First mathematical model to explain how things go viral


Scientists have come up with the first ever mathematical model to explain explosive contagion in social networks – in other words, how things go viral.

Using epidemic models that draw comparisons between the transmission of complex social phenomena and infectious diseases, scientists at the Universities of Aberdeen, Cambridge, Zaragoza and Nacional de Colombia have developed a model that includes the impact of friends and acquaintances in the sudden spread of new ideas.

Dr Francisco Perez-Reche, from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Natural and Computing Sciences, is the lead author of the study, which has been published in Nature Scientific Reports.

The research acknowledges the important role that social media can play in this process, making explosive contagion more apparent in our everyday lives than ever before.

However, it is the intrinsic value of the idea or product, and whether friends and acquaintances adopt it or not, that remains the crucial factor.

Dr Perez-Reche added that the model could potentially be used to address social issues, or by companies to give their product the edge over rivals.