Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bursts -- a new Barabasi book

At the end of the month, Barabasi's new book, entitled Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do, will be released.  Here's the pre-order Amazon link, and he's apparently put a web page up with information about the book.  Barabasi is something of a controversial figure in the networking community, as mentioned previously in this blog here;  for example, there are those that feel he overstates claims without evidence (the power laws on the Internet controversy).  However, his earlier book, Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means, was one of a series of books (including also Watts' Six Degrees: The New Science of Networks) that popularized networks and power laws in the public consciousness a few years ago.  So it will be interesting to see how this book plays out, both in how it does with general audiences, and what scientists think of the content.

I've also still been waiting for the Easley/Kleinberg book Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning About a Highly Connected World.  It seems to be on pre-order for June.  While this will be a more "academic" book -- it's written as a textbook for an introductory course -- I'm wondering if it will reach the public consciousness.

I've always wondered my more computer scientists don't try to write "popular science" books.  It would seem that we work in an area that should be of more popular interest than physicists, but they seem to write a lot more for widespread public consumption.  It's something I'd like to try -- I started playing with an idea a few years back (after tenure) but the project stalled.  Writing a book like that seems to be a multi-year commitment, and perhaps it's hard in our "get the paper ready for the next deadline" culture.  It certainly was hard for me to keep up momentum, and find the right voice and message.  But perhaps someday.


Anonymous said...

I've wondered the same (why physicists/economists/biologists/mathematicians/anyone really) does a better job of communicating their ideas in a simple edible ways for the public at large than EE and CS folks.
One theory is that they mostly work on natural phenomena that everyone knows something about and is consequently easier to get people hooked onto. While most layman don't have a clue whats inside a silicon chip. But social networks provide a good test for my theory. Its something that a layperson really gets already. So, a well written book can be a best seller. Question is, will someone write it?

Mark Wilson said...


I encourage you to write this book. It will be difficult, but having tenure at Harvard surely gives you the right to step outside the (perverse?) system of incentives driving the endless round of submission to (often fairly low quality, despite the reputation) conferences.

CS should be an interesting topic for the general public. There are hugely many popular math books too. But the only good CS ones I can think of now are by David Harel (there may be more, but very few). If we can get Bernard Chazelle to expand his essays ...

Geoff Knauth said...

Write the book, and I'll buy it. That said, I buy books full of math authored by smart people I don't fully understand, and I can take the dry style that is common to many CS texts. If you want a book to be popular, maybe you can co-write the book with someone who majored in English or History of Science or Journalism.

I just picked up a $1 copy of Flatland at a yard sale for my kids, because I remember how much fun that book was ages ago. Isaac Asimov wrote the foreward. Timeless.

Gerry Sussman said a good book takes five years. I'll buy his books as long as I live.

Geoff Knauth said...

My latest favorite math communicator is Steven Strogatz. I love his NYTimes column.