EVANSTON, Ill. (UPI) — Complex networks ranging from global air traffic to neural networks share similar skeletons and a “backbone” of essential nodes and links, U.S. scientists say.
Researchers at Northwestern University studying a variety of biological, technological and social networks found all have evolved according to basic growth mechanisms, a finding that could help explain how something — a disease, a rumor or information — spreads across a network.
The discovery networks all have skeletons and they are similar was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Researchers have long tried to determine if different networks from different disciplines have hidden core structures — backbones — and, if so, how they are configured.
Dirk Brockmann, a professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics, developed a method to identify a network’s hidden core structure and showed the skeletons possess some underlying and universal features.
Components of any network work together, interacting and influencing each other, driving the network’s evolution into complex systems, he said.
Such a system, whether it’s the Internet, Facebook, the power grid, human consciousness, even a termite colony, generates complex behavior, researchers said, but a simple and similar core skeleton was found in each one.
While networks can differ in size from hundreds of nodes to thousands and in connectivity from sparsely connected to dense, the underlying “backbone” configuration is almost always similar, they said.