Short works

Books : reviews

Erica Jen, ed.
Robust Design: a repertoire of biological, ecological, and engineering case studies.
OUP. 2005

Robustness is a term that captures our intuitive sense of one of the key determinants of long-term success or failure. The contributors to this volume explore what specific features of a phenomenon contribute to its robustness or fragility.

In a world of uncertainty, adversity, and rapid change, it might be thought that failure of natural or designed systems should prove the rule rather than the exception. Yet we are surrounded by phenomena on all scales that we instinctively view as being robust to failure. Such systems may be remarkable for their agile response to dramatically changing circumstances, or for their resilience in the face of internal or external attack, or merely for their survival far exceeding a customary life span.

An eminent group of authors present here fascinating aspects of robustness, including the tension between staying the same and responding to change, opportunities for innovation and vulnerabilities to collapse, effects of interactions among different subsystems, and the role of adaptation and learning. They assess to what extent what we know about robustness can be used to gain a better understanding of biological, ecological, and computational systems.

This is the first work to address robustness as a fundamental design principle of complex systems. For those interested in complexity or interdisciplinary science, robustness is presented here as one of the most intriguing new research areas with important implications across many disciplines.


Stable or robust? What's the difference?. 2005
Richard C. Lewontin, Peter J. E. Goss. Development canalization, stochasticity, and robustness. 2005
Joachim Hermisson, Gunter P. Wagner. Evolution of phenotypic robustness. 2005
David C. Krakauer, Joshua B. Plotkin. Principles and parameters of molecular robustness. 2005
Christopher A. Voigt, Stephen L. Mayo, Zhen-Gang Wang, Francis Arnold. Directing the evolvable: utilizing robustness in evolution. 2005
Eve Marder, Dirk Bucher. Robustness in neuronal systems: the balance between homeostasis, plasticity, and modulation. 2005
Colleen T. Webb, Simon A. Levin. Cross-system perspectives on the ecology and evolution of resilience. 2005
Brian Walker, Gary Peterson, John M. Anderies, Ann Kinzig, Steve Carpenter. Robustness in ecosystems. 2005
Douglas H. Erwin. Robustness in the history of life?. 2005
Stephanie Forrest, Justin Balthrop, Matthew Glickman, David H. Ackley. Computation in the wild. 2005
Walter Willinger, John C. Doyle. Robustness and the Internet: design and evolution. 2005
John C. Doyle, Steven H. Low, Fernando Paganini, Glenn Vinnicombe, Walter Willinger, Pablo Parrilo. Robustness and the Internet: theoretical foundations. 2005