IBM TCG Visit and Cambridge Networks Network

Jon $

The last couple of days were busy - IBM visited en masse and their Technical consulting group of around 50 people showed up (in CMS) to talk about   various interesting topics - for me, the best one was a talk about financial service industry regulatory controls through risk data sharing (via a third party - a sort of nuclear test ban treaty assurance service) - very neat - lots of other good topics - Rolls Royce were also there - amusingly, IBM complimented Rolls on their reliable history (compared with the Software Industry) - i didn't feel it fair to mention the RB211 or the recent A380 shattered turbine:)


More locally crucual was the kickoff meeting of the Cambridge Networks Network - see for more info - the

This kickoff was to setup a cross group, grass roots movement to join up various people in systems biology, brain mapping, economics, eplidemiology (including plant sciences) and others to share common knowledge and methods/techniques for studying complex networked systems with interesting (e.g. emergent) phenomena - the kickoff was amibitious with talked from 5 people supposed to be 10 mins each (averaging 20 mins:)


some ideas i thought of while listening


1. weak ties (long links) in modular systems (social nets, the brain, the internet) serve the same purpose as random perturbations (like mutation) does in optimisation tools (like Genetic Algorithms or Simulated Annealing) - to get you out of local minima:- most GAs work by cross-over which implements parallel search in local areas of a fitness landscape (since similar genes share / cross over/breed and are succesful or not similarly) - I wonder if there is any literature on how graphs have a small (but non zero) fraction of "escape routes" from the highly interconnected/modular/cliqueish structure of a small world are slightyly more robust than purely hierarchical modular ones???


2nd thought was about epidemics (and economics) - the Vickers report on the banking sectore is basically quarantining domestic banks (building socieities) from the high risk (prostitution and drug user/gambling/casino) banking sector. on the other hand, sharing information problemly (see Efficient Markets) would also work (see IBM work above)


The difference is that a structural regulation is much easier to implement than a big bang transparent information regime. maybe we do one now, the other later - who knows?


The talk on Citrus Blight in Miami lemon trees was fun - reminded me plants (genetically) are a lot easier than animals (c.f. fluphone:)


The map of spread of the blight looked really like the map of the nuclear tests recently shown on youtube (see

for that (esp. for Anil:)


One nice name check was the work on neural structures and VLSI that showed Rent's Law applies to both - cute (but should we add weak ties to our multicore systems - one for Steve Furber maybe?)


Anyhow, this looks like a very good (young, active, enthusiastic, smart) initiative - they will be having a bi-weekly seminar series starting pretty soon - probably coordinated with the statslab's networking series....

(for people too young to recall, Rolls Royce actually went bankrupt in the 1970s trying to make carbon fiber turbine blades work - in the end, a government bailout fixed it, and they are ok - the problem they hit was the fibers in the original blades weren't knit in enough different directions - a prob,lem shared with the fiberglass bodywork o nthe Reliant Scimitar (and robin) which would shatter under fairly light impact into lots of dangeous shards. The solution is to sew 3 dimensions of fiber (much more expensve/complex, but immesnly strong, but also tunable for different flexibility in any given dimension) into the matrix - the recent A380 engine problem wasnt design, but manufacturing process...