The Anatomy of a scientific rumor

M. De Domenico, A. Lima, P. Mougel, M. Musolesi

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The announcement of the discovery of a Higgs boson-like particle at CERN will be remembered as one of the milestones of the scientific endeavor of the 21st century. In this paper we present a study of information spreading processes on Twitter before, during and after the announcement of the discovery of a new particle with the features of the elusive Higgs boson on 4th July 2012. We report evidence for non-trivial spatio-temporal patterns in user activities at individual and global level, such as tweeting, re-tweeting and replying to existing tweets. We provide a possible explanation for the observed time-varying dynamics of user activities during the spreading of this scientific “rumor”. We model the information spreading in the corresponding network of individuals who posted a tweet related to the Higgs boson discovery. Finally, we show that we are able to reproduce the global behavior of about 500,000 individuals with remarkable accuracy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2980
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2013


  • Computer science
  • Applied physics
  • Statistical physics, thermodynamics and nonlinear dynamics


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