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Evidence for soft bounds in Ubuntu package sizes and mammalian body masses.

TitleEvidence for soft bounds in Ubuntu package sizes and mammalian body masses.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsGherardi, M, Mandrà, S, Bassetti, B, Cosentino Lagomarsino, M
JournalProc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Date Published2013 Dec 24
KeywordsAnimals, Biological Evolution, Body Size, Computer Simulation, Mammals, Models, Theoretical, Software, Stochastic Processes

The development of a complex system depends on the self-coordinated action of a large number of agents, often determining unexpected global behavior. The case of software evolution has great practical importance: knowledge of what is to be considered atypical can guide developers in recognizing and reacting to abnormal behavior. Although the initial framework of a theory of software exists, the current theoretical achievements do not fully capture existing quantitative data or predict future trends. Here we show that two elementary laws describe the evolution of package sizes in a Linux-based operating system: first, relative changes in size follow a random walk with non-Gaussian jumps; second, each size change is bounded by a limit that is dependent on the starting size, an intriguing behavior that we call "soft bound." Our approach is based on data analysis and on a simple theoretical model, which is able to reproduce empirical details without relying on any adjustable parameter and generates definite predictions. The same analysis allows us to formulate and support the hypothesis that a similar mechanism is shaping the distribution of mammalian body sizes, via size-dependent constraints during cladogenesis. Whereas generally accepted approaches struggle to reproduce the large-mass shoulder displayed by the distribution of extant mammalian species, this is a natural consequence of the softly bounded nature of the process. Additionally, the hypothesis that this model is valid has the relevant implication that, contrary to a common assumption, mammalian masses are still evolving, albeit very slowly.

Alternate JournalProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PubMed ID24324175
PubMed Central IDPMC3876239