Taproot S6E2: The Tension Between Robustness and Efficiency in Biological and Human Systems

In this episode, our guest is Olivier Hamant. Olivier is a PI at INRAE in the Plant Reproduction and Development laboratory in Lyon, France. Olivier did his PhD on KNOX homeobox genes in 2003, and then postdocs in Berkeley with Zac Cande and with Jan Traas in Lyon. He took his current position at INRAE in 2012, where he works on the mechanobiology of development. Olivier has received a number of awards in recent years, including Prix Foulon from the French science academy – 2020.

The jumping-off point for our discussion is a commentary that Olivier wrote entitled “Plants Show us the Light”, published  in Trends in Plant Science in 2020. There, he argues that evolution favors robustness over efficiency, and cites several recent discoveries in the field of photosynthesis to support his argument. From there, we apply the lens of efficiency versus robustness to a range of applications, including other aspects of biology, lab organization, and even the global economy. We also touch on ways that the COVID pandemic revealed this tension.

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Read Episode Transcript


Olivier Hamant. Plants Show us the Light. Trends Plant Sci. (2020). 26:97-99. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33221171/


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Liz Haswell Twitter @ehaswell

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Taproot Podcast Twitter @taprootpodcast


The Taproot is the podcast that digs beneath the surface to understand how scientific publications in plant biology are created. In each episode, co-hosts Liz Haswell and Ivan Baxter take a paper from the literature and talk about the story behind the science with one of its authors.

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Questions, feedback, suggestions?  Contact us at taproot@plantae.org.


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