Covid’s Catch-22: The paradox of masking and disease

There's a complex paradox at play in the dynamics between mask-wearing and the spread of disease: While masking reduces transmission rates and consequently disease prevalence, the reduction of disease inhibits mask-wearing — thereby promoting epidemic revival. A new study led by researchers at the University of Virginia and co-authored by SFI's Simon Levin and Stefani Crabtree explores these complex dynamics. 

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New model offers physics-inspired rankings evaluation

The world is rife with rankings and orderings, but these hierarchies are only observed after the fact. That makes it difficult to know the true rankings of a system. In a recent paper published in Physical Review E, SFI's George Cantwell and Cris Moore offer a new model to evaluate rankings. 

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Research brief: Scaling of hunter-gatherer camp size and human sociality

From hunter-gatherer encampments to modern cities, permanent human settlements tend to densify as the population grows, while mobile human settlements do the opposite. New research in Current Anthropology explores these dynamics and the conditions that might lead impermanent, spread-out communities to transition to denser, stationary settlements.

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Research brief: Information architecture

The intensifying search for life on other worlds begs an important question: Will we recognize life when we find it? New work co-authored by SFI External Professor Sara Imari Walker offers an innovative approach.

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Research brief: Innovations at the periphery

The advancement of everything from science to education relies in large part on the ability to come up with new ideas. But under what conditions is innovation most likely? To help answer this key question in the science realm, SFI External Professor Manfred Laubichler and colleagues developed a framework to identify the origins of innovation across one field: evolutionary medicine.

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Preventing extreme polarization of political attitudes

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests extreme polarization can be avoided when two sides of a stubbornly intolerant population have low exposure to each other. This paper is part of a PNAS special issue on the dynamics of polarization.

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Strengthening the second law of thermodynamics

For the past few years, SFI Professor David Wolpert and physicist Artemy Kolchinsky, a former SFI postdoctoral fellow, have been collaborating to better understand the connection between thermodynamics and information processing in computation. Their latest exploration of the topic, published in Physical Review E, looks at applying these ideas to a wide range of classical and quantum areas, including quantum thermodynamics.

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Making entropy production work

In a new paper published in Physical Review X, SFI physicists David Wolpert and Artemy Kolchinsky explore more realistic bounds on entropy production by considering how constraints affect Landauer’s limit. Their approach to understanding how much work can be extracted from a physical system could lead to a better understanding of the thermodynamic efficiency of various real-world systems, ranging from biomolecular machines to recently-developed “information engines” that use information as fuel.

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Some colleges are mammals, others are cities

A new study by Santa Fe Institute researchers examines how scale affects factors like tuition, research production, and teaching salaries in different categories of colleges and universities. The research, published in PLOS ONE, is the first to systematically look at interconnected scaling effects in U.S. higher education.

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New tool untangles complex dynamics on hypergraphs

Networks are a powerful model for describing connected systems in biological, physical, social, and other environments. As useful as they are, though, conventional networks are static and are limited to describing links between pairs of objects. In a paper published in Communications Physics, SFI Schmidt Science Fellow Yuanzhao Zhang and collaborators describe a new framework for simplifying the analysis of synchronization patterns in a wide variety of systems that include hypergraphs, temporal networks, and multilayer networks. 

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When does reputation lie?

Is merit necessarily achieved, or does social status influence whether a person succeeds or is trapped in a system? Former SFI Postdoctoral Fellows Eleanor Power and Marion Dumas, together with their colleague Jessica Barker, explore these questions in a new paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

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Orit Peleg: Living Orbs of Light (Aeon)

“In the still of the Tennessee night, my colleagues and I are watching thousands of dim little orbs of light, moving peacefully in the forest around us. We try to guess where the next flash will appear, but the movements seem erratic, even ephemeral,” writes SFI External Professor Orit Peleg in an op-ed about her research on firefly synchrony for Aeon

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Research brief: Social science for algorithmic societies

In a new perspective piece for Nature, SFI External Professor Tina Eliassi-Rad and her co-authors ask how social scientists can investigate algorithmically infused societies, which may require very different methodologies than social sciences have traditionally deployed. 

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