Signal Now Provides Encrypted Video Calls

Signal app

Signal now provides encrypted video calls in the beta version of the app.

Privacy seems to have become quite a commodity in this day and age, with an increasing number of users becoming aware of how easy it can be for someone to access their conversations. Therefore, a number of messaging apps like Signal, which provided encrypted communication, have become quite popular in the last few years.

Signal, developed by Open Whisper Systems, only provided end-to-end encryption for text messages and voice calls, at least until now. The company has released an update to the open beta version of the app which enables encrypted video calls. Therefore, you enjoy talking with your contacts on video, then you can do so without worrying that your privacy may be compromised. Additionally, the update also improves the current voice calling feature, which is somewhat clunky to use.

Signal previously gained the attention of users when it was endorsed by Edward Snowden, who many private citizens support. The app does not present benefits to just activists and journalists who may be targeted by various attacks in order to obtain their information. Signal has a lot of regular users who enjoy their privacy, despite the fact that they’re using the app for less sensitive content like messaging with friends.

The new encrypted video calls feature will surely benefit all the users who enjoy video chat, at least if the service performs at a similar level to what apps like Facetime can deliver. In this regard, the company is hard at work to make it easy for other developers to implement Signal into their products and services.

iPhone users are even able to use the CallKit in iOS 10, which allows them to answer calls directly from the lock screen. This means that calls from the Signal app will be treated the same way as native calls. However, this type of integration may create some vulnerabilities, as it required to sync the call duration and destination with iCloud. Nonetheless, the feature can be easily turned off from app’s settings.

If you want to try out the new encrypted video calls feature, you need to install the beta version of the app, go to settings and enable the video calling beta option under the advanced tab. The feature won’t work if the user you’re trying to contact has not enabled the option as well.

Image sourceOpen Whisper Systems

Caavo Streaming Box Seeks to Unify TV Services and Devices

Caavo streaming box

Caavo streaming box will unify all your TV services and hardware.

When you thought that the TV streaming market couldn’t get any bigger than it currently is, where a few major players dominate both the video content as well as hardware part of the business. However, a startup company called Caavo has a new approach to the current way we watch TV, simplifying the use of all the different services and devices.

The Caavo streaming box is a device which is able to unify all the various TV content services, which have launched in the last few years as well as all the different uses of streaming boxes into just one device. This type of service may prove invaluable to some users who subscribe to a large number of services, considering that a lot of TV companies have built their own service, with third-party content being less prominent.

The Caavo streaming box is the result of the $15 million in funding obtained by the company. It provides users with both a universal remote which comes with voice control, as well as a unified TV interface so that you can easily search for your favorite content without the need to constantly switch apps.

TV streaming services, from Netflix, Amazon to HBO and others, have steadily begun to emphasize their original content and rely less on third-party shows to attract users. While this may have led to a wider variety and better quality shows, it also complicates the life of the consumer. From switching different streaming boxes to remotes and apps, it has become quite a chore if you want to stay up-to-date to the last TV shows.

The Caavo streaming box recognizes this problem and seeks to address it. It features eight HDMI inputs, more than enough to connect all your streaming boxes or consoles, which will be added to its interface. Afterward, you select what services you are subscribed to as well as any preferences for what service to be accessed on what device, and you’re good to go. You can now easily search through all the different services using the universal remote and its voice-search function, which can start a show with the command “watch”.

What do you think about the Caavo streaming box?

Image credit: Caavo

Whole Grains Can Help with Weight Loss

whole grains and bread

Whole grains increased the rate of metabolism and promotes weight loss.

We have known for a long time that our diet has an important in our metabolism. However, not much was known about the impact that various types of food have on our system. A new study has found that eating more whole grains increases our metabolism and promote weight loss.

The more general study on the impact of eating whole grains was published at the same with a more specific study involving the effect of whole grain on gut bacteria. Both research papers have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Previous epidemiology studies have revealed the health benefits of a whole grains diet as well as that of a diet rich in fiber, such as higher glycemic control and insulin sensitivity. However, there has been a certain degree of controversy regarding the effect of whole grains and fiber on weight, mostly due to the fact that there isn’t a lot of data available from metabolic studies.

The new study aims to explain how the consumption of whole grain is beneficial for weight loss by providing this type of food to participants for a period of eight weeks. The researchers wanted to determine exactly how a high whole grain consumption can benefit weight management.

For their study, the scientists conducted a randomized single-blind study on 81 men and women with ages between 40 and 65, for a period of eight weeks. During the first two weeks, all participants ate the same food, as scientists determined their required caloric intake. Afterward, each group was required to either eat only a whole grain diet or a refined grain one. The main difference between the diets being in the grain and its fiber content.

Throughout the study, the searchers measured the metabolic rate, blood glucose, weight, hunger, fullness, and fecal calories of each participant. At the end of the study, they found that the whole grains diet increased the metabolic rate as well an increase in the fecal energy losses compared to the participants who ate the refined grains diet. The caloric loss was due to how fiber changes the digestibility of other types of calories.

What do you think about this study? Do you eat more whole grains or refined grains?

Image source: Free Stock Photos

Massive Black Hole Is Beating The Longest Meal Record

massive black hole

A massive black hole has been slowly destryoing a star for the last 10 years. And it is still an ongoing process.

According to research, a massive black hole could well be beating the record for the longest meal ever. Estimates show that it has been slowly eating a star. And this action has been going on for around 10 years.

Black holes are well known for being one of the most destructive space elements. An object swallowed up could be completely destroyed by such an unfortunate meeting. And a black hole’s victim could be any space object. From a tiny spacecraft to a star twice the size of the Sun.

Which actually seems to be the case. At least according to a recent study. A star twice as big as the sun is reportedly being swallowed up by a massive black hole. And this latter seems to be taking its sweet time. The slow destruction seems to have been going on for about 10 years now.

The meeting behind a planet and a black hole’s event horizon is known as TDE. This is the tidal disruption event. Quite a few such events have been spotted throughout the years. And most were seen to be quite short. In most cases, a TDE will last about a year.

Such events have a distinguishing mark. These are multi-wavelength X-ray flares. Such flares are produced as the stellar material starts being destroyed. As it enters the black hole, it will also heat up. When the TDE gets closer to the end, the flares it emits will also start getting fainter.

However, a newly released paper shows that the process is not always fast. Research on the matter was carried out by an international team of scientists. They were led by Dacheng Lin from the University of North Hampshire.

Study results were released earlier this week. They were published in the Nature Astronomy journal. Available online since February 06, the paper is titled as follows. “A likely decade-long sustained tidal disruption event”.

This record-breaking TDE was traced back to XJ1500+0154. This latter is a massive black hole situated some 1.8 billion light years away. The event was first spotted back in 2005. And the scientists have been tracking it ever since.

According to Lin, science has been witnessing an unexpected event. This massive black hole has been feasting on the same star for around 10 years. It is ten times longer than any previously recorded TDE.

No other such event has remained bright as long as this one. The research team based its study on data gathered by 3 orbiting telescopes. They all have X-ray detectors. One telescope is the NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory. Another is ESA’s XMM-Newton. The Swift Satellite is the third source.

Their observations were very important in gathering data about the cosmic event. And they led to the following theories. The event’s unexpected length could be explained in two possible ways.

One would be that the consumed star is massive. Estimates show that it could be twice as big as our Sun. Based on previous records, it may even be the biggest star to be involved in TDE.

The other theory states that this could be a first-time ever event. The consumed star is not necessarily big. But it may be the first to be fully and completely consumed in a TDE.

Yet, not even this process will last forever. The massive black hole could be finishing its meal sometimes over the next decades. Computer models show that its TDE flare will start diminishing in the following years. And the hole’s star supply will also drop significantly over the following decades.

Studies on this TDE may also help solve a bigger mystery. Research may be closer to establish the formation process behind supermassive black holes. Some such formations are believed to have grown very big, very fast some many billions of years ago.

Scientists believe that such formations could have already held some 1 billion solar masses. And that just about 1 billion years after the creation of the Universe.

Image Source: Wikimedia

Israeli Ministers Endorse Knesset Bill for Medical Cannabis Exports

marijuana leaves

Israel ministers have endorsed the medical cannabis Knesset bill.

The United States doesn’t seem to be the only country willing to acknowledge the medical or recreational benefits of using marijuana. Most recently, Ministers in Israel have recently endorsed a bill which, if approved, would allow the export of medical cannabis.

On Sunday, Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation has endorsed the Knesset bill which would allow the export of medical cannabis. If approved, the legislation would provide local companies a lot of windfall, as they are widely regarded as research leaders in this field.

The Knesset bill was initiated by MK Yoav Kisch, which stated that his proposed legislation would provide the Israeli agriculture industry with a much-needed boost. He also noted that the export of medical cannabis would the push the economy forward and lead to the development and improvement of the agricultural sector.

The Knesset bill is the first one in Israel, which defines the entire field of medical cannabis and set the terms for regulating its export practices. If Israel passes the bill, it will join the list of other countries like Canada and Australia, which approved the export of medical cannabis and are enjoying the profits from the booming industry.

According to the bill’s initiator, recent research revealed that Israel can stand to gain over a billion NIS from the taxation of medical cannabis. However, before the country reaches that point, the bill would have to go to parliament, and the process could take several months.

Since 2012, around 28 states in the US have legalized the use of medical cannabis, with only a few approving it for recreational use. The industry is currently booming and could be worth over $50 billion in the coming decade.

The Knesset bill would allow Israel the reap some of the benefits of this industry, as it is already widely regarded as one of the research leaders of medical cannabis. The country’s domestic market is quite limited, as the Health ministry has issued around 23,000 permits for purchasing the drug for medicinal purposes. The medicinal cannabis market in Israel is valued at around $15 to $20 million.

What do you think about Israel’s recent initiative regarding the export of medical cannabis?

Image source: Wikimedia

Lyft App Adds Calendar Sync Feature

Lyft car

The new update for the Lyft app adds calendar sync.

Although Lyft is not as popular as Uber, that does not mean the company will just roll over for other services. Quite the opposite, Lyft is keen on constantly improving their service and infrastructure. The latest update comes to the Lyft app which has received some new features.

Lyft app users will now be able to set destinations into your calendar. Users can register various addresses like home, work or any other, in order to get to their destination faster. Furthermore, the Lyft app can even make destinations suggest based on the events you have registered in your calendar.

The new update is gradually rolling out to users and will start to sync your phone’s built-in calendar to the Lyft app. After the update is completed, when you click on the destination field within the app, you will be able to see destination for the various events that are recorded in your calendar within the coming month.

On Android, the calendar sync will happen automatically, but if you use the Lyft app on iOS, you will have to sync third-party calendar apps to the iPhone in order to make use of this new feature. Additionally, users will have to type the full address of a venue or event in the location field of the calendar in order to show up in the Lyft app.

Another interesting feature included in the Lyft update is that users will soon be able to add all of their favorite places compared to the only two pre-set destinations you can set, for now, home and work. This feature is a great way to save time when you order a Lyft car for destinations you visit often like a supermarket or a friend’s house.

Uber has also introduced a similar feature dubbed Calendar Shortcuts. It offers a faster way to access destinations for an upcoming event. However, it still does not come with any more pre-set destinations other than home or work, but it may be in the works considering Lyft is already implementing it.

What service do you prefer Uber of Lyft? Are you excited about the new features coming in the last update for the Lyft app?

Image sourceWikimedia

Scientists Can Change the Taste of Store Tomatoes by Altering Genes

store tomatoes

Store tomatoes may have an improved taste in the coming years.

Thanks to the invention of pesticides and other chemicals which allows vegetable and fruits to grow bigger and without being destroyed by pests, we now are able to produce enough food to feed our growing population, despite the huge food waste. However, in the process, vegetables like store tomatoes have lost their highly-appreciated taste.

Researchers from the University of Florida have revealed in a new study published in the journal Science on Thursday, that they have discovered what exactly determines the taste of the tomatoes and how they can change it for the better. The study reveals that the scientists compared the genetic makeup as well as the flavor profile of store tomatoes with those of ancestral and heirloom varieties. Thus, they were able to identify which specific chemical compounds makes the tomatoes more delicious.

Knowing what determines the taste of tomatoes is only half the battle in restoring the flavor of all store vegetables. Researchers are now hard at work to restore the original flavors in store tomatoes by crossbreeding them with varieties of the heirloom fruit. However, the researchers emphasized that the constant need for large and sturdy vegetables and fruits means that their original taste cannot be fully restored. Nonetheless, store tomatoes might see a drastic improvement in taste in the coming years.

The focus on bigger and more sturdy vegetables and fruits only started after World War II, as ravaged countries needed to feed their people and farmers had better profits with larger products as they were paid by the pound. The trade-off in taste wasn’t really noticed at first, but now it is quite apparent.

For their study, the researchers sequenced the genome of over 400 tomato varieties and even performed taste tests on 101 types of the fruit, while recording which ones were the most appreciated by a group of people. They concluded that the taste in the preferred tomatoes was determined by 25 chemical compounds known as volatiles.

The researchers discovered that in store tomatoes, 13 of those compounds were drastically reduced. They hope to restore the taste of the tomatoes without compromising their size. However, a better taste may inevitably lead to a shorter shelf life and thus, to an increase in price.

Image sourceFlickr

Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf Crack Keeps Expanding

Larsen C ice shelf

The crack in the Larsen C ice shelf has expanded by 6 miles in three weeks.

In December 2016, scientists warned the world about the formation and expansion of a massive rift in one of the world’s largest glaciers, the Larsen C ice shelf. Since it was first discovered, scientists have examined its evolution and determine that in the last three weeks the crack has increased in length by 6 miles.

Iceberg calvings are becoming increasingly common as the average temperatures at both of the planet’s poles keep increasing. However, what makes this case particularly important is the sheer size of the iceberg which scientists think will break apart from the main ice shelf in the upcoming months.

If the current pattern continues, the Larsen C ice shelf will continue to grow. Currently, there are only 12 miles of ice which still connects the iceberg from the main part of the ice shelf. However, when it finally breaks apart from Larsen C, which is Antarctica’s fourth largest ice shelf, the resulting iceberg will be the size of the state of Delaware.

Furthermore, scientists believe that the calving of the iceberg will only lead to more instability as Antarctica has lost around 10 percent of its total floating ice, and will further accelerate any further loss of ice.

Scientists which keep a close eye on the crack in the ice shelf are part of a program known as Project Midas. In consists in the monitoring of the rift as well as the assessment of the iceberg’s impact, after it calves. The future event will be the largest one in the last century. Scientists part of Project Midas such as Adrian Luckman believe with certainty that the calving will occur in the coming months.

Due to the fact that iceberg breaking apart from the main ice shelf is mainly floating ice, it will not increase global sea level. The iceberg will continue to float away from Antarctica, but it will gradually begin to melt as temperatures increase. Furthermore, its calving will expose the land ice to the ocean. Another future calving of land ice will surely lead to a much higher increase in sea water levels of around 10 centimeters.

What do you think about the crack in the Larsen C ice shelf?

Image sourceWikimedia

Fujifilm Unveils Medium Format GFX 50S Camera Pricing

Fujifilm GFX 50S

Fujifilm unveiled the price and release date of its first medium format camera

Although smartphone cameras have drastically improved in the last few years to a degree able to satisfy the standard of a large number of users, it is highly doubtful they will ever be able to replace the quality and options of a medium format camera like Fujifilm’s GFX 50S. The company has decided to finally unveil the price and release date of their upcoming device.

Fujifilm announced today that its anticipated medium format camera, the GFX 50S, will be available at the end of February for the price of $6,500. The 50-megapixel mirrorless camera will be competing against the Nikon D5 as it has the same price, but it will be $500 more expensive the Canon 1D X Mark II.

The good news for Fujifilm is that the price of its new camera will be much lower than one of its competitors, the $9,000 Hasselblad X1D, which also uses the same sensor. It’s worth remembering that the price previous mentioned only apply to the body of the camera alone.

However, Fujifilm has made sure that the Fujinon GF lenses will be available at the launch of their medium format camera. The lenses come in various formats such as a 63mm f/2.8, the 32-64mm f/4, and 120mm f/4 macro. Each pair of lenses will be the price at $1,500, $2,300, as well as $2,700 respectively. Furthermore, other lenses will be available later this year, but no prices were given regarding the 100mm f/2, the 23mm f/4 or even the 45mm f/2.8.

The company states that the medium format camera will only weigh 2.7 pounds when it is paired with the 63mm lens. This makes it equivalent to that of a full frame DSLR coupled with a similar lens. Furthermore, the camera will come with weather sealing, besides its compact and lightweight design, is sure to satisfy the needs of many travelers and landscape artists.

Other accessories for the camera includes an electronic viewfinder, a vertical battery grip, a tilt adapter, as well as view camera adapter which allows the GFX 50s to turn into a digital back used for large-format systems. Unfortunately, the company has not released any pricing details for the accessories.

The GFX 50s was initially unveiled in September 2016 and it is Fujifilm’s first digital medium format camera, the first one in its G format series.

Image source: Fujifilm

Stem Cells May Help Restore Lost Vision

the left eye of a woman

Researchers were able to restore light vision to mice using stem cells.

A new study reveals the fact that scientists were able to restore vision in mice which suffered from eye diseases which thought to lead to irreversible vision loss. They were able to restore the mice’s vision by using stem cells.

Researchers were able to grow retina tissue in a lab using the versatile stem cells. They managed to successfully transplant the tissue into the mice which had the end-stage retinal degeneration disease. After the completion of the procedure on a number of mice, 40 percent were able to see light in the following period.

This experiment marks the first time that researchers were able to transplant cells with the capacity to sense light, more specifically, the light receptors on the retina, were able to connect to the mice’s nervous systems and transmit the light signals to its brain.

The study detailing the experiment was published in the journal Stem Cell Reports by a team of researchers led by Dr. Michiko Mandai, the lead author of the paper and deputy project leader at RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan.

The researchers plan to continue their work and eventually improve the operation by increasing the number of connections between the cells located in the degenerated retina and the transplant of stem cells. The increased number of connection would allow the mice to see larger figures and movement besides light.

The findings of the study offer a promising future for the 15 million people in the US or the 170 million worldwide which suffered age-related retinal degeneration. However, further research is required even before the scientists attempt human trials.

For their study, the researchers were able to convert skin cells collected from an adult mouse into induced pluripotent stem cells. Afterward, they converted the stem cells into the retinal tissue which was transplanted into the mice.

To determine the results of the experiment, the researchers used a shuttle avoidance test. It involved a box which insulated both sound and light and had two chambers separated by a wall featuring a small opening to allow the mice to move between the rooms. The researchers trained the mice to respond to a shock and light signal and move to the other room. After a period, they removed the shock stimulant, only leaving the light. If the mice still followed the trained behavior than it means that they saw the light.

Image sourceWikimedia