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Physics meets Humanities

Physics meets Humanities

Mirror Hall of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv (Lviv, Universytetsjka Str., 1), May 31, 2013, 12:00-14:00


The goal of the workshop is to demonstrate how concepts and methods of natural sciences are applied in social sciences and humanities. Pedagogical review lectures on a level understandable for graduate students in humanities and social sciences will review recent progress made in applying quantitative approaches to study relations between characters appearing in different mythological narratives, epics and sagas, to understand complex behaviour of biological and social systems. The workshop aims to serve as a meeting place between academics and students in humanities and natural sciences. Besides obvious popularisation of scientific ideas the seminar promotes the quest for common interdisciplinary approaches to various problems.


"Maths Meets Myths: Network Analysis of Mythological Epics"

Ralph Kenna (Coventry University, Coventry, UK)
Mythological epics frequently entail multitudes of characters in timeless narratives beyond documented history. As such, they differ from legends which are couched in definite historical timeframes and intentionally fictional folktales. The concept of universality is important to comparative mythology and it has been claimed that narratives from a variety of cultures share similar structures. Universality also lies at the heart of network theory, a relatively new branch of theoretical physics with broad applicability. Network theory allows one to classify and compare the interconnectedness underlying a multitude of structures relevant to biology, sociology, economics, chemistry, physics, transport, computer science, and other disciplines.
Here we apply this theory to study networks of characters appearing in different mythological narratives, epics and sagas: Beowulf (England), the Iliad (Greece), the Íslendingasögur (Iceland) and the Táin Bó Cúailnge (Ireland). By comparing these amongst each other, and to real, fictitious and random networks, we seek to develop a new, quantitative approach to comparative mythology. In particular, we find that each of the societies depicted has, to varying degrees, properties akin to those of real social networks. This quantitative approach forms a basis upon which one may speculate as to the extent to which these narratives may be based upon real or imaginary societies.
Associated Paper: P. Mac Carron and R. Kenna, Universal properties of mythological networks, EPL 99 (2012) 28002.
The paper is freely downloadable from

"Computation Social Science: new Approach to study Human Behavior"

Olesya Mryglod (ICMP, Lviv, Ukraine)
Modern information technologies allow to study human activity as the element of complex social system. Nowadays it is possible to automatically monitor the wide range of processes which involve human actions such as phone communicating, web-pages browsing, e-mailing or shopping. The huge amounts of collected data could be called the “digital footprints” of human everyday activity. Different methods of data analysis could be used to understand the nature of collective emotions, to reveal the ways of spreading of fashion trends or to find the precursors of social disturbances.
Besides the data reflecting human behavior in real life, the information about users’ activity in the virtual worlds or different games-simulators could be used for analysis. The players' goals in a virtual world are usually not real, but the basic features of their behavior as well as the social relationships or teamwork undoubtedly are real. Here we present the results of the analysis of players’ behavior in the online game called PARDUS. This game was presented online since 2004. Today the number of registered PARDUS-players is more than 300 000. The current research is mainly connected with the analysis of the social networks based on the PARDUS data, correlations between them and basic properties of different kinds of players. In particular, this approach allows to verify a number of social hypothesis. The original results were obtained in collaboration with Stefan Thurner (Medical University of Vienna Medical University of Vienna, Austria; Santa Fe Institute, USA) and Michael Szell (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA).
Associated Paper: S. Thurner et al., Emergence of Good Conduct, Scaling and Zipf Laws in Human Behavioral Sequences in an Online World. PLoS ONE 7 (2012) e29796.
PARDUS game online:

"Wonderful World of Random Walks: From Lucretius’s “De rerum natura” to Optimal Search Strategies"

Aleksei Chechkin (Max-Planck Institute for Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden, Germany and Akhiezer Institute for Theoretical Physics, Kharkiv, Ukraine)
In my talk I give a brief and simple survey of the properties of random walk phenomena studied in modern physical science. Starting from seemingly simple observations of erratic motion of tiny particles in gases and fluids, I demonstrate how the concept of random walk penetrates into finance, biology, social sciences and robotics. In particular, I dwell on the following issues (but not only):

  1. First recorded observations (Lucretius, 60 BC, Ingenhousz, 1785, Brown, 1827): evidences of atomistic structure of nature.
  2. Einstein’s theory of Brownian motion (1905) and universality of the random walks.
  3. Econophysics: how Brownian motion invaded financial markets after the PhD dissertation “The theory of Speculation” by Bachelier (1900).
  4. How non-random could be a random walk? Brownian motion with memory.
  5. Going beyond the world of random walks: Lévy flights of an albatrose and foraging movement of spider monkeys.
  6. The laws of human mobility: dollar bill as a proxy for human travel.
  7. Lévy flights as a search strategy for foraging robots.

Associated Papers:
A. Chechkin, R. Metzler, J. Klafter, V. Gonchar, Introduction to the Theory of Lévy Flights. Anomalous Transport: Foundations and Applications, edited by R. Klages, G. Radons, I.M. Sokolov Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, pp. 129-162 (2008).
R. Metzler, A.V. Chechkin, J. Klafter, Lévy Statistics and Anomalous Transport: Lévy Flights and Subdiffusion. Encyclopedia of Complexity and System Science, edited by R. Mayers. Springer-Verlag, New York, pp.5218-5239 (2009).
F. Lenz, T.C. Ings, L. Chittka, A.V. Chechkin, R. Klages, Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Bumblebees Foraging under Predation Risk. Physical Review Letters 108, article 098103 (2012).
F. Lenz, A.V. Chechkin, R. Klages, Constructing a Stochastic Model of Bumblebee Flights from Experimental Data. PLoS ONE 8, article e59036 (2013).

Archive of the workshop

Organized by:
Ivan Franko National University of Lviv
Institute for Condensed Matter Physics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine