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Approaching biology discretely

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Shery Huang.

The idea that physical systems are deterministic, and codified by differential equations, has been extraordinarily useful in understanding classical physical phenomena. This idea, whether imposed deliberately or not, has underlain much of the theoretical modeling of living systems. I will argue that a fundamentally non-deterministic approach to biology is typically more appropriate. Such probabilistic thinking naturally places more importance on the discreteness of living systems and their components, which in turn raises interesting questions about the relative explanatory power of emergence versus regulation in biology. I will temper the philosophical tenor of this talk by presenting in detail two examples of discrete modeling, which have uncovered surprising new insights in the well-studied problems of cancer metastasis and predator-prey cycles.

This talk is part of the BSS Formal Seminars series.

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