Social Foraging
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Dynamics of Social Interaction
Curated by Ashish Umre
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Big Data: Rise of the Machines

Big Data: Rise of the Machines | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

For a column that laid out some second thoughts on Big Data, one of the people I talked to was Thomas H. Davenport, who has worked in the fields of knowledge management and analytics for 15 years. Data analytics is the predecessor to Big Data. He knows the context — what’s new and what’s not with Big Data — as well as anyone.

 

Mr. Davenport, a visiting professor at the Harvard Business School (on leave from Babson College), has authored and co-authored several books on analytics, including “Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning” (with Jeanne G. Harris, Harvard Business School Press, 2007). Shortly after the Big Data phenomenon took off, Mr. Davenport said, only half-joking, that he considered simply substituting the term “Big Data” for “analytics” for updated versions of his books.

 

But as he looked more deeply, there really was something different in Big Data. Data volumes have been steadily increasing for decades, Mr. Davenport noted, though the pace has accelerated sharply in the Internet age. “More than the amount of data itself, the unstructured data from the Web and sensors is a much more salient feature of what is being called Big Data,” he said.

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Top ten algorithms preprints of 2012

Top ten algorithms preprints of 2012 | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
Happy new year! As in previous years the growth of the cs.DS section of arXiv.org continues: there were 935 data structures and algorithms preprints this year, compared with 798 in 2011.
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ECAL 2013, 12th European Conference on Artificial Life - Sept 2-6 2013, Taormina, Italy

ECAL 2013, 12th European Conference on Artificial Life - Sept 2-6 2013, Taormina, Italy | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Artificial Life is an interdisciplinary undertaking that investigates the fundamental properties of living systems through the simulation and synthesis of biological entities and processes. It also attempts to design and build artificial systems that display properties of organisms, or societies of organisms, out of abiotic or virtual parts. 

ECAL, the European Conference on Artificial Life, is a biennial event that alternates with the US-based Alife conference series.

 

Important datesWorkshop submission: January 31, 2013Workshop acceptance: February 15, 2013Paper submission: February 28, 2013Author notification: May 1, 2013Camera-ready Paper Submission: June 1, 2013
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Crowdsourced BMW Prototypes Light the Street, Call for Help

Crowdsourced BMW Prototypes Light the Street, Call for Help | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Participants in the BMW Urban Driving Experience Challenge had one incredibly vague goal: transform a BMW or Mini into a “socially responsible machine that contributes to our global well-being.” First place received $7,500 and a trip to Munich, Germany for an audience with the managing director of BMW Group’s director of research and technology.

 

The contest was run by Local Motors, a crowdsourced vehicle design firm that produces small batches of nutty, brilliant and – occasionally – consumer-built automobiles. Almost anyone with an itch to design a vehicle can send something in, and the design house’s community of participants is 30,000-plus strong.

 

For this particular contest, three finalists emerged. Here’s what they came up with, from third to first place.

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In the Olympics of Algorithms, a Russian Keeps Winning Gold

In the Olympics of Algorithms, a Russian Keeps Winning Gold | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

If Vladimir Putin glances out the windows of the Kremlin at just the right moment, he has a chance of glimpsing the world’s best computer programmer in Google’s Moscow office across the river.

 

He is Petr Mitrichev, a 27-year-old Russian who works on Google’s search engine and earned his champion’s title in competitive programming, a sport where hackers write computer code in pursuit of cash prizes, travel opportunities, and a deep fulfillment unattainable anywhere else.

 

“You have a feeling of satisfaction in a contest when you solve a problem,” says Mitrichev, affable and a little pale in a Google T-shirt during an interview on the lawn of the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

 

Since 2005, Mitrichev, a graduate of Moscow State University, has led the globe in algorithmic programming. That’s the Grand Prix of competitive coding categories, in which riddles involving infinite game boards or the decibel level of n + 1 mooing cows require instant mathematical insights and quick fingers on the keyboard. Mitrichev is known for his “short pause”—that is, he starts to answer questions nearly as soon as he sees them.

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Sharing a joke: The effects of a similar sense of humor on affiliation and altruism

Sharing a joke: The effects of a similar sense of humor on affiliation and altruism | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Cooperation requires that individuals are able to identify, and preferentially associate with, others who have compatible preferences and the shared background knowledge needed to solve interpersonal coordination problems. This body of shared knowledge constitute a substantial proportion of what is called ‘culture’. It has been argued that, for this reason, individuals prefer to associate with others who share their culture, and also that shared appreciation of humor provides a particularly effective means of identifying others with the relevant preferences and knowledge. The present experiment uses a ‘dummy rating procedure’ to compare the effects of sharing an appreciation of non-humorous (first lines of novels) and humorous (jokes) cultural stimuli on interpersonal affiliation, altruism and assessment. The results show that the degree of shared appreciation for both sets of stimuli had a positive effect on Affiliation; only humorous stimuli had an effect on Altruism; and neither effected the Assessment of others' personal traits. Thus, the results support the general theory that shared culture promotes affiliation, and provide evidence of the special role of humor in interpersonal relations.

 

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Liquid transport facilitated by channels in Bacillus subtilis biofilms

Many bacteria on earth exist in surface-attached communities known as biofilms. These films are responsible for manifold problems, including hospital-acquired infections and biofouling, but they can also be beneficial. Biofilm growth depends on the transport of nutrients and waste, for which diffusion is thought to be the main source of transport. However, diffusion is ineffective for transport over large distances and thus should limit growth. Nevertheless, biofilms can grow to be very large. Here we report the presence of a remarkable network of well-defined channels that form in wild-type Bacillus subtilis biofilms and provide a system for enhanced transport. We observe that these channels have high permeability to liquid flow and facilitate the transport of liquid through the biofilm. In addition, we find that spatial variations in evaporative flux from the surface of these biofilms provide a driving force for the flow of liquid in the channels. These channels offer a remarkably simple system for liquid transport, and their discovery provides insight into the physiology and growth of biofilms.

 

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Gelatinous Menace? Jellyfish on Boom-Bust Cycle Worldwide

Gelatinous Menace? Jellyfish on Boom-Bust Cycle Worldwide | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Though some reports suggest jellyfish are taking over the world’s oceans, long-term records of these gelatinous animals fail to show a global increase in jellyfish blooms likely caused by pollution, warming, coastal development and other human influences.

 

While the analysis of a team of researchers who have pulled together records of jellyfish presence going back to the 19th century don't support a rising gelatinous menace, the team did find a surprise: roughly 20-year cycles in the abundanceof jellies.

 

Part of a recent rise-and-fall cycle may have prompted the perception of a global swell in jellyfish, according to the international team, whose researchers are part of the Global Jellyfish Group. They point specifically to the rising phase that began in 1993 and peaked in 2004.

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What’s wrong with citation analysis?

What’s wrong with citation analysis? | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

What’s wrong with citation analysis?

 

Other than your papers not being cited enough, what’s wrong with measuring scientific influence based on citation count? Citation analysis-based decisions concerning grants, promotions, etc. have become popular because, among other things, they’re considered “unbiased.” After all, such analysis gives numbers even non-professionals can understand, helping them make the best and most accurate decisions.

 

The written above is polite fiction. Why? First of all, citation analysis can only work with written, actual citations, but being influenced by something doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to refer to it. One of the basic assumptions behind citation analysis is that all, or at least most, of influences are cited in articles. It doesn’t work that way. MacRoberts and MacRoberts (2010) define influence as “When it is evident in the text that an author makes use of another’s work either directly or through secondary sources he or she has been influenced by that work.” According to a series of studies they conducted, only about 30% of influences are cited.

 

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"Software is now an integral part of a physical object" – Clemens Weisshaar at Dezeen Live

"Software is now an integral part of a physical object" – Clemens Weisshaar at Dezeen Live | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

German designer Clemens Weisshaar argues that cutting edge software from race car engineering and hypersonic aircraft will underpin design in the future in this movie filmed at Dezeen Live during 100% Design.

 

In the movie, Clemens Weisshaar, one half of design duo Kram/Weisshaar, introduces the computer-controlled X-51 hypersonic test missile, which is designed to fly at several times the speed of sound.

 

"There are physical objects out there, including every Airbus aircraft, that wouldn't fly anymore if you switched off the computer systems," he says. "Software becomes an integral part of a physical object [...] and that’s not even the future, it’s now."

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Traffic-driven epidemic outbreak on complex networks: How long does it take?

Recent studies have suggested the necessity to incorporate traffic dynamics into the process of epidemic spreading on complex networks, as the former provides support for the latter in many real-world situations. While there are results on the asymptotic scope of the spreading dynamics, the issue of how fast an epidemic outbreak can occur remains outstanding. We observe numerically that the density of the infected nodes exhibits an exponential increase with time initially, rendering definable a characteristic time for the outbreak. We then derive a formula for scale-free networks, which relates this time to parameters characterizing the traffic dynamics and the network structure such as packet-generation rate and betweenness distribution. The validity of the formula is tested numerically. Our study indicates that increasing the average degree and/or inducing traffic congestion can slow down the spreading process significantly.
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Life is physics: evolution as a collective phenomenon far from equilibrium

Evolution is the fundamental physical process that gives rise to biological phenomena. Yet it is widely treated as a subset of population genetics, and thus its scope is artificially limited. As a result, the key issues of how rapidly evolution occurs, and its coupling to ecology have not been satisfactorily addressed and formulated. The lack of widespread appreciation for, and understanding of, the evolutionary process has arguably retarded the development of biology as a science, with disastrous consequences for its applications to medicine, ecology and the global environment. This review focuses on evolution as a problem in non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, where the key dynamical modes are collective, as evidenced by the plethora of mobile genetic elements whose role in shaping evolution has been revealed by modern genomic surveys. We discuss how condensed matter physics concepts might provide a useful perspective in evolutionary biology, the conceptual failings of the modern evolutionary synthesis, the open-ended growth of complexity, and the quintessentially self-referential nature of evolutionary dynamics.

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Making music together connects brains

Making music together connects brains | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Anyone who has ever played in an orchestra will be familiar with the phenomenon: the impulse for one's own actions does not seem to come from one's own mind alone, but rather seems to be controlled by the coordinated activity of the group. And indeed, interbrain networks do emerge when making music together -- this has now been demonstrated by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. The scientists used electrodes to trace the brain waves of guitarists playing in duets. They also observed substantial differences in the musicians' brain activity, depending upon whether musicians were leading or following their companion.

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Sublinear Time Algorithm for PageRank Computations

In a network, identifying all vertices whose PageRank is more than a given threshold value $\Delta$ is a basic problem that has arisen in Web and social network analyses. In this paper, we develop a nearly optimal, sublinear time, randomized algorithm for a close variant of this problem. When given a directed network \graph, a threshold value $\Delta$, and a positive constant $c>3$, with probability $1-o(1)$, our algorithm will return a subset $S\subseteq V$ with the property that $S$ contains all vertices of PageRank at least $\Delta$ and no vertex with PageRank less than $\Delta/c$. The running time of our algorithm is always $\tilde{O}(\frac{n}{\Delta})$. In addition, our algorithm can be efficiently implemented in various network access models including the Jump and Crawl query model recently studied by brautbar kearns, making it suitable for dealing with large social and information networks. 


As part of our analysis, we show that any algorithm for solving this problem must have expected time complexity of ${\Omega}(\frac{n}{\Delta})$. Thus, our algorithm is optimal up to logarithmic factors. Our algorithm (for identifying vertices with significant PageRank) applies a multi-scale sampling scheme that uses a fast personalized PageRank estimator as its main subroutine. For that, we develop a new local randomized algorithm for approximating personalized PageRank which is more robust than the earlier ones developed by Jeh and Widom and by Andersen, Chung, and Lang.

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Application of Complexity Theory: Away from Reductionist Phase Transitions

Application of Complexity Theory: Away from Reductionist Phase Transitions | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Reductionism persists as a useful node in the possibility space of understanding and managing the world around us. However the possibility space is now expanding to higher levels of resolution such as a focus on complex systems. Learning and tools are ratcheting in lock-step.


Some of the key complexity-related concepts in understanding collective behavior in real-life physical systems like the burning of a forest fire include:

Organization and Self-Organization: Self-orchestration into order in both living and non-living systems, for example: salt crystals, graphene, protein molecules, schools of fish, flocks of birds, bee hives, intelligence and the brain, social structures 

Order and Stability of Systems: Measurements of order, stability, and dynamical break-down in systems such as entropy, symmetry (and symmetry-breaking), critical point, phase transition, boundaries, and fractals (101 primer)

Tunable Parameters: An element or parameter which doesn’t control the system, but can be tuned to influence the performance of the system (for example, temperature is a tunable parameter in the complex system of water becoming ice) 

Perturbation and Reset: How and how quickly systems reset after being perturbed is another interesting aspect of complex systems 


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Interactive map: how the brain sorts what we see

Interactive map: how the brain sorts what we see | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Scientists have found that the brain is wired to put the categories of objects and actions we see daily in order, and have created the first interactive map of how the brain organizes these groupings.


The result—achieved through computational models of brain imaging data collected while the subjects watched hours of movie clips—is what researchers call “a continuous semantic space.”


Some relationships between categories make sense (humans and animals share the same “semantic neighborhood”) while others (hallways and buckets) are less obvious. The researchers found that different people share a similar semantic layout.

 

“Our methods open a door that will quickly lead to a more complete and detailed understanding of how the brain is organized. Already, our online brain viewer appears to provide the most detailed look ever at the visual function and organization of a single human brain,” says Alexander Huth, a doctoral student in neuroscience at University of California, Berkeley and lead author of the study published in the journal Neuron.


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Here's How Darpa's Robot Ship Will Hunt Silent Subs

Here's How Darpa's Robot Ship Will Hunt Silent Subs | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Submariners like to say there are two kinds of ships: subs and targets. The Pentagon’s futurists want to turn that aphorism on its head, and develop a new kind of surface ship that can turn a sub into a target. Naturally, the sub-hunter won’t have a human on board. Here’s how it’s going to work.

 

The video above is a new promotional piece of machinima (do people still say that?) released by the defense contractor Science Applications International Corporation, which has a $58 million contract with Darpa to build its unmanned sub-hunter of the future. That maritime robot, called the Anti-Submarine

Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vehicle, or ACTUV, doesn’t exist yet and won’t for years. But here SAIC at least sketches out how the long, thin and “radically different” ACTUV can keep surface ships from becoming targets.

 

The really interesting thing here is how different the surface-gliding ACTUV is from the now-familiar drones that litter the skies. Even the longest-flying drones can only stay in the air for 30 hours or so. SAIC intends for this thing to stay on a hunt for 60 to 90 days.

 

What’s more, SAIC is designing the ACTUV to be way more autonomous than contemporary drone aircraft: After a sailor powers it up and helps guide it out of port, she can go on a long vacation while the ACTUV speeds out to the open water to use its long-range acquisition sonar and other advanced sensors to scan for submarines, while automatically steering clear of any nearby surface ships.

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Letting Hackers Compete, Facebook Eyes New Talent

Letting Hackers Compete, Facebook Eyes New Talent | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Late this January, some 75,000 people around the planet sat in front of their computers and pondered how to make anagrams from a bowl of alphabet soup.

They were participants in the Hacker Cup, an international programming battle that Facebook organized to help it find the brightest young software engineers before competitors like Google do.

 

After three more rounds of brain teasers, Facebook will fly the top 25 coders to its head office in Menlo Park, for an adrenaline-soaked finale this March that will award the champion $5,000. In return, Facebook gets a shot at hiring the stars discovered along the way.

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Towards the Evolution of Novel Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines

Renewable and sustainable energy is one of the most important challenges currently facing mankind. Wind has made an increasing contribution to the world's energy supply mix, but still remains a long way from reaching its full potential. In this paper, we investigate the use of artificial evolution to design vertical-axis wind turbine prototypes that are physically instantiated and evaluated under approximated wind tunnel conditions. An artificial neural network is used as a surrogate model to assist learning and found to reduce the number of fabrications required to reach a higher aerodynamic efficiency, resulting in an important cost reduction. Unlike in other approaches, such as computational fluid dynamics simulations, no mathematical formulations are used and no model assumptions are made.

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“What Are You Going to Do Next?” Introducing the Predictive Interface

“What Are You Going to Do Next?” Introducing the Predictive Interface | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

There aren’t very many qualitatively different types of computer interfaces in use in the world today. But with the release of Mathematica 9 I think we have the first truly practical example of a new kind—the computed predictive interface.

 

If one’s dealing with a system that has a small fixed set of possible actions or inputs, one can typically build an interface out of elements like menus or forms. But if one has a more open-ended system, one typically has to define some kind of language. Usually this will be basically textual (as it is for the most part for Mathematica); sometimes it may be visual (as for Wolfram SystemModeler).

 

The challenge is then to make the language broad and powerful, while keeping it as easy as possible for humans to write and understand. And as a committed computer language designer for the past 30+ years, I have devoted an immense amount of effort to this.

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Dragonfly Shows Human-Like Power of Concentration

Dragonfly Shows Human-Like Power of Concentration | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Dragonflies lack humans' big brains, but they still get the job done, according to new research that suggests that these insects have brain cells capable of feats previously seen only in primates.

 

Specifically, the dragonflies can screen out useless visual information to focus on a target, a process called selective attention. The new study, published Dec. 20 in the journal Current Biology, is the first to find brain cells devoted to selective attention in an invertebrate animal.

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The Mathematical Universe

I explore physics implications of the External Reality Hypothesis (ERH) that there exists an external physical reality completely independent of us humans. I argue that with a sufficiently broad definition of mathematics, it implies the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH) that our physical world is an abstract mathematical structure. I discuss various implications of the ERH and MUH, ranging from standard physics topics like symmetries, irreducible representations, units, free parameters, randomness and initial conditions to broader issues like consciousness, parallel universes and Godel incompleteness. I hypothesize that only computable and decidable (in Godel's sense) structures exist, which alleviates the cosmological measure problem and help explain why our physical laws appear so simple. I also comment on the intimate relation between mathematical structures, computations, simulations and physical systems.

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Raw Food Not Enough to Feed Big Brains

Raw Food Not Enough to Feed Big Brains | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Eating a raw food diet is a recipe for disaster if you're trying to boost your species' brainpower. That's because humans would have to spend more than 9 hours a day eating to get enough energy from unprocessed raw food alone to support our large brains, according to a new study that calculates the energetic costs of growing a bigger brain or body in primates. But our ancestors managed to get enough energy to grow brains that have three times as many neurons as those in apes such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. How did they do it? They got cooking, according to a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

"If you eat only raw food, there are not enough hours in the day to get enough calories to build such a large brain," says Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil who is co-author of the report. "We can afford more neurons, thanks to cooking."

 

Humans have more brain neurons than any other primate—about 86 billion, on average, compared with about 33 billion neurons in gorillas and 28 billion in chimpanzees. While these extra neurons endow us with many benefits, they come at a price—our brains consume 20% of our body's energy when resting, compared with 9% in other primates. So a long-standing riddle has been where did our ancestors get that extra energy to expand their minds as they evolved from animals with brains and bodies the size of chimpanzees?

 

One answer came in the late 1990s when Harvard University primatologist Richard Wrangham proposed that the brain began to expand rapidly 1.6 million to 1.8 million years ago in our ancestor, Homo erectus, because this early human learned how to roast meat and tuberous root vegetables over a fire. Cooking, Wrangham argued, effectively predigested the food, making it easier and more efficient for our guts to absorb calories more rapidly. Since then, he and his colleagues have shown in lab studies of rodents and pythons that these animals grow up bigger and faster when they eat cooked meat instead of raw meat—and that it takes less energy to digest cooked meat than raw meat.

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Artificial intelligence helps sort used batteries

Artificial intelligence helps sort used batteries | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
Research at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden has resulted in a new type of machine that sorts used batteries by means of artificial intelligence (AI). One machine is now being used in the UK, sorting one-third of the country’s recycled batteries.‘I got the idea at home when I was sorting rubbish. I thought it should be possible to do it automatically with artificial intelligence,’ says Claes Strannegård, who is an AI researcher at the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology.

 

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Four Degrees of Separation

Frigyes Karinthy, in his 1929 short story "L\'aancszemek" ("Chains") suggested that any two persons are distanced by at most six friendship links. (The exact wording of the story is slightly ambiguous: "He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual [...]". It is not completely clear whether the selected individual is part of the five, so this could actually allude to distance five or six in the language of graph theory, but the "six degrees of separation" phrase stuck after John Guare's 1990 eponymous play. Following Milgram's definition and Guare's interpretation, we will assume that "degrees of separation" is the same as "distance minus one", where "distance" is the usual path length-the number of arcs in the path.) Stanley Milgram in his famous experiment challenged people to route postcards to a fixed recipient by passing them only through direct acquaintances. The average number of intermediaries on the path of the postcards lay between 4.4 and 5.7, depending on the sample of people chosen.


We report the results of the first world-scale social-network graph-distance computations, using the entire Facebook network of active users (\approx721 million users, \approx69 billion friendship links). The average distance we observe is 4.74, corresponding to 3.74 intermediaries or "degrees of separation", showing that the world is even smaller than we expected, and prompting the title of this paper. More generally, we study the distance distribution of Facebook and of some interesting geographic subgraphs, looking also at their evolution over time.


The networks we are able to explore are almost two orders of magnitude larger than those analysed in the previous literature. We report detailed statistical metadata showing that our measurements (which rely on probabilistic algorithms) are very accurate.

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