The University of Birmingham has put out a press release today about new research by their computer scientists, on the topic of the spread of gossip about the Higgs via Twitter. This is all based on an arXiv paper, The Anatomy of a Scientific Gossip, and has been picked up by New Scientist, Phys.org, and Aidan Randle-Conde.
Since I’ve been designated as one of the Best Physics Gossips on this topic:
If the Higgs boson was a dead celebrity, Woit would be your TMZ — first to the scene, first to break it, and have it be right.
I think I should perhaps comment on what this research actually shows. From what I can tell, it just provides evidence that Twitter is a worthless swamp full of people who have no idea what they are doing “re-tweeting” stale information to each other. Getting their information from tweets, according to these researchers things began with
Period I: Before the announcement on 2nd July, there were some rumors about the discovery of a Higgs-like boson at Tevatron;
and went on from there. They start looking at the data only from July 1 on.
Looking back at what actually happened, I started posting about the coming LHC results on June 17 (the Tevatron results were a side-show). On June 18th, Matt Strassler had the story, accusing me of ruining the CMS and ATLAS blind analyses, for top-secret reasons that could not be revealed. June 19th saw a New York Times story about this with a link to my blog entry and by June 20th Sean Carroll and Jennifer Ouellette were writing about #HiggsRumors being a “Trending Topic” on Twitter.
I suppose it’s true that a couple weeks later there were about a million tweets about this, but why would you conceivably want to look at any of them? While I was writing this blog posting, an incoming e-mail from Twitter popped up on my screen.
We’ve missed you on Twitter!
So much is happening right now on Twitter, and building a great timeline is the way to really enjoy the service. Get to Twitter and start building a timeline that reflects you and your interests, you’ll see how quickly Twitter becomes an invaluable part of your life.
I don’t think so…
Update: At his blog, Matt explains that he wasn’t accusing me of anything. It was CMS and ATLAS physicists who, by telling me me about the results after unblinding, were guilty of ruining the blinded analyses for still top-secret reasons.