Flaky Cosmic Notion Gets Good Press

first_img(Visited 16 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Does the universe grow like a giant brain?  If anyone but a scientist said that, it would be in the cartoons.Live Science gave good press to a physicist who proposes that galaxies and brains grow by similar physical processes.  “Universe Grows Like a Giant Brain,” reporter Tia Ghose wrote about the views of a team including Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist at UC San Diego.  What, exactly, was proposed?  Only that “some undiscovered, fundamental laws may govern the growth of systems large and small, from the electrical firing between brain cells and growth of social networks to the expansion of galaxies.”  Maybe she should have waited till it gets discovered.An outsider from the study said, “At first blush they seem to be quite different systems, the question is, is there some kind of controlling laws can describe them?”  Maybe they should wait till they have some evidence.The team used a computer model as evidence, unaware of the problem of investigator interference.  By programming their computer to compare “the universe’s history with growth of social networks and brain circuits, they found all the networks expanded in similar ways: They balanced links between similar nodes with ones that already had many connections.”The eerie similarity between networks large and small is unlikely to be a coincidence, Krioukov said.So what “unknown law governs the way networks grow and change, from the smallest brain cells to the growth of mega-galaxies”? Ghose asked.  Krioukov told Live Science, “This result suggests that maybe we should start looking for it.”Yes, go look for it so we don’t have to hear your weird speculations.Let’s analyze this.  Somebody at a university calling himself a scientist has assumed galaxies form networks like brains, but this is an argument from analogy.  He thinks there is an undiscovered law of nature out there, but he hasn’t started looking for it.  Instead, he has been playing computer games at work.  Conclusion: he must be desperate for funding.If anybody else propounded fact-free tales this outlandishly, grotesquely capricious, he would be either repudiated as a nut or become a special guest on The View (not necessarily mutually exclusive options).  Why do scientists get away with it?Do you sometimes get the feeling that scientists are warming up to their role as modern cultural shamans and taking advantage of it?  We need a new Gershwin hit, “Whatever reliance you put in Live Seance it ain’t necessarily so.”last_img read more

Huge savings from green light bulbs

first_imgCFLs have saved South Africa 1800 MW of electricity. (Image: Red, green and blue) Eskom has revived previously mothballed stations to achieve power supply. (Image: Bongani Nkosi) MEDIA CONTACTS • Hilary Joffe Spokesperson Eskom +27 11 800 6993 or +27 79 697 9374 RELATED ARTICLES • Eskom build programme powers ahead • Solar power lights the way • Camden power station working again • Kusile power station to go aheadBongani NkosiThe largest rollout of energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs in the world has saved Eskom, South Africa’s power utility, 1 800MW of electricity over the last six years – a massive boost to the country’s power-saving drive.Between 2004 and 2010 more than 43.5-million compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were distributed throughout South Africa, with Eskom installing them in households free of charge as part of the National Efficient Lighting Programme.“The electricity saved as a result of the marked reduction in consumption by lighting in homes and buildings across the country brings us closer to achieving our energy-saving targets,” Andrew Etzinger, a senior manager at Eskom, said in a statement on 17 January.In the programme, Eskom replaced power-hungry incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, which consume 80% less electricity and are more environment-friendly.“Eskom leveraged the programme to raise awareness of the importance to save electricity through converting to energy efficient lighting alternatives,” the utility said.CFLs have become an international trend, with government bodies promoting their use and even distributing them to households in programmes similar to those of Eskom. The utility said South Africa has rolled out the highest number of CFLs to date; Mexico is set to follow when its programme of rolling out 30-million CFLs is complete.The US federal government has urged citizens to opt for the energy-saving bulbs, pointing out that if every home replaced traditional lights with CFLs the country would save enough energy to light more than 2.5-million homes for a year, the US National Public Radio website reported in 2007. The government also said that using energy-saving bulbs in every home would save greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 800 000 cars.Demand up, prices downAccording to Eskom there is now a growing demand for CFLs, which since 2004 has driven the price down significantly. Eskom said the current price of R15 (US$2.20) per bulb was more acceptable compared to the initial cost of between R60 and R80 ($8.75 and $11.65).The light’s design has also become more suitable for local use. “Over the past six years, we seem to have overcome all of the barriers that once discouraged the widespread use of CFLs,” Etzinger said.“Now that they are more affordable, easily accessible and can be used in almost any setting that we’d use a normal light bulb, the adoption of CFLs is really starting to gather momentum in this country, as it is elsewhere in the world.”Power crisis remainsBut South Africa is not yet off the hook when it comes to power supply. The 1 800MW saved with the CFL programme does not mean South Africans can slack off on energy saving. Eskom’s call to consumers to use electricity sparingly remains loud.Power supply will stay tight until the first unit of Medupi Power Station comes online in 2012, Eskom said. The coal-fired station is one of South Africa’s biggest power-generating infrastructure initiatives. Currently under construction in Limpopo province, Medupi’s six units will generate 4 788 MW when complete by 2015. Its first unit is scheduled to be commissioned in 2012.Kusile power station in Mpumalanga, another major project currently underway, will start generating power in 2014 when its first unit is commissioned. The two stations are part of Eskom’s build programme, through which the state-owned enterprise has also revived formerly mothballed stations.last_img read more

Mobile money is transforming Africa’s economy

first_imgA “disruptive innovation”, mobile bank accounts have taken off across Africa, particularly in Kenya, where the alternative to traditional banking has spread rapidly and outstrips technology available in the US and Europe. Mobile bank accounts bring banking to millions of poor people unable to access traditional banks, allowing them to save money and better their lives. This micro-banking particularly benefits African women. (Image: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation via Flickr) • Mobile phone boost to African internet • Kenya takes banking to the poor • Zimbabwe: Africa’s first cashless society? • Seven reasons to be optimistic about Africa • Africa’s high-tech boom boosts the continent’s competitiveness Lesley Silverthorn MarincolaI live in the heart of Silicon Valley and am still dependent on a piece of plastic I have to carry around with me everywhere. From gas to groceries, I pay with my credit card.With the introduction of Apple Play only six months ago, Americans are only now starting to experience the smartphone-enabled proliferation of US mobile money services. Yet, perhaps because not every buyer has an iPhone 6 and not every vendor has a near field communication terminal, credit cards dominate the US market and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.However, some 15 000 kilometres from Silicon Valley, in Nairobi, Kenya, a far more widely adopted mobile money service has exploded. Unlike the mobile money experience that US users are just beginning to adopt, using mobile money in Kenya does not require a smartphone, or a credit card. In fact, it doesn’t even require a bank account. Already, two out of every three adult Kenyans actively use it and it accounts for more around 18% of Safaricom’s revenue, more than SMS and data combined.A mobile banking vendor in Tanzania, Kenya’s southern neighbour. (Image: Development Planning Unit, University College of London, via Flickr)Disruptive innovationSafaricom’s M-Pesa is the leading platform behind the mobile money revolution. On registering a SIM card through Safaricom, the leading telecom company in Kenya, a user can simultaneously register to use M-Pesa. Across Kenya, a network of “human ATMs” has emerged, where M-Pesa users can either deposit cash into their mobile wallets (thereby tying a cash balance to their phone number) or withdraw cash that has been sent to their mobile number. By the end of 2014, there were 81 000 M-Pesa agents across Kenya, and you’d be hard-pressed to travel anywhere in the country and not find an M-Pesa agent. In fact, M-Pesa agents are more prevalent per capita in Kenya than ATMs are in the United States.M-Pesa’s evolution is a shining example of how disruptive innovation often stems from markets that lack many basic technologies and infrastructure. In Kenya, over 80% of the population lives without access to grid electricity, instead relying on dim, toxic and expensive kerosene fuel combustion to light their homes. However, even without power, most of these off-grid families and small businesses own mobile phones. Of course, these aren’t iPhones with capacitive touch screens and instant access to the app store. The phones they own are probably Nokia or Samsung feature phones with an alphanumeric keypad and a black and white LCD display. By leveraging this basic phone, intricate platforms like M-Pesa can offer an attractive alternative to stashing cash underneath a mattress.Watch a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation video on the mobile banking revolution:From mailing cheques to using PayPal, US customers have no lack of options for storing and sending money. In Kenya, before M-Pesa, sending money to family members was done by stuffing physical cash into an envelope, entrusting it to an unknown bus driver, and hoping it reached its destination without anything skimmed off the top. Recognising the need for a better solution, Safaricom launched a successful marketing campaign by assuring customers they could cheaply, quickly and securely “Send Money Home” with M-Pesa. In the US, where credit cards already work without too much hassle, a user needs far more convincing to make the transition to mobile money. In countries like Kenya, which has seen the exponential adoption of the mobile feature phone amid energy and formal banking scarcities, using M-Pesa is a no-brainer.Reaching off-gridFor unbanked Kenyans and many other countries where mobile money has expanded, M-Pesa has become far more than a way to send money home. Routine purchases like airtime or utility bills are paid via mobile money. Retailers of all sizes accept M-Pesa merchant payments for groceries, cab fares, airline tickets or even school fees.Microfinance organisations are even able to offer lower interest rates due to saving on cash collection costs by receiving payments through mobile money. Angaza, for example, leverages a variety of mobile money platforms, from Airtel Money to Tigo Pesa to Safaricom’s M-Pesa, to receive pay-as-you-go energy payments from solar product micro-loans.In off-grid markets like East Africa, solar energy can provide a reliable and affordable source of electricity for light, mobile phone charging, and powering electronics like radios and refrigerators. However, the upfront cost barrier of a solar home system keeps them out of financial reach of most off-grid consumers. By spreading out the cost of a solar home system over time via affordable weekly payments, solar energy becomes widely accessible, even to families earning less than $2 a day. All of this is possible thanks to the incredible growth of M-Pesa, which enables pay-as-you-go customers to make their weekly payments easily and securely.Apple is innovative, yes. But Kenya has attracted the global spotlight when it comes to the mobile money innovation. It may take many years for Apple Pay to reach the prominence that mobile money has experienced in a country where even electricity is a luxury.Lesley Silverthorn Marincola is CEO of Angaza Design, and a World Economic Forum Global Shaper from the San Francisco Hub. This article originally appeared on the WEF Agenda blog.last_img read more

Jolt for AAP as Ghuggi quits party

first_imgTroubles of the beleaguered Aam Aadmi Party, which has been rocked by allegations of corruption against its national convener Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi, compounded further in neighbouring Punjab on Wednesday.Former Punjab convener and senior leader Gurpreet Singh Waraich ‘Ghuggi’ resigned from the AAP on Wednesday expressing displeasure over the manner in which he was removed as State convener. The AAP had on Monday had restructured its Punjab unit by appointing Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann as State convener and Sunam MLA Aman Arora as co-convener. “I’m resigning from the party’s primary membership. The way I was dropped from the position of State convener is unacceptable. I’m personally not against Mr. Mann, but against his appointment due to his alleged drinking habit. I can’t work under such leadership,” Mr. Ghuggi told journalists here.Notably, the rejig was followed by resignation of senior leader and MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira as party spokesperson and chief whip in the Punjab Assembly. He too was allegedly upset over Mr. Mann’s appointment to the top post in the State.Mr. Ghuggi added: “Also, I don’t understand why most powers are being concentrated in Mr. Mann’s hands. We have other leaders who are suitable for the post. This is not the same party I had joined. The AAP I see today has deviated from its principles. Volunteers, who were once the backbone of the party, are being sidelined.”“The party claims Mr. Mann was elected in a democratic manner after consulting MLAs, zone in-charges, etc., and conducting a poll. But I want to ask [AAP national convener] Mr. Kejriwal why the party didn’t invite all candidates who had contested the Assembly polls and volunteers to participate in the voting exercise. The party invited members to vote based on a pick and choose policy,” he alleged, adding that the election process for choosing the new State chief was an eyewash.Raising apprehensions on the re-structuring of the party in Punjab, senior leader Kanwar Sandhu, who is in Canada, had said in a Facebook post on Tuesday: “In my view, instead of rejuvenating and strengthening the Punjab unit of the AAP, the manner of its reorganisation on May 8 [Monday] could end up weakening it.”He had said that the party’s exercise should’ve been preceded by stocktaking, fixing of responsibility and introspection of its performance in the 2017 Punjab polls. This, Mr. Sandhu had said, should’ve been done by MPs, MLAs and volunteers in and outside Punjab.“Reorganising the party by merely changing horses without any introspection is repeating the same mistakes that resulted in the party’s debacle in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha polls. I remain committed to the party but it’s important to speak one’s mind. I hope I am proven wrong in the coming months,” the post read further.Upkar Sandhu expelledIn another development, the AAP on Wednesday expelled senior party leader Upkar Singh Sandhu over alleged “anti-party activities”.Mr. Sandhu, who had unsuccessfully contested the recent Amritsar Parliamentary constituency bypolls, had opposed Mr. Mann’s appointment as State unit chief.(With PTI inputs)last_img read more

Nitish Kumar hints at amending prohibition law

first_imgBihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday gave an indication of a possible amendment to the prohibition law to prevent its misuse, especially by government officials.“People in the government machinery are taking advantage of the provisions under prohibition law but they are under scanner…the poor and downtrodden who were earlier engaged in liquor business have been given alternative means of livelihood and are happy”, said Mr. Kumar while addressing a youth conference organized by JD(U) on the occasion of World Environment Day in Patna on Tuesday.Mr Kumar further said that he would keep reviewing every aspect of prohibition but “the matter of prohibition law is before Supreme Court now.”Earlier too, while introducing the prohibition law in April 2016, I had sought opinion and feedback from people and political parties too, Mr. Kumar said.“I’ve been regularly monitoring it as well…it has benefitted a large section of the society, especially the poor and downtrodden segment,” asserted Mr Kumar.Over 1 lakh arrested in two yearsAccording to the records, as many as 1,41,861 people have been arrested under the stringent prohibition law since April 2016 in the State. Over 8,000 are in jail.The police and excise department officials have conducted 7,62, 416 raids while 1,17, 283 cases have been lodged. Total 20.47 lakh litres of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and 9.25 lakh litres of country-made liquor have been seized.The stringent prohibition law has been under constant attack by opposition parties and a section of society but Mr Kumar said, “I’m willing to face all the criticism and consequences of my actions.”last_img read more