Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fly car racer

pXor and myself decided we have to do some cool bio-hack, to be rightfully called biology geeks. And since we work on flies (fruit fly - Drosophila melanogaster), we wanted to make a flyBorg :) which we envision to be a supercomputer made of a lot of fly brains interconnected. Well, that's too much wishful thinking and beyond our current capabilities :(

We decided to simplify the job, into a more tangible thing, but which still uses the fly's intelligence in object identification. So, the objective is this: The fly (after training) should sit on a toy car. The car has steering controls. No accelerator/brakes. Certain motion cues like a tug of a leg, can be used as a signal to steer. The 'road' will have two lines marking either sides, within which it has to stay throughout. It should be a curved road. It has to learn to drive on any arbit (yet manouverably easily possible) curved road.

Here's the plan: Using operant conditioning (fancy term for an associative memory that maps an action, to consequences of the action) to associate going-out-of-bounds, to an electric shock. An electric shock should be able to be easily paired with a location sense or direction sense, as it makes biological sense. But, the only problem seems to be in teaching it to steer. Left middle leg tug, steers left and right leg steers right is what we plan to achieve. But not exactly clear on how we should train this. (Middle leg in particular, as the fly keeps cleaning itself all the time with its front pair or rear pair of legs.)

Well, this just uses a wild-type fly. We are wondering if some genetic tweaking using stuff like the GAl4/UAS system and/or Chanelopsin would help to work ends out. Might be, not in this expt, but with some more complications added :) (How can u not use such cool tools when u have 'em!)

This is how u do the DARPA challenge(albeit, a much dumbed down version) without a single line of code ;)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How good is killing a mosquito instead of driving it away?

This seems easily solvable, but have been lazy to do so. Will figure out and post soon.

Electric rackets are now common around here to electrocute mosquitoes. Its role is different from a mosquito repellant that just drives the mosquito away, or blinds its smell receptors. Initially i thought i was doing a great job by killing each mosquito, as i'm preventing its children and grandchildren and so on from entering the world. Thus, with my small effort i'm causing a huge effect, by stopping a chain propagation step. But someone suggested that, the effect of electrocution is annulled by the abundance of resources it has.

so, thought it would write it down as a chemical equation and write a rate equation.

female mosquito + male mosquito + resources ---> n male mosquitoes + n female mosquitoes.

And by electrocution, I'm killing only female mosquitoes, thus the electrocution is like reducing fefmale mosquito concentration in the above reaction.

I have to think if this has any caveats, and then, i'll think of solutions.

How to make a sub 2:15 marathoner

Another grand question without a solution

The world record for Marahons(42.195 km) is 2:04:26 hrs. And any runner in the sub 2:15 hr category is a really elite marathoner, who can win a few marathons in random, by luck. (Btw, I'm a 6:17 marathoner! having run only one so far).

So, how does one train an absolute newbie into an elite marathoner?

The answer goes vaguely like this. But, i want an optimum route, if i could do some linear programming kinda stuff, but not sure
First training to endure the race, and not bothering about speed (Me has crossed that :) Yayy!). then you train to increase your fat metabolism, by running at 65-75% max heart rate. Parallely, you will also build up mitochondrial density. Then you train more and more for speed and worry lesser about energy, since u know u can anyway do it.

Well, all this is known, qualitatively. But, my question could probably put like this. In a speed vs energy ecomomy plot, what is the optimum curve to do a marathon, given constraints of biology, and an initial biological state of health?

Or, What is the best performance a newbie like me can give, provided i train for n hrs a week at x% max heart rate, at a given altitude and temperature range? The contributions due to hill-training (training by running up hills) tempo runs (short fast ones) have to be included as well.

The 6 degree field

Here's a problem i've been thinking of lately.... But not yet thought of how to hit the solution...

First.... Here's what started me off on this. I have learnt under Prof. Lokanathan and he had learnt under Hans Bethe. So that makes me Hans Bethe's grand student! (Well, as Feynman was Bethe's studednt too, that makes Feynman my uncle!) And this linkage has sort of impacted what i am now.

If we look at this in general, many people are what they are largely due to what their social environment is. So, I wanted to figure out the impact of the social environment on say, a person's career. Using the notion that everybody on earth is just 6 links away from anyone else, i thought i'd call it the 6 degree field...... A field of people's influences.... And since these people are also born int oa field of influences, this goes on and on further. I have heard some stuff abt buzzword marketing (The anatomy of Buzz -Emanuel Rosen), where they look at density of nodes, in the 6-deg network to figure out the best ppl to advertise to...... My requirements seems to look pretty different.

So, this seems like an awfully complicated, unsolvable system, even after stripping it down to this. I wish to consider simplistic, few-people-models and then sey how it becomes turbulent as u add complexities and prople to it. The solution defintely has to be chaotic, or else the world would be a dull n boring place! But, i want to see if there is some sort of predictability. (Well real life is pretty predictable in bangallore at least! Almost everyone becomes a doctor, engineer or a call centre employee!)

Few things that i have thought should go in to the model:
- Relationships have weights. I'll be more influenced by my bro than Lokanathan. In general, different relatioinships have different strengths. A random distribution of these relation weights may be the right thing.
- relations can have negative weights. As in u don't want to do anything that is forced on you, or something your rival is doing
- The field changes with time. The weight of a relationship might change with time, but some effects of previous contact will remain, as a function of ur peak relationship strength
- People have life times,
- Two relations may either constructively or destructively interfere, or may parallelly affect without any antagonistic effects. (E.g. I can be an amateur marathoner and a researcher simultaneously)

And i'll keep on adding and modyfying this list before i start trying to attempt a solution/simulation.

Any comments/suggestions are welcome

Disclaimer: Of course, this asssumes that there is no Divine intervention that alters life. Anyway, all people who believe that such a thing can happen, probably wouldn't read this far either!

Change of plan

Attacking and finishing off a question is very hard to do. So I have decided to jot down my questions first. I'll attempt at solving 'em or learning abt 'em slowly as time permits, and later post results if i get anything.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Who? What? Why?

Who: Right now, I am a grad student. I do research on Developmental Neuroscience at National Centre for Biological Sciences (ncbs), Bangalore. I work on how the neuronal circuitry required for walking is assembled through develoipment, in Drosophila.

What: I envision this blog to be something that would have all results of my pet projects. (The ones i dont get paid for, or havent been told to do). I would like comments on what results i get. I dont care whether it has any significance on mainstream science, or if somebody has already done something similar. These are questions i am either curious abt, worked out just because i could, or simply plainly for the heck of it. Some might even be a useless proof of something that we already know. But its just that i want to share and discuss abt these. And yes, i dont have discipline of choice. I just like observing arbit things and try to figure out stuff. And some might just be opinions on someone else's work

Why: "Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it" - Albert Einstein
The 'publish or perish' environment in current day research prevents the scope for research on things u cant get funded for. So all of that u r actually fascinated to do are supressed, especially if u r a grad student.