The physics of fire ant rafts could help engineers design swarming robots — ScienceDaily


Noah rode out his flood in an ark. Winnie-the-Pooh had an upside-down umbrella. Fireplace ants (Solenopsis invicta), in the meantime, type floating rafts made up of hundreds and even lots of of hundreds of particular person bugs.

A brand new examine by engineers on the College of Colorado Boulder lays out the straightforward physics-based guidelines that govern how these ant rafts morph over time: shrinking, increasing or rising lengthy protrusions like an elephant’s trunk. The staff’s findings might sooner or later assist researchers design robots that work collectively in swarms or next-generation supplies by which molecules migrate to repair broken spots.

The outcomes appeared lately within the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

“The origins of such behaviors lie in pretty easy guidelines,” stated Franck Vernerey, main investigator on the brand new examine and professor within the Paul M. Rady Division of Mechanical Engineering. “Single ants aren’t as sensible as one might imagine, however, collectively, they turn into very clever and resilient communities.”

Fireplace ants type these big floating blobs of wriggling bugs after storms within the southeastern United States to outlive raging waters.

Of their newest examine, Vernerey and lead creator Robert Wagner drew on mathematical simulations, or fashions, to attempt to determine the mechanics underlying these lifeboats. They found, for instance, that the quicker the ants in a raft transfer, the extra these rafts will increase outward, typically forming lengthy protrusions.

“This habits might, primarily, happen spontaneously,” stated Wagner, a graduate scholar in mechanical engineering. “There does not essentially must be any central decision-making by the ants.”

Treadmill time

Wagner and Vernerey found the secrets and techniques of ant rafts nearly by chance.

In a separate examine printed in 2021, the duo dropped hundreds of fireplace ants right into a bucket of water with a plastic rod within the center — like a lone reed in the midst of stormy waters. Then they waited.

“We left them in there for as much as 8 hours to look at the long-term evolution of those rafts,” Wagner stated. “What we ended up seeing is that the rafts began forming these growths.”

Relatively than keep the identical form over time, the constructions would compress, drawing in to type dense circles of ants. At different factors, the bugs would fan out like pancake batter on a skillet, even constructing bridge-like extensions.

The group reported that the ants appeared to modulate these form modifications via a technique of “treadmilling.” As Wagner defined, each ant raft is made up of two layers. On the underside, you’ll find “structural” ants who cling tight to one another and make up the bottom. Above them are a second layer of ants who stroll round freely on high of their fellow colony-members.

Over a interval of hours, ants from the underside could crawl as much as the highest, whereas free-roaming ants will drop all the way down to turn into a part of the structural layer.

“The entire thing is sort of a doughnut-shaped treadmill,” Wagner stated.

Bridge to security

Within the new examine, he and Vernerey needed to discover what makes that treadmill go spherical.

To try this, the staff created a collection of fashions that, primarily, turned an ant raft into a sophisticated sport of checkers. The researchers programmed roughly 2,000 spherical particles, or “brokers,” to face in for the ants. These brokers could not make selections for themselves, however they did comply with a easy algorithm: The faux ants, for instance, did not like bumping into their neighbors, and so they tried to keep away from falling into the water.

Once they let the sport play out, Wagner and Vernerey discovered that their simulated ant rafts behaved loads like the actual issues.

Specifically, the staff was in a position to tune how energetic the brokers of their simulations have been: Had been the person ants sluggish and lazy, or did they stroll round loads? The extra the ants walked, the extra seemingly they have been to type lengthy extensions that caught out from the raft — a bit like individuals funneling towards an exit in a crowded stadium.

“The ants on the suggestions of those protrusions nearly get pushed off of the sting into the water, which ends up in a runaway impact,” he stated.

Wagner suspects that fireside ants use these extensions to really feel round their environments, looking for logs or different bits of dry land.

The researchers nonetheless have loads to study ant rafts: What makes ants in the actual world, for instance, decide to change from sedate to lazy? However, for now, Vernerey says that engineers might study a factor or two from fireplace ants.

“Our work on fireplace ants will, hopefully, assist us perceive how easy guidelines might be programmed, equivalent to via algorithms dictating how robots work together with others, to attain a well-targeted and clever swarm response,” he stated.

Video: https://youtu.be/IrLc-uDv7GU

Overcoming universal restrictions on metal selectivity by protein design


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    First of its kind trial design expedites drug testing and expands patient access to new investigational products — ScienceDaily


    A brand new paper in Annals of Neurology describes the method, construction, and launch of the HEALEY ALS Platform Trial- the primary platform trial for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) designed to speed up the event of efficient and breakthrough therapies for individuals with the sickness.

    “This research is actually the primary complete platform for ALS drug improvement, the place a central infrastructure is shared between a wide range of investigational merchandise, every examined utilizing a typical protocol and in comparison with a shared placebo cohort,” says first writer and co-principal investigator Sabrina Paganoni, MD, PhD, co-director of the Massachusetts Common Hospital (MGH) Neurological Scientific Analysis Institute (NCRI), doctor scientist on the Healey & AMG Middle for ALS at Mass Common, and assistant professor of PM&R at Harvard Medical College and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. “On account of this design, individuals dwelling with ALS who take part on this trial have a better probability of receiving an lively remedy.”

    Underneath the management of Paganoni and principal investigator Advantage Cudkowicz, MD, MSc, director of the Sean M. Healey and AMG Middle for ALS, chief of Neurology at MGH and the Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical College, the HEALEY ALS Platform Trial enrolls sufferers throughout a community of greater than 50 coordinated websites of the NEALS Consortium nationwide. The trial concurrently evaluates a number of therapies on an ongoing foundation.

    “The trial has a number of vital scientific objectives as we’re amassing various novel biomarkers and consequence measures which may present extra environment friendly readouts not just for this trial for your complete ALS scientific trial panorama,” says Cudkowicz. “Additional, we’re creating an method that ensures information sharing and pattern sharing from the rising placebo cohort the place we hope we are able to contribute to our understanding of the science behind ALS and share the learnings in a collaborative method.”

    Presently, the HEALEY ALS Platform Trial has accomplished enrollment in its first 4 trial arms and testing of a fifth investigational product has already begun. “An vital characteristic of the trial is that it will likely be evergreen, which means that we intend to all the time have a number of investigational merchandise out there to new members,” says Paganoni. The group is working with extra trade collaborators to create new remedy spots in 2022 with a plan for a lot of extra after that.

    Since its inception in Summer season 2020, greater than 800 sufferers have enrolled within the HEALEY ALS Platform trial, with about 160 members assigned to the primary 4 trial arms. Outcomes from these first 4 research are anticipated later in 2022. “Due to the platform nature of the research and using a shared placebo group, the lively to placebo ratio may be very favorable for members, three to at least one in favor of receiving an lively drug,” says Paganoni. “That’s merely not doable with conventional stand-alone trials ,” she says. The trial design permits all members to obtain lively remedy as a part of a long-term Open Label Extension (OLE) after six months of randomized, placebo-controlled trial participation. Along with granting entry to lively drug, the OLE will present vital scientific information concerning the long-term security and efficacy of the investigational merchandise examined within the trial.

    The HEALEY ALS Platform Trial has invigorated the ALS scientific trials panorama, and there was resounding help from the affected person group. Enrollment has been exceeding expectations which is exceptional contemplating that the trial’s launch coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “We’re grateful to the members of our Affected person Advisory Committee who’ve been working with us to design a patient-centric trial with extra entry alternatives,” says Paganoni. “This trial wouldn’t be doable with out the beneficiant contributions of lots of of individuals with ALS and their households and supporters who determined to dedicate their time and efforts to ALS analysis to profit your complete ALS scientific and affected person household throughout these difficult pandemic occasions.”

    Story Supply:

    Supplies supplied by Massachusetts Common Hospital. Observe: Content material could also be edited for model and size.

    Design apps with this $50 no-code app builder



    New understanding of complex catalysis advances catalyst design — ScienceDaily


    Lots of the catalytic reactions that drive our trendy world occur in an atomic black field. Scientists know all of the parts that go right into a response, however not how they work together at an atomic degree.

    Understanding the response pathways and kinetics of catalytic reactions on the atomic scale is essential to designing catalysts for extra energy-efficient and sustainable chemical manufacturing, particularly multimaterial catalysts which have ever-changing floor constructions.

    In a latest paper, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson Faculty of Engineering and Utilized Sciences (SEAS), in collaboration with researchers from Stony Brook College, College of Pennsylvania, College of California, Los Angeles, Columbia College, and College of Florida, have peered into the black field to know, for the primary time, the evolving constructions in a multimaterial catalyst on the atomic scale.

    The analysis was achieved as a part of the Built-in Mesoscale Architectures for Sustainable Catalysis (IMASC), an Power Frontier Analysis Middle funded by the Division of Power, headquartered at Harvard. It was revealed in Nature Communications.

    “Our multipronged technique combines reactivity measurements, machine learning-enabled spectroscopic evaluation, and kinetic modeling to resolve a long-standing problem within the subject of catalysis — how will we perceive the reactive constructions in advanced and dynamic alloy catalysts on the atomic degree,” stated Boris Kozinsky, the Thomas D. Cabot Affiliate Professor of Computational Supplies Science at SEAS and co-corresponding writer of the paper. “This analysis permits us to advance catalyst design past the trial-and-error strategy.”

    The crew used a multimaterial catalyst containing small clusters of palladium atoms combined with bigger concentrations of gold atoms in particles roughly 5 nanometers in diameter. In these catalysts, the chemical response takes place on the floor of tiny islands of palladium. This class of catalyst is promising as a result of it’s extremely lively and selective for a lot of chemical reactions but it surely’s troublesome to look at as a result of the clusters of palladium include just a few atoms.

    “Three-dimensional construction and composition of the lively palladium clusters can’t be decided immediately by imaging as a result of the experimental instruments out there to us don’t present adequate decision,” stated Anatoly Frenkel, professor of Supplies Science and Chemical Engineering at Stony Brook and co-corresponding writer of the paper. “As an alternative, we educated a man-made neural community to search out the attributes of such a construction, such because the variety of bonds and their varieties, from the x-ray spectrum that’s delicate to them.”

    The researchers used x-ray spectroscopy and machine studying evaluation to slender down potential atomic constructions, then used first ideas calculations to mannequin reactions based mostly on these constructions, discovering the atomic constructions that will consequence within the noticed catalytic response.

    “We discovered a approach to co-refine a construction mannequin with enter from experimental characterization and theoretical response modeling, the place each riff off one another in a suggestions loop,” stated Nicholas Marcella, a latest PhD from Stony Brook’s Division of Supplies Science and Chemical Engineering, a postdoc at College of Illinois, and the primary writer of the paper.

    “Our multidisciplinary strategy significantly narrows down the massive configurational area to allow exact identification of the lively website and could be utilized to extra advanced reactions,” stated Kozinsky. “It brings us one step nearer to attaining extra energy-efficient and sustainable catalytic processes for a spread of functions, from manufacturing of supplies to environmental safety to the pharmaceutical trade.”

    The analysis was co-authored by Jin Soo Lim, Anna M. P?onka, George Yan, Cameron J. Owen, Jessi E. S. van der Hoeven, Alexandre C. Foucher, Hio Tong Ngan, Steven B. Torrisi, Nebojsa S. Marinkovic, Eric A. Stach, Jason F. Weaver, Joanna Aizenberg and Philippe Sautet. It was supported partly by the US Division of Power, Workplace of Science, Workplace of Primary Power Sciences below Award No. DE-SC0012573.