What Astrophysics Can Teach You About Social Media

Credit: Dave Young / Flickr


Just a quick post today: The other week, I wrote about moving beyond timing with social media posts to take into account other variables like post types and content. This week, I wanted to share something I read from astrophysicist Brian Koberlein that complements those thoughts nicely:

"Astrophysics often follows a pattern of gathering lots of data and then developing models to explain the data. Groundbreaking ideas such as Newton’s law of gravity or Einstein’s theory of relativity are rare, so often we’re reduced to trying to find patterns in the data that may (or may not) have a clear cause. Sometimes this method works quite well. Perhaps the most famous one is Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. When Kepler proposed his laws, they were presented as a clear and simple description of what actually happens. They were a breakthrough because they could be used to predict the motion of planets with great accuracy.

"Despite their accuracy, Kepler’s laws were simply a concise description of an observed pattern. Kepler gave no underlying physical principle to explain why his laws worked. The underlying principle was only later discovered by Newton, who was able to derive Kepler’s laws from his law of gravity.

"Looking for patterns in data is useful because such patterns are often caused by a simple underlying principle, but this isn’t always the case."

I highly recommend reading through the full post.