Linked: The New Science Of Networks Science Of Networks Hardcover – May 15 2002
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
I'm not sure the book delivers. We get a 'report from the field', but not much detail or general understanding. It's all too confusing and new, if I caught Barabasi's drift.
But, is this a good 'introduction' to network dynamics? Based on the reviews here, it seems clear the prose appeals to many readers. If this inspires people to read more, then great. I am afraid they are attracted by the comforting tone and soothing outlook, though. We get too much of Barabasi, the expert grant writer. Barabasi foresees network dynamics leading us to Kurzweil's happy 'Age of Spiritual Machines'. A more down to earth view suggests networks bring us Osama Bin Laden. Barabasi is quite thrilled to find small world dynamics in his network research, but never connects them to the 'small world dynamics' of drug lords and suicide bombers.
I'm a bit puzzled by Barabasi's problems with the details. For example, he does a poor job of explaining exactly what a 'power-law' distribution might be, though he uses the term over and over, again. How does one 'find' a power-law in experimental data? Most people have probably gone through much of their lives never seeing a single one! If you find one, will anyone agree with you?
Offering a few examples that one could work with at home would go a long way. For instance, Barabasi talks about the way wealth approximates a power-law distribution. If you try to work with published data on this subjects, there won't be much that looks like a power-law.Read more ›
The book starts good, but it runs out of gas about halfway, when the author keeps repeating the same theories over and over again, just trying to get enough 'search keywords" in his book to get more hits on book search engines.
Also, it is too obvious that it is written by a theoretical scientist, not an observational one. Once he has an idea of how his theory 'should' be, he is just adding enough components and factors to his formula to prove that the reality is exactly like his theory. A scientist should sometimes accept that he's not able to explain what he sees. The author was to proud to get to that stage.
I also agree with some other reviewers that the author does a great job promoting his own accomplishments, 'en passant' slapping in the face of government agencies for not granting him money for his research.
Overall, the book would have been better at about 100 page instead of 226.
I stuggled through the book, but it was a big effort, and I did it only because I received the book and promised to discuss it. If my expectations had been lower, I would have appreciated this more.
I am very interested by the subject, but will have to look for the better books about it.
While it is true that Linked is a bit light on the underlying math - not trivial by all means - and that there are chapters the book would be better without (last three notably, as well as the already-mentioned analysis of M$ dominance) this remains an interesting introduction to networks theory. We do not need rocket science to tell us that a scale-free network has its' vulnerability in its hubs, but I find it interesting and not entirely common sense that it is INHERENTLY more robust than a random network.
I find some of the critique here a bit petty (perhaps penned by fellow scientists ?). Barabasi comes out IMHO as a witted scientist with a knack for explaining stuff to the masses, an art in which Richard Feynman (alredy mentioned here and perhaps my all-time favorite hero) excelled. Perhaps a 100-page compendium would make a better reading, but there seems to be an unwritten publishing rule whereby no essay shorter than 250 pages sells.
On the other hand, I have rarely witnessed such an inflated ego as the one self-portrayed by Stephen Wolfram who bombastically claims to have invented a whole New Kind of Science ! His 1,200-page tome uses all variations of the "I" pronoun *ad nauseam* and there are whole sections who could be happily burned to no consequence to the reader (e.g. the proof-free wanderings on biochemistry et al.), not to mention the gazillion diagrams which cease to astonish well before you peruse the fiftieth.
How come there is no 0 or negative choice
for the rating? I did NOT want to choose 1 star,
but -5 stars.
Writing a popular science book is not as trivial as one
might think. Here is a (minimal) set of rules:
* FIRST and foremost, the author must know the field well
and must have contributed to it substantially.
* SECOND, the author must know how to address to the general
public in an honest, scientific way.
* THIRD (and most evidently), the book must be written in a
language that can be understood by the layman, but, not necessarily,
* FOURTH, it is important that the author's primary target
be not that he/she try to make the reader "feel good" only
(if people can be made to believe that they understand
something totally outside their field of expertise,
then they feel good about themselves, but, feeling good
without learning anything is a waste of time;
why not go hiking instead?)
* FIFTH, the author should remain humble about his/her
achievements, for there is no purpose in boasting about
them to the general public.
Unfortunately, the author, A.-L. Barabasi, miserably
fails in all of them:
* FIRST, it appears that his contributions (as far as one
can tell by reading his papers) are minimal.
* SECOND, the exposition of the subject is not honest,
because he hides the complexity, substituting it instead
by a tremendous amount of repetition.
* THIRD, while it is true that the book can be understood
by everyone, the fact that it can be done while taking
a nap (i.e., effortlessly) should be an indication of
its emptiness.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I first heard the author speak on NPR. Not only was I enthralled with his intelligence and clarity of thought, I was captivated by the promise of a new perspective on the... Read morePublished on June 28 2004 by Eric Flynn
I liked it. I read, but I rarely finish a book. I finished this one.Published on Feb. 23 2004 by Amazon Customer
After reading a third of the book, I finally gave up out of sheer disinterest. The way the book is presented would probably be ideal for a student of network dynamics, or even a... Read morePublished on Jan. 22 2004 by William Wagner
Barabasi's Linked is a pretty good intro to the science of networks. It covers much the same ground as Buchanan's Nexus including discussions about random v. Read morePublished on Dec 20 2003 by world class wreckin cru
In my opinion, Barabasi's book is a decent addition to the existing books on complexity and networks. The author himself is an acknowledged authority of the field of networks. Read morePublished on Aug. 20 2003
Popular science sells, no doubt about it. Authors like Barabasi
know how to exploit the science-thirsty public in the following way: their writing appeals to many people,... Read more
Barabasi gives an interesting account of what he and others have done in recent years in the field of networks. Read morePublished on June 17 2003 by Joel
Frankly, I found this to be an unusually challenging book to read the first time and therefore re-read it before organizing my thoughts for this review. Read morePublished on June 13 2003 by Robert Morris
For casual readers, this book is a wonderful book to spawn new ideas of networks and networking. Although the latter half is weaker in my perspective, I think this is a great book... Read morePublished on May 17 2003
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