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Saturday, September 5, 2015

WATCH: How Visual Effects Created 7 Amazing Scenes In 'Baahubali'

With the 3-hour visual treat, it is no surprise that SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus ‘Baahubali’, which was released this year, has amassed over Rs 600 crore at the worldwide Box Office.
Of course we know the scenic backgrounds in the movie were generated with the help of some amazing computer effects, but now we know that the techniques used are equally mesmerising.
A video on Hyderabad-based graphics company Makuta VFX's channel on YouTube explains how some of the scenes from the film were conceptualized and shot.
Get ready to be amused.
The famous shot where Ramya Krishnan was shown carrying a baby in her palm through the heavy currents of a river, wasn't a baby, it was actually a bottle of water.
shot 2
No waterfall, it was just a blue screen.
shot 3
Prabhas hanging on the rocks with waterfalls in the backdrop, was stunning VFX. There was a crane to lift him up.
shot 4
And this is how Prabahs crossed the deadly narrow passage.
shot 5
There were no real elephants used in the movie.
shot 6
There were no temples either.
shot 7
This is how simple green screens were turned into forests.

Friday, September 4, 2015

‘Female Viagra’ has Indian men in thrall: Doctors

 Mumbai-based sexologist Dr Prakash Kothari is used to inquiries that range from the idiosyncratic to the idiotic. Nowadays, he has been getting a lot of calls and emails that fall somewhere in between— from men who want to know the efficacy and availability of 'female Viagra.'

It's been a fortnight since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved flibanserin, the 'female libido enhancer' marketed under the brand name Addyi by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, and Indian sexologists' phones haven't stopped ringing. "Evidently more men than women are interested in the pill," says Dr Kothari.

Though Sprout is yet to make an application to the Indian drug control authorities to market the drug in the country, out of the first one lakh Google searches for 'Viagra for women,' the third largest number was from India (Australia and the US took the first two places). And sexologists say, going by the calls and mails that clog their phones, most of them would be married men.

Why are Indian men so curious about flibanserin, the first ever 'libido enhancing drug'? "Because they are lazy," says Chennai-based sexologist Dr Narayana Reddy. "Most of them who complain about their women being frigid don't do foreplay or just don't understand the woman enough."

In the case of Dr Kothari's patient Akash, this turned out to be true.

The sexologist asked him why he needed the pill, and pat came the reply: "My wife was not getting turned on when I tried to kiss her." Inquiries with his wife revealed something else. "His wife said Akash was not devoting enough time with her. And he didn't know she couldn't stand the smell of tobacco when he tried to kiss her," said Kothari.

Dr Reddy says a lot of pink pills - and the side effects that come with them - can be saved if men try harder to connect with the woman at an emotional level. "The magic word here is `talk', not `pill'. It will be October before flibanserin, the `female libido enhancer', reach es drug stores in the US, and it may take several more months to come to India since Sprout Pharmaceuticals is yet to make an application here, but sexologists and gynaecologists are flooded with inquiries. Experts say curiosity must be driving the initial enthusiasm, but caution should be the catchword.

Many doctors are wary of prescribing the drug because it was rejected by FDA twice for its side effects. They say the India government has to conduct trials for the drug to understand the required dosage and effectiveness on Indian women, like it did for sildanafil (Viagra) almost 17 years ago.While Viagra improves blood flow to genitals, Addyi plays with women's brain chemicals.And that, experts caution, doesn't work well for many women.

"I have seen around 50,000 cases of low sexual desire among women," says Mumbaibased sexologist Dr Prakash Kothari. "A majority of them suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, depression or anxiety. Or they have some problems with some organs.The drug may not work on such people, and hence a thorough check-up is needed before flibanserin is prescribed."

Adds Chennai-based sexologist Dr Narayana Reddy: "Those who qualify for the drug are those with low sexual desire without any apparent physiological reason. A very small segment of people belong to this category ."

The history of the drug - being rejected twice by FDA - makes doctors wary . "There seems to be a lot of controversy around the pill," says Dr Manika Khanna, a senior doctor at New Delhi-based Gaudium IVF Centre. "If the FDA itself says there are sideeffects like nausea, drowsiness and low blood pressure, it should not be prescribed to anyone currently on anti-depressants, those suffering from vertigo, hypotension or any sort of brain problem," says Dr Reddy .

For those partying, this could be another dampener: Addyi should not be taken by people who drink. Many people who think of it as a female Viagra may not know these facts, say doctors. "It is important that a complete clinical history of the patient is taken before the drug is prescribed," says Dr Kothari.

Dr Khanna calls for trials in India. Bengaluru-based gynaecologist Dr Devika Gunasheela agrees. "Trials are compulsory for any new drug before being introduced into the Indian market. The Indian population is genetically very different from the Caucasian population, so our requirements and absorption levels are different. Many medicines react differently on Indians and Americans," she says.

A senior officer at the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation told TOI that the company has not applied for permission to manufacture or distribute Addyi in India.

"When they apply, we will conduct trials. The only time we exempt a drug from clinical trials is during emergencies. Once we receive an application, we might take at least three months to complete the procedure," he said.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

`Daily walk can add seven years to your life'

Just 25 minutes of brisk walking a day can add up to seven years to your life, ac cording to health experts. Researchers have found that moderate exercise could halve the risk of dying from a heart attack for someone in their fifties or sixties.
Coronary heart disease is UK's single biggest killer, causing one death every seven seconds, and exercise has long been seen as a way to reduce the risks by cutting obesity and diabetes. A new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress suggested that regular exercise can increase life span. A group of 69 healthy non-smokers, aged between 30 and 60, who did not take regular exercise were tested as part of the study at Saarland University in Germany .
Blood tests taken during six months of regular aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training and strength training showed that an antiageing process had been triggered and helped repair old DNA.
Credit:Paul Peachey-http://www.independent.co.uk/

Monday, August 31, 2015

Computing cancer

Scientists have created a comprehensive computer model of a cancerous tumour in three dimensions - watch it in action in this Nature Video

more at :http://www.nature.com/nature/videoarchive/computing-cancer/index.html

Sunday, August 30, 2015

DNA editing


A gene-editing technique called Crispr-Cas9 is at the heart of a monumental moment in the his tory of biomedical research.
“The first term is an acronym for `clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,' a description of the genetic basis of the method; Cas9 is the name of a protein that makes it work,“ explains Amy Maxmen in Wired. “Technical details aside, Crispr-Cas9 makes it easy , cheap, and fast to move genes around -any genes, in any living thing, from bacteria to people.“
In even simpler terms, the work being done on this technique lends credence to the basic premise of the Jurassic Park movies -that you can take a bunch of DNA from a limited source and combine it with others to bring a species back from extinction, or create various combinant, monster species, as was done in the latest instalment of the movie franchise. “Using the three-year-old technique, researchers have already reversed mutations that cause blindness, stopped cancer cells from multiplying, and made cells impervious to the virus that causes AIDS. Agronomists have rendered wheat invulnerable to killer fungi like powdery mildew, hinting at engineered staple crops that can feed a population of 9 billion on an ever-warmer planet. Bioengineers have used Crispr to alter the DNA of yeast so that it consumes plant matter and excretes ethanol, promis ing an end to reliance on petrochemicals,“ writes Maxmen, adding that two of the most powerful universities in the US -UC Berkeley and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard -are battling for the basic patent. As Maxmen puts it, “Depending on what kind of person you are, Crispr makes you see a gleaming world of the future, a Nobel medallion, or dollar signs.“
`Crispr' could at last allow genetics researchers to realise their wildest dreams -bespoke babies, invasive mutants, bioweapons. At the Harvard School of Public Health, a special set of mosquito larvae of the species Anopheles gambiae are having malaria-resistant gene drives inserted into their genomes using Crispr. Techniques to do this have existed for decades, but the thing with this particular technique is that it's incredibly fast. Compared to other methods like using TALENs and zinc-finger nucleases, this is “like trading in rusty scissors for a computer-controlled laser cutter.“ With less than $100, an ordinary arachnologist can snip the wing gene out of a spider embryo and see what happens when that spider matures. The writer says that academic and pharmaceutical company labs have begun to develop Crisprbased research tools, such as cancerous mice -perfect for testing new chemotherapies. A team at MIT, working with Zhang, used Crispr-Cas9 to create, in just weeks, mice that inevitably get liver cancer. That kind of thing used to take more than a year.
All this makes it terribly easy to alter the rules of the biological universe ­ to create a new species or obliterate an existing one. But such tinkering has unexpected, far-reaching consequences on the ecosystem ­ if new genes that wipe out malaria also make mosquitoes go extinct, what will bats eat? No one knows what the rules are ­ or who will be the first to break them.
Credit:Times of India.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Shaped Like an Apple? Beware Kidney Disease

Are apples bad for the kidneys? The answer is yes, if you're talking about an apple-shaped body in which fat is concentrated in the abdominal area.
Researchers in the Netherlands have found that excess abdominal or belly fat— as seen in the so-called apple-shaped body, as opposed to the pear-shaped body where the fat is lower down on the hips and buttocks — can significantly raise the risk of kidney disease even among people with a modest-size belly and who are generally not overweight.

While the connection between obesity and kidney disease has long been established, this latest study is the first to show how just a small increase in abdominal fat begins to strain the kidneys, reducing the blood flow to these organs and raising the local blood pressure within them. [

The study appears today (April 11) in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, just below the rib cage, that remove waste from the blood stream and send it out of the body as urine. People can function well with just one kidney. Nevertheless, chronic kidney disease is on the rise. More than 10 percent of American adults now have some form of kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among diabetics, 35 percent have kidney disease.

Most forms of kidney disease have no cure, except through a kidney transplant from a healthy donor. Kidney disease is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC, and approximately 90,000 Americans are waiting for a transplant.

To further investigate the known connection between obesity and kidney disease, researchers led by Arjan Kwakernaak, a medical doctor and a Ph.D. candidate at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, analyzed kidney profiles and waist-to-hip ratios in 315 healthy individuals with an average body mass index (BMI) of about 25 kg/m2. The waist-to-hip ratio is a measure of central body fat distribution; and a BMI of 25 is considered the upper border or normal weight.

Even among healthy subjects, higher waist-to-hip ratios were directly associated with lower kidney function, lower kidney blood flow and higher blood pressure within the kidneys.

"We found that apple-shaped persons — even if totally healthy and with a normal blood pressure — have an elevated blood pressure in their kidneys," Kwakernaak said. "When they are also overweight or obese, this is even worse."

An apple-shaped body was associated with a twofold-increased risk of high renal blood pressure, seen in both men and women, Kwakernaak said.
The researchers don't know why this is happening. The reason is not because fat is weighing down on kidneys, crushing them, Kwakernaak said. The researchers speculate that the cause might be from the fat triggering inflammation or insulin resistance, which can impede blood flow, or fat creating free radicals, which can damage the kidneys at a cellular level.

"Our study now provides a possible mechanism for this increased renal risk" seen in obesity, for further investigation, Kwakernaak told LiveScience.
As for anyone with a pear-shaped body, you're not off the hook. Researchers at University of California Davis found that gluteal adipose tissue — that is, that fat around the backside, thought to be harmless, if not useful for sitting for long periods — secretes proteins associated with inflammation and insulin resistance, the latter being a precursor to diabetes. Their study was published last month in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

No word yet, though, from researchers on the healthfulness of a starfruit-shaped body.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Angelina Jolie opens school in Afghanistan

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie has reportedly opened a school in Afghanistan through her newly-established foundation - The Education Partnership for Children of Conflict.

The 37-year-old has funded the girls educational establishment that caters to about 200 to 300 students. The school is located just outside Kabul and the actress hopes it will be the first of many schools she sets up.

Jolie is also planning to fund more schools by selling her own self-designed accessories collection, the Style of Jolie, to retail stores for the first time with 100 percent profits going to her foundation. 

"Beyond enjoying the artistic satisfaction of designing these jewels, we are inspired by knowing that our work is also serving the mutual goal of providing for children in need," femalefirst.co.uk quoted Jolie as saying.

The actress, who is also United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, is known for her charity work. Last year, Jolie was left in tears after visiting a Syrian refugee camp.


Quantum Cryptography: On Wings of Light

Can worldwide communication ever be fully secure? Quantum physicists believe they can provide secret keys using quantum cryptography via satellite. Unlike communication based on classical bits, quantum cryptography employs the quantum states of single light quanta (photons) for the exchange of data. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle limits the precision with which the position and momentum of a quantum particle can be determined simultaneously, but can also be exploited for secure information transfer. Like its classical counterpart, quantum cryptography requires a shared key with which the parties encode and decode messages. However, quantum mechanical phenomena guarantee the security of quantum key distribution. Because quantum states are fragile, interception of the key by an eavesdropper will alter the behavior properties of the particles, and thus becomes detectable.

This encrypting strategy is already being used by some government agencies and banks. Data are sent either along glass-fiber cables or through the atmosphere. However, optical key distribution via these channels is limited to distances of less than 200 km, due to signal losses along the way. In 2007, LMU physicist Harald Weinfurter and his group successfully transmitted a key over 144 km of free space between ground stations on the islands of Tenerife and La Palma. Distribution of such keys via satellite networks would make secure data transmission possible on a global scale.

Optical data from a mobile transmitter
A team led by Weinfurter and Sebastian Nauerth at the Physics Faculty at LMU Munich, in collaboration with the German Center for Aeronautics and Space Research (DLR), has now succeeded in optically transmitting quantum information between a ground station and a plane in flight. This is the first time that quantum cryptography has been used for communication with a mobile transmitter.
The quantum channel was integrated into DLR's laser-based, wireless communications system, allowing DLR's expertise and experience with the system to be utilized in the realization of the experiment.
"This demonstrates that quantum cryptography can be implemented as an extension to existing systems," says LMU's Sebastian Nauerth. In the experiment, single photons were sent from the aircraft to the receiver on the ground. The challenge was to ensure that the photons could be precisely directed at the telescope on the ground in spite of the impact of mechanical vibrations and air turbulence. "With the aid of rapidly movable mirrors, a targeting precision of less than 3 m over a distance of 20 km was achieved," reports Florian Moll, project leader at the DLR's Institute for Communication and Navigation. With this level of accuracy, William Tell could have hit the apple on his son's head even from a distance of 500 m.
With respect to the rate of signal loss and the effects of air turbulence, the conditions encountered during the experiment were comparable to those expected for transmission via satellite. The same holds for the angular velocity of the aircraft. The success of the experiment therefore represents an important step towards secure satellite-based global communication.

Eat fish, add 2 yrs to your life

Older adults with higher levels of blood omega-3 levels —fatty acids found almost exclusively in fish and seafood — are likely to lower their overall mortality risk by 27% and mortality risk from heart disease by about 35%, a new Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington study has found. 

 It found older adults with highest blood levels of the fatty acids on an average lived 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels. Earlier studies have shown that consuming baked or broiled fish reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by almost five-fold. The latest results showed that people who did so at least once a week had better preservation of grey matter volume on MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. 

 In MCI, memory loss is present, but to a lesser extent than in Alzheimer’s. People with MCI often go on to develop Alzheimer’s. Grey matter volume is crucial to brain health. When it remains higher, brain health is maintained. Decrease in grey matter volume indicate that brain cells are shrinking. “Although eating fish has long been considered part of a healthy diet, few studies have assessed blood omega-3 levels and total deaths in older adults,” said lead author Dariush Mozaffarian. “Our findings support the importance of adequate blood omega-3 levels for cardiovascular health, and suggest that later in life these benefits could actually extend the years of remaining life.” 

 The study is the first to look at how objectively measured blood biomarkers of fish consumption relate to total mortality.

credit: TNN

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Science: 6 Facts About Jesus

He may be the most famous man who ever lived, but surprisingly little is known about his life.
This Sunday (March 31), more than 2 billion Christians will celebrate Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. While there is no scientific way to know whether that supernatural event at the heart of Christianity actually happened, historians have established some facts about his life.
From his birth to his execution by the Romans, here are six facts about the historical Jesus.

1. His birth … in a manger?
Most historians believe Jesus was a real man. To test the veracity of biblical claims, historians typically compare Christian accounts of Jesus' life with historical ones recorded by Romans and Jews, most notably the historians Flavius Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus.
And though a manger may or may not have figured prominently in the birth, scholars do agree that Jesus was born between 2 B.C. and 7 B.C. as part of the peasant class in a small village called Nazareth in Galilee. Historians also back the claim that Joseph, Jesus' father, was a carpenter, meaning Jesus would have gone into the family profession as well.
2. A mystical baptism
One of the pivotal moments in the New Testament is Jesus' baptism in the wilderness by a radical mystic named John the Baptist. Most historians believe this event actually occurred, and that Jesus experienced some sort of vision that led him to begin preaching. In the New Testament, Mark 1:10 (The New American Bible, Revised Edition) describes Jesus seeing "the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him." Jesus is then tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days, the passage continues.
The Jewish historian Josephus mentions the mystical activities of John the Baptist, as well as his execution by King Herod.

3. Reformer
After his vision, Jesus began to preach that the Earth could be changed into a "Kingdom of God." Jesus' message of reform was deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition, and he likely never viewed himself as creating a new religion per se — just reforming the one he was born into, scholars say.
4. A wise teacher
Josephus not only mentions Jesus, in one passage he also describes him as a wise man and a teacher. (The passage is controversial because many historians believe a Christian author later added in phrases such as "He was the messiah" to the text, leading a few scholars to doubt the authenticity of the passage as a whole). Most historians agree, however, that Jesus was viewed as a teacher and healer in Galilee and Judea.
5. Timing of Jesus' crucifixion
Several sources mention Jesus' crucifixion at the hands of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect. Christian Gospels say the skies darkened for hours after the crucifixion, which historians viewed either as a miracle or a portent of dark times to come. Using astronomy, later historians have used this mention to pinpoint the death of Christ. Some tie the crucifixion to a one-minute 59-second total solar eclipse that occurred in 29 C.E., whereas others say a second total eclipse, blocking the sun for four minutes and six seconds, in 33 C.E. marked Jesus' death. (C.E. stands for Common Era or Christian Era, and is an alternative name for anno Domini, or A.D.)
Death by crucifixion was one of the goriest ends the Romans meted out, and it was typically reserved for slaves and those seen to be challenging Roman authority.
6. Historical relics
The historical veracity of various physical relics, such as the crucifixion nails and crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross, have decidedly less historical or scientific backing. Most scientific studies suggest that these relics originated long after Jesus died. But the most famous relic of Jesus, the shroud of Turin, may be on more solid footing: Whereas some parts of the shroud date to A.D. 1260, other analyses have suggested that the shroud is about as old as Jesus.
Another more recent finding, a scrap of papyrus from the early Christian era referring to Jesus' wife was unveiled last year, to much skepticism. Since then, evidence has come out to suggest the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife is a forgery, though the jury may still be out on that relic.