How representative are air transport functional complex networks? A quantitative validation

Acharya, Kishor; Olivares, Felipe; Zanin, Massimiliano
Chaos 34, 043133 (2024)

Functional networks have emerged as powerful instruments to characterize the propagation of information in complex systems, with applications ranging from neuroscience to climate and air transport. In spite of their success, reliable methods for validating the resulting structures are still missing, forcing the community to resort to expert knowledge or simplified models of the system’s dynamics. We here propose the use of a real-world problem, involving the reconstruction of the structure of flights in the US air transport system from the activity of individual airports, as a way to explore the limits of such an approach. While the true connectivity is known and is, therefore, possible to provide a quantitative benchmark, this problem presents challenges commonly found in other fields, including the presence of non-stationarities and observational noise, and the limitedness of available time series. We explore the impact of elements like the specific functional metric employed, the way of detrending the time series, or the size of the reconstructed system and discuss how the conclusions here drawn could have implications for similar analyses in neuroscience.

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