Custody in recomposed families is complex network problem

Feb 21, 2014

Physics can provide insights into societal trends. Problems involving interactions between people linked in real-life networks can be better understood by using physical models. As a diversion from his normal duties as a theoretical physicist, Andrés Gomberoff from the Andres Bello University in Santiago, Chile, set out to resolve one of his real-life problems: finding a suitable weekend for both partners in his recomposed family to see all their children at the same time. He then joined forces with a mathematician and a complex systems expert. This resulted in a study published in European Physical Journal B, showing that solving this problem essentially equates to minimising the energy in a material model.

The authors assume that they deal with a network of people who are connected, either because they are in a current relationship or because they are ex-partners. Another assumption is that all involved in the network are willing to cooperate and communicate in an open manner.

They then attempt to verify whether it is possible to find a custody arrangement whereby all parents see all of their children together every other weekend, thus satisfying the expectations of all members of the network. The answer is that it is not possible, in general, to have such an agreement.

However, they also found that it is possible to have an arrangement in which one of the parents gets to see all of their children every other weekend. They also found an algorithm to maximise the level of contentment of members of this extended family . Maximising the number of parents spending time with their own children and those of their current partners was akin to minimising the energy of a particular magnetic material called a spin glass. Who said that physics can't have real-life applications?

Explore further: Star power: Troubled ITER nuclear fusion project looks for new path

More information: A. Gomberoff, V. Muñoz, and P. P. Romagnoli (2014), The physics of custody, European Physical Journal B, DOI: 10.1140/epjb/e2014-40666

"The physics of custody." Andrés Gomberoff, Víctor Muñoz, Pierre Paul Romagnoli. arXiv:1305.0935 [physics.soc-ph]

Related Stories

Why parents think your partner isn't good enough

Sep 18, 2013

It is common for parents to influence mate choice—from arranged marriages to more subtle forms of persuasion—but they often disagree with their children about what makes a suitable partner. A new study has found an evolutionary ...

Recommended for you

SLAC gears up for dark matter hunt with LUX-ZEPLIN

23 hours ago

Researchers have come a step closer to building one of the world's best dark matter detectors: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently signed off on the conceptual design of the proposed LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) ...

First images of LHC collisions at 13 TeV

May 21, 2015

Last night, protons collided in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the record-breaking energy of 13 TeV for the first time. These test collisions were to set up systems that protect the machine and detectors ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.