- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
A former editor of Nature with a Ph.D. in physics, Mark Buchanan brings the new science of networks to life, one that explains spooky correlations between how we function and how other complex systems function -- from individual cells to the global Internet.
Buchanan identifies crucial features shared by networks with apparently little in common, notably the "small-world" phenomenon. (Think of "six degrees of separation," whereby you're just six links away from any other human being on earth.) This idea may explain how your brain works. In aristocratic small-world networks, certain elements maintain huge numbers of links, while most maintain far fewer. This principle describes everything from ecosystems to wealth distribution.
Relatively simple computer models are shedding surprising new light on complex systems and making intriguing -- if preliminary -- predictions. Promoting commerce will tend to level income distribution, but instabilities in investment returns lead to massive, sudden disparities. Ecosystems will weather the loss of some species, but lose the wrong species, and collapse follows almost instantly. You'll get your next job through some guy you haven't seen in years, not your best friend.
If you were fascinated by Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, read this next. Buchanan places Gladwell's ideas -- and many others -- in a broader context, showing how scientists are beginning to make sense of the crucial interactions that define our lives. (Bill Camarda)