Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology

By Ricard Solé; Brian Goodwin | Go to book overview

TWO
Order, Complexity, Disorder

For the philosopher is right to say, that nothing thicker than a knife's blade separates happiness from melancholy

-- Virginia Woolf, Orlando


Entropy, Chance, and Randomness

Stories of small events that trigger profound changes are without number. As an example, let us cite an event that completely changed the life of the molecular biologist François Jacob. In his amazing autobiography The Statue Within, 1 Jacob writes that he was looking for a supervisor whose work was oriented toward his personal interests. His ideal was to find a place in André Lwoff's lab, on the third floor of the chemistry building at the famous Pasteur Institute. "In his office," Jacob recalls, "I told him about my ignorance, my willingness, my desires. He fixed me for some time with his blue eyes. Tossed his head several times. His laboratory was already fully staffed. There was no place for me." Jacob was deeply disappointed, but over the winter he tried several times to see Lwoff. Each time he was refused. In June, his optimism fading away, Jacob decided to try for the last time. When he met Lwoff, "I find his eyes bluer than usual, the toss of his head more pronounced, the welcome warmer." Before Jacob started to say anything about his ignorance, willingness, or desires, Lwoff announced, "You know, we have just found the induction of the prophage." Jacob greeted this news with an "Oh" into which "I put all possible surprise, amazement and

-29-

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Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • One - Nonlinearity, Chaos, and Emergence 1
  • Two - Order, Complexity, Disorder 29
  • Three - Genetic Networks, Cell Differentiation, and Development 61
  • Four - Physiology on the Edge of Chaos 89
  • Five - Brain Dynamics 119
  • Six - Ants, Brains, and Chaos 147
  • Seven - The Baroque of Nature 179
  • Eight - Life on the Edge of Catastrophe 211
  • Nine - Evolution and Extinction 243
  • Ten - Fractal Cities and Market Crashes 277
  • Notes 305
  • Index 317
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