Random heterogeneity outperforms design in network synchronization

Complexity Digest

Yuanzhao Zhang, Jorge L. Ocampo-Espindola, István Z. Kiss, and Adilson E. Motter

PNAS May 25, 2021 118 (21) e2024299118

Synchronization among interacting entities is a process that underlies the function of numerous systems, including circadian clocks and laser arrays. It is generally believed that homogeneity among the entities is beneficial for synchronization. This work shows theoretically, numerically, and experimentally that the opposite is not only possible but also common in systems with interaction delays. In such systems, heterogeneity among the entities is shown to promote synchronization, even when the heterogeneity is completely random. This finding advances our understanding of the interplay between order and disorder in the collective behavior of complex systems. We suggest that the phenomenon can be observed for diverse coupling schemes and has implications for real-world systems, where heterogeneity and delays are common and often unavoidable.

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