Guillaume Achaz 12th March 2014

On Wednesday 12th March, Dr Guillaume Achaz, Atelier de BioInformatique, will give the talk “Epistatic constraints in evolution, theory and practice.”

Building 53 Room 4025, Highfield Campus, 4pm. All welcome. Refreshments served after the talk.

Abstract:

How constrained is life’s evolution? Can mutations occur in any order? What fundamental processes dictate how evolution can proceed? I will discuss some work on experimental and model fitness landscapes that aims at understanding what is the minimum set of rules that are needed to characterize constraints in evolving genetic systems. The work tries to maximize the fit between real biological data and theroretical models. In particular, I will illustrate how both data analysis and model building can feed each other and may utlimately converge. This project aims at taking a step further in our comprehension of the life as it was, is and will be.

James Dyke 26th Feb 2014

jdyke-29nov-ne-s1On Wednesday 26th February, Dr James Dyke, Institute for Complex Systems Simulation, University of Southampton, will give the talk “Is the Earth alive? A planetary odyssey”

Building 53 Room 4025, Highfield Campus, 4pm. All welcome. Refreshments served after the talk.

Abstract:
“It seems somewhat eccentric if not a little absurd to suggest that a planet is a living thing. Earth has life on it, but it’s not a biological organism. Any theory or argument which concludes that the Earth is alive could be safely filed under “not even wrong”. So when James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis first proposed the Gaia Hypothesis in the early 1970s, some seized on the possible implication that the Earth is a form of biological organism. The Earth is alive? Nonsense! In the decades since, the Gaia Hypothesis has significantly developed and been instrumental in the creation of the new discipline of Earth Systems Science which seeks to understand both the living and non-living components of the Earth in a holistic manner.

In this talk I will give an overview of some of the developments of the mathematical and conceptual theories that underpin Gaia Theory and argue why such approaches are important in a global change context. Humans are currently affecting the Earth via a spectrum of effects. While there is no danger of us destroying the Earth’s biosphere, we are at risk of nudging it into states that would be deleterious to us.”

https://theconversation.com/even-if-earth-changes-life-will-continue-with-or-without-us-15221

Ondrej Hovorka 5th Feb 2014

OH_fotoOn Wednesday 5th February, Dr Ondrej Hovorka, Computational Modelling Group, University of Southampton, will give the talk “Spin models of critical phenomena in systems with multi-scale dynamics”

Building 53 Room 4025, Highfield Campus, 4pm. All welcome. Refreshments served after the talk.

Abstract:

This talk will give a general summary of computational models for studying the emergent non-equilibrium phenomena in interacting spin systems spanning a broad range of length- and time-scales. This will include the Langevin dynamics of a set of coupled stochastic ODEs to model thermal fluctuations in spin systems, the master-equation formalism of long timescale memory effects and hysteresis, and the cellular automaton approach to describe multiscale dynamics of avalanche systems, such as earthquakes for example. The individual approaches will be demonstrated using applications in biomedicine, optimisation of modern hard disk drive technologies, and to analysing the out-of-equilibrium phase transition behaviour in avalanching systems.

Mike Harfoot 29th Jan 2014

Mike HarfootOn Wednesday 29th January, Dr Mike Harfoot, United Nations Environment Program and Microsoft Research Cambridge will give the talk “Attempting to model all life on earth -  a proof of concept General Ecosystem Model”

Building 53 Room 4025, Highfield Campus, 4pm. All welcome. Refreshments served after the talk.

Abstract:

Over the past few years, Microsoft Research and the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), both in Cambridge, UK, have built a global ecosystem model for terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Called the Madingley model, it captures the broad-scale structure and function of ecosystems around the world by simulating processes — including feeding, reproduction and death — that drive the distribution and abundance of organisms. From the relationship between the mass of individual organisms and how long they live, or the effects of  human perturbations such as hunting, to the distribution of biomass across Earth, the model’s outputs are broadly consistent with current understanding of ecosystems. Global ecosystem models such as the Madingley model could radically improve understanding of the biosphere and help inform policy decisions about biodiversity and conservation.

Martyn Amos 15th Jan 2014

On Wednesday 15th January, Prof Martyn Amos, Manchester Metropolitan University, will give the talk “Population-based microbial computing”

Building 53 Room 4025, Highfield Campus, 3:15-4:15pm (this is an hour earlier than usual). All welcome. Refreshments served after the talk.

Abstract:
Synthetic biology is an emerging research field, in which engineering principles are applied to natural, living systems. A major goal of synthetic biology is to harness the inherent “biological nanotechnology” of living cells for the purposes of computation, production, or diagnosis. As the field evolves, it is gradually moving away from a single-cell approach (akin to using standalone computers) to a distributed, population-based approach (rather like using networks of connected machines). In this talk we present several recent results from our group, describing various aspects of this new form of biological engineering. Specifically, we show, using computational studies aligned with laboratory work, how reconfigurable logic devices may be constructed using bacteria, how these may be used as the basis for a “client-server” model of microbial computing, and how bacterial conjugation may provide a new (and, potentially, very rich) communication scheme.

Helen Czerski 8th Jan 2014

On Wednesday 8th January Dr Helen Czerski, University College London, will give the talk “Bubbles and a planet:  the connection and why it matters”

Building 53 Room 4025, Highfield Campus, 4-5pm. All welcome. Refreshments served after the talk.

Abstract:

Gases and particles are constantly being exchanged between the ocean and the atmosphere, affecting the chemistry of both these huge systems.  The main gas of interest is carbon dioxide, since about a third of the extra CO2 that humans are putting up into the atmosphere is being transferred to the oceans and that process does not happen evenly across the world’s oceans.  This exchange is affected by a range of environmental parameters, including wind speed, temperature and biological conditions in the water.   My main interest is the contribution that the bubbles from breaking waves make.  We have just spent six weeks at sea in the North Atlantic, collecting data on air-sea exchanges in high wind conditions, and we now have a very extensive data set for analysis.  I would love to find new ways of making use of this data set, and I’m interested in any ideas out there for how to do it better.

Andrew Philippides 27th Nov 2013

On Wednesday 27th November, Dr Andrew Philippides, University of Sussex, will give the photo of Andy Philippidestalk “Visual route navigation in ants: a situated and embodied approach”

Building 53 Room 4025, Highfield Campus, 4-5pm. All welcome. Refreshments served after the talk.

Abstract:

The use of visual information for navigation appears to be a universal strategy for sighted animals. One particular group of expert navigators are the ants. The broad cross-disciplinary interest in studies of ant navigation is in part due to their small brains; biomimetic engineers take inspiration from elegant and parsimonious control solutions, while biologists look for a description of the minimal cognitive requirements for complex spatial behaviours. We also take an interdisciplinary approach to studying visual guided navigation of ants where we emphasise tenets familiar to Adaptive Systems practitioners; to get a full understanding of complex behaviour and how it emerges from the interaction of sensory system, body and environment, you must study natural behaviour in the natural habitat.

Behavioural experiments and natural image statistics show that visual navigation need not depend on the recognition of objects. Modelling suggests how simple behavioural routines enable navigation using familiarity detection rather than explicit recall. This leads to a new navigation algorithm which successfully navigates visually complex worlds, with routes that show many characteristics of desert ants. In particular, we show that robust navigation can be achieved with simple computation, after a single training run without specifying when or what to learn. Further, the model replicates data from classic ant navigation experiments. As such, our model represents the only detailed and complete model of insect route guidance to date. I will end by discussing applications to robotic navigation.