Gentrification predicted by social media

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flickr photo by x6e38 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Gentrification – the process by which a deprived area becomes affluent – can be predicted by data from location-specific social media networks.

The University of Cambridge researchers used data from location-specific social media networks, such as Facebook Places and Foursquare, to show that the process of poor to posh can be identified when high levels of both deprivation and social diversity are seen to develop in an area.

Check ins

Predicting gentrification uses data analysis of social media check-ins which reveal behaviours derived from the particular places that people go.

37,000 users and 42,000 venues in London were used to build a network of Foursquare places and Twitter visitors, totalling half a million check-ins over a ten-month period.

Researchers quantified the social diversity of various areas by distinguishing between places that:

  • brought together strangers v those that brought together friends
  • attracted diverse individuals as opposed to those attracting ‘regulars’

The data was then correlated with London wellbeing indicators, such as lower crime rates and rising house prices.

Lead researcher Desislava Hristova:

“We’re looking at the social roles and properties of places. We found that the most socially cohesive and homogenous areas tend to be either very wealthy or very poor, but neighbourhoods with both high social diversity and high deprivation are the ones which are currently undergoing processes of gentrification.”

In order to measure the social diversity of a given place or neighbourhood, the researchers defined four distinct measures:

  • brokerage: ability of a place to connect people who are otherwise disconnected
  • serendipity: how a place can induce chance encounters between visitors
  • entropy: extent to which a place is diverse in respect of its visitors
  • homogeneity: extent to which visitors to a place are homogenous in characteristics

In ‘places’, researchers found that particular venues attracted friends where others attracted strangers. Friends are more likely to meet at a fried chicken restaurant, a B&B, a football match or a strip club, whereas strangers frequented dumpling restaurants, motels, art museums or gay bars.

Notes
Desislava Hristova et al. ‘Measuring Urban Social Diversity Using Interconnected Geo-Social Networks.’ http://www2016.ca/program-at-a-glance.html.

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The Calamity Sum: Predicting Seizures in the Brain and Economy


flows
An equation that can reliably predict crashes in financial markets and some types of epileptic seizures has been identified in a joint-study by Sussex University in the UK, and Charles Sturt University, Australia.

‘Dynamical systems’ – systems featuring complex interactions between large groups of interacting elements seen in, for example, economic structures and processes in the brain, were analysed to pinpoint transition phases – the moment before a system ‘crashes.’

Published in Physical Review Letters, the study shows how information dynamics could be used as a predictive tool. By accurately pinpointing the moment of disorder in a system, researchers believe that financial market crashes, some forms of epilepsy, disorder in climate systems and even malfunction in the human immune system could be potentially prevented.

Using computer simulations and mathematics, researchers showed how a measure of information flow reaches a peak known as a ‘phase transition’ just before a system system moves from a state of order to disorder and ‘crashes.’

Phase transitions are common in many systems and preceding ‘crashes’ are therefore highly significant Previously, methods of predicting such phase transitions have failed, peaking at the point of transition and thereby making prediction impossible.

Dr Lionel Barnett, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science comments on the recent discovery:

The key insight in the paper is that the dynamics of complex systems – like the brain and the economy – depend on how their elements causally influence each other; in other words, how information flows between them. And that this information flow needs to be measured for the system as a whole, and not just locally between its various parts.”

To measure this information flow requires a way to mathematically represent the extent to which parts of a complex system are simultaneously separated and pulled together. A way of characterizing the phenomenon of phase transitions has puzzled the scientific community for decades.

In 1925 Ernst Ising solved the problem to represent a model of magnetism for his doctoral thesis. In the more recent discovery, the research team of Sussex and Charles Sturt University demonstrated for the first time that their measure did what many have tried to do since Ising’s model – reliably predicts phase transitions in standard systems. 

Professor Anil Seth, Co-Director of the Sackler Centre, comments on the scope of the discovery:

The implications of the work are far-reaching. If the results generalise to other real-world systems, we might have ways of predicting calamitous events before they happen, which would open the possibility for intervention to prevent the transition from occurring.”

He adds: “For example, the ability to predict the imminent onset of an epileptic seizure could allow a rapid medical intervention (perhaps via brain stimulation) which would change the course of the dynamics and prevent the seizure.  And if similar principles apply to financial markets, climate systems, and even immune systems, similar interventions might be possible. Further research is needed to explore these exciting possibilities.”

Notes:

Sussex University Press Release: Scientists identify a mathematical ‘crystal ball’ that may predict calamities

Physical Review Lettters: Information Flow in a Kinetic Ising Model Peaks in the Disordered Phase

Image credit: with thanks to Thomas Boulvin of RGB Free Stock

New technologies illuminate Babylonian tale

Ark

New technologies at Warwick University have helped British Museum’s Babylonian language expert, Dr Finkle, to decipher a 4,000 year old tablet believed to narrate the story of Noah’s Ark.

Inscribed in Babylonian ‘cuneiform’ – the world’s oldest known standardised writing system – the tablet is believed to depict the story of a Noah-like character and a flood, complete with instructions on how to build an Ark.

Cuneiform is a writing system which involved marking wet clay tablets with a stylus (a wedge-like tool). The tablet and stylus exist in essence today.

The tablet, discovered 20 years ago on a mantel piece in a UK home was damaged in parts due to millennial ‘wear and tear ‘ and rendered indecipherable. The 3D visualisation technologies, typically used in engineering, have enabled the translation of the whole tablet and uncovered new insights into the tablet’s story. 

Puzzle

3D visualisation technology marries techniques such as computer aided design (CAD), infrared technology, animation software and photo capture. Often used in vehicle production, the same methods involved in projecting a potential end product was adopted for projecting the missing parts of the ancient tablet.

Projected onto a 3D wall, the tablet was made viewable at all angles via 3D visualisation technology. This allowed Dr Finkle to decipher the complete text of the tablet.

Story

The new vision of the tablet and revised translation suggests that the ark that featured in the story was round in shape, rather than the previously assumed oval boat-shape. This suggests that the ark was possibly built to float rather than sail.

Continue reading

One hour of exercise needed a day to counteract sitting

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flickr photo by AstridWestvang shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

A recent study by researchers at Cambridge University has found that an hour of exercise is necessary to counteract the health effects of sitting all day.

Low activity levels have been shown to be detrimental to health since a 1953 study in to bus drivers showing that bus drivers were at greater risk of heart disease than conductors.

According to the study, 5 million people per year die globally as a result of lack of activity.

Studies in high income countries has found that adults spend the most part of their day sitting down. Office jobs, commuting by car and sitting to watch TV in the evening.  Continue reading

Gentrification predicted by social media data

3439873267_95de459de1_z

flickr photo by x6e38 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Gentrification – the process by which a deprived area becomes affluent – can be predicted by data from location-specific social media networks.

The Cambridge University study took data from location-specific social media networks, such as Facebook places and Foursquare, to show that the ‘poor to posh’ process can be identified when high levels of deprivation and social diversity are seen to develop in an area.

Data crunch

Predicting gentrification is more than a spike of social media users tweeting about Radio 4 programmes. It is data analysis of social media check-ins which reveal behaviours derived from the particular places that people go.

37,000 users and 42,000 venues in London were used to build a network of Foursquare places and Twitter visitors, totalling half a million check-ins over a ten-month period.

Researchers quantified the social diversity of various areas by distinguishing between places that:

  • brought together strangers versus those brought together friends
  • attracted diverse individuals as opposed to those attracting ‘regulars’

Continue reading

Blood pressure app downloaded 100,000 times proves inaccurate, study shows

Blood pressure

flickr photo by Waifer X shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

A blood pressure app that has been downloaded over 100,000 has been shown to be unreliable, according to a study by John Hopkins University, with just a 20% accuracy rate.

The ‘Instant Blood Pressure’ app claimed to provide an accurate and instant measure of blood pressure when the user placed a SMART phone to their chest.

Results of a study of 85 volunteers using the app under the guidance of health professionals showed that the app missed the warning signs in eight out of ten patients who had high blood pressure.  Continue reading

Male stare and citrus smell increase hand washing by 33%

An experiment to increase staff hand washing in hospitals found that a picture of male eyes placed at eye level increased hand washing by 33%. When this was combined with a citrus scent, the increase rose to as much as 50% more staff washing their hands with anti-bacterial gel before entering a patient’s room.

Psychological priming, or ‘nudges’ were used in the pilot study by researchers to determine the potential impact on hand washing – a significant factor in preventing the spread of infection. Nudges are a concept taken from behavioural science; words, images or signs that prompt behaviour in the observer.  Continue reading