LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Feb. 22, 2017—In a new study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have taken a condensed matter physics concept usually applied to the way substances such as ice freeze, called “frustration,” and applied it to a simple social network model of frustrated components. They show that inequality of wealth can emerge spontaneously and more equality can be gained by pure initiative.

It’s a computer-modeling exploration of the 19th-century Horatio Alger theme, whereby a motivated young person overcomes poor beginnings and lives the “rags to riches” life thanks to strength of character. “Most theories of wealth inequality rely on social stratification due to income inequality and inheritance,” said Cristiano Nisoli, of the Physics of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems group at Los Alamos and lead author of the study. “We consider, however, the possibility that in our more economically fluid world, novel, direct channels for wealth transfer could be available, especially for financial wealth.”

Read more at Los Alamos National Laboratory