A mathematical formula for celebrity gossip

Networking mania

Mathematicians have developed an equation that describes internet rumours’ ability to fly around the globe in a matter of hours. They say this is why the secrets of the rich and famous rarely stay hidden for long anymore, reports ‘dailymail.co.uk’.

The supposed marital woes of France’s first couple, Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni, and some unsavoury text messages between golf star Tiger Woods and one of his mistresses are among the most recent subjects to spread like wild fire via Twitter, blogs and Facebook.

The scientists at Rome’s La Sapienza University created their equation in a bid to measure the internet’s power to spread indiscretion.

“And it shows just how fast news and gossip travels these days. It’s like influenza,” said Team leader Alessandro Panconesi. They will present the findings at the Symposium on the Theory of Computing in Cambridge, Massachusetts later this year.

Yet to be tested

They are yet to test their theory on the latest celebrity gossip. But Panconesi said he’s already demonstrated its reliability, thanks to the help of a fellow researcher in the US.
Recently the American mathematician posted one Tweet about the Italian group’s failure to get the funding promised them by the Italian government to carry out their research on the spread of gossip on the internet. “And within 17 hours there’s a whole page about the work in the Corriere della Sera newspaper,” said Panconesi. “Funding for science in this country is abysmal and we wanted to show it. I think we’ve managed it,” he added.

Unique formula

But the newspapers in Italy, a country that is obsessed with celebrity, were more interested in hailing the research as evidence of the internet’s miraculous power to shine a light on the lives of the rich and famous.

Corriere della Sera compared the speed of Tiger Woods’s fall from grace with the time it took Cicero’s sniping about Julius Caesar’s sexuality to be recorded in the history books by Plutarch - a snail-like 150 years or so.

The formula is: Time (taken for spread of gossip) = estimate of time (log v x log squared 1)/phi square; where, v is number of vertices of communication and phi is equal to conductance.