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G is for Google

As The Trashmen would say, “A well-a Google Google Google, Google’s the word”. Coz it’s made out of Alphabet (Inc.). Big new today surrounding the restructuring of Google. Google has a corporate boss and its name, Alphabet Inc. The news headlines have gone flashing across social media of the change out of the blue.

As of now, the only thing known for certain is that Google will be owned by a parent company called Alphabet Inc. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google will serve as the CEO and President, respectively. Google will now be headed by Sundar Pichai, the former head of Android. The rationale for the move is to provide some level of independence to the other branches, formerly under google, like the health sciences lab called Calico, the research arm X-labs, Nest, Fiber, Ventures, Capital, Sidewalk, Wing, etc. Each of these will become a separate company under the Alphabet umbrella.

Each company will have it’s own CEO and Page and Brin will head Alphabet. Google will include search, ads, YouTube, apps, maps and the technical infrastructure. Google stock will now become Alphabet stock. And as for the name, Larry Page has this to say,

We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha‑bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for!

And what’s more, their web-page, is abc.xyz :o.

Read the complete statement by Larry Page, here.

-Akshar Rawal

Sun done, now the moon’s energy

We’ve harnessed the power of the sun’s energy through solar technology and SolarCity is an example of it. The Moon has been feeling bad about it and it wants to be helpful and important too. Well guess what, we might soon be putting it’s power to use. How, you say? Tidal energy.

Ocean waves carry immense power that is just waiting to be tapped into. We’ve tapped into the power of flowing rivers (waterfalls, primarily). Tidal waves are probably even more powerful than a river would be. So why not harness that energy? What’s been stopping us from doing so? The answer is technology. We did not have the system design that would be able to harness that power. With rivers, the turbine is forced to move with the flow with part of it being outside the water. This allows for it to be pushed at one end, forcing circular motion. But with the ocean waves, the turbine, to be in a wave intensive area, would either have to be completely submerged, or really, really huge. Let’s not go to designing huge turbines. We still have to move ships in the ocean.

So submerged it is. But being submerged would leave the traditional turbine design useless. Equal force on both ends would leave no room for the circular motion. The idea then would be to design the rotors in a hydro-dynamic fashion. We already have something similar. Wind mills, with their aero-dynamic designs. Why not replicate that? Actually people have and it has not turned out to be the best of the ideas. It is a bit inefficient, things don’t move as fast under the ocean pressure. And the marine life is not particularly happy about it either. But marine life primarily resides in the depth of the oceans. Why not do something closer to the shores? We have quite some ways around there too.

Well a British start up has done just that. It has proposed the plan to build a “Tidal fence” that will convert the power of the waves to energy as they moved towards the shore. It is expected to produce more power more cheaply than the off-shore wind farms. FYI, these are the non-eco-friendly installations in the ocean. Being in the shallow regions might prove to be friendlier to marine life. In any case, it is definitely an interesting venture but only an idea as of yet. It remains to be seen how it performs on the stage. You can read more about it over at Gizmodo.

-Akshar Rawal

Alas! RIP HitchBOT

2 weeks it lasted. Remember The hitch-hiking robot, it’s journey has come to an abrupt end just two weeks in. It made it all the way to Philly, starting from Boston and going through New York and Salem, to name a few of the cities it visited. It was dismantled by humans of Philly, it’s head severed, heart stolen. It faced a gruesome death. Guess they were not ready for it just yet.

Not that the robot served any particular purpose, or that it had a bunch of highly futuristic concepts built-in, it still hurts. All it basically was a trash can with some electronics fitted inside it. But still. Come on! I mean it made it’s way through Canada and Europe, why not here? Maybe it needs to up it’s ante for a better chance of survival. After all, life does follow “survival of the fittest” standards.

Read about it’s gruesome death over at gizmodo and read a little rant over the little pile of trash that it was, over at the concourse.

-Akshar Rawal

A tribute…Missile Man of India – Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

On the 27th day of July 2015, the world endured the loss of a visionary, a scientist and one of the purest of people on this earth. His name Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. May he rest in peace. Not only did he empower India to become a nuclear savvy nation, he also served as President from 2002 to 2007. Some of the most prominent missiles with India’s armed forces, still, were developed under his supervision. But you can read all about his work on his wikipedia page.

This post is dedicated to the change and motivation that Dr. Kalam inspired with his words.

“Let me define a leader. He must have vision and passion and not be afraid of any problem. Instead, he should know how to defeat it. Most importantly, he must work with integrity.”

“You have to dream before your dreams come true.”

“Great dreams of great dreamers are always transcended.”

“To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal.”

“You see, God helps only those who work hard. That principle is very clear.”

“My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This is my message to the young people.”

“Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.”

“Man needs his difficulties because they are necessary to enjoy success.”

“If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.”

“Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work.”

-Akshar Rawal

Google’s patent for a “memory device”

Anyone watch the series “Black Mirror”? Anyone? Anyone? Someone! No one? Well either ways. The show is about how technology can lose its purpose if not used wisely. I’m getting to the patent part. Hold on! There is this one episode in the show about the future of a memory device that stores and displays memories as required.

Turns out, Google actually patented a device that does just that. Now there’s already cameras and video recorders that can do that. So what’s new? It’s Google best part. SEARCH. More specifically, search memories. It’ll show up photos/videos stored as real time video, when asked things like, “Hey what’d we do last Friday at 8?”.

The uses would be endless. It can be used in investigation. It can be used to reminisce. It can be used to fight depression (hopefully). But all of these have their downsides too. It can cause depression with sad memories. With all the hacking happening all around, people can stalk you even more closely, rather more creepily. I suggest you go watch Black mirror for more.

In any case, it is an exciting product. It is about time, Google took search to the next level eh? Anyone can search a gallery for dog photos by searching for “dogs”, right? 🙂 (Oh, if you don’t know what I’m talking about check out Google photos review)

Check out more details about the patent over at Gizmodo.

-Akshar Rawal

Re-writing the future of electronics with Physics

In the earliest days, man knew physical compounds as being the smallest category of size, until the discovery of molecules. The same went for molecules, until the discovery of cells. Then from cells to atoms, then to sub-atomic particles. And sub-atomic particles are not limited to protons, neutrons and electrons. There’s baryons, fermions, mesons, leptons, photons, gluons and many more. Wikipedia has a pretty interesting article about the sub-atomic particles.

More recently, scientists have been studying the birth of the universe. The universe is assumed to be composed of dark matter and dark energy, something that scientists haven’t quite been able to figure out. And to determine the same, they have been trying to reproduce events from the big bang to study the creation of these. The LHC or Large Hadron Collider is used to accelerate particles to near-light speed before they are collided to observe these effects. The Higgs-Boson particles were first of these mysterious particles observed during these simulations. And they have led to tremendous advancements in the world of Physics.

One such study, not with the LHC, has lead to the discovery of what are known as Weyl Fermions. They were hypothesized but never observed, until recently. These particles are massless (like photons and gluons) but highly stable. Counter-intuitely, they cannot exist by themselves. Instead they exist as quasi-particles. They are not particles, rather they are a disturbance in a medium, like some electronic activity, that acts like a particle in free space.

The property of these quasi-particles that is important to the world of electronics is the fact that:

  1. They only interact with other Weyl Fermions.
  2. They retain their speed and course while they interact.

What this entails is that they can be used to carry a charge over long distances without generating heat or getting scattered. Electrons exhibit both properties, they generate heat and repel each other, forcing scattering if allowed. It waits to be seen what more can they offer.

IFLScience has a detailed report on the discovery. You can check it out here.

-Akshar Rawal

The hitch-hiking robot

So apparently there is a robot that is making it’s way all the way from Boston to San Fran ON FOOT. And if you find it waiting by the road, you can give it a ride. It will even ask for one. Looks like it doesn’t know that you shouldn’t ride with strangers. Oh wait, so then does it know not to hang it’s arm out the window? You know, just to find that out, I want to make a trip from Boston to San Fran too.

The creators of this robot actually wanted to see what people do with it’s technology when left absolutely up to them. Check out the complete post on the hitchBOT here on Gizmodo.

-Akshar Rawal

UPDATE: Well it turns out, it was just not yet ready. Read about it’s fate at Alas! RIP HitchBOT.

eSIMs: You up for it?

Samsung and Apple are reportedly working on devices that support eSIMs. RIP SIM cards. Or maybe not. Who knows. But let’s discuss the option. Pros:

  • Easier provider switching. It will be as easy as switching credit cards on your Amazon account.
  • No SIM size problems.
  • Personalized account management online, possibly.
  • Universal SIM, if they really need some hardware.
  • Users can set up carriers for their devices during setup.

Cons:

  • Providers would lose control, but it might go to device manufacturers.
  • This reduces the options for the user, risking the prices to go up.
  • Providers would be able to work with manufacturers to limit options during setup. But this would be what they do now with locked phones.

Gizmodo has a detailed post on the birth of SIM cards, their evolution and the story of eSIMs now. You can check out their post here.

-Akshar Rawal

Leap second…like a leap year

You must have had an encounter with an interesting news item these past few days regarding the extra second this June. It is quite interesting, but why did the scientific community suddenly decide to add a second to a month? Is this going to happen every year from now on?

Well, not exactly. See, the earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down ever so slightly. This increases the length of day on the earthy a proportional amount. But the reduction in speed is so slow that we, as humans, do not recognize it in our daily lives. But there are scientists out there that calculate the exact length of the earth’s “day” to millisecond precision.

Now, it’s important to know that the length of day on the earth varies everyday, EVERYDAY, by a small margin. This is attributed to ocean currents, other inter-galactic objects  working there gravity, tectonic movements, weather and more. But the average length of a day is 86400.002 seconds.

But we cannot just let the time be, can we? Scientists, calculate the length of the day everyday using what is called Very Long Baseline Interferometry or VLBI for short. It uses radio dish signals across the earth to calculate earth’s rotation with the rotation of quasar’s as a reference. (Quasars are bright galactic bodies that do not move almost at all.). The time calculated using the VLBI is maintained as UT1 and is not always equal to the UTC time. It varies by a few milliseconds. Scientists try to maintain the UT1 and the UTC within 0.9 seconds of each other (That is a big time unit when dealing with scientific calculations – 900 milliseconds).

Well, as it turns out, this year that threshold was crossed. And to compensate and bring UTC back to within 0.9 seconds of the UT1, scientists decided to add 1 second to June 30th as a leap second.

The more interesting thing here is how the internet reacted to it. A lot of transactions over the internet are quite time sensitive, some to the precision of milliseconds. Now, people have learned tricks to handle a leap second with the previous occurrences in 2005 and 2012 causing outages across major servers across the world. So there haven’t been a lot of stories around that this time. Wall St was however reportedly closed for a while around June 30th. But if anyone has heard of any stories, feel free to enlighten us and respond in the comments below.

-Akshar Rawal

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