Essays: Connections

connections cover

In this focus

From cell biologists to quantum physicists, researchers are struggling to work out how systems involving large numbers of interacting entities work as a whole. In this collection of Essays, scientists explain how a systems approach, in parallel with the reductionism that dominated twentieth-century science, promises to yield fresh insight, and in some cases, to challenge the most widely held concepts of their field.

Image: Janusz Kapusta



Making connections

A series of essays is launched in Nature.

Nature 445, 340 (25 January 2007) doi:10.1038/445340a


Essays: Connections

Biology's next revolution

The emerging picture of microbes as gene–swapping collectives demands a revision of such concepts as organism, species and evolution itself.
Nigel Goldenfeld and Carl Woese

Nature 445, 369 (25 January 2007) doi:10.1038/445369a

A twenty-first century science

If handled appropriately, data about Internet-based communication and interactivity could revolutionize our understanding of collective human behaviour.
Duncan J. Watts

Nature 445, 489 (1 February 2007) doi:10.1038/445489a

A clash of two cultures

Physicists come from a tradition of looking for all-encompassing laws, but is this the best approach to use when probing complex biological systems?
Evelyn Fox Keller

Nature 445, 603 (8 February 2007) doi:10.1038/445603a

Collective minds

By tapping into social cues, individuals in a group may gain access to higher-order computational capacities that mirror the group's responses to its environment.
Iain Couzin

Nature 445, 715 (15 February 2007) doi:10.1038/445715a

Bringing cartoons to life

To understand cells as dynamic systems, mathematical tools are needed to fill the gap between molecular interactions and physiological consequences.
John J. Tyson

Nature 445, 823 (22 February 2007) doi:10.1038/445823a

Protecting biostructure

Biodiversity researchers have focused on diversity at the cost of ignoring the networks of interactions between organisms that characterize ecosystems.
Kevin McCann

Nature 446, 29 (1 March 2007) doi:10.1038/446029a

Control without hierarchy

Understanding how particular natural systems operate without central control will reveal whether such systems share general properties.
Deborah M. Gordon

Nature 446, 143 (8 March 2007) doi:10.1038/446143a

The structure of consciousness

Subjective awareness may depend on neural networks in the brain supporting complex wiring schemes and dynamic patterns of activity.
György Buzsáki

Nature 446, 267 (15 March 2007) doi:10.1038/446267a

Frontier at your fingertips

Between the nano- and micrometre scales, the collective behaviour of matter can give rise to startling emergent properties that hint at the nexus between biology and physics.
Piers Coleman

Nature 446, 379 (22 March 2007) doi:10.1038/446379a

Simplicity in biology

Networks of interactions between thousands of molecules within cells seem to defy comprehension, but shared principles of design may simplify the picture.
Uri Alon

Nature 446, 497 (29 March 2007) doi:10.1038/446497a

Unity from conflict

Could the evolution of multicellular life have been fuelled by conflict among selective forces acting at different levels of organization?
Paul B. Rainey

Nature 446, 616 (5 April 2007) doi:10.1038/446616a

Capturing human behaviour

Understanding the dynamics of infectious-disease transmission demands a holistic approach, yet today's models largely ignore how epidemics change individual behaviour.
Neil Ferguson

Nature 446, 733 (12 April 2007) doi:10.1038/446733a

Rules of engagement

Complex engineered and biological systems share protocol-based architectures that make them robust and evolvable, but with hidden fragilities to rare perturbations.
John Doyle & Marie Csete

Nature 446, 860 (19 April 2007) doi:10.1038/446860a

Disappearing act

The bizarre absence of certain gene classes in eukaryotes is key to understanding their evolution and complex links with prokaryotes.
James A. Lake

Nature 446, 983 (26 April 2007) doi:10.1038/446983a

The best is yet to come

Optimality is a key organizing principle of science, but the patterns of connections within real-world networks do not always respect it.
Mark Buchanan

Nature 447, 39 (3 May 2007) doi:10.1038/447039a

Kinds of minds

Do differences in history, culture and education influence whether scientists focus on pieces and particulars, or make broad connections?.
David Knight

Nature 447, 149 (10 May 2007) doi:10.1038/447149a