Identifying Critical States through the Relevance Index

The identification of critical states is a major task in complex systems, and the availability of measures to detect such conditions is of utmost importance. In general, criticality refers to the existence of two qualitatively different behaviors that the same system can exhibit, depending on the values of some parameters. In this paper, we show that the relevance index may be effectively used to identify critical states in complex systems. The relevance index was originally developed to identify relevant sets of variables in dynamical systems, but in this paper, we show that it is also able to capture features of criticality. The index is applied to two prominent examples showing slightly different meanings of criticality, namely the Ising model and random Boolean networks. Results show that this index is maximized at critical states and is robust with respect to system size and sampling effort. It can therefore be used to detect criticality.


Identifying Critical States through the Relevance Index
Andrea Roli, Marco Villani, Riccardo Caprari and Roberto Serra

Entropy 2017, 19(2), 73; doi:10.3390/e19020073


Bumblebees show cognitive flexibility by improving on an observed complex behavior

One hallmark of cognitive complexity is the ability to manipulate objects with a specific goal in mind. Such “tool use” at one time was ascribed to humans alone, but then to primates, next to marine mammals, and later to birds. Now we recognize that many species have the capacity to envision how a particular object might be used to achieve an end. Loukola et al. extend this insight to invertebrates. Bumblebees were trained to see that a ball could be used to produce a reward. These bees then spontaneously rolled the ball when given the chance.


Thomas Crombie Schelling (1921–2016)

Thomas Schelling, the distinguished economist, died on 13 December 2016 at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. He was 95 years old. Schelling applied his prolific work in game theory to arms control and deterrence, negotiation strategy, and most recently, global warming. His strategic insights made the world a much safer place.


Thomas Crombie Schelling (1921–2016)
Richard Zeckhauser

Science  24 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6327, pp. 800
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9079


Feasibility and coexistence of large ecological communities

The role of species interactions in controlling the interplay between the stability of ecosystems and their biodiversity is still not well understood. The ability of ecological communities to recover after small perturbations of the species abundances (local asymptotic stability) has been well studied, whereas the likelihood of a community to persist when the conditions change (structural stability) has received much less attention. Our goal is to understand the effects of diversity, interaction strengths and ecological network structure on the volume of parameter space leading to feasible equilibria. We develop a geometrical framework to study the range of conditions necessary for feasible coexistence. We show that feasibility is determined by few quantities describing the interactions, yielding a nontrivial complexity–feasibility relationship. Analysing more than 100 empirical networks, we show that the range of coexistence conditions in mutualistic systems can be analytically predicted. Finally, we characterize the geometric shape of the feasibility domain, thereby identifying the direction of perturbations that are more likely to cause extinctions.


Prediction limits of mobile phone activity modelling

Thanks to their widespread usage, mobile devices have become one of the main sensors of human behaviour and digital traces left behind can be used as a proxy to study urban environments. Exploring the nature of the spatio-temporal patterns of mobile phone activity could thus be a crucial step towards understanding the full spectrum of human activities. Using 10 months of mobile phone records from Greater London resolved in both space and time, we investigate the regularity of human telecommunication activity on urban scales. We evaluate several options for decomposing activity timelines into typical and residual patterns, accounting for the strong periodic and seasonal components. We carry out our analysis on various spatial scales, showing that regularity increases as we look at aggregated activity in larger spatial units with more activity in them. We examine the statistical properties of the residuals and show that it can be explained by noise and specific outliers. Also, we look at sources of deviations from the general trends, which we find to be explainable based on knowledge of the city structure and places of attractions. We show examples how some of the outliers can be related to external factors such as specific social events.


Prediction limits of mobile phone activity modelling
Dániel Kondor, Sebastian Grauwin, Zsófia Kallus, István Gódor, Stanislav Sobolevsky, Carlo Ratti

Royal Society Open Science

Feb 2017