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The Internet Science

Study Finds Similar Structures In the Universe, Internet, and Brain 171

Posted by samzenpus
from the order-is-as-order-does dept.
SternisheFan writes "The structure of the universe and the laws that govern its growth may be more similar than previously thought to the structure and growth of the human brain and other complex networks, such as the Internet or a social network of trust relationships between people, according to a new study. 'By no means do we claim that the universe is a global brain or a computer,' said Dmitri Krioukov, co-author of the paper, published by the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego.'But the discovered equivalence between the growth of the universe and complex networks strongly suggests that unexpectedly similar laws govern the dynamics of these very different complex systems,' Krioukov noted."
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Study Finds Similar Structures In the Universe, Internet, and Brain

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  • A bit of Zen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @04:37PM (#42088859)

    I have learned after studying many differing fields of science and engineering, that as you master one field you gain insight into many others. There are certain patterns of organization that repeat throughout nature, and mimicked by man, and if you study anything long enough you are certain to see these patterns. The more you learn, the easier it becomes to learn more because natural things are mostly variations on a finite set of themes that, whether you are aware of them or not, you will discover them and from that point forward, notice them much more quickly.

    This is one example. There are many more.

  • Cognitive Structure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Myu (823582) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @04:38PM (#42088871)
    Maybe this is just because we use the same neural mechanisms we think with to phrase scientific theories and build models of networks? Just a thought.
  • Re:It's math (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @04:48PM (#42088943)
    It's not math. Math is a language. Don't confuse natural phenomena with math; It is possible to observe and even describe them without knowledge of mathematics. That said, math is one of the best ways to describe them.
  • the number e (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @05:20PM (#42089115)
    There are certain constraints for the most efficient transfer of energy. Systems designed or evolved to take advantage of more efficient designs should exhibit similarities.
  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @05:21PM (#42089131) Homepage Journal
    ...which, when you think about it, doesn't mean there isn't a conscious force at work trying to brute-force a recipe for life, it just means we don't know either way. Personally, I like the image of a deity who is analogous to a frustrated graduate student trying to grow a crystal for X-ray diffraction.
  • Re:It's math (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @05:27PM (#42089149)

    Bullshit. You don't know what math is at all. PROTIP: What you saw in school, was not math. Not even remotely. It was as much math, as color-by-the-number and learning for two years about which brushes there are is art.

    Real mathematics is in essence the very creative art of finding patterns in things. Useful patterns. Curious patterns. fascinating patterns. Things that go above and beyond a specific subject, and often are found in completely different areas. Which makes them so fascinating.

    Teaching math as a language is a disgusting and perverse abomination that would make a Cthulhu look like a viable mating partner, and one of the main reasons kids hate what they think is math. It should be illegal, because the harm it does to society beats all terrorists there can ever be.

  • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @05:31PM (#42089171)

    I'm going to have to look up the original paper published by Krioukov, but what was mentioned in the article itself is not news. I imagine this is a consequence of Krioukov trying to explain his findings in laymen's terms.

    What the article actually says is a pretty basic exposition of the findings of network science [wikipedia.org] and complex systems theory [wikipedia.org] over the past few years. For those interested in but unfamiliar with these matters, I recommend a volume written a couple of years ago by the physicist Albert-László Barabási [wikipedia.org] called Linked: The New Science of Networks [barnesandnoble.com]. It is written for a wide audience and is a very readable introduction to the subject. Barabási's based argument is that these common network patterns we see in so many environments is a consequence both growth and preferential attachment in systems. Of course, growth and preferential attachment are going to be present in biological and social systems, as well as things like computer networks, and this is at the heart of why we see similar patterns forming (esp. scale-free topologies).

    As a historian, I find the findings of network science as its been applied to social systems particularly useful. It helps to explain societal changes in ways that older theories of history, whether deriving from Marxian, Annaliste, Weberian, or other schools of thought, would have difficulty. Further, the study of networks and complex systems is inherently interdisciplinary--and this in a refreshingly honest way rather than the mere "interdisciplinarity" rhetoric that's been present in the academy over the years. For those interested in the application of network science to the social sciences, there is a very nice collection of seminal articles for the field edited by Gernot Grabher and Walter Powell [worldcat.org].

  • Re:A bit of Zen (Score:4, Interesting)

    by andydread (758754) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @05:43PM (#42089243)
    Many people should notice one prevalent such pattern of organisation is the swirl/vortex pattern. from sink drains to storms to galaxies its hard to miss.
  • Vague (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Sunday November 25, 2012 @05:56PM (#42089299) Homepage Journal

    The article is disappointingly vague and hand-wavy. Either the science is bullshit, or this summary is. Given that it's from India, I am leaning towards guessing the former; there's a lot of great research that happens in the country, but there's also a lot of pseudoscience that happens that's designed to give warm fuzzies to Indian nationalists who think they can undo the horrors of colonialisation and recapture national pride by beating the drum of "Vedic Math". Some of their flashier salesmen make it to the US and sell it to deluded new-agers and the other uneducated, portraying it as exotic deep knowledge "from the East".

    I find it hard to believe that claims like this are supportable as good science at this point.

  • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @06:00PM (#42089317)

    It turns on the definition of complexity itself, which is not so straightforward as one might imagine [wikipedia.org]. One of the keys to many definitions of complexity lies not in the number of different parts, but in the non-trivial and adaptive ways those parts interact. Yes, there may be humans in this galaxy, but the relationships between those humans have no effect on the galaxy, qua galaxy. In other words, the interactions that occur on a galactic level produce no appreciable feedback in the system as a whole from human beings. Yet it is feedback and adaptation that occurs in complex systems that make them complex. As a complex system, therefore, the galaxy is not concerned with the presence of humans.

    The same cannot be said of the relationship between neurons as a system and the brain as a system. As the article says, each neuron has its own level of complexity and this is in turn connected to the larger system of the brain, itself having billions of adaptive connections. Yet what is missing, but I think implied, is that the complexity within each neuron is non-trivial to the interactions between neurons.

    Also, I wouldn't think less of a man who very occasionally indulges in hyperbolic excess. This does not make him stupid, only a lively writer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @10:17PM (#42090475)

    The universe isn't tuned for us, we tuned ourselves for living in the universe through evolution.

    If the universe was not tuned to us then we simply would not exist. Causality is the tuning fork of the universe...

"The pyramid is opening!" "Which one?" "The one with the ever-widening hole in it!" -- The Firesign Theatre

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