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Physics and math shed new light on biology by mapping the landscape of evolution
Date:8/8/2012

Although the qualitative description of evolution its observed behavior and characteristics is well-established, a comprehensive quantitative theory that captures general evolution dynamics is still lacking. There are also many lingering mysteries surrounding the story of life on Earth, including the question of why sex is such a prevalent reproductive strategy. A team of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Jilin University in Jilin, China; and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, led by Prof. Jin Wang, has examined some of these puzzles from a physical science prospective. They propose a new theory of evolution with two ingredients: the underlying emergent "fitness" landscape and an associated evolutionary force called "curl flux," which causes species to move through the emergent fitness landscape in a spiraling manner.

The researchers captured evolutionary relationships in a system of equations. They then created quantitative pictures that visualized evolutionary pathways as journeys through a mountainous terrain of peaks and valleys of biological fitness. The key breakthrough beyond the conventional quantitative theory of evolution is the emergent curl flux, which is generated by interactions between individuals within or across species. The underlying emergent landscape gradient and the curl flux act together as a "Yin and Yang" duality pair to determine the dynamics of general evolution, says Wang. An example of similar behavior is the particle and wave duality that determines the dynamics of the quantum world, he notes. The researchers also note that this combined effect is analogous to the way electric and magnetic forces both act on electrons.

The new theory provides a physical foundation for general evolution dynamics. The researchers found that interactions between individuals of different species can give rise to the curl flux. This can sustain an endless evolution that does not lead to areas of higher
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Contact: Catherine Meyers
cmeyers@aip.org
301-209-3088
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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