Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks

Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks

by Mark Buchanan
     
 

"As Chaos explained the science of disorder, Nexus reveals the new science of connection and the odd logic of six degrees of separation." How can geometry explain the puzzles of human behavior? In this incisive insightful work Mark Buchanan presents the fundamental principles of the emerging field of "small-worlds" theory - the idea that a hidden pattern is the key to…  See more details below

Overview

"As Chaos explained the science of disorder, Nexus reveals the new science of connection and the odd logic of six degrees of separation." How can geometry explain the puzzles of human behavior? In this incisive insightful work Mark Buchanan presents the fundamental principles of the emerging field of "small-worlds" theory - the idea that a hidden pattern is the key to how networks interact and exchange information, whether that network is the information highway or the firing of neurons in the brain. Mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, and social scientists are working to decipher this complex organizational system, for it may yield a blueprint of dynamic interactions within our physical as well as social worlds. Highlighting groundbreaking research behind network theory. Buchanan documents mounting support for the small-worlds idea and demonstrates its multiple applications to diverse problems - whether explaining the volatile global economy or the Human Genome Project, the spread of infectious disease or ecological damage. Nexus is an exciting introduction to the hidden geometry that weaves our lives so inextricably together.

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Editorial Reviews

John L. Casti
Finally, a readable, simple explanation of one of the most surprising rules of complex networks.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Will a network science emerge that helps us understand a variety of complex organizational systems by describing the puzzles of human behavior and connections in mathematical terms? So argues Buchanan, former editor of Nature and New Scientist. Buchanan, who holds a Ph.D. in physics, delivers a good introduction to theoretical physics and the "small worlds" theory of networks. He sees biology, computer science, physics, and sociology as intimately connected. Buchanan illustrates social and physical networks with examples ranging from the infamous "six degrees of separation" theories, to the spread of the AIDS virus, to the mapping of the nervous system of the nematode worm. Are the similarities among these networks merely a coincidence or the result of some underlying physics? Only further research will tell, but in the meantime this book is a good primer to basic network concepts and contains references to key journal articles and studies for further reading. The subject will be of particular interest to mathematicians, physicists, and computer scientists and of general interest to those in most other disciplines. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Colleen Cuddy, Ehrman Medical Lib., NYU Sch. of Medicine Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Former Nature editor Buchanan (Ubiquity, 2001) takes an intriguing, accessible look at the mathematics behind the "six degrees of separation" theory. In 1998, Cornell mathematician Duncan Watts was focused on a seemingly non-mathematical problem. In New Guinea, male fireflies by the millions perch on trees at night and flash their lights to attract females in perfect synchrony. With his advisor, Steve Strogatz, Watts was working on "graph problems," a special mathematical term describing any collection of dots connected by lines. The fireflies are the dots. Their coordinated lighting indicates information transfer, which is the equivalent of connecting lines. Watts and Strogatz's breakthrough was to see the structural similarity between the fireflies and the theory that the world's six billion people are all connected by six degrees of separation. Degrees of separation are the number of steps needed to get from one randomly selected dot to another. Watts and Strogatz showed that when networks of connected dots have a high degree of order to their clustering, the degree of separation is correspondingly high; adding random links, however, radically shrinks the degree of separation. Networks, in other words, combine order and chaos to form "small worlds." Subsequent chapters maneuver through Watts and Strogatz's work as they explain the form of the Web, the food chain, epidemiology, income distribution, and many other disparate networks. By adding the evolution of the network as a second variable, Buchanan derives two basic types of small worlds: the "aristocratic," in which the concentration of connections goes through a few "hubs"; and the egalitarian, in which connections have noparticular concentration. He suggests that small-worlds theory should change the way we think about social policy. Despite the author's penchant for distracting digressions, a terrific, essential addition to the library of popular-science books. Author tour

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393041538
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
05/21/2002
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.41(w) x 9.57(h) x 0.99(d)

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John L. Casti
Finally, a readable, simple explanation of one of the most surprising rules of complex networks.

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