Neuropolicy Center Confronts The Biological Basis Of Collective Decision Making, Emory University News Release
Excerpts: Berns points out that we also need to understand how religious and political ideologies, which are abstract social values, become transformed in the brain and can subvert basic self-survival value judgments, which occurs in war and terrorism.
"Collective decision-making is political, but politics are biological," says Berns. "The human brain evolved to function in soci al groups. By discovering how our brains are wired to behave in group settings, we can begin figuring out solutions to problems of global impact."
Social Diversity Promotes The Emergence Of Cooperation In Public Goods Games, Nature
Excerpts: Humans often cooperate in public goods games and situations ranging from family issues to global warming. However, evolutionary game theory predicts that the temptation to forgo the public good mostly wins over collective cooperative action, and this is often also seen in economic experiments. Here we show how social diversity provides an escape from this apparent paradox. Up to now, individuals have been treated as equivalent in all respects, in sharp contrast with real-life situations, where diversity is ubiquitous. (...) Our results may help to explain the emergence of cooperation in the absence of mechanisms based on individual reputation and punishment. Combining social diversity with reputation and punishment will provide instrumental clues on the self-organization of social communities and their economical implications.
The Luxurious Growth, NYTimes
Excerpts: Our lives are not determined by uniform processes. Instead, human behavior is complex, nonlinear and unpredictable. The Brave New World is far away. Novels and history can still produce insights into human behavior that science can't match. Just as important is the implication for politics. Starting in the late 19th century, eugenicists used primitive ideas about genetics to try to re-engineer the human race. In the 20th century, communists used primitive ideas about "scientific materialism" to try to re-engineer a New Soviet Man.
Simulating Closed Regimes With Agent Based Models, Complexity
Excerpts: ABSTRACT This article describes efforts to develop an exploratory agent-based model as a tool for studying decision making in political regimes such as Iraq, North Korea, and Syria. Our hybrid of the landscape metaphor and the rule-based system approach captures the trade-offs leaders face in balancing components of a utility function, plus risk profiles that allow departures from conventional utility maximization. Two simple experiments concerning succession demonstrate the surprising compromises both leaders and elites are willing to make, as well as the instability of these bargains.
Government as the Big Lender, NYTimes
Excerpts: A similar trend is playing out in the realm of student loans. As commercial banks concluded that the business of lending to college students was no longer quite so profitable, the Bush administration promised in May to buy their federally guaranteed student loans, giving the banks capital to continue lending. In short, in a nation that holds itself up as a citadel of free enterprise, the government has transformed from a reliable guarantor into effectively the only lender for millions of Americans engaged in the largest transactions of their lives.
Why Cap And Trade Could Backfire
Excerpts: Credits remove stigma - and may increase pollution.
Environmentalists claim that capping greenhouse-gas emissions and creating a market for emissions trading - a policy prescription called "cap-and-trade" - would reduce carbon dioxide output and with it the risk of global warming.
But it could achieve the opposite.
Here's how: By turning carbon emissions into commodities that can be bought and sold, cap-and-trade policies could remove the stigma from producing such emissions.
A Social Contract, Nature
Excerpts: Efforts to inform US military policy with insights from the social sciences could be a win-win approach. (...)
The recent NSF deal aims to shape the Pentagon's long-term strategic thinking by funding academic research in areas such as religious fundamentalism, terrorism and cultural change. Gates also hopes that such research could foster entirely new intellectual tools, in much the same way that work during the cold war fostered game theory.
University Research: Steering Harvard Toward Collaborative Science, Science
Excerpts: He wants to turn the oldest and most prestigious university in the United States into the locus of work to eliminate diseases, understand how the brain functions, and expand the possibilities of medical genomics. To succeed, he must attract new talent and persuade Harvard's famously independent fiefdoms to work in concert. The vehicle for that transformation is the multibillion-dollar campus in Allston, a working-class suburb across the Charles River from Harvard Yard, that for the first time will concentrate a host of science and engineering disciplines under a single roof. "We're trying a very different way in answer to our critics, who have seen us as irretrievably Balkanized," says Hyman.
In Sync To Pierce The Cloud, NYTimes
Excerpts: "Cloud computing" is a white-hot buzzword these days. It basically means working with files and programs that reside on the Internet, beyond your company's walls - out there in the "cloud." Everyday consumers are doing cloud computing, too, maybe without even realizing it. When you use an Internet-based backup service, or Google's online word processor or spreadsheet, or a Gmail or Yahoo mail account, you're working with data on a secure Internet server somewhere - not on your hard drive. Apple is the latest company to find a silver lining in the cloud. Its new MobileMe service ($100 a year) is an overhaul of a suite of Internet features that used to be called .Mac.
Self-Organization and Complex Networks, arXiv
Excerpt: In this chapter we discuss how the results developed within the theory of fractals and Self-Organized Criticality (SOC) can be fruitfully exploited as ingredients of adaptive network models. In order to maintain the presentation self-contained, we first review the basic ideas behind fractal theory and SOC. We then briefly review some results in the field of complex networks, and some of the models that have been proposed. Finally, we present a self-organized model recently proposed by Garlaschelli et al. (...)
Shaping Robust System through Evolution, arXiv
Excerpts: Biological functions are generated as a result of developmental dynamics that form phenotypes governed by genotypes. The dynamical system for development is shaped through genetic evolution following natural selection based on the fitness of the phenotype. Here we study how this dynamical system is robust to noise during development and to genetic change by mutation. (...) we show that a certain level of noise in gene expression is required for the network to acquire both types of robustness.
Synergetics and Its Application to Literature and Architecture, arXiv
Abstract: A series of phenomena pertaining to economics, quantum physics, language, literary criticism, and especially architecture is studied from the standpoint of synergetics (the study of self-organizing complex systems). It turns out that a whole series of concrete formulas describing these phenomena is identical in these different situations. This is the case of formulas relating to the Bose-Einstein distribution of particles and the distribution of words from a frequency dictionary. This also allows to apply a "quantized" from of the Zipf law to the problem of the authorship of 'Quiet Flows the Don' and to the"blending in" of new architectural structures in an existing environment.
Archaeology: The Lost World, Nature
Excerpts: Armed with a map depicting a 10,000-year-old landscape submerged beneath the North Sea and fresh evidence from nearby sites, archaeologists are realizing that early humans were more territorial than was previously thought. (...)
In just a few thousand years, Doggerland was transformed from a harsh tundra into a fertile paradise, and eventually into the northern European landscape that we know today. "It put human adaptability to the test," says Gaffney.
Self-Assembling Tissues - Living Legos Can Be Directed To Form Tissue-Like Structures., Technology Review
Likewise, a diabetic could, with grafts of lab-made pancreatic tissue, be given the ability to make insulin again. But tissue engineering has stalled in part because bioengineers haven't been able to replicate the structural complexity of human tissues. Now researchers have taken an important first step toward building complex tissues from the bottom up by creating what they call living Legos. These building blocks, biofriendly gels of various shapes studded with cells, can self-assemble into complex structures resembling those found in tissues.
Living Legos: Polymer building blocks studded with cells self-assemble into structures whose complexity mimics that of human tissues. The cross-shaped gel contains cells stained green; the rod-shaped gels, which are about 200 micrometers across, contain cells stained red. Credit: Ali Khademhosseini
Passive Learning Imprints On The Brain Just Like Active Learning, PhysOrg.com
It's conventional wisdom that practice makes perfect. But if practicing only consists of watching, rather than doing, does that advance proficiency? Yes, according to a study by Dartmouth researchers. (...)
A view of the left hemisphere of the brain (with the left part of the image being the forward part of the brain) illustrating the Action Observance Network regions. (image courtesy Emily Cross)
"It's been established in previous research that there are correlations in behavioral performance between active and passive learning, but in this study we were surprised by the remarkable similarity in brain activation when our research participants observed dance sequences that were actively or passively experienced," (...).
A Good Night's Sleep Really Does Improve The Brain, Telegraph
Excerpts: Dr Sophie Schwartz, from the University of Geneva, who led the study, said: "Our results revealed that a period of sleep following a new experience can consolidate and improve subsequent effects of learning from the experience. "This improvement comes from changes in brain activity in specific regions that code for relevant features of the learned material."
Sleep helped the brain consolidate learned experiences and transform weak memories that might fade in time into more permanent fixtures, she said.
Psychiatric Genetics: The Brains Of The Family, Nature
Excerpts: Does the difficulty in finding the genes responsible for mental illness reflect the complexity of the genetics or the poor definitions of psychiatric disorders? (...)
One boy carried a major 'translocation', in which a chunk of chromosome 11 had been switched with part of chromosome 1.
The translocation and the boy's bad behaviour were more than just coincidence. Years later, when Edinburgh researchers traced the family, they found that the same chromosomal abnormality spanned four generations, with remarkably varied effects. Of those who carried it, five had depression, six had schizophrenia or related disorders, three had adolescent conduct disorder and two had anxiety disorder. One had attempted suicide and died in a mental hospital.
Neuroscience: Rewiring The Brain, Nature
Excerpts: In the first month - when paralysis is usually at its worst - they found that some neurons ditched their speciality for one particular limb and began processing information from multiple limbs. During the following month, as the affected brain region reorganized itself more permanently, those neurons re-specialized to a new single limb.
New approaches could more seamlessly integrate medical devices into the body. (...)
Implanted network: Scientists are developing new ways to coax electrodes to integrate with brain tissue. One approach is to grow PEDOT, an electrically conductive polymer, onto an electrode after it is surgically implanted into the body. Shown here is a slice of cortical tissue from a mouse in which the polymer (shown in blue) was deposited after insertion of the metal electrode. The polymer surrounds the cells, forming a diffuse, conductive network that follows the white-matter tracts of the cortex.
Credit: Sarah Richardson-Burns
Devices that record and translate neural activity are also under development for people with severe paralysis.
But as use of neural implants grows, so does concern over the damage that those devices can impose on neural tissue. Insertion of the rigid metal electrode into soft tissue triggers a cascade of inflammatory signals, damaging or killing neurons and triggering a scar to form around the metal. "We hope to come up with a way to communicate across the scar layer and send information to and from the device in a way that is as friendly as possible," (...).
'Cross Fire' From The Brain Makes Patients Tremble, PhysOrg.com
Excerpts: A typical symptom of Parkinson's disease is tremor in patients. A group of scientists, including Professor Peter Tass from Forschungszentrum Julich have succeeded in demonstrating the mechanisms which cause the so-called tremor: neuron clusters in the depths of the brain drive the tremor. (...)
This device influences the disturbed neurons in the core region of the brain and effectively removes their compulsion to "fire" at the same time. Tass' new development disturbs this compulsory diseased mode by using very mild, targeted and desynchronized stimuli in different places. In this way, the rhythm becomes irregular and breaks down.
UCLA Study Identifies Mechanism Behind Mind-Body Connection, EurekAlert
Explains how chronic emotional stress ages the immune system.
Immune cells (stained blue) end in protective caps called telomeres (stained yellow) that are shorter in the elderly -- and in persons suffering chronic stress. A new UCLA study suggests cortisol is the culprit behind premature aging of the immune system in stressed-out people.
Credit: UCLA/Effros lab
Every cell contains a tiny clock called a telomere, which shortens each time the cell divides. Short telomeres are linked to a range of human diseases, including HIV, osteoporosis, heart disease and aging. Previous studies show that an enzyme within the cell, called telomerase, keeps immune cells young by preserving their telomere length and ability to continue dividing.
UCLA scientists found that the stress hormone cortisol suppresses immune cells' ability to activate their telomerase. This may explain why the cells of persons under chronic stress have shorter telomeres.
Excerpts: Biologists finally are unraveling the medical mysteries of migraine, from aura to pain.
What first activates the trigeminal nerves in migraine, however, is under debate. (...)
Some researchers contend that cortical spreading depression directly stimulates the trigeminal nerves. As the wave of hyperexcitability travels across the cortex, it brings about the release of neurotransmitters, such as glutamate and nitric oxide, as well as of ions. These chemicals serve as messengers that induce the trigeminal nerves to transmit pain signals. Researchers have observed in animals that cortical spreading depression does indeed activate the trigeminal nerves in this way.
Behind The Looking-Glass, Nature
Excerpts: To understand how mirror neurons help to interpret actions, we must delve into the networks in which these cells sit, (...).
Unravelling how mirror neurons work requires knowledge of the complex architecture in which these cells are embedded. A model of neural architecture proposed by one of us (A.D.) nearly 20 years ago may help with that. Impressive findings from mirror-neuron research at the single-cell level have added persuasive empirical support for this early model.
Cancer: An Unexpected Addiction, Nature
Excerpts: Both oncogenes and normal genes can mediate the development and progress of cancer. What used to separate their effects was cancer's dependence on, or 'addiction' to, oncogenes but not normal genes. Not any more. (...)
Cancer's 'addiction' to oncogenes is sometimes so strong that even brief inactivation of a single oncogene can cause remission in model systems, implying that oncogenes are the 'Achilles' heel' of cancers.
Genetic Determinants of Self Identity and Social Recognition in Bacteria, Science
Excerpts: Abstract: The bacterium Proteus mirabilis is capable of movement on solid surfaces by a type of motility called swarming. Boundaries form between swarming colonies of different P. mirabilis strains but not between colonies of a single strain. A fundamental requirement for boundary formation is the ability to discriminate between self and nonself. We have isolated mutants that form boundaries with their parent. The mutations map within a six-gene locus that we term ids for identification of self. Five of the genes in the ids locus are required for recognition of the parent strain as self. Three of the ids genes are interchangeable between strains, and two encode specific molecular identifiers.
Adaptive Numerical Competency In A Food-Hoarding Songbird, Proc. Biol. Sc.
Excerpts: Most animals can distinguish between small quantities (less than four) innately. Many animals can also distinguish between larger quantities after extensive training. However, the adaptive significance of numerical discriminations in wild animals is almost completely unknown. We conducted a series of experiments to test whether a food-hoarding songbird, (...) uses numerical judgements when retrieving and pilfering cached food. Different numbers of mealworms were presented sequentially to wild birds in a pair of artificial cache sites, which were then obscured from view. Robins frequently chose the site containing more prey, (...). Overall results indicate that New Zealand robins use a sophisticated numerical sense (...).
Excerpts: Certain songbirds can contract their vocal muscles 100 times faster than humans can blink an eye - placing the birds with a handful of animals that have evolved superfast muscles, University of Utah researchers found. "We discovered that the European starling (found throughout Eurasia and North-America) and the zebrafinch (found in Australia and Indonesia) control their songs with the fastest-contracting muscle type yet described," says (...). (...) "Songbirds use complex song to communicate with one another," Elemans says. "Many species are able to change the volume and-or frequency of their song faster than ordinary vertebrate muscles are able to contract." (...)
Excerpts: As demand for freshwater soars, planetary supplies are becoming unpredictable. Existing technologies could avert a global water crisis, but they must be implemented soon. (...)
Scientists expect water scarcity to become more common in large part because the world's population is rising and many people are getting richer (thus expanding demand) and because global climate change is exacerbating aridity and reducing supply in many regions. What is more, many water sources are threatened by faulty waste disposal, releases of industrial pollutants, fertilizer runoff and coastal influxes of saltwater into aquifers as groundwater is depleted. Because lack of access to water can lead to starvation, disease, political instability and even armed conflict, failure to take action can have broad and grave consequences.
Palaeontology: Squint Of The Fossil Flatfish, Nature
Excerpts: Evolutionary biologists have floundered when trying to explain how the asymmetrical head of flatfishes came about. 'Gradually' is the answer arising from exquisite studies of 45-million-year-old fossil specimens. (...)
The asymmetry of adult flatfishes is remarkable because the young are perfectly symmetrical. The entire head structure is rapidly remodelled during metamorphosis, involving the migration of one eye to the opposite side, close to the other eye. (...) Only in the most primitive living flatfish, the 'spiny turbot' (Psettodes), is one eye (...) situated close to the dorsal margin of the head, although it is still on the same side as the other eye.
The Science of Leonardo da Vinci, Doubleday
Book report: Capra's earlier works included popular introductions to complexity theory, ecology, and general systems theory. In them, he occasionally referred to Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) as the first modern scientist. While viewing an exhibition of his drawings in the mid 1990s, Capra decided to make a detailed study of his writings. As a scientist having acquired Italian language in childhood, he was able to study the recently transcribed and dated Notebooks of Leonardo, paying special attention to their scientific content. The Science of Leonardo is the outcome of that process.
Here, Capra gives us a portrait of Leonardo as a systems thinker, the first modern scientist, and pioneer of the experimental method -- a century before Galileo and Bacon.
Complex Challenges: Global Terrorist Networks
How American Treaty Behavior Threatens National Security, Int. Security
Excerpts: In recent years, American treaty behavior has produced growing concern among both allies and less friendly nations. On such fundamental issues as nuclear proliferation, terrorism, human rights, civil liberties, environmental disasters, and commerce, the United States has generated confusion and anger abroad. Such a climate is not conducive to needed cooperation in the conduct of foreign and security policy. Among U.S. actions that have caused concern are the failure to ratify several treaties; the attachment of reservations, understandings, and declarations before ratification; the failure to support a treaty regime once ratified; and treaty withdrawal. (...)
Links & Snippets
- Enzymes Without Borders: Mobilizing Substrates, Delivering Products, Federico Forneris, Andrea Mattevi, 08/07/11, Science
- Understanding Individual Human Mobility Patterns, M.C. Gonzalez, C.A. Hidalgo, and A.-L. Barabasi, 2008/06/07, arXiv [Nature 453, 479-482 (2008)], DOI: 0806.1256
- Evolutionary Game Dynamics in Phenotype Space, Tibor Antal, Hisashi Ohtsuki, John Wakeley, Peter D. Taylor, Martin A. Nowak, 2008/06/16, arXiv, DOI: 0806.2636
- MultiKulti Algorithm: Migrating the Most Different Genotypes in an Island Model, Lourdes Araujo, Juan J. Merelo Guervos, Carlos Cotta, Francisco Fernandez de Vega, 2008/06/17, arXiv, DOI: 0806.2843
- The Organization of Intrinsic Computation: Complexity-Entropy Diagrams and the Diversity of Natural Information Processing, David P. Feldman, Carl S. McTague, James P. Crutchfield, 2008/06/17, arXiv, DOI: 0806.4789
- Ten Simple Rules for Organizing a Scientific Meeting, Manuel Corpas, Nils Gehlenborg, Sarath Chandra Janga, Philip E. Bourne, 2008/06/27, PLoS Comput Biol 4(6): e1000080, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000080
- Turing Patterns on Networks, Hiroya Nakao and Alexander S. Mikhailov, 2008/07/08, arXiv, DOI: 0807.1230
- Mathematical Models Of Energy Homeostasis, R. Pattaranit, H. A. van den Berg, 2008/07/08, Interface, DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2008.0216
- The Colour Of Fossil Feathers, J. Vinther, D. E.G. Briggs, R. O. Prum, V. Saranathan, 2008/07/08, Biological Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0302
- Can You Hear Me Now? Primitive Single-Celled Microbe Expert In Cellular Communication Networks, 2008/07/08, ScienceDaily & Salk Institute
- Do We Think That Machines Can Think?, 2008/07/09, ScienceDaily & Public Library of Science
- Avatars As Communicators Of Emotions, 2008/07/10, Innovations-report
- Money Makes The Heart Grow Less Fond... But More Hardworking, 2008/07/10, ScienceDaily & Association for Psychological Science
- Water Found In Moon Rock Samples: New Analysis Finds Traces Of Hydrogen, I. Thomson, 2008/07/11, vnunet.com
- Study Reveals Potential Reasons For School Absenteeism, 2008/07/11, Innovations-report
- Scientists Identify Genetic Basis For The Black Sheep Of The Family, 2008/07/11, ScienceDaily & Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
- Model For Automated, Wearable Artificial Kidney Designed, 2008/07/12, ScienceDaily & University of California - Los Angeles
- Equilibrium Party Government, J. W. Patty - jpattygov.harvard.edu, Jul. 2008, Online 2008/07/08, American Journal of Political Science, DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2008.00334.x
- Generous Or Parsimonious Cognitive Architecture? Cognitive Neuroscience And Theory Of Mind, P. Gerrans - philip.gerransadelaide.edu.au, V. E. Stone - vstonepsy.uq.edu.au, Jun. 2008, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, DOI: 10.1093/bjps/axm038
- China’s Surging Energy Demand: Trigger For Conflict Or Cooperation With Japan?, S. Itoh, Mar. 2008, online 2008/05/08, East Asia, DOI: 10.1007/s12140-008-9044-1
Complex Systems and Social Simulations, CEU Summer University, Budapest, Hungary, 08/07/07-18
2008 Gordon Research Conf on Oscillations & Dynamic Instabilities
in Chemical Systems, Waterville, ME, 08/07/13-18
Nonlinear Fracture Mechanics Models, Udine, Italy, 08/07/14-18
1st Intl Workshop on Nonlinear Dynamics and Synchronization
(INDS'08), Klagenfurt, Austria, 08/07/18-19
Scratch@MIT,Cambridge, MA, 08/07/24-26
8th Intl Conf on Epigenetic Robotics:
Modeling Cognitive Development in Robotic Systems, Brighton, UK, 08/07/31-08/02
On the Edge: Healthcare in the Age of Complexity,
Kansas City, MO, 08/08/03-05
Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences
18th Annl Intl Conf, Richmond, Virginia, USA, 08/08/08-10
Stochastic Resonance 2008, Perugia, Italy, 08/08/17-21
4th Intl Conf on Natural Computation (ICNC'08) - 5th Intl Conf on Fuzzy Systems and Knowledge Discovery (FSKD'08),
Jinan, China, 08/08/25-27
Intl Conf DEscribing COmplex Systems (DECOS), Zadar,
BICS Conference - Emergence in Complex Systems,
Bath, UK, 08/09/09-11
Conference on Complex Systems, Jerusalem, Israel, 08/09/14-19
EPOS 2008, III Edition of Epistemological Perspectives on Simulation, Lisbon, Portugal, 08/10/02-03
1st Intl Conf on the Evolution and Development of the Universe, Paris, France, 08/10/08-09
International Congress on Complex Thought, Hermosillo , Sonora , Mexico, 08/10/21-24
2nd Intl Congress of Complex Systems in Sport (2nd ICCSS) and 10th European Workshop of Ecological Psychology. (10th EWEP), Funchal, in Madeira Island, Portugal, 08/11/05-08
2008 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on
Web Intelligence (WI-08), Sydney, Australia, 08/12/09-12
COMPLEX'2009, First Intl Conf on Complex Systems: Theory and Applications, Shanghai, China, 09/02/23-25
A short notice from Dean LeBaron
Dear ComDig Readers,
Our editor, Dr. Gottfried Mayer, is affectionately esteemed by many of you -- as readers, you know he devotes himself unselfishly to widening our knowledge of complexity science. He was recently diagnosed with advanced colon cancer and given a timetable of a very few years. Knowing Gottfried, you can imagine that, in addition to the customary processes of chemotherapy, he would explore other frontier therapies, especially those arising out of interdisciplinary applications of complexity. These are expensive ... if he can find them.
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