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Friday, December 29, 2006


The website Stats.org is a service of George Mason University that analyzes current events and its associated data with a mathematical angle. They also offer their services to journalists helping them in their preparation of stories. Since its founding in 1994, this non-profit non-partisan Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) has become a much-valued resource on the use and abuse of science and statistics in the media. Their goals are to correct scientific misinformation in the media resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge; and to act as a resource for journalists and policy makers on major scientific issues and controversies.

The current focus of Stats.org is on the following policy areas: education and child rearing, drug use and abuse, public health and disease, polls and surveys, gender issues. In their homepage, for example, you may currently find the following two excellent data analysis items:

College Ranking Mania: The Washington Monthly’s Bizarre Best College List

What Science Really Says About the Benefits of Breast-Feeding

...and you may also have fun going through: Worst Press Release of 2006.

Monday, December 11, 2006

APEX: Mathematical Solution to Imaging

Alfred Carasso (photo courtsey: NIST)

A common but serious issue in almost all kinds imaging, ranging from amateur snapshots to precise scientific instrumentation, is the problem of removing blur. Many factors contribute to the blur, such as the motion of the object, the motion of the imager, irregularities in the optics and atmospheric effects. Theoretically speaking, if the exact set of mathematical operations that govern the blurring is known, we can remove the blur by delicate numerical analysis. But because of those many degrees of freedom involved, the precise mathematical transformation, the ‘point spread function,’ usually remains unknown.

However, in 2001, Alfred Carasso, a mathematician from National Institute of Standard Technology (NIST), developed a technique – the Apex method (Apex is not an acronym) — as a general solution to a specific limited class of blur: blur that is symmetric and has certain other mathematical characteristics. Apex was originally applied to monochromatic images from scanning electron microscopes, and to some medical imaging with great success.

Recently, Carasso applied Apex to astronomical images, including colour images from the Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Overcoming the increased difficulties of de-blurring color images, Apex successfully detected and corrected unusual optical blurring functions in several astronomical images and delivered strikingly enhanced versions of well-known Hubble images, including the Whirlpool and Tadpole galaxies.

‘There is an element of luck in scientific research,’ an elated Carasso says, ‘sometimes a simple formulation, based on the right intuition, works out a lot better than you ever expected.’

A.S. Carasso. "APEX blind deconvolution of color Hubble space telescope imagery and other astronomical data". Optical Engineering. 45, Number 10, October 2006, 107004

Monday, December 04, 2006

LabVIEW Drivers

National Instruments has introduced LabVIEW drivers for wireless sensor networks, allowing Engineers and physicists an open and flexible alternative to software solutions for new wireless-enabled applications.

The free driver software works with sensors from three wireless-sensing leaders (Accsense, Accutech and Crossbow Technology) and includes communication functions and example programs compatible with sensors from each vendor. The driver can fully integrate ZigBee, IEEE 802.15.4 or proprietary wireless sensors into the National Instruments LabVIEW graphical development environment.

Wireless sensor vendors typically offer fixed-functionality application software for wireless sensor network configuration, communication and monitoring. Now with NI LabVIEW, developers using wireless sensors have an open and flexible development environment to easily customise an application or integrate data from the wireless network with other data acquisition, analysis or reporting functionality.

LabVIEW also includes more than 600 graphical and text-based math and analysis functions that developers can use to process data acquired from wireless sensor networks. The drivers save developers’ the time and resources of writing custom interfaces. Additionally, the software includes a fully documented template to quickly build a LabVIEW interface for wireless sensors not natively supported by the driver software.

For details, visit http://www.ni.com/labview/