derek ruths || network dynamics

TEDxMcGill: Spoons, Cancer, and Civilization

This past Saturday, I had the amazing opportunity to speak at TEDxMcGill 2010. Much like the now-famous TED talks, this event was organized around an afternoon of 10-18 minute talks delving into “ideas worth spreading.”

In my talk, I discussed what spoons, cancer cells, Ancient Roman roads, and online social networks all share in common: their structure tells us a lot about their function. Pulling together a number of my lab’s research topics, I showed how we can make surprisingly good predictions about how cells, societies, and economies will behave even when we have relatively little knowledge about how they work. Knowing only the composition (the parts that compose a system) and the structure (the way those parts are connected), we can learn a lot about a complex system.

On Saturday, I discussed how, using only structure, we can predict the effect of drugs on cancer cells (via biochemical network structure), discover many of the political, economic, and cultural entities that operated within the Ancient Roman Empire (via road structure), and learn how people form relationships (via online social network structure).

For those of you who weren’t able to attend or watch the event online, videos should be up soon. Keep checking back as I’ll post a link to my talk once it’s up.

Update: You can now watch the talk online.


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