Viewport width =
September 14, 2009 | by  | in News |
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Biologists discover mathematics, plan to save species from imminent extinction

Possibilities of what biologists could achieve if they discover physics mind-boggling

The algorithm used by Google to rank web pages could be used to order an ecosystem’s species to help analyse the consequences of their extinction.

That was the conclusion of American scientists Stefano Allensina and Mercedes Pascual in a paper they published earlier this month in journal PLoS Computational Biology.

The Google algorithm, PageRank, ranks the importance of web pages on the basis of the number and importance of other web pages that link to it.

PageRank underlies Google’s eponymous search engine.

Allensia and Pascual were inspired by PageRank to develop a similar algorithm, which ranks a species’ importance to the survival of other species in an ecosystem on the basis of the number and importance of other species it “points” to in the system’s food-web.

This information could then be used to help forecast the effects of a species’ extinction on the extinction risk of other species.

In their paper, Googling Food Webs, Allensia and Pascual explain that “consequences of species losses such as secondary extinctions are difficult to forecast because species are not isolated, but interact instead in a complex network of ecological relationships,” and note this is a “pressing problem given current human impacts on the planet”.

Upon learning of the paper, geeky website promptly exploded with snarky comments that the PageRank’s only relevance to the biologists’ algorithm is that, like PageRank, it is an application of a Markov process—which mathematicians have known about for ages.

Salient thinks the slashdot-ers are just jealous that they haven’t written a paper that made the front page of the BBC News website (or the pages of Salient).

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.

Recent posts

  1. Cuttin’ it with with Miss June
  2. SWAT
  3. Ravished by the Living Embodiment of All Our University Woes
  4. New Zealand’s First Rainbow Crossing is Here (and Queer)
  5. Chloe Has a Yarn About Mental Health
  6. “Stick with Vic” Makes “Insulting” and “Upsetting” Comments
  7. Presidential Address
  8. Final Review
  9. Tears Fall, and Sea Levels Rise
  10. It’s Fall in my Heart

Editor's Pick

This Ain’t a Scene it’s a Goddamned Arm Wrestle

: Interior – Industrial Soviet Beerhall – Night It was late November and cold as hell when I stumbled into the Zhiguli Beer Hall. I was in Moscow, about to take the trans-Mongolian rail line to Beijing, and after finding someone in my hostel who could speak English, had decided