SFI welcomes Complexity Postdoctoral Fellow Kaleda Denton

Humans’ complex cultures — our beliefs and biases, traditions and fads — can develop through interactions with each other and with our environments. SFI Complexity Postdoctoral Fellow Kaleda Denton studies how cultural traits arise and spread, exploring the role of non-genetic processes in human evolution.

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Interactive Economics teaches through play

Interactive Economics, a new, free platform, uses playful, dynamic lessons to deepen students' understanding of economics in a rapidly evolving world. The project, launched on April 11, was spearheaded by SFI External Professor Rajiv Sethi and Homa Zarghamee, colleagues at Barnard College. 

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Study: Influencing for the good of society

Getting individuals to act in the best interest of society can be a tricky balancing act, one that often walks a fine line between trying to convince people to act of their own volition, versus passing laws and regulations that make these actions compulsory. A new paper in PNAS Nexus presents a mathematical model and an agent-based model that shows the effectiveness of influencers who convince others to make decisions in the best interest of society.

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Snowball Earth and the rise of multicellularity

For a billion years, single-celled eukaryotes ruled the planet. Then around 700 million years ago during Snowball Earth — a geologic era when glaciers may have stretched as far as the equator — a new creature burst into existence: the multicellular organism. Why did multicellularity arise? Solving that mystery may help pinpoint life on other planets and explain the vast diversity and complexity seen on Earth today, from sea sponges to redwoods to human society.

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Study: Socio-political dynamics in clean energy transition

Times of crisis often call for strong and rapid action, but in polarized societies, strong top-down policies can backfire. In a paper published on June 17, 2024, in Environmental Research Letters, SFI Applied Complexity Fellow Saverio Perri, SFI Science Board Fellow Simon Levin (Princeton University), and colleagues present a conceptual model of how these dynamics could play out in efforts to decarbonize our energy supply.

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SFI welcomes 2024 CSSS Journalism Fellows

SFI welcomes Anil Ananthaswamy and Adam Becker as our 2024 Complex Systems Summer School Journalism Fellows. Journalism Fellows attend SFI's four-week Complex Systems Summer School, participating fully as students, and spend an additional self-directed week at SFI’s Cowan Campus. Each year, fellows are accomplished journalists with a demonstrated interest in reporting on complexity-related topics.

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Research brief: Hierarchy in dynamic environments

Most organizations operate under command hierarchies: workers, who know the ground reality, report to managers, who know the big picture. In a recent paper, three researchers use an agent-based model to explore how the performance of hierarchical groups varies with changing environments.

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Mahzarin Banaji receives honorary doctorate from Yale

SFI External Professor Mahzarin Banaji (Harvard University) received an honorary doctorate from Yale University during its 2024 commencement ceremony in May. She was recognized for her pioneering work to "establish the role that unconscious processes play in governing human social action."

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New work extends the thermodynamic theory of computation

In a paper published in Physical Review X on May 13, a quartet of physicists and computer scientists expand the modern theory of the thermodynamics of computation. By combining approaches from statistical physics and computer science, the researchers introduce mathematical equations that reveal the minimum and maximum predicted energy cost of computational processes that depend on randomness, which is a powerful tool in modern computers. 

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New series presents pivotal papers in complexity science

New from the SFI Press: Foundational Papers in Complexity Science. In four volumes spanning nearly 3,000 pages, Foundational Papers looks at the past 100 years to examine the origins and history of the field of complexity. Volumes I & II were published on May 9, 2024. Volumes III & IV will be released this summer. 

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Research News Brief: random processes shape science and math

Will a certain tritium atom decay by a certain time? According to our current science, this question concerning physical phenomena should be answered by sampling from a probability distribution, a process not unlike spinning a roulette wheel or rolling dice. However, a paper in Foundations of Physics suggests that the same could be true of a question concerning mathematical phenomena, even one as prosaic as “what is 2+2?” 

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SFI receives award from Academia Film Olomouc

The Santa Fe Institute has received the Award for Contribution to the Communication of Science from the Academia Film Olomouc (AFO) in the Czech Republic. Presented on April 29, 2024, during the AFO’s 59th International Festival of Popular Science Films, the award recognizes SFI’s “systematic approach, hard and continuous work, and long-term contributions to thinking about interdisciplinarity and making it work,” says Zdeněk Rychtera, an AFO dramaturg and programmer.  

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In memoriam: Daniel C. Dennett

Daniel C. Dennett, one of the most influential and provocative philosophers of our times, passed away on April 19 at the age of 82 in Portland, Maine. At the time of his passing, Dennett held the position of External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute.

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New Book: The time for complexity economics has come

In his new book Making Sense of Chaos: A Better Economics for a Better World, External Professor Doyne Farmer explains in accessible language how complexity economics works and how it could help policymakers make better decisions in the future.

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To accelerate biosphere science, reconnect three scientific cultures

Researchers who study Earth’s biosphere tend to operate from one of three scientific cultures, each with distinct ways of conducting science, and which have been operating mostly independently from one another, find the authors of a Perspective published in PNAS. Three SFI researchers identify and explain the three cultures, and suggest that reconnecting them could help accelerate biosphere science.

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