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'Fast food' eating bats have less healthy guts

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Pallas's long-tongued bat (Glossophaga soricina), feeding on nectar from banana trees in Costa Rica Nectar-feeding bats have a diverse diet and a diverse gut microbiome too. When these bats get an easy and quick supply of food, in their case banana plantations, they take to this 'fast-food' since it is reliable. Just like humans, how this food is grown determines the nature of their gut microbiome, says a recently published study   The researchers collected fecal samples from bats that had foraged for an hour after sunset in intensive banana plantations, organic plantations as well as from bats feeding in their natural habitat. They used DNA sequencing to determine which bacterial groups were present, absent, more common , or they were linked to a specific habitat. They also measured the bat’s body condition, which included their size and weight. Bats feeding in plantations also had higher body mass and size, a result of the ready availability of food. While bats in natural

Let's call coding for what it is. It is not 'fun'!

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Coding is glorified. But is it worth it?  by Walter Vannini Programming computers is a piece of cake. Or so the world’s digital-skills gurus would have us believe. From the non-profit Code.org’s promise that ‘Anybody can learn!’ to Apple chief executive Tim Cook’s comment that writing code is ‘fun and interactive’, the art and science of making software is now as accessible as the alphabet. Unfortunately, this rosy portrait bears no relation to reality. For starters, the profile of a programmer’s mind is pretty uncommon. As well as being highly analytical and creative, software developers need almost superhuman focus to manage the complexity of their tasks. Manic attention to detail is a must; slovenliness is verboten . Attaining this level of concentration requires a state of mind called being ‘in the flow’, a quasi-symbiotic relationship between human and machine that improves performance and motivation. Coding isn’t the only job that demands intense focus. But you’d never hear som

50 Fun Facts about Vaccines

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As we turn the final pages of the year 2020, COVID-19 vaccines are being given to people in the US and the UK. Undoubtedly, this is the shortest humankind has taken to roll out a vaccine as is evident in the image below.  Science textbooks have reminded us time and again that Edward Jenner created the first vaccine in the world and the work he pioneered in the late 1700s has helped us not only eradicate smallpox but also fight other diseases like polio, yellow fever, chickenpox to name a few. So, here are some fun facts about vaccinations that you likely did not know.  Let’s begin with some controversy.    Edward Jenner did not pioneer vaccination.  People knew well that milkmaids infected with cowpox are immune from smallpox outbreaks.  Jenner was a genius who converted local wisdom into a controlled protocol. He studied if the protocol gave reproducible results.   Like all big discoveries, Jenner’s discovery was no overnight success. He began studying cowpox in the year 1770. He stud

6 Technologies fast-tracked during COVID-19

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Countries are in a lockdown. Offices are shut. Limited work is happening from home but that does not halt process of science and technology. Rather, extra-ordinary circumstances, tough challenges are what call for extra-ordinary solutions that later on become part of our daily lives. As the world waits for a cure or vaccine for Coronavirus, to get us back to how we were before, here is a list of some technologies that are seeing an uptick in their development or implementation.  1. Wearable Tech  Remember that fitness tracker you got as a birthday gift. Yes, the one you wore to office everyday but rarely went out for a run with it. If you are nodding right now, we were right to guess, that we were not the only ones. But these are set to get an upgrade soon.  For a while now wearable tech companies are trying to work out how they can get most of out the hardware that already exists on the device. There are just a few among us now who upgrade their iPhones every

Fake news, fake apps, fake treatments and fake tests in the time of Coronavirus

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The year is 2020. The pandemic is COVID-19. Countries are grappling with a virus that is believed to have found its way from a bat, through pangolin trade, into the human body and in a matter of months, spread from patient zero to over 25,00,000 confirmed cases world over. No standardized treatment is available, vaccines are months away from development, personal protective equipment is scarce, testing kits are faulty but that’s not where we are concentrating our energies on. We are spreading unverified news through social media apps, blaming religious communities for spreading the virus intently and forcing governments to spend more time devising strategies to contain fake news than the virus. Across Europe and in Britain, people have correlated the roll-out of 5G mobile phone technology to the spread of Coronavirus and set about putting 5G towers on fire .  The spread of these theories has been so rapid and viral that the World Health Organization had to spend resource