Science Briefs: Computers to see what you feel, earlier twisters in ‘Tornado Alley,’ museum lecture

Software aims to recognize human emotions

Face-recognition software measures such parameters as the distance between the person’s eyes, the height from lip to top of their nose and various other metrics and then compares it with photos of people in the database that have been tagged with a given name. Now, research published in the International Journal of Computational Vision and Robotics looks to take that one step further in recognizing the emotion portrayed by a face.

A team from GLA University, in Mathura, India, suggests that the recognition of emotions by computers or robots may provide a missing link between the human and machine environments.

The team has taken a three-phase approach to a software emotion detector. The first involves developing an algorithm that can precisely identify and define the features of the human face. The second analyzes the particular positions and shapes of the face. The third phase then associates those features with a person’s emotional state to decide whether they are happy, sad, angry, surprised, fearful or disgusted. Preliminary tests gave a 94 percent success rate, the team reports. IJCVR

Twisters earlier in ‘Tornado Alley’

Peak tornado activity in the central and southern Great Plains is occurring up to two weeks earlier than it did half a century ago, according to a new study whose findings could help states in “Tornado Alley” better prepare for these violent storms.

Tornado records from Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas – an area of high tornado activity – show that peak tornado activity is starting and ending earlier than it did 60 years ago.

Peak tornado activity, which occurs in that region from early May to early July, has moved an average of seven days earlier in the year over the past six decades. The study’s authors observed the shift in tornado activity for all categories of tornadoes that occurred in the region from 1954 to 2009.

The research team published its findings this month in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Learn about extreme weapons in animal world

Even cavemen were intrigued by animals’ weapons: Their wall paintings featured the branching antlers of stags, curved mastodon tusks and buffalo horns. Learn all about animal defenses on Oct. 2 at a free, all-ages presentation at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. University of Montana biologist Douglas Emlen will cover “Extravagant Weapons: The Story Behind Arms Races in Animals and Men” at 7 p.m. in the museum’s Daily Planet Theater. Emlen’s book, “Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle,” will be published in November. Staff Reports