“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.