Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Want to win Twitter friends? Stay short, cheery

Twitter audiences need to be tended to carefully, like a garden with young plants (but hopefully less dirt). There?s all kinds of anecdotal advice about how to be a better tweeter, but now a new study says that the twittizens who grow the most audiences tend to share short, clear, informative tweets.

If most of your followers don?t know you, personal tweets aren?t the best way to go, C.J Hutto, one of the researchers of the group from Georgia Tech, told NBC News. "The ties between people on Twitter are weaker than between people in real life, or on Facebook," he explained.

People are mostly looking for information, the team observed. "Rather than talking about what you had to eat for breakfast or lunch you can talk about an interesting news article that you read," Hutto said.

Hutto and his colleagues scrutinized half a million tweets that 507 people had sent over more than a year. They recorded the length, clarity, and general tone of the tweet. They counted how often the tweeters used hashtags, linked to a website, or used a phrase like "RT" or "HT." They then matched all those numbers against friends and follower counts measured at various times during the course of those 15 months.

What else did they find? Using @-mentions and replies helps build a dedicated following, rather than just a stream of tweets addressed to no one. "Imagine an old professor standing in a lecture hall and broadcasting his lecture, versus direct communication," Hutto explained. "When you're talking to one person it helps you grow your audience."

Also: Bad news or negativity of any kind doesn't do so well. That includes swearing, even a frowning face emoticon. And, clarity is a big bonus. Using full sentences rather than abbreviations as you might on text messages goes a long way in convincing a potential new follow that you are a real person. ?Twitter users apparently seek out well-written content over poorly written content when deciding whether to follow another user,? the team writes. If you stick to a topic, that helps too ? something other researchers have also found.

If you tweet often, perhaps you knew most of this already. But if you're looking to get your numbers up, consider this as free advice.

Via: New Scientist


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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Turning pine sap into 'ever-green' plastics

Feb. 20, 2013 ? Plastic bags are a bane of nature. And not just bags -- just about all plastics, really. Most are made out of petroleum, and a piece of plastic, if it misses the recycling bin and ends up in a landfill, will probably outlast human civilization.

But Chuanbing Tang at the University of South Carolina is developing new plastics that are "green" from the cradle to the grave. Given that the new polymers he's working on often come from pine trees, firs and other conifers, he's giving the word "evergreen" added resonance.

Rather than tapping a barrel of oil to obtain starting materials, Tang's research group instead begins with the natural resins found in trees, especially evergreens. The rosin and turpentine derived from their wood is rich in hydrocarbons, similar but not identical to some components of petroleum.

Hydrocarbon-rich starting materials, whether from petroleum or tree resin, can be converted into various forms of what are commonly termed "plastics" through polymerization. With petroleum derivatives, scientists have invested more than a hundred years of research into refining the polymer chemistry involved, and their success in that endeavor is evident in the range of plastics now part of common parlance, such as Plexiglas, polycarbonate and PVC.

But processes for developing plastics from renewable sources, such as rosin and turpentine, are not nearly as developed. "Renewable polymers currently suffer from inferior performance in comparison to those derived from petroleum," Tang said.

His laboratory is a national leader in helping change that situation. Tang just received a National Science Foundation CAREER award to further develop the polymer chemistry he has been refining since he arrived as a chemistry professor in USC's College of Arts and Sciences in 2009. The award from NSF's Division of Materials Research will support Tang's laboratory through 2018.

"The aim is to understand how the macromolecular compositions and architectures dictate the properties of the materials we make," Tang said. "If we can establish clear structure-property relationships, we will be able to achieve the kinds of results we now get from polymers made from petroleum."

According to Tang, molecules derived from wood products are particularly worthwhile targets. "They're a rich source of the cycloaliphatic and aromatic structures that make good materials after polymerization," he said. "They have the rigid molecular structures and hydrophobicity that materials scientists know work well."

They also have an advantage at the end of their life cycle. By virtue of being a direct product of biology, the renewable starting materials are a familiar sight for the microbes responsible for biodegradation. "Most plastics from non-renewable resources are generally not biodegradable," Tang said. "With a polymer framework derived from renewable sources, we're able to make materials that should break down more readily in the environment."

Together with graduate student Perry Wilbon, Tang worked with Fuxiang Chu of the Chinese Academy of Forestry to prepare the first comprehensive review of terpenes, terpenoids, and rosin, three components of tree resin (and other natural products as well) that are plentiful sources of cycloaliphatic and aromatic structures. Published as the cover article in Wiley's Macromolecular Rapid Communications in January 2013, the review is a blueprint for just one approach that Tang is taking to develop sustainable polymers from the greenest of sources.

This research was supported in part by an NSF CAREER award (1252611).

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of South Carolina, via Newswise.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Perry A. Wilbon, Fuxiang Chu, Chuanbing Tang. Progress in Renewable Polymers from Natural Terpenes, Terpenoids, and Rosin. Macromolecular Rapid Communications, 2013; 34 (1): 8 DOI: 10.1002/marc.201200513

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Monday, February 18, 2013

South African Paper Reports Bloodied Cricket Bat Found In Oscar ...

oscar pistorius running in the olympicsPolice in South Africa are reportedly investigating the discovery of a bloodied cricket bat at the home of Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius. Local reports stated police believe he may have used the bat to attack girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp before shooting her dead on St Valentine's Day morning, according to a local report. Detectives are working on two other theories concerning the bat: that it was either used to break down the door of the bathroom where she hid, or that she used it to defend herself against Mr Pistorius, South Africa's City Press reported. One bullet cartridge was found in the champion sprinter's bedroom and police are looking at whether he "chased" his girlfriend and fired the first shot before she locked herself in the bathroom and he fired three more through the door, the paper said. It cited three sources "close to the high-profile investigation" who said the police had a "rock solid" case against South Africa's former golden boy. A post-mortem examination on the body of the 29-year-old model revealed that as well as bullet wounds to the head, arm, hand and hip, she suffered a fractured skull, it reported. "There was lots of blood on the bat. Forensic tests will show whose blood it was," one source was quoted as saying. The latest revelations, under the headline The Case Against Oscar, come after his family launched a fightback campaign saying the police had no evidence to sustain a charge of murder. Mr Pistorius' father Henke told the Telegraph in an exclusive interview that the family had "zero doubt" that Mr Pistorius shot Miss Steenkamp dead mistakenly thinking she was intruder. He said the entire Pistorius family was "heart and soul" behind the athlete and would do "whatever needs to be done" to help him clear his name. The family also released a statement in which they described the 26-year-old athlete as "numb with shock as well as grief" over the events of the past three days. "We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegation and that the State's case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of premeditated murder or indeed any murder at all," they added. A close friend of Mr Pistorius told how the athlete called him moments after Miss Steenkamp was shot. "Oscar called me at 3.55am saying that Reeva had been shot. I said to him, 'What are you talking about? I don't understand you.' He then repeated himself ? 'There has been a terrible accident, I shot Reeva," Justin Divaris told the Sunday People. "Next thing his neighbour picked up the phone and told me it was true and told me to get to Oscar's home. I was in total shock. I asked the neighbour, 'Is she OK?' Did the gun go off by accident?' She replied, 'No. She's not OK. You need to get here'." According to City Press, Mr Pistorius also called his father and sister and asked them to come to the house at around 3.20am on Thursday. When they arrived, it said, Mr Pistorius was carrying his girlfriend's body down the stairs ? her head and arms were "dangling", it added. The athlete's sister Aimee has allegedly given a statement to police saying her brother told her he had shot the FHM cover girl thinking she was an intruder. Miss Steenkamp was said to be still breathing as security guards, neighbours and Mr Pistorius' family gathered, and he tried to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But once police and paramedics arrived on the scene, she was declared dead. According to a source cited by City Press, Miss Steenkamp was wearing a nightdress, an overnight bag was found at the house and her iPad was on the bedroom floor. "It was clear that both of them had slept in the bed," the source added. The holster of a 9mm pistol similar to the weapon recovered by police was found on one side of the bed, the paper said. A bullet cartridge was also reportedly found in the bedroom and police are investigating whether Mr Pistorius fired one shot then "chased" Miss Steenkamp to the bathroom. "The suspicion is that the first shot, in the bedroom, hit her in the hip," one source was quoted as saying. "She then ran and locked herself in the toilet. She was doubled over because of the pain. He fired three more shots. She probably covered her head which is why the bullet also went through her hand." Police asked for blood taken from Mr Pistorius to be tested for steroids, City Press claimed, in anticipation that his defence team might claim he acted in "roid rage" ? an aggressive condition associated with taking large doses of performance-enhancing drugs. The sensational new claims come after Miss Steenkamp, a law graduate from Port Elizabeth on South Africa's south coast, appeared posthumously on the reality television programme, Tropika Island of Treasure, which was screened by the country's national broadcaster, the SABC, last night with her family's blessing. In the programme, filmed in Jamaica, Miss Steenkamp was seen alongside other bikini-clad contestants taking part in a hunt for treasure to win ?73,000 in prize money. In a poignant interview, filmed just days before she died as she prepared to return home, she spoke about the importance of leaving a positive mark in life. "Not just your journey in life but the way that you go out and make your exit is so important. You have either made an impact in a positive way or a negative way," she told the camera. On Saturday, Miss Steenkamp's father Barry insisted that they did not "hate" Mr Pistorius for what had happened. "He must be going through things that we don't know about," he told the Mail on Sunday. "There is no hatred in our hearts." He said he and his wife June and the rest of their family were struggling "to find some reason why this happened to our lovely daughter". "This is a very difficult time for us," he told the paper. "June is inconsolable. We just need to find some answers. We ask the Lord every day to help us find a reason why this should happen to Reeva. She was the most beautiful, kind girl in the world. She had love for everyone and she was loved by everyone who knew her." Mr Pistorius' uncle Arnold and sister Aimee read a statement on Saturday in which they said that he had cared deeply for his girlfriend of four months. "All of us saw at first hand how close she had become to Oscar during that time and how happy they were. They had plans together and Oscar was happier in his private life than he had been for a long time," they said. They said their entire family was "in a state of total shock". "Firstly about the tragic death of Reeva who we had all got to know well and care for deeply over the last few months," they said. "We are all grieving for Reeva, her family and her friends. Oscar ? as you can imagine ? is also numb with shock as well as grief." On Friday, during his first court appearance, Mr Pistorius repeatedly burst into tears as prosecutors discussed how they would charge him with murdering his girlfriend. Standing behind him, his father and brother were seen reaching out to clasp his shoulder and pat his back. Henke Pistorius told the Telegraph that they were a close family and had no doubt of his innocence. "I let him know that all of us are in heart and soul with him," he said. "That's why we were there and whatever needs to be done we will do." He said there was "zero doubt" in his mind that he had acted in fear of an intruder, he added. "Without any doubt there was no purpose in it, it's not an issue for us," he said. "I have zero doubt (that he thought it was an intruder) ? it's totally absurd to even suggest anything different. "When you wake up in the middle of the night ? and crime is so endemic in South Africa ? what do you do if somebody is in the house? Do you think it's one of your family? Of course you don't," he said. Please follow Sports Page on Twitter and Facebook.Join the conversation about this story ?


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