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, non-mathematical 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