Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


‘Smell of fear’ research awarded Ig Nobel

Research on how the chemicals humans emit through breathing vary in response to audio-visual stimuli has been awarded the famous scientific parody prize, the Ig Nobel.Dr Joerg Wicker from the Machine Learning Group at the University of Auckland is one of the researchers working on the ‘smell of fear’ project which earned the Ig Nobel for Chemistry announced today.

He says it’s fun to have the work recognised even if it’s something of a tongue-in-cheek compliment.

“Our work is a bit ‘out there’ I guess it fits quite well as the prize ‘honours achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think’.“

Working with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and University of Mainz, Dr Wicker uses machine learning to try to better understand volatile organic compounds or VOCs– tiny molecules of small mass that humans constantly emit when breathing or through the skin.

Current PTR-MS technology allows hundreds of volatile trace gases in air to be measured every second at extremely low levels (parts per trillion). These instruments are often used in atmospheric research on planes and ships and even in the Amazon rainforest.

The research team continuously monitored carbon dioxide and more than one hundred volatile organic compounds of a group of people in a cinema watching a movie. They found that airborne chemicals emitted by the audience varied while they watched a film so that scenes of suspense or comedy caused the audience to change emissions of particular chemicals.

It was found that many airborne chemicals in cinema air varied distinctively and reproducibly with time for a particular film, even in different screenings to different audiences. Application of advanced machine learning methods revealed that specific film events, for example "suspense" or "comedy" caused audiences to change their emission of specific chemicals.

Those findings have a wide range of potential uses. Synchronous, broadcasted human chemo-signals open the possibility for objective and non-invasive assessment of a human group response to stimuli by continuous measurement of chemicals in air.

“By applying advanced machine learning techniques we have shown that groups of people reproducibly respond to certain emotional stimuli, for example suspense and comedy, by exhaling specific trace gases,” Dr Wicker says.

“These experimental results show that some VOCs and some labels can be predicted with relatively low error, and that hints for causality with low p-values can be detected in the data.”

© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Science Media Centre: Understanding DDoS cyber attacks – Expert Reaction

Cyber attacks have hit several New Zealand organisations this month, disrupting their online services. The Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks were the same kind of cyber attack that affected the NZX around this time last year... More>>

Financial Markets Authority: Spike in investment scam complaints since COVID

The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) - Te Mana Tātai Hokohoko – is warning New Zealanders to be on the lookout for three unique types of scams that have been on the rise since the start of COVID-19. The warning comes as the FMA responds to a rise in complaints about investment scams and fraud lodged with the regulator in the first half of this year... More>>

Statistics: Strong export growth narrows current account deficit to $3B

The seasonally adjusted current account deficit narrowed to $3.0 billion in the June 2021 quarter, Stats NZ said today. The current account deficit was $2.2 billion narrower than the previous quarter due to an increase in value of goods exports (up $1.4 billion) and services exports (up $1.7 billion... More>>

Statistics: GDP rises in the June 2021 quarter

Gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 2.8 percent in the June 2021 quarter, following a 1.4 percent increase in the March 2021 quarter, Stats NZ said today. June 2021 quarter GDP was 4.3 percent higher when compared with the December 2019 quarter... More>>

Energy-from-waste: $350 Million Plant To Deliver Renewable Energy Considered

Investigations have begun into the viability of building an Energy-from-Waste plant that will safely convert 350,000 tonnes of waste, that would otherwise be dumped into South Island landfills annually, into renewable electricity... More>>

Olam: Confirms plans for commissioning of NZ dairy plant

OFI, a global leader in natural and sustainable food ingredient solutions, today confirmed plans to develop a new dairy processing facility at Tokoroa. It is now taking expressions of interest from potential farmer suppliers, employees, contractors, and general trade suppliers... More>>