Friday, February 13, 2009

Critical Reactions and Chain Mails (And Facebook)

Recently, I received a sort of chain mail on Facebook, which required me to list 25 random things about myself, and to then forward this to 25 people. Of course, I didn't reply because I didn't have 25 friends, but that's another matter altogether. In order to excuse my faux pas, I tried to create an elaborate explanation, which I detail here.

It struck me that chain mails, of which this was an odd example of, have great similarities to nuclear reactions. Each person, if affected, liberates a fixed number of mails, which may then also cause a similar event. If certain conditions are met, then a chain reaction has occurred.

I did study a bit on the subject of nuclear reactions, and the very obvious condition for a chain reaction was if number of reactions caused by a liberated neutron was greater than 1. Applied to chain mails, if each recipient of a chain mail manages to get 1 other idiot to pass on the mail, then eventually everyone will be spammed and/or the mail will outlast you.

The analysis is a bit simplistic, though. One ought to consider the nature of social networks, since in-groups tend to be interconnected, and asocial bastards that tend to be inhibitors also tend to not be very popular or influential in receiving or sending chain mails. Of course, what I was really trying to say with the last statement was that people with lots of friends tend to be ones that spam chain mails, for some queer reason. My personal take is that intelligent people are lonely, though this could be an example of self-serving bias.

Some academic ought to analyze the issue with more rigorous mathematics. It would make for a good paper, and an Ignobel prize.

2 comments:

Pandemonium said...

Nuclear reaction? Nah, it's a disease!

http://www.slate.com/id/2211068

The Negative Man said...

Now that you mention it, it does seem more reasonable to model it as a disease. The SIR or SEIR should work.