Friday, April 22, 2011

From the Math & Science Desk

Twenty days without a peep from anyone at The Typing Monkey and now this, two links to the hard work of others. But oh! What links!

First up is a piece from The Economist, discussing a mathematical rules of war. The formula: (Tn = T1n-b) results in what mathemiticians call a "progressive curve." Basically, we get better at killing each other as conflicts between tribes/nations/neighbors escalate. And like most math we learn, nobody's quite sure what to do with the knowledge. It's a predictor of aggression, but we aren't very good at using it to stop war.

Now go to The Boston Globe for Leon Neyfakh's article about famed social biologist/ant researcher E.O. Wilson's enthusiasm for a new theory on the nature of altruism. Yes, it bugs us that they keep insisting altruism is a "human" trait because, since when? However, "group selection" as Wilson calls it, knocks the accepted "kin theory" of altruism over because he's found little to support kin selection and that group selection simply makes more sense.

Wilson's always been an interesting scientist to read and read about. He's nearly alone in his confidence about group selection. Perhaps, as the article says, in a few decades we'll look back at his assertions and realize how right he was.

[Thank you Arts & Letters Daily]