Indian scientists devise new technique to hasten rescue of air-crash victims

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hasten rescue of air-crash victims

In a technique that could be of immense global interest, Indian scientists have devised a method to not only predict the time a plane will hit the ground after losing contact but also the probable crash site. This finding is particularly relevant in the light of the mysterious disappearance of MH370, the Malaysian Airlines plane that vanished without a trace exactly two months ago with 227 passengers and 14 crew members.
“We have been working on this problem much before the MH370 accident,” Thirumalachetty Harinarayana, director of the Gujarat Energy Research & Management Institute (GERMI) here  said.
Details of the GEMRI study by Harinarayana and Manoj Siddhardha, an aerospace engineer at Coimbatore’s Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, have been published in the latest issue of International Journal of Engineering and Technical Research (IJETR).
The system simultaneously alerts the district administration, hospitals and police stations in the vicinity of the crash site besides suggesting the best route for the rescue teams to reach the crash site – all within seconds.
“Our study is focussed on Gujarat, which has 13 airports,” Harinarayana said. “Our model would enable quick location of the crash site in the event of an airplane disaster within Gujarat.”
He said that in order to provide this “alert service” all that the system requires is the cruising altitude of the plane, its speed, its scheduled route and its last known coordinates before losing contact.
“These parameters – which are readily available with the air traffic controller monitoring the airplane – are used to calculate the time taken by the plane to reach the ground,” he said.
In the next step, Geographic Information System (GIS) database is used to identify the probable crash site, Harinarayana explained. The researchers report that their system locates a crash site “within a few seconds with good accuracy” making it more reliable and faster than the existing search-and-rescue method that relies on signals from special radio transmitters – or black boxes – carried on board airplanes. According to Harinarayana, the new system has been successfully validated in four different cases of hypothetical plane crashes in Gujarat.

Soon, robotic handshake for long-distance greetings

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robotic handshake

Long-distance lovers may soon be able to hold hands while video chatting.
Japanese researchers are developing a warm and life-like robotic hand that allows you to shake or hold hands with the person at the other end of a video conference call.
The haptic robotic hand mimics the feel of a real human hand and is being developed by Hideyuki Nakanishi, an associate professor of adaptive machine systems at Osaka University, along with his colleagues Kazuaki Tanaka and Yuya Wada.
The system works with two robotic hands and a video teleconferencing system. Each person grasps a haptic robotic hand, which stands in for their own arms. Unlike other robotic hands, these are warm and lifelike, researchers said.
Each hand contains wires pulled by a servomotor, extending and contracting the fingers and thumb. A spring inside the wire generates a constant grip force.
The fingers are covered in urethane gel while the palm has urethane sponge to replicate the feeling of a real human hand, according to the researchers.
Nakanishi’s team had test subjects compare the robotic handshake with other scenarios, including one where the subject sees a presenter’s hand above the robotic one, and another without any robotics.
With the two-way robotic hand, subjects said they felt more like they were shaking hands with a friendly presenter in the same room. The team is presenting the system at the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Toronto.

New York City imposes strict e-cigarette ban

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Aban on electronic cigarettes went into effect on April 29 in New York restaurants, bars, parks, beaches and other public places.
A law was passed by the city council on December 19 and signed by former mayor Michael Bloomberg. It extends an already strict ban on tobacco smoking in public places in the metropolis, where even some residential buildings do not allow tenants to light up.
In a further unprecedented move for a major US city, retailers as of May 18 will no longer be allowed to sell tobacco products or e-cigarettes to anyone under 21.
Restrictions on the use of the battery powered devices in most indoor public places in Chicago also went into force.
In Los Angeles, meanwhile, lawmakers voted in March to ban e-cigarette use in public places where tobacco smoking is prohibited.
Marketed as aids to quit smoking, e-cigarettes allow users to inhale a nicotine-laced vapor. But experts say not enough is known about the effect of chemicals involved, both on smokers or those around them.
With regulation varying from state to state, federal US regulators last week proposed the first restrictions on the booming $2 billion e-cigarette market.
The new rules would bring e-cigarettes under many of the same rules that already apply to traditional cigarettes, including requiring sellers to enforce a minimum age restriction on those who wish to buy the products. E-cigarettes are popular among young people: a December study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 10 per cent of high school students had used them.

Now, make the perfect cup of tea in vacuum

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Have you always dreamed of brewing a rich and consistent glass of tea for yourself every morning? Are you too impatient to steep it in boiling water for several minutes the way that people have done for thousands of years? There’s now a high-tech tea brewing solution that can create the glass of your dreams faster than you may have ever hoped: Bkon’s upcoming Craft Brewer repeatedly infuses tea by sealing it in a vacuum, apparently allowing it to create the perfect glass in about a minute’s time.
Bkon says that by drawing air out of the tea’s brewing chamber, the leaves will quickly and thoroughly release flavorful gases and particles into the surrounding water. Its machine can perform several vacuum infusions over a single minute, and the timing and cycles can be changed based on what exactly you’re brewing. Bkon says the machine can be used for brewing coffee and making infused cocktails too, though the machine is distinctly built around use with tea leaves.
The machine isn’t on sale just yet, but it’s been in testing at a small number of cafes for a little while now, including Starbucks’ Teavana pilot store in New York. That’s probably your best bet for trying a glass of its supposedly perfectly brewed tea: according to Sprudge, the machine will cost around $13,000 when it eventually goes on sale, with an initial set of machines coming in June and a full production run coming in fall. Fortunately, there are other ways to a good glass of tea. As Bkon’s co-founder explained in a video demonstrating the machine’s capabilities last year, “It’s impossible to do this with any other method, other than a teapot, boiling water, and six minutes of time.”

New nonmaterial can allow electric vehicles to travel farther

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nonmaterial can allow electric vehicles

Scientists have used a powdery nanomaterial to extend the lifespan of lithium-sulfur batteries which could increase the driving range of electric vehicles.
Researchers added the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organi framework, to the battery’s cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges.
Researchers added the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organic framework, to the battery’s cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges.
“Lithium-sulfur batteries have the potential to power tomorrow’s electric vehicles, but they need to last longer after each charge and be able to be repeatedly recharged,” said materials chemist Jie Xiao of the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).
“Our metal organic framework may offer a new way to make that happen,” Xiao said.
Today’s electric vehicles are typically powered by lithium-ion batteries. But the chemistry of lithium-ion batteries limits how much energy they can store.
As a result, electric vehicle drivers are often anxious about how far they can go before needing to charge. One promising solution is the lithium-sulfur battery, which can hold as much as four times more energy per mass than lithium-ion batteries.
This would enable electric vehicles to drive farther on a single charge, as well as help store more renewable energy. The down side of lithium-sulfur batteries, however, is they have a much shorter lifespan because they can’t currently be charged as many times as lithium-ion batteries.
For this research, Xiao and her colleagues honed in on the cathode to stop polysulfides from moving through the electrolyte.
Many materials with tiny holes have been examined to physically trap polysulfides inside the cathode. Metal organic frameworks (MOF) are porous, but the added strength of PNNL’s material is its ability to strongly attract the polysulfide molecules.
The framework’s positively charged nickel centre tightly binds the polysulfide molecules to the cathodes. The result is a coordinate covalent bond that, when combined with the framework’s porous structure, causes the polysulfides to stay put.
During lab tests, a lithium-sulfur battery with PNNL’s MOF cathode maintained 89 per cent of its initial power capacity after 100 charge-and discharge cycles.  The study describing the material was published in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

End of Windows XP: Who all are at risk

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End of Windows XP

Microsoft will end support for the persistently popular Windows XP on Tuesday, and the move could put everything from the operations of heavy industry to the identities of everyday people in danger.
An estimated 30% of computers being used by businesses and consumers around the world are still running the 12-year-old operating system.
“What once was considered low-hanging fruit by hackers now has a big neon bull’s eye on it,” says Patrick Thomas, a security consultant at the San Jose, California-based firm Neohapsis.
Microsoft has released a handful of Windows operating systems since 2001, but XP’s popularity and the durability of the computers it was installed on kept it around longer than expected. Analysts say that if a PC is more than five years old, chances are it’s running XP.
While users can still run XP after Tuesday, Microsoft says it will no longer provide security updates, issue fixes to non-security related problems or offer online technical content updates. The company is discontinuing XP to focus on maintaining its newer operating systems, the core programs that run personal computers.
The Redmond, Washington-based company says it will provide anti-malware-related updates through July 14, 2015, but warns that the tweaks could be of limited help on an outdated operating system.
Most industry experts say they recognize that the time for Microsoft to end support for such a dated system has come, but the move poses both security and operational risks for the remaining users. In addition to home computers, XP is used to run everything from water treatment facilities and power plants to small businesses like doctor’s offices.
Thomas says XP appealed to a wide variety of people and businesses that saw it as a reliable workhorse and many chose to stick with it instead of upgrading to Windows Vista, Windows 7 or 8.
Thomas notes that companies generally resist change because they don’t like risk. As a result, businesses most likely to still be using XP include banks and financial services companies, along with health care providers. He also pointed to schools from the university level down, saying that they often don’t have enough money to fund equipment upgrades.
Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes, says that without patches to fix bugs in the software XP PCs will be prone to freezing up and crashing, while the absence of updated security related protections make the computers susceptible to hackers.
He added that future security patches released for Microsoft’s newer systems will serve as a way for hackers to reverse engineer ways to breach now-unprotected Windows XP computers.
“It’s going to be interesting to say the least,” he says. “There are plenty of black hats out there that are looking for the first vulnerability and will be looking at Windows 7 and 8 to find those vulnerabilities. And if you’re able to find a vulnerability in XP, it’s pretty much a silver key.”
Those weaknesses can affect businesses both large and small. Mark Bernardo, general manager of automation software at General Electric’s Intelligent Platforms division, says moving to a new operating system can be extremely complicated and expensive for industrial companies. Bernardo, whose GE division offers advisory services for upgrading from XP, says many of the unit’s customers fall into the fields of water and waste water, along with oil and gas.
“Even if their sole network is completely sealed off from attack, there are still operational issues to deal with,” he says. Meanwhile, many small businesses are put off by the hefty cost of upgrading or just aren’t focused on their IT needs. Although a consumer can buy an entry-level PC for a few hundred dollars, a computer powerful enough for business use may run $1,000 or more after adding the necessary software.
Barry Maher, a salesperson trainer and motivational speaker based in Corona, Calif., says his IT consultant warned him about the end of XP support last year. But he was so busy with other things that he didn’t start actively looking for a new computer until a few weeks ago.
“This probably hasn’t been as high a priority as it should have been,” he says.
He got his current PC just before Microsoft released Vista in 2007. He never bought another PC because, “As long as the machine is doing what I want it to do, and running the software I need to run, I would never change it.”
Mark McCreary, a Philadelphia-based attorney with the firm Fox Rothschild LLP, says small businesses could be among the most effected by the end of support, because they don’t have the same kinds of firewalls and in-house IT departments that larger companies possess. And if they don’t upgrade and something bad happens, they could face lawsuits from customers. But he says he doesn’t expect the wide-spread malware attacks and disasters that others are predicting – at least for a while.
“It’s not that you blow it off and wait another seven years, but it’s not like everything is going to explode on April 8 either,” he says. McCreary points to Microsoft’s plans to keep providing malware-related updates for well over a year, adding that he doubts hackers are actually saving up their malware attacks for the day support ends.
But Sam Glines, CEO of Norse, a threat-detection firm with major offices in St. Louis and Silicon Valley, disagrees. He believes hackers have been watching potential targets for some time now. “There’s a gearing up on the part of the dark side to take advantage of this end of support,” Glines says.
He worries most about doctors like his father and others the health care industry, who may be very smart people, but just aren’t focused on technology. He notes that health care-related information is 10 to 20 times more valuable on the black market than financial information, because it can be used to create fraudulent medical claims and illegally obtain prescription drugs, making doctor’s offices tempting targets.
Meanwhile, without updates from Microsoft, regular people who currently use XP at home need to be extra careful.
Mike Eldridge, 39, of Spring Lake, Mich., says that since his computer is currently on its last legs, he’s going to cross his fingers and hope for the best until it finally dies. “I am worried about security threats, but I’d rather have my identity stolen than put up with Windows 8,” he says.

This 3d mirror shows what lines under your skin

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3d mirror

Researchers have developed a “digital mirror” that recreates what your body might look like on the inside.  For the mirror to work, an individual undergoes a PET scan, X-ray and MRI scan to capture high-resolution images of their bones and organs. When the person steps in front of the mirror, a Microsoft Kinect’s motion-capture camera tracks the movement of two dozen different joints, including the knees, elbows and wrists.
The medical images can be animated with the help of graphical processing units so users can see their body inside out in real time.
Researcher Xavier Maitre, a medical imaging researcher at the University of Paris-South, and colleagues built the digital mirror to explore philosophical questions about how we relate to our body. In an experiment, they left 30 participants alone with the mirror for several minutes to gauge their reactions.
In this instance, people were shown pre-recorded data of other individuals of the same sex. The team found that about one-third of people were uncomfortable in front of the mirror and reluctant to let others see.
In the future, researchers said doctors could use a similar system to help people explore a particular part of their body or prepare for an upcoming operation.
Other researchers are already exploring how augmented reality can help medicine.
Mirracle, another kind of “mirror” developed at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, projects slices of medical imagery directly onto a person’s body.
Another project  recently featured at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Chicago  can animate MRI data on the computer screen, pinpointing parts of the body that might cause trouble in the future.
Maitre and his collaborators want to make the illusion created by the mirror even more life-like by programming the heart to beat and the lungs to move.

What ails Indian science?

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Indian science

India successfully launched its first mission to Mars on board PSLV C25 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre. Indian science’s bureaucratic mentality values administrative power over achievements
“Getting funding [for research] is easy in India,” said Dr. Mathai Joseph “because there is no competition here. Money is not scarce [though R&D spending is less than 1 per cent of GDP]. But money comes with the same bureaucratic restrictions that apply to all government expenditure.” Dr. Joseph is a computer scientist and a consultant, and was earlier a senior research scientist at TIFR, Mumbai. For instance, while research students get no funding support to travel abroad to participate in conferences, scientists are constrained by “limited foreign travel.”
These restrictions on foreign travel prevent students and scientists from gaining in terms of networking, exchanging ideas and being exposed to the kind of work being done by their peers in other countries. “Science does not happen like that  by not allowing them to travel abroad,” he said.
The big mistake
But the systematic undermining of scientific enterprise started way back in the mid 1950s. According to an opinion piece  in Nature, (Dr. Joseph is the first author), the Department of Atomic Energy, which was created as a different model, had Homi Bhabha, the head of DAE as a “secretary to the government.” The mistake was repeated when the DAE model was replicated in other institutions  space and biotechnology, to name a few.
“The fact that scientific departments are modelled on the rest of the bureaucracy has turned out to be a big mistake,” Dr. Joseph said. “That’s because bureaucracy is not designed to encourage innovation. DAE and the department of space are the only institutions that undertake developments in-house. Others like the DBT [Department of Biotechnology] do not.” Contrast this with the system followed in the developed countries. For instance, in the case of the U.S., the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are outside the government bureaucracy.
By being a part of the bureaucracy, even those scientists in India who do remarkable research cannot be rewarded with promotion or pay hike. “If you reward scientific achievement rather than years of service, scientists would be motivated to take up novel scientific challenges,” he noted. Regrettably, the malaise of promotion based on years of service, and not by achievement has spread to institutions at the national level too.
“Indian science has for too long been hamstrung by bureaucratic mentality that values administrative power over scientific achievements,” the paper notes. It is, however, pertinent to note that the department of space stands out from the rest. Younger people have been put in charge of important programmes, and they have succeeded. “This system is quite old in the department of space,” Dr. Joseph said.
The golden era
These essentially explain why prior to the 1950s important contributions from people like Jagadish Chandra Bose, Satyendra Nath Bose and Srinivasa Ramanujan came from within the country. The pioneering work by these people came before “the machinery of government took over and mismanaged research.”
Another problem is the lack of lateral movement from one institution to another. While collaborating with scientists from other institutions would go a long way in putting to test the usefulness of one’s expertise without actually moving to another institution, one ends up gaining more by moving out. “Vitality grows from being challenged in scientific terms [when one moves from one institution to another],” Dr. Joseph said.
Incidentally, even collaborating with scientists from other institutions is rarely seen in India. Worse, even the funding agencies do not insist on this. Funding is rather provided for collaboration within the institution than across institutions. This is true even in the case of the Nano mission launched in 2007.
According to the authors, the Nano mission has funded 150 individual projects, 11 centres of excellence and six industry-linked projects. “But [the mission] has required no collaboration between institutions,” the paper notes.
“There are very few national frameworks for collaboration,” he said, “working towards a common goal is missing.” Collaboration becomes all the more important as the size of the groups in any area is small in India.
It is true that there is an inherent resistance to collaboration across institutions in other countries as well. “But programmes like ESPRIT [European Strategic Programme on Research in Information Technology] insist on collaboration across institutions and countries for funding,” he said.
According to the paper, one of the four changes that need to be urgently initiated to reinvigorate research is to decouple funding and government control. “Indian science needs public funding, but not government control,” the paper notes.
There are numerous examples in other countries and in Europe where such a system has been operating successfully. The tenure of heads of institutions should also be limited and they should be encouraged to return to active research. “The rotation should be every five years. It’s very hard to do research when you head an institution,” he said, “you can’t do research full time.”

Use water judiciously, drought may be at hand: Canter to State govt

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Worried over recent reports regarding the Al Nino effect, the union government has warned the state of the impending draught-like situation and water crisis.  In a letter, union agriculture sector. The Al Nino effect is likely to cause deficit of rain and delay in onset or  early withdrawal of monsoon. Madhya Pradesh will be one of the parts of the country which will be affected by this climatic event, said officials,
The ministry has asked the state government to use the water available in its reservoirs judiciously, referring to the Central Water Commission report that the level of water in 85 major reservoirs (including Gandhi Sagar dam) is 52 percent of the capacity as of now. This is only ten percent higher than the average storage in these reservoirs.
The ministry  officials asked the government to take adequate steps to ensure proper use of water and coordinate with irrigation department to avoid water crisis. While, the agriculture department   officials said  they had asked the irrigation department to take steps in this regard but problems of farmers who recently suffered huge loss due to hail storm.

Are you happily disgusted or sadly angry? Find out

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What if your computer can distinguish even expressions for complex or seemingly contradictory emotions such as ‘happily disgusted’ or ‘sadly angry’? Researchers at Ohio State University have found a way for computers to recognise 21 distinct facial expressions.
“We have gone beyond facial expressions for simple emotions like happy or sad. We found a strong consistency in how people move their facial muscles to express 21 categories of emotions,” said Aleix Martinez, a cognitive scientist and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State.
That is simply stunning. That tells us that these 21 emotions are expressed in the same way by nearly everyone, at least in our culture, he added.  Until now, cognitive scientists have confined their studies to six basic emotions – happy, sad, fearful, angry, surprised and disgusted. For their study, Martinez and his team photographed 230 volunteers making faces in response to verbal cues such as “you just got some great unexpected news” (‘happily surprised’), or “you smell a bad odour” (‘disgusted’).
In the resulting 5,000 images, they painstakingly tagged prominent landmarks for facial muscles, such as the corners of the mouth or the outer edge of the eyebrow.  They found 21 emotions – the six basic emotions, as well as emotions that exist as combinations of those emotions such as ‘happily surprised’ or ‘sadly angry’.
The researchers referred to these combinations as ‘compound emotions’. While ‘happily surprised’ can be thought of as an expression for receiving unexpected good news, ‘sadly angry’ could be the face we make when someone we care about makes us angry.
‘    Happily disgusted’, for instance, creates an expression that combines the scrunched-up eyes and nose of ‘disgusted’ with the smile of ‘happy’.
The model was able to determine the degree to which the basic emotions and compound emotions were characterised by a particular expression.  While the model is meant to be a tool for basic research in cognition, Martinez can foresee potential applications in the treatment of disorders that involve emotional triggers, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or a lack of recognition of other people’s emotions, such as autism.