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The Physics of Friendship

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the people-in-three-dimensional-space dept.

112

Santosh Maharshi wrote to mention a Physorg story about a new way to model social networks. From the article: "Applying a mathematical model to the social dynamics of people presents difficulties not involved with more physical - and perhaps more rational - applications. The many factors that influence an individual's fate to meet an acquaintance and decide to become a friend are impossible to capture, but physicists have used techniques from physical systems to model social networks with near precision. By modeling people's interactions based on how particles bounce off each other in an enclosed area, physicists Marta Gonzalez, Pedro Lind and Hans Herrmann found that the characteristics of social networks emerge 'in a very natural way.'"

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112 comments

So in other words... (4, Funny)

moochfish (822730) | more than 8 years ago | (#14905961)

When you can't figure out why you have no friends, you hole yourself up in the basement for 3 years and come out with an equation that explains your shell of a social life. ;D

Re:So in other words... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906078)

"...come out with an equation that explains your shell of a social life."

Brilliant! We can model this as electron shells and changes in energy level. Three more years and I'll figure out why I've made no friends!

I resent that... (4, Funny)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906281)

When you can't figure out why you have no friends, you hole yourself up in the basement for 3 years and come out with an equation that explains your shell of a social life. ;D

You have misunderstood this completely. It is not an effort to explain the shell that is a Nerd's social life, this is already a well understood phenomenon. This research is part of an ongoing effort to find a sientifically sound solution to the tricky problem of enabling a Nerd to find a girlfriend. If you can't understand human females and their social behavior instinctively, analyze them mathematically until you do. Of course it might take a few more decades before we have quantum computers powerful enough to handle this daunting analytical task but until then basic mathematical research like this is vital.

Re:I resent that... (1)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906711)

"If you can't understand human females and their social behavior instinctively, analyze them mathematically until you do. "

For some reason I'm reminded of that episode of original Star Trek when they picked up a dangerous probe and used a logic puzzle to defeat it. If they'd asked it to analyze females and their social behavior I suspect the end result would have been the same.

Re:I resent that... (3, Funny)

MooUK (905450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907760)

One of my favourite sayings: "As well try to understand a woman as to understand the sun".

Of course, that saying was set back when they didn't have a clue about the sun. Now we mostly understand how it works, and yet women are still a complete mystery!

(Oh, and it's not just us guys who can't understand girls. A large number of my female friends agree that girls can't understand each other either!)

Re:I resent that... (1)

Maxwell's Demon in a (960848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14908523)

(Hmmm... Perhaps the subject line ought to say: "I resemble that remark".) Seriously, though... It's not really that women are so mysterious; we conform to causality just as men do. It's just that women have more relational entailments than men. Not only are those entailments harder to measure but Physics says they don't matter.

Re:I resent that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14909753)

Of course it might take a few more decades before we have quantum computers powerful enough to handle this daunting analytical task but until then basic mathematical research like this is vital.

to the dismay of the "rent a date" industry.

emerge 'in a very natural way.' (5, Funny)

slashflood (697891) | more than 8 years ago | (#14905965)

Calculating dependencies
emerge: there are no ebuilds to satisfy "in a very natural way.".

Geeks are smart but when it comes to this stuff (1, Funny)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906072)

It's as if they get retarded real quick. It's complicated, but if you want to make a science out of it, it's very stupid to focus on the "physics" of friendship. This is like focising on the "shape" of love, or the weight of emotion. Well okay, it does make sense to focus on these things, but why focus on these things?

If your goal is to find dates, then the first rule, BE HONEST. A woman can smell a liar, and women gossip, so anything you do will spread around town. You want the gossip to go in your favor, you want the legions of women to highlight how good you were in bed, or how nice you treat them, so that news spreads around town and you become a teenage or college legend. You don't want to be the town player, who gets drunk and beats women, or who cheats on women constantly, you don't want to be that guy. Geeks must learn to create the Geek image. We need a Geek 2.0, and it's your job as slashdot geeks to create the Geek 2.0 image. Do your research, figure out how women think and what they want, then come up with a set of guidelines and rules that all Geeks should follow, complete with dress code and language.

Re:Geeks are smart but when it comes to this stuff (2, Funny)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906192)

"or who cheats on women constantly,"

Ok, but your rep can't be hurting you too much if you have plenty of women with which to cheat on the other ones.

Re:Geeks are smart but when it comes to this stuff (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906251)

Karma, if you cheat all the time, it's like pouring poison into your drinking water, eventuallly it comes back to you. If you put out misery and pain, you eventually recieve it back.

Re:Geeks are smart but when it comes to this stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14908152)

True, but the converse is not necessarily true. Putting out nothing but kindness does not therefore return kindness.

Sorry, was that cynical?

Re:Geeks are smart but when it comes to this stuff (3, Informative)

azaris (699901) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906194)

It's as if they get retarded real quick. It's complicated, but if you want to make a science out of it, it's very stupid to focus on the "physics" of friendship. This is like focising on the "shape" of love, or the weight of emotion. Well okay, it does make sense to focus on these things, but why focus on these things?

Actually, it's not stupid at all. There is lots of research into building formal models that describe and explain human behaviour. Some of it is game theoretic, this I suppose statistical. Of course you can argue that comparing human relationships to molecules bouncing around randomly doesn't make for a good model, but that's another issue.

Re:Geeks are smart but when it comes to this stuff (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906200)

no, READ the ROADMAP. I'm sick of reading posts like this.

human social interaction v 1.0 will be in Geek 2.1.0.4.5. Not 2.0.

people like you who can't be bothered to make any effort installing CVS (make SURE you use cvs-unstable-12-Mar-2006-0435am or later or your machine WILL be DESTROYED. DO NOT POST HERE COMPLAINING IF THIS HAPPENS!!!) and setting up a local CVS branch and pulling the latest unstable-tainted roadmap aren't worth talking to.

Re:Geeks are smart but when it comes to this stuff (1)

jotok (728554) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907019)

Well played, sir. You owe me a new keyboard and monitor, and I owe you about five "Funny" points :)

Re:Geeks are smart but when it comes to this stuff (1)

jonbritton (950482) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906354)

Geeks must learn to create the Geek image. We need a Geek 2.0, and it's your job as slashdot geeks to create the Geek 2.0 image. Do your research, figure out how women think and what they want, then come up with a set of guidelines and rules that all Geeks should follow, complete with dress code and language.

So, we "geeks" should treat women as some conquerable alien species, the members of which are identical in wants, tastes and needs...and we "geeks" should conform to this model with unbending obedience, thus becoming equally identical?

It's called Theta Chi. You should try pledging.

Re:Geeks are smart but when it comes to this stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14907274)

If your goal is to find dates, then the first rule, BE HONEST. A woman can smell a liar
I beg to differ.

People in general aren't very good at knowing when other people are lying, unless the lie contradicts something they already know. For instance, if someone tells you they were at work at 8PM when you saw them in a neighborhood across town from work.

People who aren't confident and are really afraid of getting caught in a lie, sure, they can be easily found out (which would apply to most geeks who don't get dates very often). But the player who lies all the time? Not a chance.

Plus, there are some things that you simply cannot be honest about while dating. For instance, if you go up to a woman and say, "I find you very attractive. Would you like to come home with me for sex?" you will almost always fail, even though this is completely honest. A more roundabout approach would work far better.

Re:Geeks are smart but when it comes to this stuff (1)

ksheff (2406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14909618)

figure out how women think and what they want

that's easy. They want lots of money and the ability to spend it with abandon, family finances be damned. The job of the man is to make sure the bank balance remains positive and to not complain about it.

Unfortunately (4, Funny)

RootsLINUX (854452) | more than 8 years ago | (#14905975)

Unfortunately for the scientists responsible for the discovery, they still can't seem to get a hot date on Friday nights. :(

this isnt new (0, Redundant)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906047)

This is like reiventing the wheel, naming it the squeel,and calling it something new because its a square wheel. This is not new science, this is not news, all of us or at least those amount us who are wise, know this already. They just encoded it into a new physics language, thats all.

oh god (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14905981)

thanks for reminding me i have no friends. my parents died during 9/11. jesus.. i'm going to go kill myself. check out my livejournal page. i told u i was hardcore.

The article's illustration. (4, Funny)

babbling (952366) | more than 8 years ago | (#14905989)

See that picture at the top of the article? The big cloud with lots of fuzzy stuff in the middle, and then a less populated border?

Most of us were probably the border in high school...

Re:The article's illustration. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906032)

There's a picture in TFA?! Then I definitly must "read" it...

The nature of friendship changes over time. (5, Interesting)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906038)

In highschool there is very few real friendships. Most of the time its just recognizeable faces, or people who are cool but don't actually matter.

When you get to college and beyond is when you begin to build your true friendships, and these friendships arent based on emotion anymore because by this age usually a person has the ability to reason and filter out the people they don't want. By this time people usually have a laser like focus on exactly the personality types they get along with and know how to avoid the personality clashes which don't mix.

Loyalty is glue.It holds a relationship together. Keep your word and your word means something, commit to friendships as one commits to family and you'll have something to protect. Without loyalty, friendship is just familiar faces and cool people who you talk to on a regular basis but who don't matter and who you don't miss when they are gone.

I think theres room for both friends, and cool people, but relationships based on coolness are completely based on logic.If they are useful to you, and you are useful to them, if they and you both have reasons to hang around each other, business reasons, then these relationships last as long as there is mutual benefit.

The emotional relationship can end overnight when someone cusses the other out. So logic is a core component of any relationship. Emotion is a component as well, but emotion cuts both ways, and usually emotional relationships do not and cannot last.

Re:The nature of friendship changes over time. (2, Insightful)

Kupek (75469) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907315)

I have very close friends from high school (one is actually from my middle school days) that as far as I'm concerned, are family. I also formed very close friendships in college. Your high school experiences don't necessarily map to others.

Re:The nature of friendship changes over time. (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907590)

They very much match mine, but then again my town is about 20 years behind the rest of America socially.

Re:The nature of friendship changes over time. (1)

ksheff (2406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14909701)

that "interaction map" isn't much different once you get out of high school.

heh (4, Funny)

narkotix (576944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14905990)

still not as good as this [earthlink.net] equation.

Re:heh (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906299)

Heh, I think the author messed up and should have gotten evil^2 at the end:P

Re:heh (1)

Aranth Brainfire (905606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907014)

Eh, I don't know, I get a lot of emails from friendly people concerned about raising the power of my root, and they never mention anything about it getting square.

Re:heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906375)

Actually there is an error in the proof: (sqrt(Evil^2)) is *not* Evil but |Evil| (absolute value...)
So the true conclusion is: Girls = |Evil| (i.e. Girls are the absolute evil !)

-vtp

Re:heh (1)

neafevoc (93684) | more than 8 years ago | (#14911136)

I always thought the error was always in the first step.

It says time "and" money. I always associated "and" as adding and not multiplication. But please tell me if I'm wrong :)

Re:heh (1)

MooUK (905450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907825)

That proof is a great classic. Old but good.

What are the applications? (1, Interesting)

linguae (763922) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906001)

I wonder how this physics can be applied to make this particular single geek....not single?

Hmmm.... (goes off to find a solution)

Re:What are the applications? (5, Funny)

mattjb0010 (724744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906008)

"Hey baby, wanna bounce off me in an enclosed area?"

Re:What are the applications? (1)

not-admin (943926) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906288)

Unluckily, the quantum fluctuations would ensure that you would both be with her an not. Most women don't like that kind of indecisiveness.

If you don't want to be single it's not difficult. (1, Redundant)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906059)

If you just want to find a woman, or a guy, simply go out and keep asking people on dates or to be with you until one of them says yes. If you want to be precise about it, do your research about the people around you, find the one who seems most vulnerable, desperate and lonely, and wait for the oppurtunity, wait for the right time, and then show them you are interested.

It's no different than anything else, you research and learn as much as you can about the target, you ask the target out on a date, if they say no, then you move on to the next target, if they say yes then you go out on a date. If the date goes well, then you date again and again.

The main problem with geeks, geeks don't know what they want, geeks are too picky about what they deserve or can get, and geeks use their brain everywhere but here. Finally the most important part about dating, be honest! Be honest about yourself. You'd think that being a liar would get you more dates, but it ruins your reputation, and when you piss the wrong woman off, it will stick. Don't lie. Don't cheat. Don't play women. Treat them as your equal, and have fun in a safe fashion.

mod parent UP! (1)

CoolMoDee (683437) | more than 8 years ago | (#14908646)

I always seem to be missing mod-points when there is something that needs modding up.

Re:What are the applications? (1)

utopia27 (448035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906158)

The hotter particles bounce around more, and see more action.

Interestingly, the main characteristic of being hot is bouncing around more. So get out more, and bounce off more people - your hotness will increase, your interactions will increase, and eventually you'll bond.

I recommend mosh pits.

Re:What are the applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14908092)

Well, if you're thinking of the caveman'esque 'Club her like a baby seal and cart her off you your cave.' You can be 'not single' until she shakes off the concussion.
But with all the bogus data rape laws in place, there are some pretty nasty, secondary consequences of that antiquated yet effective method.

Re:What are the applications? (1)

PriceIke (751512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14908236)

I've heard of "music piracy", but "data rape" is a new low for the MPAA/RIAA.

I think it's a ridiculous notion (5, Insightful)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906020)

I do not think friendships work in such a way that math can literally outline the direction they are headed. Friendship is based on loyalty, when someone involved is disloyal it usually ends, and this can happy at any time. So friendships by nature come and go, and all relationships are temporary. The goal in this I suppose is to try to find patterns, so here is a pattern

If you want to have stronger friendships, have leverage, enough money, or charisma to keep people hovering around you. These variables can be added into the equation and then there are patterns, but if you just look at it emotionally then it will be complete chaos because emotion is not logical. There are logical elements of friendship, logical components, and logical tools which one can use to keep a friendship together or tear it apart.

Re:I think it's a ridiculous notion (4, Informative)

NichG (62224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906085)

Complete chaos is a lot more predictable than incomplete chaos. Incomplete chaos, you have to worry about when its ergodic and when it isn't. If there are aspects which are totally random, or at least sufficiently random that for all intents and purposes you can't predict the exact sequence of states then you can just use the distributions. The end result will be a theory that becomes more accurate the larger the system it's used to describe. It'll fail utterly on a group of three people but will work brilliantly on a group of three billion.

Re:I think it's a ridiculous notion (2, Insightful)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906090)

That's actually a good point. I can see this working on the scale of billions because there will definately be patterns, but I don't know how or why you'd want to apply this to billions of people.

Re:I think it's a ridiculous notion (2, Informative)

maize (201636) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906157)



well, the law of large numbers kicks in surpisingly quickly for most systems (in most statistal analysis, the problem tends to be the provability of lack of bias in the sample group more then the sample size).

Further, someone above mentioned that emotions aren't logical. I would say that you're just making that judgement from the wrong perspective. The experience of an emotion might arrest our own consious facilities and the emotional response to any particular stimulus may not be the most optimised behavioral reaction for that particular situation, but emotional response is not optimised to modern life. It's optimised toward species survival across a span of hundreds of thousands (homo sapiens sapiens) to millions (mammalian inheritance) of years.

Re:I think it's a ridiculous notion (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906208)

epidemiology.

Re:I think it's a ridiculous notion (1)

Spurion (412996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906397)

Then read Foundation by Asimov. Sure, it's fiction, but it makes the motivation very clear. And it's a good book too.

Re:I think it's a ridiculous notion (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907627)

So we're finally developing Seldonian psychohistory?

Re:I think it's a ridiculous notion (2, Interesting)

nickthecook (960608) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906838)

If you want to have stronger friendships, have leverage, enough money, or charisma to keep people hovering around you. These variables can be added into the equation and then there are patterns...

According to the article, it seems as if they could go the other way, and infer who has at least one of these properties based on the statistics. This would make the technique of interest to some people. Unfortunately, offhand it seems as if using it to more effectively market a product would be the most likely application. Marketers may be able to use this method to determine who sets the trends, and get them using their product.

Re:I think it's a ridiculous notion (1)

Kupek (75469) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907336)

You're missing the point. They didn't intend to come up with a model that could predict the outcome of individual relationships. They wanted to see if they could come up with a mathematical model that exhibited the same characteristics of social networks - that is, a large number of social interactions, not invidivual relationships.

What I want to know is... (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906052)

...what are the physics of getting laid? ;D

Re:What I want to know is... (1)

StarfishOne (756076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906121)

(G * m1 * m2) / (d^2) ?!?

 

Re:What I want to know is... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906232)

Of course one problem is that geeks tend to have negative gravitative mass, resulting in a repulsive force, except on other geeks, who are indeed attracted by a geek - but then, those are usually of the same gender ...

Re:What I want to know is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906257)

G * m1 * m2) / (d^2) ?!?


Rewritten as...

G * (2m) ^2 / (d * d) = x

Variable names expanded for clarity...

Girl times too much money squared away divided by two dates equals = Ex-girlfriend

Re:What I want to know is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906362)

ok, now answering questions that way explains exactly why you're not getting laid.

Now this is geeky news.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906061)

I find this article a moderately interesting, but on the other hand feel
that these people may be getting a little overexcited with their
ideas... So I'll follow the example :)

Are we near the e=mc2 of social theory? Shall we produce a formula next
to rectify sociological programs throughout the world and create
paradise on earth?! :)

I'd like to see software to organize communities comprising large
volumes of people into revolutionary "collective intelligence units" (ie
like the borg) and motivate and stimulate these groups into solving
large scale problems..

Well ways more efficient than "forum" or "channel" style communication
must exist! Where is the "super" society of the future that the internet shall dawn? :)

I for one... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906071)

...welcome our new cloudy diagrams overlords.

So this is why the SSC was cancelled... (1)

jettoki (894493) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906080)

...because crashing fat particles together at high velocities is too reminiscent of friendships and lobbyists in U.S. politics.

social networks are isolated in science (5, Interesting)

funkelectric (931604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906102)

It is amazing how nearly all of the social networks literature I have come across has blanked out the concepts of cluster analysis and graph partioning. It seems a very in-bred discipline bent on reclustering the same old karate club [umich.edu] over and over again. To some extent this is unfair as social networks can probably be viewed as a relatively early application of clustering in the setting of graphs. But the rest of the world has caught up if it ever was behind (biology, pattern recognition, data-mining, market-research, document clustering - the list is basically endless). It is well known that every field of research basically likes to reinvent cluster analysis all by itself, but social network people seem particularly inept at integration. Then, somehow a social network article comes up here at SD every odd couple of months as if the next coming has arrived. In this case we are extremely fortunate to witness a deep connection between bouncing particles (wow! physics!) and human actors. Hopefully Dan Brown takes notice.

Disclaimer: I have skimmed the fine article as found on ArXiv, and apart from the obligatory and tiresome small-word references found little to get excited about either way. This rant merely applies to the entire field.

Re:social networks are isolated in science (1)

madro (221107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906450)

It's kinda funny that you linked to Mark Newman, since he just wrote an article on modularity and community structure [arxiv.org] (which he did indeed proceed to use on the karate club in a recent talk). However, his work does include graph partitioning and cluster analysis, which he tries to improve upon using a new algorithm.

I agree there is certainly a lot of integrative work to be done, but that's because there has been a ton of network stuff done in physics and computer science, but not all of it is mappable to human-to-human networks, which have tricky psychological and sociological forces at work. I've found Brokerage and Closure [amazon.com] by Ron Burt to be a really good read on social networks from a sociological and business perspective. Super-quick summary: closure measures the cohesiveness of a group, while brokers span the gaps between the groups. It can be difficult and costly to be a broker, but in general these costs are outweighed by the benefits of greater access to information and opportunities.

I think there's plenty of mediocre research in many fields, but the trick is finding, using, and promoting the good stuff. (Kinda like Slashdot comments?)

Link to the Physical Review Letter (4, Informative)

Hal-9001 (43188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906142)

TFA has an off-by-one error on the paper number in Physical Review Letters. [aps.org] The actual citation is:
Marta C. González, Pedro G. Lind, and Hans J. Herrmann, "System of Mobile Agents to Model Social Networks," Phys. Rev. Lett. 96 088702 (2006). [aps.org]

Re:Link to the Physical Review Letter (1)

Too many errors, bai (815931) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906166)

Damn, I don't even ever read the references. Too much time on your hands?

Re:Link to the Physical Review Letter (1)

Hal-9001 (43188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906417)

Whenever Slashdot discusses science, I find that I'm a lot happier if I skip the linked article and track down the original papers. I don't usually read the original paper carefully, but I get a better sense of what the research is actually about from skimming the original paper than from reading a watered-down description of the original paper. And I woke up two hours earlier than I needed to today, so yeah, I have some extra time on my hands. :-)

Re:Link to the Physical Review Letter (1)

hanssprudel (323035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906169)


For people who lack a subscription to PRL the article can also be found here [uni-stuttgart.de] . It is a typical physics paper with plenty of vague plots, but little real math.

Re:Link to the Physical Review Letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14910603)

Damn you, fake math! *shakes fist*

Re:Link to the Physical Review Letter (1)

Joen_w (909158) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906187)

For those among us who aren't so fortunate as to have a subscription to Physical Review Letters: there's a free version of this paper available at arXiv. http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0602091 [arxiv.org]

Re:Link to the Physical Review Letter (1)

Hal-9001 (43188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906462)

Yeah, it's kinda annoying that TFA didn't have a link to the arXiv preprint. Thanks for making up for my laziness and looking it up. :-)

So people make sense now? (3, Interesting)

SendBot (29932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906144)

This is a very interesting idea, saying basically that people "collide" socially with an updated velocity analogous to making acquiantances based on your most recent social activities. I drew something similar out in a notebook once illustrating a lot of people I knew, and how and through whom I had met them (with me at the center, of course). It was very interesting to see groups where people were concentrated, and how those connected to others. Suprisingly, I would find large amounts of people that I had known, all because of one person.

Now, what I found new and interesting from rtfa'ing was the practical applications. from tfa:
Although this particle motion does not literally model human motion, it represents connections among people - and it's these links that contain the most significance for social networking theories. For example, links can represent the flow of information traveling through a community. By knowing the shortest path, communicators can optimize the information flow and improve productivity in a business. With the ability to determine hot hubs or holes in a community, business managers can identify leaders or points that require an organizational change.

That could be applied to business practice, politics, military, world economics, or anything else important with a social foundation.

Cool stuff!

Re:So people make sense now? (4, Interesting)

m0nstr42 (914269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906559)

That could be applied to business practice, politics, military, world economics, or anything else important with a social foundation.

Trust me, it's being done. I can speak for military and biological applications. This is very closely related to swarming, which is a pretty hot topic right now in a lot of fields. The general game is to find individual-based rules to produce desired (possibly optimal) behavior at the group level, or alternately (like TFA) to find individual-based models that describe group behavior. Ever since we've been able to make lots of little robots cheaply, this has been a big push.

So could one use plasma plasma physics (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906159)

...to describe a riot?

Internet Sex chart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906168)

The scientists were also able to apply this model to describe specific types of contacts to produce a distribution that again closely resembles real-life acquaintances. For example, to separate sexual contacts from all social contacts, the scientists assigned to the sexual contacts an intrinsic property that could then be used to model these distinct networks. In this case, the model reproduced the real sexual contact network found in a tracing study of HIV tests.

I wonder how it compares to the internet sex chart [attrition.org] Similar properties? Or are the efneters of a different variety.

Seldon (5, Interesting)

kid-noodle (669957) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906199)

I'm sure I've been beaten to this observation.. But this is essentially the basis of Hari Seldon's [Isaac Asimov's) psychohistory - he developed the idea based on the physics which were being used to model particle movements in gases.

Score one for sci-fi?

Re:Seldon (2, Informative)

Randolpho (628485) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906934)

That was my first thought as well...

And, frankly, I was surprised that I got this far down the first page before it was mentioned! I think more /.ers need to turn in their geek badges. :)

Re:Seldon (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907723)

Right, but without the psychic Second Foundationers and eventual Empire.

Re:Seldon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14907982)

.. and psychotic isolationist robots, and sexy vegan supercommunists from Gaia, and the buddy quest for The First Earth (two guesses, is it Trantor, or Not Trantor?!)..

Re:Seldon (1)

notnew_backwards (323683) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907918)

Score *one* for scifi? How about "one more?" There are uncountable scores for scifi in the "modern" technical community! What a wonderful world it is that has been created by the group of people that used to be rejected as "nerds."

Why the particles were friendly (1)

bloobloo (957543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906235)

They used Charm quarks

Social Networks (1)

DarthChris (960471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906266)

I recall being told a theory about social networks - that it's possible to link every person in the planet with a 6 degrees of freedom system. In other words, you can connect any two people on the planet by a chain of no more than six distinct individuals.
No karma-whoring here, as I don't have time to find a link atm.

And oddly enough, all those links (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 8 years ago | (#14908573)

And oddly enough, all those links go through Kevin Bacon for some reason.

So, you mean..... (3, Funny)

killeena (794394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906269)

....having the creator of a social networking site add himself to everyone's friend's list isn't the way to create a social network?

Looking to Quantum Particles (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906289)

Her: up, charm, top

You: down, strange, bottom

Great, reinvent the wheel. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906292)

The social sciences have been doing this for years. Why is is that every year some physicist "discovers" how physics can apply to social sciences and especially social networks, and completely ignores how social science has been there and done that long ago?

Hey physics people, next time you have a brilliant idea like this, go to the Sociological Abstracts and type in "social networks" and see what pops up.

Not mentioned in the article (2, Funny)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906295)

The model also produced a single integer as result: 42

Since the scientists could not explain the result, they decided to ignore it for now. One of the scientist was willing to give an anonymous comment:
For me it could have been 41 or 43 as result, but I can live with 42
Asking for further explanation, he denied further comments.

pet theory (1, Interesting)

nickgrieve (87668) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906308)

I have had my own little pet theory about physics and social behavior. Its loosely based around quantum theory. Heisenberg uncertainty principle in particular.

You have a group... in the group people are "atoms/particles". You can predict how the group will react with reasonable probability. If the group is in a theater and you shout "fire!" there is a good chance that there will be a stamped... Its all very well and good, predictable enough.

The interesting bit comes in when you get down to individual quanta. Back in the theater, only this time its just you and me. If I shout "fire!" I would be hard pressed to predict your reaction. Many of you would respond "where?" one or two would say "shut up, this is the good bit" and maybe some of you would duck and try and avoid the firing squad. My theory of mind can deal well with masses of people, but reduce it on only one other mind, then my interaction with you changes the out come of my measurement... For example, I see my friend sitting at her desk staring into space, I ask her, "What are you thinking?" What ever it was she was thinking has now changed,..

like i said, its a pet theory... not a very good one, or very sound, but this article made me think of it.

Off to go find my black cat, its dark outside, I'll throw stones and listen for it to yowl, then I will know where it is.

Re:pet theory (1)

dtsazza (956120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906568)

This is touching on the notion of chaos as mentioned in NichG's post above. We can't completely map out a person's neural wiring, to the level where we can take and input and compute the output. More importantly, everyone is different anyway. What we can do, however, is look at the average case behaviour and with a large enough group, the observed outputs will be closer and closer to the distribution of predicted outputs. Hence you don't know what will happen with just one other person in the theater, but you can have a decent pop at predicting what'll happen with many people there.

Though that's only half of it - you've also got a nice bit of positive feedback where you'll get more people shouting "Fire!" and running, and that somehow increases the legitimacy of your claim in peoples' minds. The more people in the theater, the more chance you have of finding a few nervous souls who'll join in the shouting and stampeding out of panic, without checking whether it's real.

It seems to me that people have a certain threshold of circumstantial evidence at which they'll decide something is real; if you can get enough people with a very low (i.e. one person shouting) level for "fire in a theater", there's now several people shouting and running, which may be enough to set off more people who wouldn't have reacted were it just you - and they'll set off more people, and so on. It's easy to see how above a critical mass this can set off a chain reaction not unlike uncontrolled fission, until the whole crowd is infected and you have a stampede and/or riot.

As a result you can get situations like the Shia bridge stampede [bbc.co.uk] , where over 1,000 people died due to (false) rumours of a suicide bomber. Ironically, an actual bomber probably would have killed less...

Re:pet theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14906580)

Off to go find my black cat, its dark outside, I'll throw stones and listen for it to yowl, then I will know where it is.

Nope. Then you will know where it was .

Re:pet theory (1)

m0nstr42 (914269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906596)

Interesting. The bit about changing what your friend is thinking about is a general principle in conducting experiments involving human (even animal) subjects. If they know they're taking a test, or being part of a study, it will effect their responses. That's actually one of the reasons why medical research is so difficult.

The bit about shouting fire in a crowded theatre I think is more of a "law of large numbers" argument than being Heisenbergian. Your model that allows you to predict the response of a large crowd is predicated by the fact that there is a large crowd. It's called a continuum model - the basic idea is that you let the density of individuals at any location (or in any state) become large enough that you can model it as a continuous density distribution. The fact that you can't handle a situation with small numbers is a breakdown in the assumption that you can treat the group en masse rather than as a group of interacting individuals.

Great: You just invented sociology (1)

titzandkunt (623280) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906798)

You know - that discipline which seeks to study social interactions, which can be reasonably predictive when taking a population en masse, but which is rediced to flipping coins at the individual level.

T&K.

Re:pet theory (0, Offtopic)

nickthecook (960608) | more than 8 years ago | (#14907058)

Another post mentioned Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels. If you like reading, I think you should give them a try, sounds like you'd enjoy them.

In the novels, Psychologists use the theory of Psychohistory to predict the future on a large scale, because populations have grown so large - 40 billion on the capital planet iirc - that their actions are almost totally predictable.

and friends with benefits? (1)

Sting_TVT (959719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906329)

Where does the whole casual dating/friendship thing figure into this?

pub (1)

hachete (473378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906352)

where is in that cloud? Is it a pub called Oorts Cloud?

High School Physics (2, Funny)

Centurix (249778) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906669)

I can clearly state that high school consisted of various mixed states of matter. Most good looking girls were made of highly organised chrystalline structures, very rigid, but could be reduced to a liquid state with the correct application of energy. Some girls were a good solid. Some girls were perfect examples of Brownian motion, all over the place.

On a quantum level, you were better off dating the larger Bosons, as they were always friends with the best looking low mass Photons, even though you had to put up with the odd crazy bit of anti-matter sometimes, getting into the mix of things can certainly help out generating loads of Super-Fluids...

The article is too late (0)

Perl-Pusher (555592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14906929)

This was already a plot of the show numb3rs, they modeled social interactions to find a terrorist.

Links to papers (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14907338)

Here's Marta C. González's publications page [uni-stuttgart.de] . As you can see, the author is a hottie!

Here are links to the paper in PDF format [uni-stuttgart.de] and Postscript format [uni-stuttgart.de] .

If I'm factoring this correctly: (1)

cabazorro (601004) | more than 8 years ago | (#14908532)

If I start liking Taco Bell, watching American Idol blowing all my savings on video games and hanging at the Mall after hours, my particle velocity will increase allowing a potential collisions to occur without disturbing Eisenberg's Principle or my Bean Burrito for that matter. The forehead tribal tattoo and my mom picking me up in the mini-van left my particle in a stationary pattern.

Hari Seldon says Hi (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14909168)

Applying a mathematical model to the social dynamics of people...

Did anyone else think of Psychohistory when they read that? :)

Many "Geeks" not meant for women? (1)

thealsir (927362) | more than 8 years ago | (#14910716)

I used to always feel bad for most of the geek types (including myself) and thier inability to get women, but then I realized that maybe certain types of people just weren't meant to attract the other gender in the first place. Obviously women are more turned on by the "player" types and eventually settle down with them, and while geek types may eventually get a women they tend to lack certain...prerequisites. I feel this is somewhat of an evolutionary path, i.e. not everyone needs to reproduce to help the species/society as a whole. There are a lot of scientists/world leaders who helped humanity greatly and did not have any children. For those looking to only marry for companionship or whatever, that's cool, but most people marry because they want to have a family. The only thing that's worrying about this trend is the extinction of geek-like people. Or maybe it's a constant, i.e. the a minimal amount manage to reproduce, thus keeping the geek population normal. And of course even in the wildest of families there tends to be the more intellectual types. It's possible to be somewhat geek and very outward, but those people are rare. And it's hard because socializing burns a LOT of time, time that those who are not social spend pondering about the stars, coding, etc, eventually finding that "AH HAH!" moment that moves humanity forward another 20 years. I know it sounds sad but maybe some people weren't really meant to find women. Here's a clue...if you don't really miss not having a significant other, drop it. It'll either come or you'll just put yourself through a lot of pain and misery that you can live without. For people who really want but don't have the skills, I feel sorry for you. It's kind of my situation, I want one but none of the 15 or so I've asked out accepted. I think I'm reasonably sociable but something just doesn't come across right. I do also have this back in the head feeling whenever socializing that I'm wasting time even though on the outside I look like I'm having fun..which may contribute to it. I dunno. It just seems like I'm putting in a lot of effort for no output. Evolution is tough, and certain people get excluded from participating. Life's a bitch, life's not fair, but that's just the way it is. World wouldn't be real otherwise.

Original article source (1)

lost in place (248578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14911000)

For those who want to read the original article, the final published version is here (for a fee, looks like):
http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServ let?prog=normal&id=PRLTAO000096000008088702000001& idtype=cvips&gifs=Yes [aip.org]

It's available for free (possibly a draft version) from the arXiv network:
http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0602091 [arxiv.org]

Bon apetit.

People as Atoms (1)

g01d4 (888748) | more than 8 years ago | (#14911389)

In high school (before many /.ers were born) I used to watch groups of my fellow classmates and think of them as atoms. Collecting into various size groups as their needs/valences dictated. Some bonds were stronger or more stable than others and various relationship interactions would be like external energy (e.g. kinetic) stirring up the mix as it were.
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