Saturday, 23 November 2013

Take a virtual tour of the Sun

Photo credit: The image is an artist’s concept showing the layers of the Sun. Image credit: NASA
The Sun is a main sequence star, meaning that it is ‘middle aged’ at 4.6 billion years old. It has a surface temperature of approximately 5778 K (5505°C) and has a diameter of about 1,392,684 km. The Sun transforms 620 million metric tons of hydrogen into helium each second; once this supply has run out in about 5 billion years’ time, the Sun will expand into a red giant and then die, leaving behind its core and a planetary nebula. Once the planetary nebula has dispersed into space, a white dwarf will be left behind, which will also someday cool and die.

One method scientists use to study the interior of the Sun is helioseismology. This involves studying the propagation of the waves in its body, similar to how geologists learn about the interior of the Earth by monitoring seismic waves emitted by earthquakes. The waves in the Sun's body cause small oscillations of the surface that are observable.

There are three layers separating the surface of the Sun from its core. The inside layers of the Sun are the photosphere, the convective zone and the radiative zone. The photosphere is comprised of hydrogen at 5500°C, and is where sunspots occur. The convective zone contains currents which take heat to the photosphere, which is around 140,000 km thick. The energy from the core, which is where hydrogen is transformed into helium, goes through the radiative zone, about 380,000 km thick.

The solar atmosphere refers to the parts of the Sun above the photosphere. There are five principal zones of the Sun’s atmosphere: the temperature minimum; the chromosphere; the transition region; the corona; and the heliosphere. The heliosphere extends past the orbit of Pluto to the heliopause; here it forms a shock front boundary with the interstellar medium. The chromosphere, transition region, and corona are all much hotter than the surface of the Sun. Solar flares occur in the chromosphere.

NASA have developed a virtual tour of the Sun. You can click on features on the Sun to learn more about: sunspots; the Sun’s structure; the photosphere; solar active region; the corona; and the future of the Sun. you can also learn more about the current solar missions, ACRIMSAT and SORCE. There is also a video on the Sun’s role in climate change and some quick facts.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Radio-Invention History & The Story of Fight for Patents

Radio – Invention History

The invention history of the radio is not only interesting but rather long as well. If you ask who invented the radio, probably you will get the name Marconi. But, was it really Marconi who invented the radio? Well, you have to determine for yourself after going through the journey of the invention history of the radio.
There are a lot of knots to be untangled if you want to arrive at an answer as to who invented the radio. Was the inventor of radio the person who discovered that electromagnetic waves can be sent through air? Was it the person who sent signals to the farthest distance? Was it the person who sent the first signals with voice? Well, the answers are in fact not easy.
Wireless itself is relatively a broad concept. Within the wireless category itself, there are many subcategories of which radio broadcasting is just one; the others include wireless telegraph, wireless ship-to-shore communication, and the like. To know the development of wireless, it is crucial to first track the events that led to the discovery of electricity. Though there is early documentation, it was in 1600 that electricity as a science had its beginning. It began when Dr. William Gilbert, Queen Elizabeth’s personal physician invented the electroscope which could detect electromagnetic energy in the human body. Gilbert coined the word ‘electricity.’ From there, a lot of researchers and scientists had their hand in the development of this wonderful field of science. Sir Thomas Browne, Alessandro Volta, Benjamin Franklin, and Georg Simon Ohm were a few among the many who made several contributions to the science of electricity.
Radio is, in fact, indebted to other major discoveries for its birth: the telephone and the telegraph. Perhaps, these three technologies are very closely related. Radio first started as wireless telegraphy. And, the credit certainly goes to the invention of the radio waves which was found to be capable of sending out music, speech, picture and various other data through air.

Exploring Wireless

The true interest in wireless began with the invention of the telegraph in 1837 by Samuel F. Morse in 1937; the telegraph required wires which was a bit expensive proposition during those times. In the 1860s, James Clerk Maxwell, a Scottish mathematician and physicist, was the first to forecast the presence of radio waves; however, he was not able to prove his theory. Following him, several researchers tried various means to showcase the presence of the radio waves. But, the real experiments that led to the discovery of the Radio started with Heinrich Hertz in 1887. A few call him the father of Radio because it is known that his experiments instilled interest in Marconi. In those days, Radio waves were called Hertzian waves.  Hertz showed the projection of swift variation of the electric current into space in the form of radio waves. Hertz then measured the velocity of the waves and found they were the same as light, 186,000 miles per second.

Tesla and Marconi

When the world was heading towards the 20th century, inventors all over were trying on new and exciting inventions. A lot of scientific work in radio technology was heating up as well. In the race to invent the radio, two men, a Serbian-American scientist Nikola Tesla and an Italian physicist Guglielmo Marconi went head to head. However, even today or a hundred years later, ask any two people about who invented the radio and I bet you – you will probably get two different answers. The story is perhaps a foggy one that is a mixture of scientific discovery with lawsuits and some old-fashioned marketing.

Tesla’s Part

Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla – Founder of Tesla Coil

Tesla invented the induction coil or the Tesla coil after he came to the US in the year 1884. A Tesla coil is a device required to send and receive radio waves (it is said that Marconi relied on this coil for his experiments). In about 1895, unfortunately, Tesla’s laboratory was completely destroyed by fire when he was preparing to send a radio signal about 50 miles to the West Point, New York.

 Marconi’s Research and Invention 

Guglielmo Marconi - Wireless Telegraphy
Guglielmo Marconi – Wireless Telegraph
Twenty years after the telephone was invented, music was set down on telephone line and Marconi was the one responsible for the radio signals. The Italian discoverer showcased radio communication’s feasibility. He was fascinated by Hertz’s discovery of the radio waves that he realized it could be employed for receiving and sending telegraph messages; he referred to it as wireless telegraphs. Marconi’s earliest radio transmissions transmitted coded signals to only a mile far in the year 1896. Later Marconi recognized the huge potential of these waves and offered the discovery to the Italian government. Unluckily, the government turned it down. Marconi then realized a patent and started experimenting further after he moved to England. In 1896, Marconi sent and received Morse code-based radio signals at distances spanning approximately four miles. The same year, he applied for and was granted the world’s first patent in wireless telegraphy. It was in England that he received the first patent. In 1898, he made the first ever public broadcast of a sports event – he flashed the results of Kingstown Regatta to Dublin Newspaper office.

The Fight for Patents

Tesla applied for his first patents for his radio work in 1897 in the US. He also constructed and demonstrated a radio-controlled boat at the Madison Square Garden in the year 1898. And, this was where things started getting sticky.
In 1900, the US Patent Office granted Tesla with patents for the fundamental design of the Tesla coil. The radio patents offered to Tesla gave him the ownership over one of the major necessities in radio communications. Towards the end of the same year, Marconi filed a patent for tuned telegraphy. The patent office first denied Marconi’s applications saying that his work relied on the use of Tesla coils. Not getting discouraged, Marconi made use of his father’s contacts and wealth to lead a lucrative business based on his telegraph technology; meanwhile, he continued to pursue his radio patents. In the year 1901, he transmitted the first transatlantic telegraph. Marconi continuously applied for the patent for three years while he also gained financial support from company investors like Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie. Finally, in 1904, the US Patent Office strangely reversed its earlier decision and gave Marconi the patent for the invention of the radio. Marconi also won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1909. This further fueled the rivalry with Tesla.
After a lot of lawsuits, the US Supreme Court restored Tesla (who had died a few months earlier) as the inventor of radio!! However, many people still believe that Marconi is the father of the radio.

Another claim by JC Bose

J C Bose
J C Bose
JC Bose of India was another claimant to the throne of radio inventors. In 1896, he demonstrated radio transmission to the British Governor General at Calcutta in India. The transmission covered a distance of around 3 miles. The instrument he used, the Mercury Coherer attached to a telephone detector, is still displayed at the Calcutta University’s Science College. Bose had overcome Hertz’s problem of waves not being able to penetrate through mountains, walls or water. Marconi’s Coherer and Bose’s Coherer were exactly the same. Bose was hesitant about applying for a patent because he was a firm believer of free flow of inventions in the field of science. However, due to the persuasion of his American friends, he had applied for a patent in 1901. In the year 1904, the US patent was granted to him.

Nathan Stubblefield – A Significant Personality                

Nathan Stubblefield
Nathan Stubblefield
Even before Tesla and Marconi made their way towards the Radio, Nathan Stubblefield, a Kentucky farmer and inventor, demonstrated wireless technology in public in the year 1892. He was able to broadcast signals as well as voice and music!! In 1898, again he demonstrated wireless to a documented distance of about 500 yards. Later in 1902, he showcased a ship-to-shore broadcast on the river Potomac in Washington DC; for this, he received a patent for wireless telephone in 1908. Stubblefield was actually afraid that someone would steal his idea and invention that he tried every possible means to shelter it from everyone. Once he was offered $500,000 for this invention but he refused as thought his invention deserved more. He envisioned the device in motorcars. Following a demonstration in Washington in 1912, his whole device was stolen. He firmly believed that his invention was copied. Sadly, Stubblefield died of starvation after going into seclusion because of his failed attempts for acceptance of his invention.
Now, who is the actual inventor of the Radio?
Well informed professionals still feel that the whole credit of the invention of the radio should go to Stubblefield. If you visit the Town Square in Murray, Kentucky, you can find a statue of Stubblefield with an inscription “Murray, Kentucky, Birthplace of Radio.” Now, who is the inventor of Radio? The US Supreme Court ruled that Tesla is the father of Radio and Marconi is not. The question still remains whether the honor should really go to Stubblefield or rather Bose.

Evolution of the Radio

Radio has evolved tremendously over the years. Earlier, transmitters were called spark gap machines. They were mainly established for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication. Those days, communication was limited to two points and did not involve public broadcasting as it is today. In case of sea disasters, wireless signals displayed effective communication for rescue operations. A range of ocean liners started installing the wireless equipments and in 1899, the US Army set up the wireless communication. Two years later, the Navy adopted the wireless system; it was a great relief because until then, Navy was using homing pigeons and visual signaling for communication.
In 1901, radiotelegraph services were established in the Hawaiian Islands. Marconi station located in the Massachusetts carried greetings between Theodore Roosevelt and King Edward VII. In the year 1905, Port Arthur’s naval battle was reported of using wireless communication and the US weather department used radiotelegraphy.
Sooner, radio transmitters were improved a lot. Overseas radiotelegraph services slowly started developing. Lee Deforest, the inventor of space telegraphy, Audion, and triode amplifier, took care of the developments in many technical issues. Deforest also discovered the detector. In fact, he was the first person to use the term ‘radio.’ His work resulted in the discovery of AM radio that was capable of broadcasting several radio stations which the earlier gap transmitters did not allow.
Ever since that time, there has been no looking back. The radio has now become a popular medium of handy entertainment. With the technological advancements in the 21st century, the Internet radio is also introduced. Satellite radio is another recent development in the field. Using this, one can listen to several international radio stations without any issues. In addition to all these latest editions, Ham radio is the next big thing. No wonder radio lovers have a reason to celebrate as there is perhaps a lot in store for them!!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Story Behind the Invention of Electromagnetism


Once, a naughty child took a little chalk to his teacher. He asked what it was made of. The teacher answered that it was made of atoms. Then, the teacher continued that the atoms were made of electrons, protons and neutrons. The child interrupted and questioned if the chalk is really made of atoms and the rest of the jargon words, why the atoms are not separated and how they are united. The teacher threw a gentle smile and explained that like the joints in his body connected his bones, there were invisible joints in the atoms that keep the atoms close together and the phenomenon is known as electromagnetism.
So, have you ever had the same doubt as the little kid? Well, it is always interesting to know about the facts of magnets and electrons and collectively as electromagnets. This write up will help you in knowing more about the invention story, the failures and successes over various experiments that were performed on electromagnetism.

What does Electromagnetism Really Mean?

Like the gravitational force, strong force and the weak force, electromagnetic force is also one of the four fundamental forces of nature. The electrons inside an atom rotate around the nucleus in a particular track called the orbital. Due to the interactive force between the electrons of the same atom and the electrons of the neighboring atom, and because of the momentum, the atoms are held together. The interactive force between the particles of an object or atom is due to the electromagnetic force which also involves the charges.

People Involved in the Invention of Electromagnetism

Most of the leading physicians worked on the property of electromagnetism including Andre Marie Ampere, Hans Christian Oersted , Edmond Halley, James Clerk Maxwell, William Gilbert, Ben Franklin, Charles Austin de coulomb, Luigi Galvani, Alessandro Volta, Michael Faraday, and Heinrich Hertz

 The First Spark

James Clerk Maxwell
James Clerk Maxwell
Until 1873, electricity and magnetism were discussed as two different properties. They were not seen under a single aspect unless guided by James Clerk Maxwell. In his publication, Treatise, he made a hypothesis that the interaction between the positive and the negative charges were aided by a force.
In earlier days, iron magnets and lodestones were the only known magnets and people believed that the earth had tons of magnets at its core.
When scientists observed the changes in the direction of a magnetic compass, they believed that the earth’s magnetic field kept changing. In that period of time, a scientist,
Edmond Halley
Edmond Halley
Edmond Halley, proposed another hypothesis that stated that the globe is made of a number of spherical balls that surrounded one over the other. He also stated that every spherical ball was rotating in a particular direction.

Advancements in the Properties of Electromagnetism

In 1820, scientist Hans Christian Oersted wanted to show his students about the heating of an electric coil and demonstrated some of his experiments on magnetic property. He mounted a long needle over a wooden stand for his experiment. He was surprised to the greatest extent when he noticed that every time when he turned on the switch, the needle moved. He winded up that day’s experiments and kept working on finding the newest phenomenon which disturbed him.
Hans Christian Oersted
Hans Christian Oersted
After days and days of work, Hans Christian Oersted could not come to a conclusion about why the needle moved. He noticed that the needle did not have any kind of interaction with the wire as it neither gets attracted towards it nor gets repelled away from it. Hence, after a period of research, he published a paper on his work without explaining the reason why it happened.
The experiment by Oersted was repeated by Andre Marie Ampere of France. She thought that if an electrical current on a wire can stimulate magnetic property, then it must be capable of synthesizing the same property in another wire too. She then made a series of experiments with parallel and anti parallel current flowing in two wires. She then observed that wires with parallel currents attract each other and the wires with anti parallel current repel away from each other.
She then concluded with her well- explained experiments that electricity was governed by two set of forces, electric force and magnetic force.
Though, Hans Christian Oersted and Andre Marie Ampere worked on experiments that disclosed the secrets of the electromagnetic property, there are many other great people involved in this invention. There is no one in particular, who was the major cause for the invention of this phenomenon.
Andre Marie Ampere
Andre Marie Ampere
Right from the ancient times, even a common man was aware of the fact that when fur was rubbed on something, the particles get stick to the fur. This was not deeply experimented, but the clues for electromagnetism weeded during the earlier days itself.
The people who made studies on the electromagnetic property in those days include William Gilbert, Robert Boyle, C.F.du.Fay, Stephen Grey and Otto Von Guericke.
After the proper experiments by Hans Christian Oersted and Andre Marie Ampere, a few other people worked on this property in the nineteenth century. James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Faraday, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Alva Edison, George Westinghouse, Ernst Werner von Siemens, Alexander Graham Bell and Lord Kelvin are the others who made several important contributions towards the advancements on the properties of electromagnetism.

Recent Studies on Electromagnetism

With all the experiments carried out by the earlier mentioned people, it was believed that electromagnetism has a wide variety of applications. The luxury and the comfort that we enjoy today is a result of the work of a number of scientists and researchers. There is no one in particular who can be remarked as the Father of electromagnetism, but the inquisitive nature and the curiosity of a few brains led to the invention of this interesting property.
Joseph Priestly, who discovered the oxygen and other gases found in the atmosphere, had also made some notable contributions toward this innovative invention.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The story of Fibonacci series

All of you must have heard about the term “Fibonacci series”. Many of you (including me) might have written programs in different programming languages to generate a “Fibonacci series”. It is quite interesting to see that tutorials of all programming languages would contain a problem to generate fibonacci series upto “N” terms.  Well, this made me a little curious. What is so important with this particular series? In mathematics, there may be a 100 or 1000 types of series – but why “Fibonacci” is learned by everyone?
Leonardo of Pisa
Now let’s get into the story. Fibonacci series is – 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144,233,377… it moves to infinity. This series is named after the famous Italian mathematician - Leonardo of Pisa (aka Fibonacci). His period of life is assumed to be in between 1175 AD to 1250 AD.  Leonardo’s father was a merchant in the port of Pisa. As a young boy, Leonardo traveled extensively with his father across the mediterranean sea shores. The Mediterranean sea  (known in latin as “middle of land”) connects together 3 continents – Africa, Europe and Asia. Trade had been happening between major ports of all these continents and Leonardo actively involved in these trades with his father. Leonardo and his people who belonged to Europe, was using Roman numerals for trade calculations. The Europeans were completely unaware of the “Hindu Arabic” system which was used by Arab traders in Asian/African countries (this is the presently known decimal number system ). The basic difference between a Roman numeral system and “Hindu Arabic system” is shown below. 
Roman Numerals  has no symbol for zero. They dont have a symbol for 2,3,4,7,8 and 9. Instead they were depending upon the symbols for 1,5,10,50,100,500 and 1000 for their calculations.  See the table below. 
So to represent 1910 – Romans would write – MDCCCCX. The interesting thing is you can write this in any order – means – CCCCDMX – would also read 1910. This is because the number is read finally by calculating M+D+C+C+C+C+X. It was very difficult to add or subtract two numbers using the roman number system. If you are interested in knowing how calculations are performed in roman system – follow this link – Roman numeral calculations.
The “Hindu Arabic” system was quiet different. They only had symbols for numbers from 0 to 9. This is our decimal number system. Higher numbers were represented in this system by repeated addition or repeated subtraction. This means 1910 in “Hindu Arabic” is  1000 one times + 100 nine times + 10 one time + 1 zero times. 
Note: History says that this system originated in India. Arabs learned this from Indians (as part of their Eastern trade) and they called this “Hindu Numerals”. Later westerns learned this from Arabs and they called this system “Arab Numerals”
Leonardo learned about various methods used by merchants for calculations and he found the “Hindu-Arabic” system very easy and convenient to perform mathematical calculations compared to the cumbersome “Roman numerals” method. He later introduced this “Hindu Arabic” system in Europe and he documented the system and how to make calculations using this system in a book called “Liber Abaci” (1202 AD). This “new” system later influenced many European mathematicians. 

The Fibonacci series… 

This series is invented by Leonardo in an attempt to solve a real life problem. A rabbit farmer wanted to know how many rabbits he can grew in a year from one pair. The problem is quiet an interesting one. A pair of rabbits bear another new pair in a single month. This new born pairs can bear another pair after the first month. 
Now he explains the problem as:- 
Because the above written pair in the first month bore, you will double it; there will be two pairs in one month.
One of these, namely the first, bears in the second montth, and thus there are in the second month 3 pairs;
of these in one month two are pregnant and in the third month 2 pairs of rabbits are born, and thus there are 5 pairs in the month;

there will be 144 pairs in this [the tenth] month;
to these are added again the 89 pairs that are born in the eleventh month; there will be 233 pairs in this month.
To these are still added the 144 pairs that are born in the last month; there will be 377 pairs, and this many pairs are produced from the abovewritten pair in the mentioned place at the end of the one year.
So that is the real origin of Fibonacci series. This series is invented in an attempt to solve a real life business problem of – “how many rabbits can be made from a single pair in an year” .  
I said, “business problem” because Leonardo  was basically involved in trade and this problem of rabbits might have raised to him by one of his business contact! 

Other interesting facts:- 

After the eighth sequence of calculations, there are constant relationships that can be derived from the series. For example, if you divide the former number by the latter, it yields 0.618.
  • 34/55 is approx = 0.618 
  • 55/89 is approx = 0.618 
And, if you divide the latter number by the former, it gives 1.618.
  • 144/89 = 1.6179 approximately 1.618 
  • 233/144 = 1.6180 approximately 1.618
Note: The series is named “Fibonacci series” by French Mathematician Edouard Lucas. He invented many other applications of the series and also discovered another series which is closely related to Fibonacci series, known as the Lucas numbers (2, 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18, 29, 47)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

You Can Hijack Airplane With An Android App!

If you thought hijacking airplanes was an uphill task, think again! If you so wish to do it, there's an app for it, that makes the task easier than you expect. All you need is an Android smartphone and get the app dowloaded and make the most of the airplane computer systems.

Hugo Teso, an IT expert and trained commercial pilot revealed the details of the app while talking at the Hack In The Box Conference in Amsterdam. Teso has an extensive knowledge and experience in both fields. He revealed that the modern day air planes are susceptible to malicious attacks, which all the hackers to take 'complete control' of aircrafts with their mobile device.
Android, Android app, App for hijacking airplane, Airplane technology, Android smartphone

Teso has developed a software that is capable of getting installed on the on-board computer (SIMON). He has also developed an Android app along with it that allows hackers to have control on various aspects of the plane (PlaneSploit).

Teso took advantage of two airplane security technologies including the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and the Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS). Both the technologies are “highly susceptible to a number of passive and active attacks.” According to Net Security, here's what these technologies are responsible for:

The Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is responsible for sending information about each aircraft (including identification, current position, altitude, and so on) via an on-board transmitter to air traffic controllers. ADB-S allows aircrafts to receive flight, weather and traffic information about other aircrafts in their vicinity while flying.

The other technology called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) is used to exchange messages between aircrafts and air traffic controllers via radio or satellite. It also allows automatic delivery of information about each flight phase to the latter.

SIMON framework works in a virtual environment, which is created with software and hardware products to simulate real life scenarios. It is apparently untraceable after it is deployed and enables the hacker to upload other software to the “Flight Management System [FMS] (computer unit + control display unit)” on a plane. Hacker can then control the aircraft remotely with help of the Android app.

After SIMON is installed in FMS, it is PlaneSploit that does the job. The app comes with a clean and simple interface. The steps that you have to follow include:

Please go here: It takes the user to choose locations on the map and change the route of the flight.

Define area: It sets detailed filters related to the airplane.

Visit ground: Crash the airplane.

Kiss off: Remove itself from the system.

Be punckish: It alerts the pilots that something is seriously wrong. Alarms start buzzing and lights start flashing. 

Friday, 1 March 2013

The Collective Evolution II: The Human Experience (Documentary)

'The Collective Evolution II: The Human Experience' is a documentary focused on showing each of the dimensions to the experience we call life. Its intention is to provide the viewer with the tools and understanding needed to step out of current limitations and instead experience the infinite potentiality we are all capable of. The documentary concludes by addressing the shift in consciousness that has already begun and continues to intensify on the planet.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” -Mark Twain

“We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution.” -Bill Hicks

FLUORIDE: The Hard to Swallow Truth is a short documentary that looks at the initial theories behind the effectiveness of fluoride and where it originated. It goes on to show the lack of science behind the use of Fluoride and reveals Fluoride as a toxic waste substance that is being pumped into our drinking water. The documentary will conclude by delivering the "hard to swallow truth" of fluoride which pertains to why it is actually used.
July 2012 NEWS: Harvard Study Finds Fluoride Lowers IQ - Published in Federal Govt Journal

“In point of fact, fluoride causes more human cancer death, and causes it faster than any other chemical.” -Dr. Dean Burk, Congressional Record 21 July 1976

“When you have power you don't have to tell the truth. That's a rule that's been working in this world for generations. And there are a great many people who don't tell the truth when they are in power in administrative positions.” -Dr. Dean Burk, Ph.D, 34 years at the National Cancer Institute.

Friday, 22 February 2013

How Do You Know When You’re Overdosing On Social Networks?

addicted to social networksSocial networks are captivating – there’s no doubt. The minds behind building the popular social media platforms of today knew exactly what they were doing and they saw it before any of us ever did. It’s a brilliant idea really – create a medium that allows people from all over the world to connect, share and collaborate like they never have been able to before in the history of the Earth. Incredible!
But an unforeseen (or potentially foreseen, but ignored) consequence is addiction. Social networks have been so good at “helping” us, but now they’re hindering us. From what you might ask? Well, ask your friends, family, parents, even children what they  And although it is often joked about, it isn’t a joking matter.

Diagnosing Your Condition

Just like anything, there are different levels of social media use. Some things are more severe than others. And, of course, something else that plays into it is how frequent these things occur and when they occur. Using social media isn’t bad – it is an incredible tool, but it can be easily overused. Here are some things that might indicate you are addicted and overusing social media.
NOTE: When reading through these, look at them collectively instead of individually. Also, these are not listed in importance – all of them are equally important.

Symptom #1: You Go Online For Productive Reasons, But Find Yourself On Social Networks Instead

Sometimes this happens intentionally due to temptation. However, other times it simply occurs out of habit. Do you do this? I do. All… the… time.
In fact, to address this problem, I did a Facebook Fast (which was actually a social media fast, but Facebook Fast is catchier), which meant I would refrain from using all social media and time-wasting websites for 30 days. The first day of my fast, I opened up my browser to do something productive and useful, but immediately typed in the address bar without realizing it. I abruptly closed out and refocused myself, but I was amazed at how much I really was conditioned to visiting Facebook. This is an example of unintentional use. But other times, long after the fast and still to this day I find myself intentionally going to Facebook despite the amount of work I have to do. I sometimes do this while I’m in the middle of something.

Symptom #2: You Use Your Smartphone For More Social Things Than Smart Things

The smartphone is incredible, but it also has, without a doubt, increased our social media consumption. I didn’t used to have one, as I talked about in my article about being portable without a smartphone, but since then I have gotten one through Republic Wireless and I must say – it’s an awesome tool. But they also bring about some negatives, such as allowing social media to be accessible at any time. At first, I installed the Twitter and Facebook apps (and other social apps) on my phone, but I’ve removed them for the reason that I’m already on them enough as is. Plus, they’ll still be there later when I get on my computer.
Do you find yourself constantly checking your social networks, even while you’re not on your computer? Probably. I’ve noticed just in my own personal News Feed that the activity via the Facebook mobile app has been increasing tremendously and is probably equal to the amount of activity via the Facebook page itself.

Symptom #3: A Constant Craving To Check Them, Despite Knowing There Are Zero Notifications

Have you ever done this? You scroll through the news feed, maybe like, comment on and/or retweet a few things, then you close it out. You start doing something, then five minutes later you find yourself back on again. MakeUseOf writers are in no way exempt from procrastination, and I’ve done this several times while writing up to this point in this article already.

Symptom #4: You Have More Services Connected Together Than You Can Count

One of the benefits of having social networking accounts is the benefit of easily logging into websites and services, like you do here on MakeUseOf. However, this can also be a negative thing if you begin to trust sketchy websites and applications that shouldn’t be trusted. Depending on the permissions, when you log into sites with your social accounts, they may be able to access information about you that you otherwise wouldn’t want. Of course, this gets back to your privacy settings, but the threat can still be there.

Symptom #5: You’re On Them First Thing Every Morning And Right Before Bed Every Night

addicted to social networks
Neither of these things are good for us. I think we’d all agree that starting your day out right is crucial to, well, having a good day. It’s so easy though to just lay in bed until noon (on a day that you don’t have to get up) and surf the Internet aimlessly, likely spending the majority of your time on social networks.
In addition, the same should be avoided before you go to sleep. This doesn’t just include social networks, but technology in general. It’s been proven that bright screens hinder sleep as your brain is being stimulated and tricked into thinking it’s still day – that’s why you don’t normally feel as tired. Also, it can easily eat up hours of needed sleep, causing you to wake up the next morning in a scramble to get to your job, class, etc. because you overslept because you didn’t get to sleep early enough because you were on… Facebook.

Symptom #6: You’re More Social Online WHILE With Friends, Than With The Friends Themselves

addicted to social networking
Whenever you hang out with your friends or family, do you often discover that you spend more time looking at your phones or laptops than at each other? Or worse, did that just make you realize that that’s what you’re doing and you’re not even conscious of it? Hopefully the second question didn’t happen to any of you, but I bet the first has, myself included. It’s sad isn’t it?
In addition, have you ever communicated via a social network with someone within seeing and/or hearing distance? Sometimes, yes, it’s funny to do. But it’s becoming more acceptable than it should be.
There’s a reason that we’ve covered the dangers of smartphones multiple times here at MakeUseOf:
Justin, also, recently shared his reasoning behind not owning one and not wanting to – it’s not just about money for him.

Symptom #7: You Share Everything

Sometimes I go in spurts where I just post a lot to my social accounts one day, but then go days without posting something (or very little). This applies to that as well, but more importantly, this is referring to you sharing every video you watch, every article you read, every photo you see, etc. This can get obnoxious and will definitely annoy people. Such tools, like the aptly named browser extension, Shareaholic, should be used in moderation or not at all by these types of people.
Instead, I recommend using Buffer.

Symptom #8: You Check-In To Your House

addicted to social networking
If you do this, right now I’m looking at you with the most dull expression on my face wondering why. The other day I mentioned my annoyance of this to the barista at a great coffee shop that I go to throughout the week and she responded saying she did that. I gave her that expression.
I honestly don’t get the point. And I don’t know if you’ve considered this, but if those check-ins are public, it doesn’t take much for people to figure out where you live. Now they have your name, photo and address (or at least nearby vicinity)? Do you want to be robbed?

Seeking Out Treatment

Now on to curing this disease. Granted, you don’t have to completely quit (although it may help if you did temporarily). You just have to develop the proper discipline. That is the key here – all of these others follow in the footsteps of that. So what do you have to do?
Develop the proper discipline!
NOTE: Some of these may coincidentally match up with the symptoms above, but that doesn’t mean it was intentional. If I’m referring to a specific symptom, I’ll tell you. Again, like I said in the first “note” at the beginning of this article, look at this list collectively – they should all (or at least most) be done to ensure true curing of social network overdosing.

Treatment #1: Recognition And Determination

addicted to social networking
After establishing that you need to be disciplined, you’ve probably already recognized that you have a problem. But I’m reiterating it anyway. Next, comes determination – how long are you going to last? Well, hopefully you create the right habits so that this is permanent and you don’t fall back into the same ruts and routine. I know – it’s very easy to do.

Treatment #2: Challenge Yourself With The 30-Day “Facebook Fast”

Again, this isn’t just Facebook, but all social networks and time-wasting websites that make you wonder where your day just went. This might be difficult for some, specifically people who have jobs that rely on social media or the Internet in general. So although this is best if you completely purge all activity, if you can have the discipline to hold yourself to only doing specific things and only spending a certain amount of time on these tempting, time-sucking sites, you may still be able to pull it off. But I warn you, if you already have this weakness, you’re going to really be put to the test. Again, like most of these things, I speak from experience, both from the past and current – unfortunately.

Treatment #3: Do Something With What You Learned From The Facebook Fast

The Facebook Fast won’t do you any good, should you simply return to your old habits. This is why I mentioned discipline and determination first. If those are in place before you start your Facebook Fast, or even if you start them during the fast, you will benefit much more from this sacrifice and can go back into social media with a whole new outlook.

Treatment #4: The Phone Stack

addicted to social networking sites
This idea has been going around the Internet quite a bit, so you may have already heard of it. The idea behind this is that while you’re eating with others at the table, you don’t check your phones – at all. Instead, you stack them in the middle and should someone check their phone, they are the one who pays the whole bill.
Here are the official rules:
  1. The game starts after everyone has ordered.
  2. Everybody places their phone on the table face down.
  3. The first person to flip over their phone loses the game.
  4. The loser of the game pays for the bill.
  5. If the bill comes before anyone has flipped over their phone everybody is declared a winner and pays for their own meal.
There are variations and additional options for this as well as some replies to some common objections.

Treatment #5: The One-Hour Rule

addicted to social networking sites
If you have a problem with checking social networks first thing every morning and last thing every night (Symptom #5), try shutting everything down – yes, your computer, phone, everything – a whole hour before you go to bed and not checking them for an hour after you wake up.
Alright, so perhaps texting or a phone call is the exception if it’s a special someone or close friend – I’m partial to that – but other than that, try this and see if it helps. Obviously you could easily combine this one and the Facebook Fast, but then continue this after you’ve completed it.

Treatment #6: Be Aware – Limit And Time Yourself

Simply being aware of how much time you’re spending on social networks can be a help in itself, but again, if you don’t care (aka aren’t determined and disciplined), it won’t matter. Those are key! Once you’ve recognized how much time you’re spending, experiment with how much time would be reasonable to spend on these sites instead.
There are a lot of helpful web apps and browser extensions for timing such as E.ggTimer and Tomato Timer, both of which I covered in 5 Web-Based Tools For Any Browser That Every Writer Should Use. In addition, another is SnapTimer, mentioned by Craig in The 2 Best Applications For Keeping A Time Limit On Yourself. Of course, there are many more than these three, but perhaps these will help you get started.
In addition, the article 5 Tools to Track How Much Time you Waste while Online might be of some help.

Treatment #7: Revoke Site Permissions

addicted to social networking sites
In references to having too many apps and websites connected to your social network accounts (Symptom #4), revoking site permissions can be helpful in helping you be aware of how much you’re connecting to. The service MyPermissions is an excellent tool, allowing you to easily access many of the social network privacy and security pages. Also, when combined with IFTTT (If This Then That), it serves as a reminder to help you not forget to go over your social network permissions each month.

Treatment #8: Block Websites

addicted to social networks
Need some added motivation and discipline? There are tools to help prevent access – but these aren’t perfect and they shouldn’t be because then they’d be too controlling. We’ve covered many of them, including the well known Chrome extension, StayFocusd. Below are four articles that might be of some help:

Treatment #9: Follow Through

Just like I started with “discipline,” I’m ending this with “following through.” In the end, these are like the bread in a sandwich – they keep everything together. By following through, you ensure that all your efforts aren’t just for not, but that you’ll actually improve and grow from them.


Now that I’ve written this whole article, I realize something – I should follow my own advice. So you know what? I’m going to. I’m going to practice what I preach. However, I fall into the category mentioned earlier about people who use social media for their work – that’s the clincher and is what makes it so difficult to separate yourself. It’s like trying to go on a diet, but working at a cupcake shop, which just so happens to be your favorite food – doesn’t work too well. But that is where discipline, determination and following through come in. With those three things, anything can be accomplished.
Do you feel you’re overdosing on social networks? Have you tried to quit or limit yourself, even for a short period of time? How did that work for you? We’d love you to share any personal advice and experiences!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Buffering Against Alcohol

Using a new assembly method, scientists have combined multiple enzymes in a polymer nanocapsule to reduce blood alcohol levels and liver damage in drunken mice.

Illustration of an biomimetic enzyme nanocomplexYUNFENG LU, UCLAA nanocomplex of enzymes can lower blood alcohol levels and reduce liver damage in intoxicated mice, according to a study published today (February 17) in Nature Nanotechnology. The research, which employed a new technique to assemble and encapsulate multiple enzymes, suggests that tailored enzyme nanocomplexes could be built for a wide range of applications.
  “It’s a very elegant approach to positioning  enzymes in a controlled fashion, and it’s certainly a  step forward,” said Jan van Hest, a professor of bio- organic chemistry at Radboud University in  Nijmegen, Holland, who was not involved in the  study. “They show very nice results already, with  increased [enzyme] activity in living systems, and  it’s a very generic approach so it looks like it could  be extended [to other applications].”

    In eukaryotic cells, most enzymes do not roam freely within the cytosol. Instead, they are carefully positioned within subcellular organelles or closely paired with other enzymes. This proximity minimizes the diffusion of toxic intermediates and enhances the overall efficiency and specificity of reactions. Inspired by these close-knit gangs of complementary enzymes, researchers have tried to make similar complexes in the lab. But it has been difficult to control the number, size, and type of enzyme in a cluster, and to ensure the complex does not get broken down or thrown out of the body.
Now, a team led by Yunfeng Lu of the University of California, Los Angeles, has successfully demonstrated a new way to make stable enzyme clusters. To combine three different enzymes, the researchers attached substrates for each to the ends of a single-stranded DNA scaffold. When the scaffold and enzymes are mixed, the enzymes bind to their respective substrates on the scaffold. The researchers then coated the enzymes with a network of polymers, forming a thin, permeable shell that protects the complex. Finally, the DNA scaffold is removed, freeing up the enzymes’ binding sites so they can attach to new substrates and catalyze reactions.
“In enzyme position assembly, it’s quite difficult to have almost molecular level control, but if you want to get cascade catalysis it’s important,” said van Hest. “What they have done very smartly is to combine the positional control of using DNA scaffolds with the robustness of polymer encapsulation.”
Lu and colleagues first tested a complex of three enzymes designed to mediate consecutive reactions of sucrose and glucose in mice, and found that it displayed enhanced catalytic efficiency and stability. Next, they used the same method to construct a nanocomplex made up of alcohol oxidase (AOx) and catalase (Cat) to see if it could serve as a prophylactic for alcohol intoxication and prevent liver damage.
When they fed mice a diet of alcohol and the nanocomplex (AOx–Cat), they found that blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was reduced by 10 percent at 45 minutes, by 32 percent after an hour and a half, and 37 percent after 3 hours, compared with significantly smaller reductions in mice fed alcohol and just one of the enzymes, with or without a polymer shell.
Furthermore, mice treated with AOx–Cat 30 minutes after intoxication had the lowest levels of alanine transaminase (ALT), an enzyme biomarker for liver damage. “We’ve shown that we can combine these two enzymes in a way to make them stable, and that in animal models the complex is active and reduces BAC and liver damage.”

But the alcohol oxidation process also produces another toxic intermediate called acetaldehyde, and there is currently no enzyme that can efficiently break this down. When such an enzyme is developed, however, it could be incorporated into a nanocomplex to create an even more effective antidote for alcohol consumption, Lu said. “I don’t see any major obstacles for this.”
Considering the vast library of enzymes available already, Lu is confident that this new method for creating enzyme nanocomplexes can be used for a wide range of applications. Indeed, he is already working with Kythera, a California-based biopharmaceutical company, to design a nanocomplex to eliminate the male hormone that causes hair loss.
Van Hest agreed. “At the moment, enzymes are combined in very crude manner,” he said. “If you want more control, this is certainly a nice way to do it.”
Y. Liu et al., “Biomimetic enzyme nanocomplexes and their use as antidotes and preventive measures for alcohol intoxication,” Nature Nanotechnology, doi: 10.1038/nnano.2012.264, 2013.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Facebook says it was hacked

Facebook said on Friday it had been the target of an unidentified hacker group, but it found no evidence that user data was compromised.
"Last month, Facebook security discovered that our systems had been targeted in a sophisticated attack," the company said in a blog post posted on Friday afternoon, just before the three-day Presidents Day weekend. "The attack occurred when a handful of employees visited a mobile developer website that was compromised."

The social network, which says it has more than one billion active users worldwide, also said: "Facebook was not alone in this attack. It is clear that others were attacked and infiltrated recently as well."

Facebook declined to comment on the motive or origin of the attack.

A security expert at another company with knowledge of the matter said he was told the Facebook attack appeared to have originated in China.

The FBI declined to comment, while the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Facebook's announcement follows recent cyber attacks on other prominent websites. Twitter, the microblogging social network, said earlier this month it had been hacked and that about 250,000 user accounts were potentially compromised, with attackers gaining access to information, including user names and email addresses.

Newspaper websites, including those of The New York Times (NYT.N), The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, have also been infiltrated. Those attacks were attributed by the news organizations to Chinese hackers targeting coverage of China.

While Facebook said no user data was compromised, the incident could raise consumer concerns about privacy and the vulnerability of personal information stored within the social network.

Facebook has made several privacy missteps over the years because of the way it handled user data and it settled a privacy investigation with federal regulators in 2011.

Facebook said it spotted a suspicious file and traced it back to an employee's laptop. After conducting a forensic examination of the laptop, Facebook said it identified a malicious file, then searched company-wide and identified "several other compromised employee laptops."

Another person briefed on the matter said the first Facebook employee had been infected via a website where coding strategies were discussed.

The company also said it identified a previously unseen attempt to bypass its built-in cyberdefenses and that new protections were added on February 1.

Because the attack used a third-party website, it might have been an early-stage attempt to penetrate as many companies as possible.

If they followed established patterns, the attackers would learn about the people and computer networks at all the infected companies. They could then use that data in more targeted attacks to steal source code and other intellectual property.

In its statement, Facebook said the attack was launched using a "zero-day," or previously unknown flaw in its software that exploited its Java built-in protections.

"Zero-day" attacks are rarely discovered and even more rarely disclosed. They are costly to launch and often suggest government sponsorship.

In January 2010, Google reported it had been penetrated via a "zero-day" flaw in an older version of the Internet Explorer Web browser. The attackers were seeking source code and were also interested in Chinese dissidents, and Google reduced its operations in the country as a result.

Attention to cybersecurity has ratcheted up since then and this week President Barack Obama issued an executive order seeking higher safety standards for critical infrastructure

How to Design Medical Devices for Rural India

To make nationwide healthcare a reality, we have to go to the village level with special emphasis on devices designed specifically for them, making healthcare not just something the economically privileged are entitled to. This article discusses the implications of medical devices targeting rural areas.

Medical devices intended for use in rural India have certain differences compared to those used almost everywhere else. In this article, we consider the inherent problems in India (rural India, to be specific) and elucidate design constraints and approaches to develop better infrastructure in the way of medical devices leading to a better rural healthcare system.

Over 70% of India's population lives in a rural setting. Hence, it goes without saying that providing adequate healthcare to this group is of paramount importance. In order for that, the ideal plan is to come up with a whole new healthcare delivery system.

Rural Health Issues
As mentioned before, rural India contains almost 70% of India's total population and more than half of it lives below the poverty line. They struggle for better and easier access to health care and services. The health issues faced by rural people are diverse and many; from severe malaria to diabetes, from an infected wound to cancer. Post-partum maternal morbidity is also one of the more serious(yet, oft neglected) problems in a resource-poor setting. Rural medical practitioners are highly sought after by people living in rural India as they more affordable and accessible than practitioners working in the formal public health care sector.

The major health issues in the rural sector can be grouped as follows.
- Preventable and curable diseases like cough, cold etc.
- Non-communicable diseases like hyper-tension, diabetes etc.
- Pregnancy along child-birth related issues like post-partum depression.
- Immunisation and child-health.
- Personal and Communal Hygiene.

Mr Sai Ram Mannar, Director at GreenOcean Research Labs says, “The traditional set-up which works very well in the urban areas will not work in a rural setting. There are challenges to look into and solutions to find out, all of which will take a determined and concise approach.”

Rural healthcare infrastructure in India
The rural healthcare system can be broadly classified (hierarchically) as follows
The ASHA worker is the most important cog in this wheel. ASHA stands for Accredited Social Health Activists and they are community health workers instituted by the Government of India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) as part of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

A list of their tasks include motivating women to give birth in hospitals, bringing children to immunization clinics, encouraging family planning (e.g. surgical sterilization), treating basic illness and injury with first aid, keeping demographic records, and improving village sanitation. But their most important contribution is to serve as a key communication mechanism between the healthcare system and rural populations.

As we move up the hierarchy, the system starts breaking down as the accessibility and the reach factors come into play and people living far away from the centres are at a disadvantage.

The point to note is that since the differences in the rural settings are a prime reason for the lack of penetration of the medical centres, the solutions (a.k.a the medical devices) should be designed keeping these factors in mind.

Design considerations for medical devices in rural India

1. Accuracy, Reliability and Durability
Accuracy, reliability, and durability are three of the most important design considerations. The specific end user of the product will determine the need accuracy for the product. Reliability and durability are generally much more important to the end consumer compared with accuracy. Due to a multitude of products which don’t have reliable warranties or products which have been donated with little or no support, reliability has become a major consideration in the purchase of a product.

2. Size and weight
Space comes at a premium in already scant medical throughout the world. Many patients are generally combined into one single room, which means that products should be as small and light as possible which can lead to an increased portability.

3. Materials
If medical devices are intended for production on a large scale, care must be taken to ensure that these materials will be available for distribution within the country.

4. Power requirements

Any devices which is electrical in nature, must take into account the power concerns throughout the country. Medical devices which operate on battery power are especially important in countries like India, which don't have assured power supply for an extended period. Not only should batteries be used as a means of electrically isolating the high voltage wall outlet, but also they are required to ensure that medical devices will continue to operated since in India, power can be sporadic at best.

5. Ease of manufacture
As many of the devices which will be designed will be ideally sold and manufactured in the same country, ease of manufacture should be taken into concern. The easier it is to manufacture a product the better.

6. Language issues
Language issues should be addressed for many countries within the developing world as multilingual countries are far more common as compared with developed countries. Specifically in India 29 languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers, 122 by more than 10,000.

7. Ruggedness
The device has to operate in rural India, a landscape which varies from arid deserts to cold mountains to swampy marshlands with humans living in all these conditions. Thus, the device has to be able to operate perfectly under all these conditions at an acceptable performance level.

8. Standards compliance
There is an age-old practice of skimping on quality when it comes to production in India. Since these products are for the poor people, there is a very good chance of foul-play with the same. But, as Mr Mannar says, “Yes, we are creating a device for India, specifically rural India, but that in no way means that we should create sub-standard non standards compliant devices just for the sake of it. We should look closely at the best standards available and ensure that the designers keep that in mind while designing.”

Thus, the above issue should be considered while a device is being designed for the rural setting. Of course, since in India, the rural areas are also varied depending on location, there might be some extra considerations to be kept in mind which would be mostly local in nature.

This article is based on the talk by Mr Sai Ram Mannar, Director at GreenOcean Research Labs at the Electronics Rocks 2012 conference in Bangalore.