Physics shows that imperfections make perfect

Northwestern University researchers have added a new dimension to the importance of diversity. For the first time, physicists have experimentally demonstrated that certain systems with interacting entities can synchronize only if the entities within the system are different from one another. This finding offers a new twist to the previous understanding of how collective behavior … Read more

Dismal math results can’t be ignored

Australian school students’ poor performance in mathematics could harm the economy and the next generation’s job prospects, according to a University of Queensland researcher. The results from the 2018 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reveal that Australian students’ mathematics performance ranked 20 or above on a decreasing scale of one to 26. Professor … Read more

This ‘fix’ for economic theory changes everything from gambles to inequality to Ponzi schemes

Whether we decide to take out that insurance policy, buy Bitcoin, or switch jobs, many economic decisions boil down to a fundamental gamble about how to maximize our wealth over time. How we understand these decisions is the subject of a new perspective piece in Nature Physics that aims to correct a foundational mistake in economic theory. According to … Read more

From firearms to fish – following patterns to discover causality

Mathematicians have successfully applied a new, pictorial approach to answer complex questions that puzzle analysts, such as, do media stories on firearm legislation influence gun sales? Cause-and-effect queries like this pop up in various fields, from finance to neuroscience, and objective methods are needed to deliver reliable answers. Maurizio Porfiri, at the New York University, … Read more

Predicting metastasis from primary tumor size

A new mathematical model uses the size of a cancer patient’s initial, primary tumor to predict whether undetectable secondary tumors are already present. Stefano Avanzini and Tibor Antal of the University of Edinburgh, U.K., present the model in PLOS Computational Biology. As cancer grows, cells can spread from the initial tumor site to other parts of … Read more

Numbers limit how accurately digital computers model chaos

The study, published today in Advanced Theory and Simulations, shows that digital computers cannot reliably reproduce the behaviour of ‘chaotic systems’ which are widespread. This fundamental limitation could have implications for high performance computation (HPC) and for applications of machine learning to HPC. Professor Peter Coveney, Director of the UCL Centre for Computational Science and study … Read more

Novel math could bring machine learning to the next level

A team of Italian mathematicians, including one who is also a neuroscientist from the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown (CCU), in Lisbon, Portugal, has shown that artificial vision machines can learn to recognize complex images spectacularly faster by using a mathematical theory that was developed 25 years ago by one of this new study’s co-authors. … Read more

Animal collectives like ants should move through their environment like ‘savvy gamblers’

Scientists have studied particular examples of this for many years but there are not many unifying frameworks to understand the general organising principles of animal movement. This is especially true for animal collectives like ant colonies, whose individual routes as they search for food can look rather like a ‘random walk’. Now an inter-disciplinary team … Read more

Chaos theory produces map for predicting paths of particles emitted into the atmosphere

Floating air particles following disasters and other largescale geological events can have a lasting impact on life on Earth. Volcanic ash can be projected up to the stratosphere and halt air traffic by lingering in the atmosphere for months. Particles from industrial accidents have the potential to travel full hemispheres before falling to the ground. … Read more