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THE PUPPET SHOW: HOW ORGANISMS DANCE TO THE TUNE OF THE ENVIRONMENT


THE PUPPET SHOW: HOW ORGANISMS DANCE TO THE TUNE OF THE ENVIRONMENT

We are puppets dancing to signals all around us. But we do not want to see it this way. We use the catchy expressions like free will or adaptation to explain the way systems behave. There are strings all around tying us down to limited, boringly predictable and non-negotiable ways of working. We humans generally like to think that we are the masters of the universe. We love to imagine that we have tamed the environment to our benefit which no other organism could manage but the reality is exactly the opposite. We are the ones who adapt to the environment and not the other way around. The same can be said of all other life systems as well. Every single life form on the planet responds to the environmental input with an immediate response (where we call is a behavior) or a late response (where we call it as evolutionary adaptation). The author argues that animal behaviors are a result of a necessities mandated by the environment. Inside any complex system, wherein multiple types of dissimilar units come to interact, the final outcome will be determined by the random nature of these interactions. Though appearing to be random, and despite the fact that the constituent units are different and diverse in any given complex system, the dynamics of a complex system always leads to predictable, self-similar, scale-invariant and goal-oriented outcomes. This is a fact and every complex system researcher knows this. Though the dynamics of multiple unit interactions happens in a random manner there has to be some degree of constraint somewhere within a complex system that eventually results in enforced predictable behavior. Otherwise the final outcomes would neither be predictable nor similar. Given the fact that we do see predictability and purpose-orientation this assumes, not unreasonably, that there are constraining, coercive influences that emerge within a complex system that presumably direct the puppet-like behavior. It is simply the way nature works when it comes to complex systems. Dynamics of a complex system introduces the non-negotiable traits in the behavior of constituent units while still allowing for a certain degree of freedom. The puppet show is all part of the complex system dynamics. It unveils beautifully in the form of multitudes of behaviors exhibited by living and non-living systems. Simple rules of interactions between diverse components transform strangely into a grand puppet show. The principles of celestial mechanics imposes cyclical changes in the earth’s environment like dawn and dusk, annual seasons like winter, summer, autumn and spring, high and low tides, new moon and full moon etc.The cyclical environmental events are like clocks. Plants and animals have learnt to synchronize their activities with these cyclical events. Life systems, which themselves are highly controlled within their internal environment as well as outside, have co-evolved with planetary dynamics. Mathematicians have been working on the theory of Coupled Oscillators for over 40 years. This is a branch of mathematics that tries to understand how rhythmic biologic phenomena occur in a synchronized fashion so that all members in a group do the same thing at the same time. An oscillator is any system that executes periodic behavior. It exhibits an action that occurs repetitively in a clock-like fashion. A large system is made up of many such oscillators almost always ends up in a state where all individual oscillators synchronize with each other. Mathematicians call this the coupling of oscillators. Why this coupling should occur is not known. Synchrony is the commonest state in which coupled oscillators find themselves in. A wide variety of natural phenomena come under the category of coupled oscillators. Even people tend to end up doing things the same way as others and we glorify this human behavior as civilization. It is reassuring to know that this herd behavior has a mathematical basis.

  • Author: Rajkumar Chetty
  • Published: 2017-12-25 09:20:06
  • Words: 37703
THE PUPPET SHOW: HOW ORGANISMS DANCE TO THE TUNE OF THE ENVIRONMENT THE PUPPET SHOW: HOW ORGANISMS DANCE TO THE TUNE OF THE ENVIRONMENT