"Northwestern University researchers are the first to discover that very different complex networks -- ranging from global air traffic to neural networks -- share very similar backbones. By stripping each network down to its essential nodes and links, they found each network possesses a skeleton and these skeletons share common features, much like vertebrates do.
Mammals have evolved to look very different despite a common underlying structure (think of a human being and a bat), and now it appears real-world complex networks evolve in a similar way.
The researchers studied a variety of biological, technological and social networks and found that all these networks have evolved according to basic growth mechanisms. The findings could be particularly useful in understanding how something -- a disease, a rumor or information -- spreads across a network. (...)
"Infectious diseases such as H1N1 and SARS spread in a similar way, and it turns out the network's skeleton played an important role in shaping the global spread,"(...) "Now, with this new understanding and by looking at the skeleton, we should be able to use this knowledge in the future to predict how a new outbreak might spread." (...)
Complex systems -- such as the Internet, Facebook, the power grid, human consciousness, even a termite colony -- generate complex behavior. A system's structure emerges locally; it is not designed or planned. Components of a network work together, interacting and influencing each other, driving the network's evolution. (...)
By computing this consensus -- the overall strength, or importance, of each link in the network -- the researchers were able to produce a skeleton for each network consisting of all those links that every node considers important. And these skeletons are similar across networks."