Archive for 'Research News'

Cyborg botany [study]

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Over several million years, Venus Flytraps have been triggered to snap shut by flies. A new research project has shown they can also be triggered by a mouse – viz. a computer mouse [As shown in the video above].

The many and varied possibilities of creating ‘Cyborg Plants’ has been investigated by Harpreet Sareen of the Parsons School of Design, New York, and Pattie Maes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have, between them, created –

“… a series of [plant] hybrids with a complex intertwining of technological capabilities placed in association with the plant functions.”

See: Cyborg Botany: Exploring In-Planta Cybernetic Systems for Interaction in CHI EA ’19 Extended Abstracts of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Paper No. LBW0237.

BONUS: A full copy of the Ig Nobel Peace Prize-winning study ‘The dignity of living beings with regard to plants. Moral consideration of plants for their own sake’ (2008) from the Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH), Switzerland.

Research research: by Martin Gardiner

Grow Hair with Electricity on Rats and Nude Mice

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Hair growth was electrically prodded into happening in/on rats and in/on nude mice, using a clever gizmo, says a new study. The news potentially raises excitement about growing hair akin to the excitement about disease treatment raised by numerous reports of cancer being cured in mice.

The new study is: “Self-Activated Electrical Stimulation for Effective Hair Regeneration via a Wearable Omnidirectional Pulse Generator,” Guang Yao, Dawei Jiang, Jun Li, Lei Kang, Sihong Chen, Yin Long, Yizhan Wang et al., ACS nano, epub 2019.

The authors, at the University of Wisconsin, USA, at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, and at Shenzhen University, China, report:

“a universal motion-activated and wearable electric stimulation device that can effectively promote hair regeneration via random body motions was designed. Significantly facilitated hair regeneration results were obtained from Sprague–Dawley rats and nude mice. Higher hair follicle density and longer hair shaft length were observed on Sprague–Dawley rats when the device was employed compared to conventional pharmacological treatments…. This work provides an effective hair regeneration strategy in the context of a nonpharmacological self-powered wearable electronic device.”

(Thanks to Mark Benecke for bringing this to our attention.)

Wealth Inequality Among Snails

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

The economics of snails—specifically, what one might call “the economics of the shell game”—gets some data and hard thought in a new study.

A Comparison of Wealth Inequality in Humans and Non-Humans,” Ivan D. Chase, Raphael Douady, and Dianna K. Padilla, Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 2019, 122962. The authors, at Stony Brook University, explain:

“Inequality in the distribution of material resources (wealth) occurs widely across human groups…. Here we present the first description of inequality in material resources in an animal population: the distribution of gastropod (snail) shells inhabited by the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus. We find that the shell distribution for the crabs strongly resembles the characteristic form of wealth distribution in human groups. The amount of inequality in the crabs is more than that in some small-scale human groups but less than that in nations.”

Nathaniel Barr’s Ig Nobel lecture on Pseudo-Profound Bullshit

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Nathaniel Barr did a five-minute-long talk about pseudo-profound bullshit, and then answered questions, two days after receiving the 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize.

That prize was awarded to Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit”. (The study was published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10, no. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563.)

Here’s video of that talk, part of the Ig Informal Lectures, at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Quantifying Missing Drizzle – a new paradigm [study]

Monday, September 30th, 2019

If a raindrop is less than 0.5mm in diameter, it’s drizzle – and if a drizzle particle is over 0.5mm, it’s a raindrop. That’s following the definitions of the National Weather Service Observing Handbook No. 8, Aviation Weather Observations for Supplementary Aviation Weather Reporting Stations (SAWRS), Manual Observations, October 1996. But quantifying drizzle is not as straightforward as simply collecting raindrops in a disdrometer, [see photo] because drizzle doesn’t (necessarily) ‘fall’ in a predictable way, as rain (sometimes) does, In short, Disdrometers have difficulty with drizzle :

“Commonly used disdrometers tend not to accurately measure concentrations of very small drops in the raindrop size distribution (DSD), either through truncation of the DSD at the small-drop end or because of large uncertainties on these measurements. Recent studies have shown that, as a result of these inaccuracies, many if not most ground-based disdrometers do not capture the ‘drizzle mode’ of precipitation, which consists of large concentrations of small drops and is often separated from the main part of the DSD by a shoulder region.”

– explains a report in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, Jan. 2019. The authors propose a solution to such problems :

“We present a technique for reconstructing the drizzle mode of the DSD from ‘incomplete’ measurements in which the drizzle mode is not present.”

See: Reconstructing the Drizzle Mode of the Raindrop Size Distribution Using Double-Moment Normalization, Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, Jan. 2019

Note: If the water droplet size is below 20 micrometers (or so) it’s not drizzle, it’s fog. [Ref : Pruppacher H., Klett J. (2010) Microstructure of Atmospheric Clouds and Precipitation. In: Microphysics of Clouds and Precipitation. Atmospheric and Oceanographic Sciences Library, vol 18.]

BONUS: The internationally recognized symbols for drizzle(s) can be found here.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia

Research research: Martin Gardiner

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