News and events

A biological paradox offers new insights into the mystery of cancer

December 22, 2021

The cells in the body can be thought of as tiny archery targets, each vulnerable to the deadly arrow of cancer.  The more cells a given animal has and the longer it lives, the greater its odds of accumulating harmful cell mutations that can eventually lead to cancer. Or at least, this is what intuition suggests. Nevertheless, many very large animals bearing huge cell populations, including elephants and whales, not only survive to old age, but have remarkably low rates of cancer. This...

Microorganism sheds new light on cancer resistance

December 20, 2021

   A simple, marine-dwelling creature known as Trichoplax adhaerens has some remarkable properties. The organism can tolerate unusually high doses of radiation that would kill most other forms of life. T. adhaerens has another intriguing characteristic: the ability to resist cancer. In a new study, Angelo Fortunato and his colleagues describe T. adhaerens’ unusual behavior, including its capacity to repair its DNA even after significant radiation damage and to...

Computing scenarios for defusing polarized politics

December 17, 2021

Opposites may attract when it comes to personal relationships. In political affairs today, however, that claim is becoming more difficult to assert.   New research shows that common ground is shrinking in politics, and people on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum are more entrenched in their divergent positions than at any time in recent history.   Those conclusions are derived not only from results of traditional opinion polls — in this era of big data and...

Helping each other to avoid and recover from disaster

May 30, 2021

What can we learn from developing societies around the world about mitigating risk and sharing resources during a disaster? When disasters happen, we often have to rely on others to help us get through. In our modern world, many of us rely on commercial insurance that we buy through the market to manage our risk. But managing risk is an ancient human practice — one that has roots going far back in our evolutionary history. We can catch a glimpse of these fundamentally human risk management...

Greater than the sum of its parts

April 29, 2021

ASU engineers develop new ways to 'program' self-organizing systems Some things seem to happen without direction. Fish form schools to deter predators and ants form rafts to survive floods. These emergent group behaviors have long been the focus of research in biological science, but they are inspiring new work in computing and robotics. Members of the Biodesign Center Biocomputing, Security and Engineering Andréa Richa, a professor of computer science in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of...

Message in a bottle: Info-rich bubbles respond to antibiotics

January 20, 2021

Once regarded as merely cast-off waste products of cellular life, bacterial membrane vesicles (MVs) have since become an exciting new avenue of research, due to the wealth of biological information they carry to other bacteria as well as other cell types. These tiny particles, produced by most bacteria, can bud off from outer cellular membranes, travelling along cell surfaces and occasionally migrating into intercellular spaces. In a new study, Luis H. Cisneros and his colleagues describe...

Cyber-evolution: How computer science is harnessing the power of Darwinian transformation

January 18, 2021

From a pair of simple principles of evolution—chance mutation and natural selection—nature has constructed an almost unfathomable richness of life around us. Despite our scientific sophistication, human design and engineering have struggled to emulate nature’s techniques and her inexhaustible inventiveness. But that may be changing. In a new perspective article, Stephanie Forrest and Risto Miikkulainen explore a domain known as evolutionary computation (EC), in which aspects of...

How and why microbes promote and protect against stress

December 18, 2020

More than half of the human body is not actually human: The body hosts approximately 100 trillion microbes. These bacteria, yeast and viruses, which make up the human microbiome, affect more than physical health. They also influence behavior and emotions. Some microbes prosper when the body is under stress, while other microbes contribute to buffering the body against stress. Athena Aktipis, associate professor of psychology in the Biodesign Center Biocomputing, Security and Society at...

Forrest featured on AI podcast

September 29, 2020

The Pulse of AI Podcast host Jason Stoughton spoke with Stephanie Forrest and Risto Miikkulainen about evolutionary artificial intelligence. The podcast walks listeners through what evolutionary AI is, how it is used and the challenges and opportunities it offers. The podcast episode is titled “Deep Dive into Evolutionary AI.” Forrest, director of the Biodesign Center of Biocomputing, Security and Society, is an expert on biological computation, including work on computational...

Privacy and the Pandemic, Insights from Complexity Science

September 29, 2020

Stephanie Forrest presented on complexity, privacy and the pandemic to the Applied Complexity Network, a collaboration group of firms, governments and nonprofit organizations facilitated by the Santa Fe Institute. In this July talk, Forrest, who is the director of the Biodesign Center for Biocomputing, Security and Society, discussed how biological mechanisms can inspire and inform computer algorithms that help us address privacy concerns, such as those that arise in a...