Abstract: Attacks by drones (i.e., unmanned combat air vehicles) continue to generate heated political and ethical debates. Here we examine the quantitative nature of drone attacks, focusing on how their intensity and frequency compare with that of other forms of human conflict. Instead of the power-law distribution found recently for insurgent and terrorist attacks, the severity of attacks is more akin to lognormal and exponential distributions, suggesting that the dynamics underlying drone attacks lie beyond these other forms of human conflict. We find that the pattern in the timing of attacks is consistent with one side having almost complete control, an important if expected result. We show that these novel features can be reproduced and understood using a generative mathematical model in which resource allocation to the dominant side is regulated through a feedback loop.
Abstract: Being able to design genetic regulatory networks (GRNs) to achieve a desired cellular function is one of the main goals of synthetic biology. However, determining minimal GRNs that produce desired time-series behaviors is non-trivial. In this paper, we propose a ‘top-down’ approach to evolving small GRNs and then use these to recursively boot-strap the identification of larger, more complex, modular GRNs. We start with relatively dense GRNs and then use differential evolution (DE) to evolve interaction coefficients. When the target dynamical behavior is found embedded in a dense GRN, we narrow the focus of the search and begin aggressively pruning out excess interactions at the end of each generation. We first show that the method can quickly rediscover known small GRNs for a toggle switch and an oscillatory circuit. Next we include these GRNs as non-evolvable subnetworks in the subsequent evolution of more complex, modular GRNs. Successful solutions found in canonical DE where we truncated small interactions to zero, with or without an interaction penalty term, invariably contained many excess interactions. In contrast, by incorporating aggressive pruning and the penalty term, the DE was able to find minimal or nearly minimal GRNs in all test problems.
Abstract: Over the past two decades, school shootings within the United States have repeatedly devastated communities and shaken public opinion. Many of these attacks appear to be `lone wolf' ones driven by specific individual motivations, and the identification of precursor signals and hence actionable policy measures would thus seem highly unlikely. Here, we take a system wide view and investigate the timing of school attacks and the dynamical feedback with social media. We identify a trend divergence in which college attacks have continued to accelerate over the last 25 years while those carried out on K-12 schools have slowed down. We establish the copycat effect in school shootings and uncover a statistical association between social media chatter and the probability of an attack in the following days. While hinting at causality, this relationship may also help mitigate the frequency and intensity of future attacks.