The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread – and Why They Stop by Adam Kucharski

Cover of The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread - and Why They Stop

With this year going how it’s going (*waves hands*) I thought this might be a hastily rushed out book about biological contagion. And that is still something I was up for reading, but it was actually published in February 2020, and so must have been written before the whole great plague of the 2020s began. And it’s all about the maths of contagion, which is right up my street. The subject matter branches out far beyond disease and includes lots of things like the spread of internet memes and computer viruses which, 2020 being what it is (*waves hands again*), kind of feels a bit off-topic even though it’s not. But I found it all fascinating, and a wider view of the mathematics is very welcome.

One of the cases discussed here that really blows my mind is how violence can be considered as something contagious – victims of it can turn into perpetrators (sometimes as a quick revenge thing, but often after many many years have passed) – and how we as as society can try to ‘vaccinate’ against that happening is a really interesting topic. To me this shows how maths, an academic abstract tool, can inform real changes in people’s lives. A really good read which gives you loads to think about. I can also recommend looking Adam Kucharski up on Twitter where he’s often got a wide angle, long term, very considered take on aspects of our current pandemic which is a good antidote to a lot of current media.


More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

Read on August 29, 2020

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