Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Matthew Effect


Stories from a connected world – The Matthew Effect

According to sociologist Robert Merton, among two equally good scientists, the more famous gets more credit, the one with most awards will be the most likely to win other prizes, and the one who has received the most grants will be the one to receive even more. Merton called it the Matthew Effect.

In 1965, physicist Derek de Solla Price found evidence of this effect. When a scientist chooses what old paper should be cited in a new article, she tends to choose already highly cited papers. So, in the network of scientific papers, those that have many links eventually get even more.

This phenomenon goes beyond the world of science. For example, a director that manages many companies will probably get offers to join even more boards. Or a blog that receives many links from other websites will become famous and get even more connections. Very often, in the world of networks, the rich get richer.

Want to know more? Read “Networks: A Very Short Introduction

(Adapted from “Einstein a la platja”. Thanks to Barcelona Televisió)

Dwarfs and giants


Stories from a connected world – Dwarfs and giants

If you take the telephone book of Barcelona for example, and you order people listed there based on their height, you will get a “bell curve”. The vast majority of people are of average height and a few individuals are much taller or smaller.

Now, if you order the same people based on the number of friends each one has, you get a very different picture. There are people with thousands of friends, and others with many less.

Unlike height, social links are not distributed on a bell curve, but on one with a “long tail”. If height were proportional to the number of friends one has, there would be giants, thousand times higher than the average.

If you want to make a chair, you can take as a model a person with an average height: everybody will fit that chair. But if you want to understand networks, it makes no sense to talk about “the average person” as the number of connections people have are so varied.

Want to know more? Read “Networks. A Very Short Introduction

(Adapted from “Einstein a la platja”. Thanks to Barcelona Televisió)