Bioinformatics Research Professor Position at UNAM

The Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en Sistemas (IIMAS) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) has an open call for a research professor position in bioinformatics. This position, aimed consists of renewable one-year contracts with the possibility of tenure after three years.

The aim of these positions is to create a research group in the new campus of UNAM in Mérida, Yucatán, part of the Science and Technology Park of Yucatán.

Application deadline: October 12, 2015.

More details (in Spanish) at this link.


Paper published: Urban Transfer Entropy across Scales

The morphology of urban agglomeration is studied here in the context of information exchange between different spatio-temporal scales. Urban migration to and from cities is characterised as non-random and following non-random pathways. Cities are multidimensional non-linear phenomena, so understanding the relationships and connectivity between scales is important in determining how the interplay of local/regional urban policies may affect the distribution of urban settlements. In order to quantify these relationships, we follow an information theoretic approach using the concept of Transfer Entropy. Our analysis is based on a stochastic urban fractal model, which mimics urban growing settlements and migration waves. The results indicate how different policies could affect urban morphology in terms of the information generated across geographical scales.

Murcio R, Morphet R, Gershenson C, Batty M (2015) Urban Transfer Entropy across Scales. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0133780. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133780 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0133780


Paper published: Measuring the complexity of adaptive peer-to-peer systems

To improve the efficiency of peer-to-peer (P2P) systems while adapting to changing environmental conditions, static peer-to-peer protocols can be replaced by adaptive plans. The resulting systems are inherently complex, which makes their development and characterization a challenge for traditional methods. Here we propose the design and analysis of adaptive P2P systems using measures of complexity, emergence, self-organization, and homeostasis based on information theory. These measures allow the evaluation of adaptive P2P systems and thus can be used to guide their design. We evaluate the proposal with a P2P computing system provided with adaptation mechanisms. We show the evolution of the system with static and also changing workload, using different fitness functions. When the adaptive plan forces the system to converge to a predefined performance level, the nodes may result in highly unstable configurations, which correspond to a high variance in time of the measured complexity. Conversely, if the adaptive plan is less “aggressive”, the system may be more stable, but the optimal performance may not be achieved.

Measuring the complexity of adaptive peer-to-peer systems
Michele Amoretti, Carlos Gershenson
Peer-to-Peer Networking and Applications


New draft: When slower is faster

The slower is faster (SIF) effect occurs when a system performs worse when its components try to be better. Thus, a moderate individual efficiency actually leads to a better systemic performance. The SIF effect takes place in a variety of phenomena. We review studies and examples of the SIF effect in pedestrian dynamics, vehicle traffic, traffic light control, logistics, public transport, social dynamics, ecological systems, and adaptation. Drawing on these examples we generalize common features of the SIF effect and suggest possible future lines of research.

When slower is faster
Carlos Gershenson, Dirk Helbing


Five postdoctoral fellowships in complex systems, UNAM

As a part of the consolidation of the National Laboratory of Complexity, the Center for Complexity Science of the National Autonomous University of Mexico is seeking outstanding candidates for five one year postdoctoral positions beginning in August, 2015. Research plans from all areas related to complex systems are encouraged.

Please send CV and research plan to cgg [at] unam.mx before June 10th.

//Please forward to whom may be interested.


New paper: Rank Diversity of Languages: Generic Behavior in Computational Linguistics

Statistical studies of languages have focused on the rank-frequency distribution of words. Instead, we introduce here a measure of how word ranks change in time and call this distribution rank diversity. We calculate this diversity for books published in six European languages since 1800, and find that it follows a universal lognormal distribution. Based on the mean and standard deviation associated with the lognormal distribution, we define three different word regimes of languages: “heads” consist of words which almost do not change their rank in time, “bodies” are words of general use, while “tails” are comprised by context-specific words and vary their rank considerably in time. The heads and bodies reflect the size of language cores identified by linguists for basic communication. We propose a Gaussian random walk model which reproduces the rank variation of words in time and thus the diversity. Rank diversity of words can be understood as the result of random variations in rank, where the size of the variation depends on the rank itself. We find that the core size is similar for all languages studied.

Cocho G, Flores J, Gershenson C, Pineda C, Sánchez S (2015) Rank Diversity of Languages: Generic Behavior in Computational Linguistics. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0121898. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121898

This is the first publication of an ongoing collaboration with colleagues from the Physics Institute at UNAM, there is more in the works... It has been a pleasure working with them.


Two Research Professor Positions at UNAM: Bioinformatics and Signal Processing

The Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en Sistemas (IIMAS) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) has open calls for research professor positions in bioinformatics and signal processing. This position, aimed consists of renewable one-year contracts with the possibility of tenure after three years.

The aim of these positions is to create a research group in the new campus of UNAM in Mérida, Yucatán, part of the Science and Technology Park of Yucatán.

Application deadline: April 21st.

More details (in Spanish) at the links in bold above.


Why so many Mexicans want the president to resign?

I do not think that the resignation of our president Enrique Peña Nieto would be positive in the short term. Instability probably would increase. But I want to share why so many people are asking for his resignation, also because the news are not even reaching the majority of the Mexican population.

Peña had a controversial campaign, with thousands of reported electoral irregularities . After two years in office, the violence in the country continues, and many other promises are still to be materialized.

But all this is normal Mexican politics. Previous presidents in similar situations have not met such a rejection from the national and international communities.

The straw that broke the camel's back was the dissapearance and possible murder of 43 students in the village of Ayotzinapa, in the southern state of Guerrro (Acapulco is also in that state, and was last year the 3rd most violent city in the world). The students were intecepted by the local police, there were 6 killed and 25 injured survivors. It seems that the former mayor, his wife, and the head of police were involved. They fled, were arrested a month later, but investigations are still underway.
This occurred already two months ago. The governor resigned, the president has made some declarations, but there is still huge discontent, represented in social media by the hashtag #YaMeCanse https://twitter.com/hashtag/yamecanse (IAmAlreadyTired)

On november 20th, anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, there were worldwide demonstrations. In Mexico City's main square, 11 people were arrested and have been treated as terrorists. There have been further demonstrations demanding the release of the 11 arrested.

To add insult to injury, there has been a huge scandal about a $7 million house, allegedly to the name of the president’s wife Angélica Rivera (former soap opera actress) with indicators that it was acquired with deviated public money. No investigations of course, just a video declaration which has been already used to teach how to detect when people are lying.

Perhaps the main problem is that the government, trying to control some of the media, has not made explicit declarations about what is going on. So rumors spread easily and people don't know what to believe. This lack of credibility of the Mexican government has been highlighted by major international media, while the future of the country lies in uncertainty.


Winners of the Audi Urban Future Award 2014

On November 10th, a day after the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, our team Living Mobilities from Mexico City was declared winner of the third edition of the Audi Urban Future Award. Together with José Castillo (team leader, watch the video from his final presentation) from Arquitectura 911 and Gabriella Gómez-Mont from the Laboratorio para la Ciudad, we were proud and delighted to be declared winners by an international jury, considering the great proposals presented by the teams from Berlin, Boston, and Seoul.

Our project proposes to create a new social contract, assisted by technology, to improve mobility not only in terms of efficiency, but also in terms of quality of life. This focusses on Mexico City, but has the potential to be extended to other megacities in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. We have a big city with small data, so we aimed at coordinating government, institutions, companies, and individuals to become "data donors". We've had considerable success, and with this opportunity we will extend our partnerships and to offer benefits, in particular to data donors, in general to the city.

The competition was very tight. Perhaps what inclined the balance in our favor was the timescale. Even when some aspects are futuristic, we arleady began implementing some of our proposals, so the impact can be much more immediate.

I am very grateful for this opportunity, for being able to participate and collaborate with a great multidisciplinary team of highly talented people. Apart from José and Gabriella, I am grateful to Mónica Arzoz, Roberto Ascencio, Stalin Muñoz, Daniel Pérez Tello, Christopher Chávez, Ricardo Mansilla, Humberto Del Ángel, Francisco Botello, José Luis Chávez, Luis Alberto Ceja. Josué López, Jaime López, Keylin Ortiz, and Jorge Tinoco. I am also grateful to the fruitful interactions with Christian Gärtner, Sophie Stigliano, Sara Mortarino, and the rest of the team at Stylepark, and also to Lisa Füting, Jutta Firsch, Annegret Maier, Rainer Stahlmann, and many other people at Audi with whom we had fruitful interactions.

OK, we won, now the hard work begins, as part of the prize involves extending the proposal into 2015. This will be an unique opportunity to explore ways in which we can improve cities, collaborating with many more partners.


Falling Walls

I was just in Berlin for the first time, for the Award Ceremony of the Audi Urban Future Award 2014 (which we won! But that will be the topic of another post). The organizers had the great idea to make the ceremony coincide with the Falling Walls Conference and the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Incidentally, just before I was in Ensenada for another conference, and on the way to Tijuana airport our hosts took us to the border wall by the sea. That is another city marked by a wall, which although permeable, it separates and divides people. So many touching stories you can hear, I've been reflecting these days how states decisions can affect so much the life of individuals. On the other hand, the fall of the wall is an example of how individuals can change states.

A photo posted by Carlos Gershenson (@cgershen) on

I met some Germans for the first time fifteen years ago, from my generation. Whenever there was mention about the war, I perceived shame in them, even when they were born long after it occurred. I was positively impressed by the speeches these days of Angela Merkel (Angie, as the locals call her... Did we ever had a political leader in Mexico called by a tender name? ) and the Mayor of Berlin. They reflect an acceptance of their history and legacy which is not shameful, nor proud, but now an example from which we can and should learn from.

In the night of the 9th, thousands of balloons placed where the old wall was were freed into the air, a "flying wall". If I undrstood properly the speech of the mayor, these balloons represent a message of hope from Berlin to the world, so that never again a regime opresses and separates people. Ironically, now there are many more walls in the world than when the one in Berlin fell 25 years ago, mainly to prevent immigration... Hopefully we will live to see most of them come down.
A photo posted by Carlos Gershenson (@cgershen) on
This reminds me of a thought which originated during a conversation with Stu Kauffman a few months ago: "Science is moving from trying to predict Nature to dominate it, to science as a means to understand Nature and take our place in the cosmos". It seems to me that building walls we are not assuming our place, but trying to impose our stiff ideas over others, and that breaks the natural order of things, which of course leads to suffering.