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Complex network theory to study ocean flows?

  1. Jan 27, 2012 #1
    A professor at my university is currently working on using "complex network theory to study the coherence of flows in ocean circulation". If I'm interested, I could possibly do my bachelor thesis on this subject. Before I go talk to him, I'd like to at least have some idea of what this is actually about, so I don't waste his time, but I can find almost nothing on this subject.

    Just what does studying the coherence of flows in ocean circulation mean? How can you use complex network theory to study it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 27, 2012 #2


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    If you want to learn a bit about the subject before approaching this professor, you may try looking up some of his papers on the subject and trying to read them. If he has any papers published in Nature or Science, those would probably be good ones to start with, since they will be more likely to be written for a more general audience, and they won't be as technical as a paper published in, say, Physical Review E.

    After having looked at some of his papers, you could speak with him and ask him to tell you more about the project and to explain to you any concepts that you didn't understand from having looked at the papers. Having some specific questions ready to ask will be more likely to make a good impression, because it helps show that you made some real effort to understand the material.

    As for specifics on the subject matter, well, without looking into it myself I can't tell you. What I do know is that complex networks are gaining interest these days and being used to model all sorts of problems. For example, gene regulatory networks, social interaction networks, cell phone networks, neural networks, etc. etc.. How network theory might be applied to ocean currents I am not sure of, but it sounds interesting. Don't be afraid to ask the professor lots about it - asking lots of good questions is a good way to show that you're interested.
  4. Jan 27, 2012 #3


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    Arjani, Welcome to Physics Forums!

    I used the search terms "complex network theory ocean currents" and found quite a collection of material on this subject.

    Wiki has a simple general explanation of a complex network theory. It also lists 25 authors’ names who have written about the subject for you to search for. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_network

    For searching for those authors’ papers you may use The Cornell University Library, see: http://arxiv.org/

    Here’s one example: “The backbone of the climate network”

    Authors:Jonathan F. Donges (1 and 2), Yong Zou (1), Norbert Marwan (1), Juergen Kurths (1 and 2) ((1) Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany, (2) Department of Physics, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany) (Submitted on 10 Feb 2010)

    "We propose a method to reconstruct and analyze a complex network from data generated by a spatio-temporal dynamical system, relying on the nonlinear mutual information of time series analysis and betweenness centrality of complex network theory. We show, that this approach reveals a rich internal structure in complex climate networks constructed from reanalysis and model surface air temperature data. Our novel method uncovers peculiar wave-like structures of high energy flow, that we relate to global surface ocean currents. This points to a major role of the oceanic surface circulation in coupling and stabilizing the global temperature field in the long term mean (140 years for the model run and 60 years for reanalysis data). We find that these results cannot be obtained using classical linear methods of multivariate data analysis, and have ensured their robustness by intensive significance testing."
    See (and download the pdf version): http://arxiv.org/abs/1002.2100

    Lastly, in my opinion, you would not suffer anything negative if you asked the Professor where to read and learn something about his work. Since you are interested in his project, my guess he will be happy you asked!
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