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Self-similarity of complex networks


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      Complex networks have been studied extensively due to their relevance to many real systems as diverse as the World-Wide-Web (WWW), the Internet, energy landscapes, biological and social networks \cite{ab-review,mendes,vespignani,newman,amaral}. A large number of real networks are called ``scale-free'' because they show a power-law distribution of the number of links per node \cite{ab-review,barabasi1999,faloutsos}. However, it is widely believed that complex networks are not {\it length-scale} invariant or self-similar. This conclusion originates from the ``small-world'' property of these networks, which implies that the number of nodes increases exponentially with the ``diameter'' of the network \cite{erdos,bollobas,milgram,watts}, rather than the power-law relation expected for a self-similar structure. Nevertheless, here we present a novel approach to the analysis of such networks, revealing that their structure is indeed self-similar. This result is achieved by the application of a renormalization procedure which coarse-grains the system into boxes containing nodes within a given "size". Concurrently, we identify a power-law relation between the number of boxes needed to cover the network and the size of the box defining a finite self-similar exponent. These fundamental properties, which are shown for the WWW, social, cellular and protein-protein interaction networks, help to understand the emergence of the scale-free property in complex networks. They suggest a common self-organization dynamics of diverse networks at different scales into a critical state and in turn bring together previously unrelated fields: the statistical physics of complex networks with renormalization group, fractals and critical phenomena.

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      03 March 2005
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      Nature, 433, (2005), 392-395
      28 pages, 12 figures, more informations at


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