Luís A. Nunes Amaral

co-Director, Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems
Professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering
Professor of Physics & Astronomy (by courtesy)
Professor of Medicine (by courtesy)

Chemical & Biological Engineering
2145 Sheridan Road (Room E136)
EvanstonIL 60208US
Phone: (847) 491-7850


The identification and modeling of patterns of human activity have important ramifications for applications ranging from predicting disease spread to optimizing resource allocation. Because of its relevance and availability, written correspondence provides a powerful proxy for studying human activity. One school of thought is that human correspondence is driven by responses to received correspondence, a view that requires a distinct response mechanism to explain e-mail and letter correspondence observations. We demonstrate that, like e-mail correspondence, the letter correspondence patterns of 16 writers, performers, politicians, and scientists are well described by the circadian cycle, task repetition, and changing communication needs. We confirm the universality of these mechanisms by rescaling letter and e-mail correspondence statistics to reveal their underlying similarity.