Network theorists working for the US military have worked out how to identify the small "seed" group of people who can spread a message across an entire network.
Viral messages begin life by infecting a few individuals and then start to spread across a network. The most infectious end up contaminating more or less everybody.
Just how and why this happens is the subject of much study and debate. Network scientists know that key factors are the rate at which people become infected, the "connectedness" of the network and how the seed group of individuals, who first become infected, are linked to the rest.
It is this seed group that fascinates everybody from marketers wanting to sell Viagra to epidemiologists wanting to study the spread of HIV.
So a way of finding seed groups in a given social network would surely be a useful trick, not to mention a valuable one. Step forward Paulo Shakarian, Sean Eyre and Damon Paulo from the West Point Network Science Center at the US Military Academy in West Point.
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