Some Carnegie Mellon comp sci students have come up with a way to determine how information spreads among blogs. The algorithm also shows which blogs you should read to be as informed as possible in the as “cost-effective” a manner as possible. (Alas, this blog doesn’t make the cut. Hope you don’t feel you’re wasting your precious time here.)
But what fascinates me about this study is that the same algorithm the researchers used to figure out how information spreads in the blogosphere can also be used to determine how disease outbreaks occur in water distribution networks.
Consider a city water distribution network, delivering water to households via pipes and junctions. Intrusions can cause contaminants to spread over the network, and we want to select a few locations (pipe junctions) to install sensors, in order to detect these contaminations as quickly as possible.
The sensor placements obtained by our algorithm are provably near optimal, providing a constant fraction of the optimal solution. Our approach scales, achieving speedups and savings in storage of several orders of magnitude.
And you thought blogs had no redeeming social value. That may be true for most of them, but at least the study of blogs has yielded something of value to society.
Link via Steve Rubel’s Twitter page.