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Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks Hardcover – May 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393041530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393041538
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #882,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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, Inc.

From Booklist

Coincidence is the current focus of modish mathematical investigation. Kicked off, according to Buchanan, by a 1998 paper published in Nature, research on the nature of coincidence posits that deep-seated principles order huge, seemingly inchoate assemblies of objects. According to these conjectured principles, any member of a gigantic assembly of similar members (say of six billion human beings) can connect with any other member in astonishingly few steps. The idea seems ubiquitous, cropping up in food chains, the cell, neural networks, disease propagation, or electrical power grids--all arenas explored by Buchanan. This connection of objects in a set, dubbed "small worlds," comes in two "flavors": egalitarian networks and aristocratic networks, an example of the latter being the Internet. These are very interesting concepts, but before diving in, readers will want to know what they might get from Buchanan's presentation of various mathematicians' papers. Intimating that a small-worlds perspective might reveal the workings of economics as well as biology and ecology, Buchanan points up the relevance of his investigation. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

This is a very readable book--something that you can quickly read on an airplane.
Aristarchus
I recommend this book to the non-mathematician interested in complexity and theory of networks.
Fausto Labruto
This book is an terrific introduction to the details and applications of networks.
Poochie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By world class wreckin cru on December 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The surprising answer is yes. I picked this book up after reading Steven Strogatz's Sync which mentions a great deal about the science of networks. Buchanan explains how networks exist everywhere - the net, the web, the power grid, our circle of friends, our sex partners - and that they are in fact very similar to one another.
The phrase "six degrees of separation" comes from the fact that two randomly chosen people, A and B, will on average be connected by six social links. A knows C who knows D who knows E who knows F who knows G who finally knows B. Considering the world has over 6 billion people, an average separation of 6 seems unbelievable small, but the explanation of this incredible phenomenon lies in the makeup of our social network. Our close friends know each other but our cluster of friends has weak ties to other clusters through acquaintances, people we really don't know that well - that's why when one is looking for a job, it's better to tell an acquaintance rather than a friend so that our inquiry can jump to other clusters. Our social network is essentially highly clustered but enough links exist between these clusters to allow us to jump from ourselves to any other person through just an average of six links. Buchanan shows us how this kind of network exists everywhere as mentioned above although he distinguishes between egalitarian networks where clusters are roughly the same size and aristocratic networks such as the WWW where gigantic hubs like Amazon.com exist that link to millions of websites.
One of the most interesting chapters in the book deals with sexual networks. It turns out that in the network of sex partners, certain people have a great many more links than the average person in the network.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAME on September 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Buchanan points out the hidden networks that tie together both the physical world and the world of consciousness, showing that amongst other things the Internet, electrical grids, the brain and the global economy are all systems with an underlying pattern that shares nature's design.
Physics, biology and other sciences have uncovered a multitude of unexpected connections between the operation of the human world and the functioning of other seemingly unrelated things. Many networks that seemed to be random are turning out to have a hidden order as revealed by the discipline of Complexity Theory.
The most interesting sections are those on the Internet, on the spread of AIDS and on economic systems. The author's conclusion is that many aspects of the world are indeed simpler than they appear on the surface and that there is a hidden and powerful design that binds everything together.
This fascinating book confirms many of the findings that I have encountered in other titles like Beyond Chaos by Mark Ward and Hidden Connections by Fritjof Capra. It concludes with a set of explanatory notes and a thorough index. Small World is a stimulating and thought provoking work.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By M. Karakus on August 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Actually, I bought this book with the intention of reading about genetics algorithms although I was pleasantly surprised with the out come of the book.

The book is about how our large world is small and what seems chaotic is actually an organized small network.

The author starts with how networks in nature relate to networks in technology. A very strong case for "6 degrees of separation" for our society and "19 degrees of (link) separation" for the Internet. The rest of the book explains with historical examples how scientists were able to prove the networking concepts through human decision and thought process.

I gave this book 4 star because I did not think that the conclusion had the continuity of the other chapters. I would recommend this book to all individuals who would be interested in reading and understanding the connections and influences of nature in our "connected" world.

Have fun understanding that you closer then you think to the person next door.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By owookiee VINE VOICE on May 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Buchanan really does as promised by the jacket - discusses networks and their similarities in areas such as social, neural, financial, disease, and information. He focuses mainly on the "small-world" principal that we're all familiar with, (i.e. the Kevin Bacon game) and shows how other successful network type application use the same model, from worm neurons to taxes.
The book is extremely non-technical, and you don't need any prerequisite learning to enjoy it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Aristarchus on August 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book has some really interesting ideas, mostly pertaining to what mathematicians call "graph theory." My only criticism, which may be a positive thing for many people, is that there is no math in the book. This is a very readable book--something that you can quickly read on an airplane. Once you learn about the key "ideas," I recommend that you follow up with additional research to learn the mathematics behind the ideas. The author does seem a bit wordy about the "six degrees of separation" phenomenon. Even people as dumb as I am get the idea after hearing about it several times. The book is good, but it needs some mathematics to quantify the ideas.
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