Collective synchronization, from networks of cells to computer networks

5 Oct 2007

Radhika Nagpal
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Harvard University


In nature, there are a wide variety of examples where large collections of entities spontaneously synchronize their periodic actions - from south asian fireflies, to pacemaker cells, to audience clapping. For over a century, scientists have wondered, modelled, and more recently mathematically analyzed how such collective synchronization arises in these biological networks. Interestingly, synchronization is also a key primitive in computer networks; it is used for creating global clocks, scheduling communications, controlling sensors, etc. However, the algorithmic approach traditionally used is surpringly different from what one observed in nature. In this theory lunch, I will talk about some of the models of biological synchronization, how and why traditional network synchronization is so different, and some of our recent work using inspiration from biological control to try and design new algorithms for computer networks.

current theory lunch schedule