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.
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 TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved