Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Life's Complexity Pyramid," by Zoltán N. Oltvai and Albert-László Barabási. Science, 25 October 2002, pages 763-764.

This article is concerned mostly with a new paradigm for cellular organization: a pyramid of components, from the specific at the bottom to the universal at the top. The authors of the research described in this article seek to understand the complexity of living systems by viewing the cell as a connected, integrated network and have found similarities both among the networks within the cell and between cellular networks and non-biological networks like the World Wide Web. Crucial to the paradigm are "network motifs," which are patterns of numerous interconnections between structures. In the same issue ("Transcriptional Regulatory Networks in Saccharomyces cerevisiae" and "Network Motifs: Simple Building Blocks of Complex Networks") the researchers write that motifs may be a way to understand networks. The Oltvai and Barabási article concludes with, "our quest to capture the system-level laws governing cell biology in fact represents a search for the deeper patterns common to complex systems and to networks in general. Therefore, cell biologists, engineers, physicists, mathematicians, and neuroscientists will need to equally contribute to this fantastic voyage."

--- Mike Breen