Researchers devise method to study network resistance to random failures based on 'random walks'

May 27, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
social network
Social network diagram. Credit: Daniel Tenerife/Wikipedia

(Phys.org) —A small team of mathematicians with Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain, has come up with a way to study a network's resistance to failure. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers describe the concept of "random walks" and how it can be used to mathematically analyze a wide variety of networks to study its resistance to failure.

We humans have a tendency to build networks—from , to our highway systems to the Internet, networks carry both real world things and virtual information—all necessary for the smooth running of modern economies. Unfortunately, as we learn when the electric grid fails or traffic snarls on the freeway, networks have a tendency to fail us at times. Most people understand intuitively that such failures generaly come about due to a failure in a single part of the —a car crash, a leak in a pipe or an injury to a body part. Most are aware also of backups put in place to deal with such failures—busses can be used when a metro network suffers a or snail-mail can be used if the Internet goes down. But how much redundancy is necessary to keep a network running, and how well does it do so? These are questions scientists and engineers grapple with every day. In this new effort, the team in Spain has developed a new tool to help, they call it the concept of "random walks."

To explain their idea, they used London's mass transit system—the Tube—as their basic network. What happens when a section of the system goes down, they asked. Because people are in the middle of it, there is no clear direction on what to do, i.e. to get to where they want to go. Some use logic, mapping out the rest of the network in their head. Others, however, simply begin walking in a random direction, assuming that a solution will reveal itself. In multi-layer networks (where there are parts that are separate from each other) it turns out, people taking random walks works out pretty well. The researchers came to this conclusion by applying mathematical algorithms to the idea and then creating models based on them. They found that random walks can be programmed into virtually any network model and doing so helps to demonstrate the robustness of the network as well how well it will operate when failures do occur. Thus, new networks can be put to the test before they are constructed, making them work better in the long run.

Explore further: Physicists suggest electrical networks more at risk of cascading failure than thought

More information: Navigability of interconnected networks under random failures, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1318469111

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

When diffusion depends on chronology

Jul 15, 2013

The Internet, motorways and other transport systems, and many social and biological systems are composed of nodes connected by edges. They can therefore be represented as networks. Scientists studying diffusion ...

Keywords hold vocabulary together in memory

May 19, 2014

Much like key players in social networks, University of Kansas scientists have found evidence that there are keywords in word networks that hold together groups of words in our memory.

Molecular networks provide insights for computer security

Apr 29, 2014

The robust defenses that yeast cells have evolved to protect themselves from environmental threats hold lessons that can be used to design computer networks and analyze how secure they are, say computer scientists at Carnegie ...

Why rumors spread fast in social networks

May 21, 2012

Information spreads fast in social networks. This could be observed during recent events. Now computer scientists from the German Saarland University provide the mathematical proof for this and come up with a surprising explanation.

Recommended for you

Affirmative action elicits bias in pro-equality Caucasians

Jul 25, 2014

New research from Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business indicates that bias towards the effects of affirmative action exists in not only people opposed to it, but also in those who strongly endorse equality.

Narcissistic CEOs and financial performance

Jul 24, 2014

Narcissism, considered by some as the "dark side of the executive personality," may actually be a good thing when it comes to certain financial measures, with companies led by narcissistic CEOs outperforming those helmed ...

User comments : 0