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The Physics of Friendship 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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The Physics of Friendship

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  • by linguae ( 763922 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @05:35AM (#14906001)

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

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

  • by elucido ( 870205 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @05:47AM (#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.
  • by funkelectric ( 931604 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:14AM (#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 [] 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.

  • by SendBot ( 29932 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:30AM (#14906144) Homepage Journal
    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!
  • Seldon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kid-noodle ( 669957 ) <> on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:58AM (#14906199) Homepage
    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?
  • pet theory (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nickgrieve ( 87668 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @07:44AM (#14906308) Journal
    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.
  • by m0nstr42 ( 914269 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @09:02AM (#14906559) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by nickthecook ( 960608 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @09:57AM (#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.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?