Networks are everywhere. The brain is a network of nerve cells connected by axons, and cells themselves are networks of molecules connected by biochemical reactions. Societies, too, are networks of people linked by friendships, familial relationships and professional ties. On a larger scale, food webs and ecosystems can be represented as networks of species. And networks pervade technology: the Internet, power grids and transportation systems are but a few examples. Even the language we are using to convey these thoughts to you is a network, made up of words connected by syntactic relationships.
Yet despite the importance and pervasiveness of networks, scientists have had little understanding of their structure and properties. How do the interactions of several malfunctioning nodes in a complex genetic network result in cancer? How does diffusion occur so rapidly in certain social and communications systems, leading to epidemics of diseases and computer viruses? How do some networks continue to function even after the vast majority of their nodes have failed?
This article was originally published with the title Scale-Free Networks.