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[Colloquium] Network Scaling in Complex Systems: What happens when organisms, cities and computer chips get bigger?

September 21, 2007

Watch Colloquium: 

Date: Friday, September 21st, 2007
Time: 1 pm — 2:30 pm
Place: ME 218

Melanie Moses 
Department of Computer Science, UNM

Abstract: Networks distribute energy, materials and information to the components of a variety of natural and human-engineered systems, including organisms, cities, and computer chips. Distribution networks enable integrated and coordinated functioning of these complex systems, and they also constrain their design. The behavior of these systems emerges from the actions of the components and the ways in which those components are networked together. The systems can vary enormously in size: a whale has 1017 times more cells than a bacterium; the population of Los Angeles is 4 orders of magnitude larger than Hatch, NM; a Dual Core Itanium has 4 orders of magnitude more transistors than the 286. Biologists have observed a set of nonlinear relationships between the size of organisms and their behaviors (e.g. how much they eat, how long they live, how dense their populations are). Here I ask whether such regularities exist between size and behavior of other complex systems. In other words, can bacteria and whales tell us something about traffic in Hatch vs. Los Angeles or the power consumed by a 286 vs. an Itanium. I examine whether these apparently different systems face similar network scaling constraints. I also discuss how different scaling behaviors result from differences in the degree of centralization in networks, constraints on the physical area or volume of networks, and physical properties of components.

Bio: Melanie received her Ph.D. in Biology from the University of New Mexico in 2005. She received her B.S. from Stanford University in Symbolic Systems, an interdisciplinary program in cognition and computation. Melanie is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of New Mexico where she continues her interdisciplinary work in Computer Science and Biology. Her research interests are in how properties of complex systems change as they increase in size. Her work includes mathematical models of organism growth and reproduction, models of cardiovascular networks and the immune system, and the application of biological network scaling models to engineered networks.