Flying with cosmic radiation

Regulations on exposure to cosmic radiation for air passengers and crew exist but the public and air crews generally know very little about the risks, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Sustainable Aviation.

Without the protection of 5 miles of the Earth’s atmosphere above them, air travellers are more exposed to cosmic radiation than those who keep their feet firmly on the ground. There is a problem of accumulation for frequent flyers and air crews. However, despite the fact that regulations on exposure do exist in Europe and elsewhere, the public and air crews themselves are largely unaware of the issue, says Nataša Tomic-Petrovic of the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Engineering, at the University of Belgrade, in Serbia. She has investigated this problem and presented a number of research studies on the risks to flyers associated with exposure to ionizing radiation from solar flares and outer space.

Tomic-Petrovic points out that exposure to ionizing radiation is an important risk factor for the development of cancer as the ionizing effect damages biomolecules. Among those biomolecules is DNA, mutations in which can trigger the uncontrolled cell replication of cancer. Cancer can sometimes result from repeated small doses of radiation of which we are completely unaware in our day to day lives our bodies not having the built in equivalent of a radiation detector. However, the effect of exposure to cosmic radiation on cancer risk is yet to be proven.

“European or worldwide environmental legislation is necessary, but also modern environmental education,” suggests Tomic-Petrovic. “Investments in the knowledge of citizens and informing them of the risks of radiation in aviation, its effects and manner of protection should become the priority for all of us.”
Tomic-Petrovic, N.M. (2016) ‘Radiation in aviation – risks and legal protection’, Int. J. Sustainable Aviation, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp.159–169.

Research Picks Extra – January 2017

Amping innovation up to “11”

There are pros and cons to innovation that emerges from the activities of hobbyists according to researchers in Finland who have taken the CreamSound guitar amplifier as a case study. They point out that the product users and the innovators being one and the same are inevitably highly passionate about the work. Conversely, except in rare cases, resources at the disposal of the innovators are limited. The findings add to the small but growing knowledge surrounding customer- and user-centred innovation an increasingly important topic in product development and subsequent marketing of novel products and new designs of old products. The advent of social networking could hobbyist innovators could gain skills and become more effective through greater communication and connectivity.

Salmela, E., Häkkinen, K. and Rantala, J. (2017) ‘Hobbyists as a super group of user-centred innovation – case CreamSound guitar amplifier’, Int. J. Innovation and Learning, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp.223–245.


More power to your elbow

Biomechanics is yet to reach its full potential consistent with improving healthcare delivery, according to researchers in India. The team’s analysis of a persistent and ubiquitous joint problem – elbow pain, often referred to as tennis elbow, or golfer’s elbow depending on the specific location of the problem, has allowed them to show how biomechanics coupled with software might be more efficaciously employed in understanding such a problem. Fundamentally, they have determined the nature of the forces involved in elbow flexion and the angle through which the elbow functions most effectively. While, the specific case offers a good example of an analysis with a biomechanics approach, it also serves as a model for how biomechanics might mature.

Pujari, S., Venkatesh, T. and Kumar, M.D.S. (2016) ‘Analysis of Muscle moment and reaction force of elbow joint during flexion moment’, Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp.370–376


The tourist age

The competitiveness of any given tourist attraction depends on happy visitors who enjoy the visit and feel they got value for money and would consider a return revisit or at the least recommend the attraction to other people. The age of visitors to an attraction is critical to profiling the tourist demographic especially given that certain types of attraction may be broadly of more interest to certain age groups than others. Moreover, the image of a given destination may give potential visitors in different age groups preconceptions about that attraction and either encourage or discourage them from visiting. A US study offers new insights into how age affects satisfaction and points to new approaches to tourist marketing and business practices that could bolster the industry.

Li, J., Ali, F. and Kim, W.G. (2017) ‘Age matters: how demographics influence visitor perception and attitude at the destination level’, Int. J. Innovation and Learning, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp.149–164.


Optimising sperm

Complex problems often require complex answers. However, mimicking natural processes such as the way in which a bee colony seeks out flowers rich in nectar, bats hunt flying insects, or ants control the colony can be a way to find simpler solutions to such problems. Indeed, a whole field has grown out of biomimetic optimisation. Now, a team from Egypt and Yemen has turned to the natural process of how sperm follow a chemical attractant given off by the egg to achieve internal fertilisation as a novel way to optimise certain problems. The team has coded a computer algorithm that mimics the behaviour of many sperm of different “motility” flowing towards the ovum in the reproductive tract guided by a chemoattractant. The algorithm can then solve a global optimisation problem without resorting to much more long-winded trial-and-error approaches commonly used for such engineering problems as design of gear trains or liquid transport containers.

Raouf, O.A. and Hezam, I.M. (2017) ‘Sperm motility algorithm: a novel metaheuristic approach for global optimisation’, Int. J. Operational Research, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp.143–163.

Cyberterrorism could get personal

Cyber terrorism is a controversial term. In considering terrorism, the popular image is of hijacked aeroplanes, buildings and lives destroyed by bombs, multiple shootings and other large-scale life-threatening incidents. It would be easy to marginalise cyberterrorism as nothing more important as a bit of hacking, a few leaked emails and passwords, a website blocked. Unfortunately, one must consider the scenario in which a cyberterrorist takes control of important infrastructure, transport systems, power grids, and defence installations. Where a network of terrorists might organise a large-scale terror attack involving conventional weapons, the cyberterrorist might take control of or even destroy infrastructure on which millions of lives depend.

Writing in the International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management, Nicholas Ayres, Leandros Maglaras, Helge Janicke, Richard Smith and Ying He of the School of Computer Science and Informatics, at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, explain that in cyberterrorism the computer, the digital world, becomes both weapon and target, and the consequences of malicious use in such a context could have global consequences. They point out that the main focus of defence and intelligence agencies when it comes to the diffuse term cyberterrorism is currently critical national infrastructure. However, a very large proportion of the global population is now online. With simple tools, our personal computers and communications devices could be an easier and more tempting target for the cyberterrorist.

The cyberterrorist might, for instance, permanently disable our connectivity at the individual level and cause harm perhaps by blocking access to utilities, health, and emergency services. They might physically damage our homes and other property by taking control of the growing number of Internet of things (IoT) devices used to control heating, refrigeration, lighting, security and other domestic systems, and increasingly our vehicles. Moreover, the concept of distributed denial of service attacks (DDOS) carried out by so-called “zombie” computers operating as part of a botnet have already been used widely in hacking well-known corporate databases. It may well be only a matter of time before a botnet is used to take control or manipulate with malicious intent critical systems in the domestic environment as well as in industry, commerce and defence.

“The postmodern cyberterrorist can deploy a digital weapon such as a virus that can be programmed to ‘explode’ or activate at a specified time or if a specific condition is met,” the team suggests. “A whole new arsenal of digital armaments in order to attack a target that is anywhere in the world and equally can be deployed from anywhere,” the team adds. Given that the primary motive of the terrorist is to instil fear in people, this might be possible on a global level with the threat and demonstration of a sufficiently destructive computer virus that interferes at a critical level in terms of safety, food and water, health and other critical aspects of our daily lives.

In the digital age we have a whole lot more to fear than fear itself Franklin D…

Ayres, N., Maglaras, L.A., Janicke, H., Smith, R. and He, Y. (2016) ‘The mimetic virus: a vector for cyberterrorism‘, Int. J. Business Continuity and Risk Management, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.259-271.