2017-12-22

 

The Sweetest Taboo is Christmas

The year ends with tons of media attention, a bit of media whoring, really: The Independent, Time, Publico, GizModo, The National Post, Men's Fitness, Mother Jones, ArsTechnica, The Sun, Drive with Yasmeen Khan (at 17:30) (audio of interview), etc.

What is important is that it refers to a paper I'm really proud of. First, because it was a great collaboration that started with Joana Sá at Gulbenkian, who had the idea to look at the birth peaks problem. Then it involved Johan Bollen, a long time partner in crime, and Ian Wood, one my students who has been a real pleasure to work with. I am very proud with our demonstration that Data Science, Computational Social Science, and Complexity research can be used to obtain surprising results and invalidate previous hypotheses. In other words, Data Science that does not simply validate our pre-existing biases and accepted wisdom, but demonstrates new explanations. In this case, we found that online interest in sex rises at Christmas and other cultural celebrations, with more births nine months later, in what is the first global analysis of human birth-rate cycles. Another bonus was that to reach our results, we developed a novel spectral methodology for sentiment analysis on social media. To make things even better, it is fun Science dealing with the Sweetest Taboo, as all the media attention shows and Sade knew all along: Everyday is Christmas, and every night is New Years eve.


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