Connect Essays

Essays: Connections

In this focus

From cell biologists to quantum physicists, researchers are struggling to work out how systems involving large numbers of interacting entities work as a whole. In this collection of Essays, scientists explain how a systems approach, in parallel with the reductionism that dominated twentieth-century science, promises to yield fresh insight, and in some cases, to challenge the most widely held concepts of their field.

Image: Janusz Kapusta

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Making connections

A series of essays is launched in Nature.

Nature445, 340 (25 January 2007) doi:10.1038/445340a

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Essays: Connections

Biology's next revolution

The emerging picture of microbes as gene–swapping collectives demands a revision of such concepts as organism, species and evolution itself.
Nigel Goldenfeld and Carl Woese

Nature445, 369 (25 January 2007) doi:10.1038/445369a

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A twenty-first century science

If handled appropriately, data about Internet-based communication and interactivity could revolutionize our understanding of collective human behaviour.
Duncan J. Watts

Nature445, 489 (1 February 2007) doi:10.1038/445489a

Full Text | PDF (170KB)

A clash of two cultures

Physicists come from a tradition of looking for all-encompassing laws, but is this the best approach to use when probing complex biological systems?
Evelyn Fox Keller

Nature445, 603 (8 February 2007) doi:10.1038/445603a

Full Text | PDF (164KB)

Collective minds

By tapping into social cues, individuals in a group may gain access to higher-order computational capacities that mirror the group's responses to its environment.
Iain Couzin

Nature445, 715 (15 February 2007) doi:10.1038/445715a

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Bringing cartoons to life

To understand cells as dynamic systems, mathematical tools are needed to fill the gap between molecular interactions and physiological consequences.
John J. Tyson

Nature445, 823 (22 February 2007) doi:10.1038/445823a

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Protecting biostructure

Biodiversity researchers have focused on diversity at the cost of ignoring the networks of interactions between organisms that characterize ecosystems.
Kevin McCann

Nature446, 29 (1 March 2007) doi:10.1038/446029a

Full Text | PDF (136KB)

Control without hierarchy

Understanding how particular natural systems operate without central control will reveal whether such systems share general properties.
Deborah M. Gordon

Nature446, 143 (8 March 2007) doi:10.1038/446143a

Full Text | PDF (186KB)

The structure of consciousness

Subjective awareness may depend on neural networks in the brain supporting complex wiring schemes and dynamic patterns of activity.
György Buzsáki

Nature446, 267 (15 March 2007) doi:10.1038/446267a

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Frontier at your fingertips

Between the nano- and micrometre scales, the collective behaviour of matter can give rise to startling emergent properties that hint at the nexus between biology and physics.
Piers Coleman

Nature446, 379 (22 March 2007) doi:10.1038/446379a

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Simplicity in biology

Networks of interactions between thousands of molecules within cells seem to defy comprehension, but shared principles of design may simplify the picture.
Uri Alon

Nature446, 497 (29 March 2007) doi:10.1038/446497a

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Unity from conflict

Could the evolution of multicellular life have been fuelled by conflict among selective forces acting at different levels of organization?
Paul B. Rainey

Nature446, 616 (5 April 2007) doi:10.1038/446616a

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Capturing human behaviour

Understanding the dynamics of infectious-disease transmission demands a holistic approach, yet today's models largely ignore how epidemics change individual behaviour.
Neil Ferguson

Nature446, 733 (12 April 2007) doi:10.1038/446733a

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Rules of engagement

Complex engineered and biological systems share protocol-based architectures that make them robust and evolvable, but with hidden fragilities to rare perturbations.
John Doyle & Marie Csete

Nature446, 860 (19 April 2007) doi:10.1038/446860a

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Disappearing act

The bizarre absence of certain gene classes in eukaryotes is key to understanding their evolution and complex links with prokaryotes.
James A. Lake

Nature446, 983 (26 April 2007) doi:10.1038/446983a

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The best is yet to come

Optimality is a key organizing principle of science, but the patterns of connections within real-world networks do not always respect it.
Mark Buchanan

Nature447, 39 (3 May 2007) doi:10.1038/447039a

Full Text | PDF (196KB)

Kinds of minds

Do differences in history, culture and education influence whether scientists focus on pieces and particulars, or make broad connections?.
David Knight

Nature447, 149 (10 May 2007) doi:10.1038/447149a

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Contributors:Ryan Weber, Karl Stolley.

A discussion of transition strategies and specific transitional devices.

Writing Transitions

Good transitions can connect paragraphs and turn disconnected writing into a unified whole. Instead of treating paragraphs as separate ideas, transitions can help readers understand how paragraphs work together, reference one another, and build to a larger point. The key to producing good transitions is highlighting connections between corresponding paragraphs. By referencing in one paragraph the relevant material from previous paragraphs, writers can develop important points for their readers.

It is a good idea to continue one paragraph where another leaves off. (Instances where this is especially challenging may suggest that the paragraphs don't belong together at all.) Picking up key phrases from the previous paragraph and highlighting them in the next can create an obvious progression for readers. Many times, it only takes a few words to draw these connections. Instead of writing transitions that could connect any paragraph to any other paragraph, write a transition that could only connect one specific paragraph to another specific paragraph.

Example: Overall, Management Systems International has logged increased sales in every sector, leading to a significant rise in third-quarter profits.

Another important thing to note is that the corporation had expanded its international influence.

Revision: Overall, Management Systems International has logged increased sales in every sector, leading to a significant rise in third-quarter profits.

These impressive profits are largely due to the corporation's expanded international influence.

Example: Fearing for the loss of Danish lands, Christian IV signed the Treaty of Lubeck, effectively ending the Danish phase of the 30 Years War.

But then something else significant happened. The Swedish intervention began.

Revision: Fearing for the loss of more Danish lands, Christian IV signed the Treaty of Lubeck, effectively ending the Danish phase of the 30 Years War.

Shortly after Danish forces withdrew, the Swedish intervention began.

Example: Amy Tan became a famous author after her novel, The Joy Luck Club, skyrocketed up the bestseller list.

There are other things to note about Tan as well. Amy Tan also participates in the satirical garage band the Rock Bottom Remainders with Stephen King and Dave Barry.

Revision: Amy Tan became a famous author after her novel, The Joy Luck Club, skyrocketed up the bestseller list.

Though her fiction is well known, her work with the satirical garage band the Rock Bottom Remainders receives far less publicity.

Contributors:Ryan Weber, Karl Stolley.

A discussion of transition strategies and specific transitional devices.

Transitional Devices

Transitional devices are like bridges between parts of your paper. They are cues that help the reader to interpret ideas a paper develops. Transitional devices are words or phrases that help carry a thought from one sentence to another, from one idea to another, or from one paragraph to another. And finally, transitional devices link sentences and paragraphs together smoothly so that there are no abrupt jumps or breaks between ideas.

There are several types of transitional devices, and each category leads readers to make certain connections or assumptions. Some lead readers forward and imply the building of an idea or thought, while others make readers compare ideas or draw conclusions from the preceding thoughts.

Here is a list of some common transitional devices that can be used to cue readers in a given way.

To Add:

and, again, and then, besides, equally important, finally, further, furthermore, nor, too, next, lastly, what's more, moreover, in addition, first (second, etc.)

To Compare:

whereas, but, yet, on the other hand, however, nevertheless, on the contrary, by comparison, where, compared to, up against, balanced against, vis a vis, but, although, conversely, meanwhile, after all, in contrast, although this may be true

To Prove:

because, for, since, for the same reason, obviously, evidently, furthermore, moreover, besides, indeed, in fact, in addition, in any case, that is

To Show Exception:

yet, still, however, nevertheless, in spite of, despite, of course, once in a while, sometimes

To Show Time:

immediately, thereafter, soon, after a few hours, finally, then, later, previously, formerly, first (second, etc.), next, and then

To Repeat:

in brief, as I have said, as I have noted, as has been noted

To Emphasize:

definitely, extremely, obviously, in fact, indeed, in any case, absolutely, positively, naturally, surprisingly, always, forever, perennially, eternally, never, emphatically, unquestionably, without a doubt, certainly, undeniably, without reservation

To Show Sequence:

first, second, third, and so forth. A, B, C, and so forth. next, then, following this, at this time, now, at this point, after, afterward, subsequently, finally, consequently, previously, before this, simultaneously, concurrently, thus, therefore, hence, next, and then, soon

To Give an Example:

for example, for instance, in this case, in another case, on this occasion, in this situation, take the case of, to demonstrate, to illustrate, as an illustration, to illustrate

To Summarize or Conclude:

in brief, on the whole, summing up, to conclude, in conclusion, as I have shown, as I have said, hence, therefore, accordingly, thus, as a result, consequently

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