Monday, August 2, 2010
Albert-Laszlo Barabasi - Bursts
This was a fun book to read. He has four or five different stories running throughout the book. But this isn't a book to teach you much about science, math, or Barabasi's research. His earlier book Linked had far more details (and even there the real science was actually fairly lean, here it is pretty well missing-in-action).
Linked was about networks and power laws. Bursts is about random bursts and power laws. In either case you would expect to come away informed about power laws. But not really. Other than some name dropping of historical math figures and a very, very sketchy presentation of the underlying theory, this is mostly a joy ride in story telling.
This book has half its chapters dedicated to telling a tale of a national folk hero of Hungary, the native land of Barabasi. Don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the tale. But it really did nothing to advance the thesis of the book. Add to that an interesting tale of a conceptual artist named Hasan Elahi and his troubles with the US's Homeland Security and you've covered 75% of the book and no theory of bursts or power laws, just fun story telling.
So... if you want to be entertained. This is the book for you. If you want to learn about networks and bursty random events, this isn't the book for you. Ostensibly it is, but this book is like chicken soup made from a chicken wearing galoshes who was forced marched across the pot. Sure there is a hint of chicken in the pot, but only a hint.