Most complex networks serve as conduits for various dynamical processes, ranging from mass transfer by chemical reactions in the cell to packet transfer on the Internet. We collected data on the time dependent activity of five natural and technological networks, finding evidence of orders of magnitude differences in the fluxes of individual nodes. This dynamical inhomogeneity reflects the emergence of localized high flux regions or “hot spots”, carrying an overwhelming fraction of the network’s activity. We find that each system is characterized by a unique scaling law, coupling the flux fluctuations with the total flux on individual nodes, a result of the competition between the system’s internal collective dynamics and changes in the external environment. We propose a method to separate these two components, allowing us to predict the relevant scaling exponents. As high fluctuations can lead to dynamical bottlenecks and jamming, these findings have a strong impact on the predictability and failure prevention of complex transportation networks.
A.-L. Barabási, M. A. de Menezes, S. Balensiefer, J. Brockman