This Way Up 15 August 2015: Part 1

Touchscreen pest detection, tips for managing your digital afterlife, and cellphone credit checks.

Digital pest sensing network

From dairy to meat to fruit, New Zealand's economy is heavily reliant on agriculture so the introduction of an invasive pest or disease can be devastating.

Recent sightings of the Queensland Fruit Fly in Auckland show how sensitive we are to biosecurity risks. Pests also cause havoc with our native flora and fauna with many species now under threat.

Now a new hi-tech system called PAWS (print acquisition and wildlife surveillance) monitors pests remotely and can even alert border protection agencies to threats in real time.

Ecologist Dr Helen Blackie of Boffa Miskell and Kenji Irie from Lincoln Agritech showed us the technology at the Centre for Wildlife Management and Conservation at Lincoln.

Nose cone

PAWS © Helen Blackie, Lincoln University Lincoln Agritech Ltd. Photo: Supplied.

Tech: digital afterlife

Tech commentator Peter Griffin.

Tech commentator Peter Griffin. Photo: Supplied

What happens to your digital life when you log off for the last time and you have a plan in place for facing the final blue screen of death?

John is contemplating his own digital afterlife and Peter Griffin has a few tips for managing a way through your final exit.


Cellphone credit check

What's your credit rating like?  

Daniel Bjorkegren of Brown University is running a trial in the Caribbean to see how mobile phone data can be used to assess someone's credit worthiness. He's showing the method can be as accurate as a conventional credit check in predicting whether people will default on their loans or not.

This Way Up 15 August 2015: Part 2

Music and healing, Vitamania, Project Mosul and condiment evolution.

Music and healing

A remarkable study that shows how listening to music can relieve pain and help you recover after surgery.

Dr Catherine Meads from Brunel University in England has led a meta-analysis of more than 70 studies from around the world involving almost 7000 patients that's just been published in The Lancet.



Vitamania. Photo: Supplied.

Catherine Price looks at the multi-billion dollar global vitamins and dietary supplements industry in her book Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest For Nutritional Perfection (Scribe).

With New Zealand laws governing vitamins and dietary supplements soon to be tightened up, she covers the history of vitamins and what the latest science says about whether we really need to take them. 

Project Mosul

Project Mosul.

Project Mosul. Photo: Supplied.

Hundreds of ancient objects and historic sites are being damaged in the ongoing violence in the Middle East.

Earlier this year video footage released by Islamic State showed militants destroying artefacts at the Mosul Museum in Iraq.

And in December 2014, the United Nations released a report (pdf) showing via satellite imagery that nearly 300 sites had been damaged or destroyed in Syria alone.

The UN described an "alarming level of damage" and called for better international and national efforts to protect Syria's rich cultural heritage for the benefit of humankind.

Project Mosul is an initiative funded by the European Union that's using digital technology to recreate accurate 3-D representations of objects from photos and other images.

Matthew Vincent is a 'cyber archaeologist' working on the project and told This Way Up the first iteration of the website was basically an appeal for people to upload images from their trips to museums and cultural sites in Iraq.

Now, the appeal has expanded to other areas and for the project's users to themselves identify sites where heritage has been lost.

"We're talking about either through natural means or human intervention," says Mr Vincent. "And that could be through something destructive like the self-proclaimed Islamic State our it could simply be, 'we had to build a new building and had to destroy whatever might have been there'".

A video demonstration of using the Project Mosul website and completing a basic photogrammetric workflow.

Condiment evolution

Cabbage caterpillar

Cabbage caterpillar Photo: James K. Lindsey (CC BY-SA 2.5)

If you enjoy the pungent bite and nose-watering qualities of wasabi, horseradish or mustard then you can thank the humble caterpillar!

In the pre-sushi period, some 90 million years ago, the ancient ancestors of brassicas like mustards and cabbage developed a chemical defence systems to scare off the bugs and insects that were eating them.

The insects evolved to handle more and more of the chemicals, and in turn the plants produced more chemicals.

Chris Pires of the Bond Life Sciences Center at the University of Missouri is tracking this evolutionary arms race.