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Nature. 2010 Apr 15;464(7291):1025-8. doi: 10.1038/nature08932.

Catastrophic cascade of failures in interdependent networks.

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Department of Physics, Yeshiva University, 500 West 185th Street, New York, New York 10033, USA.


Complex networks have been studied intensively for a decade, but research still focuses on the limited case of a single, non-interacting network. Modern systems are coupled together and therefore should be modelled as interdependent networks. A fundamental property of interdependent networks is that failure of nodes in one network may lead to failure of dependent nodes in other networks. This may happen recursively and can lead to a cascade of failures. In fact, a failure of a very small fraction of nodes in one network may lead to the complete fragmentation of a system of several interdependent networks. A dramatic real-world example of a cascade of failures ('concurrent malfunction') is the electrical blackout that affected much of Italy on 28 September 2003: the shutdown of power stations directly led to the failure of nodes in the Internet communication network, which in turn caused further breakdown of power stations. Here we develop a framework for understanding the robustness of interacting networks subject to such cascading failures. We present exact analytical solutions for the critical fraction of nodes that, on removal, will lead to a failure cascade and to a complete fragmentation of two interdependent networks. Surprisingly, a broader degree distribution increases the vulnerability of interdependent networks to random failure, which is opposite to how a single network behaves. Our findings highlight the need to consider interdependent network properties in designing robust networks.


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