Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Linked

This is the book I finished on the plane ride out to L.A. It's a fascinating read, a real page turner if you're into research on how the world works. While the subject is technical, it's presented here in a reasonably easy-to-read way. The subject is "the new science of networks," as the subtitle reads, or in other words, the mathematical processes that shape the way networks work.

And after reading the book, I realize that a lot of things that we don't normally think of as networks, can be easily described using these terms.

Basically, you can boil it down to this: a lot of the phenomena in the universe are caused by the way networks work. For example, the way fads or diseases spread. You can describe the way these kinds of things happen not by using a bell-curve, or a normal distribution, but rather a power law distribution--think long tail. Also, this same probability distribution is at work in the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 principle of some popularity among readers of business books.

The book gives lots of examples of this, from the way the AIDS virus initially spread--and also why it remains a problem, to airline routing systems.

Anyway, I am not smart enough about math theory do get into a better summary, but I will tell you that the book left me with new ways of describing what we observe happening in the world around us. Further, even though I basically am a mathophobe, the book was still accessible and informative.

Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
, the author of the book, is professor of physics at the University of Notre dame and this book obviously draws on his professional research into networks in general and other stuff like the Internet, more specifically.

Linked, by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
ISBN # 0738206679