November 19, 2020

Dutch data award for major bird database

Filed under: Animals,Science,Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:51 am

Led by Antica Culina and Marcel Visser of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Studies of Populations of Individuals (SPI-Birds) is a network of researchers who collect, secure and use long-term breeding population data of 1.5 million individually recognisable birds, an amount that keeps increasing. SPI-Birds have recently been awarded the Dutch Data Incentive Prize for the Medical and Life Sciences and very recently published their first scientific paper in the Journal of Animal Ecology, which coincides with them receiving the award. They’ve got the wind under their wings.

“Behind the paper describing our initiative, there are around 120 people and 1.5 million individually marked birds from 80 populations and 19 species. And an army of people who have been collecting these data, in sunshine and rain, adding up to over 2000 seasons of fieldwork.” explains Culina.

Having access to this database means preventing lost data and increasing future data quality with a community-supported standard. “SPI-Birds is important, because it allows comparative studies among populations by making the data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). Converting the various data formats into a single standard data format, especially, really facilitates the use of the data.” says Visser.

The first SPI Bird paper aims to describe the network for new members and stakeholders, and its ‘lessons learned’ in order to inspire other communities. “We hope SPI-Birds will serve as an encouragement to other research communities to create their own standards,” Culina adds.

(Link: phys.org)

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November 10, 2020

Leiden University prints a micro-sized Star Trek starship

Filed under: Film,Science,Technology by Orangemaster @ 11:59 am

According to CNN and BoingBoing on Twitter, while developing methods to 3D print synthetic micro-swimmers, microscopic devices that can propel themselves by interacting with the chemicals in their surrounding environment, researchers at Leiden University printed a model of Star Trek’s USS Voyager that’s just 15 micrometers long. As a comparison, a human hair is around 75 micrometers in diameter.

By studying synthetic micro-swimmers, we would like to understand biological micro-swimmers,” Samia Ouhajji, one of the study’s authors, told CNN. This understanding could aid in developing new drug delivery vehicles; for example, microrobots that swim autonomously and deliver drugs at the desired location in the human body.

Why did they go for Star Trek and why one of the franchise’s later starships? Jonas Hoecht, one of the study’s co-authors, claims to be a big Star Trek fan and was told he could print anything he wanted. Of course, I still want to know why he opted for Voyager and not a version of the Enterprise, but it’s still extremely cool.

(Link boingboing.net, image ealclearscience.com)

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January 29, 2020

Dutchman fails test 10 times, needs it to graduate

Filed under: Online,Science,Weird by Orangemaster @ 3:44 pm

For the past couple of years 22-year-old university student at the Eindhoven University of Technology keeps failing the same two exams over and over, stopping him from graduating. The exams are calculus and ‘some kind of algebra’, whatever that means. Both exams are from his first year, and he’s now in his fourth year.

He’s not too worried, but his friends think it’s amusing. On Heeft Daan calculus al gehaald (‘Has Daan finally passed calculus?’) you can check his progress. His friends helped build the site.

In the Netherlands grades go from 0 to 10, and on Daan’s last attempt at passing the calculus test, he got a two. “I felt like shit,” he said. In a way, I want to Daan to pass because he’s very much the underdog, and in another, I’m glad he’s not studying to be a doctor or a dentist.

There’s another Dutch concept that’s good to know, it’s called the ‘zesjescultuur’ (‘sixes culture’, as in 6 out of 10, a passing grade) and for many people that’s enough.

Daan’s the poster boy for it now.

(Link: www.nhnieuws.nl)

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November 7, 2019

Tom Scott visits Waterloopbos, a former open air laboratory to study the way water flows

Filed under: Nature,Science,Sustainability,Technology by Branko Collin @ 7:56 pm

YouTuber Tom Scott visited the Waterloopbos in Marknesse in the Noordoostpolder and had a little chat with Leo van Rijn, a specialist in modelling the flow of watercourses.

As wiki says: “The Waterloopbos [literally ‘Watercourse Forest’] was the property of Delft Hydraulics […]. In 35 large scale models of sea arms and harbours, such as the Deltaworks and the harbour of Lagos, tests were performed in order to learn how to predict the way large hydraulic systems influence the course of water.”

The laboratory closed in 1995 and the forest is now owned by Natuurmonumenten and is open to visitors from sunrise to sunset (Dutch). It is part of the Voorsterbos, the oldest forest in Flevoland, a province that was entirely reclaimed from the water.

Read more about Waterloopbos at Holland.com.

(Photo: screen capture of a video by Tom Scott / Youtube)

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October 21, 2019

Photoshoot with original Leeuwenhoek microscope and specimens

Filed under: History,Photography,Science by Orangemaster @ 11:22 am

Specimens, including cows’ optic nerves, sections of cork and elder, and ‘dried phlegm from a barrel’, prepared and viewed by the early Dutch businessman and scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek have been reunited with one of his original microscopes for a serious photoshoot, recapturing the look of seventeenth century science and recording the moment with high-resolution colour photographs for the first time ever.

Last month, the specimens were sent from the Royal Society in the UK to Leiden and the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave (the Dutch national museum of the history of science and medicine) in their original packages to be reunited with an original Leeuwenhoek microscope. Science and art historian Sietske Fransen, current leader of the Max Planck Research Group ‘Visualizing Science in Media Revolutions’ at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History orchestrated the event. She conducted readings of Leeuwenhoek’s letters, while photographer Wim van Egmond and Rijksmuseum Boerhaave curator Tiemen Cocquyt carefully filmed through the priceless original silver microscope. In combining words and images, the team hope to arrive at a better understanding of Leeuwenhoek’s groundbreaking observations and his use of artists to capture microscope views.

Dutch businessman and scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek from Delft, one of the world’s first microbiologists, had a collection of specimens including cows’ optic nerves, sections of cork and elder, and ‘dried phlegm from a barrel’, which flew back across the North Sea from the Royal Society to Leiden and the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave—the Dutch national museum of the history of science and medicine–where they were reunited with an original Leeuwenhoek microscope. The museum provided the opportunity for taking photographs through the original microscope, as well as the shooting of moving images.

Although Leeuwenhoek’s specimens have been imaged before, this is the first time that the latest digital techniques have been applied to the surviving specimens.

(Link: phys.org, Portrait of Van Leeuwenhoek by Jan Verkolje (1650-1693))

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September 29, 2019

Netherlands’s biggest dike being heavily reinforced

Filed under: Nature,Science,Technology by Orangemaster @ 6:08 pm

afsluitdijk

The Afsluitdijk, a 32-kilometer dike that is 87 years old, is one of the key water defences against the sea, located between the provinces of North Holland and Friesland. Due to climate change, which causes rising sea levels and storms, the dike is being thoroughly renovated through 2023. You’ll notice that at least the parties involved believe in climate change – they’re not taking any chances. “The Netherlands is currently the safest delta in the world,” the government said. “We want to keep it that way.” Although sea levels have been rising for years, the levels are rising more quickly.

Engineers are strengthening the Afsluitdijk, including laying thousands of custom-made concrete blocks and raising parts of it. They are also improving the highway that runs over the narrow strip of human-made land which lies between the shallow Wadden Sea and the Ijsselmeer inland sea and which, despite its name, is technically a dam rather than a dike because it separates water from water.

This kind of innovation and the constant care needed to maintain the Netherland’s thousands of miles of dikes and levees does not come cheap. The government has earmarked nearly 18 billion euros ($20 billion) to fund such projects for the period from 2020-2033.

(Link: phys.org; photo: lc.nl)

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June 26, 2019

Dutchmen want to pick up plastic on the Moon

Filed under: Art,Science by Orangemaster @ 8:26 pm

Former bin collector Arnout Schaap and graphic designer Jorick de Quaasteniet want to go into space… to collect plastic. One plastic bag to be exact.

While there are millions of bits of space junk floating around the Earth and damaging satellites, there is also a lot of ordinary stuff like toothbrushes, cameras, Elon Musk’s car, and a whole lot of plastic. Schaap and Quaasteniet have a plan to pick up one of the plastic bags. Yes, just one. It is the cover of a device that astronauts used to measure the distance between the moon and the Earth in 1969 during the Apollo program.

NASA was able to bring astronauts back from space, but not plastic. Moon Mission 2030, the name of the Dutch project, is going to do something about it. Their current plan is to build a small robot to go and pick it up. It would be built with the help of students of many ages. The general idea is to have their small robot ready once astronauts will be ready to go back to the Moon in the not too dist future.

Do read the interview in Dutch in the link below.

(Link and image: vice.com)

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June 17, 2019

World’s oldest X-ray images found in Dutch museum

Filed under: Art,Dutch first,Science by Orangemaster @ 10:15 pm

While looking through old documents, as you do when you work in a museum, employees of the Teyler Museum in Haarlem, North Holland made a great discovery: they found a set of the oldest X-ray images in the world. As far as they know, there’s only another set somewhere in London.

The images were part of the inheritance of Nobel Prize winner Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, and printed by him. Time Magazine called these some of the 100 most influential photos ever collected. One of the images features German-Dutch physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen’s wife Bertha’s hand. “I’ve seen my death!” Bertha Röntgen said.

The Teyler Museum will be exposing these photos until July 14.

(Link: teylersmuseum.nl, Photo of Teylers Museum by Tom Clearwood, some rights reserved)

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May 25, 2019

Counting insects as only the Dutch can

Filed under: Dutch first,Nature,Science by Orangemaster @ 5:38 pm

Thanks to amateurs and experts at waarneming.nl, the Netherlands is currently the only country in the world that is able to properly and automatically count insects, and plans to spend this summer doing so.

Using 100 camera traps that will be placed throughout the country specifically developed to automatically count and recognise insects, Software will be ‘trained’ using a photo database containing several million photos. The size and quality of this database is apparently unique in the world.

Counting and identifying insects gives researchers insight into the numbers of insects nationally as well as the effectiveness of measures being applied to restore biodiversity. According to recent publications in scientific research, there’s an alarming drop in numbers of insects in Western Europe and in Dutch nature reserves. Regular folks like myself often see adverts about the lack of bees, with garden centres selling seed mixtures for plants that attract bees and butterflies.

Using camera traps is a bid deal because they can count and cover more ground as it were. The Netherlands apparently leads the field automatic image recognition of insects and the technique, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, will now be delivered in time for the summer.

(Link: phys.org, Photo of Bee swarm by quisnovus, some rights reserved)

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March 22, 2019

Free housing in exchange for all your data in Helmond

Filed under: Dutch first,Science by Orangemaster @ 11:09 am

Binary code

In Helmond, Noord Brabant, there are plans to build a neighbourhood, called Living Lab, where people will be able to live for free, but there’s a catch: they’ll have to give up all their data.

Part of the Brainport Smart District, Living Lab will be the ‘smartest neighbourhood in the Netherlands’ with 1500 homes where 4000 people are expected to live. Their behaviour will generate a huge flow of data and that’s the goal. Basically, you’d be a guinea pig with free housing. Sensors will measure what you do, how you sleep, what you do online and whatever else companies will pay to find out.

Free living for only a year is not very practical, but considering how difficult it is to find a place in this country, I’m sure they will find 4000 people ready to give up their privacy, which is a bit sad in a way.

Toronto, Canada was the location of a similar project called Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. The difference is that this project hit a brick wall when it came to privacy and proprietary rights of the data.

Living Lab is on the edge of what is actually acceptable, which means it’s not out of the woods yet. But again, in a country where corruption is common in the housing market, having a free space to live that’s nice will have people willing to give up quite a bit of their lives. Let us not forget that social media seems free, but many of us are giving away our data there as well.

(Link: Bright)

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