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Video lecture – In this new RSA Animate, Manuel Lima, senior UX design lead at Microsoft Bing, explores the power of network visualisation to help navigate our complex modern world. Taken from a lecture given by Manuel Lima as part of the RSA’s free public events programme.

Network visualization has experienced a meteoric rise in the last decade, bringing together people from various fields and capturing the interest of individuals across the globe. As the practice continues to shed light on an incredible array of complex issues, it keeps drawing attention back onto itself. Manuel Lima is a Senior UX Design Lead at Microsoft Bing and founder of, and was nominated as ‘one of the 50 most creative and influential minds of 2009’ by Creativity Magazine. He visits the RSA to explore a critical paradigm shift in various areas of knowledge, as we stop relying on hierarchical tree structures and turn instead to networks in order to properly map the inherent complexities of our modern world. The talk will showcase a variety of captivating examples of visualization and also introduce the network topology as a new cultural meme. (from RSA, lecture link).

How we engage the dance between structure and flow becomes our unique creative signature“, ~ Michelle James, VA, USA, 2010.

[…] Abstract.: The problem of sending the maximum amount of flow q between two arbitrary nodes s and t of complex networks along links with unit capacity is studied, which is equivalent to determining the number of link-disjoint paths between s and t. The average of q over all node pairs with smaller degree kmin is <q>=kmin ~= c.kmin for large kmin with c a constant implying that the statistics of q is related to the degree distribution of the network. The disjoint paths between hub nodes are found to be distributed among the links belonging to the same edge-biconnected component, and q can be estimated by the number of pairs of edge-biconnected links incident to the start and terminal node. The relative size of the giant edge-biconnected component of a network approximates to the coefficient c. The applicability of our results to real world networks is tested for the Internet at the autonomous system level. […], in D.-S. Lee and H. Rieger, “Maximum flow and topological structure of complex networks“, EPL Journal, Europhysics Letters, Vol. 73, Number 3, p.471, 2006. [link] …

“Artificial Life 101” lesson nº1: emerge yourself a experimental “fire” and observe it carefully till the end.

… The other day I decided to work for almost 48 hours in a row and at the end… to sleep a few hours. When I woke up… – the day (e.g. “flow“) was almost gone, and night (e.g. “structure“) approaching fast -. So I decided, to grab the last sun rays… ; growing up, I guess…

Time-lapse imaging in live zebrafish embryos reveals that cerebellar granule cells migrate in chain-like structures as discovered by a recent article [1] [Köster et al., PLoS, Nov. 2009]. Figure above – Granule cells taken from the cerebellum of a pigeon (above, B) are shown in this 1899 drawing by legendary neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal.

Did talk about sticky objects and self-organization in the past,  how positive and negative feedback’s  stigmergic-like agents integrated could promote changes and learning over a complex system.  Same happens to bacteria as also ants. On the other hand, we do know memes are also sticky (e.g. Chip Heath, Dan Heath, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die“, Random House, ISBN 978-1-4000-6428-1, January 2007). What’s new however, is that there are increasing proofs that our own brains my follow similar mechanisms (as Douglas Hofstadter in the past did made some analogies with how brains could work and how ant colonies raid different environments). In this recent new study, Köster and colleagues [1] [PLoS, Nov. 2009] reveal crucial pieces of this puzzle, showing how (neuronal) cells orient themselves to migrate together (like bacteria, above). The team studied zebrafish, one of the workhorses of developmental neurobiology, because its transparent body allows researchers to track movements of cells inside of it. As explained by Mason Inman [2]:

[…] Neurons in the developing brain complete their own self-organized waltz, coordinating with their neighbors to migrate to the right spots to form the cerebellum, visual cortex, or other parts of the brain. In this issue of PLoS Biology, Reinhard Köster and colleagues show that some of these brain cells behave much like slime molds, coordinating with other cells of the same type to migrate in a herd. They found that one particular protein called Cadherin-2 is crucial in allowing the cells to adhere to their neighbors so they can coordinate their movements and all wind up in the right spot. […] Slime molds provide a textbook example of self-organization. They live as single cells until food becomes scarce. Then, they broadcast chemical signals that trigger their mass assembly into a fruiting body, with some cells forming a stalk and others turning into spores that cast about in the winds to spread far and wide. […] Neurons in the developing brain complete their own self-organized waltz, coordinating with their neighbors to migrate to the right spots to form the cerebellum, visual cortex, or other parts of the brain. In this issue of PLoS Biology, Reinhard Köster and colleagues show that some of these brain cells behave much like slime molds, coordinating with other cells of the same type to migrate in a herd. They found that one particular protein called Cadherin-2 is crucial in allowing the cells to adhere to their neighbors so they can coordinate their movements and all wind up in the right spot.[…]

[…] But the mechanisms behind this coordinated movement – in particular, how each cell adjusts its inner workings to move to the right place at the right time – are only now starting to be revealed, using imaging that tracks these cells in live animals as they develop. […] To figure out what triggers the cells to line up and move together, the authors looked at what other kinds of cells were in the neighborhood. Many studies have shown that support cells, known as glial cells, often help guide neurons during these kinds of migrations. But during the first few days of the zebrafish embryo’s development, Köster and colleagues found, there were no glial cells along the granular cells’ migration route. That means these cells must go it alone, the team reasoned, with their own mechanism for signaling between each other to line up into chains and make their move. […] Although the study focused on just one type of brain cell, the findings could explain how many types of neurons find their way to their proper spots as the brain develops. There are still some pieces of the puzzle missing, however. While the findings explain how the granule cells are able to coordinate and follow their neighbors, it’s still not clear how the first few cells to head out on the journey – those at the front of the “conga line” – get oriented in the right direction. This suggests there must be some kind of signal from surrounding cells to get them headed in the right direction, the authors argue – yet another level of organization. […] , in Mason Inman (Nov., 2009) Migrating Brain Cells Stick Together, PloS. [2]

[1] Rieger S, Senghaas N, Walch A, Köster RW (Nov., 2009) Cadherin-2 Controls Directional Chain Migration of Cerebellar Granule Neurons. PLoS Biology.
[2] Mason Inman (Nov., 2009) Migrating Brain Cells Stick Together, PloS Biology.

Tensegrity R. Buckminster Fuller

Fig. – One of the images used by R. Fuller on his original article back in 1961 (Portfolio and Art News Annual, No.4). […] There have been recent news references to structures which I have designed for firing to the Moon. Six hundred pounds is the approximate weight of my thirty-six foot diameter sphere self-openable from a thirty-six inch diameter ball. There can, and probably will, be much larger units, which I will discuss later in this disclosure. Of first interest to engineers and artist-conceivers is the fact that my potential prototypes of satellite- and moon-structures are tensional integrity, omni-triangulated, high-tensile-cabled, spherical nets in which local islands of compression act only as local sprit-stiffeners. The local stiffeners are so oriented that they angle inwardly and outwardly between comprehensively finite, exterior and interior, tensional, spherical nets, thus producing positive and negative waves of action and reaction in inter-stabilized dynamic equilibrium. […]

Tensegrity: 1. Definition coined by R. Buckminster Fuller (architect, engineer and cosmologist), who is best known for his geodesic domes (surely, you will recognize some of these).  Tensegrity is a portmanteau of tensional integrity (check below some passages from his original article in Portfolio and Art News Annual, No.4, 1961). It refers to the integrity of structures as being based in a synergy between balanced tension and compression components. The term “synergetics” may refer more abstractly to synergetic systems of contrasting forces. 2. Structure using distributed tension to hold islands of compression. 3. “The tension-bearing members in these structures – whether Fuller’s domes or Snelson’s sculptures – map out the shortest paths between adjacent members (and are therefore, by definition, arranged geodesically). Tensional forces naturally transmit themselves over the shortest distance between two points, so the members of a tensegrity structure are precisely positioned to best withstand stress. For this reason, tensegrity structures offer a maximum amount of strength.” (Donald Ingber). 4. Was also a term used (unfortunately, let me add) by Carlos Cesar Arana Castaneda (guru! born 1925, Peru) to refer to some movements called magical passes (a series of meditative stretches, stances and movements) that he said were developed by Native American shamans who lived in Mexico in times prior to the Spanish conquest. 4. Tensegrity Ritual Suicides?! Patricia Partin and several other Tensegrity activists went missing after Castaneda’s death in 1998. Later Partin’s body was found in Death Valley Desert. She had apparently committed ritual suicide.

[…] One cannot patent geometry per se nor any separate differentiated-out, pure principle of nature’s operative processes. One can patent, however, the surprise complex behaviors of associated principles, where the behavior of the whole is unpredicted by the behavior of the parts, i.e. synergetic phenomena. The latter is what is known as an invention, a complex arrangement, not found in nature, though sometimes superficially similar to nature. Though superficially similar in patternings to Radiolaria and Flies’ Eyes, geodesic structuring is true invention. The Radiolaria collapse when taken out of water. Flies’ Eyes will not provide structural precedent or man-occupiable structures. […]

[…] It is a sad fact that the world of patronized design is the last area of commonly accepted social behavior where piracy is considered ethical. Patrons hire designers to steal their competitors’ work. Patrons hire designers to steal other non-professional designers’ fresh-new crops of potential economic growth. Only by joining forces will the architect-, scientist-, engineer-artists be able to eliminate this intellectual cancer of the regenerative processes. […]

[…] All these Geodesic events were news items simply because they were synergetic surprises, ergo contrary to the obvious. Copied geodesic ventures in higher modular frequency of triangular Geodesic subdivisioning, or other less symmetrical employments of the Geodesic structural integrity than I have as yet undertaken, do not constitute invention.Nor does the variation warrant exemption from the temporary economic authority granted to me as a patent. […]

[...] People should learn how to play Lego with their minds. Concepts are building bricks [...] V. Ramos, 2002.

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