By definition, the words simple and complex are antonyms. Complex is complicated, simple is not complicated—literally exact opposites. And as the old saying goes, opposites attract, and the list of subject matter in which simple and complex are joined at the hip is quite substantial.

Consider what you are reading right now, a sentence. Almost all sentences come in two forms, the simple and the complex. A simple sentence expresses one thought or clause with one subject and a predicate. The simplest of the simple sentences is something like “Eddie ran” or “I like pancakes.”

A complex sentence is two or more thoughts or clauses, usually connected by a conjunction. For instance, “Eddie ran while I ate pancakes.” As you might have noticed, a complex sentence could be looked at as merely two simple sentences connected. And the same can be said of much of what appears on that substantial list of the complex-and-simple link.

A simple organism is one cell or many identical cells. Put two or more simple cells together and you get a complex organism. Put a bunch of skin cells, blood cells, and brain cells together and, bam!, a human being.

In the post, Simple is Complex, Avdi Grimm describes his interpretations of “Vehicles,” by Valentino Braitenberg. He writes, “Braitenberg asks us to consider the implications of extremely simple notional machines. For instance, the very first machine has only a single motor controlled linearly by a single sensor. If we say that the sensor senses heat, then this machine will move faster in warm areas (seemingly trying to escape them) and slower in colder areas. If we then add small ‘perturbations’ to its environment—say, water currents, or other objects randomly nudging it—it will appear to wander around in a rather ‘lifelike’ manner. It will appear to have a kind of purpose, even though we know it is nothing more than sensor and motor. Vehicles with only two sensors and two motors can appear to display tendencies towards an energy emitter that we might term fear, aggression, or love, if we didn’t know we were looking at a simple machine.”

Grimm concludes, or, as he puts it, restates, “this system is not complicated. But it is complex.”

Other instances of simple versus complex depend on our perception. The Universe is at the same time thought of as simple and complex. In the article, Is the Universe Simple or Complex?, author Faye Kilburn says, “On the face of it the Universe is a fairly complex place. There are nine million known species of life on Earth, at least 500 billion planets in the Milky Way, and an estimated trillion galaxies…” yet “…scientists have unearthed an enormous amount of simplicity in nature.”

Kilburn goes on to explain how physicists have discovered that two natural phenomena, separated for centuries, were brought together as “two sides of the same coin,” such as electricity and magnetism, now combined into the single theory of electromagnetism. Science has been and is now searching for The Theory of Everything, “a self-contained mathematical model that describes all the fundamental forces and particles.”

 According to author Linda Marino, whether simple or complex, “fixturing can hold virtually any part in any position required.” Read Linda’s article and check out everything else we have to offer in this month’s Quality.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!


Darryl Seland,
Editorial Director