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Andrew Tam

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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?

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    Feb 28 2012: If I had to choose one out of the three, it would have to be quality. People are interested, enjoy, and are willing to put time into things that they are not accustomed to. This depends on the originality, creativity, and personal factors that vary between people. However, all three definitely do play a role. The overarching theme in how ideas spread, however, is the timing. This can make or break whether the idea flourishes or is never again revisited.

    A perfect example here is WikiLeaks. In a time when the world was unstable, and trust in government was a major issue, Assange was able to get the whole world on board in uncovering hidden truths, something which could not be fathomed beforehand. Although WikiLeaks is high quality material, and it was “loud,” I think timing was the biggest factor in how quickly it spread.

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