Syracuse Post Standard, December 26, 2005, Page 20

Syracuse Post Standard

December 26, 2005

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Issue date: Monday, December 26, 2005

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All text in the Syracuse Post Standard December 26, 2005, Page 20.

Post-Standard, The (Newspaper) - December 26, 2005, Syracuse, New York I THE POST-STANDARD Monday, December SCIENCE FOR THE FUN OF IT, SCIENTISTS APPLY EMOTION-RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY TO LEONARDO'S LEGENDARY MONALISA By Toby Sterling The Associated Press Amsterdam, Netherlands The mysterious half-smile that has intrigued viewers of the Mona Lisa for centuries isn't really that difficult to interpret, Dutch researchers say. She was smiling because she was happy 83 percent happy, to be exact, according to scien- tists from the University of Ams- terdam. In what they viewed as a fun demonstration of technology rather than a serious experiment, the researchers scanned a repro- duction of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece and subjected it to cutting-edge "emotion recogni- tion" software, developed in col- laboration with the University of Illinois. The result showed the paint- ing's famous subject was 83 per- cent happy, 9 percent disgusted, 6 percent fearful and 2 percent angry. She was less than 1 per- cent neutral, and not at all sur- prised. Leonardo began work on the painting in 1503, and il now hangs in the Louvre in Paris. The work, also known as "La is believed to have portrayed the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. The tille is a play on her husband's also means "the jolly lady" in Italian. Hairo Stokman, a professor at the University of Amsterdam involved in the experiment, said the researchers knew the results would be unscientific the soft- ware isn't designed to register subtle emotions. So it couldn't delect [he hint of sexual sugges- tion or disdain many have rend into Mona Lisa's eyes. In addition, the technology is designed for use with modern digital films and images, and sub- jects first need to be scanned in a neutral emotionless state to accu- rately detect their current emo- tion. Lead researcher Nicu Sebe took the challenge as seri- ously as he could, using the faces of 10 women of Mediterranean ancestry to create a composite image of a neutral expression. He then compared that to the face in the painting, scoring it on the basis of six emotions: happiness, surprise, anger, disgust, fear and sadness. "Basically, it's like casting a spider web over the face to break it down into tiny seg- Stokman said. "Then you look for minute differences in the flare of the nostril or depth of the wrin- kles around the eyes." Stokman said with a read- ing of 83 percent, it's clear happiness was the woman's main emotion. Biometrics experts not involved with the experi- ment said the results were interesting even if they aren't the last word on the Mona Lisa. "Facial recognition tech- nology is advancing rapidly, but emotional recognition is really still in its said Larry Hornak, director of the Center for Identifica- tion Technology Research at West Virginia University. "It sounds like they did try to use a data set, even if it was small, and that's typical of work in an area like this that's relatively new. It's an interesting he said. Stokman said he knew the University of Amsterdam effort won't prove or dis- prove controversial theories about the painting. One is that it was actually a self- portrait of Leonardo himself as a woman. "But who knows, in 30, 40, 50 years, maybe they'll be able to tell what was on her Stokman said. Hornak agreed the idea was entertaining. "It's always fun to apply technology to areas of public interest, and sometimes you can come up with results that arc very he said. Jim Waymaii, a biometrics researcher at San Jose State University, agreed. "It's hocus pocus, not seri- ous Wayman said. "But it's good for a laugh, and it doesn't hurt anybody. Sky Watch THE STARS AT P.M. SUNDAY, DEC. 25 International Atomic Time is a highly accurate anil stable measurement. It is a weighted average of the time kept by about 200 atomic clocks in more than 50 national laboratories worldwide. Atomic time is measured through vibrations of atoms in a' metal isotope that resembles mercury and can keep time to within a 1 Oth of a billionth of a second a day. The result is extremely accurate time that can be transmitted by radio through- out North America where atomic watches and clocks can receive the sig- nal. Improved time and frequency standards have many applications. For instance, ultraprecise clocks can be used to improve synchronization in precision navigation and positioning systems, telecommunications net- works and deep-space communications. But from their careful observa- tions of the positions of the stars, astronomers have deduced that Earth's relation is ever so slightly slowing down at a nonuniform rate. As a result, Earth falls out of step with atomic clocks. When the difference between the two amounts to one second, a "leap-second" is inserted into the atom- ic time scale. This will happen Saturday when the final minute of 2005 (as measured at the Greenwich meridian) will last 61 seconds. The "leap- second" will be added at p.m. EST. To use the map, hold it vertically before you, with the direction you are facing positioned at the bottom. The outer circle represents the horizon; the zenith, the spot directly overhead, Is near the center of the map. The map is accurate for p.m. Sunday; by Saturday it will be accurate for 7 p.m. An archive of Sky Watch columns is available online at Joe Rao, lecturer, Hayden Planetarium The New York Times 25 QUESTIONS FOR 25 YEARS World's scientists try their hand at prediction By Ronald Kotulak Chicago Tribune Chicago To celebrate the 125th anniversary of its found- ing by Thomas Edison, the journal Science asked more lhan 100 of the world's top scientists what they thought were the 25 most important scientific questions likely to be answered in the next 25 years. The 25 big questions range from what is consciousness (the mysterious interplay of brain cells and neurotransmitters that conjures up awareness and the ability to ask questions) to what is the universe made of. What distinguishes humans from all other species is that capacity to formulate questions and to find answers that lead to more questions. Children start asking "why" almost as soon as they learn to talk. Why is the sky blue? Do mosquitoes go to the bath- room? Asking the right question is the driving force behind sci- ence's amazing run of successes in explaining how the world works. "Children ask the most natural and the most difficult ques- tions because they really do want explanations in which they can understand relationships between cause and said Donald Kennedy, executive editor in chief of Science. "Scientists proceed in much the same he said. "They see some complicated outcome and they say. What produced this? I'm not going to be satisfied with just describing that it happened; I want to know what put it in motion." Questions are more important than answers in shaping the future of science, Kennedy wrote in an editorial in Science, adding that science is about questions while research is about answers. In 1943 Erwin Schrodinger posed one of the most famous questions ever recorded when he asked, "What is Enough tantalizing clues are known, he postulated, to begin looking for the molecules of life. Schrodinger's question, and slim book by the same title, inspired a generation of young scientists, including James Watson and Francis Crick, who won the race to decipher the chemical structure of DNA. "In many cases, the answers are going to have a big impact pn human well-being, and not just in the medical Kennedy said. "People who explore the cosmos try to put our solar system, Earth and everybody on it in some kind of grander context in terms of our universe." When Michael Faraday was demonstrating his equipment for generating the newly discovered phenomenon of electrici- ty in the early 1800s, British chancellor of the exchequer William Gladstone, said: "It is very interesting, Mr. Faraday; But what practical worth is Faraday replied: "One day, sir, you may tax it." The ancient Greeks were masters at asking questions and coming up with philosophical answers thai were intellectual- ly satisfying but usually not testable. It wasn't until the Age of Enlightenment starting in the 1600s that the scientific method observe, form a hypothesis, test it took hold. The flood of discoveries that followed changed the world. Every now and then, particularly after a surge of great dis- coveries, someone, often a scientist, would say that science has learned all there is to learn. The most recent pessimistic forecast is a 1996 book, "The End ot Science" by John Morgan, that claimed all the big questions have been asked and answered. What's left, he said, is simply filling in the details. Most scientists, however, believe that there may be no end to big questions and that they will lead to big discoveries. Besides consciousness, the small number of human genes and what the universe is made of, the other big questions on Science's list of 25 arc: To what extent are genetic variation and personal health linked? Can the laws of physics be unified? How much can the human life span be extended? What controls organ regeneration? How can a skin cell become a nerve cell? How does a single somatic cell become a whole plant? How does Earth's interior work? Are we alone in the universe? How and where did life on Earth arise? What determines species diversity? What genetic changes made us uniquely human? How are memories stored and retrieved? How did cooperative behavior evolve? How will big pictures emerge from a sea of biological data? How far can we push chemical self-assembly? What are the limits of conventional computing? Can we selectively shut off the immune responses? Do deeper principles underlie quantum uncertainty and non- locality? Is an effective HIV vaccine feasible? How hot will the greenhouse world be? can replace cheap oil, and when? Will Thomas Malthus (who predicted that overpopulation could lead to a global disaster) continue to be wrong? ;