VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
A. A Survey of Common Principles
Stanley, Eugene. Universality and Scale Invariance: Organizing Principles that Transcend Disciplines. www.societyforchaostheory.org/conf2003/abstracts.html. A keynote paper presented at the annual Society for Chaos Theory and Psychology Conference. The Boston University systems physicist describes how the same power-law behavior is being found in widely diverse realms from statistical physics to the “econophysics” of financial markets.
Stephens, Greg, et al. Searching for Simplicity: Approaches to the Analysis of Neurons and Behavior. arXiv:1012.3896. Posted in December 2010. By virtue of such many advances as this site tries to report, we altogether seem at the edge of some revelatory evidence, closer to history’s great secret answer. Geneticist Stephens and physicist William Bialek, Princeton University, and neurobiologist Leslie Osborne, University of Chicago, enter still another glimpse of constant analogs across widely diverse phenomena, ever suggestive of an implicate, iterative, genome-like source.
What fascinates us about animal behavior is its richness and complexity, but understanding behavior and its neural basis requires a simpler description. An alternative is to ask whether we can search through the dynamics of natural behaviors to and explicit evidence that these behaviors are simpler than they might have been. We review two mathematical approaches to simplification, dimensionality reduction and the maximum entropy method, and we draw on examples from different levels of biological organization, from the crawling behavior of C. elegans to the control of smooth pursuit eye movements in primates, and from the coding of natural scenes by networks of neurons in the retina to the rules of English spelling. In each case, we argue that the explicit search for simplicity uncovers new and unexpected features of the biological system, and that the evidence for simplification gives us a language with which to phrase new questions for the next generation of experiments. The fact that similar mathematical structures succeed in taming the complexity of very different biological systems hints that there is something more general to be discovered. (Abstract)
Strassmann, Joan, et al. In the Light of Evolution V: Cooperation and Conflict. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Supplement 2, 2011. With co-authors David Queller, John Avise, and Francisco Ayala, an Introduction to this edition in the title series in search and support of an evolutionary vision, namely in the light of Theodosius Dobzhansky. We note in this section to record its witness of a universal principle, in this case a creative tension or union between entity and group, autonomy and assembly, that spans life’s emergence. Papers cover selfish and cooperative genes, bacterial symbiosis, kinship in social insects, animal troops, hominid clans, and onto human adaptations via collective learning.
Swarup, Samarth and Les Gasser. Unifying Evolutionary and Network Dynamics. Physical Review E. 75/066114, 2007. University of Illinois computer scientists propose that the two realms noted in the article share common features and that a cross-fertilization between them would be beneficial.
Szabo, Gyorgy and Gabor Fath. Evolutionary Games on Graphs. Physics Reports. 446/4-6, 2007. An extensive tutorial on game theory as seen from a statistical physics viewpoint, which could be viewed as another encounter with, in translation, nature’s non-equilibrium, agent-based, self-organizing emergence.
Game theory is one of the key paradigms behind many scientific disciplines from biology to behavioral sciences to economics. In its evolutionary form and especially when the interacting agents are linked in a specific social network the underlying solution concepts and methods are very similar to those applied in non-equilibrium statistical physics. The major theme of the review is in what sense and how the graph structure of interactions can modify and enrich the picture of long term behavioral patterns emerging in evolutionary games. (97)
Tao, Terence. E pluribus unum: From Complexity, Universality. Daedalus. 141/3, 2012. In a special issue on Science in the 21st Century, the UCLA polymathematician draws on the latest statistical physics to at last confirm this extant Nature is in fact grounded in and distinguished by an intelligible, recurrent, programmatic quality. Whatever the material realm or substrate the same phenomenal organization appears due to the constant interactions of many communicative entities. As a result, it becomes strongly evident that such an independent formative source or agency must be involved. And how could one not notice, quite fittingly, here anew is the very essence of our archetypal Taoist wisdom.
In this brief survey, I discuss some examples of the fascinating phenomenon of universality in complex systems, in which universal macroscopic laws of nature emerge from a variety of different microscopic dynamics. This phenomenon is widely observed empirically, but the rigorous mathematical foundation for universality is not yet satisfactory in all cases. (Abstract, 23)
Tauber, Uwe. Critical Dynamics: A Field Theory Approach to Equilibrium and Non-Equilibrium Scaling Behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. A Virginia Tech physicist contributes a technical text that well quantifies the latest and deepest theoretical basis for nature’s self-similar “scale invariance” from physical to planetary realms.
Introducing a unified framework for describing and understanding complex interacting systems common in physics, chemistry, biology, ecology, and the social sciences, this comprehensive overview of dynamic critical phenomena covers the description of systems at thermal equilibrium, quantum systems, and non-equilibrium systems. Powerful mathematical techniques for dealing with complex dynamic systems are carefully introduced, including field-theoretic tools and the perturbative dynamical renormalization group approach, rapidly building up a mathematical toolbox of relevant skills. Heuristic and qualitative arguments outlining the essential theory behind each type of system are introduced at the start of each chapter, alongside real-world numerical and experimental data, firmly linking new mathematical techniques to their practical applications.
Tero, Atsushi, et al. Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design. Science. 327/439, 2010. Along with a news note “Amoeba-Inspired Network Design” in the same issue, how such microbial colonies can be seen as exemplars of self-organizing systems, which are being found to recur throughout nature’s ascendant nest, especially for viable human societies. All of which it is said seems to spring from an independent, universal mathematical source.
Troisi, Alessandro, et al. An Agent-based Approach for Modeling Molecular Self-organization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102/255, 2010. In another example from the recent nonlinear dynamics shift in physics, University of Bologna and Northwestern University researchers search ways to independently articulate and define the universally prevalent, nested complexity that is being found everywhere to distinguish a genesis nature.
Self-organization is one of the most fascinating phenomena in nature. It appears in such apparently disparate arenas as crystal growth, the regulation of metabolism, and dynamics of animal and human behavior. One of the great challenges in the field of complexity is the definition of the common patterns that make possible the emergence of order from apparently disordered systems. One example is given by the scale invariant networks that appear to offer a good perspective for many complex systems. Another possibility is the study of emergent phenomena through agent-based (AB) modeling. In this paper, after defining briefly the principles of AB modeling, we explore the possibility that such a modeling paradigm could be useful for the study of self-organizing chemical systems, complementing the currently used stochastic (Monte Carlo) or deterministic (molecular dynamics) methods. (255)
Tsuchiya, Masa, et al. Local and Global Responses in Complex Gene Regulation Networks. Physica A. 388/1738, 2009. Keio University, Japan, and Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Italy, researchers, including Kumar Selvarajoo and Alessandro Giuliani, employ a statistical physics approach to reveal a network paradigm an intrinsic genome-wide dynamical essence.
One relevant feature of the high degree of connectivity of gene regulation networks is the emergence of collective ordered phenomena influencing the entire genome and not only a specific portion of transcripts. The great majority of existing gene regulation models give the impression of purely local ‘hard-wired’ mechanisms disregarding the emergence of global ordered behavior encompassing thousands of genes while the general, genome wide, aspects are less known. (Abstract)
Valverde, Sergi and Ricard Sole. Self-Organization versus Hierarchy in Open-Source Networks. Physical Review E. 76/046118, 2007. Over the past few years, scale-free networks composed of elemental nodes, which themselves can be complex nets, and are joined in dynamic, interactive linkage, have been found to distinguish every natural and social plane. In this case, email exchanges on the Internet, in contrast to ‘bottom-up’ biologically self-organized systems, can be observed to exhibit a ‘top-down’ degree of centralized direction. Might we then be able to note, I add circa 2008, an evolutionary vector of increasing intention and guidance? Sole, Valverde and their colleagues, based at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, with international collaboration such as the Santa Fe Institute, are making significant contributions toward the theoretical explanation of a natural genesis. (But in the Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme (PACS) this journal employs, this work is tacked on to an alien cosmos at the very end as category ‘89.75.Hc.’)
Valverde, Sergi, et al. Structural Determinants of Criticality in Biological Networks. Frontiers of Physiology. May 8, 2015. Valverde and Jordi Garcia-Ojalvo, University of Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Sebastian Ohse, Albert-Ludwigs University, Freiburg, along with Malgorzata Turalska and Bruce West, Duke University, finesse these generic anatomical dynamics which seem to universally appear in every development phase of universe and human. Figure 3, Gene Network Evolution has this caption: Natural selection pushes gene regulatory networks toward the critical regime due to the opposing forces of conserving essential network function and allowing for the evolution of potentially beneficial modifications. A favored middle state is then shown as poised between Ordered and Chaotic, once more as a reciprocal, metastable reciprocity.
Many adaptive evolutionary systems display spatial and temporal features, such as long-range correlations, typically associated with the critical point of a phase transition in statistical physics. Empirical and theoretical studies suggest that operating near criticality enhances the functionality of biological networks, such as brain and gene networks, in terms for instance of information processing, robustness, and evolvability. While previous studies have explained criticality with specific system features, we still lack a general theory of critical behavior in biological systems. Here we look at this problem from the complex systems perspective, since in principle all critical biological circuits have in common the fact that their internal organization can be described as a complex network. An important question is how self-similar structure influences self-similar dynamics. We review and discuss recent studies on the criticality of neuronal and genetic networks, and discuss the implications of network theory when assessing the evolutionary features of criticality. (Abstract)