Month: September 2018

The Silent Cooperator: An Epigenetic Model for Emergence of Altruistic Traits in Biological Systems

Spatial evolutionary game theory explains how cooperative traits can survive the intense competition in biological systems. If the spatial distribution allows cooperators to interact with each other frequently, the benefits of cooperation will outweigh the losses due to exploitation by selfish organisms. However, for a cooperative behavior to get established in a system, it needs to be found initially in a sufficiently large cluster to allow a high frequency of intracooperator interactions. Since mutations are rare events, this poses the question of how cooperation can arise in a biological system in the first place. We present a simple model which captures two concepts from genetics that can explain how evolution overcomes the emergence problem. The first concept is, often in nature, a gene may not express its phenotype except under specific environmental conditions, rendering it to be a “silent” gene. The second key idea is that a neutral gene, one that does not harm or improve an organism’s survival chances, can still spread through a population if it is physically near to another gene that is positively selected. Through these two ideas, our model offers a possible solution to the fundamental problem of emergence of cooperation in biological systems.


The Silent Cooperator: An Epigenetic Model for Emergence of Altruistic Traits in Biological Systems
I. Hashem, D. Telen, P. Nimmegeers, and J. Van Impe

Volume 2018, Article ID 2082037, 16 pages


Untangling Complex Systems: A Grand Challenge for Science (Pier Luigi Gentili)

Complex Systems are natural systems that science is unable to describe exhaustively. Examples of Complex Systems are both unicellular and multicellular living beings; human brains; human immune systems; ecosystems; human societies; the global economy; the climate and geology of our planet. This book is an account of a marvelous interdisciplinary journey the author made to understand properties of the Complex Systems. He has undertaken his trip, equipped with the fundamental principles of physical chemistry, in particular, the Second Law of Thermodynamics that describes the spontaneous evolution of our universe, and the tools of Non-linear dynamics. By dealing with many disciplines, in particular, chemistry, biology, physics, economy, and philosophy, the author demonstrates that Complex Systems are intertwined networks, working in out-of-equilibrium conditions, which exhibit emergent properties, such as self-organization phenomena and chaotic behaviors in time and space.


The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior (Stefano Mancuso)

Do plants have intelligence? Do they have memory? Are they better problem solvers than people? The Revolutionary Genius of Plants—a fascinating, paradigm-shifting work that upends everything you thought you knew about plants—makes a compelling scientific case that these and other astonishing ideas are all true.

Plants make up eighty percent of the weight of all living things on earth, and yet it is easy to forget that these innocuous, beautiful organisms are responsible for not only the air that lets us survive, but for many of our modern comforts: our medicine, food supply, even our fossil fuels.

On the forefront of uncovering the essential truths about plants, world-renowned scientist Stefano Mancuso reveals the surprisingly sophisticated ability of plants to innovate, to remember, and to learn, offering us creative solutions to the most vexing technological and ecological problems that face us today. Despite not having brains or central nervous systems, plants perceive their surroundings with an even greater sensitivity than animals. They efficiently explore and react promptly to potentially damaging external events thanks to their cooperative, shared systems; without any central command centers, they are able to remember prior catastrophic events and to actively adapt to new ones.

Every page of The Revolutionary Genius of Plants bubbles over with Stefano Mancuso’s infectious love for plants and for the eye-opening research that makes it more and more clear how remarkable our fellow inhabitants on this planet really are. In his hands, complicated science is wonderfully accessible, and he has loaded the book with gorgeous photographs that make for an unforgettable reading experience. The Revolutionary Genius of Plants opens the doors to a new understanding of life on earth.


The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves (Eric R. Kandel)

Eric R. Kandel, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his foundational research into memory storage in the brain, is one of the pioneers of modern brain science. His work continues to shape our understanding of how learning and memory work and to break down age-old barriers between the sciences and the arts.

In his seminal new book, The Disordered Mind, Kandel draws on a lifetime of pathbreaking research and the work of many other leading neuroscientists to take us on an unusual tour of the brain. He confronts one of the most difficult questions we face: How does our mind, our individual sense of self, emerge from the physical matter of the brain? The brain’s 86 billion neurons communicate with one another through very precise connections. But sometimes those connections are disrupted. The brain processes that give rise to our mind can become disordered, resulting in diseases such as autism, depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder. While these disruptions bring great suffering, they can also reveal the mysteries of how the brain produces our most fundamental experiences and capabilities―the very nature of what it means to be human. Studies of autism illuminate the neurological foundations of our social instincts; research into depression offers important insights on emotions and the integrity of the self; and paradigm-shifting work on addiction has led to a new understanding of the relationship between pleasure and willpower.

By studying disruptions to typical brain functioning and exploring their potential treatments, we will deepen our understanding of thought, feeling, behavior, memory, and creativity. Only then can we grapple with the big question of how billions of neurons generate consciousness itself.


Complexity Theory and Law: Mapping an Emergent Jurisprudence (Jamie Murray et al.)

This collection of essays explores the different ways the insights from complexity theory can be applied to law. Complexity theory – a variant of systems theory – views law as an emergent, complex, self-organising system comprised of an interactive network of actors and systems that operate with no overall guiding hand, giving rise to complex, collective behaviour in law communications and actions. Addressing such issues as the unpredictability of legal systems, the ability of legal systems to adapt to changes in society, the importance of context, and the nature of law, the essays look to the implications of a complexity theory analysis for the study of public policy and administrative law, international law and human rights, regulatory practices in business and finance, and the practice of law and legal ethics. These are areas where law, which craves certainty, encounters unending, irresolvable complexity. This collection shows the many ways complexity theory thinking can reshape and clarify our understanding of the various problems relating to the theory and practice of law.