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Quantifying causal influences

Common methods of causal inference generate directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) that formalize causal relations between n variables. Given the joint distribution of all these variables, the DAG contains all information about how intervening on one variable would change the distribution of the other n-1 variables. It remains, however, a non-trivial question how to quantify the causal influence of one variable on another one.
Here we propose a measure for causal strength that refers to direct effects and measure the "strength of an arrow" or a set of arrows. It is based on a hypothetical intervention that modifies the joint distribution by cutting the corresponding edge. The causal strength is then the relative entropy distance between the old and the new distribution.
We discuss other measures of causal strength like the average causal effect, transfer entropy and information flow and describe their limitations. We argue that our measure is also more appropriate for time series than the known ones.
Finally, we discuss conceptual problems in defining the strength of indirect effects.

 

Quantifying causal influences

Dominik Janzing, David Balduzzi, Moritz Grosse-Wentrup, Bernhard Schoelkopf

arXiv:1203.6502

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Re-conceptualizing the origins of life

Over the last several hundred years of scientific progress, we have arrived at a deep understanding of the non-living world. We have not yet achieved an analogous, deep understanding of the living world. The origins of life is our best chance at discovering scientific laws governing life, because it marks the point of departure from the predictable physical and chemical world to the novel, history-dependent living world. This theme issue aims to explore ways to build a deeper understanding of the nature of biology, by modelling the origins of life on a sufficiently abstract level, starting from prebiotic conditions on Earth and possibly on other planets and bridging quantitative frameworks approaching universal aspects of life. The aim of the editors is to stimulate new directions for solving the origins of life. The present introduction represents the point of view of the editors on some of the most promising future directions.

 

Re-conceptualizing the origins of life
Sara I. Walker, N. Packard, G. D. Cody
Published 13 November 2017.DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2016.0337

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The Beautiful Intelligence of Bacteria and Other Microbes

The Beautiful Intelligence of Bacteria and Other Microbes | Papers | Scoop.it
Bacterial biofilms and slime molds are more than crude patches of goo. Detailed time-lapse microscopy reveals how they sense and explore their surroundings,
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Mathematical Work of Francisco Varela

Purpose: This target article explicates mathematical themes in the work of Varela that remain of current interest in present-day second-order cybernetics. Problem: Varela’s approach extended biological autonomy to mathematical models of autonomy using reflexivity, category theory and eigenform. I will show specific ways that this mathematical modeling can contribute further to both biology and cybernetics. Method: The method of this article is to use elementary mathematics based in distinctions (and some excursions into category theory and other constructions that are also based in distinctions) to consistently make all constructions and thereby show how the observer is involved in the models that are so produced. Results: By following the line of mathematics constructed through the imagination of distinctions, we find direct access and construction for the autonomy postulated by Varela in his book Principles of Biological Autonomy. We do not need to impose autonomy at the base of the structure, but rather can construct it in the context of a reflexive domain. This sheds new light on the original approach to autonomy by Varela, who also constructed autonomous states but took them as axiomatic in his calculus for self-reference. Implications: The subject of the relationship of mathematical models, eigenforms and reflexivity should be reexamined in relation to biology, biology of cognition and cybernetics. The approach of Maturana to use only linguistic and philosophical approaches should now be reexamined and combined with Varela’s more mathematical approach and its present-day extensions.

 

Mathematical Work of Francisco Varela
Louis H. Kauffman

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Social Systems Programming I: neural and behavioral control mechanisms

Social systems can be defined as autopoietic networks of distinctions and rules that specify which actions should be performed under which conditions. Social systems have an enormous power over human individuals, as they can “program” them to sacrifice resources, happiness, loved ones and even themselves to the perpetuation of the system—as exemplified by religious celibacy, honor killings and suicide bombings. Such overriding of the biological instincts of survival and procreation demands powerful control mechanisms. The present paper surveys some of the basic neural and behavioral mechanisms used for programming within social systems, and is followed by another paper surveying emotional and structural mechanism. Basic conditioning happens through rewarding or reinforcement of socially sanctioned actions. Its power is extended by the conformist transmission of narratives that promise as yet virtual rewards, and by ritualized behaviors that suppress non-conforming beliefs through cognitive dissonance. Through such mechanisms, social systems commonly impede individual emancipation, self-actualization and societal progress.

 

Social Systems Programming I: neural and behavioral control mechanisms
Francis Heylighen, Marta Lenartowicz, Kate Kingsbury, Shima Beigi & Tjorven Harmsen
 
Complexity Digest's insight:

It should be noted that similar mechanisms are also useful for promoting cooperation and limiting selfish behaviors.

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Dissipative structures and irreversibility in nature: Celebrating 100th birth anniversary of Ilya Prigogine (1917–2003)

Friends and colleagues who knew Ilya Prigogine well called him “A poet of thermodynamics.” It is an apt description. When Prigogine talked about thermodynamics and irreversible processes, one had the sense he understood or knew more than what his words conveyed. Natural processes all around us are irreversible; it is a fact. Their consequence is not merely to increase the entropy of the universe and destroy order. They can also do the opposite: create highly ordered complex structures with extraordinary properties and create life itself. Prigogine saw this as a profound aspect of nature that thermodynamics has revealed. When he came across the famed South Indian sculpture of Nataraja, the dancing Shiva, that depicts as a cosmic dance the perfect balance between creation and destruction that originate from the same source, he made sure he had a bronze statue of Nataraja of highest artistic quality in his art collection. A picture of it became the cover art for the book Thermodynamic Theory of Structure Stability and Fluctuations, that he coauthored with Paul Glansdorff. It was poetry of thermodynamics, creation and destruction emerging from a common source, a perfectly balanced cosmic dance. One could surmise all this from Prigogine's discourses on thermodynamics.

 

Dissipative structures and irreversibility in nature: Celebrating 100th birth anniversary of Ilya Prigogine (1917–2003)
Chaos 27, 104501 (2017); https://doi.org/10.1063/1.5008858
Dilip Kondepudi, Tomio Petrosky, and John A. Pojman

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Characterizing the structural diversity of complex networks across domains

The structure of complex networks has been of interest in many scientific and engineering disciplines over the decades. A number of studies in the field have been focused on finding the common properties among different kinds of networks such as heavy-tail degree distribution, small-worldness and modular structure and they have tried to establish a theory of structural universality in complex networks. However, there is no comprehensive study of network structure across a diverse set of domains in order to explain the structural diversity we observe in the real-world networks. In this paper, we study 986 real-world networks of diverse domains ranging from ecological food webs to online social networks along with 575 networks generated from four popular network models. Our study utilizes a number of machine learning techniques such as random forest and confusion matrix in order to show the relationships among network domains in terms of network structure. Our results indicate that there are some partitions of network categories in which networks are hard to distinguish based purely on network structure. We have found that these partitions of network categories tend to have similar underlying functions, constraints and/or generative mechanisms of networks even though networks in the same partition have different origins, e.g., biological processes, results of engineering by human being, etc. This suggests that the origin of a network, whether it's biological, technological or social, may not necessarily be a decisive factor of the formation of similar network structure. Our findings shed light on the possible direction along which we could uncover the hidden principles for the structural diversity of complex networks.

 

Characterizing the structural diversity of complex networks across domains
Kansuke Ikehara, Aaron Clauset

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Saberes Sin Fronteras OVS's curator insight, November 11, 1:49 PM

Frente a las ópticas simplificadoras, como la del separatismo catalán o el nacionalcatolicismo centralista del PP, es necesario aprender a ver la complejidad de lo real, en ciencia, educación etc. Y para eso hay que utilizar las herramientas del trabajo en RED

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Large-scale study of social network structure and team performance in a multiplayer online game

A question of interest in both theory and practice is if and how familiarity between members of a team, expressed in terms of social network structure, relates to the success of the team in a given task. In this paper we revisit this important question in a novel manner by employing game outcome statistics from Dota 2, a popular team-based multiplayer online game, combined with network data from Steam Community, a social networking service for gamers. We conduct a large-scale analysis of 4168 teams to study how network density, and the minimum and maximum degree of the within-team social network are associated with team performance, and determine how this association is moderated by team skill. We observe that minimum degree is strongly associated with good performance, especially in teams with lower skill. Together with previous results on network density that we corroborate in this paper, our findings suggest that a successful team is not only moderately connected overall, but its members should also individually have not too few nor too many within team connections.

 

Large-scale study of social network structure and team performance in a multiplayer online game
Antti Ukkonen, Juho Hamari

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Breaking the spell of nestedness

Mutualistic interactions, which are beneficial for both interacting species, are recurrently present in ecosystems. Observations of natural systems showed that, if we draw mutualistic relationships as binary links between species, the resulting bipartite network of interactions displays a widespread particular ordering called nestedness. On the other hand, theoretical works have shown that a nested structure has a positive impact on a number of relevant features ranging from species coexistence to a higher structural stability of communities and biodiversity. However, how nestedness emerges and what are its determinants, are still open challenges that have led to multiple debates to date. Here, we show, by applying a theoretical approach to the analysis of 167 real mutualistic networks, that nestedness is not an irreducible feature, but a consequence of the degree sequences of both guilds of the mutualistic network. Remarkably, we find that an outstanding majority of the analyzed networks does not show statistical significant nestedness. These findings point to the need of revising previous claims about the role of nestedness and might contribute to expanding our understanding of how evolution shapes mutualistic interactions and communities by placing the focus on the local properties rather than on global quantities.

 

Breaking the spell of nestedness
Claudia Payrato Borras, Laura Hernandez, Yamir Moreno
doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/216564

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True AI is both logically possible and utterly implausible

True AI is both logically possible and utterly implausible | Papers | Scoop.it
Machines seem to be getting smarter and smarter and much better at human jobs, yet true AI is utterly implausible. Why?
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Is Tribalism a Natural Malfunction?

Is Tribalism a Natural Malfunction? | Papers | Scoop.it
Even the genocidal machines at the violent end of the spectrum may carry a heartening lesson. They emerged from the depths of a circuit board, simulated on a supercomputer in Texas. They had no biological excuse to fall back on. Maybe we, too, shouldn’t make excuses: If a behavior is so common as to emerge in the simplest simulations, perhaps we ought neither to fear it, nor to idolize it, but to treat it, the same way we do cancer, or the flu.

What if we saw tribalism as a natural malfunction of any cognitive system, silicon or carbon? As neither a universal truth or unavoidable sin, but something to be overcome? 
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How to Build a Robot That Wants to Change the World

How to Build a Robot That Wants to Change the World | Papers | Scoop.it
Empowerment, a concept inspired in part by cybernetics and psychology, describes an agent’s intrinsic motivation to both persist within and operate upon its environment. “Like an organism, it wants to survive. It wants to be able to affect the world,” Salge explained. A Roomba programmed to seek its charging station when its batteries are getting low could be said to have an extremely rudimentary form of empowerment: To continue acting on the world, it must take action to preserve its own survival by maintaining a charge.
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Self-Healing and Damage Resilience for Soft Robotics: A Review

Advances in soft robotics will be crucial to the next generation of robot–human interfaces. Soft material systems embed safety at the material level, providing additional safeguards that will expedite their placement alongside humans and other biological systems. However, in order to function in unpredictable, uncontrolled environments alongside biological systems, soft robotic systems should be as robust in their ability to recover from damage as their biological counterparts. There exists a great deal of work on self-healing materials, particularly polymeric and elastomeric materials that can self-heal through a wide variety of tools and techniques. Fortunately, most emerging soft robotic systems are constructed from polymeric or elastomeric materials, so this work can be of immediate benefit to the soft robotics community. Though the field of soft robotics is still nascent as a whole, self-healing and damage resilient systems are beginning to be incorporated into three key support pillars that are enabling the future of soft robotics: actuators, structures, and sensors. This article reviews the state-of-the-art in damage resilience and self-healing materials and devices as applied to these three pillars. This review also discusses future applications for soft robots that incorporate self-healing capabilities.

 

Self-Healing and Damage Resilience for Soft Robotics: A Review

R. Adam Bilodeau & Rebecca K. Kramer

Front. Robot. AI, 03 October 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/frobt.2017.00048

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Complex Contagions: A Decade in Review

Since the publication of 'Complex Contagions and the Weakness of Long Ties' in 2007, complex contagions have been studied across an enormous variety of social domains. In reviewing this decade of research, we discuss recent advancements in applied studies of complex contagions, particularly in the domains of health, innovation diffusion, social media, and politics. We also discuss how these empirical studies have spurred complementary advancements in the theoretical modeling of contagions, which concern the effects of network topology on diffusion, as well as the effects of individual-level attributes and thresholds. In synthesizing these developments, we suggest three main directions for future research. The first concerns the study of how multiple contagions interact within the same network and across networks, in what may be called an ecology of contagions. The second concerns the study of how the structure of thresholds and their behavioral consequences can vary by individual and social context. The third area concerns the roles of diversity and homophily in the dynamics of complex contagion, including both diversity of demographic profiles among local peers, and the broader notion of structural diversity within a network. Throughout this discussion, we make an effort to highlight the theoretical and empirical opportunities that lie ahead.

 

Complex Contagions: A Decade in Review
Douglas Guilbeault, Joshua Becker, Damon Centola

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Building Codes for Bacterial Cities | Quanta Magazine

Building Codes for Bacterial Cities | Quanta Magazine | Papers | Scoop.it
Biofilms are bacterial fortresses, but understanding how hydrodynamics and competition shape their architecture could reveal their subtle weaknesses.
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A Plea for not Watering Down the Unseemly: Reconsidering Francisco Varela’s Contribution to Science

A Plea for not Watering Down the Unseemly: Reconsidering Francisco Varela’s Contribution to Science | Papers | Scoop.it

Context: In the past three decades, the work of Varela has had an enormous impact on current developments in contemporary science. Problem: Varela’s thought was extremely complex and multifaceted, and while some aspects - notably his contributions to the autopoietic theory of living and enactivist approach to cognition - have gained widespread acclaim, others have been ignored or watered down. Method: We identify three dimensions of Varela’s thought: (i) anti-realism of the “middle way”; (ii) anti-foundationalism of the circular/recursive onto-epistemology; and (iii) ethical/social implications of the circularity/recursivity. The discussion of these dimensions is followed by a concise overview of the individual target articles in this issue and the topics they cover. Finally, we discuss in what ways the articles extend and relate to Varela’s work. We do this by means of a concrete example: the relation between “enaction” and “enactivism. Results: We show that the ignoring-cum-watering-down process of Varela’s contributions to science is at least partly linked to the three dimensions of Varela’s thought. Based on our examination we also find that the more narrow research topics are always interrelated with broader philosophical reflection. Researching into ignored and watered-down aspects of Varela’s work enables us to not only gain fresh insights into Varela’s overall philosophy and rekindle interest in the topics and themes that have been brushed aside, but also cast a fresh light on those that are currently in full bloom. Implications: Reviving interest in Varela’s work in toto could lead to fruitful research and discussion in numerous scientific fields. To illustrate this idea, we delineate, tentatively, three domains - theoretical, empirical, and existential - where Varela’s contribution to philosophy and science could instigate prolific exchange of views. Constructivist content: All three dimensions of Varela’s philosophy have strong affinities with radical constructivist critique of realism and some of its epistemological and ethical implications.

 

A Plea for not Watering Down the Unseemly: Reconsidering Francisco Varela’s Contribution to Science
Sebastjan Vörös & Alexander Riegler

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Enacting Enaction: A Dialectic Between Knowing and Being

Context: The notion of “enaction,” as originally expounded by Varela and his colleagues, was introduced into cognitive science as part of a broad philosophical framework combining science, phenomenology, and Buddhist philosophy. Its intention was to help the researchers in the field avoid falling prey to various dichotomies (mind/body, self/world, self/other) bedeviling modern philosophy and science, and serve as a “conceptual evocation” of “non-duality” or “groundlessness: an ongoing and irreducible circulation between the flux of lived experience (being) and the search of reason for conceptual invariants (knowing. Problem: It seems that, within the burgeoning field of “enactivism,” these far-reaching dimensions of the original proposal are often either dismissed or simply ignored. For this reason, the article tries to answer the following questions: Does the move away from the original exposition of enaction matter? What, if anything, has been lost along the way? What are the implications of the elements that have been discarded? Method: By drawing on some of the less well-known works of Varela, we spell out and elucidate some of the more radical aspects of the notion of enaction and the broader philosophical framework into which it was originally embedded. Results: We argue that this broader philosophical framework is of utmost importance, as it shows that enaction is only one part of the multi-layered “change in the context” that Varela felt was needed to successfully instantiate a move towards the non-dual. This “change of context” involves not only a change in the way we think about dualities, but also a change in the way we experience them. The role of new scientific metaphors, such as enaction (but also autopoiesis, embodiment, etc.), is to function as conceptual evocations of this back-and-forth exchange between knowing and being. However, if this overall framework is discarded, as is often the case in contemporary accounts, enaction loses its radical impetus and becomes mellowed down to yet another version of naturalized epistemology. Implications: Taking the notion of enaction seriously implies a radical shift in our conceptions of science and knowledge, as it encompasses a theoretical and existential move away from a detached observer to embedded and engaged cognizer. Thus, our manner of thinking can no longer be considered in isolation from our manner of being, which indicates a deep interconnection between epistemology and ethics, and may entail profound changes in the definition of the aims, methods, and values of the research community: self-transformation as a consequence of, and condition for, understanding. Constructivist content: The target article advocates a critical approach to realist presuppositions in contemporary science and philosophy, and emphasizes a deep interrelation between being and knowing, between ethics and epistemology.

 

Enacting Enaction: A Dialectic Between Knowing and Being
Sebastjan Vörös & Michel Bitbol

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Constraints on physical reality arising from a formalization of knowledge

There are (at least) four ways that an agent can acquire information concerning the state of the universe: via observation, control, prediction, or via retrodiction, i.e., memory. Each of these four ways of acquiring information seems to rely on a different kind of physical device (resp., an observation device, a control device, etc.). However it turns out that certain mathematical structure is common to those four types of device. Any device that possesses a certain subset of that structure is known as an "inference device" (ID).
Here I review some of the properties of IDs, including their relation with Turing machines, and (more loosely) quantum mechanics. I also review the bounds of the joint abilities of any set of IDs to know facts about the physical universe that contains them. These bounds constrain the possible properties of any universe that contains agents who can acquire information concerning that universe.
I then extend this previous work on IDs, by adding to the definition of IDs some of the other mathematical structure that is common to the four ways of acquiring information about the universe but is not captured in the (minimal) definition of IDs. I discuss these extensions of IDs in the context of epistemic logic (especially possible worlds formalisms like Kripke structures and Aumann structures). In particular, I show that these extensions of IDs are not subject to the problem of logical omniscience that plagues many previously studied forms of epistemic logic.

 

Constraints on physical reality arising from a formalization of knowledge
David Wolpert

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The Unforgiving Math That Stops Epidemics

The Unforgiving Math That Stops Epidemics | Papers | Scoop.it
As the annual flu season approaches, medical professionals are again encouraging people to get flu shots. Perhaps you are among those who rationalize skipping the shot on the grounds that “I never get the flu” or “if I get sick, I get sick” or “I’m healthy, so I’ll get over it.” What you might not realize is that these vaccination campaigns for flu and other diseases are about much more than your health. They’re about achieving a collective resistance to disease that goes beyond individual well-being — and that is governed by mathematical principles unforgiving of unwise individual choices.
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Phase Coexistence in Insect Swarms

Animal aggregations are visually striking, and as such are popular examples of collective behavior in the natural world. Quantitatively demonstrating the collective nature of such groups, however, remains surprisingly difficult. Inspired by thermodynamics, we applied topological data analysis to laboratory insect swarms and found evidence for emergent, material-like states. We show that the swarms consist of a core “condensed” phase surrounded by a dilute “vapor” phase. These two phases coexist in equilibrium, and maintain their distinct macroscopic properties even though individual insects pass freely between them. We further define a pressure and chemical potential to describe these phases, extending theories of active matter to aggregations of macroscopic animals and laying the groundwork for a thermodynamic description of collective animal groups.

 

Phase Coexistence in Insect Swarms
Michael Sinhuber and Nicholas T. Ouellette
Phys. Rev. Lett. 119, 178003 – Published 24 October 2017

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Measuring Influence in Science: Standing on the Shoulders of Which Giants?

I study the measurement of the influence of scientists based on bibliographic data. I propose a new measure that accounts for indirect influence and allows to compare scientists across different fields of science. By contrast, common measures of influence that "count citations", such as the h-index, are unable to satisfy either of these two properties. I use the axiomatic method in two opposite ways: to highlight the two limitations of citation-counting schemes and their independence, and to carefully justify the assumptions made in the construction of the proposed measure.

 

Measuring Influence in Science: Standing on the Shoulders of Which Giants?
Antonin Macé

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Self-referential basis of undecidable dynamics: from The Liar Paradox and The Halting Problem to The Edge of Chaos

In this paper we explore several fundamental relations between formal systems, algorithms, and dynamical systems, focussing on the roles of undecidability, universality, diagonalization, and self-reference in each of these computational frameworks. Some of these interconnections are well-known, while some are clarified in this study as a result of a fine-grained comparison between recursive formal systems, Turing machines, and Cellular Automata (CAs). In particular, we elaborate on the diagonalization argument applied to distributed computation carried out by CAs, illustrating the key elements of G\"odel's proof for CAs. The comparative analysis emphasizes three factors which underlie the capacity to generate undecidable dynamics within the examined computational frameworks: (i) the program-data duality; (ii) the potential to access an infinite computational medium; and (iii) the ability to implement negation. The considered adaptations of G\"odel's proof distinguish between computational universality and undecidability, and show how the diagonalization argument exploits, on several levels, the self-referential basis of undecidability.

 

Self-referential basis of undecidable dynamics: from The Liar Paradox and The Halting Problem to The Edge of Chaos
Mikhail Prokopenko, Michael Harré, Joseph Lizier, Fabio Boschetti, Pavlos Peppas, Stuart Kauffman

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The Trouble With Scientists

The Trouble With Scientists | Papers | Scoop.it

Sometimes it seems surprising that science functions at all. In 2005, medical science was shaken by a paper with the provocative title “Why most published research findings are false.” Written by John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, it didn’t actually show that any particular result was wrong. Instead, it showed that the statistics of reported positive findings was not consistent with how often one should expect to find them. As Ioannidis concluded more recently, “many published research findings are false or exaggerated, and an estimated 85 percent of research resources are wasted.”

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Are you getting sick? Predicting influenza-like symptoms using human mobility behaviors

Understanding and modeling the mobility of individuals is of paramount importance for public health. In particular, mobility characterization is key to predict the spatial and temporal diffusion of human-transmitted infections. However, the mobility behavior of a person can also reveal relevant information about her/his health conditions. In this paper, we study the impact of people mobility behaviors for predicting the future presence of flu-like and cold symptoms (i.e. fever, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, headache, muscle pain, malaise, and cold). To this end, we use the mobility traces from mobile phones and the daily self-reported flu-like and cold symptoms of 29 individuals from February 20, 2013 to March 21, 2013. First of all, we demonstrate that daily symptoms of an individual can be predicted by using his/her mobility trace characteristics (e.g. total displacement, radius of gyration, number of unique visited places, etc.). Then, we present and validate models that are able to successfully predict the future presence of symptoms by analyzing the mobility patterns of our individuals. The proposed methodology could have a societal impact opening the way to customized mobile phone applications, which may detect and suggest to the user specific actions in order to prevent disease spreading and minimize the risk of contagion.

 

Are you getting sick? Predicting influenza-like symptoms using human mobility behaviors
Gianni Barlacchi, Christos Perentis, Abhinav Mehrotra, Mirco Musolesi and Bruno Lepri
EPJ Data Science20176:27
https://doi.org/10.1140/epjds/s13688-017-0124-6

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The Rich get Richer and the Fit get Richer Phenomena in Temporal Complex Networks in the Strategic Management Scientific Community

The aim of this paper is to determine the general preferential attachment function and author fitness, which describe the rich get richer and fit get richer phenomena, in the co-authorship and citation networks of the strategic management scientific community. This has been done by means of the PAFit method using the community's flagship journal, namely Strategic Management Journal. The results suggest the co-authorship and citation temporal networks are governed by both the fit get richer and the rich get richer processes. The average of the attachment exponents in the co-author network is 0.3 while it is 0.29 in the citation network, which suggests the rich get richer phenomenon is similarly weak in both networks. On the other hand, the distributions of author fitness in both networks have long right tail, which implies that the intrinsic scientific quality of each author plays a crucial role in getting new citations and new co-authorships. Furthermore, author fitness in both co-authorship and citation networks are found to be consistent with the history of the strategic management scientific community.

 

The Rich get Richer and the Fit get Richer Phenomena in Temporal Complex Networks in the Strategic Management Scientific Community
Ronda-Pupo Guillermo Armando, Thong Pham

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Phase Coexistence in Insect Swarms

Animal aggregations are visually striking, and as such are popular examples of collective behavior in the natural world. Quantitatively demonstrating the collective nature of such groups, however, remains surprisingly difficult. Inspired by thermodynamics, we applied topological data analysis to laboratory insect swarms and found evidence for emergent, material-like states. We show that the swarms consist of a core “condensed” phase surrounded by a dilute “vapor” phase. These two phases coexist in equilibrium, and maintain their distinct macroscopic properties even though individual insects pass freely between them. We further define a pressure and chemical potential to describe these phases, extending theories of active matter to aggregations of macroscopic animals and laying the groundwork for a thermodynamic description of collective animal groups.

 

Phase Coexistence in Insect Swarms
Michael Sinhuber and Nicholas T. Ouellette
Phys. Rev. Lett. 119, 178003 – Published 24 October 2017

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