Thursday, March 30, 2006

Authorities approve Airbus result

The EASA and the FAA have both formally approved the result of Sunday's Airbus A380 evacuation trial, and the aircraft is now certificated to carry up to 853 passengers.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Nature Imitation Methods - Theory and Practice (NIM 2006)

International Workshop Session at the ISDA 2006 - 6th IEEE International Conference on Intelligent System Design and Applications, Jinan, Shandong, China, October 16-18, 2006.

NIM'06 will focus on the following topics:

  • Evolutionary computation
  • Neural networks
  • Artificial immune systems
  • Ant colony optimizations
  • Cellular Computing
  • Artificial life
  • DNA Computing
  • Combination of all above (hybrid approaches)
  • Real applications

Important Dates:

  • Special Session Proposal: May 1, 2006
  • Paper Submission: May 15, 2006
  • Notification of Acceptance: June 15, 2006
  • Final Paper Submission: June 30, 2006

See the workshop webpage for further details (declaration of interest: I am on the Program Committee).

Monday, March 27, 2006

A380 evacuation test a success?

Airbus are claiming success after yesterday's A380 evacuation test, the results of which are yet to be verified by the authorities (but the signs suggest that this is just a formality). Airbus think they managed to evacuate 873 "passengers" (half of whom were Airbus employees, with the other half being recruited from local gyms...) in 80 seconds.

The test didn't run quite as smoothly as Airbus might have hoped, though, with one participant breaking his leg, and 32 others suffering minor injuries (many sustaining friction burns on the slides).

Thos familiar with our recent work on A380 evacuation modelling will know that one of the main variables of interest was delay caused by passengers pausing at the upper exits (which are 8m off the ground). The editor of Flight International, Mark Daly, was one of the participants in the test: "One of the big concerns was whether anybody would hesitate at the top of the slides," said Mr Daly. "The finding was that nobody does - in a panic situation, your universe contracts and you're only really conscious of the few feet around you."

Hopefully Airbus will release enough data to allow us to test the validity of our existing model, but there's no requirement for them to disclose anything other than the bare details of the test.
We'll wait and see.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A380 evacuation trial - date

According to "regulatory sources", Airbus have scheduled the A380 evacuation trial for Sunday March 26th. For more background, see our recent work on the aircraft.

Friday, March 17, 2006

DNA origami

Paul Rothemund has written a paper that appears on the cover of this week's Nature (the link goes to a news story with an image of a DNA "smiley face", see the open access editor's summary, or the full paper (requires subscription)). He's come up with a way of folding a single DNA strand to form arbitrary two-dimensional shapes (much like origami experts fold a single sheet of paper into a multitude of designs).

Much work has been done on DNA nanotechnology, mainly inspired by the work of Ned Seeman. Rothemund's approach differs in that, rather than using many different "tiles" that self-assemble into a macro-scale single object, he folds a single section of well-sequenced viral DNA, using short "staple" strands to pin the whole complex together.

This work is wonderfully elegant, and is just one of several significant papers published by Rothemund. He first came to the attention of the DNA computing community at the first ever international workshop in 1995, when he described his scheme for a molecular Turing machine, and he's continued to produce work of outstanding quality.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Science in the Dock

The ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis) at Exeter is organising a week of public outreach activities.

"Egenis invites you to get involved during ESRC Social Science Week: On 14 March, ‘Science in the Dock – Art in the Stocks’ will bring together artists and scientists from the South West to discuss and critique each other’s work in a public symposium."

I'm giving the opening address, and will be talking about bacterial cameras and general synthetic biology. It should make an interesting change from the sort of event that I usually attend, so I'll try to post a summary of what went on (further details of the programme are available at the Egenis website).

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blog down-time

The blog will not be updated over the next week or so, as I'll be "away" on paternity leave.

"Human selection alive and kicking"

News article from Nature (open access):

"Researchers at the University of Chicago, Illinois, have identified the regions of our genetic sequence that show the strongest marks of natural selection. Their work highlights the genes that have been most important in adapting to new lifestyles, and could help to identify the genetic factors involved in complex medical conditions such as high blood pressure and alcoholism."