The "basin stability concept" is apt for quantifying this risk. However, it is critical to actually do this from measured data. "Other researchers recently have collected the characteristics in terms of precipitation, temperature, soil of rainforests and savannas under defined climatological conditions," Menck says. Still, the assessment is extremely challenging as the tipping of a forest is a rare event, so observation data is scarce. In contrast, observation data of human cells changing from a healthy state to cancer can be abundant. "So medical researchers told us that our concept could be quite helpful in better assessing the risk of sane cells to turning sick when disturbed by specific exogenous factors."
"Simple yet compelling that's the way fundamental physics looks like"
Power grids have to function in good synchronization to assure that lights can be switched on everywhere anytime. Previous theory suggested that this should most easily be achieved if power grids had what researchers call a random structure, which in fact would yield many short-cuts between distant nodes. Yet in reality, grids look far more regular. Applying the basin stability concept shows why that is: In more regular grids, the desired synchronous state possesses a far bigger 'basin', hence is much more stable against perturbations.
"The basin stability's applicability to high-dimensional systems allowed us to solve a puzzle that has long haunted complex network science," says Jrgen Kurths, a co-author of the paper and co-chair of PIK's research domain 'Transdisciplinary concepts and methods'. "Our new nonlinear approach jumps from a local to a whole system analysis, thus complementing previous research mostly based on linearization. This new concept is simple, yet compelling that's the way fundamental physics looks like."
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Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)