10/26/2010 1:52:17 PM
What’s the old adage? Buy low, sell when Twitter users are in bad moods? Is that it? If not, maybe it should be, because according to a story in Wired, "[t]he emotional roller coaster captured on Twitter can predict the ups and downs of the stock market, a new study finds. Measuring how calm the Twitterverse is on a given day can foretell the direction of changes to the Dow Jones Industrial Average three days later with an accuracy of 86.7 percent.
The findings were somewhat stumbled upon, according to Johan Bollen, the social scientist behind the study. Attempting to find the mood of the public through Tweets, Bollen and Huina Mao, a grad student, used a questionnaire aimed to attach feelings to adjectives. After searching millions of Tweets for those adjectives—and other words used in conjunction with them—Bollen and Mao figured they could see the general mood of the population—at least those on Twitter.
Using this information along with an algorithm trained to predict the fluctuations of the stock market, the algorithm’s accuracy increased to 86.7 percent from 73.3 percent. That is, when the information of the general mood on Twitter was taken into account, this algorithm was able to predict much more accurately which way—up or down—the stock market would go.
Bollen admits that more research is needed to understand why this happens, but until then, why not add Twitter to your list of resources for figuring out who’s best to play with your money?
Image by mil8, licensed under Creative Commons.
10/18/2010 1:54:52 PM
It’s no secret that American car companies were in the direst of straits just a couple years back. The economy had careened off of a cliff, decades-old pensions stifled the industry’s growth, and compared to stylish, alternative-fuel imports, the American vehicles seemed homely and downright desperate. American car companies needed some cosmetic (and reconstructive) surgery. Trying to reinvent itself and restore its battered image, Ford Motor Company focused on building the car for the next century.
Part of Ford’s rebranding experiment entails reducing the fleet of autos and marketing them as “hip.” Describing this shift, Ford CEO Alan Mulally comes off as earnest and playfully out of touch, like an octogenarian wearing baggy pants and listening to hip hop. “I mean, we had 97 of these, for God's sake!” Mulally told Fast Company, pointing at a list of old models. “How you gonna make 'em all cool? You gonna come in at 8 a.m. and say, ‘From 8 until noon, I'm gonna make No. 64 cool? And then I'll make No. 17 cool after lunch?’ It was ridiculous!” But Mulally didn’t need to look too far past his peers, passersby, and pop culture to know what new devices are the epitome of sophisticated cool: smartphones.
Sync, digital communications software already installed in some Ford models, is the link between automobiles and Androids. The software is programmed to keep you connected during your commute. “Ford is transforming the car into a powerful smartphone,” writes Fast Company’s Paul Hochman, “one that lets you carry your digital world along with you and then customize it.” So far, Sync allows you to make phone calls without taking your hands off the wheel (or wearing a dopey-looking Bluetooth device, for that matter), listen to Pandora radio or audio news stories, and navigate with driving directions sent from another computer. Ford autos are even equipped to read your Twitter feed to you. Just think: no matter how awful traffic is, you’ll know what non-events currently have Kanye West in a tizzy.
The other auto makers have caught on, and Kia, Audi, and Mercedes are all working on their own syncing technology. “[Ford] obviously have a big lead," Thilo Koslowski, auto analyst at Gartner, told Fast Company. "But sometimes being a first mover doesn't pay off. Think of Apple. There were plenty of MP3 players in the market before it introduced the iPod. For Ford, the burden it has put on itself is to keep innovating.”
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10/12/2010 1:56:11 PM
The Texas Observer has gone Forensic Files on us. The cover story of a recent issue tackles the case of Warren Horinek, a man sent to prison against all reasonable doubt because of faulty bloodstain pattern analysis. Dave Mann seamlessly weaves Horinek’s story into the larger issue of wrongful convictions due to flawed forensics:
Bloodstain analysis is similar to other kinds of forensic science. With the exception of DNA testing, much of the forensic evidence used in U.S. courts—including fingerprint matches, ballistics, and arson evidence—is based on junk science. CSI it ain’t. Contrary to what’s portrayed on television, bullets are regularly matched to the wrong gun, fingerprints are misidentified, crime labs botch their analysis, and accidental fires are misread as arson.
Most criminal-justice experts believe that flawed forensic evidence—and overreaching expert witnesses—have sent thousands of Americans to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. The solution is to ensure that forensic testimony is based on sound science. Reconstructing how blood flies through the air is obviously dicey business.
And it is that dicey business—and the testimony of one undereducated private blood spatter analyst—that sent Horinek to prison against the warnings of the crime scene investigator, the police sergeant who oversaw the homicide investigation, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, and the assistant district attorney initially assigned to prosecute the case, who all believed Horinek was telling the truth about what happened to his wife that Tuesday night in 1995.
At least Horinek can be considered relatively lucky: Handfuls of professionals are working to free him, unlike the thousands of others who have been wrongfully convicted. But after 15 presumably guiltless years in prison, I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way.
Source: The Texas Observer
Image courtesy of Matt Wright-Steel.
10/8/2010 3:56:19 PM
Science fiction has long been a safe harbor for extreme politics. From Robert A. Heinlein’s amphetamine-jacked libertarian utopias, to Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic conservation-centric future history of Mars, to Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. Le Guin’s radical feminism, alternate universes have been an effective place to voice fringe positions. Some key conservatives have even been using pulp apocalyptic thrillers to advocate for increased military spending and weapons-defense research, reports The New Republic. On the other side of things, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is now looking to sci-fi novels to plan its future battles for individual freedom.
“In the aftermath of September 11, when the government was expanding its surveillance powers and preparing for an invasion of Afghanistan, the ACLU began gaming out worst-case scenarios of civil-liberties violations,” writes Adam Serwer in The American Prospect. “With both science and surveillance on his mind, a policy analyst named Jay Stanley decided that the ACLU needed to be better prepared for threats to liberty that, at the time, existed only in the imagination.”
Stanley published a report called Technology, Liberties, and The Future that drew inspiration from sci-fi novels and movies like Gattaca, Brave New World, and Blade Runner to predict the next affront to civil liberties—many of which, Stanley predicts, will likely come not from an authoritarian government, but from the private sector. According to Serwer, “Stanley's report successfully convinced the ACLU leadership that these plots were rooted in science as much as fiction.”
The American Prospect, The New Republic
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10/1/2010 3:17:23 PM
Hydrated silica. Sodium monofluorophosphate. Triclosan. Those must be the names of anti-depressant medications or construction materials, right? Wrong. They’re actually ingredients in the toothpastes most people use every night and every morning. Over at Good’s “No More Dirty Looks” blog, Siobhan O’Connor translates your toothpaste tube’s nine-syllable ingredients into useful English—and finds some dangerous chemicals in the process.
One of O'Connor's examples, common toothpaste-additive triclosan,“[is] an environmental pollutant, it may be responsible for strains of resitant bacteria, and unless you work in a hospital, you should avoid anything that contains it.”
What else are you unknowingly putting in your mouth?
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