Bursts

Bursts

The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

Book - 2010
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A revolutionary new theory showing how we can predict human behavior-from a radical genius and bestselling author

Can we scientifically predict our future? Scientists and pseudo scientists have been pursuing this mystery for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. But now, astonishing new research is revealing patterns in human behavior previously thought to be purely random. Precise, orderly, predictable patterns...

Albert Laszlo Barabasi, already the world's preeminent researcher on the science of networks, describes his work on this profound mystery in Bursts , a stunningly original investigation into human nature. His approach relies on the digital reality of our world, from mobile phones to the Internet and email, because it has turned society into a huge research laboratory. All those electronic trails of time stamped texts, voicemails, and internet searches add up to a previously unavailable massive data set of statistics that track our movements, our decisions, our lives. Analysis of these trails is offering deep insights into the rhythm of how we do everything. His finding? We work and fight and play in short flourishes of activity followed by next to nothing. The pattern isn't random, it's "bursty." Randomness does not rule our lives in the way scientists have assumed up until now.

Illustrating this revolutionary science, Barabasi artfully weaves together the story of a 16th century burst of human activity-a bloody medieval crusade launched in his homeland, Transylvania-with the modern tale of a contemporary artist hunted by the FBI through our post 9/11 surveillance society. These narratives illustrate how predicting human behavior has long been the obsession, sometimes the duty, of those in power. Barabási's astonishingly wide range of examples from seemingly unrelated areas include how dollar bills move around the U.S., the pattern everyone follows in writing email, the spread of epidemics, and even the flight patterns of albatross. In all these phenomena a virtually identical, mathematically described bursty pattern emerges.

Bursts reveals what this amazing new research is showing us about where individual spontaneity ends and predictability in human behavior begins. The way you think about your own potential to do something truly extraordinary will never be the same.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Dutton, c2010.
ISBN: 9780525951605
0525951601
Branch Call Number: 303.4901 BARABAS
Characteristics: ix, 310 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 24 cm.

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v
VRMurphy
Dec 02, 2011

An intriguing read that makes you think (what more can you ask for?). The author tries to tie a few too many threads into his hypothesis, but they're each interesting nonetheless.

j
joshsmith
Jul 04, 2011

An interesting topic, presented terribly.
I think this is a "popular science" book. But there's only about 10 pages of science in the whole book. (A previous reader noticed that the author took 99 pages to get around to the topic alluded to by the title.) Half of the remainder is obscure Hungarian/Transylvanian history; the other half is the author gadding about to conferences.
The author is clearly aware that the presence of equations or graphs (or, for that matter, an attempt to explain his topic adequately) will scare away readers. As a result, this is a book about power laws with no graphs and only two equations in fine print in the footnotes (and I could swear that they're printed wrong.)
Let me know if you find a good book on the topic. It isn't this one.

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_42_
Oct 20, 2010

This is a strange book. It's central thesis - a collection of odd things obey a mathematical power law - itself appears uncertain. We are told stories of discoveries of power laws modelling data, and stories of power laws no longer modelling data after the data has been corrected. Even the explanation of what a power law is appears in a minor footnote.

Interspersed with this discussion is the story of a Hungarian popular uprising in the 16th century. I thought when reading it that some deep philosophical point would be made. If it was, I missed it.

A frustrating read.

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