Dec. 8, 2010

Book on networks provides six degrees of explanation

Are all film stars linked to Kevin Bacon? Why do the stock markets rise and fall sharply on the strength of a vague rumor? How does gossip spread so quickly? Are we all related through six degrees of separation? There is a growing awareness of the complex networks that pervade modern society -- the links that connect us and the ways in which each of our decisions can have subtle consequences for everyone else.

"Networks, Crowds and Markets: Reasoning About a Highly Connected World" (Cambridge University Press, 2010) by David Easley, Cornell's Henry Scarborough Professor of Social Sciences and chair of the Department of Economics, and Jon Kleinberg, the Tisch University Professor of Computer Science draws on ideas from economics, sociology, computing and information science, and applied mathematics to describe the emerging field of study at the interface of all these areas, addressing fundamental questions about how the social, economic and technological worlds are connected.

The 736-page book is based on the interdisciplinary course, Networks, that the authors teach at Cornell. It is aimed at practitioners in information technology, marketing and related fields, and is suitable for use as a textbook. The book, like the course, is designed for readers at the introductory undergraduate level with no formal prerequisites, but most of the chapters are supplemented with optional advanced sections.