Networks Illustrated: Principles without Calculus


Christopher Brinton

Mung Chiang

  • Professor of Electrical Engineering

Networks are everywhere. From the social connections we make on platforms like Facebook, to the technology behind the Internet upon which these sites run, they have become an integral part of our daily lives. 

This course serves as an introduction to the basic principles that govern all aspects of our networked lives. We will learn about companies like Google and technologies like the Internet in a way that requires no mathematics beyond basic algebra.

What makes WiFi faster at home than at a coffee shop? How does Google order its search results from the trillions of webpages on the Internet? Why does Verizon charge $15 for every GB of data we use? Is it really true that we are connected in six social steps or less?

These are just a few of the many intriguing questions we can ask about the social and technical networks that form integral parts of our daily lives. This course is about exploring the answers, using a language that anyone can understand. We will focus on fundamental principles like “sharing is hard”, “crowds are wise”, and “network of networks” that have guided the design and sustainability of today’s networks, and summarize the theories behind everything from the social connections we make on platforms like Facebook to the technology upon which these websites run.

Unlike other networking courses, the mathematics included here are no more complicated than adding and multiplying numbers.

While mathematical details are necessary to fully specify the algorithms and systems we investigate, they are not required to understand the main ideas. We use illustrations, analogies, and anecdotes about networks as pedagogical tools in lieu of detailed equations.


Course Status

In Session

What Learners Say

"I am passionate about networks & security. Following and completing this course turned out very helpful for me as it broadened my viewpoint and gave me knowledge worth knowing. I would personally love to thank you, both my instructors for making a this course lucid to the point possible." -Amartya