New and Notable, 20 February 2015

Here is a collection of the latest highly rated original research papers from MDPI journals. Happy reading!

Connected Car: Quantified Self becomes Quantified Car

Melanie Swan

The automotive industry could be facing a situation of profound change and opportunity in the coming decades. There are a number of influencing factors such as increasing urban and aging populations, self-driving cars, 3D parts printing, energy innovation, and new models of transportation service delivery (Zipcar, Uber). The connected car means that vehicles are now part of the connected world, continuously Internet-connected, generating and transmitting data, which on the one hand can be helpfully integrated into applications, like real-time traffic alerts broadcast to smartwatches, but also raises security and privacy concerns. This paper explores the automotive connected world, and describes five killer QS (Quantified Self)-auto sensor applications that link quantified-self sensors (sensors that measure the personal biometrics of individuals like heart rate) and automotive sensors (sensors that measure driver and passenger biometrics or quantitative automotive performance metrics like speed and braking activity). The applications are fatigue detection, real-time assistance for parking and accidents, anger management and stress reduction, keyless authentication and digital identity verification, and DIY diagnostics. These kinds of applications help to demonstrate the benefit of connected world data streams in the automotive industry and beyond where, more fundamentally for human progress, the automation of both physical and now cognitive tasks is underway.

On the Scale-up of Gas-Hydrate-Forming Reactors: The Case of Gas-Dispersion-Type Reactors

Yasuhiko H. Mori

For establishing hydrate-based technologies for natural-gas storage/transport, CO2 capture from industrial flue gases, etc., we need appropriate guidelines for the scale-up of hydrate production/processing equipment from laboratory scales to industrial scales. This paper aims to provide technical remarks on the scale-up of hydrate-forming reactors, the central components of hydrate production/processing equipment, particularly focusing on such a reactor design that hydrate-forming gas is dispersed in an aqueous phase which is either stirred in a tank or forced to flow through a tube. Based on the principles of classical fluid mechanics and heat-transfer analysis, the paper derives semi-empirical formulas that show how the capacity for heat discharge from each reactor and the power for operating the reactor are required to change with an increase in its size. Consequently, it is concluded that the stirred-tank design is unfavorable for significant scale-up and that the scale-up of tubular reactors should be made without significantly increasing the in-tube flow velocity.

Supported Decision-Making for People with Cognitive Impairments: An Australian Perspective?

Terry Carney

Honouring the requirement of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to introduce supported decision-making poses many challenges. Not least of those challenges is in writing laws and devising policies which facilitate access to formal and informal supports for large numbers of citizens requiring assistance with day-to-day issues such as dealing with welfare agencies, managing income security payments, or making health care decisions. Old measures such as representative payee schemes or “nominee” arrangements are not compatible with the CRPD. However, as comparatively routine social security or other government services become increasingly complex to navigate, and as self-managed or personalised budgets better recognise self-agency, any “off the shelf” measures become more difficult to craft and difficult to resource. This paper focuses on recent endeavours of the Australian Law Reform Commission and other local and overseas law reform and policy initiatives to tackle challenges posed both for ordinary citizens and those covered by special programs (such as Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme and “disability trusts” in Australia and Canada).

Read more on this topic in the Special issue Competency and Capacity: Issues Affecting Health Law, Policy and Society

Discrete Anisotropic Radiative Transfer (DART 5) for Modeling Airborne and Satellite Spectroradiometer and LIDAR Acquisitions of Natural and Urban Landscapes

Jean-Philippe Gastellu-Etchegorry *, Tiangang Yin, Nicolas Lauret, Thomas Cajgfinger, Tristan Gregoire, Eloi Grau, Jean-Baptiste Feret, Maïlys Lopes, Jordan Guilleux, Gérard Dedieu, Zbyněk Malenovský, Bruce Douglas Cook, Douglas Morton, Jeremy Rubio, Sylvie Durrieu, Gregory Cazanave, Emmanuel Martin and Thomas Ristorcelli

Satellite and airborne optical sensors are increasingly used by scientists, and policy makers, and managers for studying and managing forests, agriculture crops, and urban areas. Their data acquired with given instrumental specifications (spectral resolution, viewing direction, sensor field-of-view, etc.) and for a specific experimental configuration (surface and atmosphere conditions, sun direction, etc.) are commonly translated into qualitative and quantitative Earth surface parameters. However, atmosphere properties and Earth surface 3D architecture often confound their interpretation. Radiative transfer models capable of simulating the Earth and atmosphere complexity are, therefore, ideal tools for linking remotely sensed data to the surface parameters. Still, many existing models are oversimplifying the Earth-atmosphere system interactions and their parameterization of sensor specifications is often neglected or poorly considered. The Discrete Anisotropic Radiative Transfer (DART) model is one of the most comprehensive physically based 3D models simulating the Earth-atmosphere radiation interaction from visible to thermal infrared wavelengths. It has been developed since 1992. It models optical signals at the entrance of imaging radiometers and laser scanners on board of satellites and airplanes, as well as the 3D radiative budget, of urban and natural landscapes for any experimental configuration and instrumental specification. It is freely distributed for research and teaching activities. This paper presents DART physical bases and its latest functionality for simulating imaging spectroscopy of natural and urban landscapes with atmosphere, including the perspective projection of airborne acquisitions and LIght Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) waveform and photon counting signals.

Systems Pharmacology Dissection of the Anti-Inflammatory Mechanism for the Medicinal Herb Folium Eriobotryae

Jingxiao Zhang, Yan Li * , Su-Shing Chen, Lilei Zhang, Jinghui Wang, Yinfeng Yang, Shuwei Zhang, Yanqiu Pan * , Yonghua Wang * and Ling Yang

Inflammation is a hallmark of many diseases like diabetes, cancers, atherosclerosis and arthritis. Thus, lots of concerns have been raised toward developing novel anti-inflammatory agents. Many alternative herbal medicines possess excellent anti-inflammatory properties, yet their precise mechanisms of action are yet to be elucidated. Here, a novel systems pharmacology approach based on a large number of chemical, biological and pharmacological data was developed and exemplified by a probe herb Folium Eriobotryae, a widely used clinical anti-inflammatory botanic drug. The results show that 11 ingredients of this herb with favorable pharmacokinetic properties are predicted as active compounds for anti-inflammatory treatment. In addition, via systematic network analyses, their targets are identified to be 43 inflammation-associated proteins including especially COX2, ALOX5, PPARG, TNF and RELA that are mainly involved in the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway, the rheumatoid arthritis pathway and NF-κB signaling pathway. All these demonstrate that the integrated systems pharmacology method provides not only an effective tool to illustrate the anti-inflammatory mechanisms of herbs, but also a new systems-based approach for drug discovery from, but not limited to, herbs, especially when combined with further experimental validations.

Read more on this topic in the Special issue Bioactives and Nutraceuticals