Category: Hot Topics

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Few days ago, entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX Elon Musk revealed the initial ideas and design for a revolutionary ‘fifth generation’ transportation system called ‘Hyperloop’, which when put in place,  will take passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes.

He designed Hyperloop as a better alternative to the recently approved “California High Speed Rail“, a $68 billion USD project that will reduce the travelling time between LA and SF to 2 hours and 38 minutes with average speed of 164 mph (264 kph). He says, according to the figures, the high-speed rail does not reduce the travel time or travel cost in the proposed route.

Mr.Musk released a 57-page white paper describing the proposed designs of an ‘alpha’ version of Hyperloop. Briefly, the Hyperloop involves two major components – a capsule and a tube. The  solar-powered aluminium capsules (or pods) rides on a cushion of air through a tube which is partly vacuüm. The capsules can move at around 700 mph (1,130 kph) inside the tube propelled by linear accelerators placed at various locations along the length of the tube.

Hyperloop conceptual diagram

There are two version of the Hyperloop capsules; The passenger capsule can carry 28 passengers and departs every 2 minutes (or 30 seconds) from LA or SF. The passenger plus vehicle capsule will accommodate 3 vehicles in addition to the passengers and will depart as often as the passenger capsule. Each capsule will be separated within the tubes by appox. 23 miles (37 km) on average.

Conceptual diagram of Hyperloop Passsenger Capsule

Conceptual diagram of Hyperloop Passenger Capsule

Not surprisingly, this futuristic design raised many eyebrows. Some said that this is not a ‘new idea’, others scrutinized the economics of the Hyperloop plan and still others raised security concerns. Yet there are reasons why the Hyperloop could be made into a reality.

Whether it is over-hyped or not, this looks very interesting indeed. If it were ever to become real then it will surely be a revolution!

And, at last, just for those with a hell lots of optimism, if Hyperloop comes to India ever (yeah!), it will take just 2 hrs and 30 mins between Kanyakumari and Dibrugarh, compared to around 83 hrs taken by the Vivek express currently!


Well, in the first place I never ever had even thought about posting an article on Facebook on my blog. Never. But, I am really frustrated, just like everybody else, by the frequent status updates from my facebook contacts pleading (and even ‘threatening’ towards the end!) to protect their privacy on facebook. These frequent posts were enough to prick on my nerves. So, I thought I want to say my part of this story to the world and at least stop one or two from re-posting those stupid messages.

The message goes like this (there are a number of versions in circulation since facebook implemented ‘Graph Search’):

Kind Attention : All of you who are on my list of contacts of Facebook. I would like to ask you a favor…. Given that Facebook has changed its privacy configuration once again. With the new “Graphic app”, any person in Facebook anywhere in the world can see our photos, our “likes” and our “comments”. During the next two weeks, I am going to keep this message posted and I ask you to do the following and comment “DONE”. Those of my friends who do not maintain my information in private will be eliminated from my list of friends, because I want the information I share with you, my friends, to remain among my friends and not be available to the whole world. I want to be able to publish photos of my friends and family without strangers being able to see them which is what happens now when you choose “like” or “comment”. Unfortunately we cannot change this configuration because Facebook has made it like this. So, please, place your cursor over my photo that appears in this box (without clicking) and a window will open. Now move the cursor to the word “Friends”, again without clicking and then on “Settings”. Uncheck “Life Events” and “Comments and Like”. This way my activity with my family and friends will no longer be made public. Now, copy and paste this text on your own wall (do not “share” it!). Once I see it published on your page, I will un-check the same for you.

This whole this is a hoax just like the ‘New Facebook Guidelines Policy‘ circulated last year. I expect a little common sense from those who blindly copy-paste this in their status box because this ‘exercise’ will not give you any privacy benefits. In fact, if you follow this and do as the post said, you are definitely going to miss some of the important happenings in that friend’s life! To put it blankly, whatever options you happen to uncheck in your friend’s ‘settings’ you will not receive any updates from that friend in future meaning that you are going to miss for eg: the comments and likes they make, their life events, their status updates, photos, etc. Graph search is definitely creepy and has raised many privacy concerns, although Facebook says that Graph search is ‘personalized’ meaning that if you search for “Restaurants my friends went to” will produce different results for you and your friend depending up on the privacy levels employed. So the whole process of making graph search less creepy resides in setting the privacy setting right.

So, here is my tips for making your Facebook life less creepy-like. I’m sure there are hundreds of such articles/blogs, but I don’t care. This is what I suggest:

See what is in ‘public’ about you

This is the first thing. You should know what the heck is out there is public about you that you don’t want. There are different ways to do this. Since there are not a lot of people with the new ‘news feed’, I’ll follow the options in the old and more ‘general’ Facebook interface. So to see what others see in your profile: Go to profile and click the settings next to activity log. Select ‘view as’. Here you can go for view as public or view as a specific contact in your list. See what all info about you is visible when it is viewed as public. If there’s anything that you don’t want there, go to those individual sections (including the general info) in your profile and change visibility to ‘friends’ or ‘only me’ etc.

See who can see your posts

Facebook has at least made it easier to do this. Click the privacy lock button next to your ‘Home’ button and select ‘who can see my posts’. There you can edit the audience for your future posts. To limit the audience for all your past posts, you have to click ‘settings’ next to the privacy lock button and then ‘limit old posts on Timeline’. In this section you can also decide who can look you up by searching with your email ID/Phone number and make search engines to link/not link to your Timeline.

Photos and Tags

To see all your photos and their audience, from your profile, go to activity log and then to photos. In the top, you can filter your photos based on its audience and have an idea about what all things are in public. If you want to change the visibility of one of your albums say for example, you can go to profile, then to photos and to albums and change the settings there for each album. If there are any tagged photos of you that you want to remove, you should untag yourself from that photo. In the photos section mentioned above, you go to photos of you (which shows all the photos uploaded by your friends in which you have been tagged). If you hover over a photo, you can see an edit button where you will get an option to remove/untag the photo. Now, as you probably know, you can not just remove that photo by one click. The person who has uploaded that particular photo has the control over it, but sure you can untag yourself.

Note: Untagged photos are not deleted, and hence can be viewed by anyone if it is shared with public. For the worried ones, I would suggest to activate the tag (and Timeline, if you want) review options in settings->Timeline and Tagging settings. If you enable these things any posts with your tag will needs to be reviewed by you before they show up in Facebook.

Location sharing

Location privacy is a little weird in facebook. Read this section from facebook and follow the route that best suits you.

Review your ‘likes’

This is as important as any other privacy settings in Facebook. Take a moment and ask yourself before you click the like button – ‘Do I actually like this?’. If you want limit the visibility of things you liked, go to your profiles and then to likes and edit the privacy options. If you decide to dislike the already liked pages, go to your activity log, then to likes and then dislike the pages you don’t like anymore.

Review the Apps you use

This is another important area that requires much attention but is seldom given. You can see all the apps you used with Facebook from settings->Apps. From there you can do lots of stuffs:

  • Remove an app that you don’t want to be associate with Facebook
  • Edit the visibility of app and you data that is accessible to each app
  • Control what info about you can others bring with them if they use an app.
  • Turn on/off instant personalization

Friends and Relations

Believe it or not, even your friends and relationships can appear in search results, and if you read this, there are areas in Facebook that can not be controlled by users. So it is important ot limit the visibility of your friend list and your relationships to be safe.

To limit the visibility of your Friend list, go profile and then to friends. Click the edit button and select edit privacy. There you can edit who will see the list of your friends, followers and people whom you follow. Like the page says, ‘your friends control who can see their friendships on their own Timelines’. So it will be a lot useful if people post how to do this in their status update rather than just pasting a hoax message thinking that they are all safe!! To edit the privacy of your relationships, head over to your profile, then to update profile. From there go to Family, and click the edit button on the top-right. Here you can adjust the visibility of each of your family members.

Review settings regularly

Most of all, it is important to review your settings at regular intervals so that you are always updated about the things that are going on in Facebook.

More from the blog:

Install Apps to SD Card on Your Android Phone Without Rooting it

[Fixed] The ‘always online’ problem with Google Chat

How to get rid of the new Hangout app and revert back to Talk on your Android Phone (for the good, that is!)

Consano brings the power of crowdfunding to boost innovations in the field of cancer research

Consano brings the power of crowdfunding to boost innovations in the field of cancer research

For those who are in the field of tech startups, music, charity, personal financing, etc. Crowdfunding is no longer a newer idea. But, the idea of raising funds from public has attracted serious attention from the world one expect the least – the science world- as a way to fund innovative academic research, especially with the recent slashing of research budget across many of the top funding agencies in the world.

When Molly Lindquist heard that the lump on her breast was  ‘strongly suspected to be a cancer’, she could not think of anything other than how to save her two daughters, to whom she must have passed on those genes she inherited from her grandma Caroline who died of breast cancer at the age of 46. That thought Molly says changed her life and inspired her to start Consano, a project that will help people to donate directly to those medical research project that means something to you.

Consano which revolves around ‘3H’s – Hope, Honor, and Heal has made collaborations with several of the research institutions and has put together a list of projects to which the people can directly donate to. And you can do this in simple steps: Find projects that you want to contribute to, pay the money (small or large amount), receive quarterly updates from the researchers. Consano will give 97.8% of your money directly to support the project (rest will be taken as PayPal processing charge).

If you are a researcher with a life-saving idea which the funding agencies considers otherwise, Consano can also help you get the public fund that project. Just email your details and get started. Once you submit the application the rest will happen fast. A scientific advisory committee of Consano will sit together to review your project, will communicate their suggestions on improvements if any, and after that your project is up there in, all this in about 2-3 weeks!!

Currently there are about 7 projects available in Consano including those from UCSF and UW Medicine and the numbers are only going to increase.

So the next time somebody says you don’t have the brains for research, don’t despair..tell them you’ve more than a brain – a kind heart!

You can watch a video on Consano here and another one below:


Champions trophy has undoubtedly been a 'winning' series for India!

Champions trophy has undoubtedly been a ‘winning’ series for India!

41100 runs from 50662 balls in 100 matches at 4.86 runs per over. That’s the ICC Champions Trophy for in numbers!

Over-popularity of T20, resurrection of Test cricket, a new budget, 2G Scam, Delhi Gang-rape…whatever be the reason, ICC has sacked the Champions Trophy..

So, let’s just look back and see what the series meant and has produced – in terms of numbers. Who’s scored the highest runs? Who’s the best all-rounder? Who’s taken the highest wickets?

Have a look at them right here -> I mean HERE!!

Don’t forget to share your views in comments below!

Game of Thrones is definitely one of the best series ever created and it has recently has finished season 3 with record-breaking ratings. Reports say that the next season will start in Spring 2014. A long wait for the fans!

Compared to all other season finales, I must say that season 3 finale (S03E10, Mhyasa) gave me a relief. Season 2 was really a cliffhanger with the closing scene showing the white walkers’ army marching towards the wall. This season there is no such cliffhangers, instead, there is a lot of ‘homecomings’ to sort of ‘calm your mind’. Sam returning from the North, Jon escaping from the wildlings and coming back to Castle Black, Jaimie coming back to home..all these gave a chance to get our breath back from the heart-breaking events of the previous episodes.

At this point, here I show you two of the best scenes of the season 3. Unlike many other ‘best scenes of the season’ out there that gives much attention to the ‘visual delight’ and the ‘breadth of the screen’ the following scenes are not so. These scenes are enlivened by the sharp dialogues and the performance of the actors (not to mention the smart direction of the scenes!).

Watch these scenes here:

Did you like these? or what are you favorites scenes then? Comment below!

The new Google+ Hangout has failed to incorporate many of the handy features of Talk

The new Google+ Hangout has failed to incorporate many of the handy features of Talk

Google just did a stupid thing recently.  They replaced Google Talk app for Android (and iOS) completely with the new Hangout app. And why exactly is this stupid?? Here is the answer from me (people may differ).

1. I can not see which of my friends are online..In Talk, I used to see a green/red/yellow icons next to their names so that I know their status (available/busy/idle, respectively). With the new Hangout app, I am completely blind about this..heck, I don;t have any idea about who’s online.

2. I can’t set my status (available/busy) in Hangout. Forget about being invisible – that’s not at all possible which means you are exposing yourself to that nagging friend/co-worker of yours!

How do I get back my Talk app?? I can’t find it in Play Store..

Interestingly, this is what some of the people at Google had to say about this. Read it, it is very funny:

“We’re upgrading Gmail video chat to Hangouts for all Gmail users over the course of the next few weeks. If your account has already been upgraded, there isn’t a way to return to the old video chat, as we are now going to be using a more modern video calling technology.

Thanks for your understanding!”
Here’s another one:
“I’m sorry to say but Hangouts is going to replace talk at all once it has been rolled-out globally.

Don’t worry that much about who’s online or offline, the great thing on Hangouts is, your messages are delivered for sure – no matter if the person is online or offline!
However, on your mobile you see friends that are currently not “online” at that time grayed out. Online members are displayed in “full” color and on the web extension you’ll see a green line below their photo.
Hope that helps.”
Yeah, really that was ‘really helpful’.
So, THIS is WHAT you SHOULD do TO GET BACK YOUR TALK APP in ANDROID phone. BTW, I am using and HTC device.
1. Go to Settings and then to Applications.
2. Select Manage Applications
3. Select ‘ALL’ to see the list of all the applications installed in your phone.
4. Scroll down and find the ‘Hangout’ app.
5. Click it
6. Select ‘Uninstall’
7.  You will be asked to confirm your command, say yes.
8. That’s it!!!
Now, go back to where you saw ‘Hangout’ app in your device and voilà!! there the old Talk guy sitting!!
Liked this article!? See more Android tricks and tips here.

1000 Genomes Project

What do you think about 1000 Genome Project ?


iPS cells could be used as a therapy for many genetic disorders by following three steps-Rewind,Reprogram and Replace.

The scientists are excited about a type of cells called Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells or iPS cells that can give rise to any part of the body from any type of cells. iPS cells are the adult or somatic cells that are reprogramed to enter into a Embryonic Stem Cells-like state by the integration of up to four DNA-transcription factors. The groundbreaking works were first carried out  in 2007 by two groups headed by James Thompson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University in Japan who described methods to reprogram adult human cells to a pluripotent state. In December of 2007, George Daley, of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues also demonstrated iPS cells could be generated from a variety of adult cells.

According to Thomas Zwaka from the Baylor College of Medicine, “the initial idea was to generate iPS cells from any somatic cells“. This is very important because the other method of generating Pluripotent stem cells was to extract it from the early embryo and this created many political, ethical issues. Now the scientists can convert any cell in the body to a pluripotent cell. The other motive was to generate the pluripotent cells that matches the patient genetically. There were problems regarding mismatch of patient’s genetic identity and the cells obtained from embryonic stem cells. The ability to induce pluripotency allows the scientists to engineer cells that are genetically identical to those cells in the patient’s body.

The therapeutic maneuver include the isolation of any cells types form a patient with, say some genetic disorder, reprogram those cells and then put the new cells back into the patient. These steps requires some genetic information that must be supplied to the cell. First one converts the somatic cell into pluripotent cell, the second one corrects the genetic defect and the third one turns the cells into a new cell type that can replace the diseased cell type in the patient. So the motto is “Rewind,Reprogram and Replace”

The three steps mentioned above also present the scientists with many technical difficulties. The first step, converting the somatic cell in to a pluripotent stem cell is a much explored area. It is now considered that at lest 4 genes are required to push the cell into a pluripotent state. It is here the work of Yamanaka becomes important. His group published the first of these results in 2006. But actually he did not use the reprogramming factor per se, but some factors that can activate a cascade of downstream of signaling events that ultimately activates a reprogramming factor.

The reprogramming factors are mainly transcriptional factors that are otherwise remain silent in the adult cells but are crucial for induction of pluripotency. These factors when active will bind to and transcribe their target genes, most of which are inactive i an adult cell. Some of the very important transcriptional factors that are essential for induction of pluripotency includes Oct 3/4 and the Sox family.The Klf family and myc family of transcriptional factors are shown to increase the induction when present.

The next step is gene targeting or correcting the defective gene by replacing it with the normal gene. This step should be precise that no change is made elsewhere in the genome or otherwise there will be mutations. The current method uses some vectors that are made to harbor the desired genes and then these vectors are used to transfect the cells. The vectors used can be lentiviral or retroviral which have a high transfection efficiency. But, these vectors have the ability to integrate in to genome and can cause cancers if they happen to integrate near,say a gene involved in cell cycle regulation or control of apoptosis. Adeno Associated Viruses or AAVs that integrate in to genome much lesser than the retroviruses are used more frequently nowadays.

So everything is set and now you can use this as a therapy, isn’t it? No,wait, the researchers say that there are no intentions to clinically test this that soon because there are more things yet to be sure of. Another factor that should be considered is what happens if something go wrong with the cells and they start to grow uncontrollably. How do we remove them? Scientists says that no method will be of 100 percent help if this happens and the best thing is to prevent such an incidence than waiting to cure it. Prevention is better than cure!

The field is still young and the use of this as a therapy is currently way off. But with more and more scientists daring to come to the field and grants are given in the right way, we can hope that sooner or later the works are going to be available not only on the bench but also in bedside too.

Yes..the wait is over for Craig Venter and his team when the 15 year-long pursuit of making the first synthetic cell came to an end in the month of May 2010. This is one of the milestones in the history of synthetic biology and in the field of science itself. Craig venter and colleagues of his J Craig Venter Institute has again proved the conventional wisdom wrong by completing such a daunting project.

Dr.Venter’s JCVI team included  science superstars like Hamilton Smith, Clyde Hutchison,Daniel Gibson, Ph.D and many others.Hamilton Smith, affectionately called “Ham” is the winner of 1978 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on restriction endonucleases. Clyde Hutchison was a member of the team that sequenced the genome of phiX174 and also has worked extensively on site directed mutagenesis.He missed the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry although Micheal smith who worked in the same field got it along with Karry Mullis,the inventer of PCR. Venter and co. used the bioinformatics tool to design the chromosome, synthesized it using the four building blocks of life (the bases Adenine,Guanine,Cytosine and Thymine) and then assembled  it in yeast before transplanting it into a recipient bacterial cell. This bacterial cell was then transformed into a new bacterial species.

The new species they created has some extraordinary elements in its genome including a website!! Watch the Man himself revealing the thrilling story behind this mammoth task.

If you cannot watch this video click HERE