Networks: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short
a stimulating introduction, with diverse insights from the inane to the
quick scan of this VSI indicated that it contained a single equation (p=1/2 for
a coin toss), reasonable considering the limited depths of explanation possible
in this format, but nevertheless indicative of the depth that this introduction
to networks attempts. In fairness, it makes good use of graphs. At the time of
this review, Wikipedia indicated that 'network' may refer to any of 13
non-proper noun subtopics, any of which may fall within the ambit of this VSI
so, again, it can only offer a reader a sense of the extreme breadth and
complexity of the networks topic.
My interest was piqued early by the
social network representation of a central Australian aboriginal group. No
reference or researcher names were given and my own web search suggests that the
tribe name must have been spelled Aranda, Arrernte or Arunta but certainly not
Arunda as in the book. While this eroded my confidence in the accuracy of this
VSI edition, most other areas of discussion identified researchers and the
limited bibliography, again excusable up to a point in a VSI book, was of less
VSI is structured around the topography, trends, dynamics, classification, uses
and numerous other features of networks. In each case myriad examples are
offered from ecology, neurology, various associations of words and people, the
internet, the `six degrees of separation' theory, and many more. There is more
emphasis on social networks and the examples and observations range from the
inane to the common sense to the profound. The exposition is fresh and engaging.
One interesting topic on network structure dealt with how scientific profile and
success is a product of network structure (I was interested in how this worked
for scientific paper citation) and this topic provided an excellent foundation
for further reading and thinking through the issue, as I believe it does for
many other networks topics.
In keeping with the book's focus on the
features of networks, it provides a useful review in its final chapter, "All the
World's a Net; or Not?". Accompanied with the fine range of examples, this is a
useful and engaging introduction to the diverse subject of networks.