Month: October 2019

Success in books: predicting book sales before publication

Reading remains a preferred leisure activity fueling an exceptionally competitive publishing market: among more than three million books published each year, only a tiny fraction are read widely. It is largely unpredictable, however, which book will that be, and how many copies it will sell. Here we aim to unveil the features that affect the success of books by predicting a book’s sales prior to its publication. We do so by employing the Learning to Place machine learning approach, that can predicts sales for both fiction and nonfiction books as well as explaining the predictions by comparing and contrasting each book with similar ones. We analyze features contributing to the success of a book by feature importance analysis, finding that a strong driving factor of book sales across all genres is the publishing house. We also uncover differences between genres: for thrillers and mystery, the publishing history of an author (as measured by previous book sales) is highly important, while in literary fiction and religion, the author’s visibility plays a more central role. These observations provide insights into the driving forces behind success within the current publishing industry, as well as how individuals choose what books to read.


Success in books: predicting book sales before publication
Authors and affiliations
Xindi Wang, Burcu Yucesoy, Onur Varol, Tina Eliassi-Rad & Albert-László Barabási

EPJ Data Science
December 2019, 8:31


Systematic comparison between methods for the detection of influential spreaders in complex networks

Influence maximization is the problem of finding the set of nodes of a network that maximizes the size of the outbreak of a spreading process occurring on the network. Solutions to this problem are important for strategic decisions in marketing and political campaigns. The typical setting consists in the identification of small sets of initial spreaders in very large networks. This setting makes the optimization problem computationally infeasible for standard greedy optimization algorithms that account simultaneously for information about network topology and spreading dynamics, leaving space only to heuristic methods based on the drastic approximation of relying on the geometry of the network alone. The literature on the subject is plenty of purely topological methods for the identification of influential spreaders in networks. However, it is unclear how far these methods are from being optimal. Here, we perform a systematic test of the performance of a multitude of heuristic methods for the identification of influential spreaders. We quantify the performance of the various methods on a corpus of 100 real-world networks; the corpus consists of networks small enough for the application of greedy optimization so that results from this algorithm are used as the baseline needed for the analysis of the performance of the other methods on the same corpus of networks. We find that relatively simple network metrics, such as adaptive degree or closeness centralities, are able to achieve performances very close to the baseline value, thus providing good support for the use of these metrics in large-scale problem settings. Also, we show that a further 2–5% improvement towards the baseline performance is achievable by hybrid algorithms that combine two or more topological metrics together. This final result is validated on a small collection of large graphs where greedy optimization is not applicable.


Systematic comparison between methods for the detection of influential spreaders in complex networks
Şirag Erkol, Claudio Castellano & Filippo Radicchi 
Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 15095 (2019)


Braess’s paradox and programmable behaviour in microfluidic networks

Microfluidic systems are now being designed with precision as miniaturized fluid manipulation devices that can execute increasingly complex tasks. However, their operation often requires numerous external control devices owing to the typically linear nature of microscale flows, which has hampered the development of integrated control mechanisms. Here we address this difficulty by designing microfluidic networks that exhibit a nonlinear relation between the applied pressure and the flow rate, which can be harnessed to switch the direction of internal flows solely by manipulating the input and/or output pressures. We show that these networks— implemented using rigid polymer channels carrying water—exhibit an experimentally supported fluid analogue of Braess’s paradox, in which closing an intermediate channel results in a higher, rather than lower, total flow rate. The harnessed behaviour is scalable and can be used to implement flow routing with multiple switches. These findings have the potential to advance the development of built-in control mechanisms in microfluidic networks, thereby facilitating the creation of portable systems and enabling novel applications in areas ranging from wearable healthcare technologies to deployable space systems.


Braess’s paradox and programmable behaviour in microfluidic networks
Daniel J. Case, Yifan Liu, István Z. Kiss, Jean-Régis Angilella & Adilson E. Motter 
Nature (2019)