Bruce Hannon’s Complexity Digest #3 – March Madness

Posted by Connie French on Mar 15, 2010 3:29:24 PM

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 #3, 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.

Why you shouldn't always follow the crowd, Nature


A peculiar rift must be confronted in going from the individual to the collective, as science writer Len Fisher explains in his book. The Perfect Swarm focuses on swarm intelligence:  " the emergence of purposeful, effective and flexibly adaptive group behaviour from interactions between members following simple rules. Fisher explores how this phenomenon unites the behaviour of ants, fish, birds and locusts, and how it links to all areas of complexity science, from neurobiology to ecology. He also embraces the tough challenge of translating the science into practical lessons for everyday life.

• Source: Why you shouldn't always follow the crowd, Mark Buchanan, DOI: 10.1038/464035a, Nature 464, 35, 2010/03/04

Biodiversity Is Our Life, Science

Excerpt: 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, in recognition of life on Earth. Eight years ago, more than 190 countries agreed, through the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, to reduce biodiversity loss by 2010. This October, the Convention will meet in Nagoya, Japan, to evaluate progress and agree on new biodiversity targets for the world. Shortly before that, the UN General Assembly will address the biodiversity crisis for the first time.

• Source: Biodiversity Is Our Life, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, DOI: 10.1126/science.1188424, Science Vol. 327. no. 5970, p. 1179, 2010/03/05

Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory,

About this talk: Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy -- and our own self-awareness.

• Source: Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory,, 2010/03
• VIDEO - Watch this talk

Is this the meaning of life?,

Excerpt: It is often assumed that the science-based worldview implies that life on this planet is a meaningless accident in a universe that is indifferent to our existence. Humans struggle to find purpose within this purely naturalistic understanding of reality, and so they supplement it with beliefs in supernatural processes and entities.

However, recent advances in our understanding of evolution are revealing a bigger picture that can, by itself, give meaning to life. This new worldview locates humanity within a much larger evolutionary process that appears to offer us a meaningful role to play.

• Source: Is this the meaning of life?, John Stewart,, 2010/03/05

Exotic matter, Nature

Excerpt: Crucially, the macroscopic properties of matter usually differ substantially from those of its microscopic constituents. In fact, numerous complex many-body systems show emergent phenomena that are associated with the 'whole' but that cannot be understood solely in terms of the fundamental laws that govern their microscopic 'parts'. This complexity is perhaps best encapsulated in Philip Anderson's 'more is different' idea, (...) and is part of the challenge and the beauty of condensed-matter physics.

In this Insight, we expose examples of matter for which 'more is different' holds true in striking ways. (...)

• Source: Exotic matter, Dan Csontos, DOI: 10.1038/464175a, Nature 464, 175, 2010/03/10

Evolutionary game theory meets social science: Is there a unifying rule for human cooperation?, Journal of Theoretical Biology

Excerpt: My aim is to show that cooperative strategies across frameworks are capable of a unified treatment, for they are governed by a common underlying rule or norm. An analysis of the reputation and action rules that govern some representative cooperative strategies both in models and in economic experiments confirms that the different frameworks share a conditional action rule and several reputation rules.

• Source: Evolutionary game theory meets social science: Is there a unifying rule for human cooperation?, Rosas A, DOI: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.02.015, Journal of Theoretical Biology, in Press, February 2010

On Rarity and Richness, Science

Excerpt: If biodiversity were an olympic sport, life on land would take home the gold and the sea might not even enter a team. Given the vastness of the oceans and the length of time life has thrived there, you might expect marine species to outnumber terrestrial ones. Yet, microbes aside, upward of nine in 10 species crowd into the 30% of Earth's surface that's dry. (...) 400 million years ago, the seas were home to an abundance of species, perhaps even more than on land. But about 110 million years ago, land plants went through a burst of speciation; so did the pollinators, fungi, and herbivores associated with them. These relationships made "rare" species possible (...)

• Source: On Rarity and Richness, Elizabeth Pennisi, DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5971.1318, Science Vol. 327. no. 5971, pp. 1318 - 1319, 2010/03/12

Altruism, Spite, and Greenbeards, Science

Abstract: Hamilton’s theory of inclusive fitness showed how natural selection could lead to behaviors that decrease the relative fitness of the actor and also either benefit (altruism) or harm (spite) other individuals. However, several fundamental issues in the evolution of altruism and spite have remained contentious. Here, we show how recent work has resolved three key debates, helping clarify how Hamilton’s theoretical overview links to real-world examples, in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans: Is the evolution of extreme altruism, represented by the sterile workers of social insects, driven by genetics or ecology? Does spite really exist in nature? And, can altruism be favored between individuals who are not close kin but share a "greenbeard" gene for altruism?

• Source: Altruism, Spite, and Greenbeards, Stuart A. West, Andy Gardner, DOI: 10.1126/science.1178332, Science Vol. 327. no. 5971, pp. 1341 - 1344, 2010/03/12

The Ecological Relevance Of Sleep: The Trade-Off Between Sleep, Memory And Energy Conservation, Phil. Tran. B

Excerpt: All animals in which sleep has been studied express signs of sleep-like behaviour, suggesting that sleep must have some fundamental functions that are sustained by natural selection. Those functions, however, are still not clear. Here, we examine the ecological relevance of sleep from the perspective of behavioural trade-offs that might affect fitness. Specifically, we highlight the advantage of using food-caching animals as a system in which a conflict might occur between engaging in sleep for memory/learning and hypothermia/torpor to conserve energy. We briefly review the evidence for the importance of sleep for memory, the importance of memory for food-caching animals.

• Source: The Ecological Relevance Of Sleep: The Trade-Off Between Sleep, Memory And Energy Conservation, T. C. Roth - tcroth, N. C. Rattenborg, V. V. Pravosudov, DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0209, Phil. Tran. R. Soc. B, 2010/03/27

Topological properties of commodities networks, Eur. Phys. J. B

Abstract: This paper investigates the topological properties of the commodities networks. We have found that commodities form strong clusters and are homogeneous with relation to sector (metals, agriculture and energy). We also develop a dynamic approach suggesting that agriculture commodities are very important in the network, followed by metals and energy. Furthermore, the parameters that characterize the network seem to be changing over time.

• Source: Topological properties of commodities networks, B. M. Tabak, T. R. Serra, D. O. Cajueiro, DOI: 10.1140/epjb/e2010-00079-4, Eur. Phys. J. B, 2010/03/02

TV Ads May Be More Effective If We Pay Less Attention, ScienceDaily

Excerpts: Viewers pay less attention to creative television advertisements, shows new research from the University of Bath, but may make themselves more vulnerable to the advertiser's message. The findings overturn the long-held assumption within the advertising industry that ads with high levels of emotional content encourage viewers to pay more attention. The study used an eye-tracking device to measure the real-time attention paid to a range of adverts with different levels of emotional content. Results showed that viewers paid less attention to likeable, creative adverts, and more attention to factual information-giving adverts, even when they didn't like them.

• Source: TV Ads May Be More Effective If We Pay Less Attention, ScienceDaily & University of Bath, 2010/02/25

Ant Ecology, Oxford University Press


This book begins with a global perspective on species diversity in time and space and explores interactions at the community level before describing the population ecology of these social insects. The final section covers the recent ecological phenomenon of invasive ants: how they move across the globe, invade, affect ecosystems, and are managed by humans. Each chapter links ant ecology to broader ecological principles, provides a succinct summary, and discusses future research directions.

• Source: Ant Ecology, Lori Lach, Catherine Parr, Kirsti Abbott, Oxford University Press, 2010/02/01
• Contributed by Anton Joha -

Bruce Hannon

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