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Twitter Earth Social Networks Science

Twitter Based "Ted" System Warns of Earthquakes Earlier 64

Posted by samzenpus
from the whole-lotta-shaking-going-on dept.
hypnosec writes "A Twitter-based system managed to detect the earthquake off the Philippines before any other advanced spotting systems being used by Seismologists. The U.S. Geological Survey uses the micro-blogging site to quickly gather information about earthquakes around the globe through the use of a system — Twitter Earthquake Detection (TED) — which beat out USGS's own sensors on Friday when it came to detecting a 7.6 magnitude earthquake off the Philippine coast. The TED system gathers earthquake related messages (Tweets) in real time from Twitter. The system takes into consideration various parameters like place, time, keywords, and photographs of affected places where tremors have been detected. Online information posted by people — Tweets, in this case — can be picked up faster by researchers, compared to scientific alerts that may take up to 20 minutes."
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Twitter Based "Ted" System Warns of Earthquakes Earlier

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  • by spaceplanesfan (2120596) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @05:44PM (#41208745)
    • I'd be worried more about the timing...

      On August 31st, Twitter became self aware and launched an earthquake in the Philippines to incite a counterattack against the humans, who in panic, tried to log on to Facebook.

      Be afraid.

      Be very afraid.

  • the downside (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2012 @05:51PM (#41208789)

    Is that if you get 50k Anonymous, you'll end up with enough false positives to make the system useless.

    On the other hand, having idiots tweet prior to taking shelter can only improve the species.

  • by vlm (69642) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @05:57PM (#41208841)

    Confusing data and information.

    The number of tweets with the word "earthquake" in them is a raw piece of data.

    A USGS trained analytical geologists opinion of magnitude / depth / time is much higher level information and is going to take a couple minutes at least to think about it. I suppose if the on duty guy is in the can when a earthquake starts, or even worse if you have two guys who start arguing before one finally calls the boss to resolve the fight....

    The standard /. automotive analogy is that a bunch of tweeter twits will always be the first to "report" a car crash. It'll take a couple hours at least for the accident investigation team to gather all the legal evidence, and at least days until a judge / jury convicts. I'm sure the twits are always going to be faster than Judge Dredd or whoever.

    • by VTI9600 (1143169)

      No, I'm sorry, but your analogy is flawed. What actually happened was that Judge Dredd used his Lawgiver-II grenade launcher to destroy a car that was ilegally parked. Within seconds he triumphantly announced that justice had been served via his megaphone. Minutes later, other cars in the megacity were trembling with fear. It wasn't until several hours later that the coucil of judges came up with an adequate rationaliztion for what, on the surface, appeared to be an egregious misuse of police force.

      FTFY.

    • There's a car crash. The neighbors scream. By hearing the neighbors scream and listening to their remarks, I conclude that there's been a car crash. This works well so long as the neighbors aren't practically jokers.

      Sure Twitter's a much bigger neighborhood and more immune as a whole to pranksters. But what if organized mayhem like Anonymous decide to pull off an out-of-season April Fools Joke and start tweeting #alieninvasion? There goes your Armageddon Detection System.

    • by RockMFR (1022315)

      These two quotes from the article are confusing to me: "We do have sensors and it usually takes about five minutes before the sensors will see the earthquake" and "scientific alerts can take between two and 20 minutes".

      Why would a seismometer take so long? Can someone explain this?

      As far as I know, the USGS website has data in realtime and doesn't necessarily wait for any kind of human verification. For example, within approximately 15 seconds of the Virginia quake last year, I checked the USGS site and the

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        I've had different results. I logged in to the university's site, and their readings showed an earthquake, but didn't call it one for quite some time. The shaking data was instantly available, but "earthquake" reporting takes a trained scientist to look at the obvious squiggles and say "earthquake".
      • by vlm (69642)

        I subscribe to one of the RSS feeds at http://www.gdacs.org/ [gdacs.org] and sometimes it takes them awhile to push out earthquake alerts. The raw data has already been chewed on a bit and for earthquakes they provide depth, magnitude, a map of where the fun is, some rough guess of affected population...

        There are other similar services, this is just the one I RSS subscribe to.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Since they dropped the "how much did the earth move"measurement to "how bad did it feel" measurements, twitter is more accurate than their seismographs.
    • It would be interesting if an analysis of tweets just before the earthquake indicate anything odd in the subconscious of the twitterers.

      In any case, if you did an analysis of, say, discussions of kids with autism, you would see a hotspot, literally (and this is known to skeptics) around Hollywood, and think there something dangerously wrong there.

      • by vlm (69642)

        anything odd in the subconscious of the twitterers

        You mean unusual not odd. twits are already pretty odd people all the time.

  • ...praised for tweeting near death experience!

    (Medics arrive 5 minutes later, revive friend.)

    News at 11.

  • Google Trends [wikipedia.org] looks at when the number of people searching for a specific term spikes and the correlation with major news. Ted is not a new idea.
    • Yes it is, because Google Trends only analyses the past; connecting it to something useful, like an alert system, is something new. Unless you go extreme, but then every idea is based on something, so no idea is really new.

    • by Narcogen (666692)

      Google Trends accurately measures what it purports to: people using Google to search for something.

      TED doesn't detect earthquakes. It detects people twittering about earthquakes, and assumes either that correlation equals causation, or that false tweets won't rise above the level of background noise.

      The real question is... twenty minutes for other reports? We can't put a seismograph online in real time, or are we afraid to do so?

      How about a free, open source, crowdsourced Kickstarted network of online jury-

  • by multicoregeneral (2618207) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @06:37PM (#41209085) Homepage
    Twitter crashes when it's overloaded. Earthquakes, and events like it cause a high enough amount of traffic to bring twitter down. People's lives depend on earthquake information systems. What happens if there's an earthquake at the same time as a Kardashian sex video? Or a Politician saying something stupid at a convention? We're all screwed then.
  • by Y-Crate (540566) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @07:06PM (#41209245)

    It will only report quakes that are already over. News reports, online reporting "Did You Feel It?" pages, etc already do a pretty good job of telling seismologists that something just happened.

    Valuable earthquake detection would be detecting the P-Wave from a quake in progress, and automatically broadcasting a SAME Code [wikipedia.org], combined with some kind of equivilent forcibly pushed to every cell phone connected to a tower. Japan has something like this already. [engadget.com] California is kinda, sorta working on it, but I'm pretty sure it's grossly underfunded and not really a priority.

    Earthquake models suggest a quake on the northern or southern reaches of the San Andreas fault would reach Los Angeles in about 40 seconds. That's actually a huge chunk of time.

    Let's assume:

    - 20 seconds to detect a quake / automatically crosscheck with multiple sensors and transmit a warning to a predefined area.

    - 5 to 10 seconds for devices to receive, decode and go into alert mode. Weather radios are always listening for SAME transmissions and can decode more or less instantly (assuming the user has programmed in their location). Cell networks could probably get the data there in the time it takes for a regular text message to arrive.

    - That gives you 10 to 15 seconds to pull your car over, stop doing delicate surgery, stop fixing your roof, etc and find something to crawl under. It also gives you time to trigger automated fail safes. Gas valves can be set to close, emergency generators can be spun-up, fire pumps can activate, elevators can go to their recall floors and hold their doors open, while fire station doors can roll-up on their own and lock in place.

    • by zalas (682627)

      I think Twitter is a bit faster than that. Twitter users in Japan seem to respond really fast when they feel any moderate level of shaking; at times, if you follow enough Japanese people on Twitter, your entire timeline gets filled with people saying "oh hey, something's shaking" or "it's rocking" or "boobs!". So yes, you will get advanced warning if there are people closer to the epicentre than you posting on Twitter (and as long as they are not using a certain phone provider which got overloaded during

      • by Y-Crate (540566)

        I think Twitter is a bit faster than that. Twitter users in Japan seem to respond really fast when they feel any moderate level of shaking; at times, if you follow enough Japanese people on Twitter, your entire timeline gets filled with people saying "oh hey, something's shaking" or "it's rocking" or "boobs!". So yes, you will get advanced warning if there are people closer to the epicentre than you posting on Twitter (and as long as they are not using a certain phone provider which got overloaded during the big earthquake/tsunami last year while all the other providers were fine).

        I really can't believe that the reacting, tweeting, flagging, aggregating and alerting could happen in 20 seconds or less. Not a chance.

        I find it extremely unlikely that tweets you're referring to were posted within 1/3 of a minute of the first shaking taking place.

        Not to mention, that all of that aside, you still need a representative sample of people from a geographic area with public Twitter accounts. Unless you're OK with 8 people from the Salton Sea triggering an automated alert chain all the way to Sa

  • by fullback (968784) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @08:56PM (#41209743)

    There is a system in Japan where we get a flash of information on TV even before we feel a strong earthquake. I had a few seconds to brace before many of the hundreds of aftershocks after the large 9 Magnitude quake last March 11. Obviously, the warning time depends on how far you are from the epicenter.

  • two birds shit on the wire ours goes down, cant imagine if a serious earthquake happens

  • Brand new system is faster than legacy system!
  • "Tweets in this case, can be picked up faster by researchers as compared to scientific alerts that may take up to 20 minutes."

    First, 'up to' is bullshit that is useful in getting mobs to buy stuff but doesn't actually mean much at all.

    From TFA:
    "Paul Caruso, from the US Geological Survery, said: 'We do have sensors and it usually takes about five minutes before the sensors will see the earthquake."

    So already it's five minutes and not twenty.

    Second, it seems that the scientists have a problem with their seism

  • The method described here seems like a straightforward idea.

    Wasn't a similar idea posted to slashdot five years ago?

    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=440258&cid=22283136 [slashdot.org]
     

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