The audiobook reviewed here is ‘Linked. Unabridged’ by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi and narrated by Henry Leyva. The narration is clear and I thought engaging particulary as this is a book about mathematical concepts. To elaborate on this, the book is about the mathematics of networks although it is geared to the general audience and does not feature any explicit mathematical formulas which if included would be complicated due to the nature of the medium. Barabasi instead takes the reader straight to the implications of the maths in terms that are meaningful. He takes us through the lives of several mathematicians and physicists leading up to the important discoveries in the mathematics of networks. In this regards he talks about the findings that were reported before but related to the commonly used term ‘six degrees of separation’ which suggests that each of us is linked to everyone else by a maximum of six links. Two important concepts are discussed in the formation of networks – the fitness of nodes and the duration of time with the earlier nodes building more links and these are brought to life in the examples that he gives. I had read a previous book by Malcolm Gladwell – The Tipping Point – a number of years ago and was interested in the concept of connectors – people who have many connections with other people. Gladwell also wrote the book ‘Outliers’ (see review here) and I found some familiar themes taken up from this book including another look at connectors but this time from a mathematical perspective. The curious point that Barabasi made was that the same mathematical laws applied to very different systems from the way genes in Bipolar Disorder operate within networks or key genes in multiple organisms also operate in networks (e.g. some of the most ancient genes form the hubs of intracellular chemical networks in multicellular organisms) to the spread of infectious disease in the population, the growth of the internet and citations in the scientific literature. Barabasi has teamed up with scientists from many disciplines and produced many interesting and varied findings in the process. Barabasi also has the ability to convey this to the reader*.
*It would be interesting to see in what other ways these laws might applied to mental illness.
Albert Laszlo Barabasi. Linked. 2002. Narrated by Henry Leyva. Random House Audible.
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