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Sizing Up Complex Webs: Close or far, many networks look the same

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8:17am, January 26, 2005

Researchers have discovered that a remarkable diversity of complex networks, including the World Wide Web and patterns in cellular biochemistry, have a common architecture with snowflakes and trees. These networks all display similar patterns, whether viewed from up close or far away.

"It's a fundamental advance," says Albert-László Barabási, a physicist who studies networks at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. The question of whether complex networks can show such a fractal pattern, also known as self-similarity, "has been bugging us for a while," he says.

In recent years, researchers have found that a surprising range of networks has a common structure:

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