Vague strategies lead the race for COVID vaccine

Vaccines are dummies that work by tricking your immune system into thinking that it’s being attacked by a virus. The immune system then churns out antibodies that are honed to that virus. That way, if someone is exposed to that virus in the future, the body can quickly squash it out before it makes them sick. Triggering such immune response takes two main components: a bit of the virus so the body knows what it’s looking for and some kind of irritant to stir the immune system into action against that viral bit. If someone just put purified protein under your skin, nothing would happen. You have to get the immune system kicked up that’s where irritants come into play. Some basic approaches scientists are throwing at the virus are:

  • GENE-BASED VACCINES- Gene-based vaccines are the much-hyped underdog in the race to create a coronavirus vaccine. Most of the vaccine candidates that grabbed headlines or sent the stock market soaring are gene-based. Gene-based vaccines instead of directly delivering bits of the virus to the immune system for target practice, give the body tools to make them on its own. The vaccines are made up of pieces of genetic material, either mRNA or DNA, that encode the instructions for making the protein which when enters cells, read the instructions and churn out copies of the protein for the immune system to rally against. These types of vaccines are relatively easy for companies to make once they know the genetic sequence they’re targeting But despite their simplicity and decades of work, gene-based viruses are still largely experimental, at least for people. Moderna and Pfizer have gene based vaccine.
  • INACTIVATED VIRUS- Scientists take a virus and kill it with heat or radiation thereby rendering it harmless, but still recognizable by the immune system. A handful of Chinese companies are developing coronavirus vaccines using this method. One company, Sinovac, showed that its vaccine could protect monkeys from COVID-19. Human trials are ongoing. Because these types of vaccines have been around for decades, therefore scientists understand them well. Because these vaccines contain the whole (but non-replicating) virus, they’re good irritants for the immune system. Unlike gene-based vaccines, though, inactivated virus vaccines are hard to make. Manufacturers have experience with them, but they have to grow and then zap massive amounts of virus. Therefore it’s a slow process.
  • ADENOVIRUS VECTOR VACCINES- A whole, live vaccine is one of the best ways to create long-lasting immunity. That’s the strategy used to make vaccines for the measles and the chickenpox. They’re made from live but heavily weakened versions of the viruses. The viruses are so weak that they don’t make you sick, but they still make your body think it’s infected and set off the immune system. But it takes a long time to alter a virus so that it becomes weak and safe enough to be used as a vaccine, therefore to speed things up, vaccine developers aren’t even attempting to do that with the entire coronavirus. Instead, some teams are inserting sections of the coronavirus gene into weakened, live versions of other viruses. These viruses are called adenoviruses, Because this vaccine is based on a weakened, but a living virus, the immune system mounts a strong response against it. Even though live virus vaccines are regularly used, the adenovirus platforms are still experimental. Also, some people might have seen the adenovirus before so the vaccine wouldn’t work for them. University of Oxford is working on Adenovirus vector.
  • PROTEIN SUBUNIT VACCINES- Protein subunit vaccines directly deliver the specific bit of the virus scientists want people to develop antibodies against (rather than the gene for the protein). For the coronavirus, in most cases, that’s the spike protein. These vaccines contain copies of the spike protein and a bit of something to stimulate the immune system. Scientists are familiar with this approach, and it’s worked well for other diseases. Because these vaccines only use a piece of a virus, they sometimes aren’t able to push the body to generate a strong enough immune response, even with a good irritant built-in. Therefore people often need multiple shots to build up enough immunity to the disease which is a challenge during this pandemic. Because creating enough vaccines to give each person one-shot is already a challenge.

There’s a long history in vaccinology of trying multiple approaches to the same end goal because no one knows which strategy or which vaccine candidate will work best. You can’t speed that the process of testing vaccines. Because tests have to be conducted on a large group of people and researchers have to wait to see if someone actually develops immunity to disease after they’re given a trial vaccine They also have to watch for any safety concerns, either short-term side effects or long term. Speeding up the authorization process of a vaccine is a dangerous task because there are no guinea pigs to experiment on. It is a gamble with too much on stake. Rather we should cross our fingers and hope for the best.

Exoplanets

Exoplanets are planets that orbit a star other than our sun. The prefix “Exo” comes from the Greek and means outside; these worlds are far, far outside our own solar system. For long they have existed only in fiction and theory. It was thought it is impossible to detect planets light-years away since the relatively tiny worlds would appear billions of times fainter than their parent stars. But with the advent of newer technology and some scientist who were ready to take risks the searches for exoplanets began in the 90s and thereafter the pace of discoveries has been excessively fast. In 1992 astronomers reported the first planet-size masses around a dead star, the pulsar PSR1257+12, which sits 2,000 light-years away. Three years later came news of the first known exoplanet, a Jupiter-like gas giant orbiting its star closer than Mercury circles our sun. That world was detected around the sunlike star 51 Pegasi, a mere 50 light-years from Earth. As of 2020, more than 4000 exoplanets have been discovered and the number of known exoplanets has doubled every 27months. Looking for exoplanets directly into a planet seems implausible because of the luminosity of the parent star. The star is so bright makes it impossible to look for the planet directly. It is like observing an ant on a glowing bulb. A Jupiter-like planet would make a dip of 1%, i.e. blocks 1% of the light coming from its parent star. Also, the distance between the planet and the star also affects the fraction of light getting obstructed by the planet. In the visible range, it is impossible to observe any planet. Also, the planet must be located near the Earth and should be far away from its star in order to distinguish light from the planet and glare of its star. Thus it has many limitations, capable of holding back many discoveries. Almost 10-30 planets have been discovered using Direct imaging out of 4000 discovered.
There are two ways to observe exoplanets, direct, and indirect further there are two ways to indirectly observe exoplanets namely, Doppler and Transit. The Doppler method is a good method for discovering exoplanets. It uses the Doppler effect to analyze the motion and properties of the star and planet. Both the planet and the star are orbiting a common center of mass. This means that the star and the planet gravitationally attract one another, causing them to orbit around a point of mass central to both bodies. It is so because planets don’t revolve around its star rather the center of mass of the binary (planet-star). The transit method, another popular technique, looks for periodic dips in a star’s brightness as an orbiting planet passes in front of—or transits—its star, as seen from Earth. By measuring the amount and frequency of a star’s dimming, astronomers can estimate the orbits and masses of its planets. Additionally, researchers can calculate a planet’s surface temperature from the world’s orbital period and its star’s temperature. Another efficient method is that of Gravitational microlensing, it occurs when one star passes directly in front of a background star, as seen from Earth. The gravitational field of the foreground star acts like a lens, magnifying the light of the background star. If the “lens” star has an orbiting planet, the extra mass amplifies the magnification in a telltale way. AI has become a wonderful partner in finding exoplanets, miraculously confirming 50 exoplanets by sifting through the old data sets that too in the first attempt. With the advent of technology, things have certainly become easier and efficient. The search for exoplanets also helps satisfy the quest for Earth-like planet that could sustain life thus relieving earth from the burden and improving living standards.

Free Press?

Democracy is a system of the government in which the people of the state or the citizens have the power to directly select their representatives amongst themselves and form a governing body such as a parliament, senate, or a body that can be called by other names. It is a system where eligible members of the state elect the government. Although it is flawed still it is the most preferred form of government because it assures that government caters to every person’s need unlike autocracy and if the government fails to do so, it can be changed after completing its tenure or even before if people would like to. India, the world’s largest democracy adopted it in 1947 after gaining independence from the British regime. Like every other thing, democracy lies on some foundation namely,  legislative, executive, judiciary, and most importantly media. But media is independent unlike the rest of the three pillars. It functions outside the government ensuring the ruling body has no control over it.  Because the Press is the voice of people, it is considered to be the voice of the voiceless. The Press existed even before independence and it certainly proves that any sort of media or press is by the people of the state not by the ruling body.  Democracy may be very powerful in its own terms and conditions but is not fully efficient in working without media, especially the free press. The media acts as a bridge between the government and the people as it tends to inform people about the functions performed by the government. It also informs the government officials about the problems faced by people in their respective constituencies. Hence, the democratic system is only fully efficient when the state enjoys a free press. It stands for the civic rights, political rights, and religious rights of the people. Media plays a vital role in forming opinions and influencing decision making by the people, comparing present and past experiences, actions, works, etc. done by different governing bodies. It also helps in giving feedback, exposure, and conduit mechanisms by the people to the government, so that the representatives can work according to their needs and requirements. Citizens receive the information about the new policies, projects, schemes, laws, amendments, etc. through media, by which they can assess the working of the government and analyze if the deeds are beneficial for them or not. The Press also acts as a crucial instrument for accounting. A person can forget the promises made by their leaders but a printed newspaper, video, or audio recording will act as a piece of reminding evidence for both citizens and the government after all the elected government is accountable to the citizens of the state. The people who work in the press must be unafraid. Some brave journalists do perform string operations, do investigations, and find out the reality. It tends to fight against corruption, unfulfilled promises, disloyal behavior, or misuse of power in public or private life. But due to its immense power several times it was hindered from functioning. History tells about many circumstances when the press was not allowed to function smoothly. Indira Gandhi during emergency choked the print media by not giving them advertisements cutting off their revenue. Also, electronic media was controlled by the government and therefore it easily hid that emergency has been declared. Even the British did not spare the Indian media. Press worked so vigorously during the regime in promoting the idea of freedom that they had to bring the Indian Press Act 1910. Today Indian Press has been ranked 140 out of 180 countries which participated in the index. This is extremely saddening and frightening since India being the world’s largest “democracy” is now trying to undermine its own foundation. The audacity with which many Indian news channels spread hate is deeply terrifying, people should gain consciousness because a lie told a hundred times becomes the truth. We should ask ourselves, “Is our Press really free?”

Telescopes

Telescopes are to astronomers what weapons to defense personnel and the lens size are comparable to ammo size. Larger the telescope better is the capability to capture light and make images. Galileo used the telescope which was small but still was able to spot the phases of the moon, moons of Jupiter, as those were the days, without digital imaging; therefore he drew whatever he saw. But today telescopes store whatever they capture and as the sizes of lenses grow, amount of data also increases posing a threat to the storage of data as no data can be marked bogus since the universe is not known to us, thus we can’t discard or forget whatever we see cause they are pieces of a bigger puzzle. Galileo made the first telescope just 400 years earlier. Galileo’s telescope had a major drawback that it was small thus images were not clear due to low angular resolution (low clarity). Increasing the size of the lens increased the size of the telescope and thus the possibility of bending due to self-load. The greatest Galilean telescope is Palomar 200inch, in fact, it was the biggest for 6 or so decades. But with the advancement in technology and the constraint that manufacturing, transporting, installation, maintenance of too big lenses would be cumbersome or near impossible and also would be uneconomical, innovative ideas were thought about like making clusters of lenses that would act as one. It is still expensive but easy to manage. Ground-based telescopes have seen drastic advancements in the last 2-3 decades but Larger telescopes have good resolution capacity as well as range. Owing to the large lens they are able to capture more light and produce more clear images. But ground-based telescopes aren’t feasible to install due to their large size and heavy maintenance. A slight error could lead millions of taxpayer’s money to go down the drain. Space-based telescopes have seen further fewer advancements since putting a telescope in space is a too risky and expensive task, thus one needs a good reason to do so despite all these astronomers to want to put telescopes in space despite their budgets being humongous because ground-based telescopes have some major drawbacks that no amount of money or technology can overcome. One is the blurring or twinkling of starlight due to turbulent motions in the atmosphere high above. The turbulence in the atmosphere leads to a distorted view of the objects, this turbulence is the reason for the twinkling of lights. Although this twinkling can be reduced by installing a secondary mirror that can fluctuate dozens time per second but still this doesn’t lead to that much clarification that can be observed through space telescopes. The primary mirror can’t be fluctuated due to its enormous size and money invested. And another is the opaqueness of the earth’s atmosphere to many of the wavelengths. Only some wavelengths like visible spectrum and a large part of radio waves and some of the infrared radiation are able to penetrate the earth’s environment. And since the light coming from distant heavenly bodies does not necessarily fall in one of the spectrums due to doppler’s effect that can penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, therefore, it is possible that much of the data we are just losing due the opaque atmosphere present. Also installing a large telescope on the ground requires structure to contain it, and those structures also have initial cost and maintenance cost thus resulting in the cost curve. The universe at every moment leaks loads of data in the form of X-rays, Gamma rays, and Infrared rays just we have to study it that is only possible through space-based telescopes. Thus the curiosity to understand how the universe works, the curiosity to know our origin leads to astronomers putting heavy telescopes in space.  

WFH… A curse or boon?

For many of us, the coronavirus has been the most significant, and perhaps the most traumatic, experience of our lives. It will have a huge impact on us as individuals, as a society, and as a workforce. It might be hard to imagine right now, but the coronavirus crisis will end, and things will get back to normal. Well, some things will go back to the way as they were. For others, there will be a new normal. History has shown that whenever a major event happens that poses an existential threat, many of the norms of life change, some in the short term and some for the long term. In the future, entire treatises may be written on how the COVID-19 pandemic transformed the nature of work. Millions of people have already relocated to the living rooms and kitchen tables, pundits are already touting the death of the office, a new era of flexible timetables and mass exoduses from industrial cities. Whether these sweeping predictions prove true remains to be seen. Take those staples of modern office routine: meetings, emails, and time spent at work. According to a recent study by researchers at Harvard Business School, employees have been attending more meetings by video conference, rather than in-person sending more emails and putting in more hours since the widespread shift to work from home in March. Compared with pre-lockdown levels, the number of meetings an average worker attends has risen by 13%. The number of people in the average meeting has risen too, by 13.5%, perhaps because video conferences, unlike office-bound ones, are not constrained by space. One ray of hope is that meetings are shorter, by about 20%, or 12 minutes, on average. Surely, the lack of a commute at least should mean workers have more time to themselves? Alas, no, the researchers find. In a modern variant of Parkinson’s Law, working hours have expanded to soak up the extra minutes, and more. On average, people have clocked up an extra 48.5 minutes a day, more than the average commuting time. This is mainly because of a rise of 8% in the number of emails sent after normal business hours. Internal emailing during normal hours has risen too, along with the average number of recipients, presumably as a substitute for talking face to face. 
Although WFH could boost employee satisfaction, but only if a balance between work lives and personal lives could be found. With kids at home, people often find it difficult to manage both lives. Therefore employees need to be trained for work for home, Also man people like to work within the office campus. Since working from home needs a lot of discipline which is hard to find at home. Some employees operate better in a structured environment. Despite studies which show that work from home employees perform better, are more productive. but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all employees perform better. Also, office environment is structured to boost a sense of comradery with co-workers can be extremely difficult for full-time work from home employees.remote workers can make it difficult for management to monitor overtime. With the flexibility, many problems also arise due to WFH. We’ve have to make sure that we can get out most out of what is available. With such unprecedented and uncertain times, things ought to change and we should accept the change with positive attitude.

Testosterone

Testosterone… the holy grail of hormones for men. It is the reason why men are men. Often referred to as “male sex hormone” testosterone has a variety of functions to perform. It helps in a gain in muscle mass, bone density, body hair, and the change of voice during puberty. It also drives sex drive, muscle mass, fat distribution, red blood cell production, and development of male reproductive tissues like testes and prostate. It is biosynthesized in several steps from cholesterol and is converted in the liver to inactive metabolites. In humans and most other vertebrates, testosterone is secreted primarily by the testicles of males and, to a lesser extent, the ovaries of females. On average, in adult males, levels of testosterone are about seven to eight times as great as in adult females. In addition to its role as a natural hormone, testosterone is used as a medication in the treatment of low testosterone levels in men, transgender hormone therapy for transgender men, and breast cancer in women. Since testosterone levels decrease as men age, testosterone is sometimes used in older men to counteract this deficiency. It is also used illicitly to enhance physique and performance, for instance in athletes since athletes who crave for better performance and bodybuilders are constantly on the hunt to find easy ways to boost testosterone. Testosterone can lead to serious problems with the heart, brain, liver, endocrine, and mental health systems. Stopping testosterone may also lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Testosterone injections have also been linked to a condition called Pulmonary Oil Microembolism (POME), or a blood clot in the lung that can be fatal. Misuse of testosterone can cause dangerous or irreversible effects, such as enlarged breasts, small testicles, infertility, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, liver disease, bone growth problems, addiction, and mental effects such as aggression and violence. But besides taking potentially dangerous drugs or getting a prescription to inject testosterone to build up flagging levels, the only foolproof techniques to increase and maintain healthy levels are lifting weights and eating the right foods.

There are several exercises also that can help maintain your T-levels some are enumerated below:

  • squat
  • deadlift
  • bench press
  • row
  • pullups/ chinups
  • overhead press
  • pushup

These help to increase T-levels since they recruit a significant amount of muscle mass and the amount of muscle mass recruited during an exercise has been shown to be an important factor in the release of testosterone.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet has been proven to increase T-levels. Constant dieting or overeating may disrupt your testosterone levels. Eating enough protein can help maintain healthy levels and aid in fat loss, which is also associated with your testosterone.

Carb intake also plays a role, with research showing carbs can help optimize testosterone levels during resistance training. However, research demonstrates that sufficient healthy fats are also beneficial for testosterone and health.
Research has always highlighted the dangers of long-term stress, which can elevate levels of the hormone cortisol. Unnatural elevations in cortisol can quickly reduce testosterone. These hormones work in a seesaw-like manner: as one goes up, the other comes down.
Research has shown Vitamin D has various health benefits, and may also work as a natural testosterone booster. A 12-month study found that supplementing with around 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day increased testosterone levels by around 25%. 

Getting good sleep is just as important for your health as diet and exercise. It may also have major effects on your testosterone levels.

Image by rawpixel.com

Diabetes

Diabetes is the most common word spoken across the globe. Fatal and contagious than any of the disease ever to be seen by humanity. It doesn’t affect directly but surely undermines the body such that various other diseases get a free pass. It is a major public health problem that is approaching epidemic proportions globally. Worldwide, the prevalence of chronic, non-communicable diseases is increasing at an alarming rate. About 18 million people die every year from cardiovascular disease, for which diabetes and hypertension are major predisposing factors. Diabetes is a number of diseases that involve problems with the hormone insulin, which occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Normally, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes can occur when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin, or when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells. Therefore weakness, dizziness are prevalent among the diabetic. As of yet, there is no cure. People with diabetes need to manage their disease to stay healthy. Different kinds of diabetes can occur, and managing the condition depends on the type. Not all forms of diabetes stem from a person being overweight or leading an inactive lifestyle. In fact, some are present from childhood.
Three major diabetes types can develop, Type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

  • Type I diabetes: Also known as juvenile diabetes, this type occurs when the body fails to produce insulin. People with type I diabetes are insulin-dependent, which means they must take artificial insulin daily to stay alive.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body uses insulin. While the body still makes insulin, unlike in type I, the cells in the body do not respond to it as effectively as they once did. This is the most common type of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and it has strong links with obesity.
  • Gestational diabetes: This type occurs in women during pregnancy when the body can become less sensitive to insulin. Gestational diabetes does not occur in all women and usually resolves after giving birth.

Less common types of diabetes include monogenic diabetes and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes.
Since there is no cure, it doesn’t mean that you can’t live your life up to the fullest. Just a tight schedule can prove propitious. Some snacks to include in your diet to keep a close watch on the glucometer are-

  • Fresh fruit and cheese- There’s a reason why the French are known for their fantastic fruit and cheese boards! Cheese is an excellent source of protein and pairs well with carbohydrate-rich fruit to provide energy without spiking blood sugars. Good pairings include apples with cheddar, Gouda and pears, or fresh mozzarella with peaches.
  • Crunchy chickpeas- Gone are the days when chickpeas were only useful for making hummus! Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are an excellent source of fiber and protein and make for a nutrient-rich, mid-day snack. When roasted long enough, chickpeas become light and crunchy and make for a great replacement for potato chips.
  • Hardboiled eggs- Eggs are a low-calorie snack packed with valuable nutrients, such as B vitamins, zinc, calcium, and protein. Hardboiled eggs make for a healthy, portable snack that will keep you full between meals. Pair with a small piece of fresh fruit if blood sugars are dipping low.
  • Popcorn- Most popular for movie nights, popcorn is full of fiber and an excellent snack that won’t send blood sugars surge. However, not all popcorn is made with the same ingredients. Traditionally, microwaved popcorn can contain a ton of added sugars or partially-hydrogenated oils that take a toll on heart health. Look for brands that air pop their popcorn or use avocado oil, which is a source of heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Save the buttery topping or kettle corn varieties for special occasions.

There are several tips to fight diabetes. You can’t overcome this disease but surely could make peace with it. Diabetes is like an arduous trainer. He makes you do things that you should do to stay healthy and have a prolonged life.

  • Get moving – Exercise helps build muscle and lower blood sugars. If going to a gym seems infeasible then you can consider purchasing a few weights since the best way to control your sugars and your scale is to do both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Besides, adding a 15- to 20-minute post-meal stroll can help fight sugar spikes.  
  • Embrace your blood sugars, good and bad – No one likes to have high blood sugar. But even if you’ve had a few highs, don’t act crestfallen and abandon tracking your glucose readings. Along with helping your doctor determine if your diet plan and medications are working, a record of blood sugar readings will help you to assess how food, activities, and stress impact your body. Do you need to add five minutes to your walk after eating pepperoni pizza? Are your bedtime snacks keeping you from morning lows? Only your blood glucose knows.
  • Take a break – Consider yoga or meditation. Stress heavily affects blood sugars. Take time to read a book, take a nap, or talk to friends.  
  • Maintain cholesterol-  You have two kinds of cholesterol in your blood: LDL and HDL. LDL or “bad” cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels. Too much bad cholesterol can cause a heart attack or stroke. HDL or “good” cholesterol helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from your blood vessels.
  • Refrain from smoking-  No smoking is especially important for people with diabetes because of both smoking and diabetes narrow blood vessels. Blood vessel narrowing makes your heart work harder. E-cigarettes aren’t a safe option either.

Blue holes

Black holes… sounds pretty cool, and scary. They have baffled scientists for long. But there are many places beneath the ocean that are still baffling scientists and researchers since we have not explored even 5% of the oceans. One of these places is the “blue hole”. Sounds descriptive and uncreative as well but they got this same because apparently, they are blue. Blue holes are basically sinkholes or caverns in the ocean. They are a geological phenomenon that occurs when carbonate bedrock is composed of limestone erodes and collapses below the level of surrounding rock. Many researchers believe that blue holes are formed when water floods a previously cavernous region. At the end of the Ice Age, for instance, rising sea levels flooded caves that had been carved out by environmental factors like acidic rain, Discovery reports. The process can take more than 100,000 years. And since the water in the hole is so much deeper than the surrounding water, it looks like a much deeper blue. Hence the descriptive if a bit uncreative name.  Blue holes take the mysteries of the deep sea even deeper. The massive holes can be hundreds of feet deep, which causes them to appear a darker blue, compared to more shallow surroundings. A blue hole is an oasis in an otherwise barren seafloor. The natural phenomena are biodiversity hotspots teeming with plants and animals, including sea turtles, sharks, corals, mollusks, and sponges. Analyses of water samples taken during the Amberjack Hole exploration have shown that isotopes of radium and radon are present in the water. Their water circulation is poor, and they are commonly anoxic below a certain depth; this environment is unfavorable for most sea life, but nonetheless can support large numbers of bacteria. Most blue holes contain freshwater and saltwater. The halocline is the point in these blue holes where the freshwater meets the saltwater and where a corrosive reaction takes place that eats away at the rock. Over time this can create side passages, or horizontal “arms”, that extend from the vertical cave. These side passages can be quite long e.g., over 600 meters (2,000 ft) in the case of the Sawmill Sink in the Bahamas. Well-known examples can be found in the South China Sea (Dragon Hole), Belize (Great Blue Hole), the Bahamas (Dean’s Blue Hole), Guam, Australia (in the Great Barrier Reef), Egypt (in the Red Sea), and Florida (Green Banana). Exploring blue holes requires an extremely high level of expertise in the diving field, hence the fact that very few divers have ever attempted it. In 2009, however, a team of scientists set out to study seven of these blue holes in the Bahamas.   Through over 150 dives, the scientists, led by Keith Tinker, investigated bacteria able to live in anoxic environments. This allowed them to make connections to fields such as astrobiology where organisms thrive without oxygen or sunlight. In 2018, another group of scientists set out to explore the Great Blue Hole of Belize using two submarines of the latest technology. One of the major scientific contributions to the result of this expedition was the first 3-D map of its interior. The researchers captured features such as stalactites, the hydrogen sulfide layer, and other details that cannot usually be seen by the naked human eye.
Nature is filled with surprises, but we must be careful with what we play. Last time someone ate a bat, and the whole world is now repaying now.

World’s Overshoot day!!

Happy World’s Overshoot day!! Today we’ve exhausted all the natural resources generated by Mother Earth last year and as economists say, we are in a deficit, although not financial, but ecological. This could be quite shocking news to many, but interestingly this year World’s Overshoot day has been pushed by 3 weeks. In 2019, World’s Overshoot day was marked on July 29 as opposed to August 22 in 2020. In fact, this day has never been pushed so far since 2005. So, is it an achievement worth celebrating? Apparently not, cause it is not done by design, rather by the disaster. The World’s Overshoot day is calculated by GFN (Global footprint network), an independent think tank established in 2003 with its headquarters located in California, United States. Overshoot is calculated by ecological footprint, which is a measure of how much area of biologically productive land and water an individual, population or activity requires to produce all the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates, using prevailing technology and resource management practices. Researchers estimate that the planet equivalent has grown from 1.5 in 2008 to 1.6 in 2020, i.e. now humans require 1.6 planet Earth to sustain themselves and this doesn’t account for all other species in the world. However, this doesn’t mean that all countries contribute equally to the spectrum. Overshoot day varies from country to country due to the prevailing technologies in different countries. For e.g. a world would be enough for Indonesians to survive, but it would require approximately two worlds to sustain ourselves if we were to live like Qataris. The worst country to perform in this index is Luxembourg, which consumed all its resources by February 16. Even Australia, the biocapacity giant is seeing deficit for the first time in its history due to the devastating fires of 2019-20. This shows how fragile biocapacity can be.
But this year is not an achievement, all though the COVID lockdowns brought down the Ecological Footprint by 9.3% reduction as compared to the same period last year and put a remarkable dent on the global economy. Since this pushed date is a reflection of a lot of sufferings and the reflection of imposed changes to our lives. The irony is that these vast reductions that scientists had always been craving but through sustainable developments rather than sufferings. Now it would be foolish to presume that in order to reduce our carbon footprints and planet equivalent we require such sufferings since such reductions are discriminatory, they disproportionately affect people of color and caste economically. Climate skeptics have used the situation to say that lockdown is what “green campaigners want” and they cannot enjoy things like international travel and economic growth in the future. But it is foolish to fall for such beliefs. The goal should be having better economies and social outcomes with lower emissions.
Researchers reiterate that balance of humanities consumption and Earth”s produce needs to be restored. It would be wise to make such balance intentionally rather than facing such disasters that comes at such high and terrible human cost.

COVID spared South-East?

The Buddhist majority countries in South-East Asia, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, saw rather small-scale outbreaks during this coronavirus pandemic. Despite these countries sharing borders with the origin of the deadly virus, China and India, country with most number of daily cases how have these neighboring countries managed to contain the spread of the coronavirus?
The wonder case in this region has to be Vietnam. A country with a population of approximately 97 million people, the authorities claim no deaths from Covid-19. Thailand, with 70 million people, has seen just 58 deaths and no cases of local transmission have been reported in over 40 days. Myanmar claims just six fatalities from 317 cases. Cambodia reported 141 cases and the tiny country Laos only saw 19 cases. Both these countries claimed no deaths and no local transmission since April. Geographically speaking, they have it far better than their other neighbors such as Indonesia with some 68,100 cases and 3,400 deaths, and the Philippines with 50,400 cases and 1,300 deaths, India with some 2.91million cases and 54,849 deaths. It is almost as if the pandemic has spared these Buddhist majority nations. But does it have anything to do with religion though? It would not seem so, because, Vietnam’s communist dictatorship is an atheist. Meanwhile, China, the original epicenter of the virus, also has a majority Buddhist population although it is also a communist state. Vietnam’s handling of the crisis so far is commendable. Centuries of mistrust in its great northern neighbor, China, prepared Vietnam to be extra cautious of all the information China gave about the virus at the beginning of this year. Vietnam even initiated cyber-attacks to get more knowledge about the path of the outbreak. The country closed its borders and used repressive forces to keep the population locked. They monitored and separated any affected patients. That is kind of similar to what China’s communist regime was doing. In terms of having a powerful government that can make the people follow protocols, as well as having a strong medical sector, Thailand also makes the list. The country led by generals in the name of democracy has an incredible healthcare system which makes Thailand a popular medical tourist destination. Besides, the government was swift to create a robust task force for fighting Covid-19. Initially, more contact with the Chinese people must have been a prerequisite for transmission. Yet this didn’t happen in Laos, which is too low to withstand the flattery of China, Myanmar, which is awash with Chinese traders and traffickers, or Cambodia, whose strongman, Hun Sen, is China’s greatest supporter in the region. Such countries are being reshaped by Chinese development thanks to BRI, and all came under pressure not to close borders with China as the pandemic spread. In February, at the height of the Chinese outbreak, Hun Sen traveled to Beijing. Thailand is also quite closely knit to China, it seems, as the country welcomed Chinese tourists even in March. And Myanmar’s China border seriously lacks guard. Then, why did all these visitors from China not cause a bigger outbreak in South-East Asia? Many suspects that they have done so, but these have not been revealed. Tests in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are extremely restricted. But, Frank Smithuis of Medical Action Myanmar, a charity with many clinics around the country, says that his organization would have found out if there had been a large-scale transmission since a COVID-19 epidemic cannot be covered especially in Myanmar, the ” number one gossip country” in the world. Also, researchers in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam do not see signs of large transmission, like people rushing to the hospitals with symptoms. Even the poorest countries have taken steps which may have helped to control coronavirus spread. Researchers in Bangkok said that migrant workers coming back from Thailand to their Myanmar villages had to quarantine in a shack outside their village for 14 days. According to health experts, many factors may have come in helpful, like large numbers of people living in the countryside rather than cities; the region’s relative youth; and a pre-existing tendency to wear masks in public which could have been trivial in pre-COVID times. Many of these countries are third world countries, non-industrialized thus people live in rooms with open windows rather than relying on air conditioning. Also, there could have been a religious element to it too. Since the Buddhist way of greeting is called the wai, where they press their palms together, unlike the handshake or hugs or cheek kisses in other parts of the world, the wai is a way of physical distancing. The question now is whether the Buddhist achievements in South-East Asia will survive second or third waves. Researchers say, perhaps low transmission from China wasn’t quite a miraculous blessing. After all, the giant neighbor soon got on top of its outbreak. Now, China is not the only problem anymore, the whole world is. The outbreak has changed its course and is still changing. Infections from across the world are being introduced across Asia, seeding local transmission, most recently in Hong Kong.

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The curious case of Prashant Bhushan

Prashant Bhushan, a public interest lawyer in The Supreme court of India. He is one of the founding members of ‘Swaraj Abhiyan’ and ‘Sambhavna’ founded in 2015 after dissenting from the Aam Aadmi Party, where he played a key role in implementing the ‘Jan Lokpal’ bill alongside Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, and many others. He has been tirelessly working in the field of human rights, environmental protection, and accountability of the public servants. He is associated with various organizations including the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and Transparency International (India). Due to his family background, he is able to take cases pro-bono and for paid cases, he charges only 5% of what other lawyers charge. He also claims that he does not take cases until he feels his client is “morally right”. Being “morally right” is objective but looking into his past activities one can feel he is being moral. He represented the petition which became the first one in which an IAS(Indian Administrative Service) officer was convicted of corruption charges. He criticized governments for waging wars against Naxals and is of the idea is that the hidden agenda behind “Operation Green Hunt” was to clear the tribal lands for mining and industrialization. In order to de-escalate the situation in the Red Corridor government should suspend arms in the /Naxals region and instead focus on providing foods and infra to the tribals. He assisted Narmada Bachao Andolan activists opposing the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Bhushan advocated revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Jammu and Kashmir and is of the opinion that the government should try to persuade people of the valley to align with India but should be allowed to separate if one wishes.

Recently he has been found guilty by the Supreme Court of India on contempt for derogatory tweets against the judiciary. Why? How one can find a tweet so offensive that in the midst of a pandemic the Supreme court of India arranges a bench to hear for a case so trivial when so many questions persist of state’s response to the pandemic, when crucial cases have continued to drag on for years like-

  • Challenges to Article 370
  • Electoral bonds
  • Citizenship Amendment Act
  • Habeaus corpus petitions
  • Fundamental rights of people of Kashmir

Acts like these reflect the growing intolerance in the top authorities. Even 1500 lawyers from across the country have spoken against the decision and urged the top court to “take corrective steps to prevent miscarriage of justice”. Even the Supreme court itself has said that “The ignition of contempt should be substantial and mala fide interference wit fearless judicial actions, not fair comment or trivial reflections on judicial process and personnel”. Fair comment has not been defined but could be implied by various judgments of the court that fair criticism is criticism by a person who is competent enough to speak on the topic, has a good record, and doesn’t has the intention of demean the office of CJI or judiciary. Top authorities should remember that criticism is the basis of democracy, anyone can stand against them, not to hinder the judicial process but to have their opinion. If people are to be punished for their tweets and comments over social media, then it is a warning alarm for a democratic country. People should realize the severity of the situation and try to bolster the democratic institutions and protect them from those who are trying to undermine its sanctity. Its high time to realize how our institutions are getting biased, for making derogatory and hateful remarks regarding a particular community the responsible have not been tried, but a person with so clear record is been found guilty within 12 days of making a tweet.

Rigged Facebook

Facebook, the most prominent and prevalent social media platform in India, with 346 million active users in India alone. But, Facebook who has previously been accused of meddling with the 2016 US elections, now has been accused of actively working with political parties of Brazil, the U.K, and India, allegedly using troll armies to spread misinformation and extremists ideologies. Under Katie Harbath, a former Republican digital strategist, Facebook helped politicians across the world harness their digital tools to establish an online presence. Narendra Modi, the world’s most-followed leader on Facebook and Instagram, was one of the most famous politicians all thanks to social media. The Bloomberg report that revealed these details also alleged that after Modi’s social media reach grew, his followers began using Facebook and WhatsApp to harass political rivals. WhatsApp, which has approximately 400 million users in India, has been an influential tool in BJP’s election campaign, as admitted by union minister Amit Shah in his 2018 speech. This all came to limelight after on 14th August an investigation made by WSJ revealed that a top public policy executive at Facebook was allegedly ignoring controversial, often communal, content posted on the platform by politicians from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  WSJ spoke to current and former employees at Facebook and found that the social media platform’s Public Policy Director for India and Central and South Asia, Ankhi Das, was against “applying hate-speech rules” to at least four politicians from the BJP, despite them being “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence”. These include BJP leaders T. Raja Singh, who made communal statements on Rohingya Muslims and threatened to raze mosques, and legislator Anantkumar Hegde, who accused Muslims of intentionally spreading the novel corona virus as part of a conspiracy so called “Corona Jihad”. Now, this has led to a political beef in the country. According to what anonymous Facebook employees told WSJ, the social media giant showed a “broader pattern of favouritism” towards the BJP, and felt that punishing violations by their politicians “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country”. Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, admitted to WSJ that Das, who is also the public policy director for South and Central Asia, was worried about the political fallout of restricting BJP leader Singh. Facebook employees had flagged Singh’s statements on social media under the “Dangerous Individuals and Organisations” policy, which is meant to ban any content that praises or supports “organized hate”, “mass murder”, “hate crimes”, or “terrorist attacks”.  But the WSJ allegations add weight to the findings of past reports by international and local media. Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Shashi Tharoor, who also heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, promised that the committee would look into the allegations made by the report. When the committee called for a probe into the matter, union minister of Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad hit out at Congress through a tweet, calling Gandhi a “loser”. He also brought up an old accusation from 2018, claiming that Congress had colluded with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to influence the electorate during the 2014 elections. Also, Privilege motion was moved against Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor alleging that Rahul Gandhi had “surpassed all limits of decency” while Shashi Tharoor is responsible for spreading “Fake News and hatred”. This is the usual blame game that BJP uses to play while facing allegations. In spite of answering the questions directly, BJP uses malicious ways to get around the question and indulge the proponent in trivial tasks. Whereas  Cambridge Analytica’s website declared that the company provided its services during the Bihar election in 2010 to a political party in India. Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI), Cambridge Analytica’s Indian affiliate, named the BJP, Congress and the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar as clients. Claims are many but we must be responsible for what we see and how we react to the contents of social media. One should act responsibly and instead of spewing hate in the comment section, one should introspect and try to make judicious decisions. There is no tool that can counter fake news only us, we are the ones who spread fake news and can counter it.

Militarization

Militarization is at its heart a problem-solving ideology, using violence to solve problems in front of you, using military-type weapons, and using the threat of that violence. Over the last decade, the number of CAPFs (Central Armed Police Forces) has almost doubled despite the major ministries, and departments of the central government have witnessed a decline in their personnel.The foremost function of a state is to ensure the safety of its citizens. And it is discharged through two principal instruments- The Army, to protect from external aggression and police, to ensure the safety of citizens’ properties. In federal systems, the former is controlled by the center while, latter by the states. While this has been the case with India that the army performing its tasks substantially better than the police. India is rare in having a third paramilitary instrument controlled at the federal level, not by the armed forces but rather by the Ministry of Home Affairs. While the CAPFs perform a range of functions, from riot control to VIP duties, overseas deployments, and disaster relief, they have two principal functions: guarding the country’s borders, and internal security. The largest CAPF, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), has been deployed principally in the two most vexing internal security challenges facing India — the strife in Jammu and Kashmir, and Left-wing extremism in central and eastern India. About 118 battalions of the CAPFs have been deployed to combat the Maoists using the Indian state’s “elephant” approach on dealing with insurgencies – throw tens of thousands of men (and now women as well) at the problem, and the sheer weight gradually crushes the opponent. More worryingly, this expansion has proceeded much more rapidly than that of the other security-providing instruments of the state, the army, and the police. In 1998, CAPFs were less than 58 percent of the size of the army and by 2015, this had increased to 82 percent and the number is climbing. The size of CAPFs relative to the civil police has increased by nearly 15 percent over the last two decades, which means that basic law and order which is the first line of defense and is already under severe stress is being neglected at the cost of a more militarized approach to policing. Organisationally, there are hard questions regarding the overall effectiveness of these forces, stemming from weaknesses in training, poor equipment, and ineffective leadership. Rapid expansion has meant that recent inductees have not gone through as much rigorous training as needed. But perhaps the biggest lacuna is leadership. The political leadership incessantly misuses them in activities like “VIP duty”. Also the officer: soldier casualty is too low as compared to the army.The results have been all too painful in the severity of casualties of the rank-and-file of the CAPFs. Suicide rates in the CRPF are at least as high as among Indian farmers, but there is little anguish in the media about that. Data indicates that far more perish from malaria and stress-related heart attacks than combat. Feeble leadership also underlies a weak esprit de corps in the units, with bodies not always recovered after ambushes, and weapons of dead soldiers looted by the Maoists, which would not happen to army units.There are fiscal implications, not just of relative priorities of public spending, but even for the CAPFs themselves, as pension and healthcare bills will sharply rise in due course and cut into much-needed spending on better equipment and facilities. This is happening to the army, where one can see the crowding-out effects of rising pensions bills on military modernization. But there might be an even more disturbing implication. The use of lethal force by organs of the state against its citizens requires utmost vigilance. The state needs to be extremely careful that the rapid growth of the CAPFs does not end up creating more problems than what it is trying to solve through this expansion.

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Social Media surveillance

In the past decade, social media has gone from being extra entertaining to a fully integrated part of our lives. Social media is a good way to keep in touch with friends, families, and acquaintances, especially in the contemporary world. But it is not only being used by us but governments as well to keep in touch with its citizens. Governments are increasingly purchasing cutting edge technology to keep an eye on its citizens’ behavior on social media. This form of mass surveillance has made its way to a range of countries, from authoritarian powers to smaller and poorer countries. Coupled with an alarming rise in the number of countries where social media users have been arrested for their legitimate online activities, the growing employment of social media surveillance threatens to squeeze the space for civic activism on digital platforms. For e.g. in 2017, at least 7 people were arrested for posting ‘objectionable’ posts on social media against newly elected Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. As quickly as social media has insinuated into politics, the workplace, and elsewhere it continues to evolve at lightning speed making it a conundrum to guess which way it will morph next. Social media is not a utility, where people care about whether it works or not, rather people look for new hot things especially the younger generation.

Social media surveillance refers to the collection and processing of personal data pulled from digital communication platforms, often through automated technology that allows for real-time aggregation, organization, and analysis of large amounts of metadata and content. Governments have long employed people to monitor speech on social media, including by creating fraudulent accounts to connect with real-life users and gain access to networks. With the colossal amount of personal data people willingly release on social media, government agencies can easily collect and analyze populations of people as they please. Authorities in Iran have a legion of volunteers who monitor online speech. Any citizen can report for duty on the Cyber Police (FATA) website. Similarly, the ruling Communist Party in China has recruited thousands of individuals to sift through the internet and report problematic content and accounts to authorities. In India, various political parties have IT cells, although BJP has allegedly the strongest IT-cell. These groups not only monitor social media platforms but also are responsible for hate comments, cleaning some one’s image, or spread fake news. The market for social media surveillance has grown by large, giving intelligence and law enforcement agencies new tools for combing through massive amounts of information. Justifying their efforts in the name of enhancing security, limiting disinformation, and ensuring public order, governments have effectively co-opted social media platforms. While these platforms typically present themselves as social connectors and community builders, state agencies in repressive countries see them as vast storehouses of speech and personal information that can be observed, collected, and analyzed to detect and suppress dissent. Often the explanations leading to the arrests are stated that “the material was provocative and could lead to communal clash”, but it reflects the incompetency of the state to maintain harmony, and increased intolerance.China is a leader in developing, employing, and exporting social media surveillance tools. Its agencies work closely with leading companies to monitor individuals online. A complex web of regulations gives the Chinese state access to user content and metadata, allowing authorities to more easily identify and reprimand users who share sensitive content. Freedom of Net 2019: The Crisis of Social Media, examined 65 nations worldwide to find out, China topped the list of “World’s worst abuser of internet freedom” for 4 years in a row. In contrast, Iceland was “The World’s best protector of internet freedom”. India scored 55 out of 100 and was declared “partly free”. With the Internet restrictions closing in, it is a warning call to wake up to your rights.

What’s most alarming is how populist leaders and far-right groups have grown adept not only at creating viral disinformation but also at harnessing networks that disseminate it. The majority of the disinformation, wrote the authors, are from domestic sources rather than foreign interference.

Strong protections for democratic freedoms are necessary to ensure that the internet does not become a Trojan horse for tyranny and oppression,as technology advances to greater heights, the protection of our citizens must be greater as well.

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Multiverse

Parallel universe… Science fiction or scientific fact, I don’t know the answer for that, but certainly, the very idea of parallel universes sparks our wildest imaginations. If there is another universe with different outcomes of every decision ever made by us in this universe, might there be a way to access that world? A better life each one hopes for, and with the possibility of multiverses, this hope strengthens, that one day we would be able to transport ourselves there. Movies like “Star Trek”, “Dark”, “Avengers: Infinity wars” “Stranger Things” have bolstered such ideas.There are some shreds of evidence that advocate the existence of multiverses. We all know how we emerged from Big bang, an unknown force caused it to expand and as the expansion settled somewhat light began to emerge, the smaller pieces coalesced into bigger particles like Galaxies, stars, and planets. But the question arises, are we the only universe out there? Since the universe is curved, it looks like we are sitting in a fishbowl the only difference is that our universe is constantly expanding, and therefore we aren’t able to look beyond the bowl, if there is something beyond the bowl.
Some theories that advocate the existence of multiverse are-

  • Infinite universes- We don’t know what the shape of space-time is exactly. One prominent theory is that it is flat and goes on forever, and therefore it is possible that universes can start repeating themselves since particles can only be put together in so many ways. This would present the possibility of many universes being out there.
  • Mathematical universes- Another possible avenue is exploring mathematical universes, which, simply put, explain that the structure of mathematics may change depending on which universe you reside in. A mathematical structure is something that you can describe in a way that’s completely independent of human baggage, thus there could be a universe out there that can exist independently of me that would continue to exist even if there were no humans.
  • Parallel universes- And last but not least as the idea of parallel universes. Going back to the idea that space-time is flat, the number of possible particle configurations in multiple universes would be limited to 10^10^122 distinct possibilities, to be exact. So, with an infinite number of cosmic patches, the particle arrangements within them must repeat — infinitely many times over. This means there are infinitely many “parallel universes”: cosmic patches the same as ours (containing someone exactly like you), as well as patches that differ by just one particle’s position, patches that differ by two particles’ positions, and so on down to patches that are different from ours.
  • Daughter universes- Or perhaps multiple universes can follow the theory of quantum mechanics (how subatomic particles behave), as part of the “daughter universe” theory. If you follow the laws of probability, it suggests that for every outcome that could come from one of your decisions, there would be a range of universes – each of which saw one outcome come to be. Like in Schrodinger’s cat experiment, in one universe, the cat would be alive and in other, it won’t. 
  • Bubble universes- Another theory for multiple universes comes from “eternal inflation.” Based on research from Tufts University cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin, when looking at space-time as a whole, some areas of space stop inflating like the Big Bang inflated our universe. Others, however, will keep getting larger. So if we picture our universe as a bubble, it is sitting in a network of bubble universes of space. What’s interesting about this theory is the other universes could have very different laws of physics than our own, since they are not linked.

These are still hypotheses, and we are a long way before we can conclude anything about the presence of multiverses. But ignoring the possibilities would make us kind and we don’t do that in science. Researchers are working still to prove any of the hypotheses, Antarctica has got a station to look for evidence, as in theory already many noble minds have predicted multiverses.

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AI

Artificial Intelligence(AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to mimic human actions and thinking. It is an umbrella term that includes any machine that can be programmed to exhibit human traits like learning and problem-solving. The ideal characteristics of AI are its ability to rationalize and take actions to achieve a specified goal. When hearing AI, people often visualize robots, all thanks to big-budget Hollywood movies and novels like “The Terminator” etc. People often think that AI is a distant future, but they don’t acknowledge how AI has already crept in our daily life. AI can do a variety of subtle tasks like creating a playlist based on your taste in a music app, defeating humans in complex games like Deep Blue, The DeepMind system, self-driving cars, etc.. AI is based on the principle that human intelligence can be programmed such that it is comprehensible to machines. The goals of Artificial intelligence include learning, reasoning, and perception to accomplish tasks that require human intelligence. AI is categorized into three categories, ANI, AGI, AGI. ANI, Artificial Narrow Intelligence embodies a system designed to carry a narrow range of abilities like facial recognition, play chess, provide assistance like SIRI, Google Assitant. AGI, Artificial general intelligence is at par with human intelligence., it can think, understand, and act in a way that is indistinguishable from that of humans. Today’s AI is speculated to be decades away from the AGI. ASI, Artificial superintelligence is hypothetical which would surpass human intelligence and capabilities, and would be self-aware. People often see AI as next big thing in technology but they don’t realize how AI has gotten knitted into our lives. We now rely on AI more than ever. Whether it be asking Siri to ask for directions, ask Alexa to switch on a light, or just listening on Spotify which creates a playlist based on our taste. Many more applications are being devised like transportation, manufacturing units, healthcare, and education. Tesla is making breakthrough discoveries in the field of AI, like self-driving cars, automated manufacturing. AI is being used in journalism too, Bloomberg used cyborg tech to make quick sense of convoluted financial reports. AI is also helping in medical services too, helping to diagnose diseases more accurately than ever, speeding up drug discovery. With so many benefits of AI, many advocate about it and even say that only luddites are worried about safety of AI but it is not so. As said a coin has two sides, thus every pro comes with a con. AI is not benign because it would follow our order and would accomplish the task at any cost without being able to think about the consequences of actions. Humans are affected not only by results but also by the method taken to achieve the result. For e.g. you might ask an AI to eradicate evil, but ultimately it would kill you because humans make errors which may unintentionally cause evil, like in the movie “The Terminator” or you could ask a self-driving car to reach a destination, it would not matter to it if it accomplishes the task by hook or by crook. You could end up and the airport covered in vomit. Although it had accomplished what you asked for, but not what you intended.Thus AI is a risky job, we’ve gotta be more careful with what the experts sitting over there are developing. If the tech could harm even one person, then it won’t be beneficial to humanity no matter how many benefits it might have.

Hangovers

A hangover is the unpleasant feeling that can develop after drinking too much alcohol. A general rule of thumb is that consumption is directly proportional to the hangover, i.e. more booze you consume, more likely you are to experience hangover you are going to feel the following day. But there is no magic formula to tell how much you can safely drink and not have a hangover. Alcohol seems to be the obvious culprit here, rather its diuretic effects are. Congeners are responsible for more intensive hangovers. Congeners are substances other than desired alcohol, ethanol, produced during fermentation. Congeners include a small amount of undesired substances like methanol, acetone, acetaldehyde, esters, and aldehydes. They are responsible for the taste and odor of distilled alcoholic beverages. Whiskey, tequila has a high amount of congeners whereas colorless drinks like vodka, gin rum have low levels of congeners. Bourbon whiskey has an exceptionally high amount of congeners preset while vodka contains almost none. Alcohol contributes to hangovers through following ways-

  • Diuretic- Alcohol is diuretic and therefore makes you pee often, thus getting dehydrated after a drink is highly likely. Dehydration is the reason behind dizziness, headaches.
  • Electrolyte imbalance- ALcohol causes an imbalance of electrolytes in the body due to excess fluid loss causing headaches, irritability, weakness.
  • Hypoglycemia- Alcohol limits the production of glucose production in the body, causing fatigue, dizziness, and irritability.
  • Difficulty sleeping- Although alcohol induces sleeping but hinders high-quality sleep and thus making you drowsier the following day.

These symptoms differ from person to person. Most hangovers go on their own within 24 hours no matter how unpleasant they may seem. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do nothing to alleviate yourself from the post-party symptoms.

  • Eggs- Eggs are a 5-star brunch for some reason. Full of Vitamin B-12 and amino acids like cysteine and taurine. Cysteine helps flush acetaldehyde from the body, one of the congener. While taurin helps bolster your liver keeping you energized.
  • Potassium- Foods rich in potassium help you get energized since potassium is a vulnerable electrolyte when you are getting a booze. Bananas, avocados, dates are rich source of potassium.
  • Carbs- Need instant energy? What’s good than carbs. They raise blood sugar without roiling up your stomach helping relieve hangover.
  • Cereals- Packed with essential nutrients like VitaminsB, calcium, magnesium that help you perk you up.
  • Water- Since alcohol is diuretic, therefore replenishing the water before bed or in the morning can prevent hangover. Take slow sips or nibble an ice cube.
  • Tea- Ginger or Peppermint along with herbal tea could help your stomach to soothe.
  • Soda- Grab a soda as soda breaks down acetaldehyde and other nausea causing byproducts formed after liver metabolizes ethanol.

Unfortunately no scientific cure is present to cure hangover. But some foods might certainly help you mitigate its effects. Also since every person is unique and therefore cures too. Use your intuition and hear your gut.

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Science

Science is the systematic study of observations in order to acquire knowledge and forming empirical methods about the physical and biological world. Earlier in pre-scientific times, people were more likely to believe in magical and supernatural explanations for natural phenomena like eclipses, earthquakes, thunderstorms, etc. By contrast, scientifically minded people looked out for reasons to figure out the natural world through testing and observation. But Skeptics often question, why science can’t explain all the natural phenomena happening around the world? But, we need to keep it in mind that science is not magic, it couldn’t solve humanity’s problems but sure is the most powerful method for acquiring knowledge about the observable universe. Some of the essential elements of science are-

  • Systematic observation- Scientists observe, record, and measure the data systematically. Recording the data is necessary so that our memory biases are not able to creep in.
  • Observations lead to hypothesis- Hypothesis and theories are such to be stated that they could be tested. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary pieces of evidence.
  • Democratic- Nowadays science has gone democratic, earlier people were willing to accept the views of their kings, pharaohs, or priests. But itis not so, nowadays it doesn’t matter how reputable one is if their theories do not conform to the data, it is invalid. Earlier scientists like Copernicus, Galileo faced discrimination, because of the autocracy of the priests of the church.
  • Cumulative- Science is cumulative. Today a physics student or chemistry would know more than Newton, Rutherford could ever know, despite being eminent scientists of their time. This is so because we learn from earlier advances, so as to build on them and move farther along the path of knowledge.
  • Relevant- It is related to reality rather than floating in space. 
  • Consistent- Science is consistent. It has consequences, answers relevant questions, and pursues promising leads.

There are many people who have made substantial positive contributions to humanity in modern times. Exempli Gratia, Dr. Edward Jenner, often considered the father of immunology since he was first to conceive of and test vaccines. His pioneering work led directly to the eradication of smallpox. Fritz Haber and Norman Borlaug created The Green revolution by producing hybrid agricultural crops and synthetic fertilizers due to which we are able to meet the needs of seven billion people on people. The starvation caused is due to the political and economic factors rather our collective ability to produce food. Earlier there were fewer cars, telephones, refrigeration or electricity but now tables have just turned. 80% of the population has televisions, 84% have access to electricity all thanks to the scientific community and their inventions. Average life expectancy has substantially increased from 47 years in the 90s to 75+ years in the contemporary world. Even average IQ has also been increased due to better schooling and nutrition. All these advances are going to continue, there would be no saturation in the foreseeable future. In a civilized society democracy is prevalent in every field, be it science or any other. Therefore people should be able to take criticism and not be ignorant and contribute most to the society rather than blindly following rituals that have been there for ages.

It won’t be tangible to talk about all the feats of science in such a short space and time. Science is vast than we could imagine, therefore we should introspect into our lives and look for ways in which we can contribute to it.

History of Psychology

Psychology is an exciting field because we have explored deep beneath the oceans, above the skies but we haven’t explored ourselves. Since every person is unique therefore this branch of science is challenging than any other. And knowing the history of the field helps to make sense from where it has grown and developed. History is very crucial for understanding something. Whether you are meeting someone for the first time seeing a physician, talking to a counselor, or applying for a job, everything starts with history. the history of psychology has no definite answer, some say it started with ancient Greece, some trace it back to the 19th century when psychology was formally proposed and instituted. Precursors to psychology could be found in philosophy and physiology. In the early 1800s, these principles were taught as courses on mental and moral philosophy that taught mind based on the faculties of intellect, wills, and senses. Philosophical questions about the nature of mind and knowledge were matched in the 19th century by physiological investigations of the sensory systems of the human observer. German physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) measured the speed of the neural impulse and explored the physiology of hearing and vision which indicated that our senses can deceive us and are not a mirror of the external world. This showed that even though the human senses are fallible, the mind could be measured using the methods of science. An important implication of his work was that physical reality and psychological reality are distinctive. The question of the relationship between mental and material was investigated by several German Researchers called psychophysics, which would serve as the basis for the new science of psychology. But the formal development of modern psychology was credited to a German physician, psychologist, and philosopher Wilhem Wuhnt. The researches conducted by Wilhelm attracted students from across the globe to study experimental psychology. On such student, Edward Bradford Titchener brought this idea to America and named it “structuralism”. Structuralists were interested in the contents of the mind. While structuralists were expanding in America, others like William James inspired by Darwin’s evolutionary theory formed “functionalists” who were interested in activities of the mind. Opposed to the idea of Titchener, James believed consciousness is continuous and cannot be reduced to elements. Consciousness helps us to adapt to the environment, make decisions, and have personal responsibility for the choices.  Throughout the first half of the 20th century, psychology continued to grow and flourish, one good example was Gestalt psychology whose perspective is “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Most of the practitioners of Gestalt psychology were Jewish and were forced to flee Germany during the Nazi Regime. They came to America where they demonstrated their new audience how Gestalt could be used to perception and learning and thus could be said as the precursor to the rise of cognitive psychology. Behaviorism emerged early in the 20th century Championed by psychologists such as John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner, it rejected any reference to mind and viewed overt and observable behavior as the proper subject matter of psychology. For decades behaviorism dominated American psychology. Modern intelligence tests were developed by the French psychologist Alfred Binet whose goal was to develop a test that would identify schoolchildren in need of educational support. His test, included tasks of reasoning and problem solving, was introduced in the United States by Henry Goddard and later standardized by Lewis Terman at Stanford University.  Clinical psychology was also an early application of experimental psychology in America. Lightner Whitmer, a Ph.D. in experimental psychology believed that because psychology dealt with the study of sensation and perception, it should be of value in treating children with learning and behavioral problems. He is credited as the founder of both clinical and school psychology.  Given that psychology deals with the human condition, it wouldn’t be surprising that psychologists would involve themselves in social issues  Helen Thompson Woolley and Leta S. Hollingworth were pioneers in research on the psychology of sex differences who proved that emotions didn’t influence women’s more than men nor menstruation. Among the first generation of African American psychologists, Mamie Phipps Clark and her husband Kenneth Clark studied the psychology of race and demonstrated how school segregation negatively impacted the self-esteem of African American children. 

It wouldn’t be possible to mention the rich history of psychology in such a short space, thus omissions and errors are plausible. This brief history provides some glimpse of the history of psychology, hoping for you to see connections and have an appreciation for both unity and diversity of the field of psychology.

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Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting yourself cyber-attacks, that are targeted to access, change, steal away your inestimable information. The information could be used to extort money, interrupt normal business, or intrude elections. It is challenging because now technology can reach out to the common people far easier than ever before, the amount of data transferring over the internet is unprecedented. Even governments, military, corporates organizations are collecting your precious data for your good as they say. A significant amount of this data is sensitive and if bad guys have access to it, this could be used in many malevolent ways. People are relying more and more upon the internet, for a business, a better lifestyle, but nothing is free. The lucidity comes with a cost. With the data getting bulkier getting every moment, leaks are always possible and you could not protect yourself against attacks due to leaks. The data transferred over the internet is encrypted with keys about which only the sender and receiver know about it. The fight is to secure the key either by increasing the length of key or introducing as much randomization as possible. Both these ways have their limitations. Longer key makes the transfer speed slow and also the CPU has to do more work making the system slow. While randomization because the ways to randomize are limited. Some ciphers used to encrypt are-

  • Substitution Cipher
  • Caesar cipher
  • Monoalphabetic cipher
  • Polyalphabetic cipher
  • Vigener cipher

But the limitations of many ciphers is that key size is small which makes them susceptible to brute force attack. Brute force attacks are attempts to create every possible key by trying each and every permutation. This is a last resort for the hackers since it is tedious and time taking.Some cybersecurity threats are- 

  • Phishing- The practice of sending fraudulent emails that seem authentic but are designed to steal away the login data or credit card information. The data entered is transferred to the fraud address rather than the authentic address.
  • Side-channel attacks- Side-channel attacks are determined to extract information that devices are leaking out. Everything around us is now digital, which relies on electricity, and we all know that magnetism is complementary to electricity. We send data packets over the internet that interferes with the magnetic fields of those appliances which in turn affects the electrical appliance, we are not sensitive to the changes that are caused due to this but other electronic appliances are. Types of equipment are engineered to read the variation caused which could be used to read inside the data packet or use it to read the keys. Also, the vibrations in the mechanical parts of the devices cause an acoustic noise called ‘coiled whine’ which is in sync with the computation going on. Since cryptoanalysts design secure pathways by making some assumptions, but hackers violate those assumptions to ease off their tasks of ramming into the gates of cryptography.
  • Malware- Softwares like viruses, trojans, or spyware designed to gain unauthorized access and cause damage to the system. 
  • Ransomware- Most notorious as it blocks access to the file or the system until the Ransom is paid. The main problem is, paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee access to the files or the system.
  • Social engineering- This attack relies on human interaction. The users are tricked to leak their personal and sensitive data themselves most common being romance scams. Where attackers disguised as users of chat rooms, dating sites trick the victim to leak their data.

The systems used are not secure since they are antiquated. With the advancements in technology, the attackers have enhanced themselves but not the systems used by institutions due to financial obstructions. In 2014, a blast furnace of the German steel plant was shut down remotely by hackers that led to massive damage. Authorities suggested hackers used phishing as well as social engineering to infiltrate the plant. Wannacry the most notorious of the ransom wares recently hit the world hard leaving many banks, health infrastructures aghast. A report published by Group-IB in February 2020 suggested that credit card details of 460,000 users were put on sale on the dark web. many of those details have been collected through bank portals. You can’t defend yourself from being attacked, all you can do is be vigil. Don’t open up spam emails, use credit cards and debit cards judiciously, and never try to leak your data. These steps won’t ensure you being protected from cyberthreats but sure could make you a less appetizing prey. 

Sleep deprivation

Sleep, the most magical and vital activity of living creatures. It is like putting your body in energy-saving mode just as you do with your cell phone after hours of usage. The brain is convoluted, despite technological advancements no one has been able to unfurl the working of it. The rudimentary knowledge of the brain indicates that it needs a certain amount of sleep. This time is utilized by the body to build up the immune system, process information, resetting the body before a new day begins. Analogous to clearing the cache, you don’t forget/erase the memory but performance enhances due to the deletion of certain irrelevant data. Since all humans are unique therefore the demand for sleep is also variable. It is suggested to get 8 hours of sleep at night, but some get satisfied with 4-6 hours only. With the rush introduced in our lifestyle, many are forced to give up their sleep, consciously, or unconsciously. As said, nothing is free, Sleep deprivation also comes with its own costs. Sleep deprivation can lead to-

  • Skin issues- Visible wrinkles, fine lines, uneven skin tone, imbalanced moisture level, decreased pH levels, under-eye bags, dark circles. These are some of the most prevalent problems which could be resolved easily without buying those expensive creams.
  • Forgetfulness- Sleep resets the body, preserving the relevant information and dumping the irrelevant ones. Without sleep, the rearrangement is not possible, making a hodgepodge, reducing efficiency.
  • Respiratory issues- Sleep deprivation makes the body susceptible to flu and the common cold. These days this could lead you to in great problem.
  • Weight gain- The reduced level of leptin and an increase in ghrelin leads to a craving for pre-bedtime snacks.
  • Lower sex drive- Testosterone level in healthy young males can plunge by 10-15%. Women who are victims of sleep deprivation feel less aroused as compared to those who aren’t. 
  • Heart problems- Increased stress levels, decreased motivation to be physically active, the release of chemicals is alleged reasons behind inducing heart diseases in sleep-deprived. As the studies are still in the embryonic stage therefore nothing could be said for sure. 
  • Compromised Immune system- During sleep immune system releases cytokines that promote sleep as well as are required to fight off infection. But due to sleep deprivation, stress creeps along with adrenaline. This decreases the efficiency of the T-cells to fight off infection.
  • Diabetes- Insulin production dives down causing sugar levels to spike. Thereby increasing the chances of Type-2 Diabetes.
  • Mood swings- The restlessness, stress causes mood swings, irritability, paranoia, and in worst cases schizophrenia.

Some of the culprits include Insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, circadian sleep rhythm disorder. The visible symptoms include fatigue, irritability, frequent yawning, excessive sleepiness. If left untreated psychological symptoms come into play like anxiety, impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia, in worst cases suicidal thoughts.The 8hour night sleep is termed as beauty sleep because of many reasons. Sleep keeps you sane, try to achieve it while possible. Keep away your smartphone, stop doomscrolling, limit your alcohol, tobacco intake.

Toxic Relationships

Human beings like to be emotionally and physically close to each other. As said, “Sharing is caring” life seems better shared. Relationships like most of the things require continuous efforts, even the best of them. After all, nobody is perfect, not your close friends, not your significant other and not even your parents and they also do not see you as perfect. We have to learn to accommodate to the circumstances and adapt to their faults, moods as they do for us. Since we aren’t clones rather individuals, therefore, difficulties are faced in maintaining relationships due to disagreements. Some individuals have to face more difficulties while others do not. But since we value relationships we are determined to uphold it whatever it takes. But some relationships turn toxic, which is characterized by toxic partners who emotionally and not infrequently physically be damaging to their partner. A toxic relationship has the potential, if not corrected to be extremely harmful to the well-being of the individuals. As a healthy relationship contributes to self-esteem and emotional energy a toxic one damages self-esteem and drains the energy. But this doesn’t mean that every toxic relationship is hopeless, they just require substantial and convoluted work in order to be converted into something healthy. A healthy relationship involves mutual caring, respect, compassion, a shared desire for each other’s happiness. In a healthy relationship, one doesn’t fear to be who he/she is, a place to be comfortable and secure, a sanctity. On the other hand, a toxic relationship is demanding, craves insecurity, dominance. One risks losing the very essence of oneself by being in such a relationship. It takes two people for a relationship, so both of them should be examined. Initially, the behavior of toxic one is being noticed but the recipient of the behavior should also be studied. It should be questioned why an adult needs to stay in a relationship that could potentially harm them physically and emotionally? Even a good relationship could have times that could be marked as toxic after all no one is perfect. The toxic partner engages in inappropriate controlling and manipulation on an almost daily basis but paradoxically for the world, they would be exemplar. This behavior is observed in the toxic individual because they want supremacy, crave control, power in his/her relationship. Some types of toxic relationships are-

  • The belitter- Such type of toxic partner would always belittle you, even in front of your friends, family, and even after you confronting him/her that such behavior induces pain in you. They would mock all of your decisions, undermining your self-esteem making you weak emotionally. They would also tell you that you’re lucky to have them in your life, you are unworthy of anything good and should adore whatever you’ve got.
  • The splenetic- Such partners are eager to lose temper in order to feel the power. The recipient ultimately gives up arguing and bowing down to the needs of the partner. You would feel like walking on an eggshell if you have one of such partners. Your partner would blame such behavior on you. The constant vigilance and inability to find out the trigger drains the energy in you, wearing you mentally and emotionally.
  • The degrader- Such partners would induce guilt in you. They can make you feel guilty whenever they feel like or whenever you don’t live up to their expectations. But whenever you do something they like they temporarily remove the guilt which is addictive as a guilt-ridden person only wants the guilt to be removed. Unfortunately, such behavior is used by grownups to control their adult children.
  • The overreactor- It is said that pain reduces when shared but it is not so in case of having a partner who is overreactor. Whenever you try to reach your partner to tell them about your insecurities, problems, they would bring their own problem, and you end up consoling them instead of being consoled. Such behavior adversely impacts your mental well-being because you never get consoled.
  • The maverick- “Noone’s gonna control me” is their sole moto. They are spontaneous and never keep their promise. You can’t even be sure whether they are evasive or committed. This makes the recipient anxious which deteriorates their mental and emotional health.

Since no one is perfect therefore now could see such behavior at some point in the relationship, but this doesn’t mean that the toxicity has crept in. Some things need to work put to keep such behaviors at bay.

Doomscrolling

Doomscrolling is the act of endless scrolling of one’s news apps or social media apps and reading bad news. Although a problem existing since pre-COVID times, but the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. According to a new research conducted by the Pew Research Centre survey, 53% of adults say that the Internet has become “essential” during the pandemic. Twitter’s daily use numbers are up by 24% and Facebook’s numbers by 27% as shown by data analysis. With an emphasis on work from home, government updates, and making sure our loved ones are alive, mandates the use of the internet more than ever. With the advent of cheap internet and in an effort to make information accessible to all, many news sources are providing information on COVID for free. This ensures fewer barriers to being informed but simultaneously bolsters the abundance of doomsday headlines. Doomsday headlines inflict panic, anxiety in the reader, which in turn forces more screen time in the hope of finding some good news and finding solace. Thus the internet dictates what’s important rather the other way round. Checking the news feed for extra hours won’t hold the apocalypse but surely would make you psychologically weaker to face it. Already social media was being questioned about its net benefits in pre-COVID times as it was shown that social media bolsters the advent of anxiety and depression in its users,  global-pandemic and civil unrest have just exacerbated the situations. Feeling informed in such a volatile environment may be good, but being overwhelmed by tragedy serves no purpose. Many people think that staying updated on the situation would keep them safer but they don’t realize the fact that the consumption of bad news only leads to greater fear, anxiety, and stress. Instead one could try some habits in order to get rid of this malicious and vicious ‘unsatisfying addiction’.

  • Finding your voice in niche communities could help you a lot in overcoming the stress and reinforcing your emotional well-being. And these communities do not include social media communities. But remember if in the group if your voice feels another comment in-crowd, that might be not your place.
  • Sticking to sites that help you feel creative and empowered are good places to be. The Internet proves to be a space for expressing versions of ourselves. So why not do it while also enjoying instead of following the crowd.
  • Need social media? Use desktop versions of them, bookmarking the pages, groups or accounts so as to avoid falling in the trap of scrolling.
  • Dedicate some time for the do-good feel-good. Reviewing the businesses out there providing essential services could be a great way to make the most of your time. Restaurant owners, authors, small-business owners love your reviews, especially good ones.
  • Acquire a new skill, be it learning another language, drawing, coding, cooking, or whatever you feel like. This not only boosts our mental health but also distracts you from the bad news thereby providing serenity.
  • Cut back and create boundaries for social media use. Get to know the limit of your body and brain. If you are feeling agitated, anxious or stressed, put away your phone as your body is signaling you to stop.

Multilingualism

Multilingualism a skill set exhibited by two-third of the population still is seriously misunderstood. It is a common belief that learning another language is just a waste of time, children should focus more on cramming books rather than exploring. It is also said that learning another language is of no use if the child/person speaks the language of the majority as this skill would not help to reap financial rewards. Many people also believe that being multilingual could confuse the child and lower their cognitive abilities. Such claims are false as learning another not only helps to flex our mind muscles but also increases our cognitive capabilities, better problem-solving skills, and also improves learning capabilities. Just like exercise is important for toning the body and enhancing its capabilities, similarly learning a language is the exercise which the brain requires in order to tone itself. Empirical studies have shown that multilingualism has great positive impacts on the gray matter of the brain. Language carries cultures, traditions, and thus able to speak more than one language enables one to take multiple sensibilities, tastes, and possibly even identities. Studies were carried out on bilingual women who could speak Japanese and English by psycholinguist Ervin-Tripp who found out that when given the same opening statements in different languages had different endings. This concluded that thought occurs in language, therefore knowledge of more languages refines the thought process too. Bilinguals tend to make more rational decisions because language contains nuance and subtle implications that influence your judgment subconsciously. Multilingualism is not a new skill rather it has been there for ages, aboriginal hunter-gatherers survived because they could understand and convey through their as well as other’s community, to know about the possible dangers lurking around. The rule used to be that one mustn’t marry anyone in the same tribe or clan to have a child. Marrying within one’s clan used to be taboo. The part of the brain that manages the cognitive skills is the ACC ( anterior cingulate cortex)  or the executive system. ACC is located on the frontal lobe that enables us to concentrate on one task while blocking out competing information. Learning languages developed this part, therefore, enhancing cognitive skills. Multilingualism also delays mental decline in old age, slows down the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Bilinguals who tend to develop Alzheimer’s tend to display less decay in cognitive abilities than monolinguals patients. It is also assumed that multilingual speak each of their languages equally. This is amusing as well as tragic because no matter how long you have been studying a language if you don’t use it around you might forget it. Learning language is as fun as it is useful therefore everyone should give it a shot. Find ways to learn languages, there is an ample amount of sources to learn languages online, and with the world connected better than ever, it has gone too lucid. 

до свидания 

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Indoor plants

We all know, how plants are helpful to us, why are they vital. With the rise in carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, the only way to tackle it is by, either reducing the emissions which seem implausible due to industrialization, or the other is by planting more trees, which comes with its problem of land use. But plants can also be planted indoors, which is a pretty efficient way to keep pollution outside the boundary walls of the home. Not only the pollution from outside but, several VOCs like formaldehyde from furnishings, carpets, paints, etc.  With so many people coming to cities for better jobs, a better lifestyle, lands for trees have become sparse. Indoor plants don’t only help in relating pollution inside the house, but also helps to boost the members of the house emotionally and mentally. Plants promote mindfulness, calmness, serenity because plants tend to make you care for the moment instead of the rest of the world. Plants also remind us to keep moving, as different plants have different needs, and caring for them requires learning about their different peculiarities.  Also, they provide “low expectation” companionship, reaching friends or family can’t be feasible all times so a partner whom you can talk whenever you like to, is not bad, they never sound judgy or tell whatever you are feeling is true or not. In totality, indoor plants can’t do any possible harm except for occupying some space of your room and some time, but it could be worth it. The positive outcomes vanquish the negatives by a large difference. Some of the indoor plants that everyone should try on are listed below.

Snake plant (Sansevieria)- Also known as the mother-in-law’s tongue, this gorgeous multi-hued leaved plant is a great health booster and can thrive in low light too and prefers drier conditions. It absorbs carbon dioxide and release oxygen even at night and is also helpful in absorbing toxins like formaldehyde and benzene.

Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema)- Its beautiful two-toned leaves are hard to miss and comes in different varieties. This beauty needs a warm and moist climate to prosper, and a moderate temperature year-round.

Lucky bamboo (Dracena Sanderiana)- Popular in Feng shui, can survive in soil or water alone and prefer a moderate amount of indirect sunlight. Good for decorative purposes but its leaves are slightly toxic, thus should be kept away from children and pets.

Monstera (Monstera deliciosa)- Also called the Swiss Cheese plant because of its glossy tropical holed leaves. Due to its enormous size, it requires slightly large spaces to thrive. But provided with moderate temperature and low light ensures content plant. The beauty comes with a cost as it is poisonous so it is advised to keep pets and youngsters away.

Arrowhead plant (Syngonium podophyllum)- The leaves change shape as they grow and thus provides with great varieties. The vines are often used for indoor hanging baskets but could be trained to grow on poles. Isn’t picky about light but of water, remember never to overwater else you would be left with an unhappy plant.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)- They prefer to clean the air with high humidity and indirect sunlight, easy to grow and needs watering once a month.

Aloe Vera- The multitasker. While planted helps to clean the environment by absorbing toxins. Also, it’s leaves contain a gel full of vitamins, enzymes, Amino Acids that have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties.

Science- past and present

There is a persistent strain of thinking in the popular culture that certain human artifacts are too complex or sophisticated to have been created by ancient cultures, so they are more likely to be evidence of visits from advanced extraterrestrial beings. But the problem with this hypothesis is that it denigrates the capabilities of ancient cultures, who did build the pyramids and other impressive structures like Stonehenge with fairly simple technology. We have learned over the years how they did it, so there are no mysteries there. Carl Sagan once said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” While astronomers are confident there are many habitable Earth-like worlds in the Milky Way, there is no evidence yet of life on any of them, and certainly no evidence of advanced technological civilizations. To believe that we had been visited in this way, the bar of evidence must be set high. Ambiguous evidence or vague historical records that can be interpreted in several ways are not sufficient. It would take unambiguous physical evidence to convince astronomers, evidence that could be independently inspected by many scientists, evidence that could not be explained in any other way. There might be aliens lurking around the universe or keeping an eye on us as claimed, but there are no such shreds of evidence at present to bolster this hypothesis. People in antiquated times used stars as their GPS, calendar, etc. They didn’t have technology like us, so they had to study stars and their motions in order to locate themselves, know the harvesting and sowing time. Structures like pyramids, Stonehenge, are surely great and enchanting structures, the sheer meticulous nature of the structure is a marvel, but they weren’t built in one night. As it is said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” these structures took lots of engineering minds and lots of trials. These weren’t the first to be built, rather one in a series who stood tall. They needed a lot of improvisations to look the way they are now. Also, the pharaohs for whom the pyramids were built, were merciless who enslaved people to build such marvelous structures, because they believed that these structures would carry them to heaven. But subconsciously they only wanted recognition even after they have been long gone, what better than such a creative idea to build structures that would stand tall against everything till eternity and would become a place of a visit, with their names engraved in it. More research is certainly required for many antique structures but claiming that these were built by aliens without any proof rather on the base that science is not able to prove them being built by humans is certainly puerile. Because believing in such claims hinders the path of curiosity and science. Instead of believing any superficial answer, question everything and don’t believe in claims rather theories. 

Police encounters

Police encounters, are they to be celebrated, are they an act of bravery or just oppression of weak? It is a question that needs an answer. We all know that encounters are an act of bravery, but we forget that the one encountered also had their rights, as humans. People have now forgotten that “An eye for an eye leaves the world blind.” Many are times are there arguments that those are criminals who have done heinous crimes, but if those have done crimes, then it is the duty of the judiciary to adjudicate. Encounters just bypass the system, legal procedures to provide them with instant justice. As responsible citizens, we should demand a fair inquiry about the encounter but the public nowadays endorse encounters without differentiation, it doesn’t matter to people if the encounter was fake or real. A major role is played by the film industry in making such a mindset of people, many movies picture vigilantes instead of police. Vigilantes surely could be heroes for some, but in the dress of police, they won’t be less than monsters. Because police are there to ensure law not to break them, at least publicly. They are role models, if they act as vigilantes, the day won’t be far when we would be living in a society of vigilantes that won’t do any good. Encounters violate the Indian constitution’s Article 21, which deliberately states that,  “No person will be deprived of his life or personal liberty except in accordance with the procedure established by law “. If the guards of the constitution violate it, how can society be trusted to uphold it? Often arguments are provided by police is that these were dreaded criminals against whom no one would dare to provide evidence, but this philosophy is too flawed to be accepted as true. As we all know, India is one of the countries that are awarded the honor of most corrupt countries. So to get rid of a rival, such philosophies are present corruption scenarios could be used. Even the Supreme court of India acknowledged the cold-blooded murders enshrouded behind the encounters. In Prakash Kadam vs Ramprasad Vishwanath Gupta paragraph 26 of the judgment, says, “ Trigger happy policemen who think they can kill people in the name of ‘encounter’ and get away with it should know that the gallows await them”. Whether it is the encounter of ferocious Vikas Dubey, Kanpur, or the Hyderabad encounter where the police were garlanded, the scripting of the encounters couldn’t hide, because of the fact that the script was not at all as they know, no one would raise questions except for a small group which could be silenced through the “Anti-National” ammunition. These are people who have been charged for heinous crimes but, they didn’t get a fair chance to counsel, to prove their point, to raise the shroud from the officials who helped them reach such heights. Vikas Duby had 60 criminal cases against him, no ordinary person could even dare to have even 1 case against him. He murdered 8 police personnel, no commoner could even dare to get in a verbal feud with an official. This could have been possible only if he also had a godfather to look after his deeds. But due to the encounter, the nexus behind couldn’t come in limelight and is still functioning. This encounter did more harm than good to the society and similarly, several other encounters, undermine the foundation of the society without even the societal members noticing it, instead garlanding them, endorsing them. The celebration of such extra-judicial killings, endorsement by the pop culture and politicians should be questioned by the society, else it won’t be far when a near and dear to you could be having the same fate.

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India- post Corona

The world has felt a devastating shockwave of the coronavirus, COVID19 a mild and heavily contagious disease has been spreading out in the world and humans have faced their first pandemic. COVID19 is a mild disease for all except for people with comorbidities and the elderly. Therefore to prevent the spread of the disease, nationwide lockdowns had been imposed across the globe, but the poor is like Jon Snow, who knows nothing except for hunger. They have been deprived of their daily bread and not only that, but the nation’s GDP has also registered a steep decline. The developing nations have been affected devastatingly, the pandemic coupled with already present crippling health infrastructure has left nations with no other options than lockdown. Amid pandemic huge numbers of jobs were lost with many shops closed, many economies sank has left a deep emotional impact on the minds. A 10% negative growth for any developing or underdeveloped country like Benin is far worse than a 10% negative growth for any developed country like the USA or UK. But yet as the saying goes “It may be stormy now, but rain doesn’t last forever”, many western countries and China have started their daily chores trying to keep afloat the economy. India also has an opportunity to re-imagine and re-architect the archaic systems. The volatile geopolitics of today’s world could prove to be a golden opportunity for India. This pandemic has caused a lot of troubles for China and it means a golden opportunity for India to bag. With the US playing US and allies vs China and allies, India needs to have a long term strategy that determines its long term goals. Being a gofer for any of the power would not prove conducive for strong stature. Also as the recession is being predicted for 2020, a steep recovery follows it. Statisticians believe that projected growth would be much higher than that of 2019 for any country if policy taken around the world are effective. Work from home has become the new normal and therefore it would irrefutably continue post-pandemic. With most office spaces left empty could be used to settle in the growing population. But as digital technology advances many can cope up with the advancements but many are left behind. A new inequality has come into existence, technically it has not come into existence, it was there since the start of the digital age but now it is more telling, as more and more people have to rely on digital sources. Also, the aviation and tourism industries being among the worst affected would travel back in time to 2011-12, with little chance s of revival because of the skepticism within the population. Pandemic has boosted the demand for online streaming platforms and thus most multiplexes, cinema halls are going to say goodbye. As the construction sector has taken a huge toll, the revival of the industry could be bolstered through green constructions. Governments should incentivize more and more green buildings, as during the lockdown world has seen a cleaner and eco-friendly environment. COVID-19 has provided a moment to pause and introspect, it has shown the advantage of living harmoniously with nature. We need to adapt to the situation as COVID-19 is going to stay with us for some time. During this time altruist in most of the people has come into existence, thus it could be said that human relations will increase. Also, people now know how little they need to survive, the importance of familial relations, hygiene. Although not sure of human relations, since humans are way unpredictable, but just hope for the best. Above all most of the international organizations that have failed us in the pandemic would be restructured. Woodrow Wilson emerged as the first world leader after WWI, afterward Franklin D Roosevelt and post-pandemic would be the time to choose another world leader. Whether India would emerge as one is a question that still needs an answer. Till you find it out, stay safe, use sanitizers and masks.

Solar Energy a solution?

Over the last decade, solar energy seems to be an outstanding investment for people abroad. This trend is gradually taking place in India also, a solar power plant 750MW was inaugurated in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh on July 10th, 2020 by Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi through video conferencing. Several other power plants show promising results in reducing the carbon footprint by approximately 15 lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. This shows India’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprints. The advocates of Non-Conventional energy Resources usually emphasize Solar Energy as the panacea. But is it this way or there is some bigger demon lurking out there? Solar power plants have some major drawbacks associated with them, decreasing the carbon footprint level is irrefutably a major advantage but a coin always has two sides, and therefore solar power plants have their drawbacks. The foremost drawback is the associated higher initial cost is one of a limitation and therefore people are reluctant to install in their homes. The cumulative cost of solar panels is staggering. Also, solar plants need a lot of land for installation, Rewa power plant India’s 4th largest plant covers 1500 hectares land. Although being located in a drought-hit area still has several complications of its own like disturbing the delicate ecosystems and species. Birds flying atop plants get incinerated, some crash into panels and other infrastructure. Many science believe that such large conglomeration of panels does more harm than good, it’s better to have rooftop panels rather than solar farms. Still, academic research is going on, and therefore nothing can be said for sure. Although they have low maintenance still some problems can creep in, as nothing is foolproof. Some common defects include microcracking, delamination, internal corrosion. Microcracks are cracks invisible to the human eye but weathering effects show telling effects. Due to these cracks moisture creeps in, cause delamination and corrosion of the internal components, thereby attenuating the panel. Solar panels might be seen as a viable option in the deserts due to the low maintenance and huge input but they require water as a part of their maintenance due to the huge sunlight and dirt that accumulates on to them. Hot spots build at these spots causing the panel to overheat and to overcome the problem clean water is required to wash away the dirt. At places which are already fighting the battle for potable water, using waters at such farms seems implausible and unethical. While solar farms don’t have any associated greenhouse emissions during the production of energy, but still the emissions during the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, decommissioning need to be considered.
To bring down the carbon emissions to compelling values governments should provide incentives for solar installations and those incentives should reach the consumer rather than being used up in bureaucratic friction. Since this technology is still embryonic, researches are still going therefore it won’t be wise to comment. But looking at the aforementioned points it is wise to have rooftops solar panels rather than solar farms.

Photo by Ryan Searle on Unsplash

India – today

The world has taken a huge toll on the pandemic. COVID19 has left the nations crippling, whether it be their health infrastructure, economic sectors, or manpower. The global lockdown imposed has irrefutably slowed the spread of the disease but had a humongous cost paid by the common people. The health infrastructure has been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of victims and at the same time, the global economy has shown an unprecedented plunge. Developing nations are on the frontline of facing the wrath of the pandemic. Already lass with feeble health infrastructure, slow growth of the GDP, and a colossal amount of informal sector workers, India is one of them. All of its sectors have been devastatingly hit by the pandemic except for the medical industry (in terms of capital gains). At the beginning of the year IMF already projected a truncated growth for India and now due to the lockdown imposed the situation seems to worsen than being reported. A report published by the  National Restaurant Association of India’s (NRAI) Food Services in 2019, hospitality was one of the most promising sectors but still, in a recent press release, they called the recent crisis as  “a battle to retain our mere existence.” Restaurants are already a high-risk business because the landlords demand a fixed rent which along with manpower consumes 40-45% of the restaurant’s revenue. Another problem is due to the foodservice aggregators since they charge as high as 20-30% of the commission and thus can be termed as digital landlords. Foodservice aggregators pose a threat not only to the restaurant owners but also to the delivery boys. Already they were crushed down by the targets provided by the companies and now in such volatile situations, they are doing a hard time to make ends meet. Already many restaurants are shut down because of their inability to pay rent and their workers due to the loss of confidence of customers. People are more skeptical than ever of the hygiene standards practiced by the shop. Moreover now restaurants have to focus more on the implementation of hygiene and physical distancing protocols and rebuilding confidence at the same time. Practicing social distancing in coffee shops, restaurants is implausible because going out to such places is itself a social exercise. To enjoy solitude, one would go to the most crowded coffee shop because humans are social animals, we enjoy the company of people. The night life, pubs and bars have also being affected indiscriminately, the restaurants have been provided with a slight relaxation by opening up but the pubs still don’t have the permission to operate thus heavily impacting the industry. 2 months of permanent lockdown and intermittent lockdowns have hugely impacted the day time industries but the night time is still at its lowest, they are unable to operate even after 4 months into the pandemic. The construction structure was also one of the most promising sectors employing 49.5million people and this figure is the one which is registered (formal workers). Most of the job data is missing because of the informal workers so whatever figures you can see here, the real data is much higher and thus plight also is unseen and much devastating. As seen in the lockdown how these lifelines of the cities were left on their own. Due to the lockdown, most of the migrant workers returned home while walking on a path of thorns (literally) and they would like to stay at their homes rather than coming back to the cities  The real estate sector has also taken a great hit, already the sector was facing a crisis due to project delays, regulatory changes, and low sales in the last few years. And now due to the ongoing pandemic, most companies and organizations have proceeded to implement policies of zero contact meetings and no visitors which poses a great threat to the sector as no one wants to invest in an unsurveyed area. Many of the jobs are already lost and it is being predicted that the situation is going to worsen. People now believe that in tough times, home is a place where the safest environment is available Due to the unavailability of labor, the costs of building homes are going to shoot up, bringing more uncertainty with it. The manufacturing sector also saw a staggering loss, already the automobile sector was facing tremendous losses and now with the lockdown imposed the manufacturing units had to shut down. Some units that opened up after unlock, had to cut down their workforce to make their ends meet. Many of the employees have been credited with truncated salaries or no salaries at all for the months of lockdown. Many in the sector have been pressurized to ask for unpaid leaves and forced termination.We are living in a world of uncertainties more than ever, the volatile situation needs to be handled carefully and innovatively. Innovative measures, lessons from other countries who have revitalized their economy, ethics are required along with huge investments to get back on track if not grow. Doing all this with fingers crossed is the best we can do post-pandemic.

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