Using Tweets To Identify Dodgy Restaurant Food

Or, more specifically, stomach complaints: nEmesis monitors diners' Twitter accounts for certain words that might indicate a potential food poisoning issue. Tests showed its findings closely matched those of health inspectors.

What's the Latest Development?


While at the University of Rochester, Adam Sadilek used machine learning to rank 3.8 million New York-area tweets according to the occurrence of words like "food" and "stomach." Crowdsourced workers then identified 6,000 tweets that most likely signaled that the person doing the tweeting had experienced food poisoning. The set of data formed the key knowledge needed for Sadilek's system, cleverly named nEmesis, to determine both the tweeters with upset tummies and the New York City restaurants that may or may not have been responsible. Further evaluation showed that the health scores assigned to restaurants by nEmesis closely matched those from city food inspectors.

What's the Big Idea?

Perhaps not surprisingly, Sadilek now works at Google, which has its own service that uses search data to predict flu outbreaks. Using social media to predict larger trends has become increasingly common, but Sadilek readily admits that nEmesis is open for abuse by Twitter users: "People will start tweeting that they threw up when they know they are near McDonald's." He plans to present his system at the Conference on Human Computation & Crowdsourcing in November.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at New Scientist

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
Keep reading Show less

New alternative to Trump's wall would create jobs, renewable energy, and increase border security

A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.

Credit: Purdue University photo/Jorge Castillo Quiñones
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
  • The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
  • It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.