I got an email from a friend on a research about longterm effects of sugar replacements (aspartame research here) on mice. One of the things that struck me about the research was that the author was going against established, testing practice, and did not use genetically close mice as test subjects, His rational was that it is not life like so why should he experiment on just one type/set of genes. i didn’t understand his reasons well, and judged his research with a little more bias against his methods. I think I finally understand what he was trying to say.
Like what? Alan Kirman, of the Univerity of Aix-Marseille, France, a much-decorated veteran; and Robert Axtell, of George Mason University, an up-and-comer; laid out the case for a point of view known as “agent-based” modeling. They describe this as a “bottom-up” approach to thinking about economic phenomena, made practicable by modern computers, in which people are heterogeneous and react directly with each other; in which their information is local and their behavior governed by rules of thumb; and in which the aggregate behavior of the system emerges from behavior of individuals rather than a “representative” agent.” Simulations of this sort by Thomas Schelling, which had formally identified the “tipping point” phenomenon (a fairly concrete discovery, after all) and elucidated mechanisms that give rise to residential segregation, had been laboriously worked out on a checkerboard in the 1970s, Axtell noted; with today’s models, 5 million more intricate calculations can be performed in an instant.
With new tools and ever more powerful computers and algorithms at our disposal it is really a shame that advanced techniques in doing experiments and simulations would take a long time before gaining widespread use. It saddens me to think how many lives could have been saved if different fields just communicated more often. Lets just blame our overspecialized world!