Monday, July 25, 2016

Catching Fishes with Fire

One of the interesting ways to do fishing is to make use of fire. Fish farmers would simply wait for dawn or night to come and light a floating fire on top of the water. Eventually the fire attracts fishes and the fish farmers take this as an opportunity to trap them. This leaves us the question, why are the fishes attracted to fire?

Technically, it is not the fire that attracts the fishes but rather the light that it emits. Most fishes eats plants that are found under water. During daylight, plants absorbs light in what we call the photosynthesis process. These plants emits glowing light during night time. Fishes by evolution are sensitive to color underwater because of their eye receptacles. They can easily detect light so wherever their is light then their is food.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hacking and Social Engineering

Recently NatWest customer Annette Jefferys from UK had got her bank account hacked and lost 17,500 sterling pounds. It's not because the online banking is not secure when it comes to technology but rather because of social engineering. It has always been a belief that no such system is totally secured. As long as humans are in control, there will always be a way to find a loop hole because after all humans always make mistakes.

What the hacker did was to make a call to Annette Jefferys acting that he is an employee of NatWest online banking. They told her that her account is under threat and being attacked by fraudsters. He advised her to transfer her money to another account. Like what a typical person would do, she doubted the caller so Annette Jefferys had to find a way to validate that he is an employee of NatWest. The hacker told Annette that if she look at the phone number at the back of the card it should match the same number of the current call. The phone numbers did match however Annette did not know that there are software nowadays to change the caller number on the other end just like how you see the video above. The hacker was then able to get Annette's trust. She cooperated and gave all the details the hacker needed to gain control of her account. NatWest on the other hand had no idea that this is happening since the system assumes that it is the account owner who is entering the personal details to recover an account.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Project Aquila

Facebook finally launched an aircraft that would make it possible to distributed internet data at a wider coverage. The idea of the project is to launch an aircraft high up in the sky and be able to receive data and broadcast it back to the ground or to another aircraft to re-broad cast it to another place. We can think of the idea similar to cell towers except that it is flying up above the sky.  The interesting part are the technology that would make all of this possible. In order for the plane to last up flying in the sky, it will have to rely on solar power. The aircraft is as wide as a Boeing plane but lighter than a car so it somehow uses less energy and gets easily recharged. The aircraft will receive internet data using laser beams since it is the fastest way to do it, however if something blocks the path then the signal is blocked so they have to rely on using radio signals as a backup.

Anyhow, whether the project is successful or not, Facebook is still in control of the Internet data making it question whether its Philanthropic vision is true. The very core purpose of the project is to be able to let Internet reach on rural areas especially on developing countries. Yes, Internet will reach places, but connected users are limited only to the information provided to them by Facebook and probably make a business out of it.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Fall of Kick Ass Torrents

Artem Vaulin, founder of Kick Ass Torrent (KAT), the most popular torrent site after pirate bay has been caught by the authorities. So how did this happen? Like any other business, KAT needs to make money in order for it to be up all the time. Finding Artem Vaulin is similar to how police bust people who sells drugs simply by posing themselves as prospect buyer then bust them up right on the spot except that doing business with KAT is done virtually so it is difficult to see who you are dealing with and where they are located.

For KAT to make money, they chose to sell Ad spaces since it is the most effective way considering that the website has 50 million users visiting the site on a monthly basis. One of the informant (who called himself as Mr. White to hide his identity) posed as a prospect Ad buyer and continued buying Ads. He was instructed to deposit an amount of money to a bank in Latvia and later on from another bank in Estonia. Artem Vaulin did not consider the fact that these countries are part of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The treaty states that countries who signed agrees to exchange information in an effort to enforce public laws or criminal laws. The treaty allowed the informant to gain information about the owner of the bank account whom he deposited money. I guess this is where they got to know the details of the founder such as his name, address, email and so on. Unfortunately, even if they have his personal details the authorities have no idea where he is hiding. His email address however is registered to Apple's iTunes and Facebook. One day, the email made a transaction with Apple's iTunes and login attempts with Facebook and that is where they were able to trace and crossed reference an IP Address pointing the location of Artem Vaulin (Yes, Apple and Facebook are mandated to work with the government and give them information accounts on watch list).

I guess Artem Vaulin did not consider using virtual private networks (VPN) whenever he performs transactions with iTunes and Facebook to cover up his tracks online. Maybe he did not bother using VPN because he thought authorities will not find his personal information anyway. If he have chosen a bank on a country that is not part of the MLAT treaty, then his personal information could have probably been protected.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mosquito Needle

Wet season has arrived here in the Philippines and one of the rampant sickness is the Dengue Fever carried by mosquitoes. This interesting species are carriers of viruses and it infects humans by the time that they point their needle (Proboscis) beneath your skin.

Mosquitoes are like surgeons, they have a sophisticated Proboscis build and procedure when they attempt to feed from blood. Inside the Proboscis are 6 needles. Two of the needles are designed to drill through the skin, they are sharp and designed like a saw. While the saw-like needles are drilling through the skin, another 2 needles are used to support to keep the skin open. While the skin is open, one of the needle produces a chemical to delay the clotting time of blood while the last needle is used to suck in blood. Since this needles are being used from one host to another, it collects bacteria and viruses which can be injected through the blood stream when they feed. This causes the host to acquire them and get sick.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sound Meet Helium

The effect of helium applied to someone else's voice is interesting. Sound is actually produced through vibrations. When air vibrates, it travels through waves which produces sounds that we can hear. These waves usually have high and low pressures which make the different levels of pitch. Whenever we speak, we use our lungs to produce air out of the mouth. The air is vibrated by our vocal chords therefore producing sound as we speak. Helium on the other hand is the lightest gas in the the family of noble gases. Sound travels faster with helium since helium is lighter than air. A sound traveling at high speed would let listeners perceive a squeaky fast sound effect (like the minions movie). On the other hand, if sound travels on a gas heavier than air then we would perceive a slower and deeper sound effect since sound will be traveling at a slower rate.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Vantablack Material

If you have ever wondered what would be the blackest material on earth then you should be looking at the Vantablack material. Vanta stands for Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Arrays. What makes this material interesting is that it absorbs 99.6% of the light that goes through it thus looking at the material feels like you're looking at a black hole. These Carbon nano tubes are responsible for absorbing the light and preventing it to escape. You can think of Carbon nano tubes as a typical tube that you see in everyday life, except that they are too tiny to see since they are measured using the nano unit of measurement. These millions of Carbon nano-tubes are arranged vertically and one of its strong properties is that it has an ideal black body and high absorbance rate. This mean that it just does not absorb light but other stuff as well like radiations.

We can think of a few applications where we can use the material such as improving heat absorption (because black absorbs light), it can be used for creating a new kind of art, it can be used by the military and aerospace to wherever they think it is useful to their objectives.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Painless Hypodermic Needle

Needles has always been one of the reasons why sick people does not want to get medicine shots. Psychologically, it is natural for people to be afraid of getting stabbed with pointed objects. A few years ago the Painless Hypodermic Needle has been invented that could probably at least mellow down this fear. It is a painless needle because the needle is as thin of Mosquito's Proboscis (that thing that the Mosquito uses to suck out blood). If you have ever been bitten by a Mosquito, most probably you've never felt it or at least with no pain at all. The good side of having small holes after injection is that the recovery is faster.

The concept is designed by a Japanese professor (Aoyagi). He studied Mosquito's Proboscis and attempted to replicate using silicon as a material rather than a metal object. The needle is only 0.1 millimeters in diameter so expect it to break when sudden force is applied during injection. To avoid the problem, professor Aoyagi also copied the movements of how mosquito uses their Proboscis, which is to slightly force and apply vibrations (similar to like how construction workers drill on roads with a jackhammer).

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Making Fire with Water

Using a clear sandwich bag and water, we can technically create a fire. The concept is to use the water similar to a magnifying glass. When light is applied to a magnifying glass, it bends all the light to a particular direction. When light is accumulated, it produces heat and eventually it can be used to ignite a fire. When light goes through a water, it goes in a refraction state. Refraction occurs when a wave travels to a medium then bounces at an oblique angle. If you have ever observed a pool under a sun, you would notice dancing lights on the floor because the water refracts the sun light while it is being moved back and forth. Using a sandwich bag, we can control the direction of the light to point to a constant location. We prefer to use a transparent sandwich bag since most of the light can go through. We need as much light as possible to produce heat. When we add water to the sandwich bag and shape it like a banana bud, the light that goes through the bag will refract all entering light and bends it to go to the tip where eventually produces the heat we need to ignite fire. Similarly, we can use multiple mirrors to bounce all light to a fixed point, accumulate heat and produce fire.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dallas Shooting and the Remotec Andros Mark Robot

A few days ago Dallas had an unfortunate event where snipers killed 5 police officers during protest. One of the snipers has been taken down by a robot called the Remotec Andros Mark Robot VA-1. Although the full specifications of this robot is unclear, it looks very much alike with its previous predecessors. The robot carried a C-4 explosive, attached to a brick wall where the sniper was hiding. The explosive was then remotely denoted that eventually killed the sniper.

Android Mark Robot technology is not new and has been there for a long time. One of the common uses of the Robot is to defuse bombs to avoid human casualty. The Android Mark Robot is remotely controlled by an operator very much similar to a drone. The robot has features like being able to hold guns, zoom-able camera, has a gas dispenser, window breaker, cable cutter, drills, saws, x-ray machines, and mount for launcher weapons.

Up to now one of the biggest challenge of this kind of robots is the terrain. The full details of how the robot got into the Sniper's hide out has not been reported (remains confidential maybe). The report however says the suspect was in a building so most probably the robot was able to climb through regular stepped stairs. Moreover, the movements of this kinds of robots are too mechanical and noisy, makes us wondering why the sniper was not able to hear it; but most probably he was currently distracted (exchanging gun fires).

Monday, July 11, 2016

Stair Climbing Wheelchair

A group of students from Zurich has invented a stair climbing wheel chair which they named Scalevo. It is a revolutionary wheel chair since most wheel chairs cannot climb stairs. The design concept of the wheel chair is to use an extra tank-like wheel to climb stairs. Since stairs are usually made in a waterfall type shape, the elongated shape of the wheel is very much useful to climb diagonally upwards. A layer of rubber is wrapped in the wheel to grip the floor. The concept is similar to placing a flat plank on the stairs so that a traditional wheel chair can move up.

The second problem it solves is when moving diagonally upwards. Their is a tendency for the chair to go unbalanced since most of the person's weight goes diagonally backwards. If the person is heavy, the wheel chair will flip and cause serious injury. This problem is solved by allowing the seat to align and level itself horizontally. A third problem occurs when you are almost on top of the stair where the chair will have to land. Since the elongated wheel is not designed flexible to bend, the wheel chair will be hanging on top and will have a solid land when the last step has been reached. This problem is solved by using another pair of wheel that slides out to support that extra gap and have a smooth landing.

The Scalevo wheel chair however is still a prototype and there are still a lot of improvements and here are a few feed backs that they could probably take into account for further improvement:
  1. The speed of climbing is slow. We need to take account that some stairs are used by a lot of people and would cause traffic especially if the stairs is narrow.
  2. It is not tested on different kinds of stairs. There are stairs that are too steep. There are stairs that has very wide steps (so in every step, the wheel chair will have to re-deploy its wheels).
  3. It is heavy and causes portability issues. With that kind of power it requires, it must be using a heavy equipment motor which is usually heavy (probably as heavy as a motor cycle).
  4. It cannot be driven manually or has no alternative mode for safety. The wheel chair is electric and could possibly run out of power. Some sensors might not work on the way and who knows what happens next if something went wrong (obviously you'll get stuck, but what would you do next?)
  5. Do you have a feed back? post it as a comment below.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pokemon Go and Augmented Reality

Finally, Nintendo released a mobile based version of a Pokemon game. The idea is not new, but the experience is definitely new. Pokemon was traditionally played using GameBoy before, a role playing game where you catch Pokemon, train them, complete the story, and optionally connect to other GameBoy and do battles. The idea of making things multiplayer is great however not everyone before owns a GameBoy so eventually most of the people play only the story. Now that mobile phones got better in terms of technology and everybody almost has it, Nintendo made a solid move to make a Pokemon game to probably re-live the multiplayer idea. So far a lot of people are into it that investors flocked to the company and raised their stocks value as high as 10%.

Augmented Reality made all this new experience possible. The concept is to combine a realistic experience within the virtual world. The device has real time sensors that detects the current situation of the real world environment such as space, color, weather, temperature and so on. Given the variables and data, the software takes advantage of it to adapt just like how we see the virtual Pokemon appropriately placed and aligned to the physical objects we see on the camera. This therefore mean that mobile phones that lacks sensors will not be able to play Pokemon Go (or maybe it can but not with the desired full experience).

The only thing that we see missing on the game is the story. Yes, maybe a lot of new kids will play it, have fun with the multiplayer, but will they ever know the story behind? We're not sure if this will attract a gamer who plays for the story.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Jupiter and Magnetic Fields

A few days ago NASA's spacecraft Juno finally got close to Jupiter after 5 or 6 years of travel. The spacecraft got close enough to be able to study the properties of Jupiter and one of the interesting finds is Jupiter's Magnetic Field. Within our solar system, it turns out that Jupiter's Magnetic Field is 10 times stronger than ours here on Earth.

So how does this Magnetic Field work? If you have ever used a compass, you would have realized that anywhere and everywhere you go, the compass needle points constantly to a direction which actually guides navigators to locate North, East, West, and South. The reason for this constant direction is because of a Magnetic Field. The Magnetic field is produced by Earth's interior similar to a power generator that produces electricity. Although Magnetic Fields actually has a natural greater purpose besides for navigational use, it deflects solar winds coming from the sun to enter Earth (you can see how this happens by viewing the aurora northern and southern lights). Without the Magnetic Field, solar winds will enter and causes a lot of unexpected disruptions (from weather to any intelligent life).

Today, everybody is talking about "Global Warming" as a threat not knowing that our Magnetic Field is also drastically changing which has greater risk that would lead to us to extinction. As of the moment, scientists do not fully understand yet how these Magnetic Fields are really generated and why it changes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pressure and Ice

From the ice cutting experiment above, it was demonstrated that a pressure can actually melt an ice. If we try to look at the principle of the first law of thermodynamics, an object applied with an external change will cause it to react to counteract the change. When pressure is applied to an ice, the ice gets squeezed into a smaller volume. Since an ice has the capability to transform to water, it will lower its melting point to fit to a smaller volume to counteract the change.

Using the first law of thermodynamics, we can see how the string cut the ice into two using pressure. The ice however went back to solid state when the pressure was removed and this process is called 'Regelation'. Note that the video is not melting the whole ice but rather only on the specific point where the strings were placed; therefore majority of the surroundings of the melted ice is still cold and frozen making the melted portion back to an ice (like how you will probably freeze also when you stick to a freezing object).

However, I do not think that this would be the best natural option for defrosting your food.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Using a Saw as a Violin

I came across this video where an old man plays violin using a saw and got interested on how this actually works. Violins as we know has the bow and the body with strings attached. Very much similar to a guitar, when we apply vibration to the string, it will produce a sound. The sound goes to the wooden part of the violin to amplify the sound. While the string is playing a sound, we can make the sound wobble by moving the string up and down. We can see here that we can manipulate the sound depending on the pressure on how up and down you push/pull the string (Like how rock stars play their electric guitars).

Going back to the old man using a violin as a guitar, we can see here that he actually made use of the saw as the string. Well it turns out that violin strings are also made out of steel. However the saw has a different kind of steel known as a High speed steel a special steel that are strong but since it is mostly used for cutting tools they are thin (and flexibly strong). So applying vibration to the steel produces sound which we can manipulate by bending. The only difference here is that the saw doesn't have a body to amplify the sound, but of course we can make use of a mic to do that.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion

The Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion concept is made possible by Kokichi Sugihara who is fund of making illusions. It is Ambiguous because we are literally holding a cube shape object but it appears as a cylindrical object in the mirror (or vice-versa) making us question whether the shape is a cube or cylinder. The object actually is a combination of both (a rounded cube) but with an arc shapes on the opening edges thus if we try to put it appropriately in different angles, we form two recognizable shapes which is a cube or a cylinder.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Stringless Yo-Yo!

There are 2 basic common parts that we see in a yo-yo and that would be the disc with a string attached. Basically the yo-yo moves up and down the string through rotations. Normally the yo-yo bounces and rolls back up once it reaches the tip of the string. However, it is possible to play a yo-yo without having the string attached to the disc but can still bounce back. This is made possible if the disc rotates fast enough such that when it touches anything, it will cause friction and eventually pulls anything towards it. But if the object it is pulling has stronger force than itself, the yo-yo gets pulled in reverse. Therefore we can imagine a yo-yo rotating so fast that once a string is touched to the disc, the yo-yo pulls and wraps itself with the string until it gets stretched. Since the string is being held by your hand on the other end and you're pull is stronger than the force of the yo-yo, the the yo-yo gets pulled back.