# Conceptual Foundations for Multidisciplinary Thinking

By Stephen Jay Kline | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5

Chapter 4 shows that we cannot create analytic or computer solutions for all the details of a complete solution for complex systems. This leaves us with a question: How can we think about such systems? We can reframe this question by asking, What can we do when we cannot find complete answers for a class of problems?

First, we will look at some methods we have developed over the past few centuries for describing inert, naturally-occurring systems in cases where we cannot find complete solutions. Then we will look at what happens when we apply the same kind of methods to very complex systems.

Let's take as our system the class of simple rectangular rooms as shown in Figure 4-1. We can choose a particular room from this class by setting values for three parameters, the length B, the width W, and the height H, in the design space. We can delineate the operating space using three variables x, y, and z, as we saw in Chapter 4. We can write these two sets of facts in a functional form as follows:

R1 = f(x,y,z; B,W,H) and no more (5-1) In functional equations, like equation (5-1), we will regularly show the variables first in lower case and then show the parameters in caps after a semicolon, except when a variable like temperature is normally capitalized.

Once we choose the values of B, W, and H we can write:

R2 = f(x,y,z) and no more (5-2)

The words "and no more" are important in both equations (5-1) and (5-2). They tell us that we have a complete description in each case. Equation (5-1)

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