Network theorists have developed a way to identify the top memes in science and study how they evolved
|Scooped by luiy|
Memes are the cultural equivalent of genes: units that transfer ideas or practices from one human to another by means of imitation. In recent years, network scientists have become increasingly interested in how memes spread.
This kind of work has led to important insights into the nature of news cycles, into information avalanches on social networks and into the role that networks themselves play in this spreading process.
But what exactly makes a meme and distinguishes it from other forms of information is not well understood. Today, Tobias Kuhn at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and a couple of pals say they’ve developed a way to automatically distinguish scientific memes from other forms of information for the first time. And they’ve used this technique to find the most important ideas in physics and how they’ve evolved in the last 100 years.
The word ‘meme’ was coined by the evolutionary biologists Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. He argued that ideas, melodies, behaviours and so on, all evolve in the same way as genes, by means of replication and mutation, but using human culture rather than biology as the medium of evolution.