- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc; 1st edition (February 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393041425
- ISBN-13: 978-0393041422
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 46 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,182,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age 1st Edition
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You may be only six degrees away from Kevin Bacon, but would he let you borrow his car? It depends on the structures within the network that links you. When the power goes out, when we find that a stranger knows someone we know, when dot-com stocks soar in price, networks are evident. In Six Degrees, sociologist Duncan Watts examines networks like these: what they are, how they're being studied, and what we can use them for. To illustrate the often complicated mathematics that describe such structures, Watts uses plenty of examples from life, without which this book would quickly move beyond a general science readership. Small chapters make each thought-provoking conclusion easy to swallow, though some are hard to digest. For instance, in a short bit on "coercive externalities," Watts sums up sociological research showing that:
"Conversations concerning politics displayed a consistent pattern .... On election day, the strongest predictor of electoral success was not which party an individual privately supported but which party he or she expected would win."Six Degrees attempts to help readers understand the new and exciting field of networks and complexity. While considerably more demanding than a general book like The Tipping Point, it offers readers a snapshot of a riveting moment in science, when understanding things like disease epidemics and the stock market seems almost within our reach. --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
Watts, a Columbia University sociology professor, combines his own research in network theory with summaries of the work of others who he says are "collectively solving problems which cannot be solved by any single individual or even any single discipline." The result is a dizzyingly complex blend of mathematics, computer science, biology and social theory that, despite the best efforts at clarification, often remains opaque, buried in scientific language and graphs. The book also assumes a high level of unfamiliarity on the reader's part with the subject, treating phenomena like the 17th-century tulip craze or the "Kevin Bacon game" as fresh news. Even more surprising, however, are the significant omissions- there is not a single mention of "tipping points," for example, the subject of a recent bestselling book. The parts of the book dealing with the author's own research are strong on science, but frustratingly vague on the social network of scientists with whom Watts has worked. There are intermittent highlights in the scientific account, such as an explanation of why casual acquaintances are more likely to provide life-changing opportunities than best friends, or a look at how New York City's reaction to September 11 illustrates current thinking on network connectivity and disruption, but, despite an admirable effort to syncretize discoveries in several fields, the book as a whole is too dry to compete effectively with the popularized accounts that exist for each separate field. Illus.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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There was one aspect particularly exciting for me. As a Christian, I revisited the Book of Acts after reading this book. I thought about the fact that if Christ had lived the 12 apostles might not have dispersed - they would have remained clustered in one group. Their disbursement was crucial to the proliferation of a network and in a sense provides another form of validating the author's thoughts on thresholds and cascading effects. An incredible mind was certainly at work!
I gave one start less than five, though, due to the author's tendency for age discrimination in the area of people doing graduate work. I started graduate school well into my forties. :-)
The theory on its own was the eye opener for me. It gives you some feeling with phenomena as epidemics, new social media breakthrough or failure etc. without ever boring you as a reader.
The strongest point is that it crosses the borders of different disciplines and by such will raise interest in both math oriented and human oriented sciences. I will remember it for sure.
Most recent customer reviews
A must read book for those who want to understand how everything is connected. I strongly recommend.