SciTech Briefs

Twitter study shows trends in people’s moods

Sociologists at Cornell University published a study this week analyzing mood rhythms among average people, pulling their data from Twitter. They examined messages posted between February 2008 and January 2010 by more than two million people in 84 countries. Not surprisingly, the researchers found people’s overall moods to be at their lowest at the beginning of the workweek and highest in the weekend. During the day, moods peaked around breakfast time and right after dinner, with a dip between 3 and 4 p.m., regardless of whether the day was during the workweek or weekend.

Source: Science

Twins give clues to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

Researchers at King’s College London are one step closer to drawing a link between environmental factors and gene activity in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The scientists looked at 22 pairs of identical twins in which one twin in each pair was diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. All twins were found to have identical DNA, but showed exterior differences on the gene sites that dictate how active they are. Similar genes with exterior differences have been previously found in lab mice, presumably inflicted by environmental factors such as stressful events and diet.

Source: New Scientist

Company converts discarded plastic into crude oil

Oregon-based startup Agilyx claims that it has developed a system of converting discarded plastic into crude oil. The process consists of heating and vaporizing the plastic and condensing the vapors onto a pool of hydrocarbons that can further be converted into diesel or other fuel types. The company says that about a gallon of gas can be produced per seven to 10 pounds of plastic. A prototype of the system has been in development for about 18 months, and the company hopes to start selling commercial systems in about nine months.

Source: The New York Times

City cyclists at air-quality risk

Research recently presented at the European Respiratory Society’s annual congress in Amsterdam suggests that cyclists in large cities are at an increased risk of lung injury. This is due to the higher levels of black carbon, or soot, in large cities. The results of the study, which observed amounts of soot in the lungs of cyclists and pedestrians, showed that cyclists had over two times more soot in their lungs than pedestrians. The scientists suggested that this could be due to a combination of factors; cyclists have a higher inhalation rate and are closer in proximity to car exhaust than pedestrians.

Source: Science Daily

3-D mammograms reduce recalls

Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC has begun using 3-D technology for mammograms. This comes as a result of an efficiency study revealing that the technology would reduce false recalls — when patients return for additional tests — by 30 percent. The hospital says that recalls occur about 10 percent of the time, but only a small fraction of those recalls actually have cancer. Most recalls occur because of overlapping tissue that is normal, so generating a 3-D image allows for this problem to be largely alleviated.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Fewer asteroids fell than expected

A NASA space telescope recently surveyed the sky for nearby lurking asteroids and found fewer than expected. This study, which NASA is calling the most accurate census of near-Earth asteroids to date, suggests that asteroid-induced hazards to Earth may be significantly less than previously thought. In addition to knowing the location of 90 percent of the largest, potentially mass-extinction-causing asteroids, the study also suggests there are only about 19,500 mid-size asteroids, almost 50 percent fewer than scientists had expected.

Source: NPR