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Bursts: The Hidden Patterns Behind Everything We Do, from Your E-mail to Bloody Crusades [Kindle Edition]

Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
You Save: $5.01 (31%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The bestselling author of Linked returns with a ground breaking new theory that will enthrall fans of The Tipping Point

Can we scientifically predict our future? It's a mystery that has nagged scientists for perhaps thousand of years. Now Albert-László Barabási-the award-winning author of the sleeper hit Linked- explains how the digital age has yielded a massive, previously unavailable data set that proves the daily pattern of human activity isn't random, it's "bursty." We work and fight and play in short flourishes of activity followed by next to nothing.

Compellingly illustrated with the account of a bloody medieval crusade in sixteenth-century Transylvania and the modern tale of a contemporary artist hunted by the FBI, Bursts reveals that we are far more predictable than we like to think.




Editorial Reviews

Review

"In Linked, Barabasi showed us how complex networks unfold in space. In Bursts, he shows us how they unfold in time. Your life may look random to you, but everything from your visits to a web page to your visits to the doctor are predictable, and happen in bursts."
-Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody

"Barabasi is one of the few people in the world who understand the deep structure of empirical reality."
-Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan

"Barabßsi brings a physicist's penetrating eye to a sweeping range of human activities, from migration to web browsing, from wars to billionaires, from illnesses to letter writing, from the Department of Homeland Security to the Conclave of Cardinals. Barabßsi shows how a pattern of bursts appears in what has long seemed a random mess. These bursts are both mathematically predictable and beautiful. What a joy it is to read him. You feel like you have emerged to see a new vista that, while it had always been there, you had just never seen."
-Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., coauthor of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives

"Bursts is a rich, rewarding read that illuminates a cutting-edge topic: the patterns of human mobility in an era of total surveillance. The narrative structure of Barabßsi's provocative book mimics the very pattern of bursts, as abrupt jumps through the lives of a post-modern sculptor, a medieval Hungarian revolutionist, and Albert Einstein eventually converge on a single theme: that our unthinking behaviors are governed by a deeper meaning that can only be deciphered through the brave lens of mathematics."
-Ogi Ogas, Ph.D., and Sai Gaddam, Ph.D., Boston University

"Barbasi, a distinguished scientist of complex networks, bravely tests his innovative theories on some historic events, including a sixteenth-century Crusade that went terribly wrong. Whether or not the concept of "burstiness" is the key to unlocking human behavior, it is nonetheless a fascinating new way to think about some very old questions."
-Thomas F. Madden, Ph.D., Professor of Medieval History, Saint Louis University, author of The New Concise History of the Crusades



Review

"In Linked, Barabasi showed us how complex networks unfold in space. In Bursts, he shows us how they unfold in time. Your life may look random to you, but everything from your visits to a web page to your visits to the doctor are predictable, and happen in bursts."
-Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody

"Barabasi is one of the few people in the world who understand the deep structure of empirical reality."
-Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan

"Barabßsi brings a physicist's penetrating eye to a sweeping range of human activities, from migration to web browsing, from wars to billionaires, from illnesses to letter writing, from the Department of Homeland Security to the Conclave of Cardinals. Barabßsi shows how a pattern of bursts appears in what has long seemed a random mess. These bursts are both mathematically predictable and beautiful. What a joy it is to read him. You feel like you have emerged to see a new vista that, while it had always been there, you had just never seen."
-Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., coauthor of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives

"Bursts is a rich, rewarding read that illuminates a cutting-edge topic: the patterns of human mobility in an era of total surveillance. The narrative structure of Barabßsi's provocative book mimics the very pattern of bursts, as abrupt jumps through the lives of a post-modern sculptor, a medieval Hungarian revolutionist, and Albert Einstein eventually converge on a single theme: that our unthinking behaviors are governed by a deeper meaning that can only be deciphered through the brave lens of mathematics."
-Ogi Ogas, Ph.D., and Sai Gaddam, Ph.D., Boston University

"Barbasi, a distinguished scientist of complex networks, bravely tests his innovative theories on some historic events, including a sixteenth-century Crusade that went terribly wrong. Whether or not the concept of "burstiness" is the key to unlocking human behavior, it is nonetheless a fascinating new way to think about some very old questions."
-Thomas F. Madden, Ph.D., Professor of Medieval History, Saint Louis University, author of The New Concise History of the Crusades




Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
226 of 234 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Is this a joke? May 10, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thought Albert-László Barabási's first book, "Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means," was excellent (see my 4/18/10 review), so I looked forward to reading "Bursts" with great anticipation, hoping that he was going update us on all the interesting things he learned in the intervening 8 years (especially related to biomedicine and cancer). Instead, having just finished "Bursts," it's hard to convey how disappointed I am.

While "Linked" presented plenty of solid and useful science in an appealing format, "Bursts" has minimal scientific content and I learned almost nothing. The only significant idea Barabási presents is that the time-spacing of many events in the natural and artifical worlds follows a power law distribution, which means that events have some tendency to cluster into "bursts," although very widely spaced events can also occur, since power laws have "long tails" rather than dropping off exponentially (as Barabási himself acknowledges in passing, "bursts" is a somewhat misleading term, since power law distributions are continuous, not dichotomous). But Barabási doesn't offer much explanation for the ubiquity of these power laws, nor does he offer useful insights regarding their implications.

He does try to argue that awareness of these power laws will eventually enable precise prediction of human behavior, but this is simultaneously both obvious and wrong (and it's telling that Barabási appears to be unaware of the seminal work of Quetelet on this topic).
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Long on story; little science! June 1, 2010
Format:Hardcover
I'm not the only reviewer expressing strong disappointment with this book. Barabasi did such a masterful job with Linked that I grabbed this book to moment I saw it hoping for more of the same "can't put it down" reading I got with Linked. Wow was I surprised--and not in a good way.

This book is not Linked nor anything like it, beware! Linked was a very well crafted story that explained various complex topics about networks. Bursts is pop-science at best. Worse, like other reviewers, I too am totally annoyed by the Hungarian history lesson from the 1500s that takes up every other chapter. And, after reading one of these POINTLESS chapters you feel like, "what was this supposed to add to the overall understanding of the topic?" The answer is little to nothing.

Bursts lacks the insightful and useful science that Linked gave us. The references/notes are OK, not fantastic like in Linked. The book uses a lot of text to make some rather simple points about behavior. We behave in bursts, not randomly. Bursts (activity clusters in time) exhibit power law characteristics. In the future, since behavior is not random, perhaps it can be better predicted.

Save your money and your time! At best, wait for the paperback (if it makes it that far) and read it at the beach. Better still, do a second reading of Linked, you'll get more out of it that you would Bursts. Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three-Card Monte Social Science June 29, 2010
Format:Hardcover
Here in the Bronx there is a street scam called three-card monte. A person skillfully manipulates three cards, moving them around on a makeshift table, usually the bottom of a large, upside down cardboard box. The object of the game is to pick the ace among the three cards, after the scammer comes to a full stop and lays the three cards face down. To lure an innocent victim, the shuffler has two or three partners stand around the box, pretending to play. One of the partners will then "guess" the right card, and the shuffler will "pay" him or her $20 for the win. Naive innocent onlookers will then play and lose their bet as the skilled shuffler will do whatever trick it is he does to ensure that the victim does not win. All along during the shuffling the victims are flashed for an instant a view of the ace, which then disappears, never to resurface after the victim makes his or her choice.

Reading Bursts felt something like being taken at a three card monte game. The author jumps back and forth between a convoluted, though admittedly interesting, historical epoch in Hungary, and then back to studies and analysis done about different behavioral phenomena, like the way people use their cell phones, or respond to email or correspondence, or how dollar bills circulate, and then back to the Hungarian episode, and then back to the research, and now we hop back to a story about a Muslim surnamed individual who seems to be an exception to the author's findings, back to the history, back to more research, and on and on. The ace among the cards is Barabasi's claim that people tend to behave in "bursty" ways, that is doing some things intensively over a short period of time, and then doing nothing or very little of that thing for a long time.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A pretext for a book September 5, 2010
By Reader
Format:Hardcover
The author was born in Transylvania and would like us to know all about the 16th century battle of Koloszvar, where his "heroic" ancestor, Lenard Barlabasi, led a bunch of well-armed knights in a massacre of mostly poor peasants who were trying to bring a new order to greater Hungary. Since only about 3 people in the world care about this obscure corner of Transylvanian history, Barabasi has to come up with some excuse for a theme that would find readers for his genealogical excursion, so he recycles the 30-year old issue attention cycle to pretend he has some new theory about "the hidden pattern behind everything we do." The excuse to bring in Transylvania is a pronouncement by another Hungarian councilor, Istvan Telegdi, who supposedly predicted the whole sequence of events that led to the Koloszvar battle beforehand. Barabasi pretends to want to know how it is that Telegdi could have predicted the events that led to Koloszvar when supposedly humans behave randomly. It turns out that a newly elected and power-hungry de Medici Pope, Leo X, wanted to keep a Hungarian papal challenger at bay and came up with the idea of a peasant Crusade to retake Constantinople in order to have an excuse to get the challenger out of Rome, leading to a whole cascade of events that ended up at Koloszvar with Hungarians slaughtering one another. Of course recruiting peasants in April for a Crusade before the harvest would not sit well with the knights they worked for, and encouraging peasants to fight instead of the knights whose whole excuse for a privileged societal position was their supposed availability for Crusades like this one was a recipe for disaster. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and bold.
Great insights, historic approach, data infused but gently presented. Fun book.
Published 18 days ago by Markos Kounalakis
2.0 out of 5 stars Slow reading
Too much talking about his own personal experience. Just wish he'd get to the point.
Published 2 months ago by J. Schrempp
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - you need a brain to connect the dots
A lot of bad reviews being written about this book

I couldn't but it down - the beautifully painted narrative covers past and extremely interesting historical events,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Duke
4.0 out of 5 stars Great topic, good insights, bit hard to follow
Barabasi is clearly a great thinker on this topic, but seems to know more than he shares in this book. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jacco
2.0 out of 5 stars A concept stretched too thin
This is interesting as a concept, but there are several arguments for this "bursty" self-organization that simply don't ring true. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment
Spends a lot of time regurgitating the history of early Hungary and Transylvania (his homeland) for reasons that never do become particularly clear. Read more
Published 13 months ago by John S. Dowd
2.0 out of 5 stars 20 page Book
Painful. Like one of the reviewers wrote, a 20 page summary would send the message, unless you want to learn about Transylvania and "quasi-pointless" random stories. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Marcelo Reginato
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice web of stories
I love the way the book give the reader many small stories as well as a long story about events that started out as a crusade and ended up as something entirely different. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Nils Jacob Berland
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written version of a good idea
If you are looking for someone to write a boring and confusing book about an interesting subject Albert Laszlo-Barabasi is your man. Read more
Published 16 months ago by John Martin
2.0 out of 5 stars Banal and pointless
"There is a simple lesson in this that borders on the banal - in order to predict the future you must know the past. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Cal
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