According to Lovelock and Margulis’s Gaia hypothesis, living things are part of a planetary-scale self-regulating system that has maintained habitable conditions for the past 3.5 billion years (1, 2). Gaia has operated without foresight or planning on the part of organisms, but the evolution of humans and their technology are changing that. Earth has now entered a new epoch called the Anthropocene (3), and humans are beginning to become aware of the global consequences of their actions. As a result, deliberate self-regulation—from personal action to global geoengineering schemes—is either happening or imminently possible. Making such conscious choices to operate within Gaia constitutes a fundamental new state of Gaia, which we call Gaia 2.0. By emphasizing the agency of life-forms and their ability to set goals, Gaia 2.0 may be an effective framework for fostering global sustainability.
Timothy M. Lenton, Bruno Latour
Science 14 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6407, pp. 1066-1068
After researchers found a loophole in a famous experiment designed to prove that quantum objects don’t have intrinsic properties, three experimental groups quickly sewed the loophole shut. The episode closes the door on many “hidden variable” theories.
Today, the massive use of information and communication technologies (ICT) has made it possible to attach a traceable set of data to almost any person. We argue that these data provide the opportunity to build a ‘physics of society’: describing a society — composed of many interacting heterogeneous entities (people, businesses, institutions) — as a physical system. While important ethical implications have to be taken into account, the benefits in developing such physics of society would be tremendous. Indeed, it could help understanding, anticipating and forecasting future societal trends and human behavioural responses, and their associated uncertainty; or address societal challenges in which globally networked risks play a role. A case in point is modern epidemiology and its success in predicting the large-scale spreading of infectious diseases.
Physics of humans, physics for society
Guido Caldarelli, Sarah Wolf & Yamir Moreno
Nature Physics volume 14, page 870 (2018)
Distribution networks such as vasculature systems or urban transportation pathways are prevalent in our world. Understanding how different kinds of transport systems are organized to allow for efficient function in their environments and in the presence of constraints on material costs is currently an open area of investigation. In this study, we use methods from network science to compare and contrast the structure of two different classes of biological distribution networks: mycelial fungi and rodent brain vasculature. While each of these systems have been studied separately, less work has focused on understanding the diversity of their network organization. Here, we first examine several measures that characterize network connectivity on varying scales, finding that—although both systems have highly constrained network layouts—there are quantifiable differences in their architectures. Furthermore, using network analyses that specifically consider the embedding of these transport networks into real space, we observe that the two types of systems display distinct tradeoffs in network correlates of material cost, efficiency, and robustness. Together, our results provide evidence that while different distribution networks have general resemblances, they also exhibit variable design features that could reflect differences in their functions, environmental conditions, or development.
Papadopoulos L, Blinder P, Ronellenfitsch H, Klimm F, Katifori E, Kleinfeld D, et al. (2018) Comparing two classes of biological distribution systems using network analysis. PLoS Comput Biol 14(9): e1006428. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006428