Certain common patterns recur. For example, measurements often follow the normal
Gaussian) distribution. Gnedenko & Kolmogorov beautifully express the principle: “In
fact, all epistemologic value of the theory of probability is based on this: that
large-scale random phenomena in their collective action create strict, nonrandom regularity.”
That inevitable regularity from randomness sets the contours of natural pattern. To explain the processes that generate natural pattern, one must first parse those contours of constraint.
Such principles are widely known. Statistical mechanics devotes itself to the topic with great success. Several scientists apply the theory to biology and the social sciences, and bang the drum loudly.
Yet the vast majority of the biological and social sciences proceed as if these overwhelmingly powerful laws of nature do not apply. Such strange dissonance seems common in certain periods of science. Powerful ideas are both known and not known at the same time.
In this talk, Frank will begin with several biological patterns to illustrate the problem. For example, the age of cancer onset can be parsed into a component of constraining regularity and a component of unique biological process. In cellular biology, departures from mass action chemistry transform analog input signals into digital logic. Cellular analog-to-digital conversion may arise from the duality between randomness and regularity. Yet the complementary roles of generic constraint and special biological process are rarely discussed.
In his view, disarray in the underlying theory of pattern creates the current dissonance. Frank will introduce the theoretical problems in a general way, and briefly mention some of my own attempts to advance the core theory. Not surprisingly, the problem reduces to clear understanding of invariance, or symmetry. That conclusion once again follows the dissonant known-but-not-known pattern.
Frank will keep this presentation at a broadly understandable level, with only a hint about the underlying technical problems of the theory. If there is interest among the specialists in the audience, we can follow up with further discussion at a later time.
Some background publications can be found on Frank’s web site at http://stevefrank.org. However, his understanding the underlying fundamental theory has changed significantly in recent months and is not yet published.
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