Summary
In the context of network theory, a complex network is a graph (network) with non-trivial topological features—features that do not occur in simple networks such as lattices or random graphs but often occur in networks representing real systems. The study of complex networks is a young and active area of scientific research (since 2000) inspired largely by empirical findings of real-world networks such as computer networks, biological networks, technological networks, brain networks, climate networks and social networks. Most social, biological, and technological networks display substantial non-trivial topological features, with patterns of connection between their elements that are neither purely regular nor purely random. Such features include a heavy tail in the degree distribution, a high clustering coefficient, assortativity or disassortativity among vertices, community structure, and hierarchical structure. In the case of directed networks these features also include reciprocity, triad significance profile and other features. In contrast, many of the mathematical models of networks that have been studied in the past, such as lattices and random graphs, do not show these features. The most complex structures can be realized by networks with a medium number of interactions. This corresponds to the fact that the maximum information content (entropy) is obtained for medium probabilities. Two well-known and much studied classes of complex networks are scale-free networks and small-world networks, whose discovery and definition are canonical case-studies in the field. Both are characterized by specific structural features—power-law degree distributions for the former and short path lengths and high clustering for the latter. However, as the study of complex networks has continued to grow in importance and popularity, many other aspects of network structures have attracted attention as well. The field continues to develop at a brisk pace, and has brought together researchers from many areas including mathematics, physics, electric power systems, biology, climate, computer science, sociology, epidemiology, and others.
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