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quarta-feira, março 26, 2008

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Da New Scientist (acho que foi o Mark Buchanan que escreveu):


Recipes came about by evolution
22 March 2008
From New Scientist Print Edition

COQ AU VIN and steak-and-kidney pudding may not bring to mind the principles of evolution. Yet evolutionary mechanisms may well be reflected in recipes for these tried-and-tested dishes.
Physicist Antonio Roque of the University of São Paulo in Brazil and colleagues analysed thousands of recipes (arxiv.org/abs/0802.4393v1) drawn from the French Larousse Gastronomique, the British New Penguin Cookery Book, three editions of the Brazilian Dona Benta spanning nearly 60 years, and a medieval cookbook. When they looked at how often ingredients appeared in recipes and ranked them accordingly, they saw a precise mathematical relationship across the board between an ingredient's position on the list and how commonly it was used. "There's a remarkable similarity," says Roque, "independent of culture and author."

This similarity, they suggest, may point to an evolutionary mechanism at work in the way recipes are passed down. When they tested their idea using a mathematical model in which additions, deletions or errors could be introduced into recipes, they obtained the same relationship as long as they assigned each ingredient an inherent "fitness" which made it more likely to be retained. This fitness might in practice reflect, say, its nutritional value or flavour.

There was also a curious tendency for some low-fitness ingredients, which add little to a recipe, to become locked in, says Roque. These can persist by default if there are no obvious substitutes.


Evolution - Learn more about the struggle to survive in our comprehensive special report.
From issue 2648 of New Scientist magazine, 22 March 2008, page 18

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