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Businesses Science Technology

Startup Uses Sensor Networks To Debug Science Experiments (xconomy.com) 25

gthuang88 writes: Environmental factors like temperature, humidity, or lighting often derail life science experiments. Now Elemental Machines, a startup from the founders of Misfit Wearables, is trying to help scientists debug experiments using distributed sensors and machine-learning software to detect anomalies. The product is in beta testing with academic labs and biotech companies. The goal is to help speed up things like biology research and drug development. Wiring up experiments is part of a broader effort to create "smart labs" that automate some of the scientific process.
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Startup Uses Sensor Networks To Debug Science Experiments

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  • by Sir Holo ( 531007 )

    I'm in the physical sciences, and even there am met with continuing reluctance of graduate students to take thorough lab notes in a lab book.

    It is not that hard to write, "It's humid today," or whatever. No matter how mundane the variable is, and no matter how fucking smart you think you are –with your imagined ability of total recall even a few months after the lab-time, everything is worth writing down.

    That way, when an anomalous result appears, they can search their notes for possible causes.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Think about your own words: could this be the result of somebody trying to make us all more and more stupid? If that happens on a world class Univ, think about down the list ones.
      I dont think this is an accident.

      • Think about your own words: could this be the result of somebody trying to make us all more and more stupid? If that happens on a world class Univ, think about down the list ones.
        I dont think this is an accident.

        I said nothing of the sort.

        As a matter of fact, I've consistently found the focus on actually teaching at (your) "down the list" schools to be much stronger for undergraduates. Smaller classes. Professors actually teach their classes. And they grade students' homework. They will run the labs. With less-expensive equipment, students will have to learn lab-work by "Doing it the hard way," which is more effective.

        At a major Research University: More than 50% of classes are not taught by Professors, but b

    • by ganv ( 881057 )
      Yes, they do need to record good notes. But the times are changing. There is huge potential in a cheap general purpose sensor array. Imagine a system that recorded temperature, humidity, room brightness, vibrations, maybe some chemical species concentrations, and maybe data from a set of special sensors in an apparatus. This is straight forward to do, but right now it requires someone to write custom software and integrate a variety of sensors. If there becomes a standard that just ran with very little
      • As Richard Horton put in his essay (What is medicine's 5-sigma), 'As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”'. There is pressure for 'measurable progress'. This has a number of nasty side effects. Things which do not lead directly to publishable results fall by the wayside, and things which serve no other purpose than to potentially explain desirable results as experimental errors, again, offer little which would result in 'measurable progress'. More and more, career scientists are be

      • You've never had to install sensor cabling, have you?
    • by mikael ( 484 )

      "It's humid today" isn't exactly a scientific measurement. I'd expect some kind of electronic measurement with barometer, thermometer and hygrometer. You can get an all in one wireless system with automatic logging for less than £40. If you want to splurge out on a bit more (£130), you can get a wireless weather station that connects via the internet to a smartphone. There are probably others with more features and functionality, but it was the first I found.

      • ... and he misses the point.

        Plainly, from the scenario, measuring the humidity wasn't part of the original experimental plan. The experiment is already running, and what the lecturer is saying is that (some of) his students don't conceive that there might be something worth recording that isn't in the experiment plan. Realising that your plans may be wrong is the first step. THEN you go on to "well, what can I do about this.

        You'd also be able to (probably) tell if there were a humidity effect by doing par

      • "It's humid today" isn't exactly a scientific measurement. I'd expect some kind of electronic measurement with barometer, thermometer and hygrometer. You can get an all in one wireless system with automatic logging for less than £40. If you want to splurge out on a bit more (£130), you can get a wireless weather station that connects via the internet to a smartphone. There are probably others with more features and functionality, but it was the first I found.

        You prove my point. Thanks!

        It's facile to record either qualitative info, or to auto-record quantitative data from your humidity-loggers. Either way, when confusing experimental results appear, neither of these resources is likely to be used.

        My point was to gripe about the lazy technique among many new grad students of late. It is a product of:
        * Our undergraduate programs automating chemistry-lab experiments to be 'push-button' easy.
        * Calculus homework consisting of typing a problem into a computer pr

        • CORRECTION

          20 years ago, American PhDs had a reputation overseas as being high-level technicians, and rightly so. The problem has gotten worse.

    • [In voice of some millennials]

      That way, when an anomalous result appears,

      What is this thing you call an "anomalous result"? This can't happen to me. That's implying that I can't see an obvious problem before it happens, and that CANNOT be true.

      [end outraged voice]

      One of the things that you learn with experience is that you can actually be wrong. It's one of the things that a lot of people these days have to actually learn, because they haven't learned it in their pre-teen or teenage years.

      For the last se

  • About time... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by virtualXTC ( 609488 ) on Sunday February 07, 2016 @12:00PM (#51456955) Homepage
    This sort of thing has always been available for pharmaceutical manufacturing, but has been long overlooked on the research side. I've been at a few science research based engineering companies that collect this kind of data already, but don't do anything to analyse it unless something catastrophic happens. A software tool that could enable visualization of this data across experiments will extremely valuable as we remove technician to technician variation (via robotics) and a synthetic biology becomes more common place, and could prove as invaluable as well plate edge effect analysis already included in major bio-analysis software packages such as spotfire.
  • I read TFA and it struck me that this is the invention of salesmen who are working very hard to find a rationale for their product. The two examples they came up with, where the benefits of their system are supposed to be maximally evident, are just not convincing. In the case of the mice who are kept awake at night: Wouldn't the test group and the control group of mice both be equally affected by the noise? If the thing being tested for really was making a difference, shouldn't that difference still be vis

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