It is generally believed that random search processes based on scale-free, Levy stable jump length distributions (Levy flights) optimize the search for sparse targets. Here we show that this popular search advantage is less universal than commonly assumed. We study the efficiency of a minimalist search model based on Levy flights in the absence and presence of an external drift (underwater current, atmospheric wind, a preference of the walker owing to prior experience, or a general bias in an abstract search space) based on two different optimization criteria with respect to minimal search time and search reliability (cumulative arrival probability). Although Levy flights turn out to be efficient search processes when the target is far from the starting point, or when relative to the starting point the target is upstream, we show that for close targets and for downstream target positioning regular Brownian motion turns out to be the advantageous search strategy. Contrary to claims that Levy flights with a critical exponent alpha = 1 are optimal for the search of sparse targets in different settings, based on our optimization parameters the optimal a may range in the entire interval (1, 2) and especially include Brownian motion as the overall most efficient search strategy.

Based on the space-fractional Fokker-Planck equation with a delta-sink term, we study the efficiency of random search processes based on Levy flights with power-law distributed jump lengths in the presence of an external drift, for instance, an underwater current, an airflow, or simply the preference of the searcher based on prior experience. While Levy flights turn out to be efficient search processes when the target is upstream relative to the starting point, in the downstream scenario, regular Brownian motion turns out to be advantageous. This is caused by the occurrence of leapovers of Levy flights, due to which Levy flights typically overshoot a point or small interval. Studying the solution of the fractional Fokker-Planck equation, we establish criteria when the combination of the external stream and the initial distance between the starting point and the target favours Levy flights over the regular Brownian search. Contrary to the common belief that Levy flights with a Levy index alpha = 1 (i.e. Cauchy flights) are optimal for sparse targets, we find that the optimal value for alpha may range in the entire interval (1, 2) and explicitly include Brownian motion as the most efficient search strategy overall.

Probably no other field of statistical physics at the borderline of soft matter and biological physics has caused such a flurry of papers as polymer translocation since the 1994 landmark paper by Bezrukov, Vodyanoy, and Parsegian and the study of Kasianowicz in 1996. Experiments, simulations, and theoretical approaches are still contributing novel insights to date, while no universal consensus on the statistical understanding of polymer translocation has been reached. We here collect the published results, in particular, the famousâ€“infamous debate on the scaling exponents governing the translocation process. We put these results into perspective and discuss where the field is going. In particular, we argue that the phenomenon of polymer translocation is non-universal and highly sensitive to the exact specifications of the models and experiments used towards its analysis.

We show that for a subdiffusive continuous time random walk with scale-free waiting time distribution the first-passage dynamics on a finite interval can be optimized by introduction of a piecewise linear potential barrier. Analytical results for the survival probability and first-passage density based on the fractional Fokker-Planck equation are shown to agree well with Monte Carlo simulations results. As an application we discuss an improved design for efficient translocation of gradient copolymers compared to homopolymer translocation in a quasi-equilibrium approximation.

Probably no other field of statistical physics at the borderline of soft matter and biological physics has caused such a flurry of papers as polymer translocation since the 1994 landmark paper by Bezrukov, Vodyanoy, and Parsegian and the study of Kasianowicz in 1996. Experiments, simulations, and theoretical approaches are still contributing novel insights to date, while no universal consensus on the statistical understanding of polymer translocation has been reached. We here collect the published results, in particular, the famous-infamous debate on the scaling exponents governing the translocation process. We put these results into perspective and discuss where the field is going. In particular, we argue that the phenomenon of polymer translocation is non-universal and highly sensitive to the exact specifications of the models and experiments used towards its analysis.