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by Eamon Lahiri
Science might take a dim view of those who believe in horoscopes, but that doesn’t mean predictions are a total waste of time. Science itself wouldn’t exist if we weren’t able to measure stuff and figure out what it’s going to do.
And while we’re all familiar with the phrase that “correlation does not imply causation,” sometimes you can’t ignore the data, even when the two things being compared seem entirely unrelated.
The Stock Market Can Be Predicted By Twitter’s “Mood”
When it comes to looking for serious answers to relevant questions, Twitter probably ranks somewhere between Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers in terms of reliability. In fact, given its character limit, we’d probably argue that it facilitates whatever the opposite of thoughtful discussion is.
Which is why it’s kind of weird that when a group of scientists were looking into ways to predict stock market performance, they turned to the popular social media outlet. That’s not to say that they set up @NYSENostradamus and asked the Twitteratti for input – they took the more seemingly pointless route of preparing a lengthy questionnaire and asking people to choose from 72 words describing their feelings. Because, obviously, when you’re trying to assess the state of world financial markets, Twitter rants should absolutely be your go-to.
“My angry meme means you should buy right now!”
The results were thrown into a Google database to glean other, similar adjectives describing emotional states, and then checked against almost 10 million tweets over an 11 month period, which we have to assume included terrible jokes and late night drunkenness. Yet remarkably, when the numbers came in, they found that Twitter’s “mood” was able to predict the Dow Jones Industrial Average with an accuracy of 86.7 percent.
And while we’re not suggesting that you should consult Twitter for investment advice, it’s probably worth mentioning that the study wasn’t an outlier. Subsequent research has produced similar results.
Computational social scientist Johan Bollen, who was a part of the original project, claims the process was akin to “using Twitter as a psychiatric patient,” which makes us wonder if psychiatrists are secretly recording the results of their patient sessions to map out stock purchases. Like if a handful of people confide that their Florida vacation sucked, do you start dumping your Disney and Comcast shares?
Google Street View Can Tell How Much You Earn
Since its inception, Google Street View has proved itself useful in a plethora of mankind’s oldest pursuits, like definitively proving the existence of ghosts or locating every single giant phallus carved into the surface of the earth.
But it’s not like random people are pulling up photos of your home and judging the condition of your house or yard – except for when they absolutely are. As it turns out, Street View is capable of using said photos to determine how much money you make, and in a way that’s freakishly accurate.
Our research has concluded that you’re poor.
In 2015, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a groundbreaking paper where they claimed to be able to predict household income in urban areas using nothing but an image analyzing program that scanned through pictures of houses on different blocks. What’s especially impressive is that the algorithm seems to be far more accurate at making these predictions than other, historically relevant factors such as education and race.
Nikhil Naik, one of the researchers working on the project, admitted that they weren’t quite sure what factors the program was using to come up with its results (technological clairvoyance?), which probably isn’t going to be good news for those who live in constant fear of a machine uprising. Look, we totally understand if the idea of someone looking at a picture of your house and guessing your income freaks you out, and that maybe makes you want to conceal your home in an opaque dome. But if that’s the case, you should probably know that even leaving your house might subject you to the same level of scrutiny, given the fact that they’re using Street View images of cars to draw the exact same conclusions.
Penis Size Predicts Economic Growth
OK, we know what you’re thinking. And yes, you’re absolutely right: The scientific community is more obsessed with the correlation between genitals and economics than is probably healthy.
In 2011, the University of Helsinki, Finland, published a paper that pointed to a strong, inverse growth relationship between average GDP of a particular country and the average penile length of a male in said country. It found that nations with smaller penises showed better economic growth than countries with well-endowed men between 1960 and 1985.
Wait … what?
According to a graph that surely gets weird looks from the other graphs it shares desk space with, a centimeter increase in penis length corresponds to a five to seven percent fall in economic growth. We’re sorry for the unpleasant imagery that might evoke, but it’s not like there’s a subtle way of representing this sort of data.
Given that a normal discussion on economics is very unlikely to feature a reference to genitalia, it’s the kind of study that you just know was the brainchild of a mischievous researcher who not only wondered whether the drive to get rich is linked to having a tiny member, but who actually put in the time, effort, and research into a whole global study just to be sure. Because apparently, insecure men can find an excuse to explain away anything. Even with math.
Crying Babies Help Predict The Results Of Political Conflicts
Human conflict is basically a real-life, ongoing drama series the world is hooked on. But it’s one that we have a legitimate, personal investment in, unlike those housewives that we’re pretty sure are going to throw down at any moment. Though now that we think about it, some people really do care about those manufactured conflicts, which is kind of horrifying.
Regardless, when it comes to political conflicts, nobody really knows how things will pan out. Researchers at the University of Miami weren’t on board with this whole “not knowing” thing, so they decided to look into it – by asking babies. Well, not literally asking them, but rather studying their crying patterns and theorizing that all human conflict could be measured by something called “power-law,” also known as the “unified theory of human conflict.”
The principle behind it is that when people rebel, whether it’s a political group or an infant demanding its bottle, they function according to the same behavioral laws when going up against a larger, more powerful entity, like a government or parent. Basically, it doesn’t matter if it’s a squeaky doll or access to social services that are just out of reach – the behavior on both sides is totally predictable.
And uncomfortable for everyone.
It’s not all just theory, either. Using this model, the researchers were able to match up babies and their parents and compare them to actual, large scale conflicts such as the Polish riots just prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. And while we’re not really sure what to make of this study, it seems like the takeaway is that having a child is like giving birth to a tiny rebel state that hates you because it believes you’re actively depriving it of literally every good thing in life.
Well, in the case of governments, we guess that’s sometimes true.
Like this article? Check out “5 High-Tech Solutions Invented For Simple Problems” and “Send Texts With Vodka: 5 Ways Science is Using Booze To Improve Your Life”.
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