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Nicolas Perony: Puppies! Now that Iíve got your attention, complexity theory

Nicolas Perony

 

Animal behavior isn't complicated, but it is complex. Nicolas Perony studies how individual animals -- be they Scottish Terriers, bats or meerkats -- follow simple rules that, collectively, create larger patterns of behavior. And how this complexity born of simplicity can help them adapt to new circumstances, as they arise.

Nicolas Perony models the movement of animal groups to understand: what is the individual behavior that guides the behavior of the larger society?

Nicolas Perony started his career as a roboticist. But after one of his robots -- which was designed to follow a white line -- destroyed itself because of a lighting snafu on demo day, he realized that he was less interested in creating complicated robots and more interested in studying the complexity that already exists out there in the animal kingdom. He quickly changed course and is now a quantitative scientist at the Chair of Systems Design at ETH Zurich, where he studies the structure and dynamics of animal societies.

Perony conducts his research by placing GPS collars on animals like Bechstein's bats and meerkats, and studying the spacial data of the group. He creates models of the movement over time to see patterns. He then tries to ascertain at the simple rules that individuals in the animal group seem to be following that, when done en masse, result in the larger flow. In other words, he looks at the underlying mechanics that lead to the collective movement of animal groups.

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  Deborah Gordon: The emergent genius of ant colonies
With a dusty backhoe, a handful of Japanese paint markers and a few students in tow, Deborah Gordon digs up ant colonies in the Arizona desert to understand their complex social system. By studying how ant colonies work without any one leader, Deborah Gordon has identified striking similarities in how ant colonies, brains, cells and computer networks regulate themselves.
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Sonia Shah: 3 reasons we still havenít gotten rid of malaria

Weíve known how to cure malaria since the 1600s, so why does the disease still kill hundreds of thousands every year? Itís more than just a problem of medicine, says journalist Sonia Shah. A look into the history of malaria reveals three big-picture challenges to its eradication.

 
  Chris McKnett: The investment logic for sustainability
 
Sustainability is pretty clearly one of the world's most important goals; but what groups can really make environmental progress in leaps and bounds? Chris McKnett makes the case that it's large institutional investors. He shows how strong financial data isn't enough, and reveals why investors need to look at a company's environmental, social and governance structures, too.
 

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  Andreas Raptopoulos: No roads? Thereís a drone for that
A billion people in the world lack access to all-season roads. Could the structure of the internet provide a model for how to reach them? Andreas Raptopoulos of Matternet thinks so. He introduces a new type of transportation system that uses electric autonomous flying machines to deliver medicine, food, goods and supplies wherever they are needed.
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