Northeastern Researchers Make the Cover of Nature

Our very own Northeastern researchers have offered a new look towards “merging the tools of network science and control theory” to better control complex systems. Their findings were featured on the cover of the May 12th issue of the journal Nature. Albert-László Barabási, a professor in the Departments of Physics and Biology and in the College of Computer and Information Science, and Yang-Yu Liu, a postdoctoral research associate in Physics, coauthored the paper, along with an MIT colleague. Their focus was to merge control theory with network science research in order to create more efficient methods of gaining control of a complex system, such as cellular networks or social media, by identifying the driving nodes of the system. Read more about their research in this news@Northeastern press release. You can also find more of Professor Barabási’s research publications in IRis, Northeastern’s institutional repository. Congrats to our NU researchers for this inspiring breakthrough!

Friday Five: Animal Planet

For some reason, or maybe because I’m just more attuned to it for some reason, a lot of science news this week had to do with the animal world. 1. Compared to animals, humans don’t actually travel around much.  A team of NU researchers is finding that human movement is highly predictable and pretty restricted.  Their results, which were based on cell phone gps data (they swear it’s anonymized) were published this week in Nature Physics and a summary is available on the NU News site. 2. Jonathan Franzen’s acclaimed new book “Freedom” has arrived at Snell. A realist novel in the spirit of Tom Wolfe, it is the story of a dysfunctional family trying to navigate the shoals of 21st century America.  One of the protagonists is an environmental lawyer and much of it is set in and around the environmental movement.  Oprah’s just chosen it for her book club (despite the fact that Franzen has dissed her book club taste in the past!). 3. This week PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology reports on the demise of the tiger and a way to ensure its survival through the protection of its breeding grounds. 4. When it comes to eating animal products, the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that there’s a big difference between low-carb diets high in animal products and those low in animal products.  Those low in animal products resulted in lower mortality from all causes. 5. Science News reports that an ancestor of the virus that causes AIDS has been present in monkeys for 32,000 years!

Friday Five for bio and health

Lately the news has been a little slow!  Everyone was either on vacation or trying to save the cat from Hurricane Earl.  A few biology and health sciences articles that did break can be read through the NU Libraries: 1. SAMe, a natural chemical often used as a dietary supplement, may alleviate depression. 2. In the latest issue of Nature, E.O. Wilson and two colleagues used mathematics to prove that even self-sacrificing altruistic behavior in animals like ants can be explained with the theory of natural selection.  For decades it has been thought that altruistic behavior was not consistent with natural selection and other theories like “kin selection” (protecting the survival of the family) were needed to explain it. 3. In sports news, an article in the New Journal of Physics explains the ideal spiral kicked by Brazilian soccer player Roberto Carlos against France in 1997.  (Watch it on YouTube here.) 4. This week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court sided with a psychotherapist, upholding patient confidentiality against Massachusetts Board of Registration, which tried to subpoena medical records from him.  The complete decision is available in Lexis-Nexis. 5. It might be a meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, but no comet or other impact 12,500 years ago killed the mammoths and other beasts, according to the latest issue of Science. And yes, we’re working on that new book by Stephen Hawking…I’ll let you know when it arrives!