Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Breastfeeding 'can enhance a child's IQ'

The apparent decision by the Duchess of Cambridge to breastfeed has been given a boost by fresh evidence showing it can help raise a baby’s IQ.
The longer the child is breastfed – ideally exclusively – the higher the intelligence scores are at the age of seven.
The study also found breastfeeding can enhance language skills from the age of three.
The US researchers recommend babies are solely fed on breast milk for the first six months and are given the chance to breastfeed until a year old.
However, British experts warned that delaying the introduction of solid foods until six months at the earliest might leave some babies feeling hungry.
It emerged yesterday that the Duchess has at least one maternity dress made for breastfeeding and was given encouragement in hospital to help her baby George start on her milk.
Earlier research has shown breast milk protects babies against stomach bugs, chest infections, asthma and allergies, and confers health advantages in later life.
But only a small number of women in the UK breastfeed their babies for long periods and the number of new mothers starting in 2011 fell slightly to 73.9 per cent.
Barely 2 per cent of babies are breastfed exclusively for six months.
'It's all mum's fault for not breastfeeding me'
The latest study included 1,312 mothers and children who had taken part in Project Viva, a long-term investigation of pregnancy and child health in the US.
It found seven-year-olds breastfed for the first year of life were likely to score four points more in a test of verbal IQ than bottle-fed children.
Verbal intelligence scores at seven increased by 0.35 points for every extra month of breastfeeding.
Three-year-olds also benefited, having higher scores in a language-acquisition test the longer they had been breastfed. Exclusive breastfeeding had the greatest effect.
The US team of researchers reported the findings in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The scientists, led by Dr Mandy Belfort, from Boston Children’s Hospital, said: ‘Our results support a causal relationship of breastfeeding in infancy with receptive language at age three and with verbal and non-verbal IQ at school age.
'These findings support national and international recommendations to promote exclusive breastfeeding through age six months and continuation of breastfeeding through at least age one year.'
A number of factors that might have influenced the results, including home environment and mothers' IQ, were accounted for by the researchers.
Children took part in several tests, including the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test at age three and the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test at age seven.
Certain nutrients in breast milk may benefit the developing infant brain, it has been suggested.
One of these is docosahexaenoic (DHA), which is abundant in fish.
Part of the research looked at whether mothers' fish consumption was linked to the benefits of breastfeeding but the results were not statistically significant.
It is thought that chemicals naturally present in breast milk can aid brain development, but skin to skin contact and bonding during breastfeeding may also play a part.
But Clare Byam Cook, an independent breastfeeding counsellor and former midwife, said: ‘It’s best to keep an open mind about what your baby’s individual needs are.
'Many babies feel hungry if they only get breast milk and most need solids before six months.’
She said mothers who can breastfeed their babies easily are giving them a great start in life.
She said: 'Most women who give up find it too difficult to continue.
'They are not unaware of the benefits to the baby, they have been brainwashed into thinking if they don't their baby will miss out and it can be a very worrying time.
Ms Cook, the author of Top Tips For Breast Feeding and Top Tips For Bottle Feeding, said there was new evidence that breastfeeding exclusively for six months may not be best for baby, putting them at risk of allergies, food aversion and even obesity.
Babies can be safely given solid foods at least eight weeks earlier in life than official Department of Health guidelines telling women to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, according to researchers.


Alcohol and the sexes: Men tend to drink when they're angry, while women feel more depressed after a night out

A person's gender affects when they drink and how they feel the morning-after-night-before, according to new research.
A study has found that men tend to drink when they feel angry and women experience more depressive emotions the day after drinking.
Scientists found that alcohol was consistently ineffective at drowning sorrows however.

Valerie Harder, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and lead author of the study, said ‘These male-female differences are consistent with several reports showing that men and women respond differently to stress, and experience mood and substance use disorders at different rates.'
To understand people's moods and drinking habits, Professor Harder and her colleagues used an interactive voice-recording program like the ones found in call centres.
 
The 246 study participants, aged between 21 and 82, were problem drinkers who had been flagged by their primary-care doctor.
The suspected alcoholics then went through an alcohol treatment program and were called in every day for six months and reported their moods, stress level and drinking habits on the program.
The results revealed that for men, it was anger that fuelled drinking.
According to the study, a man who felt angry was more likely to drink the next day than a man who did not feel angry.
Man angry
depressed woman
The study found that men were more likely to turn to drink if they were angry. Women on the other hand were found to become far more depressive after drinking a large quantity of alcohol
Professor Harder said: 'Working on strategies for male drinkers to manage their anger may warrant special emphasis in alcohol treatment approaches [in the future].
'Furthermore, results from a recent study of relapse after alcohol use treatment suggest that targeting the relationship between [negative emotions such as anger] and alcohol use
could decrease the probability of relapse, thus improving alcohol treatment outcomes.'
Happiness and sadness were also recorded in the study.
While researchers found that neither emotion acted as a particular trigger for drinking in one gender over the other, they did discover that they did surface after drinking.
Professor Harder and her colleagues presumed that people would report less anger and sadness after drinking, and more happiness a day after drinking. But the data showed the exact opposite.
Both men and women reported feeling less happy the day after drinking, but the effect was much stronger for women.
The researchers said the findings could play an important role in developing new treatment approaches toward alcoholism and relapse prevention.
Professor Harder said the findings could be useful in the doctor's office and at home - people who feel alcohol improves their mood may want to pay attention to how they feel the day after drinking.
And rather than simply asking about the number of drinks a person has in a week, doctors could also ask patients about their moods before and after their drinking.

Survey finds smokers feed their children less, buy them smaller birthday presents and raid their money box to fund their habit

The dangers of smoking during pregnancy or near a child have been well-documented, but new research has found that that smoker parents are also less caring towards their children.
A survey has discovered that nicotine addict mothers and fathers cut back on Christmas presents for their children, buy them less clothing and even feed them less to fund their daily cigarette habit.
The poll, which examined the lifestyle behaviour of smokers, also discovered that some people stole from friends, applied for credit cards and even asked strangers on the street for money when desperate for their fix.
The dangers of smoking during pregnancy or near a child has been well-documented but new research has shown that smoker parents are less caring towards their children
The dangers of smoking during pregnancy or near a child has been well-documented but new research has shown that smoker parents are less caring towards their children. Some even admitted to feeding their children less to ensure they always had cigarettes
The research was carried out by pharmaceutical company Pfizer as part of their Don't Go Cold Turkey Campaign and asked 6,271 smokers about how they funded smoking in tougher economic times.
It revealed that while 60 per cent of smokers refused to pay more than £8 for a packet of cigarettes, one per cent - which equated to 31 people - were willing to pay an astonishing £40.

The most alarming statistics related to smoking parents however. It found that many were often more willing to reduce their child's quality of life than go without cigarettes.
A shocking 20 per cent admitted to having bought their children fewer or cheaper clothes and shoes  to save money instead of quitting smoking.
Victims: A poll found that children with parents who smoke were more likely to have smaller Christmas presents.
Victims: A poll found that children with parents who smoke were more likely to have smaller Christmas presents. It also revealed that nicotine addict mothers and father often raided their children's money box to fund their habit
A worrying 17 per cent admitted to cutting back on food and drink for their children, 35 per cent reduced the amount of treats they gave them and 20 per cent said they even cut back on Christmas and birthday presents to continue smoking.
Nearly nine per cent - which equated to 350 of those polled - had stolen money from their child's money box.
Around 70 per cent of people who still smoke say they want to quit
Around 70 per cent of people who still smoke say they want to quit
Just under 13 per cent said they had stopped taking their children to after school groups, 17 per cent admitted to having cut back on toy purchases and just under seven per cent had even refused to send their children on school trips to save money rather than quit their habit.
Almost 65 per cent of those polled admitted to feeling under financial pressure and 50 per cent said they were concerned about falling into debt but all still continued to feed their tobacco habit.
And a significant number of smokers admitted to engaging in reckless and even dishonest behaviour to fund the habit.
Nearly 1,000 people had dipped into their life savings to make sure they could afford cigarettes and 275 had even stolen from friends of family members.
Nearly seven per cent had applied for a credit card for the sole purpose of purchasing cigarettes, 11 per cent had gone without food and nearly 100 people admitted to having asked a stranger for money.
Some people even said they turned their heating off and instead wore several jumpers to cut their heating bills and ensure they could afford a packet of cigarettes.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, who is involved in the Pfizer campaign said: 'Most smokers are fully aware of the financial burden that a smoking habit can have on their lives but the vast majority are not taking advantage of the free help available to them from their healthcare professional.
'Smoking is extremely addictive, and while 70 per cent of people who still smoke say they want to quit, the average number of times a smoker has tried to quit before succeeding is four. 
Unfortunately, only three per cent of people who try to go ‘cold turkey’ without any help from a health care professional are still smoke free after one year.'

Monday, 29 July 2013

5 Classic Mistakes in Macro Photography?

Delving into macro photography opens up a fascinating, sometimes strange, new world. The ultra-close up views of flowers, plants, insects, and even otherwise unremarkable household items reveal a novel perspective, a depth of existence that people are usually quite unaware of. Most of us already dislike (hate) spiders, but their creepiness factor multiplies exponentially when viewed at life size magnification through a macro lens. Thanks, macro lenses.
 
I think it’s safe to say that we all enjoy and appreciate macro photography to varying degrees; staring into a spider’s eight cold, distant eyes may not be your thing, but it’s captivating nonetheless. Perhaps you prefer the delicateness of a tulip or the texture of a leaf. Regardless of the subject, it is one’s appreciation of a good macro shot that inspires them to try their hand at it.

cradle by jDevaun, on Flickr
 
The problem is, there’s a significant learning curve for macro photography and many people find it to be a frustrating venture at first. Even once you’ve progressed a little bit, you might find that your shots still lack a certain something, something that you feel is keeping your macro photography from really standing out.

Requiem by jDevaun, on Flickr
If this describes you at all, have a look over the following checklist of mistakes to avoid when doing macro photography.

  1. Not Getting Down to Your Subject’s Level – Perspective matters. Just like you would crouch down to take a portrait of a child, you should also shoot your macro subjects from their level. This, of course, means that you might end up on the ground; you’ve got to get right in there and share space with whatever you’re shooting. The working distance (the distance between the front of the lens and the subject) of the lens you’re using will dictate exactly how close to your subject you need to be, but by shooting at your subject’s level — as opposed to shooting down on it — you’re using visual perspective to increase the interestingness of the photo.
  2. Neglecting Composition – Novice macro shooters sometimes feel that composition can afford to take a back seat. Not true. It’s undeniably cool to see such small subjects so close up and in such great detail. Again, even ordinary objects can appear extraordinary through a macro lens. But that doesn’t mean you can sacrifice interesting composition just because you’ve captured the amazing details of a bumblebee. Sure, the view of the bumblebee may be great, but is the photograph itself any good? The answer to that lies not so much in what the subject is, but more in how it’s presented.
  3. Failure to Stabilize – Camera shake can be a real concern with macro photography. For those who have never attempted macro photography, think of some of the issues that come into play when shooting with a telephoto lens, namely the fact that the more your focal length increases, the more you have to account for camera shake. Even with lenses that feature built-in stabilization you need to practice good technique in order to get sharp images. A large part of good macro photography technique involves using a tripod. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you’re shooting moving subjects such as insects, in which case you’ll want to use flash to freeze their movement. Otherwise, a tripod is your best bet for mitigating the challenges of working with a macro lens.
  4. Missing Focus – Missing focus can happen anytime, anywhere, while doing any kind of photography, but focusing becomes increasingly difficult when shallow depth of field and high magnification are introduced to the equation. In macro photography, you can’t really rely on autofocus to get it right all the time; nothing is more frustrating than thinking you focused on the right part of your subject then, after viewing the image, realizing you got it all wrong. This is one genre of photography in which manual focus should be the first thing on your mind; precision is of utmost importance here and manual focus put you in total control, allowing you to adjust your point of focus without having to readjust your composition.
  5. Underestimating the Importance of Light - Given that light is absolutely necessary for photography of any kind, this may seem rather obvious. But new macro photographers might fail at first to understand that much more light than usual is required for macro work. This is due, in large part, to how close the lens needs to be to the subject; you always run the risk of the lens blocking out the light, whether natural light or on-camera flash (which isn’t typically recommended for macro work). Not only do you have to consider how much light you’re getting, you should also take into consideration the quality of light. Just as with portraiture, you want to avoid harsh shadows and flat lighting. The general principles of portrait lighting and how to soften it also apply to macro lighting.
 
The above mistakes are some of the most common culprits of bad macro photographs and we’ve all made them. So, don’t wallow in frustration; as with all mistakes, if you learn from them and correct them — and get plenty of practice — the end result will be everything you want it to be. Keep shooting.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

"Alien" creature mystery solved in South Africa

Locals in South Africa were baffled when Llewellyn Dixon, a national park ranger, discovered what appeared to be the body of an alien creature lying in the grass. The mystery was solved when a local veterinarian performed an autopsy, identifying the creature as a baby baboon. Photos from Llewellyn Dixon.
A man measueres the mysterious creature's wingspan using a tape measure. The creature was later identified as a baby baboon.
A close-up view of the baby baboon that baffled locals in South Africa, who initially thought the mysterious reature was an alien.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Difference Between Turtles, Tortoises, and Terrapins, and Other Turtle Facts

All three animals come under the class of reptiles, in the taxonomic order of Testudines or Chelonia (which comes from the Greek word ‘kelone’, meaning interlocking shields or armor). They all have the major characteristics of reptiles as they are cold-blooded (eco-therms), have scales, breathe air, and lay eggs on land.
The distinction between them comes mainly from what living habitat they are adapted for, though the terminology differs slightly in certain countries.  For instance, in Australia, other than marine sea turtles, they are all called tortoises. In the United States, the term ‘turtles’ is given to chelonians that live in or near water.  That being said, in general there are a few commonly accepted distinctions between turtles, tortoises, and terrapins.
“Turtles” are generally naturally gifted at ninjutsu… or rather, they may be completely aquatic, like sea turtles, which rarely come up onto land, excepting to lay eggs.  Other types of turtles are semi-aquatic and live by fresh water ponds or lakes. They tend to swim, but also spend a lot of time on land, basking in the sun and occasionally burrowing in the mud.
Turtles have adapted to an aquatic life and are streamlined for swimming with webbed feet, or in the case of sea turtles, long flippers.  Turtle diets are not strictly vegetarian either, they are omnivores. Depending on the type of turtle, they may eat jelly-fish, small invertebrates, sea sponges or sea-vegetation. In the case of fresh water turtles, they may eat plants or insects and small fish.
Tortoises, on the other hand, are almost exclusively land-dwelling animals, usually with stubby feet, and aren’t good swimmers. They occasionally enter water bodies to clean themselves off or drink water, but could easily drown in the deep or in strong currents. Their bodies are adapted to living on land and they aren’t stream-lined like turtles, but rather display high domed shells and column shaped feet much like that of elephants.  They also sometimes have sharp claws for digging . Another major distinction is that tortoises are for the most part herbivorous and primarily eat low-lying shrubs, cacti, grasses, weeds, fruit, and other forms of vegetation.
Lastly, the term “terrapins” is sometimes used for turtles that are semi-aquatic and live near brackish waters or swampy regions. They’re sort of like a mix between a turtle and tortoise, as they spend most of their time divided between water and land. They are also usually small and have a hard-shell that’s shaped somewhere between a turtle’s streamlined one and a tortoise’s rounded dome shaped one.
Other Turtle Facts:
  • The Soviet space program sent tortoises to orbit the Moon in their 1968 launch of the Zond-5 space probe, meaning tortoises orbited the Moon about 3 months before humans. This was a test flight for a possible manned mission to the moon. The Soviets sent a payload of an assortment of living things like wine flies, meal worms, bacteria, seeds, plants and two Russian tortoises. The spacecraft first launched on September 14th, 1968, and on September 18th, became the first successful circumlunar flight with recovery, as it splashed down in the Indian Ocean 3 days later on the 21st. The tortoises not only survived their lunar mission, but the only negative side effect was about a 10% loss in body weight.
  • Some turtles, like the Fitzroy River turtle, have a very unique way of breathing… through their rear ends. A turtle’s rear cloaca functions to expel feces and urine, and also is used for laying eggs. Some species of turtles also have vascular sacs called bursae, that allow oxygen to be absorbed, aiding in respiration. The Fitzroy river turtle of Australia is able to use this method of respiration (through its behind) to obtain as much as two-thirds of its oxygen supply. It does so by pumping water in and out of its rear end, absorbing oxygen from the water, which allows it to stay underwater for extended periods of time and even hibernate there.
  • A turtle’s shell is made up of about 50-60 bones covered in interlocking plates called “scutes” that form its exoskeleton. The top part of the shell is called  the “carapace”, while the bottom half of the shell is called the “plastron”. The two parts are connected by a boney bridge.
  • Contrary to how cartoons sometimes depict turtles, they cannot detach from their shell or crawl out.
  • Although it may seem like the hard shells are the ultimate protective shield, it should be noted that a turtle’s shell has nerves embedded in it and so they are receptive to feeling through their shells. For example, they feel pressure of weight on their shells and if they injure their shell, they will feel the pain.
  • The official collective term for a group of turtles is known as “bale” as in “a bale of turtles”. However, it’s not uncommon to hear turtle pet owners refer to them collectively as a “herd”.
  • The largest of all turtle/tortoises is the ‘Dermochelys coriacea’ better known as the Leatherback Sea Turtle. It’s easily distinguished by the lack of a bony shell, which is replaced by a leathery carpace.  It also has a teardrop shaped body. Adult leatherbacks have an average length of  3.3–5.74 ft (1-1.75m) and can weigh anywhere between 550 – 1,500 lbs (250 to 700 kg).
  • When it comes to tortoises, the Giant Tortoises of the Galapagos and Indian Ocean, along with the Aldabra tortoise from the Seychelles, are the largest. There was once a Galapagos giant turtle that weighed in at 882 pounds (400 kg).
  • It is a myth that you can tell a turtle’s age from the rings on the scutes of its shell. Although turtles accumulate growth rings, they’re not necessarily indicative of their age as they don’t accumulate these rings annually. It is believed that the scute rings  show growth spurts relative to the abundance/scarcity of food available to the turtle at the time.
  • One of the oldest tortoises ever recorded was said to have been gifted to a royal family of Tonga by the British explorer Captain Cook in 1777. The tortoise grew up in captivity with the royal family for 188 years, until 1965 when it died of natural causes. Another famed tortoise that went by the name Harriet was a resident of the Australian Zoo and was said to have been a pet of Charles Darwin before it ended up in the land down under. She died in 2006, just shy of her 176th birthday. Currently, there’s a Seychelles giant tortoise called Jonathan living on the island of St. Helena that is estimated to being around 176-178 years old.
  • One of the most fierce species of turtles is found in the fresh waters of North America and is called the Alligator Snapping Turtle. It’s one of the largest fresh water species, growing up to 2.5 feet long and weighing as much as 200 lbs. The alligator snapping turtle is rather notorious looking with its spiked shell, sharp hooked beak, bear-like claws, and scaly, muscular tail. This species has a unique way of  luring in its prey, which includes small fish, frogs, crayfish and the like. It has long tongue that features bright-red, worm-looking piece of flesh which it wriggles underwater to make it look like a worm, attracting its prey up close and sometimes right into its mouth, after which it snaps its strong jaws shut and devours it.
  • While most land turtles are able to retract into their shells for protection, sea turtles aren’t able to do so. Their head is exposed at all times.
  • What sometimes appears as a turtle crying is simply the way a turtle expels excess salt from its body via tear ducts.

12 Interesting Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Rhinoceroses

Rhinos are lovable lummoxes, herbivores who roam grasslands and forests nibbling on foliage, fruit and grasses. When left alone, they can live for over 40 years in the wild. Able to reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, they are still not fast enough to outrun, or small enough to hide from, human hunters.  As such, today there are just five remaining species of rhinoceroses: three Asian and two African.
With out further ado, I give you 12 interesting rhino facts for your reading pleasure.
1) A Rhino’s horn’s structure resembles a horse’s hooves. The outside is composed of soft keratin, not unlike hair and fingernails, while at its center there are dense deposits of melanin and calcium. If the horn breaks off, the rhino can grow a new one.
2) People have treasured rhino horns throughout known history. The horns have been carved into paperweights and hairpins, cups and dagger handles with its translucent beauty highly prized by artisans.  It has also historically been prized for its supposed medicinal qualities and even today in places like China, India and Malaysia, rhino horns are ground and used to treat a variety of ailments including fever, headache, gout, rheumatism and food poisoning. Although extensive research has been done to try to verify the medicinal value of a rhino horn, only one has shown even a slight correlation between rhino horn and improved health.
3) Just how valuable, monetarily speaking, is a rhino horn?  In some places, such as Vietnam, a large rhino horn can run you one quarter to a half million dollars U.S.  Because the horn is so valuable at present, many think the only way to stop poaching is to simply try to domesticate the rhino as much as possible and begin farming them for their horns, which would simultaneously drive down the price of a horn and establish a legal market for it.  In fact, in some areas, to potentially save the rhino from poachers, the rhinos are incapacitated, then have their horn removed, effectively making them temporarily safe from poachers until the horn grows back.  Full grown rhinos, even without their horn, are pretty much at the top of the food chain, besides humans, so some find this to be an acceptable way to try to stop poaching and preserve the rhino.  Although, removing the horn does potentially cause problems with its ability to defend itself from other rhinos.
4) For the ancients, the rhino horn was thought to hold magical properties, such as the ability to purify water or be used to detect poisons in drinks. Surprisingly, the latter quality may be true. Because of the horn’s composition, today some believe that strongly alkaline poisons may have produced a chemical reaction inside a cup made from the horn.
5) Africa is home to both species of white, as well as the black, rhino, although the former isn’t white and the latter isn’t black (they’re really both grey or yellowish-grey, looking very similar). In fact, the main distinction between the two species is that black rhinos’ mouths are designed for eating foliage, while white rhinos’ lips are broad and flat, better for grazing.  So why are they called “black” and “white” rhinos?    For black rhinos, they were simply called this to distinguish them from white rhinos.  For white rhinos, nobody knows for sure, but it’s thought that perhaps they were originally named this after the Afrikaans “wyd”, meaning “wide”, so not in reference to their color, but their broad, flat mouths.  The theory goes that this then morphed into “white” in English.
6) An adult rhino’s skin can be as much as 5 cm (2 inches) thick, with typical range of thickness across species being 1.5-5 cm thick.
Hyrachyus_eximius 7) “Rhinoceros”, the name, comes from the Ancient Greek “ῥῑνόκερως”, meaning “horn nose”.
8) Rhinos first popped up around 50 million years ago, probably branching off from the Hyracodontidae family of animals.  This group looked a bit like horses with the smallest around the size of a dog and the largest, Paraceratherium, thought to be the largest land mammal in history at 16 feet tall at their shoulder height, 26 ft long, and 18 tons in weight.
Wooly_rhinoceros 9) There was once “woolly” rhinos.  The oldest known fossil of one comes from about 3.6 million years ago in Tibet.  These strongly resembled white rhinos in size and shape, but they had hair and were well suited for cold climates.  These rhinos were often depicted in cave drawings and it is thought that they went extinct around 10,000 years ago, possibly due to being popularly hunted by humans and, more likely, diminished due to drastic climate changes that occurred around that time- The Younger Dryas stadial (the Big Freeze), which started around 10,850 BC and lasted around a thousand years being the culprit.
The mammoth Paraceratherium
The mammoth Paraceratherium
10) In Asia, only the Sumatran (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), Indian (Rhinoceros unicornis) and Javan (Rhinoceros sondaicus) species survive today. Each is either on the endangered or critically endangered list.
  • The Indian rhino used to roam across India up to Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan and down to Burma and Bangladesh; today it is found in small groups in limited places in India and Nepal. Members of this species have one horn that can be anywhere from eight inches to three feet long. Males can weigh up to 7000 pounds (3.5 tons) and stand over 6 feet tall! The Indian rhinos’ numbers, however, have been on the rise, having grown from about 200 in 1900 to just over 2500 in 2007.
  • On the critically endangered list, the Sumatran rhino faces extinction. Only 250 adults remain today and populations are expected to decline by 25% over the next 20 years. Formerly found throughout Southeast Asia, as far west as India and as far north as China, today it is only known to reside in Sumatra and parts of Malaysia, although hidden populations may exist in Indonesia and Myanmar.  The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of the family, standing about four feet high, stretching to about 10 feet long and typically weighing less than one ton (about 1500 pounds). This is the only Asian species with two horns, and its largest horn can reach about 2.5 feet in length. Because they stray into high altitude habitats, Sumatran rhinos have a fair amount of hair.
  • The Javan rhino can reach 10 feet in length, stand over five feet tall and weigh over 4000 pounds (2 tons). The males’ horns can reach 10 inches in length, while the females are hornless or have tiny bumps.  Sadly, the Javan rhino is also facing extinction. There are about 50 individuals remaining in the wild, in the Ujung Kulon National Park, and none in captivity. In 2011, a subspecies in Vietnam went extinct.
11) The Black rhino (Diceros bicomis) is found across southern, central and southeastern Africa. Male black rhinos can reach 13 feet in length, stand over five feet tall and weigh up to 4000 pounds (2 tons). Their horns are typically about 18 inches long, although overachievers have been known to sport horns that were nearly five feet long.  It has been reported that up to half of the males and nearly one-third of black rhino females die from infighting. To make matters worse, heavy poaching has decreased the population from about 70,000 in 1960 to 15,000 in 1981 to a low of bout 2400 in 1995. Of the four subspecies, three are listed as critically endangered and the fourth, the western, was declared extinct in 2011. On a brighter note, the remaining subspecies’ populations have rebounded a bit through strong conservation efforts, and as of 2010, their numbers had grown to nearly 5000 individuals.
12) There are two species of white rhino: northern and southern. They can grow up to 15 feet long, stand over 6 feet tall and weigh over 7000 pounds (3.5 tons). Both have two horns on their snout, with the larger (in front) averaging nearly 3 feet and, on the truly exceptional, reaching almost 5 feetSadly, the northern (Ceratotherium cottoni) is nearly extinct, with no known individuals existing in the wild; those that remain are so few, that we know most of them by name: Suni, Fatu, Sudan and Najin.  Conservation efforts with the southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) have been a wild success (pun intended). In 1900, only 100 individuals were known to exist. Today, over 17,500 are alive and well, mostly in South Africa.

Monday, 15 July 2013

10 Nobel Laureates Whose Work Changed the World

Our Earth teems with billions of human beings, all working, thinking, playing and plotting their way through the maze-like distractions of daily living. Amid the chaos, some of us remain focused and disciplined enough to forge entirely new ways of approaching life, the universe and the meaning of it all. And some of those people win Nobel Prizes.
Nobel Prizes aren't your run-of-the-mill, sticky-backed, gold-star award. Established in 1895 by the will of Swedish inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel, the prizes recognize advances in scientific and cultural fields -- literature, peace, economics, chemistry, physics and medicine.
The recipients, called laureates, receive a diploma, a gold medal and a cash prize that, these days, generally exceeds $1 million. All prizes must go to individuals, with the exception of the Peace Prize, which can be awarded to an organization. Sometimes, the prizes are awarded to multiple people, but rules stipulate that each prize can be shared by no more than three.
First awarded in 1901, the Nobel prizes have since been given out 549 times to 853 people and organizations. Some people have received the awards more than once. Typically, each prize is awarded every year, but in years where there are no exceptional accomplishments befitting a Nobel, a prize may sit idle.
The prizes are, shall we say, a big deal. But more important is the work that they recognize. Laureates are the thinking person's thinkers, people who dedicate their lives to unveiling the secrets of our existence. In doing so, they help propel humankind's collective intelligence higher. In this article, we'll introduce you to 10 of these game-changing individuals.
 

10.Aung San Suu Kyi

Let's review some of the circumstances of our first laureate. Oppressive, violent regime? Check. Indefinite political imprisonment? Check. That's just a day in the life of Aung San Suu Kyi, perhaps one of the most persistent political dissidents ever and the winner of the 1991 Peace Prize.
She wasn't allowed to leave Burma (also known as Myanmar) to receive her prize, however, until 2012, or two decades after winning. In the meantime, she'd been detained by Burma's militaristic regime, which saw her work for democracy and human rights as a threat to the established power structure.
Aung San Suu Kyi actually won the country's general election in 1990. But even before all of the votes were counted, she was placed under house arrest and would remain so intermittently until 2010. To ward off loneliness and despair, she meditated, she planned and she persisted.
Upon her most recent release, she jumped immediately into politics again and is attempting to change her country for the better. Her earnest, undying efforts made her a symbol of freedom not only for the Burmese but also for people all over the world.

9. Hermann Muller

For every technological advance, there are trade-offs and potential side effects. Thanks to the work of Hermann Muller, who won the 1946 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, people realized the importance of tempering our knowledge with safety and care.
Muller won his prize for proving that X-rays cause mutations (called X-ray mutagenesis) in the human body. In the mid-1920s, he'd gathered significant evidence that exposing Drosophila flies to X-rays caused genetic mutations that shortened their lifespans. He was certain that the same kind of damage would occur in humans.
Although he'd been trying to publicize his work for around 20 years, it took the World-War II atomic bombings of Japan to underscore the dangers of radiation, X-rays and nuclear fallout. It was then that the Nobel committee finally recognized his research.
Muller's discoveries, as well as his anti-nuclear weapons politics, made him an invaluable counterweight to the world-changing technological advances of the Atomic Age.

 8.Crick, Watson and Wilkins

These days, we almost take for granted the facts of DNA and its fundamental role as a building block of life as we know it. But DNA was a mystery until Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins began unraveling these minute, double-helix structures.
For their work, the three won the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. In discovering the molecular structure of nucleic acids, as well as conveying its importance in relaying information throughout a living organism, the three helped blaze a trail for all sorts of new genetic advances.
This prize did come with a notable asterisk. Before Crick and company made their discoveries, biophysicist Rosalind Franklin found a way to photograph DNA. Crick's group used those images as a turning point for their research. However, her insights were overshadowed somewhat by her male counterparts', and she died before she could address the matter with the Nobel committee, which has strict rules against honoring people posthumously.
 

7. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He had a dream, and he didn't write it off as a fanciful midnight vision. Instead, Martin Luther King, Jr. pursued his dream in full daylight and in the face of scorn and cynicism. He paid for it with his life.
In a country riven by racial discrimination and a legacy of slavery, King promoted equality and freedom for everyone. Furthermore, he pressed his agenda without a call for arms. Instead, he touted non-violent demonstrations and activism.
It all began with a famous flashpoint. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white person in Montgomery, Ala. This incident led to a successful 382-day bus boycott led by King, and it cemented his role as a leader for blacks in the United States.
After the boycott, and in the face of government and cultural intimidation, he hit the road to spread his message, speaking more than 2,500 times and traveling more than 6 million miles. Eventually, his means subverted a deeply rooted culture of discrimination. In doing so, he won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and was the youngest winner ever at the tender age of 35.
King was assassinated in 1968, but his legacy has inspired freedom-loving people all over the world.
 

 6.Ivan Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov may be best known by memorable sound bites, such as "Pavlov's dogs" or the "Pavlovian response." But his sprawling impact on science can't be reduced to such concise phrases.
Pavlov won the 1904 Nobel in physiology. He's best known for his research on conditioned reflexes. In his most famous experiments, he would ring a bell every time he gave food to dogs. After repeating this process over and over again, the dogs would eventually begin salivating simply at the sound of the bell. It wasn't long before people realized that humans weren't all that different from dogs. We're all conditioned to respond certain ways -- both good and bad -- to various stimuli.
Pavlov's insights opened new doors in psychology and behaviorism, and they altered the way people perceive their own behaviors. He was so well-regarded in the Soviet Union and around the world that the Soviet government couldn't muzzle his outspoken condemnation of Communism. By the time he won the Nobel, he was already one of the most renowned scientists in the world, and his discoveries still reverberate today.
 

5.Mother Teresa

She's a virtual brand name when it comes to charity. Mother Teresa won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize for her unending work with some of the world's most impoverished people.
In 1950, Mother Teresa launched a Catholic organization called the Missionaries of Charity, which began its work in India, helping to ease the suffering of poor, sick and orphaned people. In time, the charity grew to care for AIDS sufferers and people displaced by war, famine and other catastrophes, both natural and human-caused.
She remained committed to the charity for more than 40 years. She died in 1997, but many carry on her mission. Her organization is still active in more than 130 countries, with thousands of sisters tending to those in need. In doing so, they maintain a humanitarian presence in communities where no one else has the means or will to help.
 

4. Alexander Fleming, Ernst Chain and Howard Florey

Humankind doesn't advance without, well, humans. That's why medical advances are so critical to each and every one of us. Sir Alexander Fleming, along with Sir Ernst Boris Chain and Sir Howard Florey, made one of the most important medical discoveries ever and, as a result, won the 1945 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
In his rather unclean research lab, and by accident, Fleming realized that a mold growing in a petri dish had killed adjacent Staphylococci bacteria. Thus began his experiments with the mold, called Penicillium notatum, which eventually resulted in penicillin-based antibiotics.
These drugs were effective against all sorts of diseases that had ravaged humans for centuries, including tuberculosis, gangrene, syphilis and many other bacterial infections. As a result, untold lives were improved or spared.
 

3.The International Committee of the Red Cross

In a world ripped apart by war, the Red Cross did its part to heal many, many wounds. The organization won Nobel Peace Prizes in 1917, 1944 and 1963 for its humanitarian services.
Founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1863, the Red Cross is committed to aiding wounded and sick people, regardless of nationality, in times of war. The Red Cross doesn't help only military personnel; it also seeks to alleviate the suffering of civilians caught up in the strife of violent conflicts.
During the World Wars, the Red Cross monitored adherence to the Geneva Convention and documented any violations. Its volunteers also visited prisoner-of-war camps to ensure humane treatment of captives, and they even arranged for prisoner exchanges.
The Red Cross tracked POWs, delivered mail to prison camps and generally served as a vital link between families and soldiers during war. As war spread across the globe, the Red Cross proved that the better side of humanity could persist in the face of bullets and bombs.

2.Albert Einstein

From a physics perspective, Albert Einstein helped to overhaul not just the entire world but also the entire universe. His concepts were so far-reaching that, in some ways, they turned our perception of the very nature of reality inside out.
Einstein went to school to receive a teaching degree for chemistry and math. When he couldn't find a job, he went to work at the Swiss patent office. There, in his spare time, his busy mind took up big questions in theoretical physics.
Einstein discovered mass-energy equivalence and also tackled theories of relativity. He won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the photoelectric effect, which refers to the ejection of electrons from another material in response to light.
His explanation demonstrated that light is made of particles, which then led to the development of the photoelectric cell. This, in turn, resulted in countless inventions, including television, motion pictures and many others.
Perhaps more importantly, his research evolved our understanding of physics, including quantum theory. His forward thinking didn't just nudge science and technology forward; it shoved those disciplines into entirely new territory.


1.Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a selfless, quiet woman. She was also a brilliant scientist. Not only did her work transform the way scientists viewed our world, but she also stands as a cultural gatecrasher for the ages.
Curie, a French-Polish scientist, was born in 1867 and spent much of her professional life investigating the principles of radioactivity. In 1903, she and her husband Pierre, along with Henri Becquerel, received the Nobel Prize for their physics work on radiation-related phenomena.
As if one Nobel wasn't enough, in 1911, she snagged the Nobel in chemistry for her discoveries of radium and polonium. This time, she didn't have to share it with anyone, making her one of very few people to have won prizes in two different fields.
At the outbreak of World War I, she used her radiation knowledge to construct mobile X-ray machines for the battlefield. She did much of the X-ray work herself and also trained other women to take X-rays, helping doctors find bullets and shrapnel in wounded soldiers.
In an era when women were in many ways considered inferior to men, Curie more than proved her worth and left a scientific legacy that continues to affect medicine and technology in untold ways. And her genius was contagious -- her daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, received a Nobel in chemistry in 1935.
Curie is a figurehead for the Nobel Prize. She, along with all of the other Nobel winners, stands as evidence that this prestigious prize can highlight humankind's best achievements.


 

 

 

Who is the 'Mother of the Internet'?

A lot of different people have been called the "father of the Internet," including Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who invented the Internet protocol suite known as TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). Never heard of those guys? Many people, unless they're really into the history of the Web, probably haven't. There are lots of people whose work went into creating what we know as the Internet (yes, including Al Gore). But if you've heard of any of the so-called "fathers," have you also wondered if there's a "mother of the Internet"? Well, it depends on who you ask.
There is a woman who has been called the "mother of the Internet." Radia Perlman, a network engineer and software designer with a Ph.D. in computer science from MIT, has made numerous contributions to the Internet as we know it, holding more than 80 related patents. Perlman has also won many awards, including twice being named one of the 20 most influential people in her field (by Data Communications Magazine). But Perlman didn't "invent" the Internet. Instead, she's best known for writing the algorithm behind STP (Spanning Tree Protocol). But what's STP?
In 1985, Perlman was working for Digital Equipment Corporation, which was trying to solve the problem of file sharing between computers. Perlman quickly provided STP as the solution. Some people have likened it to a sort of traffic pattern for the Internet to follow. It's called a "tree" because it creates redundant links between network nodes, or network points. This means that if a link fails, there's a backup. Only one link is ever active at one time, but when the data is needed -- it's there. STP was quickly adopted as the standard protocol for network bridge technology, and it essentially allowed the Ethernet to handle massive networks.
But Perlman has moved on – she's been working on a protocol to replace STP called TRILL (TRansparent Interconnection of Lots of Links) and improving data security on the Internet. Perlman has also helped introduce young children to computer programming. She doesn't think much of her so-called title, either. She can't remember the publication that coined it and is surprised that she's known for STP at all. It took her less than a week to come up with the algorithm behind it and write the protocol – she even had time to pen a poem explaining how STP works.

A Protein That Has Implications For Treatment Of Cancer And Heart Disease

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have discovered that a protein used by cancer cells to evade death also plays a vital role in heart health. This dual role complicates efforts to develop cancer drugs that target the protein, but may lead to new therapies for heart muscle damage. The research appeared in a recent edition of the scientific journal Genes & Development.
The protein, MCL1, is currently the focus of widespread cancer drug development efforts. MCL1 is best known as an inhibitor of death via the cell's suicide pathway in a process called apoptosis. The protein is elevated in a variety of cancers, and a number of MCL1 inhibitors are in the cancer drug development pipeline worldwide. The protein has also been linked to drug resistance in cancer patients. Until now, however, MCL1's role in heart muscle cells was unclear.
"Our study shows that MCL1 is required for normal cardiac function and that the protein may be critical in protecting the heart from apoptosis," said Joseph Opferman, Ph.D., an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Biochemistry and the paper's corresponding author. Unlike skin or blood cells, heart muscle cells cannot be replaced, so even a small loss through apoptosis can be devastating. In this study, knocking out MCL1 in mice led to death from cardiomyopathy within weeks.
"These findings suggest that cancer-related drug development efforts should focus on reducing MCL1 expression in target cells rather than eliminating the protein's function completely," Opferman said.
The results also have implications for treating heart muscle damage following heart attacks or other insults. While limiting MCL1 in cancer cells might aid in destroying them, providing higher levels of the protein in heart muscle cells might benefit a patient recovering from a heart attack or other heart damage. "These findings have broad implications for human health," Opferman said.
MCL1 belongs to a protein family involved in regulating apoptosis. The body uses apoptosis to rid itself of damaged, dangerous or unneeded cells. MCL1 prevents apoptosis by blocking the activity of other members of the same protein family that promote the process.
This research builds on previous work from Opferman's laboratory that identified a second form of MCL1. That form works inside rather than outside the mitochondria and helps to produce the chemical energy that fuels cells. Mitochondria are specialized structures inside cells that serve as their power plants.
The latest results suggest both forms of MCL1 are necessary for normal heart function, said the paper's first author Xi Wang, a University of Tennessee Health Science Center graduate student working in Opferman's laboratory.
When investigators knocked out the mouse version of the human MCL1 gene in the heart and skeletal muscle of both embryonic and adult mice, the animals rapidly developed lethal cardiomyopathy. Without MCL1, researchers found that muscle fiber in heart muscle cells was replaced by fibrous tissue, and the pumping ability of the animals' hearts diminished. Loss of MCL1 was also associated with a rise in apoptosis sufficient to cause fatal heart muscle weakness.
To better understand MCL1's role in normal heart function, researchers blocked apoptosis by deleting genes for the proteins Bak and Bax as well as MCL1. Bak and Bax promote apoptosis. Knocking out all three genes restored normal heart function in the mice. The animals lived longer, but mitochondria in the heart muscle did not look or function normally. These results suggest that normal heart function requires both forms of MCL1. "The question is whether, with time, you would see deleterious effects from the loss of MCL1 separate from apoptosis," Opferman said.

References

The other authors are Madhavi Bathina, John Lynch, Brian Koss, Christopher Calabrese, Sharon Frase, John Schuetz and Jerold Rehg, all of St. Jude.
The research was funded in part by a grant (HL102175) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a grant (CA021765) from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the NIH, the National Cancer Society and ALSAC.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Saturday, 13 July 2013

new with Income Taxes and e-Filing this year

Changes in e-Filing this year onwards
  • E-Filing is compulsory for people earning more than Rs. 5Lakhs. This refers to the total income amount after claiming tax deductions like section 80 deductions. 
  • You will need to enter the IFSC code instead of MICR code while specifying your account details.
  • For getting refund via ECS (i.e. directly into your bank account), you have to specify an 11-digit number Bank Account Number.
    If you do not have an 11-digit bank account number, then you have to request your refund via cheque. 
  • You will have to file the ITR-2 in case of exempt income exceeding Rs. 5,000. Common examples of Exempt Income are PPF interest. Dividend earned from shares etc.
  • Remember to claim Section 80TTA: Everyone should declare their Bank Interest Income and then claim this deduction. 
  • Section 80D (Preventive Healthcare Expenses)
  • You can claim up to Rs. 5000 for preventive Healthcare Expenses. (The expenditure could have been in cash too)
  • Declaration of Assets and Liabilities for Business people:If you earn Income from Business or Profession and your Total Income exceeds Rs. 25 Lakhs, you have to provide the details of all your personal and business Assets & Liabilities in Income Tax return itself. This is for people filling in ITR-3 and ITR-4 only. 
  • Foreign Income declaration: Income earned from foreign countries has to be declared in the ITR. This is in addition declaration of all
  • foreign assets in your I-T Return.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

India makes a porn call

It is late evening and a handful of labourers are milling around a small cellphone shop in an East Delhi neighbourhood. They are there for their weekly recharge of talk time - and porn clips. One of them has saved enough to buy a second-hand smartphone. The four-inch screen is cracked, but he looks forward to watching Bollywood clips for Rs 1 apiece. With the apps downloaded on his phone he will no longer need the phonewallah to refresh his stock of "garam videos".

More than half of India's 150 million Internet users access the web from their phones. Porn accounts for at least 30 per cent of all web traffic, so it is no surprise that this ratio is reflected in mobile Internet usage as well. With the increasing popularity of smartphones, there has been a proliferation of data-hogging porn apps that makes it easier to access adult content.

Publishing or transmitting pornographic material in electronic form is an offence under the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008. This is why hardly any adult website or porn app is hosted on Indian territory. But the government does not crack down on the private viewing of adult material.

Phone porn is not really new. It started in the early 1990s, when sex chats resulted in some Indian households running up six-figure phone bills. When Internet access finally came to the cell phone, many Indians logged on to their favourite porn sites from the smaller but much more personal screens, despite horrible download speeds.


With the advent of apps and 3G, accessing adult content has become easier than ever before. From the vintage Linda Lovelace to Sunny Leone, they are all now literally in people's pockets. There is practically no data on how much porn is flowing through the pipelines. Indian companies, from mobile service providers to app trackers, don't want to discuss the topic.

The global legal porn industry is worth at least $10 billion, according to a rough industry estimate, but this figure is outdated. One of the most authoritative studies on porn usage, compiled in the form of a book called A Billion Wicked Thoughts, by Sai Gaddam and Ogi Ogas, was published in 2010. Gaddam, a Bangalore-based computational neuroscientist who helps companies understand consumer behaviour from the data they generate, says their studies showed that four per cent of websites and 13 per cent of searches are for porn. He adds that smartphones are likely to have changed some of these figures. "Smartphones have made access to porn more convenient," he says. "Major porn sites started mobile versions in recognition of this."

The trend is obvious. Kate Miller, director of communications and marketing at Manwin, a Luxembourg-based company that owns top adult websites YouPorn and Pornhub, said in an e-mail interaction that her company has seen a pronounced increase in visits via mobiles and tablets. "Our team has taken note of the increase, and continuously works to enhance the user experience on the devices." The two websites from Manwin alone get around two million hits a day from India, increasingly from mobile devices (see Kama Cola). If this is any indication, the daily traffic to porn sites from computers and mobile phones in India could be staggering. Manwin is perhaps the world's largest porn network, and its sites total about 16 billion hits a month.

This is why all the top porn sites have an Indian clips section, even though no international online bookstore bothers to have one for Indian literature. If video is touted as the main engine for data growth, there can be no doubt that porn is going to be its main fuel. It would be naive to think everyone is going to watch Bollywood trailers and news clips. Porn sites have been popular ever since the Internet came to India. Old sites like desipapa.com continue to thrive, with video and live sex chat, while international porn houses have started catering to Indian audiences.

Porn can be accessed from any phone with a data connection. Even basic phones can open mobile versions of porn sites with the native browser, though the experience might not be very good. Smartphone users are much better off, with access to the best browsers, such as Chrome and Opera, which can easily stream video. The browser is crucial for iPhone users, as Apple does not allow 'adult-oriented' apps on its store. Search for sex in the Apple app store and you get food porn, and maybe a few apps that explain sex positions.

Compared with this, Android is a libertine. The Google Play store has thousands of apps offering content to meet all your "urges" and kinks. This is the home of the porn app. We found nearly 1,000 apps tailor-made for Indians and their peculiar preferences, such as wet sarees and navels. But as with any category of Android apps, there is a bunch of fake "hot auntie" and "Bollywood babe" apps out there, while others just aggregate clips from the non-sanitised regions of YouTube.


One company has cut the clutter of the Android store by setting up a porn app store of its own. While iPhone users are limited to accessing MiKandi apps through their browser, Android users can download MiKandi Theatre and its curated collection of free and paid apps directly on to their phone. "People were buying iPhones for the apps, not websites, so when the industry was blocked from the only distribution channel that mattered, it was left to settle for second-rate experiences," says Jesse Adams,CEO and co-founder of MiKandi LLC , in an e-mail interaction from Seattle, in the United States. "Android's open philosophy changed all that and we're finding many companies moving fast to catch up." Over a million MiKandi apps are downloaded a month, with India at number six in terms of traffic.

But why have an app when you can watch porn directly on the browser? Adams says an app's advantage is its ability to access the device's core capabilities to completely control and deliver the best user experience. "This means faster speeds, better memory management, and overall a more polished user interface compared to websites," he says. "It also allows us to offer useful functions such as downloading or removing content on your device, running offline or receiving notifications."

But Manwin doesn't think so. "Apps in general have a timed life span," says Miller. "We're confident that focusing on user experience on the mobile and tablet sites is the optimal choice at this time."

But the Android story is not just about phones. The worldwide want for porn is already pushing these apps to television, tablets and any other connected screen, be it on a refrigerator or in a car. In fact, MiKandi was the first to announce an app for Google Glass, only to be booted out. With the phone conquered, porn is now eyeing the most personal screen invented.