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Tweets and opinion polls: Same sentiments

PITTSBURGH, May 18 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they analyzed a billion Twitter messages and found sentiments expressed in the tweets were similar to those in public opinion polls.

Carnegie Mellon University scientists said the tweets sent during 2008 and 2009 yielded measures of consumer confidence and of presidential job approval similar to those of well-established polling services. That finding, the researchers said, suggests analyzing the text found in streams of tweets could become a cheap, rapid means of gauging public opinion on at least some subjects.

Assistant Professor Noah Smith, who led the study, said the tools for extracting public opinion from social media text are still crude and social media remain in their infancy, meaning the extent to which such methods could replace or supplement traditional polling is still unknown.

“With 7 million or more messages being tweeted each day, this data stream potentially allows us to take the temperature of the population very quickly,” Smith said. “The results are noisy, as are the results of polls. Opinion pollsters have learned to compensate for these distortions, while we’re still trying to identify and understand the noise in our data. Given that, I’m excited that we get any signal at all from social media that correlates with the polls.”

The study will be presented next week in Washington during a meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence’s International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.

Statins may lower risk of blood clots

MANSFIELD, Conn., May 18 (UPI) — A U.S. review of studies found people at risk for blood clots may be helped by use of statin — a cholesterol lowering drug, researchers say.

Lead author Vanjul Agarwal of the University of Connecticut said the researchers reviewed 10 studies involving more than 900,000 men and women evaluating the effect of statins in preventing venous thromboembolism — clots formed in the deep veins that pose a serious risk of heart attack and stroke.

The study included all types of venous thromboembolism, with a focus on deep vein thrombosis, most commonly involving clots in the lower legs and pulmonary embolism, clots that form in the primary vessels of the lungs after migrating from other areas of the body.

The researchers found statin use benefited patients with all types of venous thromboembolism, including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

“Statins have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties,” Agarwal says in a statement. “Since thrombus formation involves inflammation, statins may reduce venous thrombus formation and thus, lower the odds of developing pulmonary embolism /deep vein thrombosis.”

The study is scheduled to be presented at the ATS International Conference in New Orleans.

Greenland rising as ice melt goes on

MIAMI, May 18 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they are surprised at how rapidly the ice is melting in Greenland and how quickly the landmass is rising in response.

Greenland — the world’s largest island — is situated in the Atlantic Ocean to the northeast of Canada. It has been known for its dense ice cap, up to 1.2 miles thick, covering much of the island. But now scientists at the University of Miami say Greenland’s ice is melting so quickly the land underneath is rising at an accelerated pace.

Researchers said some coastal areas are rising by nearly 1 inch per year and, if current trends persist, that number could accelerate to as much as 2 inches per year.

“It’s been known for several years that climate change is contributing to the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet,” Professor Tim Dixon, who led the study, said. “What’s surprising, and a bit worrisome, is the ice is melting so fast that we can actually see the land uplift in response. Even more surprising, the rise seems to be accelerating, implying melting is accelerating.”

A study co-author, Associate Professor Shimon Wdowinski said the same process is also affecting the islands of Iceland and Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

Doctoral candidate Yan Jiang, another study co-author, said if Greenland’s acceleration of melting continues, the island could soon become the world’s largest contributor to global sea level rise.

The research is available in the early online edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.

Brain receptor can alter alcohol response

BETHESDA, Md., May 18 (UPI) — A U.S. study suggests a genetic variant of a brain receptor determines whether the neurotransmitter dopamine is released following alcohol intake.

Researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said dopamine is involved in transmitting the euphoria and other positive subjective effects produced by alcohol. Therefore, they said their findings help explain the diverse genetic susceptibility for alcohol use disorders.

“By advancing our understanding of the neurobiology that underlies the addictive properties of alcohol, this finding helps us understand why alcohol affects people in very different ways,” NIAAA Acting Director Kenneth Warren said. “This kind of information also aids the development of personalized medications for alcohol problems.”

The study that included Vijay Ramchandani and Dr. Markus Heilig appears in the early online edition of the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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