Information and Entropy in Biological Systems (Part 6)

The resounding lack of comment to this series of posts confirms my theory that a blog post that says “go somewhere else and read something” will never be popular. Even if it’s “go somewhere else and watch a video”, this is too much like saying

Hi! Want to talk? Okay, go into that other room and watch TV, then come back when you’re done and we’ll talk about it.

But no matter: our workshop on Information and Entropy in Biological Systems was really exciting! I want to make it available to the world as much as possible. I’m running around too much to create lovingly hand-crafted summaries of each talk—and I know you’re punishing me for that, with your silence. But I’ll keep on going, just to get the material out there.

Marc Harper spoke about information in evolutionary game theory, and we have a nice video of that. I’ve been excited about his work for quite a while, because it shows that the analogy between ‘evolution’ and ‘learning’ can be made mathematically precise. I summarized some of his ideas in my information geometry series, and I’ve also gotten him to write two articles for this blog:

• Marc Harper, Relative entropy in evolutionary dynamics, Azimuth, 22 January 2014.

• Marc Harper, Stationary stability in finite populations, Azimuth, 24 March 2015.

Here are the slides and video of his talk:

• Marc Harper, Information transport and evolutionary dynamics.

11 Responses to Information and Entropy in Biological Systems (Part 6)

  1. Bruce Smith says:

    But I’ll keep on going, just to get the material out there.

    That’s good, for the long term — also (probably you are already doing this) you might want to make sure anyone looking elsewhere for a place to see slides/videos about this workshop, or talk about it, gets pointed here. I know of blog posts (elsewhere) which every so often receive an interesting relevant comment even years after their original posting — maybe that can happen here too, and be useful.

    (And I guess you are implicitly inviting anyone else who wants to “create lovingly hand-crafted summaries of each talk” to do so and post them here. Maybe some of the talk authors will want to do that someday?)

    • John Baez says:

      Yes, anyone who wants to summarize the talks should post their summaries here!

      The talk authors probably won’t: people hardly ever do. “I said what I had to say, why should I say what I said?” If I’m famous, it’s largely for saying everything over and over again, in many different tones of voice.

  2. benmoran says:

    Keep posting! I’m fascinated with the topic and I’m very glad you’re taking the trouble to put them up.

  3. John, your excellent work certainly isn’t going unnoticed!

    I thank you not only for originally hosting the workshop, but for continuing to follow up to help it continue its life online long after the fact. My hypothesis is that because the work entailed here is so cutting edge (and does require some reasonable work on the part of the viewer to watch, read, and cogitate) that your work today is really for the long-tail. I’m sure that there are others, like me, who weren’t able to trek to Tennessee for the original, but appreciate that they can relive it online.

    I’m sorry some of the videos didn’t manage to come out. I’m still distraught over Harte’s not being available, though I suppose that his text is a possible stand in.

    Sadly, scholarly communication isn’t a more sexy profession, but fortunately we have people like you who manage to do it well. I always find myself wishing that I knew 20 more people like you who had the depth and breadth of experience in physics, mathematics, and biology.

    If it helps, your influence (both through this workshop and your prior posts) has prompted me to begin delving heavily into category theory in the last week, and as a result there are about 20 others who are joining me in studying it over the coming months. I know that Andrew Eckford is also in the same camp.[1][2][3] (Psst.. you might be missing some of the conversation which is taking place on Twitter.)

    Thanks, as always, for the effort you’ve made into these (and many other) fields, which helps pave the way for those following you!

    • John Baez says:

      Chris wrote:

      My hypothesis is that because the work entailed here is so cutting edge (and does require some reasonable work on the part of the viewer to watch, read, and cogitate) that your work today is really for the long-tail.

      Thanks, that’s flattering. I’m glad there are some long-tailed scholars out there.

      But I’m always talking about pretty esoteric stuff, and usually I get more of a response. The silence that greeted this last bunch of posts has confirmed a basic rule of mine, which is “don’t make people go somewhere else: explain things where you are.” Different webpages or PDF files are like different “rooms”—human cognition is very spatial—and people don’t like being sent off to another room.

      If it helps, your influence (both through this workshop and your prior posts) has prompted me to begin delving heavily into category theory in the last week, and as a result there are about 20 others who are joining me in studying it over the coming months.

      Cool! That’s great! I plan to give a year-long seminar on category theory starting in the fall, but that’ll be aimed at math grad students. Different kinds of people require different kinds of explanations, different explanations, etc.

      By the way, last week’s workshop on the Categorical Foundations of Network Theory was really successful. Different people with different approaches got together and put a lot of things together. It’ll take a while to pay off, but I’m very happy about it.

      Psst… you might be missing some of the conversation which is taking place on Twitter.

      True, I never follow Twitter. Thanks!

  4. Marc Harper says:

    Hi everyone, I’m happy to answer any questions :)

    And to echo Chris Aldrich’s comments, thanks to John for posting these conference follow-ups, as well as being such a great communication resource for this community (and many others).

  5. domenico says:

    I am thinking that the equation for the replicator equation, and the information geometry, can give a quantum equation: if the population equation can be write on a sphere, then these quantities are similar to the wave function in quantum mechanics; so that if the wave function are real, then the quantum mechanics coincides with the information geometry, so that a complex quantum function can give a more general dynamic.
    I don’t see pratical use, but if it is all right, then it is possible to write quantum equation for population wave function, and it could be possible to write population Hamiltonian, and it could be possible to build a quantum system (similar to Schrodinger equation without kinetic energy) to describe a population evolution (quantum computer with reduced noise).

  6. I applied MaxEnt techniques in the online Google book “The Oil Conundrum”. It fits well with the relative abundance distribution (RAD) used to characterize http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_species_abundance

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