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Tipping point

From Academic Kids

The phrase tipping point or angle of repose is a sociology term that refers to that dramatic moment when something unique becomes common.

The phrase was coined by Morton Grodzins, who studied integrating neighborhoods in the early 1960s. He discovered that most white families would remain in the neighborhood so long as the comparative number of black families remained very small. But, at a certain point, when "one too many" black families arrived, the remaining white families would move out en masse in a process known as white flight. He called that moment the "tipping point."

The idea was expanded and built upon by Thomas Schelling in 1972.

The term subsequently became applied to the popular acceptance of new technologies. It served as a good explanation of the success of VHS over Betamax, for instance. The concept has been applied in many fields from economics to epidemiology. It can also be compared to phase transition in physics or the propagation of memes or populations in an unbalanced ecosystem.

The term was popularised and applied to daily life by Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Since the publication of Gladwell's book, "tipping point" has become a common cliche, with uses often far removed from its theoretical underpinnings. The concept has been applied to any process in which beyond a certain point, the rate at which the process (chemical, sociological, etc.) proceeds increases dramatically. Mathematically, the angle of repose may be seen as an inflection point.

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