EU governments failing at Twitter

Governments and politicians have attempted to exploit social media for their own ends. However, a study published in the International Journal of Electronic Governance reveals that governmental Twitter accounts across the European Union have almost totally failed. These accounts do not widely engage members of the public and have not created the “communities” their advocates desired in the quest to elicit public adoption of e-government.

Konstantinos Antoniadis and Kostas Zafiropoulos of the Department of International and European Studies at the University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, and Vasiliki Vrana of the Technological Education Institute of Central Macedonia, in Serres, Greece, have explored mentions and replies on the well-known and popular microblogging platform Twitter. They found that mentions and replies to networks of 56 ministries with Twitter accounts in seventeen EU countries do not suggest that any of those accounts have built communities.

Twitter had at the last count well over 300 million monthly active users a mere fraction of those of another social media service, Facebook with its almost 2 billion active users. Nevertheless, these are significant numbers of people that might be engaged by any person or any organisation with the wont to engage them online. The growth of Twitter was eventually noticed by governments and their advisers and has been adopted by them as a tool with which they might disseminate government information, provide access to services, connect with the public and “listen to the voice of people”.

The team suggests that the concept of e-government is yet to mature. There are signs that some “authority” users of social media, the members of the public with large, highly engaged followings themselves, may well represent a springboard for notices and responses from governments but this is yet to manifest as the desired Twitter communities the politicians seek.

Antoniadis, K., Zafiropoulos, K. and Vrana, V. (2016) ‘Community characteristics of Twitter followers in EU-countries governmental accounts‘, Int. J. Electronic Governance, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.283-302.

Research Picks – February 2017

Cracking down on counterfeit pharma

An examination of the counterfeit drug supply chain in India points to several critical points intervention at any of which might allow regulatory authorities to break the chain more effectively than current law enforcement efforts. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least one in ten pharmaceutical products being sold around the world is counterfeit. This represents a serious risk to public health given that such illegal products lie beyond the usual safety regulations and quality controls. This black market has a turnover in the hundreds of billions of dollars and no area of human disease and so-called wellness and lifestyle are absent from the itinerary of fake products from Alzheimer’s disease and asthma to vitamin and weight loss drugs. In analyzing the dynamics of this black market in India, Sanjay Bhushan of Deemed University in Agra points to how triggering a composite crackdown on the counterfeit drugs supply might address the problem.

Bhushan, S. (2017) ‘System dynamics modeling-based analysis of combating counterfeit drugs supply chain in India‘, Int. J. Emergency Management, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.19-49.

Avoiding senior depression

Estimates suggest that one in ten seniors suffer from depression and suicides are common in this age group in the USA. Social isolation, loss of independence, despair, physical and mental impairment are often blamed. Given that senior living communities often exist as “walled gardens” where non-residents are essentially kept away, there is an urgent need to enrich the lives of residents in a meaningful way with tasks and wider community involvement that includes younger people too. Depression and suicide risk might be mitigated by such initiatives, according to Ryan DeSmith and Mohammad Gharipour of Morgan State University, in Baltimore, Maryland. Moreover, programs aimed at boosting physical and mental activity, stimulating the mind, and reducing the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of many older people in such communities should be a focus. This should reduce the incidence of depression and suicide risk and hopefully allow many more seniors to live a happier retirement.

DeSmith, R. and Gharipour, M. (2016) ‘Elderly depression in senior care facilities: primary causes, effects, and mitigation‘, Int. J. Behavioural and Healthcare Research, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.42-57.
Heavy metal cosmetics

Researchers in Egypt have used gamma ray spectrometry and CR-39 solid state nuclear track detection to study how much radioactive metal is present in six common brands of face powder and eye liner (kohl) for the first time. Their work revealed the present of uranium-238, thorium-232, and potassium-40; as well as the radioactive gas 222-radon. However, it should be noted that the natural occurrence of metals in rocks, soil and water causes them to be present in the manufacture of pigments and other raw materials used in many industries, including the cosmetics industry. Thankfully, activity concentrations were below what are considered the safe exposure limits to these elements. Of greater concern perhaps is the presence of non-radioactive, but nevertheless toxic, heavy metals in common marketplace cosmetics including arsenic, cadmium, lead, strontium, and other metals.

Abdel-Ghany, H.A. and Ragab, F. (2016) ‘Studies of radioactive contaminations and heavy metal contents in cosmetics‘, Int. J. Low Radiation, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.181-197.
Peer instruction on Twitter

Researchers have investigated whether or not the micro-blogging platform, Twitter, might be a useful tool to use in peer instruction. Twitter is one of the most widely used social networking platforms and has found application in many areas from business marketing to news gathering. Educators too are hoping such tools might give their efforts a boost and in the context of peer instruction, wherein students assist each other with didactic tasks rather than relying entirely on tutors, Twitter might fund utility as a so-called backchannel service to mediate such activity. The case study reported suggests that perception and appreciation varies widely among students particularly with respect to peer feedback. As such, it may emerge that more traditional approaches might be better suited to providing feedback in peer education setups than this social networking system for many students.

Luo, T., Dani, D.E. and Cheng, L. (2016) ‘Viability of using Twitter to support peer instruction in teacher education‘, Int. J. Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp.287-304.

A down to earth approach to understanding gravity

What more is there to say about gravity? Extensive astronomical observations by Galileo and Tycho Brahe laid the foundations for Kepler to formulate his laws of planetary motion and then for Newton to come up with his theory of gravity. In the twentieth century Einstein recognised that the universe is not a clockwork machine and that it has no fixed frame of reference, everything is relative. Then we had black holes, planetary precession, gravitational waves and the enigma that is sub-atomic quantum theory that we cannot yet square with the cosmic scale.

Now, H. Ron Harrison of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics, at City University, London, hopes to simplify our understanding of gravity by going back to Newtonian theory extending it and embedding an understanding of Einstein’s special theory of relativity that takes relative velocity based on the form of the measured data into account. In this new simpler theory of gravity, which Harrison describes in the International Journal of Space Science and Engineering, he derives a single explanatory equation. “This equation expresses relative acceleration between two masses as a function of their masses, separation and, now, relative velocity,” Harrison explains.

This formula accounts for many of the gravitational phenomena we have observed through many decades if not centuries and offers a simpler explanation for the likes of the precession of the perihelion of Mercury, the gravitational deflection of light, the Shapiro time delay (an effect that retards the transmission of a signal passing close to a strong gravitational field), the Schwarzschild radius which accounts for escape velocity and why you cannot escape a black hole, and even gravitational waves.

Harrison suggests that his formula is less open to misinterpretation than those of Einstein. Moreover, he considers “force” to be a secondary property as was suggested by Hertz at the end of the nineteenth century. Force is the sleeping partner of gravitational formulae; it is to dynamics what money is to commerce. Tests on real observations corroborate this demotion of force and the replacement of Einsteinian complexity with a simpler set of equations. So, the Principle of Equivalence does not arise,” adds Harrison.

This new interpretation which does not undermine relativity even points to the possibility of the existence of a repulsive phenomenon one might refer to as anti-gravity. At a more immediately practical level, however, it should be possible to calculate non-Newtonian variations in the trajectories of satellites, for instance, using Harrison’s equations.

Harrison, H.R. (2016) ‘Post Newtonian gravity, a new simpler approach‘, Int. J. Space Science and Engineering, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp.121-137.