Optimizing persistent random searches

Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Feb 24;108(8):088103. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.088103. Epub 2012 Feb 22.


We consider a minimal model of persistent random searcher with a short range memory. We calculate exactly for such a searcher the mean first-passage time to a target in a bounded domain and find that it admits a nontrivial minimum as function of the persistence length. This reveals an optimal search strategy which differs markedly from the simple ballistic motion obtained in the case of Poisson distributed targets. Our results show that the distribution of targets plays a crucial role in the random search problem. In particular, in the biologically relevant cases of either a single target or regular patterns of targets, we find that, in strong contrast to repeated statements in the literature, persistent random walks with exponential distribution of excursion lengths can minimize the search time, and in that sense perform better than any Levy walk.