Entropy and Information in Biological Systems (Part 2)

John Harte, Marc Harper and I are running a workshop! Now you can apply here to attend:

Information and entropy in biological systems, National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, Knoxville Tennesee, Wednesday-Friday, 8-10 April 2015.

Click the link, read the stuff and scroll down to “CLICK HERE” to apply. The deadline is 12 November 2014.

Financial support for travel, meals, and lodging is available for workshop attendees who need it. We will choose among the applicants and invite 10-15 of them.

The idea

Information theory and entropy methods are becoming powerful tools in biology, from the level of individual cells, to whole ecosystems, to experimental design, model-building, and the measurement of biodiversity. The aim of this investigative workshop is to synthesize different ways of applying these concepts to help systematize and unify work in biological systems. Early attempts at “grand syntheses” often misfired, but applications of information theory and entropy to specific highly focused topics in biology have been increasingly successful. In ecology, entropy maximization methods have proven successful in predicting the distribution and abundance of species. Entropy is also widely used as a measure of biodiversity. Work on the role of information in game theory has shed new light on evolution. As a population evolves, it can be seen as gaining information about its environment. The principle of maximum entropy production has emerged as a fascinating yet controversial approach to predicting the behavior of biological systems, from individual organisms to whole ecosystems. This investigative workshop will bring together top researchers from these diverse fields to share insights and methods and address some long-standing conceptual problems.

So, here are the goals of our workshop:

• To study the validity of the principle of Maximum Entropy Production (MEP), which states that biological systems – and indeed all open, non-equilibrium systems – act to produce entropy at the maximum rate.

• To familiarize all the participants with applications to ecology of the MaxEnt method: choosing the probabilistic hypothesis with the highest entropy subject to the constraints of our data. We will compare MaxEnt with competing approaches and examine whether MaxEnt provides a sufficient justification for the principle of MEP.

• To clarify relations between known characterizations of entropy, the use of entropy as a measure of biodiversity, and the use of MaxEnt methods in ecology.

• To develop the concept of evolutionary games as “learning” processes in which information is gained over time.

• To study the interplay between information theory and the thermodynamics of individual cells and organelles.

For more details, go here.

If you’ve got colleagues who might be interested in this, please let them know. You can download a PDF suitable for printing and putting on a bulletin board by clicking on this:


5 Responses to Entropy and Information in Biological Systems (Part 2)

  1. SimplyFred says:

    I have a suggestion. I think you should dedicate this conference and all future conferences on the subject of entropy to Erwin Schrodinger and the monograph he published in 1944 entitled: WHAT IS LIFE? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Is_Life%3F Schrodinger brought the theme of your conference to the attention of the world wide scientific community with the insightful remark: Order from order, or order from disorder?

    • Congratulations John on this next big step!

      @SimplyFred: Though I am a fan of Schroedinger’s “What is Life”, if you really wanted to give primacy to progenitors of the area, then I’d recommending going back to the first century BCE and take a look at Titi Lucreti Cari (aka Lucretius) for “De Rerum Natura” based on the teachings of Epicurus. Given our state-of-the-art, it’s fairly surprising how advanced their views of biology, physics, and the universe were.

  2. […] Re: John Baez • Entropy and Information in Biological Systems […]

  3. Reblogged this on Chris Aldrich and commented:
    I rarely, if ever, reblog anything here, but this particular post is so on topic, that attempting to embellish it seems silly.

  4. […] rarely, if ever, reblog anything here, but this particular post from John Baez’s blog Azimuth is so on-topic, that attempting to embellish it seems […]

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