We present a new approach to clustering, based on the physical properties of an inhomogeneous ferromagnet. No assumption is made regarding the underlying distribution of the data. We assign a Potts spin to each data point and introduce an interaction between neighboring points, whose strength is a decreasing function of the distance between the neighbors. This magnetic system exhibits three phases. At very low temperatures, it is completely ordered; all spins are aligned. At very high temperatures, the system does not exhibit any ordering, and in an intermediate regime, clusters of relatively strongly coupled spins become ordered, whereas different clusters remain uncorrelated. This intermediate phase is identified by a jump in the order parameters. The spin-spin correlation function is used to partition the spins and the corresponding data points into clusters. We demonstrate on three synthetic and three real data sets how the method works. Detailed comparison to the performance of other techniques clearly indicates the relative success of our method.

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