Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Many Faces of Darwin

Darwin pops up in some surprising places. I have a friend who is trying to use evolution to take a fresh look at the development of character and plot in works of literature, as well as general cultural development in societies. The big name in literary Darwinism is, apparently, Joseph Carroll, although there are others who are working on similar ideas. It is, of course, a metaphor, but it can be an instructive one. After all, all art, and all interpretation of art, is ultimately just a new way of describing or understanding something.

Mathematics has also found a use for evolution. Many areas of mathematics and engineering now use heuristic algorithms to create or solve complex non-linear models for certain values. These now include Genetic Algorithms, which use iterations called generations and parameters called chromosomes, which are retained or rejected for subsequent generations according to their fitness with the constraints of the model. Another metaphor, but a rather good one.

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