Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Survival of the fittest' now applies to computers: Surprising similarities found between genetic and computer codes

Date:
April 16, 2013
Source:
Stony Brook University
Summary:
"Survival of the fittest" originally referred to natural selection in biological systems, but new research shows that this evolutionary theory also applies to technological systems.

The package dependency network of Firefox shows the complex nature of technological systems.
Credit: Dependency network of Firefox from Ubuntu Linux. Image created with the software Cytoscape. Courtesy of Tin Yau Pang.

"Survival of the fittest" originally referred to natural selection in biological systems, but new research from Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University scientists shows that this evolutionary theory also applies to technological systems.

Related Articles


Computational biologist Sergei Maslov, a research staff member in Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), holding appointments with Stony Brook University's Department of Physics and Astronomy and Laufer Center for Physical and Quantitative Biology, worked with Tin Yau Pang, a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Stony Brook, to compare the frequency with which components "survive" in two complex systems: bacterial genomes and operating systems on Linux computers. Their work, "Universal distribution of component frequencies in biological and technological systems," was published in the April 9 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Maslov, who received his PhD in Physics from Stony Brook in 1996, discussed the discovery on NPR's Marketplace Tech.

Maslov and Pang set out to determine not only why some specialized genes or computer programs are very common while others are fairly rare, but to see how many components in any system are so important that they can't be eliminated.

"If a bacteria genome doesn't have a particular gene, it will be dead on arrival," Maslov said. "How many of those genes are there? The same goes for large software systems. They have multiple components that work together and the systems require just the right components working together to thrive.'"

Using data from the massive sequencing of bacterial genomes, now a part of the Department of Energy's Systems Biology Knowledgebase (KBase), the researchers examined the frequency of occurrence of genes in genomes of 500 bacterial species and found a surprising similarity with the frequency of installation of 200,000 Linux packages on more than 2 million individual computers. Linux is an open source software collaboration that allows designers to modify source code to create programs for public use.

The most frequently used components in both the biological and computer systems are those that allow for the most descendants. That is, the more a component is relied upon by others, the more likely it is to be required for full functionality of a system.

It may seem logical, but the surprising part of this finding is how universal it is.

"It is almost expected that the frequency of usage of any component is correlated with how many other components depend on it," said Maslov. "But we found that we can determine the number of crucial components -- those without which other components couldn't function -- by a simple calculation that holds true both in biological systems and computer systems."

For both the bacteria and the computing systems, take the square root of the interdependent components and you can find the number of key components that are so important that not a single other piece can get by without them.

The finding applies equally to these complex networks because they are both examples of open access systems with components that are independently installed.

"Bacteria are the ultimate BitTorrents of biology," he said, referring to a popular file-sharing protocol. "They have this enormous common pool of genes that they are freely sharing with each other. Bacterial systems can easily add or remove genes from their genomes through what's called horizontal gene transfer, a kind of file sharing between bacteria," Maslov said.

The same goes for Linux operating systems, which allow free installation of components built and shared by a multitude of designers independently of one another. The theory wouldn't hold true for, say, a Windows operating system, which only runs proprietary programs.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stony Brook University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. Y. Pang, S. Maslov. Universal distribution of component frequencies in biological and technological systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; 110 (15): 6235 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1217795110

Cite This Page:

Stony Brook University. "'Survival of the fittest' now applies to computers: Surprising similarities found between genetic and computer codes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130416171631.htm>.
Stony Brook University. (2013, April 16). 'Survival of the fittest' now applies to computers: Surprising similarities found between genetic and computer codes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130416171631.htm
Stony Brook University. "'Survival of the fittest' now applies to computers: Surprising similarities found between genetic and computer codes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130416171631.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

AFP (Nov. 25, 2014) Phnom Penh's only working elephant was blessed by a crowd of chanting Buddhist monks Tuesday as she prepared for a life of comfortable jungle retirement after three decades of giving rides to tourists. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Buzz60 (Nov. 24, 2014) A Swedish Adventure racing team travels to try and win a world title, but comes home with something way better: a stray dog that joined the team for much of the grueling 430-mile race. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins