Dr. Fauci Offers 2021 Forecast On COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatments

SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and various new treatments for COVID-19 may be on their way even before 2020 ends, but the damage caused by the deadly novel coronavirus may linger for months or even years, said Anthony S. Fauci, MD, during an exclusive interview presented during a Saturday plenary session of the November 2020 AMA Section Meetings.

In his interview with AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara, MD, Dr. Fauci said no one is certain how long vaccine protection will last. He added that physicians and other health professionals in hospitals are learning more about how to treat patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, cutting the COVID-19 mortality rate in the U.S.

“We just get better at treating the disease. We know what works, what doesn’t work,” he said. Experience has taught doctors more about whether to put people on ventilators, how much oxygen to provide during intubation, and managing the treatment process.

“We know that dexamethasone clearly diminishes the death rate in people requiring mechanical ventilation and/or people who require high-flow oxygen,” Dr. Fauci said. “We have remdesivir for hospitalized patients who have lung involvement.”

Treatments or prophylaxis with anticoagulants for some patients is now common for COVID-19, added Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force.

 Death rates fall as patients get younger

“And we are starting to see a younger population get infected,” people who are most likely to survive the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection, Dr. Fauci said. However, while the death rate is improving, the effect of the virus may linger longer than the diagnosed infection.

“We do know for absolutely certain that there is a post-COVID syndrome,” Dr. Fauci said. “Anywhere from 25% to 35%—or more—have lingering symptoms well beyond what you would expect from any post viral syndrome like influenza and others. It’s fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle aches, dysautonomia, sleep disturbances and what people refer to as brain fog,” he said, or an inability to focus or concentrate.

“That can last anywhere from weeks to months,” he explained. Cardiologists also report that even among asymptomatic COVID patients, about 60% have some indication of inflammation of the heart which may or may not have a future effect on cardiac health. A patient and a physician shared their experiences as COVID-19 long haulers during a recent episode of the “AMA COVID-19 Update.”

Vaccines are on the way

Vaccines are the hope of the future and they are on their way, Dr. Fauci said, with six candidates already at various stages of clinical trials and testing. Five of the six are already in phase 3 trials and two of them—the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine candidates—are fully enrolled and collecting data on efficacy and safety.

“The issue of vaccines is actually good news at a time of considerable concern and stress about the outbreak. As we get into November and then maybe into December, we will get an answer as to whether one or more of these candidates are safe and effective. I am cautiously optimistic,” he said.

More questions remain

Following this evaluation, vaccines can then be distributed beginning with individuals with the highest priorities, such as medical workers on the front lines. However, two questions remain, he said.

“How effective would the vaccine be and, as importantly, how many individuals will opt to take the vaccine? But if we get a reasonably effective vaccine of 70% to 75% and a substantial proportion of the population takes the vaccine, I think we will be going in the right direction of some degree of normality as we head into 2021 in the second, third and fourth quarter,” he said.

The more effective the vaccine and the more people take the vaccine, the better a prospect for herd immunity, a situation in which future infection is less possible, he said.

Once vaccines are developed and one or more are chosen for distribution, there still may be more to learn about protecting individuals from COVID-19 with vaccines. The durability of immune protection is still unknown, Dr. Fauci said.

From what researchers know about studies of the coronaviruses that cause the annual common cold, coronavirus immunity is measured in months to a year, not like measles immunity, which lasts a lifetime. Immune response from an illness seems to vary by how serious or systemic an infection is. “When someone gets sick … we don’t know how long the antibody protection is going to last,” Dr. Fauci said.

(Len Strazewski, Contributing News Writer at American Medical Association)

Pfizer, Biontech Say Their COVID-19 Vaccine Is Over 90% Effective

The first effective coronavirus vaccine can prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19, a preliminary analysis shows. The developers – Pfizer and BioNTech – described it as a “great day for science and humanity”. Their vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised.  The companies plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE are the first drugmakers to release successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. The companies said they have so far found no serious safety concerns and expect to seek U.S. authorization this month for emergency use of the vaccine.

If authorized, the number of doses will initially be limited and many questions remain, including how long the vaccine will provide protection. However, the news provides hope that other COVID-19 vaccines in development may also prove effective.

No vaccine has gone from the drawing board to being proven highly effective in such a short period of time.  There are still huge challenges ahead, but the announcement has been warmly welcomed with scientists describing themselves smiling “ear to ear” and some suggesting life could be back to normal by spring.

“I am probably the first guy to say that, but I will say that with some confidence,” said Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University. A vaccine – alongside better treatments – is seen as the best way of getting out of the restrictions that have been imposed on all our lives.

The data shows that two doses, three weeks apart, are needed. The trials – in US, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey – show 90% protection is achieved seven days after the second dose.

However, the data presented is not the final analysis as it is based on only the first 94 volunteers to develop Covid so the precise effectiveness of the vaccine may change when the full results are analysed.

Dr Albert Bourla, the chairman of Pfizer, said: “We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis.” Prof Ugur Sahin, one of the founders of BioNTech, described the results as a “milestone”.

A limited number of people may get the vaccine this year. Pfizer and BioNTech say they will have enough safety data by the third week of November to take their vaccine to regulators.  Until it has been approved it will not be possible for countries to begin their vaccination campaigns.  The two companies say they will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of this year and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. Each person needs two doses.

The UK should get 10 million doses by the end of the year, with a further 30 million doses already ordered.

Who would get it?

Not everyone will get the vaccine straight away and countries are each deciding who should be prioritised.  Hospital staff and care home workers will be near the top of every list because of the vulnerable people they work with, as will the elderly who are most at risk of severe disease.

The UK is likely to prioritise older resident in care homes and the people that work there. But it says a final decision has not been made, saying it will depend on how well the vaccine works in different age-groups and how the virus is spreading.  People under 50 and with no medical problems are likely to be last in the queue.

Are there any potential problems?

There are still many unanswered questions as this is only interim data.  We do not know if the vaccine stops you spreading the virus or just from developing symptoms. Or if it works equally well in high-risk elderly people. The biggest question – how long does immunity last – will take months or potentially years to answer.

There are also massive manufacturing and logistical challenges in immunising huge numbers of people, as the vaccine has to be kept in ultra-cold storage at below minus 80C. The vaccine appears safe from the large trials so far but nothing, including paracetamol, is 100% safe.

How does it work?

There are around a dozen vaccines in the final stages of testing – known as a phase 3 trial – but this is the first to show any results.  It uses a completely experimental approach – that involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code – in order to train the immune system.

Previous trials have shown the vaccine trains the body to make both antibodies – and another part of the immune system called T-cells to fight the coronavirus. “Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive, said.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.”

BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin told Reuters he was optimistic the immunisation effect of the vaccine would last for a year although that was not certain yet.

“The efficacy data are really impressive. This is better than most of us anticipated,” said William Schaffner, infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee. “The study isn’t completed yet, but nonetheless the data look very solid.”

The prospect of a vaccine electrified world markets with S&P 500 futures hitting a record high and tourism and travel shares surging. Stocks in European airlines such as ICAG, Lufthansa and AirFrance KLM jumped a third.  “Light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s just hope the vaccine deniers won’t get in the way, but 2021 just got a lot brighter,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com

Shares of other COVID-19 vaccine developers in the final stage of testing also rose with Johnson & Johnson up 3.3% in pre-market trading and Moderna 4.1% stronger. Britain’s AstraZeneca, however, was down 2.1% after earlier rising 0.5% on the news.

Pfizer expects to seek broad U.S. authorization for emergency use of the vaccine for people aged 16 to 85. To do so, it will need two months of safety data from about half the study’s 44,000 participants, which his expected late this month.

“I’m near ecstatic,” Bill Gruber, one of Pfizer’s top vaccine scientists, said in an interview. “This is a great day for public health and for the potential to get us all out of the circumstances we’re now in.”

Pfizer and BioNTech have a $1.95 billion contract with the U.S. government to deliver 100 million vaccine doses beginning this year. They have also reached supply agreements with the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan.

To save time, the companies began manufacturing the vaccine before they knew whether it would be effective. They now expect to produce up to 50 million doses, or enough to protect 25 million people this year.

To confirm the efficacy rate, Pfizer said it would continue the trial until there are 164 COVID-19 cases among participants. Bourla told CNBC on Monday that based on rising infection rates, the trial could be completed before the end of November. The data have yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal. Pfizer said it would do so once it has results from the entire trial.

“These are interesting first signals, but again they are only communicated in press releases,” said Marylyn Addo, head of tropical medicine at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany. “Primary data are not yet available and a peer-reviewed publication is still pending. We still have to wait for the exact data before we can make a final assessment.”


The global race for a vaccine has seen wealthier countries forge multibillion-dollar supply deals with drugmakers like Pfizer, AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson, raising questions over when middle income and poorer nations will get access to inoculations.

The U.S. quest for a vaccine has been the Trump administration’s central response to the pandemic. The United States has the world’s highest known number of COVID-19 cases and deaths with more than 10 million infections and over 237,000 fatalities.

President Donald Trump repeatedly assured the public that his administration would likely identify a successful vaccine in time for the presidential election, held last Tuesday. On Saturday, Democratic rival Joe Biden was declared the winner.

Vaccines are seen as essential tools to help end the health crisis that has shuttered businesses and left millions out of work. Millions of children whose schools were closed in March remain in remote learning programs.

Dozens of drugmakers and research groups around the globe have been racing to develop vaccines against COVID-19, which on Sunday exceeded 50 million infections since the new coronavirus first emerged late last year in China.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which relies on synthetic genes that can be generated and manufactured in weeks, and produced at scale more rapidly than conventional vaccines.

Study Reveals Why People Think Pretty Food Is Healthier

In a significant study, researchers have explored whether attractive food might seem healthier to consumers. According to the study, published in the Journal of Marketing, beautiful aesthetics are closely associated with pleasure and indulgence.

“Looking at beautiful art and people activates the brain’s reward centre and observing beauty is inherently gratifying,” said study authors from the University of Southern California in the US. “This link with pleasure might make pretty food seem unhealthy, because people tend to view pleasure and usefulness as mutually exclusive,” they added. For instance, many people have the general intuition that food is either tasty or healthy, but not both.

On the other hand, a specific type of aesthetics called “classical” aesthetics is characterized by the ideal patterns found in nature. For instance, a key classical aesthetic feature is symmetry, which is also extremely common in nature.

Seeming more natural may make the food seem healthier because people tend to consider natural things (organic food or natural remedies) to be healthier than unnatural things (highly processed food.).

In a series of experiments, the researcher tested if the same food is perceived as healthier when it looks pretty by following classical aesthetics principles (i.e., symmetry, order, and systematic patterns) compared to when it does not.

For example, in one experiment, participants evaluated avocado toast. Everyone read identical ingredient and price information, but people were randomly assigned to see either a pretty avocado toast or an ugly avocado toast.

Despite identical information about the food, respondents rated the avocado toast as overall healthier and more natural if they saw the pretty version compared to the ugly version.

As suspected, the difference in naturalness judgments drove the difference in healthiness judgments. Judgments of other aspects, like freshness or size, were unaffected.

Experiments with different foods and prettiness manipulations returned the same pattern of results. In a field experiment, people were willing to pay significantly more money for a pretty bell pepper than an ugly one, and a substantial portion of this boost in reservation prices was attributable to an analogous boost in healthiness judgments. (IANS)

ASEI to Organize Get 2020 Annual Convention On Emerging Technologies

Canton, Michigan – American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is hosting the 33rd Annual National Convention focusing on Global Engineering & Technologies (GET-2020). This virtual convention will be held on December 5th and 6th, 2020. The objective of this event is to provide a forum to promote and share advancements related to latest cutting-edge innovations and technologies across various engineering disciplines. The convention is expected to be virtually attended by over 1000 professionals including scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders across the USA. This two-day event will feature keynotes and multiple interactive sessions with prominent business and technology leaders, scientists, media personalities, educators, policy makers, and investment bankers. This event will be covered by the local and national media including leading social media outlets.

 The convention will have multiple interactive sessions led by deep subject matter experts providing information and insight on many topics related to the convention theme. Following speakers are confirmed for this virtual convention:

 Naveen Jain, CEO –  Viome, Founder/ Chairman, Moon Express

Anand Oswal, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Palo Alto Networks

Prof. Solomon Darwin – Director, UC Berkeley-Haas Center for Corporate Innovation, Executive Director, Center for Growth Markets

Dr Satyam Priyadarshy – Managing Director, India Center+Technology Fellow+Chief Data Scientist-Halliburton

Dilip Saraf – Author, Speaker, Career & Life Coach

Surbhi Kaul – GM and Head of Product, Cloud Networking and Automation. Juniper Networks, Former Product Lead at YouTube, Google Home & Assistant

Dr Sreeja Nag – Space & Robotics Scientist, NASA & Nuro

Matthew Rosenquist – Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Eclipz

Manoj Prasad, Vice President and Global CTO, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Prakash Kota – Chief Information Officer, Autodesk

Rama Akkiraju – IBM Fellow & Master Inventor, IBM

Deval Desai – VP and Country Head, India – Executive Director, Business Development, Magna International

Jeffrey Hannah – Director, North America at SBD Automotive

Akshay Desai – Associate Partner | McKinsey & Company, Inc.

Dr Robert Sutor – Vice President Quantum Computing, Blockchain & AI, IBM Research

 There will be a Youth Technology Exposition (YTE) for young scientists and students from High School to Undergrad engineering during this virtual ASEI National Convention. The objective of the YTE is to provide a forum for young engineers, students and budding scientists to showcase their projects in science, engineering and technology topics that can have an impact on our world. Each participant will get a chance to speak while showing their work for a total of 4 minutes. The top 5 entries will be shortlisted as finalists for a live virtual presentation at ASEI National Convention on December 5th. More details of the convention are provided at www.aseiusa.org.

 The convention will end with a finale session on December 6th where those who have made outstanding achievements in engineering and technology and those who have contributed to society at large and to ASEI organization will be recognized. The annual ASEI awards will be presented to several individuals for following categories:

ASEI Lifetime Achievement (Open to everyone)

ASEI Entrepreneur of the Year (Open to everyone)

ASEI Engineers/Scientists of Year (Open to individuals in Chemical, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics and Computer, Civil, Architect, Industrial, Minerals/Materials, Biomedical, Telecommunication and Information Technology)

ASEI Service Excellence (Open to an ASEI member who has done service to community

at large or served as an officer/volunteer for more than 10 years)

ASEI Founder’s Award sponsored by ASEI Founder Hari Bindal (Open to those who

have provided dedicated services to ASEI in the immediate past year). Award includes a

plaque and $1,000 to the charity of the award recipient’s choice.

Nominations are invited for these awards, visit http://www.aseiusa.org/NC/Awards.

About ASEI

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profit organization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement, community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals, students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guided by several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, and transparent organization; providing positive role models, awarding scholarships, and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit, Michigan by a handful of visionaries. Today, the organization also has chapters in Michigan, Southern California, Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Washington, DC. For more information, visit: https://aseiusa.org/

Apple launches MacBook Air with first Apple-designed microprocessors

Apple Inc has introduced a MacBook Air notebook computer with the first Apple-designed microprocessor, called the M1, a move that will tie its Macs and iPhones closer together technologically.

The new chip marks a shift away from Intel Corp <INTC.O> technology that has driven the electronic brains of Mac computers for nearly 15 years.

It is a boon for Apple computers, which are overshadowed by the company’s iPhone but still rack up tens of billions of dollars in sales per year. Apple hopes developers now will create families of apps that work on both computers and phones.


Apple executives said the M1 was intended to be efficient as well as fast, to improve battery life, and that Apple’s newest version of its operating system was tuned to the processor.

Apple software chief Craig Federighi said Adobe Inc would bring its Photoshop software to the new M1-based Macs early next year.

In June, Apple said it would begin outfitting Macs with its own chips, building on its decade-long history of designing processors for its iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches.

Apple’s phone chips draw on computing architecture technology from Arm Ltd and manufactured by outside partners such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.

Power efficiency – that is, getting the most computing done per watt of energy consumed – is one of Apple’s key aims.

Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> and Qualcomm Corp <QCOM.O> have been working together for four years to bring Arm-based Windows laptops to market, with major manufacturers such as Lenovo Group Ltd <0992.HK>, Asustek Computer <2357.TW> and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS> offering machines.

But for both Microsoft and Apple, the true test will be software developers. Apple is hoping that the massive group of iPhone developers will embrace the new Macs, which will share a common 64-bit Arm computing architecture with the iPhone and be able to use similar apps.

In the meantime, Apple has seen a boom in Mac sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, notching record fiscal fourth quarter Mac sales of $9 billion (£7 billion) earlier this month – all of them Intel-based. In June, Chief Executive Tim Cook said Apple will continue to support those devices for “years to come” but did not specify an end-of-life date.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Franicsco and Peter Henderson in Oakland; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Rosalba O’Brien)

Dating apps linked to depression, social anxiety in women: Study

Researchers have found that depression symptoms and social anxiety are associated with greater use of mobile dating applications such as Tinder and Bumble among the women.

This study, published in the journal ‘Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking’, explored associations between symptoms of social anxiety and depression with participants’ extent of dating app use, self-reported motivations for dating app use, and the likelihood of initiating interaction with dating app matches.

Recent research suggests that motivations beyond intimate relationship formation attract people to mobile dating applications.

“With increased symptoms of social anxiety and depression, women maybe even more likely to turn to technology for social connection, especially if alternative forms of social contact are reduced due to social avoidance,” said study author Martin Antony from Ryerson University in Canda.

For the results, 374 participants completed an online battery of surveys that examined psychopathology and dating app use.

Social anxiety and depression symptoms were positively associated with participants’ extent of dating app use, and symptoms of psychopathology and gender interacted to predict various dating app use motivations.

Symptoms of social anxiety and depression predicted a lower likelihood of initiating contact with a dating app match among men but not women.

This study provides an initial step towards understanding the relationship between social anxiety, depression, and use of dating apps.

Among the men, the greater their social anxiety and depression symptoms, the less likely they were to initiate contact with matches on mobile dating apps.

“With mobile dating apps increasingly figuring into today’s dating landscape, research studies are vital to understanding their merits as well as their shortcomings,” the study authors noted. (IANS)

Shanghai spending big to build the new ‘Silicon Valley’

New Lingang Area, which aims to be a global innovation district, houses Tesla factories that will build electric vehicles and the world’s biggest planetarium; it will be an industrial base for production of integrated circuits and semiconductors, officials say. (ATF) Officials in Shanghai have announced they are investing billions of yuan into building a ‘new Silicon Valley’ set-up, full of companies in emerging industries.

“Over the past year, more than half of 78 policy tasks have been completed; high-end resource elements have accelerated the grouping of Lingang New Area, involving a total investment of more than 270 billion yuan (over US$40.4 billion),” the deputy secretary-general of Shanghai Municipal Government and secretary of the Party Working Committee of Lingang New Area, said.

Known as the Shanghai Lingang New Area, this will be a national rival to similar areas in Beijing and Shenzhen, as well as global innovation centers. Emerging industries have already migrated to the area, while institutional innovations have also set up shop. According to ce.cn this will be a new business district like Lujiazui. Lujiazui is the area of skyscrapers that make up the famous Shanghai skyline.

The Shanghai Lingang New Area is next to the Dishui Lake – an ancient scenic area in the neighbouring city of Suzhou, which is slowly becoming part of the large growing Shanghai metropolis. The area is famous for being the home of ancient scholars. Suzhou is essentially becoming a suburb of Shanghai, only a few minutes away by high-speed train.

Zhu Zhisong, executive deputy director of the management committee, said in an interview with ce.cn: “We have two small goals: one is to invest 200 billion yuan in frontier science and technology industries by the end of this year. The other is to build meeting the needs of modern urban functioning construction.

“We strive to achieve 200 billion yuan in projects started by the end of the year, and make greater contributions to the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta.

“Our production line is very sensitive to vibration (from traffic), so the requirements for the production environment are very high, so as to ensure continuous operation of the equipment,” Zhu added.

Semiconductor production line 

Shanghai Jita Semiconductor Co Ltd will be based in the new area. CEO Yin Buhua told reporters that according to the plan, the first phase of project plans is to build a 0.11μm/0.13μm/0.18μm (micron)-process production lines with a monthly capacity of 60,000 8-inch wafers. All kinds of production lines will achieve full mass production this year. It plans to expand the 12-inch special-process production line to a monthly production capacity of 50,000 pieces. 

“Our chips are used in automotive electronics, rail transit, smart grid and other fields. After full production, it will become a leading domestic automotive-grade semiconductor production line,” Yin Buhua said.

Wu Qunfeng, director of the Risk Prevention Division, said that the Lingang New Area has signed contracts and plans to implement integrated-circuit projects in the near future with a total investment of nearly 160 billion yuan ($24 billion).

It will build a national integrated-circuit industrial base, with a full supply chain. He said it will be known as the ‘Eastern Core Port,’ and will include aircraft facilities.

Aircraft Park

One portion of the area will be known as the ‘Big Aircraft Park’ to promote the convergence of aviation manufacturing and aviation services, develop final assembly delivery, key facilities, production support, technology research and development, aviation culture and tourism and other industrial fields, and cultivate a world-class aviation industry cluster.

In August this year, the “Lingang New Area Innovative Industry Plan” was released. The industrial development of the new area must not only improve the “quantity”, but also achieve a breakthrough in the “quality” of such zones, officials announced.

On September 7 this year, the commercial entity registration confirmation system was officially implemented in the Lingang New Area Industry-City Integration Zone. It has a range of approximately 386 square kilometres. 

As early as last year, this policy was written into the overall plan of the Lingang New Area; in March this year, after the inauguration of the Lingang New Area Market Supervision and Administration Bureau, it was clearly proposed that the reform of the registration confirmation system for commercial entities would be promoted in a coordinated manner. 

Now that the policy has been implemented, many entrepreneurs have begun setting up shop. “Lingang is becoming more and more like a complete city,” the general manager of Shanghai CRRC Essendi Marine Equipment Co Ltd said.

The world’s most famous and creative high-tech hub is Silicon Valley, in the southern San Francisco Bay Area of California, which has been the home of many start-ups and global technology companies, such as Apple, Facebook and Google. Whether Lingang New Area can match this in any way, only time will tell. But local officials certainly appear to share that ambition.

The power of digital currencies

Central banks in Europe and elsewhere are finally waking up to the risks that fintech innovations, such as digital currencies and stablecoins, could pose to the traditional banking system and financial stability if they become popular.

With an ever increasing need  in reducing morbidity and mortality due to heart attacks and strokes, especially among Indians and  Indian Americans, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) and the American Heart Association (AHA) joined hands together for the first time for a Global Initiat (ATF) With a clear eye on China, the European Central Bank has sounded the alarm that Europe could lose its very sovereignty, not just its economic autonomy, if it fails to develop a digital euro. The warning is a reminder of how much is at stake politically in the global race for new electronic forms of central bank money. 

In a recent report on the pros and cons of a digital euro, the ECB doesn’t actually name China. It doesn’t need to. The Federal Reserve is still studying whether to issue a central bank digital currency (CBDC) while Japan has no immediate plan to do so. China, by contrast, is already conducting advanced trials of its Digital Currency /Electronic Payment (DE/EP). 

The ECB says it is examining the idea primarily because people are abandoning cash in favour of fast electronic payments. “It’s simply a matter of making our currency fit for the digital age,” said ECB President Christine Lagarde said when asked by French newspaper Le Monde whether the ECB was mounting a geopolitical response to the emergence of the digital yuan.

That is no doubt true. Central bankers are finally waking up to the risks that fintech innovations pose for the traditional banking system and hence for financial stability. They are also aghast that Facebook’s proposed Libra stablecoin might threaten their monetary monopoly.

But the concerns of the ECB – and of Europe’s politicians – go wider.

Concern over digital currencies

The report notes that if foreign central banks made their digital currencies available outside their jurisdictions, European citizens could switch out of the euro and foreign exchange risk in the euro area would increase. At the same time, instruments like Libra not denominated in euro could become widely used for European retail payments. 

“Such developments would foster innovation but could also threaten European financial, economic and, ultimately, political sovereignty,” the ECB says.

This is strong stuff from a central bank. As Philip Middleton and Alastair Ryan put it in a report for BoA Securities: “We can see why a central bank would not particularly fancy this. If European payments were to be dominated by Mark Zuckerberg and Xi Jinping, the ability of the ECB to influence the Eurozone economy would be severely constrained.” 

The EU has been half-hearted in the past about deploying the euro as an instrument of political power. The dollar towers over the single currency by every measure, from its share in global central bank reserves to its use in trade invoicing and international bond issuance. 

But the ECB report sums up how attitudes are changing: “Euro area leaders recently stressed that a strong international role of the euro is an important factor in reinforcing European economic autonomy.”

Wide acceptance of a means of payment or store of value not denominated in euro could impair the transmission of monetary policy in the euro area and could ultimately affect financial stability, the ECB explains.

‘Digital euro could support sovereignty, stability’

“In such circumstances, issuance of a digital euro could support European sovereignty and stability, in particular in the monetary and financial dimensions,” it says. That word ‘sovereignty’ again.

In case the political motive was still unclear, the report says a cutting-edge digital currency would “preserve the global reputation of the euro” and support its international role.

In a narrow sense, the ECB is worried that widespread use of foreign CBDCs in the euro area would curtail its room for monetary manoeuvre. ECB researchers Massimo Minesso Ferrari, Arnaud Mehi and Livio Stracca posit that it would need to react twice as much to inflation and output in the presence of a CBDC.

But it is left to the less diplomatic Australian Strategic Policy Institute to spell out the geopolitical prizes that China’s DC/EP could deliver for the Communist party, which has a stated aim of challenging the dollar’s global supremacy. 

“DC/EP intersects with China’s ambitions to shape global technological and financial standards, for example, through the promotion of RMB internationalisation and fintech standards-setting along sites of the Belt and Road Initiative,” the ASPI said in a report.

Alternative to SWIFT?

In the long term, a successful DC/EP could therefore greatly expand the party-state’s ability to mould economic behaviour well beyond China’s borders. For one thing, it could serve as an alternative to SWIFT, a secure financial messaging service at the core of the global banking system.

Because it has access to SWIFT communications on national security grounds, the US is able to extend the territorial reach of its laws – a source of deep concern to China and many other countries, especially those under international sanctions, such as Iran. 

If it could provide a functional alternative to the dollar settlement system, DC/EP would blunt the impact of any sanctions or threats of exclusion both at a country and company level, the ASPI argued.

China thus has a powerful incentive to blaze the digital currency trail. It is well ahead of its rivals. Not until this month did a clutch of leading central banks – but not the People’s Bank of China – agree on what the main features of a CBDC should be.

For its part, the ECB won’t decide until mid-2021 whether even to formally investigate a digital euro project. “The primary motivation is not that others are ahead,” said Fabio Panetta, an ECB Executive Board member who oversaw the ECB’s exploratory report

Risk of bank runs, CBDC costs, volatile capital flows

Indeed, the report is laced with warnings about the potential drawbacks of a CBDC. For instance, euro area citizens could swap their commercial bank deposits for central bank money, undermining the banking system and increasing the risk of bank runs. (This is a reservation shared, incidentally, by BoA’s analysts, who are very wary of the policy costs of running a CBDC.)

The report also speaks of the need to discourage excessive use of the digital euro as an investment to reduce the risk of attracting huge international investment flows: “The design of the digital euro should include specific conditions for access and use by non-euro area residents, to ensure that it does not contribute to excessively volatile capital flows or exchange rates.”

These words of caution may be warranted, but they hardly constitute a ringing call for the euro to sally forth, dethrone the dollar and nip the yuan’s challenge in the bud. 

But they will be music to the ears of Chinese policymakers, who are fully aware of the power of currencies. They also know from their own history the advantage of moving first when it comes to currencies. After all, in the 7th century it was China that was the first to use paper money.

(Alan Wheatley is an associate fellow at Chatham House, the London think-tank. He was formerly the global economics correspondent and China economics editor for Reuters.)

NASA Found More Water On the Moon

The permanently shadowed craters at the moon’s south pole are both the first and last place lunar astronauts would want to spend their time. The appeal is that they have generous deposits of water ice, a critical resource for any potential lunar base (ice means drinking water, yes, but it also means oxygen that can be used for synthesizing atmosphere and hydrogen for rocket fuel). But then there’s that business of the permanent shadows. It gets awfully cold on an airless body if there’s no sunlight—about -250º C (-418º F), in this case—and working in permanent darkness is no easy business, either.

It would be a lot handier if there were significant amounts of water on what amounts to the more temperate parts of the moon: the near and far sides where any one spot is brilliantly lit for two full weeks out of every month. Well, good news: NASA announced today that it has discovered water in just such a site: Clavius Crater, located between 50 and 75 degrees latitude in the southern lunar hemisphere on the near side of the moon.

“Water is extremely critical for deep space exploration,” said Jacob Bleacher, NASA’s chief scientist for human exploration and operations, at a Monday press conference. “We know that it exists in some of the darkest and coldest craters, so finding it in places that are easier to reach is very helpful for future exploration.”

The new discovery was made by the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a 2.7 meter (9 ft.) telescope mounted inside a retrofitted Boeing 747, which flies at altitudes of 13,700 m (45,000 ft). That’s above 99.9% of atmospheric water vapor—helpful, as even a little vapor blocks some frequencies, leaving earthbound telescopes blind in certain parts of the infrared spectrum. In this case, widening that frequency aperture revealed a lot.

Observatories have previously detected hydrogen’s chemical fingerprint in the lunar “regolith,” or soil. The assumption was that it was in the form of hydroxyl, which is made of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom—a stable molecule that would naturally form in a regolith where oxygen is also present. It was at least theoretically possible that there were two atoms of hydrogen—meaning H2O, or water—but earth-based telescopes can’t detect that. SOFIA can, and over the course of two years of observations, the NASA team hit the molecular jackpot, finding the precise fingerprint of water scattered across Clavius.

But future astronauts may not be able to get at the newly discovered lunar water so easily. For one thing, it’s scarce—about 100 to 400 parts per million, the equivalent of 0.35 liters (12 oz.) of water in a cubic meter of lunar soil. Moreover, the water molecules are not interacting with one another in ways that would produce a discrete quantity of ice or water. Instead, they are formed by violent collisions of micrometeorites. Those collisions provide the heat to convert hydroxyl molecules to water molecules, but those molecules are then entrained within microscopically small glass beads also created by the collisions.

 “If the water is trapped in glass beads, it might require too much energy to extract it,” said Bleacher. What’s more, once the molecules are freed, they might disperse or be destroyed. “Are we going to be disruptive to the water to the point that we just can’t use it?” asked Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division.

The scarcity of the water and the difficulty of the extraction might simply drive astronauts back to those shadowed craters—which are currently the target spots for NASA’s plans to have Americans back on the moon by 2024, via the Artemis program. But that doesn’t mean the SOFIA findings are merely of academic value. Finding water in one unexpected lunar site means it could well be in plenty of others. Every place it’s detected simply widens the potential footprint for future human exploration—and even, perhaps, settlement.

(Source: TIME.COM)

Teen Anika Chebrolu’s Discovery Will Limit Spike Protein Of The SARS-Cov-2 Virus

The coronavirus has killed more than 1.1 million people globally since China reported its first case to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019. The United States has more than 220,000 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Anika, an Indian American Teenager, submitted her project when she was in 8th grade — but it wasn’t always going to be focused on finding a cure for Covid-19. Initially, her goal was to use in-silico methods to identify a lead compound that could bind to a protein of the influenza virus.

“After spending so much time researching about pandemics, viruses and drug discovery, it was crazy to think that I was actually living through something like this,” Anika said.  “Because of the immense severity of the Covid-19 pandemic and the drastic impact it had made on the world in such a short time, I, with the help of my mentor, changed directions to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

3M, in partnership with Discovery Education, Oct. 14 announced that Indian American student Anika Chebrolu won the 2020 Young Scientist Challenge competition. The 13th annual contest called for students in grades 5-to-8 to submit a video demonstrating an innovation that could provide a solution to an everyday problem, according to a news release.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is the cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide and was declared a worldwide pandemic and public health emergency earlier this year. With the virus continuing to spread far and wide, there is an urgent need to find an effective anti-coronavirus drug.

In her study, Chebrolu discovered a molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2. Binding and inhibiting this viral protein would potentially stop the virus entry into the cell, creating a viable drug target. In her research, Chebrolu screened millions of small molecules for drug-likeness properties, ADMET properties, and binding affinities against the spike protein using numerous software tools.

The one molecule with the best pharmacological and biological activity towards the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was chosen as the lead molecule that could be a potential drug for the effective treatment of COVID-19, the release notes. For the first time in the history of the competition, the 3M Young Scientist Challenge showcased the top 10 finalist projects and announced this year’s winner in a virtual event, held Oct. 12-13.

Anika Chebrolu’s award winning invention uses in-silico methodology to discover a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “The last two days, I saw that there is a lot of media hype about my project since it involves the SARS-CoV-2 virus and it reflects our collective hopes to end this pandemic as I, like everyone else, wish that we go back to our normal lives soon,” Anika told CNN.

When it comes to iconic sneakers, heck, when it comes to the entire history of footwear, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more beloved or influential shoe than the Superstar. Anika said she was inspired to find potential cures to viruses after learning about the 1918 flu pandemic and finding out how many people die every year in the United States despite annual vaccinations and anti-influenza drugs on the market.

“Anika has an inquisitive mind and used her curiosity to ask questions about a vaccine for Covid-19,” Dr. Cindy Moss, a judge for the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, told CNN. “Her work was comprehensive and examined numerous databases. She also developed an understanding of the innovation process and is a masterful communicator. Her willingness to use her time and talent to help make the world a better place gives us all hope.”

Anika, who performs Bharatanatyam, an ancient Indian dance, said winning the prize and title of top young scientist is an honor, but her work isn’t done. Her next goal, she says, is to work alongside scientists and researchers who are fighting to “control the morbidity and mortality” of the pandemic by developing her findings into an actual cure for the virus.

“My effort to find a lead compound to bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus this summer may appear to be a drop in the ocean, but still adds to all these efforts,” she said. “How I develop this molecule further with the help of virologists and drug development specialists will determine the success of these efforts.”

An eighth-grader at Nelson Middle School, Chebrolu at the time of entry, competed against nine other finalists in an interactive virtual competition. Each finalist was evaluated on a series of challenges and the presentation of their completed innovation. These young inventors – aged 12-14 – won the top ten spots in this year’s challenge through their innovative thinking, scientific acumen, and display of exceptional communication skills, the release added.

“Amidst the challenges of a global pandemic, quality STEM education for all has become an even more urgent need, and 3M’s commitment to fostering the next generation of science leaders has never been more determined,” said Denise Rutherford, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at 3M.

“In spite of challenges, like adjusting to new norms of distance learning and participating in virtual events, this year’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge finalists have smashed through barriers with grit, creativity, innovative thinking, and excitement – all in the name of applying science to improve lives. 3M is inspired by these young innovators and we celebrate each one of them. Our heartfelt congratulations go to this year’s winner, Anika Chebrolu, and our many thanks to all our 3M Young Scientist Challenge finalists,” Rutherford added.

Over the past few months, each 3M Young Scientist Challenge finalist worked with a 3M scientist who played the role of mentor and worked one-on-one with each finalist to transform their idea from concept to physical prototype. Chebrolu was paired with Dr. Mahfuza Ali, a 3M corporate scientist in the materials resource division and a recent Carlton Society inductee.

As part of the program, challenge finalists received a variety of prizes from 3M and Discovery Education. The grand prize winner received a $25,000 cash prize, the prestigious title of “America’s Top Young Scientist,” and a special destination trip. The second and third place winners each received a $1,000 prize and a special destination trip.

In third place, Laasya Acharya, a seventh-grader at Mason Middle School in Mason City School District from Mason, Ohio. The Indian American student utilized a neural network to detect crop diseases through image analysis. The fourth through tenth place winners each receive a $1,000 prize and a $500 excitations gift card.

Among them were Ekansh Mittal from Beaverton, Ore., an eighth-grader at Meadow Park Middle School in the Beaverton School District; Harsha Pillarisetti from San Ramon, Calif., an eighth-grader at Windemere Ranch Middle School in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District; Samhita Pokkunuri from Old Bridge, N.J., a seventh-grader at Carl Sandburg Middle School in the Old Bridge Township Public School District; and Samvrit Rao from Ashburn, Va., a seventh-grader at Stone Hill Middle School in the Loudoun County Public School District.

“Because of the immense severity of the Covid-19 pandemic and the drastic impact it had made on the world in such a short time, I, with the help of my mentor, changed directions to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.” The teen said she was inspired to find potential cures to viruses after learning about the 1918 flu pandemic and finding out how many people die every year in the United States despite annual vaccinations and anti-influenza drugs on the market. Anika said winning the prize and title of Top Young Scientist is an honor, but her work isn’t done.

Antiviral Drug Remdesivir Proves Ineffective In Treating Covid-19, WHO Study Finds

The antiviral drug remdesivir had little or no effect in treating patients hospitalized with Covid-19, according to a study that has not yet been peer reviewed, but was coordinated by the World Health Organization and released on Thursday, casting doubt on one of the few promising treatments for the coronavirus.

Key Facts

Deeming it “the world’s largest randomized control trial on Covid-19 therapeutics,” the six-month long study of four drugs—remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon—proved “unpromising.”

“The main outcomes of mortality, initiation of ventilation and hospitalization duration were not clearly reduced by any study drug,” the study reads.

Over 11,000 adults across 30 countries and 405 hospitals were studied to come to these results.

Regimens involving the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine have already been proven ineffective, but remdesivir appeared to be one of the few therapies to prove effective in combating Covid-19 symptoms.

The WHO’s results come just a week after a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found remdesivir shortened the time of recovery for adults hospitalized with Covid-19.

President Trump, who contracted Covid-19 and spent time at Walter Reed hospital upon suffering from symptoms, was administered remdesivir as part of his treatment.

Key Background

Remdesivir is the only specific drug with an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. A vaccine for Covid-19 isn’t expected for approval until the end of the year, and even then, it will take months before there’s enough widespread distribution. Several countries like France are experiencing record daily case numbers in October. The United States continues to be the hardest hit. Despite having 4% of the world’s population, the country owns nearly 21% of all cases with almost 8 million and 20% of global deaths with around 218,000.

NASA and Nokia are putting a 4G network on the moon

If you’re unable to get a cell phone signal when you walk your dog around the block, this will really make your blood boil: NASA is putting a 4G network on the moon.

To reach its 2028 goal to build a lunar base and eventually sustain a human presence on the moon, NASA awarded $370 million to over a dozen companies to deploy technology on the lunar surface. Those innovations include remote power generation, cryogenic freezing, robotics, safer landing … and 4G. Because how else will astronauts tweet their moon golf shots and lunar rover selfies?

NASA says 4G could provide more reliable, longer-distance communication than the current radio standards in place on the moon. Like on Earth, the 4G network will eventually be upgraded to 5G. Nokia’s (NOK) Bell Labs was granted $14.1 million for the project. Bell Labs, formerly operated by AT&T, will partner with spaceflight engineering company Intuitive Machines to build out the 4G-LTE network.

It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when work shoes were work shoes, sports shoes were sports shoes and leisure shoes were leisure shoes. Those lines were never crossed.

John Oliver jokes about CNN parent company AT&T (T) aside, 4G will probably work better on the moon than it does here — it won’t have any trees, buildings or TV signals to interfere with the 4G signal. The moon’s cellular network will also be specially designed to withstand the particularities of the lunar surface: extreme temperature, radiation and space’s vacuum. It will also stay functional during lunar landings and launches, even though rockets significantly vibrate the moon’s surface.

Bell Labs said astronauts will use its wireless network for data transmission, controlling of lunar rovers, real-time navigation over lunar geography (think Google Maps for the moon), and streaming of high-definition video. That could give us stuck on Earth a much better shot of astronauts bouncing around on the lunar surface: Buzz Aldrin was a great cameraman, but he didn’t have an iPhone.

The 4G network on Earth is supported by giant cell towers with enormous power generators and radios. But Bell Labs helped create small cell technology that’s more limited in range but uses far less power than traditional cell towers and is significantly easier to pack into a rocket ship. That small cell tech is currently being deployed for 5G networks across the world.

New England Journal of Medicine Says No To Reelecting Trump

Throughout its 208-year history, The New England Journal of Medicine has remained staunchly nonpartisan. The world’s most prestigious medical journal has never supported or condemned a political candidate. Until now.

In an editorial signed by 34 editors who are United States citizens (one editor is not) and published on Wednesday, the journal said the Trump administration had responded so poorly to the coronavirus pandemic that they “have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”

The journal did not explicitly endorse Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, but that was the only possible inference, other scientists noted.

The editor in chief, Dr. Eric Rubin, said the scathing editorial was one of only four in the journal’s history that were signed by all of the editors. The N.E.J.M.’s editors join those of another influential publication, Scientific American, who last month endorsed Mr. Biden, the former vice president.

The political leadership has failed Americans in many ways that contrast vividly with responses from leaders in other countries, the N.E.J.M. said.

In the United States, the journal said, there was too little testing for the virus, especially early on. There was too little protective equipment, and a lack of national leadership on important measures like mask wearing, social distancing, quarantine and isolation.

There were attempts to politicize and undermine the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the journal noted.

As a result, the United States has had tens of thousands of “excess” deaths — those caused both directly and indirectly by the pandemic — as well as immense economic pain and an increase in social inequality as the virus hit disadvantaged communities hardest.

The editorial castigated the Trump administration’s rejection of science, writing, “Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.”

President Trump mocked Mr. Biden’s mask wearing during the presidential debate on Sept. 29.Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The uncharacteristically pungent editorial called for change: “When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

Scientific American, too, had never before endorsed a political candidate. “The pandemic would strain any nation and system, but Trump’s rejection of evidence and public health measures have been catastrophic,” the journal’s editors said.

The N.E.J.M., like all medical journals these days, is deluged with papers on the coronavirus and the illness it causes, Covid-19. Editors have struggled to reconcile efforts to insist on quality with a constant barrage of misinformation and misleading statements from the administration, said Dr. Clifford Rosen, associate editor of the journal and an endocrinologist at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. “Our mission is to promote the best science and also to educate,” Dr. Rosen said. “We were seeing anti-science and poor leadership.”

Mounting public health failures and misinformation had eventually taken a toll, said Dr. Rubin, the editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine.

“It should be clear that we are not a political organization,” he said. “But pretty much every week in our editorial meeting there would be some new outrage.”

Arctic Ice Is Nearing Extinct

The German Research Vessel Polarstern has sailed back into its home port after completing a remarkable expedition to the Arctic Ocean. The ship spent a year in the polar north, much of it with its engines turned off so it could simply drift in the sea-ice.

The point was to study the Arctic climate and how it is changing. And expedition leader, Prof Markus Rex, returned with a warning. “The sea-ice is dying,” he said. “The region is at risk. We were able to witness how the ice disappears and in areas where there should have been ice that was many metres thick, and even at the North Pole – that ice was gone,” the Alfred Wegener Institute scientist told a media conference in Bremerhaven on Monday.

RV Polarstern was on station to document this summer’s floes shrink to their second lowest ever extent in the modern era.  The floating ice withdrew to just under 3.74 million sq km (1.44 million sq miles). The only time this minimum has been beaten in the age of satellites was 2012, when the pack ice was reduced to 3.41 million sq km.

The downward trend is about 13% per decade, averaged across the month of September. “This reflects the warming of the Arctic,” said Prof Rex. “The ice is disappearing and if in a few decades we have an ice-free Arctic – this will have a major impact on the climate around the world.”

The €130m (£120m/$150m) cruise set off from Tromsø, Norway, on 20 September last year. The project was named the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC).

The idea was to recreate the historic voyage of Norwegian polar researcher Fridtjof Nansen, who undertook the first ice drift through the Arctic Ocean more than 125 years ago.

RV Polarstern embedded itself in the ice on the Siberian side of the Arctic basin with the intention of floating across the top of the world and emerging from the floes just east of Greenland.

In the course of this drift, hundreds of researchers came aboard to study the region’s environment.  They deployed a battery of instruments to try to understand precisely how the ocean and atmosphere are responding to the warming forced on the Arctic by the global increase in greenhouse gases.

Coronavirus only briefly interrupted the expedition – not by making participants ill, but by obliging the ship at one point to leave the floes to go pick up its next rotation of scientists. Other ships and planes were supposed to deliver the participants direct to RV Polarstern, but international movement restrictions made this extremely challenging in the early-to-middle part of this year.

Despite the hiatus, Prof Rex declared the MOSAiC project a huge success. The mass of data and samples now in the possession of researchers would make the modelling they use to project future climate change much more robust, he explained.

It was as if the MOSAiC scientists had been shown the inner workings of an intricate clock, he said. “We looked at all the different elements, down to the different screws of this Arctic system. And now we understand the entire clockwork better than ever before. And maybe we can rebuild this Arctic system on a computer model,” he told reporters. (Source: By Jonathan Amos BBC Science Correspondent)

Best Indian Diet Plan for Weight Loss

Are you looking for the best Indian diet plan to lose weight? The rules are simple. All you need to do is start eating right. But in India, this can feel like an insurmountable challenge, given our food culture and dietary habits. For instance, a typical Indian meal is high in carbohydrates and sugar – we eat a lot of potatoes, rice and sweets. We also love our snacks and can’t imagine a day without our fix of namkeens and bhujias. We pressurize our friends and family into eating too much, as a sign of hospitality and affection, and consider refusing an extra helping a rebuff. To top it all, we’ve never embraced physical exercise as essential. It’s no wonder that India is battling a growing obesity problem.

But the answer doesn’t lie in shunning Indian food in favour of foreign ingredients or fad diets. You’ll find that the best Indian diet plan consists of foods you’ve already got in your kitchen and that you can lose weight by making a few changes to your diet.

Understand the Science Behind Weight Loss

Weight loss and gain, revolve around caloric consumption and expenditure. You lose weight when you consume fewer calories than you expend. Conversely, you gain weight when you consume more calories than you expend. To drop those excess kilos, all you need to do is eat within your calorie budget and burn the required number of calories. A combination of the two works best suggest experts. Get your daily requirement of calorie consumption and burn based on your lifestyle and dietary preferences, by signing up on HealthifyMe.

However, simply determining how many calories your body needs isn’t enough. After all, four samosas (600 calories), two slices of pizza (500 calories) and two gulab jamuns (385 calories) may be within your daily requirement of 1500 calories, but these unhealthy food choices will eventually lead to other health problems like high cholesterol and blood sugar. To lose weight the healthy way, you also need to ensure your diet is balanced i.e. it covers all food groups and provides all the nutrients you need necessary for good health.

The Best Indian Diet Plan for Weight Loss

No single food provides all the calories and nutrients the body needs to stay healthy. That’s why a balanced diet comprising of macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein and fat along with micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, is recommended.

The best Indian diet for weight loss is a combination of the five major food groups – fruits and vegetables, cereals and pulses, meat and dairy products, and fats and oils. Knowing how to divvy up the food groups, allocate portion sizes, and the best/ideal time to eat is also important.

1200 Calorie Diet Plan

A lot can be spoken about what goes into an ideal diet chart. However, one’s nutritional requirement varies based on various factors. It could change depending on gender, for example, male dietary requirements vary from that of a female. Geography can play a role as well, with North Indian diets being largely different from South Indian ones. Meal preferences come into play since the consumption of food by a vegetarian or a vegan differing largely from that by a non-vegetarian.

However, we have put together a diet plan for weight loss with Indian food. This 7 day diet plan, 1200 calorie diet plan is a sample, and should not be followed by any individual without consulting with a nutritionist.

Day 1:

  • After starting your day with cucumber water, have oats porridge and mixed nuts for breakfast.
  • Have a roti with dal and gajar matar sabzi for lunch.
  • Follow that up with dal and lauki sabzi to go with a roti for dinner.

Day 1

Diet Chart

6:30 AM

Cucumber Detox Water(1 glass)

8:00 AM

Oats Porridge in Skimmed Milk(1 bowl)

Mixed Nuts(25 grams)

12:00 PM

Skimmed Milk Paneer(100 grams)

2:00 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

2:10 PM

Dal(1 katori)Gajar Matar Sabzi(1 katori)

Roti (1 roti/chapati)

4:00 PM

Cut Fruits(1 cup)Buttermilk(1 glass)

5:30 PM

Tea with Less Sugar and Milk(1 teacup)

8:50 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

9:00 PM

Dal(1 katori)Lauki Sabzi(1 katori)

Roti (1 roti/chapati)

Day 2:

  • On the second day, eat a mixed vegetable stuffed roti with curd for breakfast.
  • For lunch, have half a katori of methi rice along with lentil curry.
  • End your day with sauteed vegetables and green chutney.

Day 2

Diet Chart

6:30 AM

Cucumber Detox Water(1 glass)

8:00 AM

Curd(1.5 katori)Mixed Vegetable Stuffed Roti(2 piece)

12:00 PM

Skimmed Milk Paneer(100 grams)

2:00 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

2:10 PM

Lentil Curry(0.75 bowl)Methi Rice(0.5 katori)

4:00 PM

Apple(0.5 small (2-3/4″ dia))Buttermilk(1 glass)

5:30 PM

Coffee with Milk and Less Sugar(0.5 tea cup)

8:50 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

9:00 PM

Sauteed Vegetables with Paneer(1 katori)Roti (1 roti/chapati)

Green Chutney(2 tablespoon)

Day 3:

  • Breakfast on day 3 would include Multigrain Toast and Skim Milk Yogurt.
  • In the afternoon, have sauteed vegetables with paneer and some green chutney.
  • Half a katori of methi rice and some lentil curry to make sure you end the day on a healthy note.

Day 3

Diet Chart

6:30 AM

Cucumber Detox Water(1 glass)

8:00 AM

Skim Milk Yoghurt(1 cup (8 fl oz))Multigrain Toast(2 toast)

12:00 PM

Skimmed Milk Paneer(100 grams)

2:00 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

2:10 PM

Sauteed Vegetables with Paneer(1 katori)Roti (1 roti/chapati)

Green Chutney(2 tablespoon)

4:00 PM

Banana(0.5 small (6″ to 6-7/8″ long))Buttermilk(1 glass)

5:30 PM

Tea with Less Sugar and Milk(1 teacup)

8:50 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

9:00 PM

Lentil Curry(0.75 bowl)Methi Rice(0.5 katori)

Day 4:

  • Start Day 4 with a Fruit and Nuts Yogurt Smoothie and Egg Omelette
  • Follow that up with Moong Dal, Bhindi Sabzi, and roti.
  • Complete the day’s food intake with steamed rice and palak chole.

Day 4

Diet Chart

6:30 AM

Cucumber Detox Water(1 glass)

8:00 AM

Fruit and Nuts Yogurt Smoothie(0.75 glass)

Egg Omelette(1 serve(one egg))

12:00 PM

Skimmed Milk Paneer(100 grams)

2:00 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

2:10 PM

Green Gram Whole Dal Cooked(1 katori)Bhindi sabzi(1 katori)

Roti (1 roti/chapati)

4:00 PM

Orange(1 fruit (2-5/8″ dia))Buttermilk(1 glass)

5:30 PM

Coffee with Milk and Less Sugar(0.5 tea cup)

8:50 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

9:00 PM

Palak Chole(1 bowl)Steamed Rice(0.5 katori)

Day 5:

  • Have a glass of skimmed milk and peas poha for breakfast on the fifth day.
  • Eat a missi roti with low fat paneer curry in the afternoon.
  • End the day with roti, curd and aloo baingan tamatar ki sabzi.

Day 5

Diet Chart

6:30 AM

Cucumber Detox Water(1 glass)

8:00 AM

Skimmed Milk(1 glass)Peas Poha(1.5 katori)

12:00 PM

Skimmed Milk Paneer(100 grams)

2:00 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

2:10 PM

Low Fat Paneer Curry(1.5 katori)Missi Roti(1 roti)

4:00 PM

Papaya(1 cup 1″ pieces)Buttermilk(1 glass)

5:30 PM

Tea with Less Sugar and Milk(1 teacup)

8:50 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

9:00 PM

Curd(1.5 katori)Aloo Baingan Tamatar Ki Sabzi(1 katori)

Roti (1 roti/chapati)

Day 6:

  • On Day 6, have idli with sambar for breakfast
  • For lunch, roti with curd and aloo baingan tamatar ki sabzi
  • To end Day 6, eat green gram with roti and bhindi sabzi

Day 6

Diet Chart

6:30 AM

Cucumber Detox Water(1 glass)

8:00 AM

Mixed Sambar(1 bowl)Idli(2 idli)

12:00 PM

Skimmed Milk Paneer(100 grams)

2:00 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

2:10 PM

Curd(1.5 katori)Aloo Baingan Tamatar Ki Sabzi(1 katori)

Roti (1 roti/chapati)

4:00 PM

Cut Fruits(1 cup)Buttermilk(1 glass)

5:30 PM

Coffee with Milk and Less Sugar(0.5 tea cup)

8:50 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

9:00 PM

Green Gram Whole Dal Cooked(1 katori)Bhindi sabzi(1 katori)

Roti (1 roti/chapati)

Day 7:

  • On the seventh day, start with besan chilla and green garlic chutney.
  • Have steamed rice and palak chole for lunch.
  • End the week on a healthy note with low fat paneer curry and missi roti.

Day 7

Diet Chart

6:30 AM

Cucumber Detox Water(1 glass)

8:00 AM

Besan Chilla(2 cheela)Green Garlic Chutney(3 tablespoon)

12:00 PM

Skimmed Milk Paneer(100 grams)

2:00 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

2:10 PM

Palak Chole(1 bowl)Steamed Rice(0.5 katori)

4:00 PM

Apple(0.5 small (2-3/4″ dia))Buttermilk(1 glass)

5:30 PM

Tea with Less Sugar and Milk(1 teacup)

8:50 PM

Mixed Vegetable Salad(1 katori)

9:00 PM

Low Fat Paneer Curry(1 katori)Missi Roti(1 roti)

Balanced Diet Chart

While creating a diet chart, it is important to make sure it is balanced, in order to ensure that you receive all the required nutrients. Include the following nutrients in your diet plan:

1. Carbohydrates

Carbs are the body’s main source of energy and should make up half of your daily calorie requirement. However, it’s important to choose the right type of carbs. Simple carbs, such as bread, biscuit, white rice and wheat flour, contain too much sugar and are bad for you. Instead, opt for complex carbs that are high in fiber and packed with nutrients as compared to simple carbs. Fiber-rich complex carbs are slow to digest, leave you feeling full for longer, and are therefore the best option for weight control. Brown rice, millets such as ragi and oats are all good complex carb choices.


2. Proteins

Most Indians fail to meet their daily protein requirement. This is troublesome, as proteins are essential to help paper writer the body build and repair tissue, muscles, cartilage and skin, as well as pump blood. A high protein diet can also help you lose weight, as it helps build muscle – which burns more calories than fat.

About 30% of your diet should consist of protein in the form of whole dals, paneer, chana, milk, leafy greens, eggs, white meat or sprouts. Having one helping of protein with every meal is essential.

3. Fats

A food group that has acquired a bad reputation, fats are essential for the body as they synthesize hormones, store vitamins and provide energy. Experts suggest one-fifth or 20% of your diet comprise of healthy fats – polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and Omega-3 fatty acids. Using a combination of oils for different meals – including olive oil, rice bran oil, mustard oil, soya bean, sesame, sunflower and groundnut oil – along with restricted quantities of butter and ghee is the most optimal way to consume fats. Avoid trans fats – that are found in fried snacks, completely.

4. Vitamins and minerals

Vitamin A, E, B12, D, calcium and iron are essential for the body as they support metabolism, nerve and muscle function, bone maintenance, and cell production. Primarily derived from plants, meat and fish, minerals can be found in nuts, oilseeds, fruits and green leafy vegetables. Experts recommend consuming 100 grams of greens and 100 grams of fruits everyday.

5. Meal Swaps

One of the easiest ways to eat healthy is to swap out the unhealthy foods in your diet with healthier alternatives. For example, fulfil your cravings for a snack to munch on with air popped popcorn instead of relying on potato chips. Check out a few healthy meal swaps that you could try going forward:

Along with a balanced diet plan, these habits will help you stay healthy

  • Opt for 5-6 meals a day: Instead of three large meals, try having three modest meals and a few snack breaks through the day in controlled portions. Spacing your meals across regular intervals prevents acidity and bloating, and also keeps hunger pangs at bay. Quit your junk food habit by making healthier snack choices.
  • Have an early dinner: Indians eat dinner later than the other societies across the world. Metabolism slows down at night, so a late dinner can lead to weight gain. Experts recommend you eat your last meal of the day by 8 pm.
  • Drink a lot of water: How does drinking more water help you lose weight? For starters, it’s zero calories. Also, drinking a glass of water can help curb hunger pangs. Have six to eight glasses of water daily to lose weight. You can also find a list of drinks that will help you lose weight here.
  • Eat a lot of fiber: A person needs at least 15 gm of fiber every day, as it aids digestion and heart health. Oats, lentils, flax seeds, apples and broccoli are some great sources of fiber.

You don’t have to ditch your regular food habits or make massive changes to your diet, you just need the best balanced Indian diet plan to get fit!

(source: https://www.healthifyme.com/blog/best-indian-diet-plan-weight-loss/?fbclid=IwAR2Yy8i6yP7ancgpkgIiW1u3kj6Tw_P42lsAanPoxgHhsjueChH9t_o5vgQ)


Is There Life On Venus

An international team of astronomers, led by Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, today announced the discovery of a rare molecule – phosphine – in the clouds of Venus. On Earth, this gas is only made industrially, or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments.

Astronomers have speculated for decades that high clouds on Venus could offer a home for microbes – floating free of the scorching surface, but still needing to tolerate very high acidity. The detection of phosphine molecules, which consist of hydrogen and phosphorus, could point to this extra-terrestrial ‘aerial’ life. The new discovery is described in a paper in Nature Astronomy.

The team first used the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii to detect the phosphine, and were then awarded time to follow up their discovery with 45 telescopes of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. Both facilities observed Venus at a wavelength of about 1 millimetre, much longer than the human eye can see – only telescopes at high altitude can detect this wavelength effectively.

Professor Greaves says, “This was an experiment made out of pure curiosity, really – taking advantage of JCMT’s powerful technology, and thinking about future instruments. I thought we’d just be able to rule out extreme scenarios, like the clouds being stuffed full of organisms. When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus’ spectrum, it was a shock!”

Naturally cautious about the initial findings, Greaves and her team were delighted to get three hours of time with the more sensitive ALMA observatory. Bad weather added a frustrating delay, but after six months of data processing, the discovery was confirmed.

Team member Dr Anita Richards, of the UK ALMA Regional Centre and the University of Manchester, adds: “To our great relief, the conditions were good at ALMA for follow-up observations while Venus was at a suitable angle to Earth. Processing the data was tricky, though, as ALMA isn’t usually looking for very subtle effects in very bright objects like Venus.”

Greaves adds: “In the end, we found that both observatories had seen the same thing – faint absorption at the right wavelength to be phosphine gas, where the molecules are backlit by the warmer clouds below.”

Professor Hideo Sagawa of Kyoto Sangyo University then used his models for the Venusian atmosphere to interpret the data, finding that phosphine is present but scarce – only about twenty molecules in every billion.

The astronomers then ran calculations to see if the phosphine could come from natural processes on Venus. They caution that some information is lacking – in fact, the only other study of phosphorus on Venus came from one lander experiment, carried by the Soviet Vega 2 mission in 1985.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Dr William Bains led the work on assessing natural ways to make phosphine. Some ideas included sunlight, minerals blown upwards from the surface, volcanoes, or lightning, but none of these could make anywhere near enough of it. Natural sources were found to make at most one ten thousandth of the amount of phosphine that the telescopes saw.

To create the observed quantity of phosphine on Venus, terrestrial organisms would only need to work at about 10% of their maximum productivity, according to calculations by Dr Paul Rimmer of Cambridge University. Any microbes on Venus will likely be very different to their Earth cousins though, to survive in hyper-acidic conditions.

Earth bacteria can absorb phosphate minerals, add hydrogen, and ultimately expel phosphine gas. It costs them energy to do this, so why they do it is not clear. The phosphine could be just a waste product, but other scientists have suggested purposes like warding off rival bacteria.

Another MIT team-member, Dr Clara Sousa Silva, was also thinking about searching for phosphine as a ‘biosignature’ gas of non-oxygen-using life on planets around other stars, because normal chemistry makes so little of it.

She comments: “Finding phosphine on Venus was an unexpected bonus! The discovery raises many questions, such as how any organisms could survive. On Earth, some microbes can cope with up to about 5% of acid in their environment – but the clouds of Venus are almost entirely made of acid.”

Other possible biosignatures in the Solar System may exist, like methane on Mars and water venting from the icy moons Europa and Enceladus. On Venus, it has been suggested that dark streaks where ultraviolet light is absorbed could come from colonies of microbes. The Akatsuki spacecraft, launched by the Japanese space agency JAXA, is currently mapping these dark streaks to understand more about this “unknown ultraviolet absorber”.

The team believes their discovery is significant because they can rule out many alternative ways to make phosphine, but they acknowledge that confirming the presence of “life” needs a lot more work. Although the high clouds of Venus have temperatures up to a pleasant 30 degrees centigrade, they are incredibly acidic – around 90% sulphuric acid – posing major issues for microbes to survive there. Professor Sara Seager and Dr Janusz Petkowski, also both at MIT, are investigating how microbes could shield themselves inside droplets.

The team are now eagerly awaiting more telescope time, for example to establish whether the phosphine is in a relatively temperate part of the clouds, and to look for other gases associated with life. New space missions could also travel to our neighbouring planet, and sample the clouds in situ to further search for signs of life.

Professor Emma Bunce, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, congratulated the team on their work:

“A key question in science is whether life exists beyond Earth, and the discovery by Professor Jane Greaves and her team is a key step forward in that quest. I’m particularly delighted to see UK scientists leading such an important breakthrough – something that makes a strong case for a return space mission to Venus.”

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “Venus has for decades captured the imagination of scientists and astronomers across the world. This discovery is immensely exciting, helping us increase our understanding of the universe and even whether there could be life on Venus. I am incredibly proud that this fascinating detection was led by some of the UK’s leading scientists and engineers using state of the art facilities built on our own soil.”


Practice Does Not Necessarily Make Perfect When It Comes to Creativity

 If you’re a relentlessly upbeat thinker, you may be enamored of the 10,000-hour rule, which holds that if you simply practice something regularly for a long enough time, you’ll eventually achieve mastery.

For a marketing professional who’s striving to be more creative, for example, this might translate into sitting down with a notepad and pen every morning and spending a few minutes jotting down as many ideas for new product names as you can. You might come up with a few Edsels at first, but once you get the hang of it, pretty soon you’ll be wowing your colleagues with the next iMac, Frappuccino, or Uber, right?Well, sorry to burst your thought bubble here, but no. According to recent research by Stanford Graduate School of Business alumna Melanie S. Brucks and associate professor of marketing Szu-chi Huang, regular brainstorming sessions are not likely to lead to an increase in unique ideas. In fact, the average novelty of your output — that is, the degree to which your inspirations depart from convention — actually might decrease over time.

“It was surprising,” says Brucks, who earned her PhD in marketing at Stanford in 2019 and now is an assistant professor of marketing at Columbia University. “People got worse at one type of idea generation, even as they thought they were getting better at it.”

Huang, who studies motivation, also admits she was taken aback by the results, which are detailed in an article, “Does Practice Make Perfect? The Contrasting Effects of Repeated Practice on Creativity,” recently published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. “In my field, practice is always good. It’s always about practice — do it every day and you will learn and improve your skills, or at least build good habits. But it turns out that to get better at creativity, you need to do some creative thinking about creative thinking.”

Lead author Brucks says she initially was drawn to the subject as a graduate student, because she wanted to come up with better ideas herself. “There’s a ton of research out there that shows how practice seems to help with everything if you want to improve performance,” she explains. “I thought, ‘Well, OK, I can just practice creativity, and I’ll get good at it.’”

A Research Gap

As Brucks delved into the scientific literature on creativity, however, she discovered an intriguing gap in the research. While there was plenty of work on one-shot interventions — such as using visualization techniques during idea-generating sessions, for example — there was almost no research into the question of whether repetition over time would lead to increased output of conceptual breakthroughs.

To complicate things more, creative cognition actually has two components. Divergent thinking, the sort that is utilized in idea-generating sessions, involves branching off from what a person knows and coming up with new ideas. In contrast, convergent thinking requires finding linkage between different existing concepts or ideas and connecting them to context.Often, to come up with a viable concept, “you need them both,” Brucks explains. “They’re both really important, but also very different.”

Becoming better at divergent thinking is a particular challenge, because of the way the brain works. With most skills, practice tends to produce improvement by reinforcing certain cognitive pathways in the brain, making them more accessible, Brucks explains. At the same time, it de-emphasizes other pathways, cutting them off in order to allocate an optimal amount of cognitive resources to the prioritized task. But by training the brain to become more efficient and focused, that repetition also “gives you a less flexible brain,” Brucks notes.

But inflexibility goes against the nature of creativity, which continually requires the intellect to bend and stretch into new positions. To test how practice would affect idea generation over time, and what factors might affect productivity, Brucks and Huang constructed a two-part investigation.

How the Experiments Worked

In the first study, a group of 413 subjects were recruited from an online pool and then randomly assigned to practice either divergent or convergent creativity tasks for 12 consecutive days. Those who practiced divergent thinking had to spend a few minutes each day thinking of new product names. The subjects assigned to convergent practice were asked to perform a Remote Associates Test, in which they had to identify a common link between three different words. (For example, “cold” could forge a connection among the words “shoulder,” “sweat,” and “sore.”)

All of the participants had to complete their tasks between 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. After the study, they took a survey in which they reported their perception of how well they had performed.

To practice creativity effectively, we have to change how we define practice. The structure needs to be more dynamic. Over the 12 days, the subjects working on divergent thinking generated about 15,000 ideas total, of which about two thirds were unique — an average of 5.71 unique ideas per person, per session. The convergent thinkers solved roughly the same amount (5.69) of RAT word problems. But there was a difference. Over the course of the study, the divergent thinkers barely increased the number of unique ideas that they produced, while the convergent thinkers had a markedly higher boost in productivity as they got better at the task.

Besides just counting the quantity of unique ideas, Brucks and Huang also gave the ideas to a panel of judges to evaluate their novelty — basically, ideas that were clever and memorable. “For example, if I’m trying to come up with names for a podcast app, I can come up with hundreds of ideas that are unique, but not very novel,” Brucks explains. “I might call it Podcast Organizer, or some variation of that. All those ideas could be unique, but they’re derivative.”

In contrast, playful names such as Earworm or Peas in a Pod would be more novel. Novel ideas “come from a different perspective and depart from the most obvious,” she says. “Usually it comes from having random ideas and then incorporating them. You’re hungry, for example, so you think ‘peas in a pod.’”When it came to novelty, the subjects practicing divergent thinking actually got worse rather than better. On average, they actually dreamed up ideas that were significantly less novel on the last day of the research than they did on the first.

We’re Brightest in the Morning In the second phase of the research, Brucks and Huang took 507 subjects and assigned them to practice the same divergent product name-generating exercise in different time blocks over a 14-day period. One group worked between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., while another got 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and a third “flexible” group could pick whatever time they wanted between 6:00 a.m. and midnight. At the start, the subjects were asked to predict how well they would do, and after each session they had to record how difficult it had been to generate new names.

One of the researchers’ key findings was that practice increasingly hindered divergent thinking as the day progressed. As it turns out, “people are prone to habitual thinking late in the day,” Brucks explains. “They’re even less likely to diverge from already well-traveled cognitive pathways.” And contrary to the stereotype of creative geniuses staying up late, people who did their brainstorming at 11 p.m. had the worst productivity over time.

Oddly, the researchers discovered that subjects thought the idea-generating process got easier the more they practiced — even though they actually were producing fewer good ideas.But would-be marketing geniuses need not despair. As Huang notes, the results of the study don’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible to improve creative output through practice; they just suggest that people have been going about it too simplistically.

“To practice creativity effectively, we have to change how we define practice,” Huang says. Rather than focus on routinizing the creative process, it might be more useful to deliberately disrupt routines. A team leader might vary the times that brainstorming sessions are held, for example, and change up the types of exercises employed.

“The structure needs to be more dynamic,” Huang explains. Technique-wise, business brainstorming might well evolve into something closer to the improvisational exercises that acting students perform to get out of their comfort zone and unleash their creative instincts. Brucks notes that in previous research, imposing constraints upon idea generation — requiring subjects to come up with product names that have numbers in them, for example — has been shown to keep the novel concepts coming.

“You want to do something that prevents you from rehearsing the same thing over and over again,” she says. That way, people in search of inspiration “reinforce not going down the obvious path.”

 https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/practice-does-not-necessarily-make-perfect-when-it-comes-creativity coauthored by Stanford GSB Associate Professor Szu-chi Huang and PhD alum Melanie Brucks, now assistant professor of marketing at Columbia University 

Let Your Brain Rest: Boredom Can Be Good For Your Health

The human brain is a powerful tool. Always on, the brain is thinking and dealing with decisions and stressors and subconscious activities. But as much as the human brain function has a large capacity, it also has limits. Alicia Walf, a neuroscientist and a senior lecturer in the Department of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, says it is critical for brain health to let yourself be bored from time to time.
Being bored can help improve social connections. When we are not busy with other thoughts and activities, we focus inward as well as looking to reconnect with friends and family. 
Being bored can help foster creativity. The eureka moment when solving a complex problem when one stops thinking about it is called insight.
Additionally, being bored can improve overall brain health.  During exciting times, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine which is associated with feeling good.  When the brain has fallen into a predictable, monotonous pattern, many people feel bored, even depressed. This might be because we have lower levels of dopamine.  One approach is to retrain the brain to actually enjoy these less exciting, and perhaps boring, times.
Walf’s research has long focused on neuroplasticity as it relates to behavior/cognition and health of body and brain. She studies the brain mechanisms of stress and reproductive hormones as they relate to behavior and cognition, brain plasticity, and brain health over the lifespan.  Specific areas of Walf’s expertise are memory, emotions, and social interactions and how these functions not only arise from the brain but change the brain itself.

Developing Common Sense Robots

A research team from Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook AI Research, which included CMU Machine Learning Department doctoral student Devendra S. Chaplot, has developed a common-sense robot.

A robot travelling from point A to point B is more efficient if it understands that point A is the living room couch and point B is a refrigerator, even if it’s in an unfamiliar place, the CMU report said.That navigation system, called SemExp, in June won the Habitat ObjectNav Challenge during the virtual Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference, edging out a team from Samsung Research China, CMU said. It was the second consecutive first-place finish for the CMU team in the annual challenge, it said.

SemExp, or Goal-Oriented Semantic Exploration, uses machine learning to train a robot to recognize objects — knowing the difference between a kitchen table and an end table, for instance — and to understand where in a home such objects are likely to be found, the CMU report said.This enables the system to think strategically about how to search for something, said Chaplot in the report. “Common sense says that if you’re looking for a refrigerator, you’d better go to the kitchen,” the Indian American researcher said.

Classical robotic navigation systems, by contrast, explore a space by building a map showing obstacles. The robot eventually gets to where it needs to go, but the route can be circuitous, CMU said.Previous attempts to use machine learning to train semantic navigation systems have been hampered because they tend to memorize objects and their locations in specific environments, according to the report. Not only are these environments complex, but the system often has difficulty generalizing what it has learned to different environments, it said.

Chaplot — working with FAIR’s Dhiraj Gandhi, along with Abhinav Gupta, associate professor in the Robotics Institute; and Ruslan Salakhutdinov, professor in the Machine Learning Department — sidestepped that problem by making SemExp a modular system, according to the CMU report.The system uses its semantic insights to determine the best places to look for a specific object, Chaplot said. “Once you decide where to go, you can just use classical planning to get you there.” 

Galactic Bar Paradox Resolved in Cosmic Dance

New light has been shed on a mysterious and long-standing conundrum at the very heart of our galaxy. The new work offers a potential solution to the so-called ‘Galactic bar paradox’, whereby different observations produce contradictory estimates of the motion of the central regions of the Milky Way. The results are published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The majority of spiral galaxies, like our home the Milky Way, host a large bar-like structure of stars in their centre. Knowledge of the true bar size and rotational speed is crucial for understanding how galaxies form and evolve, as well as how they form similar bars throughout the Universe.

However our galaxy’s bar size and rotational speed have been strongly contested in the last 5 years; while studies of the motions of stars near the Sun find a bar that is both fast and small, direct observations of the Galactic central region agree on one that is significantly slower and larger.

The new study, by an international team of scientists led by Tariq Hilmi of the University of Surrey and Ivan Minchev of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), suggests an insightful solution to this discrepancy. Analysing state-of-the-art galaxy formation simulations of the Milky Way, they show that both the bar’s size and its rotational speed fluctuate rapidly in time, causing the bar to appear up to twice as long and rotate 20 percent faster at certain times.

The bar pulsations result from its regular encounters with the Galactic spiral arms, in what can be described as a “cosmic dance”. As the bar and spiral arm approach each other, their mutual attraction due to gravity makes the bar slow down and the spiral speed up. Once connected, the two structures move as one and the bar appears much longer and slower than it actually is. As the dancers split apart, the bar speeds up while the spiral slows back down.

“The controversy about the Galactic bar can then be simply resolved if we happen to be living at a time when the bar and spiral are connected, giving the illusion of a large and slow bar,” comments Dr Minchev. “However the motion of the stars near the Sun remains governed by the bar’s true, much smaller nature, and so those observations appear contradictory.” Recent observations have confirmed that the inner Milky Way spiral arm is currently connected to the bar, which happens about once every 80 million years according to the simulations. Data from the forthcoming 3rd data release of the Gaia mission will be able to test this model further, and future missions will discover if the dance goes on in other galaxies across the Universe.

The Intersection of Science and Religion

Over the centuries, the relationship between science and religion has ranged from conflict and hostility to harmony and collaboration, while various thinkers have argued that the two concepts are inherently at odds and entirely separate.

But much recent research and discussion on these issues has taken place in a Western context, primarily through a Christian lens. To better understand the ways in which science relates to religion around the world, Pew Research Center engaged a small group of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists to talk about their perspectives. These one-on-one, in-depth interviews took place in Malaysia and Singapore – two Southeast Asian nations that have made sizable investments in scientific research and development in recent years and that are home to religiously diverse populations.

The discussions reinforced the conclusion that there is no single, universally held view of the relationship between science and religion, but they also identified some common patterns and themes within each of the three religious groups. For example, many Muslims expressed the view that Islam and science are basically compatible, while, at the same time, acknowledging some areas of friction – such as the theory of evolution conflicting with religious beliefs about the origins and development of human life on Earth. Evolution also has been a point of discord between religion and science in the West.

Hindu interviewees generally took a different tack, describing science and religion as overlapping spheres. As was the case with Muslim interviewees, many Hindus maintained that their religion contains elements of science, and that Hinduism long ago identified concepts that were later illuminated by science – mentioning, for example, the antimicrobial properties of copper or the health benefits of turmeric. In contrast with Muslims, many Hindus said the theory of evolution is encompassed in their religious teachings.

Buddhist interviewees generally described religion and science as two separate and unrelated spheres. Several of the Buddhists talked about their religion as offering guidance on how to live a moral life, while describing science as observable phenomena. Often, they could not name any areas of scientific research that concerned them for religious reasons. Nor did Buddhist interviewees see the theory of evolution as a point of conflict with their religion. Some said they didn’t think their religion addressed the origins of life on Earth.

Some members of all three religious groups, however, did express religious concerns when asked to consider specific kinds of biotechnology research, such as gene editing to change a baby’s genetic characteristics and efforts to clone animals. For example, Muslim interviewees said cloning would tamper with the power of God, and God should be the only one to create living things. When Hindus and Buddhists discussed gene editing and cloning, some, though not all, voiced concern that these scientific developments might interfere with karma or reincarnation.

But religion was not always the foremost topic that came to mind when people thought about science. In response to questions about government investment in scientific research, interviewees generally spoke of the role of scientific achievements in national prestige and economic development; religious differences faded into the background.

These are some of the key findings from a qualitative analysis of 72 individual interviews with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists conducted in Malaysia and Singapore between June 17 and Aug. 8, 2019.The study included 24 people in each of three religious groups (Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists), with an equal number in each country. All interviewees said their religion was “very” or “somewhat” important to their lives, but they otherwise varied in terms of age, gender, profession and education level.

A majority of Malaysians are Muslim, and the country has experienced natural migration patterns over the years. As a result, Buddhist interviewees in Malaysia were typically of Chinese descent, Hindus were of Indian descent and Muslim interviewees were Malay. Singapore is known for its religious diversity; a 2014 Pew Research Center analysis found the city-state to have the highest level of religious diversity in the world.

Insights from these qualitative interviews are inherently limited in that they are based on small convenience samples of individuals and are not representative of religious groups either in their country or globally. Instead, in-depth interviews provide insight into how individuals describe their beliefs, in their own words, and the connections they see (or don’t see) with science. To help guard against putting too much weight on any single individual’s comments, all interviews were coded into themes, following a systematic procedure. Where possible throughout the rest of this report, these findings are shown in comparison with quantitative surveys conducted with representative samples of adults in global publics to help address questions about the extent to which certain viewpoints are widely held among members of each religious group. This also shows how Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists as well as Christians around the world compare with each other.

One of the most striking takeaways from interviews conducted with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists stems from the different ways that people in each group described their perspectives on the relationship between science and religion. The Muslims interviewed tended to speak of an overlap between their religion and science, and some raised areas of tension between the two. Hindu interviewees, by and large, described science and religion as overlapping but compatible spheres. By contrast, Buddhist interviewees described science and religion as parallel concepts, with no particular touchpoints between the two.A similar pattern emerged when interviewees were asked about possible topics that should be off limits to scientific research for religious reasons. Many Muslim interviewees readily named research areas that concerned them, such as studies using non-halal substances or some applications of assisted reproductive technology (for example, in vitro fertilization using genetic material from someone other than a married couple). By contrast, the Hindus and Buddhists in the study did not regularly name any research topics that they felt should be off limits to scientists.

The predominant view among Hindus interviewed in Malaysia and Singapore is that science and Hinduism are related and compatible. Many of the Hindu interviewees offered – without prompting– the assertion that their religion contains many ancient insights that have been upheld by modern science. For instance, multiple interviewees described the use of turmeric in cleansing solutions, or the use of copper in drinking mugs. They said Hindus have known for thousands of years that these materials provide health benefits, but that scientists have only confirmed relatively recently that it’s because turmeric and copper have antimicrobial properties. “When you question certain rituals or rites in Hinduism, there’s also a relatively scientific explanation to it,” said a Hindu woman (age 29, Singapore).

While many of the Hindu interviewees said science and religion overlap, others described the two as separate realms. “Religion doesn’t really govern science, and it shouldn’t. Science should just be science. … Today, the researchers, even if they are religious, the research is your duty. The duty and religion are different,” said one Hindu man (age 42, Singapore).

Asked to think about areas of scientific research that might raise concerns or that should not be pursued for religious reasons, Hindu interviewees generally came up blank, saying they couldn’t think of any such areas. A few mentioned areas of research that concerned them, but no topic area came up consistently.

Buddhist interviewees described science and religion in distinctly different ways than either Muslims or Hindus. For the most part, Buddhists said that science and religion are two unrelated domains. Some have long held that Buddhism and its practice are aligned with the empirically driven observations in the scientific method; connections between Buddhism and science have been bolstered by neuroscience research into the effects of Buddhist meditation at the core of the mindfulness movement.

Pew Research Center survey of Muslims worldwide conducted in 2011 and 2012 found a 22-public median of 53% said they believed humans and other living things evolved over time. However, levels of acceptance of evolution varied by region and country, with Muslims in South and Southeast Asian countries reporting lower levels of belief in evolution by this measure than Muslims in other regions.In discussing scientific research using gene editing, cloning and reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist interviewees raised the idea that such practices may go against the natural order or interfere with nature. As one Buddhist man simply put it: “If you have anything that interferes with the law of nature, you will have conflict. If you leave nature alone, you will have no conflict” (age 64, Singapore). Similarly, a Muslim woman said “anything that disrupts or changes the natural state” goes against religious beliefs (age 20, Singapore). In a U.S.-based Pew Research Center survey, a majority of Christians (55%) said that science and religion are “often in conflict” when thinking in general terms about religion. When thinking about their own religious beliefs, however, fewer Christians (35%) said their personal religious beliefs sometimes conflict with science; a majority of U.S. Christians (63%) said the two do not conflict.

Apple Reaches $2 Trillion, Punctuating Big Tech’s Grip

It took Apple 42 years to reach $1 trillion in value. It took it just two more years to get to $2 trillion. Even more stunning: All of Apple’s second $1 trillion came in the past 21 weeks, while the global economy shrank faster than ever before in the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, Apple became the first U.S. company to hit a $2 trillion valuation when its shares climbed 1.4 percent to $468.65 in midday trading, though they later declined and ended the day flat. It was another milestone for the maker of iPhones, Mac computers and Apple Watches, cementing its title as the world’s most valuable public company and punctuating how the pandemic has been a bonanza for the tech giants.

As recently as mid-March, Apple’s value was under $1 trillion after the stock market plunged over fears of the coronavirus. On March 23, the stock market’s nadir this year, the Federal Reserve announced aggressive new measures to calm investors. Since then, the stock market — and particularly the stocks of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook — has largely soared, with the S&P 500 hitting a new high on Tuesday.

Investors have poured billions of dollars into the tech behemoths, betting that their immense size and power would serve as refuges from the pandemic-induced recession. Together, those five companies’ value has swelled by almost $3 trillion since March 23, nearly the same growth as the S&P 500’s next 50 most valuable companies combined, including Berkshire Hathaway, Walmart and Disney, according to S&P Global, the market analytics firm. Apple’s valuation alone rose by about $6.8 billion a day, more than the value of American Airlines.

“It’s become the new flight to safety,” Aswath Damodaran, a New York University finance professor who studies the stock market, said of investors flocking to Big Tech. Companies that are rich, flexible and digital are benefiting in the pandemic — and that describes the tech Goliaths, he said, adding, “This crisis has strengthened what was already a strong hand.”


The stock market share of five tech companies hasn’t been seen from a single industry in at least 70 years. Apple’s rapid rise to $2 trillion is particularly astonishing because the company has not done much new in the past two years. It has simply built one of the tech industry’s most effective moneymakers, which has such a firm grip over how people communicate, entertain themselves and shop that it no longer relies on groundbreaking inventions to keep the business humming.

Apple first reached $1 trillion in August 2018, after decades of innovation. The company, founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, churned out world-changing products like the Macintosh computer, the iPod, the App Store and the iPhone.

Since then, it has mostly tweaked past creations, selling gadgets with names like the Apple Watch Series 5, the AirPods Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. It has also pushed into services such as streaming music, streaming movies and TV programs, and providing news, selling subscriptions for them.

Under its chief executive, Tim Cook, Apple’s most important innovation in recent years has arguably been its nearly unrivaled ability to generate profits. Mr. Cook has built a sophisticated global supply chain to produce billions of devices — most assembled in China — and leaned into a product line designed to lock customers into its ecosystem so they buy new gadgets every few years and pay monthly fees to use Apple’s suite of digital services.

Apple has also grown despite its size by extracting more money from the companies that run businesses on iPhone apps, drawing accusations that its 30 percent cut of some app revenues is unfair.

The Silicon Valley company’s business has been only further entrenched by the pandemic, which has forced people to work, learn and socialize virtually. From April through June, even as Apple shuttered many of its retail stores because of the virus, it posted $11.25 billion in profits, up 12 percent from a year earlier. It increased its sales of every product and in every part of the world.

“Our products and services are very relevant to our customers’ lives and, in some cases, even more during the pandemic than ever before,” Luca Maestri, Apple’s finance chief, said in an interview last month.

Still, Mr. Maestri disputed that the pandemic had been good for business. Apple would have made billions of dollars more without it, he said.

The iPhone 12 feature that could help convince millions of people to upgrade their phones

Apple has long been expected to debut a batch of 5G-enabled iPhones this fall. Now it appears all of the company’s new phone releases this year may be able to connect to the next generation of super-fast wireless networks, according to Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.

That’s a significant milestone that could help convince millions of people to upgrade their smartphones. 5G could make the iPhone 12 a must-have product.

“We previously were [expecting] 4 models with a mix of 4G/5G for the iPhone 12 unveil, however now based on supply chain checks we are expecting ONLY 5G models for the Fall launch,” Ives wrote in an investor note Sunday evening.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

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Although the projection is not a certainty, it would be a smart move for Apple (AAPL), driving big demand for the new iPhones as the company continues its march toward a $2 trillion market cap.

In recent years, consumers have been waiting longer between smartphone upgrades — a trend that could be exacerbated by the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. The biggest risk to new device sales is if “high unemployment and wage deflation continues,” according to Synovus Trust Company Senior Portfolio Manager Daniel Morgan.

But analysts largely expect the 5G iPhone to generate a “super cycle” of consumers buying new devices. Ives said he estimates roughly 350 million of the total 950 million iPhones on the market could be upgraded within the next year to 18 months. 

“We believe iPhone 12 represents the most significant product cycle for (Apple CEO Tim) Cook & Co. since iPhone 6 in 2014 and will be another defining chapter in the Apple growth story looking ahead despite a softer consumer spending environment,” Ives said, adding that he believes many on Wall Street are “underestimating the massive pent-up demand around this super cycle for Apple.”

Apple’s strong earnings in the June quarter indicate it could withstand the pressures of the economic crisis, Morgan said.  And Ives predicts a lower priced, next generation 4G model will hit the market early next year, which would be a potential opportunity to reel in consumers unable or unwilling to shell out for a 5G phone.

Making a 5G-connected iPhone could improve the consumer experience for Apple’s digital services, like Apple TV+. Though iPhones have long been Apple’s biggest sales driver, the company is increasingly reliant on services to diversify its sales: Overall services revenue hit a record $13.2 billion in the June quarter, boosted by the pandemic-fueled shift in habits.

Apple is somewhat late to the 5G phone game. The 5G iPhone will join a growing slate of phones on the market built to connect to the next generation network, including models from Motorola (MSI), Samsung (SSNLF), Huawei, LG and others.

Samsung, one of Apple’s fiercest smartphone competitors, in January boasted that it held more than half of the global market share for 5G phones. And last week, Samsung unveiled its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy Note 20, which comes with 5G capability and an ecosystem of interconnected gadgets.

“But with Apple, it’s such a loyal ecosystem,” Morgan said, which means its customers have likely been holding out for Apple’s 5G offering.

Adoption of 5G phones is likely to accelerate as the rollout of the new network expands — consumers need a 5G-enabled phone to connect to the new network and take advantage of its benefits — and more features are built on top of it.

T-Mobile (TMUS) and AT&T (T) have both announced their 5G networks are available nationwide in the United States and Verizon (VZ) continues to build out high-speed 5G capabilities in cities throughout the country. China, a key market for iPhones, has also invested heavily in its 5G networks.

Ives said he expects Apple will release US and non-US versions of the 5G iPhone. He predicts the US version will able to connect to the fastest 5G networks — built with “mmWave” spectrum — “after some technology wrinkles appear to have been ironed out by Apple and its suppliers, which is a clear positive heading into this pivotal launch.”

He also predicts the new iPhones will go on sale in October. Apple last month said that while new iPhones typically go on sale in September, this year the company expects supply “to be available a few weeks later” because of the pandemic.

Ambitious designs for underwater ‘space station’ and habitat unveiled

Sixty feet beneath the surface of the Caribbean Sea, aquanaut Fabien Cousteau and industrial designer Yves Béhar are envisioning the world’s largest underwater research station and habitat.

The pair have unveiled Fabien Cousteau’s Proteus, a 4,000-square-foot modular lab that will sit under the water off the coast of Curaçao, providing a home to scientists and researchers from across the world studying the ocean — from the effects of climate change and new marine life to medicinal breakthroughs.

Designed as a two-story circular structure grounded to the ocean floor on stilts, Proteus’ protruding pods contain laboratories, personal quarters, medical bays and a moon pool where divers can access the ocean floor. Powered by wind and solar energy, and ocean thermal energy conversion, the structure will also feature the first underwater greenhouse for growing food, as well as a video production facility.
The Proteus is intended to be the underwater version of the International Space Station (ISS), where government agencies, scientists, and the private sector can collaborate in the spirit of collective knowledge, irrespective of borders.

Scientists and designers are proposing radical ways to ‘refreeze’ the Arctic

“Ocean exploration is 1,000 times more important than space exploration for — selfishly — our survival, for our trajectory into the future,” Cousteau said over a video call, with Béhar. “It’s our life support system. It is the very reason why we exist in the first place.”

The newly unveiled design is the latest step for this ambitious project. According to Cousteau, it will take three years until Proteus is installed, though the coronavirus pandemic has already delayed the project. Left undiscovered Though oceans cover 71 percent of the world’s surface, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that humans have only explored about 5 percent and mapped less than 20 percent of the world’s seas.Space exploration receives more attention and funding than its aquatic counterpart, which Cousteau hopes to remedy with Proteus — and eventually a worldwide network of underwater research habitats. Facilities stationed in different oceans could warn of tsunamis and hurricanes, Cousteau said. They could also pioneer ambitious new research into sustainability, energy and robotics.

Top Technologist Simplifies Ventilator By Inventing An Affordable Design

Ravinder Pal Singh, shies away from attention, despite the fact that he’s one of the world’s most sought out experts in the field of Artificial Intelligence, Innovation and Robotics. Ravinder Pal Singh (Ravi), is an award winning Technologist, Rescue Pilot and Angel Investor with several patents. As an inventor, engineer, investor, highly sought global speaker and storyteller, his body of work focuses on making a difference within acute constraints of culture and cash, mostly via commodity technology. Ravi’s latest invention is arguably the world’s most affordable ventilator and what has fuelled him, in his own words, is – “Fear of human contact is not sustainable for civilization. Everyone has to contribute to overcome this fatigue and fatality of fear”.
His latest visionary creation is a blueprint to help humanity in the fight for survival against one of the most challenging health crises in the recent past. The impact of COVID-19 has prompted a reluctant but much needed change. According to Ravi, the cost of life should not come at the price of lifestyle. Intent for compassion has to translate into actual actions by everyone and everywhere and every day.
Disparity and imbalance take resources away from most people to live a basic life, so a minority can afford an expensive (lavish) lifestyle, and this is no longer sustainable. Secondly, the world, till now, has been driven by collaboration of conflict (potential of war) and/or economics (fiscal prudence), which should be changed towards collaboration to survive, keeping health as a priority. Healthcare infrastructures across countries needs to be revisited and global uniformity has to be established.
Thirdly, how we design our lives – places where we live, places where we work, places where we interact – should all change. The glorification of creating mega cities is no longer sustainable. In fact, the history of the demise of past civilizations has a commonality of 4 factors — A combination of an epidemic plus population movements plus the pressure urbanization put on rural lifestyles as well as climate change. There is still merit in non-political Gandhian theories based on – De-centralization and Micro Markets, Rural development (ideal cluster of villages), Self-sufficiency while living harmoniously with nature and a greater equity or “distributive justice via creating institutions than solely profit driven businesses.
The inspiration for Ravi’s latest invention came from his own experience at the frontlines. The world faces a severe and acute public health emergency due to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. It is a stark truth that COVID-19 can require patients to be on ventilators for significant periods of time and that hospitals can only accommodate a finite number of patients at once. Ventilator shortages are an unfortunate reality as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to worsen globally.
Ventilators are expensive pieces of machinery to maintain, store and operate. They also require ongoing monitoring by health-care professionals. To solve the above situation, Ravi has invented and prototyped an affordable ventilator for all, using a minimalistic design which can be easily operated by anyone. The key design element is the ability to build it quickly for mass production so governments around the world can encourage existing industrial setups and start-ups to manufacture them locally to help save lives.
Ravi was baffled with the thought of why one would require an engineering degree to design, produce and manufacture a ventilator.  He has built two different working prototypes on common platform design.
The first version is the simplest and is an extremely portable ventilator, one which is intuitive, can be used by anyone and fundamentally takes air from the atmosphere, extracts oxygen, controls pressure and pushes the output to the lungs. The second one is an advanced version of this particular ventilator.
It is on a similar design platform which converges artificial intelligence with electrical, mechanical, electronics and instrumentation,  with the capability to supply pure oxygen. It has self calibration capabilities, a machine learning algorithm to adjust the air flow according to the needs and the resistive nature of the lungs of any patient. Both of them are based on common platform design thinking and that’s the real beauty of his patented design and platform thinking. The reason to work and produce outcomes has become purified through the stark reality of death. Driving Ravi’s imagination and the core to all of his inventions is the burning desire to create a meaningful body of work through compassion oriented design and architectural forms.
Ravinder Pal Singh (Ravi) is a Harvard Alumni and Award Winning Engineer with over several hundred Global Recognitions and Patents. His body of work, mostly 1st in the world, is making a difference within acute constraints of culture and cash via commodity technology. He has been acknowledged as one of the world’s top 10 Robotics Designers, #1 Artificial Intelligence Leaders in Asia and featured as one of the world’s top 25 CIOs. Ravi is currently employed as the Chief Innovation and Information Officer at Tata Singapore Airlines (Vistara). Ravi is the advisor to a board of nine enterprises where incubation and differentiation is a core necessity and challenge. He sits on the advisory council of three global research firms where he contributes in predicting practical future automation use cases and respective technologies.email: [email protected]: www.ravinps.com

Apple Starts Making First Flagship Iphone In Chennai, India

In a major major boost to the Indian government’s Made in India initiative, Apple has started manufacturing one of its flagship devices, the iPhone 11, in Chennai’s Foxconn plant. Notably, this is the first time Apple has manufactured a top-of-the-line model in India, reports ET. Prior to this, the Cupertino-based tech giant had started assembling the iPhone XR in the country’s Foxconn plant. Apple manufacturer Foxconn has started building iPhone 11 units in a facility near Chennai in India, TechCrunch reported, the first time Apple has made one of its top-tier phones in that country.  Apple has manufactured lower-priced iPhone models in India since 2017, and reportedly has been considering moving production of its more premium models there for some time.

India was the second-biggest smartphone market in the world in 2019, ahead of the US and second only to China. According to TechCrunch, Apple plans to scale up production in India, which would in turn reduce how much it depends on China, where most of its iPhones are currently made. And while Apple tops the premium smartphone market in India, it has only about a 1 percent share of the total smartphone market there. The iPhone’s price puts it out of reach for many consumers in India.

By selling locally-made devices in India, Apple would be able to avoid a 20 percent import duty that India imposes on foreign-made electronics. It’s not clear whether the devices are being manufactured for sale within India only, or for the broader worldwide market.

The local assembly of Apple iPhones would be beneficial for buyers in many ways. The Made in India units won’t cost as much as the imported devices as the company will not have to pay a 20 percent tax that is required to import the smartphones from its global manufacturing facilities. The ET report states that the production of the iPhone 11 will be done in phases and one of Apple’s largest suppliers, Foxconn will make an investment of 1 billion dollars to expand its plant in Tamil Nadu over the next couple of years. Apple currently has three major suppliers for its iPhone models Foxconn, Wistron, and Pegatron. And not just Foxconn, Pegatron too has plans to invest big in India.

“We are fully pushing ahead with the next steps there (in India), and maybe in a few months’ time, we can reveal on our website the next steps and report back to everyone. We’ll have a further investment there,” Liu Young-Way, Chairman of Foxconn, has said during the company’s Annual General Meeting held in June 2020. Now coming back to the Apple iPhone 11, it is one of the most popular Apple smartphones in India. Cheapest in the iPhone 11 series, the Apple iPhone 11 sells in India for Rs 68,300 for the 64GB variant, whereas the 128GB variant is priced at Rs 73,600 and iPhone 11 256GB costs Rs 84,100 in India. Earlier this year, Apple had increased the price of its iPhone by over 5 percent due to an increase in customs duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Nature study identifies 21 existing drugs that could treat COVID-19

Multiple drugs improve the activity of remdesivir, a current standard-of-care treatment for COVID-19 A Nature study authored by a global team of scientists and led by Sumit Chanda, Ph.D., professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, has identified 21 existing drugs that stop the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The scientists analyzed one of the world’s largest collections of known drugs for their ability to block the replication of SARS-CoV-2, and reported 100 molecules with confirmed antiviral activity in laboratory tests. Of these, 21 drugs were determined to be effective at concentrations that could be safely achieved in patients. Notably, four of these compounds were found to work synergistically with remdesivir, a current standard-of-care treatment for COVID-19.  “Remdesivir has proven successful at shortening the recovery time for patients in the hospital, but the drug doesn’t work for everyone who receives it. That’s not good enough,” says Chanda, director of the Immunity and Pathogenesis Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys and senior author of the study. “As infection rates continue to rise in America and around the world, the urgency remains to find affordable, effective, and readily available drugs that can complement the use of remdesivir, as well as drugs that could be given prophylactically or at the first sign of infection on an outpatient basis.” Extensive testing conducted  In the study, the research team performed extensive testing and validation studies, including evaluating the drugs on human lung biopsies that were infected with the virus, evaluating the drugs for synergies with remdesivir, and establishing dose-response relationships between the drugs and antiviral activity. Of the 21 drugs that were effective at blocking viral replication, the scientists found: 13 have previously entered clinical trials for other indications and are effective at concentrations, or doses, that could potentially be safely achieved in COVID-19 patients. Two are already FDA approved: astemizole (allergies), clofazamine (leprosy), and remdesivir has received Emergency Use Authorization from the agency (COVID-19). Four worked synergistically with remdesivir, including the chloroquine derivative hanfangchin A (tetrandrine), an antimalarial drug that has reached Phase 3 clinical trials.  “This study significantly expands the possible therapeutic options for COVID-19 patients, especially since many of the molecules already have clinical safety data in humans,” says Chanda. “This report provides the scientific community with a larger arsenal of potential weapons that may help bring the ongoing global pandemic to heel.”  The researchers are currently testing all 21 compounds in small animal models and “mini lungs,” or lung organoids, that mimic human tissue. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to discuss a clinical trial(s) evaluating the drugs as treatments for COVID-19. “Based on our current analysis, clofazimine, hanfangchin A, apilimod and ONO 5334 represent the best near-term options for an effective COVID-19 treatment,” says Chanda. “While some of these drugs are currently in clinical trials for COVID-19, we believe it’s important to pursue additional drug candidates so we have multiple therapeutic options if SARS-CoV-2 becomes drug resistant.” Screening one of the world’s largest drug libraries The drugs were first identified by high-throughput screening of more than 12,000 drugs from the ReFRAME drug repurposing collection—the most comprehensive drug repurposing collection of compounds that have been approved by the FDA for other diseases or that have been tested extensively for human safety. Arnab Chatterjee, Ph.D., vice president of medicinal chemistry at Calibr and co-author on the paper, says ReFRAME was established to tackle areas of urgent unmet medical need, especially neglected tropical diseases. “We realized early in the COVID-19 pandemic that ReFRAME would be an invaluable resource for screening for drugs to repurpose against the novel coronavirus,” says Chatterjee.  The drug screen was completed as rapidly as possible due to Chanda’s partnership with the scientist who discovered the first SARS virus, Kwok-Yung Yuen, M.D., chair of Infectious Diseases at the University of Hong Kong; and Shuofeng Yuan, Ph.D., assistant research professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, who had access to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in February 2020.  About the ReFrame library  ReFRAME was created by Calibr, the drug discovery division of Scripps Research, under the leadership of President Peter Shultz, Ph.D., with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It has been distributed broadly to nonprofit collaborators and used to identify repurposing opportunities for a range of disease, including tuberculosis, a parasite called Cryptosporidium and fibrosis.  A global team  The first authors of the study are Laura Riva, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the Chanda lab at Sanford Burnham Prebys; and Shuofeng Yuan at the University of Hong Kong, who contributed equally to the study. Additional study authors include Xin Yin, Laura Martin-Sancho, Naoko Matsunaga, Lars Pache, Paul De Jesus, Kristina Herbert, Peter Teriete, Yuan Pu, Courtney Nguyen and Andrey Rubanov of Sanford Burnham Prebys; Jasper Fuk-Woo Chan, Jianli Cao, Vincent Poon, Ko-Yung Sit and Kwok-Yung Yuen of the University of Hong Kong; Sebastian Burgstaller-Muehlbacher, Andrew Su, Mitchell V. Hull, Tu-Trinh Nguyen, Peter G. Schultz and Arnab K. Chatterjee of Scripps Research; Max Chang and Christopher Benner of UC San Diego School of Medicine; Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Wen-Chun Liu, Lisa Miorin, Kris M. White, Jeffrey R. Johnson, Randy Albrecht, Angela Choi, Raveen Rathnasinghe, Michael Schotsaert, Marion Dejosez, Thomas P. Zwaka and Adolfo Garcia-Sastre of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Ren Sun of UCLA; Kuoyuan Cheng of the National Cancer Institute and the University of Maryland; Eytan Ruppin of the National Cancer Institute; Mackenzie E. Chapman, Emma K. Lendy and Andrew D. Mesecar of Purdue University; and Richard J. Glynne of Inception Therapeutics.

Coronavirus vaccine: When will we have one?

Coronavirus still poses a significant threat, but there are no vaccines proven to protect the body against the disease it causes – Covid-19. Medical researchers are working hard to change that, and the UK government has ordered 100 million doses of a vaccine that isable to trigger an immune response and appears safe. Why is a coronavirus vaccine important? The virus spreads easily and the majority of the world’s population is still vulnerable to it. A vaccine would provide some protection by training people’s immune systems to fight the virus so they should not become sick. This would allow lockdowns to be lifted more safely, and social distancing to be relaxed. What sort of progress is being made? Research is happening at breakneck speed. About 140 are in early development, and around two dozen are now being tested on people in clinical trials. Trials of the vaccine developed by Oxford University show it can trigger an immune response and a deal has been signed with AstraZeneca to supply 100 million doses in the UK alone. The first human trial data back in May indicated the first eight patients taking part in a US study all produced antibodies that could neutralise the virus. A group in China showed a vaccine was safe and led to protective antibodies being made. It is being made available to the Chinese military. Other completely new approaches to vaccine development are in human trials. However, no-one knows how effective any of these vaccines will be. When will we have a coronavirus vaccine? A vaccine would normally take years, if not decades, to develop. Researchers hope to achieve the same amount of work in only a few months. Most experts think a vaccine is likely to become widely available by mid-2021, about 12-18 months after the new virus, known officially as Sars-CoV-2, first emerged. That would be a huge scientific feat and there are no guarantees it will work. Four coronaviruses already circulate in human beings. They cause common cold symptoms and we don’t have vaccines for any of them. What do I need to know about the coronavirus?A SIMPLE GUIDE: How do I protect myself?AVOIDING CONTACT: The rules on self-isolation and exerciseHOPE AND LOSS: Your coronavirus storiesLOOK-UP TOOL: Check cases in your areaVIDEO: The 20-second hand wash What still needs to be done? Multiple research groups have designed potential vaccines, however, there is much more work to do. Trials need to show the vaccine is safe. It would not be useful if it caused more problems than the disease Clinical trials will also need to show vaccines provoke an immune response, which protect people from getting sick A way of producing the vaccine on a huge scale must be developed for the billions of potential doses Medicines regulators must approve it before it can be given Finally there will be the huge logistical challenge of actually immunising most of the world’s population The success of lockdowns has made the process slower. To know if the vaccine works, you need people to actually be infected. The idea of giving people the vaccine and then deliberately infecting them (known as a challenge study) would give quicker answers, but is currently seen as too dangerous and unethical. How many people need to be vaccinated? It is hard to know without knowing how effective the vaccine is going to be. It is thought that 60-70% of people needed to be immune to the virus in order to stop it spreading easily (known as herd immunity). But that would be billions of people around the world even if the vaccine worked perfectly. How do you create a vaccine? Vaccines harmlessly show viruses or bacteria (or even small parts of them) to the immune system. The body’s defences recognise them as an invader and learn how to fight them. Then if the body is ever exposed for real, it already knows what to do. The main method of vaccination for decades has been to use the original virus. The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is made by using weakened viruses that cannot cause a full-blown infection. The seasonal flu jab takes the main strains of flu doing the rounds and completely disables them. Some scientists, particularly those in China, are using this approach. There is also work on coronavirus vaccines using newer, and less tested, approaches called “plug and play” vaccines. Because we know the genetic code of the new coronavirus, Sars-CoV-2, we have the complete blueprint for building it. The Oxford researchers have put small sections of its genetic code into a harmless virus that infects chimpanzees. They appear to have developed a safe virus that looks enough like the coronavirus to produce an immune response. Other groups are using pieces of raw genetic code (either DNA or RNA depending on the approach) which, once injected into the body, should start producing bits of viral proteins which the immune system can learn to fight. However, this approach is completely new. Would a vaccine protect people of all ages? It will, almost inevitably, be less successful in older people, because aged immune systems do not respond as well to immunisation. We see this with the annual flu jab. It may be possible to overcome this by either giving multiple doses or giving it alongside a chemical (called an adjuvant) that gives the immune system a boost. Who would get a vaccine? If a vaccine is developed, then there will be a limited supply, at least initially, so it will be important to prioritise. Healthcare workers who come into contact with Covid-19 patients would top the list. The disease is most deadly in older people so they would be a priority if the vaccine was effective in this age group. The UK has also said other people considered to be at high risk – potentially included those with some conditions or from certain ethnicities – may be prioritised 

‘Hopes Of Developing Vaccine Against Covid Rising

The race to develop the first effective vaccine against COVID-19 involves an awfully crowded field, with 137 candidate vaccines in pre-clinical study worldwide and another 23 actually in development. But a leader seemed to emerge today with research published in the Lancet reporting promising results in a robust study by investigators at Oxford University in England. The study began in April, with a sample group of 1,077 adults aged 18 to 55—an age group young enough to tolerate exposure to SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19, with less risk of adverse effects than would be seen in older, more vulnerable adults. The group was divided more or less in half, with 543 participants receiving the experimental COVID-19 vaccine, and the other 534 serving as a control group, receiving an existing vaccine against meningococcal vaccine. (The investigators chose not to use an inert saline solution for the control group because both vaccines can cause side effects such as achiness, fever and fatigue. Saline would cause no such symptoms and would thus reveal which group was the control group and which was not.) The vaccine uses a harmless-to-humans chimpanzee adenovirus as a delivery vector. That virus is modified to carry spike proteins from SARS-CoV-2—the component of the coronavirus that, in theory, should induce the sought-after immune response in humans. What the researchers were looking for were two kinds of immune reaction: humoral immunity, or the system-wide generation of antibodies against the virus; and cellular immunity, or the activation of immune system T-cells that attack human cells infected with the COVID-19 virus. Oxford vaccine triggers immune response, trial findsA Covid-19 vaccine candidate developed by the Oxford University has safely prompted a protective immune response in hundreds of volunteers who got the shot in an early trial, preliminary findings published Monday in the journal Lancet said. The vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (also called AZD1222), designed by Oxford and developed by AstraZeneca, the Anglo-Swedish pharma major, triggered a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55 that lasted at least two months. The preliminary findings are from the placebo-controlled, phase-I trial held between April 23 and May 21, involving 1,077 participants. 543 were administered the vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, another 534 a control vaccine (to rule out placebo). Further, ten participants were given a booster shot of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine. All participants who received the vaccine developed spike-specific antibodies by day 28, an immune response similar to those who recover from Covid-19. Spikes are the spike proteins on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that it uses to attach to human receptor cells. The ten who received a booster shot produced neutralizing antibodies (antibodies in higher titers). The vaccine also triggered T cells, a type of white blood cell that “remembers” and attacks the coronavirus. Side effects including fever, headaches, muscle aches, and injection site reactions were observed in about 60% of patients; but all these were deemed mild or moderate and were resolved during the trial. T-cells and antibodies: That the vaccine has induced antibodies and T cells are significant. T cells can stay in the body for a longer period in a dormant state, and can re-emerge to attack the virus in case of an infection. The science behind the Oxford vaccine

Preliminary data from the phase I/II trial of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University showed it was safe and prompted an immune response that lasted at least two months. More on that and India’s role in the eventual rollout of the vaccine in today’s Times Top10. Here, we delve deeper into the science behind the vaccine.

Oxford’s candidate, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (also called AZD1222), is a non-replicant viral vector vaccine. The vector (the carrier) is derived from adenovirus (ChAdOx1) taken from chimpanzees. This is a harmless, weakened adenovirus that usually causes the common cold in chimps. It is genetically engineered so that it does not replicate itself in humans. Now, a gene (the load) from the coronavirus, SARS CoV-2, that instructs cells to build spike proteins is loaded into the vector.

Remember, coronaviruses have club-shaped spikes on their outer coats — the ‘corona’. These spike proteins allow the virus to attach to the ACE2 receptors in human cells. When the genetically engineered ChAdOx1 with the spike-responsible gene from coronavirus is administered in a person, the gene is “expressed”, causing the build-up of spike proteins. The body’s immune system recognises this and begins to create the antibodies to defeat the foreign object. Note: the vaccine vector is non-replicant so it doesn’t harm the person, but the spike proteins nevertheless trigger antibodies. The preliminary findings showed participants also produced T cells, a type of white blood cell that “remembers” and attacks the coronavirus infection. Oxford researchers led by Professor Sarah Gilbert were able to quickly develop the vaccine candidate as they had been working on the ChAdOx1 platform against Ebola and MERS viruses.

And other vaccine candidates?

India’s hope: Pune-based Serum Institute of India, under an agreement with AstraZeneca, is to bulk produce the Oxford vaccine. The company’s CEO, Adar Poonawalla, had earlier said it will produce 5 million doses per month for the first 6 months before ramping up the production. The findings are from the phase-I/II trial. The larger, phase-III trials of the vaccine have already begun in Brazil and South Africa. A vaccine being developed by China’s CanSino Biologics and China’s military research also appeared to safely induce both antibodies and T cells, a mid-stage study released Monday said. Both CanSino’s and Oxford’s vaccines are based on a similar science of using a non-replicating viral vector to trigger the immune response. Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has announced that the Phase-I clinical trials of India’s first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin began across the country on July 15. “This is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial on 375 volunteers in India,” the company said in a brief statement. The leading vaccine maker had announced on June 29 that it successfully developed Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology.The SARS-CoV-2 strain was isolated in NIV, Pune and transferred to Bharat Biotech. The indigenous, inactivated vaccine was developed and manufactured in Bharat Biotech’s BSL-3A (Bio-Safety Level 3) High Containment facility located in Genome Valley, Hyderabad.

The vaccine developed by China’s CanSino Biologics in partnership with the country’s military research wing also relies on a viral vector, but a weakened human cold virus, adenovirus 5 (Ad5). CanSino, too, published its findings from phase I/II trial on Monday that showed it safely prompted an immune response.

But… the vaccine was inadequate to induce immunity response in people aged 55 or older — a group vulnerable to Covid-19. Researchers contend an additional dose given between the third and sixth month could negate this. The use of Ad5 itself has left some scientists unconvinced. Since most people would have already been infected by Ad5 (cold virus), they fear the immune system induced would focus on the Ad5 parts of the vaccine rather than the SARS-Cov-2 material fused to it.

Two other advance candidates are developed by Massachusetts-based Moderna and Germany’s BioNTech in partnership with Pfizer. These are messenger-RNA based candidates. They rely on synthetic mRNA that delivers the genetic code for spike proteins, thus triggering an immune response. Early findings by Moderna and BioNTech-Pfizer, too, showed they prompted an immune response.

Another reason to be hopeful about the Oxford vaccine: Viral vector-based vaccines need only be cold stored, whereas mRNA vaccines need to be in a frozen state — a challenge for developing countries.

Anil Cheriyan Appointed as Strategy, Technology Executive Vice President at Cognizant

Global software major Cognizant on Monday announced the appointment of Anil Cheriyan as Executive Vice President of Strategy and Technology. Cheriyan who recently served as the US Presidential Appointee in charge of Technology Transformation Services, will oversee global IT led by Rakesh Bhardwaj, Global Security led by Dan Smith, and the Strategy, Alliances, and Business Development (including Accelerator) team led by Brad Berry.

This is the first time Cognizant will have a technology leader reporting directly to the CEO. “Cheriyan’s immediate priority, once he joins on August 3, will be to take the reins of our IT and Security remediation efforts from Greg Hyttenrauch, who has led these efforts on my behalf since April,” Cognizant CEO Brian Humphries said in a statement.

As the US Presidential Appointee, he drove the technology transformation strategy, roadmap, and agenda across the US federal government, oversaw a $100 billion technology budget, and worked closely with the White House, Agency leadership and the Federal CIO.

He helped accelerate the transformation of several federal agencies, leveraging industry-leading talent in AI, cloud, digital platforms, data and analytics, identity, and citizen experience.

Prior to his government role, Cheriyan served as Executive Vice President and CIO of SunTrust Banks. He has also held senior leadership roles at IBM Global Services and PwC Management Consulting.
“As we prepare for the second half of 2020, we have good reason to feel confident about Cognizant’s strong position in the COVID era. Our momentum and competitiveness are growing. Our client relationships are robust. And our digital portfolio is becoming a larger portion of our revenue mix,” said Humphries. (IANS)

Making Straws From Coconut Leaves

Thatched roofs, woven bags, brooms and even toothpicks — there are innumerable uses for coconut leaves as a natural alternative to other products.

And this Bengaluru-based English Professor’s innovation from coconut leaves can potentially eradicate one of the biggest environmental hazards — plastic straws.

According to this 2018, India Today report, India creates 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every single year of which only 9 per cent of it has been recycled.

Saji Varghese, 51, an associate professor at the Department of English, Christ University, Bengaluru first came across the thought of making straws out of coconut leaves when he noticed several dry coconut leaves lying on the campus ground.

‘Each year a coconut tree naturally loses upto six of its leaves. From the results of a study I carried on the same subject, I found out that in many rural areas in our country, these leaves are simply burnt due to the difficulty in its disposal. That’s when I decided to create an eco-friendly product out of it in 2017,’ Saji explains.

In just two years, he developed unique coconut leaf straws that sell at a Rs 3-10/straw. He claims to have received orders for more than 20 million straws from over 10 countries since he introduced the product in the market.

The straws received a patent in 2018 and are now sold under the brand name, Sunbird Straws.
From The Coconut Tree To Your Drink

Saji has conducted various experiments and extensive research on several biodegradable materials at the campus incubation centre at the university, due to his interest in the area. With the support of the college, he even launched a start-up named ‘Blessing Palms’ to promote these biodegradable and eco-friendly innovations.

‘When I first wanted to make the straw, I started out by steaming the leaves to clean them and that’s when I noticed the natural wax from these leaves was coming out on its own. We can use this natural wax to make the straws anti-fungal and hydrophobic (water repellant),’ he explains.
In October 2017, he came out with a single layer coconut leaf straw as the first sample. But by 2018, with the help of a team comprising students from Christ University and design engineers who helped developed in-house machinery for large scale production, Saji created coconut leaf straws that ranged from 3mm to 13mm.

Chirag MG, who is a stakeholder in the company and is also a student of the University says, ‘We tested the straws with all kinds of beverages, from water and sodas to milkshakes and even bubble tea. The straws are 4-8 inches in length and have a shelf life of six months making them ideal for restaurants and hotels.’

‘The coconut leaves undergo a three-step cleaning process which we follow with scraping and rolling. All this is done by the in-house machinery so that the straw is hygienic. Besides this, we use a food-grade adhesive for glue, making it free of chemicals,’ says Saji.
Empowering Rural Women

Initially, the college funded his innovation but soon several corporates like Accenture and HCL in association with Ahmedabad-based Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India helped with the funding to take the project forward.

‘One of the key visions of the company was to support rural communities and since we primarily source our raw materials from rural coastal areas, we decided to provide employment opportunities to the women in these areas. As part of this initiative, we set up production units in Madurai, Kasargod and Tuticorin and currently have around 18 women who are employed under the company,’ he says.

‘What motivated me to join the venture was Saji Sir’s urge to solve everyday problems. It not only helps in solving environmental problems but also ensures the empowerment of rural communities,’ says Chirag. ‘In the coming three months, we plan on starting atleast 20 more production units and employ around 200 women across villages in India,’ he adds.
Going Global With Coconut Straws

Sandeep U, who has been working with the team since its inception in 2017 says, ‘We entered the Climate Launchpad Award in the Netherlands and won the award for Best Innovation for Social Impact against 45 competing countries. This automatically pushed us into the international market and soon we started receiving orders from countries like Malaysia, the USA, UK, Germany, Australia, and the Philippines.’

Several hotel chains like JW Marriot have also approached the company to place bulk orders.
Neena Gupta, 32, an entrepreneur based in the United States who has been buying these straws for over a year shares, ‘I fell in love with these straws when I first used them. They are so durable and don’t get soggy like paper straws. I was surprised that they were single-use. I’ve used many natural straws but these by far are the best that I’ve come across. And the fact that they are made from agri-waste makes me so happy to know that valuable resources are not being over-utilised.’

Technological Solutions That Help with Common Sleeping Disorders

For most adults, getting seven to nine hours of sleep is enough to wake up rested and keep us functioning throughout the day. Granted, some people can manage to sleep a lot less, while others don’t want to leave the warmth of their bed. However, the problem occurs when we want to sleep only to find ourselves being restless in bed or continuously waking up unable to get a good night’s sleep.


However, there’s no reason to worry. We’ve comprised a list of the most common sleeping disorders and technological solutions for them, which you can make use of and get some shuteye.


According to stats, 30% of the grown-up Americans experience insomnia. It causes people to have difficulty falling asleep or staying awake, which can then result in daytime sleepiness, depressed mood, irritability, and low energy.


Insomnia may occur either independently or as a result of another problem, such as chronic pain, heart failure, restless leg syndrome, and stress. The first steps in treating insomnia are lifestyle changes and better sleep hygiene.


When it comes to technological solutions, you can use bulbs that stop the blue light, such as the Good Night Biological LED Bulb. Also, you can try blackout shades or devices like Ebb Insomnia Therapy.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that affects up to 20% of the world’s population, and it causes a person’s breathing to be interrupted during sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea—obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Common reasons that cause sleep apnea are enlarged tonsils or adenoids, smoking, frequent alcohol use, and weight.


Between the two, OSA is the more common one, and it occurs when the soft tissue in our throat collapses while we’re asleep. Its symptoms are daytime sleepiness, restlessness, gasping for air while sleeping, snoring, and fatigue.


When it comes to CSA, the issue starts in our central nervous system. Our breathing isn’t interrupted, but our brain fails to relay the information to our body to breathe.


Many inventions can help with sleep apnea, such as slumberBUMP that nudges you into sleeping on your side. As a result, it prevents the blocking of your airways. Another solution is EPAP by Theravent that regulates your airflow and creates a gentle pressure in your airway, keeping it open and reducing vibration.


If you snore, you’re not alone. Approximately 40% of men and 20% of women snore, which is more than two billion people. It may be caused by sleep deprivation, sleep position, nasal problems, alcohol consumption, or simply due to our mouth’s anatomy.


For example, when muscles surrounding our throat relax during sleep, they cause the airway to get narrower, which then causes the tissue in our throat to vibrate as air passes through.


Luckily, since it’s one of the most common sleeping disorders around the globe, there are many technological solutions that can help with snoring, such as Hupnos’ Snoring MaskURGONight EEG Headband, as well as many different sleeping solutions by Philips.

Google Being Sued For $5 Billion

Search engine Google is being sued for $5 billion in a class action suit filed in a California court for violation of its users’ privacy, even when they browse in the incognito mode. A similar case was filed last week too. So what wrong has Google committed?

The suit alleges that “Google tracks and collects consumer browsing history and other web activity data no matter what safeguards consumers undertake to protect their data privacy”, such as in the incognito mode and thereby gains “a complete, cradle-to-grave profile” of the users without their consent. Among other things, it accuses Google of “collecting, at minimum, the consumer’s IP address, browser and device information and the webpage content that the consumer is actually looking at”.

What’s incognito mode: Google’s incognito mode offers people the chance to keep their browsing history private, especially on shared devices, claiming that none of a user’s “browsing history, cookies and site data, or information entered in forms are saved” on the device. It also adds that even “Chrome doesn’t tell websites, including Google, when you’re browsing privately in Incognito mode”.

However…Google also cautions users that their browsing history even in incognito mode is still visible to their school, employer or their internet service provider. It also says that the incognito mode doesn’t “prevent the websites you visit from serving ads based on your activity during an incognito session”.

The billions: The petitioners however contend that not only is Google’s snooping in on their browsing history in incognito mode, but that the company was benefitting monetarily from this privacy breach. According to the petitioners, Google has collected and sold off its users’ personal information to third party advertisers — with data on web browsing histories fetching $52 per year as per a study cited in the suit, with the highest value reserved for details like Social Security Number, which is worth $240, while credit card details are worth $150.

The penalty: The petitioners say that since Google has violated the privacy of people numbering in multiples of million, each should receive more than $5,000 at the very least — which would make the minimum payout due $5 billion, if Google loses. However, considering that there are 1.5 billion active account users….you can do the math!

The lawsuit is aiming to utilize the Federal Wiretap Act that provides users with the right to sue if their private communications are intercepted.
A Google spokesperson denied the claim.

“We strongly dispute these claims, and we will defend ourselves vigorously against them,” a Google spokesperson was quoted a saying.

“Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device. As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity during your session,” the company spokesperson added.

Many users think that once they are logged into Internet via Incognito Mode, their search history isn’t being tracked.

Incognito mode within Google’s Chrome browser gives users the choice to search the internet without their activity being saved to the browser or device.

But the websites visited can use tools such as Google Analytics to track the usage.

A joint study from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pennsylvania last year investigated 22,484 sex websites using a tool called “webXray” revealed that 93 per cent of pages track and leak users’ data to third-party organisations.

“Tracking on these sites is highly concentrated by a handful of major companies,” said the researchers who identified 230 different companies and services tracking users in their sample.

Of non-pornography-specific services, Google tracks 74 per cent of sites, Oracle 24 per cent and Facebook 10 per cent, said the study.

Syed Rizvi’s ‘instant ice cream’ gains patent

After a five-year application process, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded a patent to Syed Rizvi, professor of food science engineering, at Cornell University, and colleague Michael E. Wagner.

In Rizvi’s laboratory, a prototype machine – featuring a newly patented process – uses supercritical carbon dioxide to dish out instant vanilla ice cream, according to Cornell report.

With Rizvi and Wagner’s newly patented process – where pressurized carbon dioxide does all the work – anyone can make any ice cream at any time.

“Of course, you’ll need the liquid ice cream mix,” Rizvi said, in the report. “The mix can be made commercially, locally or you can make it at home. It’s very simple, and this machine converts the mix into a scoop of ice cream in about three seconds.”

In the traditional method of making ice cream, the dairy-based mix flows through a heat-exchanging barrel, where ice crystals form and get scraped by blades.

With this new method, highly pressurized carbon dioxide passes over a nozzle that, in turn, creates a vacuum to draw in the liquid ice cream. When carbon dioxide goes from a high pressure to a lower pressure, it cools the mixture to about minus 70 degrees C – freezing the mixture into ice cream, which jets out of another nozzle into a bowl, ready to eat.

A newly patented process using pressurized carbon dioxide can create instant ice cream.

Instant ice cream can be served right on the spot, all without the challenges of commercial transportation “cold chains,” in which the product must be frozen and maintained at minus 20 degrees Celsius. To guard against failing spots in the cold-temperature transportation chain, commercial ice cream makers add stabilizers and emulsifiers, the report said.

“Consumers today want a clean product,” Rizvi said. “They don’t want undesirable ingredients thrown into it.”

What’s more, Rizvi said, the cold chain requires a lot of energy. But if you could make ice cream without stabilization ingredients, commercial entities could avoid the cold chain altogether.

The device can take any liquid and give it frozen features. “You can make a slushy out of soft drinks,” he said, while noting that the new process is suited for on-demand and point-of-use applications like vending machines, parlors and home use. “You can convert water into carbonated ice instantly, too. Any liquid drink that can be partially frozen can be used.”

Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing is currently exploring licensing opportunities.

Rizvi, a graduate of Panjab University, is professor of food process engineering in the Department of Food Science and also holds the title of International Professor at Cornell.

He is interested in engineering and processing aspects of food science and value addition for global markets. He has published over 170 technical papers, co-authored/edited six books and holds six patents. He is also associated with the Department of State advising the Bureau of Economics, Energy and Agricultural Affairs on use of science in diplomacy.

He had won many awards, including Distinguished Professor (2017) Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science; Excellence in Teaching Award (2014) Food Science Advisory Council; and Stanley Watson Award (2012) American Association of Cereal Chemists International.

Rizvi did his Meng from University of Toronto, in 1988; and his doctorate from the Ohio State University, in 1976.

IIT Alumnus Dipanjan Pan’s Rapid Naked Eye Test Uses Innovative Nanoparticle Technique To Detect Coronovirus In 10 Minutes

A team of US scientists led by an Indian American researcher has developed an experimental diagnostic test for covid-19 that can visually detect the presence of the virus in 10 minutes.

The test developed by scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) does not require the use of any advanced laboratory techniques, such as those commonly used to amplify DNA, for analysis.

It uses a simple assay containing plasmonic gold nanoparticles to detect a color change when the virus is present, according to an UMSOM release.

“Based on our preliminary results, we believe this promising new test may detect RNA material from the virus as early as the first day of infection,” said study leader Dipanjan Pan, PhD, Professor of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine and Pediatrics at the UMSOM.

“Additional studies are needed, however, to confirm whether this is indeed the case,” added Dr. Pan who has a doctorate in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

Once a nasal swab or saliva sample is obtained from a patient, the RNA is extracted from the sample via a simple process that takes about 10 minutes.

The test uses a highly specific molecule attached to the gold nanoparticles to detect a particular protein.

his protein is part of the genetic sequence that is unique to the novel coronavirus.

When the biosensor binds to the virus’s gene sequence, the gold nanoparticles respond by turning the liquid reagent from purple to blue.

“The accuracy of any COVID-19 test is based on being able to reliably detect any virus. This means it does not give a false negative result if the virus actually is present, nor a false positive result if the virus is not present,” informed Dr Pan.

Many of the diagnostic tests currently on the market cannot detect the virus until several days after infection. For this reason, they have a significant rate of false negative results.

Dr Pan now plans to have a pre-submission meeting with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within the next month to discuss requirements for getting an emergency use authorisation for the test.

“This RNA-based test appears to be very promising in terms of detecting the virus,” said study co-author Matthew Frieman.

Others in Dr. Pan’s team were research scientist Parikshit Moitra, research fellow Maha Alafeef, along with research fellow Ketan Dighe from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The authors published their work in the American Chemical Society’s nanotechnology journal ACS Nano.

Prof. Dipanjan Pan, MS, PhD, is an expert in nanomedicine, molecular imaging and drug delivery.  He is presently a tenured Associate Professor in Bioengineering and Materials Science and Engineering and Institute of Sustainability in Energy and Environment in University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He also holds a full faculty position with Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois Cancer Center and recently joined newly started Carle-Illinois College of Medicine.

He Administratively directs the Professional Masters in Engineering Program in Bioengineering within the College of Engineering. He is also an Associate course director for the newly founded engineering inspired Carle-Illinois school of medicine. Prior to coming to Illinois, he was a faculty in Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis. Prof Pan’s lab uniquely merges fundamental chemistry, biology and engineering to bring solution to today’s healthcare problems.

His research is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary centering on the development of novel materials for biomedical applications, immune-nanomedicine and targeted therapies for stem-like cancer cell with phenotypically screened nanomedicine platforms.

Over the years, this research has resulted in more than 100 high impact peer reviewed publications in scientific journals, numerous conference abstracts and has been supported by external funding from NIH, NSF, DoD, American Heart Association and other private/foundational funding sources.

Prof. Pan edited and co-written two books published from Taylor and Francois (Nanomedicine: A Soft Matter Perspective, ISBN-13: 978-1466572829) and Springer (Personalized Medicine with a Nanochemistry Twist: Nanomedicine (Topics in Medicinal Chemistry, ISBN-13: 978-3319335445). He holds multiple patents (8 granted US patents), several ongoing clinical trials and is the founder of three University based early start-ups. He is the CEO/President for a biotechnology start-up Vitruvian Biotech dedicated to develop novel image guided therapies.

He also co-founded InnSight Technologies dedicated to nanotechnology based application for ocular diseases. His other company Kalocyte, which he cofounded with his clinical collaborators, develops artificial oxygen career. His technology has been licensed for commercial development multiple times. He serves as study section review board member for NIH, CDMRP (DoD), NSF and multiple review committee member for American Heart Association.

In 2016 he received Nanomaterials Letter (NML) Researcher award, in 2017 an Young Innovator Award from Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and most recently Dean’s Award for Research Excellence in 2018. He is an elected fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry, a Fellow of American Heart Association and an elected fellow of American College of Cardiology.

Technological Solutions That Help with Common Sleeping Disorders

For most adults, getting seven to nine hours of sleep is enough to wake up rested and keep us functioning throughout the day. Granted, some people can manage to sleep a lot less, while others don’t want to leave the warmth of their bed. However, the problem occurs when we want to sleep only to find ourselves being restless in bed or continuously waking up unable to get a good night’s sleep.

However, there’s no reason to worry. We’ve comprised a list of the <a href=”https://dealsoncannabis.net/blog/sleep-deprivation-statistics/“>most common sleeping disorders</a> and technological solutions for them, which you can make use of and get some shuteye.


According to stats, 30% of the grown-up Americans experience insomnia. It causes people to have difficulty falling asleep or staying awake, which can then result in daytime sleepiness, depressed mood, irritability, and low energy.

Insomnia may occur either independently or as a result of another problem, such as chronic pain, heart failure, restless leg syndrome, and stress. The first steps in treating insomnia are lifestyle changes and better sleep hygiene.

When it comes to technological solutions, you can use bulbs that stop the blue light, such as the Good Night Biological LED Bulb. Also, you can try blackout shades or devices like Ebb Insomnia Therapy.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that affects up to 20% of the world’s population, and it causes a person’s breathing to be interrupted during sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea—obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Common reasons that cause sleep apnea are enlarged tonsils or adenoids, smoking, frequent alcohol use, and weight.

Between the two, OSA is the more common one, and it occurs when the soft tissue in our throat collapses while we’re asleep. Its symptoms are daytime sleepiness, restlessness, gasping for air while sleeping, snoring, and fatigue.

When it comes to CSA, the issue starts in our central nervous system. Our breathing isn’t interrupted, but our brain fails to relay the information to our body to breathe.

Many inventions can help with sleep apnea, such as slumberBUMP that nudges you into sleeping on your side. As a result, it prevents the blocking of your airways. Another solution is EPAP by Theravent that regulates your airflow and creates a gentle pressure in your airway, keeping it open and reducing vibration.


If you snore, you’re not alone. Approximately 40% of men and 20% of women snore, which is more than two billion people. It may be caused by sleep deprivation, sleep position, nasal problems, alcohol consumption, or simply due to our mouth’s anatomy.

For example, when muscles surrounding our throat relax during sleep, they cause the airway to get narrower, which then causes the tissue in our throat to vibrate as air passes through.

Luckily, since it’s one of the most common sleeping disorders around the globe, there are many technological solutions that can help with snoring, such as Hupnos’ Snoring MaskURGONight EEG Headband, as well as many different sleeping solutions by Philips.

Author’s Bio

Maja Talevska is a content curator and contributor for several different publications, including DealsOnCannabis.  As one of her biggest passions, writing is more than just a profession, which is why she always delivers top-notch content. When she is not immersed in her work, she spends her time planning her next destination or walking her adorable dog Leo.

Technological Solutions That Help with Common Sleeping Disorders

For most adults, getting seven to nine hours of sleep is enough to wake up rested and keep us functioning throughout the day. Granted, some people can manage to sleep a lot less, while others don’t want to leave the warmth of their bed. However, the problem occurs when we want to sleep only to find ourselves being restless in bed or continuously waking up unable to get a good night’s sleep.

However, there’s no reason to worry. We’ve comprised a list of the most common sleeping disorders and technological solutions for them, which you can make use of and get some shuteye.


According to stats, 30% of the grown-up Americans experience insomnia. It causes people to have difficulty falling asleep or staying awake, which can then result in daytime sleepiness, depressed mood, irritability, and low energy.

Insomnia may occur either independently or as a result of another problem, such as chronic pain, heart failure, restless leg syndrome, and stress. The first steps in treating insomnia are lifestyle changes and better sleep hygiene.

When it comes to technological solutions, you can use bulbs that stop the blue light, such as the Good Night Biological LED Bulb. Also, you can try blackout shades or devices like Ebb Insomnia Therapy.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that affects up to 20% of the world’s population, and it causes a person’s breathing to be interrupted during sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea—obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Common reasons that
cause sleep apnea are enlarged tonsils or adenoids, smoking, frequent alcohol use, and weight.

Between the two, OSA is the more common one, and it occurs when the soft tissue in our throat collapses while we’re asleep. Its symptoms are daytime sleepiness, restlessness, gasping for air while sleeping, snoring, and fatigue.

When it comes to CSA, the issue starts in our central nervous system. Our breathing isn’t interrupted, but our brain fails to relay the information to our body to breathe.

Many inventions can help with sleep apnea, such as slumberBUMP that nudges you into sleeping on your side. As a result, it prevents the blocking of your airways. Another solution is EPAP by Theravent that regulates your airflow and creates a gentle pressure in your airway,
keeping it open and reducing vibration.


If you snore, you’re not alone. Approximately 40% of men and 20% of women snore, which is more than two billion people. It may be caused by sleep deprivation, sleep position, nasal problems, alcohol consumption, or simply due to our mouth’s anatomy.

For example, when muscles surrounding our throat relax during sleep, they cause the airway to get narrower, which then causes the tissue in our throat to vibrate as air passes through.

Luckily, since it’s one of the most common sleeping disorders around the globe, there are many technological solutions that can help with snoring, such as Hupnos’ Snoring Mask, as well as many sleeping solutions, by Phillips.

(Maja Talevska is a content curator and contributor for several different publications, including DealsOnCannabis. As one of her biggest passions, writing is more than just a profession, which is why she always delivers top-notch content.)

Apple and Google Team Up to ‘Contact Trace’ the Coronavirus

The technology giants said they would embed a feature in iPhones and Android devices to enable users to track infected people they’d come close to.

In one of the most far-ranging attempts to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Apple and Google said they were building software into smartphones that would tell people if they were recently in contact with someone who was infected with it.

The technology giants said they were teaming up to release the tool within several months, building it into the operating systems of the billions of iPhones and Android devices around the world. That would enable the smartphones to constantly log other devices they come near, enabling what is known as “contact tracing” of the disease. People would opt in to use the tool and voluntarily report if they became infected.

The unlikely partnership between Google and Apple, fierce rivals who rarely pass up an opportunity to criticize each other, underscores the seriousness of the health crisis and the power of the two companies whose software runs almost every smartphone in the world. Apple and Google said their joint effort came together in just the last two weeks.

Their work could prove to be significant in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Public-health authorities have said that improved tracking of infected people and their contacts could slow the pandemic, especially at the start of an outbreak, and such measures have been effective in places like South Korea that also conducted mass virus testing.

Yet two of the world’s largest tech companies harnessing virtually all of the smartphones on the planet to trace people’s connections raises questions about the reach these behemoths have into individuals’ lives and society.

“It could be a useful tool but it raises privacy issues,” said Dr. Mike Reid, an assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, who is helping San Francisco officials with contact tracing. “It’s not going to be the sole solution, but as part of a robust sophisticated response, it has a role to play.”

Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said on Twitter that the tool would help curb the virus’s spread “in a way that also respects transparency & consent.” Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief, also posted on Twitter that the tool has “strong controls and protections for user privacy.”

With the tool, people infected with the coronavirus would notify a public health app that they have it, which would then alert phones that had recently come into proximity with that person’s device. The companies would need to get public-health authorities to agree to link their app to the tool.

Privacy is a concern given that Google, in particular, has a checkered history of collecting people’s data for its online advertising business. The internet search company came under fire in 2018 after it said that disabling people’s location history on Android phones would not stop it from collecting location data.

Apple, which has been one of the biggest critics of Google’s collection of user data, has not built a significant business around using data to sell online advertising. Still, the company has access to a wealth of information about its users, from their location to their health.

There are already third-party tools for contact tracing, including from public health authorities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In March, the government of Singapore introduced a similar coronavirus contact-tracing app, called TraceTogether, that detects mobile phones that are nearby.

But given the number of iPhones and Android devices in use worldwide, Apple and Google said they were hoping to make tracing efforts by public health authorities more effective by reaching more people. They also said they would provide their underlying technology to the third-party apps to make them more reliable.

Daniel Weitzner, a principal research scientist at M.I.T.’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and who was one of those behind the school’s contract tracing app, said Google and Apple’s partnership will help health officials save time and resources in developing their own applications to track the virus’ spread.

One challenge for third-party apps is that they must run constantly — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — to be effective. Google said some Android smartphone manufacturers shut down those applications to save battery life.

Apple and Google said their tool would also constantly run in the background if people opt to use it, logging nearby devices through the short-range wireless technology Bluetooth. But it would eat up less battery life and be more reliable than third-party apps, they said.

Google Assistant’s Text-to-Speech Feature Goes Live on Android

Back at CES, Google teased a new feature that allows the Google Assistant to read web pages aloud in more than 42 languages with just a simple voice command. Now Google’s Read It feature is finally ready to roll out.

In addition to being a big boon for accessibility or people trying to learn a new language, the Google Assistant’s Read It feature also boasts new, more natural-sounding speech technology with more expressive intonation, rhythm, and inflection. The goal for the GA team was to not only create a helpful tool, but to also make something that would make listening to text from news stories or recipes more enjoyable.

To activate Read It while browsing an article on an Android phone simply say “Hey Google, read it,” or “OK Google, read this page.” From there, the Google Assistant will begin reading the article aloud while also highlighting words as they are spoken in real-time and auto-scrolling down the page as needed. Users will also be able to choose between multiple voices and customize the Google Assistant’s speaking pace to best suit their needs.

For those that want to hear a story in another language, there will also be a translation menu in the Google Assistant so you can quickly switch to the language you want, with options including Spanish, Korean, Hindi and more.

On the back end, the Google Assistant doesn’t require websites to have any additional code or functionality for Read It to work. However, for developers who want to make things a bit easier, it’s possible to enable apps to read text aloud to users using Actions on Google. And for devs who would prefer to block the Google Assistant’s text-to-speech feature, they can add the nopagereadaloug tag to their webpage.

Unfortunately, there’s no word on when Read It will be available on iOS, Chrome OS, or even Chrome on the desktop, but for Android users, the Google Assistant’s new text-to-speech powers are slated to roll out live worldwide today.

One billion Android devices at risk of hacking

More than a billion Android devices are at risk of being hacked because they are no longer protected by security updates, watchdog Which? has suggested.

The vulnerability could leave users around the world exposed to the danger of data theft, ransom demands and other malware attacks.

Anyone using an Android phone released in 2012 or earlier should be especially concerned, it said.

Which? says it was not reassured by Google’s response.

And the tech giant has not responded to BBC requests for a comment.

Google’s own data suggests that 42.1% of Android users worldwide are on version 6.0 of its operating system or below.

According to the Android security bulletin, there were no security patches issued for the Android system in 2019 for versions below 7.0.

Extrapolating this data, Which? concluded that two in five Android users worldwide were no longer receiving security updates.

It then tested five phones:

  • a Motorola X
  • a Samsung Galaxy A5
  • a Sony Xperia Z2
  • an LG/Google Nexus 5
  • a Samsung Galaxy S6

Which? asked anti-virus lab AV Comparatives to infect them with malware – and it succeeded on every phone, creating multiple infections on some.

It said it shared its findings with Google but the tech giant “failed to provide reassurance that it has plans in place to help users whose devices were no longer supported”.

More than a billion Android devices are at risk of being hacked because they are no longer protected by security updates, watchdog Which? has suggested.

The watchdog wants Google and others to provide far more transparency around how long updates for smart devices will be provided.

And it said the mobile industry needed to do a better job of giving support to customers about their options once security updates are no longer available.

Kate Bevan, Which? Computing editor, said: “It’s very concerning that expensive Android devices have such a short shelf life before they lose security support, leaving millions of users at risk of serious consequences if they fall victim to hackers.

“Google and phone manufacturers need to be upfront about security updates – with clear information about how long they will last and what customers should do when they run out.

“The government must also push ahead with planned legislation to ensure manufacturers are far more transparent about security updates for smart devices – and their impact on consumers.”

How to check whether your phone is vulnerable and what to do

  • If your Android device is more than two years old, check whether it can be updated to a newer version of the operating system. If you are on an earlier version than Android 7.0 Nougat, try to update via Settings> System>Advanced System update
  • If you can’t update, your phone could be at risk of being hacked, especially if you are running a version of Android 4 or lower. If this is the case be careful about downloading apps outside the Google Play store
  • Also be wary of suspicious SMS or MMS messages
  • Back up data in at least two places (a hard drive and a cloud service)
  • Install a mobile anti-virus via an app, but bear in mind that the choice is limited for older phones

Every Child on Earth Faces ‘Existential Threats’ From Climate Change, Report Finds

Every child on Earth faces an uncertain future due to the effects of climate change and not one country is doing enough to ensure its children’s sustained wellbeing, a new report says.

The findings, compiled by over 40 child and adolescent health experts in a commission convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the medical journal The Lancet, show that the health and future for every child and teen in the world is under threat. Climate change, ecological degradation and advertising practices that push harmful products toward youth are just some factors that have created an uncertain future for children, the report says.

“Despite improvements in child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, progress has stalled, and is set to reverse,” said Helen Clark, co-chair of the Commission and the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, in a UNICEF statement about the report. “It has been estimated that around 250 million children under five years old in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential, based on proxy measures of stunting and poverty. But of even greater concern, every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures.”

In the short term, survival rates for children are among the highest they’ve been in history, Stefan Peterson, chief of health at UNICEF and one of the study’s authors, tells TIME. But, he says, rampant inequality and marketing practices have threatened the future of overall developments in nutrition and survival.

“The gains are not shared equally within countries and between the countries of the world,” he says, adding that children are increasingly exposed to marketing tactics for unhealthy foods, drugs and gambling — products that are harmful to health and further drive climate change. “It’s threatening children, and by extension, humanity.”

The report includes an index of 180 countries that compares findings on three measures of child wellbeing: flourishing, sustainability and equity. These three categories include factors like health, education, nutrition, sustainability, greenhouse gas emissions, and income gaps.

 “The poorest countries have a long way to go towards supporting their children’s ability to live healthy lives, but wealthier countries threaten the future of all children through carbon pollution, on course to cause runaway climate change and environmental disaster,” the authors write in the report. “Not a single country performed well on all three measures of child flourishing, sustainability, and equity.”

The study ranked Norway, South Korea and the Netherlands as the highest based on these factors. Chad, Somalia, Niger, Mali and the Central African Republic ranked the lowest.

But when the study authors took into account the per capita carbon emissions of the countries and compared it with performance on child flourishing, the countries where children face the some of the worst odds emit less carbon than countries where children have a higher chance of surviving and flourishing. The United States, Australia, Saudi Arabia are among the 10 worst carbon emitters globally. The current level of carbon emissions is pushing the world closer to dangerous levels of climate change.

“There’s a huge global inequity here in that children who benefit least from carbon emissions are the ones paying the biggest price in other parts of the world,” Peterson says.

Peterson and the dozens of other health professionals that worked on the report recommend reframing societal priorities to put children at the center of new policies. This includes a significant financial investment to ensure their health. Beyond monetary investments in healthcare, the authors urge people across all sectors, from housing to energy to transport, to work together to ensure future survival. They also encourage taking children’s voices into account. “Citizen participation and community action, including the voices of children themselves, are powerful forces for change that must be mobilized to reach the [Sustainable Development Goals],” they write.

Arvind Krishna is IBM’s chief executive officer

IBM has appointed Arvind Krishna as its chief executive officer. The 57-year-old, who graduated in 1985 from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, holds a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined IBM in 1990 and has served in several roles at the New York-based company, including as director of research and the head of the cloud and cognitive software unit.
Krishna orchestrated the landmark deal with open source technology firm Red Hat in 2019—IBM’s biggest purchase in its 109-year history.
IBM’s outgoing head, Virginia “Ginny” Rometty, described Krishna as the “right CEO for the next era at IBM” and someone who was “well-positioned” to lead the company into the cloud and cognitive era.
“Through his multiple experiences running businesses in IBM, Arvind has built an outstanding track record of bold transformations and proven business results and is an authentic values-driven leader. He is well-positioned to lead IBM and its clients into the cloud and cognitive era,” she said in a statement.
Rometty’s eight-year-term was marred by struggles to rebuild IBM in the era of cloud computing. The announcement marked a long-overdue change in leadership, judging by the market’s response. IBM’s stock rallied 4% after hours. Krishna will take over on April 6. Rometty, 62, will then retire but serve as the board’s executive chairman.
The ongoing shuffle shows IBM is looking for more tech strength in its leadership positions. Days before Krishna’s appointment, Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, was named IBM’s new president. “This new team, Arvind and Jim, bring more of an in-depth tech-savviness to the top, which is necessary in this rapidly changing technology industry,” Arvind Ramnani, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets, the media.
Krishna’s the latest addition to the list of Indian-origin CEOs helming big American companies. This includes Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, and non-tech firm CEO, Ajay Banga of MasterCard.

Sundar Pichai says AI will be more profound change than fire

Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive officer has left no doubt about how important he thinks artificial intelligence will be to humanity. “AI is one of the most profound things we’re working on as humanity. It’s more profound than fire or electricity,” Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.

Alphabet, which owns Google, has had to grapple with its role in the development of AI, including managing employee revolts against its work on the technology for the U.S. government. In 2018, a group of influential software engineers successfully delayed the development of a security feature that would’ve helped the company win military contracts.

Google has issued a set of AI principles that prohibit weapons work, but doesn’t rule out selling to the military. It has also pledged not to renew its Project Maven contract, which involves using artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage.

Pichai, who’s led Google since 2015, took control of Alphabet after founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down from day-to-day involvement last month.

“AI is no different from the climate,” Pichai said. “You can’t get safety by having one country or a set of countries working on it. You need a global framework.”

Current frameworks to regulate the technology in the U.S. and Europe are a “great start,” and countries will have to work together on international agreements, similar to the Paris climate accord, to ensure it’s developed responsibly, Pichai said.

Technology such as facial recognition can be used for good, such as finding missing people, or have “negative consequences,” such as mass surveillance, he said.

Keith Enright, Google’s chief privacy officer, also spoke about the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning to continue developing new technologies and services using a minimum amount of customer data.

“We’re right now really focused on doing more with less data,” Enright said at a data-protection conference in Brussels on Wednesday. “This is counter-intuitive to a lot of people, because the popular narrative is that companies like ours are trying to amass as much data as possible.”

Holding on to data that isn’t delivering value for users is “a risk,” he said.

Powerful new European Union rules took effect across in May, giving privacy watchdogs the power to fine companies as much as 4% of annual global sales for serious violations. Google has come under scrutiny many times in Europe, with one probe in France resulting in a 50 million euro ($55 million) fine under the new law.

Pichai had also stopped by Brussels on his way to Davos, giving a rare public speech, where he called on regulators to coordinate their approaches to artificial intelligence. The European Union is set to unveil new rules AI developers in “high risk sectors,” such as health care and transportation, according to an early draft obtained by Bloomberg.

Scientists Think We’re Closer to the End of the World Than Ever

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it’s ever been. Scientists think we’re closer to the end of the world than ever before.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists—a nonprofit group of scientists and security experts who monitor the possibility of Armageddon caused by humans—has moved the Doomsday Clock 100 seconds to midnight, the closest to midnight the clock has been in its 75-year history.

“Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said in a statement. “The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.”

According to the Bulletin, the Doomsday Clock is a visual representation of how close humanity is to ending itself. Every year since the clocks inception in 1947, a group of scientists and experts gather to discuss the possibility of the end of the world and adjust the clock accordingly. It’s meant as a warning.

At 100 seconds to midnight, the Bulletin is saying it believes Earth is closer to global disaster than at any other time in its history. Both Russia and the U.S. pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, a Cold-War era pact that prohibited cruise missiles and land-based ballistic missiles with ranges between 311 and 3,420 miles. In the weeks after leaving the treaty, both Russia and the U.S. started testing new nuclear weapons.

New START, an Obama-era treaty limiting the number of missiles the U.S. and Russia can deploy, will expire in February unless it’s renewed. Russia has said it wants to renew the treaty, but America is dragging its heels and indicating it may let the treaty lapse. As these treaties fail, both sides are developing new types of nuclear weapons aimed at circumventing existing defense systems.

“I have to admit, at first we set the clock in November,” Sharon Squassoni—a member of the Bulletin and a professor at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University—said during the press conference announcing the Doomsday Clock’s time. “This was before the recent military actions by the U.S. and Iran, Iran’s threat that it might leave the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and North Korea’s abandonment of talks with the United States … we’re rapidly losing our bearings in the nuclear weapons landscape.”

According to the Bulletin, it’s not just nuclear weapons threatening to end the world. Climate change and technological innovations—particularly in the realm of disinformation and cyberwarfare—also threaten global stability. “The recent emergence of so-called ‘deepfakes’—audio and video recordings that are essentially undetectable as false—threatens to further undermine the ability of citizens and decision makers to separate truth from fiction,” Robert Latiff, a retired U.S. Air Force major general and member of the Bulletin said during the press conference.

The Bulletin believes this mix of nuclear weapons, climate change, and disinformation have moved humanity closer to Armageddon than ever before. And so we sit at 100 seconds to midnight.

After its formation In 1947, the Bulletin set the Clock to 7 minutes to midnight. After the Soviet Union and the United States tested the first thermonuclear bomb in 1953, the clocked ticked to 2 midnight. At the end of the Cold War, the Clock ticked back to 17 minutes to midnight. In 2018, amid rising tensions with North Korea and Trump’s fire and fury rhetoric, the Buletin moved the Clock to 2 minutes to midnight where it sat through 2019. The move to 100 seconds is unprecedented.

The Doomsday Clock is a metaphor and a warning, not a promise. “It is a completely made up rating system, but like almost every other made up rating system, it is useful in drawing attention to key issues through a succinct frame,” Peter W. Singer, Senior Fellow at New America, future war strategist, and the author of the forthcoming book Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution—told Motherboard in an email. “Indeed, the longevity of the ‘Doomsday Clock,’ that we’re still talking about it almost 75 years after its creation, back when not just the Internet didn’t exist yet, but the USSR didn’t even have an atomic bomb, shows the very success of the concept.”

Jeffrey Lewis—a nuclear policy expert and professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterrey, California—agrees.“I think it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, we do need metrics to understand how nuclear dangers have shifted over time and as a piece of art representing those dangers it is incredible,” Lewis told Motherboard in an email. “On the other hand, the methodology has been so inconsistent over time that the clock ultimately tells us more about liberal anxiety than anything else. Still, at the end of the day, it’s one of the most potent symbols our community has and I would regret it if the Bulletin ever stopped.”

Awareness is only one part of the process though, for the Doomsday Clock to be a true success we must heed its warning and pull back from the brink.

America’s #1 Futurist George Issues Shocking Prediction

“This tiny piece of plastic will transform our world forever, Mr. President”   The idea George Gilder proposed as he handed Ronald Reagan one of the world’s first silicon microchips was an impossible one.   At the time, most people said he was crazy. Computers didn’t even exist…

But today we know that George’s prediction came true- in explosive fashion.   The microchip has gone on to generate trillions in profits and power the greatest economic explosion in the history of the human race.   It was even voted by CNN to be the most important invention of all time, decades after his prediction!

But for George Gilder, the rise of the computing era was only one of many accurate predictions he made over his 53 year career.   To the surprise of most, George has consistently seen the future.

It’s earned him nicknames like “The Technology Prophet”, “King George” and “The Greatest Stock Picker in The World”   During the 80’s, Reagan quoted George more than any other person on the planet.

During the tech boom of the 90’s, Wall Street analysts lined up to get George’s next stock pick.   And during the early 2000’s, he was the first to predict companies like Youtube and Netflix would radically transform the media landscape.

You see, George’s looks at the world through a different lens than most- and his predictions are rarely wrong.   His ability to see 3 steps ahead of even the biggest thinkers has cemented his status as America’s #1 futurist.

It’s also established him as the advisor Silicon Valley and Wall Street heavyweights consult when they’re facing big problems.  Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, said this about George’s predictions:   “I listen very closely to what George has to say”

And Ari Emmanuel, arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood, praised George’s forward-thinking by saying:   “The internet, mobile and streaming revolutions happened just as George predicted. Watching George’s predictions happen, living through them… I learned that the cycle of innovation doesn’t stop after TV. Surviving the next revolution means connecting the dots early.”

But 17 years ago, after a 3-decade long run, George mysteriously decided to hang up his hat.   And since then, he has remained largely out of the game.

Happily resting at his New England estate on the millions in profits he made investing ahead of his predictions over the years.   Until a few weeks ago, when George started to make some noise about a new prediction. A breakthrough that challenges everything we know about technology.

It’s been slowly building for 11 years, and now George believes the revolution has reached critical mass. It’s here.  According to him this is “So big it will shake our economy to the core.”   So to share his prediction before it is too late, George has taken action. The goal- help Americans everywhere prepare for what’s about to come.

To spread the word, he created a special breakdown of his shocking prediction.   In this groundbreaking presentation, George explains the revolution he sees coming and shows Americans exactly how they can prepare.

This information may seem shocking, confusing, or simply unbelievable. But it’s not the first time George has predicted something like this….   And anyone familiar with George’s stellar track record would tell you this- it’s worth at least seeing for yourself what he has to say.

The 2020 ‘Super Bowl of Astronomy’ Kicks Off in Hawaii

Thousands of scientists from around the world are converging on Hawaii this week to unveil the latest discoveries about the universe at the so-called “Super Bowl of astronomy.” If the event, the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, had a stadium, it would be packed.

“This will be the biggest AAS meeting in history,” AAS spokesperson Rick Feinberg told Space.com in an email.

More than 3,500 scientists are expected to attend the four-day conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, Feinberg said. The first press conferences and talks begin today (Jan. 5). They’ll end on Wednesday (Jan. 8), with observatory tours and other presentations scheduled throughout the week.

NASA, as expected, will showcase its latest space findings at the conference, including the agency’s recent exoplanet discoveries by the TESS space telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in April.

“NASA researchers will present new findings on a wide range of astrophysics and other space science topics at the 235th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Saturday, Jan. 4, through Wednesday, Jan. 8, in Honolulu,” NASA officials said in a statement. “Agency scientists and their colleagues who use NASA research capabilities also will present noteworthy findings during scientific sessions that are open to registered media.”

“The main new feature of this meeting is our major effort to bring the astronomical community and the local community together as much as possible to discuss the future of astronomy in Hawaii,” Feinberg said.

Hawaii has long been a focal point for astronomy. The Keck Observatory, which has the largest active optical telescopes on Earth, and other observatories sit atop the volcano Mauna Kea and an even larger telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope, is planned to be built at the site.

But construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has been stalled due to ongoing protests by indigenous groups that consider Mauna Kea sacred. The demonstrations stepped up in 2019.

“TMT is committed to finding a peaceful way forward on Maunakea for all,” the builders of the new telescope wrote in a Dec. 20 update.

“We are sensitive to the ongoing struggles of indigenous populations around the world, and we will continue to support conversations around TMT and the larger issues for which it has become a flashpoint,” Gordon Squires, TMT VP for External Affairs, said in the statement. “We are participating in private conversations with community leaders, but these conversations will take time.”

How Alzheimer’s disease could be cured by shining light directly into the brain

Alzheimer’s disease could be reversed by shining light directly into the brain through the nose and skull, scientists believe. The first major trial to see if light therapy could be beneficial for dementia has just begun following astonishing early results which have seen people regain their memory, reading and writing skills, and orientation.

If successful it would be the first treatment to actually reverse the disease. So far, even the most hopeful drugs, such as Biogen’s aducanumab, have only managed to slow the onset of dementia, and many scientists had given up hope of reversing brain damage once it had already happened.

A 12-week trial into its effectiveness has just begun after early results saw patients regain their memory, as well as reading and writing skills, in three months.

With no known Alzheimer’s cure in sight, the headset offers a ray of hope for around 850,000 sufferers in Britain and nearly six million in the US.

Patients currently have to rely on drugs that lessen its symptoms. The new Neuro RX Gamma headset being tested was developed by the Canadian biotech firm Vielight.

Treatment involves wearing the device, as well as a separate nasal clip that channels light through the nostrils, for 20 minutes a day. The light is said to boost the mitochondria which give cells their energy, in a process called photobiomodulation.  This then stimulates the brain to activate immune cells known as microglia, which fight the disease.

In Alzheimer’s patients these cells can become inactive and plaques can build up, stopping the brain’s normal function.

Amyloid plaque is one of the hallmarks of the currently incurable disease, which is the most common form of dementia.

A sticky build-up of plaque is thought to lead to the progressive destruction of brain cells. Neuro RX’s inventor Dr Lew Lim told The Telegraph: ‘Photobiomodulation introduces the therapeutic effect of light into our brain.

‘It triggers the body to restore its natural balance or homeostasis. When we do that, we call upon the body’s innate ability to heal.

‘Based on early data, we are confident of seeing some measure of recovery in the symptoms not just a slowdown in the rate of decline, even in moderate to severe cases.’

The new trial is being led by the University of Toronto and involves 228 people across eight sites in the US and Canada.

Half of the volunteers will receive the light therapy six days a week for 20 minutes for a total of 12 weeks. The rest will receive a placebo.

A safety trial last year involving five people with mild to moderately severe dementia saw all of their conditions improve.

They reported improved cognitive function, better sleep, fewer angry outbursts, less anxiety and wandering – all common side effects of the treatment. They also reported better memory.

Brain scans also revealed visible improvements in connectivity between brain regions and better blood flow, according to The Telegraph.

Once the therapy was stopped, the patients began to once again decline. Light therapy is already used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern – and traumatic brain injuries.

It is thought to trigger the release of serotonin – the happy hormone, promote better sleep, and stimulate areas of the brain that have shut down after damage.

Monisha Ghosh Appointed Chief Technology Officer of Federal Communications Commission

Monisha Ghosh has been appointed Chief Technology Officer of Federal Communications Commission. The announcement was made by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
Ghosh will advise Pai and the agency on technology and engineering issues, and will work closely with the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology.
“As the FCC moves aggressively to advance American leadership in 5G, Dr. Ghosh’s deep technical knowledge of wireless technologies will be invaluable,” said Chairman Pai. “Dr. Ghosh has both conducted and overseen research into cutting-edge wireless issues in academia and industry. Her expertise is also broad, ranging from the Internet of Things, medical telemetry, and broadcast standards. And it bears noting that this is an historic appointment: I am proud that Dr. Ghosh will be the FCC’s first female CTO, and hope her example inspires young women everywhere to consider careers in STEM fields. I’m grateful to her for serving in this important position at this important time.”
The FCC’s chief technology officer serves as the senior technology expert in the agency. Dr. Ghosh will be housed in the Office of Engineering and Technology. She replaces Dr. Eric Burger, who has been serving at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy since October. Dr. Ghosh will start work at the FCC on January 13.
Dr. Ghosh has been serving as a rotating Program Director at the National Science Foundation since September 2017, in the Computer and Network System Division within the Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering, where she manages the core wireless research portfolio as well as special programs such as Machine Learning for Wireless Networking Systems ((MLWiNS). She is also a Research Professor at the University of Chicago, where she conducts research on wireless technologies for the Internet of Things, 5G cellular, next generation Wi-Fi systems, and spectrum coexistence. Prior to joining the University of Chicago in September 2015, she worked at Interdigital, Philips Research and Bell Laboratories, on various wireless systems, such as the HDTV broadcast standard, cable standardization and cognitive radio for the TV White Spaces. She has been an active contributor to many industry standards.

Artificial Intelligence And Fake News

A lot has changed since technology took over the world. Back then, not everyone had access to these sophisticated gadgets because they are far too expensive and only the rich can afford it. But with the mass production of these things, even the masses can now afford to buy one without spending a fortune.

We have access to news, information, ideas, opinions and virtual presentation of everything that happens around the world in our finger tips. The present generation has access to these probably more than most of the past generations put together.

The challenge is to differentiate between truth from falsehood. All that we see and hear and experience not necessarily reflect the truth or the reality.

During the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, we were treated to headlines such as “Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS” and “Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump for President”. Both were completely untrue.

But they were just two examples of a tsunami of attention-grabbing, false stories that flooded social media and the internet. Many such headlines were simply trying to drive traffic to websites for the purpose of earning advertising dollars. Others though, seemed part of a concerted attempt to sway public opinion in favor of one presidential candidate or the other.
Social Media was filled with the so-called “fake news”. A study conducted by news website BuzzFeed revealed that fake news travelled faster and further during the US election campaign.

The 20 top-performing false election stories generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook, whereas the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 reputable news websites generated 7,367,000 shares, reactions and comments.

The 2020 election season is upon us, with historical importance for the United States and the world. People are concerned that the 2016 election cycle related fake news strategy used by people to favor Trump and discredit Hillary Clinton should not be repeated and all steps need to be taken to prevent fake news reaching the public.

Facebook, Twitter Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. are discovering the harsh reality that disinformation and hate speech are even more challenging in emerging markets than in places like the U.S. or Europe.
India with as many as 900 million voters in the recently concluded election that culminated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition returned to an unprecedented victory, the Social Media giants, Facebook Inc. to Google, had made huge efforts with Facebook hiring contractors to verify content in 10 of the country’s 23 official languages.

There are more technological advances in creating and circulating fake news today than ever before. Recently, I came across a report by BBC, “Dangerous AI offers to write fake news.”
The writer suggested that Artificial Intelligence (AI) system has been found to be able to “generates realistic stories, poems and articles has been updated, with some claiming it is now almost as good as a human writer.”

In February this year, OpenAI catapulted itself into the public eye when it produced a language model so good at generating fake news that the organization decided not to release it.

Recently, they released an advanced version of it. The model, called GPT-2, was trained on a dataset of eight million web pages, and is able to adapt to the style and content of the initial text given to it. “It can finish a Shakespeare poem as well as write articles and epithets,” the report stated.

A BBC report, based on research and tests done by BBC staff and technocrats found that a Text Generator, built by research firm OpenAI, has developed a new, powerful version of the system – that could be used to create fake news or abusive spam on social media.
Tristan Greene, an author, commented about AI, “I’m terrified of GPT-2 because it represents the kind of technology that evil humans are going to use to manipulate the population – and in my opinion that makes it more dangerous than any gun.”
President Donald Trump has been warning about “fake news” throughout his entire political career putting a dark cloud over the journalism professional.

A new program called “deepfaking,” a product of AI and machine learning advancements that allows high-tech computers to produce completely false yet remarkably realistic videos depicting events that never happened or people saying things they never said.

Deepfake technology is allowing organizations that produce fake news to augment their “reporting” with seemingly legitimate videos, blurring the line between reality and fiction like never before — and placing the reputation of journalists and the media at greater risk.
It is alarming that machines are now equipped with the “intelligence” to create fake news, and write like humans, adapting to human style and content, appealing to the sections of audience they want to target.

The quest for artificial intelligence (AI) began over 70 years ago, with the idea that computers would one day be able to think like us. Ambitious predictions attracted generous funding, but after a few decades there was little to show for it. But, in the last 25 years, new approaches to AI, coupled with advances in technology, mean that we may now be on the brink of realizing those pioneers’ dreams.

Artificial intelligence is able to transform the relationship between people and technology, charging our creativity and skills. The future of AI promises a new era of disruption and productivity, where human ingenuity is enhanced by speed and precision.
When this happens, the journalism industry is going to face a massive consumer trust issue, according to Zhao. He fears it will be hard for top-tier media outlets to distinguish a real video from a doctored one, let alone news consumers who haphazardly stumble across the video on Twitter.

While Artificial Intelligence has advanced much, with the noble purpose of making life easier for human beings, it has thrown massive challenges for all of us and for the need to carefully distinguish reality from fake news; from truth to falsehood.

Human behavior and our responses to the newsfeed has changed along with the rise of the Internet and social media. People are always on their smartphones or gadgets checking on their social media accounts that they often mistake virtual reality for real life. While it has helped us connect instantly with people living thousands of miles away, it has contributed to people losing real “touch” with people in their lives.

Moreover, people usually only show the good side of their lives to the public but in reality, life is not a bed of roses. There are difficulties and challenges that come our way but we often bottle it up, to give others the perception that our life is perfect. In that way, social media affects human behavior negatively.

The key here is to use it in moderation knowing how many people often lose themselves when using it. Even too much of a good thing can still be bad for you.

Is Your Smartphone Ruining Your Relationship?

Smartphone dependency is on the rise. According to Dr. James A. Roberts, “the typical American checks his or her smartphone once every six-and-a-half minutes, or roughly 150 times each day.”
When one of these frequent phone checks interrupts a conversation or quality time with a romantic partner, it can have serious consequences on the relationship.
The term “phubbing” (derived from “phone-snubbing”) describes those moments we are all too familiar with, when one partner gets distracted by their phone and the other partner feels rejected.
In fact, phubbing has become so common that it is now one of the biggest sources of conflicts in romantic relationships—right up there with arguments about money, kids, and sex!
Is Your Smartphone Ruining Your Relationship?The sexual health department at the Cheikh Khalifa Ben Zayed international university hospital in Casablanca in Morocco has revealed that nearly 60 per cent of the study participants admitted having problems in their sex lives because of smartphones.
According to a report in Morocco World News citing the scientific study, all 600 participants had smartphones and a whopping 92 per cent admitted to using them at night.
Only 18 per cent of them put their phones on airplane mode in their bedrooms.
The study found that the smartphones negatively impacted adults aged between 20 and 45 years, with 60 per cent saying the devices disturbed their “sexual performances.”
“Around 50 per cent of the interviewees declared “not being comfortable” with their sex lives because of the large portion of time allocated to smartphone use,” the report mentioned
A survey by US-based SureCall — a company that produces devices to boost cell phone reception, last year found that 17 per cent millennials reach for their smartphone during sex.
Almost three-quarters said they sleep with their smartphone either on or next to their bed at night. Those who sleep with their phone nearby were twice as likely to admit they feel fear or anxiety when away from the device.
Alarmingly, these people were also twice as likely to say they are “somewhat dissatisfied with their lives”, the survey claimed.
An earlier study by Durham University and commissioned by condom-maker Durex found that people are more likely to be seduced by gadgets than by their partners.
One third of participants in the study admitted to interrupting sex to answer incoming calls.
Mark McCormack, who carried out the interviews, said taking gadgets into the bedroom has “potentially serious costs to relationships”.
Couples keen to know how their smartphones could make their sex lives more exciting were surprised to learn the answer is the switch-off key.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Brandon McDaniel, who studied phones and relationships at Illinois State University, “found that when technology devices frequently interrupted partners, couples had more conflict over technology use, lower relationship satisfaction, more depressive symptoms and lower life satisfaction.”
Yet, this is an incredibly common problem. A study on “Technoference,” the interference of technology in relationships, found that 70 percent of participants reported that smartphone interruptions negatively impacted interactions with their romantic partners.
Authors of the study explain that by allowing technology to interrupt time spent with romantic partners “individuals may be sending implicit messages about what they value most, leading to conflict and negative outcomes in personal life and relationships.”

The bottom line is: nobody likes to be phubbed. It makes us feel as though our partners don’t take us seriously and/or don’t find us interesting. It leads to more insecurity in ourselves and more uncertainty about our relationships.
So, if your goal is  to have a happy, healthy relationship, it’s best to consistently prioritize your partner over your smartphone. The more distance you put between yourself and your phone, the more closeness you can achieve in your relationship.

Are we alone? Study refines search for habitable planets

A team of US researchers has redefined the conditions that make a planet habitable by taking the star’s radiation and the planet’s rotation rate into account – a discovery that will help astronomers narrow down the search around life-sustaining planets.

The research team is the first to combine 3D climate modeling with atmospheric chemistry to explore the habitability of planets around M dwarf stars, which comprise about 70 per cent of the total galactic population.

Among its findings, the Northwestern team, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, NASA’s Virtual Planet Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discovered that only planets orbiting active stars — those that emit a lot of ultraviolet (UV) radiation — lose significant water to vaporization. Planets around inactive, or quiet, stars are more likely to maintain life-sustaining liquid water.

The researchers also found that planets with thin ozone layers, which have otherwise habitable surface temperatures, receive dangerous levels of UV dosages, making them hazardous for complex surface life.

“It’s only in recent years that we have had the modeling tools and observational technology to address this question,” said Northwestern’s Howard Chen, the study’s first author.

“Still, there are a lot of stars and planets out there, which means there are a lot of targets,” added Daniel Horton, senior author of the study. “Our study can help limit the number of places we have to point our telescopes”.

The research was published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Horton and Chen are looking beyond our solar system to pinpoint the habitable zones within M dwarf stellar systems. M dwarf planets have emerged as frontrunners in the search for habitable planets.

They get their name from the small, cool, dim stars around which they orbit, called M dwarfs or “red dwarfs”. By coupling 3D climate modeling with photochemistry and atmospheric chemistry, Horton and Chen constructed a more complete picture of how a star’s UV radiation interacts with gases, including water vapor and ozone, in the planet’s atmosphere.

Instruments, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope, have the capability to detect water vapor and ozone on exoplanets. They just need to know where to look.

“‘Are we alone?’ is one of the biggest unanswered questions,” Chen said. “If we can predict which planets are most likely to host life, then we might get that much closer to answering it within our lifetimes.”

Artificial Intelligence Can Write Fake News

Most people seem to agree that “fake news” is a big problem online, but what’s the best way to deal with it? Is technology too blunt an instrument to discern truth from lies, satire from propaganda? Are human beings better at flagging up false stories?

During the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, we were treated to headlines such as “Hillary Clinton sold weapons to Isis” and “Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump for President”. Both were completely untrue.

But they were just two examples of a tsunami of attention-grabbing, false stories that flooded social media and the internet. We were awash with so-called “fake news”. Many such headlines were simply trying to drive traffic to websites for the purpose of earning advertising dollars. Others though, seemed part of a concerted attempt to sway public opinion in favor of one presidential candidate or the other.

But a study conducted by news website BuzzFeed revealed that fake news travelled faster and further during the US election campaign. The 20 top-performing false election stories generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook, whereas the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 reputable news websites generated 7,367,000 shares, reactions and comments.

With the new election season upon us, with historical importance for the United States and the world, people are concerned that the 2016 election cycle related fake news strategy used by people to favor Trump and discredit Hillary Clinton should not be repeated and all steps need to be taken to prevent fake news reaching the public.

Facebook, Twitter Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. are discovering the harsh reality that disinformation and hate speech are even more challenging in emerging markets than in places like the U.S. or Europe.

India with as many as 900 million voters in the recently concluded election that culminated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition returned to an unprecedented victory, the Social Media giants, Facebook Inc. to Google, had made huge efforts with Facebook hiring contractors to verify content in 10 of the country’s 23 official languages.

Today, there are more technological advances in creating and circulating fake news today than ever before. Recently, I came across a report by BBC, “Dangerous AI offers to write fake news.” The writer suggested that Artificial Intelligence (AI) system has been found to be able to “generates realistic stories, poems and articles has been updated, with some claiming it is now almost as good as a human writer.”

In February this year, OpenAI catapulted itself into the public eye when it produced a language model so good at generating fake news that the organization decided not to release it. Last month, they released an advanced version of it. The model, called GPT-2, was trained on a dataset of eight million web pages, and is able to adapt to the style and content of the initial text given to it. “It can finish a Shakespeare poem as well as write articles and epithets,” the report stated.

A BBC report, based on research and tests done by BBC staff and technocrats found that a Text Generator, built by research firm OpenAI, has developed a new, powerful version of the system – that could be used to create fake news or abusive spam on social media.

Tristan Greene, an author, commented about AI, “I’m terrified of GPT-2 because it represents the kind of technology that evil humans are going to use to manipulate the population – and in my opinion that makes it more dangerous than any gun.”

President Donald Trump has been warning about “fake news” throughout his entire political career putting a dark cloud over the journalism professional. A new program called “deepfaking,” a product of AI and machine learning advancements that allows high-tech computers to produce completely false yet remarkably realistic videos depicting events that never happened or people saying things they never said.

Deepfake technology is allowing organizations that produce fake news to augment their “reporting” with seemingly legitimate videos, blurring the line between reality and fiction like never before — and placing the reputation of journalists and the media at greater risk.

It is alarming that machines are now equipped with the “intelligence” to create fake news, and write like humans, adapting to human style and content, appealing to the sections of audience they want to target.

The quest for artificial intelligence (AI) began over 70 years ago, with the idea that computers would one day be able to think like us. Ambitious predictions attracted generous funding, but after a few decades there was little to show for it. But, in the last 25 years, new approaches to AI, coupled with advances in technology, mean that we may now be on the brink of realizing those pioneers’ dreams.

The AI has its origin during The World War Two, when scientists from many disciplines, including the emerging fields of neuroscience and computing were searching for answers to the many issues they had faced over 70 years ago. As per reports, mathematician Alan Turing and neurologist Grey Walter from England were two of the bright minds who tackled the challenges of intelligent machines. They traded ideas in an influential dining society called the Ratio Club. Walter built some of the first ever robots. Turing went on to invent the so-called Turing Test, which set the bar for an intelligent machine: a computer that could fool someone into thinking they were talking to another person.

The term ‘artificial intelligence’ was coined for a summer conference at Dartmouth University, organized by a young computer scientist, John McCarthy. AI is a constellation of technologies—from machine learning to natural language processing—that allows machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn.

Supporters of top-down AI still had their champions: supercomputers like Deep Blue, which in 1997 took on world chess champion Garry Kasparov. The IBM-built machine was, on paper, far superior to Kasparov – capable of evaluating up to 200 million positions a second. But could it think strategically? The answer was a resounding yes. The supercomputer won the contest, dubbed ‘the brain’s last stand’, with such flair that Kasparov believed a human being had to be behind the controls. Some hailed this as the moment that AI came of age. But for others, this simply showed brute force at work on a highly specialized problem with clear rules.

In November 2008, a small feature appeared on the new Apple iPhone – a Google app with speech recognition. It seemed simple. But this heralded a major breakthrough. Despite speech recognition being one of AI’s key goals, decades of investment had never lifted it above 80% accuracy. Google pioneered a new approach: thousands of powerful computers, running parallel neural networks, learning to spot patterns in the vast volumes of data streaming in from Google’s many users. At first it was still fairly inaccurate but, after years of learning and improvements, Google now claims it is 92% accurate.

In 2011, IBM’s Watson took on the human brain on US quiz show Jeopardy. This was a far greater challenge for the machine than chess. Watson had to answer riddles and complex questions. Its makers used a myriad of AI techniques, including neural networks, and trained the machine for more than three years to recognise patterns in questions and answers. Watson trounced its opposition – the two best performers of all time on the show. The victory went viral and was hailed as a triumph for AI.

Sixty-four years after Turing published his idea of a test that would prove machine intelligence, a chatbot called Eugene Goostman finally passed. But very few AI experts saw this a watershed moment. Eugene Goostman was seen as ‘taught for the test’, using tricks to fool the judges. It was other developments in 2014 that really showed how far AI had come in 70 years. From Google’s billion dollar investment in driverless cars, to Skype’s launch of real-time voice translation, intelligent machines were now becoming an everyday reality that would change all of our lives.

Companies recognize AI’s strategic importance and its impact on their business, yet many are stalled in making it a key enabler for their strategy. Artificial intelligence is able to transform the relationship between people and technology, charging our creativity and skills. The future of AI promises a new era of disruption and productivity, where human ingenuity is enhanced by speed and precision.

When this happens, the journalism industry is going to face a massive consumer trust issue, according to Zhao. He fears it will be hard for top-tier media outlets to distinguish a real video from a doctored one, let alone news consumers who haphazardly stumble across the video on Twitter.

While Artificial Intelligence has advanced much, with the noble purpose of making life easier for human beings, it has thrown massive challenges for all of us and for the need to carefully distinguish reality from fake news; from truth to falsehood.

Google’s Quantum Computer Notches Epic Milestone

For the first time ever, a quantum computer has performed a computational task that would be essentially impossible for a conventional computer to complete, according to a team from Google.

Scientists and engineers from the company’s lab in Santa Barbara announced the milestone in a report published last week in the journal Nature. They said their machine was able to finish its job in just 200 seconds — and that the world’s most powerful supercomputers would need 10,000 years to accomplish the same task.

The task itself, which involved executing a randomly chosen sequence of instructions, does not have any particular practical uses. But experts say the achievement is still significant as a demonstration of the future promise of quantum computing.

William Oliver of MIT compared the feat to the first successful flight by the Wright brothers. “It is what the event represented, rather than what it practically accomplished, that was paramount,” he wrote in a commentary that accompanied the study.

Google’s scientists are hailing the achievement as the first demonstration of what’s known as “quantum supremacy.” The phrase was coined in 2012 by John Preskill, a theoretical physicist at Caltech, to describe the point at which quantum computers can do things that classical computers simply can’t.

Not everyone agrees that Google’s announcement represents true quantum supremacy. Computer scientists at IBM have countered that their most powerful supercomputer, called Summit, could complete the same task in 2.5 days rather than 10,000 years.

“A computation that would take 10,000 years on a classical supercomputer took 200 seconds on our quantum computer,” study co-author Brooks Foxen, a graduate student researcher in physics at Google AI Quantum in Mountain View and the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in a statement.

“It is likely that the classical simulation time, currently estimated at 10,000 years, will be reduced by improved classical hardware and algorithms, but, since we are currently 1.5 trillion times faster, we feel comfortable laying claim to this achievement,” Foxen added.

Quantum computers store information using subatomic particles, which behave according to very different rules than the ones that govern our macro world. For example, quantum particles can exist in a “superposition” of two different states at the same time, and particles can be separated by light-years yet still be “entangled,” affecting each others’ properties.

This weirdness is key to the incredible potential power of quantum computing. Because of the superposition phenomenon, quantum computers can store and manipulate far more information per unit volume than can traditional computers, which encode information in a binary way using 0s and 1s. (The basic unit of information in a quantum-computing system, by the way, is known as a qubit, which is short for “quantum bit.”)

The new study gives us a taste of that power. The research team, led by Frank Arute of Google AI Quantum, used a quantum computer called Sycamore, which featured 53 functional qubits (plus one that didn’t work properly).

The scientists entangled those 53 qubits into a complex superposition state, then had Sycamore perform a task akin to random-number generation. The results were then compared with simulations run on the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

“Summit is currently the world’s leading supercomputer, capable of carrying out about 200 million billion operations per second,” William Oliver, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in an accompanying “News and Views” piece in the same issue of Nature.

“It comprises roughly 40,000 processor units, each of which contains billions of transistors (electronic switches), and has 250 million gigabytes of storage. Approximately 99% of Summit’s resources were used to perform the classical sampling,” added Oliver, who was not involved in the new study.

As Foxen noted, Sycamore finished in about 3.5 minutes, and the Summit work suggested that even the most powerful traditional supercomputer would have to chew on the problem for about 10,000 years.

Forget galaxies, even the Universe can’t hide from this telescope

A five year program to map the universe in its most detailed survey ever got underway in Arizona, US with 5,000 mini telescopes aiming to decode Dark Energy — the force that is not just driving the universe’s expansion but also accelerating it. Each one of these mini telescopes will be able to spot a galaxy every 20 minutes — which means that in one year, this super telescope would have surveyed more galaxies in the universe than all other telescopes combined.

How does it work: Researchers from around the globe, who are taking part in this study, have attached an optical device for measuring the spectrum of light from any source, calling it the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), to the 4m Mayall telescope at the Kitt Peak observatory in Arizona. Inside the DESI are 5,000 optical fibres each of which will act as an independent telescope and together, they will be able to scan 360,000 galaxies in a single day. Using previous surveys to draw a map of the Universe, this super telescope will be studying 35 million galaxies to understand Dark Energy. Given that this super telescope can see objects 10 billion light years away, it means that it can tell us about cosmic events that occurred 10 billion years back.

What’s Dark Energy: It was the name coined to describe the force that is accelerating the Universe’s expansion — after scientists discovered in 1998 that contrary to the expectations propounded by the Big Bang Theory that the Universe’s expansion would not only slow down but that it will also begin to contract as a result of gravitational pull, not only was the Universe expanding, but its expansion was speeding up. Dark Energy is said to make up 68% of the Universe while Dark Matter makes up 27% and the remaining matter — which includes everything on Earth and everything observed through various instruments — constitutes just 5% of the Universe.

How to Protect Your Digital Privacy

By Thorin Klosowski

By making a few simple changes to your devices and accounts, you can maintain security against outside parties’ unwanted attempts to access your data as well as protect your privacy from those you don’t consent to sharing your information with. Getting started is easy. Here’s a guide to the few simple changes you can make to protect yourself and your information online.

Make smart use of the tools available to keep your data safe.

Secure your accounts

Why: In the past decade, data breaches and password leaks have struck companies such as Equifax, Facebook, Home Depot, Marriott, Target, Yahoo, and countless others. If you have online accounts, hackers have likely leaked data from at least one of them. Want to know which of your accounts have been compromised? Search for your email address on Have I Been Pwned? to cross-reference your email address with hundreds of data breaches.

How: Everyone should use a password manager to generate and remember different, complex passwords for every account — this is the most important thing people can do to protect their privacy and security today. Wirecutter’s favorite password managers are LastPass and 1Password. Both can generate passwords, monitor accounts for security breaches, suggest changing weak passwords, and sync your passwords between your computer and phone. Password managers seem intimidating to set up, but once you’ve installed one you just need to browse the Internet as usual. As you log in to accounts, the password manager saves your passwords and suggests changing weak or duplicate passwords. Over the course of a couple of weeks, you end up with new passwords for most of your accounts. Take this time to also change the default passwords for any devices in your house — if your home router, smart light bulbs, or security cameras are still using “password” or “1234” as the password, change them.

Everyone should also use two-step authentication whenever possible for their online accounts. Most banks and major social networks provide this option. As the name suggests, two-step authentication requires two steps: entering your password and entering a number only you can access. For example, step one is logging in to Facebook with your username and password. In step two, Facebook sends a temporary code to you in a text message or, even better, through an app like Google Authenticator, and you enter that code to log in.

Protect your Web browsing

Why: Companies and websites track everything you do online. Every ad, social network button, and website collects information about your location, browsing habits, and more. The data collected reveals more about you than you might expect. You might think yourself clever for never tweeting your medical problems or sharing all your religious beliefs on Facebook, for instance, but chances are good that the websites you visit regularly provide all the data advertisers need to pinpoint the type of person you are. This is part of how targeted ads remain one of the Internet’s most unsettling innovations.

How: A browser extension like uBlock Origin blocks ads and the data they collect. The uBlock Origin extension also prevents malware from running in your browser and gives you an easy way to turn the ad blocking off when you want to support sites you know are secure. Combine uBlock with Privacy Badger, which blocks trackers, and ads won’t follow you around as much. To slow down stalker ads even more, disable interest-based ads from Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter. A lot of websites offer means to opt out of data collection, but you need to do so manually. Simple Opt Out has direct links to opt-out instructions for major sites like Netflix, Reddit, and more. Doing this won’t eliminate the problem completely, but it will significantly cut down the amount of data collected.

You should also install the HTTPS Everywhere extension. HTTPS Everywhere automatically directs you to the secure version of a site when the site supports that, making it difficult for an attacker — especially if you’re on public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, airport, or hotel — to digitally eavesdrop on what you’re doing.

Some people may want to use a virtual private network (VPN), but it’s not necessary for everyone. If you frequently connect to public Wi-Fi, a VPN is useful because it adds a layer of security to your browsing when HTTPS isn’t available. It can also provide some privacy from your Internet service provider and help minimize tracking based on your IP address. But all your Internet activity still flows through the VPN provider’s servers, so in using a VPN you’re choosing to trust that company over your ISP not to store or sell your data. Make sure you understand the pros and cons first, but if you want a VPN, Wirecutter recommends IVPN.

Use antivirus software on your computer

Why: Viruses might not seem as common as they were a decade ago, but they still exist. Malicious software on your computer can wreak all kinds of havoc, from annoying pop-ups to covert bitcoin mining to scanning for personal information. If you’re at risk for clicking perilous links, or if you share a computer with multiple people in a household, it’s worthwhile to set up antivirus software, especially on Windows computers.

How: If your computer runs Windows 10, you should use Microsoft’s built-in software, Windows Defender. Windows Defender offers plenty of security for most people, and it’s the main antivirus option that Wirecutter recommends; we reached that conclusion after speaking with several experts. If you run an older version of Windows (even though we recommend updating to Windows 10) or you use a shared computer, a second layer of protection might be necessary. For this purpose, Malwarebytes Premium is your best bet. Malwarebytes is unintrusive, it works well with Windows Defender, and it doesn’t push out dozens of annoying notifications like most antivirus utilities tend to do.

Mac users are typically okay with the protections included in macOS, especially if you download software only from Apple’s App Store and stick to well-known browser extensions. If you do want a second layer of security, Malwarebytes Premium is also available for Mac. You should avoid antivirus applications on your phone altogether and stick to downloading trusted apps from official stores.

(From The NYTimes)

Aliens will likely be discovered within 30 years, Nobel Prize-winning astronomer says

A Nobel prize-winning astronomer has predicted that humans will find evidence of alien life in the next 30 years.  On Tuesday, Professor Didier Queloz, from Switzerland, said he was “convinced” of the existence of extraterrestrial life after winning the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics.

“I can’t believe we are the only living entity in the universe,” the Cambridge University professor said while speaking at the Science Media Centre in London, according to The Telegraph. “There are just way too many planets, way too many stars, and the chemistry is universal.

“The chemistry that led to life has to happen elsewhere. So I am a strong believer that there must be life elsewhere. “Life doesn’t just mean a green man coming to you, life started way before animals were crawling on the surface of earth.”

According to the professor, he is certain that humans will have detected alien life in 100 years’ time.  However, he is convinced it will happen much sooner than that, once we have built more advanced technology capable of detecting life on distant planets.

Professor Queloz, who discovered the first planet outside our solar system while still a PhD student, won the Nobel Prize alongside fellow researcher Michel Mayor, his PhD supervisor at Princeton.

In 1995, Professor Queloz and Professor Mayor discovered the exoplanet 51 Pegasi b using the Doppler spectroscopy technique, which measures wobbles of a star as a planet orbits around it.

Since their initial discovery, more than 4,100 additional exoplanets have been found.

The Nobel Prize was awarded to the scientists for “contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos”, with half of the prize awarded to James Peebles, for “theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology”.

ITServe Gears Up for its Annual Synergy Conference to be held in Chicago, IL

Over 1500 CXOs from 1200+ companies will come together at America’s biggest IT conference

Chicago IL: ITServe Alliance is gearing up for the 5th edition of its annual flagship conference – Synergy 2019. In a precursor to the conference, the alliance hosted a pre-conference event on September 18th, 2019 at the Clubhouse – Schaumburg, IL. The two-day, high-octane Synergy conference will be held on October 17th and 18th at Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel in Schaumburg, IL.

The pre-conference event saw over 150 members along with the National Leadership Team participate in the planning and discussions as a run up to the much-awaited annual conference that is touted to be North America’s biggest IT conference.

ITServe’s Synergy Conference is an information-rich event which provides business owners, entrepreneurs, and executives with strategies, solutions and insights that address the unique needs of the IT Solutions & Services industry.

This year, Synergy 2019 will unlock a bundle of knowledge with valuable sessions from successful business leaders and eminent speakers; promote entrepreneurship with its Start-up Cube, an innovation capsule where multiple entrepreneurs with ideas and products will pitch their offerings to a panel of business leaders and investors; and provide a unique platform to businesses to showcase their offerings at the Synergy Solutions Partner Hub at the conference.

The conference will also host many lawmakers and government officials as part of its high-value panels. This will include a CTO/CIO panel where leading technologists will discuss and debate the latest technological revolutions and how they impact our lives and businesses.  An Immigration Panel will throw light on the ongoing changes in the immigration landscape and how business can work around these changes.

As with every year, Synergy 2019 will see some exciting knowledge sessions and keynote addresses by renowned speakers on topics ranging across the spectrum of business and life skills. 15-year-old Canadian author, AI Expert, TED & Keynote speaker and Honorary IBM Cloud Advisor, Tanmay Bakshi and Business Development expert Karl Graf are few names to look forward to among many other eminent speakers. Those who want to participate in this conference can register at: www.ITServeSynergy.org

ITServe Alliance is the largest association of Information Technology Solutions & Services organizations in the US, representing over 1,200 member companies. The Alliance is the voice of all prestigious IT companies functioning with similar interests across the United States. Through the years, ITServe has evolved as a capable and respected platform to collaborate and initiate measures in the direction of protecting common interests and ensuring collective success of its member companies. Since its inception in 2010, ITServe Alliance has served to strengthen the knowledge, skills, and value of its members across the nation through its 16 country-wide Regional Chapters.

ITServe’s mission is to serve as the voice of the industry, educate its members on best practices, and protect the US economy by providing US businesses with cost-effective alternatives to outsourcing and off-shoring. In the recent past, ITServe Alliance has been vocal on and filed various lawsuits against the arbitrary and unfair immigration policies of USCIS for H-1B Visa, students on OPT as well as protecting the rights of H4-EAD.

Mr. Vinod Babu Uppu is the current National President of ITServe Alliance. Other notable office bearers include: Vinoz Chanamolu (Secretary), Shashidhar Devireddy (Synergy Chair) and Ajay Sunkara (Synergy Director).

For further information, contact Deepali Khadakban at [email protected]

For latest updates on the happenings at Synergy 2019, follow our social media channels.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ITServeAlliance/

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/ITServeorg

Venus was likely habitable for 3B years. Then something mysterious happened

Although it’s possible Mars once supported life, Earth is the only planet in the solar system currently known to do so. However, a new study notes that Venus may have been habitable for a few billion years — until something mysterious happened.

The research, presented at the European Planetary Science Congress – Division for Planetary Sciences Joint Meeting 2019, notes that Venus potentially had stable temperatures and was home to “liquid water” for 2 to 3 billion years, until a “dramatic transformation” started happening more than 700 million years ago that completely reshaped the planet and resurfaced approximately 80 percent of it.

“Our hypothesis is that Venus may have had a stable climate for billions of years. It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hot-house we see today,” said Dr. Michael Way, the study’s lead author, in a statement.

Coming back to the present day, Venus has a surface temperature of 864 degrees Fahrenheit. However, in the five outcomes that Way and the researchers ran for the study, they found that Venus was able to maintain stable temperatures scenarios between minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4  degrees Fahrenheit) and 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) for approximately 3 billion years.

Then something mysterious caused a mass explosion of carbon dioxide on the planet between 700 million and 750 million years ago, an event that Way believes could be linked to the volcanic activity on the planet.

“Something happened on Venus where a huge amount of gas was released into the atmosphere and couldn’t be re-absorbed by the rocks,” Way added. “On Earth we have some examples of large-scale outgassing, for instance the creation of the Siberian Traps 500 million years ago which is linked to a mass extinction, but nothing on this scale. It completely transformed Venus.”

Venus is closer to the Sun and its extreme surface temperature makes the existence of liquid water on the planet a moot point. But during the simulations, the researchers added an ocean 310 meters (1,017 feet) deep, one that was 10 meters (32 feet) deep, as well as putting some water in the soil.

There was also a scenario where they used Earth’s topography and the 1,017-foot deep ocean, as well as a planet “completely covered” by an ocean 158 meters (518 feet) deep and found that even though Venus is closer to the Sun than the Earth, liquid water could have been present.


“Venus currently has almost twice the solar radiation that we have at Earth,” said Way. “However, in all the scenarios we have modeled, we have found that Venus could still support surface temperatures amenable for liquid water.”

Whether it was the planet’s volcanic activity or something else, Venus is now too hot to be supportive of liquid water. Way said that more research is needed to understand the planet’s history and how it might affect the search for exoplanets, including ones that may hold liquid water.

“We need more missions to study Venus and get a more detailed understanding of its history and evolution,” Way said. “However, our models show that there is a real possibility that Venus could have been habitable and radically different from the Venus we see today. This opens up all kinds of implications for exoplanets found in what is called the ‘Venus Zone’, which may in fact host liquid water and temperate climates.”

Earlier this month, scientists detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a “super-Earth” exoplanet with potentially habitable temperatures, K2-18b, 110 light-years from Earth.

Treasure Trove: Largest-ever ancient-DNA study illuminates millennia of South and Central Asian prehistory

The largest-ever study of ancient human DNA and the first genome of an individual from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization reveal in unprecedented detail the shifting ancestry of Central and South Asian populations over time.

The research, published online Sept. 5 in a pair of papers in Science and Cell, also answers longstanding questions about the origins of farming and the source of Indo-European languages in South and Central Asia.

Geneticists, archaeologists and anthropologists from North America, Europe, Central Asia and South Asia analyzed the genomes of 524 never before-studied ancient individuals. The work increased the worldwide total of published ancient genomes by about 25 percent.

By comparing these genomes to one another and to previously sequenced genomes, and by putting the information into context alongside archaeological, linguistic and other records, the researchers filled in many of the key details about who lived in various parts of this region from the Mesolithic Era (about 12,000 years ago) to the Iron Age (until around 2,000 years ago) and how they relate to the people who live there today.

“With this many samples, we can detect subtle interactions between populations as well as outliers within populations, something that has only become possible in the last couple of years through technological advances,” said David Reich, co-senior author of both papers and professor of genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School.

“These studies speak to two of the most profound cultural transformations in ancient Eurasia—the transition from hunting and gathering to farming and the spread of Indo-European languages, which are spoken today from the British Isles to South Asia—along with the movement of people,” said Vagheesh Narasimhan, co-first author of both papers and a postdoctoral fellow in the Reich lab. “The studies are particularly significant because Central and South Asia are such understudied parts of the world.”

“One of the most exciting aspects of this study is the way it integrates genetics with archaeology and linguistics,” said Ron Pinhasi of the University of Vienna, co-senior author of the Science paper. “The new results emerged after combining data, methods and perspectives from diverse academic disciplines, an integrative approach that provides much more information about the past than any one of these disciplines could alone.”

“In addition, the introduction of new sampling methodologies allowed us to minimize damage to skeletons while maximizing the chance of obtaining genetic data from regions where DNA preservation is often poor,” Pinhasi added.

Indo-European languages—including Hindi/Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, Persian, Russian, English, Spanish, Gaelic and more than 400 others—make up the largest language family on Earth.

For decades, specialists have debated how Indo-European languages made their way to distant parts of the world. Did they spread via herders from the Eurasian Steppe? Or did they travel with farmers moving west and east from Anatolia (present-day Turkey)?

A 2015 paper by Reich and colleagues indicated that Indo-European languages arrived in Europe via the steppe. The Science study now makes a similar case for South Asia by showing that present-day South Asians have little if any ancestry from farmers with Anatolian roots.

“We can rule out a large-scale spread of farmers with Anatolian roots into South Asia, the centerpiece of the ‘Anatolian hypothesis’ that such movement brought farming and Indo-European languages into the region,” said Reich, who is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Broad Institute. “Since no substantial movements of people occurred, this is checkmate for the Anatolian hypothesis.”

One new line of evidence in favor of a steppe origin for Indo-European languages is the detection of genetic patterns that connect speakers of the Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic branches of Indo-European. The researchers found that present-day speakers of both branches descend from a subgroup of steppe pastoralists who moved west toward Europe almost 5,000 years ago and then spread back eastward into Central and South Asia in the following 1,500 years.

“This provides a simple explanation in terms of ancient movements of people for the otherwise puzzling shared linguistic features of these two branches of Indo-European, which today are separated by vast geographic distances,” said Reich.

A second line of evidence in favor of a steppe origin is the researchers’ discovery that of the 140 present-day South Asian populations analyzed in the study, a handful show a remarkable spike in ancestry from the steppe. All but one of these steppe-enriched populations are historically priestly groups, including Brahmins—traditional custodians of texts written in the ancient Indo-European language Sanskrit.

“The finding that Brahmins often have more steppe ancestry than other groups in South Asia, controlling for other factors, provides a fascinating new argument in favor of a steppe origin for Indo-European languages in South Asia,” said Reich.

“This study has filled in a large piece of the puzzle of the spread of Indo-European,” said co-author Nick Patterson, research fellow in genetics at HMS and a staff scientist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. “I believe the high-level picture is now understood.”

“This problem has been in the air for 200 years or more and it’s now rapidly being sorted out,” he added. “I’m very excited by that.”

Agriculture origins

The studies inform another longstanding debate, this one about whether the change from a hunting and gathering economy to one based on farming was driven more by movements of people, the copying of ideas or local invention.

In Europe, ancient-DNA studies have shown that agriculture arrived along with an influx of people with ancestry from Anatolia.

The new study reveals a similar dynamic in Iran and Turan (southern Central Asia), where the researchers found that Anatolian-related ancestry and farming arrived around the same time.

“This confirms that the spread of agriculture entailed not only a westward route from Anatolia to Europe but also an eastward route from Anatolia into regions of Asia previously only inhabited by hunter-gatherer groups,” said Pinhasi.

Then, as farming spread northward through the mountains of Inner Asia thousands of years after taking hold in Iran and Turan, “the links between ancestry and economy get more complex,” said archaeologist Michael Frachetti of Washington University in St. Louis, co-senior author who led much of the skeletal sampling for the Science paper.

By around 5,000 years ago, the researchers found, southwestern Asian ancestry flowed north along with farming technology, while Siberian or steppe ancestry flowed south onto the Iranian plateau. The two-way pattern of movement took place along the mountains, a corridor that Frachetti previously showed was a “Bronze Age Silk Road” along which people exchanged crops and ideas between East and West.

In South Asia, however, the story appears quite different. Not only did the researchers find no trace of the Anatolian-related ancestry that is a hallmark of the spread of farming to the west, but the Iranian-related ancestry they detected in South Asians comes from a lineage that separated from ancient Iranian farmers and hunter-gatherers before those groups split from each other.

The researchers concluded that farming in South Asia was not due to the movement of people from the earlier farming cultures of the west; instead, local foragers adopted it.

“Prior to the arrival of steppe pastoralists bringing their Indo-European languages about 4,000 years ago, we find no evidence of large-scale movements of people into South Asia,” said Reich.

Map showing the reconstructed migrations and genetic contributions of people with steppe pastoralist ancestry. Image: Oliver Uberti/Science via Harvard Medical School

First glimpse of the ancestry of the Indus Valley Civilization

Running from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea, the Indus River Valley was the site of one of the first civilizations of the ancient world, flourishing between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. People built towns with populations in the tens of thousands. They used standardized weights and measures and exchanged goods with places as far-flung as East Africa.

But who were they?

Before now, geneticists were unable to extract viable data from skeletons buried at Indus Valley Civilization archaeological sites because the heat and volatile climate of lowland South Asia have degraded most DNA beyond scientists’ ability to analyze it.

The Cell paper changes this.

After screening more than 60 skeletal samples from the largest known town of the Indus Valley Civilization, called Rakhigarhi, the authors found one with a hint of ancient DNA. After more than 100 sequencing attempts, they generated enough data to reach meaningful conclusions.

The ancient woman’s genome matched those of 11 other ancient people reported in the Science paper who lived in what is now Iran and Turkmenistan at sites known to have exchanged objects with the Indus Valley Civilization. All 12 had a distinctive mix of ancestry, including a lineage related to Southeast Asian hunter-gatherers and an Iranian-related lineage specific to South Asia. Because this mix was different from the majority of people living in Iran and Turkmenistan at that time, the authors propose that the 11 individuals reported in the Science paper were migrants, likely from the Indus Valley Civilization.

None of the 12 had evidence of ancestry from steppe pastoralists, consistent with the model that that group hadn’t arrived yet in South Asia.

The Science paper further showed that after the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization between 4,000 and 3,500 years ago, a portion of the group to which these 12 individuals belonged mixed with people coming from the north who had steppe pastoralist ancestry, forming the Ancestral North Indians, one of the two primary ancestral populations of present-day people in India. A portion of the original group also mixed with people from peninsular India to form the other primary source population, the Ancestral South Indians.

“Mixtures of the Ancestral North Indians and Ancestral South Indians—both of whom owe their primary ancestry to people like that of the Indus Valley Civilization individual we sequenced—form the primary ancestry of South Asians today,” said Patterson.

“The study directly ties present-day South Asians to the ancient peoples of South Asia’s first civilization,” added Narasimhan.

The authors caution that analyzing the genome of only one individual limits the conclusions that can be drawn about the entire population of the Indus Valley Civilization.“My best guess is that the Indus Valley Civilization itself was genetically extremely diverse,” said Patterson. “Additional genomes will surely enrich the picture.”

Early access experiment

The team released most of its data for the Science study in early 2018 on the preprint server bioRxiv. The material has already been used in multiple published papers by other teams as well as a book. Researchers also spotted previously unnoticed patterns in the data.

“We wanted to see what would happen if we allowed other researchers to question our conclusions and come to new insights,” said Narasimhan. “These findings from the community substantially improved the final version of the manuscript.”

“We feel that this experiment in open-notebook and crowd-sourced science was an unmitigated success,” said Reich. “We are eager to find other ways to make data available early so we can leverage the broad interest in this work to make the science even better and to ensure that the conclusions we draw are as robust and nuanced as possible.”

Funding and authorship

  1. “The formation of human populations in South and Central Asia,” Science, 5 September 2019

Narasimhan and Patterson are co-first authors. Patterson conducted the research while a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Frachetti, Pinhasi and Reich are co-senior authors.

This study was supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (CASI award), National Institutes of Health (GM100233, GM007753), Russian Science Foundation (project 14-50-00036), Russian Foundation for Basic Research (grant 18-09-00779), European Research Council (ERC-2011-AdG 295733 grant), Ministry of Education and Sciences of the Russian Federation (No. 33.1907 2017/P4, 33.5494, 2017/BP), National Science Foundation (BCS-1460369, BCS-1725067, BCS-1032255), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of the Government of India (NCP fund MLP0117), Max Planck Society, Allen Discovery Center and John Templeton Foundation (grant 61220).

  1. “An Ancient Harappan Genome Lacks Ancestry from Steppe Pastoralists or Iranian Farmers,” Cell, 6 September 2019

Co-first authors are Vasant Shinde of Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute in Pune, India, and Narasimhan.

Co-senior authors are Niraj Rai of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow, India, and Reich.

This study was supported by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of the Government of India, National Science Foundation (HOMINID grant BCS-1032255), National Institutes of Health (grant GM100233), Allen Discovery Center and John Templeton Foundation (grant 61220).

Boston Health-tech Entrepreneurs Reacquire, Revamp and Relaunch Skyscape

After reacquiring Skyscape, entrepreneurs Sandeep Shah and Kartik Shah have revamped the company, added new products and have turned it into a leading provider of decision-making tools for the healthcare community.

“Our mission is to provide secure medical information and tools to help make critical decisions at the point-of-care and between healthcare providers and patients,” said Sandeep Shah, who had pioneered  mobile health technology when he founded Skyscape in 2000 and later successfully sold it to a private equity-backed firm. “When the opportunity presented itself, we bought back the company, relaunched it with the familiar Skyscape brand. And now with our modernized our mobile and cloud technology, we are supporting the decision support at the point of care.”

Skyscape today provides a mobile medical library platform with free and premium medical content.  The established user-base can choose from over 400 popular and trusted medical textbooks and publications, including test preparation content, aggregated through partnerships with the world’s leading publishers and medical societies. Skyscape’s continuously aggregated and updated portfolio, along with its patented SmartLinkTM and CloudLinkTM offering enables our healthcare professionals to network to make quick and confident clinical decisions.

“Our professional audience appreciates the freedom to spend more time with their patients, rather than searching for answers,” Shah added. “As a part of our focus on bringing innovative solutions to the market through our R&D and our commitment to our health professionals network, we are about to launch a new, ground-breaking real-time communication platform to transfer and access highly sensitive medical information.”

Apart from finding the correct therapeutic answers to a given problem, a clinician is constantly confronted with a need to send patient- and care-specific information via the modalities like text, dictations, images, reports, EKGs, videos and more.  As an important milestone of its relaunch, Skyscape plans to announce a HIPAA-secure platform that simplifies real-time and on-the-go communications between healthcare providers. It will streamline the healthcare professionals workflow by replacing the multiple modes of communication such as phones, faxes, pagers.

About Skyscape

Headquartered in Marlborough, MA, Skyscape Medpresso, Inc. is a premier mobile technology pioneer, with a robust technology platform to support innovative and secure medical information and tools to help make critical decisions and communicate with other healthcare providers and patients in real-time in a HIPAA-secure fashion, both at the point-of-care as well as being remote.

Yogesh Surendranath awarded Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Yogesh (Yogi) Surendranath, an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Paul M. Cook Career Development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been nominated for the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) by the Department of Defense for the year 2019.

President Trump announced the recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) earlier this month. Indian-Americans dominated the list from all across the country.

The Surendranath Lab is focused on addressing global challenges in the areas of chemical catalysis, energy storage and utilization, and environmental stewardship.

PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

Established in 1996, the PECASE acknowledges the contributions scientists and engineers have made to the advancement of science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) education and to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, and community outreach. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy coordinates the PECASE with participating departments and agencies.

Yogesh (Yogi) Surendranath holds dual bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and physics from the University of Virginia and a PhD in inorganic chemistry from MIT.His research group aims to use renewable electricity to rearrange chemical bonds by controlling interfacial reactivity at the molecular level. Professor Surendranath has authored over 50 publications and is the recipient of young investigator awards from the NSF, DOE, Air Force, and Toyota. He is also a Sloan Foundation Fellow and Cottrell Scholar.

One in nine people on the planet lack access to safe drinking water and three in nine lack access to adequate sanitation leading to more than 3.5 million deaths each year. Water quality and sanitation can be significantly improved in resource-constrained locations such as rural India by developing distributed technologies for generating hydrogen peroxide, a potent clean oxidant that is ideal for water purification, waste water treatment, and broad-spectrum sanitation. The Surendranath Group is developing a new portable technology that uses solar or wind electricity to generating hydrogen peroxide from water and air. The Group is actively collaborating with Prof. Alan Hatton (MIT Chemical Engineering) to advance the technology to the prototype stage on an aggressive timeline.

Sahib Khan appointed senior vice president of operations by APPLE

Sahib Khan, a 24-year, an Apple veteran, has been named to the company’s executive team as senior vice president of Operations. According to a company press release, the India-born Khan who joined Apple in 1995 has played an important role in delivering each of Apple’s innovative products to market, leading key product operations and supply chain functions. He continues to report to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.

In his new role, Khan will be in charge of Apple’s global supply chain, “ensuring product quality and overseeing planning, procurement, manufacturing, logistics and product fulfillment functions, as well as Apple’s supplier responsibility programs that protect and educate workers at production facilities around the world.”

“Sabih leads our Ops team with heart,” the press release quoted CEO Tim Cook, as saying. “He and his entire worldwide team are committed to delivering unmatched experiences to our customers, treating workers everywhere with dignity and respect, and protecting the environment for future generations.”

The Operations team is responsible for driving scale across the global supply chain and accelerating manufacturing innovation, including developing and scaling a new aluminum alloy that enables the use of 100 percent recycled aluminum in MacBook Air and Mac mini enclosures without compromising quality. The team also supports Apple’s environmental initiatives by partnering with suppliers to propel green manufacturing, helping conserve resources and protect the planet.

Before joining Apple’s procurement group in 1995, Khan worked as an applications development engineer and key account technical leader at GE Plastics. He earned bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University and a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

India Today reported that Khan hails from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, and was born in 1966.Quoting Hindi news channel Aaj Tak, the India Today report said that Khan studied up to the fifth grade in India before his family shifted to Singapore from where he completed his schooling. The report also noted Khan’s love for Hindi songs and Parle-G biscuits.

Bloomberg, in an August 2018 report on people who help Cook run Apple, called Khan Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams’ “wingman,” and said that Khan, who “Khan runs day-to-day manufacturing of the iPhone, as well as other devices,” has inherited “more responsibility for global supply chain operations that churn out hundreds of millions of devices per year—tasks once handled by Williams.”

Over 1k Android apps gain your data even if denied permission

Researchers from the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) in the US identified 1,325 Android apps that were gathering data from devices even after people explicitly denied them permission, news portal CNET reported on Tuesday.

Serge Egelman, Director of Usable Security And Privacy research at the ICSI, presented the study at the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy conference.

He said the researchers had notified Google about these issues in September 2018, as well as the FTC.

One of the apps mentioned by name was Shutterfly, which is used for editing photos. It had been gathering GPS coordinates from photos and sending that data to its own servers.

In a statement, Shutterfly said: “Like many photo services, Shutterfly uses this data to enhance the user experience with features such as categorization and personalized product suggestions, all in accordance with Shutterfly’s privacy policy as well as the Android developer agreement.”

The study published on the FTC website cited 153 apps, including Samsung’s Health and Browser apps, which are installed in more than 500 million devices.

According to the report, Egelman would be presenting more detailed information about the research findings at the Usenix Security conference in August.

How to delete your Google account data when you die

In the age of the internet, data is most precious entity in this world. Our email accounts today not only the holders of our day-to-day conversations but they are also the pathways to our entire digital lives. Our Gmail or Google accounts not only store our emails but they also are the key point from where we can access the data of our other Google apps such as Maps, Calendar, Keep, Photos, Drive and YouTube to name a few.

But have you ever wondered what will happen to all of this data when you are not around or when you are unable to custodians of your own data? Probably not.

Well, Facebook gives you the option to memorialize your account. Google, on the other hand, lets you pick select contacts who get the data that you give them access to if your account remains inactive for a pre-selected period of time. You can either choose to share data with them or just add their names to confirm that youwellare not around anymore. As far as the remaining data is concerned, you can simply toggle a button to delete it all once your selected grace period is over.

So, here is how you can ensure that all the data in your Google account is safe when you are gone:

– First of all open myaccount.google.com.

– Next, tap on Manage your data and personalization option under the Privacy and Personalisation section.

– Scroll down to Download, delete or make a plan for your data section and tap on Make a plan for your data option.

– Tap on Start.

First update your contact information

– First set the time period for which Google should wait till it considers your account inactive. Google gives you choice of 3, 6, 12 and 18 months to pick from.

– Next, add a phone number you want Google to contact. You can add your phone number here. Alternatively, you can add the phone number of your closest family member.

– Now add your contact email ID and your alternate email ID.

– Tap on Next.

Add the people you want to notify

– Tap on Add person option.

– Type in the email ID of your friend or family member and tap on Next.

– Choose what you want to share with them and tap on Next.

– Add the phone number of your contact (they will be able to download a copy of the data that you give them access to) and tap on Save. You can also add a personal message for that person.

– You can add up to 10 people this way. Once you have added all the people you want to inform, tap on Next.

Decide if you want to delete your Google account

– Toggle the ‘Yes, delete my inactive Google Account’ button if you want Google to delete your account and all the details in it when your select period is over.

– Tap on Review Plan and then tap on Confirm Plan option and you are good to go.

You can also tap on Turn off my plan option to turn off your plan.

India successfully test fires hypersonic cruise missile

India on Wednesday conducted a successful first test flight of the indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) from a base off the Odisha coast. The only other countries that possess this technology are the US, Russia and China.
The HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet (allowing supersonic combustion) demonstration vehicle that can cruise up to a speed of mach 6 (or six times the speed of sound) and rise up to an altitude of 32. km in 20 seconds.
It has a range of uses, including missiles of the future, and energy-efficient, low cost and reusable satellite-launch vehicle.
What gives a hypersonic missile its potency is the speed at which it travels, said Rajeshwari Rajagopalan, an expert on space and nuclear technology at the New Delhi- based Observer Research Foundation think tank. Countries like Russia and China have perfected this technology which makes it key for India to acquire it, she said. “This test today puts India in an elite club of nations definitely, but India will have to perfect the technology with many more tests,” said Rajagopalan.
India’s HSTDV was test-fired by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at 11.27 am, a statement from the defence ministry said. The aim of the mission was to “prove a number of critical technologies for futuristic missions”.
A hypersonic missile is a “quick reaction missile” which makes it invaluable in offensive as well as defensive uses, said W. Selvamurthy, a former DRDO scientist. In case of defence, it can be used to intercept incoming missiles in the outer atmosphere or in the inner atmosphere. It will help add to India’s ballistic missile defence capabilities, he said.
“I congratulate team @DRDO_India for positioning India amongst a select few countries with the successful test fire of Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) off Odisha’s coast. It can be used to launch satellites at low cost & will strengthen our defence capabilities,” petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan tweeted.
India has been developing a range of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles to meet its security challenges under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme. These include the Prithvi and Agni missiles as well as the anti-tank Nag and surface to air Akash. India in collaboration with Russia has developed the Brahmos cruise missile. In March, New Delhi, India successfully carried out an anti-satellite missile test that aims to protect its space assets.
The HSTDV cruise vehicle is mounted on a solid rocket motor, which will take it to a required altitude, and once it attains certain mach numbers for speed, the cruise vehicle will be ejected out of the launch vehicle, a PTI report said. The scramjet engine gets ignited automatically later. Besides its utility for long-range cruise missiles of the future, the dual-use technology will have multiple civilian applications too. For instance, it can be used for launching satellites, PTI quoting unnamed officials said.

Round Trip to the Space to Cost $58 million

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Friday that the orbiting outpost is now open for business to private citizens, with the first visit expected to be as early as next year. There is a catch, though: You’ll need to raise your own cash, and it won’t be cheap.
A round-trip ticket likely will cost an estimated $58 million. And accommodations will run about $35,000 per night, for trips of up to 30 days long, said NASA’s chief financial officer Jeff DeWit. “But it won’t come with any Hilton or Marriott points,” DeWit said during a news conference at Nasdaq in New York City.
Travelers don’t have to be US citizens. People from other countries will also be eligible, as long as they fly on a US-operated rocket.
Since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has flown astronauts to the space station aboard Russian rockets. The agency has contracted with SpaceX and Boeing to fly future crewed missions to the space station. Private citizens would have to make travel arrangements with those private companies to reach orbit.

Code Ninjas Grand Opening in Naperville Downtown

“Teach kids coding and logic and problem-solving in a fun environment”

Naperville IL: You already know that your kids understand computers better than you, but did you know they can write computer code too?
Say the words “video game” and kids are bound to stop and listen. At Code Ninjas, they are coding and building their own games.
Code Ninjas in Naperville celebrated its Grand Opening at 1305 S Naper Blvd. in Naperville, IL. on Saturday, June 1, 2019. It was packed with kids from ages 7 to 14. New faces and current enrolled families joined to celebrate this location’s official opening. It is one of over 300 locations across the country.
The mission of Code Ninjas is to teach kids coding and logic and problem-solving in a fun environment. Kids who sign up for membership are ninjas. The coaches are sensei’s. And the classroom is their dojo.
As ninjas progress, they earn belts, just like they do in martial arts. The program is fun and motivating for kids with little wins along the way. When they advance to the next belt there is a “Belt-Up” celebration! By the time kids are a black belt (the last belt), perhaps four years down the road, they have all the knowledge needed to publish their own app.
Two sisters I met that are enrolled were excited to share that by the end of the first day in the dojo they were able to complete a multitude of games.
“Honestly, I wish I had this,” says a parent. “It’s intimidating looking at all the lines of code.”
Code Ninjas has other fun and engaging methods to teach kids about all different kinds of coding. The day I was there, a sensei was demonstrating how some coding was used to fly a drone around the room, to the delight of kids. Code Ninjas offers camps during school breaks where kids engage in topics different from curriculum.
The Naperville location is owned and operated by Kalyan Anandula and Preethi Kundoor. With a background in technology and application development, they were looking for STEM related activities for their own children and found that Code Ninjas offered the perfect environment for learning in a fun environment with other students who have the same interest.
“I always felt that if I had a better understanding of coding or STEM, it would have helped me in my corporate career, even as a business professional,” Kalyan says.
Code Ninjas is essentially an after-school STEM program. Ninjas can drop in from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10:00 to 2:00 p.m. on weekends. They also can join summer camps.
“We don’t want kids to come here feeling like this is a class,” Kalyan says. “They’re here to build video games and have fun. We disguise the curriculum.”  Code Ninjas accomplishes this with a consistent game-based curriculum developed within nine belts. Membership includes a portal for parents where you can see what games your child is building and track their progress — or you can play the game they built yourselves.
A future career in coding could happen for any child who walks through the doors of a Code Ninjas location. Code Ninjas, though, is not just for kids who want to pursue STEM careers, Preethi emphasizes.
“Our mission is to expose kids to STEM and coding, so those two words aren’t intimidating anymore,” she says. “We hope that kids can make informed decisions when they choose their majors in college. The logic and problem-solving skills gained from our curriculum are helpful for various career paths.”
I spoke with the Center Director and local educator Lori Gehrke.  She is excited to see so many children come into the center who are interested in gaining exposure to coding at such as young age.  “We are providing children with skills that will help them gain access to jobs that currently do not exist, but with a foundation in coding and the critical thinking skills, they will be prepared for anything that comes their way in the future.”
Coding is important to help kids learn the critical skills that they need for their success.  Code Ninjas Naperville provides the atmosphere of fun and learning with parents seeing results.  For more information about the Code Ninjas Naperville location, please visit codeninjas.com/locations/il-naperville or call 630-300-3636 to schedule a center tour

IIT Madras hosts 2nd edition of Carbon Zero Challenge to tackle environmental problems

Indian Institute of Technology Madras and Virtusa Corporation organized the grand finale of the Second Edition of Carbon Zero Challenge, an All-India innovation and entrepreneurship contest, on campus today (7th June 2019). Its objective is to identify and curate practical innovative and indigenous solutions with a sound business case at scale to solve energy and environmental problems in India.
The challenge aims to create a global impact by combining three powerful factors of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Energy and Environment and Youth to protect future generations. The winners were announced on June 07, 2019 during the Grand Finale.
Circular Economy Domain: A self-sustained integrated closed cycle coconut shell activated carbon production process by Pristine Energia, a student team from IIT Madras (Members: Muthu Kumar K, Syed Mughees Ali, Mentors: Prof. Varunkumar S, Thileepan Panchatsaram, Dr. Shantha K Shankar)
Electric Vehicle Domain: Electric powertrain solutions for E-commerce logistics by Clean Electric, a startup from IIT-BHU Varanasi (Team Members: Akash Gupta, Praveen Kumar Yadav, Mentor: Laltu Chandra, SK Sharma, KS Ramanujan)
Clean Energy Domain: A tubular PEM Fuel Cell that is open-cathode and air-breathing, developed by Elicius Energy, an IIT Madras-incubated startup (Team Members: Sam Pearn-Rowe, Suseendiran Ravichandran, Amit Bhosale, Rishaban Radhakrishnan, Niyas Attashery; Mentor: Prof. Raghunathan Rengaswamy)
Two projects received a special mention from the Jury
1. Agriculature Domain: An agricultural dehydrator to increase the shelf life of fruits, vegetables and spices by Carpro Technologies, a startup from Coimbatore (Member: Uthayakumar. K., Surendran. PB, Mentor: Sriram Sankaran)
2. Electric Vehicle Domain: an Electric Kick Scooter by IngoElectric, a startup from Bengaluru (Team members: Nikhil Gonsalves, Manjunath Panthangi, Anirudh SC, Kartik KV and Mentor Philip Mathias)
Sending a message for this occasion, Shambhu Kallolikar IAS, Principal Secretary to TN Government, Environment and Forests Department, said, “Innovations can bring about a paradigm shift in tackling energy and environmental challenges by providing affordable, low-carbon, scalable and industry-acceptable solutions. I believe Carbon Zero Challenge contest is a significant step in the right direction in encouraging home-grown technology to solve the nation’s problems.”
Further, Shambhu Kallolikar added, “The Government of Tamil Nadu is keen to encourage startups and innovation in the state and committed to support sustainable solutions. The state will also welcome green entrepreneurs and provide the necessary support for a startup in this sector to grow in Tamil Nadu, creating both solutions to problems and jobs.”
CZeroC19 started with 996 applications from 25 states across India. After a rigorous process of shortlisting by business experts and technical experts, 24 teams were selected. These shortlisted teams received training and mentoring in addition to the financial support of up to Rs.5 lakhs over a period of 6 months to build their prototypes and evolve their business models.
Checking the progress
The progress of the teams were closely monitored throughout the contest with staged fund release, monthly progress reports, and a one-on-one mid-term review by a panel of judges. The contest culminated in a three-day exhibition launched on World environment day, June 5, 2019 during which 21 experts headed by a three member jury panel from industry and academia evaluated the teams
Why is it important?
The challenge is a one-of-its-kind contest and a pioneering initiative by IIT Madras and fully supported by Virtusa Corporation. The program’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it is one-of-its-kind initiative in its category that focuses on the energy and environment technological innovations at a national level and supports the eco-entrepreneurs in the 5 thematic areas.
The larger goal is to foster a sustainable ecosystem wherein clean technology ideas can emerge and develop into long-term solutions.
Speaking on the occasion as Guest of Honor, Sundararajan Narayanan, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, Virtusa Corporation said, “For the second year in a row, we are proud to collaborate with IIT Madras in the Carbon Zero Challenge 2019. Our goal is to promote sustainable opportunities and inspire young entrepreneurs to drive sustainable development. Given this rapid pace of change, Virtusa is aptly positioned in the market to leverage our digital engineering heritage to innovate and help reduce environmental footprint, demonstrate ethical maturity and encourage a cohesive and mutually respectable corporate culture for its workforce.”
Selection process
An expert panel of Screening Committee from the thematic areas and clean technology fields evaluated the initial set of 996 applications and the top 84 teams from all over India were shortlisted for Interviews. The shortlisted 84 teams pitched their project ideas to a Panel of Expert Jury on October 26 and 27, 2018. From this, a total of 24 teams tackling agriculture, environment, energy, water and societal problems were selected to go to the next phase of CZeroC.
Apart from funding support of the order of Rs. 5 lakh per team provided to build prototypes, the shortlisted teams received continued training and mentorship from experts from both India and abroad.
Purpose at large
Launched on June 5, 2018, this 2nd edition of the Cleantech Innovation Contest attracted teams comprising students/early entrepreneurs and/or startups from across 25 states. The name ‘Carbon Zero’ signifies the collective humanitarian goal of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, providing clean air and water and sustainability. Seeking out innovative solutions to address these is a small step towards achieving this objective.
Take a note!
Prof. Indumathi Nambi, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, and Coordinator Carbon Zero Challenge, said, “A recent report indicates India is the third most polluted country in the world and 600 million people face extreme water crisis. Innovations & entrepreneurship in cleantech domains; water, waste, energy is the need of the hour. Motivating young minds to ideate, innovate, incubate should be the top priority of every academic institute. This is the motto for Carbon Zero Challenge”

Microsoft launches AI labs with 10 colleges in India

Software giant Microsoft on Thursday launched Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled digital labs in collaboration with 10 higher educational institutions in India.
The programme, ‘Intelligent Cloud Hub’, covers institutes including BITS Pilani, SRM Institute of Science and Technology and Trident Academy of Technology among others.
“With the right technology infrastructure, curriculum and training, we can empower today’s students to build the India of tomorrow,” said Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India.
As part of the three-year programme, Microsoft would support the selected institutions with best-in-class infrastructure, curriculum and content, access to Cloud, AI services as well as developer support.
In addition, the company would also facilitate setting up of core AI infrastructure and Internet of Things (IoT) hub along with providing access to a wide range of Azure AI services like Microsoft Cognitive Services, Azure Machine Learning (ML) and Bot Services.
Training programmes designed for faculty would include workshops on Cloud computing, data sciences, AI and IoT.
According to a recent Microsoft and International Data Corporation (IDC) Asia-Pacific study, the lack of skills, resources and continuous learning programmes have emerged as top challenges faced by Indian organisations in adopting AI to accelerate their businesses. (IANS)

Engineering Building at the University of Houston renamed after Dr. Durga and Sushila Agrawal

Dr. Durga D. Agrawal, a longtime Houston resident, is well known for giving back to the community particularly to his alma mater – the University of Houston.  One 26th April 2019, the University recognized his sizable and generous gift by renaming the Engineering building as the Durga D. and Sushila Agrawal Engineering Research Building. A floor is also named after the couple and the gift will provide ongoing support for faculty, students, research and building operations.

Chancellor Renu Khator, Consul General of India Dr. Anupam Ray, members of the Indian community, students, faculty, Dr. Agrawal’s children, grandchildren and colleagues were present at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

In his remarks, Dr. Agrawal credited several people for his success. He expressed his admiration and respect for his professors at UH like Dr. Rhodes (who was present at the ceremony), Dr. Donaghey, Dr. Dawkins and Dr. Elrod who “put their heart and soul” into teaching students including some like him who had trouble understanding both the language and the American accent. He traced his values of compassion, giving back and respect for education to his parents and acknowledged his wife Sushila’s support and patience without which, he said, he would not have completed his doctorate or built his business.

UH, he concluded, “has a very special place in my heart. We must keep the torch of knowledge, excellence and innovation growing and glowing.”

Chancellor Dr. Renu Khator tweeted: “Today, we named the new Engineering building after Dr. and Mrs. Durga Agrawal, our alum and regent to celebrate their generosity. Your gift will inspire our students and alumni for many generations! Thank you.

Over the years, Dr. Agrawal, who is 74, has been providing endowments, scholarships and internships for UH students. In 2013, he was named a member of the UH System Board of Regents by Texas Governor Rick Perry. He hopes his contributions “will encourage additional donors and attract high-caliber students, especially since many UH students are from the Houston area and will most likely stay here upon graduation to pursue their careers.”

The building today bears no resemblance to the one Dr. Durga studied in but has been rebuilt on the same piece of land. UH’s engineering college boasts of more than 4,200 students, including over 1,150 graduate students, enrolled in 10 engineering disciplines, as well as several interdisciplinary graduate programs.

Dr. Agrawal’s kindness and generosity isn’t limited to giving donations but also comes across in small gestures. When Houston was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Agrawal and members of his family showed up at the campus with vans to transport stranded students to other locations and even took many home.

His deep seated value for education probably stems from his own early struggles for educational opportunities.  He was born in Lakhanpur, a small village in Madhya Pradesh in India with a population of 700. The village did not have a water supply system, electricity or high school which meant that he had to cycle or sometimes even walk to the high school 13 miles away. He was also the bookkeeper for his father’s prosperous business from the time he was in elementary school and reveals that “when you work in the family business, you learn a lot.”  

Encouraged by his parents, he attended one of the best engineering schools in India, IIT, New Delhi. In 1968, he came to Houston to pursue his Masters in Industrial engineering and in 1974 added a Doctorate to his resume, both from the UH Cullen College of Engineering.  He attributes his present success to the two institutions equally and gives back unstintingly to both. As he says “giving back to the community is important and there’s no other field where money invested gives back more returns than education.”

In 1975, Dr. Durga put his entrepreneurship skills to the test by building his company Piping Technology and Products from scratch, out of his garage. The company is today one of the leading providers of pipes for industrial and construction needs and employs over a 1000 people.

Dr. Agrawal also earns high marks for his spirit of community service. He was the first major donor and Founding president of India House, a community center that offers free services and community programs. As the founder and first President of the Indo American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston, he has been part of many delegations to promote trade and the exchange of educational and medical resources between Houston and India. No stranger to high ranking elected officials, he was once introduced by President George Bush as “my good friend from Texas” at a State Dinner for Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Capitol Hill.

A regular practitioner of yoga, Dr. Agrawal is a key contributor to the S-Vyasa Yoga Center that was recently inaugurated in Houston.

Vibrant Goa Global Expo/Summit 2019 Roadshow in Chicago

Chicago IL: Newly designated Consul General of India Mr. Sudhakar Dalela in collaboration with Indian American Business Council [IABC] headed by Harish Kolasani, IABC Founding Presidentheld Vibrant Goa roadshow highlighting Goa’s phenomenal success story in areas such as such as innovation, sustainability, industries, technology, youth, skill development and knowledge sharing and networking at the Indian Consulate premises in downtown Chicago on April 16, 2019. The entire gamut of Goa’s illustrious story will be extensively showcased at the Vibrant Goa Global Expo & Summit 2019 to be held in Goa, India on October 17-19, 2019.
Consul General of India Mr. Sudhakar Dalela in his keynote address comprehensively outlined India’s growing economic eminence and the trajectory of its extraordinary growth. Consul General Mr. Sudhakar Dalela commended the initiatives of the Goa’s leadership and the roadshow delegation including Dr. Jagat Shah and Raj Kumar Kamat in helping advance the vision of Goa through this magnificent Vibrant Goa 2019 Expo. Consul General of India Mr. Sudhakar Dalela said that this Vibrant Goa 2019 will augur well in validating Goa’s fastest growing economy which is driven by strong performance of industrial, mining, tourism and pharmaceuticals — that which waswas reaffirmed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Dr. Jagat Show, Founder Managing Director of Global Network & Chief Mentor of Vibrant Goa 2019 in his presentation expansively delineated the goal of Vibrant Goa Global Expo & Summit and presented a host of audiovisuals illustrating the phenomenal trajectory of growth of the state of Goa vis-à-vis India’s burgeoning economic eminence. Dr. Jagat Shah said Vibrant Goa Global Expo Summit would be an ideal convergence of Goa’s industries and business community to showcase their strengths, highlight business opportunities and facilitate knowledge dissemination across 19 countries worldwide and 20 states in India. He added Vibrant Goa 2019 would provide a practical opportunity to its participants to understand the potential of Goa across various sectors
Harish Kolasani, IABC President welcomed the corporate, business and community leader and explained the overview of Indian American Business Council and its significant role in creating platforms in connecting business entrepreneurs; more importantly connecting the small to medium businesses between the United States and India. In a statement, Harish Kolasani said that in less than 24 hours IABC has received huge wave of interest in participating in the VIbrant Goa 2019 including prominant leader Smita Shah, Chair of Delhi Committee on Chicago Sister Cities International had made remarks on ways Delhi Sister City Committee can complement the Vibrant Goa 2019. 
Raj Kumar Kamat, Founder Managing Director of Kamat Group and President of Vibrant Goa Foundation presented the goal of the Vibrant Goa expo summit. Pranav Agarwal Director of Balasahree Foods made presentation on “blue fort’ producing basmati rice. Anand Chatterjee, General Manager of Planet Hollywood Beach Resort made presentation on burgeoning tourism of Goa. Pranav Aggarwal, a basmati rice exporter from Goa was also part of delegation with his Blue Fort brand.
Keerthi Kumar Ravoori, IABC Director proposed the vote of thanks and thanked Consul General Mr. Sudhakar Dalela for opening the doors of his office and hosting this milestone meeting that sought to connect the delegation from Goa to Chicago’s business leaders.
Vibrant Goa Global Expo and Summit 2019 (VG GES 2019) (www.vibrantgoa.com), a dream project of Late Shri Manohar Parrikar the former Chief Minister of Goa state, is focused on inclusive development of Goa in key areas. Vibrant Goa Foundation organizes vibrant Goa 2019 in partnership with Global Network and BNI and in association with Goa Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Goa State Industries Association and Goa Technology Association. Make in India is the manufacturing partner of Vibrant Goa 2019. Government of Goa, India supports the initiative.
VG GES 2019 will be one of a kind display expo; something that has never been witnessed by the people of Goa and its industry. This display shall be sharing all the developments, newer projects and vision of growth. In addition, the eco-friendly planet Hollywood beach resort was showcased at the Chicago roadshow.
The knowledge summit at VG GES 2019 will be organized concurrently with the Expo with an aim to bridge the gap between Goan industries and other national as well as international players. Moreover, internationally acknowledged and successful ‘Goans’ hailing from over 40 different countries shall be making a memorable visit to their native soil.
Pursuing the idea of our honorable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi to see India proliferate in corporate and commercial realms across the world by providing optimal combination of skilled human resources and state-of-the-art technology; Vibrant Goa Global Expo and Summit 2019 will be an ideal platform to meet, interact, network and discuss business possibilities for importers, exporters, investors, customers, experts and all those who matter in business and trade.
Vibrant Goa 2019 is based on the Vibrant Gujarat model which brings together global business leaders, investors, corporations, thought leaders, policy and opinion makers to understand and explore business opportunities.
Key Sectors of focus: Agro and Food Processing, Emerging Technologies, Construction Equipment, IT (Information Technology), Light Engineering, Medical Tourism, Pharma and Biotech, Startups and Start-up Institutions, Ship Building, Education,Building Materials, construction and Real Estate, Film & Entertainment, Tourism and wellness, Services and other sectors. The key highlights of Vibrant Goa 2019 includes: Goa Expo, Business to Business B2B and Business to Government B2G Meeting, Knowledge Sharing Seminars on countries & sectors, Technology Transfer proposals, Opportunities of Investment and Joint Ventures, MoU signing with International Chambers, Company Site visits, Goa Shopping Festival and Guinness Book World Record attempt for largest Feni Drink (Cashew Liquor)
Over 17 international roadshows across 17 key countries globally and 20 national roadshows across 20 state capitals of India are being conducted to pave way for the participation of international & national delegations to help strengthen trade relations with India & Goa.

Sanjay Raman Appointed Dean of the College of Engineering at UMass Amherst

Sanjay Raman, associate vice president for the Virginia Tech National Capital Region and president and CEO of the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation, has been named the new dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The announcement was made by John J. McCarthy, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. Raman begins his new duties at UMass Amherst in August.

McCarthy said, “I’m delighted to welcome Sanjay Raman as our next dean of the College of Engineering. He possesses an outstanding combination of skills in academic leadership, research and development, and collaborating with colleagues across academia, industry and government. We look forward to drawing upon his rich experience in establishing collaborations within and outside the university.”

Raman succeeds Timothy J. Anderson who served as UMass Amherst’s dean of the College of Engineering from 2013-18. Anderson is a Distinguished Professor in chemical engineering and remains on the faculty.

At Virginia Tech, Raman is a tenured full professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering based at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington, Va. From 1998-2009, he was assigned to the Virginia Tech main campus in Blacksburg.

As the associate vice president (AVP) for the Virginia Tech National Capital Region (NCR), Raman is responsible for planning and executing region-wide initiatives to enhance the university’s research, education, and outreach missions, focusing on cross-cutting themes of data and decision science, integrated security, intelligent infrastructure, global systems science, policy, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Since July 2016, he has also served as the president and CEO of the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation, a 501(c)(3) university affiliated research organization whose mission is to deliver analytic and technology solutions to the university’s government and non-government customers, extending the brand and impact of the Virginia Tech Research and Innovation enterprise.

From 2007-13, Raman served as a program manager in the Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), on loan from the university under Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignments. He is also a graduate of the Virginia Tech Executive Development Institute.

Raman earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1998 and joined the ECE faculty at Virginia Tech. Prior to his doctoral studies at the University of Michigan, Raman served as a nuclear-trained submarine officer in the U.S. Navy from 1987-92. He earned a bachelor’s of electrical engineering degree, with highest honors, from Georgia Tech in 1987.

Raman is a founding member of the Virginia Tech Multifunctional Integrated Circuits and Systems (MICS) group, focused on innovative research in analog, mixed-signal, and RF/microwave/mm-wave IC designs, optoelectronics, and RF interfaces. Raman is an Elected Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for leadership in adaptive microwave and millimeter-wave integrated circuits. He is also an elected member of the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society.

New Android Phone? Lay a Good Foundation with These Apps

As a smartphone user, the online world is rife with threats to your privacy and security. Among the most vulnerable are Android smartphones, especially those drawing on older versions of the popular operating system. Studies show that nearly 90 percent of Android devices are insecure. These vulnerabilities are caused by the lack of security updates as many smartphone vendors still don’t roll out Google’s monthly security updates in a timely manner — if at all they do.

The Android Operating System is under constant attack. If you’re going to use your phone to browse the internet, you’d better be prepared. So, what can you do to keep your new Android phone safe from various threats on the world wide web? A lot, actually. The Android mobile operating system is very flexible. With the right security applications from Google Play Store, you can effectively ward off common privacy and security threats. New Android phone? Lay a good foundation with these apps.


A Virtual Private Network or VPN app is one of the most important device-security tools you can have in your phone. An Android VPN encrypts all your internet communication thus potentially protecting you from prying eyes. You can also use a VPN service to spoof your location. This is a trick that will allow you to bypass content censorship and geo-blocks, and is widely used to access Netflix and YouTube.

There are numerous VPN apps in the Google Play Store. However, not all Android VPN apps are not created equal. By using a VPN service in your Android device, you are placing a lot of trust in the service so it’s important to know how much it collects from you, not just how well it works. Take the time to understand whether a VPN is exposing you to online threats, injecting your device or browser with ads, or selling your data to third parties.

Antivirus Software 

We are all aware of the perils and disastrous consequences of viruses and other types of malware on our personal computers. Well, times have changed and many computing tasks that hitherto took place on PCs can now take place on a smartphone or tablet. As a result, malicious threat actors are now using malware to target our smartphones.  Luckily, there are plenty of antivirus apps on the Google Play Store to help Android users protect themselves against the rising and constantly evolving malware threats.

There are tons of ways to catch malware on your Android device. Heck, you can even download malicious apps straight from the Google Play Store. These applications can be copycats that bear the same name and icon as the genuine apps masquerading as helpful utilities thus tricking the unsuspecting user into downloading malware into their smartphones. Sadly, the Play Store filter is only weakly armed against malware uploads.

From devastating ransomware trojans to the merely annoying adware that will just show you unwanted advertisements, there are many types of malware that can infect Android smartphones and tablets. Malware infection in your Android device, irrespective of the type of malware, can have serious consequences on your privacy and security. Installing an antivirus application on your new Android phone can help you defend against these adversaries.

But not so fast. A 2017 survey by AV-Comparatives found that more than two-thirds of the 250 antivirus apps tested are not effective. According to the company, Symantec, Trend Micro, AVG, Avast, McAfee, Kaspersky, and Bitdefender performed well in the survey. Therefore, Android users need to a little picky with the vendors they choose to entrust with the security of their smartphones and tablets.

Password Manager App

Having strong, unique passwords for all your online accounts is one of the best ways to protect against online threats. But when you have multiple online accounts on different sites, remembering the password for each one can be a tough job. Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of password manager applications on the Android platform. These applications make your life easier by managing your passwords with an additional layer of security. Apps such as LastPass help Android users store all their sensitive data in one place. Users only have to remember the LastPass password, an encrypted master password.

App Permission Manager

Some Android apps are known for being invasive. You can use an Android app permission manager to block permissions of such apps. This can be a very useful tool when dealing with installations that require unnecessary app permissions. You can use an app permission manager to block permissions that don’t have anything to do with the main functions of the application. For instance, you can revoke the permissions of the flashlight app if it wants to collect location-based data. App Ops is one of the most popular Android app permission managers. Get the app from the Google Play Store for free.

File Encryption App

A VPN service encrypts your internet traffic to keep snoopers from accessing your private communications. But what about the files in your device? File encryption apps can help you encrypt sensitive files on your Android smartphone or tablet before moving them to the cloud. Since you are the only person that can access and read the encrypted files, you can also choose to store the files on your device. Crypt4All Lite (AES) is one of the most popular Android file encryption apps, and it’s free.

Your Android smartphone probably has some sensitive data on it. Smartphone data is increasingly becoming a target for hackers and other online malicious threat actors. If you use your Android smartphone to access the internet, you need to ensure that you are fully protected from malicious threat actors. These apps will help protect your new Android device from a variety of online security and privacy threats.

For more info and to download the app, please visit: https://www.expressvpn.com/vpn-software/vpn-android

April 22nd is Earth Day Perceptions of people on potential threats to EARTH

April 22 is Earth Day, an annual event that highlights environmental concerns and encourages civic action. This year’s Earth Day comes amid widespread global concern about climate change. The way people perceive and respond to climate changes depends on one’s ideology, location, income and education, among the many other factors.

2018 Pew Research Center survey on how people evaluate eight potential threats, as well as other polls conducted by the Center, has some surprising conclusions.

  1. Majorities in most surveyed countries say global climate change is a major threat to their nation. In fact, it’s seen as the top threat in 13 of 26 surveyed countries, more than any other issue the survey asked about. People in Greece express very high levels of concern, with 90% labeling climate change a major threat (similar to the 88% there who cite the condition of the global economy). People in South Korea, France, Spain and Mexico also express strong concerns. Eight-in-ten or more in each of these countries say climate change is a major threat.

Americans are less likely to be concerned about climate change, with 59% seeing it as a serious threat. About as many people in the United States cite climate change as point to ISIS (62%) and North Korea’s nuclear program (58%). Americans most frequently cite cyberattacks as a major threat. People in Russia (43%), Nigeria (41%) and Israel (38%) are the least likely to say climate change is a major threat to their nation.

  1. Substantial shares see climate change as a minor threat or not a threat at all. Not all people in the surveyed countries consider climate change to be a major threat. A median of 20% across these countries consider global warming a minor threat, while 9% say it is not a threat. About half or more in Israel and Russia say global climate change is a minor threat or not a threat (58% and 51%, respectively). In the U.S., roughly a quarter (23%) believe climate change is a minor threat, while 16% say it is no threat at all.

  1. Concerns about climate change have risen significantly in many countries since 2013. The share of people expressing concern about the threat of climate change around the world has grown since 2013, when Pew Research Center first asked respondents whether they see it as a major threat to their nation. In 2013, a median of 56% in 23 countries said climate change was a major threat; in the Center’s most recent Global Attitudes survey, a median of 67% in the same countries hold this view. And in 10 countries, the share of people who see global warming as a major threat has grown by at least 10 percentage points. For example, 83% of people in France say this, up from 54% in in 2013, an increase of 29 points. Mexico has seen a similar increase, from 52% to 80%, or 28 points.

Americans have also grown more concerned about climate change, even if their overall level of concern is lower than in some other countries. Nearly six-in-ten Americans see climate change as a major threat (59%), up 19 points from 2013.

  1. People with more education tend to be more concerned about climate change; in some countries, women and younger people are also more concerned. Education, gender and age are related to evaluations of climate change as a threat. In most countries surveyed, those with higher levels of education are more likely than those with less education to see climate change as a serious threat. For instance, Hungarians with a postsecondary or higher education are 11 percentage points more likely than their less-educated counterparts to say that climate change is a major threat. Women are more likely than men to be concerned about climate change in nine of the 26 surveyed countries. In Canada, for example, 72% of women consider climate change a major threat, compared with 59% of men. Age is also associated with views of climate change in some countries. In the U.S., 71% of those ages 18 to 29 say climate change is a threat, compared with half of Americans 50 and older.

  1. In the U.S., there’s a wide partisan gap about climate change.Among American adults, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are less likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to express concern about climate change. Roughly a quarter (27%) of Republicans say climate change is a major threat, compared with more than three-quarters of Democrats (83%) – a 56 percentage point difference. Democrats have also grown more worried about climate change since the question was first asked five years ago, while Republican opinions on climate have remained roughly the same. This trend is consistent with wide and growing political divides among Americans on a range of beliefs about climate issues.

New Android Phone? Lay a Good Foundation with These Apps

As a smartphone user, the online world is rife with threats to your privacy and security. Among the most vulnerable are Android smartphones, especially those drawing on older versions of the popular operating system. Studies show that nearly 90 percent of Android devices are insecure. These vulnerabilities are caused by the lack of security updates as many smartphone vendors still don’t roll out Google’s monthly security updates in a timely manner — if at all they do.
The Android Operating System is under constant attack. If you’re going to use your phone to browse the internet, you’d better be prepared. So, what can you do to keep your new Android phone safe from various threats on the world wide web? A lot, actually. The Android mobile operating system is very flexible. With the right security applications from Google Play Store, you can effectively ward off common privacy and security threats. New Android phone? Lay a good foundation with these apps.
A Virtual Private Network or VPN app is one of the most important device-security tools you can have in your phone. An Android VPN encrypts all your internet communication thus potentially protecting you from prying eyes. You can also use a VPN service to spoof your location. This is a trick that will allow you to bypass content censorship and geo-blocks, and is widely used to access Netflix and YouTube.
There are numerous VPN apps in the Google Play Store. However, not all Android VPN apps are not created equal. By using a VPN service in your Android device, you are placing a lot of trust in the service so it’s important to know how much it collects from you, not just how well it works. Take the time to understand whether a VPN is exposing you to online threats, injecting your device or browser with ads, or selling your data to third parties.
Antivirus Software
We are all aware of the perils and disastrous consequences of viruses and other types of malware on our personal computers. Well, times have changed and many computing tasks that hitherto took place on PCs can now take place on a smartphone or tablet. As a result, malicious threat actors are now using malware to target our smartphones.  Luckily, there are plenty of antivirus apps on the Google Play Store to help Android users protect themselves against the rising and constantly evolving malware threats.
There are tons of ways to catch malware on your Android device. Heck, you can even download malicious apps straight from the Google Play Store. These applications can be copycats that bear the same name and icon as the genuine apps masquerading as helpful utilities thus tricking the unsuspecting user into downloading malware into their smartphones. Sadly, the Play Store filter is only weakly armed against malware uploads.
From devastating ransomware trojans to the merely annoying adware that will just show you unwanted advertisements, there are many types of malware that can infect Android smartphones and tablets. Malware infection in your Android device, irrespective of the type of malware, can have serious consequences on your privacy and security. Installing an antivirus application on your new Android phone can help you defend against these adversaries.
But not so fast. A 2017 survey by AV-Comparatives found that more than two-thirds of the 250 antivirus apps tested are not effective. According to the company, Symantec, Trend Micro, AVG, Avast, McAfee, Kaspersky, and Bitdefender performed well in the survey. Therefore, Android users need to a little picky with the vendors they choose to entrust with the security of their smartphones and tablets.
Password Manager App
Having strong, unique passwords for all your online accounts is one of the best ways to protect against online threats. But when you have multiple online accounts on different sites, remembering the password for each one can be a tough job. Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of password manager applications on the Android platform. These applications make your life easier by managing your passwords with an additional layer of security. Apps such as LastPass help Android users store all their sensitive data in one place. Users only have to remember the LastPass password, an encrypted master password.
App Permission Manager
Some Android apps are known for being invasive. You can use an Android app permission manager to block permissions of such apps. This can be a very useful tool when dealing with installations that require unnecessary app permissions. You can use an app permission manager to block permissions that don’t have anything to do with the main functions of the application. For instance, you can revoke the permissions of the flashlight app if it wants to collect location-based data. App Ops is one of the most popular Android app permission managers. Get the app from the Google Play Store for free.
File Encryption App
A VPN service encrypts your internet traffic to keep snoopers from accessing your private communications. But what about the files in your device? File encryption apps can help you encrypt sensitive files on your Android smartphone or tablet before moving them to the cloud. Since you are the only person that can access and read the encrypted files, you can also choose to store the files on your device. Crypt4All Lite (AES) is one of the most popular Android file encryption apps, and it’s free.
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First Picture of a Black Hole Released

A picture of a black hole is one of those great, self-negating concepts, like the sound of silence, the presence of absence or the lives of the dead. The nature of one refutes the other. But a picture of a black hole has arrived nonetheless — revealed Wednesday morning in simultaneous press conferences held in six different locations around the world.
At those events — in Washington, Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo — astronomers gave humanity its first look at the black hole at the heart of the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy, nearly 54 million light years from Earth. With that, astrophysics opened one more tiny crack in the wall of secrets that is the universe:
“We are delighted to report to you that we have seen what was thought to be unseeable,” said Shep Doeleman, Harvard University senior research fellow and director of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), at the announcement at Washington’s National Press Club. “We now have visual evidence. We know that a black hole sits at the center of the M87 galaxy.” True to the nature of the science, the picture does not show the black hole itself. The defining feature of all black holes is that they are so dense, generating a gravity field so powerful, that nothing, not even electromagnetic energy — which, of course, includes visible light — can escape their pull. What the picture reveals instead is the black hole’s so-called event horizon, the swirl of gas and dust and stars and light itself, circling the gravitational drain, before they’re sucked inside never, ever to reemerge.
In April of 2017, a global web of eight radio telescopes located in six places (Chile, Mexico, Spain, Hawaii, Arizona and the Antarctic), the collective network that makes up the EHT, began surveying the Messier 87 black hole, as well as the black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. Seeing any sign at all of either formation was no small achievement.
“The light from the M87 black hole has to travel for 60,000 years through its own galaxy, then for 55 million years across interstellar space,” said Doeleman. “Then it had to make it through our atmosphere, where the greatest enemy of the photons is water vapor.”
For that reason, all of the telescopes are deployed in places where the air is generally dry and generally clear — though not always. Simple bad weather could stymie even the most sophisticated plans, but the EHT team caught a break.
“We were very lucky,” said University of Arizona astronomer Dan Marrone, of the EHT team. “Our first three days of observing were some of the best we’ve ever seen.”
The black hole at the center of our galaxy goes by the name Sagittarius A*. It has a mass equivalent to about 4.1 million of our suns. While that earns it the sobriquet “supermassive black hole” (more common black holes can be as small as five solar masses), it’s actually something of a pipsqueak as these things go. It measures perhaps 24 million miles across, or about a 50 billionth the size of the galaxy. Trying to take an image of that from the 26,000 light year distance at which the Earth sits from the center of the Milky Way is like trying to spot an orange on the surface of the moon—with the naked eye. (A picture of Sagittarius A* was not released Wednesday, but will be in the future.)

New York mural of astronaut, Gandhi talks about future

The high-tech future of green jobs and the Gandhian virtue of the dignity of work meld their messages on a six-storey high mural commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the centenary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN that was inaugurated on Tuesday.

The mural that looks up from the vista that opens to the iconic glass-fronted UN building a block away commemorates the occasions.

The other themes on the mural, a joint effort of the ILO and the Indian mission, include the concept of “green”, environmentally sustainable jobs and the greening of the world by planting trees.

India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said at the inauguration that the mural addresses global concerns of decent jobs and the environment.

He said the mural effort goes beyond the diplomatic work at the UN of dealing with resolutions to a new diplomatic area of reaching out to people to create broader awareness of issues.

Victor Ash, the artist who painted it while perched high on a cherry-picker, told IANS: “I mixed different ideas and came up with this ‘green astronaut’ that is also worker – the worker from the future who would be working in space.”

And to commemorate the anniversary of Gandhi’ birth, he said he added Gandhi’s image as a logo on the arm of the astronaut.

Ash said that one of his inspirations was India’s record in 2017 of planting 66 million trees on a single day.

The mission building with a red-stone facade was designed by the internationally acclaimed Indian architect Charles Correa, but one of its sides was bared to the bricks after the neighbouring building was torn down and a hotel was built on the site with a deep setback.

The mural now decorates that side without impinging on the building’s Correa design.

The mural was one of several sponsored across the city by ILO to commemorate its centenary with a project called Street Art for Mankind that aims to spread the message of decent work for all with sustainable development and social justice.

Portugal-born Ash said that he had painted a mural at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai during its Summerfest.

He said that he had started as a street-artist in Paris, where he had studied, and later went into doing paintings for galleries.

“But it was only the studio work and exhibiting in galleries was not reaching such a broad public,” he said.

“So I went back to the street and did murals because it has a much bigger impact and you can actually transmit messages much better than just exhibiting in galleries for a few specific people.” (IANS)

H-1B pays for US College scholarships & trainings, says new study

The US grants 65,000 cap-subjected H-1B work visas to foreign workers hired abroad every year and 20,000 to foreigners in US institutions of higher education.

The H-1B visa program for high-skilled foreigners, which has been subjected to prohibitive scrutiny by the Trump administration, has earned the US $4.9 billion in employer-paid fees since 1999, which paid for more than 90,000 college scholarships and training, according to a new study.

These collections are from the $1,500 processing fee that the government charges employers for every new H-1B or a renewal, the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank, says in the report, and adds that the total rises to $7 billion, by adding $500 in anti-fraud fees.

The US grants 65,000 cap-subjected H-1B work visas to foreign workers hired abroad every year and 20,000 to foreigners in US institutions of higher education. More than 70% of these visas have gone to Indians, hired by US companies such as Google and Facebook, and Indian firms such as TCS and Infosys.

The application process for 2020, which comes with changes, started on Monday and will typically end in a few days given the demand. More than 190,000 applications were received by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that runs the programme, in 2018 (for 2019), and 199,000 in 2017.

“Few people realize that fees for each new H-1B visa holder fund scholarships and job training for Americans,” said Stuart Anderson, a former immigration services official and executive director of the think tank that released its report on Monday.

The report argued that the role of employer-paid H-1B fees has received scant or no attention in the policy debate around immigration so far. “People on all sides of the immigration debate agree that it is beneficial to train and educate more Americans in STEM fields, yet policymakers rarely note that every company-sponsored H-1B petition provides money for training and STEM education,” it said.

This side of the H-1B visas has indeed received no attention. The focus has been on American workers displaced by outsourcing. And the Trump administration has initiated a series of measures to check abuse and fraud of the programme in line with its “Buy American, Hire American” policies.

Since 1999, H-1B fees paid by employers have been used to educate and train Americans in technology-related fields. And based on data obtained from the National Science Foundation, the US department of labour and the USCIS, the report said approximately 87,890 college students enrolled in mathematics, engineering and computer science courses were granted scholarships ranging from one to four years and of up $10,000 a year.

Money from the collections also funded training of more than 1.5 million school students and teachers in STEM-related fields, and an estimated $2.5 billion of the total collections was used by the department of labor to train US workers.

“The H-1B fees have benefited American students and encouraged through teaching and financial support many individuals to enter science and engineering fields,” said the report.

NASA selects Indian-American-led Yale team to build miniature satellite for space launches

An undergraduate team of scientists in Yale led by an Indian-American, is designing a miniature satellite which has been chosen by NASA for launch on space missions in the coming years.

The Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA), which is currently led by Keshav Raghavan, is currently working at the Wright Lab to build a CubeSat research satellite to detect cosmic rays. It is among  16 teams undergraduate teams across the country whose CubeSats will be flown into space as auxiliary payloads on space missions planned to launch in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

“It will be the first ever Yale undergraduate endeavor to launch a spacecraft, forging the path for even more ambitious space-based projects by Yale undergraduates in the future,” the University announced in a March 22, press release.

According to a March 14 announcement from NASA, the YUAA project, called Bouchet Low-Earth Alpha/Beta Space Telescope (BLAST), “is a scientific investigation mission to map the distribution of galactic cosmic radiation across the night sky. The satellite will identify and count alpha particles and beta particles in the rays, and measure the radiation energy around Earth. BLAST will contribute to the ongoing search for the origins and nature of these rays, which will provide insight into the origins of the universe.”

To date, the CubeSat Launch Initiative has selected 176 CubeSat missions from 39 states and launched 85 CubeSat missions as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) through NASA’s Launch Services Program, NASA said in its press release.

Raghavan and his team mates have already done the research and development work on the miniature satellite, and this summer, they begin on prototyping and final construction work on the satellite. In January 2019, the team began using one of Wright Lab’s clean rooms to conduct tests on launch-ready components, such as the altitude control systems, Yale said in its press release.  Wright Lab will be the team’s site for final assembly of the satellite.

According to the YUAA website, these miniature satellites were first developed by the California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University in 1999.

“Intended as a standard, inexpensive design that can easily fit alongside larger satellites aboard launch vehicles, the CubeSat model has given student groups, hobbyist organizations, and research teams operating with limited funding or experience unprecedented access to space,” the YUAA site says.

These miniature satellites are built from commercially available materials and have a modular structure of 10x10x10cm cubes (hence the name). Hundreds of universities, companies and research teams have designed and launched their own CubeSats over the years. The Yale CubeSat project is an undergraduate-run project, currently in its 4th year.

India’s Cloud market to hit $7 billion by 2022: Nasscom

With increased adoption of futuristic technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), the Cloud market in India is poised to grow three-fold to $7.1 billion by 2022, according to a Nasscom report on Tuesday.

In 2018, Cloud spending stood at approximately 6 per cent of the total IT spending, according to the report prepared in collaboration with Google Cloud and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP.

“India’s Cloud computing market is poised for growth and the technology is increasingly being embraced across businesses as well as consumers,” Debjani Ghosh, President, Nasscom, said in a statement.

Globally, the Cloud spending on IT is growing at 16.5 per cent and is expected to touch $345 billion by 2022, said the report titled “Cloud — Next Wave of Growth in India”.

The report highlights that Cloud spending is propelled by factors such as increased awareness of Cloud, consumerisation of IT, proliferation of start-up ecosystem, diverse landscape of supplier ecosystem, rising investments in infrastructure, talent, strategic partnerships and the impetus from key digital-led government programmes.

Futuristic technologies such as AI and ML are aiding in the seamless adoption of software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) offerings, giving a boost to the Cloud market.

The report also draws attention to a few challenges to the growth of Cloud market in India such as data security and lack of Internet infrastructure specially in tier-2 and rural markets of the country. (IANS)

Why You Don’t Always Need to Adjust to a New Time Zone

Settling into a new time zone is no joke. The faster you sync your body with a local sunrise, the sooner you’ll be able to sidestep jet lag and fully enjoy your trip (without feeling like you need a coffee close to bedtime or lunch when it’s time for breakfast). But W. Christopher Winter, M.D., president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of The Sleep Solution, tells Condé Nast Traveler that in certain circumstances, actively trying to not adjust to a destination’s local time can work in your favor.

Bear with us. Living in your home time zone during a trip often makes sense if you’re flying far away for, say, a short business trip. Of course, you have to consider the purpose of your travels, too. “I think it’s probably less of a threshold of how many days you’re going to be away and more about what your objective is,” says Winter. If you’re in Paris for a conference for 24 hours and you’re speaking at said conference, you likely have to be on, and would benefit from adjusting. But if you’re simply required to attend and face a full week of work when you return home, resisting the urge to adjust to a new time zone could work in your favor. “If you work hard to adjust and then come back, you’ve got to readjust and the first few days you’re back, you’re going to feel kind of rough,” says Winter.

So for quick trips that don’t require you to live like the locals, consider these techniques for staying on your home clock.

Eat meals at the wrong times.

Research finds that when and what you eat can affect your internal biological clock. “No one is going to wake up at 3 a.m. and have breakfast,” admits Winter. But having an earlier breakfast if you travel West or a later one if you’re headed East can help keep things regular. Keep your iPhone on the time at home and try your best to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner close to when you’d be dining at home.

Shy away from sunlight.

If you’re a New Yorker in Europe, commit to room service in a hotel room with the shades drawn. Waiting to see the sun for the first time can trick your body into thinking the sun isn’t rising until later in the day. Dark sunglasses can come in handy, too, says Winter. You might wear them throughout the day, taking them off in the late afternoon when the sun would be rising at home.

Plan around 4 p.m. your time.

Most of us athletically and cognitively peak around 4 p.m. in the time zone our body thinks we’re in, says Winter. “The chemicals that make us feel sleepy have not accumulated enough to make us sleep, so it’s a sweet spot of sorts right in that middle point.”

The longer you stay in a place, the more you’ll adjust to local time, but when you first arrive, “your brain doesn’t know you’ve traveled for some time,” he says. That means if you’re in London for 24 hours traveling from the East coast, a late client dinner could work in your favor (you’ll likely feel your best around 9 p.m). If you’re in Honolulu coming from the East coast, think about breakfast (alertness will likely peak around 10 a.m.).

If you’re a sleep-on-the-plane kind of person, an overnight return flight delivers you directly to your destination where you’ll wake up to natural sunlight and a full day ahead. “I find this helps people fall asleep quickly when they go to bed that night,” says Winter.

First exhibition of De Wain Valentine’s work in New York

Almine Rech is about to inaugurate the first exhibition of De Wain Valentine’s work presented on its New York premises. The exhibition will be on view from April 30 to June 8, 2019.

Valentine incarnates a key moment in the development of the Los Angeles art scene in the 1960s and 1970s (in parallel, and somewhat in opposition to New York-based Minimalism). His work caught immediate attention through a fresh vernacular artistic vocabulary that encapsulated the essence of L.A. life. Valentine’s work stems from an unexpected alliance between his extraordinary technical and engineering virtuosity, and his rich and sensual perceptual experience. His sculptural and pictorial career has, for the past six decades, been spanning a colossal, yet, intimate project, and reflects Valentine’s abiding “love affair with the L.A. ocean and sky.”

This exhibition offers fresh avenues to engage more fully with Valentine’s remarkably rich and complex ongoing career. Ever since his emergence on the Los Angeles art scene in 1965, Valentine stood out as an artist developing cutting edge technological solutions for his ambitious sculptures, as well as his lesser-known, yet striking paintings. He seamlessly put to use his unique engineering and scientific skills towards previously unseen aesthetic results. Valentine’s abstract and geometric volumes were made out of synthetic plastic and resins, a material almost untouched by artists at the time. What remains the unique mark of Valentine’s sculptural production, is that he was capable of endowing this industrial and commercial material with poetic qualities, and dreamy, ethereal, vaporous associations that were unforeseeable from such a material. Valentine transformed this medium and made it very apt to capture the subtle nuances of the rich and varied L.A. atmospheric effects.

Valentine was a key member of a group of artists loosely referred to as Light and Space (whose ranks also included Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, Peter Alexander, John McCracken, Craig Kauffman, Laddie John Dill, Helen Pashgian, Mary Corse, and other younger artists, such as Gisela Colon): they all tended to share a similar vision, each artist injecting his/her work with specific inflections and particular marks. They also shared an abiding interest in a formal vocabulary that consisted of flat smooth, highly polished, geometrical volumes, such as rectangular planks, discs, stelae, spheres.

Until 1966 (date when Valentine patented his invention of a new synthetic resin), it was impossible for anyone working with resins or plastics to elaborate a sculpture taller than a couple of feet due to the inherently soft and unstable properties of resin. The complex and hazardous process of building up free-standing volumes required several painstaking steps of pouring the resin under high heat, waiting for the first layer to dry before pouring in the next one, and so on. The result led to a block of material that was inherently flawed, and highly susceptible to break or crack.

Equipped with a rare gift in mastering complex equations in physics, chemistry, and engineering, Valentine signaled himself by inventing the material necessary in order to produce the sculptures that he wanted with greater solidity, stability, and impressive height. Having worked with an engineer at the Hastings Plastic Company, he came up with a new chemical product, commercially available under the patent of “Valentine MasKast Resin,” which enabled him to produce the monumental translucent works that became his signature.

Valentine’s technological prowess recently led to new scholarship, and a ground-breaking scientific exploration, the results of which, were published by the Getty Conservation Institute, and were centered around the colossal Gray Column, 1971 [1].

His invention of a new resin formula—a rare scientific feat for any artist at the time— immediately enabled Valentine to endow his resin sculptures with the colossal scales (up to 12 feet and more) that he had dreamt of. These monumental sculptures count, among them, the sublime Gray Column, 1975, or earlier on, Red Concave Circle, 1970 (now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art collection). The historical disk sculpture, Circle Smoke Gray, presented today at the Almine Rech, is also dated 1970—a year of historic importance for Valentine who referred to the LACMA sculpture as “his first big circle.” Indeed, Valentine was already familiar with the treatment of disks or circles within his sculptural practice.  In a recent telephone conversation, Douglas Chrismas (founder of ACE) shared information on the early history of Valentine’s disk sculptures, initially exhibited at his first gallery, the Douglas Gallery, in Vancouver, as early as in 1967.

Valentine has been working through a fairly contained vocabulary of geometric shapes and volumes (discs, trapezoidal volumes, pyramidical or rhombus-shaped stelae). These stelae made out of translucent, at times hazy-looking resin, differed considerably from the geometric vocabulary developed by minimalist artists during the same years in New York. While the latter group focused on questions of objecthood, immediacy, and conceptual clarity, Valentine and the Light and Space artists forged a new language, inextricably tied to a harmonious reflection that drew upon the visual spectrum produced by the West Coast climes: sun and clouds, fog and clarity, ocean and sand.

In his own inimitable voice, Valentine is fond of emphasizing what these works are about: “I always wanted a big magic saw I could cut up big hunks of L.A. smog or hunks of ocean and say: ‘Look at this!’ The polyester was the only way to objectify that love of it.”[2] Circle Smoke Grey (1970), presented today, precisely embodies the artist’s vision: it appears to have trapped in resin “a hunk of L.A. smog”—a transliteration of the dense and complex Californian atmosphere into a clear, translucent sculptural form.

Even though other artists (Robert Irwin, Helen Pashgian, and others) have shared in this fascination for the disk as an artistic form, in various iterations, Valentine pioneered the invention of a free-standing concave disk, and, through his own patented invention of a new genre of synthetic resin, was able to endow these disks (his “big circles”) with unforeseeable dimensions. The exhibition at Almine Rech presents us with a rare opportunity to view and discover the diverse and rich spectrum of Valentine’s artistic practice. It is rare to be able to see a selection of sculptures together with his paintings (a lesser known facet of his practice); yet, for Valentine, both constitute two sides of the same coin. His pictorial practice, with a different medium, and on a two-dimensional format, also aim at capturing the magical alluring aspects of the qualities of the atmosphere in the Pacific. Indeed, some of his most extraordinary paintings were executed in Hawaii and display an almost gem-like quality. In fact, referencing jewelry with respect to Valentine’s paintings is no mere metaphor. Often proudly referring to one of his ancestors who was a gold miner in Colorado during the Gold Rush, Valentine discussed in a recent conversation his own fascination for gold.

Valentine’s fascination for gold and gems goes along with his long-held admiration for medieval manuscript illumination.  In an analogous way, he resorted to applying pure gold leaves on his canvas before applying the rich layers of bright blue and purple pigments. Valentine’s painting Purple Illuminated Skyline (1998) clearly carries a clear allegiance to the medieval genre of illuminations, also executed through a careful application of gold leaves on  parchment. The scene depicted in the illustration below shows a distribution of gifts during New Year’s Eve.

This is one of the sumptuous pages in the Très riches heures du Duc de Berry, by the Limbourg brothers. A couple of features directly relevant to Valentine’s own painting: the application of fine gold leaves on the surface, of course, but also the choice of a particularly rich blue/purplish pigment used to depict the firmament—the firmament also echoing Valentine’s continued interest in “skylines”: (found in the titles of many of his works). Both works, the Très riches heures, and DeWain Valentine’s paintings are animated with a certain cosmological dimension. These layers of interests and references, unexpected from any artist in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, confer a unique place to Valentine within the art historical world. This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to engage freshly with Valentine’s ever surprising creative practices.

As a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Valentine received instruction in painting from Richard Diebenkorn and Clyfford Still. Valentine remembers the most profound advice he received from the latter: “When you see your heroes in your work, you kick them out, and what’s left is you. He said that won’t be very much, but that’s what you start with.” For Valentine, who had been working in a quasi-figural style indebted to Cézanne and Matisse, Still’s words were transformative. A summer graduate course at Yale exposed him to the east coast New York art scene, while a visit to Chicago provided his first exposure to the Light and Space artists, several of whom were exhibited there. An invitation to teach a class on plastics at UCLA in 1965 prompted his move to Venice, where he quickly fell in with the local artistic community. He has been working in Los Angeles ever since.

Amazon, Apple and Google smart TVs and voice assistants can tell if you’re CHEATING on your partner ‘by tracking your movements and spying on what you say and how you say it’ The AI-powered gadgets are owned by one in ten people around the UK recorded chats and locations could be harvested for research, warns scientist

Google, Amazon and Apple are all offering versions of this kind of technology Grey areas remain over who your data is shared with once it hits the cloud

Amazon, Apple and Google voice assistants and smart TVs could find out if a person is cheating on their partner, a data expert has claimed.

Smart gadgets, which are used by one in ten people around the UK, can harvest enough data to work out the dynamics of a relationship, they say.

They have the potential to record saucy conversations and analyze location data to discover secret affairs.

The virtual assistants can show when occupants are in a building, or for example, share a bedroom, by using sensor logs and smart meters.

There is already ambiguity when it comes to these companies privacy policies and how they collect and use people’s data.

Recorded chats and locations could be harvested for research, stored in the cloud and sold on to third parties.

Amazon, Apple and Google voice assistants and smart TVs could find out if a person is cheating on their partner, a data expert has claimed.

Smart gadgets, which are used by one in ten people around the UK, can harvest enough data to work out the dynamics of a relationship, they say.

They have the potential to record saucy conversations and analyse location data to discover secret affairs.

The virtual assistants can show when occupants are in a building, or for example, share a bedroom, by using sensor logs and smart meters.

There is already ambiguity when it comes to these companies privacy policies and how they collect and use people’s data.

Recorded chats and locations could be harvested for research, stored in the cloud and sold on to third parties.

Alexa and other AI-powered technology can find out when someone is cheating on their partner, according to a data expert. The gadgets, which are owned by one in ten people around the UK, can harvest enough data to work out the dynamics of a relationship.”

Ashwin Machanavajjhala warns of the dangers of smart tech in the home

Speaking at a science conference in Washington, former government data adviser Professor Ashwin Machanavajjhala warned of the dangers of smart tech in the home, according to the Mirror. ‘Smart meters can tell you whether an individual is at home and what appliances are used,’ he said.

‘Smart light bulbs and WiFi access points can reveal occupancy. Social relationships between building occupants can be inferred by analysing sensor logs. ‘Smart TVs and voice assistants can pick up living room chatter, some of which may be shared with third parties.’

Professor Machanavajjhala said he refuses to have a smart speaker in his home for fear of privacy violations and grey areas over who your data is shared with.

‘I’m waiting for privacy protections to come in. We need to know what is being collected about us, whether or not we have anything to hide.’

‘Once data is on the cloud users lose control over it. There is little transparency about who it is shared with.’

Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, said last week that there is ‘no limit’ to how Amazon is storing and listening to private conversations, adding that these recordings ‘could potentially be used against you in a court of law or for other purposes.’

Amazon came under scrutiny last year when an Echo device recorded a family’s conversation and sent the audio file to a person in their contact list.

When contacted by the family, Amazon said it takes privacy ‘very seriously,’ but downplayed the incident as an ‘extremely rare occurrence.’

Meanwhile a report by UK lawmakers have accused Facebook of ‘intentionally and knowingly’ violating data privacy and competition laws.

The UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said that companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world.

A spokeperson for Amazon told MailOnline: ‘At Amazon customer trust is of the utmost importance, and we take privacy seriously.

‘By default, Echo devices are designed to only capture audio after it detects the wake word. Only after the wake word is detected does audio get streamed to the cloud, and the stream closes immediately after Alexa processes a customer request.

‘No audio is stored or saved on the device. Customers can also review and delete voice recordings in the Alexa App or by visiting amazon.co.uk/privacy.’

MailOnline has also contacted Google and Apple for comment but neither have replied.


Amazon has released a child-friendly feature for its Alexa smart assistant called FreeTime.

Once activated, the device will answer questions on sensitive topics differently to palm-off curious children.

Alexa changes its answers to questions poised by all members of the household once the feature is turned on, regardless of age.


Regular: ‘Babies are made through the process of reproduction.’

Child version: ‘People make people, but how they’re made would be a better question for a grown-up.’


Regular: ‘Sorry, I’m not sure.’

Child version: ‘That’s a hard question to answer. If you’re wondering about this, you should ask someone in your family, a teacher, or a friend who you know and trust.’


Regular: ‘Santa makes a lot of people ho-ho-hopeful for a happy holiday, and I definitely believe in that.’

Child version: ‘Just check if the cookies you set out for him are gone Christmas morning.’


Regular: ‘Marijuana is usually defined as a strong-smelling plant whose dried leaves can be smoked for a pleasant effect or pain reduction or, alternatively, the most commonly used illicit drug; considered a soft drug, it consists of the dried leaves of the hemp plant; smoked or chewed for euphoric effect.’

Child version: ‘I am not able to answer that.’


Regular: ‘Stormy Daniels is an adult film actress from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.’

Child version: ‘Sorry, I don’t know that.’


Regular: ‘Hmmm, I don’t know that one.’

Child version: Same answer.


Regular: ‘The United States’ president is Donald Trump.’

Child version: ‘The United States’ president is Donald Trump. By the way, thanks for asking so nicely.’

Artificial intelligence, deepfakes, and the uncertain future of truth

Deepfakes are videos that have been constructed to make a person appear to say or do something that they never said or did. With artificial intelligence-based methods for creating deepfakes becoming increasingly sophisticated and accessible, deepfakes are raising a set of challenging policy, technology, and legal issues.

Deepfakes can be used in ways that are highly disturbing. Candidates in a political campaign can be targeted by manipulated videos in which they appear to say things that could harm their chances for election. Deepfakes are also being used to place people in pornographic videos that they in fact had no part in filming.

Because they are so realistic, deepfakes can scramble our understanding of truth in multiple ways. By exploiting our inclination to trust the reliability of evidence that we see with our own eyes, they can turn fiction into apparent fact. And, as we become more attuned to the existence of deepfakes, there is also a subsequent, corollary effect: they undermine our trust in all videos, including those that are genuine. Truth itself becomes elusive, because we can no longer be sure of what is real and what is not.

What can be done? There’s no perfect solution, but there are at least three avenues that can be used to address deepfakes: technology, legal remedies, and improved public awareness.

Deepfake Detection Technology

While AI can be used to make deepfakes, it can also be used to detect them. Creating a deepfake involves manipulation of video data—a process that leaves telltale signs that might not be discernable to a human viewer but that sufficiently sophisticated detection algorithms can aim to identify.

As research led by professor Siwei Lyu of the University at Albany has shown, face-swapping (editing one person’s face onto another person’s head) creates resolution inconsistencies in the composite image that can be identified using deep learning techniques. Professor Edward Delp and his colleagues at Purdue University are using neural networks to detect the inconsistencies across the multiple frames in a video sequence that often result from face-swapping. A team including researchers from UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara has developed methods to detect “digital manipulations such as scaling, rotation or splicing” that are commonly employed in deepfakes.

The number of researchers focusing on deepfake detection has been growing, thanks in significant part to DARPA’s Media Forensics program, which is supporting the development of “technologies for the automated assessment of the integrity of an image or video.” However, regardless of how far technological approaches for combating deepfakes advance, challenges will remain.

Deepfake detection techniques will never be perfect. As a result, in the deepfakes arms race, even the best detection methods will often lag behind the most advanced creation methods. Another challenge is that technological solutions will have no impact when they aren’t used. Given the distributed nature of the contemporary ecosystem for sharing content on the internet, some deepfakes will inevitably reach their intended audience without going through detection software.

More fundamentally, will people be more likely to believe a deepfake or a detection algorithm that flags the video as fabricated? And what should people believe when different detection algorithms—or different people—render conflicting verdicts regarding whether a video is genuine?

Legal and Legislative Remedies

The legal landscape related to deepfakes is complex. Frameworks that can potentially be asserted to combat deepfakes include copyright, the right of publicity, section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, and the torts of defamation, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. On the other side of the ledger are the protections conferred by the First Amendment and the “fair use” doctrine in copyright law, as well as (for social networking services and other web sites that host third-party content) section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).

It won’t be easy for courts to find the right balance. Rulings that confer overly broad protection to people targeted by deepfakes risk running afoul of the First Amendment and being struck down on appeal. Rulings that are insufficiently protective of deepfake targets could leave people without a mechanism to combat deepfakes that could be extraordinary harmful. And attempts to weaken section 230 of the CDA in the name of addressing the threat posed by deepfakes would create a whole cascade of unintended and damaging consequences to the online ecosystem.

While it remains to be seen how these tensions will play out in the courts, two things are clear today: First, there is already a substantive set of legal remedies that can be used against deepfakes, and second, it’s far too early to conclude that they will be insufficient.

Despite this, federal and state legislators, who are under pressure to “do something” about deepfakes, are responding with new legislative proposals. But it is very hard to draft deepfake-specific legislation that isn’t problematic with respect to the First Amendment or redundant in light of existing laws.

For example, a (now expired) Senate bill S.3805 introduced in December 2018 would have, among other things, made it unlawful “using any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce,” to “create, with the intent to distribute, a deep fake with the intent that the distribution of the deep fake would facilitate criminal or tortious conduct under Federal, State, local, or Tribal law.” Writing at the Volokh Conspiracy regarding S.3805, USC law professor Orin Kerr observed that:

It’s already a crime to commit a crime under federal, state, local, or tribal law. It’s also already a crime to ‘facilitate’ a crime—see 18 U.S.C. § 2 at the federal level, and state laws have their equivalents. Plus, it’s already a tort to commit a tort under federal, state, local, or tribal law. This new proposed law then makes it a federal crime to either make or distribute a deepfake when the person has the intent to do the thing that is already prohibited. In effect, it mostly adds a federal criminal law hammer to conduct that is already prohibited and that could already lead to either criminal punishment or a civil suit.

State legislators in New York have considered a bill that would prohibit certain uses of a “digital replica” of a person and provide that “for the purposes of the right of publicity, a living or deceased individual’s persona is personal property.” Unsurprisingly, this raised concerns in the entertainment industry. As a letter from the Walt Disney Company’s Vice President of Government Relations stated, “if adopted, this legislation would interfere with the right and ability of companies like ours to tell stories about real people and events. The public has an interest in those stories, and the First Amendment protects those who tell them.”

Raising Public Awareness

At the end of the day, technological deepfake detection solutions, no matter how good they get, won’t prevent all deepfakes from getting distributed. And legal remedies, no matter how effective they might be, are generally applied after the fact. This means they will have limited utility in addressing the potential damage that deepfakes can do, particularly given the short timescales that characterize the creation, distribution, and consumption of digital media.

As a result, improved public awareness needs to be an additional aspect of the strategy for combating deepfakes. When we see videos showing incongruous behavior, it will be important not to immediately assume that the actions depicted are real. When a high-profile suspected deepfake video is published, it will usually be possible to know within days or even hours whether there is reliable evidence that it has been fabricated. That knowledge won’t stop deepfakes, but it can certainly help blunt their impact.

Fake news by AI. Can the world really handle it?

When a section of the scientific community began warning about the growth of artificial intelligence, the rest of the world said it was just paranoia. Then Elon Musk, in 2018, said: “I think the danger of AI is much greater than the danger of nuclear warheads”. Suddenly it wasn’t just “paranoid scientists” ringing the bell but the kind of entrepreneur one expects to build stuff using AI. And now we learn that AI can even write fake news…

OpenAI, a non-profit research company seeking a “safe artificial intelligence”, — Musk is among its co-founder, alongside bigwigs such as Sam Altman, Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman, though he has left the company — said it has developed an AI that is so good at writing that it will be kept locked in — away from public. The researchers said it was simply too dangerous to let this tech have a go in the real world.

The company’s machine learning system, called Generative Pre-trained Transformer-2 (GPT-2 ), is capable of generating text based on brief writing prompts. The result is very close to human writing. Consider this: GPT-2 was fed with two lines that read, “A train carriage containing controlled nuclear materials was stolen in Cincinnati today. Its whereabouts are unknown”. And it wrote the rest: “The incident occurred on the downtown train line, which runs from Covington and Ashland stations. In an email to Ohio news outlets, the U.S. Department of Energy said it is working with the Federal Railroad Administration to find the thief. “The theft of this nuclear material will have significant negative consequences on public and environmental health, our workforce and the economy of our nation,” said Tom Hicks, the U.S. Energy Secretary, in a statement. You can read the rest — and more such samples — here. Cleary, this is immaculate work by a robot. Immaculate fake news.

With fake news already wreaking havoc across the world — from attempting to influence elections to triggering murder and riot — the fear is real. After all, a fake news-writing AI won’t be bound by human morals.

Smartphone Ownership Is Growing Rapidly Around the World, but Not Always Equally In emerging economies, technology use still much more common among young people and the well-educated

Mobile technology has spread rapidly around the globe. Today, it is estimated that more than 5 billion people have mobile devices, and over half of these connections are smartphones. But the growth in mobile technology to date has not been equal, either across nations or within them. People in advanced economies are more likely to have mobile phones – smartphones in particular – and are more likely to use the internet and social media than people in emerging economies. For example, a median of 76% across 18 advanced economies surveyed have smartphones, compared with a median of only 45% in emerging economies.

Countries are grouped into two economic categories, “advanced” and “emerging,” based on multiple sources and criteria, including: World Bank income classifications; per capita gross domestic product (PPP); total size of the country’s economy, as measured by GDP; and average GDP growth rate between 2013 and 2017. For more information, see Appendix A.

Smartphone ownership can vary widely by country, even across advanced economies. While around nine-in-ten or more South Koreans, Israelis and Dutch people own smartphones, ownership rates are closer to six-in-ten in other developed nations like Poland, Russia and Greece. In emerging economies, too, smartphone ownership rates vary substantially, from highs of 60% in South Africa and Brazil to just around four-in-ten in Indonesia, Kenya and Nigeria. Among the surveyed countries, ownership is lowest in India, where only 24% report having a smartphone.

Whether in advanced or emerging economies, younger people, those with higher levels of education and those with higher incomes are more likely to be digitally connected.1 2 Younger people in every country surveyed are much more likely to have smartphones, access the internet and use social media. In all of the advanced economies surveyed, large majorities under the age of 35 own a smartphone. In contrast, smartphone ownership among advanced economies’ older populations varies widely, ranging from just about a quarter of Russians 50 and older to about nine-in-ten older South Koreans.

However, in many of these advanced economies, the age gap in smartphone ownership has been closing since 2015. Two factors may contribute to this narrowing gap: First, those under 35 were already very likely to own smartphones when asked in 2015, presenting a “ceiling” of sorts. Second, the older age group appears to be steadily adopting smartphone technology. For example, nine-in-ten or more Americans ages 34 and under have had a smartphone since 2015, while the ownership rate among the 50-and-older age group has risen from 53% to 67% over the same period.

In most emerging economies, however, patterns of smartphone ownership look quite different. In these countries, ownership rates across all age groups tend to be lower than those seen in advanced economies. For example, while majorities of adults ages 50 and older own smartphones in many advanced economies, in no emerging economy surveyed do smartphone ownership rates among this older group rise above 35%.

Further, in most emerging economies, the age gap in smartphone ownership has been growing in recent years. Although the older age group is more likely to have phones now than they were a few years ago, the rate of adoption has been much faster among the younger age group. In the Philippines, for example, those 34 and under are 47 percentage points more likely to have a smartphone today than those ages 50 and older – compared with a gap of only 23 percentage points in 2015.

Education and income level also play sizable roles when it comes to explaining differences in technological use in most countries. In every country surveyed, better-educated and higher-income people are more likely to use the internet than people with lower levels of education or income. And in nearly every country, the same is true of social media use. The education gaps in emerging economies are especially wide. For example, a majority of Nigerians with a secondary education or more use social media (58%) compared with just 10% of Nigerians with less education, for a gap of 48 percentage points. The education gap in internet use is an even wider 53 points: 65% of more-educated Nigerians use the internet compared with just 12% of those with lower levels of education.

In contrast, gender plays only a limited role in explaining differences in technological use in most countries. Whether in advanced or emerging economies, men and women generally use technology – including smartphones, the internet and social media – at similar rates. For example, the gender gap in smartphone ownership is usually in the mid-single digits, where gaps exist at all. In Japan, for instance, 69% of men own smartphones compared with 63% of women. And, in most countries, men and women have largely obtained smartphones at similar rates in recent years, meaning that the gender gap in usage has remained constant. In Brazil, for example, while 38% of women and 43% of men owned smartphones in 2015, today 57% of women and 63% own them – a nearly identical gap at both points in time.

The notable exception to this pattern is India, where men (34%) are much more likely than women (15%) to own smartphones – a gap of 19 percentage points. And India’s gender gap is growing: Today’s gap is 10 points wider than it was just five years ago (then, 16% of men and 7% of women owned smartphones). These are among the major findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 30,133 people in 27 countries from May 14 to Aug. 12, 2018.

Registration opens for AAPI’s 37th annual Convention in Atlanta Over 2,500 delegates expected to attend Convention in Atlanta, GA from July 3 to 7, 2019

(Atlanta, GA: February 9, 2019): Registration for the historic 37th annual convention by American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) to be held at the Omni Atlanta at CNN Center and Georgia World Congress Centre (GWCC) in Atlanta from July 3 to 7, 2019 has begun since February 1st.
“We are excited about the enthusiasm shown by the AAPI members from across the nation,” says Dr. Naresh Parikh, President of AAPI. “Over 2,500 attendees, delegates including Physicians, Academicians, Researchers and Medical students, along with guests are expected to gather at the 37th Annual AAPI Convention in Atlanta, GA.”
“With the Early Bird Special Registration for the convention to end on April 1st, we are seeing an increased interest among AAPI members to secure their seat at the convention,” says, Dr. Sreeni Gangasani, Vice Chair of AAPI BOT and Convention Chair. Early Bird Registration fee for the delegates will be $100 less than the regular rates, says Dr. Gangasani. Also, one gets to pick your own choice of seats at the Galas as soon as you register for the convention. The sooner you register the better the chances for getting the seats of your own choice with the ability to sit closer to the podium and with your friends/families.
Being organized by Georgia Chapter of AAPI, the convention offers unique opportunities for
extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the alumni and evening social events.
A dedicated pool of Physicians, led by Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, Vice President, AAPI; Dr. Syamala Erramilli, President of GAPI; Dr. Asha Parikh, Chair of GAPI BOT; Convention Co-chairs: Dr. Raghu Lolabattu, Dr. Piyush Patel, Dr. Subodh Agrawal and several Convention Team members, are working hard to make the convention a memorable experience for all.
In addition to offering over 12 hours of cutting edge CMEs to the physicians, the event will have several hours of product theaters/promotional opportunities, plenary sessions,  CEOs Forum, and a women’s leadership forum. The convention will be addressed by senior world leaders, and celebrities from the Hollywood and Bollywood world.
The AAPI Atlanta Convention is where sponsors and advertisers can reach their target audience of over two thousand under one roof. The convention offers a variety of ways to reach physicians and their families. It provides access to nearly 2,500 health professionals who are leaders and decision-makers regarding new products and services, as wells as to national and international health policy advisors.
The venue is the fabulous Omni Atlanta at CNN Center and Georgia World Congress Center. This world-class facility will afford an intimate setting that will facilitate our ability to convoy cutting-edge research and CME, promote business relationships, and display ethnic items.
“Exhibitors and Corporate Partners remain our priority as we work together to provide a world-class forum for increased interactions between physicians, sponsors, exhibitors, and all other attendees,” says Dr. Syamala Erramilli.
Dr. Asha Parikh adds, “The unique layout of the Exhibit Hall will promote positive discourse between all and various planned activities will ensure their visitation to the Exhibit Hall and maximize attendance. The ease with which members and attendees can move between the Exhibit Hall, conference and ballrooms, and their hotel rooms will ensure maximum attendance and visibility for Sponsors and Exhibitors.”
Dr. Raghu Lolabattu says, “Given that a physician of Indian origin sees every 7th patient in this country and every 5th patient in rural and inner city Georgia, the reach and influence of AAPI members goes well beyond the convention. Urging all corporate and local sponsors not to miss the opportunity, Dr. Suresh Reddy, President-Elect of AAPI, says, “Take advantage of our sponsorship packages at the 37th Annual AAPI convention to create high-powered exposure to the highly coveted demographic of AAPI’s membership.”
“AAPI offers customized and exclusive sponsorship packages to meet your needs. These can include keynote speaker opportunities (non-CME), awards and recognition at breakfast, lunch and dinner, roundtable meetings with AAPI leadership, premium exhibit booth selection, etc,” Dr. Piyush Patel. “We also offer corporate identity packages that utilize our registration area, Internet kiosks, plasma display panels, the souvenir book, and audiovisual screens during CME hours and events to display your company name,” Dr. Subodh Agrawal.
“We have convened a fantastic group of people to meet the needs of the 2019 convention and are very excited about next year. Please reach out to any one of the representatives from the Atlanta team with questions or comments,” Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda. “They are flexible and can accommodate specific products, services, target market goals, brand requirements, and budgetary limits. If the packages below do not meet your needs, please contact us, and we will create a package that will!”
Representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, leaders of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic organization of physicians, for 37 years, AAPI Convention has provided a venue for medical education programs and symposia with world renowned physicians on the cutting edge of medicine, says Dr. Subodh Agrawal.
“The 2019 AAPI Annual Convention & Scientific Assembly offers an exciting venue to interact with leading physicians, health professionals, academicians, and scientists of Indian origin. Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year. We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta, GA!” says Dr. Naresh Parekh.
For more details, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org   and www.aapiusa.org

Datavant Announces New Executive Hires as Network of Health Data Partners Expands Datavant’s technology helps healthcare organizations safely link their data to improve medical research and care while protecting patient privacy

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 5, 2019 — Datavant, the leader in helping healthcare organizations safely link their data to improve medical research and patient care, today announced the appointments of Steven Swank as Chief Revenue Officer and Nick Colburn as Chief Financial Officer. Datavant also announced the appointment of Niall Brennan and Charles Safran to its Advisory Board.

“Healthcare data is too siloed today, which holds back the development of new therapies and the delivery of personalized treatment to patients,” said Datavant CEO Travis May. “These additions to the team will help us continue scaling our ecosystem to solve this challenge. We will benefit from Steve’s leadership and experience building a world-class sales and partnerships team, and we will be guided by Nick’s wisdom as a three-time Chief Financial Officer at enterprise software companies.”

Throughout his career, Mr. Swank has held numerous sales leadership positions at technology and enterprise sales companies. Most recently, he served as Chief Revenue Officer at RPX Corporation (NASDAQ:RPXC) where he grew the client base by over 300 clients and more than quintupled revenue to $330 million by December of 2017. Prior to RPX, he served as the Vice President of Sales at Comdata. Mr. Swank received his BA in Economics from Bucknell University and his MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

“I’m inspired by Datavant’s mission to help build an open health data ecosystem to enable advanced analytics and applications,” said Mr. Swank. “Datavant’s existing partners and customers have benefited from the ability to link corresponding de-identified patient records across different types of datasets. I look forward to helping scale Datavant’s vision across the entire healthcare system, allowing health data to flow to its highest and best use.”

Colburn joins Datavant after having most recently served as the Chief Financial Officer of Building Robotics (DBA Comfy), which was sold to Siemens in 2018. Prior to that, he was the Chief Financial Officer at Funding Circle US and at Nexxo Financial. He has also held senior finance positions at PayPal and Providian. Mr. Colburn received three degrees from Stanford University: a BS in Mathematical and Computational Sciences, an MS in Engineering Economic Systems, and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business.

 Brennan is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Health Care Cost Institute, and was the Chief Data Officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2010 to 2017. Mr. Brennan is a nationally recognized expert in healthcare policy, the use of healthcare data to enable and accelerate health system change, and data transparency. He has also worked at the Brookings Institution, the Congressional Budget Office, the Urban Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Mr. Brennan received his BA in History and Political Science from University College, Dublin, Ireland, and his MPP from Georgetown University.

Dr. Safran is a primary care physician who has devoted his professional career to improving patient care through the creative use of informatics. He is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Division of Clinical Informatics at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He was formerly President and Chairman of the American Medical Informatics Association, and throughout his career has helped to develop and deploy large institutional clinical computing systems, electronic health records, and clinical decision support systems to help patients with HIV/AIDS, telehealth systems to support parents with premature infants, and eHealth solutions for caretakers of elderly family members. Dr. Safran is an elected fellow of both the American College of Medical Informatics and the American College of Physicians.

Datavant’s mission is to connect the world’s health data. Datavant works with data owners and users to ensure that data can be connected to power next-generation analytics and applications while protecting patient privacy. Datavant is headquartered in San Francisco. Learn more about Datavant at www.datavant.com.

Roivant Sciences and Daiichi Sankyo Enter into Broad Pipeline Partnership

Roivant Sciences announced that it has entered into a collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo Company, Limited (hereafter, Daiichi Sankyo) to facilitate the out-licensing of investigational medicines. Under the terms of the agreement, Roivant will have the option to obtain exclusive licenses for certain development programs from Daiichi Sankyo on prespecified terms contingent on phase of development.

Daiichi Sankyo has a wide range of compounds in development. Medicines that Roivant opts to license will be developed by new subsidiary companies within the Roivant family.

“It has been an honor and a pleasure for us to work with the entire Daiichi Sankyo team in the course of creating this partnership. I hope this can be a model for platform collaborations between Roivant and other innovative biopharmaceutical companies in the future,” said Dr. Mayukh Sukhatme, President of Roivant Pharma. “We look forward to accelerating the development of promising medicines from the impressive R&D engine at Daiichi Sankyo in the months and years ahead.”

Roivant aims to improve health by rapidly delivering innovative medicines and technologies to patients. We do this by building Vants – nimble, entrepreneurial biotech and healthcare technology companies with a unique approach to sourcing talent, aligning incentives, and deploying technology to drive greater efficiency in R&D and commercialization.

Daiichi Sankyo Group is dedicated to the creation and supply of innovative pharmaceutical products to address diversified, unmet medical needs of patients in both mature and emerging markets. With over 100 years of scientific expertise and a presence in more than 20 countries, Daiichi Sankyo and its 15,000 employees around the world draw upon a rich legacy of innovation and a robust pipeline of promising new medicines to help people. In addition to a strong portfolio of medicines for hypertension and thrombotic disorders, under the Group’s 2025 Vision to become a “Global Pharma Innovator with Competitive Advantage in Oncology,” Daiichi Sankyo research and development is primarily focused on bringing forth novel therapies in oncology, including immuno-oncology, with additional focus on new horizon areas, such as pain management, neurodegenerative diseases, heart and kidney diseases, and other rare diseases.

Amar Sawhney honoured with TiE Boston’s Lifetime Achievement Award

TiE-Boston’s Lifetime Achievement Award was conferred on entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. Amar Sawhney, during the annual gala on December 13th  at the annual black-tie gala which was attended by its founding charter members, past presidents and over 250 guests.

TiE Boston, one of the region’s largest business organizations supporting the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem, said in a statement that the highest honor by TiE-Boston was bestowed on Sawhney, who has founded numerous companies and is credited with creating thousands of jobs and over millions in value for shareholders.

Dr. Amar Sawhney, has founded six companies, including Confluent Surgical (acquired by Covidien), Ocular Therapeutix, Incept LLC and Augmenix, which was recently acquired by Boston Scientific. He has been honored with numerous business and technology awards, including being named one of the “White House’s Champions of Change” by President Obama, the MIT Global Indus Technovator award and the E&Y Regional Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Sawhney is one of the foremost innovators and entrepreneurs in medical technology. He currently serves as the Chairman of Ocular Therapeutix, Inc. and of Instylla, Inc. Previously, he served as Chairman of Augmenix, Inc., which was acquired by Boston Scientific in September 2018 for $600 million. Prior to that, Mr. Sawhney founded Confluent Surgical (acquired by Covidien), Focal Inc. (acquired by Genzyme), and Access Closure, Inc. (acquired by Cardinal Health). His innovations are the subject of over 120 issued and pending patents in biomaterials and bio-surgery.

“We are pleased to honor Dr. Sawhney and the other awardees at this year’s Gala,” said Nilanjana Bhowmik, President of TiE Boston. “Each of these awardees embodies our organization’s values — they have built, innovated and given back to their communities. Each has also assumed a responsibility to create something important — not just companies, but relationships and communities to support innovation and entrepreneurialism on an ongoing basis.”

TiE Boston also recognized its charter members, as well as individuals across numerous categories who exemplified TiE’s values by supporting entrepreneurship with an eye towards giving back to the community.

The colorful event at the Four Seasons Boston highlight the achievements of innovators and entrepreneurs across categories such as venture capital, digital health, B2B & B2C technology and robotics & automation.

These awards highlight the achievements of innovators and entrepreneurs across categories such as venture capital, digital health, B2B & B2C technology and robotics and automation, TiE Boston said in a statement.

The nominating committee selected individuals who have created or shaped a category through a significant contribution in their field of work, deemed “mission-critical” to the innovation economy, and have contributed to the well-being of the community through time, money, mentoring, guidance, etc.

Nilanjana Bhowmick announced the set-up of the TiE Boston Foundation to support and grow the activities of THe Young Entrepreneur (TyE) program with an initial endowment of $500K with nearly $350K already raised. Entertainment for the evening was provided by Avanti Nagral and her band from Harvard University and Berklee School of Music.

The TiE-Boston Board awards the Lifetime Achievement Award when an individual has made a lasting impact in the business community, and a significant contribution to the success of TiE-Boston.

Sawhney, an IIT-Delhi graduate, is always trying to solve unmet needs in medical technology, and in the process has founded numerous successful medical device companies. His inventions include several “first of a kind” surgical sealants to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, including DuraSeal for neurosurgery, FocalSeal for lung surgery, and Mynx for femoral puncture sealing.

“I don’t profess to be a perfectionist, but I am persistent,” says Mr. Sawhney. “When I take on a mission, I ensure that it reaches a logical conclusion, with not only the best possible financial outcome, but also the best outcome for patients and the team.”

His mantra for success is simple. “In my area of focus, which is medical innovation and entrepreneurship, I employ a value system. At the apex is identifying a genuine unmet need, or a worthwhile cause to focus on,” says Mr. Sawhney. “Next comes the right people to onboard for the journey, with the right values.  And finally, we need to be good stewards of capital, to generate value for our shareholders.”

Sawhney grew up in India and came to the United States for higher studies. “My father was in the Indian Air Force, so I grew up in a number of different cities, Pune, Shillong, Allahabad, and Gandhinagar. As a family we were middle class. We never had a lack of what we felt we needed, but we never had much excess either,” recalled Mr. Sawhney. “My father believed in getting us the best education and he did everything within his power to ensure we had every opportunity in this regard.”

His mother was a teacher and she was always very friendly and concerned about the people around her – friends, family, neighbours and her students. “There were always people around us, who supported us, and looked up to my parents. This had a lasting impression on me, that it is not money that matters, but character, compassion, and concern for others,” shares Mr. Sawhney. “These principles are important in my personal life but are equally applicable in my professional life too. I make it a point that the teams we assemble feel like they belong to a family that is engaged in a mission that is greater than any one of us individually. It keeps us grounded, excited, and motivated.”

A NASA Probe Launched in 1977 Just Entered Interstellar Space

NASA’s Voyager 2 probe has become the second-ever manmade spacecraft to enter interstellar space, the agency said last week.

The probe, launched in 1977 to study the planets farthest from Earth, crossed the outermost edge of what’s called the heliosphere — a protective bubble created by our sun — on Nov. 5. It is now more than 11 billion miles from Earth, according to NASA. The sun is a mere 91 to 94.5 million miles from Earth.

Like its sister spacecraft Voyager 1, which crossed this boundary in 2012, Voyager 2 is now traveling in the space between stars.

Voyager 1 may have beaten Voyager 2 into interstellar space, but the latter spacecraft has an advantage. An instrument called the Plasma Science Experiment (PLS), which stopped working on Voyager 1 well before leaving the heliosphere, continues to operate on Voyager 2 – making it easier for scientists to learn about the spacecraft’s surroundings. Researchers are furthermore hopeful that data transmitted from Voyager 2 will make it possible to learn about the sun’s influence at so far a distance from the center of our solar system.

“Working on Voyager makes me feel like an explorer, because everything we’re seeing is new,” John Richardson, principal investigator for the PLS instrument and a principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, said in a NASA statement. “Even though Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause in 2012, it did so at a different place and a different time, and without the PLS data. So we’re still seeing things that no one has seen before.”

The Voyager spacecraft, launched as five-year missions, have now been operating for over four decades and continue to transmit valuable data back to Earth, and have even been remotely upgraded along the way.

Why India’s Future Hinges on the Smartphone – by Michelle FlorCruz

In India, the smartphone is more than just a convenient way to check Facebook: It is a tool for evening the playing field and catching up with the rest of the world — a revolutionary idea in the world’s largest democracy.

“For most Indians, the internet is something that they are only discovering right now, and not through personal computers [the way that many in the West did]. Most Indians never have had PCs, and never will have PCs,” Ravi Agrawal, managing editor of Foreign Policy and Asia 21 Young Leader and author of India Connected: How the Smartphone is Transforming the World’s Largest Democracy, said last year.

“They’re discovering [the web] because of cheap smartphones and cheap mobile data.”

For many Indians, the phone is their first mobile device — and Agrawal stresses that it is much more than just a phone.

“For someone making two thousand dollars a year, it could be your first TV screen. It could be your first mp3 player or your first Walkman. In most cases your first camera, maybe even your first alarm clock, your first compass, your first map device, your first GPS enabled device.”

The numbers are hard to ignore. According to Agrawal, there are about 400 million Indians on the internet today. That number is expected to reach one billion as soon as 2025.

The existence of so many Indians online will have a ripple effect into various industries, potentially transforming the country’s interpersonal relationships, education system, economics, and politics.

For example, smartphones have given rise to India’s booming dating app industry. While the American apps Tinder (and soon Bumble) operate in the country, homegrown services like TrulyMadly and Woo have dominated market share.

“One of my friends says that you know the first kiss that most young Indians are now going to have is [thanks to] Tinder. It’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but you can actually imagine that happening,” Agrawal said.

But the uses of a smartphone can be even more profound. According to the country’s last census, India had about 270 million people classified as illiterate. The capabilities of the smartphone, with touchpads and voice recognition, suddenly provided access to a world that was once out of reach.

“I’ve been to villages in India where women who are illiterate can take a phone, press Google Talk, and just say, ‘show the Taj Mahal,’ and a video pops up and they can press play and see moving images of the Taj Mahal in a way that really wasn’t possible before. They can look at videos of how to cook different types of dishes and how to make new shalwar kameez’s to boost their stitching businesses. These are things that were just not imaginable even five or 10 years ago for vast parts of Indian society.”

As India prepares for general elections next spring, political parties are also taking notice of the power of a young, voting, digitally savvy generation. In fact, smartphones, social media platforms, and digital connectivity are already playing a significant role in the region’s politics. Agrawal mentions ongoing tensions in the state of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, where there have been intermittent internet outages initiated by the government and police fearful of the medium’s power to mobilize people for protests and disseminate information —  or, in some cases, misinformation. Shutdowns in India were more frequent in 2016 than they were in war-prone Syria and Iraq.

For Agrawal, this comes as no surprise. “That is exactly what the smartphone is for an entire generation of young Indians,” he said. “It is their literal and figurative mobility.”

Thomas Kurian appointed Head of Google’s Cloud Business

Former Oracle Corp. product chief Thomas Kurian has replaced Diane Greene as head of the cloud division at Alphabet Inc’s Google on November 26th, a report here stated. Kurian, who spent 22 years at Oracle and had been a close confidante of its founder Larry Ellison, resigned in September after struggling to expand its cloud business, according to reports.

“I’m looking forward to building on the success of recent years as it enters its next phase of growth,” the Indian American executive said in a statement of Google’s Cloud business, adding he is excited to join the team “at this important and promising time.”

Greene has served as chief executive of Google Cloud; Kurian will be senior vice president for Google Cloud, a company spokesman said, according to multiple reports.

Google announced in February that the cloud division, which sells computing services, online data storage and productivity software such as email and spreadsheet tools, was generating more than $1 billion in quarterly revenue.

It faced a setback months later when thousands of Google employees revolted against Greene’s unit supplying the U.S. military with artificial intelligence tools to aid in analyzing drone imagery. Greene responded by announcing the deal would not be renewed, the reports said.

The backlash over military work prompted an internal committee of top employees to issue companywide principles to govern the use of Google’s artificial intelligence systems, including a ban on using them to develop weaponry.

Google also bowed out from bidding for a $10 billion military cloud computing contract, citing its lack of certifications to handle sensitive data, reports said.

Closing and extending such deals would have given Google Cloud a major boost as it tries to catch up to rivals Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. Oracle’s cloud business trails Google’s.

Steve Koenig, a financial analyst following Oracle for Wedbush Securities, said Kurian is better positioned at Google to drive business sales growth than at his former employer, the reports said.

“Like Diane Greene, Kurian has serious enterprise chops,” Koenig said in a statement. “Google clearly remains serious about scaling up its enterprise business.”

Greene said Kurian interviewed with her, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and long-time infrastructure chief Urs Hölzle and will join Google on Nov. 26.

“We’re really excited to welcome Thomas, whose product vision, customer focus and deep expertise will be a huge asset to our growing Cloud business,” Pichai said in a statement.

Yale Prof. Bhart-Anjan Bhullar wins 2018 Vizzies People’s Choice Award

Bhart-Anjan Bhullar, an Indian American professor at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, was one of the two individuals who was selected by the National Science Foundation for its 2018 Vizzies People’s Choice award for photography.

Along with Bhullar, graduate student Daniel Smith, an assistant professor and assistant curator in geology and geophysics, was also named among the recipients.

According to a university press release, both of their winning image show a Madagascar ground gecko embryo after 12 days of incubation in the egg, where areas in red (muscles) and grey (nerves), indicate how much development of these structures has taken place in such a short time. The image was taken by an LSM880 confocal microscope and is made up of 12,000 individual images.

The award comes with a cash prize of $500 and the winning image will be featured on both the NSF’s website and on PopSci.com, the press release adds.

According to his bio on the university’s website, at Yale, Bhullar’s group focuses on great transitions in the history of vertebrates both in the field and in the lab by using the geological record of life to guide questions about major transformations across vertebrata, especially at the origins of extant radiations such as birds, mammals, tetrapods and gnathostomes.

To address the nature and mechanism of pivotal events at crucial points in evolutionary history, Bhullar’s lab brings to bear a full range of modern biological and geological techniques, especially molecular developmental biology and functional biology, coupled with advanced three-dimensional imaging and geometric analysis, however, they maintain a surpassing commitment to the discovery of new fossils in the field, Bhullar mentions in his bio.

The Vizzies is sponsored by NSF and Popular Science magazine, and it honors scientific visualizations that help create a universal language enabling people around the world to better understand scientific ideas and phenomena, a press release said.

Kilogram gets a new definition Scientists have changed the way the kilogram is defined

Last week, researchers meeting in Versailles voted to get rid of it in favour of defining a kilogram in terms of an electric current.  The decision was made at the General Conference on Weights and Measures.

But some scientists, such as Perdi Williams at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK, have expressed mixed feelings about the change. “I haven’t been on this project for too long but I feel a weird attachment to the kilogram,” she said.

“I think it is such an exciting thing and this is a really big moment. So I’m a little bit sad about [the change]. But it is an important step forward and so the new system is going to work a lot better. It is also a really exciting time, and I can’t wait for it to happen.”

Currently, it is defined by the weight of a platinum-based ingot called “Le Grand K” which is locked away in a safe in Paris.

Le Grand K has been at the forefront of the international system of measuring weights since 1889. Several close replicas were made and distributed around the globe.

But the master kilogram and its copies were seen to change – ever so slightly – as they deteriorated.

In a world where accurate measurement is now critical in many areas, such as in drug development, nanotechnology and precision engineering – those responsible for maintaining the international system had no option but to move beyond Le Grand K to a more robust definition.

How wrong is Le Grand K?

The fluctuation is about 50 parts in a billion, less than the weight of a single eyelash. But although it is tiny, the change can have important consequences. Coming in is an electrical measurement which Dr Stuart Davidson, head of mass metrology at NPL, says is more stable, more accurate and more egalitarian.

“We know from comparing the kilogram in Paris with all the copies of the kilogram that are all around the world that there are discrepancies between them and Le Grand K itself,” he said.

“This is not acceptable from a scientific point of view. So even though Le Grand K is fit for purpose at the moment, it won’t be in 100 years’ time.”

How does the new system work?

Electromagnets generate a force. Scrap-yards use them on cranes to lift and move large metal objects, such as old cars. The pull of the electromagnet, the force it exerts, is directly related to the amount of electrical current going through its coils. There is, therefore, a direct relationship between electricity and weight.

So, in principle, scientists can define a kilogram, or any other weight, in terms of the amount of electricity needed to counteract the weight (gravitational force acting on a mass).

There is a quantity that relates weight to electrical current, called Planck’s constant – named after the German physicist Max Planck and denoted by the symbol h.

But h is an incredibly small number and to measure it, the research scientist Dr Bryan Kibble built a super-accurate set of scales. The Kibble balance, as it has become known, has an electromagnet that pulls down on one side of the scales and a weight – say, a kilogram – on the other.

The electrical current going through the electromagnet is increased until the two sides are perfectly balanced.

By measuring the current running through the electromagnet to incredible precision, the researchers are able to calculate h to an accuracy of 0.000001%.

This breakthrough has paved the way for Le Grand K to be deposed by “die kleine h”.

What are the advantages of the new system?

Every few decades, all the replica kilograms in the world had to be checked against Le Grand K. The new system, now that it’s been adopted, will allow anyone with a Kibble balance to check their weights anytime and anywhere, according to NPL’s Dr Ian Robinson.

“It feels really good to be at this point. I feel it is the right decision. Once we’ve done this it will be stable for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Common Sense Media to Honor Khan Academy Founder Sal Khan at 2018 Awards Gala Common Sense Media announced it 2018 award recipients, including Indian American Sal Khan, who will be recognized at its 15th annual awards gala.

Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, will be recognized as the Educator of the Year. Other winners include “Black Panther” as the Great Family Media Award winner; March for Our Lives with the Advocacy Award; and Bill Price with the Common Sense Leadership Award.

Common Sense Media said the evening will honor the visionary media creators, educators and policymakers who are helping kids thrive in our rapidly changing digital world.

Sai Nikhil Reddy Mettupally creates space-detecting algorithm to tackle parking problem

An Indian student in the US, Sai Nikhil Reddy Mettupally, who is studying at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), has created a space-detecting algorithm that can help tackle the problem of finding a parking spot by using big data analytics and save a person’s time and money.

Sai Nikhil Reddy Mettupally, who is studying at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), has also won second prize at the 2018 Science and Technology Open House competition for his creation.

According to a university press release, Sai’s creation relies on big data analytics and deep-learning techniques to lead drivers directly to an empty parking spot.

Big data analytics is a complex process of examining large and varied data sets to uncover information including hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends and customer preferences.

Sai conceived the idea shortly after the university transitioned to zone parking last fall.

“The data show that, on a typical day, there is a high chance that students or faculty members will have difficulty getting a parking spot between 11 am and 1 pm, leading to the wastage of time and fuel, and adding to the pollution” He says.

“Hence, finding a parking spot as soon as a person enters the parking lot is essential.” What he needed was to find a way to identify empty spaces and then direct the driver to the location. But unlike other parking apps in the market, he wanted to develop one that didn’t rely on the purchase, installation, and maintenance of expensive in-ground sensors.

To help put his plan in action, Sai turned to Vineetha Menon, an assistant professor of Computer Science. As the director of UAH’s Big Data Analytics Lab, Menon also had access to the high-performance computing power that Sai needed to create and train his machine-learning model, which relies on a robust parking-lot data set provided by the Federal University of Parana in Brazil.

“The goal of the Big Data Analytics Lab is to establish Big Data Analytics and Data Science as mainstream research areas of the university, so it can accommodate the high computational and memory demands of Big Data generation and processing,” Menon says.

Sai, who graduated in electronics and communications engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani, hopes to develop a parking-support mobile app dubbed InstaParkthat can display the real-time grid layout of empty and occupied parking spots using the phone’s GPS.

Why a Leading AI Expert Is So Optimistic About Humanity’s Future

By Matt Schiavenza

Who’s afraid of artificial intelligence? A lot of people, it turns out. The late Stephen Hawking predicted in 2015 that man-made machines would, within a century, become more capable than people, making one wonder whether they’ll tolerate our presence on earth. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk — not one normally given to technological doom and gloom — is only slightly less pessimistic when he claims that AI poses a greater threat to humanity than North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

Even those who don’t believe machines pose an existential crisis for humanity agree that AI represents a hugely disruptive force for the global economy. Autonomous vehicles are likely to render professions like long-haul truck driving and taxi driving obsolete. Robots could replace humans who clean homes and wash dishes for a living. High schoolers from the mid-21st century may receive extra help from machine-based, not human, tutors.

These changes will present governments around the world with an acute problem: what to do about the millions of people whose jobs will disappear and never come back. According to Kai-Fu Lee, a longtime expert on AI, job-displacing artificial intelligence will force people to look beyond work in order to define who they are.

“We were all brainwashed by the Industrial Revolution-era value that our work equals the meaning of our life,” he said in a recent talk at Asia Society in New York. “Perhaps AI is a wakeup call, for us to realize that there’s something else. That there’s love, compassion, empathy, and human-to-human relations.”

That Lee himself is saying this is something of a surprise. The Taiwan-born venture capitalist and entrepreneur is known for his Herculean work ethic: When he served as president of Google China, Lee would wake up at 2 a.m. and again at 5 in order to check and send emails. “I did that so my American colleagues knew I was responsive,” he said. “And to set an example for my Chinese employees.” And in 1991, while his wife was in labor with their first child, Lee made plans to leave her bedside in order to finish work on a presentation — only to be spared this decision when his daughter arrived earlier than expected.

Lee’s perspective changed in 2013 when he was diagnosed with lymphoma, which has since gone in remission. “I realized my priorities were upside down,” he said. “Whatever remaining days I had, continuing to work was no longer something I wanted to do. Much more important was loving the people I wanted to love, and giving back to the people who loved me. [I wanted to pursue] things I was passionate about.”

One of these subjects is artificial intelligence — a field that Lee has studied since his graduate school days at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1980s. In his new book AI Superpowers, he sketches a vision of the near future in which artificial intelligence transforms key economic sectors like transportation, health care, and personal finance. The typical office worker of 2040 — or perhaps even sooner — will travel to work via a public, self-autonomous vehicle that will not get stuck in traffic, cause accidents, or need to park anywhere. A patient displaying troubling symptoms will receive an accurate, instant diagnosis from a machine more knowledgeable than any human doctor. And a bank officer reviewing a loan application will consider more than just an applicant’s income and credit score: variables like one’s propensity to let a cell phone battery die, for instance, will matter, too.

In his talk at Asia Society, Lee said that the rise of machines in the workforce will allow humans to devote themselves to professions which depend on innate human characteristics like compassion and empathy. Far fewer people in the middle of this century will be employed as factory workers, for instance — but more will be needed in elderly care, a job that Lee believes cannot be performed by robots. “Elderly people don’t want a robot,” he said. “They want other people.” And while doctors will no longer dispense diagnoses, they’ll be repurposed as workers whose interpersonal skills matter more than medical knowledge — a medical therapist, if you will.

Managing this transition will require government intervention on a scale that is difficult to fathom. Policymakers in places like Finland have experimented with universal basic income (UBI), a program that provides no-strings-attached payments to everyone, regardless of their employment situation. Lee is skeptical that such an approach will be suitable everywhere and instead prefers government subsidies for modestly-compensated professions, like teaching, that will need to attract more workers. Either solution will require political cooperation that does not seem feasible in today’s hyperpolarized climate. But Lee is adamant that for all its potential for trouble, artificial intelligence will allow humans to transcend our current paradigm that one’s work is one’s life.

“I can imagine our maker is very frustrated with us,” he said. “After thousands of years of evolution, we’re stuck here, like rats on a wheel, doing the same routine jobs every day, and not spending time on what we’re passionate about and with people we love. …  Maybe our maker is so frustrated that he threw AI at us to take away all of the routine jobs, so we have time to think, and to love.”

Rishab Jain Named ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ at 2018 Young Scientist Challenge

Indian American whiz kid Rishab Jain was named the overall winner of the 2018 Discovery Education and 3M annual Young Scientist Challenge, held Oct. 17 at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Eighth-grader Rishab Jain recently won the Grand Prize of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge after creating “a method that uses artificial intelligence to help accurately locate the pancreas during MRI radiotherapy and make cancer treatment more effective.” As the winner, Jain received $25,000 and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”
An algorithm he created uses machine learning to help doctors zero in on the pancreas during cancer treatment. Doing so can be difficult, since the pancreas is often obscured by other organs, and since breathing and other bodily processes can cause it to move around the abdominal area. As a result, doctors sometimes need to deploy radiation treatment with an “error circle” that ensures they’ll hit the pancreas, but that may kill some healthy cells as collateral damage.
Pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to pancreatic.org. An inherent challenge of radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer resides in targeting the pancreas itself, the release said.
“It all started in the summer of 2017,” the 13-year-old Portland middle schooler. “I learned about some surprising statistics, such as the low survival rate, and that really inspired me to try to find a way to work on this problem. I’m also into programming. … So I wondered if I could apply some of the knowledge I had in artificial intelligence to this real-world problem of pancreatic cancer,” young Jain said.
Firstly, it is often obscured by the stomach or other nearby organs, making the pancreas difficult to locate, and second, breathing and other anatomical changes may cause the pancreas to move around in the abdominal area. As a result, radiotherapy treatment can inadvertently target and impact healthy cells, it noted.
Jain developed and tested his algorithm using images of the human digestive system, and found it could correctly detect the pancreas with a 98.9 percent success rate. The innovation aims to improve accuracy, reduce invasiveness and increase efficiency during treatment, resulting in better quality of life and chance for survival among patients, according to the companies.
The finalists presented their inventions to an esteemed panel of scientists and leaders from both Discovery Education and 3M. In addition, they competed in two other challenges that combined multiple 3M technologies to solve a real-world problem.
“All of the finalists for America’s Top Young Scientist embody the same curiosity, creativity, and passion that 3M uses when we apply science to life,” said Paul Keel, senior vice president of business development and marketing-sales at 3M. “These talented young men and women are just beginning their lives as scientists. I am excited by the endless possibilities that await each of them. We wish them all the joy and success that comes from a lifelong journey of exploration.”
The nine finalists received $1,000 and a variety of prizes from Discovery Education and 3M. The second, third and fourth runners-up also received a trip to a taping of a show on Discovery’s family of networks, the release said.
Indian American Mehaa Amirthalingam, an eighth grader at Sartaria Middle School from Sugar Land, Texas, was the runner-up. She developed a toilet flushing system that uses both fresh and recycled water to reduce water consumption in the home.
Sriram Bhimaraju, a sixth-grader at Harker Middle School in Cupertino, Calif., took fourth place in the competition. He developed an Archery Assistant app that improves an archer’s accuracy by correcting form in real-time using a Bluetooth sensor.
These finalists, in no particular order, included Cameron Sharma, an eighth-grader at George H Moody Middle School in Glen Allen, Va., who created uFlu, an algorithm that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify personalized flu vaccines; and Krish Wadhwani, an eighth grader at DeSana Middle School in Alpharetta, Ga., who developed a medication that could
potentially cure Huntington’s Disease, a degenerative condition in the brain that currently has no known cure.
Since its inception, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in student prizes, paired students with world-renowned scientists to give them real-world insights and delivered much-needed science resources to millions of students, teachers and families across the country.
It targets students in the years when research indicates their interest in science begins to wane and encourages them to explore scientific concepts and creatively communicate their findings.
The annual premier competition recognizes scientific thinking and imagination in students grades 5-8 who dream up a solution to an everyday problem that ultimately could reshape and improve the way we live our lives.

Facebook says 50 million users affected by security breach

Almost 50 million Facebook accounts were affected by a major cyber security breach, the social networking company said on Friday. Facebook said it has already fixed the vulnerability and informed law enforcement.

The company said it had discovered a loophole in the “View As” feature which allowed cyber criminals to gain control of the affected accounts. “View As” is a popular Facebook feature that allows users to see what their profiles look like to others. As a precaution, Facebook has temporarily disabled the feature.

“On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 25, our engineering team discovered a security issue affecting almost 50 million accounts. We’re taking this incredibly seriously and wanted to let everyone know what’s happened and the immediate action we’ve taken to protect people’s security,” said Guy Rosen, VP of Product Management at Facebook, in a blog post.

Facebook says attackers exploited a “vulnerability” in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts.”

Access tokens are similar to digital keys that allows users to stay logged into Facebook in the background and don’t need them to re-enter their password every time they launch the application on their phone or use it on a browser.

“This attack exploited the complex interaction of multiple issues in our code. It stemmed from a change we made to our video uploading feature in July 2017, which impacted “View As.” The attackers not only needed to find this vulnerability and use it to get an access token, they then had to pivot from that account to others to steal more tokens,” Facebook added.

Saket Modi, CEO and co-founder at Lucideus cyber security firm, explains that hackers were able to fool Facebook servers to believe they were the authorised users of the target’s account, thus giving the attackers full control and access of the affected account.

“Facebook would have a log of the number of user profiles this feature was used to access, whose tokens they have reset (or the previous session has expired) as per their statement. However, we don’t know for how long the vulnerability existed, who the hacker(s) were and the extent of damage that might have been caused in terms of stealing not only one’s profile data(which was in the case of Cambridge Analytica) but in this case potentially, the personal messages, every picture (even the ones hidden from friends/public), chats on messenger among others,” he added.

Sophos Principal Research Scientist at Chester Wisniewski said, “In something as big and complicated as Facebook, there are bound to be bugs. The theft of these authorization tokens is certainly a problem, but not nearly as big of a risk to user’s privacy as other data breaches we have heard about or even Cambridge Analytica for that matter. As with any social media platform, users should assume their information may be made public, through hacking or simply through accidental oversharing. This is why sensitive information should never be shared through these platforms. For now, logging out and back in is all that is necessary. The truly concerned should use this as a reminder and an opportunity to review all of their security and privacy settings on Facebook and all other social media platforms they share personal information with.”

What should users do?

Facebook says users don’t need to reset their passwords as they will reset token accounts in the background if it finds more accounts affected by the breach.

“People’s privacy and security is incredibly important, and we’re sorry this happened. It’s why we’ve taken immediate action to secure these accounts and let users know what happened. There’s no need for anyone to change their passwords. But people who are having trouble logging back into Facebook — for example because they’ve forgotten their password — should visit our Help Center,” said Facebook.

One of the measures that Facebook users can take right now is to log out of all sessions (if using multiple devices) and log in again. Or they can simply reset your passwords right now and add two-step verification.

Users may also revisit the privacy settings of their recent posts and photos as Facebook has disabled the “View As” feature.