An anonymous reader brings word of a new application for PageRank, Google's link analysis algorithm: monitoring the food web in an ecosystem. A team of researchers found that a modified version of PageRank can predict with great accuracy which species are vital to the existence of others. Quoting: "Every species is embedded in a complex network of relationships with others. A single extinction can cascade into the loss of seemingly unrelated species. Investigating when this might happen using more conventional methods is complicated, as even in simple ecosystems, the number of combinations exceeds the number of atoms in the universe. So, it would be impossible to try them all. Co-author Dr. Stefano Allesina realized he could apply PageRank to the problem when he stumbled across an article in a journal of applied mathematics describing the Google algorithm. 'First of all, we had to reverse the definition of the algorithm. In PageRank, a web page is important if important pages point to it. In our approach, a species is important if it points to important species.'"
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