Danny Abrams is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics at Northwestern University
Title: A Mathematical Model for the Origin of Left-Handedness (with Evidence from Professional Sports)
An overwhelming majority of humans are right-handed. Numerous explanations for individual handedness have been proposed, but this population-level handedness remains puzzling. I will present a novel mathematical model and use it to test the idea that population-level hand preference represents a balance between selective costs and benefits arising from cooperation and competition in human evolutionary history. I will also present evidence of atypical handedness distributions among elite athletes, and show how our model can quantitatively account for these distributions within and across many professional sports. The model predicts strong lateralization for social species with limited combative interaction, and elucidates the absence of consistent population-level "pawedness" in many animal species.
Biosketch: Dr. Abrams has broad scientific interests ranging from coupled oscillators to mathematical geoscience to the physics of social systems. He tries to approach these wide-ranging problems by creating greatly simplified mathematical models where rigorous analysis is possible, hopefully capturing some essential properties of the system. The work in different fields is generally connected by similar mathematical techniques drawn from the study of nonlinear dynamics.