How small worlds work

by Volker Weber

We all know it's a small world: Any one of us is only about six acquaintances away from anyone else. Even in the vast confusion of the World Wide Web, on the average, one page is only about 16 to 20 clicks away from any other. But how, without being able to see the whole map, can we get a message to a person who is only "six degrees of separation" away?

A Cornell University computer scientist has concluded that the answer lies in personal networking: We use "structural cues" in our local network of friends. "It's a collective phenomenon. Collectively the network knows how to find people even if no one person does," says Jon Kleinberg, assistant professor of computer science, who published his explanation in the latest issue (Aug. 24) of the journal Nature.

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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