partial differential equations. Solutions to certain conservative BDEs exhibit growth of complexity in time; such BDEs can be seen therefore as metaphors for biological evolution or human history. Dissipative BDEs are structurally stable and exhibit multiple equilibria and limit cycles, as well as more complex, fractal solution sets, such as Devil’s staircases and “fractal sunbursts.” All known solutions of dissipative BDEs have stationary variance. BDE systems of this type, both free and forced, have been used as highly idealized models of climate change on interannual, interdecadal and paleoclimatic time scales. BDEs are also being used as flexible, highly efficient models of colliding cascades of loading and failure in earthquake modeling and prediction, as well as in genetics. In this paper we review the theory of systems of BDEs and illustrate their applications to climatic and solid-earth problems. The former have used small systems of BDEs, while the latter have used large hierarchical networks of BDEs. We moreover introduce BDEs with an infinite number of variables distributed in space (“partial BDEs”) and discuss connections with other types of discrete dynamical systems, including cellular automata and Boolean networks. This research-and-review paper concludes with a set of open questions.

MSC:
37B15 Dynamical aspects of cellular automata
86A10 Meteorology and atmospheric physics
86A15 Seismology (including tsunami modeling), earthquakes
68Q80 Cellular automata (computational aspects)
37N10 Dynamical systems in fluid mechanics, oceanography and meteorology
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