April Research Picks Extra

Genetic test for radiation exposure

Ionizing radiation damages DNA in living cells. As such changes in “biomarkers” could be used to reveal who had been exposed to low levels of radiation from nuclear facilities as opposed to members of the public, according to research from a team in Iran. The team focused on changes in protein expression of two genes – IFNg and TGFb1 genes – that were indicative of exposure to radiation. Expression of these genes is essential in the face of radiation damage if the cells are to survive and so the production of their respective proteins is widespread throughout the body. The same test to reveal whether or not a person was affected adversely as a nuclear industry worker might also be used to reveal whether or not someone had been exposed to unwarranted levels of diagnostic or therapeutic radiation.

Fardid, R., Bahreyni- Toossi, M.T., Rezaee, A., Sadr-nabavi, A. and Rafatpanah, H. (2014) ‘Expression of IFNg and TGFb1 genes can distinguish radiation workers from the normal population’, Int. J. Low Radiation, Vol. 9, Nos. 5/6, pp.396–408.

Kiss and tell

Extravagant 1970s heavy rock group, Kiss, were famous for their outlandish costumes, characteristic black and white face paint and for both their onstage and offstage performances. They are also famous as a rare commodity in the modern popular music industry in that their records, concerts and merchandise sold in vast units and turned a pretty penny for all concerned. Now, a study by researchers in Australia and Fiji Islands reveals in accountancy terms, just how well Kiss were able to extend and exploit the basic concept of the “band” for the purposes of capital accumulation; their turnover in 1978 equaling that of a Fortune 500 company (at US $111 million), with half of that coming from merchandising. The researchers suggest that the band also built enormously on the concept of the “American Dream”. One has to wonder whether the business-minded musicians of today will ever reap such rewards again.

James, K. and Grant, B. (2014) ‘‘I was made for loving you’: ‘Kiss’ as perpetual capitalist entertainment product’, Int. J. Critical Accounting, Vol. 6, Nos. 5/6, pp.452–468.

Face facts

Biometric security systems can be spoofed, a fingerprint fabricated in latex, contact lenses worn to change the eyes, but the human face as a whole should be even more difficult to exploit in a fraudulent breach of such a system. However, hackers and crackers are a determined group and one can imagine methods of carrying out a “face-spoofing” attack on a system. Now, researchers in India have developed a highly accurate “liveness” detection system for analyzing the structure of a face presented to a biometric security system to preclude such attacks more than 98 time out of 100. Their system works on the basis of obtain 3D face information from the left and right side of an image recorded with a stereoscopic camera. Various algorithms need only a small sample from the total data and so would not be computationally overpowering in an on-demand system. Principal component analysis gave them the best precision so far at 98.3%.

Singh, A.K., Joshi, P. and Nandi, G.C. (2014) ‘Face liveness detection through face structure analysis’, Int. J. Applied Pattern Recognition, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.338–360.

Brand motivation on social media

What motivates users of social media to “engage” with consumer brands? According to researchers in Turkey, a vital social media strategy is essential for brands today hoping to retain or gain market share from competitors. Consumers and potential customers expect brands to have a presence on social media networks for information, special offers, competitions and as an outlet for complaints and where grievances might be addressed. But, the researchers suggest that companies need to understand in detail the motivation of those consumers and customers on social media if they are to detect consumer segments and to benefit from their almost obligatory presence on such sites. The team points out that while the consumer perspective may have changed where window shopping has become an active online activity rather than a passive activity in the high street or mall, the process of making the decision to purchase still depends on quality, price, brand loyalty and other traditional factors. “It is still important for brands to build a connection with users and fostering a sense of belonging for them,” the team says. “Social media, with its diverse domains, is convenient for brands to fulfill the consumers’ desire of engagement and affiliation with them.”

Yilmaz, H. and Enginkaya, E. (2015) ‘Brand followers: motivations and attitudes of consumers to follow brands in social media’, Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp.3–20.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.