Stochastic Turing patterns in the biosphere: from brains to biofilms

Why are the patterns of plankton in the ocean so patchy? Why do frequently described geometrical hallucinations tend to fall into one of four different classes of pattern? Why don't we see hallucinations all the time? And why do populations in ecosystems tend to have noisy cycles in abundance? This talk explains how these phenomena all arise from the discreteness of the underlying entities, be they the on-off states of neurons or the numbers of bacteria in a fluid volume of ocean, or the number of signaling molecules in a biofilm. I explain how tools from statistical mechanics can yield insights into these phenomena, and report on a range of studies that include the operation of the primate visual cortex, the behavior of signaling molecules in a forward-engineered synthetic biofilm, and the fluctuating patterns and populations of marine organisms.

Nigel Goldenfeld holds a Swanlund Endowed Chair and is a Center for Advanced Study Professor in Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He is the Director of the NASA AstrobiologyInstitute for Universal Biology at UIUC, and leads the Biocomplexity Group at the University's Institute for Genomic Biology. Nigel received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1982, and after a postdoc position in Santa Barbara joined the Illinois faculty in 1985.  He has made important contributions to many aspects of the science of complex systems in diverse contexts.  In 1996, Nigel co-founded NumeriX, a company that specializes in high-performance software for the derivatives marketplace.  Nigel is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

All are welcome!  Refreshments will be served in the NBIA lounge after the talk.