Self-Organization in Biological Systems

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heinrich-valentin toegel
March 1, 2016
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majorka
September 19, 2002
Many books containing theory upon theory about self-organization in the biosphere have appeared in recent years. This book could be an important catalyst towards putting more of these theories to the test. While it has long been recognized that self-organization could be important in biological systems, many of these studies are computational models only. Many are very convincing, but unless steps are taken towards verifying these models and scrutinizing their validity, it is very difficult to know whether the theories have any real value towards understanding real life.
The strenght of this book lies in its rigorous introductions to the relevant theoretical concepts in self-organization, followed up by a general debate of self-organization versus competing explanations. The book spends many chapters looking at particular natural phenomena in detail, and examines possibilities for self-organization in these. In spite of the fact that these chapters have different authors, they follow each other well. The book is unusually well put together for this kind of collection of works by multiple authors.
The majority of the case study chapters involve studies of social insects, which narrows the topic a little in comparison with the more ambitious title. Self-organization also occurs elsewhere in biology, and personally I am a little dissapointed that a wider range of case studies were not chosen for the book. This could have spawned more interest and further work in other areas of the field.
However, the book is definitely well worth reading for biologists and other scientists interested in self-organization, and represents a major step towards establishing studies of self-organization in biology as a serious field.