Some scientists really hate when other scientists become media darlings.
In my former life as a researcher for British Telecom I read and thought a lot about complexity theory and networks. We were interested in how wireless devices could form networks of their own, so called ad-hoc networks, and communicate with each other without the need for centralized control.
One of the people I followed in the field is Albert-László Barabási who has become a science popstar since I first learned of him. He wrote the best selling book Linked, which has one of the most ambitious tag lines around:
How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business and Everyday Life
Everything, everything else, everyday. Phew.
The author of a blog post that surfaced recently on Hacker News, The network nonsense of Albert-László Barabási, isn’t impressed.
Barabási’s “work” is a regular feature in the journals Nature and Science despite the fact that many eminent scientists keep demonstrating that the network emperor has no clothes.
The comments on Hacker News are pretty funny as well. One of them tells of the popularity of fitting research data to scale-free models (the mathematical concept that underpins much of Barabási’s work):
[I] spent ~7 years in a bioinformatics PhD program focusing on biological networks … my advisor wanted me to SCALE-FREE ALL THE THINGS
Because Barabási has such a high profile, which makes lots of competitors loathe him, it’s hard for the layman I’ve become to determine how much truth there is in the accusations of the Network Emperor being sans clothes. I’m on the fence until someone who doesn’t have skin in the game delivers a convincing verdict. But I certainly find the exchange entertaining. Even if only as a blast from the past.