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Network Scaling in Organisms, Societies and Information Systems

July 21, 2014

  • Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2006 
  • Time: 11:00 am — 12:15 pm
  • Place: Woodward 149

Melanie Moses (UNM Faculty Candidate)
Department of Biology, University of New Mexico

The geometry of metabolic networks constrains the rate at which organisms acquire and use energy. Natural selection has evolved efficient, hierarchical, branching networks that simultaneously maximize metabolic rate and minimize internal transport distances, for example from the aorta to the capillaries in the mammalian circulatory system. The geometric properties of such networks cause a number of biological rates and times to be proportional to organism mass raised to a ¼ power.

I show that the principles underlying metabolic theory also apply to non-biological networks that distribute energy, materials and information. In particular, I show that the efficiency of energy acquisition in ant colonies and human societies scales with the number of individuals in the society. Some aspects of energy acquisition in societies are characterized by ¼ power scaling. The number of individuals in a society also affects the rate at which information is acquired and distributed, and I examine how information may be used to increase the efficiency of energy acquisition.

I also investigate how properties of information networks scale as a function of their size. I compare the scaling properties of neural networks, integrated circuits and computer networks to metabolic networks. This work suggests that the efficient designs that have evolved via natural selection may be used to design efficient information networks.