My afternoon was taken up by poster preparations, although I did get to attend the second set of talks. Of these, two students of Adilson Motter delivered very interesting presentations.
One of these was on metabolic networks, and how the concept of synthetic lethality can be used to understand adaptive responses to physiological challenges. In this case, a challenge such as heat shock induced the mass upregulation of genes in a generalized response. However, this response is sub-optimal in the sense that it inhibits growth. The speaker (Sean Cornelius) was able to do simulations that "shut off" this stress response and subsequently maintained growth. Whether or not the same result would be seen in a natural systems is an open question.
The sub-optimality question is one I have raised in an arXiv paper with regard to human performance. That is, challenges such as exercise or high stress environments might trigger responses that immediately lead to sub-optimal physiological indicators, but in the long run produce highly optimized performance indicators. This question has also been raised more generally about fitness landscapes in the evolutionary biology literature.
My poster seemed to go over well, and will be on display until tomorrow evening. Until then......