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Weak Links: The Universal Key to the Stability of Networks and Complex Systems (The Frontiers Collection) Hardcover – April 28, 2006
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"This is an excellent book, which shows the far-reaching consequences of the great variety of weak links. The book has a proper balance between a scientific monograph and a popular approach, and mixes humor with sharp intellect. "Weak Links" is an adventurous, entertainingly eclectic and rich work both for the experts and laymen." (Lászlo-Albert Barabási, Department of Physics, University of Notre Dame, author of the bestseller book, Linked and the 1999 seminal Science paper on the preferential attachment model of scale-free network topology.)
"You have written a very personal, engaging, and unique book that will appeal to readers and get them thinking." (Steve Strogatz, Dept. of Theoretical and Applied Mathematics, Cornell University, author of Sync and the 1998 seminal Nature paper on small worlds.)
"You have done a great service by making the world of networks understandable and clear. I will use your book in my classes." (Caroline S. Wagner, Center of International Science & Technology Policy, George Washington University, author of several science policy-related books including the an upcoming work on the international collaboration in science)
"This book links an exceptionally large number of areas and gives exciting novel information to both the network experts and the science-orinted general readership." (Tamás Vicsek, Dept. Biological Physics, Eötvös University, author of several network-related Nature papers including a method to determine overlapping network modules)
"This masterpiece should serve as an example how science can be discussed. Entertaining yet thought provoking." (György Buzsáki, Board of Governors Professor, Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Rutgers University, a leading expert of neuronal networks)
"You have written a true gem of a book; erudite, humane, funny, accessible and thoroughly fascinating. On every page, I find another delight that makes me smile and leads me down new intellectual paths (weak links again!). Thanks to your thorough footnotes, I can delve as deep as I would like into the professional papers. Outstanding - I wish more books were written this way. I have adopted your book as a textbook for my Science of Networks class, and I will recommend it to anyone who ask without hesitation. You did a great service to pedagogy and to this budding science with this magisterial survey. I really appreciate it and my students will, as well." (Daniel J. Bilar, Computer Science Department, Wellesley College MA, USA)
From the Back Cover
How can our societies be stabilized in a crisis? Why can we enjoy and understand Shakespeare? Why are fruitflies uniform? How do omnivorous eating habits aid our survival? What makes the Mona Lisa’s smile beautiful? How do women keep our social structures intact? – Could there possibly be a single answer to all these questions? This book shows that the statement: "weak links stabilize complex systems" provides the key to understanding each of these intriguing puzzles, and many others too. The author (recipient of several distinguished science communication prizes) uses weak (low affinity, low probability) interactions as a thread to introduce a vast variety of networks from proteins to economics and ecosystems. Many people, from Nobel Laureates to high-school students have helped to make the book understandable to all interested readers. This unique book and the ideas it develops will have a significant impact on many, seemingly diverse, fields of study.
A very personal, engaging, and unique book that will appeal to readers and get them thinking
An adventurous, entertainingly eclectic and rich work both for experts and laymen
This masterpiece should serve as an example of how science can be discussed
Outstanding - I wish more books were written this way
Daniel J. Bilar
Top customer reviews
Structurally, his book starts with an exposition on network theory and
terminology, then the application and discussion of these concepts to
real-life complex systems on many scales and applied to many domains (physical, natural, technological, social). His main point is, as the reviewer noted above, that 'weak' links (weak: additional/removal does not statistically affect the average of some metric) stabilize systems.
The book has thorough footnotes, one can delve as deep as one would like
into the professional papers. In addition, Csermely is an honest scholar - he shows his hands when there is mere speculation (you have to see the book's unique pictograms to appreciate the effects)
After pouring through several alternatives, I have adopted this book as a
textbook for my Science of Networks class (I'm CS fac at an elite US liberal arts school), and I recommend it to anyone without hesitation for a readable, and learned exposition.
I only have two or three caveats from a specialist's point of view: The
phenomenological discovery of power laws in complex systems is not unusual
and may not be evidence of any SF properties. Scale-free is an abused
term, and I wish the controversy about it were explained a bit more. Also, from a modelling point of view, I wish Doyle and Carlson's work on HOT systems were discussed in more depth.
But these are minor points, relatively speaking. This is a gem of a book:
erudite, humane, funny, accessible and thoroughly fascinating. On every
page, there are delights that lead down new intellectual paths.
Csermely did a great service to pedagogy and to this budding science with
this magisterial survey. Outstanding in its ease of access for intelligent
undergraduates and commendable for intellectual honesty - I wish more
books (textbooks and otherwise) were written this way.
The book is an interesting read if only because its topic matter ranges from network complexity in physical systems, to biological systems, and finally social and cultural systems. Personally I think there are a few longbows drawn, but in fairness Csermely does clearly indicate where he is engaging in speculation. One fascinating discussion was the discourse on pink noise. Pink noise is also known as coloured noise, flicker noise, crackling noise and Barkhausen noise. Seemingly pink noise is present in systems as diverse as solar flares, traffic flows and group decision making, and has a stabilising or relaxing effect. Quoting several scientific sources he postulates that pink noise helps neural synchronisation, which is partly responsible for memory formation. To put it another way if you want to memorise something have Mozart playing in the background rather than bagpipes, because Mozart's music has pink noise properties!
Csermeley's discussion on immunological networks is also interesting. He says an immune system has to solve four problems:
the self/ non-self recognition problem;
the signal to noise problem;
the context problem; and
the response problem.
Now this is interesting because the later three points define the knowledge retrieval problem of a knowledge management system. Apparently weak links are the immune system's mechanism to solve these problems.
A software package typically consists of several hierarchical and modular components, which are bound by strong links. Taking a lesson from the immune system perhaps we need to build software with lots of weak links, and ensure our people and process dimensions also have many weak links? Perhaps these weak links will allow the percolation of knowledge through the human, process, and technology systems. Perhaps our real problem with knowledge management is we try to over-engineer everything and in so doing build strong links rather than weak links. I'm beginning to think weak links matter.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in networks.