What scientists can “tweet” within just 140 characters?
On average, English sentence has 15-20 words, and each words contains about 5 characters.(http://strainindex.wordpress.com/2008/07/28/the-average-sentence-length/)
Which means, all we can say in the Twitter is just two sentences. Sounds too brief.
As Japanese, I don’t find it is way too brief, because we have a quite short style of poetry, Haiku. It only allows 17 characters for one short poetry. In haiku, we use only simplified letters, in this letters, one character means only one sound. Can you imagine one short poetry in just 17 syllables? For enable this feature, amount of meanings are condensed in just one word, and several techniques are used, like double meaning, contextual use of a tag, and historical analogy, Haiku is complexed layer of words. (if you are interested in, please check this short video, http://www.howcast.com/videos/308374-How-To-Write-a-Haiku )
There are similarity between Haiku and Twitter, because Twitter has also have really short word limits, and because of that, they utilise some features so effectively.
So, when expressing the scientific topic, what can we do with twitter?
Irish researchers, Letierce J, Passant A, Decker s and Breslin J, (2010), researched the use of twitter as media to spread scientific information. Among the researchers of information technology, Twitter was the most favourable tool for spreading information among their community, their tweet mainly targeted for their peers (89%), or students (52%), but also aims for general audience(45%).
“Thus, in majority, researchers from the Semantic Web community set up an account on Twitter and use it to spread scientific information to reach different communities, as well as their peers than a broader audience. Lots of different communities and topics can be found on Twitter  , meaning that Twitter might be a relevant service to reach broader audiences via scientific messages spread by researchers themselves.” (Letierce J, et al, 2010, p 2)
Well, scientist has motivation to share their message, then, how does the feature of twitter affects the message? Science often deals with complexed knowledge and information, so how can they communicate in a such brief media?
The clue is on the some features of Twitter. They uses “Hush-tag”, “Retweet”, and “Link” for spreading further information. Hush tags are used for indexing their own tweet, so it indicates the contents of tweet at a glance. Retweet is quoting someone’s tweet, but most of the time, they add some extra, like hyperlink for further information. These features help to develop the idea in original tweet, and to condense the information.
In my opinion, briefness is the key. Under the strict word limit, twitter users are required to aim more brief explanation, more simple wording. that could make science more accessible for everyone. Meanwhile, behind the briefness, each words may have more condensed meaning and require a bit of knowledge to decoding the specific words.
There is one more aspect we can focus, according to the research, among twitter user, credibility in real life strongly affects the credibility on the web, so research top runner gains more re-tweet and more followers. It sounds quite reasonable, but it may gives too much authority for single persons tweets. It is bit unlikely to the value system of the Internet. So my concern is if someone very credible person speaks out loud, and if it contains misconception or confusion, that could cause big issue, and as twitter spreads information quite rapidly, it may difficult to correct later.
In short, less words does not necessary means less meaning. But briefness is double edged sword. Some techniques can help condense the meaning, like layers of words in haiku. Meanwhile, too condensed words may sounds like different language. So, briefness may works, or may not. But there are no doubt that twitter as new media has strong force to shift our way of sharing scientific information.
Letirce, J., Passant, A., Breslin, J., & Decker, S. (2010). Understanding how twitter is used to spread scientific messages. Paper presented at the WebSci10: Extending the frontiers of society online, Raleigh, US.