Sunday, 29 October 2017

Modern-day Disaster Preparedness

We live in an imperfect world. The planet may be full of amazing natural wonders and beautiful landscapes but we are also plagued by harsh and sometimes unforgiving natural disasters. These disasters vary depending on where you are in the world. For instance, volcanic eruptions are common in countries located within the Ring of Fire or the Circum-Pacific Belt. Then, there are also disasters where you can prepare for in advance like hurricanes while some you can’t like earthquakes leaving many injured and displaced in its wake.

A lot of ancient civilizations have been wiped out from the place of the planet because of catastrophic disasters that buried cities like Pompei. Modern technology has worked to our advantage, though, since there are now machines that tell us when and where a certain disaster will strike. And because of that, we are able to evacuate our homes when necessary rather than put our lives and that of our families at risk against the harsh elements.

The researchers used their data on the number of people living in different areas of the world, combined with the built environment around them, to calculate levels of exposure. Of the six hazards they looked at, earthquakes have the greatest potential impact–while in 1975 1.4 billion people were at risk, 2.7 billion were at risk in 2015. Floods happen the most frequently, but they impact Asia and Africa much more heavily, with Asia accounting for 76.9% of the exposed population of the world and Africa accounting for 12.2%. Japan is most at risk from tsunamis, while Indonesia is most vulnerable to volcanoes.

While the researchers said that these findings–which they presented at the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction conference in Cancun, Mexico–aren’t directly tied to climate change policy, they point to vulnerabilities that are created by the way cities are designed and built. While they can’t yet point to what those are, the next step in the research is to create a detailed understanding of how city planning impacts each urban center’s vulnerability to disaster. “It’s less about the climate, more about mitigation measures,” says Pesaresi.


Studying these disasters from space will give scientists a new perspective on these phenomena and give them a bird’s eye view, so they can come up with better disaster preparedness measures to help everyone in the planet survive one disaster at a time.

There are more weather disturbances now and natural disaster because of climate change. The build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also makes the world a hotter place as heat is trapped and hastens the melting of polar ice caps. When that happens, the sea level will rise and many island nations like the Maldives will probably be swallowed by the sea and disappear from the map forever.

In the last few decades, the risk has dramatically increased; the number of people living in seismic areas, for example, has increased by 93 percent in just 40 years.

The findings, compiled in the Atlas of the Human Planet 2017, reveal the global exposure to natural disasters has doubled since 1975, largely as a result of population growth and development.

In the analysis, the researchers accounted for six major natural hazards: earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, tropical cyclone storm surge, tropical cyclone wind, and floods.

They used satellite observation data over 40 years to measure for ‘exposure,’ or ‘the people and assets at risk of potential losses or that may suffer damage to a hazard impact.’

‘It covers several dimensions like the physical, the social, and the economic dimensions,’ the authors wrote.


We can’t deny that the world is changing for the worse and we only have ourselves to blame. Our abuse of the world’s natural resources and senseless use of material objects that end up as trash further pollutes the world and worsens these disasters. While individuals like Donald Trump believe otherwise about the reality of climate change, it does not change the fact that we are facing more catastrophic threats each year. The planet may suffer further when Trump opted out of the Paris Climate agreement, it is actually us who will take the bigger blow once Mother Nature strikes back with a full vengeance if the rest of humanity does not unite to save the planet while we still can.

Modern-day Disaster Preparedness was originally seen on


Sunday, 22 October 2017

Quantum Computing Asks For Another Kind Of Programming

Computers rule the world. They run almost everything there is on the planet. From simple home appliances, entertainment showcases, smartphones and machinery in big industries, there is indeed a computing system in place that makes it work all the time. We are no longer new to technology since it is all around us now but there are newer technological innovations that an ordinary person isn’t yet ready for or one may find it hard to believe even exists.

Quantum computing is the stuff of legends. Computer programmers started coding in mediums of 1s and 0s since the birth of computers. Meanwhile, quantum computing offers computing speeds of up to hundreds of millions faster than most conventional computers these days and no longer limited to coding binary numbers. Unfortunately, this highly advanced computing technology also calls for a different breed of computer programmers knowing how baffling the technology itself is even to experts in the field.

Quantum computers finally seem to be coming of age with promises of “quantum supremacy” by the end of the year. But there’s a problem—very few people know how to work them.

The bold claim of achieving "quantum supremacy" came on the back of Google unveiling a new quantum chip design. The hyperbolic phrase essentially means building a quantum device that can perform a calculation impossible for any conventional computer.

In theory, quantum computers can crush conventional ones at important tasks like factoring large numbers. That’s because unlike normal computers, whose bits can either be represented as 0 or 1, a quantum bit—or “qubit”—can be simultaneously 0 and 1 thanks to a phenomenon known as superposition.


Big companies like Google make a bold promise of introducing the first ever commercial service from a “universal” quantum computer this year after unveiling their new quantum chip design. Those are such big words, indeed, considering that the company lacks the programmers who can code at a quantum level. Even IBM intends on bringing the quantum technology to the cloud for free sooner rather than later. For computer programmers to be able to handle quantum technology with ease, they must first have a good grasp of quantum physics at the very least. It’s not something that they usually do when coding for conventional computers.

There are a number of quantum simulators available now that will help users get familiar with quantum computing, but it’s not the real thing and is likely to behave very differently.  MIT physicist, Isaac Chuang, said, “The real challenge is whether you can make your algorithm work on real hardware that has imperfections.” It will take time for any computer programmer to learn the skills needed for quantum computing, but until the systems have been developed, what will they learn on?

This is one of the reasons for the push in making quantum devices more accessible. D-wave made available their Qbsoly and Qmasm tools earlier this year in an attempt to get more people into the realms of quantum computing. If the tools are available, more people will be tempted to have a go and budding quantum computer scientists will be born.  And as Google’s researchers wrote in a statement, “If early quantum-computing devices can offer even a modest increase in computing speed or power, early adopters will reap the rewards.”


While the obvious difference between a classic computer and a quantum one is that the former are binary while the latter work with “qubits”. All qubits of a quantum computer would often be in a “superposition of states” where all qubits of information can be in all potential combination of states at the same time for quantum computers to actually work. The quantum computer must be shielded from the external environment or else it ceases to function at all.

Coding at this level means to execute appropriate algorithms that should always be reversible. Unfortunately, not all coders code this way, and again, they should be knowledgeable enough in the field of quantum physics to be able to program quantum computers efficiently. Only then can quantum computing really be widely used when there are computer programmers who can handle what it takes to code at a quantum level.

The following article Quantum Computing Asks For Another Kind Of Programming was initially published on Blog


Monday, 9 October 2017

China Takes Cyber Security Seriously

A big majority of the world’s population use some sort of technology or another in their daily life, whether for personal or office use. The Internet is now the favorite playground of many with the advent of smartphones because there are endless things you can do and explore. There is no more reason to get bored anymore. However, there are many dangers lurking on the web, and not just in the dark web, says Bill Werther of Moreover, people often abuse the perks of the web, making cyberbullying and online scams common complaints from online users these days.

It’s a different thing in China, though. While the Chinese have access to the web, the Chinese government enforce stringent cyber security laws that must be observed by virtually everyone on land. China takes all these new cyber threats seriously with the likes of cyber terrorism and cyber hacking that may not only endanger the lives of the Chinese people but even the security of the entire nation too. That’s why they have these cyber security laws that address these issues early on, so they don’t face a big cyber issue like the ones happening all over the globe nowadays.

China consistently ranks as the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom. A law on cyber security, which took effect on Thursday, is no doubt intended to tighten Beijing’s grip on the speech and thought of its citizens. As if this were not bad enough, the law will also serve as a barrier to global companies operating in China and impede Chinese companies’ ability to compete on the global stage.

The law explicitly criminalises any online information that the ruling Communist party regards as damaging “national honour”, “disturbing economic or social order” or contributing to the “overthrow of the socialist system”. It is ostensibly aimed at protecting the privacy of China’s 730m internet users. In reality it will enshrine the state’s right to snoop on anyone who logs on to the internet and will force all companies operating in the country to be complicit in this.


It no longer comes as a surprise how much cyber freedom China violates because this totalitarian country has been accused of many other human rights violations in the past and up until the present. Who says antivirus software and firewalls can only be installed on computers? China has their existing “Great Firewall of China” as well because that’s how much they censor online content. And you should not just shrug off these laws if you are a Chinese citizen because you risk being persecuted if you are found to have violated any of these law’s vague provisions.

And while Chinese officials say the new rules will help guard against cyberattacks and prevent terrorism, critics, many of them from businesses, have their concerns. Companies worry that parts of the new law, which takes effect on Thursday, will make their operations in China less secure or more expensive. In some cases, they argue, it could keep them out entirely.

The law will have a big impact on how business is done in China, said Michael Chang, an executive with the Finnish technology company Nokia and the vice president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. But, he said, “There’s unfortunately a lot of confusion.”

“Industry is not ready because the implementation rules are not clear,” Mr. Chang said, speaking at an event organized by the lobbying group to announce the results of its annual business confidence survey.


While the country and its leaders often get away with many human rights violations and infringement, it’s a different thing when it comes to dealing with businesses and business owners especially those owned by foreign investors and have offices in other parts of the world. Technology is very much a crucial part of our daily life right now.

We not only use it for our personal life but for work and studies too. It’s the reason why these vague clauses in the Chinese cybersecurity law got business investors worried and wondering what these changes means to their businesses especially when it comes to data storage and transfers. And we are not just talking about computer use but even that of smartphones as well. Fines will be imposed on violators and there’s also the risk of turning off overseas businesses because of outrageous laws that aren’t exactly easy to follow that only a superpower like China has the audacity to implement.

The following blog article China Takes Cyber Security Seriously See more on: Blog


Monday, 2 October 2017

Google Says No More Spam

As much as we love the Internet, there are some of those annoying little quirks that can get on our nerves when we feel we’ve had too much of it. Alongside those pop-up ads that are blocking your view and you aren’t always too keen to see, spam is another problem that seems to have no end. Who likes deleting these bothersome emails from who-knows-where right? Not only are they time-consuming to delete but they can pose a security risk as well to gullible users who don’t think twice before opening them and end up introducing a dangerous malware into their system.

Fortunately, you don’t get that much spam mail with a Gmail account. The site in itself exercises stringent security measures that protect its users from malicious contents. And Gmail recently takes their security measures to the next level in the wake of widespread ransomware attacks by including features that can detect phishing with an accuracy rate of almost 99.9%.

Google today said that its machine learning models can now detect spam and phishing messages with 99.9 percent accuracy.

While this still means that one out of a thousand messages gets through (so Barrister Jon Price still has a decent chance of getting to inform you of that random online lottery winning of £552,000,00 you weren’t expecting), the company argues that this is a pretty good number. And I guess that’s true, given that according to Google’s own data, 50-70 percent of messages that Gmail receives are spam. These detection models also integrate with the Google Safe Browsing tools for detecting links to malicious URLs.

To further improve its phishing-detection performance, Google also built a system that delays some Gmail messages for a little bit longer to perform more detailed phishing analysis. Because phishing attempts are more easily detected when you look at them in aggregate, Google will delay some of these suspicious messages to perform a deeper analysis as more data comes in over time and as its algorithms update in real time. This should only apply to about 0.05 percent of messages, though.


Gmail’s existing machine learning already takes care of spam protection but has now included phishing protection by conducting regular rigorous phishing analysis. They do this by delaying certain messages giving the technology enough time to perform the analysis and weed out spam emails.

One form of proactive defense? Notifying webmasters and email senders when they haven’t taken steps to secure and authenticate their sites and activity, or when something happens on their site that they may not know about. “It’s a rising trend for bad actors to not just create their own websites for the sole purpose of hosting malware and phishing, but to compromise others, and then leverage that hacked site to host their own content” says Safe Browsing’s Miller. Doing so lets bad actors leverage another party’s solid reputation. Google’s feedback can make webmasters and email senders aware that they’ve been compromised and that they’re unintentionally engaging in abusive behavior.

It also wouldn’t be a Google effort without a little machine learning thrown in. Somanchi says that upwards of 95 percent of all spam and phishing identification comes from machine learning. And in the past couple of years, these Gmail mechanisms have evolved to incorporate both traditional supervised learning, in which algorithms are trained on large data sets, with newer unsupervised learning techniques, in which algorithms learn through inference about how to tell legitimate inputs from malicious ones. “Whereas regular computers are making very hard black or white decisions, deep learning opens up the possibility to be more subjective and get closer to approximating, essentially, would humans fall for this?” Risher says.


While many are thrilled for the new Gmail security upgrade, others are concerned about the unwarranted access to their sensitive information contained in many of their emails. However, Gmail guarantees that a user’s private data remains safe and sound during this analysis because they mainly observe aggregate data and identify attacker’s methods and no other human can view these sensitive details that the machine analyzes. Gmail uses anti-phishing defenses and Safe Browsing systems to determine the patterns of these attacks and put a stop to them as soon as possible. Rest assured that Gmail will take care of those spams for you and save you the trouble from having to delete it yourself.

Google Says No More Spam is available on