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Chris Genly
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Researchers add to evidence that common bacterial cause of gum disease may drive rheumatoid arthritis

Investigators at Johns Hopkins report they have new evidence that a bacterium known to cause chronic inflammatory gum infections also triggers the inflammatory "autoimmune" response characteristic of chronic, joint-destroying rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The new findings have important implications for prevention and treatment of RA, say the researchers.

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"...when the researchers added a dog-like schnoz to a vapor sensor they were about to pick up eighteen times more vapor."
Researchers simulate a dog nose to help smell bombs, cancer, pizza

Like most of us, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology had always wondered why dogs had wet noses. Further, they wondered why they could sense vapors better, allowing them to sniff out bombs, drugs, and even cancer. They tested the second question by 3D printing a dog’s nose including the “nasal vestibule, external nose, lower jaw, and about 10 cm of the snout.” The sensor – which looks just like a dog’s nose – shows why and how a dog can sniff things out so easily. The researchers discovered that the nose was able to sense odors up to 10cm away while still taking in air around the snout, a fact that means first that dogs can localize odors directionally and, further, they can grab odors that would be inaccessible to other animals. “During the expiratory phase of sniffing, turbulent air jets vectored ventrally and laterally entrain odorant vapor from tens of centimeters ahead of the nose that would otherwise be inaccessible to the dog,” the researchers write. “During the inspiratory phase of sniffing each nostril draws in air from all directions, including odorant-laden air that was drawn toward the nose during expiration."

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Make a video game bot easily

In this video, we first go over the history of video game AI, then I introduce OpenAI's Universe, which lets you build a bot that can play thousands of different video games. It has environments for all sorts of games, from Space Invaders, to Grand Theft Auto, to Protein folding simulations.

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Monkeys should be able to talk just like us – so why don’t they?

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ee, ee, ee! Shouting monkeys may have more sophisticated vocal abilities than we give them credit for. It seems that the anatomy of their vocal tract is theoretically capable of producing the five basic vowel sounds on which most human languages are based – and these could be used to form intelligible sentences. For example, listen to what a monkey asking “Will you marry me?” would sound like in the audio file below (see link):

The results add to a growing body of evidence that some monkeys and apes can mimic or generate rudimentary sounds needed for speech-like communication. “No one can say now that there’s a vocal anatomy problem with monkey speech,” says Asif Ghazanfar at Princeton University, and co-leader of the study team. “They have a speech-ready vocal anatomy, but not a speech-ready brain. Now we need to find out why the human but not the monkey brain can produce language.” Previous experiments to explore whether monkeys possess the vocal tools needed to speak relied on analysis of plaster casts of a macaque’s vocal tract. Now, Ghazanfar and his colleagues have used movies and still X-ray images of the vocal tract of a live male long-tailed macaque called Emiliano....“What we’ve discovered is that the monkey vocal anatomy is capable of creating speech intelligible to us,” says Ghazanfar. But, he says, the macaques lack a speech-ready brain to control it. The team says its study also implies that the evolution of human speech capabilities required neural changes rather than modifications to vocal anatomy.

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Triple Pendulum Control

A few years ago Dr. Tobias Glück from Technische Universität Wien, found that along with his mathematical insights, computers and numerical methods were now fast enough to swing-up and balance a pendulum, on a pendulum, on pendulum on a sliding rail under computer control.

IEEE CSS Video Clip Contest 2014 Submission

Triple Pendulum on a Cart (YT ~1 min.):

The presented work deals with the swing-up of the triple pendulum on a cart. The swing-up maneuver is accomplished within a two-degrees-of-freedom control scheme consisting of a nonlinear feedforward controller and an optimal feedback controller. Based on a precise mathematical model, the feedforward controller was obtained by solving a nonlinear two-point boundary value problem with free parameters. A time-variant Riccati Controller was developed in order to stabilize the system along the nominal trajectory and an Extended Kalman Filter was used to estimate the non-measurable states. The overall control strategy for the swing-up maneuver was successfully implemented and tested on an experimental test bench. Up to the authors’ knowledge, this is the first contribution so far providing numerical and experimental results of the swing-up maneuver for a triple pendulum on a cart.

Paper (open pdf):

Tobias Glück:

Here is an easy to follow and graphic explanation of Kalman filters due to Tim Babb, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is Lighting Optimization Lead for Pixar Animation Studios.

Related Post:

Animated Photo

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Immune system uses gut bacteria to control glucose metabolism

Researchers at Oregon State University and other institutions have discovered an important link between the immune system, gut bacteria and glucose metabolism—a "cross-talk" and interaction that can lead to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome when not functioning correctly. The findings, published today in Nature Communications, are one example of how different mammalian systems can affect each other in ways not previously understood.
A better understanding of these systems, researchers say, may lead to new probiotic approaches to diabetes and other diseases. The research also shows the general importance of proper bacterial functions in the gut and the role of one bacteria in particular—Akkermansia muciniphila—in helping to regulate glucose metabolism. This bacteria's function is so important, scientists say, that it has been conserved through millions of years of evolution to perform a similar function in both mice and humans.

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Power outage in the brain may be source of Alzheimer's

In new research appearing in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia, Diego Mastroeni, Paul Coleman and their colleagues...investigate the role of mitochondria in Alzheimer's disease pathology. Mitochondria act as energy centers for cells and are of central importance in health and disease. The study builds on earlier work suggesting gene mutations affecting mitochondrial function may be critical in the development— and pitiless progression— of the disease. "Age-related neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's, progress over a long period of time before they become clinically apparent. The earliest physiological and molecular events are largely unknown," says Mastroeni. "Findings from our laboratory have uncovered early expression changes in nuclear encoded, but not mitochondrial encoded mRNAs occurring in one's early thirties; giving us a glimpse into what we suspect are some of the earliest cellular changes in the progression of Alzheimer's disease." Results of the new study show that specific classes of genes associated with mitochondrial cell respiration display reduced expression levels in patients with Alzheimer's disease, compared with normal patients.

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A New Spin on the Quantum Brain: A new theory explains how fragile quantum states may be able to exist for hours or even days in our warm, wet brain. Experiments should soon test the idea.

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Today NASA announced that the largest space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is now complete. It is to be the "successor" to NASA's Hubble telescope and
will be set to launch in 2018.
JWST took over 20 years to complete and will now endure testing to ensure a safe launch.
According to senior project scientist John Mather, it will "be
able to see a bumblebee a moon's distance away."
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