Wednesday, December 22

Wolfram on Biology

It is helpful to read to read my book review on "A new Kind of Science" before considering this interesting finding. When your famialir with the outcome of the crucial experiement the conclusions on biology will be readily apparant.

Wolfram points out there does not seem to be a general theory with most views treating natural selection as the most obvious choice, consequentl your observations are always on the basis of evolution rather than abstract theories. Why bother? Evolution /natural selection provides us all of the answers. Traditional Mathematics (as we understand it) cannot always capture the complexity we see in biology. The relevance of the enlarged mathematics now possible using the simple programs developed by Wolfram allows to explore the possibility of a general theory in relating to biology.

Going back to the crucial experiments we need only make minor changes in the form of substitution systems to reproduce immediately many of the forms in nature. Substitute systems are set up so that the number of elements can change e.g. Consider the rules governing the movement of say black or white cells as we saw previously in the crucial experiment but at each step each one of these elements is replaced by a new block of elements. So you assume the growth of flowers and plants in your garden must be highly complex. But what Wolfram can explain is that most aspects of this growth are governed by remarkably simple rules. Even generating just a few of his simple programusing substitution systems we can see plant shapes with smooth boundaries others with sharp points, whilst others have complex and seemingly random boundaries.The traditional intuition of biology would suggest wherever ones sees complexity-say in the shape of a leaf it must be generated by some particular purpose by some sophisticated process of natural selection.

What Wolfram can demonstrate with his many experiments in this area is that in fact a high degree of complexity does arise effortlessly just as aconsequence of following certain simple rules of growth. Even in a complex species it seems the independent forms of parallel growth allowed for influidity of early cell development have their origin in simple growth rules effortlessly creating the complexity and wonder of biology. I believe this way of thinking is at odds with most to -day and one would need quite a lot of convincing. Wolfram develops this argument over a lengthy period in the book.

2 comments:

Lindsay Lobe said...

you need to read the whole book to appreciate better this extract.

byrnesbloglog said...

What an excellent summary. I would say that you are very lucky to have a daughter who is so insightful as to buy you this book for a present :) :)