H. Eugene Stanley, Boston University, “Switching without switches and the fragility of interdependency, with applications to failure cascades in biomedical physics and economics”

Recent disasters ranging from abrupt financial “flash crashes” and large-scale power outages to sudden death among the elderly dramatically exemplify the fact that the most dangerous vulnerability is hiding in the many interdependencies among different networks. We have recently quantified failures in interconnected networks, and demonstrated the need to consider mutually dependent network properties in designing resilient systems. Specifically, we have uncovered new laws governing the nature of switching phenomena in coupled networks, and found that phenomena that are continuous phase transitions in isolated networks become discontinuous and abrupt transitions in interdependent networks. I will discuss the network basis for understanding sudden death in the elderly, and the possibility that financial “flash crashes” are not unlike the catastrophic first-order failure incidents occurring in coupled networks.1

This work was supported by DTRA, ONR, and NSF, and was carried out in collaboration with several students and colleagues, including but not limited to, S. V. Buldyrev, S. Havlin, D. Y. Kenett, A. Majdandzic, H. S. Moat, B. Podobnik and T. Preis.

1A. Majdandzic, B. Podobnik, S. V. Buldyrev, D. Y. Kenett, S. Havlin, and H. E. Stanley, “Spontaneous recovery in dynamical networks,” Nature Physics 10, 34 (2014).