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  • In the current global situation many people have been forced to rethink what we previously referred to as a work-life balance. There was much pressure from good mental health advocates for us to opt for more leisure time if that were a possibility. Now, in the time of the global coronavirus pandemic, we can see new ways to look at leisure time with a perspective on life satisfaction. However, in research carried out before Covid-19, Yen-Lien Kuo and Tzu-Hsiu Huang of the Department of Economics at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan City, Taiwan, investigated the relationships between working hours and changes in time spent on leisure and sports activities, as well as perceived health status, and individual life satisfaction.

    Fundamentally, they analysed data from the Taiwan Social Change Survey and were able to show that longer working hours almost inevitably led to significantly lower life satisfaction whereas more leisure time improved subjective health measures and enhanced life satisfaction markedly. There was a caveat in terms of health. In that those in full-time work tended to be healthier than those were not. However, there was still the potential to improve mental health by boosting life satisfaction when employees were able to have more leisure time at the expense of working hours.

    For Taiwan in particular, it is as a nation third in the league tables for longest working hours among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. It had been suggested in much earlier work that people with long working hours and inadequate recovery time see various problems accumulate over time and become chronic reactions. Work and leisure time may have been upturned in recent months because of pandemic lockdown and other factors. However, part of the new-normal may well see an increased need to balance work and leisure without trying to cram more hours into the day by reducing working hours. We already know that many more people can work from home and avoid the daily commute. This research suggests that government-led initiatives, particularly in Taiwan could drive this forward to the benefit of employees and perhaps even for employers.

    Kuo, Y-L. and Huang, T-H. (2020) 'The impacts of increasing leisure time on subjective health and life satisfaction', Int. J. Happiness and Development, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.26-40.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJHD.2020.108751

  • The almost ubiquitous construction material we know as concrete has high compressive strength but low tensile strength. In order to overcome this problem, reinforced concrete was developed. Unfortunately, reinforced concrete more readily succumbs to corrosion particularly from water ingress so there is a need to develop ways to improve the formulation of reinforced concrete and perhaps to develop additives that allow the self-healing of cracks and fissures that grow so that a structure might be saved from complete deterioration.

    Writing in the International Journal of Structural Engineering, a team from the National Institute of Technology, in Raipur, India, explain that there are two major causes of deterioration: carbonation-induced corrosion and chloride-induced corrosion. "Through the random distribution of pore spaces in concrete, aggressive substances, such as carbon dioxide, chloride, moisture, and oxygen may penetrate the structure," the team explains. This, in turn, can break down the protective layer around reinforcing steel bars within the structure leading to their corrosion and ultimate failure.

    In terms of the chemistry of the initial corrosion process involving carbonation. The initial alkalinity arising from the hydration process of cement protects the concrete formed from corrosion. However, carbon dioxide ingress leads to reactions with calcium compounds in the concrete which generates calcium carbonate and lowers the alkalinity making the material more acidic, unstable, and thus susceptible to degradation.

    Other researchers have already shown that adding Bacillus subtilis bacteria to the cement formulation can have a protective effect. The team has now shown that calcium lactate can boost the benefits of the microbes by reducing the carbonation rate. It also improves the compressive strength of the concrete. Moreover, the living bacteria can refill and repair microscopic cracks within the structure to a degree allowing concrete to self-heal. This was observed in the laboratory by the team using scanning electron microscopy.

    Vijay, K. and Murmu, M. (2020) 'Effect of calcium lactate and Bacillus subtilis bacteria on properties of concrete and self-healing of cracks', Int. J. Structural Engineering, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.217–231.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJSTRUCTE.2020.108528

  • Working from home has become part of the so-called "new normal" for many people during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there has been a move underway towards increased telecommuting for many years. Writing in the Global Business and Economics Review a research team from Portugal has set out to explore the potential of telecommuting in terms of productivity and quality of life gains, cost savings for workers and employers, and perhaps even environmental improvements through reduced transport pollution.

    Commuting generates enormous economic, social, and environmental costs, although it has been the conventional approach to "going out to work" since the industrial revolution if not before. There are some benefits, of course, but largely these are often outweighed by infrastructure and transport requirements and ultimately increased use of energy and resources and an increase in pollution and carbon emissions. However, with a big shift to online services and the increased use of information technology in this so-called digital age many traditional jobs can readily be performed from the home at least some of the time if not the whole of the working week. Obviously, some jobs, such as construction and manual factory work, farming, and healthcare can rarely be reduced to the working from home paradigm.

    Deveani Babu, Nelson Ramalho, and Pedro Falcao of the University Institute of Lisbon suggest that increasing the level of telecommuting across various sectors is entirely feasible. Moreover, given the global pandemic that emerged since the time of their review, it is likely that we will garner more evidence for the personal and societal benefits of this form of working. Our unwitting experiment caused by the pandemic might also offer insights into previously unknown problems with telecommuting too.

    Babu, D., Ramalho, N. and Falcao, P.F. (2020) 'Telecommuting potential analysis', Global Business and Economics Review, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp.100–124.
    DOI: 10.1504/GBER.2020.108396

  • Forget Captain Corelli's stringed instrument and Zorba the Greek's theme tune, a team writing in the International Journal of Arts and Technology is investigating whether it might be possible to digitize the Greek music tradition by simulating the Cretan lyre for a mobile device application.

    Dimitrios Margounakis, Georgios Tsotakos, and Andreas Floros of the School of Science and Technology, at the Hellenic Open University, Greece and the Ionian University, Corfu, point out that playing the Cretan lyre involves an intriguing technique using a bow and the development of a simulation has not been undertaken previously.

    "Contemporary multi-touch-based mobile smart phones have a range of sensory input capabilities, making realistic simulation of musical instruments feasible," the team writes.

    They suggest that their app has a recreational and educational aspect as well as a conservation perspective in terms of musical culture. Users employ the same gestures as a real-life player would make to produce the notes and tones of the instrument in a mobile device.

    The team adds that their app has embedded within it instructional information allowing even a novice to reconstruct well-known traditional melodies quickly. Moreover, the timbre of the lyre can be overlaid with the sound of the lute to create an even more interesting overall sound. Additionally, many players in Crete use a bow that has bells on, sounds that might also be incorporated into the app, the team reports. So, while the music may not have all of the accoutrements of some simulated instruments apps it will soon have the bells if not the whistles.

    Margounakis, D., Tsotakos, G. and Floros, A. (2020) 'On digitising the Greek music tradition: simulation of the Cretan lyre for mobile devices', Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.103–117.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJART.2020.108610

  • When you catch a virus it will hijack your metabolic processes for its own replication. The virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which is at the heart of the current global pandemic of the associated disease Covid-19 is no exception. It hooks into the body's cellular processes leaching energy and exergy (energy that does work) so that it can duplicate its genetic code and build the proteins it needs to create copies of itself. Obviously, such an energy drain gives rise to some of the symptoms while others are caused by the body's immune response that attempts to stop the virus in its tracks.

    Writing in the International Journal of Exergy, a research team from Turkey explains how this novel coronavirus first reported in late 2019, causes a cluster of symptoms not commonly seen in other viral infections: severe pneumonia, pulmonary inflammation, and fibrosis. These symptoms reduce gas exchange between the air sacs, the alveoli, within the lungs, and the blood capillaries that carry oxygen away from the lungs and around the body. As such, patients experience diminished oxygenation of their blood haemoglobin. This then has an effect on metabolic rate.

    If metabolic rate falls by one third, then in thermodynamic terms the fall in exergetic and energetic magnitude associated with the damage can be 0.46 and 0.45 Watt per kilogram of body weight, respectively. If the decline is a two-thirds decrease, the exergetic and energetic magnitude of the damage can be 0.92 and 0.90 W/kg, the team reports. Those are the figures for an 18-year old patient. For a putatively more vulnerable 70-year old, they would need to generate almost a fifth as much energy or exergy to compensate for the damage caused by the metabolic decline. This, partly explains why it is harder for older patients to cope with this virus and why they suffer worse symptoms. Additionally, if they have other underlying health conditions such as diabetes or lung disease, then the burden is even greater.

    Having such information in hand will not only assists in our understanding of the progression and prognosis of this novel disease but may well point to improving how we treat it to save patients from severe morbidity or even mortality.

    Yilmaz, B., Ercan, S., Akduman, S. and Özilgen, M. (2020) 'Energetic and exergetic costs of COVID-19 infection on the body of a patient', Int. J. Exergy, Vol. 32, No. 3, pp.314–327.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJEX.2020.108602

  • The emergence of a novel coronavirus towards the end of 2019 that has led to the major ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has already taken its toll on people's lives, healthcare systems, and the commercial world.

    Anecdotal evidence early in the "lockdowns" imposed by many governments seemed to suggest that pollution levels fell as road and air traffic density fell considerably and people began working from home across the world's major cities. Consumption of certain products also fell off although initial demand for essentials was high as people panicked and stocked up on food and other supplies. However, as lockdowns are eased, there is now an increased use of plastics for disposable personal protection and in shops, homes, and the workplace, and for packaging to help reduce the spread of the virus.

    In the face of such a pandemic, it is as if climate change and pollution have been figuratively put on the back burner as serious concerns for humanity. However, Alberto Boretti of the College of Engineering at the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, writing in the International Journal of Global Warming, has looked at carbon dioxide levels during the shutdown. Indeed, emissions have fallen considerably as airlines have been grounded, factories shut down, businesses closed, and citizens confined in their homes.

    He suggests our current reduced activity over the last few months at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic could give us novel data to demonstrate exactly how anthropogenic are carbon emissions. In 2014, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expressed how it is 95% certain that humans are the main cause of current global warming. But, there are denialists and detractors. The data shows there has not been a fall in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere since lockdown, natural drivers as the temperature rises and seasonal variation seem to obscure any effect on such a short timescale. The process of global warming itself is known to increase carbon dioxide emissions from natural sources.

    "While we cannot legislate for natural changes, it seems appropriate to better identify every environmental and societal threats to availability of water, food, energy, plus health and ecosystems conservation; then optimise mitigation and adaptation strategies according to the relative risks of the various threats," the team writes.

    Boretti, A. (2020) 'Covid 19 impact on atmospheric CO 2 concentration', Int. J. Global Warming, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp.317–323.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJGW.2020.10030532

  • Writing quiz-type tests in education can be time-consuming and given the nature of education and home learning during the current coronavirus pandemic, teachers and carers alike need more efficient and straightforward ways to produce quizzes to evaluate learning in their student charges.

    New work published in the International Journal of Conttrol Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning suggests that quiz questions could be generated automatically from DBpedia. DBpedia is a project that extracts structured content from Wikipedia and makes it available on the World Wide Web. Users can semantically query relationships and properties of Wikipedia resources, including links to other related datasets.

    Oscar Rodríguez Rocha, Catherine Faron Zucker, Alain Giboin, and Aurelie Lagarrigue of the Universite Cote d'Azur, in France, explain that test questions must be generated in compliance with the knowledge and skills necessary to master a specific subject and be appropriate for the school year being tested and in accord with official educational standards. They have now demonstrated how pertinent information can be pulled from a structured database that fits these criteria. Question-generating methods can then be applied automatically to the knowledge scraped in this way to produce the questions and answers for a school quiz.

    The educator can curate the information and questions manually to ensure they are wholly appropriate to the students. The automated part of the system can reduce the educator burden considerably freeing up time for less mundane work with the students while at the same time providing an invaluable and validated assessment tool.

    Rodríguez Rocha, O., Zucker, C.F., Giboin, A. and Lagarrigue, A. (2020) 'Automatic generation of questions from DBpedia', Int. J. Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp.276–294.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJCEELL.2020.108526

  • The popular view of biometric security often invokes fingerprint readers, iris or retinal scans, and voice-activated systems. However, any unique human characteristic whether the shape of one's ears, the whole face, the pattern of blood vessels in the back of the hand, walking pattern, heart rhythm or even how one types at a keyboard, might be used to provide a secure signature of login. Some traits are easier to analyse than others and some, such as fingerprints, can be spoofed.

    Research published in the International Journal of Biometrics has taken an amusing trait to demonstrate how the way a person laughs might be used in biometrics.

    Comfort Oluwaseyi Folorunso, Olumuyiwa Sunday Asaolu, and Oluwatoyin Popoola of the Systems Engineering Department at the University of Lagos in Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria, points out that people can recognise other people by the unique nature of their laughter, perhaps in an even more obvious way than their voice. Moreover, while many people are adept at impersonating the voices of other people, mimicking someone's laugh is far more difficult. The team has now used statistical analyses of the various audible frequencies present in a person's laugh to create a digital signature for each unique laugh.

    Tests on the approach show their prototype recognition algorithm to be 90 percent accurate, which compares very favourably with the 65% accuracy of a conventional Gaussian model. However, combining their algorithm with the Gaussian approach can boost accuracy overall by more than 5 percent.

    "Laughter has thus been shown to be a viable biometric feature for person identification which can be embedded into artificial intelligence systems in diverse applications," the team concludes.

    Folorunso, C.O., Asaolu, O.S. and Popoola, O.P. (2020) 'Laughter signature: a novel biometric trait for person identification', Int. J. Biometrics, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.283–300.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBM.2020.108480

  • A review of forty research papers that discuss lung cancer detection technologies highlights the gaps in the various approaches to the diagnosis of this potentially lethal disease and reveals how research might be targeted to improve detection and thus prognosis. Writing in the International Journal of Bioinformatics Research and Applications, Malayil Shanid and A. Anitha of the Information & Communication Engineering department at Noorul Islam Centre for Higher Education, in Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu, India explain the context of their review and its implications.

    Lung cancer is one of the biggest killers of the modern age. Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and is responsible for an estimated 10 million or so deaths annually, which amounts to 1 in 6 deaths. Of that approximately 10 million cancer deaths, about 1 in 5 is due to lung cancer. As with most cancers, early detection can greatly improve the prognosis of the disease, assuming appropriate treatment is available and undertaken. It also allows less invasive treatments to be employed, particularly reducing the level of surgery required, for instance.

    Image processing coupled with machine learning has led to many improvements in the identification of malignant tissue in scan images for a wide range of diseases including lung cancer. The various techniques commonly look to distinguish between benign and malignant lesions seen in the scan. Computerised tomography is the tool of choice for detecting pulmonary nodules that might sit in either camp. A benign nodule can be treated relatively easily in contrast to a malignant one, which may develop rapidly and metastasize if not treated quickly.

    Shanid, M. and Anitha, A. (2020) 'An exhaustive study on the lung cancer risk models', Int. J. Bioinformatics Research and Applications, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.151–172.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBRA.2020.108429

  • How do you solve problems in the face of adversity? The question is perhaps oxymoronic or tautological given that a problem equates to adversity. So, we might as well ask how do you solve problems?

    Leandro Ferreira Pereira of the Business Research Unit (BRU-IUL) at ISCTE and José Pedro Santos of Winning Scientific Management in Portugal, explain that one of the current challenges in organisations relates strongly to decision-making in adverse, uncertain, and complex environments. There are many formal approaches to problem solving that managers might use: the fishbone diagram, root cause analysis and five whys, for instance.

    Pereira and Santos point out that most of them have significant limitations in how they assess a problem and its causes. As such the team has developed and tested "Pereira problem solving" and compared it with ad hoc approaches used in various organizations. The Pereira approach has a more mathematical stance in problem solving. The team explains that the study was preliminary in nature and utilized convenient samples to test the model. Future work will be broader and compare different business sectors, including energy, telecommunications, banking, and retail.

    Pereira, L.F. and Santos, J.P. (2020) 'Pereira problem solving', Int. J. Learning and Change, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.274–283.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJLC.2020.108348

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New Editor for International Journal of Nuclear Law

Associate Prof. Jakub Handrlica from Charles University in the Czech Republic has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Nuclear Law.

New Editor for International Journal of Technology Marketing

Dr. Peter Bican from Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Technology Marketing. The previous Editor in Chief, Prof. Philipp A. Rauschnabel of Universität der Bundeswehr München, Germany, will remain with the journal on its Editorial Board.

New Editor for International Journal of Reliability and Safety

Prof. Om Prakash Yadav from North Dakota University in the USA has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Reliability and Safety. The journal's founding editor, Prof. Zissimos Mourelatos of Oakland University, USA, will remain on the board as Executive Editor.

New Editor for International Journal of Governance and Financial Intermediation

Prof. M. Ángeles López-Cabarcos from Santiago de Compostela University in Spain has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Governance and Financial Intermediation.

New Editor for International Journal of International Journal of Organisational Design and Engineering

Prof. Ali Sher from Yorkville University in Canada has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of International Journal of Organisational Design and Engineering.