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# The mathematics of generating complexity

Posted on 2014-03-26
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Is there a mathematics related to evolution whereby randomness in certain environments can generate complexity in that environment?
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Question by:purplesoup
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ozo earned 334 total points
There have been several mathematical analyses of various aspects of the process
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_biological_complexity
http://www.santafe.edu/
but I don't think has been developed into a field of mathematics on its own.
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phoffric earned 166 total points
On a science TV show was an experiment to show how bird wings may have evolved from random events. It was awhile ago, so I can present only the gist. A device consisted of a number of parallel flaps. Two random numbers were used to select a flap and move it up or down by some angle. After the random numbers' selection, the device was put into a Wind Tunnel and the lift was measured. After several of these tests were made (called a trial), the profile having the best lift was used as a new starting point for a new trial. The scientists found it remarkable that they achieved a design having excellent lift with much less trials than expected. Sorry that I don't recall the name of this type of experiment.

<<Edit>>
I think the experiment was an example of a Genetic Algorithm where the random numbers represented mutations, and the Wind Tunnel results represented a metric for survival of the fittest.
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LVL 84

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ozo earned 334 total points
If you are asking about the complexity of evolution, or the computational complexity of genetic algorithms, there are several papers on mathematical developments there,
But I think you are asking more about the evolution of complexity, in which case this article may be closer to what you are seeking
http://scientificamerican.com/article/the-surprising-origins-of-evolutionary-complexity/
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Author Comment

Thank you - yes this looks like what I wanted, and the articles contain some good references for further reading.
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Author Comment

By the way if you google "Genetic Algorithm bird wings wind tunnel" you get some useful results.
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