Image from Toggernberg Bible of people suffering from the sixth plague of Eygpt (boils)
Image from Toggernberg Bible of people suffering from the sixth plague of Eygpt (boils)

Social Networks and Ending the Pandemic with Nicholas Christakis

Unknown author, Toggenburg Bible, Public domain-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

How do diseases and information spread? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice discover the history of pandemics, how social networks impact spread, and the hidden math behind it with sociologist and professor Nicholas Christakis.

Are we doing better with COVID-19 than in previous pandemics? What’s the difference between a respiratory pandemic and a plague? You’ll learn about the history of plagues throughout human history and what features come with them. Are plagues a feature of humanity? We bring some physics to the field of sociology by looking at wave mechanics within a social network. How do we understand the ways disease– and ideas– spread? 

We look at hyperdimensional coordinate systems of information and we’ll tell you what it even means. Discover Nicholas’s sociology research on social networks. Which algorithm used on a network of people provides the biggest information cascade? We breakdown what we did wrong in this pandemic and what unique challenges COVID-19, as a disease, has given us. 

What are the different phases of a pandemic? Do we know when it’s going to end? When will things go back to normal? Learn about biological ends to pandemics, which ones we think we’re headed towards, and the pandemic math behind it. How will mRNA vaccines change our responses to vaccines going forward? All that, plus, we discuss how to continue to spread science literacy and to keep people looking up!

Thanks to our Patrons Stephanie Nina Pitsirilos, bj Avent-Farmer, Bryce Irving, Heavily Sedated, Aaron Moss, Rudy Amaya, and Jan Erik Bergli for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.


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