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Social Foraging
Dynamics of Social Interaction
Curated by Ashish Umre
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Slime moulds work on computer games

British computer scientists are taking inspiration from slime to help them find ways to calculate the shape of a polygon linking points on a surface. Such calculations are fundamental to creating realistic computer graphics for gaming and animated movies. The quicker the calculations can be done, the smoother and more realistic the graphics.

 

Andrew Adamatzky of the aptly named Unconventional Computing Centre, at the University of the West of England, in Bristol, UK, points out that computing a polygon defining a set of planar points is a classical problem of modern computational geometry. He has turned to the slime mould to help with such computations and explains in the International Journal of Bio-Inspired Computation how the organism can help.

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The first chemical circuit developed

The first chemical circuit developed | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Klas Tybrandt, doctoral student in Organic Electronics at Linköping University, Sweden, has developed an integrated chemical chip. The results have just been published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

 

The Organic Electronics research group at Linköping University previously developed ion transistors for transport of both positive and negative ions, as well as biomolecules. Tybrandt has now succeeded in combining both transistor types into complementary circuits, in a similar way to traditional silicon-based electronics.

An advantage of chemical circuits is that the charge carrier consists of chemical substances with various functions. This means that we now have new opportunities to control and regulate the signal paths of cells in the human body.

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Plants may be able to 'hear' others

Plants may be able to 'hear' others | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

THEY can "smell" chemicals and respond to light, but can plants hear sounds? It seems chilli seeds can sense neighbouring plants even if those neighbours are sealed in a box, suggesting plants have a hitherto-unrecognised sense.

 

Plants are known to have many of the senses we do: they can sense changes in light level, "smell" chemicals in the air and "taste" them in the soil (New Scientist, 26 September 1998, p 24). They even have a sense of touch that detects buffeting from strong winds.

 

The most controversial claim is that plants can hear, an idea that dates back to the 19th century. Since then a few studies have suggested that plants respond to sound, prompting somewhat spurious suggestions that talking to plants can help them grow.

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Real-Time Traffic Info Gets More Real

Real-Time Traffic Info Gets More Real | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Most “real time” traffic reports are outdated by the time they’re delivered, or they’re so scattershot that they have nothing to do with the course you’ve set. But BMW thinks it may have a better solution in the form of a new service called Advanced Real-Time Traffic Information (ARTTI) that promises to deliver traffic info faster and more accurately.

 

It uses technology from traffic information titan Inrix, which supplies BMW and most other automakers as well as aftermarket navigation device suppliers and smartphone nav apps with data. The company aggregates data from DOTs and other governmental agencies and millions of “probe” vehicles and matches it with historical traffic patterns as well as live events such as concerts that can cause tie-ups.

But existing data pipelines — FM broadcast via the Radio Data System or satellite radio receivers – are the primary cause of delays in delivery of traffic information, Inrix spokesperson Jim Baks told Wired. “By the time incident data is reported and sent out over these networks, the traffic could clear up,” he says.

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Stress may retard brain development in children

Stress may retard brain development in children, altering the growth of a specific part and the abilities tied to it, researchers say.

 

"There has been a lot of work on animals linking both acute and chronic stress to changes in a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in complex cognitive abilities like holding on to important information for quick recall and use," says study co-author Jamie Hanson of Wisconsin-Madison, US.

"We have now found similar associations in humans. More exposure to stress is related to more issues with certain kinds of cognitive processes," adds Hanson, the Journal of Neuroscience reports.

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Artificial noses as diseases busters

Artificial noses as diseases busters | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Artificial noses have, until now, been used to detect diseases such as urinary tract infection, Helicobacter pylori, tuberculosis, ear, nose and throat conditions and even lung cancer. They have also been clinically tested for use in continuous monitoring of different disease stages.

 

Now, a multidisciplinary research team with eight European partners is collaborating under a EU-funded project called Bioelectronic Olfactory Neuron Device, dubbed BOND. Their aim is to develop a very sensitive and selective device that can detect and distinguish different types of smells.

 

This system relies on functionalized electrodes binding to olfactory receptors capable of sending tiny electric signals, which are subsequently detected and amplified.
The challenge is to develop whole new arrays of olfactory receptors to process different smells for different diseases.

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Synapses in order get sounds to brain

Synapses in order get sounds to brain | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

To be published today in the Journal of Neuroscience, the research focuses on a section of the brain called the cochlear nucleus, the first way-station in the brain for information coming from the ear. In particular, the study examined how the synapses transmit signals from the auditory nerve to the cochlear nucleus.

Plasticity relates to how quickly a synapse runs down the supply of neurotransmitter it uses to send signals, and can affect a synapse’s sensitivity to different qualities of sound. Synapses that unleash supplies rapidly may provide good information on when a sound began, while synapses that release neurotransmitter at a more frugal pace may provide better clues on traits like timbre that persist over the duration of a sound.

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Social ‘circuits’ shared by frogs, fish, and humans

Social ‘circuits’ shared by frogs, fish, and humans | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

“There is an ancient circuitry that appears to be involved in social behavior across all vertebrates,” says Hans Hofmann, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin. “On a basic level, this tells us something about where we came from. A lot of the neural circuits that our brain uses for social behavior are actually quite old.”

 

As reported in Science, Hofmann and graduate student Lauren O’Connell analyzed 12 regions of the brain responsible for social behavior and decision-making in 88 species of vertebrates including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

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The limitations of social discovery

The limitations of social discovery | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

“Discovery” is a hot topic these days. The curse of a new buzzword is that it’s difficult to come to a shared mental model in the early stages. Instead of tackling that large problem, I’ll start with something simpler: defining “social discovery” and suggest that social discovery is a stepping stone on the way to algorithmic discovery.

“Social discovery” has two definitions. On one hand, it’s used to mean services like Highlight that help you to find other people. However, the broader definition is services that help you find just about anything by using recommendations from friends.

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Unmanned video surveillance uses 'detective' algorithm

Unmanned video surveillance uses 'detective' algorithm | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

A new algorithm for intelligent video surveillance could allow for greater accuracy by doing a bit of detective work, raising concerns over the future of automated surveillance by a privacy and civil liberties watchdog.

 

Researchers at MIT have developed a way to allow for instant analysis of surveillance footage that can help pick out specific individuals without the need for a human eye.

 

Surveillance networks often involve constant monitoring by humans to watch for individuals or events that could pose a risk.

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Why do beliefs about intelligence influence learning success? A social cognitive neuroscience model

Students’ beliefs and goals can powerfully influence their learning success. Those who believe intelligence is a fixed entity (entity theorists) tend to emphasize ‘performance goals,’ leaving them vulnerable to negative feedback and likely to disengage from challenging learning opportunities. In contrast, students who believe intelligence is malleable (incremental theorists) tend to emphasize ‘learning goals’ and rebound better from occasional failures. Guided by cognitive neuroscience models of top–down, goal-directed behavior, we use event-related potentials (ERPs) to understand how these beliefs influence attention to information associated with successful error correction. Focusing on waveforms associated with conflict detection and error correction in a test of general knowledge, we found evidence indicating that entity theorists oriented differently toward negative performance feedback, as indicated by an enhanced anterior frontal P3 that was also positively correlated with concerns about proving ability relative to others. Yet, following negative feedback, entity theorists demonstrated less sustained memory-related activity (left temporal negativity) to corrective information, suggesting reduced effortful conceptual encoding of this material–a strategic approach that may have contributed to their reduced error correction on a subsequent surprise retest. These results suggest that beliefs can influence learning success through top–down biasing of attention and conceptual processing toward goal-congruent information.

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Goo-goo-gorillas have their own kind of baby talk

Goo-goo-gorillas have their own kind of baby talk | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

"Do you want to play wiv mummy? Wocka-wocka-woo?" said the gorilla. Well, not quite, but older gorillas have been found to use a modified system of gestures when communicating with infants. Much like "motherese", the baby talk human parents use when talking to their children, the gorillas' special gestures may help the infants to develop their own communication skills.

Eva Maria Luëf and Katja Liebal of the Free University of Berlin in Germany monitored 24 captive lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) for four months, focusing on the gestures they used to start and stop play. Typically, gorillas might encourage play by slapping others while making a "play face", for instance, or somersaulting, and end bouts by placing a hand on the other gorilla's head. With infants, every older gorilla used more touch-based gestures and repeated their gestures more.

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The Creator: Alan Turing and the Future of Thinking Machines | World Science Festival

The Creator: Alan Turing and the Future of Thinking Machines | World Science Festival | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Join the world premiere screening of The Creator, a beautiful and surreal short-form film by award-winning British filmmakers Al+Al, which follows sentient computers from the future on a mystical odyssey to discover their creator: legendary computer scientist Alan Turing. Decades ago, Turing famously asked, ‘Can machines think?’ and ever since, the notion of computers exceeding human intelligence has transfixed researchers and popular culture alike. Marking the centenary of Turing’s birth, The Creator will launch a wide-ranging conversation among leading computer scientists and physicists about the promise and perils of artificial intelligence, as we take a personal look at the remarkable and tragic life of this computer visionary.

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Does cooperation require both reciprocity and alike neighbours?

Does cooperation require both reciprocity and alike neighbours? | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Max Planck scientists develop new theoretical model on the evolution of cooperation

Evolution by definition is cold and merciless: it selects for success and weeds out failure. It seems only natural to expect that such a process would simply favour genes that help themselves and not others. Yet cooperative behaviour can be observed in many areas, and humans helping each other are a common phenomenon.Thus, one of the major questions in science today is how cooperative behaviour could evolve. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Harvard University, and the University of Amsterdam have now developed a new model combining two possible explanations - direct reciprocity and population structure - and found that both repetition and structured population are essential for the evolution of cooperation. The researchers conclude that human societies can best achieve high levels of cooperative behaviour if their individuals interact repeatedly, and if populations exhibit at least a minor degree of structure.

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Clothes Will Sew Themselves in Darpa’s Sweat-Free Sweatshops

Clothes Will Sew Themselves in Darpa’s Sweat-Free Sweatshops | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

The Pentagon’s made plenty of progress towards slicker, more specialized uniforms for soldiers. Better camouflage patterns? Check. Sweat-wicking t-shirts? Oh, heck yes. Threads that can take a pulse and monitor pee for signs of a chemical attack? Getting there. Then there’s the Kevlar underwear.

But there’s still one big problem with soldier attire, at least as far as the military’s mad-science agency is concerned: Someone’s gotta stitch the clothes together.

Enter the sartorial specialists at Darpa. Usually the Pentagon’s far-out researchers are more concerned with four-legged robots and preventing pandemics than with the contents of a soldier’s closet. But they’ve doled out $1.25 million to fully automate the sewing process. The agency aspires to “complete production facilities that produce garments with zero direct labor.” And those are a lot of garments: One 2010 estimate put the military’s annual clothing budget at $4 billion dollars.

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The Probability of Your Existence

The Probability of Your Existence | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

At some point after first learning about the birds and the bees as a child (possibly after watching the opening credits of Look Who's Talking or thinking too hard about the implications of Back to the Future), it occurred to me that I could have easily been someone else. Had my parentsnot happened to meet when they did, and happened to conceive at the moment they did, with a specific pair of egg and sperm, I wouldn't be here. Apart from being a minor existential crisis, this realization made me feel incredibly lucky. Out of an infinite number of possible people, I was one of those who got a chance at life.

 

I recently came across a lovely (if statistically questionable) visual demonstration of one person's attempt to approximate the odds that each of us came into the world and exist as we are today. It incorporates probabilities ranging from our parents' first encounter to our unbroken line of ancestors to the emergence of the first single celled organism, concluding with the following analogy: The probably that we as unique individuals came to be is equivalent to "the probability of two million people getting together each to play a game of dice with trillion-sided die. They each roll the dice, and they all come up with the exact same number - for example, 550, 343, 279, 001. The odds that you exist at all are basically zero" (Ali Binazer, 2011).

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Insect-Inspired Device Skates Between Oil And Water

Insect-Inspired Device Skates Between Oil And Water | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Ideas from nature have often provoked materials scientists, who have made self-cleaning surfaces inspired by lotus leaves, for example, and adhesive feet for robots that can climb walls as geckos do. Now researchers have imitated water-striding insects, constructing a device that can skate at the interface between oil and water (ACS Nano, DOI: 10.1021/nn301550v). To do so they created a surface on the device’s legs that repels oil underwater.

 

Researchers had previously discovered that water striders’ legs work through the chemistry and physics of microprojections lined with nanogrooves on the bugs’ legs (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/432036a). Shutao Wang, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, thought that he could use similar structures to solve a materials problem: Most materials that repel oil, known as oleophobic materials, don’t work if they get wet. Superoleophobic coatings that work when wet could keep bugs from sticking to car windshields, scientists think, and enable robots to move through and clean up oil spills.

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See Like Superman? MIT Video Software Can Capture Human Pulse, Vibrating Guitar Strings

See Like Superman? MIT Video Software Can Capture Human Pulse, Vibrating Guitar Strings | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Seeing a person’s pulse through their skin seems like it should be a power relegated to superhero comics. But researchers at MIT have developed new video processing software that does just that and more — allowing an observer to identify tiny, otherwise imperceptible changes, such as a person’s breathing, blood flow and even the slight vibrating of still guitar strings, just from a few frames of video footage seconds apart.

The resulting images created by the technique, called Eulerian Video Magnification are eerily similar to the popular animated GIF images found on the Web today.

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Research at Stanford may lead to computers that understand humans

Research at Stanford may lead to computers that understand humans | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

After decades of trial and error, artificial intelligence applications that aim to understand human language are slowly starting to lose some of their brittleness. Now, a simple mathematical model developed by two psychologists at Stanford University could lead to further improvements, helping transform computers that display the mere veneer of intelligence into machines that truly understand what we are saying.

 

The Loebner Prize is a competition of the world's best "chatbots" - computer programs designed to simulate how a human interacts in a normal written conversation - that promises a grand prize of US$100,000 to the first program that can interact with another human in a natural way, undistinguishable from another human. The competition started in 1991, but the prize is still up for grabs and the transcripts from each year's winners tell us just how far we are (the answer: very) from ever reaching that goal.

 

However, there is hope yet. A new trend has emerged in the past few years and has led to the development of technologies like Siri, iPhone's "personal assistant." It entails using mathematical tools, namely probability and statistics, to try and model how people use language to communicate in social situations. The work at Stanford builds directly on this branch of research.

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Algorithms help prevent swinging cargo from upsetting drones

Algorithms help prevent swinging cargo from upsetting drones | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Researchers at the University of New Mexico have developed algorithms that allow drone quadrocopters to compensate for the motion-induced swinging of hanging loads.

 

Drones are increasingly used for hauling cargo through the air to get supplies to dangerous areas. In order to do this, helicopters tend to carry stuff suspended on ropes below them. This causes the cargo to swing around fairly violently, particularly if the vehicle needs to manoeuvre. This can make it very hazardous to fly with a suspended load as it changes the flight characteristics of the vehicle.

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Algorithm helps student to learn ambigrams

Algorithm helps student to learn ambigrams | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

It was in algorithm class that S. Gowtham fell in love with ambigrams, a typographical design or art form that may be read as one or more words in its form and also from another viewpoint and direction.

 

A B.Tech student from Amrita School of Engineering, Coimbatore, Gowtham, who works for a software company, realised in class that ambigrams could be designed using algorithms.

“My friend introduced me to ambigrams. Though I used to work on fonts earlier, books like the Da Vinci Code made me realise what ambigrams were about,” he said adding that his love for ambigrams developed over four years.

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A New Science Kit Lets Teens Watch Neurons as They Fire

A New Science Kit Lets Teens Watch Neurons as They Fire | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

When I was a graduate student in neuroscience at the University of Michigan, we would record the brains of animals and try to figure out what the brains were doing. At the same time, we were going into classrooms and teaching neuroscience to kids. Tim Marzullo—now my business partner—and I noticed that there was a big difference between what we were doing in the lab and what was being taught. They were using Ping-Pong balls and jump ropes to explain action potentials [electrical activity that occurs when neurons fire], but that’s so far removed from what is really going on in the brain.

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Complex Microbe Communication, Quorum Sensing Behavior, Spreading Resistance, Altruism and More

Complex Microbe Communication, Quorum Sensing Behavior, Spreading Resistance, Altruism and More | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

A previous post shows microbes communicating well enough to form structures and function as a multicellular creature. Many microbes demonstrate an elaborate languageof signals which elicit a wide range of other behaviors.Messages between microbes often take the form of secreted chemicals.

 

One chemical message tells others that there is not much food in a particular location; those who “hear” it go in other directions.

Individual microbes send out signals that communicate their presence, and when a certain number have signaled they launch various group activities. This is called “quorum sensing.” For example, some colonies of bacteria light up when enough bacteria are present. Similarly, they defend each other from antibiotics, grow food together, and eat each other’s waste.

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Graph Theory and Complex Networks : Free e-Book

Graph Theory and Complex Networks : Free e-Book | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

GTCN aims to explain the basics of graph theory that are needed at an introductory level for students in computer or information sciences. To motivate students and to show that even these basic notions can be extremely useful, the book also aims to provide an introduction to the modern field of network science.

I take the starting-point that mathematics for most students is unnecessarily intimidating. Explicit attention is paid in the first chapters to mathematical notations and proof techniques, emphasizing that the notations form the biggest obstacle, not the mathematical concepts themselves. Taking this approach has allowed me to gradually prepare students for using tools that are necessary to put graph theory to work: complex networks.

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Multi-Agent Based Environmental Landscape (MABEL) Model

Multi-Agent Based Environmental Landscape (MABEL) Model | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

This is the home page of the MABEL (Multi Agent-based Behavioral Economic Landscape) Model. The model is based on the SWARM modeling package. The model is designed to simulate land use changes over time. Important features of the model include: sequential Markov chain construction, a knowledge base, Bayesian Belief Networks that integrate biophysical and socioeconomic inputs and actions based on a utility function. The model is also spatially explicit, with agents making decisions on how to buy/sell, and configure (split) ownerships parcels and is built to link to the ArcGIS software package.

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