Month: June 2006

Glimpses of India at IMEC

This Friday (June 23rd), we went to IMEC, a research center in nanoelectronics and nanotechnology (in Leuven). We weren’t there for the technology but because they organised an afternoon with Indian dances, songs, etc. We were only able to attend the last few dances but we met people from ISAL (I am tempted to add: “as usual”). It was nicely done with posters explaining some Indian traditions, huge flat screens showing Bollywood dances and food (of course). Looking for more informations on their website, I see that they have a bioelectronics section where they are studying neurons interactions with electronic chips 🙂 (a.o.). Unfortunately, there isn’t any jobs for biologists in this department for the moment.

Is there a pattern for paying parking lots?

Last Friday, I was still in my wife’s lab at 19.45. It’s on the 4th floor of the Liege Hospital. From there, I could see the parking lots (for visitors).

general view of parking lots

more precise view of parking lots

Far away, the free parking lots were congested, as usual. But I was more interested in the paying parking lots, the ones that are the nearest from the hospital. Despite the fact that it was 19.45, there were still some cars. Some cars were there since the morning or the afternoon but some of them were just parked there a few minutes ago. I tried to draw where the cars were.

paying parking pattern, clic to enlarge the plot

Exits (to the hospital) are below, left and right (in the diagram). Visibly, people parked their cars near these exits. Were they there since the morning? One hypothesis is that they came very early in the morning and that they are still in the hospital. Or they just came after 18.00 and these lots were free. It could be interesting to study how visitors are using these parking lots. I am wondering if one could find a pattern for this paying parking lot (and I am also wondering if it there would be a practical interest in knowing that).

KEGG can help you …

… at least if you are a biologist interested in genes, genomes and pathways. KEGG is the acronym for “Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes”. I’ve found it while looking for genes involved in the circadian rhythm and in the long-term potentiation and depression. Of course, for a biologist strongly interested in computerised treatment of biological data, it’s a bit disappointing that these pathways in the KEGG PATHWAY Database are manually drawn but, well, it remains a very usefull tool to continue and digg further in the comprehension of these mechanisms.

Identity 2.0

This week-end, I attended a scientific meeting and, although the content of the presentations were often interesting, they also often lacked attractiveness. This reminded me two videos I stored, some time ago, on my hard disk. Sébastien Lorion called them “refreshing”. And, for me, not only these presentations look beautiful, they also talk about an interesting topic: who are you on the internet ?

In the first presentation (a keynote at OSCON 2005), Dick Hardt talk about what is identity and how do we prove who we are, in the online world.

Identity is what I say about me and it’s what other say about me. In the real world, technical advances had enabled the separation between acquisition and presentation of credentials as well as the separation between the identification process and the authorisation process.

Now, in the online world, we are still at the “Identity 1.0” level, where one has to register at a website in order to get a service. User IDs and passwords are just authentication, they only proves that you are a directory entry! At this level, it’s impossible to prove who you are because this so-called “verified identity” is not what you apparently give to the website but what this website knows about you. Dick Hardt calls those websites “walled gardens”, closed and complex identity silos, lacking transparent policies, simplicity, scalability and flexibility.

So, with his company, Sxip, he proposes a Simple eXtensible Identity Protocol (it’s the acronym for SXIP), based on buzzwords like “Web 2.0” or “webservices” (ok, I’m exagerating a little bit). He described some of the technological details in another presentation (given at ETech 2006). And, although I didn’t tested the websites he gave as examples, I think that, perhaps like other companies (MS Infocard, IBM Higgins, …), they succeeded in separating acquisition from presentation of credentials as well as the identification process from the authorisation process.

Use of a credential provider to many resources needing this credential
Use of many credential providers to only one resource, a bit like showing ID, SSID and driver license to the policeman
Claim acquisition
Claim presentation

In his talk, Dick Hardt gave two links : his blog and Microsoft Kim Cameron’s (where you can find the laws of identity but I didn’t had time to read them yet).

Finally, to come back to the presentation aspects, I think Dick Hardt presentations are quite surprising for me, sometimes slides go too fast (that’s because I’m becoming old 😉 ). But I am wondering how can I apply some of his tricks to my presentations (next one is on June, 29th). Let’s see ..

Associative memory

Sunday, we went to a restaurant with my in-laws. They used to go there since a long time and they personally know the restaurant owner. Each time they eat there, it’s an opportunity to chat about the respective families ; so, when my wife is with her parents, the owner remembers what my wife is doing in life. But, since a few months, we went there three or four times alone (i.e. just my wife and me) and the owner never recognised my wife.

The funny thing (imho) is that my wife’s job is associated (in the owner’s mind) with her and her parents but not with her alone. When she’s alone, no particular association is made. But when she is with her parents, the owner associates the parents with the daughter and the daughter with her job. My wife’s job is stored somewhere in the owner’s brain. But the electrical/biochemical path to retrieve this information is not direct and only works with certain associations. The human brain is quite amazing …

Behavioural scorings reader

In our lab, we are (also) working on rodents behaviour. Some time ago, I wrote a very simple software that logs pre-defined behaviours to a file when the observer detects one of these particular behaviours and clicks on the ad hoc button. I accumulated quite some logs but I wasn’t able to really visualize how the rat performed. So, this evening, I wrote another small software to read those log files and to plot a graph of the rat activity. Here is a screenshot of the software in action:

SBS Reader screenshot

As you can see, it’s based on the same design as the IPGPhor2 reader I previously wrote. The curve in green indicates the behavioural scores -vs- time (here, about 5 hours of observation): the higher the curve is, the more active the rat is. In red, I’ve shown the observer’s interventions: the rat need to perform an action really increases at the end of the observation and the observer has to prevent it from doing this behaviour (it’s our protocol).

In the second figure, below, the rat was allowed to perform any kind of action it wanted to do. As we can see, it was very active in the beginning (and for a short duration during the 2nd hour) but it slowly became less active. During the 3rd and 4th hours, it was completely quiet.

SBS Reader screenshot

Great! Now, I’ll explore what was the behaviour of my rats during the past few weeks … 🙂

P.S.: This project has nothing in common with the activity recorder I presented at the Bioforum 2006 with my brother Laurent. Here, we are scoring behaviours somehow related to activity (but they could have been completely different behaviours, unrelated to activity). I should quickly write my article about the activity recorder and publish it (in an Open Access journal, I hope). Then I’ll be able to tell you exactly how it works (of course: everything will be explained in the paper).