The trick is not to label your axes too much

Some notes:

  • There are some great videos on swarming behaviour of animals. Here are just two quick examples: a starling murmuration and a school of tuna.
  • Segmentation stripes are formed in the first hours of a fly’s development. They are the molecular markers that give rise to the actual body segments of a fly.
  • More generally speaking, early development in the fruit fly (official species name Drosophila melanogaster) is a well-studied topic. See for instance this beautiful video and check out this “cyberspace guide”.
  • Paulien Hogeweg already mentioned this challenge of understanding how complex rules generate complex dynamics several years ago as we were chatting.
  • The figure was made with Matplotlib using the XKCD look.


  1. antonc

    What: many biological systems seem complicated in their dynamics. Take gastrulation, formation of the brain, evolution of the uterus, gain and loss of memory, courtship behaviour, etc. Yet I would not know if any of these fall within the upper right corner as we do not yet know the rules 😉 Perhaps eukaryotic gene regulation is an example of the upper-right corner?

    How: we’ll need many approaches, both experimental and theoretical, to give us different views on a system of interest. I would advocate to use or develop your method according to the research questions one has—and not to fall into the trap of “if all you have is a hammer, everything will look like a nail”.

    Great question, thanks!

  2. Renske

    Hey Anton,

    Nice blog!
    Do you have any idea yet on what to tackle in the upper right corner, and how?

    Cheers 😉

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