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Optimizing custody is child's play for physicists

Date:
February 21, 2014
Source:
Springer Science+Business Media
Summary:
Ensuring that parents in recomposed families see their children regularly is a complex network problem, according to a new study. The lead researcher set out to resolve one of his real-life problems: finding a suitable weekend for both partners in his recomposed family to see all their children at the same time. He then joined forces with a mathematician and a complex systems expert. The answer they came up with is that such an agreement is not possible, in general.
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Ensuring that parents in recomposed families see their children regularly is a complex network problem.

Physics can provide insights into societal trends. Problems involving interactions between people linked in real-life networks can be better understood by using physical models. As a diversion from his normal duties as a theoretical physicist, Andrés Gomberoff from the Andres Bello University in Santiago, Chile, set out to resolve one of his real-life problems:  finding a suitable weekend for both partners in his recomposed family to see all their children at the same time. He then joined forces with a mathematician and a complex systems expert. This resulted in a study published in EPJ B, showing that solving this problem essentially equates to minimizing the energy in a material model.

The authors assume that they deal with a network of people who are connected, either because they are in a current relationship or because they are ex-partners. Another assumption is that all involved in the network are willing to cooperate and communicate in an open manner.

They then attempt to verify whether it is possible to find a custody arrangement whereby all parents see all of their children together every other weekend, thus satisfying the expectations of all members of the network. The answer is that it is not possible, in general, to have such an agreement. 

However, they also found that it is possible to have an arrangement in which one of the parents gets to see all of their children every other weekend.  They also found an algorithm to maximize the level of contentment of members of this extended family network. Maximizing the number of parents spending time with their own children and those of their current partners was akin to minimizing the energy of a particular magnetic material called a spin glass.

Who said that physics can’t have real-life applications?


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrés Gomberoff, Víctor Muñoz, Pierre Paul Romagnoli. The physics of custody. The European Physical Journal B, 2014; 87 (2) DOI: 10.1140/epjb/e2014-40666-7

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Springer Science+Business Media. "Optimizing custody is child's play for physicists." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140221073837.htm>.
Springer Science+Business Media. (2014, February 21). Optimizing custody is child's play for physicists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 4, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140221073837.htm
Springer Science+Business Media. "Optimizing custody is child's play for physicists." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140221073837.htm (accessed August 4, 2015).

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