Posts Tagged ‘Complexity’

The Human Brain Is On The Edge Of Chaos

Sunday, March 29th, 2009


I had not seen this and I found it extremely interesting.   A central point that I took away from the first book I ever read in depth on Complexity was the notion that it, complexity, happens right at the boundary where chaos meets the static.  Hence not in ice nor steam but in water.

I think the two big mechanisms that will come forth more and more as core features of our new understandings of how things work will be (1) this notion that complexity arises at the edge of chaos and we will begin to see it everywhere and that (2) nature makes use of quantum effects whenever they make sense.

Regarding the latter, I expect you’ve seen the articles out over the last year explaining that the reason our calculations for how photosynthesis generates energy could never ‘explain’ how the observed molecular mechanisms could actually generate the total energy they’ve been seen to generate – the explanation turned out to be that a sort of quantum computer effect is happening as the electrons cascade through the photosynthetic sieve and they ‘know’, via a quantum computers type solution, where to go to maximize energy output.

Someday, I think we’ll discover that at the deepest level, a lot of the mind’s processes will involve quantum computing along with the currently understood chemical and electrical mechanisms.  Given that the scale of these events hovers on the edge where quantum effects compete with macro-effects, I doubt it could be otherwise.


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Cambridge-based researchers provide new evidence that the human brain lives “on the edge of chaos”, at a critical transition point between randomness and order. The study provides experimental data on an idea previously fraught with theoretical speculation.

Self-organized criticality (where systems spontaneously organize themselves to operate at a critical point between order and randomness), can emerge from complex interactions in many different physical systems, including avalanches, forest fires, earthquakes, and heartbeat rhythms.

According to this study, conducted by a team from the University of Cambridge, the Medical Research Council Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit, and the GlaxoSmithKline Clinical Unit Cambridge, the dynamics of human brain networks have something important in common with some superficially very different systems in nature. Computational networks showing these characteristics have also been shown to have optimal memory (data storage) and information-processing capacity. In particular, critical systems are able to respond very rapidly and extensively to minor changes in their inputs.

“Due to these characteristics, self-organized criticality is intuitively attractive as a model for brain functions such as perception and action, because it would allow us to switch quickly between mental states in order to respond to changing environmental conditions,” says co-author Manfred Kitzbichler.


– research thanks to Alan T.

First ‘Rule’ Of Evolution Suggests That Life Is Destined To Become More Complex

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

– I don’t find the core idea here at all surprising.  Evolution is an arms race between those evolving and better perceptions, better reasoning and better equipment are what it is all about.  All of these lead to higher complexity.

= = = = =

Researchers have found evidence which suggests that evolution drives animals to become increasingly more complex.

Looking back through the last 550 million years of the fossil catalogue to the present day, the team investigated the different evolutionary branches of the crustacean family tree.

They were seeking examples along the tree where animals evolved that were simpler than their ancestors.

Instead they found organisms with increasingly more complex structures and features, suggesting that there is some mechanism driving change in this direction.