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2020 in Review

The Year in Biology

December 23, 2020

While the study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was the most urgent priority, biologists also learned more about how brains process information, how to define individuality and why sleep deprivation kills.

Computer scientist and complexity researcher Carlos Gershenson of the National Autonomous University of Mexico stands by a busy urban roadway.

Complexity Scientist Beats Traffic Jams Through Adaptation

September 28, 2020

To tame urban traffic, the computer scientist Carlos Gershenson finds that letting transportation systems adapt and self-organize often works better than trying to predict and control them.

Art for "Rapid Oxygen Changes Fueled an Explosion in Ancient Animal Diversity"
Abstractions blog

Rapid Oxygen Changes Fueled an Explosion in Ancient Animal Diversity

May 9, 2019

Skyrocketing animal diversity a half-billion years ago was linked to spikes and dips in marine oxygen levels, according to a detailed geological study.

Abstractions blog

Smarter Parts Make Collective Systems Too Stubborn

February 26, 2019

As researchers delve deeper into the behavior of decentralized collective systems, they’re beginning to question some of their initial assumptions.

Abstractions blog

Jellyfish Genome Hints That Complexity Isn’t Genetically Complex

January 8, 2019

Jellyfish didn’t need novel genes to take an evolutionary leap in complexity.

In Theory

How Complex Wholes Emerge From Simple Parts

December 20, 2018

Throughout nature, throngs of relatively simple elements can self-organize into behaviors that seem unexpectedly complex. Scientists are beginning to understand why and how these phenomena emerge without a central organizing entity.

Art for "Biology and Computer Science Explore Algorithmic Evolution"
mathematical biology

Mathematical Simplicity May Drive Evolution’s Speed

November 29, 2018

Some researchers are using a complexity framework thought to be purely theoretical to understand evolutionary dynamics in biological and computational systems.

Gif illustration for "Machine Learning’s ‘Amazing’ Ability to Predict Chaos"
chaos theory

Machine Learning’s ‘Amazing’ Ability to Predict Chaos

April 18, 2018

In new computer experiments, artificial-intelligence algorithms can tell the future of chaotic systems.

Neil Johnson

A Physicist Who Models ISIS and the Alt-Right

August 23, 2017

The rise of new extremist groups has served as both an impetus and test-case for Neil Johnson’s models of terrorism and insurgency.