Europhys. Lett.
Volume 75, Number 2, July 2006
Page(s) 349 - 354
Section Interdisciplinary physics and related areas of science and technology
Published online 16 June 2006
Europhys. Lett., 75 (2), pp. 349-354 (2006)
DOI: 10.1209/epl/i2006-10100-3

Intermittent search strategies: When losing time becomes efficient

O. Bénichou, M. Coppey, M. Moreau and R. Voituriez

Laboratoire de Physique Théorique de la Matière Condensée, UMR CNRS 7600 Université Pierre et Marie Curie - 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris, France

received 16 March 2006; accepted in final form 26 May 2006
published online 16 June 2006

In this letter, we show that intermittent search strategies, alternating active search phases and non-reactive displacement phases, are universal for a wide class of problems involving search time optimization. More precisely, we address the general question of determining in which cases a searcher should, or should not, interrupt his search activity by "losing" time in non-reactive phases of mere displacement, and which durations of each phase optimize the search time. Using a representative analytical model, we show that intermittent strategies do optimize the search time as soon as the target is "difficult" to detect, and we explicitly give the optimal search strategies, which depend on the memory skills of the searcher.

87.23.-n - Ecology and evolution.
05.40.-a - Fluctuation phenomena, random processes, noise, and Brownian motion.

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