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Replicators: applications in pre-biotic evolution and language

Grant number: 04/06156-3
Support type:Research Projects - Thematic Grants
Duration: September 01, 2004 - August 31, 2009
Field of knowledge:Physical Sciences and Mathematics - Physics - Condensed Matter Physics
Principal Investigator:José Fernando Fontanari
Grantee:José Fernando Fontanari
Home Institution: Instituto de Física de São Carlos (IFSC). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Carlos , SP, Brazil


One of the most original and controversial ideas in science is probably the suggestion that much of the complexity one associates to life and human behavior results from the non-planned action of replicators. By replicator we mean an entity (genes in the biological case and ideas or memes in the cultural case) capable of self-replication, provided the necessary conditions for that are met. A crucial, though very restrictive, feature of replicators is that their offspring, whether perfect or not, are also endowed with the property of self-replication. This is an essential pre-requisite for the operation of the organizing principle of evolution by natural selection. Our proposal is to study the emergence and evolution of replicators in two cases of great importance to several branches of science: pre-biotic evolution (origin of life) and language evolution. The unifying concept of replicator allows us to apply essentially the same mathematical framework to describe, as well as tools to analyze, these apparently very distinct phenomena. Analytical methods from the statistical mechanics of disordered systems (e.g., the replica trick and the counting of metastable states), branching process theory and dynamic systems theory are tools that are frequently used in the characterization of the stationary states of the replicator dynamics. In the context of language evolution, our main goal is to understand how the sensorial and computational capabilities of the agents determine and limit the structure and potential of the emergent language. As for the pre-biotic evolution context, we plan to focus mainly on the emergence of metabolisms through the numerical study of an artificial chemistry, this being a first-principle approach to the origin of replicators, considered by many researchers as the most fundamental event in the history of life. In addition to these admittedly ambitious goals that serve mostly to provide the directions of the research, we will address several other issues such as the accumulation of mutations in microbial populations, the coexistence of distinct molecular species and the formulation of a stochastic model for the evolution of language. (AU)

Scientific publications (8)
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
BARBOSA, LAURO A.; FONTANARI, JOSE F. Culture-area relation in Axelrod's model for culture dissemination. THEORY IN BIOSCIENCES, v. 128, n. 4, p. 205-210, NOV 2009. Web of Science Citations: 19.
FERREIRA, ANDERSON A.; FONTANARI, JOSE F. The n-site approximation for the triplet-creation model. Journal of Physics A-Mathematical and Theoretical, v. 42, n. 8 FEB 27 2009. Web of Science Citations: 4.
FONTANARI‚ J.F.; TIKHANOFF‚ V.; CANGELOSI‚ A.; ILIN‚ R.; PERLOVSKY‚ L.I. Cross-situational learning of object-word mapping using Neural Modeling Fields. NEURAL NETWORKS, v. 22, n. 5, p. 579-585, 2009.
SAAKIAN, DAVID B.; FONTANARI, JOSE F. Evolutionary dynamics on rugged fitness landscapes: Exact dynamics and information theoretical aspects. Physical Review E, v. 80, n. 4, 1, p. 041903, 2009. Web of Science Citations: 16.
SILVESTRE, DANIEL A. M. M.; FONTANARI, JOSE F. The information capacity of hypercycles. Journal of Theoretical Biology, v. 254, n. 4, p. 804-806, OCT 21 2008. Web of Science Citations: 13.
FONTANARI‚ J.F.; PERLOVSKY‚ L.I. How language can help discrimination in the Neural Modelling Fields framework. NEURAL NETWORKS, v. 21, n. 2, p. 250-256, 2008.
SILVESTRE‚ D.A.M.M.; FONTANARI‚ J.F. Preservation of information in a prebiotic package model. Physical Review E, v. 75, n. 5, p. 051909, 2007.
PODEROSO‚ F.C.; FONTANARI‚ J.F. Controlling species richness in spin-glass model ecosystems. Physical Review E, v. 74, n. 5, p. 051919, 2006.

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