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Concept: Simplicity


Listening habits are strongly influenced by two opposing aspects, the desire for variety and the demand for uniformity in music. In this work we quantify these two notions in terms of instrumentation and production technologies that are typically involved in crafting popular music. We assign an ‘instrumentational complexity value’ to each music style. Styles of low instrumentational complexity tend to have generic instrumentations that can also be found in many other styles. Styles of high complexity, on the other hand, are characterized by a large variety of instruments that can only be found in a small number of other styles. To model these results we propose a simple stochastic model that explicitly takes the capabilities of artists into account. We find empirical evidence that individual styles show dramatic changes in their instrumentational complexity over the last fifty years. ‘New wave’ or ‘disco’ quickly climbed towards higher complexity in the 70s and fell back to low complexity levels shortly afterwards, whereas styles like ‘folk rock’ remained at constant high instrumentational complexity levels. We show that changes in the instrumentational complexity of a style are related to its number of sales and to the number of artists contributing to that style. As a style attracts a growing number of artists, its instrumentational variety usually increases. At the same time the instrumentational uniformity of a style decreases, i.e. a unique stylistic and increasingly complex expression pattern emerges. In contrast, album sales of a given style typically increase with decreasing instrumentational complexity. This can be interpreted as music becoming increasingly formulaic in terms of instrumentation once commercial or mainstream success sets in.

Concepts: Emergence, Complexity, Computational complexity theory, Rock music, Simplicity, Popular culture, Music genre, Jazz


Historically, approaches to exploring complexity have mainly focused on the notion that complex problems must be deconstructed into simpler parts if we are to make sense of them; this is the so-called reductionist approach. When dealing with the complexity of human experience, however, deconstructing the experience without diminishing it is a daunting, perhaps impossible task. Researchers wishing to make sense of complex experiences often begin by interviewing the individuals at the centre of those experiences. But interviews can be frustratingly limited. Visual methods, such as drawings, are beginning to show promise for designing research that taps into the complexity of professional practice. The promise of visual methods may relate to a key notion in complexity research: ‘disruptions’. In this paper I introduce the notion of ‘disruptions’ as articulated by complexity approaches from ‘systems engineering’ and suggest ‘rich pictures’ as an effective visual method to describe and understand complex problems in medical education research.

Concepts: Research, Emergence, Complexity, Systems theory, Philosophy of science, Problem solving, Holism, Simplicity


Complex medication regimens are highly prevalent in residential aged care facilities (RACFs). Strategies to reduce unnecessary complexity may be valuable because complex medication regimens can be burdensome for residents and are costly in terms of nursing time. The aim of this study is to investigate application of a structured process to simplify medication administration in RACFs.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Epidemiology, Randomized controlled trial, Complexity, Systems theory, Food and Drug Administration, Process architecture, Simplicity


Undulatory locomotion, a gait in which thrust is produced in the opposite direction of a traveling wave of body bending, is a common mode of propulsion used by animals in fluids, on land, and even within sand. As such, it has been an excellent system for discovery of neuromechanical principles of movement. In nearly all animals studied, the wave of muscle activation progresses faster than the wave of body bending, leading to an advancing phase of activation relative to the curvature toward the tail. This is referred to as “neuromechanical phase lags” (NPL). Several multiparameter neuromechanical models have reproduced this phenomenon, but due to model complexity, the origin of the NPL has proved difficult to identify. Here, we use perhaps the simplest model of undulatory swimming to predict the NPL accurately during sand-swimming by the sandfish lizard, with no fitting parameters. The sinusoidal wave used in sandfish locomotion, the friction-dominated and noninertial granular resistive force environment, and the simplicity of the model allow detailed analysis, and reveal the fundamental mechanism responsible for the phenomenon: the combination of synchronized torques from distant points on the body and local traveling torques. This general mechanism should help explain the NPL in organisms in other environments; we therefore propose that sand-swimming could be an excellent system with which to generate and test other neuromechanical models of movement quantitatively. Such a system can also provide guidance for the design and control of robotic undulatory locomotors in complex environments.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Complexity, Wave, Phase, Complex system, Waves, Sine wave, Simplicity


Methylamine (MMA) is one of the simplest amines, and the vibrational spectra of its dimer have recently been obtained experimentally. The vibrational spectra of NH stretch modes were well resolved, but the complex features of the CH3group could not be fully accounted for even with the assistance of ab initio molecular dynamics (AIMD) with various density functional methods. In this study, we carried out anharmonic vibrational calculations on MMA clusters up to tetramers using MP2/aug-cc-pVDZ to examine vibrational coupling among CH/NH and compute the vibrational spectra of these clusters between 2800 and 3500 cm-1. We found that the main origin of the complexity between 2800 and 3000 cm-1was caused by Fermi resonance (FR) between the stretching and bending overtones of the CH3group. This spectral feature becomes simpler in trimers and tetramers. Furthermore, Fermi resonance in the NH2group is found to be very strong. In the MMA dimer, no noticeable FR features can be found; however, in its trimers and tetramers, the enhancement of hydrogen bond strength due to the cooperative effect will cause the N-H stretching mode to red-shift to revert the energy order of the fundamental of the N-H stretch and overtone of N-H bending between n = 3 and n = 4. Therefore, significant re-distribution of the intensities of the bands at 3200 and 3300 cm-1should be seen.

Concepts: Causality, Computational chemistry, Complexity, Quantum chemistry, Harmonic series, -mer, Simplicity, Overtone


A collaborative approach was used to ascertain an appropriate stimulus for the patients to remember their stroke-specific education. The stroke education had to stand out amidst the myriad of papers and folders patients are bombarded with in the hospital. The team came up with the simple idea of using a bright red folder. When the patients were called, the call center would prompt the patient by saying, “The stroke education was given to you in a bright red folder.” Before the implementation of the red folders, only 81.5% of the patients remembered receiving stroke education. After the implementation of the red folders, 96.8% remembered receiving stroke education. The principle of Occam’s razor proved to be correct in our study. A very simple idea such as changing the color of the folders to bright red proved to have very meaningful results.

Concepts: Patient, Hospital, Physician, Simplicity, Occam's razor, Folder


Drug-drug interactions (DDIs) continue to account for 5% of hospital admissions and therefore remain a major regulatory concern. Effective, quantitative prediction of DDIs will reduce unexpected clinical findings and encourage projects to frontload DDI investigations rather than concentrating on risk management (“manage the baggage”) later in drug development. A key challenge in DDI prediction is the discrepancies between reported models. Areas covered: The current synopsis focuses on four recent influential publications on hepatic drug transporter DDIs using static models that tackle interactions with individual transporters and in combination with other drug transporters and metabolising enzymes. These models vary in their assumptions (including input parameters), transparency, reproducibility and complexity. In this review, these facets are compared and contrasted with recommendations made as to their application. Expert opinion: Over the past decade, static models have evolved from simple [I]/Ki models to incorporate victim and perpetrator disposition mechanisms including the absorption rate constant, the fraction of the drug metabolised/eliminated and/or clearance concepts. Nonetheless, models that comprise additional parameters and complexity do not necessarily out-perform simpler models with fewer inputs. Further, consideration of the property space to exploit some drug target classes has also highlighted the fine balance required between frontloading and back-loading studies to design out or “manage the baggage”.

Concepts: Scientific method, Pharmacology, Clinical trial, Complexity, Drug design, Transport, Input, Simplicity


A patient decision aid (PtDA) can support shared decision making (SDM) in preference-sensitive care, with more than one clinically applicable treatment option. The development of a PtDA is a complex process, involving several steps, such as designing, developing and testing the draft with all the stakeholders, known as alpha testing. This is followed by testing in ‘real life’ situations, known as beta testing, and then finalising the definite version. Our aim was developing and alpha testing a PtDA for primary treatment of early stage breast cancer, ensuring that the tool is considered relevant, valid and feasible by patients and professionals.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Cancer staging, Complexity, Pleural effusion, Software testing, Simplicity


Research on thermoelectrics has seen a huge resurgence since the early 1990s. The ability of tuning a material’s electrical and thermal transport behavior upon nanostructuring has led to this revival. Nevertheless, thermoelectric performances of nanowires and related materials lag far behind those achieved with thin-film superlattices and quantum dot-based materials. This is despite the fact that nanowires offer many distinct advantages in enhancing the thermoelectric performances of materials. The simplicity of the strategy is the first and foremost advantage. For example, control of the nanowire diameters and their surface roughnesses will aid in enhancing their thermoelectric performances. Another major advantage is the possibility of obtaining high thermoelectric performances using simpler nanowire chemistries (e.g., elemental and binary compound semiconductors), paving the way for the fabrication of thermoelectric modules inexpensively from non-toxic elements. In this context, the topical review provides an overview of the current state of nanowire-based thermoelectrics. It concludes with a discussion of the future vision of nanowire-based thermoelectrics, including the need for developing strategies aimed at the mass production of nanowires and their interface-engineered assembly into devices. This eliminates the need for trial-and-error strategies and complex chemistries for enhancing the thermoelectric performances of materials.

Concepts: Chemistry, Chemical element, Complexity, Semiconductor, Nanowire, 1990s, Assembly line, Simplicity


Mismatch negativity (MMN) is an event-related potential to stimulus change. MMN to infrequent deviant tones that differs in a simple physical parameter from repetitive standard tones is reduced in patients with long-term schizophrenia (Sz; d=~1). However, this simple MMN is not uniformly reduced at the first-episode of schizophrenia-spectrum psychosis (FESz; d<0.1 for pitch; <0.4 for duration). Deviant stimuli that violate pattern rules also evoke MMN. This complex MMN is evoked by deviations in the relation of sounds to each other. The simplest pattern involves tone pairs. Although the pitch of first tone in the pair varies, the second tone's pitch always follows a rule (e.g., always 3 semitones higher). We measured complex MMN to deviant tone pairs that descended in pitch among standard tone pairs that ascended in pitch, never before examined in Sz or in FESz. Experiment 1 showed significant reductions in complex MMN in 20 Sz compared to 22 matched controls. Experiment 2 replicated smaller complex MMN in a shorter protocol in 24 Sz compared to 21 matched controls, but showed no significant complex MMN reduction in 21 FESz compared to 21 matched controls. Although reduced in Sz, indicating deficits in generation of a simple acoustic pattern rule, the tone pair complex MMN was within normal limits in FESz. This suggests that more complex perceptual pattern analysis processes are, at least partially, still intact at the first break. Future work will determine at what point of pattern complexity subtle auditory perception pathophysiology will be revealed in FESz.

Concepts: Complexity, Sense, Schizophrenia, Sound, James Spaulding, Musical tuning, Simplicity, Minimal pair