- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (June 17, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393324427
- ISBN-13: 978-0393324426
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 50 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks Reprint Edition
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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When all the elements in a small-world network have a comparable number of links, they are called "egalitarian," but some "aristocratic" small-world networks also have hub elements which are more highly linked (according to a power law or "fat tail" relationship). Either way, small-world networks tend to be efficient and robust, although they are also vulnerable to disfunction or complete collapse if a significant percentage of their weak links or hub elements are lost.
The above summarizes the basic concept, which Buchanan fleshes out with many examples spanning many fields (biology, economics, physics, epidemiology, information technology, business, politics, etc.), and he also adds a human-interest element by telling us about specific researchers and their working relationships. Buchanan is a top-notch science writer, and so he relays all of this in an effective and entertaining manner.
The only downside is that the book format gives it more of the feel of a novel rather than a textbook, so key points are not highlighted and it's difficult to go back and find information. I think this is a significant downside because it hinders the serious reader who wants to use the book as a reference and explore the topic further, so I'm giving the book a four-star rating instead of five. However, I still highly recommend the book to readers who are interested in general popular science, and especially network theory. This topic has an important place in the broader and increasingly important subject of complexity theory.
The level of mathematical sophistication needed to comprehend the matterial is minimal. I do not believe there are any equations in the entire book. There are many easily understood graphs and a few percentages.
The basic concept of the networks is very easy to explain and to understand. The applications are the interesting part. Thoughout the pages are clear and interesting examples that make you want to turn the page to see what is coming next. In my case I often found myself thinking how I would have approached the problem and more importantly what problems could this have been applied to. Any book that can do that is a good one in my book!
Like many good books, this one leaves more questions unanswered than it answers. The subject area is a generic one that allows it's self to be applied in many many different fields. The question becomes not is this model of the world valid but rather how can it be applied.
This was a quick read, certain to change my views on how the world works.
Those coming to the subject after reading Gladwell's works (Tipping Point/Blink) will find this to be a much more concrete and dare I say, helpful! For a more sociological analysis of same phenomena you may want to check `Emergence' by Steven Johnson or `Wisdom of Crowds' by James Surowiecki.
It reads a little like a "thriller" because you are drawn on to see how it all comes out. I have recommended it to people who ordinarily are not up to reading in this area, and I have recommended it to specialists as well. It is a great read and a stretching learning experience.