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

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Penguin, Apr 29, 2010 - Science - 320 pages
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.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Paul_S - LibraryThing

The tagline oversells it. There's nothing groundbreaking or controversial and certainly nothing revolutionary. The random bits of Hungarian history add no value and are of no interest to me and I suspect anyone else who isn't Hungarian. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - vpfluke - LibraryThing

I rather liked this book. The author shows that the randomness of the normal distribution (bell curve) is unsatisfactory in coming to grips with a lot of human behavior and history. Barabási shows how ... Read full review


The Best Bodyguard in the Business Chapter 2 A Pope Is Elected in Rome
The Mystery of Random Motion Chapter 4 Duel in Belgrade
The Future Is Not Yet Searchable
Bloody Prophecy Chapter 7 Prediction or Prophecy
A Crusade at Last
Violence Random and Otherwise
An Unforeseen Massacre
Deadly Quarrels and the Power Laws Chapter 12 The Nagylak Battle Chapter 13 The Origin of Bursts
Trailing the Albatross
The Patterns of Human Mobility
Predictably Unpredictable Chapter 22 A Diversion in Transylvania
The Truth about LifeLinear
Szekler Against Szekler Chapter 25 Feeling Sick Is Not a Priority
The Final Battles Chapter 27 The Third Ear Chapter 28 Flesh and Blood

Accidents Dont Happen to Crucifixes
The Man Who Taught Himself to Swim by Reading
An Investigation
Notes Illustrations

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About the author (2010)

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.

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