Behind the Headlines

MATLAB and Simulink behind today’s news and trends

Coffee and the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon… Uh, I mean MATLAB.

When we launched this blog in February, we set out to show how MATLAB was tied to the top news stories and trends. We started with how the Cleveland Clinic is working to improve concussion diagnosis in the NFL, we talked about studies tackling the Zika epidemic, and showed how MATLAB was used by the World Anti-Doping Agency to catch Olympic athletes who cheat.

It has been fun to see how many trending stories have strong ties to engineering and research. It sometimes seems like a game of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, based on the six degrees of separation theory.

According to Wikipedia, “Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 and popularized in an eponymous 1990 play written by John Guare.”


The six degrees of MATLAB

Instead of taking a cue from the top headlines of the day, I decided to try a different approach.  I want to take an everyday item or topic and then find links to a) the news, and b) MATLAB.  Since this idea came to me in the morning, and I start every morning with a “cuppa joe”, I decided the first test of the six degrees of MATLAB would be coffee!

Coffee in the News

Finding a news story about coffee wasn’t difficult. Just last week, The New York Times reported Coffee May Protect Against Cancer, W.H.O. Concludes. A panel of experts from the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) stated drinking coffee could protect against at least two types of cancer, and showed there was a lack of evidence that coffee might cause other types of cancer. They estimate that a cup of coffee a day decreases the risk of liver cancer by 15%. Coffee drinkers everywhere can relax, assuming they don’t consume too much caffeine.

Coffee and MATLAB

Next, I looked for six ways coffee can be tied to MATLAB. I realize that is not the true interpretation of the six degrees of separation, but this is for fun, and why be 5 degrees away? So here are six coffee projects that made use of MATLAB:

  1. Grow healthy coffee plants.
    Ethiopian Coffee Plant Diseases Recognition Based on Imaging and Machine Learning Techniques uses MATLAB for both image processing and machine learning.
  2. Get the best coffee.
    Chemometric models for the quantitative descriptive sensory analysis of Arabica coffee beverages using near infrared spectroscopy attempts to establish a relationship between the sensory attributes of the beverage and the chemical components of the coffee beans. MATLAB is used for data analysis.
  3. Get the coffee to the stores.
    Application for Decision-Making in Transportation Logistics Function: Supply Chain Colombian Green Coffee uses MATLAB code to optimize the supply chain based on varying criteria, including opportunity, flexibility, cost savings, efficiency/productivity and technology. The code was validated with data from a case study of the supply chain for Colombian green coffee.
  4. Make sure the coffee is fresh.
    Application of artificial neural engineering and regression models for forecasting shelf life of instant coffee drink uses the Deep Leaning Toolbox to train the models.
  5. Figure out who is paying for the coffee.
    This is a file from MATLAB File Exchange called Coffee Roulette. It lets MATLAB decide whose turn it is to get the coffee!
  6. For the Makers out there, here’s a project called “Control a Robotic Arm with the Microsoft Kinect!” from It shows how to use MATLAB and Simulink with Kinect to add 3-d vision to the arm.  Per the author, “Robots are quickly becoming more integrated into our day-to-day lives. They clean our floors, make our coffee, and are even used for telepresence. Since they are becoming so vital to society, why not give our robotic companions the gift of vision?”

What I couldn’t find was a MATLAB-inspired coffee-delivering robot that uses facial recognition software to identify the customer.  If you know of one, please send me a note! Or better yet, have it bring me a coffee.

MATLAB logo mug

The six degrees of MATLAB

Please send me your ideas for next quarter’s episode of the six degrees of MATLAB, or share an interesting MATLAB project tied to an unexpected topic.




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