The term “nature” has different meanings for us. Conveniently, we use a simple noun to describe the entire physical and biological world. When we begin to reflect on this term, however, we quickly realize its complexity. “Nature” is not just a shortcut to the sum of what we know about the biological world, it is also a […]

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The “happiness of fish” refers to a story in the Zhuangzhi, which is a Chinese book (c. 286 BCE), and one of the foundational texts of Taoism. The story consists of a dialog between Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu, Most of the Zhuangzi passages portray Hui Tzu (or Hui Shi) as a rival of Zhuangzi. […]

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The study of life is the domain of biology as a natural discipline. Biology examines all living organisms, and focuses on structure, function, growth, evolution, distribution, as well as the taxonomy of life forms. Life itself is hard to define, because there is such an extraordinary diversity in its manifestations. It is more like a process, rather […]

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Richard Feynman (1918-1988) argues in his famous Lectures on Physics (1961/62) that finite accuracy of measurement also makes the future very unpredictable, because even very small errors in prediction have cascading effects that lead to vastly different outcomes. Thus, the difference between a classical interpretation (deterministic) and a quantum-mechanical explanation (indeterminisitc) is not as categorical […]

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Ecology is the study of interactions among organisms and their environment. One can even think about the human race in ecological terms, and this form of thinking is vital if we want to have a future. If we let our thinking transgress the boundaries of scientific disciplines, ecology becomes philosophy enhanced with information. Ecology stands […]

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At the end of the “Origin of the Species” (1859) Darwin writes about a riverbank: It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately […]

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Many of our most pressing challenges, like managing ecosystems and economies, or preventing mass epidemics and market crashes – require a better understanding of complex systems. In recent years, the science of “complexity” came into existence and has grown rapidly. “Complexity” has a precise meaning in science. We call a system “complex” if the whole transcends the parts and if multiple agents participate in it. Most complex systems consist of diverse entities that interact in space and in time; they can be real or virtual. Examples of complex systems are ecosystems, cities, universities, or the stock market. Systems that are merely based on a feedback loop, like automatic temperature regulators, are not complex. Complicated systems are also not necessarily complex. Complicated systems may have diverse parts or many variables, but they are not adaptive.

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