Network Theoretic of the Fermionic Quantum State – Epistemological Rumination. Thought of the Day 150.0


In quantum physics, fundamental particles are believed to be of two types: fermions or bosons, depending on the value of their spin (an intrinsic ‘angular moment’ of the particle). Fermions have half-integer spin and cannot occupy a quantum state (a configuration with specified microscopic degrees of freedom, or quantum numbers) that is already occupied. In other words, at most one fermion at a time can occupy one quantum state. The resulting probability that a quantum state is occupied is known as the Fermi-Dirac statistics.

Now, if we want to convert this into a model with maximum entropy, where the real movement is defined topologically, then we require a reproduction of heterogeneity that is observed. The starting recourse is network theory with an ensemble of networks where each vertex i has the same degree ki as in the real network. This choice is justified by the fact that, being an entirely local topological property, the degree is expected to be directly affected by some intrinsic (non-topological) property of vertices. The caveat is that the real shouldn’t be compared with the randomized, which could otherwise lead to interpreting the observed as ‘unavoidable’ topological constraints, in the sense that the violation of the observed values would lead to an ‘impossible’, or at least very unrealistic values.

The resulting model is known as the Configuration Model, and is defined as a maximum-entropy ensemble of graphs with given degree sequence. The degree sequence, which is the constraint defining the model, is nothing but the ordered vector k of degrees of all vertices (where the ith component ki is the degree of vertex i). The ordering preserves the ‘identity’ of vertices: in the resulting network ensemble, the expected degree ⟨ki⟩ of each vertex i is the same as the empirical value ki for that vertex. In the Configuration Model, the graph probability is given by

P(A) = ∏i<jqij(aij) =  ∏i<jpijaij (1 – pij)1-aij —– (1)

where qij(a) = pija (1 – pij)1-a is the probability that particular entry of the adjacency matrix A takes the value aij = a, which is a Bernoulli process with different pairs of vertices characterized by different connection probabilities pij. A Bernoulli trial (or Bernoulli process) is the simplest random event, i.e. one characterized by only two possible outcomes. One of the two outcomes is referred to as the ‘success’ and is assigned a probability p. The other outcome is referred to as the ‘failure’, and is assigned the complementary probability 1 − p. These probabilities read

⟨aij⟩ = pij = (xixj)/(1 + xixj) —– (2)

where xi is the Lagrange multiplier obtained by ensuring that the expected degree of the corresponding vertex i equals its observed value: ⟨ki⟩ = ki ∀ i. As always happens in maximum-entropy ensembles, the probabilistic nature of configurations implies that the constraints are valid only on average (the angular brackets indicate an average over the ensemble of realizable networks). Also note that pij is a monotonically increasing function of xi and xj. This implies that ⟨ki⟩ is a monotonically increasing function of xi. An important consequence is that two variables i and j with the same degree ki = kj must have the same value xi = xj.


(2) provides an interesting connection with quantum physics, and in particular the statistical mechanics of fermions. The ‘selection rules’ of fermions dictate that only one particle at a time can occupy a single-particle state, exactly as each pair of vertices in binary networks can be either connected or disconnected. In this analogy, every pair i, j of vertices is a ‘quantum state’ identified by the ‘quantum numbers’ i and j. So each link of a binary network is like a fermion that can be in one of the available states, provided that no two objects are in the same state. (2) indicates the expected number of particles/links in the state specified by i and j. With no surprise, it has the same form of the so-called Fermi-Dirac statistics describing the expected number of fermions in a given quantum state. The probabilistic nature of links allows also for the presence of empty states, whose occurrence is now regulated by the probability coefficients (1 − pij). The Configuration Model allows the whole degree sequence of the observed network to be preserved (on average), while randomizing other (unconstrained) network properties. now, when one compares the higher-order (unconstrained) observed topological properties with their expected values calculated over the maximum-entropy ensemble, it should be indicative of the fact that the degree of sequence is informative in explaining the rest of the topology, which is a consequent via probabilities in (2). Colliding these into a scatter plot, the agreement between model and observations can be simply assessed as follows: the less scattered the cloud of points around the identity function, the better the agreement between model and reality. In principle, a broadly scattered cloud around the identity function would indicate the little effectiveness of the chosen constraints in reproducing the unconstrained properties, signaling the presence of genuine higher-order patterns of self-organization, not simply explainable in terms of the degree sequence alone. Thus, the ‘fermionic’ character of the binary model is the mere result of the restriction that no two binary links can be placed between any two vertices, leading to a mathematical result which is formally equivalent to the one of quantum statistics.

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