COMPLEXITY

COMPLEXITY

Far-reaching conversations with a worldwide network of scientists and mathematicians, philosophers and artists developing new frameworks to explain our universe's deepest mysteries. Join host Michael Garfield at the Santa Fe Institute each week to learn about your world and the people who have dedicated their lives to exploring its emergent order: their stories, research, and insights…... Show More

Episodes

What is the difference between 100 kilograms of human being and 100 kilograms of algae? One answer to this question is the veins and arteries that carry nutrients throughout the human body, allowing for the intricate coordination needed in a complex organism. Energy requirements determine how the evolutionary process settles on the body plans appropriate to an environment — one way to tell the story of life’s major innovations i... Read more

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We live in a world so complicated and immense it challenges our comparably simple minds to even know which information we should use to make decisions. The human brain seems tuned to follow simple rules, and those rules change depending on the people we can turn to for support: when we decide to follow the majority or place our trust in experts, for example, depends on the networks in which we’re embedded. Consequently, much of ... Read more

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It’s easy to take modern Earth for granted — our breathable atmosphere, the delicately balanced ecosystems we depend on — but this world is nothing like the planet on which life first found its foothold. In fact it may be more appropriate to think of life in terms of verbs than nouns, of processes instead of finished products. This is the evolutionary turn that science started taking in the 19th Century…but only in the last few ... Read more

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Whether or not you think you hold them, stereotypes shape the lives of everyone on Earth. As human beings, we lack the ability to judge each situation as unique and different…and how we group novel experiences by our past conditioning, as helpful as it often is, creates extraordinary complications in society. As modern life exposes us to an increasing number of encounters with the other in which we do not have time to form accur... Read more

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Looking back through time, the fossil record shows a remarkable diversity of forms, creatures unfamiliar to today’s Earth, suggesting ecosystems alien enough to challenge any sense of continuity. But reconstructed trophic networks — maps of who’s eating whom — reveal a hidden order that has been conserved since the first complex animals of half a billion years ago. These network models offer scientists an armature on which to ha... Read more

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For as long as humans have erected walls around our cities, we’ve considered culture separate from the encircling wilderness. This difference came to be expressed in our “man vs. nature” narratives, beliefs in our dominion over the nonhuman world, and lately even the assertion that the Earth would be better off without us. Ecology research has strangely almost never included humans in the picture. And yet Homo sapiens is a pheno... Read more

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If you’re a human in this century, the odds are overwhelming that you are a city-dweller. These hubs of human cultural activity exert a powerful allure – and most people understand that this appeal is due to some deep link between the density, pace, wealth, and opportunity of cities. But what is a city, really? And why have the vast majority of human beings migrated to these intense and often difficult locations? Cities breed no... Read more

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October 16, 2019 39 min

If complex systems science had a mascot, it might be the murmuration. These enormous flocks of starlings darken skies across the northern hemisphere, performing intricate airborne maneuvers with no central leadership or plan. Each bird behaves according to a simple set of rules about how closely it tracks neighbors, resulting in one of the world’s most awesome natural spectacles.

This notion of self-organizing flocks of re... Read more

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A few years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, upsetting centuries of certainty about the history of life, he wrote a now-famous letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker, British botanist and advocate of evolutionary theory. "But if (and oh what a big if),” Darwin’s letter reads, “we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity etcetera present, ... Read more

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For 300 years, the dream of science was to understand the world by chopping it up into pieces. But boiling everything down to basic parts does not tell us about the way those parts behave together. Physicists found the atom, then the quark, and yet these great discoveries don’t answer age-old questions about life, intelligence, or language, innovation, ecosystems, or economies.

So people learned a new trick – not just taki... Read more

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