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THE INTERNET,mapped on the opposite page, is a scale-free network in that

some siteS (starbursts and detail above) have a seemingly unlimited


number of connections to other sites. This map, made on February 6, 2003,
traces the shortest routes from a test Web sinHo about 100,000 others,
using like colors for similar Web addresses.

a -

Scientistshave recently discoveredthat variouscomplexsystemshave


antlnderlyihg~..'~tJ;i~e~tu"eg~Ye'l"rne(;lb9.$ha
red organili ng principies.
Thisinsighthas important impli~ationsfor a hostof
applications,from drugdevelopmentto Internet security
BYALBERT-U\SZLO
BARABASI
ANDERICBONABEAU

50 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MAY 2003


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The brain is a network of nerve cells con- number of links and no node is typical of network theory is that, despite the ran-
nected by axons, and cells themselves are the others. These networks also behave in dom placement of links, the resulting sys-
networks of molecules connected by bio- certain predictable ways; for example, tem will be deeply democratic: most
chemical reactions. Societies, too, are net- they are remarkably resistant to acciden- nodes will have approximately the same
works of people linked by friendships, tal failures but extremely vulnerable to number of links. Indeed, in a random net-
familial relationships and professional coordinated attacks. work the nodes follow a Poisson distrib-
ties. On a larger scale, food webs and eco- Such discoveries have dramatically ution with a bell shape, and it is extreme-
systems can be represented as networks changed what we thought we knew about ly rare to find nodes that have significant-
of species. And networks pervade tech- the complex interconnected world around ly more or fewer links than the average.
nology: the Internet, power grids and us. Unexplained by previous network the~ Random networks are also called expo-
transportation systems are but a few ex" ories, hubs offer convincing proof that nential, because the probability that a
amples. Even the language we are using various complex systems have a strict ar- node is connected to k other sites de-
to convey these thoughts to you is a net- chitecture, ruled by fundamental laws- creases exponentially for large k.
work, made up of words connected by laws that appear to apply equally to cells, So in 1998, when we, together with
syntactic relationships, col11puters, languages and society. Fur- Hawoong Jeong and Reka Albert of the
Yet despite the importance and per- thermore, these organizing principles have University of Notre Dame, embarked on
vasiveness of networks, scientists have significant implications for developing a project to map the World Wide Web,
had little understanding of their structure better drugs, defending the Internet from we expected to find a random network.
and properties. How do the interactions hackers, and halting the spread of deadly Here's why: people follow their unique
of several malfunctioning llodes in a com- epidemics, among other applicati()ns. interests when deciding what sites to link
plex genetic network resl).lt in cancer? their Web documents to, and given the di-
How does diffusion occur so rapidly.in Networks without Scale versity of everyone's .interests and the
certain social and communications sys- FOR MORE THAN 40 YEARS, science tremendous number of pages they can
tems, leading to epidemics ()fdiseases and treated all complex net\'\(orks as being choose from, the resulting pattern of con-
computer viruses? How do ~ome net- completely randoIIl. This paradigIIl has its nections should appear fairly random.
works continue to function even after the roots in the work of two H1ir1garianmath~ The measurements, however, defied
vast majority of their nodes have failed? ematicians, the inimitable Paul Erdos and that expectation. Software designed for
Recent research has begun to ansWer his close collaborator Alfred Renyi. In this project hopped from one Web page
such questions. Over the past feW years, 1959, aiming to describe networks seen in to another and collected all the links it
investigators from a variety of fields have communications and the lif~ sciences, could. Although this virtu:alrobot reached
discovered that many .networks-froIIl Erdos and Renyi suggested that suc:h sys- only a tiny fraction of the entire Web, the
the World Wide Web to a cell's metabol- tems could be effectively l110deledby con- map it assembled revealed something
ic system to actors in Hollywood-are necting their nodes withrandornlyplaced quite surprising: a few highly connected
dominated by a relatively sm.all number links. The simplicitYof their approach and pages are essentially holding the World
of nodes that ani c:oll1l~ctedto many oth" the elegance of so~e of their related theo- Wide Web together. More than 80 per-
er sites. Networks containing suchim- rems revitalized graph theory, leading to cent ()fthe pages on the map had feWer
portant nodes, or hubs, tend to be what the emergence of a field in mathematics than four links, but a small minority, less
we call "scale-free," in the sense that that focuses on random networks. than 0.01 percent of all nodes, had more
some hubs have a seemingly unlimited An important prediction of random- than 1,000. (A subsequent Web survey
would uncover one document that had
been referenced by more than two million
other pages!)
Counting how many Web pages have
ex'1stly k links showed that the distribu-
tion followed a so-called power law: the
probability that any node was connected
to k other nodes was proportional to Ykn.
The value of n for incoming links was ap-
proximately 2, so, for instance, any node
was roughly four times as likely to have
just half the number of incoming links as
another node. Power laws are quite dif-
ferent from the bell-shaped distributions
that characterize random networks.

S2 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MAY 2003


RANDOMVERSUSSCALE-FREE
NETWORKS I

RANDOMNETWORKS,
which resemble the U.S.highway system nodes with a very high number of links. In such networks, the
(simplified in left map), consist of nodes with randomly placed distribution of node linkages follows a power law [center graph)
connections. In such systems, a plot of the distribution of node in that most nodes have just a few connections and some have
linkages will follow a bell-shaped curve (left graph), with most a tremendous number of links. In that sense, the system has no
nodes having approximately the same number of links. "scale." The defining characteristic of such networks is that the
In contrast, scale-free networks, which resemble,the U.S. distribution of links, if plotted on a double-logarithmic scale
airline system (simplified in right map). contain hubs [red)- [right graph), results in a straight line.

RandomNetwork Scale-Free Network

Bell Curve ~istribution of Node Linkages PowerLaw Distribution of Node Linkages

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Number of Links Number of Links Number of Links (log scale)

Specifically, a power law does not have a Scale-Free Networks Abound some social networks are scale-free. A col-
peak, as a bell curve does, but is instead de- OVER THE PAST several years, re- laboration between scientists from Boston
scribed by a continuously decreasing func- searchers have uncovered scale-free struc" University and Stockholm University, for
tion. When plotted on a double-logarith- tures in a stunning range of systems. instance, has shown that a netWork of
mic scale, a power law is a straight line When we studied the World Wide Web, sexual relationships among people in
[see illustration above]. In contrast to the we looked at the virtual network of Web Sweden followed a poWer law: although
democratic distribution of links seen in pages connected to one another by hy- most individuals had only a few sexual
random networks, power laws describe perlinks. In contrast, .ty1ichalisFaloutsos partners during their lifetime, a few (the
systems in which a few hubs, such as Ya- of the University of California at River- hubs) had hundreds. A recent study led
hoo and Google, dominate. side, Petros Falotitsos of the University of by Stefan Bornholdt of the University of
Hubs are simply forbidden in random Toronto arid Christos Faloutsos of Car- Kiel in Germany concluded that the net-
networks. When we began to map the negie MelloQ Uq~versity .analyzed tbe work of people connected bye-mail is
Web, we expected the nodes to follow a physical structure of the Internet. These likewise scahfree. Sidney Redner of
bell-shaped distribution, as do people's three computer-scientist brothers investi- Boston University demonstrated that the
heights. Instead we discovered certain gated the routers connected by optical or network of scientific papers, connected
nodes that defied explanation, almost as other communications lines and found by citations, follows a power law as well.
~
~ if we had stumbled on a significant num- that the topology of that network, too, is And Mark Newman of the University of
;;:
'" ber of people who were 100 feet tall, thus scale-free. Michigan at Ann Arbor examined col-
~ prompting us to coin the term" scale-free." Researchers have also discovered that laborations among scientists in several

www.sciam.com SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 53


disciplines,indudingphysicians and com- sis of that network showed that it, too, attach themselves physically to a huge
puter scientists, and found that those net- is dominated by hubs. Specifically, al- number. We found a similar result in the
works were also scale-free, corroborating though most actors have only a few links protein-interaction network of an organ-
a study we conducted focusing on math- to others, a handful of actors, including ism that is very different from yeast, a sim-
ematicians and neurologists. (Interesting- Rod Steiger and Donald Pleasence, have ple bacterium called Helicobacter pylori.
ly, one of the largest hubs in the mathe- thousands of connections. (Incidentally, Indeed, the more that scientists stud-
matics community is Erdos himself, who on a list of most connected actors, Bacon ied networks, the more they uncovered
wrote more than 1,400 papers with no ranked just 876th.) scale-free structures. These findings raised
fewer than 500 co-authors.) On a more serious note, scale-free an important question: How can systems
Scale-free networks can occur in busi- networks are present in the biological as fundamentally different as the cell and
ness. Walter W. Powell of Stanford Uni- realm. With Zoltan Oltvai, a cell biologist the Internet have the same architecture
versity, Douglas R. White of the Univer- from Northwestern University, we found and obey the same laws? Not only are
sity of California at Irvine, Kenneth W. a scale-free structure in the cellular meta- these various networks scale-free, they
Koput of the University of Arizona, and bolic networks of 43 different organisms also share an intriguing property: for rea-
Jason-Owen Smith 6f the University of from all three domains of life, including sons not yet known, the value of n in the
Michigan studied the formation of al- Archaeoglobus fulgidus{an archaeb<lc- kn term of thepower law tends to fall be-
liance networks in the U.S. biotechnolo: terium), Escherichia coli (a eubacterium) tween 2 and 3.
gy industry and discovered definite hubs~ and Caenorhabditis elegans (a eukary-
for instance, companies such as Genzyme, ote). In such networks, cells burn food by The Rich Get Richer
Chiron and Genentech had a dispropor- splitting complex molecules to release en- PERHAPS A Mo..RE BASIC question is
tionately large number of partnerships ergy. Each node is a particular molecule, why randpm-network theory fails to ex-
with other firms. Researchers in Italy took and each link is a biochemical reaction. plain the existence of hubs. A closer ex-
a deeper look at that network. Using data We found that most molecules participate amination of the work of Erdos and Ren-
collected by the University of Siena's Phar- in just one or two reactions, but a few (the yi reveals two reasons.
maceuticallndustry Database, which now hubs), such as water and adenosine tri- In developing their model, Erdos and
provides information for around 20,100 phosphate, playa role in most of them. Renyi assumed that they had the full in-
R&D agreements among more than 7,200 We discovered that the protein-inter- ventory of nodes before they placed the
organizations, they found that the hubs action network of cells is scale-free as well. links. In contrast, the number of docu-
detected by Powell and his colleagues were In such a network, two proteins are "con- ments. on the Web is anything but con-
actually part of a scale-free network. nected" if they are known to interact with stant. In 1990 the Web had only one page.
Even the network of actors in Holly- each other. Whenwe investigated Baker's Now it has more than three billion. Most
wood-,.,popularized by the game Six De- yeast, one of the simplest eukaryotic (nu- networks have expanded similarly. Hol-
grees of Kevin Bacon, in which players cleus-containing) cells, with thousands of lywood had only a handful of actors in
try to connect actors to Bacon via the proteins, we discovered a scale-free topol- 1890, but as new people joined the trade,
movies in which they have appeared to- ogy: although most proteins interact with the network grew to include more than
gether-is scale-free. A quantitative analy- only one or two others, a few are able to half a million, with the rookies connect-
ing to veteran actors. The Internet had
only a few routers about three decades
ago, but it gradually grew to have mil-
lions, with the new routers always linking
to those that were already part of the net-
work. Thanks to the growing nature of
real networks, older nodes had greater
opportunities to acquire links.
Furthermore, all nodes are not equal.
When deciding where to link their Web
page, people can choose from a few billion
locations. Yet most of us are familiar with
only a tiny fraction of the full Web, and
that subset tends to include the more con-
nected sites because they are easier to find.
By simply linking to those nodes, people
exercise and reinforce a bias toward them.
This process of "preferential attachment"
occurs elsewhere. In Hollywood the more

54 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MAY2003


BIRTHOFASCALE-FREE
NETWORK
A SCALE-FREE NETWORK grows incrementally from two to 11 nodes in this example. When deciding where to establish a link, a new node
(green) prefers to attach to an existing node (red) that already has many other connections. These two basic mechanisms-growth
and preferential attachment-will eventually lead to the system's being dominated by hubs, nodes having an enormous number of links.

.---- -1
~ ~ ~

connected actors are more likely to be why scale-free networks are so ubiquitous
~~
an existing node that has twice as many
chosen for new roles. On the Internet the in the real world. connections), one hub will tend to run
more connected routers, which typically Growth and preferential attachment away with the lion's share of connections.
have greater bandwidth, are more desir- can even help explicate the presence of In such "winner take all" scenarios, the
able for new users. In the U.S. biotech in- scale-free networks in biological systems. network eventually assumes a star topol-
dustry, well-established companies such as Andreas Wagner of the University of ogy with a central hub.
Genzyme tend to attract more alliances, New Mexico and David A. Fell of Oxford
which further increases their desirability Brookes University in England have AnAchilles' Heel
for future partnerships. Likewise, the found, for instance, that the most-con- AS HUMANITY BECOMES increasing-
most cited articles in the scientific litera- nected molecules in the E. coli metabolic ly dependent on power grids and com-
ture stimulate even more researchers to network tend to have an early evolution- munications webs, a much-voiced con-
read and cite them, a phenomenon that ary history: some are believed to be rem- cern arises: Exactly how reliable are these
noted sociologist Robert K. Merton nants of the so-called RNA world (the types of networks? The good news is that
called the Matthew effect, after a passage evolutionary step before the eInergence of complex systems can be amazingly re-
in the New Testament: "For unto every DNA), and others are coiJ;].poneptsohre silient against accidental failures. In fact,
one that hath shall be given, and he shall most ancient metabolic pathways. although hundreds of routers routinely
have abundance." Interestingly, the mechanism of pref- malfunction on the Internet at any mo-
These two mechanisms-growth and erential attachment tends to be linear. In ment, the network rarely suffers major
preferential attachment-help to explain other words, a new node is twice as Hke- disruptions. A similar degree of robust-
the existence of hubs: as new nodes ap- ly to link to an existing node that has ness characterizes. living systems: people
pear, they tend to connect to the more twice as many connections as its neigh- rarely notice the consequences of thou-
connected sites, and these popular loca- bor. Redner and his colleagues at Boston sands of errors in their cells, ranging from
tions thus acquire more links over time University and elsewhere have investigat- mutations to misfolded proteins. What is
than their less connected neighbors. And ed different types of preferential attach- the origin of this robustness?
this "rich get richer" process will gener- ment and have learned that if the mecha- Intuition tells us that the breakdown
ally favor the early nodes, which are more nism is faster than linear (for example, a ofa substantial number of nodes will re-
likely to eventually become hubs. new node is four times as likely to link to sult in a network's inevitable fragmenta-
Along with Reka Albert, we have used
computer simulations and calculations to ALBERT'L4SZL.6BARABASI. and ERIC BONABEAU study the behavior and characteristics of
show that a growing network with pref- myriad complex systems, ranging from the Internet to insect colonies. Barabasi is Emil T.
erential attachment will indeed become Hofman. Professor of Physics at the. University of Notre Dame, where he directs research
scale-free, with its distribution of nodes on complex networks. He is author of Linked: The New Science of Networks. Bonabeau is
following a power law. Although this the- chief scientist at Icosystem, a consulting firm based in Cambridge, Mass., that applies the
~
::;: oretical model is simplistic and needs to
~ tools of complexity science to the discovery of business opportunities. He is co-author of
;;:
be adapted to specific situations, it does SwarmIntelligence: From Natural to ArtificialSystems. Thisis Bonabeau's second article
~
'" appear to confirm our explanation for for Scientific American.

www.sciam.com SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 55


tion. This is certainly trUe for random net- that the removal of just a few key hubs suggests that, generally speaking, the si-
works: if a critical fraction of nodes is re- from the Internet splintered the system multaneous elimination of as few as 5 to
moved, these systems break into tiny, into tiny groups of hopelessly isolated 15 percent of all hubs can crash a system.
noncommunicating islands. Yet simula- routers. Similarly, knockout experiments For the Internet, our experiments imply
tions of scale-free networks tell a different in yeast have shown that the removal of that a highly coordinated attack-first re-
story: as many as 80 percent of random- the more highly connected proteins has a moving the largest hub, then the next
ly selected Internet routers can fail and the significantly greater chance of killing the largest, and so on-could cause signifi-
remaining ones will still form a compact organism than does the deletion of other cant disruptions after the elimination of
cluster in which there will still be a path nodes. These hubs are crucial-if muta- just several hubs. Therefore, protecting
between any two nodes. It is equally dif- tions make them dysfunctional, the cell the hubs is perhaps the most effective
ficult to disrupt a cell's protein-interaction will most likely die. way to avoid large-scale disruptions
network: our measurements indicate that A reliance on hubs can be advanta- caused by malicious cyber-attacks. But
even after a high level of random muta- geous or not, depending on the system. much more work is required to deter-
tions are introduced, the unaffected pro- Certainly, resistance to random break- mine just how fragile specific networks
teins will continue to work together. down is good news for both the Internet are. For instance, could the failure of sev-
In general, scale-free networks dis- and the caLIn addition, the cell's reliance eral hubs like Genzyme and Genentech
play an amazing robustness against ac- on hubs provides pharmaceutical re- lead to the collapse of the entire U.S. bio-
cidental failures, a property that is root- searchers with new strategies for selecting tech industry?
ed in their inhomogeneous topology. The drug targets, potentially leading to cures
random removal of nodes will take out that would kill only harmful cells or bac- Scale-Free Epidemics
mainly the small ones because they are teria by selectively targeting their hubs, KNOWLEDGE ABOUT scale-free net-
much more plentiful than hubs. And the while leaving healthy tissue unaffected. works has implications for understanding
elimination of small nodes will not dis- But the ability of a small group of well-in- the spread of computer viruses, diseases
rupt the network topology significantly, formed hackers to crash the entire com- and fads. Diffusion theories, intensively
because they contain few links compared munications infrastructure by targeting studied for decades by both epidemi-
with the hubs, which connect to nearly its hubs is a major reason for concern. ologists and marketing experts, predict a
everything. But a reliance on hubs has a The Achilles' heel of scale-free net- critical threshold for the propagation of
serious drawback: vulnerability to attacks. works raises a compelling question: How a contagion throughout a population.
In a series of simulations, we found many hubs are essential? Recent research Any virus, disease or fad that is less in-
fectious than that well-defined threshold
will inevitably die out, whereas those
above the threshold will multiply expo-
nentially, eventually penetrating the en-
tire system.
Recently, though, Romualdo Pastor-
Satorras of the Polytechnic University of
Catalonia in Barcelona and Alessandro
Vespigniani of the International Center
for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy,
reached a disturbing conclusion. They
found that in a scale-free network the
threshold is zero. That is, all viruses, even
those that are weakly contagious, will
spread and persist in the system. This re-
sult explains why Love Bug, the most
damaging computer virus thus far (it shut
down the British Parliament in 2000),
was still one of the most pervasive virus-
es a year after its supposed eradication.
Because hubs are connected to many
other nodes, at least one hub will tend to
be infected by any corrupted node. And
once a hub has been infected, it will pass
the virus to numerous other sites, eventu-
ally compromising other hubs, which will

56 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MAY2003


HOWROBUSTARERANDOMANDSCALE-FREENETWORKS? I

THEACCIDENTAL
FAILUREof a number of nodes in a random more robust in the face of such failures (middle panels).
network (top panels) can fracture the system into non- But they are highly vulnerable to a coordinated attack against
communicating islands. In contrast, scale-free networks are their hubs (bottom panels).

Random Network,Accidental Node Failure

Failed node
0 .

Before After
0

~
0
p 0

Scale-Free Network, Accidental Node Failure

'*

Before After

Scale.FreeNetwork, Attackon Hubs

.
0
Before After

then spread the virus throughout the en- traditionalpublichealth approach of ran- thoggh, what if doctors targeted the hubs,
tire system. dom immunization could easily fail be- or the most connected individuals? Re-
The fact that biological viruses spread cause it would very likely neglect a num- search in scale-free networks indicates
in social networks, which in many cases ber ofthe hubs. In fact, nearly everyone that this alternative approach could beef-
appear to be scale-free, suggests that sci- would have to be treated to ensure that fective even if the immunizations reached
entists should take a second look at the the hubs were not missed. A vaccination only a small fraction of the overall popu-
:::i
~
volumes of research written on the inter- for measles, for instance, must reach 90 lation, provided that the fraction con-
"- tained the hubs.
Z play of network topology and epidemics. percent of the population to be effective.
:J
'" Specifically, in a scale-free network, the Instead of random immunizations, But identifyingthe hubs in a social

www.sciam.com SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 57


network is much more difficult than de- tions and cures? Such issues notwith- doctors begins using a new drug. Indeed,
tecting them in other types of systems. standing, targeting hubs could be the marketers have intuitively known for
Nevertheless, Reuven Cohen and Shlomo most pragmatic solution for the future some time that certain customers outshine
Havlin of Bar-Han University in Israel, to-distribution of AIDS or smallpox vaccines others in spreading promotional buzz
gether with Daniel ben-Avraham of in countries and regions that do not have about products and fads. But recent work
Clarkson University, have proposed a the resources to treat everyone. in scale-free networks provides the scien-
clever solution: immunize a small fraction In many business contexts, people tific framework and mathematical tools to
of the random acquaintances of arbitrar- . want to start, not stop, epidemics. Viral probe that phenomenon more rigorously.
ily selected individuals, a procedure that marketing campaigns, for instance, often
selects hubs with a high probability be- specifically try to target hubs to speed the FromTheoryto Practice
cause they are linked to many people. adoption of a product. Obviously, such a ALTHOUGH SCALE-FREE networks
That approach, though, leads to a num- strategy is not new. Back in the 1950s, a are pervasive, numerous prominent ex-
ber of ethical dilemmas. For instance, study funded by pharmaceutical giant ceptions exist. For example, the highway
even if the hubs could be identified, Pfizer discovered the important role that system and power grid in the u.s. are not
should they have priority for immuniza- hubs play in how quickly a community of scale-free. Neither are most networks

It's a Small Wor(d,AfterAll


010
pie . - -. one another.
asking them to forwardthe correspondence to acquaintances The smalt~world property does not necessarily indicate the
who might be able to shepherd it closerto a target recipient: a presence of a.ny magic organizing principle. Even a large network
stockbroker in Boston. Totrack"each of the different paths, witurely random connections will be a small world. Consider
t,n u ~i av
11.,t1i1 ask ep ant\.~o ma
i w ey p d th erto,somec ,
in als know~anotherl.000,then a million, -:
the letters that eventually arrived at the final destination had be just two handshakes away from you, a billion will be just three
passed through an ave-rageof six individuals-the basis of the away, and the earth's entire population will be well withfi:l four,
popular notion of "sixdegrees of separ'!tion" between everyone. Given that fact, the notion that any two.strangers in the world are,
Althou am rk rdly:£onclu-'-c d average of . egr,
letter~ ney de th y stofkbroke IV tihntveal ec
recen~ly learned that other networks exhibit this "small world" Our simple calculation assumes that the people you know are
property, We have found, for instance, that a path of just three all strangers to one another. In reality, there is much overlap.
reactions will connect almost any pair of chemicals in a cell. And Indeed, society is fragmented into clusters of individuals-having
similar c' uc 'ncome.or interests). aJ~ature
ihathas!t~ --
followingthe seminal workin the 1970-sof MarkGranovetter,
then a graduate student at Harvard, Clustering\s also a general
property of many othe,rtypes of networks, In 1998 DuncanWatts
and Steven Strqgat en both at CornellUniversity,
significant 2liJsteri !vari£tyil'6fsy~~ems:'fr'iimtl
gridto the he'IIralnetwork of the Caenorhabditisefegans Worm.
Atfirst glance, isolated clusters of highly interconnected
nodes appear to run counter t01he topology of scale-free
networks, inwhich a number of hubs raoiate throughout the
syst~m,lin
".. ,i' verytRing~!Re~ently,'H~weverrwe.havl
. M

that the two operties are compatible:.a network can be both


highly clustered and scale-free when small, tightly interlinked
clusters of nodes are connected into larger, less cohesive groups
(teft), Thistype of hierarchy appears to exist in a number of
HIERARCHICALC!-~STE clud
pag the FrankLio w)., systems, fr~~Jhe WorldWide)Yeb(io,yV/)jchc sare:,
be I to otherclusters'(green) sin Wright;Tamous homes or groupings ofWebpages devotei:!to the same t ) to a cell
~
Pennsylvania's attractions. Those sites, in turn, could be connected to (in which clusters are teams of molecules responsible for :::;
;;:
clusters (red) on famous architects or architecture in general. a specific function). -A.-L.B. and e.B:
~
~
~ ~

58 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MAY 2003

--~--
congestion along specific links is a major
consideration: too much traffic on a par-
ticular link can cause it to break down,
leading to the potential failure of other
links that must then handle the spillover.
And the nodes themselves might not be
homogeneous-certain Web pages have
more interesting content, for instance-
which could greatly alter the preferential-
attachment mechanism.
Because of these and other factors, sci-
entists have only begun to uncover the be-
havior of scale-free systems. Immunizing
hubs, for instance, might not be sufficient
to stop the spread of a disease; a more ef-
fective solution might be found by con-
sidering not just the number of connec-
tions a person has but also the frequency
and duration of contact for those links.
In essence, we have studied complex
networks first by ignoring the details of
their individual links and nodes. By dis-
tancing ourselves from those particulars,
we have been able to better glimpse some
of the organiziIlg principles behind these
seemingly incomprehensible systems. At
the very least, knowledge from this en-
MAPOFINTERACTING PROTEINSin yeast highlights tl'\!!discoverytha.~high1ylinked, or hub, proteins
deavor has led to the rethinking of many
tend to be crucial for a cell's survival. Red denotes essential proteir"js(their removal will cause the cell
to die). Orange represents proteins of some importance [their removal will slow cell growth). Green
basic assumptions. In the past, for exam-
and yellow represent proteins of less.er or unknoWn significance, respectively. ple, researchers modeled the Internet as a
random network to test how a new rout-
seen in materials science. In a crystallat- b~havior of such systems. There might be ing protocol might affect system conges-
tice, for instance, atoms have the same steep~osts, for instance, with the addition tion. But we now know that the Internet is
number of links to their neighbors. With of each link to a given node that could a scale-free system with behavior that is
other networks, the data are inconclusive. prevent certain networks (such as the U.S. dramatically different from a random net-
The relatively small size of food webs, highway system) from becoming scale- work's. Consequently, investigators such
whiclI §how predator-prey relationships, free. In food Ghains, some prey are easier as John W. Byers and his colleagues at
has prevented scielltists from reaching a to catch than others, and that fact has a Boston University are revamping the com-
clear conclusion regarding that network's profound effe.cton the overall ecosystem. puter models they have been using to sim-
type. And the absenc~ oflarge-scale con- With social networks, ties among house- ulate the Internet. Similarly, knowledge of
nectivitymaps of the brain has kept re- hold members are much stronger than the properties of scale-free networks will
searchers from knowing the nature of connections to c~sual acquaintances, so be valuable in a number of other fields, es-
that important network as well. diseases (and information) are more like- pecially as we move beyond network to-
Determining whetl~er a network is ly to spread through such linkages. For pologies to probe the intricate and often
scale-free is important in understanding transportation, transmission and commu- subtle dynamics taking place within those
the system's behavior, but other signifi- nications systems (such as the Internet), complex systems. Ii!I1

'"
cantparameters merit attention, too.
One such characteristic is the diameter, MORE: TO E:XPLORE: .I
:z
or path length, of a network: the largest All the World's a Net, David Cohen in New Scientist, Vol. 174, No. 2338, pages 24-29; April 13, 2002.
~
'"
:z number'gf hops required to get from one Statistical Mechanics IIfComplex Networks. Reka Albert and Albert-Laszlo Barabasi in Reviews
0
3< node to another by following the shortest of Modern Physics, Vol.74, pages 47-97; January 2002.
::I: route possible [seebox on opposite page]. Linked: The New Science of Networks. Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. Perseus Publishing, 2002.
~
0

Finally, knowledge of a network's gen-


g~ eral topology is just part of the story in un-
Evolution of Networks: From Biological Nets to the Internet
Dorogo~sev. OxfOrdUniversity Press, 2003.
and WWW.J.F.F. Mendes and Sergei N.

0
u derstanding the overall characteristics and Find lillks tQ paper.!>on sca.le-free networks at www.nd.edu/-networks

www.sciam.com SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 59

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