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[14th July 2024] Interesting Things I Learnt This Week

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1. Self-hosting your location history with OwnTracks : OwnTracks is an open-source alternative to Google Maps Timeline, allowing users to privately track and store their location history. Many are dissatisfied with Google's upcoming changes to location history storage and seek a replacement. OwnTracks involves a server-side component to store location data and mobile apps to report location. The author details a setup using Docker, Caddy, and Tailscale for a private, self-hosted solution. While the initial setup is complex, the author finds OwnTracks promising, with potential for improvement in the mobile app's user experience and the web app's features. My Take: OwnTracks is an interesting alternative. I have not tried it yet, the only thing I am scared of is hosting something which is accessible on the internet.  Source: Florida Museum 2. Sea level rise claims first victim, tree cactus goes extinct : Rising sea levels, linked to climate change, are believed to have cl

[7th July 2024] Interesting Things I Learnt This Week

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Image credit: Google Arts & Culture  1. World's oldest cave art found showing humans and pig : Scientists in Indonesia and Australia discovered the oldest figurative cave art in Indonesia. The painting, located on Sulawesi island, depicts a wild pig and human-like figures and is estimated to be 51,200 years old. This pushes back the date for when modern humans were believed to have creative thought. The discovery suggests that storytelling was a bigger part of early human culture than previously thought. Researchers believe this finding may lead to reevaluation of other cave art sites around the world. My Take:   Humans have probably been telling stories for much longer than 51,200 years, but as words do not fossilise we can only go by indirect proxies like depictions of scenes in art – and the Sulawesi art is now the oldest such evidence by far that is known to archaeology The above is what is the most amazing part of the whole article. There is so much more to learn about th

[30th June 2024] Interesting Things I Learnt This Week

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   1. Chimps use more plant medicines than any other animal : A new study suggests chimpanzees might be the animal kingdom's top self-medicators. Researchers observed chimps in Uganda seemingly choosing plants with medicinal properties to treat illnesses and injuries. The chimps even ate plants outside their usual diet when sick. Interestingly, 11 out of the 13 plants identified by the researchers are already used in traditional local medicines. While the study can't definitively prove the chimps' motivations, it offers compelling evidence for their self-medication skills. This discovery could not only benefit chimp conservation but also lead to new drug development for humans. My Take: Animals' intelligence is likely underestimated. Their evolution may have led to different forms of smarts. While using them to discover new drugs is a fascinating idea, it's important to consider the limitations – what works for chimps might not translate to humans. However, veterin

[16th June 2024] Interesting Things I Learnt This Week

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1. Researchers plan to retract landmark Alzheimer’s paper containing doctored images : Researchers are planning to retract a landmark Alzheimer's paper due to manipulated data. The study investigated the impact of a specific protein on memory in mice. The findings suggested that the protein caused memory impairment. However, it was later revealed that the researchers had altered the data, leading to the retraction of the paper. While some scientists believe the amyloid beta hypothesis remains important for Alzheimer's research, others argue otherwise. My Take: It is definitely a black mark on the peer review process for having been duped that long, but I definitely feel that though late it did find the faults and forced to get a retraction on the paper. Often there are researchers who are under undue pressure, no different than engineers working on startups to come up with something. But I guess we as a society fail to acknowledge that finding out that something does n

Cash on Delivery Parcel Scam

I recently experienced this scam first hand. I received a VPP parcel (India posts version of Cash on Delivery) for Rs 2340 at my newly registered company's address. Luckily, the postman was alert and warned me about the possibility of a scam. I refused the parcel and I guess that was the end of it. But this seems like a successful scam as my Google search revealed. Here's how it works :  1. You receive a VPP parcel through India Post, often labeled as containing "important documents" or "registration materials."  2. The Cash on Delivery (COD) fee is high – Rs. 2340 – designed to pressure you into paying without checking the contents. They make enough from the ones that accept vs those who reject What's inside? From what I have heard they can contain the following  1. Worthless items: Think low-value books or generic reading material.  2. Copies of easily accessible documents: They might even include a copy of your company's registration certificate

[2nd June 2024] Interesting Things I Learnt This Week

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1. The Rubyglow pineapple : The Rubyglow pineapple, grown exclusively by Melissa's, is a mix between a normal pineapple and a Morada pineapple (that's usually inedible). The fruit, which was previously only available in Asia, features the pineapple's typically yellow center with a distinct ruby red colored outer shell. The rare fruit went viral and has now completely sold out by Fresh Del Monte.   My Take : The headlines about these limited-edition fruits are eye-catching, but the high price tag and quick sellout make it a minor story.  The real takeaway is the ongoing effort in genetic engineering to improve fruits – tastier, more nutritious, and longer-lasting.  This type of innovation holds the potential for significant global impact, compared to the more subtle changes LLMs might introduce. 2. Weather Union : Weather Union is a crowd-supported weather infrastructure project initiated by Zomato. It leverages a network of weather stations to collect real-time weather d

Will LLMs help us break the language barrier

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   In a world where knowledge is often confined by the language in which it's expressed, Large Language Models (LLMs) hold the promise of revolutionizing information access. These advanced models can bridge linguistic divides, enabling a more inclusive global knowledge landscape where everyone can thrive. Let's explore how LLMs can excel at breaking language barriers and the challenges they face in this mission. Advantages of LLMs in Breaking Language Barriers Seamless Translation Beyond Words: Current translation tools often miss cultural nuances and context. LLMs, trained on vast amounts of text data, understand the deeper meaning behind words, allowing for sophisticated translations. They capture cultural references and underlying intent, resulting in more accurate and natural-sounding translations that truly convey the essence of the original information. This goes beyond mere word-for-word substitution, offering a richer and more precise communication. Bridging the C