Friday, September 24, 2010

An iPhone app that measures pollutants in air

A new smartphone application can now allow users to keep a tab on the air quality and see the level of pollutants around them.
Computer scientists in the University of Southern California hope that as many users as possible download and try it in order to improve the software. Currently, the download works for smartphones running the Android system and soon will be widely available on Android app sources. An iPhone app is in the works.
The basic principle of the Visibility app is simple, according to the paper documenting the work by USC computer science professor Gaurav Sukhatme.
The user takes a picture of the sky while the sun is shining, which can be compared to established models of sky luminance to estimate visibility. Visibility is directly related to the concentration of harmful “haze aerosols,” tiny particles from dust, engine exhaust, mining or other sources in the air. Such aerosols turn the blue of a sunlit clear sky gray.
There is one caveat — It has to be the right picture. The visibility/pollution models are based on the viewing geometry of the image and the position of the sun.
The Visibility app works because modern smartphones contain a rich set of sensors that include cameras, GPS systems, compasses and accelerometers, in addition to the powerful communication capabilities that are inspiring a slew of intelligent phone applications ranging from personal health monitoring to gaming and social networking.

Sameera Poduri, a postdoctoral researcher in Sukhatme’s lab, explained that the accelerometer in the phone — the sensor that tells how the user is holding the phone, determining whether it displays information vertically or horizontally — can “guide the user to point the camera in exactly the right direction.” The picture must be all or mostly sky, which makes a contribution from human user judgment critical. “Several computer vision problems that are extremely challenging to automate are trivially solved by a human. In our system, segmenting sky pixels in an arbitrary image is one such problem. When the user captures an image, we ask him [or her] to select a part of the image that is sky,” noted the research paper.
The accelerometers and the compass on the phone capture its position in three dimensions while the GPS data and time are used to compute the exact position of the sun. The application automatically computes the camera and solar orientation, uploading this data along with the image — a small (100KB) black-and-white file — to a central computer. The central computer analyzes the image to estimate pollutant content and returns a message to the user, as well as registering the information (User identities are anonymized). The system potentially can help fill in the many blanks in the existing maps of air pollution. So far the results are promising, but they indicate that several improvements are possible.
Sukhatme added: “We’re sure we can improve it if we get people trying it and testing it and sending data.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

USB speakers set to get more out of laptops

Soon, music aficionados can use plug-in USB speakers that produce high-quality sound from the laptop without the need for mains power.
The tinny fizz produced by most laptops’ built-in speakers spoils the music quality because the USB port, from which they get their power, can supply only 2.5 watts. Now, the British firm NXT of Cambourne, Cambridgeshire, has come up with a USB-powered system that can deliver up to 15 watts to each speaker, reports New Scientist.
Although power from mains-powered units is held at around 32 volts, a USB 2.0 port can deliver no more than 5.25 volts to a device.
NXT chief executive James Lewis says that most of the time music is quiet enough to be reproduced satisfactorily by circuits running at just 1 volt. So NXT built its USB-powered amplifier to run at low voltage, but able to deliver higher voltages - and more power to the speakers.
This is done by tapping a pair of capacitors that store spare power from the USB during quiet passages. By pre-determining the music signal a couple of milliseconds ahead of the amplifier, the system determines exactly when to raise the voltage and unleash the stored power.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard of using the dynamic reallocation of power for this type of application. It seems like a great idea,” said Andy Dowell, a director of Dolby Laboratories in the U.K. “People would love to get more oomph out of the PC speakers.”

Friday, June 4, 2010

Depressed? Try trancendental meditation

A new study has revealed that transcendental meditation can successfully be used to treat depression.

The research led by University of California Los Angeles has shown that depressive symptoms almost halved among those who used the therapy over 12 months.

The advocates believe that the meditation reduces stress and increases feelings of calm, sometimes described as "inner peace".

Even patients at risk of depression who had not developed the illness saw benefits. During the study, researchers followed 36 patients with clinical depression, while another, by the University of Hawaii, looked at 112 patients at risk of heart disease, who were also at high risk of suffering from depression.

"These results are encouraging and provide support for testing the efficacy of Transcendental Meditation in the treatment of clinical depression," quoted Hector Myers, the co-author of one of the studies and professor and director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychology at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), as saying.

Both studies compared the groups with healthy people who were also asked to perform Transcendental Medication over the course of a year. They show that patients experienced the benefits of meditation rapidly.

The findings revealed that those with depression reported that their symptoms had nearly halved within three months of starting the treatment, and the effects were maintained across the rest of the year-long study.

Similarly, in the patients at risk of developing heart disease, the full benefits were seen within three months, over the course of which time depressive symptoms fell by around a third.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New organic nano-wires may help replace silicon in computer chips

Organic nano-scale wires may serve as an alternative to silicon in computer chips, according to a collaborative team of Chinese and Danish researchers.

Nanochemists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Nano-Science Center, Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen, say that they have created nanoscale electric contacts out of organic and inorganic nanowires.

The researchers say that they have crossed the wires like Mikado sticks in the contact, and coupled several contacts together in an electric circuit.

They say that doing so has enabled them to produce prototype computer electronics on the nanoscale.

Presently, the foundation of our computers, mobile phones and other electronic apparatus is silicon transistors.

A transistor is in principal an on- and off- contact, and there are millions of tiny transistors on every computer chip.

Thomas Bjornholm, Director of the Nano-Science Center, Department of Chemistry at University of Copenhagen said: "We have succeeded in placing several transistors consisting of nano-wires together on a nano device. It is a first step towards realisation of future electronic circuitry based on organic materials - a possible substitute for today's silicon-based technologies. This offers the possibility of making computers in different ways in the future."

The researchers have revealed that the material developed by them has a low operational current, high mobility and good stability, the qualities that can enable it to compete with silicon.

Excited over the results, Professor Wenping Hu, of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said: "This work is the first significant result of our collaboration with the researchers from the Nano-Science Center. It is a good starting point for our new Danish-Chinese research centre for molecular nano-electronics and it underlines the fact that we can complement each other and that together we can achieve exciting and important results."

A research article describing the study has been published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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Friday, July 10, 2009


As part of her Garibi Hatao campaign for the 1971 Lok Sabha polls, Mrs Gandhi had promised roti, kapda and makaan to every poor Indian, a slogan that won her a famous election victory but this slogan needs a change in modern India, it should be Roti, kapda, makaan & mobile. Apart from basic needs like roti kapada and makaan, mobile became essential and basic need in every once life. Every one from house maid, rickshaw puller, taxi drivers, office boys etc, from common man to elite people are using mobile phone for communication. The cost of mobile starts from modest Rs 3000 to billions (platinum and diamondstudded).
Communication among people is most important. With the invention of telephone, people used to talk and communicate to long distances. With advent of mobile phone the entire concept of communication is completely changed. The world became one. Earlier mobile phone was luxury and now it is necessity. According to survey nearly 30 crores of people are using mobile phone. It is estimated by 2010 nearly 25 crores of people use mobile phones having internet and camera facility. The largest mobile users in the world is China, next comes to India. The market share of Nokia is 52.8%, followed by 10.2% LG and 8.3 % Samsung.
According to Ravindra H Dholakia “Things started changing rapidly from the eighties with decontrol and deregulation of the economy. Indian consumers started realizing more and more value for their money as economic reforms progressed and goods and services of greater variety and better quality became available in the market. Freer and newer markets established consumer sovereignty; incomes and production started rising rapidly and absolute poverty began to decline. Consumer spending on basics fell to 73% in 1991, 62% in 2001, and 55% in 2008, making more room for spending on comforts and luxuries. Transport, communication, education, recreation, and personal and business services that accounted for 15% of consumer spending in 1981 rose sharply to more than 35% in 2008. This shows the rise in the value for consumers' money in effective terms. Moreover, household savings in GDP also sharply rose to about 12% in 2008, while basic necessities accounted for only 30%. Financial assets like net deposits, shares, debentures, life insurance, and provident and pension funds that constituted hardly 11% of household savings in 1951 now account for more than 43% in 2008. Concern and provision for future consumption is also showing a sharp increase”
Country will have 3000 million mobiles by 2010. Every individual is having more purchasing power and spending more money on mobiles and other consumable items. The consumer is adding lot of E- waste to the planet. Consumerism is harming environment. Mobile became essential part of life like roti kapada, and makaan.

The new slogan ROTI KAPADA, MAKAAN AND MOBILE is appropriate to modern man.
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