In an effort to stay one step ahead of the summer monsoon season, Indian scientists are embarking on an ambitious and unprecedented project to build computer models that will allow them to predict the movements of erratic monsoons weeks in advance. If successful, the Indian government thinks it can drastically alter economic outcomes for hundreds of millions of people whose lives depend directly on India’s agriculture sector.
To conduct experiments, researchers can change a variable in an organism and watch the results unfold. But life is messy, and it's difficult to understand the underlying processes that explain the data. Digitizing the process could help, and now we're starting small: researchers have successfully made a computer model of Mycoplasma genitalium, the world's tiniest free-living bacterium.
Absent the creation of a personalized, living avatar, computer simulations will go a long way toward helping doctors figure out what to do about your health. Sophisticated models will be able to look at your heart and predict future coronary problems, for instance. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are designing new simulations with virtual blood, improving the prospects for this type of tech.
Add one more item to the list of things machines can do better than humans: Examine and diagnose breast cancer. Stanford researchers have developed new software that can automatically evaluate microscopic images of breast cancer and make determinations about its aggressiveness and type, offering patients an accurate prognosis. It's more accurate than a human doctor, as it turns out.
The system brings cancer pathology, which has largely been unchanged since the Great Depression, firmly into the 21st century.
You may have heard of this scheme before: during periods of serious drought, a huge tugboat or fleet of tugboats could be tethered to an iceberg and hauled to areas where water is scarce, providing drinking water and irrigation stores to stave off famine. The idea was originally floated by an engineer named Georges Mougin in the 1970s, and though it was laughed out of development back then, it’s enjoying a kind of renaissance today.
Seismologists are putting together some impressive computer models of the devastating earthquake that struck Japan Friday. As the tragedy continues to unfold, it’s pretty breathtaking to see the Earth’s destructive power in action.
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab wanted to model and simulate the next generation of nuclear power facilities. While software that models a partial nuclear core or radiation transport exists in spades, the ORNL team wanted to model entire facilities at once. So they did what anyone would do: They started from scratch, merging a decade of research with the world's fastest supercomputer to build Denovo, the most sophisticated modeling software in the industry, to simulate entire nuclear facilities in one comprehensive snapshot.
Chaos, confusion, and uncertainty have pervaded battle since Homer first described the din of clashing hoplites. But new developments in computer modeling look to pierce the fog of modern war by predicting the time and location of insurgent attacks.
By Jonathan CoultonPosted 01.23.2007 at 4:56 pm 2 Comments
Deep brain stimulation is like a pacemaker for your brain: it can stop tremors, wake you from a coma, and maybe even make you smarter. All these miraculous results, but nobody knows exactly how it works. Maybe I'm crazy, but I always find it reassuring when I talk to a scientist and find out that they don't know what's going on either.
For this episode I spoke with Dr. Michele Tagliati, a neurologist at Mt. Sinai, and a leader in the field of DBS. He's approaching the question from a clinician's perspective: tweaking parameters and discovering which techniques work best for patients suffering from Parkinsons and other movement disorders. I didn't have enough time to include it in the podcast, but we also talked about the researchers who are coming from the other direction, using computer models of brain circuitry to try and predict how certain kinds of electrical stimulation will affect actual brains. The idea is that these two lines of research will eventually meet somewhere in the middle: if we can understand enough about how it works, we may be able to apply this technique to all sorts of neurological disorders. I might even be able to do the Sunday Times Crossword without making up words.
He didn't ask, but my theory is that it has something to do with electricity. In your brain.
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