Friday, 20 April 2012

Mind the gaff: Metro reports science April Fool as fact

The media covering stories based on pseudoscience or dodgy statistics is one thing, but reporting news of a science innovation which is actually an April Fool is quite another.

Yet this is what happened today when I opened up my copy of the Metro and read a piece on advances in 3D printing. Technology that prints in 3D is indeed a reality, creating objects ranging from chocolates to planes. But what 3D printing cannot currently do is fully-formed live animals.

But that is what the Metro writer says is happening right now, claiming that a company is apparently offering to 3D-print creatures on demand:
“The technology is even being used in the genetic engineering of animals, with one company offering to create bespoke pets.”
What makes it so ludicrous is that this actually comes from an April Fool that the Economist ran in its science section.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Which languages work best for Twitter?

Every character counts when it comes to microblogging, and it seems that some languages are much better at saying more with less. That's according to a recent Economist article I read ('Twtr', issue March 31 - April 6), which said that a 78-character tweet in English would only be 24 characters long when translated into Chinese, making "Chinese ideal for micro-blogs".

In the article, they included a graph showing how languages compared in terms of the number of characters they use when 1,000 characters of English text was translated. It showed how the romance tongues like Spanish and Portuguese were more verbose than English, needing more characters, while Chinese and Arabic were much more efficient.

I decided to make this infographic version of the graph, and I picked out five languages to compare with the 1,000-character English text.

Infographic showing how some languages use more characters than others when the same text is translated.

In terms of which languages are used most on Twitter, the Economist article said that Twitter's growth around the globe has meant that the proportion of tweets in English has fallen from two-thirds in 2009 to 39% now. It also mentioned how Twitter was helping to connect speakers of less commonly-spoken languages, such as Basque, and possibly contribute to reviving these tongues - 140 characters at a time.