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Wastewater Treatment Plants as Chemical Observatories to Forecast Ecological and Human Health Risks of Manmade Chemicals

January 21, 2014 Comments off

Wastewater Treatment Plants as Chemical Observatories to Forecast Ecological and Human Health Risks of Manmade Chemicals
Source: Scientific Reports

Thousands of chemicals have been identified as contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), but prioritizing them concerning ecological and human health risks is challenging. We explored the use of sewage treatment plants as chemical observatories to conveniently identify persistent and bioaccumulative CECs, including toxic organohalides. Nationally representative samples of sewage sludge (biosolids) were analyzed for 231 CECs, of which 123 were detected. Ten of the top 11 most abundant CECs in biosolids were found to be high-production volume chemicals, eight of which representing priority chemicals, including three flame retardants, three surfactants and two antimicrobials. A comparison of chemicals detected in nationally representative biological specimens from humans and municipal biosolids revealed 70% overlap. This observed co-occurrence of contaminants in both matrices suggests that the analysis of sewage sludge can inform human health risk assessments by providing current information on toxic exposures in human populations and associated body burdens of harmful environmental pollutants.

See: Sludge as New Sentinel for Human Health Risks (Science Daily)

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Quantifying the Digital Traces of Hurricane Sandy on Flickr

November 7, 2013 Comments off

Quantifying the Digital Traces of Hurricane Sandy on Flickr
Source: Scientific Reports

Society’s increasing interactions with technology are creating extensive “digital traces” of our collective human behavior. These new data sources are fuelling the rapid development of the new field of computational social science. To investigate user attention to the Hurricane Sandy disaster in 2012, we analyze data from Flickr, a popular website for sharing personal photographs. In this case study, we find that the number of photos taken and subsequently uploaded to Flickr with titles, descriptions or tags related to Hurricane Sandy bears a striking correlation to the atmospheric pressure in the US state New Jersey during this period. Appropriate leverage of such information could be useful to policy makers and others charged with emergency crisis management.

Using social media to quantify nature-based tourism and recreation

October 23, 2013 Comments off

Using social media to quantify nature-based tourism and recreation
Source: Scientific Reports

Scientists have traditionally studied recreation in nature by conducting surveys at entrances to major attractions such as national parks. This method is expensive and provides limited spatial and temporal coverage. A new source of information is available from online social media websites such as flickr. Here, we test whether this source of “big data” can be used to approximate visitation rates. We use the locations of photographs in flickr to estimate visitation rates at 836 recreational sites around the world, and use information from the profiles of the photographers to derive travelers’ origins. We compare these estimates to empirical data at each site and conclude that the crowd-sourced information can indeed serve as a reliable proxy for empirical visitation rates. This new approach offers opportunities to understand which elements of nature attract people to locations around the globe, and whether changes in ecosystems will alter visitation rates.

How Peer Pressure Shapes Consensus, Leadership, and Innovations in Social Groups

October 10, 2013 Comments off

How Peer Pressure Shapes Consensus, Leadership, and Innovations in Social Groups
Source: Scientific Reports

What is the effect of the combined direct and indirect social influences—peer pressure (PP)—on a social group’s collective decisions? We present a model that captures PP as a function of the socio-cultural distance between individuals in a social group. Using this model and empirical data from 15 real-world social networks we found that the PP level determines how fast a social group reaches consensus. More importantly, the levels of PP determine the leaders who can achieve full control of their social groups. PP can overcome barriers imposed upon a consensus by the existence of tightly connected communities with local leaders or the existence of leaders with poor cohesiveness of opinions. A moderate level of PP is also necessary to explain the rate at which innovations diffuse through a variety of social groups.

Characterizing scientific production and consumption in Physics

May 1, 2013 Comments off

Characterizing scientific production and consumption in Physics

Source: Scientific Reports

We analyze the entire publication database of the American Physical Society generating longitudinal (50 years) citation networks geolocalized at the level of single urban areas. We define the knowledge diffusion proxy, and scientific production ranking algorithms to capture the spatio-temporal dynamics of Physics knowledge worldwide. By using the knowledge diffusion proxy we identify the key cities in the production and consumption of knowledge in Physics as a function of time. The results from the scientific production ranking algorithm allow us to characterize the top cities for scholarly research in Physics. Although we focus on a single dataset concerning a specific field, the methodology presented here opens the path to comparative studies of the dynamics of knowledge across disciplines and research areas.

Humans use Compression Heuristics to Improve the Recall of Social Networks

March 21, 2013 Comments off

Humans use Compression Heuristics to Improve the Recall of Social Networks

Source: Scientific Reports

The ability of primates, including humans, to maintain large social networks appears to depend on the ratio of the neocortex to the rest of the brain. However, observed human network size frequently exceeds predictions based on this ratio (e.g., “Dunbar’s Number”), implying that human networks are too large to be cognitively managed. Here I show that humans adaptively use compression heuristics to allow larger amounts of social information to be stored in the same brain volume. I find that human adults can remember larger numbers of relationships in greater detail when a network exhibits triadic closure and kin labels than when it does not. These findings help to explain how humans manage large and complex social networks with finite cognitive resources and suggest that many of the unusual properties of human social networks are rooted in the strategies necessary to cope with cognitive limitations.

A mathematical model of the London riots and their policing

February 26, 2013 Comments off

A mathematical model of the London riots and their policing

Source: Scientific Reports

In August 2011, several areas of London experienced episodes of large-scale disorder, comprising looting, rioting and violence. Much subsequent discourse has questioned the adequacy of the police response, in terms of the resources available and strategies used. In this article, we present a mathematical model of the spatial development of the disorder, which can be used to examine the effect of varying policing arrangements. The model is capable of simulating the general emergent patterns of the events and focusses on three fundamental aspects: the apparently-contagious nature of participation; the distances travelled to riot locations; and the deterrent effect of policing. We demonstrate that the spatial configuration of London places some areas at naturally higher risk than others, highlighting the importance of spatial considerations when planning for such events. We also investigate the consequences of varying police numbers and reaction time, which has the potential to guide policy in this area.

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