Tuesday, December 26, 2017

What is Hydro Jet?

Everybody has a plumbing issue every once in a while. But because it almost always has something to do with toilet and indicates the lacks of fundamental flushing-down skills, you rarely hear about your neighbors’ plumbing problems and reluctant to tell your own stories. When you notice a bad odor coming out of the toilet or that stuffs just refuse to go down the kitchen sink - or the other way around - you turn into the greatest personal assistance in the modern world: the Internet. In case of plumbing issue, however, this is where bad things tend to get worse. The plumbing problem in question is most likely sewer line clogging; as useful as the Internet can be in other aspects of life, it won’t help get rid of the clogging, a Hydro Jet machine will.

What is Hydro Jet
The recommended pose for a plumber when waiting the Hydro Jet to arrive
While it is tempting to try all the tricks and demonstrations provided by the Internet, a Do-It-Yourself mentality has questionable reputation when it comes to a clog in the drain pipe. There are two main reasons for this:
  • Periodic maintenance of plumbing connection is just too cumbersome and unhygienic for pretty people like you, so it is either ignoring the task completely or having the job done by professional; the former is an obvious choice.
  • The lack of timely checks allows small problem to develop into much larger one. Small clogging in the bathroom due to accumulation of toilet paper, which can be actually sorted out quite easily, grows into a total blockage inside the drain pipe. This problem grows more quickly if you visit the toilet often. Of course you can help delay the clogging issue if you avoid using toilet paper completely, but this is not a proper method to get rid of the blockage – it is not recommended, using your in-law’s toilet is more acceptable in fact.

One of the most common tools used by professional plumber is a hydro jet machine. By professional, it refers to the kind of plumber that you have to contact by phone to tell your problems. In some cases, you may have to send inquiry by email and wait for several minutes to get an automated reply. If you can call the plumber by shouting out loud, chances are the plumber does not have the proper equipment to get the job done; the most sophisticated tools your neighbor possibly brings are spanner and hammer.

Components of Hydro Jet

A Hydro Jet is a modified version of power washer, so it is basically the same thing you use to wash your car and garage floor. Both even share more or less the same components as follows:

  • Water Inlet: it is hose that connects the machine to a water supply. The water needs to be clean to prevent damages to the machinery, so the hose is also attached with a filter. A Hydro Jet is designed to get rid of clogging, and it would be shameful if the machine itself is clogged due to debris from the water supply.

  • Motor: because the name is Hydro Jet machine, there needs to be a motor inside. If it does not have a motor, you might as well call it a broken hydro jet. Smaller models are often powered by electricity, while larger more powerful models run on more conventional fuel such as gasoline.

  • Water Pump: the most important part of the machine is water pump. Basic principle of mechanism is similar to that of hand-operated or manual groundwater pump. Main difference is that the pump in a hydro jet is operated by gas engine or electric motor at high speed. As a result, the machine can take 20 gallons of water or more. Without the motor, you will need a strong hand, a lot of horses, or Hulk to make the machine works.

  • Heavy-duty hose: a hydro jet machine can deliver water at more than 5,000 psi. Your garden hose doesn’t have the power to handle that much of power. Recommended safety margin is that the hose must be three times as powerful, so 5,000 psi requires a hose than can handle 15,000 psi.

  • Specialized Nozzle: at the end of the heavy-duty hose, there is a specialized nozzle designed to deliver water in specific directions such as forward, forward and backward, all directions, and more. There are many different types of nozzles, so plumbers have something to play with on the job.

The water released through the nozzle is powerful enough to scrape some skin off your body. Larger machines can take more water and deliver higher pressure, but you will not need such machine to get rid of a blockage in your sewer line; you may need one to put off fire in a forest.

The biggest advantage of using hydro jet machine to remove clogging is that no one needs to be in close proximity to the toilet or the drain pipe. It is therefore more hygienic, comfortable, and relaxing. Second biggest benefit is that the pressure from water can clean an entire stretch of the pipe rather than just the clogging. It gets rid of the blockage and prevents the pipe from getting clogged again in the near future. Also, there is no need to use detergent or any form of chemicals, which can potentially corrode metal pipe or melt plastic one.

Friday, December 22, 2017

What is Pseudoscience?

You should be able to tell what pseudoscience is by examining the two words that make up the term; pseudo means false and science means knowledge, hence false knowledge. Simply put, pseudoscience is a collection of thoughts or beliefs regarded by its proponents as factual and scientific despite the absence of evidences gathered and observed through proper scientific methods. Real scientists refer to that as bad science, junk science, or bogus science. And now that you know what it is, you should be able to differentiate between pseudoscience and actual science. If only it’s that simple.

Knowing what pseudoscience means unfortunately is not enough to prevent yourself from being exposed to it and manipulated by it. While there have not been many serious threats to life and humanity posed by any form of pseudoscience, people in the scientific community - the real one – are always eager to put an end to countless fake theories out there disguised under the name of actual science. It is like a blatant and stubborn copyright infringement case where the lawyer uses some other pseudoscience junks as closing argument. The problem is that even after the court of law finds the defendant guilty, some of the juries post that very same defensive argument to their Facebook accounts, just below their latest selfies.

Here are some of the most preposterous examples of pseudoscience thoughts:

  • Moon landing is fake based on the fact that the proponent could never get a job at NASA
  • Earth is flat because some people almost fell off the edge of the planet in their dreams last night
  • Astrology is accurate, according to the seller of a discounted plasma ball
  • Your handwriting tells everything about you, so there is no need to go to psychology school
  • Polygraph test is never wrong; that’s why detectives carry the equipment all the time
  • Aliens built ancient civilizations, humans get no credits whatsoever except to Mulder and Scully

One of the key characteristics of pseudoscience, other than its utter jealousy and contradictory nature to actual science, is that every belief cannot conform to appropriate elements of scientific methods including characterization, hypothesis, predictions, experiments/observations, analysis, and confirmation – science is full of big words, sometimes it hurts the brain indeed.
  1. Characterization: the activity which involves asking questions and gathering resources that can possibly answer the questions.
  2. Hypothesis: make a guess or two, but please keep it as educated as possible. You can call it “prediction” so it sounds more attractive to your crush in class.
  3. Experiments: a test for the hypothesis and figure out whether or not the theory is plausible. Real scientists perform multiple experiments and use different variables. Of course they also make notes because many scientists are old and can easily forget things.
  4. Analysis: data gathered from the experiments act as evidences. Scientists are also very good at drawing conclusions and charts based on factual data.
  5. Publish: write a letter to inform your colleagues about your hypothesis, experiments, and analysis. Attach your notes and clean up the desk afterwards.
  6. More test: let other scientists retest the experiment and see if they come up with different results.
Pseudoscience shall fall as soon as it gets to the experiment part. Many of its proponents may claim that they have done proper experiments and collect evidences, but the notes will only include results they want to see in the first place. The analysis is therefore inevitably incomplete and inaccurate. As a matter of fact, they often fail right from the start because their resources cannot be verified in objective manner.

What is Pseudoscience
That Unicorn is pseudoscience; the real one costs only $1
For example a mother believed that her son was the most beautiful boy in the neighborhood and wanted to conduct some sort of observation for that. Since real science failed to confirm her claim, she turned to the fake version of science. So she selectively collected many photos of young boys whose faces only their own mothers could love and made the comparisons. She then burned all evidences to make fire and published a newspaper article suggesting that his boy was indeed the prettiest one in the neighborhood in 1926. There is no way to replicate the observation because all the test subjects are dead now; more importantly, the observation fails miserably when faced to every objective scrutiny.

Let us try a friendlier example in which you claim that you have an invisible lover who lives in an imaginary tree-house in your backyard. You invite all fortune-tellers and ghost-busters on Facebook to the backyard to witness a magical wedding ceremony. No matter how often you tell the story and regardless of how many books you have published about that belief, it is simply impossible for scientific method to be applied to test the claim. Polygraph test can probably conclude that you’re lying all along, but science still demands dependable evidences to make conclusion – this is why the result of polygraph test cannot be used as evidence in court. In this case, science cannot conclusively say whether the invisible lover is true or plain hoax. The point is that pseudoscience is either a failure when objectively scrutinized or monumentally ridiculous for scientific inquiry.

The world is full of people who pretend to be smart enough and think that everybody else is stupid. Combine that with the unfortunate fact that they have access to the Internet, pseudoscience is currently in its golden age. Chances are you encounter pretty intense pseudoscience on day-to-day basis for examples miraculous substance that stops aging, but strangely looks like water because it is; getting rich methods Warren Buffet doesn’t want you to know, or maybe just doesn’t care; supplements made of all-natural ingredients such as cow urine; horseshoe that brings good luck except for the horse; and so on.

As strange as it may sound, humans are mostly irrational in the sense that they judge something merely based on their own train of thoughts or how their mothers raised them. Scientific method was put in place to help people see things from more objective point of view and avoid personal bias about everything. Real science is testable and objectively happy when proven wrong by empirical evidences. On the other hand, pseudoscience hates falsification to death. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

What is Malware?

A lot of people use many different security programs in their computers to avoid the attacks of viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware, adware, and ransomware. They downloaded various applications to prevent others from stealing or destroying personal data like warning emails from employers, online banking information, login credentials to adult websites and online stores, and more importantly selfies with life-sized dolls. A person who is extremely careful about such threats probably uses multiple layers of security protections on a computer. As a result, the entire computer resources are barely enough to even run a light word-processing program; the operating system crashes all the time and the computer is never turned on again – that is safe. In reality, what the person really need is just one good anti-malware. The main reason is that all those bad things that can stealthily attack the computer are just malware but with different names.

When you intentionally overheard people talking about computer virus, they were referring to one specific type of malware. The term “virus” is more popularly used by the public for several reasons: partly because it sounds more dangerous, partly because it is easier to spell, but mostly because they don’t know what malware is.

Malware is the short name for Malicious Software and it has the power to do plenty of nasty things to your computer. Since you have very close connection with your computer – probably too close, in fact – malware attacks can also bring bad effects to your health, financial, relationship, or simply life. While the maliciousness is more often targeted at computers, malware is also increasingly popular among mobile devices as well.

Understanding Malware

When you understand others, it is easier to deal with them or just avoid bumping into them on the sidewalks; same principle is applicable to malware. As the name suggest, malware is a type of software written with the sole intentions to do malicious things to its host. It does its purpose through various methods for examples altering computer functions, gathering data, deleting useful information, spying user’s computer activity, and providing remote access – all without the user’s permission. It is an abuse done by software to host computer.

Your computer can get infected from different sources both online and offline. Certain websites, files, or emails can possibly and unknowingly contain malware. When you access or download them, the malware is transferred to the computer and so it begins the actions.

Malware usually spreads to Internet users via drive-by download. This is the kind of download that happens automatically without actions on your part. As soon as you visit or access malware-infected websites or emails, the download is triggered in an instant – this is why malware is often planted to most-frequently visited websites or services such as insurance, food & beverage, and entertainment. Of course, the “entertainment” part also includes low-budget movies about intimate relationship – the budget is so low to the point where the characters wear no clothes and most movies are quite short to minimize the use of hard drive; they don’t even bother writing more than two pages of script. For many people, such peculiar form of entertainment is an offer they cannot refuse.

What is Malware
Do not leave an infected laptop unattended. Doctor's order.
Another common means of malware infection is advertisement. Malware can be hidden under the disguise of pop-up advertisements. Ideally any pop-up has something to offer to users, but at least it gives users the option to decline, like a “yes” or “no” question. When the intention of the ads is to spread malware, it does not give you any chance to reject the offer. No matter what you do or which answer you click, the advertisement sends the malware. All the malware needs is the click. If you see any suspicious pop-up advertisement, the best thing to do is close the Internet browser because cutting off the electricity is just too cumbersome.

Offline infection can happen when you connect infected-hardware to your computer such as flash drive, external hard drive, CD, or DVD, especially when the Autoplay option is turned-on. Physical keyboard and mouse do not contain malware because it has no files that provide the malware a place to hide.

Types of Malware

As discussed earlier, there are some different popular types of malware as follows:

  • Virus: malware that contains harmful code with the ability to destroy or alter critical computer system files. It can also self-replicate inside the host to spread and worsen the damage. A virus can render the computer useless or at least consume large portion of computer resources.

  • Spyware: just like in many TV shows, except Game of Thrones of course, spyware tracks your computer activities. It gathers data from your computer including system files and sends the data to whoever controls the spyware.

  • Trojan: typically disguised as a perfectly-safe executable program, Trojan can be programmed to take over computer resources and steal personal information. One of the most dangerous and malicious examples of Trojan software is the one disguised as webcam application. When activated, the Trojan can activate webcam without turning on any indicator such as blinking light; the person who sends the Trojan to your computer can spy on you through the webcam. Don’t use your massager anywhere around a webcam.

  • Worms: malware that acts like a worm. It eats (destroys) computer files and data stored on hard drive. Computer worms do not excrete feces, so your computer is still clean.

  • Adware: the most benign form of malware. An adware, when not used as a disguise for the delivery service of other types of malware, is not dangerous. Its only purpose is to track your Internet activity and figure out which websites you visit the most. An adware will follow you anywhere and display advertisements, mostly in an annoying way.

  • Ransomware: the malware that restricts your access to your own computer. It kidnaps your access to computer and asks for money in exchange. The only computers in the world invulnerable to ransomware are Liam Neeson’s and his daughter’s.

Until late 1990s when the World Wide Web was becoming a more serious thing, most malware were merely pranks; they were the practical jokes that computer programmers did in their spare time. The vast majority of people who wrote malware back then were teenagers (the smart ones for sure); they did that just because they could and for the fun of it.

Over time and as the Internet grows, more people realize that malware can be really annoying and destructive so many of them use their talents in writing malicious programs for professional purposes of stealing and making money. Not every hacker is bad; a lot of hackers actually help others (such as tech companies and governments) to find vulnerabilities to their computer/network systems and give solutions.

Considering the fact that you cannot live, work, and find dates without computer and Internet, using a reliable professional anti-malware program on your computer and mobile devices in addition to the built-in firewall is always good investment. Most people say that free anti-malware programs are often not good enough, because maybe it is true. Even if you use free anti-malware, make sure it is made by reputable companies.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What is OCD?

It is quite disturbing that people often use the term OCD in a way that it sounds like something common or mild and as if the condition is nothing serious. Anytime people say “in case you have OCD” or that they have a little bit of OCD, I don’t think it is appropriate. Those people are punishable by a big kick in the mouth, repeatedly. There is no such thing as a little bit of OCD and there is no need, under joking circumstances, to say something presuming any chance that you live with the condition. You are not a doctor; even if you are, you must be a very bad one. Doctors don’t make jokes about their patients.

What is OCD
Feeling the urge to wash a fork before and after meal is hardly a sign of OCD

OCD, which stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a type of mental illness that can affect people of all ages. There are two major components of the condition: Obsession and Compulsion - in that particular order. A person with OCD cannot help but display certain compulsive behaviors anytime the individual is faced with unwanted yet inevitable intrusive distressing anxious feelings or thoughts. Unwanted obsession (which causes the distress) comes first, and the compulsion follows as a form of counter-measure to relive the anxiety.

People can be obsessed with many things such as cars, toys, neighbors, Game of Thrones, or maybe porn stars. As a result, they also probably have excessive worries, doubts, fears, or superstitions every now and then. The vast majority can control these thoughts and feelings in a way that they avoid doing compulsive behaviors to reduce the obsessions. People trigger largely unnoticeable responses for example if you come across your neighbor-slash-crush, you can pretend to look the other way or type something on your phone; when Internet is down and you can’t stream the latest movies featuring your favorite stars, you can wait for few hours and stop by your neighbor instead. The point is you have the option to give any kind of hopefully appropriate response that makes logical sense.

OCD patients have their own overweening fears and concerns. The big difference is that they cannot control the worries; in fact, the worries are in control of their lives. When these worries come across their minds, they try to handle their situations by doing some compulsive behaviors that may not make any sense at all. In many cases the worries are simply triggered by something very common for examples untidy desk, improper alphabetization of stuffs, disposal of unused items, being in a crowd, or asymmetrical layout of something. In their minds, such occurrences are chaotic and may result in serious (even life-threatening) consequences.

Possible Causes of OCD

People with OCD are often portrayed in popular media as those who constantly need to wash hands, clean everything, tidy up even a slightest mess, or have rituals to start every morning. In real life situation it is not the rituals that matter, but the conditions that make the patients do the rituals. While OCD is not yet fully understood, there are several theories concerning what may cause it to happen:

  • Genetics: there is possible genetic component related to OCD – no specific genes have been identified.
  • Environment: changes in environment or infections may trigger OCD. This may include stressful or traumatic life events which lead to emotional distress. Experiences of traumatic events increase the risk of triggering a cycle intrusive anxious thoughts. Again, more research is needed to confirm this theory.
  • Biology: changes in brain functions may cause OCD. It is also possible that OCD is related to other mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders.

What has been understood is that an instance of OCD happens because the patient’s brain incorrectly processes certain information. Any kind of obsession, worries, and fears must be dealt with immediately or they never stop. In other words, the brain gets caught in a cycle of intrusive thoughts. Keep in mind that people with OCD understand that their brains’ warning systems do not work correctly; they understand the anxiety is not real but they don’t have the capacity to get away from the intimidating thoughts. During an OCD episode, the patient is tortured with a seemingly endless anxiety and desperately trying to stop it.

Obsessions and Compulsion

As mentioned earlier, many people have some sorts of obsessions and perhaps compulsive behaviors as well but it does not necessarily mean everyone has OCD. Only when obsession and compulsion are inseparable train of thoughts and become extreme to the point where they disrupt life or daily activities, then they need to be treated from medical perspectives.

The term “obsession” is indeed often used in everyday casual conversation. There is no law to prevent you from using or writing it. As a matter of fact, the ability to spell obsession properly is a reliably sign of average IQ. What you need to understand is how to differentiate the context between obsession as a disorder and as a pleasantly normal thing.

In an OCD case, obsession does not have any pleasurable component. People with OCD do not want to get caught in obsession with anything. For OCD patients, obsession is time-consuming, exhausting their energy, and extremely interfering with their lives. Once again, the patients mostly realize that their obsessions are not real but they cannot get rid of the uncomfortable feelings.

Compulsion follows obsession. Similarly the compulsion part is repetitive and done to at least neutralize the obsession. OCD patients develop many different compulsive behaviors for examples trying to count number to infinity, repeating the same phrases for long period, washing their hands excessively, and relentless tapping, and so on. In any case, those compulsive behaviors are not pleasant for OCD patients but they have to do it as temporary relief. One of the common suggestions to avoid doing the rituals is to keep the obsession going. For some patients this is just impossible or simply too disturbing if the obsession is in the form of continuous negative thoughts.

In non OCD case, obsession is more likely used to describe a somehow excessive fondness of something. You may be obsessed with a song, a woman, a man, a cartoon character, James Bond, The Walking Dead, a phone, and so on. Even with that many obsessions, however, you can still do your daily activities without triggering a massive mental and physical breakdown. If you keep listening to a song from your shiny new phone during class activity, you can’t say you have an OCD when the teacher asks you to get out. You don’t have an OCD; you are just not the best student. Claiming to have an OCD as an excuse makes you a bad person. You don’t develop disruptive compulsive behavior when you get bored with the song the next day or when a bigger shinier phone which looks exactly the same and does exactly the same things becomes available next week. And assuming you cry every time a new phone is released, the crying is not a compulsive behavior, it is just something else.

Treatments

Therapy and medications are the most common treatments for OCD patients. Therapy may include physical activities to help get rid of the obsession excessiveness for examples undisruptive relaxation techniques and regular exercise; medications may include SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) drugs such as Zoloft and Prozac. Education to help patients understand more about their conditions may also help. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

What is Net Worth?

For far too often you learn that someone else is richer and more attractive than you. Journalists tend to use something called net worth to determine how wealthy a person actually is, but no one actually cares enough to see if the claim is true. This is why you can also claim that you have high number of net worth – any number will do, really; it can be a million, three millions, 10 millions, and so on. To make it even more convincing, say some odd numbers like US$12,345,678.99 and everyone will believe it. Now that you understand how to fake it, let us learn about what net worth is.

What is Net Worth
These sheep have high Net Worth, but if only they can shave on their own
In short, net worth is the total amount of money you have. It is the sum of money based on the values of all assets you have subtracted by existing liabilities or debts. This is merely a concept because, in reality, you are not stupid enough to cash your entire assets and pay all your debts at once – but who knows, maybe you are. Assuming you still have money after all debts are paid, you have a positive net worth regardless of how small it is. On the other hand, you have negative net worth if you still have remaining debts even after you pay it with all your money – therefore, your total wealth should start with a negative sign (-). For many fresh graduates, negative wealth is not at all uncommon.

While net worth is a key measure to determine how much someone or a business entity is worth, it is not practical in most cases. Some people save their money on education accounts, retirement accounts, or other types of accounts which have withdrawal restrictions, either in period or amount. It may not be practical to measure how rich or poor someone is, but net worth is a good indicator of finance progress. For example, if your net worth was $5,000 yesterday and the number says $5,001 just now, it means there is an improvement in your financial situation; in other words, your finance is in healthy condition.

Business’ Net Worth

Total current value of a company is also measured in net worth. Instead of re-calculating all the company’s assets and debts, however, accountant and bookkeepers will use the existing balance sheet compiled by someone else smarter than them, because it is quicker and easier. A balance sheet is a report of assets, liabilities, and equity that a company has in its current state. In business context, there are two types of net worth:

  • Tangible, which includes all physical assets and liabilities (both short term and long term)
  • Intangible, which also calculates the values of all things that are too complex to quantity for examples patents, customers list, and reputation or goodwill

Balance sheet is easier to use because it only tells the value of a company in its current state. It lists all tangible assets such as building, lands, unsold products, printers, pencil sharpeners, plumbing augers, and everything else you can find in the warehouse. Another thing in the balance sheet is liability or debt. The difference between the values of assets and total debts is the net worth.

When accountants have some spare time, they can calculate the market value of a company. The process is almost exactly the same as measuring net worth, but it must also include intangible assets in the equation. Intangible assets, as the name suggests, have abstract nature so it is difficult to determine their actual value in money. Even accountants may need to hire valuation expert or just make wild guess; the only difference is that the latter is much more affordable.

When the company wants to lend money from financial institutions such as a bank, it must compile and provide balance sheet report for the bank to scrutinize. In case the bank deems the company’s financial condition to be healthy, credit application is more easily approved. Most (if not all) banks try to stay away from making valuation of intangible assets because bankers are apparently too busy straightening their neckties. Banks want readily-quantifiable assets as collateral. This is why banks will not approve your credit application just because you have a million-dollar imagination.

Individual’s Net Worth

The net worth of an individual is simply the total amount of money a person has after he/she subtracts all the debts from assets. At a glance the calculation of an individual’s net worth seems simpler than that of a business’ or company’s but it not always correct. People are neither assets nor intangible assets, and this makes the calculation appears easier. You must remember that tangible assets can be anything from house, cars, stocks, socks, wristwatches, saving account balances, a napkin signed by David Lee Roth, politician’s pee-tape, and all other possessions with considerable values. Debts may include mortgages, student loans, unpaid parking tickets, etc. Put in mind that some assets can depreciate and increase in value over time, so the exact price that you paid when you bought an item should not apply. For example you paid $20 for the biggest organic apple last week but haven’t had a chance to eat it; now you are selling it online and no one is buying because the apple is rotten. Thankfully the value of your house has increased so the depreciation of organic apple is well offset.

In the event you have negative net worth, you must file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy to eliminate most of (if not all) of the debts but your properties will be sold to pay the creditors. Some of your liabilities may not be discharged at all for examples taxes. Just because you filed for bankruptcy, it does not mean you don’t have to pay taxes anymore. Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences, so it is recommended that you hire an expensive attorney who costs a lot of money. U.S. Courts allow you to file bankruptcy without attorney – which costs you almost nothing except for the taxi - but since you are prone to making mistakes and misunderstandings of the law, hire an attorney who receives payment over time or just don’t go bankrupt.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

What is Net Neutrality?

The Internet - whether you consider it a place, a tool, a virtual world, a loyal friend with benefits, or anything else that comes to your mind – is a repository of human knowledge concerning all things that matter and those that are literally useless. It is almost like the biggest imaginable library to which everyone contribute; the only difference it has with a real library is that you actually visit the Internet.

Without a doubt the Internet means something to everyone and everything; Net Neutrality makes sure of it. Journalism finds it easier to report news in real time anytime; entertainment industry has another medium to provide multimedia contents in addition to television; businesses can communicate and complete transactions more quickly; the society has dependable platform to organize events, campaigns, or discussions; divorced people can look for new dates instantly; and you can watch videos of cats or people with no clothes on almost all day every day.

In 2015, the government or more specifically the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) set a regulation under which all ISPs (Internet Service Providers) were explicitly required to treat Internet contents equally. There should not be discrimination against any specific content regardless of market competitions. For example if you want to watch Batman & Robin on Netflix, the rules of Net Neutrality dictate that neither your ISP nor specific server through which the movie is streamed can block the content or even just slightly reduce the streaming quality even if they hate the idea that George Clooney is Batman – who does anyway? It was known as Common Carrier rule under Title II of the Communications Act. Some even refer to Net Neutrality as the first amendment of the Internet.

That well-established common carrier rule, however, has now ended because the FCC successfully repealed it on December 14, 2017 despite protests from major industry leaders such as Google, Amazon, Netflix, Reddit, Mozilla, and Twitter as well as millions of individuals who posted protesting comments on FCC website. Despite their differences and competitions, tech companies reacted together on the same side for the benefits of consumers. It was (and still is) as if The Avengers call the Justice League to protest Hollywood.

What is Net Neutrality
If an ISP does not like you, this is what your selfie will look like
In short, net Neutrality makes sure that if you pay for Internet subscription, you get all contents available without any negative interference from your ISP. Think of ISP as the people who own the pipeline in your plumbing system; whether or not you also use water that they provide (and therefore you pay the bill to them), you can take shower as often as you want and as many hours as you think necessary without having to pay more for the delivery service. You’re renting the pipeline, and that’s about it. Even if you use it to distribute milk and honey to your home, there is no need for extra fee.

  • Under the updated rule (or the return to the outdated version), ISPs do not have to slow down internet speed and block specific contents, at least in theory. The problem is that there is no regulation that prevents them from doing so. They have the freedom to discriminate contents, and this is where things can get real ugly.

  • When ISPs have the legal option to block contents, it means they are allowed to analyze and potentially manipulate the data which go through their servers or networks. For example if service providers do not like an image of Sponge Bob you want to download, they can charge more money for it or give you the option to get a poster of Krabby Patty instead.

  • Op-ed reports or educational contents can get blocked if the readers are subscribed to ISPs that have different opinions. Another option is to buy newspapers.

Some groups of people (especially minorities) who rely on the Internet to organize social campaigns will “technically” at the mercy of ISPs permissions to manage activities or promote ideas. Having to buy newspapers is bad, but maybe you can still order it online if that makes sense.

Competitive Market Does Not Guarantee Net Neutrality

In an ideal world competition in the market should prevent ISPs from negating Internet traffic or data delivery, but you don’t live in such a world. There are two reasons:

  • Most Americans do not have access to a handful legitimate high-speed ISPs. In fact, you are lucky if you have more than two broadband subscription options. When one provider wants you to pay more for the contents that you usually watch alone at night with the lights off, perhaps you can switch to another provider as a cheaper alternative. If both providers have the same policies, however, there is no option but to upgrade subscription tier and only when the provider offers it.

  • You will notice when certain contents are blocked, but Internet speed manipulation is trickier to detect. For example when you open two websites at the same time but one of them takes quite longer to download, the first thing that crosses your mind is that the server is down, under maintenance, overheating, or simply on fire. No one will be immediately suspicious if an ISP manipulates the speed.

Remember that even free public Wi-Fi is run and provided by ISPs. When you access Facebook at a coffee shop, it does not mean that the coffee shop also owns the entire Internet infrastructure that delivers footage of your friend’s dreamy but fake vacation to your laptop. The coffee shop pays an ISP for the service. It would make no financial sense for the shop especially if you spend hours there but buy only half a cup of coffee.

Home Wi-Fi or WLAN infrastructure should not be affected to some extent. Accessing contents stored on a NAS (network-attached storage) is almost like using no Internet at all. The contents are already there on a hard-drive that you own, so ISP cannot block them. The lack of Net Neutrality can affect the connection only when you download data through the Internet.

Many big tech companies believe that the battle for free Internet is not over. The repeal of Common Carrier rule on Dec 14, 2017 was only the beginning of longer legal process. You can join the protests and fight for the rights to watch more videos containing explicit scenes too, as long as your ISP does not block your opinions.

What Is Depth of Field?

The world of photography is more than just going to exotic places and pressing the shutter button. If that’s the case, any girl with her mother’s latest smartphone would brag about being a photographer. Using the most expensive camera setup in the world also does not guarantee that your pictures will look good on Instagram and Facebook. In reality there is a big difference between “just another photo” and “well-captured photo” because more often than not the latter is taken by someone who has better knowledge about how camera works than the girl. One of the most important terminologies to understand is Depth of Field. And if you think that Depth of Field literally means how deep the field is, well then you are wrong.

In photography, depth of field is a zone within which an object in a photo appears in focus. There are only two Depth of Field zones:

  • Shallow: a small portion of the photo appears in focus
  • Deep: almost everything in the photo looks sharp

Capturing a photograph with shallow depth of field should produce something called bokeh effect – it is not a misspelled as you may think, the name really is bokeh. It is most often used in portraits and wildlife photography, but you can try it for selfies and food photography too.

Achieving Depth of Field for Bokeh Effect

In contrast to what you believe, a camera (or more specifically a lens) can only focus at one “point” only. Just because your camera says it has “multiple focus points” feature, it does not mean the camera can actually focus on many different points in a single frame. This is either technically impossible or the technology is just not there yet. In the event you figure out how a lens can make this possible, the patent office will be happy to welcome you. However, a camera can indeed focus at multiple objects as long as they are at roughly the same distance from it so the objects are within acceptable depth of field.

For example during a scuba diving activity with a buddy, you want to have an underwater bokeh photograph as something to show-off on the Internet. Because you think it is a brilliant idea to include an Orca in the frame, your friend must wait a little bit longer for the Orca, which currently is swimming right behind you at speed, to come a little bit closer. That way, your buddy can get the focus right; otherwise, the Orca may look blurry and no one back home has evidence of how your life ended. Since the wide-open jaws of the Killer Whale is pretty close to your head, both objects can look sharp while everything else behind appears blurry.

What Is Depth of Field
Sometimes the line between Depth of Field and blurriness is well, blurry
Some cameras have built-in “bokeh effect” feature, which means you don’t have to adjust the aperture and distance to the object to get the shallow depth of field. In most (if not all) cases, all these automatic adjustments are done digitally by the camera software – yes, a camera also has a software that you can update. The problem is that digital adjustments can look quite foolish among photographers, so unfortunately you will still have to learn about some camera settings and read user manual, or you can just lie about it.

Aperture is an opening or hole through which light travels to the image sensor. Larger aperture means the sensor receives more light, and smaller aperture brings is less light. Aperture in your camera is calibrated in f/stops and measured in numbers such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 3.5, 11, 16, and some others. Two things to remember:

  • Higher f/stop – narrower opening – greater depth of field – sharp background

  • Smaller f/stop – larger opening – shallower depth of field – blurry background

It may sound contradictory that smaller number corresponds to larger opening, mostly because it is indeed contradictory so the problem is not on you; don’t ask your mother to have your brain examined just yet.

Omitting all the explanations about the witchcrafts that happen inside the camera, you need wide aperture and close focusing distance to achieve greater depth of field and get the bokeh effect. Therefore by adjusting the aperture setting on the camera to the smaller number, you can get the desired blurry background. As you scroll through the numbers, the Shutter Speed will also change accordingly. With large light opening, the shutter does not have to stay open as long to capture the image with the right exposure; this translates to faster shutter speed.

Distance between the object and lens also matters. As a rule of thumb, you want the object to be as close as possible to maintain focus but keep the background slightly far behind it. With wide aperture, the camera should focus almost entirely on the main object without picking up details of the surrounding.

Manual Focus

Of course it is easier to achieve if you also use manual focusing; this way you decide which part of the frame looks the sharpest. Turning the focus ring allows you to at least have a preview of what the end result should be; if your camera or lens does not have this manual option, you are stuck with automatic focus option so you may need to move forward and backward until you find the perfect distance for nice depth of field.

Aperture Mode

Since you are beginner in photography and reluctant to mess around too much with manual setting, there is an easy way to get bokeh effect: Aperture Mode - of course you're beginner in photography; otherwise you won’t be reading this.

A DSLR has something called PASM (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual) options. For a nice depth of field, turn the camera into Aperture Priority so you can adjust the f/stops. Other functions such as shutter speed will be automatically configured by the camera. Use the lowest possible f/stop number (larger opening) and experience with object distance. In Point-and-Shoot camera where there are no PASM and bokeh effect options, your best chance of getting shallow depth of field is by using the Portrait Mode; it may not be the best and it also takes more walking back and forth, but it is workable and at least you burn some calories.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What was the Industrial Revolution?

The biggest talent that humans have is the ability to create tools. We’ve been harnessing that talent to the point where we actually can create tool to make other tools; that was the main idea of Industrial Revolution that started in Britain centuries ago.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, not just in Britain but all across the world, nearly every manufacturing process was done by manual labor. There were no machines, so factories were basically filled people of all ages including children to make shovels, blankets, and pans. At some points in history the term “manufacturing” had not even been invented yet, because the person who coined it for the first time was still probably busy biting his finger nails – he had every reason to do that as nail clipper was not yet a thing back then.

In modern days it is hard to imagine living without assistance from machines or any kind of digital electronic stuffs, especially for millennials. When they hear the term manual labor, all they can think of is typing some words on a keyboard on a screen, not even a real keyboard where they can feel some actual buttons on their massive fingers - it is a hazard to the beauty of finger nails, they may say. This is also one of the main reasons that voice recognition is popular nowadays.

As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. In Britain during the late 18th century and beginning of 19th century, rich people were asking for more things to buy and cherish in addition to their two brown shirts while their poor counterparts wanted less difficult works and new products to sell. There was the need to do something to fulfill the demands from both parties. Imaging living in the period where you had to queue for a week to get a loaf of potato bread, everything was black & white including the rainbow, and maybe you had to dig a ditch anytime you needed to take a dump in the bushes. As it turned out, Industrial Revolution changed the course of human history not only in terms of machinery or manufacturing capabilities but also the civilization as a whole. Without it, you would still have to sew your torn socks every now and then.

What was the Industrial Revolution
Printer looked much better in Industrial Revolution, and you don't have to use computer

Industrial Revolution took place for the first time in Britain from around 1760 to 1840. It was marked not by a single event or invention of a new tool but a series of innovations that revolutionize the manufacturing industry; it was pretty much confined to Britain only too. The rest of the world eventually followed suit but it took quite a while for everyone else to catch up. As a terminology, Industrial Revolution was first used by French writers - whoever they might be - but the one that made it popular was Arnold Toynbee, an English economic historian.

While it technically described Britain’s economic development in general during the time period, Industrial Revolution definition can be scaled down for the inferior minds simply as the gradual yet rapid change from handicraft and agrarian economy to machine-oriented industry. If there had been an invention credited to spark or initiate the modernization process, it would have been Abraham Darby’s coke-fueled furnace used in cast-iron industry. Before you ask, he did not use the soft-drink Coke as a fuel the same way you use it to provide energy for your brain, which usually fails in a miserable way. It is a high carbon version of coal; you can consider it the enriched variant of the combustible sedimentary rock. Other industries also experimented with a lot of other innovations and actually succeeded for examples the mechanized looms in textile industry, steam engine in mining and transportation, power tools in carpentry, threshing machine in agriculture, and Portland cement in engineering.

To make it easier for your tired eyes to read and steaming head to remember, here in bulleted points are some of the technological changes that contributed to the Industrial Revolution:

  • the use new energy sources such as steam engine, internal-combustion engine, and petroleum so there was no longer the need to hire children as blacksmiths
  • commercialization of previously (and largely) unused raw materials for examples steel and iron which meant people didn’t have to drink from wooden mugs anymore
  • development in communication and transportation thanks to new engines and electricity, allowing the Brits to travel on train rather than a chariot and probably sent telegraphs to their horses back home
  • invention of continuous paper machines although the reading part was intermittent

Britain was more or less starting to understand that science could be useful for industry. Fortunately for them, the revelation came earlier to their societies, which made them an even more dominant force in world economic.

Why Did It Start in Britain

There were a good number of factors to make Britain the forefront of the change. One of the most notable was the fact that Britain had already developed a politically stable society before Industrial Revolution even started. Although many people were in poor conditions, Britain was the leading colonial power. In addition to the abundance of raw materials at home, it colonies could function as sources of more raw materials and markets for the finished goods.

If you could do something really well while nobody else were still far behind, you wouldn’t want to do it for free. In an impossible situation where you were the only person in a town – the kind which you had occupied and built earlier during younger days - who could produce enough supply of lemonade, you would want your neighbors to just grow lemons but purchase the lemonade from you.

Although other countries in Europe were far behind Britain, many of them could grow quite rapidly and catch up once the revolution begun. The United States soon followed suit and also became one of the dominating forces in manufactured goods. After World War II ended, Japan also joined the movement with great success.

Now that Industrial Revolution has gone so far with robots, drones, super computers, and solar panels, traditional handcraft is increasing in popularity albeit in just a small number of industry. Certain handmade products can be much more expensive now due to rarity and of course quality of craftsmanship. Handmade statues, swords, furniture pieces, clothes and a lot of other things are highly sought-after merchandises assuming the quality surpasses their mass-produced counterparts; but still, your origami wouldn’t sell for pennies.

Friday, December 8, 2017

What is a Bitcoin?

There are two keywords to understand Bitcoin: digital and currency. Understanding each of those financial terminologies should help even the most ignorant person to understand what it is all about. Bitcoin is real money just like the pennies in your pocket and the dollars in your wallet, assuming you haven’t spent them on a VPN account because you don’t want your employer to know what videos you watch online. On the other hand, Bitcoins do not have any physical form. It is often referred to as cryptocurrency or digital asset secured by cryptography system.

Decentralized

Bitcoin has no central banking system. In the U.S. and probably all other countries, one of the main requirements to be eligible for financial services is that you need to register with a bank and comply with plenty of complex rules on how you use your own money. A central bank (government-sponsored) has the power to create, distribute, and remove money from circulation. It does not mean that the central bank can choose which people deserve to be rich and which don’t, but it has the authority to regulate how money should be used. Of course you don’t have to ask permission anytime you need to buy a wig or new set of dentures, but there are many other models of transactions where you must comply with the bank’s rules for examples banking hours and international money transfer.

Bitcoin is classified as Decentralized Currency NOT because it has no rules but for the reason that the government or central bank does not have the authority over it. Bitcoin is independently controlled by a network of users that oversees and verifies the currency’s transactions and creations.

Here is an example:

Let us just say you are fortunate enough to purchase a brand new life-sized Lamborghini toy from Italy. For some misunderstood reasons including the fact that the two of you have never heard of PayPal, the seller does not want to sell it in dollars because in Italy the person uses Euro. Thankfully Bitcoin is worldwide currency, so there isn’t any legal consequence for using the currency to complete the transaction. There is no conversion rate, bank fee, and bank delay involved. Banking hours are irrelevant too because you don’t need any teller in uniform to handle the transaction for you. The money is also sent almost instantly to the seller’s wallet.

What is a Bitcoin
Bitcoin is not exactly a coin. Even if it is, it would be much smaller
Every Bitcoin transaction still needs to be verified and controlled. With the absence of banking system, there must be another method to make sure that the currency is always in healthy distribution. Millions of computers connected to the Internet work simultaneously to help process Bitcoin transactions all over the world. Even you can contribute to this process as long as you have the necessary computer hardware and software. There are some hardware pieces in the market designed specifically for the sole purpose of handling and verifying Bitcoin transactions. It costs money and electricity to purchase and run the hardware in the first place. The software is thankfully open-source and free to download.

Every computer that helps the transaction-clearing process is rewarded with some Bitcoins. When Bitcoin was first launched in 2009, the reward was 50 Bitcoins per transaction. However, the figure is scheduled to fall by half every four years. It fell to 12.5 in 2016 and will fall again to 6.25 in 2020. This is why the procedure is called mining and the computer who does the job is referred to as miner.

You will think that mining is an unbelievably profitable proposition considering that a single Bitcoin value is currently more than $17,000 (Dec 8, 2017). However, to make it financial sensible you need to purchase a dedicated mining rig and spend more money on insane electricity bill. In 2009, you probably would be able to do a competitive mining with your lame-spec desktop computer, but as every transaction grows more difficult to complete over time, it requires blazing-speed hardware specifications and around 250kWh of electricity - the same amount of electricity enough to power a small home for about 10 days – and that is just for one transaction. Bitcoins used for rewards for mining are new money created out of thin air. Total number of Bitcoins will not exceed 21 million, while around 16 million have already been mined.

Digital Currency

First you must understand that digital transaction is different from digital currency. Digital transaction mostly refers to online method of transferring money from one party to another. Think of an online store where you purchase cleaning solutions for the dentures and spray paint for the wig. Every time you transfer money to the store, you still use dollars and basically ask your bank to complete the transaction. On the other hand, Bitcoin as digital currency does not have any physical form. If you see an image of a gold-colored coin stamped with a capital letter B decorated with two falling strokes at the bottom and top, it does not represent any physical form of Bitcoin. That is just an image somebody created to illustrate the currency.

You can earn Bitcoins by mining or simply buying it from someone else. There are many online services that provide easy method to trade your dollars with Bitcoins. Some services even have escrow feature to give the peace of mind. Many people buy Bitcoins as a form of investment, which really does look dreamy with the current value. This is a digital currency, so there is no physical money associated to it unless you trade it first, by selling it to buyers. 

What is Nuclear Power?

Following the disasters in Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986), nuclear power has been on the top of environmentalists’ villains list. Also on the list are the absence of cyclist lane, littering, and NASCAR probably. However, the same people who compiled the list in the first place are currently faced with the dilemma that nuclear can in fact be the savior to postpone an already scheduled event where everyone is invited called Destruction of Planet Earth by Greenhouse Gases; environmentalists keep on receiving emails filled with suggestions to change the name of the event, but they refuse to give respond.

Nuclear power produces zero greenhouse gas, making it an excellent pollution-free alternative to the predominant fossil fuels. Based on rough calculation, a pound of uranium – from which nuclear power is generated – can produce the same amount of energy as 1 million gallons of gasoline or 3 million pounds of coal; apparently environmentalists also understand that rough calculation is more preferable than an actual math.

The process of generating electricity always creates byproducts or at least environmental impacts. Even hydropower potentially introduces negative effects to natural habitats by altering flow of river; solar panel also produces toxic chemicals during its construction and at the end of its life. Since nuclear power plant does not create greenhouse gas as byproduct, there must be something else. Unfortunately, this something else is radioactive waste such as iridium-192, cobalt-60, cesium-137, and others things with uninteresting names. Many of them can trigger birth defects and cause cancer. There is also a chance that a person exposed to radioactive waste will transform into mutants, maybe with useless superpowers if they’re lucky enough. Nuclear power is therefore at the same time full of good promises and sinister smiles. It is basically just like Lex Luthor.

A nuclear power facility may stretch to dozens of square miles, but the witchcraft happens on subatomic levels – these are the levels where no one can see or observe without assistance from flying brooms and some pointy hats. Such facility is built for one sole purpose: generating electricity from nuclear fission – a chemical reaction where a single atom splits into two smaller nuclei.

The fuel used in nuclear power plants is enriched uranium oxide comprised of uranium-238 (96% - 97%) and uranium-235 (3% - 4%). The latter is the main fissile (capable of undergoing and sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction) isotope of uranium. Natural uranium contains much less amount U-235 so enrichment is required for more effective energy production. The enrichment process and methods will not be discussed here in details due to health and safety reasons; potential use of many advanced scientific terms can be overly abusive to the brains and may cause serious headache.

While Uranium is the heaviest natural element, it is also one of the easiest to break apart. When free neutron bumps into a U-235 atom, the neutron will get absorbed and render the entire atom unstable. At the tipping point of its unstable state, the atom splits into two smaller atoms. This fission reaction generates more free neutrons which will run into many other U-235 atoms and repeat the process to infinity. Every time an atom splits, a small portion of its original mass becomes heat or energy. Water that separates fuel tubes absorb the heat and turns into steam. Then, the steam drives a turbine which generates electricity. As a result, the self-sustaining energy creation process generates massive amount of electricity to power your light bulbs, computer, microwave, TVs, and those weird-shaped electric massagers.

What is Nuclear Power
One of the main purposes of nuclear power is to create gigantic mushroom out of smoke just few miles away from a beach

Of course a nuclear power plant houses a myriad of equipment worth millions of dollars to control the fission reaction. Simply putting uranium rods next to each other will not trigger any kind of energy-production cycle. In case you have the opportunity wander inside a nuclear facility – there is a near zero chance of it happening – you will probably bump into the nuclear reactor which contains the fuel and fission control instruments.

The fuels are comprised of around 150 (if not more) bundles of 12-foot long rods; each bundle has more than 200 individual rods made from pellets of uranium oxide. These rods are immersed in a coolant and contained inside pressure vessel. Fission reactions are controlled by the amount of neutrons used. In addition to uranium rods, a reactor also houses control rods made from neutron-absorbing element for example cadmium.

Due to the nature of the fission where there are always more neutrons than required following every atom-split occurrence - hence chain reaction - the energy-production process can go berserk. Fission also increases in speed over time and leads to uncontrolled reaction if left without some sort of interference. By inserting some control rods into the bundle, large amount of neutrons are absorbed to prevent runaway reaction. To increase the speed of fission reaction again, control rods can be partially or entirely lifted out from fuel rods.


Radioactive waste, as byproduct of nuclear fission, must be treated in the instance it is produced. This is why the reactor is housed in a concrete liner inside a pressure vessel built within a disaster-proof concrete building. Imagine a shiny steel safe where people who don’t trust the bank keep their money; because they also don’t trust the safe either, they put another safe inside it. For some reasons, these people are convinced that even two layers of security measures are not enough, so they buy a bigger safe to house the two smaller ones. Then they purchase a piece of land and build a safe house for the sole purpose of keeping money. Because it is unbelievably safe, they allow some of their richest friends to keep money for a fee. In short, they build their own bank when they don’t trust the bank.

Extra precautionary measures are critical to make sure that the nuclear fission inside the reactor is always in secure safe controlled conditions. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters gave examples of what can happen if either the facility or human resource operating the facility is incapable. On the other hand, properly harnessed nuclear power accompanied by suitable radioactive waste treatment can potentially release us from the addiction to fossil fuels.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What is the Big Bang Theory?

Origin of the universe has been a subject of debate probably since humans realized that they could use symbols as a means of communication. Back in the days when there were no papers, ancient scientists with white coat made of 100% cow leather would draw strange shapes on cave walls during a summit to share their opinions on whether the stars were some sort of a fence at the edge of universe or there could be something else beyond.

The debate continues until today, still with drawings and plethora of equations that only people who at least have masters degrees can read and understand. It is not only subject of science either, as crowds of people with religious and philosophical backgrounds also join the argument fair. And as you probably have expected by now, no one knows the right answer. The closest we can get to the origin of the universe is the Big Bang theory, but that does not explain even a bit about the origin of the universe; the theory can only speak for the expansion of the universe. Of course, the discussion is about the Big Bang Theory science, not the TV show.

What is the Big Bang Theory
The image has nothing to do with Big Bang Theory, bit it looks good
It has been well-established that people can be wrong – in fact, they often are. Misconceptions about the Big Bang theory are just few good examples of that.

  • Big Bang Theory does not try to explain the origin of the universe, but the development of the universe starting from a dense marble-sized thing into what it is today. The theory makes no attempt to claim that it knows what started the universe, what happened before the Big Bang, and what exists beyond the universe.
  • Big Bang Theory has never been a concept of explosion, but expansion of the universe. The expansion probably happened faster than speed of light, so it would look like an explosion, but nothing actually exploded. This kind of confusion is partly because of its name. In classic sense, a Big Bang is what you normally expect to hear when someone fires off cannon or other big guns. Unlike with most things when you have to admit that you’re wrong, you can actually blame someone for this confusion. Sir Fred Hoyle was a critic of the theory and he coined the term “Big Bang” as a derogatory comment. However the name stuck and nobody seems to mind about that.
Among many proponents of the Big Bang theory, there are some popular names you should really look up such as Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Edwin Hubble.

Theory – As Seen by Science

From the perspective of science, a theory is simply an attempt to explain a particular phenomenon, event, or aspect of life including the universe. People also easily confuse between theories and laws not because the two are particularly similar but mainly it is just people’s nature to get confused by many things. Unlike a theory, laws are clear descriptive explanations on how the nature will behave under certain circumstances.

Theories are more like hypothesis; scientists try to draw conclusions about a particular subject based on related signs, symptoms, and events. Of course the conclusion must be an educated and informed one. It is like weather forecast, but concerning much bigger scope. Theories can be disproven by the discovery of new evidences; it can also grow stronger if tests and observations support the existing theory. In case miracles happen, but most likely will not, and suddenly you understand the universe better than anyone else, even you are allowed to suggest a new a theory. If you can prove that the Big Bang is wrong by presenting some undeniable contradictory evidences, the theory must be discarded.

Evidences

The Big Bang Theory suggests and explains that the universe started as hot dense small thing and then expanded to form the universe that we know today and it is constantly expanding. The expansion started a long time ago, making it impossible to actually see what actually happened back then; CCTV was not yet invented 14 billion years ago to record footage.

Most of the knowledge we know about the Big Bang came from mathematical models and formulas. One of the undeniable evidences to support the theory is called Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). Many scientists believe that CMB is the leftover of radiation in the aftermath of Big Bang. When the universe started its expansion, it underwent rapid inflation and released enormous heat. CMB is the remaining heat of the event.

Edwin Hubble suggested the first observational basis for the expansion of the universe. He noticed that the velocity of stars or galaxies appeared to be approximately proportional to their distance from Earth. In an easier language, the further away stars were from Earth, the faster they moved away from the planet; so he concluded that the universe was expanding.

CMB was discovered in 1964 by two radio astronomers, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. It basically confirmed or at least supported Hubble’s suggestion. CMB are found all over the universe and spread equally in all directions; this means the universe continues to expand until today and probably to infinity. If it stops expanding, CMB should not be around anywhere because it would eventually dissipate at one point. Also, the universe has no center so the expansion happens everywhere all the time in all directions.

CMB also gives clues to understand the composition of universe. Scientists came up with a conclusion that only 5% of the universe is made up of matters such as galaxies, planets, and stars; because they don’t know what the remaining 95% is, they just call it dark energy and dark matter.

There was a default assumption that the universe today looks exactly the same as it was decades ago. While things change quite rapidly and many times unexpectedly here on Earth, people thought that everything stayed the same in the distant skies; again, people were wrong. The universe you have today is different from how it was yesterday, and it will be different the next time you check again.

Big Bang Theory has been popular among scientists for decades. It gained its way to mainstream popularity thanks to a comedy show with the same title premiered on CBS in 2007. While the Big Bang Theory does not explain what happened before the universe started expanding, at least you can say with a tone of certainty that fewer people watched CBS before it aired for the first time.

Monday, December 4, 2017

What are HIV and AIDS?

HIV and AIDS are different things, but you can think of them as a two-headed monster that never goes anywhere alone. Many people use both terms interchangeably, but as usual, people are wrong. Both are medical conditions yet different diagnoses. In the past, a diagnosis of either HIV or AIDS was considered death sentence because even the smartest doctor in town could not suggest effective treatments. Thanks to years of painstaking persistent research and the fact that medical laboratories are actually filled with people who know what they’re doing instead of you, people diagnosed with the conditions can now live longer and remain productive.

HIV

It stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus; that is quite a mouthful, so let’s just use the acronym. As the name suggests, HIV is a virus that attacks human immune system. A healthy person is able to impede the progress of a large variety of diseases because there is a properly working immune system inside the body. Immune system works like a computer antivirus program but you don’t need to download and install it first. As soon you were born into this world, the system is improving and getting very good at recognizing all the cells that make up your entire body, including those in your nasal hair. Anytime your body receives uninvited unfamiliar cells such as parasites or unfriendly bacteria and viruses, the system will try to get rid of them.

What are HIV and AIDS
If you see them lying around, find the instructions in a doctor's office
If attacked by HIV, the immune system is rendered deficient and therefore it cannot function as effectively as it should. There is something with HIV, which no one understands, that allows for resiliency against immune system. As a result, the body cannot completely remove the virus.

Early Symptoms of HIV

The most common early symptoms of HIV infection are flu-like conditions. In fact, about 40% - 90% of people infected by the virus develop the one or more of the following signs such as:
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Night sweats

Several things to notice:

Such symptoms may last for 2 to 4 weeks after the infection occurs, yet it is possible that those signs may not appear at all. Please note that early infection includes all instances in the past 6 months (recent) and acute infection (very recent); the latter does not typically develop flu-like symptoms.

Within 6 months after infection takes place, an HIV test may fail to recognize the existence of the virus at all. However, people who have the virus are highly infectious during these times. Put in mind that just because you have any of the aforementioned symptoms, it does not mean you have HIV; there is a very good chance that either the sweating or chilling you had last night was because some mice ruined the air conditioner.

HIV can only be transmitted through activities that involve direct contacts with certain body fluids from a person who has the virus. More specifically, the fluids are:
  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Pre-seminal fluid
  • Rectal fluids
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breast milk
One of those fluids must also come in contact with another person’s damaged tissue or mucous membrane or be injected directly into the bloodstream for transmission to occur. This is the main reason that new sterile needle or syringe is mandatory for any medical (such as administering drugs and taking blood samples) and non-medical (for example getting a tattoo) purposes. Mosquitoes do not transmit HIV.

Clinical Latency Stage

First of all, apologize for the alien phrase, but there does not seem to be an easier alternative. Following the early stage of infection, the virus changes its characteristic from extremely aggressive to unbearably lazy; this condition is called Clinical Latency Stage or simply chronic HIV infection. The virus remains active inside the body but it reproduces at very uninteresting level of intensity. This is a trick so that the virus arouses no curiosity or attention. At this stage, an infected person may not develop any symptom at all; even if there are symptoms, they are only mild. Clinical Latency Stage may last for a decade or even longer.

There is no HIV cure, but infected people who take medications called antiretroviral therapy or ART as suggested by doctors can keep the virus in check, which means they can live healthy normal lives despite the virus in their bodies. Since the virus remains active, however, they can still pass the infection to others.

AIDS

HIV is the virus, and AIDS is the condition it may cause. HIV-infected people who do not take ART medications will eventually develop a condition called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS); this is the final stage of HIV infection.

The virus attacks immune system, and then reproduces at very low rate inside human body. Without proper medication, there will be continuous uncontrolled damages to the immune system. As the damage reaches critical point, immune system is rendered useless. In other words, the body is highly susceptible to a great number of infections and certain types of cancers including but not limited to:
  • Tuberculosis: infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs.
  • Cryptococcal meningitis: inflammation of the spinal cord as well as the membranes and fluids surrounding the brain.
  • Kaposi's sarcoma: a type of cancer that develops from blood vessel or cells that line lymph; very common in HIV-infected people.
  • Kidney disease: a condition that potentially leads to kidney failure without treatment.
  • Wasting syndrome: rapid loss of body weight often accompanied by chronic weakness, fever, and diarrhea.
 Again, apologize for the strange medical terms.

HIV without AIDS

Many HIV-infected people can live for many years without even developing AIDS. An HIV infection, especially with proper treatment and medication, does not make AIDS a certain thing. While the treatment including ART may help prevent AIDS from developing, it is not a cure for HIV so the infection persists.

Once AIDS develops, there can be various symptoms such as:
  • Pneumonia
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Recurring fever
  • Diarrhea that last for more than a week
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Sore of genital, mouth, and anus
  • Blotches (they can be red, pink, purple, or blue) inside the mouth, eyelids, nose, under the skin, or on the skin
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Neurologic disorders
  • Prolonged swelling of lymph glands in neck, armpits, and groin
The only way to make sure whether or not someone has HIV/AIDS is by having a medical examination or test. Every symptom is related to other types of diseases or medical conditions and possibly not caused by HIV infection at all. AIDS is a condition in which the immune system has been damaged, and therefore many of the symptoms, infections, sickness, and medical disorders are the results of weakened immune system.

Difference between AIDS and Autoimmune Disease

By definitions alone, the two conditions may sound similar because both are related to immune system. However, they are very different. Autoimmune disease is the inability of immune system to distinguish between cells that make up your body and those that attack your body. In this condition, the immune system basically regards all cells as malignant, and therefore it tries to kill every cell. On the other hand, AIDS is a condition where the immune system is unable to fight of infections. Immune system still recognizes damaging cells, but it is unable to defend the body.