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Oct 15

Reported by Martin Wikelski and Daniel Piechowski, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft,  October 15, 2013.

Using animal behaviour data to better inform mathematical models of animal movements.

Many animals are adapting to human encroachment of their natural habitats. Carnivores in particular require territories of sufficient size and so are often forced to move between numerous small habitat patches. To date, scientists often use mathematical models to predict these important routes, but fishers fitted with GPS sensors are now showing that their calculations may be missing the mark if they ignore animal behaviour.

Corridors are spaces that receive too little attention and yet are vitally important. How else would we get from the bedroom to the bath or from the couch to the kitchen? Without the  hallway in between, we would starve on the sofa, unable to reach our food. In the wild the areas that connect animals’ living spaces are known as corridors. It is vital for the conservation of many species that animals can move freely and safely from their hunting grounds to their mating areas, for example. If a new road is built through the middle of an important corridor, it may put an entire population at risk. Continue reading »

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Sep 23

Reported by Allison P. Davis in Wired Science, September 2013.

rop styling: Laurie Raab | Justin Fantl

IBM’s AI-like computer systems aren’t limited to Watson, the Jeopardy-winning supercomputer that schooled Ken Jennings on national television. In fact, IBM researchers foresee a not-so-distant future when algorithms will be a replacement for inefficient customer service models, a diagnostic tool for doctors, and believe it or not, chefs.

Researcher Lav Varshney has already built an algorithm that creates recipes from parameters like cuisine type, dietary restrictions, and course. The system determines optimal mixtures based on three things: tens of thousands of recipes taken from sources like the Institute of Culinary Education or the Internet, a database of hedonic psychophysics (what humans like to eat), and food chemistry. Right now, the result is like a pre–Julia Child cookbook, providing chefs, who already know cooking basics, with suggestions for billions of ingredient combinations but no instructions. Continue reading »

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Sep 02

Reported by Layne Camero, Media Communications Office, in Michingan State University News, 29 Aug. 2012.

MSU researchers explore what would happen if computer viruses had to find mates in order to reproduce. Photo illustration by G.L. Kohuth

Computer viruses are constantly replicating throughout computer networks and wreaking havoc. But what if they had to find mates in order to reproduce?

In the current issue of Evolution, Michigan State University researchers created the digital equivalent of spring break to see how mate attraction played out through computer programs, said Chris Chandler, MSU postdoctoral researcher at MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.

“This is actually a big question that still generates a lot of debate,” said Chandler, who co-authored the study with Ian Dworkin, assistant professor of zoology, and Charles Ofria, associate professor of computer science and engineering. “People have some good ideas, but they can be hard to test really well in nature, so we decided to take a different approach.” Continue reading »

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May 27

By Jerome Bonnet, Pakpoom Subsoontorn, and Drew Endy in PNAS, May 21, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1202344109.

The use of synthetic biological systems in research, healthcare, and manufacturing often requires autonomous history-dependent behavior and therefore some form of engineered biological memory. For example, the study or reprogramming of aging, cancer, or development would benefit from genetically encoded counters capable of recording up to several hundred cell division or differentiation events. Although genetic material itself provides a natural data storage medium, tools that allow researchers to reliably and reversibly write information to DNA in vivo are lacking. Here, we demonstrate a rewriteable recombinase addressable data (RAD) module that reliably stores digital information within a chromosome.

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May 01

Reported by CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange) (2012, April 25) in ScienceDaily, May 1 2012.

When stacking apples on a market stall, fruit sellers “naturally” adopt a particular arrangement: a regular pyramid with a triangular base. A French-German team, which includes in particular the Laboratoire de Physique des Solides (Université Paris-Sud / CNRS), has demonstrated that this arrangement is favored for reasons of mechanical stability. This work, which is published on the Physical Review Letters (PRL) website, could contribute to the design of organized porous materials.

Take apples or marbles. The best way to stack them consists in erecting a pyramid layer by layer, which ensures the maximum number of spheres is fitted into the minimum amount of space. There are several arrangements for stacking such identical spheres (of the same volume) with the same, optimal density. Two, in particular, are well known: a structure known as face centered cubic (FCC), whose base is necessarily a triangle for the smallest possible pyramid, and a hexagonally close-packed (HCP) structure with a hexagonal base, also when constructing the smallest possible pyramid. The first arrangement consists of a periodic repetition of three different positions of layers: ABCABC…. In the second, two different positions of layers are periodically repeated: ABABAB…. As early as 1611, while studying the stacking of canon balls, the scientist Johannes Kepler proposed the FCC arrangement as being the most efficient. It is moreover the arrangement used by stall holders to stack their fruit and vegetables.

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Jan 17

Reported by Daniela Hernandez, in Wired Science, 17 Jan. 2012.

2012 is sure to be filled with too many end-of-the-world jokes, and probably a fair amount of genuine fear as well.

But assuming the Mayans were wrong and doomsday isn’t on Dec. 21 this year, you may be wondering how the world as we know it might really end. We’ve collected several scientifically valid scenarios for you to worry about.


The chances of an earthquake unzipping the world’s fault system are negligible, says seismologist Thorne Lay of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Continue reading »

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Dec 10

Reported by Denise Brehm, MIT news, 8 Dec. 2011.

Analogy could help engineers develop materials that make use of repeating patterns…

Using a new mathematical methodology, researchers at MIT have created a scientifically rigorous analogy that shows the similarities between the physical structure of spider silk and the sonic structure of a melody, proving that the structure of each relates to its function in an equivalent way.

The step-by-step comparison begins with the primary building blocks of each item — an amino acid and a sound wave — and moves up to the level of a beta sheet nanocomposite (the secondary structure of a protein consisting of repeated hierarchical patterns) and a musical riff (a repeated pattern of notes or chords). The study explains that structural patterns are directly related to the functional properties of lightweight strength in the spider silk and, in the riff, sonic tension that creates an emotional response in the listener. Continue reading »

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Nov 07

By A. Heuer1, C. Müller1,2 and O. Rubner in EPL (Europhysics Letters), Volume 89, Number 3

1 Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster, Institut für Physikalische Chemie – Corrensstr. 30, 48149 Münster, Germany, EU
2 Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster, Institut für Organische Chemie – Corrensstr. 40, 48149 Münster, Germany, EU


The non-scientific event of a soccer match is analysed on a strictly scientific level. The analysis is based on the recently introduced concept of a team fitness (Eur. Phys. J. B, 67 (2009) 445) and requires the use of finite-size scaling. A uniquely defined function is derived which quantitatively predicts the expected average outcome of a soccer match in terms of the fitness of both teams. It is checked whether temporary fitness fluctuations of a team hamper the predictability of a soccer match. To a very good approximation scoring goals during a match can be characterized as independent Poissonian processes with pre-determined expectation values. Minor correlations give rise to an increase of the number of draws. The non-Poissonian overall goal distribution is just a consequence of the fitness distribution among different teams. The limits of predictability of soccer matches are quantified. Our model-free classification of the underlying ingredients determining the outcome of soccer matches can be generalized to different types of sports events.

Read more in EPL(Europhysics Letters) 89 38007, 2010. 

If you like it, you can also read:

  1. Self-affirmation model for football goal distributions
  2. Beckham as physicist?
  3. An image recognition system for the measurement of soccer ball spin characteristics
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Oct 30

by Laura A. Garrison and David S. Babcock in Complexity, Volume 14, Issue 6, pages 35–44, July/August 2009

Abstract: An agent-based C++ program was developed to model student drinking. Student-agents interact with each other and are randomly subjected to good or bad drinking experiences, to stories of other students’ experiences, and to peer pressure. The program outputs drinking rates as functions of time based on various input parameters. The intent of this project is to simulate alcohol use, eventually adding other drugs, and possibly creating a simulation game for use as an educational tool.

Read more: Article in pdf format

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