“There are some ques­tions that you don’t need to be a sci­en­tist to ask. You need to be a little kid,” said Baruch Barzel, a post-​​doctoral research asso­ciate at Northeastern’s Center for Com­plex Net­work Research.

Two-​​and-​​a-​​half years ago, when he joined the lab led by world-​​renowned net­work sci­en­tist Albert-​​László Barabási, these were the ques­tions that intrigued Barzel. In a paper recently released in the journal Nature Physics, Barzel and Barabási have answered them.

Com­plex net­works, Barzel explained, like those of genetic, bio­chem­ical, or even social inter­ac­tions, all share the same struc­tural fea­tures. For example, they all obey some­thing called the “small world phe­nom­enon,” where every node is con­nected to every other node by a sur­pris­ingly small number of steps. They also all have a high degree of het­ero­geneity, where a few nodes are unex­pect­edly much more con­nected than the majority.

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