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Algorithm Distinguishes Memes From Ordinary Information

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the i-wonder-what-scumbag-d&d-player-thinks dept.

Science 38

KentuckyFC writes: "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, work that has led to important insights into the nature of news cycles, into information avalanches on social networks and so on. But what exactly makes a meme and distinguishes it from other forms of information is not well understood. Now a team of researchers has developed a way to automatically distinguish scientific memes from other forms of information for the first time. Their technique exploits the way scientific papers reference older papers on related topics. They scoured the half a million papers published by Physical Review between 1893 and 2010 looking for common words or phrases. They define an interesting meme as one that is more likely to appear in a paper that cites another paper in which the same meme occurs. In other words, interesting memes are more likely to replicate. They end up with a list of words and phrases that have spread by replication and can also see how this spreading has changed over the last 100 years. The top five phrases are: loop quantum cosmology, unparticle, sonoluminescence, MgB2 and stochastic resonance; all of which are important topics in physics. The team say the technique is interesting because it provides a way to distinguish memes from other forms of information that do not spread in the same way through replication."

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cultural equivalent of genes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46844607)

Don't you mean junk DNA?

Re:cultural equivalent of genes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46844831)

No they mean packets of information like DNA or ideas, wrapped in a protective coating like proteins or language that enter the host and are either replicated and spread or killed.

Memes (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46844609)

Sorry, but a "meme" is a picture of a humorous animal with a joke in Impact font at the top and bottom. The word used to mean something else, but that definition got outcompeted by one that was better at replication.

Re:Memes (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 7 months ago | (#46844883)

Also the concept of memes used here is highly dubious even in the context used here [wikipedia.org] , and may not be useful at all.

Re:Memes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46845073)

"In other words, interesting memes are more likely to replicate.".

WTF?

It becomes a meme only by virtue of having replicated.

Re:Memes (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 7 months ago | (#46846229)

Bunny memes replicate once a month...

Re:Memes (2)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 7 months ago | (#46844953)

Sorry, but a "meme" is a picture of a humorous animal with a joke in Impact font at the top and bottom. The word used to mean something else, but that definition got outcompeted by one that was better at replication.

You're WAY off. Arial is the font of choice.

Re:Memes (1)

treeves (963993) | about 7 months ago | (#46895091)

Well, when I go to https://imgflip.com/memegenera... [imgflip.com] , there are three font choices: Impact, Arial , and Comic Sans. At http://memegenerator.net/ [memegenerator.net] it looks like Impact is the only option. Being the default choice at these sites, I suspect Impact gets used the most by far. I think I have never seen Comic Sans used.

worthless top five phrases (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46844641)

At first I was excited by them using my preferred definition of meme in the first sentence of the summary, then I saw the list" loop quantum cosmology, unparticle, sonoluminescence, MgB2 and stochastic resonance" and realized that it may as well be Yo dawg, I heard you like memes, so I put a meme in your meme, or I can haz cheezburger?. So they mined the journal for words and phrases... meh, those aren't memes

Re:worthless top five phrases (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 7 months ago | (#46844685)

In Soviet Russia, memes mine YOU!

Re:worthless top five phrases (2)

Coryoth (254751) | about 7 months ago | (#46845653)

So they mined the journal for words and phrases... meh, those aren't memes

They are memes in the sense that they are specifically finding words and phrases that are frequently inherited by papers (where "descendant" is determined by citation links), and rarely appear spontaneously (i.e. without appearing in any of the papers cites by a paper). An important feature is that their method used zero linguistic information, didn't bother with pruning out stopwords, or indeed, do any preprocessing other than simple tokenisation by whitespace and punctuation. Managing to come out with nouns and complex phrases under such conditions is actually very impressive. You should try actually reading the paper.

Re:worthless top five phrases (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 7 months ago | (#46848551)

The last item on the list reads

20. Inflation

Now, I do find myself personally skeptical of a lot of the theoretical physics/cosmology/multiverse terminology, theories and lingo you are likely to encounter nowadays, but including Inflation on the list is a bit of a stretch to say the the least. But then I also spotted this

13. CuGeO3

What is this I Don't Even?

Social Media (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46844651)

Came in hoping that a way to filter memes from social media had been found. I'm disappointed.

Re:Social Media (1)

gameboyhippo (827141) | about 7 months ago | (#46844667)

I'd offer you a custom plugin, but it's like over 9000 dollars.

bullshit detector for work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46844663)

I'd like this for detecting when managers are high on this or that buzzword and need to be reigned in.

Re:bullshit detector for work (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 7 months ago | (#46845867)

I'd like this for detecting when managers are high on this or that buzzword and need to be reigned in.

Super! That way you could leverage maximum critical infrastructure buy-in.

At least that's my take away.

Useless research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46844669)

Useless piece of garbage produced for no reason.

Re:Useless research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46844713)

Someone set up us the bomb.

Monkey wrench in the gears (1)

shiftless (410350) | about 7 months ago | (#46844675)

Yeah, your dumb AI works great, until it meets a human [youtube.com] with an ulterior motive.

now if only people can stop calling netmemes memes (3, Insightful)

jcomeau_ictx (696704) | about 7 months ago | (#46844689)

it's so rare to see the word 'meme' used in its true sense any more. I'd love to see Internet memes called 'netmemes' to disambiguate the terms.

Re:now if only people can stop calling netmemes me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46845005)

We should call what was called 'meme' in archaic English by irlmeme.

Re:now if only people can stop calling netmemes me (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 7 months ago | (#46845041)

But the writers of TFA are still misusing the word. All learned knowledge is memetic: It's silly to pull arbitrary words from an information stream and pretend only they are memes. The word they should be looking for is "important" or "central". The software is pulling ideas more central to the science. That's excellent work and well worth doing... It's just not directly related to memes.

Re:now if only people can stop calling netmemes me (1)

Coryoth (254751) | about 7 months ago | (#46845163)

But the writers of TFA are still misusing the word

Actually no, they are not. By using citations to create a directed graph of papers they are specifically looking for words or phrases that are highly likely to be inherited by descendant documents and also much less frequently spontaneously appear in documents (i.e. not used in any of the cited documents). They really are interested in the heritability of words and phrases.

physicists reinvent risk ratio. news at 11. (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 7 months ago | (#46844745)

For human evaluation, they compared their "meme list" to a set of phrases selected at uniform random from papers with enough citations. This is worthless; any half-way intelligent method will outperform that. If you had physicists come up with a list of 20 important phrases de novo, it would probably not have a huge amount of overlap with their "memes."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... [wikipedia.org]

Wow (2)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 7 months ago | (#46844757)

Such study. Much Science. Very Physics...

Common, we were all thinking it, right?

Fucking Pentecostals spreading Asherah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46844779)

If I had a dollar for every time I had to run my memetic virus checking software aka my fucking education on some dipshit drivel on the web I'd be a billionaire. You can snort coke laced with biohazard if you want but you can count me out.

disappoint (0)

A10Mechanic (1056868) | about 7 months ago | (#46844791)

Came here expecting to see "I can has 1st post". I am disappoint

Re:disappoint (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 7 months ago | (#46844919)

This is Slashdot; shouldn't you be looking for comments about pink ponies covered with hot grits?

I hoped it was going somewhere different (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46844805)

Algorithm Distinguishes Memes From Ordinary Information

and for a moment I got my hopes up and thought there was finally a way to automatically spamfilter stories that people like soulskill post from actual news. The problem with just blocking soulskill would of course be that useful articles like this would be blocked too...so we just have to put up with all that spam mixed in into such an algorithm is found

Meme identified (1)

Livius (318358) | about 7 months ago | (#46844941)

...by fitting the definition of meme.

I'm impressed they can get that out of plain text, but 'algorithm' led me to expect something really clever.

Re:Meme identified (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 7 months ago | (#46844969)

clever algorithm? they're physicists, for fucksake.

Now if we could differentiate between Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46845065)

and intelligent people so we could ban them from the Internet, that would be great. Their constant attempts, including DDoS on Savvis this week that shutdown /. for most of a day, would stop. Their kind is not welcome here, and we really need a way of tagging their kind.

Tautology, or circular? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46845363)

"What's a meme?"

"It's an idea that replicates in a virus-like manner."

"How do we distinguish an idea from a meme?"

"By whether the idea replicates in a virus-like manner."

"..."

From the sidelines, I predict the theists will win if solely due to the Dawkins clan's self-stupification.

socal memes (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about 7 months ago | (#46846153)

I've got a script to identify social memes:

wget knowyourmeme.com | grep -i "$1"

Haven't done a lot of debugging yet.

Rosy-fingered dawn! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46846561)

And all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

This is quite useful! (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | about 7 months ago | (#46847009)

At last we have a way to filter out memes appearing in Slashdot posts. We should consider using a Beowulf cluster of CPU running the algorithm. However - call me old fashioned (and it wouldn't be the first time) - I think that in Soviet Russia memes would distinguish algorithms, and indeed Natalie Portman could confirm this.

Re:This is quite useful! (1)

Megane (129182) | about 7 months ago | (#46849671)

So this Beowulf cluster... would it be powered by hot grits?

Can I HaZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46853069)

SuperStringZ?

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