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Posted by on Oct 21, 2012 in Science |

Few elements are complex systems in the physical, biological or digital

Few elements are complex systems in the physical, biological or digital

When we look at the physical world around us, we marveled at their extreme variety and complexity. In examining the living world keeps surprising wealth of animals and plants found everywhere. It would be naive to pretend to read books that have been written in history. The music has a huge repertoire of songs to listen. And the digital world surprised by the overwhelming amount of content that presents. But all these complex worlds have something in common: they are composed of a small number of elements combined in huge numbers.

Only a few tens of subatomic particles atoms are all we know. Just over a hundred atoms constitute the universe . Very few parts are combined in increasingly complex combinations to form the world we inhabit.

Life is made up of combinations of inanimate elements whose interaction produces an emergent phenomenon we call life. The genome consists of only four letters, the nitrogenous bases that form. The human genome has 3,200 million pairs of these bases. Only four elements are repeated millions of times the information to create a human being. These four bases generate compounds called amino acids. Only 20 amino acids create hundreds of thousands of proteins, the molecules that are formed. In turn govern only 20,000 genes (with the environment) the fate of the billions of cells that make up a human being. Of the 23 pairs of chromosomes, half come from the father and half from the mother. Combined random means that each of us can pass on to our children over 8 million different combinations. Which is little to explain the variety of different humans. In a phase of cell reproduction that form sperm and eggs, the chromosomes intersect resulting in a special issue that does explain the human variety.

What about the brain that only a constituent element, the neuron (although there are several types) is a smart grid? Moreover, humans differ from apes closer in the number of neurons. Otherwise we are not very different. But our brain is three times larger than that of chimpanzees (0.5 liters vs. 1.5) and this causes emergent phenomena as superior intelligence and symbolic language.

The language is a wonderful tool. By communicating we can use an unlimited number of messages. However, all human languages consist of little more than twenty constituent elements, the phonemes (sounds) or its variant written letters. This reflection led to the great Jorge Luis Borges to write his famous story The Library of Babel in which all possible books of a certain number of points are to the delight of some and despair for others.

The music is incredibly varied universal and each piece sounds different from the rest. However, the music is constituted by a limited number of components, the notes. Only 12 (in Western music). Even within it have preference for only a few combinations: musical scales. Nor these are mixed in any way. The current popular music (whatever gender) uses just a few scales and these are fairly predictable. However, the combination is sufficient so that no part is equal to another.

But if there is an example of a few elements in large combinations, this is the digital world . Digital Everyone, without exception, is composed of combinations of an element, and l bit, with two values, 0 and 1. We could have built computers based on a set of 10 values or any other number, but the computers would be more complex and inefficient. The digital library is an outrageous combination of only two values.

The issue is not minor and involves many sciences and philosophy. Emergent properties, complex systems and chaotic systems are some of the terms that are used to understand a reality that has a feature: the world is complex, but consists of a few different elements.

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