Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

Wolfram Summer School


Luca Cinacchio

Summer School

Class of 2009


Luca Cinacchio first embarked on his academic career in 1981, and was a humanities major until he decided to enter the field of marketing as a copy writer, which he did successfully for many years. In 2006, he decided to pursue a life-long dream of his, which was to pursue a degree in physics at Torino University. After taking a few courses, he realized that his study of physics was drawing him in the direction of sociophysics, which deals with the physics of social systems. He actively collaborates with faculty members on a variety of research projects, many of which involve the use of Mathematica in the academic didactic environment.

Project: The Next Generations: Population Dynamics and Cultural Rules in a Generational Spaceship

A generational spaceship is a hypothetical starship that travels at a speed much slower than that of light, taking for its travel hundreds or thousands of years. The original occupants will leave their descendants to continue traveling. This society’s biological, social, and moral constraints are represented by kinship rules regulating how the crew may mate, and thus whether the society can grow, stay stable, or die.

In every society there are kinship rules, dictating who can marry whom (e.g., in some societies you cannot marry your siblings), and different societies allow different mating. Using the metaphor of a generational spaceship, this project will explore how a closed society can evolve or die following different kinship rules. For any given rule, a labeled genealogical tree—ultimately composed of a sequence of individuals—will be produced, which will be used to supervise the application of the kinship rule and to illustrate how in that society humans mate and produce offspring.

The aim is to discover what kind of kinship rules produce a healthy society, and what kind will drive it to extinction, in relation to the number of people composing the original crew. What is the minimum size of tree that can propogate, and what size is guaranteed to die out?

This exploration will start by considering the case where each couple may have two children, and eventually will consider the case where instead each couple has three.

Main constraints:

  • All marry if they can
  • All stay married
  • Monogamy is the only form of couple relationship allowed
  • All married couples have 2 kids (scenario 1) or 3 (scenario 2)
  • All live to adulthood
  • All die only at the natural end of life
  • Starting with a “generation zero” (g = 0), and numbering the following generations in progressive order, at the given time g the live population is composed of generations g-1, g, g+1.

Parameters (fixed or to be explored):

  • The rules of kinship
  • The number of components of the original crew
  • The sex distribution in the original crew
  • The male/female ratio of the offspring
  • The number of children allowed for each couple

Final goals:

The purpose of this project is not classically anthropological, as in the traditional approach only a limited number of kinship rules are considered. On the contrary, in accordance with the NKS approach, here the objective is to explore the space of the kinship rules as much as possible, analyzing hypotheses that may have never been formerly considered.

Favorite Three-Color Cellular Automaton

Rule 17290216