Chewing over the aging process

Could scientists use the Second Law of Thermodynamics on your chewing muscles to work out when you are going to die? According to research published in the International Journal of Exergy, the level of entropy, or thermodynamic disorder, in the chewing muscles in your jaw increases with each mouthful. This entropy begins to accumulate from the moment you’re “on solids” until your last meal, but measuring it at any given point in your life could be used to estimate life expectancy.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states the precise opposite of the optimistic phrase “things can only get better”. In fact, the disorder in a closed system, its entropy, always increases…eventually. In other words, things can only get worse. Castles of stone or sand eventually collapse, the bodies of those who build such castles ultimately decay, in the meantime the food they eat is broken and only temporarily rebuilt into muscles. The masseter muscles, for instance, strong and the most prominent chewing muscles in the jaw that are particularly powerful in herbivores, but all mammals use these muscles to chew.

While we live and breathe our bodies have repair systems for mending damaged tissues, but they do suffer wear and tear, mainly through friction. Nevertheless, Mustafa Özilgen of the Department of Food Engineering, at Yeditepe University, in Istanbul, and colleagues, point out that the lifespan entropy concept suggests that organisms have a limited capacity for generating disorder, entropy, during their lifetime. When that limit is reached, the organism dies, essentially “of natural causes”.

A person living out their three score years and ten, or perhaps more realistically in the modern era, 76 years on average will generate 10 kilojoules per degree Kelvin of entropy in their masseter muscles as they chew from out of the cradle and into the grave. An obese person, who may be taking up 10 percent more nutrients than their slim friend, may generate that same amount of entropy five years earlier. A more efficient body, and specifically more efficient muscles will take longer to generate entropy. As such, the team says, it should be possible to determine entropy of the masseter muscles under laboratory conditions by recording precise energy measurements of the tissue while a person chews and so provide an estimate of lifespan based on likely quantities of food they eat each day through their lives.

Çatak, J., Develi, A.Ç., Sorguven, E., Özilgen, M. and İnal, S.H. (2015) ‘Lifespan entropy generated by the masseter muscles during chewing: an indicator of the life expectancy?’, Int. J. Exergy, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp.46–67.

Research Picks for October 2015

Social media and disasters

Researchers in South Korea and the USA hoped to determine whether public organisations can encourage people to use social media during a natural or other disaster for mutual benefit and safety. Using the 2013 Seoul Emergency Management Survey covering the Seoul floods as a basis for their analysis, the team found that social networking services do indeed help organisations communicate more effectively during a period of upheaval and increased dangers to the public. Information and advice, they found can spread rapidly via such networks especially if the public is encouraged to participate in risk communication via this medium.

Song, M., Kim, J.W., Kim, Y. and Jung, K. (2015) ‘Does the provision of emergency information on social media facilitate citizen participation during a disaster?’, Int. J. Emergency Management, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.224–239.

Down to Earth in Australia

There is a growing need for commerce to innovate and become sustainable. The example of indigenous food entrepreneurship offers many lessons for businesses around the world, according to a study by researchers in Australia and France. The team has used Mark Olive and Indigiearth, an Aboriginal owned and operated business, employing local Aboriginal staff, strengthening Aboriginal People and Culture, as examplars of success in this sphere. Olive is often referred to as the “Australia’s Jamie Oliver” because of his ethical approach, but the team points out that the indigenous people of Australia have always had a strong association between the land, nation, families, individuals and communities that inspires innovative cooking and food use at the local level. The team concludes that, “the entrepreneurial capacity of indigenous people can be strengthened by promoting commercially viable but culturally ethical business ventures.”

Ratten, V. and Dana, L-P. (2015) ‘Indigenous food entrepreneurship in Australia: Mark Olive ‘Australia’s Jamie Oliver’ and Indigiearth’, Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp.265–279.

Fitness Trackers

Scientists at Portland State University working with colleagues at Intel and Nike have investigated the decision-making process when consumers wish to purchase a wearable fitness tracker. Their findings show that a hierarchical decision model defines and organises the decision-making criterion that is used in the selection a fitness tracking device. Factors such as water resistance for different types of sport, what metrics the device records (heart rate, distance travelled, steps taken etc), as well as other functionality such as connectivity with social media and email, operating system (Android, Apple’s iOS etc) are all involved in the purchase decision. Intriguingly, the decision algorithm recommended all users in their test cases to use the UP Jawbone fitness tracker device.

Daim, T.U., Al-Mulla, N., Sengupta, S.B., Shah, K. and Demchig, B. (2015) ‘Technology assessment: case of the wearable computing for fitness’, Int. J. Medical Engineering and Informatics, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.321–364.

Aggregated assessment

A team in Azerbaijan has investigated how an aggregated “score” for scientific output might prove a better metric for how well researchers are…researching. An aggregate score must be based on reliable and validated indices, the team says, but many are somewhat lacking or focus on a specific aspect of the scientific process, such as publication, rather than taking a holistic view. The team’s aggregate score gives a weighted index which was compared with 25 indices against two citation data and the results suggest that it could be used as a valid supplement to the familiar h-index. Future work will investigate whether “fuzzy clustering” can be used to improve the aggregate still further.

Alguliyev, R., Aliguliyev, R., Fataliyev, T. and Hasanova, R. (2015) ‘An aggregated index for assessment of the scientific output of researchers’, Int. J. Knowledge Management Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.31–62.

Risk factors for prostate cancer

New research suggests that age, race and family history are the biggest risk factors for a man to develop prostate cancer, although high blood pressure, high cholesterol, vitamin D deficiency, inflammation of prostate, and vasectomy also add to the risk. In contrast, obesity, alcohol abuse, and smoking show a negative association with the disease. Details are reported in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics.

Khaled Alqahtani, Shankar Srinivasan, Dinesh Mital and Syed Haque of the Department of Health Informatics, at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Newark, New Jersey, USA, explain that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men with 233000 new cases estimated in the USA during 2014 and almost 30000 deaths. A boy being born today has an almost 1 in 7 chance of developing prostate cancer at some point in their life and a 3% chance of dying from the disease. At this time, however, cancer specialists do not fully understand the underlying causes nor the epidemiology of prostate cancer.

Alqahtani and colleagues have analyzed data from The US Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), the largest database in the USA for all-payer inpatient health care. They focused on the years 2007-2011 amounting to more than 12 million records and looked at men aged 35 to 100 years, finding that approximately 5.35% of them had prostate cancer (642383 men). They then used statistical analyses to look at the independent variables: age, race, family history of prostate cancer, family history of any other cancer, obesity, alcohol abuse, smoking, cholesterol, vitamin D deficiency, inflammation of prostate, vasectomy, and hypertension, to see which factors were critical variables associated with prostate cancer incidence.

Alqahtani, K.S., Srinivasan, S., Mital, D.P. and Haque, S. (2015) ‘Analysis of risk factors for prostate cancer patients’, Int. J. Medical Engineering and Informatics, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.365–380.