Frank, S. A. 2017. Universal expressions of population change by the Price equation: natural selection, information, and maximum entropy production. Ecology and Evolution 7:3381–3396.

The Price equation shows the unity between the fundamental expressions of change in biology, in information and entropy descriptions of populations, and in aspects of thermodynamics. The Price equation partitions the change in the average value of a metric between two populations. A population may be composed of organisms or particles or any members of a set to which we can assign probabilities. A metric may be biological fitness or physical energy or the output of an arbitrarily complicated function that assigns quantitative values to members of the population. The first part of the Price equation describes how directly applied forces change the probabilities assigned to members of the population when holding constant the metrical values of the members— a fixed metrical frame of reference. The second part describes how the metrical values change, altering the metrical frame of reference. In canonical examples, the direct forces balance the changing metrical frame of reference, leaving the average or total metrical values unchanged. In biology, relative reproductive success (fitness) remains invariant as a simple consequence of the conservation of total probability. In physics, systems often conserve total energy. Nonconservative metrics can be described by starting with conserved metrics, and then studying how coordinate transformations between conserved and nonconserved metrics alter the geometry of the dynamics and the aggregate values of populations. From this abstract perspective, key results from different subjects appear more simply as universal geometric principles for the dynamics of populations subject to the constraints of particular conserved quantities.


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