For the love of hens

In the first few years of the last century, during his summer breaks at a farm, Norwegian schoolboy Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe spent time observing chicken. He noticed that when hens peck on each other—as they do when they fight, typically about food—they follow specific patterns. If hen A pecked on hen B, B would not peck […]

The network scientist’s survival kit

Throughout the scientific disciplines, core values, methodologies, and worldviews vary to a frustrating degree. Network scientists are interdisciplinary. Through years of catching up with our disciplinary colleagues, we have learned to understand other disciplines better than many scientists of those disciplines understand us. Such a fundamental thing as who a scientific result should benefit, and […]

Beauty contest or masonry

A lighthearted post about whether or not it is right to market your scientific output—a topic I am neutral about because there are great arguments on both sides, canceling each other. So, my inner dialogue could go like: Hey! Did you see César Hidalgo tweeting that storytelling is an American thing? Isn’t it anthropology 101 […]

Using networks to design an Indian village

Notes on the Synthesis of Form by maverick architect/mathematician Christopher Alexander belongs to the canon of design theory. In 150 pages of youthful enthusiasm, Alexander brings together D’Arcy Thompson, cosmology, modernist architecture, anthropology, and his own algorithm to hierarchically decompose a graph. In 1962, two years before the publication of Notes on the Synthesis of Form, […]

Faraway, so close! Nobel prize to complex systems

Yesterday, it was announced that Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi get to share the 2021 Nobel prize in physics. Woo hoo! I had a smile on my lips running through the night streets of Tokyo (my usual exercise). The best part is the motivation: “For groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical […]

Universality: Stronger than logic

I was re-reading some old universality papers. You know, universality in the stat-mech sense—the critical exponents that characterize phase transitions are insensitive to details of your model or crystal structure of your material. This insight matured in the 1950s and 60s and culminated with Kenneth Wilson’s development of the renormalization group in the first few […]

The watershed of feedbacks

This is a follow-up to my previous post about the differences between the traditions of integrative, systemsy science. I will use the same –5 to +5 scale as in that post. Negative numbers are not bad but represent people, papers, places, and concepts more to the complex systems / Santa Fe Institute side. Positive numbers […]