For a while Monday, the world was about to end…Well, possibly.
I was unaware of this development, until Technically Incorrect reader Dan Melton sent me a helpful image of an article that appeared Monday on CNN.
It was headlined: “Giant asteroid possibly on collision course with Earth.” We’ve heard this sort of thing before, but more often in Weekly World News…This, however, was CNN. Although it was a part of CNN known as iReport, an area where people post their news and CNN tries to see if some of it is true.
The poster, Marcus 575…insisted: “Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have detected a large object the size of Manhattan possibly on a collision course with Earth. Using their Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), the 10-mile wide object was found approximately 51 million miles from Earth.”
What might have given the article away was that, in the second paragraph, it mentioned that impact was most likely on March 35, 2041.
CNN has now removed the article. It has added a message that reads: “NASA has confirmed via email that this story is false. A spokewoman (sic) for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that the largest object detected by NEOWISE measures 3 km in diameter and poses no risk to Earth.”
In many if not most instances, blogging should not be confused with journalism. Even the PR-as-entertainment-posing-as-news level of journalism practiced on television requires more fact-checking than this.
At this juncture in time, humanity does not know how to travel into the past, or even if such a concept has any meaning. So if you are an astrophysicist who wants to uncover evidence of time travel, what do you do? If you’re Michigan Technological University astrophysics professor Robert Nemeroff and his PhD student Teresa Wilson, you look for time travelers on Twitter.
Time travel into the future is a fact – we do it every day. Accelerated time travel into the future can be measured using atomic clocks in fast airplanes. However, time travel into the past is a dicier proposition. While it appears that this is not forbidden by any current physics, we also don’t know how to accomplish the task.
There is a (rather short) tradition of attempts to contact people who have arrived here from the future. In 2005, an MIT graduate student held a convention for time travelers. Despite considerable pre-convention publicity, no time travelers owned up at the convention. In 2012, Stephen Hawking held a party for time travelers, sending out the invitations after the party was held. Again, no one came to his party.
Surely one of the main ways to vet someone who claims to be a time traveler is their knowledge of something that has not yet occurred. This concept inspired Nemeroff…and Wilson to search the internet for signs of anachronistic factoids…
It seems there are very few events that can be uniquely identified by a couple of words. Such events have to be surprises to the extent that the descriptive words have likely never previously been combined. The Michigan Tech astrophysicists came up with “Comet ISON”, which was discovered on September 21, 2012, and “Pope Francis”, a name first appearing on March 16, 2013…No comet had previously been called Comet ISON, and no previous pope was named Francis, so these phrases are unlikely to have been used previously…
Although this may seem a silly bit of research…it is actually a reasonable attempt to see if time travelers have left traces of their anachronistic presence in the blogosphere. However, now that the concept of such searches has surfaced, it seems unlikely that any more will be carried out. Fake evidence of time travel would be too easy to retrofit into the collective memories of our history. While time may be out of joint, it appears that no one sent from the future to set it right has left obvious traces, at least on Twitter.
Would make a helluva TV series, though.
Oklahoma’s Cyber Command Security Operations Center said state employees on the state computer network made 2,008,092 visits to Facebook in a three month span.
The agency, which is aimed at protecting the state computer system from cyber attacks, said its tracking of the state computer network found state employees made 2,008,092 visits to Facebook between July and September, but officials said the number may be inflated as Facebook registers a page view every time a website is brought up that includes an embedded Facebook widget…
The operations center said Google registered 1,074,684 page views during the same time period and Twitter and YouTube had 272,661 and 225,228 page views, respectively.
Preston Doerflinger, director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which oversees the Cyber Command Security Operations Center, is implementing a policy to block state employees from using their work computers to access Facebook unless they can demonstrate a legitimate need to access the site as part of their jobs, an agency spokesman said.
What constitutes a legitimate need to access Facebook as part of your job? Unless you’re paid to be a snoop.
From yesterday evening:
The Tweet, last night, from Iran’s foreign minister about success in moving forward on peaceful resolution of nuclear programs.
Thanks, Carl Quintanilla
Thanks, Barry Ritholtz
A British woman who accidentally became locked in a church was rescued thanks to posts she made on Twitter.
Sarah Greep, the jam maker behind Janner Jams, said she was inside the Minster Church of St. Andrew chapel in Plymouth, England, when someone shut the door and she discovered herself trapped inside…
“I just went into the small chapel at St. Andrew’s Church where I sometimes go, and didn’t think for one minute they were going to close the door,” Greep said. “It was nice and calm and the sun was shining through the stained glass windows.”
Greep said her plan was to wait and see if someone was going to unlock the church for services.
“I didn’t want to bother anyone but thought I would just send a few Tweets as it was a bit unusual,” she said. “The next thing I know [Council Leader] Tudor Evans is calling the police to help get me out!”
Police were able to locate the emergency key-holder of the church and Greep was released after two hours trapped inside the facility.
“It’s lucky it didn’t happen to someone more vulnerable and I’m glad I had my phone with me,” she said. “I could have called someone but I just went to Twitter to say what was happening to me.”
One of those instances where it helped to have built lots of followers.
I could be locked into a pub [I wouldn't be found dead in a church] and no one would even notice my absence – regardless of how often I tweeted. Maybe that wouldn’t be too bad either.
Thanks, Barry Ritholtz
The prominence of debates around online bullying and the censorship of hate speech prompted us to examine how social media has become an important conduit for hate speech, and how particular terminology used to degrade a given minority group is expressed geographically. As we’ve documented in a variety of cases, the virtual spaces of social media are intensely tied to particular socio-spatial contexts in the offline world, and as this work shows, the geography of online hate speech is no different.
Rather than focusing just on hate directed towards a single individual at a single point in time, we wanted to analyze a broader swath of discriminatory speech in social media, including the usage of racist, homophobic and ableist slurs…
All together, the students determined over 150,000 geotagged tweets with a hateful slur to be negative. Hateful tweets were aggregated to the county level and then normalized by the total number of tweets in each county. This then shows a comparison of places with disproportionately high amounts of a particular hate word relative to all tweeting activity. For example, Orange County, California has the highest absolute number of tweets mentioning many of the slurs, but because of its significant overall Twitter activity, such hateful tweets are less prominent and therefore do not appear as prominently on our map. So when viewing the map at a broad scale, it’s best not to be covered with the blue smog of hate, as even the lower end of the scale includes the presence of hateful tweeting activity.
Ultimately, some of the slurs included in our analysis might not have particularly revealing spatial distributions. But, unfortunately, they show the significant persistence of hatred in the United States and the ways that the open platforms of social media have been adopted and appropriated to allow for these ideas to be propagated.
Clicking through to the original article details the methodology of analysis. It’s a start. Poisonally, I think more time spent verifying and validating target analysis will lead to more precision.
Still, this is not only a productive study, it’s provocative. Useful in its own right.
Clicking on the graphic at the top leads you to an interactive map for homophobia, racism, disability – hatred in several forms.
Thanks to Barry Ritholtz for pointing this out