Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for February 18, 2020

in rsslog •  last month 

Researchers map path for reliable bottom-to-top information flow in an organization; Cyborg grasshoppers can detect explosives; Boeing 737 Max begins test flights in preparation for return to service; Researchers publish open source 3D model for brain cancer growth; and a Steem essay discusses the related conditions of gigantism and acromegaly

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First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt, SteemPeak*, StemGeeks.

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  1. Open Your Organization to Honest Conversations - Harvard's Michael Beer offers advice for organizations to build effective internal communications channels. According to Beer, the reason that most organizations fail at transformation efforts is that, "Leaders often get stuck in echo chambers that merely reinforce their own ideas", and "Meanwhile, lower-level employees are often fully aware of the problems that plague a company or the reasons a particular strategy won’t work, but they tend to remain silent, fearful that speaking up could put their careers at risk." To counter these tendencies, Beer suggests that organizations should allow information to flow from the bottom to the top, through the use of mechanisms other than the traditional surveys and interviews with consultants and management. Traditional mechanisms, he says, rarely achieve the desired goals. Instead, Beer and a colleague, Russ Eisenstat developed a process that they call the strategic fitness process, which makes use of an eight (or less) person task force that pursues the following planks:
    • Focus the conversation on the issues that matter most
    • Iterate between advocacy and inquiry
    • Make it safe to share the whole truth
    • Reflect, diagnose, and develop a plan
    • Make yourself and the rest of the leadership team accountable
    • Repeat the process periodically

  2. Cyborg grasshoppers have been engineered to sniff out explosives - A research team that included Barani Raman implanted electrodes into grasshoppers and fitted the insects with light-weight devices to record neuron firings and transmit the recordings back to the researchers. By exposing the insects to a variety of explosive and non-explosive vapors, the researchers were able to determine which neurons would fire in the presence of explosive odors, which gave them a mechanism to test their sensitivity to a variety of explosives. With a single grasshopper, the team was able to identify the location of an explosive with 60% accuracy, and with seven grasshoppers, that rate increased to 80%. The grasshoppers survive and continue detecting explosives for about 7 hours after the procedure, but they are rendered incapable of movement, so the researchers wheel them around on a cart in order to check a larger area. A preprint of the work was published on the bioRxiv server. The Abstract contains this concluding sentence: "In sum, our study provides the first demonstration of how biological olfactory systems (sensors and computations) can be hijacked to develop a cyborg chemical sensing approach."

  3. Boeing is flying the 737 Max around the US with test crews and no passengers to prepare for the plane's return - The Boeing 737 Max planes have been grounded since March 2019, after experiencing two crashes that killed more than 300 people. Now, after software updates, the firm says it is flying a set of long and short haul flights with small test crews and also seeking out weather conditions that will test a variety of specific conditions. After this internal testing, the plane's next milestone will be renewed certification flights for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Those certification flights have not been scheduled, because the company is working to resolve a few remaining issues, but an FAA administrator said it could be scheduled within a few weeks. (Related - The Boeing 737 Max crashes have revived decades-old fears about what happens when airplane computers become more powerful than pilots)

  4. Computer simulation for understanding brain cancer growth - A freely available platform is now available from BioDynaMo to simulate the growth of brain cancers in order to develop better glioma treatments. Dr. Roman Bauer and colleagues published a description of the model on February 6, in the journal, Methods. In this article, he describes the work, saying, "Built on top of the latest computing technologies, the BioDynaMo platform enables users to perform simulations on an increased scale and complexity making it possible to tackle challenging scientific research questions." PhD student, Jean de Montigny, adds that the model can run on a standard laptop and it enables a researcher to "easily create, run and visualise 3D agent-based biological simulations." The core functioning of the model is described like this:
    The model encompasses the role of cell migration and adhesion, the influence of the extracellular matrix, the effects of oxygen and nutrient availability, and the signalling triggered by chemical cues and growth factors.

  5. Steem @loveforlove: HORMONES: Gigantism, Acromegaly, and The Action of Adrenaline, Prostagladins, Endorphins and Pheromones. - This post discusses the conditions of gigantism and acromegaly. History's tallest (confirmed) person was Robert Wadlow, from Illinois in the United States. His condition was probably caused by a tumor that produced large amounts of growth hormone and prevented the growth plates in his legs from closing. He grew to a height of nearly 9 feet by the time of his premature death, from a foot infection, at the age of 22. This condition is known as gigantism. A related condition is acromegaly, and this occurs if the tumor that produces the growth hormone occurs after adolescence, when the growth plates have already closed. This condition can be fatal, and it is characterized by abnormal growth in the hands and feet. With both conditions, modern medicine has developed treatments that may involve surgery for the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus, or the use of drugs. The essay goes on to describe, in detail, some chemistry and physiology relating to a variety of related hormones, including ATP, adrenaline, endorphins, and pheremones. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @loveforlove.)

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