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Physicist examines game theory on microbial level as part of UH Tenneco lecture series
Date:10/25/2010

Studying the microscopic world of bacteria, professor Jos Onuchic determined that bacteria colonies rely on principles of game theory to make complex calculations under difficult conditions. Onuchic, the co-director of the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics at the University of California, San Diego, will present "How Bacteria Decide Their Fate in Adverse Times" as part of the 2010 Tenneco Distinguished Lecturer Series at the University of Houston.

The free, public event takes place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 1 in the Shamrock Room at the Hilton University of Houston. The UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, the department of history, the Texas Center for Superconductivity (TcSUH) and the department of physics welcome Onuchic to the Tenneco Lecture Series.

"Dr. Onuchic will detail his research in exploring game theory on the smallest scale," said UH physics professor Margaret Cheung. "We're honored to host him."

Researchers rely on game theory to mathematically capture behavior in strategic situations in which the final outcome is determined through the actions of several subjects. The theory was developed to analyze competitions in which one subject benefits at another's expense.

"We have shown how the bacteria do this complex calculation according to well-defined principles," Onuchic explained. "We learned a simple rule: Anyone who needs to make a decision under pressure in life, especially if it is a possible death decision, will take its time. She or he will review the trends of change, will render all possible chances and risks, and only then react."

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Onuchic's current research interests center on theoretical and computational methods for molecular biophysics and chemical reactions in condensed matter.

Previous research demonstrated that bacteria live in large colonies that may reach up to 100 times the number of people on Earth. Onuc
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Contact: Travis Coggin
tcoggin@uh.edu
713-743-4162
University of Houston
Source:Eurekalert  

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