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Human origins and the transition from promiscuity to pair-bonding

A crucial step in recent theories of human origins is the emergence of strong pair-bonding between males and females accompanied by a dramatic reduction in the male-to-male conflict over mating and an increased investment in offspring. How such a transition from promiscuity to pair-bonding could be achieved is puzzling. Many species would, indeed, be much better off evolutionarily if the effort spent on male competition over mating was redirected to increasing female fertility or survivorship of offspring. Males, however, are locked in a “social dilemma,” where shifting one’s effort from “appropriation” to “production” would give an advantage to free-riding competitors and therefore, should not happen.

 

Human origins and the transition from promiscuity to pair-bonding
Sergey Gavrilets

PNAS, Published online before print May 29, 2012, http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1200717109

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Measuring Online Social Bubbles

Measuring Online Social Bubbles | Papers | Scoop.it

Social media have quickly become a prevalent channel to access information, spread ideas, and influence opinions. However, it has been suggested that social and algorithmic filtering may cause exposure to less diverse points of view, and even foster polarization and misinformation. Here we explore and validate this hypothesis quantitatively for the first time, at the collective and individual levels, by mining three massive datasets of web traffic, search logs, and Twitter posts. Our analysis shows that collectively, people access information from a significantly narrower spectrum of sources through social media and email, compared to search. The significance of this finding for individual exposure is revealed by investigating the relationship between the diversity of information sources experienced by users at the collective and individual level. There is a strong correlation between collective and individual diversity, supporting the notion that when we use social media we find ourselves inside "social bubbles". Our results could lead to a deeper understanding of how technology biases our exposure to new information.


Measuring Online Social Bubbles
Dimitar Nikolov, Diego F. M. Oliveira, Alessandro Flammini, Filippo Menczer

http://arxiv.org/abs/1502.07162


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Knowledge-Based Trust: Estimating the Trustworthiness of Web Sources

The quality of web sources has been traditionally evaluated using exogenous signals such as the hyperlink structure of the graph. We propose a new approach that relies on endogenous signals, namely, the correctness of factual information provided by the source. A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy. The facts are automatically extracted from each source by information extraction methods commonly used to construct knowledge bases. We propose a way to distinguish errors made in the extraction process from factual errors in the web source per se, by using joint inference in a novel multi-layer probabilistic model. We call the trustworthiness score we computed Knowledge-Based Trust (KBT). On synthetic data, we show that our method can reliably compute the true trustworthiness levels of the sources. We then apply it to a database of 2.8B facts extracted from the web, and thereby estimate the trustworthiness of 119M webpages. Manual evaluation of a subset of the results confirms the effectiveness of the method.


Knowledge-Based Trust: Estimating the Trustworthiness of Web Sources
Xin Luna Dong, Evgeniy Gabrilovich, Kevin Murphy, Van Dang, Wilko Horn, Camillo Lugaresi, Shaohua Sun, Wei Zhang

http://arxiv.org/abs/1502.03519v1

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Membrane alternatives in worlds without oxygen: Creation of an azotosome

The lipid bilayer membrane, which is the foundation of life on Earth, is not viable outside of biology based on liquid water. This fact has caused astronomers who seek conditions suitable for life to search for exoplanets within the “habitable zone,” the narrow band in which liquid water can exist. However, can cell membranes be created and function at temperatures far below those at which water is a liquid? We take a step toward answering this question by proposing a new type of membrane, composed of small organic nitrogen compounds, that is capable of forming and functioning in liquid methane at cryogenic temperatures. Using molecular simulations, we demonstrate that these membranes in cryogenic solvent have an elasticity equal to that of lipid bilayers in water at room temperature. As a proof of concept, we also demonstrate that stable cryogenic membranes could arise from compounds observed in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon, Titan, known for the existence of seas of liquid methane on its surface.


Membrane alternatives in worlds without oxygen: Creation of an azotosome
James Stevenson, Jonathan Lunine, Paulette Clancy

Science Advances 27 Feb 2015: Vol. 1 no. 1 e1400067 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1400067 ;

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Programmable materials and the nature of the DNA bond

For over half a century, the biological roles of nucleic acids as catalytic enzymes, intracellular regulatory molecules, and the carriers of genetic information have been studied extensively. More recently, the sequence-specific binding properties of DNA have been exploited to direct the assembly of materials at the nanoscale. Integral to any methodology focused on assembling matter from smaller pieces is the idea that final structures have well-defined spacings, orientations, and stereo-relationships. This requirement can be met by using DNA-based constructs that present oriented nanoscale bonding elements from rigid core units. Here, we draw analogy between such building blocks and the familiar chemical concepts of “bonds” and “valency” and review two distinct but related strategies that have used this design principle in constructing new configurations of matter.


Programmable materials and the nature of the DNA bond
Matthew R. Jones, Nadrian C. Seeman, Chad A. Mirkin

Science 20 February 2015:
Vol. 347 no. 6224
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1260901

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Prediction, precaution, and policy under global change

A great deal of research to inform environmental conservation and management takes a predict-and-prescribe strategy in which improving forecasts about future states of ecosystems is the primary goal. But sufficiently thorough understanding of ecosystems needed to reduce deep uncertainties is probably not achievable, seriously limiting the potential effectiveness of the predict-and-prescribe approach. Instead, research should integrate more closely with policy development to identify the range of alternative plausible futures and develop strategies that are robust across these scenarios and responsive to unpredictable ecosystem dynamics.


Prediction, precaution, and policy under global change
Daniel E. Schindler, Ray Hilborn

Science 27 February 2015:
Vol. 347 no. 6225 pp. 953-954
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1261824

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Sex redefined

Sex redefined | Papers | Scoop.it
The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.


http://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943

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Bernard Ryefield's comment, February 27, 11:14 AM
Nature and sex redefined – we have never been binary
A recent article in Nature suggests that biologists ‘now think’ the idea of two sexes is inaccurate; in fact, says Vanessa Heggie, for decades biologists have been at the forefront of campaigns against this simplistic understanding of sex: http://www.theguardian.com/science/the-h-word/2015/feb/19/nature-sex-redefined-we-have-never-been-binary
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Games of corruption: How to suppress illegal logging

Corruption is one of the most serious obstacles for ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation. In particular, more than half of the loss of forested area in many tropical countries is due to illegal logging, with corruption implicated in a lack of enforcement. Here we study an evolutionary game model to analyze the illegal harvesting of forest trees, coupled with the corruption of rule enforcers.

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Payoff-based learning explains the decline in cooperation in public goods games

Economic games such as the public goods game are increasingly being used to measure social behaviours in humans and non-human primates. The results of such games have been used to argue that people are pro-social, and that humans are uniquely altruistic, willingly sacrificing their own welfare in order to benefit others. However, an alternative explanation for the empirical observations is that individuals are mistaken, but learn, during the game, how to improve their personal payoff.
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Network structure beyond food webs: mapping non-trophic and trophic interactions on Chilean rocky shores

Network structure beyond food webs: mapping non-trophic and trophic interactions on Chilean rocky shores | Papers | Scoop.it

Chilean Marine Ecological Network

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Self-Organization, Emergence, and Constraint in Complex Natural Systems

Contemporary complexity theory has been instrumental in providing novel rigorous definitions for some classic philosophical concepts, including emergence. In an attempt to provide an account of emergence that is consistent with complexity and dynamical systems theory, several authors have turned to the notion of constraints on state transitions. Drawing on complexity theory directly, this paper builds on those accounts, further developing the constraint-based interpretation of emergence and arguing that such accounts recover many of the features of more traditional accounts. We show that the constraint-based account of emergence also leads naturally into a meaningful definition of self-organization, another concept that has received increasing attention recently. Along the way, we distinguish between order and organization, two concepts which are frequently conflated. Finally, we consider possibilities for future research in the philosophy of complex systems, as well as applications of the distinctions made in this paper.


Self-Organization, Emergence, and Constraint in Complex Natural Systems
Jonathan Lawhead

http://arxiv.org/abs/1502.01476

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Eli Levine's curator insight, February 14, 9:23 PM

We are naturally constrained by many natural laws in our universe.  Our governments are likewise constrained by physical laws of nature as well as the natural laws behind people, societies, economies, and ecosystems.  Where the constraints came from in nature, I don't know.  But what I do see, is that like the natural laws of the universe, societies impose other constraints upon our actions, behaviors, perceptions, chosen courses of action, abilities to frame issues and topics, abilities to define conditions within our social systems.  Governments can likewise make and define constraints for behaviors or willingness and ability to behave on the part of the citizenry, either by offering incentives to get people to behave in a particular way or to penalize and possibly limit some actions and chosen patterns of behavior. 

 

It should be noted that the laws and chosen constraints and incentives of the government on this level of existence can only be as good as the people who sit within them and make choices.  They are also limited by the physical laws of the universe and the natural laws, conditions, desires, and motives of the general public that composes the whole of society in aggregate and as that which is greater than the aggregate; the combined whole of human thought, behavior, and sentiment. 

 

These human-made constraints (created by governments and social authority figures) are also imperfect in their ability to contain and constrain the society, since the society and its members have autonomy from the government.  Humans and human societies are more constrained by the natural laws and the limitations of knowledge and perception that are present in our brains and neural systems.  Therefore, it can be said that human-made social constraints are less important than the natural ones that exist amongst ourselves and within the universe that we are apart of.

 

Therefore, I think that in order to continue to advance humanity and contribute to our potential to survive, endure, and thrive, we should be constantly and safely pushing at the constraints of what we already know and can do as individuals and as a species.  Our government(s) should focus on studying the universal natural laws of societies, economies, human behavior, and environmental functions in addition to the particular laws of their own societies, making laws and legal systems that work better and better with the natural laws of their own societies and amongst all human societies.  We should capitalize on our differences of perspective and opinion, sifting out those that don't fall into line with discovered reality while using that which is accurate to complete the puzzles of our universe in order to produce something greater than what we've presently got and to continue to advance ourselves safely and in accordance with what is actually helpful, healthful, and ethical for all sentient life in the universe.  Study, research, observation, and exploration are what will make tomorrow better than today, even as the natural laws and some conditions remain the same.  Health, well-being, quality of life, sustainability, and the ability to thrive for all are what we need to prioritize and produce as a society over financial profits and short term economic gains for a few.  Some constraints can be pushed, some can't, and some really shouldn't from the perspective of health, well-being, quality of life, and the ability to thrive for all.  Welcome to nature.

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Light fantastic

Light fantastic | Papers | Scoop.it

From glorious rainbows to the intricate mechanics of the human eye, light lies at the heart of phenomena that have fascinated scientists for millennia. Today, the latest optical technologies — from lasers to solar cells — harness light to advance physics and to serve society's needs.


To put light itself in the spotlight, the United Nations designated 2015 the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. The celebration is also pegged to a string of anniversaries: Augustin-Jean Fresnel's proposal in 1815 that light is a wave; James Clerk Maxwell's 1865 electromagnetic theory; Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity; and in 1965, discovery of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation and the development of optical fibres for communication.


http://www.nature.com/news/light-fantastic-1.16878

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Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet

The planetary boundaries framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth system. Here, we revise and update the planetary boundary framework, with a focus on the underpinning biophysical science, based on targeted input from expert research communities and on more general scientific advances over the past 5 years. Several of the boundaries now have a two-tier approach, reflecting the importance of cross-scale interactions and the regional-level heterogeneity of the processes that underpin the boundaries. Two core boundaries—climate change and biosphere integrity—have been identified, each of which has the potential on its own to drive the Earth system into a new state should they be substantially and persistently transgressed.


Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet
Will Steffen, Katherine Richardson, Johan Rockström, Sarah E. Cornell, Ingo Fetzer, Elena M. Bennett, Reinette Biggs, Stephen R. Carpenter, Wim de Vries, Cynthia A. de Wit, Carl Folke, Dieter Gerten, Jens Heinke, Georgina M. Mace, Linn M. Persson, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Belinda Reyers, and Sverker Sörlin
Science 13 February 2015: 1259855
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1259855

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Human Metasystem Transition (HMST) Theory

Metasystem transitions are events representing the evolutionary emergence of a higher level of organization through the integration of subsystems into a higher “metasystem” (A1+A2+A3=B). Such events have occurred several times throughout the history of life (e.g., emergence of life, multicellular life, sexual reproduction). The emergence of new levels of organization has occurred within the human system three times, and has resulted in three broadly defined levels of higher control, producing three broadly defined levels of group selection (e.g., band/tribe, chiefdom/kingdom, nation-state/international). These are “Human Metasystem Transitions” (HMST). Throughout these HMST several common system-level patterns have manifested that are fundamental to understanding the nature and evolution of the human system, as well as our potential future development. First, HMST have been built around the control of three mostly distinct primary energy sources (e.g., hunting, agriculture, industry). Second, the control of new energy sources has always been achieved and stabilized by utilizing the evolutionary emergence of a more powerful information-processing medium (e.g., language, writing, printing press). Third, new controls emerge with the capability of organizing energy flows over larger expanses of space in shorter durations of time: bands/tribes controlled regional space and stabilized for hundreds of thousand of years, chiefdoms/kingdoms controlled semi-continental expanses of space and stabilized for thousands of years, and nation-states control continental expanses of space and have stabilized for centuries. This space-time component of hierarchical metasystem emergence can be conceptualized as the active compression of space-time-energy-matter (STEM compression) enabled by higher informational and energetic properties within the human system, which allow for more complex organization (i.e., higher subsystem integration). In this framework, increased information-energy control and feedback, and the consequent metasystem compression of space-time, represent the theoretical pillars of HMST theory. Most importantly, HMST theory may have practical application in modeling the future of the human system and the nature of the next human metasystem.


Human Metasystem Transition (HMST) Theory
Cadell Last

Journal of Evolution and Technology - Vol. 25 Issue 1 – January 2015 - pgs 1-16

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Information flow through a model of the C. elegans klinotaxis circuit

Understanding how information about external stimuli is transformed into behavior is one of the central goals of neuroscience. Here we characterize the information flow through a complete sensorimotor circuit: from stimulus, to sensory neurons, to interneurons, to motor neurons, to muscles, to motion. Specifically, we apply a recently developed framework for quantifying information flow to a previously published ensemble of models of salt klinotaxis in the nematode worm C. elegans. The models are grounded in the neuroanatomy and currently known neurophysiology of the worm. The unknown model parameters were optimized to reproduce the worm's behavior. Information flow analysis reveals several key principles underlying how the models operate: (1) Interneuron class AIY is responsible for integrating information about positive and negative changes in concentration, and exhibits a strong left/right information asymmetry. (2) Gap junctions play a crucial role in the transfer of information responsible for the information symmetry observed in interneuron class AIZ. (3) Neck motor neuron class SMB implements an information gating mechanism that underlies the circuit's state-dependent response. (4) The neck carries non-uniform distribution about changes in concentration. Thus, not all directions of movement are equally informative. Each of these findings corresponds to an experimental prediction that could be tested in the worm to greatly refine our understanding of the neural circuit underlying klinotaxis. Information flow analysis also allows us to explore how information flow relates to underlying electrophysiology. Despite large variations in the neural parameters of individual circuits, the overall information flow architecture circuit is remarkably consistent across the ensemble, suggesting that information flow analysis captures general principles of operation for the klinotaxis circuit.

 

"Information flow through a model of the C. elegans klinotaxis circuit"
Eduardo J. Izquierdo, Paul L. Williams, Randall D. Beer
arXiv:1502.04262, 2015
http://arxiv.org/abs/1502.04262

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Physicists make 'weather forecasts' for economies

Physicists make 'weather forecasts' for economies | Papers | Scoop.it
The development of some countries is as predictable as steady winds, but for others it is more chaotic, physicists find.

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The Microbes Within

The Microbes Within | Papers | Scoop.it

Antony van Leeuwenhoek wrote to the Royal Society of London in a letter dated September 17, 1683, describing “very little animalcules, very prettily a-moving,” which he had seen under a microscope in plaque scraped from his teeth. For more than three centuries after van Leeuwenhoek's observation, the human “microbiome”—the 100 trillion or so microbes that live in various nooks and crannies of the human body—remained largely unstudied, mainly because it is not so easy to extract and culture them in a laboratory. A decade ago the advent of sequencing technologies finally opened up this microbiological frontier. The Human Microbiome Project reference database, established in 2012, revealed in unprecedented detail the diverse microbial community that inhabits our bodies.


The Microbes Within
David Grogan
Nature 518, S2 (26 February 2015)

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/518S2a ;

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Settlement scaling and increasing returns in an ancient society

A key property of modern cities is increasing returns to scale—the finding that many socioeconomic outputs increase more rapidly than their population size. Recent theoretical work proposes that this phenomenon is the result of general network effects typical of human social networks embedded in space and, thus, is not necessarily limited to modern settlements. We examine the extent to which increasing returns are apparent in archaeological settlement data from the pre-Hispanic Basin of Mexico. We review previous work on the quantitative relationship between population size and average settled area in this society and then present a general analysis of their patterns of monument construction and house sizes. Estimated scaling parameter values and residual statistics support the hypothesis that increasing returns to scale characterized various forms of socioeconomic production available in the archaeological record and are found to be consistent with key expectations from settlement scaling theory. As a consequence, these results provide evidence that the essential processes that lead to increasing returns in contemporary cities may have characterized human settlements throughout history, and demonstrate that increasing returns do not require modern forms of political or economic organization.


Settlement scaling and increasing returns in an ancient society
Scott G. Ortman, Andrew H. F. Cabaniss, Jennie O. Sturm, Luís M. A. Bettencourt

Science Advances 01 Feb 2015: Vol. 1 no. 1 e1400066  http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1400066 ;

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Human-level control through deep reinforcement learning

Human-level control through deep reinforcement learning | Papers | Scoop.it

For an artificial agent to be considered truly intelligent it needs to excel at a variety of tasks considered challenging for humans. To date, it has only been possible to create individual algorithms able to master a single discipline — for example, IBM's Deep Blue beat the human world champion at chess but was not able to do anything else. Now a team working at Google's DeepMind subsidiary has developed an artificial agent — dubbed a deep Q-network — that learns to play 49 classic Atari 2600 'arcade' games directly from sensory experience, achieving performance on a par with that of an expert human player. By combining reinforcement learning (selecting actions that maximize reward — in this case the game score) with deep learning (multilayered feature extraction from high-dimensional data — in this case the pixels), the game-playing agent takes artificial intelligence a step nearer the goal of systems capable of learning a diversity of challenging tasks from scratch.


Human-level control through deep reinforcement learning
• Volodymyr Mnih, Koray Kavukcuoglu, David Silver, Andrei A. Rusu, Joel Veness, Marc G. Bellemare, Alex Graves, Martin Riedmiller, Andreas K. Fidjeland, Georg Ostrovski, Stig Petersen, Charles Beattie, Amir Sadik, Ioannis Antonoglou, Helen King, Dharshan Kumaran, Daan Wierstra, Shane Legg & Demis Hassabis

Nature 518, 529–533 (26 February 2015)

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14236 ;

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The Heterogeneous Dynamics of Economic Complexity

What will be the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or the competitiveness of China, United States, and Vietnam in the next 3, 5 or 10 years? Despite this kind of questions has a large societal impact and an extreme value for economic policy making, providing a scientific basis for economic predictability is still a very challenging problem. Recent results of a new branch—Economic Complexity—have set the basis for a framework to approach such a challenge and to provide new perspectives to cast economic prediction into the conceptual scheme of forecasting the evolution of a dynamical system as in the case of weather dynamics. We argue that a recently introduced non-monetary metrics for country competitiveness (fitness) allows for quantifying the hidden growth potential of countries by the means of the comparison of this measure for intangible assets with monetary figures, such as GDP per capita . This comparison defines the fitness-income plane where we observe that country dynamics presents strongly heterogeneous patterns of evolution. The flow in some zones is found to be laminar while in others a chaotic behavior is instead observed. These two regimes correspond to very different predictability features for the evolution of countries: in the former regime, we find strong predictable pattern while the latter scenario exhibits a very low predictability. In such a framework, regressions, the usual tool used in economics, are no more the appropriate strategy to deal with such a heterogeneous scenario and new concepts, borrowed from dynamical systems theory, are mandatory. We therefore propose a data-driven method— the selective predictability scheme —in which we adopt a strategy similar to the methods of analogues , firstly introduced by Lorenz, to assess future evolution of countries.

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Matthieu Cristelli , Andrea Tacchella, Luciano Pietronero


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Link removal for the control of stochastically evolving epidemics over networks: A comparison of approaches

Link removal for the control of stochastically evolving epidemics over networks: A comparison of approaches | Papers | Scoop.it
For many communicable diseases, knowledge of the underlying contact network through which the disease spreads is essential to determining appropriate control measures. When behavior change is the primary intervention for disease prevention, it is important to understand how to best modify network connectivity using the limited resources available to control disease spread. We describe and compare four algorithms for selecting a limited number of links to remove from a network
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Indirect reciprocity with optional interactions

Indirect reciprocity with optional interactions | Papers | Scoop.it
Indirect reciprocity means that my behavior towards you also depends on what you have done to others. Indirect reciprocity is associated with the evolution of social intelligence and human language. Most approaches to indirect reciprocity assume obligatory interactions, but here we explore optional interactions.
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What Isn't Complexity?

The question What is Complexity? has occupied a great deal of time and paper over the last 20 or so years. There are a myriad different perspectives and definitions but still no consensus. In this paper I take a phenomenological approach, identifying several factors that discriminate well between systems that would be consensually agreed to be simple versus others that would be consensually agreed to be complex - biological systems and human languages. I argue that a crucial component is that of structural building block hierarchies that, in the case of complex systems, correspond also to a functional hierarchy. I argue that complexity is an emergent property of this structural/functional hierarchy, induced by a property - fitness in the case of biological systems and meaning in the case of languages - that links the elements of this hierarchy across multiple scales. Additionally, I argue that non-complex systems "are" while complex systems "do" so that the latter, in distinction to physical systems, must be described not only in a space of states but also in a space of update rules (strategies) which we do not know how to specify. Further, the existence of structural/functional building block hierarchies allows for the functional specialisation of structural modules as amply observed in nature. Finally, we argue that there is at least one measuring apparatus capable of measuring complexity as characterised in the paper - the human brain itself.


What Isn't Complexity?
Christopher R. Stephens

http://arxiv.org/abs/1502.03199

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Networks Reveal the Connections of Disease

Networks Reveal the Connections of Disease | Papers | Scoop.it
Enormous databases of medical records have begun to reveal the hidden biological missteps that make us sick.


https://www.quantamagazine.org/20150129-networks-reveal-the-connections-of-disease/

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Worldwide clustering of the corruption perception

We inspect a possible clustering structure of the corruption perception among 134 countries. Using the average linkage clustering, we uncover a well-defined hierarchy in the relationships among countries. Four main clusters are identified and they suggest that countries worldwide can be quite well separated according to their perception of corruption. Moreover, we find a strong connection between corruption levels and a stage of development inside the clusters. The ranking of countries according to their corruption perfectly copies the ranking according to the economic performance measured by the gross domestic product per capita of the member states. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first one to present an application of hierarchical and clustering methods to the specific case of corruption.


Worldwide clustering of the corruption perception
Michal Paulus, Ladislav Kristoufek

http://arxiv.org/abs/1502.00104

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Moore’s Law Is About to Get Weird

Moore’s Law Is About to Get Weird | Papers | Scoop.it

In the nearly 70 years since the first modern digital computer was built, the above specs have become all but synonymous with computing. But they need not be. A computer is defined not by a particular set of hardware, but by being able to take information as input; to change, or “process,” the information in some controllable way; and to deliver new information as output. This information and the hardware that processes it can take an almost endless variety of physical forms. Over nearly two centuries, scientists and engineers have experimented with designs that use mechanical gears, chemical reactions, fluid flows, light, DNA, living cells, and synthetic cells.


http://nautil.us/issue/21/information/moores-law-is-about-to-get-weird

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Gary Bamford's curator insight, February 14, 5:31 AM

Bring on the analog computers!