Study: Plant groupings in drylands support ecosystem resilience

Many complex systems, from microbial communities to mussel beds to drylands, display striking self-organized clusters. According to theoretical models, these groupings play an important role in how an ecosystem works and its ability to respond to environmental changes. A new paper in PNAS focused on the spatial patterns found in drylands offers important empirical evidence validating the models.

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In memoriam: William Sick

William (Bill) Sick, who served for nearly two decades on SFI’s Board of Trustees, passed away on December 8, 2023. He was 88 years old.

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The new science of waste

Waste is a natural by-product of productive human economies and a problem that plagues human systems. In a new paper, Mingzhen Lu and Chris Kempes explore how three types of waste production — municipal solid waste, wastewater, and greenhouse gas emissions — scale with city size. 

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Physicists identify overlooked uncertainty in real-world experiments

The rules of statistical physics address the uncertainty about the state of a system that arises when that system interacts with its environment. But they’ve long missed another kind. In a new paper published in Physical Review Research, David Wolpert and Jan Korbel argue that uncertainty in the thermodynamic parameters themselves — built into equations that govern the energetic behavior of the system — may also influence the outcome of an experiment.

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In memoriam: Erica Jen

Erica Jen, former SFI Vice President for Academic Affairs, passed away on November 12, 2023, at the age of 71. A mathematician by training, Jen was held in high esteem by all who knew her for her ability to bring together people from diverse backgrounds and disciplines.

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Study: How to optimize EV charging locations

As consumer interest in electric vehicles rises, the lack of charging stations is a continuing concern to potential customers. A recent paper in PNAS Nexus provides a possible road map for how to optimize the locations for new EV infrastructure.

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Study: Harsh workplace conditions are pushing women out of academia

This fall, a paper co-authored by several SFI researchers presented a comprehensive analysis of gender and retention patterns across the U.S. university system, exploring why women faculty members are more likely than men to leave their jobs and are less likely to be promoted at every career age and stage.

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Aging societies more vulnerable to collapse

Societies and political structures, like the humans they serve, appear to become more fragile as they age, according to an analysis of hundreds of pre-modern societies. A new study, which holds implications for the modern world, provides the first quantitative support for the theory that the resilience of political states decreases over time. 

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Maya identity in Mesoamerica

For several years, the Maya Working Group at SFI has brought together dozens of researchers from many disciplines to explore what it means to be Mayan, and what those insights say about modern culture. Those collaborations have yielded two books, and November 30-December 1, the group will reconvene to start talking about a third.

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Study provides fresh insights into antibiotic resistance, fitness landscapes

A new study published in Science suggests that E. coli bacteria may have a higher capability to evolve antibiotic resistance than previously believed. Researchers, led by Andreas Wagner, mapped possible mutations in an essential E. coli protein involved in antibiotic resistance and found that 75% of evolutionary paths led to high antibiotic resistance, challenging existing theories about fitness landscapes in evolutionary biology. This discovery may have broader implications for understanding adaptation and evolution in various fields.

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SFI Press releases new editions of Murray Gell-Mann books

The SFI Press has released two updated editions of books that illuminate the Odyssean life of Murray Gell-Mann, a co-founder of SFI and a Nobel laureate. A new printing of Gell-Mann’s The Quark & the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple & The Complex (originally published in 1994) appears in the SFI Press Compass series alongside the second edition of George Johnson’s acclaimed biography Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann & The Revolution in Physics (originally published in 1999). 

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Predicting human behavior in public health crises

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people were describing what they were thinking, feeling, and doing all over social media. And that fire hose of chatter, in Lauren Ancel Meyers’ eyes, is “a gold mine of data.” She’s bringing together a wide array of experts to more deeply understand, predict, and influence people’s behavior during a pandemic. The workshop, “Understanding, Tracking, Predicting, and Influencing Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Dynamics During Public Health Crises,” will be held at SFI November 8–9.

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Interview with Venki Ramakrishnan

Venki Ramakrishnan, Nobel laureate best known for his work in the structure and function of the ribosome, took a step into uncharted waters when joining SFI last year as Fractal Faculty. Ramakrishnan sat down to talk about his work with SFI President David Krakauer. Here are clips of their conversation. 

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Waste surveillance can help combat climate-aggravated diseases

A new paper, published in Science Translation Dynamics by Samuel Scarpino and colleagues, suggests that integrating wastewater surveillance with disease monitoring can yield high-resolution health data. This approach has the potential to address climate-aggravated diseases and may revolutionize public health responses worldwide.

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Developing a global supply network

Creating a comprehensive global map of the complex web of supply chain connections involving millions of companies is essential for informed policymaking and addressing economic and societal challenges. In a recent paper in Science, SFI's Doyne Farmer and Stefan Thurner say this endeavor would require international collaboration among various stakeholders to integrate data and establish secure infrastructure.

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John Geanakoplos receives Stephen A. Ross Prize for research on leverage cycles

SFI External Professor John Geanakoplos of Yale University and Ana Fostel of the University of Virginia were awarded the eighth Stephen A. Ross Prize by The Foundation for Advancement of Research in Financial Economics (FARFE) for their 2008 paper "Leverage Cycles and the Anxious Economy." The paper presents a groundbreaking analysis of financial booms and busts. 

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Postdocs in Complexity Conference fosters interdisciplinary networks

The Postdocs in Complexity Conference, launched in 2017 by SFI and the James S. McDonnell Foundation, provides a unique platform for early-career complexity researchers to collaborate, share insights, and build meaningful research networks. The conference has been instrumental in fostering interdisciplinary interactions among postdocs.

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