Taking on Twitter


Is it a human or a Twitter bot? Researchers from the University of Mary Washington and the Naval Surface Warfare Center want to know for sure. UMW computer science majors Bryan Holster and Chris Zimmerman, under the guidance of Professor Stephen Davies, have teamed with scientists at the center’s Dahlgren division to get to the bottom of this sometimes perplexing social media mystery. The partnership is one of several ongoing collaborations between the University and the Naval Surface Warfare Center. For novices to the Twitter sphere, a Twitter bot is an automated software program that posts content or tweets to the online social network Twitter. For instance, the bot @everyword spent seven years tweeting every word in the English language, while @EnjoyTheFilm posts spoilers in response to the tweets of unsuspecting movie-goers. Since the fall, Holster and Zimmerman have collected an innumerable number of tweets using a Web application that they built. Then they developed a … [Read more...]

Conundrum Challenge

Keith Mellinger cropgm

The Spider and Fly Puzzle has mesmerized math buffs for more than a century. “You’re in a big room and there’s a spider on one wall and on the opposite wall is a fly,” said Keith Mellinger, associate professor and chair of mathematics. “The question is, if the spider wants to walk along the walls and get to the fly, what’s the shortest path?” The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is a spiral. Mellinger takes exception to that conventional solution. He recently discovered that the conventional answer doesn’t always hold true. His research appears in a recent issue of the College Mathematics Journal, a publication of the Mathematical Association of America. “If we tweak the conditions of the problem, the problem has a different solution,” he said, explaining that the dimensions of the room can change whether a spiral pattern or a straight line is in fact the shortest path. The complexities of the problem have served as an effective teaching tool for Mellinger. “It shows how … [Read more...]