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Study Finds Similar Structures In the Universe, Internet, and Brain

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the order-is-as-order-does dept.

The Internet 171

SternisheFan writes "The structure of the universe and the laws that govern its growth may be more similar than previously thought to the structure and growth of the human brain and other complex networks, such as the Internet or a social network of trust relationships between people, according to a new study. 'By no means do we claim that the universe is a global brain or a computer,' said Dmitri Krioukov, co-author of the paper, published by the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego.'But the discovered equivalence between the growth of the universe and complex networks strongly suggests that unexpectedly similar laws govern the dynamics of these very different complex systems,' Krioukov noted."

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A bit of Zen (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42088859)

I have learned after studying many differing fields of science and engineering, that as you master one field you gain insight into many others. There are certain patterns of organization that repeat throughout nature, and mimicked by man, and if you study anything long enough you are certain to see these patterns. The more you learn, the easier it becomes to learn more because natural things are mostly variations on a finite set of themes that, whether you are aware of them or not, you will discover them and from that point forward, notice them much more quickly.

This is one example. There are many more.

It's math (3, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42088919)

Those repeating patterns are signs of the same math in the background. Sadly, with most mathemathicians doing more abstract work the aren't many who study them. Theoreticists try to fill the void left by the mathematicians and they do a goo job but most of them can't really think outside of their own field.

Re:It's math (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42088943)

It's not math. Math is a language. Don't confuse natural phenomena with math; It is possible to observe and even describe them without knowledge of mathematics. That said, math is one of the best ways to describe them.

Anthropic Principle (2, Informative)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089007)

The Anthropic Cosmological Principle [google.com]

"In astrophysics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is the philosophical consideration that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it. Some proponents of the anthropic principle reason that it explains why the Universe has the age and the fundamental physical constants necessary to accommodate conscious life. As a result, they believe it is unremarkable that the universe's fundamental constants happen to fall within the narrow range thought to be compatible with life."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle [wikipedia.org]

Re:Anthropic Principle (5, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089131)

...which, when you think about it, doesn't mean there isn't a conscious force at work trying to brute-force a recipe for life, it just means we don't know either way. Personally, I like the image of a deity who is analogous to a frustrated graduate student trying to grow a crystal for X-ray diffraction.

Re:Anthropic Principle (4, Insightful)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089271)

What's funny is that the anthropic principle by definition doesn't have much meaning. You can restate it as "the universe is the way we see it, because we are seeing it be that way."

The weak anthropic principle always boils down to simple tautology, while the strong anthropic principle flys in the face of biology and works out to puddle thinking. The universe isn't tuned for us, we tuned ourselves for living in the universe through evolution.

Re:Anthropic Principle (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089781)

I'll have to consult Kurt Godel and Max Heisenberg, before I get back to you on that one... or not.

Re:Anthropic Principle (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089791)

Werner... FIFM.

Re:Anthropic Principle (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090475)

The universe isn't tuned for us, we tuned ourselves for living in the universe through evolution.

If the universe was not tuned to us then we simply would not exist. Causality is the tuning fork of the universe...

Fun bit of philosophy (2)

witherstaff (713820) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089605)

John Archibald Wheeler was also a supporter of a participatory universe - as noted in the wiki page. Quantum physics needs an observer so the universe evolves to have an observer present to make it happen. So next time you look through a powerful telescope at something no one has seen before, remember, Thou art God

Re:Anthropic Principle (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089701)

Stuff to ponder under a starry sky...

Clearly the structure of the universe dictates the structure of the human brain, but to what extent does the human brain dictate the structure of the universe?

One of our brain's functions is to model the world we live in, but it's not a perfect model. Some information is imperfect or missing. Since the missing information could be tweaked without us ever noticing, does that missing information really exist?

Could our experience of reality be a state of equilibrium between the universe and our brains, and could the laws of physics be a consequence of this equilibrium rather than its cause?

Re:Anthropic Principle (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#42090129)

Could it be that we create narratives within only the limited band of which we can perceive and of which we are conscious?

If we do not know our instrument - and only true fools assert that they have mastered an understanding of their mind - then how can we make any ontological assessment of reality? Other than merely provisional and temporally practical, local observations, of course!

Again, Godel! Heisenberg! Schrodinger! Wittgenstein! (especially you Ludwig...)

TOPOLOGY (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089023)

Topology is math

The Human Brain (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#42090147)

"The human brain is like an enormous fish -- it is flat and slimy and has gills through which it can see."

-- Monty Python

Re:It's math (3, Insightful)

JonySuede (1908576) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089077)

I would argue that every non-mathematical correct description of nature is transformable into math by involving the Church-Turing lambda-reductibility thesis. Axiom 1: A description is made using a language. Axiom 2: A description is not infinitely long. A correct non-mathematical description of a natural process using a language. Since that natural process is express as with a language, it is possible to build an interpreter for that a finite set of that language. Since an interpreter is realized-by and realized computations, according to the Church-Turing thesis an equivalent lambda calculus problem exists. Therefore, if the Church-Turing lambda-reductibility thesis hold true, every language based description must have at least one equivalent mathematical problems. I concede that this description is probably useless and really hard to build but it exist nonetheless.

Re:It's math (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089325)

...every language based description must have at least one equivalent mathematical problems.

Well, you're not wrong. :) All languages evolve in complexity to explain the environment of its users. That's just human nature. And being able to count beyond potato is likewise a valuable survival skill, which is how mathematical understanding evolved. I guess I should be more specific in that you don't have to study mathematics specifically in order to observe and report on these natural patterns of organization. It is possible to sketch out these things visually and say "This is like that", without ever touching upon math. So you can make comparisons and convey observations without it.

That was my only point. Math is convenient, but it is not necessary or intrinsic to observing the patterns or finding use in them. I know math and science are often found together, and I do not disagree anyone serious about science should study mathematics, but it is possible to utilize the scientific process without its study.

Re:It's math (2)

schroedingers_hat (2449186) | about a year and a half ago | (#42090609)

To my mind this belies a misunderstanding of what mathematics is.
It does not depend on any one representation, or encoding. It encompasses any (non-ambiguous) expression of rules and relationships between things (be they real, ideals based on reality, or entirely fictional mental entities), or non-ambiguous measurements, and more importantly, the process of generating, manipulating, and understanding said relationships.
I agree wholeheartedly that our current encoding/names/expressions/forms/system of categorizing such things is completely human and largely incidental, but you could probably grab any decent mathematician and put her in an environment with completely different conventions without her having much trouble.

Re:It's math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089583)

I would argue that every non-mathematical correct description of nature is transformable into math

I would argue that every mathematical description is transformable into common English.

Re:It's math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090901)

Math can be expressed in common English. It's just more efficient to use symbols.

Re:It's math (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089149)

Bullshit. You don't know what math is at all. PROTIP: What you saw in school, was not math. Not even remotely. It was as much math, as color-by-the-number and learning for two years about which brushes there are is art.

Real mathematics is in essence the very creative art of finding patterns in things. Useful patterns. Curious patterns. fascinating patterns. Things that go above and beyond a specific subject, and often are found in completely different areas. Which makes them so fascinating.

Teaching math as a language is a disgusting and perverse abomination that would make a Cthulhu look like a viable mating partner, and one of the main reasons kids hate what they think is math. It should be illegal, because the harm it does to society beats all terrorists there can ever be.

Re:It's math (0)

hazah (807503) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089635)

Take a chill pill, and look up the definition of the word language before your head explodes.

Re:It's math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089811)

I'd say math is a DSL for relations of different kinds. Math is a tool, the way of reasoning behind it is usually refered to as logic. I think you might confuse the tool with the thought-process.

Re:It's math (2)

schroedingers_hat (2449186) | about a year and a half ago | (#42090629)

Then what do you refer to the study of, and manipulation of logical systems including non-tradition (ie. meta-consistent logic). It is sometimes done by those who identify as philosophers, but I think you'll find that the majority of such work is done by people who identify as mathematicians and call it mathematics.
Math (according to anyone I know who has studied it deeply at least) is the thought process. The models and tools which are then applied to the real world are more often referred to as results

Re:It's math (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year and a half ago | (#42090407)

In fact, they can all be expressed in subjective terms, that's the beauty of truth. :)

Re:It's math (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090481)

There is a language of mathematics, but there is also something which is described by this language; so it is not correct to say that math is (just) a language. Also, if you try to describe certain phenomena without math, you just end up creating a math-like language to describe it I.e. certain things cannot be described without mathematics. Example: to describe the trajectory of a thrown baseball, you could say "it goes up and then comes down", which is fine but hardly precise; if you want more precision you would be compelled to say something about the rate of change of the ball's height.

Re:It's math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089103)

"Theoreticists" who study math are called "mathematicians"

Re:It's math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090321)

And the repeating patterns in math are?

CLOUD ATLAS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42088991)

I... I don't know how to explain this... but I... I feel like... like I've met you before... and modded you down...

You don't have a sister that looks like Hugo Weaving in drag, do you?

Re:CLOUD ATLAS (4, Funny)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#42090883)

We are all connected. Our posts, Karma Whores and Trolls alike, give birth to Slashdot. Our insights and banal pontification ripple through time. From womb to tomb, some folks are addicted to spending all their waking hours brain farting here and the best you can hope for is to be up wind.

STOP (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089019)

Maybe you just discovered that the "human way" of structuring science into theories is the same on an abstract level, if you look at all sections of natural science. Even the math related to a particular hard science is a Human Creation, after all. How do you know the people on, say, Alpha Centauri haven't developed a calculus which is radically different to ours and explains some physical effects much better than ours ?

On a very basic philosophical level we have to understand that all math is just modelling, although with some very exact tools. History has proven that even supposedly exact models aren't that exact if you just look at "corner" cases such as "cannon ball flying at 30000km/second". But for a long time people really thought that Newton's laws were more or less the exact truth.

Maybe we are going to discover at some point that there is an infinite number of "corner cases" and we can just increase our finite amount of knowledge (by doing more complicated, more expensive, more elaborate experiments).

Re:STOP (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089241)

Don't make the realists brain explode presenting an instrumentalist argument. It's not nice.

Re:A bit of Zen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089065)

Maybe it's God

Re:A bit of Zen (3, Interesting)

andydread (758754) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089243)

Many people should notice one prevalent such pattern of organisation is the swirl/vortex pattern. from sink drains to storms to galaxies its hard to miss.

Re:A bit of Zen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090505)

Somewhere somebody has a decent model of the universe stored in the settings of their fractal software. They just haven't ever let it run for enough iterations to realise it yet.

Re:A bit of Zen (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089245)

I have learned that those that assume expertise in one area grants special insight into other areas often make fools of themselves.

Re:A bit of Zen (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089941)

I have learned that those that assume expertise in one area grants special insight into other areas often make fools of themselves.

I never mentioned special insight, just the regular kind. If you're a police officer for long, you learn something about psychology. Same with technical support. If you are an engineer, you'll find it easier to learn the legal system or medicine as well. While the fields have very different subject material, there are many underlying cognitive tools and processes that are similar. Using a screwdriver, hammer, wrench, etc., you can build a car, a house, a ship, or a skyscraper.

That doesn't mean you know when or why you use those tools, or in what order -- that's something you have to study the field to learn. But if you already know the tools, that's one less new thing you have to learn to gain proficiency. And the thing is, the process that flow from those tools also follow a similar pattern... the more fields you learn, the more those "higher level" processes start to repeat as well.

The more you learn, the easier it is to learn more.

Re:A bit of Zen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089677)

Fractals.

Re:A bit of Zen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089947)

This is the most succinct comment I have read on Slashdot since its inception. Thank you.

Re:A bit of Zen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090275)

i have noticed the same things.

Re:A bit of Zen (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year and a half ago | (#42090373)

Nice.

I've always wondered why more engineers didn't see the repeating patterns after seperating the energetic details from the forms they work with.

Always two sides though.

Cognitive Structure (5, Interesting)

Myu (823582) | about a year and a half ago | (#42088871)

Maybe this is just because we use the same neural mechanisms we think with to phrase scientific theories and build models of networks? Just a thought.

Re:Cognitive Structure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42088915)

I don't have a plus to give you this week but I bet you are spot on. we ourselves are the simillar factor in the understanding of them.

Damn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089035)

..you beat me both in time and in eloquence. See "STOP" above.

Re:Cognitive Structure: big bang = fisrt post (1)

j-stroy (640921) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089101)

as if a million voices cried out...

Or perceiving similarities when ... (3, Insightful)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089125)

Maybe this is just because we use the same neural mechanisms we think with to phrase scientific theories and build models of networks? Just a thought.

If you look at enough phenomena, and generalize the description adequately, you'll find equivalences in a variety of strange places. The XKCD strip from friday is a good example. Also, If I see a picture of Jesus in my toast, can I get funding for a study? Seems to be the same "phenomena" at work.

Re:Or perceiving similarities when ... (4, Insightful)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#42090957)

Conflating the fact that human beings are given to seeing faces everywhere (its part of our primate survival hard wiring and allows mothers and infants to bond at birth), with seeing and appreciating the fractal and inherently consistent nature of the universe is at once myopic, and at the same time deeply ignorant. From the birth of the Renaissance geniuses like Leonardo DaVinci saw the recurring patterns of nature. Noticing how the number Phi shows up again and again in physical systems from the budlets in the heart of a daisy to the swirl of a galaxy is not self delusion but the human mind extracting meaning from the vast cacophony of the universe. The fact that your body is self similar on many scales, as is our planet and the very universe itself, and that these self similarities transcend scales of space and time is illuminating, is awe inspiring. You are indeed a product of this universe, you bear the mark of its rhythms and harmonies. You have 5 fold symmetry, because one of your oldest ancestors was related to a starfish (echinoderm) you don't find it the least bit fascinating that the shape of you brain models the shape of the universe itself and is in fact the universe attempting to understand itself. Are you so apathetic that the shear mystery and magnificence of life in this place doesn't occasionally move you tears of joy or dumbstruck wonder?

If so, than I am so sorry for you. You've been born into the greatest show ever and can't seem to take your eyes off your own feet. By the way, nice shoes.

yo man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090185)

pass that shit over here.

Shitstorm starting in 3, 2, 1, ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42088883)

'By no means do we claim that the universe is a global brain or a computer,' said Dmitri Krioukov, co-author of the paper

Don't worry, 100,000 conservatives will draw an even better conclusion that you have proved that the Universe was intelligently designed, just like the brain.

Other scientists will of course point out that these structures are due to nothing more special than 'math'. Bill O'Reilly will feature one of the crazier ones on his program to show how stupid they are.

Re:Shitstorm starting in 3, 2, 1, ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089201)

Don't worry 100,000 liberals will draw an even better conclusion that most technological advances in the Universe happen because of porn, just like in Internet and in a (male) brain.

Well duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42088897)

Why suprised that the model we imagine is similar to the brain it imagines?

The same with food we eat, we have the same components as the food we take.

And the answer is 42 (3, Funny)

NWprobe (28716) | about a year and a half ago | (#42088927)

Come on...we have all read the book. This is not news! :-)

We already knew this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42088949)

Like Kevin Flynn said: Our world's are more connected than anyone knows.

now I know where that monolith is (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year and a half ago | (#42088953)

it's in my head!

Drop acid (2)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#42088969)

and you'll find the universal pattern is a big moving paisley pattern.

Re:Drop acid (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089463)

"you'll find the universal pattern is a big moving paisley pattern."

The problem then becomes its annoying habit of melting...

Re:Drop acid (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089787)

You're dropping the wrong acid

Re:Drop acid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090435)

Fractal

Emergent behavior ruleset? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42088971)

So they are finding consistent behavior behind different kinds of emergent networks? I can see how that could turn out to be an important find

The number 23! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42088981)

It's everywhere! In our names, our brains, the internet and even the stucture of our galaxies! Run, Run and tell the world!

Not a global brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42088995)

'By no means do we claim that the universe is a global brain'

I know, I read the summary.

The universe is a UNIVERSAL brain.

If you wonder what the point of math is. THIS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089013)

This is a wonderful example of what true mathematics is about.
And mathematics is indeed very useful and practical, fascinating and fun, as opposed to what many people (usually uninformed ones) want to tell you.

If you get the fascination of finding such patterns, you get math. And what you thought you hated all your life, is actually not very related to real math at all.

Still not convinced? Watch this [youtube.com] .
Yes, math can indeed be something the kids love!

Re:If you wonder what the point of math is. THIS (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089839)

"This is a wonderful example of what true mathematics is about."

If I was going to post such blather, I'd do it as an AC too. Math is a way of expressing how we perceive things. It has absolutely nothing to do with how things actually are. It is the ultimate anthropomorphization of reality.

A step forward.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089073)

..to discover that causality is gravity e.g. a pervasive quantistic effect on macro scale, affecting any complex network. See also J. Barbour (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_Time_%28book%29)

Gardner had it wrong (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089113)

Just yesterday I read this 2007 review [ams.org] of Hofstadter's Strange Loop by Gardner, and it starts

Our brain is a small lump of organic molecules.
It contains some hundred billion neurons, each
more complex than a galaxy.

When I read this I thought, as much as I admire Martin Gardner, what a stupid thing to say. How can a galaxy, i.e. something that contains solar systems that contain at least one biosphere that contains billions of human brains, be less complex than a human brain. This assertion could only be true if you use some measure of complexity that discounts smaller dimensions, that regards complexity only on the outer layers of something. Now I see he might be wrong even on the galactic level.

Re:Gardner had it wrong (4, Interesting)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089317)

It turns on the definition of complexity itself, which is not so straightforward as one might imagine [wikipedia.org] . One of the keys to many definitions of complexity lies not in the number of different parts, but in the non-trivial and adaptive ways those parts interact. Yes, there may be humans in this galaxy, but the relationships between those humans have no effect on the galaxy, qua galaxy. In other words, the interactions that occur on a galactic level produce no appreciable feedback in the system as a whole from human beings. Yet it is feedback and adaptation that occurs in complex systems that make them complex. As a complex system, therefore, the galaxy is not concerned with the presence of humans.

The same cannot be said of the relationship between neurons as a system and the brain as a system. As the article says, each neuron has its own level of complexity and this is in turn connected to the larger system of the brain, itself having billions of adaptive connections. Yet what is missing, but I think implied, is that the complexity within each neuron is non-trivial to the interactions between neurons.

Also, I wouldn't think less of a man who very occasionally indulges in hyperbolic excess. This does not make him stupid, only a lively writer.

Re:Gardner had it wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089595)

In the event that humans were able to become technologically sophisticated enough to affect changes on a galactic scale - either through huge interactions or through tiny, replicating interactions with bigger consequences, then the galaxy as a complex system would be concerned with the existence of humans. If that ever has or shall occur, in whatever minute way, then the galaxy is necessarily concerned with the entire historical existence of humans, as affecting that interaction.

If one space probe we've sent out is even the merest flap of a butterfly's wing in the galaxy, then the galaxy as a complex system is concerned with humans. I'm pretty sure we've done more than that.

Re:Gardner had it wrong (4, Insightful)

GWLlosa (800011) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089623)

Yes, there may be humans in this galaxy, but the relationships between those humans have no effect on the galaxy, qua galaxy. In other words, the interactions that occur on a galactic level produce no appreciable feedback in the system as a whole from human beings.

Challenge Accepted!

the number e (5, Interesting)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089115)

There are certain constraints for the most efficient transfer of energy. Systems designed or evolved to take advantage of more efficient designs should exhibit similarities.

The Brain is not a Universe! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089133)

Pop-science interest in the brain should be applauded. But we need to be careful. This headline makes it sound like our brain is similar to the Universe. It isn't, or at least it remains to be seen.

The authors original work (not the linked article) shows that the clustering of the brain is actually not the same... (See Figure 4b) and the authors never make the claim in their original paper that it these two are similar. (See: http://www.nature.com/srep/2012/121113/srep00793/full/srep00793.html )

One also needs to take the inclusion of the brain in this study with a 10^8 grains of salt. It is not even the structure of the brain that was even used for the comparison. What is actually used is what was seen during a study of fMRI data on perceived connectivity. Take a look at the methods in the study that the data in the paper came from: http://arxiv.org/pdf/cond-mat/0309092.pdf fMRI is an extremely questionable way of understanding connectivity. I think the authors would have been better served to leave the brain out... or invite a neuroscientist as a co-author.

Bah, what's the use (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089147)

Krioukov should stick to relevant science. This other paper [arxiv.org] he wrote was much more useful. Apparently it got him out of a speeding ticket.

Fascinating, but what the article has is not news (3, Interesting)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089171)

I'm going to have to look up the original paper published by Krioukov, but what was mentioned in the article itself is not news. I imagine this is a consequence of Krioukov trying to explain his findings in laymen's terms.

What the article actually says is a pretty basic exposition of the findings of network science [wikipedia.org] and complex systems theory [wikipedia.org] over the past few years. For those interested in but unfamiliar with these matters, I recommend a volume written a couple of years ago by the physicist Albert-László Barabási [wikipedia.org] called Linked: The New Science of Networks [barnesandnoble.com] . It is written for a wide audience and is a very readable introduction to the subject. Barabási's based argument is that these common network patterns we see in so many environments is a consequence both growth and preferential attachment in systems. Of course, growth and preferential attachment are going to be present in biological and social systems, as well as things like computer networks, and this is at the heart of why we see similar patterns forming (esp. scale-free topologies).

As a historian, I find the findings of network science as its been applied to social systems particularly useful. It helps to explain societal changes in ways that older theories of history, whether deriving from Marxian, Annaliste, Weberian, or other schools of thought, would have difficulty. Further, the study of networks and complex systems is inherently interdisciplinary--and this in a refreshingly honest way rather than the mere "interdisciplinarity" rhetoric that's been present in the academy over the years. For those interested in the application of network science to the social sciences, there is a very nice collection of seminal articles for the field edited by Gernot Grabher and Walter Powell [worldcat.org] .

Fractal self similarity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089213)

It just sounds like fractal self-similarity to me. An ocean full of waves made up of water, which is made of atoms, where the electron states are governed by wave equations.

Rank idiocy disguised as science. (0)

Chalnoth (1334923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089257)

This is just more Chopra-esque woo. The entire idea amounts to seeing images in clouds: our minds see patterns and similarities all over the place, even when there are none in reality.

No, the laws that govern the formation of structure in the universe really have nothing whatsoever to do with the laws that govern the formation of brains, let alone the Internet. These are three very different kinds of things with three very different mechanisms for building them, and which do very different things. The fact that they are networks or network-like (in the case of the large scale stucture of the universe, which isn't actually a network) is pretty much the only thing that connects them.

Finally, let me just point out that the claim that these networks are "asymptotically similar" is just flagrantly incorrect. The asymptotic state of our universe is completely empty space. It's not a network, or even a semblance of a network: it's vacuum. The appearance of a network that we see today is merely a temporary, transient phenomenon that will go away in time (I'm not sure the exact time scale, but I expect probably tens of billions to trillions of years should do it). There will still be stars and galaxies long after the appearance of the network has been completely wiped away: the universe will become a series of islands separated by vast distances as the filaments collapse into the more massive clusters of galaxies or are stretched to nothingness with the expansion.

So no, this crud should be chucked in the woo bin where it belongs.

Re:Rank idiocy disguised as science. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089489)

(in the case of the large scale stucture of the universe, which isn't actually a network)

Actually it is a network. Nodes consist of any macro-scale assemblage of matter which will exert gravitational force on other nodes. The higher up the hierarchy the larger the node the more wide ranging the interactions become. This is all that is required for something to be a network, nodes which have some interaction with each other. Your statement is thus empirically wrong, your entire post comically ignorant.

It has been this way for along time (the only time the large scale structure was governed differently was shortly after the big bang prior to gravitational effects becoming prevalent) and will continue to exist in this state for a longer time still.

Re:Rank idiocy disguised as science. (2)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089703)

Exactly. I suspect that when people see the word "network" used, they misunderstand its meaning. The brain and the universe are not like networks and we do not merely see network patterns in them. They are in fact networks because by the word network we mean a set of interlinking or interacting nodes. Under this definition, it does not matter what sort interactions may occur. The interactions can carry data (computer network), electricity (the grid), nutrition (the food cycle in biology), or mass (as we find in the interaction, gravity, between stellar bodies, the nodes).

The interesting thing about these sets of interactions, is that similar topologies in the different nodes produce similar characteristics in the networks. OP is, therefore, quite mistaken to dismiss this as faux science. One cannot explain why computer networks, social systems, ecosystems, power-grids, and transportation networks can all have cascading failures without understanding that this property derives from network topology. It is sad to see anyone on Slashdot to be so dismissive of a relatively new and very useful science.

Re:Rank idiocy disguised as science. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42091021)

No, the laws that govern the formation of structure in the universe really have nothing whatsoever to do with the laws that govern the formation of brains, let alone the Internet. These are three very different kinds of things with three very different mechanisms for building them, and which do very different things.

Your argument: Things can't be governed by the same laws because they are very different. You're right Democritus basic idea was ludicrous and we should've just stopped there with this silly scientific endeavour.

Vague (4, Interesting)

Improv (2467) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089299)

The article is disappointingly vague and hand-wavy. Either the science is bullshit, or this summary is. Given that it's from India, I am leaning towards guessing the former; there's a lot of great research that happens in the country, but there's also a lot of pseudoscience that happens that's designed to give warm fuzzies to Indian nationalists who think they can undo the horrors of colonialisation and recapture national pride by beating the drum of "Vedic Math". Some of their flashier salesmen make it to the US and sell it to deluded new-agers and the other uneducated, portraying it as exotic deep knowledge "from the East".

I find it hard to believe that claims like this are supportable as good science at this point.

Re:Vague (3, Informative)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089387)

FTA:

[...]said Dmitri Krioukov, co-author of the paper, published by the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego.

Later:

[...]SDSC Director Michael Norman added [...]

And finally:

After the downscaling, the research team turned to Trestles, one of SDSC’s data-intensive supercomputers, to perform simulations of the universe’s growing causal network. By parallelizing and optimizing the application, Robert Sinkovits, a computational scientist with SDSC, was able to complete in just over one day a computation that was originally projected to require three to four years

Researchers Look Around, See Similarities (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089323)

</article>

There, now you don't have to read it.

sorta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089353)

fractal patterns? -___-

article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089367)

Where exactly may i find the article? All I can extract from the linked news feed is a lot of "we finally caught up with ancient Greeks"...

Intelligent Design: FAIL (1)

lucm (889690) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089377)

Thanks to those scientists we now know that the Higher Power that created the universes is either using a templating system or has very strict design patterns, which means that if someone finds a flaw in internet the exploit could possibly be reused to hack the human brain or even destroy the universe. Let's hope the terrorists don't find out!

Re:Intelligent Design: FAIL (4, Insightful)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089555)

Joking aside, there's actually some truth to this.

Turns out complex systems with a scale-free topology (the node density of which follows a power law rather than a gaussian function), of the kind we find in ecosystems, power-grids, computer networks, DNA, etc., all have similar strengths and vulnerabilities. Unlike random distributions, scale-free topologies are highly resistant to random failure: i.e. random deaths of animals of different sorts do not cause an ecosystem failure or random power stations failing does not necessarily cause a grid to collapse. This is what network and complex systems theorists call robustness. Scale-free topologies are, however, very vulnerable to directed attacks. Turns out certain creatures occupy more important spaces in ecosystems than others (they're hubs, with a high density of connections). Kill these off and an entire ecosystem can collapse. Likewise, hit certain power stations with high density of connections and you'll see cascading failures. A few random genes are damaged, chances are that a creature will survive and reproduce without problems. Screw around with the TP53 gene in humans, however, and expect some nasty results.

Re:Intelligent Design: FAIL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090963)

So to destroy the Universe, I just need to scatter the mass of most dense galaxies?

cosmic illusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089395)

'By no means do we claim that the universe is a global brain or a computer,'

Of course not "global". I claim the universe is universal computer.

Oranges (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089441)

I've always thought there was something strangely similar about the structure of an orange and the Earths magnetosphere.

Fuck everyone bringing religion into this too btw....

My god.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089447)

...it's full of stars...

another interesting relationship (3, Funny)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089477)

ok, i don't know if anyone else has spotted this, but there's a link between avogadro's constant, background radiation, and golden mean ratio.

take the background radiation (number of hydrogen atoms per square metre). divide by golden mean ratio cubed. invert. the number, completely coincidentally, comes out to around 6.023e23.

amazing, huh?

I realised this when I was single digit age (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089577)

Bathtub - Solar system - Galaxy. Kaching!

Members of the Pythagorean cult (4, Funny)

fsterman (519061) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089615)

Finding similarities in abstractions is what humans do. If humans can describe something based on patterns that humans are capable of processing, then we will probably find them elsewhere! Abstraction doesn't give us mystical powers [wikipedia.org] that allow us to divine the "true nature [google.com] " of the universe (let alone understand what that questions means [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:Members of the Pythagorean cult (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089895)

Thank you sir for succinctly and clearly explaining why most people, especially "brilliant" people, are idiots.

Robert's fundamental theorem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089805)

Why not state it here?

You find what you look for.

Computers use local (as they perceive it) communication to simulate anything.

What do they find? Mirabile dictu, everything behaves in exactly the same way, at least in some appropriately-defined asymptotic limit.

D'oh.

Somewhere in this thread there is the claim that a description of reality must not be infinitely long. Who said? Because Newton successfully analysed an anomalously simple system, all of nature is going to work that way?

When I was applying to a prestigious school to major in physics, the interviewer asked me if I didn't think physics was already sort of worn out, spending ever more money to discover one more particle whose explanation required even more exotic explanations that would have made alchemists blush. Physics is worn out. Computational science is worn out. You have already all that you can accomplish with your machines with (potentially) countably-infinite state and local communication.

Maybe nature really does work the way you think it does, except that you can't really explain (or, even more important, predict) anything that matters.

Universe is smaller than I thought (1)

Psychotria (953670) | about a year and a half ago | (#42089853)

From the article:

Of course the network representing the structure of the universe is astronomically huge – in fact it can be infinite. But even if it is finite, researchers’ best guess is that it is no smaller than 10250 atoms of space and time.

The internet has not only made the world a smaller place, but the entire universe.

Uhh..... I think it's called.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42089869)

Chaos Theory - try reading up on it

I'll Nay Say (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090005)

The notion that laws of physics govern the universe is a bit simplistic. Consider laws as a scribbling on a piece of paper that is stuffed in a paper bag. Laws do nothing. Laws do not interact with each other nor do they create. A Prime Mover is required to create those laws in such a way that they co-exist or work in concert and a Prime Mover must give force to those laws as well. In other words a law of physics is only a creation of a superior being that serves his purposes. Evolution is simply another crayon in God's coloring book.

Re:I'll Nay Say (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about a year and a half ago | (#42090627)

Consider laws as a scribbling on a piece of paper that is stuffed in a paper bag. Laws do nothing.

Duh. The "laws" we formulate are simply our attempts to describe and predict what we can observe. When you throw a ball, the simplified model of gravity and the ball you have in your head doesn't affect reality in any way other than helping you predict where the ball goes.

So?

It's called Fractals - repeating patterns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090199)

Benoit Mandelbrot was onto something. Fractals are everywhere now that we know what to look for.

oh devi, what is the nature of your reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42090543)

What is this wonder-filled universe?
What constitutes seed?
What centers the universal wheel?

I guess that's because... (1)

maratumba (1409075) | about a year and a half ago | (#42090921)

Same equations have same solutions

Richard Feynman

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