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March 31, 2014

Blog/site is having issues

Filed under: Website Updates — Suramya @ 12:24 AM

The entire suramya.com domain is having issues, but the blog is the most hit. Spoke to 1and1 (my hosting provider) and as per them there is a issue ongoing that could be impacting my sites as well. They expect it to be resolved in the next day or so… As currently the blog admin pages are pretty much unusable so I don’t think I will be posting anything till it is resolved.

Update (2nd April 2014): The site is now back to normal, but still no answer on what was causing it to become so slow. Ah well… Atleast now I can get to the admin page now and all I need is some time to create posts.

– Suramya

March 26, 2014

Using E coli to build futuristic materials

Filed under: My Thoughts,News/Articles,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:44 AM

Back in 2000 I had written an article for NJIT’s college newspaper ‘The Vector’ about how boffins at the University of Texas were using viruses to create semi-conductor chips. This weekend I was going through my files and I found a scanned copy of the article that I had been meaning to transcribe and post on the site but never got around doing, Then today I had a story about MIT researchers using Bacteria to assemble furniture pop-up in my feeds so I had to write a post about it. 🙂

Specifically, the MIT researchers were able to put bacteria to work producing conducting biofilms, some of which were studded with quantum dots, and arranging gold nanowires. This paves the way for the development of mass manufactured cell-based material factories, and even “living materials” that have some of the desirable properties of bones or trees, Lu confirmed.

They were able to do this by using E. coli, which naturally creates biofilms containing amyloid fibril proteins which, somewhat like the hooks in Velcro, help it attach to surfaces. The hooks on this gloopy velcro are made from a repeating chain of protein units called CsgA, which can be modified by adding peptides, which can be used to let parts of the film capture specific materials, like gold nanoparticles.

Basically the researches were able to make the bacteria grow in a particular design using a genetically engineered strain of CsgA, opening the way for future generations to be able to create bio-engineered equipment on demand. One of the things that is a bit scary is that they are using live bacteria for this experiment so they would have to be absolutely sure that they don’t mutate and cause a potential outbreak down the line.

I don’t know if this research is going to go anywhere or will it become another curiosity like the story on chip manufacture in 2000’s that never really went anywhere after the initial story. I did a cursory search today on that story but didn’t find any follow up articles or papers on it. Guess not every initial success is followed up by later successes and commercial successes.

Thanks to Slashdot and The Register for the original links.

– Suramya

March 25, 2014

Was a Keynote speaker at IndiaCom 2014: IEEE International Conference on Computing For Sustainable Global Development

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 1:25 AM

Early this month (Mar 7th) I was asked to give the keynote talk at INDIACom: 2014 IEEE International Conference on “Computing For Sustainable Global Development”. I gave my talk on Cloud Computing since it has been in the news a lot recently and there is a lot of interest in it from the general public. It was a pretty amazing experience and I had a lot of fun at the conference as I got to meet some pretty interesting folks with whom I discussed various things/technologies.

As the conference was in Delhi I had to fly there from Bangalore for the weekend and since I also wanted to avoid taking too many days off from work we decided to take a late flight to Delhi on Thursday night. Unfortunately though, our flight got delayed by an hour so instead of landing at 11:30am as expected we got there at 12:30am and by the time we got home it was almost 1:30am. Once home I did a bit more prep for the talk and crashed. Then I had to wake up early the next day to get ready so I could be there on time but thanks to traffic we got delayed and got there just about in time for the talk.

The funny part was that I was introduced as ‘Prof’ Suramya Tomar initially but thankfully they corrected it later. The talk went well and most of the questions I got during the talk were about how private the cloud is and how safe the data that is stored on the cloud is compared to traditional storage.

After the talk I sat through a few of the technical papers that were being presented and they were all pretty interesting. I did get a physical copy of the conference proceedings (a book about 1 1/2 inches thick) with all the papers that were presented that I am planning to read one of these days when I get some time.

One of the interesting things I noticed during the sessions was that about 60-70% of all the papers were authored/co-authored by women which is something that was very surprising to me as normally during such conferences the ratio is the other way round.

I am planning on transcribing my talk (I have my notes and the outline I created, plus a video of the talk) and posting it on the site sometime later this month/early next month. I will also expand on the talk with a few articles I am planning to write so keep an eye out for new items on the site (will announce it on the blog when I post stuff) in the near future.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

March 4, 2014

MIT wants you to Peel a Pine tree branch if you need a water filter

Filed under: Interesting Sites,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:12 AM

Boffins at MIT have run some tests and found out that if you peel the bark off a Pine tree branch and pour water through the stick, then it will block upto 99% of e-coli bacteria and a host of other bad stuff giving up to four liters of drinkable water per day. This makes it a lot cheaper than any current commercial water filtration implementation in the market and a lot more scalable.

Dirty water is a major cause of mortality in the developing world. ‘The most common water-borne pathogens are bacteria (e.g. Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae), viruses (e.g. adenoviruses, enteroviruses, hepatitis, rotavirus), and protozoa (e.g. giardia). These pathogens cause child mortality and also contribute to malnutrition and stunted growth of children.’ People have been working on engineering cheaper and cheaper filtration systems for years, but now a group of researchers has found a promising and simple solution: a tree branch. ‘Approximately 3 cm^3 of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person.’

Of course there are some caveats; the system can trap most types of bacteria, the smallest of which measure about 200 nanometers but currently cannot trap viruses most of which are much smaller in size. Also, the stick needs to be kept wet or the filtration is not that effective.

The researchers have published a paper in this week’s journal PLoS ONE where they go over their findings and demo this functionality. Check it out if you have some time.

I am definitely adding this to my things to know in case of an emergency list. 🙂

Thanks to Slashdot for the initial story.

Additional reading: Need a water filter? Peel a tree branch – MIT News Office

– Suramya

March 3, 2014

Beard transplant business is booming in New York thanks to Hipsters

Filed under: Humor — Suramya @ 2:07 AM

Do you aspire to look like a homeless guy but don’t have the facial hair to pull of the look? If so fear not, NY Cosmetic surgeons are willing to help you for a mere $8,000. Hipsters all around the world rejoice!

Facial surgeons with private practices in Manhattan and Florida say they have seen a phenomenal increase in demand in the last five years, and hipsters are leading the way.

No longer the preserve of fishermen or aging academics, beards are the signature look of urbane men in their 20s and 30s who consider themselves witty, creative and politically progressive.

New York surgeons can perform up to three or four procedures a week for $2,000 to more than $8,000 depending on how much hair needs to be transplanted from scalp to cheek.

When I first saw this article I thought it was a joke which got accidentally released early for April fool’s day. But unfortunately this is true and that tells us something about these people. They are willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money for stupid stuff like this but won’t spare change for an actual homeless guy. If you really want to feel what the homeless feel, try living for a week on the street without your Starbucks or iPad’s.

The no of people asking for this procedure have gone up from 10 a YEAR to 5 a WEEK. Yikes!

Thanks to The Register for the initial story.

– Suramya

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