CSH Colloquium: “Life, Universe, and Everything – 42 is the answer to the ultimate question, ‘What is the question?”

Jan 31, 2018 | 15:3019:00

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The colloquium, organized by Kimmo Kaski, will take place in lecture room E02 at CSH Vienna.


The entrance is free.


Please reserve a seat with our ticketing system at the end of the page.




Frontiers of Complexity Science


“The answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything is 42”


wrote Douglas Adams in his science fiction “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” as a joke, which has become more famous than the novel itself. However, the human quest to understand the complexities of Life, the Universe and Everything is not a joke but rather an everlasting endeavour. In this event three scientists at the frontiers of complexity science discuss the most recent findings of their endeavour:




Kimmo Kaski


Kimmo Kaski, External Facultry CSH Vienna

(c) private


Kimmo Kaski, a member of CSH External Faculty, is Professor of Computational Science at Aalto University (Helsinki).


Kimmo will give an introduction to the colloquium and the speakers.




Geoffrey West


(c) Santa Fe Institute




Geoffrey West, a theoretical physicist, was president of the Santa Fe Institute until 2009. In 2006 Time magazine called him one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World”.


Since 2017 Geoffrey has been a member of CSH External Faculty.


Geoffrey’s book “Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies” has been extensively covered worldwide. Among others it was featured by Nature Magazin and, more recently, chosen as one of the favorite reads 2017 by scientists of the Guardian’s science blog networks.


Geoffrey’s talk will feature parts of his bestseller.



“The future of the planet: life, growth and death in organisms, cities and companies”


Why do we stop growing, live for 100 years and sleep eight hours a day? Why do all companies and people die whereas cities keep growing and the pace of life continues to accelerate? Are cities and companies “just” very large organisms? And how are all these related to innovation, wealth creation and the long-term sustainability of the planet?


These are among the questions that will be addressed in my lecture.


Although life is probably the most complex and diverse phenomenon in the Universe, many of its characteristics scale with size in a surprisingly simple fashion: metabolic rate, for example, scales in a systematically predictive way from cells to whales, while time-scales from lifespans to growth-rates, and sizes from genome lengths to tree heights, likewise scale systematically. Remarkably, cities and companies also exhibit systematic scaling: wages, profits, patents, crime, disease, and roads all scale in an approximately “universal” fashion.


The origin of these laws, which constrain much of the organisation and dynamics of life, will be explained and related to underlying generic principles of the networks that sustain life ranging from circulatory systems to social networks. Their dynamics, which transcend history, geography and culture, have potentially dramatic implications for growth, development and global sustainability.



Roberta Sinatra


(c) Damjan Aleksiev

(c) Damjan Aleksiev


Roberta Sinatra is Assistant Professor at the Center for Network Science and the Department of Mathematics at Central European University and a member of CSH External Faculty.



“Towards a Science of Success”

Performance and success are two different pairs of shoes:


Performance – objectively measurable achievements in a domain like the publication record of a scientist or the winning record of an athlete – captures the actions of an individual. Success ­– captured by impact or visibility – is a collective measure, representing a community’s reaction and acceptance of an individual entity’s performance.


We are often driven by the belief that extraordinary performance is sufficient to predict exceptional success. However, the link between these two measures is far from being understood. Even experts of performance assessment are notoriously bad at predicting long-term success.


However, unlike performance, success is quantifiable and predictable: given its collective nature, its signatures can be uncovered from the many pieces of data around us using the tools of network and data science.


In this talk I will focus on success in science and art as a way to testing our ability to measure and predict success. I will discuss the role of luck in achieving success, and will address the relation between performance and success in a variety of settings, highlighting the challenges of gauging performance through success.





Filippo Menczer


Fil Menczer, Indiana University

(c) Indiana University


Filippo Menczer is Professor of Informatics and Computer Science at the Indiana University School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.


“The spread of fake news by social bots”

As social media become major channels for the diffusion of news and information, they are also increasingly attractive and targeted for abuse and manipulation.


This talk focuses on the role played by social bots in the spread of online misinformation. I present machine learning methods to detect astroturf and automated accounts, and a platform to map the spread of fake news on Twitter. Together, these tools enable the study of the strategies and effectiveness of social bots in manipulating our information eco-system. The results suggest that curbing bots is a critical countermeasure to mitigate the harm of online misinformation.







Jan 31, 2018


Complexity Science Hub Vienna
+43 1 59991 600
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CSH Vienna
Josefstaedter Straße 39
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+43 1 59991 600
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