When Im on the road I try to catch up on my reading about PM theory or Project Server. But sometimes you want to read something that is not right inside your own world. This mood generally hits me while checking out Airport book stores. (The Dallas airport has one that has the ONLY Science section I have ever seen in an airport bookstore). Several weeks ago I picked up a copy of "Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age" by Duncan J. Watts. THIS BOOK IS AWESOME! I generally try to pick up books that are about a subject I am not very good at so several of these choices have been about math or science since that was not exactly where I shined in school. This book takes what can be a pretty complex idea and puts it in an astonishingly readable form. Mr. Watts is a physicist of the highest order yet he writes about this topic so that just about anyone with a basic science and math education comes away feeling pretty smart. I don't remember one formula in the whole book. Lots of graphs and diagrams but it does not assume you are a math wiz!
So basically this book talks about the real science (Graph Theory) behind the concept of the Kevin Bacon game. While the game is not the focus of the book it is the thing that most people like me associate with these ideas. The book also describes how these concepts have wide reaching interest to those that study social networks and the science of epidemics as well as group dynamics such as group decision making and the behavior of crowds. Several sections talk about "Small Worlds" experiments that you may have heard about. These exercises involved many differnet people all trying to get letters to a specific target ONLY by handing the letter to someone they personally know but think might be 'closer' to the target than themselves. This takes the 'six degrees' concept and puts it to the test to see how many hand-offs are required to get the letters into the hands of the targets. Very cool stuff.
I work with networks of another kind in my work with projects so I tried hard to find a way that these theories pertained but I don't think there is a direct link. :-) But this is for sure a book that I feel smarter for having read. Check it out if you have interest in these areas.