In Search of the Real Network Science, An Interview with David Alderson
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Since Duncan Watts and Steve Strogatz published “Collective Dynamics of Small-World Networks” in Nature in 1998, there has been an explosion of interest in mathematical models of large networks, leading to numerous research papers and books. These works have given us new measures of large networks including hub nodes, broker nodes, connection path length, small-world phenomena, six degrees of separation, power laws of connectivity, and scale-free networks. The National Research Council carried out a study evaluating the emergence of a new area called “network science,” which could provide the mathematics and experimental methods for characterizing, predicting, and designing networks. The new area has its share of controversies. An example is whether the power law distribution of number of nodes of given connectivity leads to valid conclusions for real networks. The power law distribution predicts that the network will have hubs—a few nodes with high connectivity—and has led to the claim that such networks are vulnerable to attacks against the hubs. The Internet has been reported to follow power law connectivity but its design resists hub failures. How might we explain this anomaly? David Alderson has become a leading advocate for formulating the foundations of network science so that its predictions can be applied to real networks. He is an assistant professor in the Operations Research Department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., where he conducts research with military officer-students on the operation, attack, and defense of network infrastructure systems. We interviewed him to find out what is going on. (Peter Denning, Editor)
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