When artists Jebney Lewis and K.R. Wood asked University of Pennsylvania mathematical biology postdoc Todd Parsons for a complex concept that needed to be communicated to the broader public, it was hysteresis: the idea that seemingly gradual change can suddenly become catastrophic. Over dinner, pad of paper and pencils in hand, the three started brainstorming ways to visually embody the slow growth and sudden collapse. Several months and many sketches later, their work is now on display as an installation called Bifurcation, Hysteresis, Catastrophe, showing at linkurl:Nexus Gallery;http://www.nexusphiladelphia.org/ in Philadelphia through April. "A lot of people don't seem to be aware of how transition can be sudden and irreversible," says Parsons. Hysteresis is a concept that can apply to anything from ecology and the linkurl:immune system;http://www.the-scientist.com/2010/3/1/40/1/ to the global economy. It describes changes that elude our attempts to make simple linear predictions of future behavior. Hysteresis describes why collapsed fisheries...

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