Do Twins Have Genetic Differences?

Do Twins Have Genetic Differences?

As per a study published in Nature Genetics journal, Identical twins are not as identical as previously assumed by researchers. So what makes them different? Is there a genetic variation?

Crux of the Matter

Let’s start by looking at the different combinations of placentas

Dizygotic Twins
Dizygotic or non-identical or fraternal twins are created when a woman produces two eggs at the same time and both are fertilised, each by a different sperm. The babies are no more alike than any other brothers or sisters and maybe both male, both female or one of each.

Monozygotic Twins
Also called identical twins, they occur when a single egg is fertilised then split into two (or rarely, 3 or more) creating babies with the same genes, physical features and sex. They may or may not share a placenta. Non-genetic characteristics such as size and personality can be different.

Nature v/s Nurture
Differences in identical twins were assumed to be less and studies said that it was the different environments that influenced their development like other humans. 

What Have The Researchers Found?
As per researchers at deCODE genetics, identical twins start accumulating genetic variation from the earliest stages of development i.e occur as or before embryos form.

What Does This Mean?
As per deCODE’s databases that used 381 monozygotic twin pair samples, a twin pair was found wherein one of the twins had mutations in all cells of his body, and they were not found in any cell in the body of the other twin. 

“How do we probe early human development in an ethical manner, a non-interventional manner? This is one way of doing that. We can begin to use the mutations to develop [an] understanding of how cells are allocated from the early embryo.”


  • Kodinhi is a village in Malappuram district in Kerala, India. The village came to international attention for the unusually large number of multiple births in the region. In 2008, around 30 pairs of twins from Kodinhi, along with their parents, got together to form The Twins and Kins Association, the first such association of twins in India.
  • Igbo-Ora is a city and the headquarters of Ibarapa Central, Oyo State, south-western Nigeria. The unusually large number of twin births in the region have earned the town the nickname ‘Twin Capital of the World‘.
  • A doppelgänger is a biologically unrelated look-alike, or a double, of a living person. In modern times, the term twin stranger is occasionally used.

The Line – A Car Free, Road Free City In Saudi Arabia

The Line - A Car Free, Road Free City In Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman has announced his plans for a zero-carbon city called “The Line“. It will be built as a previously announced project NEOM. Let’s see how this vision will materialize in real life.

Crux of the Matter

What Are The Plans?
Construction of the 170 km long “The Linecity, which shall be part of a mega-project named “Neom”, will start this year, announced the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. 

Usage of Public Investment Fund
As per the Prince, the backbone of investment in “The Line” will come from the $500 billion support to NEOM by the Saudi government, Public Investment Fund, and local plus global investors, over a 10 year period.

What Is The Line?
As per various news sources, it is a walkable “belt of hyper-connected future communities, without cars and roads and built around nature.”

What’s More?

  • 380,000 jobs will be created and 1 million residents will inhabit the place by 2030.
  • The estimated to cost of the infrastructure $100-$200 billion.
  • The city would be built around “ultra-high-speed transit.”
  • It would have one of the “world’s largest airports.”

What About NEOM?
Neom is part of the Prince’s plan to diversify the economy of the world’s largest crude exporter hub i.e Saudi Arabia and make a place for new smart technologies, businesses and tourism.

Where Would NEOM Be Located?
It would be a 26,500 km², a cross-border city in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia, near the Red Sea, and Strait of Tiran and the borders of Egypt, Israel and Jordan.

Controversy Around These Plans
The NEOM project has been facing opposition from residents, who will be forced to relocate during the construction period. Analysts are questioning whether an investment is needed in a place of already well-established business hubs like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.

What Does The Prince Say?
Thinking about life after oil for his kingdom, the Prince said, “Why do we accept sacrificing nature for development?” citing the rising sea levels and carbon emissions, globally.

  • NEOM means “New Future“. The first three letters of NEOM (“NEO”) come from the Latin word for “New”; the final letter (“M”) is an abbreviation of the Arabic word “Mostaqbal” which means “Future”.
  • Lusail, the city set to host the FIFA World Cup final in 2022, doesn’t exist yet. It is planned to have marinas, residential areas, island resorts, commercial districts, luxury shopping and leisure facilities, and a golf course community, man-made islands, and several entertainment districts. Construction is still ongoing.
  • The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia. It is composed of the descendants of Muhammad bin Saud, founder of the Emirate of Diriyah, known as the First Saudi state, and his brothers, though the ruling faction of the family is primarily led by the descendants of Ibn Saud, the modern founder of Saudi Arabia.

Why Has Signal App Become The Talk Of The Town?

Why Has Signal App Become The Talk Of The Town?

Ever since WhatsApp gave an ultimatum to its users for abiding by the new privacy rules or leaving the popular messaging app, an underdog has risen: Signal. The latter has been topping charts in app stores after being supported by whistleblower Edward Snowden and currently the world’s richest man, Elon Musk. Let’s see what’s the hype all about.

Crux of the Matter

Underdog Rises On App Stores
Over 1 lakh users downloaded Signal, both on Google’s Play Store and Apple’s app store whereas WhatsApp’s new downloads declined 11% after its announcement of new privacy rules.

What Is Special About It?
On Whatsapp, you have to create a single-member group to send notes to yourself. However, on Signal, you can use ‘Note to Self’ to jot down thoughts while messaging others.

How Secure Is It?
Like Whatsapp, Signal uses open-source Signal Protocol, for implementing End-to-End Encryption. But it goes one step further by encrypting metadata too via ‘Sealed Sender’.

What Is Sealed Sender?
It is a new way to communicate between the sender and the recipient wherein no one, including Signal, will know who is messaging whom, which ensures ultimate privacy

Which Data Does It Collect?
None. It claims to use only the mobile number for registration and doesn’t link it to the user’s identity, unlike rivals WhatsApp, Telegram, iMessage, etc.

It is Open Source
Signal’s source code is published for anyone to examine and use under a GPLv3 license for clients and an AGPLv3 license for the server. This means it has less potential for hidden vulnerabilities.

What’s More?
By default, Signal encrypts all the local files with a 4-digit passphrase. It also supports encrypted group calls and encrypted local backup and allows disappearing messages, from 5 seconds to 1 week.

  • When Facebook announced its plans to acquire WhatsApp in February 2014, WhatsApp’s founders attached a purchase price of $16 billion: $4 billion in cash and $12 billion remaining in Facebook shares. But the actual price Facebook paid was $21.8 billion, or $55 per user.
  • Brian Acton is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur who co-founded WhatsApp. Acton left WhatsApp in September 2017 to start the Signal Foundation in 2018 with initial funding of $50 million.
  • Matthew Rosenfeld, known as Moxie Marlinspike, is an American entrepreneur, cryptographer, and computer security researcher. Marlinspike is the creator of Signal, co-founder of the Signal Foundation, and currently serves as the CEO of Signal Messenger. He is also a co-author of the Signal Protocol encryption used by Signal, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype.

Should We Worry About The Bird Flu In India?

Should We Worry About The Bird Flu In India?

As cases of poultry deaths were reported as increasing in 4 states in India, social media has been rife with an increased hype about the dangers of the bird flu. Let’s see if it can be deadly for us, its origins, and the measures being taken to control this flu.

Crux of the Matter

Whom Can It Infect?
Avian influenza or Bird Flu is a viral infection that can infect wild birds and domestic poultry. It is a rare occurrence but it can subsequently infect humans, wherein it passes from one person to another. H5N1 is its most common form.

Whom Can It Affect?
Avian or Bird Flu, is a viral infection that can infect wild birds, domestic poultry, and even though it’s rare, humans too.

What Can Be The Mortality Rate?
60% for H5N1 i.e 6 out of 10 deaths in humans. Moreover, flu viruses are prone to mutation as they have a segmented genome and can eventually cause a pandemic.

More Ways Of Transmission

  • Direct Contact: Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after direct contact with infected poultry can transmit the virus (most common).
  • Contaminated Surfaces: Infection can occur without touching poultry. Touching your eyes, nose, and mouth after touching contaminated surfaces can also transmit the disease.
  • Healthy looking birds can still spread bird flu.

What Is Culling?
It is the reduction of an animal population by selective slaughter. Eg: In Tasmania and South Australia, Cape Barren geese are ‘culled’ to limit damage to crops.

There is nothing to worry. All possible help is being given and states have been alerted. Cook the meat and eggs completely before eating.

Giriraj Singh, Union minister for Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairying

What Is The Plan Of Action?
As per a press release by Ministry of Fisheries and Animal Husbandry, directions have been given to carry out culling in sick birds, according to the Govt. 2015 National Avian Influenza Plan.

So What’s More?
For neighbouring states, the advisory recommends vigilance towards any “unusual mortality amongst birds and to report it immediately”. As for personal safety, it includes disinfecting surfaces, wearing of protective gear and use of antiviral drugs.

  • Halal is an Arabic word that translates to “permissible or lawful” into English. In the Quran, the word halal is contrasted with haram (forbidden). The term halal is particularly associated with Islamic dietary laws and especially meat processed and prepared in accordance with those requirements.
  • The most widely quoted date for the beginning of the recorded history of avian influenza was in 1878 when it was differentiated from other diseases that caused high mortality rates in birds.
  • Virulent Newcastle disease (VND) is a contagious viral avian disease affecting many domestic and wild bird species; it is transmissible to humans. Though it can infect humans, most cases are non-symptomatic; rarely it can cause a mild fever and/or conjunctivitis in humans.

What’s With WhatsApp And Its Latest Privacy Policy?

What's With WhatsApp And Its Latest Privacy Policy?

Remember that you use iCloud or Google Drive to backup your WhatsApp chats? These third-party services are getting access to your messages. Now WhatsApp is gearing up to update its Terms of Service, as earlier this week it sent an in-app notification regarding its update on ‘Privacy Policy’ to users. Let’s see what has changed and what hasn’t with the messaging app.

Crux of the Matter

Let’s start by taking a look at the notification received:

What If We Don’t Agree To It?
The company’s new terms of service and privacy policy will go live on 8 February. In order to continue using the app thereafter, the users will have to agree to these rules.

What Are The Changes?
The most significant ones are how WhatsApp shares information with Facebook and its subsidiaries. Till now, existing users were provided with the option, to not share their WhatsApp account information with Facebook. 

The Hardware Information Collected

  • Battery level
  • Signal strength
  • App version
  • Browser information
  • Mobile network
  • Connection information (phone number and ISP)
  • IP address
  • Device operations information

Where Will This Data Be Located?
Whatsapp says it uses Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers for data storage, including the ones in the US. This was not explicitly mentioned in the previous policy. It also says that in some cases, data will be transferred to the other parts where Facebook’s affiliate companies are based, adding that “these transfers are necessary to provide the global Services set forth in our Terms.”

Will Our Messages Remain Encrypted?
Yes, Whatsapp stays end-to-end encrypted i.e it can’t see your messages, or share it with anyone. This is because the data is encrypted on the sender’s device, so only the recipient can decrypt it.

Then What About Payments?
WhatsApp states that if we use their payments services they will “process additional information about you, including payment account and transaction information.” The WhatsApp Payments feature in India, anyways has its own privacy policy. On being rolled out last year, National Payments Corporation of India had taken measures to stop it from monopolising digital payments.

Data Collected By Other Messenger Apps

  • Signal – claims to only use mobile number for registration and not link it to the user’s identity.
  • iMessage – Email address, Phone number, Search history and Device ID.
  • Telegram – Name, Phone number, Contacts and User ID.

  • WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app developed by Tencent. First released in 2011, it became the world’s largest standalone mobile app in 2018, with over 1 billion monthly active users. WeChat has been described as China’s “app for everything” and a “super app” because of its wide range of functions.
  • On December 17, 2012, Instagram announced a change to its terms of use that caused a widespread outcry from its user base. The controversial clause stated: “you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you“. The move garnered severe criticism from privacy advocates as well as consumers. After one day, Instagram apologized saying that it would remove the controversial language from its terms of use.
  • Terms and Conditions May Apply is a documentary that addresses how corporations and the government utilize the information that users provide when agreeing to browse a website, install an application, or purchase goods online. Made in 2013 by Cullen Hoback, it discusses the language used in user-service agreements on the World Wide Web, and how online service providers collect and use users’ and customers’ information.