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Linked: The New Science of Networks 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0738206677
ISBN-10: 0738206679
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How is the human brain like the AIDS epidemic? Ask physicist Albert-László Barabási and he'll explain them both in terms of networks of individual nodes connected via complex but understandable relationships. Linked: The New Science of Networks is his bright, accessible guide to the fundamentals underlying neurology, epidemiology, Internet traffic, and many other fields united by complexity.

Barabási's gift for concrete, nonmathematical explanations and penchant for eccentric humor would make the book thoroughly enjoyable even if the content weren't engaging. But the results of Barabási's research into the behavior of networks are deeply compelling. Not all networks are created equal, he says, and he shows how even fairly robust systems like the Internet could be crippled by taking out a few super-connected nodes, or hubs. His mathematical descriptions of this behavior are helping doctors, programmers, and security professionals design systems better suited to their needs. Linked presents the next step in complexity theory--from understanding chaos to practical applications. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

Information, disease, knowledge and just about everything else is disseminated through a complex series of networks made up of interconnected hubs, argues University of Notre Dame physics professor Barabasi. These networks are replicated in every facet of human life: "There is a path between any two neurons in our brain, between any two companies in the world, between any two chemicals in our body. Nothing is excluded from this highly interconnected web of life." In accessible prose, Barabasi guides readers through the mathematical foundation of these networks. He shows how they operate on the Power Law, the notion that "a few large events carry most of the action." The Web, for example, is "dominated by a few very highly connected nodes, or hubs... such as Yahoo! or Amazon.com." Barabasi notes that "the fittest node will inevitably grow to become the biggest hub." The elegance and efficiency of these structures also makes them easy to infiltrate and sabotage; Barabasi looks at modern society's vulnerability to terrorism, and at the networks formed by terrorist groups themselves. The book also gives readers a historical overview on the study of networks, which goes back to 18th-century Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler and includes the well-known "six degrees phenomenon" developed in 1967 by sociology professor Stanley Milgram. The book may remind readers of Steven Johnson's Emergence and with its emphasis on the mathematical underpinnings of social behavior Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point (which Barabasi discusses); those who haven't yet had their fill of this new subgenre should be interested in Barabasi's lively and ambitious account.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Perseus Books Group; 1st edition (May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738206679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738206677
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
With so much buzz about Wolfram's book, great to see a book that DOES talk about NEW science. Barabasi, the top guy in the new science of networks, talks about what he knows best: complexity and networks, and how they affect our life. While an easy read, it is full of so many thought provoking ideas, that I'd read for a while and then have to put it down to reflect over the details of what I'd just read. Gladwell's tipping point was an entertaining read, but light on true understanding. Linked makes up the difference: it breaks new ground, offering the reader insight and research into the structure of networks in just about all fields and aspects of life. While Gladwell chats about connectors, people who are incredibly sociable and well-connected, Barabasi is the one who really gets to the heart of the matter. He discovered these connectors (he calls them hubs) while looking at the www (Yahoo and Google are some of those), and he shows that they are present in the cell, in the business world (Vernon Jordan), in sex (Wild Chamberlain), in Hollyood (Kavin Bacon) and many other networks. These hubs are not accidents, but they appear in all networks as a simple rich gets richer process is responsible for them.
If you REALLY want to grasp how ideas spread, how to stop AIDS, how to break down the Internet, how to use your neighbor's computer, how to make your website matter or how to became a board member in a big company, Linked is a good place to start. Barabasi breaks down a complex world into very simple, clear concepts. While I have read several books about 'new' science, this one is really about something new, exciting, and hard to forget. Highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
What do sexually transmitted diseases, the World Wide Web, the electric power grid, Al Queda terrorists, and a cocktail party have in common? They are all networks. They conform to surprising mathematical laws which are only now becoming clear. Albert-Laszlo Barabasi has helped discover some of those laws over just the past five years, and though they are some pretty abstruse mathematics, he has written a clear and interesting guide to them, _Linked: The New Science of Networks_ (Perseus Publishing). Not only has he attempted in this book to bring the math to non-mathematicians, he has shown why the work is important in down-to-earth applications.
It is important for those multitudes who have no taste for math to know that this is not a book full of equations; Barabasi knows that for most of his readers, doing the math is not as important as getting a feel for what the math does. He explains the basic history of network theory, and then shows how his own work has turned it into a closer model of reality, a model that most of us will recognize. Networks are all around us, and they are simply not random. Some of our friends, for instance, are loners, while others seem to know everyone in town. Some websites, like Google and Amazon, we just cannot avoid clicking on or being referred to, but many others are obscure and you could only find them if someone sent you their addresses. Barabasi calls these "nodes" with such an extraordinary number of links "hubs," and he and his students have found laws of networks with hubs, showing such things as how they can continue to function if random nodes are eliminated but they fragment if the hubs are hit.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Updated 28 Dec 07 to add links.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it is coherent, thoughtful, and tells a story about the emerging science of networks that anyone, who can read, can understand. This is a non-trivial accomplishment, so 4 stars.

However, the book is also--being brilliantly designed to be understood by the lowest common denominator, an undergraduate--somewhat shallow and empty.... especially when compared with Stephen Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science", 1197 pages not counting the index, which is at the other extreme.

Although there are good notes, there is no bibliography, and the author fails to use network methodology to illustrate and document the emerging literature on networks--called citation analysis, this would have been a superb appendix to the book that would have taken it up a notch in utility.

Among the key points that the author discusses and which certainly make the book worth buying and reading, my above reservations not-with-standing:

1) Reductionism has driven 20th century science (and one might add, all other knowledge), with the result being that we have experts who know more and more about less and less--and )as CIA and FBI recently found)while leaving us devoid of generalists and multi-disciplinary artists and scientists who can "connect the dots" across these fragmented foci.

2) Contrary to the prevailing wisdom about networks being equally distributed and thus largely invulnerable to catastrophic meltdown, the author does a fine job of documenting the importance of selected "hubs", so important that their removal ultimately breaks the network down into isolated pieces.
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