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September 7, 2015

Sending my name to Mars on NASA’s InSight lander

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:50 PM

NASA has this thing where you can register to send your name to Mars on their InSight lander. Since it is free and seemed like an interesting idea I registered and got my very own boarding pass. So what does it actually mean? Basically my name will be etched on a micro-chip and blasted to Mars on the lander. Pretty cool right? (Just for my name though but still it is cool.Hopefully there will be actual flights to Mars in my lifetime.)

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My Boarding pass

If you want to have your name sent then you have till tomorrow to register. You can do so here. More details on the process and the lander are at the NASA page, check it out if you have some time.

– Suramya

September 4, 2015

App created to tell slow people that they are bored and why this is a bad idea

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:10 AM

A couple of hours after I wrote the last post, I saw this tweet from PopSci that linked to a study on boredom done by researchers from Telefonica Research in Spain. Basically the researchers created an app that detects if the owner of a smart phone was bored and if the app thinks that the user is bored, it pop’s up a suggestion for the user to visit BuzzFeed.com to alleviate their boredom.

From a technical perspective the study is quite interesting because the researchers managed to train a machine to identify signs of an emotion with up to 80% accuracy (though for a very limited set of users). If the study can be validated for a larger data set the the same algorithm can be incorporated into other systems like computer games to allow the game to make itself more interesting by throwing twists/surprises when the it feels that the player is getting bored.

However if you taking the technical aspect aside then I don’t think this is a good idea. The whole idea behind killing boredom is to use your creativity to come up with alternatives but if you are so dependent on devices that you can’t even be bothered to figure out that you are bored then there is no way you will be motivated to think up ways to kill your boredom. Long term that means that a lot of people will stop thinking creatively and become solely dependent on an external system to amuse them. I shouldn’t have to explain why that is what can charitably be called a ‘BAD IDEA’.

Basically if an external party is providing all the entertainment for the public then they are in a position of immense power and very few leaders would be able to resist the temptation to abuse such power. So if that leader wants to invade another country all they have to do is tell the public that unless they invade that country they would not be able to maintain the level of entertainment that they are used to and they would get all the support they require. If you think I am over-reacting about then think about the Roman empire, the entire gladiator arena was constructed to keep the masses entertained and as long of the people were entertained they didn’t care what was happening to the kingdom or how corrupt their leaders were becoming.

Well this is all for now. I am going to go entertain myself by finishing my book and then crashing for the night.

– Suramya

September 3, 2015

How easily do you get Bored?

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:00 AM

I have heard a lot of people complain being bored when they don’t have their phone or are away from TV. Thankfully I never had that problem because ever since we were kids me and my sister were taught that there is always something interesting to do, observe or think about so we were not allowed to say that we were bored.

So I rarely feel bored but till now there was no way for me to check if this was true scientifically. Folks over at the New Scientist have created a quiz that claims to check ‘How easily bored are you?’ by answering a bunch of questions. Now I don’t usually take such quizzes but its New Scientist which is a respectable magazine on Science so I decided to give it a try and this is what I scored:

Your score is 45. That means you have a very high boredom threshold – scores range between 28 (not easily bored) and 196 (very easily bored).

If you score below 63 you are in the 1 per cent of the population who are hardest to bore – you may never or rarely experience boredom. People like you tend to be curious and have good self-control.

If you are curious give the quiz a try: How easily bored are you? (Alternate link, in case the previous one doesn’t work) and do share the results.

– Suramya

September 2, 2015

Science Comics: Coming soon to a store near you

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 1:00 AM

When you say comics most people think of Superhero comics like Spider-man, Superman or stuff like Tintin, Chaha Choudhary, Super Commando Dhruv etc. No one really thinks of comics as a medium to teach serious science. ‘First Second Books’ (Yes, I also think the name is silly) plans to change this by releasing an all new series of nonfiction graphic novels aimed at middle-grade readers that cover topics in the world of Biology, chemistry, Physics etc.

The first release (called Dinosaurs and Coral Reefs) of the series is going to be in May 2016 so there is a bit of wait before the books are available. I am sure they will make an excellent gift for kids in your life. Which is why I am already planning on buying all the books in the series. (They are not for me, Honest 🙂 )

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Sample Page from the comic

Check out the link: First Second Books Unveils New Science Series for more samples from the series.

– Suramya

Source: PopSci Twitter feed.

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