Research Picks – February 2016

Online trust

How do you know whose opinion to trust online, especially on the well-known microblogging sites where all and sundry can post their views however outlandish and unsubstantiated? Researchers in China think they may have an answer, having developed a way to calculate trust-based sentiment from a person’s updates. Their data mining approach looks at the network surrounding a given series of updates to expose those users that apparently trust each other and so calculates how much trust others should put in a given user when trying to determine the validity and trustworthiness of a given update.

Zhang, B., Song, Q., Ding, J. and Wang, L. (2015) ‘A trust-based sentiment delivering calculation method in microblog’, Int. J. Services Technology and Management, Vol. 21, Nos. 4/5/6, pp.185–198.


Be still my clicking camera

A new way to “undo” motion blur in a digital photograph has been developed by scientists in India and demonstrated to work well with standard demo images. Blurring of an image due to camera motion is a common occurrence in amateur or hastily snapped photographs. Many cameras have image stabilization that attempts to remedy this, but in low light conditions when shutter speed might be slow or when using large lenses and no tripod, camera blur still occurs. There are numerous computer algorithms that attempt to “sharpen” images, but largely only with limited success. The team has developed a mathematical model that can analyze a digital image and determine how the pixels are distorted due to camera movement and then reverse the movement in the computer to reduce the blur substantially.

Mishra, S., Sengar, R.S., Puri, R.K. and Badodkar, D.N. (2015) ‘Robust parametric blur identification for motion blurred image under noisy conditions’, Int. J. Image Mining, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.326–341.


Shiny, shiny

Composite films that have something akin to the iridescent properties of the inside of oyster shells, mother-of-pearl or nacre, have been made from cellulose nanocrystals and a plastic known as polyethylene oxide by US materials researchers. Inexpensive materials of this sort made from readily available compounds rather than expensive and rare metals could have an important role to play in future optical-electronic components for the next-generation of device screens as well as components in a possible optical computer. The properties of such materials can be precisely controlled through relatively simple tweaks to the ingredients and how they are prepared and so allow them to be fine-tuned for a particular application or device.

Diaz, J.A., Braun, J.L., Moon, R.J. Youngblood, J.P. (2015) ‘Iridescent cellulose nanocrystal/polyethylene oxide composite films with low coefficient of thermal expansion’, Int. J. Experimental and Computational Biomechanics, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp.189–199.


Net economics

For the internet to be sustainable each internet service provider, ISP, must grow its systems, improve its efficiency and offer bigger and better speeds and services. Unfortunately, while the expansion of ISP business is scalable to some degree there is a law of diminishing returns, particularly in terms of profits for those companies. Researchers in Japan have investigated whether or not whether increasing internet traffic is compatible with ISP economic growth. Unfortunately, the answer is it is not, traffic far outstrips economic utility with the current internet topology. Their answer is a radical new design that involves autonomous systems generating new links to cope with increasing traffic and ensure long-term economic utility for the providers while accommodating growing customer needs and demands on the internet.

Nakata, Y., Arakawa, S. and Murata, M. (2015) ‘A provider and peer selection policy for the future sustainable internet’, Int. J. Management and Network Economics, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp.238–256.

Author: David Bradley

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