The March PCAST Meeting

The third fourth meeting of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) took place on March 12 in Washington.  While the public sessions were limited to that day, remarks by PCAST co-chair (and presidential science adviser) Dr. John Holdren suggest that there was a private session with Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Hamburg on the issue of regulatory science.  After the public session, PCAST members met with the President to present the Council’s latest review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

You can review the meeting agenda, and watch the public session webcast.  Other meeting information (including some presentation slides) is also online.

Working groups within PCAST continue to work between full Council meetings.  However, they have stopped giving updates on their progress beyond general comments from Dr. Holdren at the beginning of the meetings.  I wish they would resume making more detailed updates in open session. Continue reading

A Predictive Power for Twitter?

Via Kevin Kelly I read this account of Twitter being used to successfully predict box office results at a level at least as good as prediction markets.  The authors claim Twitter can outperform prediction markets, but that assertion seems to apply toward the length of effective prediction.  In other words, Twitter tracking can be an effective predictor even several weeks into the film’s run, when prediction markets have often moved on to other movies.

This is an intriguing notion that properly tracking Twitter traffic could predict outcomes of various events.  I’m not as sanguine about using the media to effectively predict events that involve affected parties that will be tweeting as well.  While movie studios and actors are no doubt tweeting about their films, I would expect that to happen a lot more with elections.  The campaigns and their supporters can easily flood Twitter with tweets and re-tweets, requiring a greater filtering process to account for the Twitter equivalent of stuffing an internet voting ballot box.  Look to sites like fivethirtyeight.com to try and make use of social networking traffic to complement their extensive polling work.