Friday Bonus: PowerPivot Discovers a New Form of Communication in the Animal World, Makes Headlines in Science!

 
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A Sampling of Headlines From the Past 24 Hours Smile

Remember the Sniffing Project?

If you were reading this blog a year ago, you may remember the “peak detection,” “fuzzy overlapping timeframes,” and “converting from peaks to frequencies” posts.

Among other things, that series gave us one of my favorite pivots of all time:

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Those posts stemmed from my work with my neighbor, Dr. Daniel Wesson (I like to call us “Datasmith and Wesson” when we collaborate, btw).

He was hot on the trail of something AMAZING, but I wasn’t able to share the results until now:

He’s discovered a new form of communication between animals.  (Well, the communication method isn’t new to the animals themselves, but science wasn’t aware of it.)  And the world’s news and science sites are abuzz with it.  You could say they are….  hyperventilating?  (Said in best Dr. Evil voice, with pinky finger raised).

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Source:  Daily Mail Online (Click for Article)

In much the same way that dogs communicate with their tails and ears, Dan showed that rats transmit information by modulating their breathing – sniff frequency (and also amplitude).

This month, his paper is published in one of the top-flight journals:  Current Biology.

A fraction of the paper is available here for free reading

OK, Dan made a discovery.  What Did PowerPivot Do?

For this entire body of research, PowerPivot replaced Dan’s $10,000 purpose-built signal analysis software.  And ran circles around it.  And then taunted said software rather ungraciously, but then later apologized.

Go skim the posts mentioned at the top of the article to get a feel for that.  But Dan doesn’t mess around.  He didn’t switch to PowerPivot for grins or novelty.  He switched because it was just flat-out better.

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For some reason, this excerpt from the “Methods” section is my favorite part of the full paper.  Sadly, this part is NOT available for free – you have to subscribe to see it.
(Visual Basic = VBA Macros, by the way.)

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Because You Only Get So Many Excuses to Use the Word “Anogenital” on a
Spreadsheet Site.  It’s a highly scientific term ok?
(Source:  Biology Today)

Dan and I are thinking we’re gonna write a “methods” paper just on the analysis techniques used here, maybe name it SniffCube or something similarly catchy.  If accepted, that will be my first-ever published academic paper.  A serious checkmark on the bucket list.

SQL Server Was Also Used to Great Effect!

imageI’m always talking about how PowerPivot really shines when combined with a database, and this project was no exception.

Anthony Martin worked some magic in SQL in order to preprocess the data before we imported to PowerPivot (that fuzzy time overlap stuff – when our row count got up into the 100 million range, eventually the calc columns stopped working and we had to move it to SQL).

As usual, Anthony performed that work with one hand tied behind his back, and only looked at the keyboard via a mirror.  Too easy.

Pretty much an end-to-end (but atypical) use of the Microsoft platform.  Might need to do a case study on this one, eh Redmond? Smile

9 Responses to Friday Bonus: PowerPivot Discovers a New Form of Communication in the Animal World, Makes Headlines in Science!

  1. Bill Anton says:

    great publicity – nice work!

  2. Nice. But did you have to go with “Datasmith and Wesson”?

  3. Mike Girvin says:

    Totally cool!!

  4. John H says:

    Very impressive, Rob.

    I now am eagerly awaiting scientific confirmation that cats are, indeed, the sarcastic balls of fur I believe them to be.

  5. Yes, well, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

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