Princeton University Press

Primers in Complex Systems

Published by: Princeton University Press


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Primers in Complex Systems


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Ant Encounters

Interaction Networks and Colony Behavior

Deborah M. Gordon

How do ant colonies get anything done, when no one is in charge? An ant colony operates without a central control or hierarchy, and no ant directs another. Instead, ants decide what to do based on the rate, rhythm, and pattern of individual encounters and interactions--resulting in a dynamic network that coordinates the functions of the colony. Ant Encounters provides a revealing and accessible look into ant behavior from this complex systems perspective.

Focusing on the moment-to-moment behavior of ant colonies, Deborah Gordon investigates the role of interaction networks in regulating colony behavior and relations among ant colonies. She shows how ant behavior within and between colonies arises from local interactions of individuals, and how interaction networks develop as a colony grows older and larger. The more rapidly ants react to their encounters, the more sensitively the entire colony responds to changing conditions. Gordon explores whether such reactive networks help a colony to survive and reproduce, how natural selection shapes colony networks, and how these structures compare to other analogous complex systems.

Ant Encounters sheds light on the organizational behavior, ecology, and evolution of these diverse and ubiquitous social insects.

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Diversity and Complexity

Scott E. Page

This book provides an introduction to the role of diversity in complex adaptive systems. A complex system--such as an economy or a tropical ecosystem--consists of interacting adaptive entities that produce dynamic patterns and structures. Diversity plays a different role in a complex system than it does in an equilibrium system, where it often merely produces variation around the mean for performance measures. In complex adaptive systems, diversity makes fundamental contributions to system performance.

Scott Page gives a concise primer on how diversity happens, how it is maintained, and how it affects complex systems. He explains how diversity underpins system level robustness, allowing for multiple responses to external shocks and internal adaptations; how it provides the seeds for large events by creating outliers that fuel tipping points; and how it drives novelty and innovation. Page looks at the different kinds of diversity--variations within and across types, and distinct community compositions and interaction structures--and covers the evolution of diversity within complex systems and the factors that determine the amount of maintained diversity within a system.

  • Provides a concise and accessible introduction
  • Shows how diversity underpins robustness and fuels tipping points
  • Covers all types of diversity
  • The essential primer on diversity in complex adaptive systems

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Spin Glasses and Complexity

Daniel L. Stein

Spin glasses are disordered magnetic systems that have led to the development of mathematical tools with an array of real-world applications, from airline scheduling to neural networks. Spin Glasses and Complexity offers the most concise, engaging, and accessible introduction to the subject, fully explaining what spin glasses are, why they are important, and how they are opening up new ways of thinking about complexity.

This one-of-a-kind guide to spin glasses begins by explaining the fundamentals of order and symmetry in condensed matter physics and how spin glasses fit into--and modify--this framework. It then explores how spin-glass concepts and ideas have found applications in areas as diverse as computational complexity, biological and artificial neural networks, protein folding, immune response maturation, combinatorial optimization, and social network modeling.

Providing an essential overview of the history, science, and growing significance of this exciting field, Spin Glasses and Complexity also features a forward-looking discussion of what spin glasses may teach us in the future about complex systems. This is a must-have book for students and practitioners in the natural and social sciences, with new material even for the experts.


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Primers in Complex Systems

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