Publisher description for Ecological orbits : how planets move and populations grow / Lev Ginzburg, Mark Colyvan.

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Acute observations and bold theories four centuries ago paved the way for Newton's Laws of Motion and Universal Gravitation. Although he did not know the calculations for the forces, Galileo proposed that bodies undergo uniform motion in the absence of any force and this view replaced previous Aristotelian ideas about motion. Likewise, when Kepler proposed his Laws of Planetary Motion, he did not know why the planets moved as they did, but he advanced the theory regardless. Like Physics, most branches of science have a crucial time when the basic operating laws for their discipline were revealed. In Ecological Orbits: How Planets Move and Populations Grow, Lev Ginzburg and Mark Colyvan, drawing inspiration from the heady days at the birth of modern Physics, propose a theory of population growth that will break the logjam of theories in Population Ecology, and move the discipline forward. The orthodox view in population dynamics focuses on the growth rate as the main variable responding to the environment. This view leads to unmanageable complexity in which it is necessary to keep track of the many interactions between species. Basically, the predator-prey webs we learned in High School are built up to a higher level. Ecological Orbits presents and defends the 'inertial' view of population growth. By focusing on a single species, Ginzburg and Colyvan discovered an elegant model for complex population dynamics. Central to this account is the maternal effect. Although it has been known for over 40 years, this effect attracted widespread attention only in the past few years. Investment of mothers in the quality of their daughters makes the rate of reproduction of the current generation depend not only on the current environment, but also on the environment experienced by the previous generation. Mathematically, the resulting model of population growth and decline is very similar to planetary behavior. The first book of its kind, Ecological Orbits boldly advances a new theoretical framework for Population Biology-that previously "lawless" realm of science. Sure to be controversial, Ginzburg's and Colyvan's conclusions could begin a methodological revolution in their field.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Population biology.