These days, whenever anything spreads, whether it's a YouTube fad or a political rumor, we say it went viral. But how does virality actually work? Epidemiologist Adam Kucharski explores topics including gun violence, online manipulation, and, of course, outbreaks of disease to show how much we get wrong about contagion, and how astonishing the real science is.
One of the factors that make this book so readable is that Kucharski frequently draws some interesting history into his discussions of a particular subject ... While this review has tended to focus on epidemics the book covers a far wider field. The chapter headed ‘Panics and pandemics’ includes some fascinating, and indeed frightening, analysis of aspects of the global financial crisis of 2007 to 2008. The chapter headed ‘Going viral’ has much to say about communication on the internet ... The definition of an epidemiologist is a person who is an expert in the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases. In sharing his views and experience with the reader in an easily digestible manner, Kucharski makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the current pandemic and, not least, what options there are to deal with it.
... it is hard to imagine a more timely publication. And it is a useful, eye-opening read on that front, although it was written before the coronavirus was heard of ... It will also help you to understand the idea of “super-spreaders” and their role in keeping even quite low-R infections moving ... Even had it not been so “lucky” with its timing, it would be a worthwhile book; much of the modern world will make more sense having read it.
Kucharski is ideally placed to enlighten readers: as a biostatistician, he has been involved in modelling disease outbreaks, such as Ebola and the 2015 Zika epidemic ... It is testament to how well Kucharski understands his topic that he chose not to attempt a panicked update ... It is particularly pleasing that Kucharski decided not to gamble on guessing the coronavirus picture correctly: his previous book, about the mathematics of wagers, was entitled The Perfect Bet. This follow-up work stands on its own as an impressively fluent, fascinating and accessible introduction to how epidemics, trends, behaviours and ideas start, spread – and end ... Kucharski has made an extremely respectable stab at something broader, producing a work of contemporary relevance that Malcolm Gladwell devotees would enjoy: a blend of biology, mathematics, history, behavioural science and anecdote that reveals how diseases, ideas and behaviours are transmitted. His nicely observed analysis deserves to catch on.