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Scientists: Biology needs a mathematical theory

Biology needs a mathematical theory Scientists have been rallied to do research in the area

We are in need of a theory which describes the biological processes in living organisms. That was the main conclusion drawn during the 1st Annual Conference on Integral Biomathics, Stirling University, Scotland (ACIB’2011) held at the end of August. The conference was organised by the EC funded project INBIOSA (www.inbiosa.eu). The commonly acknowledged opinion is that the problem of modern-day biological science is the absence of a unified theory. Dr. Plamen L. Simeonov (JSRC, Germany), coordinator of the project, commented: “Until now an enormous amount of data has been collected in the science of life, but that data alone doesn’t make a theory. The time is ripe for the establishment of a research program in the area which will support and eventually lead to the creation of a new biological theory.” The laws and methods of physics cannot be unconditionally applied to the biological sciences due to the inconsistency of the systems in biology, and more generally to the differences in nature of the subjects studied by these two scientific disciplines. A new type of super-mathematics, unifying and extending diverse fields of mathematics to tackle biological problems is necessary, according to the attending the conference scientists. “We need a mathematics that can describe such an ever-changing, indeterminate, yet persistent “thing” , including how it maintains its “identity” within certain boundary conditions, yet ceases to function outside of those boundaries. Such an emergent, developmental and evolutionary mathematics does not exist“, is the opinion of the scientists. “Equations of motion for biological system may not be appropriate. We should seek rules of organisation for living systems, and also rules of organisation for neural systems“, commented Prof. Leslie S. Smith, University of Stirling, UK, co-investigator on the project and organizer of the Stirling conference. “There may be generalizations of logic which include stochasticity. Further, we should also consider generalizations of information and information theory which might be more appropriate for living systems”, he added. In contrast to the classical science, which is based on the externalist approach (or third person descriptions) in most of its areas, we also need to adopt the internalist approach (first person descriptions) when dealing with biological problems. “We should consider time, and also versions of central pattern generators that apply to cognitive (rather than motor) systems”, is one of the conclusions the scientists reached. There is great interest in the topics underlying the INBIOSA project and the problems it tackles are gaining popularity. That is also shown by the results and discussions from the two workshops that were carried out: International Workshop on Integral Biomathics (iBioMath’11-US), San Jose, California, USA, in conjunction with the 2011 International Joint Conference on Neural Networks, IJCNN 2011; and International Workshop on Integral Biomathics (iBioMath’11-EU), Paris, France, in conjunction with the European Conference on Artificial Life ECAL 11 “Back to the Origins of Alife”, as well as the Stirling conference ACIB’2011. The workshops and the conference brought together well known scientists from a number of fields among which were Dan Levine, Ralph Abrahams (one of the founders of chaos theory), Paul Bourgine, Barry McMullin, Steen Rasmussen, Brian Josephson (Nobel prizewinner in physics), Ron Cottam, Felix Hong and Koichiro Matsuno as well as other pioneers. About Integral Biomathics: Integral Biomathics is envisioned to discover and establish new relationships and deliver new insights into the interaction and interdependence between natural and artificial (human-created) phenomena for a number of scientific fields. It is expected to invent and develop new mathematical formalisms and provide a generalized framework and ecology for research in life, physical, social and engineering sciences. About INBIOSA The INBIOSA Project was launched in January 2011 with the support of the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme. The project will continue until the end of December 2011. The project investigators are Dr. Plamen L. Simeonov (JSRC, Germany) and Professor Leslie S. Smith (University of Stirling, UK). INBIOSA aims to identify new research topics and to assess emerging global S&T trends in ICT for future FET Proactive initiatives. The project’s base is a long-term fundamental research programme in mathematics, systems biology and computation called Integral Biomathics.