Hunger For Social Media Likes = Animals Seeking Food?

As per a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, parallels can be drawn between behaviour of animals in seeking food rewards and human’s seeking social media likes. Let’s learn more about how this “reward learning” works.

Crux of the Matter

Reel Over Real?
These days, some people choose positive online social feedback such as “likes” and “shares” over socializing with actual people and basic needs like eating and drinking.

What Is This New Study?
To examine these motivations, 1 million+ social media posts were analysed, from over 4,000 users on Instagram and other sites and apps.

Why Do We Do What We Do?
They found that people post less, in the case of lower likes. Computational models revealed that this is similar to reward learning, which uses incentives to change the behaviour of a human or an animal.

Food First For Animals…
Animals like rats maximize their food rewards in a Skinner Box. It is a tool in which the subjects placed in it accesses food by taking certain actions like pressing a lever.

And Likes For Us?
These results were further tested in an online experiment, where humans could post memes and receive likes as feedback. So they posted more when they received more likes.

Dopamine Boost
It’s not the reward itself, but the expectation of a reward that powerfully influences our emotional reactions and memories. The spots are parts of the brain that are activated on getting a reward.

What’s Next?
These findings can help researchers understand more about social media addiction and how we can become more self-aware about it.

  • Attention economics is an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity and applies economic theory to solve various information management problems. According to Matthew Crawford, “Attention is a resource—a person has only so much of it.”
  • The first like button was created in 2005 at Vimeo, with a team comprising Andrew Pile, Jake Lodwick, Kunal Shah, and Zach Klein. It was meant to be a more casual alternative to “favorites“, and was heavily inspired by “Diggs” from the site
  • In 2017, a man was fined 4,000 Swiss francs by a Swiss regional court for liking defamatory messages on Facebook written by other people which criticized an activist. According to the court, the defendant “clearly endorsed the unseemly content and made it his own“.

Smart Materials: Bridges That Self Heal And Colour Changing Clothes?

Smart Materials: Bridges That Self Heal And Colour Changing Clothes?

Buildings that react to weather conditions, mobile screens that repair themselves, there are many cool uses of these smart materials. As trials of self-healing concrete are happening on UK roads, let’s understand more about the materials that don’t require human interventions.

Crux of the Matter

What Are Smart Materials?
Also called responsive materials, they are designed to have one or more properties that can be changed or reversed by external factors, such as stress, electric or magnetic fields, light, temperature, pH,  moisture or chemical compounds.

No More Potholes With Self Healing Concrete

How Do They Heal?

1st Method:
Capsules embedded in the concrete crack open in response to damage. Consequently, they release a bitumen based substance, that mineralises when exposed to air and water. So this fills the damaged area.

2nd Method:
Capsules are used which are filled with bacteria. When the concrete cracks, the capsules release the bugs, which produces mineral calcite to heal the damage.

Colour Changing Clothes
Fun applications in the future may include changing the shape or colour of the garment, as they ‘react’ similar to the wearer’s mood.

“If you were recovering from shoulder surgery, these sensors could communicate how much shoulder movement you can have, to you and your doctor.”

Prof. Miodownik, British materials scientist

What Else To Look Forward To?

  • Phone screens that can repair themselves when cracked.
  • Electronics that grow back damaged circuits, restoring the function.

  • Artificial muscles are materials or devices that mimic natural muscle. It can change its stiffness, reversibly contract, expand, or rotate within one component due to an external stimulus (such as voltage, current, pressure or temperature).
  • Emerging technologies are technologies whose development, practical applications, or both are still largely unrealized, such that they are figuratively emerging into prominence from a background of nonexistence or obscurity. These technologies are new, such as various applications of biotechnology including gene therapy. Emerging technologies are often perceived as capable of changing the status quo.
  • The photomechanical effect is the change in the shape of a material when it is exposed to light. This effect was first documented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1880. More recently, Kenji Uchino demonstrated that a photostrictive material could be used for legs in the construction of a miniature optically-powered “walker”.

A Space Solar Panel To Send Back Electricity To Earth?

A Space Solar Panel To Send Back Electricity To Earth?

Scientists at the Pentagon have been successful in testing a solar panel prototype. Sized as a pizza box, it is a reference for a future system, that could send electricity from space to any point on Earth.

Crux of the Matter

Tell Me More!
The panel called Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module (PRAM) was first launched in May 2020, attached to the Pentagon’s X-37B unmanned drone.

Light energy to electricity?
Blue light spreads on entering the atmosphere, which makes the sky appear blue. PRAM retains the energy of blue waves, making it more powerful than the sunlight that reaches Earth. 

What Is It Capable Of?
The 12×12-inch solar panel is capable of producing 10 watts of energy for transmission. This can power a tablet.

What’s More?
The tech has been proven but it is yet to send power from space. If made on a large scale, it can generate and distribute power to remote corners of the globe, contributing to Earth’s largest grid networks.

Temperature Is Key
Future PRAM versions would be located in geosynchronous orbit, circling 36,000 km away from Earth. For now, heaters were used to keep it at a constant, warm temperature and test its efficiency.

Can The Panel Accidentally Fire?
No. The panels will use the “retro-directive beam control” technique. This sends a pilot signal up from the destination antenna on Earth, to the panels in space.  Only then, the microwave beams from the panel would be transmitted and converted to electricity on earth.

Helpful In Natural Disasters
If made available for the general public, it would help in case of disaster situations like the recent Texas power outage, wherein normal grid infrastructure had collapsed.

What About A Giant Space Laser?
Well, the size of the antenna needed to create a destructive beam would be huge. “It would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible,” says Paul Jaffe, a co-developer.

  • In 1839, the ability of some materials to create an electrical charge from light exposure was first observed by Alexandre Becquerel. Though the premiere solar panels were too inefficient for even simple electric devices.
  • In 1881, Charles Fritts created the first commercial solar panel, which was reported by Fritts as “continuous, constant and of considerable force not only by exposure to sunlight but also to dim, diffused daylight.” However, these solar panels were very inefficient, especially compared to coal-fired power plants.
  • In 1939, Russell Ohl created the solar cell design that is used in many modern solar panels. He patented his design in 1941. In 1954, this design was first used by Bell Labs to create the first commercially viable silicon solar cell.

Trivia Thursday: 7 Forgotten Apple Products

Trivia Thursday: 7 Forgotten Apple Products

As yesterday was the 66th birth anniversary of Steve Jobs, in this week’s Trivia Thursday we look back to 7 products by Apple which did not take off. This will also give us a possible glimpse behind what influenced Jobs’ design towards all the Apple products, and his personal fashion too.

Crux of the Matter

In this week’s Trivia Thursday, let us have a look at some of the forgotten products launched by Apple.

Macintosh Bashful (1983)
This was a tablet prototype dedicated to one of the 7 Dwarfs from Disney and Apple’s “Snow White Industrial-Design Language”.

Apple Clothing (1986)
One year after Steve Jobs resigned as the chairman, the company launched a line of Apple-branded clothing, accessories, and lifestyle items.

Apple Time Band (1991)
Featured in Japanese magazine Axis, it resembled the personal digital assistant, Apple Newton, worn on a wrist.

Adjustable Keyboard (1993)
It had the ability to split in half for better ergonomic typing.

iPod Socks (2004)
Apple sold them in 6 catchy colors as the iPod protector.

iPod Hi-Fi (2006)
Apple designed this speaker system, specifically for the iPod.

Flower Power iMac
It was a throwback edition to Steve Jobs’ hippie roots in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Job’s Koumpounophobia
Steve Jobs suffered from koumpounophobia (phobia of buttons). Some have speculated that his condition influenced the trend towards touch screens and virtual keyboards in the design of Apple devices.

Take a look at our last week’s Trivia Thursday here: Quirky Things About Bitcoin

Meet Elizabeth Ann, A Clone Of An Endangered Species

Scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation organization Revive & Restore collaborated to use genes from a dead ferret to clone Elizabeth. Let’s see how they did this and what implications it has for endangered species in times ahead.

Crux of the Matter

What Is Cloning?
It is production of a clone or individuals with identical or virtually identical DNA, by natural (asexual reproduction) or artificial mechanisms (reproductive cloning). Eg: Dolly the sheep.

Who Is Ann?
She is a healthy black-footed ferret. Ann was duplicated from the genes of an animal Willa, that died 30 years ago. When Willa died, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department sent her tissues to a “frozen zoo” run by San Diego Zoo Global. The zoo maintains cells from more than 1,100 species and subspecies worldwide.

Can We Save Endangered Species?
Yes. By cloning, conservationists would be able to breathe life into endangered species, who are on the brink of total extinction.

Endangered v/s Extinct

  • Extinct species are the animals or plants that are no more alive either in the wild or cannot be found anywhere. Eg: Dodo.
  • Endangered species are so few in number globally, that they might soon be wiped out altogether. Eg: Giant Panda.

Can She Survive In The Wild?
While the ferret’s mother is tame, Ann behaves like a wild animal and can survive outside of a lab.

What’s Next?
Current cloning tech only replicates animals. But it is yet to introduce a variability, that will give them a better shot to survive in the wild.
Eg: All black-footed ferrets alive today come from 7 ancestors, and their genetic similarity makes them more prone to disease.

Ethical Concerns
Advocates support therapeutic cloning to generate tissues and  organs to treat patients. Critics oppose the idea of human cloning, as they could be prone to abuse. Meanwhile religious groups are divided about the same.

  • Ancient DNA (aDNA) is DNA isolated from ancient specimens. Due to degradation processes ancient DNA is more degraded in comparison with contemporary genetic material. The first study of what would come to be called aDNA was conducted in 1984, when Russ Higuchi and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley reported that traces of DNA from a museum specimen of the Quagga not only remained in the specimen over 150 years after the death of the individual, but could be extracted and sequenced.
  • De-extinction is the process of generating an organism that either resembles or is an extinct species. There are several ways to carry out the process of de-extinction. Cloning is the most widely proposed method, although genome editing and selective breeding have also been considered.
  • Environmental DNA or eDNA is DNA that is collected from a variety of environmental samples such as soil, seawater, snow or even air rather than directly sampled from an individual organism. As various organisms interact with the environment, DNA is expelled and accumulates in their surroundings. Example sources of eDNA include, but are not limited to, feces, mucus, gametes, shed skin, carcasses and hair.