Earlier this month, Interpol announced its plan to start using a computer program called Bonaparte that is able to identify people from their relatives’ DNA. Bonaparte is based on research done by Radboud University Nijmegen and the Dutch Foundation for Neural Networks at the university.
The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) has already used Bonaparte successfully on many occasions including in 2012 to find out who had murdered a young Dutch woman, Marianne Vaatstra, in 1999. There are event plans to use Bonaparte to help identify unnamed victims of the 1953 North Sea flood that devastated the southwest of the Netherlands.
As for the name, Napoleon Bonaparte was said to have given people surnames, and so Bonaparte the program does just that for nameless victims.
(Link: phys.org, Photo of DNA by DNA Art Online, some rights reserved)
Tags: DNA, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Radboud University
The Delft University of Technology won its fourth title back in 2007 with its solar powered car Nuna4, but this year with Nuna7 it picked up its fifth title in Adelaide, Australia yesterday.
The Dutch beat their archrivals of Tokai University, Japan who had won the last two editions.
There were obstacles on the way to the finish line: temperatures of almost 50 celsius in the cockpit, taking big chances with specially designed lenses to soak up solar rays, and a grasshopper that bounced around the cockpit.
(Link: www.kennislink.nl, Photo of Nuna7 by Nuon, some rights reserved)
Tags: Delft University of Technology, nuna, nuna7, solar car
Diederik Stapel, the country’s most notorious scientific fraudster, has some competition. Stapel had some 36 cases of confirmed fraud when we wrote about him in 2012, up to 55 at some point.
And now a former professor of the VU University Amsterdam, Mart Bax, has apparently published at least 61 documents of fake research in 15 years. He was quite crafty and managed to recycle his work under fake names, lie about awards and surely more things that will be excavated soon.
The biggest difference so far is that Stapel was still working as a professor when he got caught and Bax has been away from his university for some 11 years.
Here’s a how to fake it when you’re a fraudster scientist.
Tags: Diederik Stapel, fraud, VU University Amsterdam
An enormous cliff wall on the planet Mercury has been given a Dutch name. NASA named the cliff after the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship Duyfken, the first European ship to reach Australia in 1606. The Duyfken cliff is 500 kilometres long and lies in the southern hemisphere of Mercury.
For the big fans, you can look at hundreds of pictures of Mercury and I bet you one of them could contain the Duyfken.
(Links: www.dutchnews.nl, www.nasa.gov)
Tags: Duyfken, Mercury, VOC
The concept of SkinPrint, thought up by a group of students at Leiden University, uses a 3D printer to print pieces of human skin for skin grafting. SkinPrint has won the Digital Award, the country’s most sought-after student award.
“SkinPrint could mean a revolution in medicine”, explains team leader Ingmar van Hengel in the press. A healthy piece of skin is removed from a burn victim and then printed, ready to be used for medical procedures. SkinPrint must undergo a lot more scrutiny and certification before it can be used, say about five years.
There are many scientists around the world working on printing human body parts such as skin, ears, livers and what not. Have a look at 7 Cool Uses of 3D Printing in Medicine.
(Link: www.parool.nl, Photo of an Ultimaker)
Tags: Leiden, SkinPrint
Doctor (‘Medicine man’): ‘Jambalayla, Jambayla’ (= nonsense words, nothing to do with cooking)
Patient: Thank you… I feel much better already.
Caption: It should be easier for foreign doctors to practice here.
I personally know doctors and nurses with perfectly good diplomas from Eastern European countries that cannot or could not find work in the Netherlands, as their diploma was either not recognised or highly devalued.
After 14 years in the Netherlands, a land that generally hates to be politically correct, I can imagine that this cartoon didn’t even raise an eyebrow for most people. I’m not saying I agree, but I do understand why people didn’t have a problem with it: it’s a ‘far-from-my-bed-show’, the Dutch equivalent of ‘it doesn’t really concern me’, after all the medicine man is just a caricature not a real person, someone would say.
However, I also understand why some people would be offended at the depiction of a tribal sounding African-like Black person portrayed as a quack. I just think the cartoon is not that great (Hein de Kort does have his moments), but it does have a racial slant that could have been avoided.
The media have enough Dutch doctor mishaps to report about. Just today a Dutch doctor hit the presses for unnecessarily removing a man’s prostate in Leiden (in Dutch). The man had the same name as someone else. ‘Jambalayla, Jambayla’ to you, too.
(Link to more info, in Dutch: www.parool.nl)
Tags: doctors, Leiden, racism
Researchers have discovered and recently presented five types of penicillium that are bright orange, reminding them of the main colour of the Dutch Royal family, aka the House of Orange-Nassau.
They call them ‘Penicillium vanoranjei’ (family) and fourth other kinds that belong to this family, named after Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander’s three daughters (Amalia, Alexia and Ariane) and wife and future Queen consort Máxima: Penicillium maximae, Penicillium amaliae, Penicillium alexiae and Penicillium arianeae.
Tags: Alexia, Amalia, Ariane, fungi, Máxima, royalty, Willem Alexander
Expiration dates on food are just a guideline. Sometimes, things like milk are bad from the get-go, while tinned products seem to last for years. However, we don’t really know, as most of us make sure nothing green is growing on our food or sniff it to make sure it smells alright.
But wouldn’t it be great to have the guesswork taken out of the equation? The Eindhoven University of Technology is working on doing just that using a plastic analogue-digital converter, or plastic chip. The cost of having these chips on food are less than a euro cent and could also be used for other expiration date sensitive goods such as medicine.
One of the researchers on this project says food can be monitored already using standard silicon chips, but that is too expensive, about 10 euro cent, which is too much for a one euro item. That is why they are using plastic, as the chips can be applied directly to packaging. And apparently, the chips use some very complex mathematics to make sure they work properly.
(Link: opmerkelijk.nieuws.nl, Photo of Orange juice – expiration date by viZZZual.com, some rights reserved)
Tags: chip, Eindhoven University of Technology, milk, plastic
People who speak Dutch with a foreign accent are just as easy to understand as native speakers. Listeners may need a while to adapt to the accent, anywhere from a few sentences to a few minutes.
Yesterday Marijt Witteman received her PhD for researching how fast listeners adapt to foreign accents. One perhaps surprising finding was that native speakers who were used to the accent, for instance, Dutch people living near the German border listening to Dutch spoken by Germans, understood words pronounced by language learners just as fast as they understood words pronounced by native speakers.
Even listeners who were not regularly exposed to the foreign accent only needed a few minutes of ‘priming’ to get up to speed. Witteman used reaction time tests in which subjects first heard a word, then saw the word written out on a screen, after which the subjects had to state if a word existed or not. Previous experiments had shown that people respond faster if they hear the word before they see it on the screen. The response times for words pronounced with an accent were just as fast as for words pronounced without an accent.
Witteman’s results could be useful in designing language courses. Course materials could be less about perfecting pronunciation and more about understanding a language. My personal take-away lesson is that Hollanders can stop pretending they don’t understand what the rest of the Dutch are saying. The game is up!
(Photo by Leo Viëtor, some rights reserved)
Tags: accents, German, Germans, Germany, immigrants, immigration, language, linguistics, Max Planck Institute, psycho-linguistics, Radboud University
Astronomers of Leiden University have discovered a method of detecting life on planets outside our solar system.
In a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal of 20 February (and also at Arxiv.org) Ignas Snellen and his colleagues explain how current technology can be used to detect oxygen on far away planets using transit observations—observations performed when a planet crosses the line of sight between the observatory and the planet’s star.
Until now detecting oxygen from Earth was considered problematic because the oxygen in our own atmosphere would interfere with the observations. Snellen and his team propose to use “the enormous potential of high-dispersion spectroscopy to separate the extraterrestrial and telluric signals making use of the Doppler shift of the planet”—meaning that because the Earth moves, detected oxygen of the far away planet will show up slightly different every time it is measured.
The astronomers expect oxygen could be detected in as little as ‘a few dozen’ transits. Oxygen is too eager to form molecules with other elements to remain a free agent for long in an atmosphere and an abundance of oxygen suggests it is being replenished by life forms (the way plants do on our planet).
Snellen told Space Daily: “With an array of such flux collectors covering a few football fields one could perform a statistical study of extraterrestrial life in the solar neighbourhood. Although there is still a long way to go, this should be possible within the next 25 years.”
A telescope in space could also do the work, but currently there are no plans to build such a telescope and the cost would be high.
(Photo of an artist impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope, because the images of flux collectors I could find didn’t seem to look very telescope-like, by ESO/L. Calçada, some rights reserved)
Tags: astronomy, Leiden University, planets