Cantwell, George T. and Cristopher Moore
Many datasets give partial information about an ordering or ranking by indicating which team won a game, which item a user prefers, or who infected whom. We define a continuous spin system whose Gibbs distribution is the posterior distribution on permutations, given a probabilistic model of these interactions. Using the cavity method we derive a belief propagation algorithm that computes the marginal distribution of each node's position. In addition, the Bethe free energy lets us approximate the number of linear extensions of a partial order and perform model selection.