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Paul Grobstein's picture

Bio 103 Lab 11: From simplicity to complexity: homestasis, autonomy ... and randomness

Cells are interacting assemblies of macromolecules, multicellular organisms interacting assemblies of cells, populations and ecosystems interacting assemblies of organisms ... with in each case more complex behavior emerging from interactions among simpler elements. Could one make sense of more sophisticated aspect sof life in these terms, of social behavior, for example, or the meaning and origin of "purposive" behavior? An approach that we'll follow today is to explore computer models like one we looked at at the beginning of the course.

You and your partner will explore your choice of two or more of several models. Most are based on and/or run in a program called Netlogo, made available by Northwestern University's Center for Connected Learning and Computer Based Models. Both the program and the models can be used on-line and are also available for downloading, so you can continue to explore them on your own computers if you're so inclined. Pick one of the first three and any other additional model on the list below. Whichever models you choose to explore, think of doing so as a process of making observations in order to try and come up with a story to account for how the system behaves. Report your observations and story in the course forum area. How much can we make sense of using computer models? What role does randomness play in them?

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