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Rock-Paper-Scissors: What can Children's Games Teach us about Biodiversity?

Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago

Friday, February 23, 2018 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (CST)

Rock-Paper-Scissors: What can Children's Games Teach...

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Rock-Paper-Scissors: What can Children's Games Teach us about Biodiversity?

A lecture by Professor Stefano Allesina, University of Chicago

The first event of the year in our Café Scientifique  Series 

Presented in collaboration with AIRIcerca Chicago Chapter

Explaining the staggering biodiversity observed in rich ecological communities such as tropical rainforests and coral reefs is one of the main goals of ecology. The large number of species that coexist in these communities is puzzling, in light of the so-called "principle of competitive exclusion": if two species compete for the same resources, then the better competitor will displace the worse competitor. In the Amazon rainforest, however, we can find more than 15,000 species of trees---seemingly competing for the same exact resources.

To make sense of this puzzle we can turn to the children's game "rock-paper-scissors": while for each pair of strategies one displaces the other, the circular nature of the game makes it convenient to play all three strategies with equal probability.

The game can be extended to more than three strategies, and recent results show how they could all coexist indefinitely when the game is played by more than two players. I will show how these results can help explain the stable coexistence of competing species, by illustrating the findings of Allesina & Levine (PNAS, 2011), Levine et al. (Nature 2017) and Grilli et al. (Nature 2017).

Stefano Allesina (born in Carpi, Italy in 1976) is a Professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolution and a Senior Fellow of the Computation Institute at the University of Chicago. He is an external Faculty of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO). In 2005, he received a PhD in Ecology from the University of Parma, Italy. He received the NSF CAREER award in 2012. At the University of Chicago, he directs a laboratory devoted to the development of mathematical, statistical and computational methods for the analysis of ecological systems, with an emphasis on ecological networks and dynamics.

Have questions about Rock-Paper-Scissors: What can Children's Games Teach us about Biodiversity?? Contact Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago

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Italian Cultural Institute
500 N Michigan Ave
Suite 1450
Chicago, IL

Friday, February 23, 2018 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (CST)

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Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago

Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago

500 N Michigan Ave., Suite 1450

Chicago, IL 60611


Currently active in all the major cities of the five continents, the ninety Italian Cultural Institutes serve as an ideal meeting place for intellectuals, artists, and cultural operatives, as well as for ordinary citizens, both Italian and foreign, who wish to establish or maintain a relationship with our country. By acting not only as a showcase and source of current information on Italy, but also as a driving force behind initiatives and projects of cultural cooperation, the Italian Cultural Institute has become a focal point for both the Italian communities abroad and the growing demand for Italian culture throughout the world.

By extending the role of Embassies and Consulates, the Italian Cultural Institutes offer the most effective tools for promoting a worldwide image of Italy as a center of production, preservation, and dissemination of culture from the Classical Age until today. Along with organizing cultural events in a vast array of areas, including art, music, cinema, theatre, dance, fashion, design, and photography, the Italian Cultural Institutes:

  • Offer the opportunity to learn Italian language and culture through the organization of courses, the management of libraries and the preparation of educational and editorial materials;
  • Provide the networks and the premises to facilitate the integration of Italian operators in the process of cultural exchange and production at an international level;
  • Provide information and logistic support to public and private cultural operators, both Italian and foreign;
  • Continuously support initiatives aimed at promoting an intercultural dialogue based on the principles of democracy and international solidarity.
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Rock-Paper-Scissors: What can Children's Games Teach us about Biodiversity?
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