Report on “Facebook, Fads and the Flu: The Physics and Maths of Networks”
Wednesday 23 March, 2016
Last January, Professor Mark Newman (University of Michigan), gave the talk “Facebook, Fads and the Flu: The Physics and Maths of Networks”. The lecture was very well attended and the audience showed a strong interest.
The talk embraced the subjects of social networks and diseases-related networks, particularly the spread of the latter through people’s contact/interaction. A person with 100’s of friends (hob node) may be more likely to spread diseases than reclusive individuals. By means of example, Prof. Newman compared the epidemic of the Spanish Flue (San Francisco, CA, 1918-1919) with the spread of the black death in the 14th C, pointing out that the exponential network of infected individuals, resulting from spreading of the Flu versus the much slower spread of the black death indicates fundamental differences in human relationships from the from 14th C to the 20th C. The spread of diseases could certainly be diminished if not avoided by locating hob nodes, however this is not so easy due the lack of a network for each individual. With this in mind, Prof. Newman highlighted the importance to consider the existence of hob nodes for a better/true understanding of a network.
Prof. Newman demonstrated how the structure of a network determines how it works and showed the importance of questioning what connections are needed between nodes to make networks work better.
Image: (Left to right) Professors Felix Reed-Tsochas, Mark Newman and Gesine Reinert after the lecture.