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The Science of the Social Network



While it may not be necessarily very physics related, it is an interesting point on the topic of networks, both social and otherwise: the average facebook user is only 4.74 "connections" away from any other average facebook user. The article https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-team/anatomy-of-facebook/10150388519243859, while from 2011, illustrates the concept that, when the correct pathways are taken, we can all be very closely related. Building on Stanley Milgram's famous experiment trying to assess the validity of "six degrees" of separation between anybody else, this facebook analysis shows how the exponential nature of going from friends to friends of friends puts us all in a strangely close social proximity to one another. In my opinion, it is fairly astounding stuff.

Networks, internet related or otherwise, are essentially complex structures built from basic components. Whether it is a vast array of *almost* symmetrical distributions of elementary particles giving way over the years to for stars, nebulae, planets, and even life, or just the movement and flow of a bunch of water molecules through your faucet, they are simple yet complicated, where even, as the social network experiment shows, the tiniest part of the system can have an influence on another part completely separate, influences which happen frequently and, as a result, make the prediction of these systems very difficult. Our whole physical world, everything we learn, is based on combinations of the same few elementary particles responding to elementary forces, and things like centripetal force and the laws of thermodynamics are just (often slightly simplified) mathematical models to explain the ways all of these forces and particles interact with each other. So while you can blame the weatherman for getting the forecast wrong, or just wonder why no physics engine to date has implemented a fast yet accurate fluid modelling system, just remember that the world can be a very complex, interconnected place.


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