Monday, 23 January 2017

Chillax instead of bash-tagging!

The English language is notoriously fast in adapting to the changing world. New words enter English from every area of life where they represent and  describe the changes and developments that take place from day to day.

Here are some words and expressions that have been coined in recent years.
Some can be found in official dictionaries; others may never make their way there, but new words will continue to appear as the English language adapts to innovations and trends. 

Here we look at some new and interesting words.

Acrobranching: An adventure sport involving acrobatics in trees using zip lines and climbing harnesses.

Affluenza: A blend of 'affluence' and 'influenza'. A social disease resulting from extreme materialism and excessive consumerism: earning more money and consuming more, which can lead to overwork, debt, stress, anxiety, etc.

Baggravation: Blend of the words 'bag' and 'aggravation'. A feeling of annoyance and frustration at the airport when your baggage has not arrived but the other passengers' bags have.

Bashtag: A bashtag is a hashtag (#) that is used to make critical or abusive comments on social networking services such as Twitter.

Binge-watch: Watch multiple episodes of a TV programme in rapid succession.

Black Swan: An extremely rare and unexpected event of large magnitude and consequence.

Bloatware/fatware: Pre-installed software that occupies a lot of space, leaving little memory for storing personal data.

Blook: A blend of 'book' and 'blog' :  a book written by a blogger.

Breadcrumbing: A navigation technique which helps users by displaying a list of links to the pages they have visited when exploring a website,

Bromance: Blend of 'brother' and 'romance'.A close non-sexual relationship between two men.

Bureaucratese: A derogatory term for language used in businesses and bureaucracies which contains long sentences and complex words that are obscure or difficult to understand.

Buzzkill: Something or someone spoiling an event that people are enjoying.

Catfish: A person who sets up a false profile on a social networking site in order to deceive others or for fraudulent purposes.

Charticle: Blend of ‘chart’ and ‘article’.

Chillaxing: Blend of 'chilling' and relaxing'. Taking a break from stressful activities to rest or relax.

Click bait: Put something on a website that will encourage visitors to click on a link.

Clickjacking: Tricking Internet users into clicking on hidden links.

Content farm: A website that publishes large amounts of low-quality content, or content copied from elsewhere, in order to attract visitors and improve its search-engine rankings.

Scientists have cooled an object beyond the icy limits of known physics. So, What's cooler than cool?


For the first time, physicists have cooled a mechanical object to a temperature colder than previously thought possible, taking it below the so-called "quantum limit" and bending the laws of physics.

Using a new technique, the team managed to chill a microscopic mechanical drum to an unheard-of 360 microKelvin, or 10,000 times colder than the vacuum of space. It's the coldest mechanical object on record.

"It’s much colder than any naturally occurring temperature anywhere in the Universe," team leader John Teufel from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, told Leah Crane from New Scientist. "The results were a complete surprise to experts in the field," added one of the researchers, José Aumentado, in a press release.

To be clear, this isn't the coldest object ever - that title goes to Bose-Einstein condensates. Bose-Einstein condensates are a dilute gas of bosons that can be cooled to temperatures as cold as 500 picoKelvin (a picoKelvin is 10–12 and a microKelvin is 10–6).

But this is by far the coldest mechanical object, which means it's part of a bigger set-up and could be used in future technology.

The tiny drum was made up of a vibrating aluminium membrane - and the researchers were able to take it to less than one-fifth of a single 'quantum' lower than the laws of physics predict that temperatures can get. A quantum is used to describe a single packet of energy contained in a photon.

In fact, the team suggests the new technique is so powerful, it could theoretically be used to cool objects to absolute zero, or zero Kelvin - the temperature at which matter is devoid of nearly all energy and motion.

Usually when researchers cool down objects, they use lasers to slow down the motion of atoms, which dampens the thermal vibrations occurring in a material.

The more organised laser light is, the better it can cool a surface down. But the new technique takes things one step further - and uses something called 'squeezed' light to get atoms much colder than was previously thought possible.

Squeezed light is a type of light that's been more organised in one direction compared to another. This moves unnecessary quantum noise - or fluctuations - in the light particles, from a useful property of the light to another aspect that doesn't affect the experiment.

This squeezed light is frequently used in quantum cryptography and to entangle light. But this is the first time that researchers had thought to apply it to cool something down.

That's a big deal, because the noise in normal organised light heats up any object that researchers are trying to cool, and limits how cold it can get - hence the 'quantum limit'.

But the new study suggests that by squeezing light, we can smash through that quantum cooling limit.

"Noise gives random kicks or heating to the thing you're trying to cool," said Teufel. "We are squeezing the light at a 'magic' level - in a very specific direction and amount - to make perfectly correlated photons with more stable intensity. These photons are both fragile and powerful."

Why does it matter how cold we can make materials? Because it could help us create the super-fast electronics of the future. The drum instrument that the team cooled down was 20 micrometres in diameter and 100 nanometres thick, and was embedded in a superconducting circuit.

This type of drum could be used in quantum computers that combine quantum and mechanical elements, and the colder you can get it, the more accurate it will be.

"The colder you can get the drum, the better it is for any application," said Teufel. "Sensors would become more sensitive. You can store information longer. If you were using it in a quantum computer, then you would compute without distortion, and you would actually get the answer you want."

The super-chilled drum could also help us probe the very nature of the quantum world, seeing as some of the strange behaviours of quantum mechanics seem to emerge in regular materials once they reach the limits of what was previously thought to be physically possible.

As we're learning, what we think is possible now is just the beginning when it comes to science. The research has been published in Nature.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Scientists say there's no such thing as 'middle child syndrome'

But being the middle child has some surprising benefits. You’ve probably heard the term ‘middle child syndrome’ before. In fact, you may even have been accused of having it.

It’s the belief that children who are born with both older and younger siblings are resentful because they have been somewhat ignored in between the firstborn favourite and the baby. Despite its widespread popularity, many of these beliefs about middle children are not grounded in any real science. In fact, psychologists say many of the traits associated with the so-called 'syndrome' are likely a result, not a cause, of these ideas.

But researchers have found that some middle children do possess some similarities which they think may be a result of their birth order. Catherine Salmon, a psychology professor at the University of Redlands in California and co-author of the book The Secret Power of Middle Children, and her colleagues have spent the last two decades studying thousands of middle children. She spoke to Business Insider about what she found out.

First, says Salmon, middleborns tend to be less parent-oriented, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about relationships. In one 1998 study, Salmon and colleague professor Martin Daly studied over 400 undergraduate students and asked them questions about their family relationships. In one part of the research they were asked who in their family they would turn to for help - parents or siblings. While first and last borns opted for mum or dad, middle-borns generally chose their brothers or sisters.

It wasn’t that they felt disenfranchised from their family. Instead, middle children probably spent a little bit less time with their parents and as a reflection of that, felt a little less close to them. Middle children were also more likely to view their friends as their main resources, more so than first and lastborns.

Salmon said this does tend to mean that they have really good social skills as they value those relationships a lot, so they put a lot into them and are thus great friends to have.
According to one of Salmon’s studies, middleborns might also make great partners as they tend to get along with many different personality types. Salmon  says middleborns are like ‘Type O blood," in a way, because they go with everybody.

When you get two lastborns or two firstborns together, there can often be conflict because of their similar personalities. Middles, however, are already great at negotiating and much more willing to go with the flow.

Middle children may be more susceptible to peer pressure, but they also tend to be more open-minded. Salmon thinks this might be because middleborns are usually forced to be more independent, which gives them an opportunity to find their own path and could make them more likely to experiment.

In one study, for example, Salmon asked participants about their beliefs in things that, at the time, were considered controversial. Compared with older or younger children, middle children were more open to entertaining those kinds of ideas too. Receiving less attention from their parents doesn’t mean middleborns are resentful.

"In terms of undivided time and attention and effort, middleborns do lose out on that to a certain extent, but the takeaway [of the research] was that it didn’t seem to be having much negative effect on them," Salmon told Business Insider.

"In fact, they may be psychologically better off." Salmon also said that there was no evidence that middle children were resentful at all about being less of a focus. Instead, they’re often more likely to be very attached to their siblings and have strong bonds with them.

The myths about middle child syndrome could have formed for a number of reasons. Salmon says that firstly, it comes down to what people expect.

Vivid examples in film and TV are probably also partially to blame. Shows like The Brady Bunch or 8 Simple Rules portrayed the children in the middle as left out, with the older sibling getting all the attention for example. "Those cases then become very vivid in people’s minds… and suddenly they assume that’s the way it is for everything," Salmon said.

But being in the middle might be beneficial, too. The ability to negotiate is valuable in many different areas of life, including in many career paths.

Something Salmon observed in her research was that because middleborns are always pushed in the middle, they tend to have to negotiate for the things they want. They can’t rely on being the baby, or being the oldest and most responsible.

"I think that’s why they tend to be very successful with their friendships, and very successful with their marriages, but that probably translates also into how they manage things in the business world too," Salmon said.

Say hi to Mesentery, the ‘New’ organ in your body

The mesentery was considered a part of the digestive tract, but now two scientists say it’s actually the 79th organ in our bodies. It was once thought to be made up of separate structures, but it has been revealed in recent research to be one continuous organ. The organ is responsible for transporting blood and lymphatic fluid between the intestine and the rest of the body.

According to J. Calvin Coffey, Ph.D., F.R.C.S., professor of surgery at the Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick, and University Hospitals Limerick, in Ireland, “We are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date. This means that classic anatomic teaching, which spoke about multiple separate mesenteries, was incorrect, and that the mesentery associated with the small and large bowel were in actual fact one substantive structure,” Coffey said.

So, medical students who memorized the number 78 as the number of organs in the human body should plan on a little revisionist brainwork to remember the number 79.

The discovery is only the first step, Coffey said. While the mesentery’s structure is known, its function is not.

Further study could lead to better understanding and treatment of abdominal and digestive disease. “Now we have established anatomy and the structure, the next step is the function,” Coffey told ScienceAlert.

“If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science … the basis for a whole new area of science,” he said. “This is relevant universally as it affects all of us.”

Thanks to the new research, as of last year, medical students started being taught that the mesentery is a distinct organ. The world's best-known series of medical textbooks, Gray's Anatomy, has even been updated to include the new definition.

So what is the mesentery? It's a double fold of peritoneum - the lining of the abdominal cavity - that attaches our intestine to the wall of our abdomen, and keeps everything locked in place.

One of the earliest descriptions of the mesentery was made by Leonardo da Vinci, and for centuries it was generally ignored as a type of insignificant attachment. Over the past century, doctors who studied the mesentery assumed it was a fragmented structure made of separate sections, which made it pretty unimportant.

But in 2012, Coffey and his colleagues showed through detailed microscopic examinations that the mesentery is actually a continuous structure.

Over the past four years, they've gathered further evidence that the mesentery should actually be classified as its own distinct organ, and the latest paper makes it official.