Month: January 2019

Opinion Dynamics and Collective Decisions

We expect that democracy enables us to utilize collective intelligence such that our collective decisions build and enhance social welfare, and such that we accept their distributive and normative consequences. Collective decisions are produced by voting procedures which aggregate individual preferences and judgments. Before and after, individual preferences and judgments change as their underlying attitudes, values, and opinions change through discussion and deliberation. In large groups, these dynamics naturally go beyond the scope of the individual and consequently might show unexpected self-driven macroscopic systems dynamics following socio-physical laws. On the other hand, aggregated information and preferences as communicated through media, polls, political parties, or interest groups, also play a large role in the individual opinion formation process. Further on, actors are also capable of strategic opinion formation in the light of a pending referendum, election or other collective decision. Opinion dynamics and collective decision should thus not only be tackled by social choice, game theory, political and social psychology, but also from a systems dynamics and sociophysics perspective.


Advances in Complex SystemsVol. 21, No. 06n07, 1802002 (2018) Full Access


Taking census of physics

Over the past decades, the diversity of areas explored by physicists has exploded, encompassing new topics from biophysics and chemical physics to network science. However, it is unclear how these new subfields emerged from the traditional subject areas and how physicists explore them. To map out the evolution of physics subfields, here, we take an intellectual census of physics by studying physicists’ careers. We use a large-scale publication data set, identify the subfields of 135,877 physicists and quantify their heterogeneous birth, growth and migration patterns among research areas. We find that the majority of physicists began their careers in only three subfields, branching out to other areas at later career stages, with different rates and transition times. Furthermore, we analyse the productivity, impact and team sizes across different subfields, finding drastic changes attributable to the recent rise in large-scale collaborations. This detailed, longitudinal census of physics can inform resource allocation policies and provide students, editors and scientists with a broader view of the field’s internal dynamics.


Taking census of physics
Federico Battiston, Federico Musciotto, Dashun Wang, Albert-László Barabási, Michael Szell & Roberta Sinatra 
Nature Reviews Physics volume 1, pages89–97 (2019)


Where Does a Shark’s Skin Get Its Pattern?

In 1952, well before developmental biologists spoke in terms of Hoxgenes and transcription factors, or even understood DNA’s structure, Alan Turing had an idea. The famed mathematician who hastened the end of World War II by cracking the Enigma code turned his mind to the natural world and devised an elegant mathematical model of pattern formation. His theory outlined how endless varieties of stripes, spots, and scales could emerge from the interaction of two simple, hypothetical chemical agents, or “morphogens.”

Decades passed before biologists seriously considered that this mathematical theory could in fact explain myriad biological patterns. The development of mammalian hair, the feathers of birds, and even those ridges on the roof of your mouth all stem from Turing-like mechanisms.


Pull out all the stops: Textual analysis via punctuation sequences

Whether enjoying the lucid prose of a favorite author or slogging through some other writer’s cumbersome, heavy-set prattle (full of parentheses, em-dashes, compound adjectives, and Oxford commas), readers will notice stylistic signatures not only in word choice and grammar, but also in punctuation itself. Indeed, visual sequences of punctuation from different authors produce marvelously different (and visually striking) sequences. Punctuation is a largely overlooked stylistic feature in “stylometry”, the quantitative analysis of written text. In this paper, we examine punctuation sequences in a corpus of literary documents and ask the following questions: Are the properties of such sequences a distinctive feature of different authors? Is it possible to distinguish literary genres based on their punctuation sequences? Do the punctuation styles of authors evolve over time? Are we on to something interesting in trying to do stylometry without words, or are we full of sound and fury (signifying nothing)?


Pull out all the stops: Textual analysis via punctuation sequences
Alexandra N. M. Darmon Marya Bazzi Sam D. Howison Mason Porter