How Revolutions Take Hold

How do you topple a tyrant or popularize a foreign cuisine? A study on network theory finds that the tipping point needed for a committed minority to win over the majority is just 10 percent.


What's the Latest Development?

Researchers have identified three conditions that are necessary for minority opinion to take hold in a large group of individuals, such as what happened during the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute analyzed various models of networks where a minority strived to overtake the majority's opinion and found three common conditions: "a majority that is flexible with their views, a minority that is intractable, and a critical threshold wherein about a tenth of the population advocate the minority opinion."

What's the Big Idea?

While the results of the study are not applicable to all situations, broad guidelines on social change can be extrapolated. Albert-László Barabási, the author of the network-theory tome Linked, says: "Minorities can prevail only if they strive to become less of a minority by turning a small fraction of the population into steadfast supporters of their cause." For minority groups looking to extend their influence into the larger population, it is more important to attract new individuals than to convince the entire world about your ideas.

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face."

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less