LINKED: The New Science of Networks

Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Author, Jennifer Frangos, Author . Perseus $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7382-0667-7

Information, disease, knowledge and just about everything else is disseminated through a complex series of networks made up of interconnected hubs, argues University of Notre Dame physics professor Barabási. These networks are replicated in every facet of human life: "There is a path between any two neurons in our brain, between any two companies in the world, between any two chemicals in our body. Nothing is excluded from this highly interconnected web of life." In accessible prose, Barabási guides readers through the mathematical foundation of these networks. He shows how they operate on the Power Law, the notion that "a few large events carry most of the action." The Web, for example, is "dominated by a few very highly connected nodes, or hubs... such as Yahoo! or" Barabási notes that "the fittest node will inevitably grow to become the biggest hub." The elegance and efficiency of these structures also makes them easy to infiltrate and sabotage; Barabási looks at modern society's vulnerability to terrorism, and at the networks formed by terrorist groups themselves. The book also gives readers a historical overview on the study of networks, which goes back to 18th-century Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler and includes the well-known "six degrees phenomenon" developed in 1967 by sociology professor Stanley Milgram. The book may remind readers of Steven Johnson's Emergence and—with its emphasis on the mathematical underpinnings of social behavior—Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point (which Barabási discusses); those who haven't yet had their fill of this new subgenre should be interested in Barabási's lively and ambitious account. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/27/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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