Bursts: The Hidden Patterns Behind Everything We Do, from Your E-mail to Bloody Crusades

Bursts: The Hidden Patterns Behind Everything We Do, from Your E-mail to Bloody Crusades

by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101187166
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/29/2010
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 4 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Albert-László Barabási is a pioneer of real-world network theory and author of the bestseller, Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life. At 32, he was the youngest professor to be named the Emil T. Hofmann Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame and has won numerous awards for his work, including the FEBS Anniversary Prize for Systems Biology and the John von Neumann Medal for outstanding achievements. He currently lives in Boston and is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Network Science at Northeastern University.

What People are Saying About This

Ogi Ogas

Bursts is a rich, rewarding read that illuminates a cutting-edge topic: the patterns of human mobility in an era of total surveillance. Once again, Barabásí reveals the mathematical code concealed within the apparent chaos of modern life. Central to Bursts is the notion that human behavior is not random, but precisely follows the shape of a power law, resulting in a rare number of high-mobility outliers with fascinating implications for street traffic, cellular communications, and homeland security.

The narrative structure of Barabási's provocative book mimics the very pattern of bursts, as abrupt and seemingly random jumps through the lives of a post-modern sculptor, a medieval Hungarian revolutionist, and Albert Einstein eventually converge on a single harmonious theme: that our actions are governed by a deeper meaning that can only be deciphered through the brave lens of mathematics. (Ogi Ogas, Ph.D., and Sai Gaddam, Ph.D., Boston University)

Nicholas A. Christakis

Albert-László Barabási, famous for his work on networks, now brings a physicist's penetrating eye to a sweeping range of human activities, from migration to web browsing, from wars to billionaires, from illnesses to letter writing, from the Department of Homeland Security to the Conclave of Cardinals. Barabási shows how, when we closely observe human behavior, a pattern of bursts appears in what has long seemed a random mess. These bursts are both mathematically predictable and beautiful. What a joy it is to read him. You feel like you have emerged from the water with your back to the sun, invigorated, to see a new vista that, while it had always been there, you had just never seen. (Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard University, coauthor of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives)

Clay Shirky

In Linked, Barabási showed us how complex networks unfold in space. In Bursts, he shows us how they unfold in time. Your life may look random to you, but everything from your visits to a web page to your visits to the doctor are predictable, and happen in bursts. (Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody)

Nassim Taleb

Barabási is one of the few people in the world who understand the deep structure of empirical reality. (Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan)

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Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Tod_Christianson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a strange book. Ostensibly themed as a scientific inquiry into the bursty nature of patterns surrounding human activity, it actually is mostly a history of Hungary in the time of the Crusades. There are also several other anecdotal stories interwoven into the narrative. The effect of this is quite confusing. Although the writing is very good, the structure is very confusing. Perhaps it was just an overly ambitious attempt to weave disparate themes together, but I found that it did not work that well and I was quite disappointed in the lack of technical detail related to the title.
davesmind on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is such a strange book. I also enjoyed Barabasi's previous book "linked", but this one misses the mark. Most of this book seems to be a collection of meandering stories in Hungarian history and personal anecdotes. Now and then, Barabasi addresses some interesting science (power laws etc) but he fails to successfully connect the science to these odd and rather long winded stories. I certainly can't recommend this book even though I find the proposed topic (burstiness and scale free statistics) a very interesting and important area.
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