TED Conversations

Andrew Tam

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

What makes an idea spread? Duration? Quality? Loudness?

In my Bioelectricity class this week, we talked about the propagation of electrical signals in the body. In the body, cells transmit action potentials (or "spikes") which propogate along the cell membranes of electrically excitable cells like neurons and muscles. However, these action potentials are only produced if the stimulus is of long enough duration, or of high enough amplitude. If signals are too weak, they instead dissipate as they decay in time and space. I was wondering: is the same true of the real world? If news spreads rapidly, is this reason to believe that the news is of of good quality? Is the spread of news proportional to the quality of it?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Feb 22 2012: hello Andrew,

    An idea is not an fire to be spread ...........it is just an force that attracts people............an idea fascinates people because of its awesome content that cannot be countered with any disapproval.........
    • thumb
      Feb 23 2012: Hey Aditya,

      You make an interesting point. It sounds like you are saying people gravitate towards ideas as opposed to ideas gravitating towards people. What is it about the idea that makes it so fascinating to begin with though?
    • Feb 27 2012: I agree that the quality of “loudness”, or being immediately impactful is key. When something unexpected happens, like a car crash on the street, people tend to stop and stare since it is not something they are used to seeing in real life. It must be something interesting to the observer. A new scientific discovery may be hard to grasp for most, and the effort might not be made to consume it and propagate it to others. In Ramachandrian’s related talk, he speaks about mirror neurons allowing early civilization to advance their skills quickly. Making fire and learning language was probably interesting enough to most then so that those ideas spread very quickly. Loud, interesting news is not always quality though. We need to discern that for ourselves.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.