Month: January 2018

Morphology of travel routes and the organization of cities

The city is a complex system that evolves through its inherent social and economic interactions. Mediating the movements of people and resources, urban street networks offer a spatial footprint of these activities. Of particular interest is the interplay between street structure and its functional usage. Here, we study the shape of 472,040 spatiotemporally optimized travel routes in the 92 most populated cities in the world, finding that their collective morphology exhibits a directional bias influenced by the attractive (or repulsive) forces resulting from congestion, accessibility, and travel demand. To capture this, we develop a simple geometric measure, inness, that maps this force field. In particular, cities with common inness patterns cluster together in groups that are correlated with their putative stage of urban development as measured by a series of socio-economic and infrastructural indicators, suggesting a strong connection between urban development, increasing physical connectivity, and diversity of road hierarchies.


Morphology of travel routes and the organization of cities
Minjin Lee, Hugo Barbosa, Hyejin Youn, Petter Holme & Gourab Ghoshal
Nature Communications volume 8, Article number: 2229 (2017)


Simpler grammar, larger vocabulary: How population size affects language

Languages with many speakers tend to be structurally simple while small communities sometimes develop languages with great structural complexity. Paradoxically, the opposite pattern appears to be observed for non-structural properties of language such as vocabulary size. These apparently opposite patterns pose a challenge for theories of language change and evolution. We use computational simulations to show that this inverse pattern can depend on a single factor: ease of diffusion through the population. A population of interacting agents was arranged on a network, passing linguistic conventions to one another along network links. Agents can invent new conventions, or replicate conventions that they have previously generated themselves or learned from other agents. Linguistic conventions are either Easy or Hard to diffuse, depending on how many times an agent needs to encounter a convention to learn it. In large groups, only linguistic conventions that are easy to learn, such as words, tend to proliferate, whereas small groups where everyone talks to everyone else allow for more complex conventions, like grammatical regularities, to be maintained. Our simulations thus suggest that language, and possibly other aspects of culture, may become simpler at the structural level as our world becomes increasingly interconnected.


Reali, F., Chater, N. & Christiansen, M.H. (2018). Simpler grammar, larger vocabulary: How population size affects language. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 285, 20172586. 


7 principles for building better cities

More than half of the world’s population already lives in cities, and another 2.5 billion people are projected to move to urban areas by 2050. The way we build new cities will be at the heart of so much that matters, from climate change to economic vitality to our very well-being and sense of connectedness. Peter Calthorpe is already at work planning the cities of the future and advocating for community design that’s focused on human interaction. He shares seven universal principles for solving sprawl and building smarter, more sustainable cities.


Distributed Sequential Consensus in Networks: Analysis of Partially Connected Blockchains with Uncertainty

This work presents a theoretical and numerical analysis of the conditions under which distributed sequential consensus is possible when the state of a portion of nodes in a network is perturbed. Specifically, it examines the consensus level of partially connected blockchains under failure/attack events. To this end, we developed stochastic models for both verification probability once an error is detected and network breakdown when consensus is not possible. Through a mean field approximation for network degree we derive analytical solutions for the average network consensus in the large graph size thermodynamic limit. The resulting expressions allow us to derive connectivity thresholds above which networks can tolerate an attack.


Distributed Sequential Consensus in Networks: Analysis of Partially Connected Blockchains with Uncertainty
Francisco Prieto-Castrillo, Sergii Kushch, and Juan Manuel Corchado

Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 4832740, 11 pages 


Thermodynamics and the dynamics of information in distributed computation

Information dynamics is an emerging description of information processing in complex systems. In this paper we make a formal analogy between information dynamics and stochastic thermodynamics. As stochastic dynamics increasingly concerns itself with the processing of information we suggest such an analogy is instructive in providing hitherto unexplored insights into the implicit information processing that occurs in physical systems. Information dynamics describes systems in terms of intrinsic computation, identifying computational primitives of information storage and transfer. We construct irreversibility measures in terms of these quantities are relate them to the physical entropy productions that govern the behaviour of single and composite systems in stochastic thermodynamics illustrating them with simple examples. Moreover, we can apply such a formalism to systems which do not have a bipartite structure. In particular we demonstrate that, given suitable non-bipartite processes, the heat flow in a subsystem can still be identified and one requires the present formalism to recover generalisations of the second law. This opens up the possibility of describing all physical systems in terms of computation allowing us to propose a framework for discussing the reversibility of systems traditionally out of scope of stochastic thermodynamics.


Thermodynamics and the dynamics of information in distributed computation
Richard E. Spinney, Joseph T. Lizier, Mikhail Prokopenko