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April 28, 2004

Gossip in a Historical Context

Originally the mathematicians thought they were trying to solve some real-life problems with investigation of epidemic communication techniques. Here is the problem statement from one of the early papers:

The problem.
There are n ladies, and each of them knows some item of gossip not known to the others. They communicate by telephone, and whenever one lady calls another, they tell each other all that they know at that time. How many calls are required before each lady knows everything?

B. Baker, R. Shostak, Gossips and telephones, Discrete Mathematics 2(1972), pp. 191-193.

Of course these days we formulate our problems in a bit more politically and gender correct manner ...

Posted by Werner Vogels at April 28, 2004 08:47 AM