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Meet the author: They Made What? They Found What?

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Photo credit: Shweta Taneja.  In this brand new series on our blog, we will bring you interviews with some of the leading authors from the world of science.  Author Shweta Taneja We kick-off the series with an interview with Shweta Taneja , the author of the two-in-one book, They Made What? They Found What? Published earlier this year, the book covers ground-breaking discoveries and inventions made by Indian scientists in a wide range of scientific fields from molecular physics to thermodynamics, nanotechnology to evolutionary biology. Shweta resides in Bangalore and has authored seven books, along with a host of non-fictional writings about technology for leading digital outlets.    Coffee Table Science (CTS): You have written fiction in the past. But this book is different. What was the inspiration to write the book?   Shweta Taneja (ST):  I’m a journalist, editor, and creative writer. For a decade when I started writing fiction, I focused on science fiction and fantasy, but when t

Making Vaccine injection as easy as lighting a gas stove.

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Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new vaccine delivery system that works like a gas stove lighter. With a simple click of the button, this new delivery system, called ePatch,  that does not need any battery or power to operate can deliver vaccines in a pain-free manner, according to a paper in PNAS .  Conventionally, single-use needles and syringes are used to deliver vaccines. While some people have the fear of needles, there is also the risk of needle-stick injuries to healthcare workers. According to estimates from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are up to three million needle-stick injuries that occur globally with about half not being reported. Apart from risks to healthcare workers, needles and syringes are also a huge part of medical waste that is generated every year. The ePatch vaccine delivery system uses microneedles which could reduce the amount of waste generated every year. 

From Tarantino to Squid Game: why do so many people enjoy violence?

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Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash Last month, more than 100 million people watched the gory Netflix show, Squid Game. Whether or not screen violence is bad for us has been extensively studied. The consensus is that it can have negative effects. But the question of why we are drawn to watch violence has received much less attention. Death, blood and violence have always pulled a crowd. Ancient Romans flocked to carnage in the Colosseum . In later centuries, public executions were big box-office . In the modern era, the film director Quentin Tarantino believes that: “ In movies, violence is cool. I like it ”. Many of us seem to agree with him. A study of high-grossing movies found 90% had a segment where the main character was involved in violence. Similarly, most Americans enjoy horror films and watch them several times a year. Who is watching this stuff? Some people are more likely to enjoy violent media than others. Being male, aggressive and having less empathy all make y

Watch spectacular moths fly in slow-mo [Video]

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 There are a lot of slow-mo videos out there but nothing as spectacular as these beautiful moths taking flight.  It might not have David Attenborough's narration but makes up for the deficit by capturing some rare moths in flight.  TV channels often focus on the larger animals but there is a lot to learn from these winged creatures as well.  This 6000 frames per second (fps) video was painstakingly made by Dr. Adrian Smith, who is part of the Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences & North Carolina State University.

Why we need to shift to 'gentle' medicine

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Photo by  Anna Shvets Numerous criticisms of medical science have been articulated in recent years. Some critics argue that spurious disease categories are being invented, and existing disease categories expanded, for the aim of profit. Others say that the benefits of most new drugs are minimal and typically exaggerated by clinical research, and that the harms of these drugs are extensive and typically underestimated by clinical research. Still others point to problems with the research methods themselves, arguing that those once seen as gold standards in clinical research – randomised trials and meta-analyses – are in fact malleable and have been bent to serve the interests of industry rather than patients. Here is how the chief editor of The Lancet medical journal summarised these criticisms in 2015: Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable tr

'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

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