Making us pay with our lives

‘Could you get a small size pizza and some French fries for Zafrullah and send to GK? He is not eating and maybe a change in menu will help.’  It was our very own freedom fighter Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury that Shireen Huq, his wife, was talking about, and I wasted no time in my search for the pizza.

Rahnuma Ahmed being tested for Covid-19 in our flat in Dhanmondi. ─ Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Continue reading “Making us pay with our lives”

The Gonoshasthya Kendra’s Corona Test Kit. Cui Bono?

Cui bono is often a good starting point in an investigation. Literally meaning ‘who benefits?’ Whoever appears to have the most to gain from a ‘crime’ is probably the culprit. Stepping back from the ‘whodunnit’ nature of the drama that is playing out, we could be less dramatic and just look at the meaningfulness or advantages of carrying out an important function.

At this point in Bangladesh, as in many other countries, there are few things more important to do, than to detect whether or not one has been infected by the Covid-19 virus. For many, it could literally be a matter of life and death. It is beyond dispute that an efficient, accurate and affordable kit that could be made readily available would be of immense value to the country.

Zafrullah Chowdhury 6506Zafrullah Chowdhury (born December 27, 1941) is a Bangladeshi public health activist. He is the founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra (meaning the People's Health Center in Bengali), a rural healthcare organisation. Dr. Chowdhury is known more for his work in formulating the Bangladesh National Drug Policy in 1982. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Continue reading “The Gonoshasthya Kendra’s Corona Test Kit. Cui Bono?”

If Sophia shed tears

Sophia, UNDP’s first-ever non-human Innovation Champion for Asia and Pacific and Mr Haoliang Xu of China, assistant secretary-general, assistant administrator and director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, at the Responsible Business Forum in Singapore. — Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

THE lack of paper, meatless meals and complete recycling of waste, were refreshingly different, though not everyone appreciated the paperless culture. It’s a while to go before squinting at a small screen becomes the norm. The absence of pop up banners and local branding was also refreshingly more soothing for the eyes. Singapore does have a culture of putting people in a deep freeze. Not having to shudder in ridiculously cold temperatures in this equatorial country, because the air-conditioning was for once, not making things intolerably cold, was a delight in itself. I was still not expecting an event with a low ecological footprint. The ambitious agenda of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands’ first-ever ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’ event promised just that. The Responsible Business Forum hosted by the United Nations Development Programme and Global Initiatives involved over 600 international business, government and NGO leaders inviting them to engage with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in at MBS from 22-24 November 2017. Continue reading “If Sophia shed tears”

A Planet Made of Diamond

The 6 Most Mind-Blowing Things Ever Discovered in Space

It’s actually really easy to think of space as boring. The planets in our own solar system all seem to be empty rocks or balls of gas, and you find a whole lot of nothing before you get to the next star. Meanwhile, Hollywood’s most creative minds can’t get past populating the place with planets that look a whole lot like Earth (and specifically, parts of California) featuring monsters, rapey aliens or Muppets.

But real space is far, far stranger. You just have to know where to look to find things like …

Science fiction writers have this annoying thing they do where they can only think of like five different types of planets. You know, there’s the ice planets (like Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back) and the forest planets (like in Avatar), desert planets, lava planets, etc.

But scientists have studied almost 700 real planets outside the solar system, and some of them are downright gaudy. Case in point: PSR J1719-1438 b. Planet Fancy isn’t having any of that rocky gassy stuff. Because it’s straight up made of diamond:

Via?Inewp.com
It’s a wedding gem worthy of Jesus or the Sultan of Dubai.

How Is This Even Possible?

The universe’s biggest showoff actually used to be a star, and sometimes the debris that’s left over after the star dies starts a second career as a planet. In this case, Blingworld started off life as one of two parts of a binary star. The larger twin made like a bomb and supernova-ed. What was left behind was a pulsating star, or pulsar, and a white dwarf. The dwarf stabilized just far enough away from its former brother to lose matter to the bully but to keep its carbon core.

Via?Spaceflightnow.com
What a dick!

Carbon is just a shitload of heat and pressure away from becoming a diamond. On Earth, that happens underground and creates little shiny bits for people to dig up and cram into their jewelry. But in this particular spot in space, the conditions were just right for the entire interior of that former star to harden, crystallize and turn into a planet-sized gem.

Damn it, mankind’s single goal should now be to assemble a mission to tow this bastard back to Earth. There’s one pawn shop owner who’s going to be in for a big fucking surprise.

Photos.com
“Yeah, that’s cute. Get your telescope and come with me.”

#5. A Gigantic Rain Cloud

Here’s another thing you never see in space movies: water. The Millennium Falcon doesn’t have windshield wipers. The Enterprise’s huge display screen doesn’t get fogged up because they flew through a space cloud. If you saw that in a sci-fi movie (with the pilot all “Damn, I can’t see due to all of this space rain!”), you’d laugh your ass off. “Have these people even been to space?”

But, guess what: Scientists have found a big-ass pool of water just floating out there in the cosmos. This massive reservoir of floating space water vapor is in fact the biggest collection of water in the universe that we know of.

Photos.com
With the smallest concentration of child urine.

And when we say “big” we’re not talking Pacific Ocean big. We’re talking 100,000 times larger than the sun big. This is a vapor cloud so large it holds 140 trillion times more water than all of our oceans.

Photos.com
And you know what that means …?space sharks.

How Is This Even Possible?

As with everything else on this list, scientists are doing a lot of shrugging and guesstimating at what we’re actually looking at. After all, the water cloud is 10 billion light-years away, so it’s not like the next generation of astronauts are going to be packing their swimming trunks or anything. But they think that what’s going on is that there’s this massive black hole that’s chomping down on everything around it. Instead of spewing out energy like a normal black hole would, the black hole is excreting water vapor. Somehow. They’re still figuring it out.

Basically, picture the big black spot as a gaping mouth and the ring of water around as drool, and you get the idea:

Via?Universetoday.com
And all like, “Duuuuhhhh,” because black holes are stupid.

Or, if that image is disturbing, pretend the big black hole in the center is a space water park and the gassy ring around it is the universe’s most kickass lazy river.

OK, so you could totally wind up flying your spaceship through a rain cloud. But it’s not like flying through a thunderstorm. After all, there’s no lightning in space. Right?

#4. Lightning!

Wrong!

Scientists have known for a while that lightning isn’t unique to Earth. They’ve observed lightning on Mars and Saturn. What they didn’t know is that lightning could occur in the middle of goddamn space, with a force equal to a trillion lightning bolts, or to use the proper scientific terms, 50 million fucktons of electricity.

Via?Newscientist.com
Yeah, where’s your kite now, Benjamin?

That insane electrical current was discovered near galaxy 3C303. But is this huge electrical current serving as an outlet for God to plug in his blow dryer? No, it’s not doing anything that cool … it’s just firing a massive jet of electrified matter 150,000 light-years into outer space.

OK, so maybe referring to this as a lightning storm was underplaying it a bit. Instead, try imagining a single bolt of lightning 50 percent longer than the entire Milky Way galaxy.


Add a skull and the silhouette of a graveyard and you have yourself an ’80s metal album cover.

How Is This Even Possible?

Like most cool things in space, this electrical current is caused by a black hole, the prima donna of the universe. Astronomers speculate that a giant black hole in the center of 3C303 has an unusually strong magnetic field, which in turn generates a ridiculous amount of electricity.

Photos.com
Which in turn makes a wicked T-shirt design.

In fact, it’s the biggest burst of electrical current ever detected in the universe. Maybe that’s how we were able to pick it up from two billion freaking light-years away.

Picturing Abortion

by Sarah Ackley

Hipocrite Reader ISSUE 14 | INNOCENCE | MAR 2012

The stunning fetal images by photographer Lennart Nilsson, first published in the April 3, 1965 issue of Life, have become iconic in the anti-abortion movement. According to Life Site News, Nilsson is credited with taking “photographs that the pro-life movement has found priceless: the earliest and most compelling visual images that give intimate detail and clarity to the humanity of unborn children in the womb.” Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, an anti-abortion advocacy organization, has said, “Images such as those created by Lennart Nilsson absolutely reaffirm the humanity of unborn persons, which is why they are so unpopular with pro-abortion forces.”

Nilsson certainly wasn’t the first to photograph the fetus. A number of photographs of embryos and fetuses appeared in the July 3, 1950 issue of Life magazine, but Nilsson was thought to be the first to photograph live fetuses in the uterus. The editor’s note of the 1965 issue of Lifereads,

The opening picture in Nilsson’s essay, a live baby inside the womb, is a historic and extraordinary photographic achievement… [A] doctor said, “As far as I know, in utero pictures such as Nilsson’s have never been taken before. When you take living tissue in its living state and view it in its natural surroundings you can see things you can’t see afterward. Being able to view the fetus inside the uterus, and being able to note its circulatory details, is rather sensational from our point of view.”


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Who needs facts? We appear to be in the Post-Information Age now

Evidence? Ha. That’s for humanists, scientists and who knows what other dangerous-ists. It’s all about how we feel now

Guardian

S consulate compound in Benghazi attacked

A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi. Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images

Remember the Information Age? That was such an interesting period, when digital technology and the thirst for understanding converged to give the human race unprecedented access to heaps of revealing data, contemporaneous and historical. All you had to do was analyze the information without prejudice and the secrets of the world unfolded before you – from the human genome to weekend crime in your town, from the value of the two-out stolen base to the origin of the universe.

But nothing lasts forever. Objective analysis is just so 2013. Facts are over, replaced by feelings and free-floating certainty. Sure, so-called Big Data will get bigger still, but only in service of targeted diaper advertising and spying on citizens. For everything that matters, as of now, we are smack in the Post-Information Age.

According to a Pew Research Center survey released last week, 33% of Americans believe that evolution is a vicious rumor, opining that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time”. Genesis is their story and they’re sticking to it.

Not insignificantly, rejection of science over religious mythology is distinctly partisan: 48% of Republicans, versus 27% of Democrats, “just say no” to Darwin. This explains a lot. The GOP failed four dozen times to undo Obamacare, but they’re that close to repealing the Age of Enlightenment.

Evidence? Ha. That’s for humanists, scientists and who knows what other dangerous–ists. Governance has become a faith-based initiative. When it comes to the most critical issues of our society – the economy, climate change, gun violence – it matters only what you believe in.

As the mid-term elections approach, watch as the square pegs of reality are pounded into the round holes of ideology. We saw a sneak preview last week after a 7,000-word investigative piece in The New York Times revisited the 11 September 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, the administration ascribed the violence to anger over an anti-Islam YouTube video titled “The Innocence of Muslims”. House Republicans smelled a rat, accusing to White House of covering-up an al-Qaida connection to the attack, one which might have neutralized the political benefit of Osama bin Laden’s scalp in President Obama’s re-election campaign.

Like the official State Department investigation before it (pdf), David Kirkpatrick’s exhaustive reporting – sourcing diplomats, eyewitnesses and many Islamic militants with zero interest in protecting the White House – found plenty of intelligence and security failures, but no evidence of al-Qaida participation.

The immediate reaction of the conservative press? Attack. They offered no counter evidence, merely summary dismissal. Since Kirkpatrick’s analysis did not comport with the GOP’s narrative as propounded by Congressmen Darryl Issa (R-California) and Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), there could be but one explanation, per the Fox News website headline: New York Times’ Benghazi article a shameless bid to send Hillary to White House in 2016.

The Washington Times, having done no reporting on the ground, went back to House Republicans to reiterate their suppositions. No evidence has surfaced putting foreign elements at the scene 11 September, but undisclosed classified intelligence, in the words of House intelligence subcommittee Chairman Lynn A Westmoreland (R-Georgia) “just leads you to believe, or to know that [the attackers] were al-Qaida-related”.

Believe. Know. Same difference.

What makes this all so dangerous is that it not only corrupts policy debates, it undermines serious journalism – and science and history and all other rational disciplines – by rendering their output mere arguments, no more or less credible than someone’s dogma, superstition or gut hunch. We snigger at conspiracy theories abounding in the Muslim world, blaming Israel for September 11 and sharks in the Red Sea, but how they differ from, say, climate-change denial, is lost on me.

Not to say faith-based politics is the exclusive province of the political right. Such organizations as Project Censored exist to call attention to, for instance, the “Top Censored Stories Corporate Media Won’t Dare Touch” – pretty much all of which, of course, have been plucked from the corporate media. Yet the idea of Big Media protecting and shilling for The Man is as much a commonplace of progressive ideology as “liberal bias” trope is on Fox.

Why? Because it is comforting to construct a personal reality when actual reality will not do. That is where astrology came from, and voodoo. Also Area 51 and supply-side economics. That’s why we’ve slid into the Post-Information Age. It’s going to be a rough patch for Darwin.

And even worse for Voltaire.

The Barometer Story

Here is the problem a professor of physics had at the beginning of the XXth century:

“I received a call from a colleague about a student. He felt he had to give him a 0/20 to a physics question, while the student claimed a 20/20. Professor and student came to an agreement to select an impartial arbiter, and I was selected.

I read the examination question: “Show how it is possible to determine the height of a building with a barometer.”

The student replied: “I carry the barometer to the top of building, I attach a rope to it, I lower it to the ground, then I haul it back up and then I measure the length of the rope, which gives me the height of the building. “

The student was right, he had truly answered the question and accurately. On the other hand, I could not give him the exam: in this case, he’d receive his degree in physics without having shown me any knowledge in physics.

I offered to give another chance to the student giving him six minutes to answer the question with the caveat that for the answer he had to use his knowledge of physics. After five minutes, he had not yet written anything. I asked him if he wanted to give up but he said he had many answers to this problem and he wanted to choose the best one.

I excused myself for interrupting him and I asked him to continue.
In the next minute, he hastened to explain: “The barometer is placed at the height of the roof and is dropped: in calculating the fall time with a stopwatch, then using the formula: x=gt2/2, I find the height of the building. ”

At this point, I asked my colleague if he would give up. He replied in the affirmative and gave the student nearly 20/20

Leaving his office, I recalled the student because he said he had several solutions to this problem. “Well, he said, there are several ways to calculate the height of a skyscraper with a barometer. For example, you place it outside when the sun is shining. Height of the barometer is measured, then the length of its shadow and the length of the shadow of the building, then with a simple calculation of proportion, it’ll give you the height of the building. ”

“Good, I replied, what else?”

“There is a pretty basic method that you will enjoy. You climb the stairs with a barometer and you mark the length of the barometer on the wall. Counting the number of lines gives the height of the building in barometer length. This is a very direct method.
Of course, if you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of g at the street level and at roof level. From the difference of g, the height of building can be calculated.
Similarly, you attach it to a long rope and on the roof, allow it to get down about the street level. You swing it like a pendulum and the height of the building is calculated from the period of precession. ”

Finally, he concludes: “There are other ways to solve this problem. Probably the best is to go to the basement, knock at the concierge’s door and say.” I have a nice barometer for you if you tell me the height of the building. ”

I then asked the student if he knew the answer I expected. He admitted that yes, but he was tired of school and teachers who tried to direct his way of thinking. ”

The student was supposed to be Niels Bohr and Rutherford the referee.
[Rutherford – Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1910]
[Bohr – Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922]
The links in the comments lead to question the authenticity of the anecdote.

The myth of Niels Bohr and the barometer question
Barometer question

Snooping on government snoopers

Hackers decide to turn their gaze on government. The Caravan

RAHUL M FOR THE CARAVAN
Participants at the Delhi edition of the Cryptoparty.
SATYAKAM GOSWAMI SAT IN A CONFERENCE HALL in the Institute of Informatics & Communication in Delhi University’s South Campus, furiously typing code into his laptop. He typed the string “/var/log/tor#”, into a Linux terminal, then turned to me and said, “I am one step away, man.” It was around midnight on a muggy July Saturday, and Goswami had been here for six hours. He resumed typing—and cursing under his breath in Telugu as he realised that the online instructions he was following weren’t helping.

Around him, the room bustled with the activity of around 25 other people, all participants at a Cryptoparty, a cryptography event at which programmers and non-programmers meet to share information and expertise on tools that can help thwart government spying.

Goswami was one of the organisers of the event, which was led by Bernadette Längle, a German ‘hacktivist’ who is a member of  the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), Europe’s largest association of hackers. Längle was one of the organisers of the CCC’s Chaos Communication Congress in 2012, an international hackers’ meet held in Hamburg that year. While processing participant applications for the Congress, she came across a group that wanted to organise what they called a “Cryptoparty” at the meet. “I thought Cryptoparty would be a bunch of guys coming together, learning crypto and having a party,” she told me. Only at the event did she realise that Cryptoparties are rather more political affairs, at which participants experiment with ways of combating governmental intrusions into privacy and freedom.

After she graduated, Längle decided she wanted to travel. “I hadn’t been to America or Asia, and I don’t think I want to enter America,” she said. “I thought India might be a good point to start.” While she was exploring her options, she met Goswami online. “I first met Bernadette on an IRC channel, ‘hasgeek’, where she expressed her interest to come to India,” Goswami said. “I suggested that she write a proposal to CIS [the Centre for Internet and Society, in Bangalore].” Längle applied, and was accepted to work with the organisation for six months.

When Längle was teaching a one-week course on email cryptography at a CIS event, a participant suggested to her that she organise a Cryptoparty in the city. “I thought I was travelling anyway, and I can make a Cryptoparty everywhere I go,” Längle said. This led to the Bangalore Cryptoparty on 30 June, followed by the Delhi edition on 6 July. Längle then held a Cryptoparty in Dharamsala in the second week of July, and plans to hold another in Mumbai in October. At each of these, she gave tutorials on specific aspects of cryptography, such as the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption and decryption program, which Edward Snowden used to communicate with The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald during their now-famous collaboration. Participants would then experiment with these tools, sending emails and messages to each other using secure channels. The Delhi edition, which saw around 70 participants, continued late into the night, with the last exhausted stragglers shutting off their gadgets and heading home at 4 am.

I met Längle again the day after the Delhi event; with her was Pranesh Prakash, policy director at CIS, who is a commentator on issues related to surveillance and privacy. Both agreed that the Indian government’s Central Monitoring System programme, as well as Edward Snowden’s recent leaks, had resulted in a greater interest in cryptography in the country in recent months. “Without the PRISM stuff, there wouldn’t have been so many people attending,” Längle said. “People are concerned about that.” Prakash believes that the NSA leaks have served as a loud wake-up call about a longstanding state of affairs. “It’s this I-told-you-so moment for lots of people right now,” he said. “This isn’t the first time there have been revelations about the NSA spying beyond their authority. These revelations have been happening at least since 2006.”

Rahul M is the photo coordinator at The Caravan.

– See more at: http://caravanmagazine.in/lede/crypto-night#sthash.FyafGCOo.dpuf

Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?

A former FBI counterterrorism agent claims on CNN that this is the case

?by?

CNN Clemente

Former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente, on CNN, discussing government’s surveillance capabilities Photograph: CNN screegrab
The real capabilities and behavior of the US?surveillance?state are almost entirely unknown to the American public because, like most things of significance done by the US government, it operates behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. But a seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are. Continue reading “Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?”

The 3rd International Resistance Art Festival

Dear Artist;
We are pleased to inform you that Visual Arts Association of Islamic Revolution and Holly Defense in Iran is about to hold ?The 3rd International Resistance Art Festival? in November 2013. The Festival is held in 12 categories including Painting, Drawing and Printmaking, Persian Painting, Calligraphic Painting and Typography, Illustration (Graphics), Poster, Photography, Caricature and Cartoons, Sculpture, Animation, New Conceptual Arts and finally, Scientific Congress and Research Papers. Please read the entry information below. If you are interested to participate, please attach the images of your works to this email based upon the conditions that mentioned below. (For the primary selection, only the images of your works are needed). It is notable that you can participate in more than one category in the festival contest.
WE WILL WELCOME THE SUGGESTIONS FOR CREATIVE AND NEW PROJECTS. Continue reading “The 3rd International Resistance Art Festival”