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Small Worlds Hardcover – August 23, 1999

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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Studies in Complexity
  • Hardcover: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 23, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691005419
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691005416
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,449,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"An engaging and informative introduction."--Science

"Playfully and clearly written. . . . [Watts] uses examples adroitly, and mixes abstract theory with real-world anecdotes with superb skill. . . . I have not enjoyed reading a book this much in a long time."--Peter Kareiva, Quarterly Review of Biology

"[Small Worlds] will be seized on by those seeking a first rough map of this fascinating new mathematical land. Those entering can expect to find some amazing connections between areas of research with apparently nothing in common, such as neurology to business studies. But then, it's a small world."--Robert Matthews, New Scientist

"Informally written and aimed at a wide audience, this book shows how mathematics yields new vistas on ubiquitous and seemingly familiar aspects of our world."--Choice

From the Inside Flap

"Duncan Watts has created that rarity of rarities: a book with enough fascinating facts and stories to keep the casual reader turning the pages coupled with enough engaging detail to satisfy the most technically sophisticated reader. Thus, whether you are just curious about the world around you or eager to begin your own small-world research, this is the definitive guide to the fascinating and profound world of small-world networks."--William L. Ditto, Applied Chaos Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology

"A good book on a fascinating topic--why two widely separated people are often connected by a small number of steps from friend to friend. We do indeed live in a 'small world.' When something happens so often there must be a reason--Duncan Watts is looking for it."--Gilbert Strang, Department of Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Duncan Watts's and Steve Strogatz's 1998 Nature paper on 'The collective dynamics of small-world networks' reinvigorated interest in the small-world phenomenon. Now, in Small Worlds, Watts follows up on this work with a detailed but accessible account of small-world networks that will appeal to both scientists and nonscientists. With examples ranging from the Kevin Bacon Game to models for the spread of diseases, Watts provides a clear description of how the structure of small-world networks can be characterized and a sense of how the interconnectivity of such networks can lead to intriguing dynamics. Be sure to tell your friends and their friends about this book."--J. J. Collins, Center for BioDynamics and Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University

"Enchanting! A voyage of exploration with fascinating byroads that yet brings the reader to powerful and useable conclusions. This work is worthy of Stanley Milgram exactly because Watts goes well beyond the original visualization while retaining its transparency."--Harrison White, Department of Sociology, Columbia University

"If you are a postgraduate looking to make your name or a seasoned researcher looking for new challenges, this book offers something rare: a chance to get in at the ground floor of a whole new area of research whose variety of exciting applications is exceeded only by their abundance."--Robert A. J. Matthews, Aston University, U.K.

"Small Worlds is outstanding. Watts begins with a simple observation: clustered networks, networks characterized by a large fraction of short ties and a small fraction of 'shortcuts' linking clusters with one another, appear in diverse settings and more frequently than might be expected. Watts then demonstrates that the dynamical behavior of these networks is highly sensitive to structure. The book is must reading, although not easy reading, for social scientists interested in networks, decision-making, and organizational design.(In other words, this is a high-investment, high-payoff book.)"--Marshall W. Meyer, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

"This is a remarkably novel analysis, with implications for a broad range of scientific disciplines, including neurobiology, sociology, ecology, economics, and epidemiology. . . . The results are potentially profoundly important."--Simon A. Levin, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

"Theoretical research on social networks has been hampered by a lack of models which capture the essential properties of large numbers of graphs with only a few key parameters. All the dyads, triads and acyclic mappings which fill the social network literature lead merely to a long enumeration of special cases. The random graph models introduced by Watts provide a rich foundation for future analytical and empirical research. The applications to dynamics in part 2 illustrate the richness of these models and promise even more exciting work to come."--Larry Blume, Cornell University

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 95 people found the following review helpful By P MARTIN on March 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I read the review in New Scientist, and liked the sound of this book. When it arrived I read the blurb on the back, and was further encouraged by the fact that a Sociology Professor was encouraging students to read it. I was therefore expecting a reasonably tough but rewarding read (my math is at undergraduate level and somewhat dated, but I do make an effort). Instead with the exception of a few pieces of commentary, particularly at the beginning, I found the book virtually impenetrable because of the denseness of the mathematical modelling techniques used. I suspect this is one strictly for the experts, and those with excellent post-graduate math skills.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Zac on July 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Networks are since a couple of years object of intense research in several different disciplines. One reason therefore is certainly the outstanding article by Watts and Strogatz, Collective dynamics of small world networks, Nature, 393:440--442, 1998. Unfortunatelly, this book can not continue the high level of this article. Actually, it does not really provide much more information than the article itself. I would suggest to read the article cited above and either decide for another book or to look directly in the literature and read the origninal articles.

To summarize, this book is not terribly weak, but one can clearly sees that it swims on the current 'complex networks' wave without providing enough justification for its existence. Of course, if you do not have access to the original literature and just what to have a general overview of complex networks and what be done with them, you may consider buying this book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By LuigiR on August 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is very hard for non-numerate individuals (like myself, a law student). I picked it up after reading Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (Open Market Edition), hoping I would find longer - but equally accessible - explanations of those concepts that are sketched in the latter.
Unfortunately, I didn't. The book is essentially a presentation of the modelling techniques used by Prof. Watts in arriving to the theory of Small Worlds. A thorouhg understanding would require truly firm foundations in statistics, graph theory and topology. Without that, you'll probably be able to understand at most twenty pages (out of 241).
If you have read Six Degrees, you'll still find some useful and still accessible discussion on multidimensional scaling, i.e. on the problem of measuring social distance, which Watts later discusses in Six Degrees with reference to the problem of search in networks. However, that's just about it.
My two-star rating is by no means meant to criticise Prof. Watts's ideas, or the substantial contentions he makes in the book (very few of which I was able to understand from a mathematical point of view, due to my faulty background). Deserving two starts, instead, are the Editorial reviews, which are hugely misleading. This is not "aimed at a wide audience". Or, better, it is aimed at a wide audience of MATHEMATICIANS. It is a technical one, and that would need to be made explicit.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Peter Flom on June 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Mathematical level: Moderate; there's no calculus, and little high level math, but the book is quite mathematical in tone, and some of the arguments may be difficult to follow without a good "math sense". There are MANY equations and graphs.

Good points: Watts covers an area that will interest those who deal with mathematical models of social networks e.g. models of disease-spread, especially HIV. It might, however, cover other things that can spread through networks as well. He presents analysis of graphs (or networks) that are neither random nor highly structured; and begins to examine ways that the degree of structure v. randomness can be measured.

Bad points: There are more than the usual number of typos. The models presented are a "first step", only.
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