Research Extra August 2015

As the goose flies

A computerized bird scarer that adapts to the behavior of crop-eating birds, such as barnacle and Canada geese which invade the farmland of northwestern Europe and other parts of the world has been developed by scientists in Denmark. A wide range of devices for scaring birds have been developed over the centuries from the perennial “scarecrow” to burners that periodically ignite a cloud of gas to simulate a shotgun blast. However, birds quickly become accustomed to what might at first be alarming enough to scare away the whole flock. Preliminary tests with a system that uses a microphone to monitor bird activity and then generates a scary noise at an opportune moment has demonstrated much greater efficacy in field trials, according to the team

Steen, K.A., Therkildsen, O.R., Karstoft, H. and Green, O. (2015) ‘An adaptive scaring device’, Int. J. Sustainable Agricultural Management and Informatics, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp.130–141.

Social networking for cars

The drive to and from work is often wasted time for many commuters, but now a team in Iran has developed a social media network – SocioCar – that could be used among vehicles, especially those stuck in stationary or slow-moving traffic. The use of Bayesian statistics allows the team to characterize members of the SocioCar network and to allow like-minded people to connect more quickly while on the road, albeit transiently. The network can be used anonymously so that individual drivers need not share too much personal or private information with other road users unless they wish to.

Esmaeilyfard, R. and Hendessi, F. (2015) ‘SocioCar: a transient social vehicular network’, Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 19, Nos. 3/4, pp.221–240.

Strip for breast test

The early detection of malignant, cancerous, tissue in the breast is essential for effective treatment. However, X-ray mammograms are inconvenient, expensive and rely on great expertise in interpreting the image of the breast obtained from each potential patient. Now, a team in India has reported on an inexpensive and easy to use microstrip antenna system for detection of certain types of breast tumor without the need for mammography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Along with self-examination, the technology could, they say, improve early detection and point healthcare workers in the right direction should a biopsy for a definitive breast cancer test be needed.

Singh, I., Tripathi, V.S. and Tiwari, S. (2015) ‘Microstrip patch antenna for breast cancer tumor detection: a survey’, Int. J. Signal and Imaging Systems Engineering, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp.215–222.

Games for the blind

Games such as mahjong remain popular in many parts of the world, but are difficult if not impossible to play if one loses one’s site. Now, Jenn Tang of the National Taipei University of Business in Taipei City, Taiwan, has developed a new form of mahjong based on RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags that could allow China’s 5 million or so blind people to play the game. Their new system includes 144 mahjong tiles and a voice prompt function as well as an RF tagging system for the tiles and the various other components of the game, such as the win and discard trays. Tang suggests that the this new form of the game is neither static nor drab like current blind versions and could provide a much-needed alternative recreational pastime for many blind people.

Tang, J. (2015) ‘A new RFID-based and ontological recreation system for blind people’, Int. J. Radio Frequency Identification Technology and Applications, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp.291–308.

Author: David Bradley

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