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Ebb and Flow: Scientific Visualization : A new(ish) and growing interdisciplinary approach to scientific visualization is changing how we look at things and how we work towards understanding geological, medical, physical, chemical and biological phenomena. Why is this useful? Students understand the basics so much better with visualization, architects can 'see' and realize soil characteristics, researchers are using these visualization in myriad ways to come to some startling conclusions. So what is this all about?

Computing power has changed the paradigm : Computer simulation is a computer program, or network of computers, that attempts to simulate an abstract model of a particular system. Computer simulations have become a useful part of mathematical modelling of many natural systems in physics, and computational physics, chemistry and biology; human systems in economics, psychology, and social science; and in the process of engineering and new technology, to gain insight into the operation of those systems, or to observe their behavior. The simultaneous visualization and simulation of a system is called visulation.

Data visualization : In its more modern incarnation data visualization has generated a new form of graphic design where visual attributes such as lines, shapes and colors become nothing more than the corporeal reality of graphic objects whose soul is made of data. The new graphic designer no longer creates visualizations by choosing a rigid collection of shapes, positions and colors but rather by choosing the rules needed for data to breathe form into geometric abstractions.

NASA's Visualization Studio : The Scientific Visualization Studio wants you to learn about NASA programs through visualization. The SVS works closely with scientists in the creation of visualizations, animations, and images in order to promote a greater understanding of Earth and Space Science research activities at NASA and within the academic research community supported by NASA. And this is where you can learn more about the planets, the solar system and stars!

References and Sources

http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_visualization

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-data-visualization-revolution/

Image credit : http://goo.gl/EOf3I0 (skunkbear.tumblr)
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Swarm robotics

Swarm robotics is a technological technique of using multiple simple robots to work as a team and follow instructions. This technology has been greatly inspired by the nature. There are many animals, insects and fishes which live in a swarm.

If you've ever seen a trail of ants streaming up a wall or over a counter, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were working in strict, militant harmony. Not so. A robotic test bed developed at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark shows that this apparent order can emerge in artificial bodies following just a few simple rules.

Symbrion (Symbiotic Evolutionary Robot Organisms) is a project funded by European Commissions to develop a framework in which a homogeneous swarm of miniature interdependent robots can co-assemble into a larger robotic organism to gain problem-solving momentum. One of the key-aspects of Symbrion is inspired by the biological world: an artificial genome that allows to store and evolve (sub)optimal configurations in order to achieve an increased speed of adaptation.

Dr Roderich Gross, head of the Natural Robotics Lab, in the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering at the University of Sheffield, says swarming robots could have important roles to play in the future of micromedicine, as 'nanobots' are developed for non-invasive treatment of humans. On a larger scale, they could play a part in military, or search and rescue operations, acting together in areas where it would be too dangerous or impractical for humans to go. In industry too, robot swarms could be put to use, improving manufacturing processes and workplace safety.

Sources: Wikipedia. Symbrion.eu, Newscientist, Phys.org

Further reading: http://phys.org/news/2013-03-swarming-robots-servants-future-video.html

Alicebots on NewScientist: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2013/03/swarming-alice-bots.html

Reference : http://www.symbrion.eu/tiki-index.php

#science #scienceeveryday #robots #robotics #swarm #swarming #artificialintelligence  
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How tiny marine creatures drive ocean currents : The science of swarms is fascinating and it has to do with Physics of fluids. Remember fish, birds and all kinds of insects display swarming behavior (Air is also a fluid).

The small brine shrimp (remember sea monkeys?) Artemia salina may be responsible for influencing ocean currents, circulation patterns and even the climate. Read on to know more...

Tiny size but huge numbers : Each individual shrimp only generates the tiniest of currents, but when many shrimp swim in tandem, they generate a current that’s stronger than the sum of those created by each individual. When a larger group moves together, he says, they produce strong downward jets with swirling currents on the side says the study's author.

Physics : "This research suggests a remarkable and previously unobserved two-way coupling between the biology and the physics of the ocean," study researcher John Dabiri, a professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology, said in a statement. "The organisms in the ocean appear to have the capacity to influence their environment by their collective swimming."

Influence : Usually, researchers credit the wind and tides for creating currents that mix the ocean's salt, nutrients and heat. In contrast, this study suggests that microscopic animals also influence currents. In a study published in 2009 in the journal Nature, Dabiri and his colleagues proposed that sea creatures such as jellyfish mix ocean waters, and ventured that even smaller organisms could do the same. This study offers evidence for their idea, at least in an aquarium environment.

Article link from +Popular Science : http://goo.gl/dTNLXe

Research paper AIP |Scitation: http://goo.gl/dKnYLU

Video link: Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) Data of a Vertical Migration Experiment

Additional video link: Flow Field Measurement During Vertical Migration of A. salina

+Discover Magazine link: http://goo.gl/09iVnu

Livescience link: http://www.livescience.com/48069-sea-monkeys-swirl-ocean.html

More about the brine shrimp: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Artemia_salina/

Gif pic courtesy : http://goo.gl/8Y40SH (for illustration purposes only, not a brine shrimp). Brine shrimp on left from +Mother Nature

#science #scienceeveryday  
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Murmurations : is the term used to describe birds flocking and swarming in the sky. Very often, it will take just one bird to change the direction of the swarm. While I have written about swarms before, physicist Andrea Cavagna who studies Bose-Einstein condensates has compared the swarming physics to that of a superfluid; atoms which fall into place in a Bose-Einstein condensate. Sounds far-fetched? read on to know more...

Movement : Cavagna was hardly the first scientist to be intrigued by these acrobatics—known, in a rare instance of technical language coinciding with poetry, as “murmurations.” Other animals that travel in groups showing the same uncanny ability to move in apparent unison away from a predator or toward a food source. One 20th-century ornithologist seriously proposed that they coordinated their movements by telepathy. That possibility hasn’t found much support in biology. The other explanation is that a signal to change direction originates with one or a few individuals, probably on the periphery (the ones most likely to see a threat), and travels as a wave front across the flock, like a ripple spreading across a pond from a dropped pebble. It is just an artifact of human vision that we can’t see it happen in real time. But high-speed cameras can capture it, and computers can model the behavior.

Swarm faster than individuals : Prince­ton biologist Iain Couzin and MIT oceanographer Nicholas Makris have shown that in the presence of a predator, or a potential food source, or an opportunity to spawn, a wave of movement crosses a school of fish five to ten times faster than any one of them can swim—“incredibly well orchestrated,” says Couzin, “like a ballet.” The fish they’ve studied exhibit a threshold response, changing course only when a sufficiently large fraction of their visible neighbors have.

Wave Phenomena : As for starlings, Cavagna and his collaborators have shown recently that each keeps track of the six or seven closest starlings, adjusting its flight to stay in synchrony. In a new paper, they show how a signal originating with a single individual can cross a hundred-yard-wide flock in a fraction of a second, with virtually no distortion or diminution. The equations that describe this are those that govern waves—rather than, say, the diffusion of a gas or liquid. In the broadest sense, the same laws that photons obey are in play when a flock of starlings encounters a peregrine falcon.

Article Link: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-just-one-bird-can-urge-entire-flock-change-directions-180952426/?no-ist

Related paper: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347213000432

Swarming behavior: http://people.esam.northwestern.edu/~cristian/research_body.html

Must watch video link: amazing starlings murmuration (full HD) -www.keepturningleft.co.uk

Main pic source : http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/s/starling/roosting.aspx

Gif and video source: http://americablog.com/2014/01/stunning-flock-starlings-video.html

Time lapse of bird flight patterns : http://www.visualnews.com/2014/01/27/bird-flights-mapped-into-time-lapse-sky-performances/

#scienceeveryday #sciencesunday #swarm  
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Crazy Ants v/s Fire Ants : A story of chemical warfare and epic battles fought across centuries. Of an arms race which escalated to using your own venom on yourself. The front lines spewing venom at each other. This story makes our human wars seem like minor skirmishes.

Article Extract: The two species march to war across an arid landscape. When they meet, it is an immediate mixture of carnage and chemical warfare. Both sides swarm the front lines, spewing corrosive venom and dying by the thousands. But while the melee may look uneven at first glance—one species has reigned this foreign soil uncontested for decades, while the other is a smaller and weaker newcomer—the odd newcomer is the clear victor when the dust settles.

"Other ant species typically avoid fire ants," says LeBrun, "fire ant venom is so toxic that it's not something other ants will confront. But these crazy ants will just charge on into the fray with what seems like wild, willful abandon."

The key to their success, is the crazy ants' chemical defenses. Once a crazy ant suffers what should be a fatal dose of fire ant venom, the ant quickly retreats from the battle to apply its own caustic venom onto its body. For reasons the researchers still don't quite understand, the crazy ant venom acts like a healing salve, neutralizing the effect of the fire ant's toxic ammunition. "And when they're done, they'll run right back in to fight and take on another fire ant," LeBrun says. This tactic is so effective that in the places where both kinds ants live, "the tawny crazy ants are just steamrolling the fire ant populations."

"One of the really fascinating things is that these two species share a long, common evolutionary history," Holway says. "They're both from some of the same parts of South America. So this detoxification ability in the crazy ants is something that might have emerged from interactions with the fire ants over many millennia." In other words: While the U.S. is a new battleground for these two species, theirs is an age-old conflict.

Article Link: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/how-crazy-ants-crush-fire-ants-their-own-venom-is-the-antidote-16488787?click=pm_news

Sciencemag paper: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2014/02/12/science.1245833.abstract

Pic from main article, courtesy Science/AAAS.

Youtube video link: Fire ants vs. Rasberry Crazy Ants

Additional reading: http://www.livescience.com/34491-crazy-ants-driving-out-fire-ants.html

#ants #fireants #crazyants #science #warfare  
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Swarming behavior : Birds, fish, bats, bacteria, krill and ants and bees; in fact a number of insects... all exhibit swarming behavior. We know that with some simple rules of traffic control, we can now create swarming robots and even model artificial swarms (computer generated). Why is this interesting? They have incredible applications.. from medical applications to robotics to settling a human colony on Mars...

Article Extract: Inspired by the termites' resilience and collective intelligence, a team of computer scientists and engineers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University has created an autonomous robotic construction crew. The system needs no supervisor, no eye in the sky, and no communication: just simple robots—any number of robots—that cooperate by modifying their environment. The TERMES robots can build towers, castles, and pyramids out of foam bricks, autonomously building themselves staircases to reach the higher levels and adding bricks wherever they are needed. In the future, similar robots could lay sandbags in advance of a flood, or perform simple construction tasks on Mars.

Evolutionary Models : In order to gain insight into why animals evolve swarming behaviour, scientists have turned to evolutionary models that simulate populations of evolving animals. Typically these studies use a genetic algorithm to simulate evolution over many generations in the model. These studies have investigated a number of hypotheses explaining why animals evolve swarming behaviour, such as the selfish herd theory, the predator confusion effect, and the dilution effect.

Medical Applications : Researchers are investigating SDS, a swarm intelligence algorithm, through a social metaphor and presented some of its possible applications. The applicability of the SDS algorithm in identifying areas of metastasis are discussed and the potential of deploying SDS in developing programmes for teaching and training medical students and junior doctors is also considered. Possible areas for future research in using SDS with swarming robots are also being explored.

Article Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swarm_behaviour

Nature Link: http://www.nature.com/news/termite-inspired-robots-build-castles-1.14713

Harvard Link: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-02/hu-rcc021114.php

ISea Link: http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/paper/swarming-robots-and-possible-medical-applications

Natgeo Link: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140213-robots-building-blocks-termites-swarm-science-technology/

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swarm_behaviour

Pics courtesy: Popsci (computer generated swarm) http://goo.gl/sUs9b7, Gizmodo (Robotic swarm) http://goo.gl/HZ1r9h, Giphy (swarming fish) http://goo.gl/eKiy2Z, Bird swarm (Wikipedia link).

#swarm #science #robotics #nature  
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Decision making in bee swarms : Fascinating swarms of bees behave very similar to neurons in Human brains when it comes to decision making. From Article: When you consider a swarm one bee at a time this way, it starts to look like a heap of chaos. Each insect wanders around, using its tiny brain to perceive nothing more than its immediate surroundings. Yet, somehow, thousands of honeybees can pool their knowledge and make a collective decision about where they will make a new home, even if that home may be miles away.

The decision-making power of honeybees is a prime example of what scientists call swarm intelligence. Clouds of locusts, schools of fish, flocks of birds and colonies of termites display it as well. And in the field of swarm intelligence, Seeley is a towering figure. For 40 years he has come up with experiments that have allowed him to decipher the rules honeybees use for their collective decision-making. He would look into the boxes (which had two hives) and see bees coming in with loads of pollen on their legs. Other bees fanned their wings to keep the hives cool. Other bees acted as guards, pacing back and forth at the opening.

“It’s beautiful when you see how well it works,” Seeley said. “Things don’t bog down when individuals get too stubborn. In fact, they’re all pretty modest. They say, ‘Well, I found something, and I think it’s interesting. I don’t know if it’s the best, but I’ll report what I found and let the best site win.’”

Main Article: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/The-Secret-Life-of-Bees.html

Earlier article referencing Seeley: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111208142019.htm

Reference book "Wisdom of the Hive" by Thomas D Seeley : http://goo.gl/jFiiGb

Pics courtesy: Pic on right from stgeorgeutah.com titled 'bee swarm'. Pic on left: From the Smithosonianmag, collage of arts and science (Augochlorella aurata, Boonesboro, Maryland. USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.)

#science #swarms #bees #biology #scienceeveryday  
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Smart Dust : Chemistry graduate student Jamie Link was working on a silicon chip at the University of California, San Diego. When the chip shattered, she discovered (with the help of her professor) that the tiny bits of the chip were still sending signals, operating as tiny sensors. They coined the term "smart dust" for the small, self-assembling particles.

Now, a team from the University of Michigan has built not just a very small microchip, but a whole functioning computer, and it’s less than a cubic millimeter in size. Called the Michigan Micro Mote, or M3, this tiny computer features processing, data storage, and wireless communication. Researcher Pabral Dutta thinks it will be the “next revolution in computing.” The chips are designed to necessarily work as a swarm

Earlier post on Smart Dust: https://plus.google.com/110884604033336753419/posts/46uNmEVrirc

Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartdust

Michigan Micro Mote M3 : http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/155771-smart-dust-a-complete-computer-thats-smaller-than-a-grain-of-sand

Berkeley Project funded by DARPA: http://robotics.eecs.berkeley.edu/~pister/SmartDust/

Smart dust on the Brain: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57594209-1/berkeley-scientists-have-smart-dust-on-the-brain/

Sources: Popular Mechanics, Smithsonianblog, Science Journal.

#science #scienceeveryday #smartdust #smart #motes #physics  
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Bait ball - The Science of swarms Thanks to new observation technologies, powerful software, and statistical methods, the mechanics of collectives are being revealed. Indeed, enough physicists, biologists, and engineers have gotten involved that the science itself seems to be hitting a density-dependent shift. Without obvious leaders or an overarching plan, this collective of the collective-obsessed is finding that the rules that produce majestic cohesion out of local jostling turn up in everything from neurons to human beings. Behavior that seems impossibly complex can have disarmingly simple foundations. And the rules may explain everything from how cancer spreads to how the brain works and how armadas of robot-driven cars might someday navigate highways. The way individuals work together may actually be more important than the way they work alone.

British Wildlife photographer Christopher Swann swam in
the midst of a frenetic battle of life and death to capture these
images off the coast of the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean.

Article (Extract) Link: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/03/powers-of-swarms/all/

The National Science foundation paper on swarming behavior and the Bait Ball phenomena: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1209.3330.pdf

Video link: Bluefin Tuna Eat Bait Ball

Link to the original work of the Photographer Christopher Swann: http://www.sciencephoto.com/static/features/1349-Bait-ball-frenzy.pdf

#science #scienceeveryday #baitball #bait #swarm #swarming #dolphin #shark #fish #biology #simulation  
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Taipei makers had created swarm robots : I missed this earlier, and I quote from their website:

In this project, we design and make 438 flower robots for the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo. Our goal is to make each individual equip identical minimum rules but achieve highly intelligent behaviors. Hence, we adopt the idea of “Self-Organization” to realize “Swarm Intelligence”. Each “Florabot" has a MCU, IR transceivers, a tri-color LED, a motor and a stretch structure. The IR transceiver on top of the flower is capable of sensing the presence of a visitor. Once the visitor is detected, according to how close the visitor is, the tri-color LED in the head changes color and the stretch structure of the head modifies its size. Moreover, this Florabot propagates the information of visitor’s presence to neighbors by IR transceivers at the base. The neighbors will further react based on the received information.

Website: http://www.tonytang2009.com/wordpress/florabot/

#science #scienceeveryday #robots
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