New InnoCentive Blog Feature: "Complexity" Digest, Issue #1

Posted by abingham on Feb 12, 2010 9:43:25 AM

Bruce Hannon is known to many for his weekly email digest highlighting interesting articles, published in various well regarded complexity sources, that span the gamut from all areas of research and inquiry, from the life sciences to the social sciences.  What all the articles have in common is that they celebrate interesting findings, provocative theories, and the complexity of the world.  Bruce has graciously agreed to allow InnoCentive to repost his “Complexity” Digest from time to time.  Thank you Bruce!

Below, you will find Bruce’s “Complexity” Digest #1, we hope you enjoy.  Please let us know your feedback and feel free to respond to the blog posts and share your thoughts and reactions with others.

Dwayne Spradlin
InnoCentive CEO

“Complexity” Digest #1

From biological and clinical experiments to mathematical models, Philosophical Transactions A

Excerpt: This theme issue discusses the complex cross-disciplinary interactions among the various disciplines involved in the study of a living system (biology, mathematics, and computer sciences). The usual way to formalize, in a rational form, the structure of a biological system is to propose a mathematical formulation of the key processes and of interactions among them which have been identified as fundamental for the studied system. This approach allows one to study, from a mathematical point-of-view, the properties arising from the mathematical model. It is then possible to return to reality with proposals for new experiments in order to validate (or to invalidate) the emergent properties predicted by the mathematical model. However, the complexity of living system precludes a complete model of their behaviour, and models of the subsystems of interest are sometimes mathematically intractable.

New year, new science, Nature

Excerpts: Nature looks at what key events may come from the research world in 2010: Stopping species loss (...) Planck peeks at the Universe's origin (...) Life, but not as we know it (...) An Antarctic time machine (...) A flood of genomes (...) Mexico City: the new Copenhagen (...) Earth-like worlds elsewhere (...) Hope for HIV prevention (...) A perfect symmetry (...) Quantum effects go large (...) Cell reprogramming gets safer (...) Embryonic stem cells go clinical (...) Space travel crosses frontiers (...) X-rays with laser-sharp focus (...) Climate computing heats up (...)

  • Source: New year, new science, Richard Van Noorden, DOI: 10.1038/463012a, Nature 463, 12-13 (2010), 2010/01/06

The Long-Term Effects of Short-Term Emotions, HBR

Excerpt: The heat of the moment is a powerful, dangerous thing. We all know this. If we’re happy, we may be overly generous. Maybe we leave a big tip, or buy a boat. If we’re irritated, we may snap. Maybe we rifle off that nasty e-mail to the boss, or punch someone. And for that fleeting second, we feel great. But the regret" and the consequences of that decision" may last years, a whole career, or even a lifetime. At least the regret will serve us well, right? Lesson learned" maybe. Maybe not. My friend Eduardo Andrade and I wondered if emotions could influence how people make decisions even after the heat or anxiety or exhilaration wears off.

World view: Tomorrow never knows, Nature

Excerpt: Predictions are not instructions that people simply follow to make better decisions. They are pieces of an intricate puzzle that may sometimes contribute to improved decisions. For complex, long-term problems such as climate change or nuclear-waste disposal, the accuracy of predictions is often unknowable, uncertainties are difficult to characterize and people commonly disagree about the outcomes they desire and the means to achieve them. For such problems, the belief that improved scientific predictions will compel appropriate behaviour and lead to desired outcomes is false.

Lifeless' Prions Capable of Evolutionary Change and Adaptation, ScienceDaily

Excerpts: () have determined for the first time that prions, bits of infectious protein devoid of DNA or RNA that can cause fatal neurodegenerative disease, are capable of Darwinian evolution. The study () shows that prions can develop large numbers of mutations at the protein level and, through natural selection, these mutations can eventually bring about such evolutionary adaptations as drug resistance, a phenomenon previously known to occur only in bacteria and viruses. ()"On the face of it, you have exactly the same process of mutation and adaptive change in prions as you see in viruses," said ().

Competing through organizational agility, McKinsey Quaterly

Excerpt: Market turbulence did not begin with the fall of Lehman Brothers, and it will not end when the global economy recovers.1 Indeed, a variety of academic studies�"using measures such as stock price volatility, the mortality of firms, the persistence of superior performance, the frequency of economic shocks, and the speed of technology dissemination�"have concluded that volatility at the firm level increased somewhere between two- and fourfold from the 1970s to the 1990s

Humans, Animals-It's One Health. Or Is It?, Science

Summary: A "holistic approach" and "synergism" working for the health of all species are the buzzwords of the One Health movement, which aims to bring veterinary and human health closer together. But the Dutch Q-fever outbreak provides a vivid example of how those two worlds often don't get along, especially when the stakes are different for each.

The increased risk of predation enhances cooperation, Proc. R. Soc. B

Excerpt: Theory predicts that animals in adverse conditions can decrease individual risks and increase long-term benefits by cooperating with neighbours.[...] This study demonstrates the positive impact of predation risk on cooperation in breeding songbirds, which might help in explaining the emergence and evolution of cooperation.

Darwin And The Evolution Of Flowers, Phil. Tran. B

Excerpt: With the ubiquity of flowers in our everyday lives, it is sometimes easy to overlook their central importance in the production of food and other materials on which human survival depends. The origin of flowering plant (angiosperm) diversity, which is intimately connected to the diversification of floral form and floral biology, is also of great interest because as the dominant autotrophs of terrestrial environments, angiosperms provide the energy on which most of the rest of biological diversity depends. The evolution of flowers and flowering plants is therefore both of fundamental significance and of contemporary relevance. (�)

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