Research Picks Extra – May 2017

When the boot’s on the other foot

A collaboration between researchers in Scotland and China could help make football sliding tackles slicker as well as reducing the risk of injury on the pitch. The researchers have tested different “stud” configurations on the outer soles of soccer footwear with experienced players to determine which is the most effective for straight ahead running, sharp turns and sidesteps. They have also looked at impact on knee loading and risk of the common anterior cruciate ligament injury that afflicts many footballers. Risk of metatarsal stress fracture and even formation of calluses was investigated. They found that footwear with firm ground design outperformed those cleat configurations designed for artificial ground design and turf when used on natural turf in terms of athletic performance. Counter to that, however, was a great risk of knee of foot injuries. In other words, at the end of the day, as ever, it’s a game of two halves when it comes to football boots.

Sun, D., Gu, Y., Mei, Q. and Baker, J.S. (2017) ‘Different soccer stud configurations effect on running and cutting movements’, Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp.19–32

Obscuring digital fingerprints

Researchers from Japan and Norway have worked on the problem of copyright protection and specifically how a digital watermark, or fingerprint, might be transparently embedded in a digital file or multimedia object. They have tested just how well the commonly used spread spectrum fingerprinting resists “hacking” and have defined a mathematical argument for the effectiveness of the so-called moderated minority extreme (MMX) attack and offer several new ideas on how copyright holders might protect their commodities from such attacks which would otherwise facilitate untraceable file sharing facilitated by such attacks. Security through obfuscation seems to work, the team suggests, if the “pirates” are unaware of the presence of the digital fingerprint, then an attack will not be possible unless the attacker has the obfuscating key for the protection.

Schaathun, H.G. and Kuribayashi, M. (2017) ‘Obfuscation in digital fingerprinting’, Int. J. Information and Coding Theory, Vol. 4, Nos. 2/3, pp.185–200.

Personalized asthma care in the cloud

Asthma, a serious and potentially life-threatening inflammatory disorder of the lungs. Patients are often encouraged by their physician to manage their own inhaler and drug use in this disease, monitoring indicators of lung health, such as peak flow, and ensuring that they comply with their medication instructions. Researchers in India point out that electronic healthcare systems exist for the general patients of hospitals, clinics and other health centers. However, there is a growing need for e-healthcare, in the cloud, for patients of specific diseases and disorders in order to provide targeted information and recommendations. The team has now proposed an Asthma Healthcare Service Recommendation System (AHSRS) for asthma patients that works using remote servers and is accessible through cloud technology via desktop or mobile computing device, such as a tablet or smart phone. Such a system targeted at a specific disease can be more focused and avoid information overload of patients seeking advice and recommendations only for their particular condition.

Rani, A. and Kalra, S. (2017) ‘Personalised recommendation system for asthma patients using cloud’, Int. J. Telemedicine and Clinical Practices, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp.100–120.

Self-sharpening tools

Ultra-precision processing in industry requires ultra-precision equipment. Unfortunately, all tools suffer from wear and tear in use. Now, a team from China has turned to nanotechnology to help them design a system for the likes of fine super-hard grinding wheel, diamond grinding wheels and carbon boron nitride grinding wheels. These abrasive tools have added fillers – zinc, calcium oxide, silica with iron chloride solution as a binder – that allow them to shed worn abrasive particles and thus undergo self-sharpening. The team suggests that this system overcomes the shortcomings of conventional metal bonded super-hard abrasive processing on hard and brittle machining materials.

Feng, K., Zhou, Z., Fan, H. and Yuan, J. (2017) ‘Experiment on self-sharpening fine super-hard abrasive tool’, Int. J. Nanomanufacturing, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.97–108.

Lubricating industry naturally

Sesame oil might make a viable and sustainable alternative to mineral oil as an industrial lubricant, according to research published in the International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology.

Sabarinath Sankaran Nair, Kumarapillai Prabhakaran Nair, and Perikinalil Krishnan Rajendrakumar of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, Kerala, India, explain that there is a pressing need to find alternatives to the mineral oils currently produced by the petrochemicals industry from fossil reserves of crude oil. Sustainable alternative feedstocks that might be grown as agricultural crops could offer a potentially less polluting alternative especially in the face of dwindling resources.

There are countless plant-derived oils any one of which might have particularly properties desirable in an industrial lubricant. The team, however, has tested the physicochemical, rheological, thermal, oxidative, and tribological properties of sesame oil and compared it positively with coconut oil, sunflower oil, and a commercially available mineral oil. The team reports that sesame oil has excellent thermal and tribological properties and high viscosity and has a better coefficient of friction.

However, the oxidative stability of sesame oil is not as high as mineral oil and this will need improving through reformulation of oil derived from sesame seeds with additives, or perhaps even through genetically modified plants for improved oil stability. Nevertheless, even without such changes, the team points out that it is stable as a lubricant base stock at a wide range of temperatures.

“With further development, it can become an eco-friendly substitute for its mineral oil counterparts in near future,” the team concludes.

Nair, S.S., Nair, K.P. and Rajendrakumar, P.K. (2017) ‘Evaluation of physicochemical, thermal and tribological properties of sesame oil (Sesamum indicum L.): a potential agricultural crop base stock for eco-friendly industrial lubricants’, Int. J. Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.77–90.

The trancing brain

New research suggests that art, music, and dance, which we perceive as unique to human beings are a natural adaptation wrought on the human brain by evolution that provides a sub-conscious way for the old brain, the paleoencephalon to coordinate the conflicting signals from the new brain, the neocortex. Art may well be as hard-wired an impulse as the drive to eat and drink and our sex drives, according to research published in the International Journal of Arts and Technology.

Judson Wright of “Pump Origin” in New York, USA, an experienced creative in using behavioural art and computer programming to study cognition, points out that the prefrontal cortex of our brains evolved in our ancestors through some adaptational pressure unknown. Given that many of our essential bodily functions and drives operate at an entirely sub-conscious level, the existence of a part of the brain that we feel is conscious and in control would seem, taken in isolation, to be detriment to our evolutionary fitness if it were somehow to be able to override such drives.

Art in its broadest sense and the trance states that its creation and experience can sometimes evoke suggest to Wright that the seemingly spontaneous urge to make and enjoy art is an evolutionary adaptation for Homo sapiens. The behaviour of all other living things seems to be “instinctive” and commonly a survival and reproductive response to external stimuli and pressures. See a predator, run away. See something tasty, eat it. Find a mate, make babies. But, it seems, no other organisms sees materials and thinks to fashion them into great artistic artefacts purely for the pleasure. Even the bower bird with its elaborate courtship platform, its bower, is creating its installation instinctively just as a peacock fans its tail.

Mammals and birds and probably others do have a neocortex or acomparable neuroanatomy with a different name but these are not developed to the extent that they are in humans. Wright’s hypothesis is that the connection between the old brain and the new brain is mediated by the artistic impulse and that it is manifest in a hypnotic, trance, state between the sub-conscious and the conscious. In this medium between the brain’s two parallel managerial styles we as living beings can mediate our activities and behaviour and enjoy the experiences of our senses and our movements in ways that other animals do not.

Wright, J. (2017) ‘Trancing: applying evolution’s cognitive adaptation via web art/music’, Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp.43–57.

The research has also led to a book: Behavioral Art: Introducing Ontogeny into Computation