Abstract: Whether, when, how, and why increased complexity evolves in biological populations is a longstanding open question. In this work we combine a recently developed method for evolving virtual organisms with an information-theoretic metric of morphological complexity in order to investigate how the complexity of morphologies, which are evolved for locomotion, varies across different environments. We first demonstrate that selection for locomotion results in the evolution of organisms with morphologies that increase in complexity over evolutionary time beyond what would be expected due to random chance. This provides evidence that the increase in complexity observed is a result of a driven rather than a passive trend. In subsequent experiments we demonstrate that morphologies having greater complexity evolve in complex environments, when compared to a simple environment when a cost of complexity is imposed. This suggests that in some niches, evolution may act to complexify the body plans of organisms while in other niches selection favors simpler body plans.
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Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.
Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.
Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.
Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.
Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).