Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A (Non-Mathematical) Model For Information Flow

Imagine you have a cylinder of fluid. You drop a sugar cube in to it. How quickly does the liquid become well mixed? Can you find equations for the composition of the fluid at any point (x,y,z) in the cylinder at any time t? Does this work as a model for how new information flows through society? Or am I just making things up. My thinking:
Imagine that the sugar is a new invention.
The inventor tells somebody about it. The neighborhood about the inventor (the sugar's initial placement) becomes well mixed. Then the second group of people spread the word... and the neighborhood about them becomes well mixed. And so on... this would be a rather dense fluid that we've dropped the cube into... just word of mouth... would take a long time for the entire cylinder to become well mixed... possibly not at all. But what if the inventor had access to cable news? Then things get well mixed very quickly. Like dropping the sugar into water or something with a catalyst or something. I don't have the physical details down very well.

Also, I hate the symbol xi (this thing: ΞΎ). I absolutely hate the damned thing. How do you draw it? I just scribble a bunch and apologize... or replace it with an actual FREAKING letter.

Also, Chris Silvey's site has gotten me addicted to Brad Delong's site. Now I have to check another page at least once a day. I feel like I should drop one so that the addition is online-time neutral. But I can't. Damn it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had math profs who have simply referred to xi as "squiggle". It really is ridiculous that we force ourselves to write it.

February 2, 2005 at 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, this is actually a very interesting developing field in econ. Economics of Networking... it's kind of the meeting of sociology and econ, a lot of really exciting theories are being generated in this area. The most interesting question is which aspects of a particular idea or product cause it to prolific (that it's the "best" is a rather vague criteria). I highly recommend Duncan Watt's "Six Degrees". Not overly academic, interesting summary of the field.

February 4, 2005 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

I'll certainly look that up, thanks for the advice. I also came up with a better idea for the information flow. It would be better to think of it as a transformation of a cylinder into a flat surface on top with crevices. And instead of sugar to think of it as a drop of dye. Really I'm just trying to use some of the PDE stuff.

February 4, 2005 at 10:24 PM  

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