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Scientists Use Twitter Traffic to Measure Global Happiness

Scientists at the University of Vermont and the analytics company MITRE have developed a system to measure global happiness, and they are now happily sharing it with the world.

Hedonometer-dot-org captures tens of millions of Twitter tweets each day and analyzes what co-creator mathematician Peter Dodds calls the 'emotional temperature' of specific words.

Volunteers had ranked the happiness level of about 10,000 words on a scale of 1 to 9. 'Happy,' for example, had an average score of 8.3. 'Jail ' was 1.76. By looking for those words in the collected tweets and averaging them, the system comes up with a happiness score for the day.

On April 15, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, the hedonometer registered a dramatic downward spike in happiness, as words like explosion, victims and kill appeared in tweets around the world. It was the saddest day since the scientists began their measurements nearly five years ago.

The happiest days recorded at the site since the English-language project began have all fallen on December 25 -- Christmas Day in the Christian calendar -- with the happiest of these happy days coming on December 25, 2008.

Co-creator Chris Danforth says "Reporters, policymakers, academics - anyone - can now come to the site and see population level responses to major events."

The site is currently only checking tweets in English, but will soon be incorporating other sources, like Google Trends, news media and blogs, and data-mining in 12 languages. It will also begin to update its findings every hour, and eventually, every minute.