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The Physics of Foraging
An Introduction to Random Searches and Biological Encounters

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About the Authors
  • Do the movements of animals, including humans, follow patterns that can be described quantitatively by simple laws of motion? If so, then why? These questions have attracted the attention of scientists in many disciplines, and stimulated debates ranging from ecological matters to queries such as 'how can there be free will if one follows a law of motion?' This is the first book on this rapidly evolving subject, introducing random searches and foraging in a way that can be understood by readers without a previous background on the subject. It reviews theory as well as experiment, addresses open problems and perspectives, and discusses applications ranging from the colonization of Madagascar by Austronesians to the diffusion of genetically modified crops. The book will interest physicists working in the field of anomalous diffusion and movement ecology as well as ecologists already familiar with the concepts and methods of statistical physics.

    • The first book on this rapidly evolving subject
    • Reviews theory as well as experiment, addresses open problems and perspectives, and discusses a diverse range of applications
    • Ideal introduction for physicists working on anomalous diffusion and movement ecology, and ecologists with some knowledge of statistical physics
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Endorsement:
    "A work rich with examples of the ways in which animals move through their environment in quest of food and prey, with mathematical descriptions of such behavior, including Lévy walks, where the step-length distributions have power-law tails and searches can be optimum. This book expanded my horizons."
    Howard Berg, Herchel Smith Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University and author of Random Walks in Biology

    Endorsement:
    "What does statistical physics have to do with animal foraging? This book demonstrates that simple statistical physics laws can describe, and lead to better understanding of, patterns of human and animal movements. I find the book of general interest to many scientific disciplines, since it shows the broadness and universality features of the laws of nature, which are based on fundamental principles such as optimal processes. I find the book well written and easy to follow even for readers without earlier background."
    Shlomo Havlin, Department of Physics, Bar Ilan University

    Endorsement:
    "Essential reading for anyone interested in animal foraging. This is the first comprehensive treatment of anomalous diffusion, and integrates deep theory and empirical work through an elegant narrative. Highly recommended."
    Simon Levin, Moffett Professor of Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

    Endorsement:
    "An exciting rich blend of theory, data, and speculation, The Physics of Foraging is at once both cutting edge and ahead of its time. The Lévy flight approach, and its variants, are novel with the good news for researchers that there are more open than solved problems."
    Michael Shlesinger, Office of Naval Research

    Endorsement:
    "This book provides an authoritative account of how random search and encounter theories used in the physical sciences are yielding new insights in biology and ecology. This important book offers new directions for studying the mechanisms and functions underlying organism movements, behaviour and interactions. As such, it promises to be a leading light in illuminating a much deeper understanding of how and why organisms go where they do at certain times, and the value to them of such strategies."
    David Sims, Deputy Director (Research) and Senior Research Fellow, Marine Biological Association of the UK

    "As with previous texts written (or co-written) by Stanley, this book provides many clear explanations of nonintuitive concepts as evidenced by the lucid presentation of random walks and critical phenomena in the first three chapters. The Physics of Foragingis useful and will find a place in the literature of the physics and ecology communities."
    Nicholas Watkins, Physics Today

    "This small volume has plenty of examples to maintain readability yet is balanced with solid background theory. It would be an asset to ecologists who are less familiar with statistical physics methods seeking to explain or predict animal movements."
    Alexander Waller, CBiol MSB, The Biologist

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2011
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9781139089340
    • contains: 44 b/w illus.
    • availability: Adobe Reader ebooks available from eBooks.com
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Introduction: Movement:
    1. Empirical motivation for studying movement
    2. Statistical physics of biological motion
    3. Random walks and Lévy flights
    4. Wandering albatrosses
    Part II. Experimental Findings:
    5. Early studies
    6. Evidence of anomalous diffusion
    7. Human dispersal
    8. How strong is the evidence?
    Part III. Theory of Foraging:
    9. Optimizing encounter rates
    10. Lévy flight foraging
    11. Other search models
    Part IV. Finale: A Broader Context:
    12. Superdiffusive random searches
    13. Adaptational versus emergent superdiffusion
    14. Perspectives and open problems
    Appendices
    References
    Index.

  • Authors

    Gandhimohan. M. Viswanathan, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil
    Gandhimohan M. Viswanathan is Professor of Physics at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte. Previously, he was Associate Professor at the Instituto de Física, Universidade Federal de Alagoas, where he spent over a decade investigating the complex phenomenology seen in physical, biological and economic systems.

    Marcos G. E. da Luz, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil
    Marcos G. E. da Luz is an Associate Professor in the Departamento de Física, Universidade Federal do Paraná. He works with both numerical and analytical methods in disorder, complexity and non-linearity in classical and quantum systems and with theoretical models in ecology.

    Ernesto P. Raposo, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Brazil
    Ernesto P. Raposo is an Associate Professor in the Laboratório de Física Teórica e Computacional, Departamento de Física, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco. His current research interests include statistical physics of random searches and the foraging problem, disordered antiferromagnets, and quantum field theory of quasi-unidimensional magnetic polymer chains.

    H. Eugene Stanley, Boston University
    H. Eugene Stanley is a University Professor and Director of the Center for Polymer Studies, Boston University, Professor of Physics, Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering, and Professor of Physiology at Boston University School of Medicine. A pioneer in interdisciplinary science, he has won the Boltzmann Medal and numerous other awards for his contributions.

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