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Navy Sets Sights on Rumor Research
Posted In: Technology Articles  10/19/11
By: Chris Capps

Rumors are a phenomenon as old as time and about as mysterious.  The science behind why we talk about what we do and where rumors get started has been a subject of scientific curiosity for decades.  But now the navy, understanding the potential of such profound prognostications has started venturing toward an answer.  It may sound like a novel subject - and no doubt will one day be the target of rumors as well, but the Navy may one day be able to tell us why certain bits of information are passed around virally.  And the latest scuttlebutt has it they're willing to pay $1.6 million on the project.

Weapons have been studied since the dawn of mankind's long history of invention.  Soon after spears and clubs were first forged, the human race began finding ways of implementing them in order to bring an unpleasant end to enemies.  And so in the field of weapons there have been great strides since then.  Spears became siege catapults which would eventually become tomahawk missiles.  Defensive measures were not far behind, with mastery of armor eventually becoming radar that could encompass an entire nation and warn troops of incoming attacks.  But throughout all of these military endeavors and conquests there was an aura of secrecy.  As inventions became more potent so too did the criteria for keeping them secret until the battlefield - when they would come out.  Tactics similarly became secretive and disinformation soon became a commonplace thing.

But throughout it all, even in the midst of this disinformation, the rumors continued to ripple through a society and create an aura of knowledge where there was none.  Instead, archetypes arose and did the legwork hardened research would have otherwise.  "The enemy" as it were, became its own sort of being almost alien to the "allies" with traits that could be counted on and even predicted.  The only problem was, this archetypal thinking was often misleading and led to many tactical errors.  Propoganda and tactical knowledge would mix regularly, giving rise to misrepresentations of enemy forces.

But will the knowledge remain purely in the military theater?  If history has taught us one thing, it's that research once uncovered quickly spreads to other sectors.  The atom bomb brought about atomic energy, radar would eventually become the more civilian microwave oven, even cold war era ICBMs would eventually give the civilian populace GPS systems.  The Internet itself started as a DARPA project to safely retrieve information from central databases and survive nuclear war.  And while this research may not be as profound as a nuclear weapon, if the art of rumors is uncovered by research in the military field as researchers from Arizona are hoping, we can be sure it will be seen in other areas as well.  And there are plenty of places where a well placed rumor could change the course of history, as politicians in the US and around the globe have proven time and again.


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