SFI External Professor Sander van der Leeuw and colleagues have released a study stating that identifying and quantifying planetary boundaries that must not be transgressed could help prevent human activities from causing unacceptable environmental change. Van der Leeuw and colleagues found that three of the Earth-system processes have already transgressed their boundaries. These include: climate change, rate of biodiversity loss and interference with the nitrogen cycle. The evidence suggests that as long as the thresholds are not crossed, humanity has the freedom to pursue long-term social and economic development.
Researchers have adapted Google’s web-ranking system to help in food webs. This new system could predict which groups of species would crash their food web if they became extinct. SFI Professor Jennifer Dunne calls this a “novel, exciting contribution.” Dunne goes on to say, “The problem of how ecosystems are likely to respond to the loss of species is quite important, particularly in light of how many different ways human activities are resulting in the local extinctions of populations.”
Crutchfield teaches nonlinear physics at the University of California, Davis, directs its Complexity Sciences Center, and promotes science interventions in nonscientific settings. He is mostly concerned with what patterns are, how they are created, and how intelligent agents discover them. The Leonardo/ISAST serves the international arts community by promoting and documenting work at the intersection of the arts, sciences, and technology, and by encouraging and stimulating collaboration between artists, scientists, and technologists.
In their study, James Crutchfield, SFI External Professor and Physics Professor at the University of California at Davis, and graduate students Christopher Ellison and John Mahoney, developed the analogy of scientists as cryptologists who are trying to glean hidden information from Nature. As they explain, “Nature speaks for herself only through the data she willingly gives up.”
Scientists have found that the people living 3000 years ago were healthier and taller than people who have lived these past 300 years. The development of agriculture, farming, and industry has led to malnourishment and more deaths from infectious diseases. SFI External Professor Hillard Kaplan is one of the collaborators in the research of this comparison of different populations living in the Americas over the last 3000 years.
A recent study of the 2007 financial markets of 48 countries reveals all the world’s finances are controlled by only a few mutual funds, banks, and corporations. SFI External Professor and economist Matthew Jackson states, “Certainly people have some understanding of how large some of these financial institutions in the world are, there’s some feeling of how intertwined they are, but there’s a big difference between having an impression and actually having more explicit numbers to put behind it.
According to SIPRI (the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), 25,600 combatants and civilians were killed as a direct result of armed conflicts last year. While that may seem like a high number of lives lost, consider the nearly 500,000 people killed annually in violent crimes and the over 1 million people killed in automobile accidents every year. This actually shows a decline in the number of war casualties. Economist and SFI Resident Professor Samuel Bowles has researched hundreds of hunter-gatherer societies and concludes that 14 percent of deaths in those societies were caused by war and other violent acts. While a recent study estimates that all the wars and genocides of the 20th century account for less than 3 percent of all deaths worldwide. Perhaps this trend will continue and we may see peace around the world.
SFI Resident Professor Tanmoy Bhattacharya and colleagues have published their research on HIV. Their analysis of allelic polymorphisms on host control of HIV revealed complete linkage disequilibrium between HCP5 and HLA-B*5701/HLA-Cw*06, a modest effect of 5’HLA-C on viral set point in the absence of HLA-B*5701, and no influence of the RNF39/ZNRD1 extended haplotype on HIV disease progression.
SFI Postdoctoral Fellow Béla Nagy and SFI Professor Doyne Farmer are co-organizers of a September 14-17 Business Network theme week held at SFI called “The future is not what it used to be.” During the week, nearly 20 participants will hear SFI researchers and veteran futurists review past attempts to predict the future, assess lessons learned, and, of course, consider what the future holds.
Murray Gell-Mann, SFI Distinguished Professor and winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics was one of the originators of the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary research center in New Mexico that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Gell-Mann recently addressed a group of about 150 high school students gathered at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., for Adventures of the Mind, a biennial summit for academically outstanding 15- to 18-year-olds. Gell-Mann described the origins of and philosophy behind the Santa Fe Institute’s approach to science.
Selected from more than 300 nominees by a panel of expert judges and the editorial staff of Technology Review, the TR35 is an elite group of accomplished young innovators who exemplify the spirit of innovation. Their work - spanning medicine, computing, communications, nanotechnology, and more - is changing our world.
SFI External Professor Douglas White and colleagues present their research into finding an approach to facilitate the design of policies in the complexity of economic networks. The research into economic networks has been studied by two perspectives: sociology and physics or computer science. White and colleagues describe what is needed in order to be able to predict and propose economic policies. With computational models, large-scale network date can be processed quickly and can reflect agent interactions.
Former SFI Professor Brian Goodwin has died at the age of 78. Goodwin was a mathematician, scientist, philosopher, biologist, writer and professor of outstanding caliber and influence. Goodwin became enthralled by the notion that organisms live at the “edge of chaos” and through SFI he began research into complexity theory. His work at SFI led to his writing the book, Signs of Life, with coauthor Ricard Sole, which outlines how the mathematics of chaos and non-linear dynamics can be applied to all aspects of the living world.
Researchers have identified thousands of macromolecular interactions within cells, but joining them up in networks and figuring out how they work still poses a big challenge. Recently, improved methods and refinements in the computational tools used in modelling signaling pathways have helped researchers. To see protein interactions in different cell types, scientists are advancing the use of affinity-purification chromatography followed by mass spectrometry. Harvard University professor and SFI External Professor, Walter Fontana has co-founded a company called Plectix BioSystems and a web-based system called Cellucidate. Gordon Webster, vice-president of biology at Plectix says, “The model mirrors the behavior of the living system it represents: the biology that emerges from our models is the combinatorial expression of all these automata doing their own little thing — just the way it is in the cell.”
Agent-based modeling (ABM) is a computerized simulation of agents interacting through given rules. ABM is used in tracking diseases and simulating behavioral patterns among societies, but has not been as well developed with financial and economic issues. Now many economists are working together with physicists and computer scientists to create ABMs with the financial markets in focus. NASDAQ chief Mike Brown hired BiosGroup to develop an ABM for the stock market. But the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) still do not use ABMs. SFI External Professor and computational social scientist Rob Axtell states, “When the SEC changes trading rules, it typically has either flimsy or modest support from econometric evidence for the action, or else no empirical evidence and the change is driven by ideology. You have to wonder why Mike Brown is doing this, while the SEC isn’t.” SFI External Professor John Geanakoplos, Farmer and colleagues have developed an ABM to explore how leverage affects fluctuations in stock prices. An ABM for the whole economy would take time and a lot of data of multidisciplinary collaborations of economists, psychologists, computer scientists, biologists and others. Axtell also says to this point, “Left to their own devices, academic macroeconomists will take a generation to make this transition. But if policy-makers demand better models, it can be accomplished more quickly.”
Agent-based modeling (ABM) is a computerized simulation of agents interacting through given rules. ABM is used in tracking diseases and simulating behavioral patterns among societies, but has not been as well developed with financial and economic issues. SFI Resident Professor J. Doyne Farmer and SFI External Professor Duncan Foley present ABM could certainly be used on the complex system of financial economics. SFI External Professor John Geanakoplos, Farmer and colleagues have developed an ABM to explore how leverage affects fluctuations in stock prices. An ABM for the whole economy would take time and a lot of data of multidisciplinary collaborations of economists, psychologists, computer scientists, biologists and others. But it would be worth the work for a forecast that may help our economy.
Epidemic modeling has been used in mapping epidemics since the 1920s. But in order to catch up to the times, new modeling techniques need to be utilized. Agent-based models (ABMs) are suited for today’s complex social networks. The agents are tracked and can be programmed to behave like real people. SFI External Professor Joshua Epstein is one of the scientists using the new Global-Scale Agent Model (GSAM) which was developed at the Brookings Institution’s Center on Social and Economic Dynamics. This model has 6.5 billion agents that can be tracked. The GSAM has been presented to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. With the pandemic of H1N1 and other diseases, agent-based modeling will play an integral part in assisting authorities to track possible outcomes and solutions.
The emerging field of network science focuses on studying complex systems and how they are all alike. Understanding one network may shed light on other networks. Scientists from a variety of different disciplines have gone deeper into researching complex systems. SFI External Professor and physicist Mark Newman started working in the field ten years ago with SFI and the Center for the Study of Complex Systems. Network science has opened the door to interdisciplinary training in complex systems. Many researchers take these courses through SFI, a leader in interdisciplinary studies and complex network science. Many agencies, including the US National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and even the military have made donations and funding available to continue research into network science and complex systems.
Several dozen graduate students and researchers pursuing careers that could help humans prosper on a thriving planet have gathered in Santa Fe for the first “Summer School on Global Sustainability,” developed by the Santa Fe Institute with help from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.