Week old Portugese Wildfire leaves 4 dead while hundreds flee, Russian Secret Service claims hand of Al-Qaeda

Forest Fires have been burning down parts of Portugal since last Saturday when strong winds and high temperatures swept across the country. So far, 13 Major Wildfires have been reported and Firefighters have been trying to fight against it.

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Woodland in the country’s northern parts were left dry after months of drought, which was one of the worst droughts faced by the country in recent times, has caused the fires to spread rapidly, and the dry land combined with the hot weather is making it difficult for firefighters to fight the fire. Adding to the firefighters’ misery is the wind and the difficult terrain, as they have together produced a “perfect fire”

Portugal Wildfires

 

Around 3900 firefighters, supported by 32 Water Dumping airplanes and helicopters and around 1150 vehicles have been struggling to fight the wildfire and yet have found no success, making the Portugese government call for help from other European Union countries even as a fire swept into Funchal, the capital of Portugal’s Madeira islands.

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The wildfires have so far claimed 4 lives – 3 elderly people in Funchal and 1 Forest watchman who was sleeping in his caravan around 95 miles north of Lisbon. More than 300 people were treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation. The fires continue to spread, while France and Spain have sent their aircraft to help douse the fire in Portugal.

A wildfire also broke out in the southern part of France burning 20-25 homes and more than 6,000 acres of land on the outskirts of Marseille. 4 Firefighters battling the flames were seriously injured.

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The Russian Secret Service has gone on to claim that Al-Qaeda is behind the forest fires all across Europe. The Telegraph reported that the warning was at a meeting of heads of security agencies, by Director of the Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov.

He stated: ‘One should note that setting fires to forests in the countries of the European Union is a new tendency in al-Qaeda’s strategy of a ‘thousand cuts.’ He explained that igniting fires allowed the terror group to inflict ‘significant economic and moral damage without serious preliminary preparations, technical equipment or significant expenses.’

– DailyMail

 

Images Source – Google Images, The Dailymail

China asks India to stay out of South China Sea Dispute

The South China Sea dispute was taken to a whole new level on Tuesday, 9th August, when a state-run Chinese news daily wrote in an article, asking India not to interfere in the South China Sea dispute.

“India may want to avoid unnecessary entanglement with China over the South China Sea debate during Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s New Delhi visit, if the country wishes to create a good atmosphere for economic cooperation, which would include reducing tariffs on made in India products being exported to china, amid the ongoing free trade talk” said an article in the state-run Global Times.

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Tensions have been running high in the waters just south of China, with military presence of multiple countries increasing rapidly in the area. The entire South China Sea dispute arose due to multiple countries claiming authority in whole or in part over a particular territory in the South China Sea, comprising two chains of islands, namely the Paracels and the Spratlys. China, Vietnam, Mayasia, Brunei and the Philippines all have competing claims.

In recent times, china has supported its claims by building infrastructure on some of the islands and also by increasing Navy patrolling in the area. The United states on the other hand, has sent its military ships and aircraft near the disputed islands even though they claim not to take sides in territorial disputes. The US has reasoned that their military presence in the area is just to ensure freedom of navigation and access to key shipping routes. The US and china has accused each other of militarising the South China Sea.

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India has previously supported the Philippines in many instances and last year, India had extended its support to the Philippines when Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Filipino Counterpart Co-Chaired India-Philippines Third Joint Commission meeting on Bilateral affairs. The statement issued after the meeting referred to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea, which miffed the Chinese government.

The Chinese government has made it clear that it wants India to stay out of the disputed waters just a few days before its Foreign Minister visits India to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries. The Foreign Ministers of the two countries will meet and discuss on ways in which the export tariffs on made in India products could be reduced.

Images Source:  Google Images

Tropical Storm Earl Triggers landslides in Mexico, leaving 40 dead.

Officials in Mexico have confirmed that at least 40 people have been killed in the country, owing to landslides which have happened in the aftermath of the tropical storm Earl. The tropical storm Earl had swept in from the Caribbean Sea at Hurricane strength on Wednesday last week, striking the coast just south of Belize’s Capital and wreaking havoc. There were power lines were torn own, roofs of houses sheared off and tress uprooted, as the level 1 hurricane Earl slowed down to a Tropical storm and sustained wind speeds of around 65mph while the town was still flooding.

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The tropical storm eventually weakened as it headed westwards and became a tropical depression. Even though it was a tropical depression, it lashed the southern parts of Mexico with heavy rainfall and ended with heavy rainfall even in the central part of Mexico. In the aftermath of the storm, many landslides occurred in different parts of the country with the central state of Puebla and the eastern state of Veracruz taking a beating.

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Members of the national army emergency and rescue team working at a fallen bridge damaged after strong rains hit the region, following the passage of Tropical Storm Earl

Landslides buried several homes located in the northern mountains of the state of Puebla, killing 29 people, including 15 minors. 11 more people were killed in similar circumstances in the state of Veracruz. Power supply was knocked out in several towns, highways were ripped apart and bridges collapsed as the tropical depression hit the eastern and central states of Mexico with heavy rainfall.

Residents stand outside their damaged houses after a mudslide following heavy showers caused by the passing of Tropical Storm Earl, in the town of Huauchinango

Residents stand outside their damaged houses after a mudslide following heavy showers caused by the passing of Tropical Storm Earl, in the town of Huauchinango, in Puebla state, Mexico, August 7, 2016. 

Moreno Valle, the Governor of the state of Veracruz had warned that the death toll could rise further as the search and rescue teams were still searching for missing people.

This comes amid rising tensions in the area as, a fresh storm has formed off the pacific coast, threatening the country with more heavy rainfall and high speed winds, which could only worsen the situation in the country.

Images Source – Google Images, Reuters

Emirates EK 521 crash landing – A detailed technical analysis

Dubai Based Airline, Emirates was in the news recently after one of its aircraft crashed upon landing at the Dubai International Airport. Emirates flight, EK 521 crash landed at the Dubai International Airport after an uneventful flight from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, India. The Aircraft was carrying 282 passengers and 18 crew members and all of them were evacuated safely from the aircraft before it burst into flames.

The event happened at 12.45 PM on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016 and the well trained employees of the Dubai International Airport and the crew members of the Emirates EK 521 handled the situation brilliantly and professionally, as they followed procedure and evacuated all passengers immediately using the emergency chutes built into the aircraft and the airport firefighting crew started dousing the flames. A dubai based firefighter died while trying to fighting the fire.

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Firefighters try to douse the flames of EK521 on Runway 12 L

The aircraft involved in the crash was a Boeing 777-300 which is a long range, twin aisle, twin-engine jet airliner manufactured by Boeing. Often referred to as the “Triple Seven”, it was the world’s first commercial aircraft entirely designed by computer. It was introduced in 1994, and has since been highly successful, bagging a total of 1590 orders. It is Filled to the brim with advanced technology and is the first Fly-by-wire aircraft from the Boeing stable, meaning that it can be flown entirely by the electronic devices and computers on board, without any necessary intervention from the pilots.

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The Boeing 777-300ER when it was revealed by Boeing

The Boeing 777 is ETOPS 330 certified, meaning that it can fly for 330 mins on just one engine making it one of the safest aircraft in the world, since it can still fly even if one of its two engines shut down in an emergency. It has rigid and sturdier wings allowing it to withstand turbulence better than its main rivals, the Airbus 330 and 340.

In its 22 years’ service, the Boeing 777 has had a total of 5 hull loss crashes which is considered to be safe when compared to records of other aircraft, especially considering that at least two of those three fatal crashes had nothing to do with the airplane itself.

  • MS667: On July 29th 2011, a Fire broke out in the cockpit of the EgyptAir Boeing 777 while it was still on the ground and the passengers were boarding the aircraft. The fire was due to electrical fault or short circuit and resulted in electrical heating of flexible hoses in the flight crew oxygen system. Zero injuries and Zero fatalities reported.

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    The Egyptair MS667 at the boarding gate where caught fire and burnt a hole through the cockpit wall(seen in picture)

  • BAW38: On 17th January 2008, the British Airways Boeing 777 flying from Beijing was about to land at the Heathrow International Airport in London, when it crashed Just before the Runway. Investigations revealed that the engines died at the last moment when thrust was required for landing because ice crystals in the fuel clogged the fuel-oil heat exchanger in both the engines. 47 injuries and Zero fatalities reported. The Heat exchanger in the Rolls-Royce Manufactured Engines were redesigned and fitted to all Boeing 777 aircraft in operation across the world.

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    British Airways BAW38 Boeing 777 sits on its belly at the edge of the runway after the crash

  • Asiana 214: On July 6th, 2013, Asiana Airlines’ Boeing 777, flying from Incheon International Airport and Flying to San Francisco International Airport crashed just short of the runway at the latter. The incident was attributed by National Transportation Safety Board investigation to poor airmanship by the crew, as the pilots did not follow airspeed orders given by air traffic control and approached the runway wrongly. 187 Injuries and 3 fatalities reported.

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    Asiana Airlines 214 pictures after the crash

  • MH17: On 17th July, 2014, the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down as an act of war. The plane, which was mistaken for an army transport aircraft, was shot down by Pro-Russian Insurgents using a Buk Surface-to-Air missile over the Ukranian-Russian border. 298 fatalities were reported as everyone aboard died.

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    The MH17 Boeing 777 was reduced to Rubble

  • MH370: On 8th March, 2014, the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing International Airport disappeared mysteriously. The disappearance of MH370 with 239 people on board, is still unresolved, but may have been due to pilot suicide or hijacking. The possibility of a malfunction has not been ruled out, which, if proved, would make it the only 777 fatal accident caused directly by a fault with the airplane. 239 fatalities were reported.

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    Debris of the MH370 reported to be found more than a year after it went missing.

Emirates has never had any of its aircraft involved in a crash before, and additionally, Emirates also has the largest fleet of Boeing 777’s in the world. Given that this aircraft has such a great reputation and Emirates swears by this aircraft, the question that arises is, Was the aircraft to blame, or was it pilot error once again?

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A glimpse of a few Emirates Boeing 777’s at the Dubai International Airport

Emirates EK521 had an uneventful flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai with everything going as planned, including the approach to land at DXB, until the pilot announced that they had a problem with the landing gear and would be going around for another landing attempt, and the Air Traffic Control tower instructed the pilots to climb to 4,000 feet for another landing attempt after circling the airport, and the ATC also alerted the airport emergency services at the same time while instructing the other aircraft behind EK521 which was waiting for landing clearance to go around too.

At about the same time, wind shear was reported on the radar which is what might have caused the pilots to take the decision to go around.

Wind shear refers to a change in wind speed or direction with height in the atmosphere. 
Wind shear can also refer to a rapid change in winds over a short horizontal distance experienced by aircraft, conditions that can cause a rapid change in lift, and thus the altitude, of the aircraft.                                                                                            Making air travel safer,
 Many airports now have wind shear detection equipment near the ends of runways to warn aircraft if it is too dangerous to land.

-weatherquestions.com

Eyewitness accounts had suggested that the landing gear on Emirates EK521 retracted when the Go-Around attempt failed, causing the aircraft to crash land and skid along its belly which in turn caused engine number 2 to shear off from the wing, in turn rupturing fuel lines and ultimately resulted in the fire which destroyed the aircraft.

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The Emirates EK521 (What is remaining of it)

Investigation into the incident is on at the moment, and the General Civil Aviation Authority(GCAA) is heading it. The GCAA is the body responsible for investigating all civil aviation accidents in the UAE. The GCAA will be assisted by Emirates, Boeing, and National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB) which is responsible for investigating Civil Aviation Accidents in the US, but has assisted investigations in all countries whenever a big aviation accident occurs.

The Investigators recovered the Black Box (Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder) from the remains of the aircraft and will be analysing the same. The whole investigation would take between 3 to 5 months to complete.

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Flight recorder or Black Box .The Rod in the front is a locator beacon for finding it. Contrary to the black box name these are bright orange to be easy to spot.

Until the Investigation is completed, the theory that would remain is that, ‘The Pilots were warned about the wind shear by the Low Level Windshear Alert System at the Dubai International Airport and they decided to go around and retracted the landing gear, at which moment the wind shear cause the aircraft to drop altitude in milliseconds, giving the pilots no time to react, resulting in the collapsed landing gear and the aircraft belly scraping along the runway, causing the fire.’

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Low Level Windshear Alert Systems installed at strategic locations in major airports.

The Dubai International Airport resumed normal operations on Sunday, after more than 3 days of operating under restricted capacity, using just one runway instead of two due to the crash.

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An Emirates Airbus A-380 Takes off from Dubai International Airport

Images Source – Google Images.

Information Source – Wikipedia, Team-bhp, Indian Express, CNN.

Pokemon Go saves life in England, while in New Orleans, a Pikachu Statue appears out of nowhere

The augmented reality game, Pokemon Go is quite literally taking over the world and is making people do all sorts of stupid things like, rushing to find a rare Pokemon at the central park, in New York wile causing chaos, and two Canadian teens getting arrested for crossing the US border while trying to find Pokemon etc.

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On Thursday, 4th August, the Pokemon madness was taken to a whole new level when residents in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans woke up to find a massive fiberglass statue of Pikachu in their locality, placed on top of an old unused fountain. Pikachu is one of the most well-known Pokemon from the famous TV series and is also present in the game. The Fiberglass state which was made to look like aged bronze seems to have appeared out of nowhere and surprisingly has not bothered residents, as it is drawing crowds to the area and has become a local attraction. It has begun to be dubbed as a ‘Pokemonument’ and people are posting selfies of themselves with the statue on various social networks such as Instagram and Facebook.

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The fate of the statue though, lies in the hands of the city officials as it is considered vandalism even though it is not causing harm to anyone or anything. No Artist or Sculptor has come forward to claim it to be his or her creation which has sparked rumours of it being the work of Banksy.

Banksy is an English graffiti artist, political activist and film director of unverified identity. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti, executed in a distinctive stencilling technique. His works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls and bridges of cities throughout the world. There has also been speculation that Banksy is a woman or that Banksy is a team of seven artists, but no one actually knows who or what Banksy is.

The Pikachu Statue had also attracted some unwanted attention, as some vandals tried to deface the statue and graffiti was found on the statue, with the phrase “Pika F*** You” written on the Pokemon’s body in spray paint. Help was at hand as some local residents are working on getting the statue back to its original condition.

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In other news, from a different part of the world, Pokemon Go has helped in saving a life. Anthony Pointon while playing the augmented reality game, was out hunting Pokemon at the Danes Moss nature reserve in Cheshire when a dog drew his attention and led him to a bog where a woman who had fallen into the swamp was stuck. Anthony then called for an air ambulance and guided them to lift the woman out. If Pokemon go had not led Anthony into the nature reserve that day, nobody wold have wandered there and the life of the woman might have been lost.

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Images Source – Google Images

The Tower of (Noisy) Silence

Bangalore! A city which was once known for its quiet, laid back life. A city known for its greenery, and was even nicknamed Garden City of India, is now quite the opposite. Bangalore is now known for its garbage menace, its traffic woes and its maddening crowd. Along with the crowds came expansion of area and formation of new areas on the outskirts. What was earlier known as the outskirts of Bangalore is now part of the city, and one such area is Hebbal. It was once the extreme north of Bangalore and anything beyond was considered to be out of Bangalore altogether. Jakkur was known only for the Aerodrome located there, amidst acres of greenery and nothingness, 15 years later, we see Jakkur completely developed, with shops, residences etc. built everywhere around.

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The area once had many landmarks, and one of them was the Parsee Tower of Silence, which was in an apt location, as there were hardly any people around the place, and the whole area was eerie in itself.

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Tower of Silence is a circular, raised structure for excarnation built by Zoroastrians. Zoroastrian tradition considers a dead body to be unclean and hence they offer it to the Vultures and birds of the air so that the Food chain may be complete again. The modern-day towers, which are fairly uniform in their construction, have an almost flat roof, with the perimeter being slightly higher than the center. The roof is divided into three concentric rings: the bodies of men are arranged around the outer ring, women in the second ring, and children in the innermost ring and left for the vultures to come and feed upon.

-Wikipedia

The tower of silence in Bangalore, located beyond Hebbal, was the place where the Parsee community in the city would come to pay their last rites to the dead and leave them there for the vultures to feed upon. This tradition though, has faded into oblivion because of many reasons, the biggest of which is, Modernisation and expansion of population. The Vultures are of great importance in this system of excarnation and vultures like to be secluded, away from noise and human population, which is why we do not see any of these creatures in and around Bangalore now, which ultimately led to the closure of the Parsee tower of silence in Bangalore.

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The Parsee tower of silence is dwarfed by many modern buildings on all sides. Right in front of the gate lies the jam-packed service road of the international airport road, with noises of engines and horns all the time, especially in the peak hours. At the northern side of the property lies the Godrej Woodsman Estate premium apartments from where the tower of silence is clearly visible, happening towards the east is the construction of a few premium apartment buildings and toward the south, lies the Kirloskar Tech park and Colombia Aisa Hospital. All these developments might have been good for Bangalore’s Infrastructure, but has led to the closure of one of the most important structures for the Parsee community in the city.

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The Parsee’s are now resorting to burial and some are even considering captive breeding of vultures in remote locations, all of which is proving to be very difficult for which is possibly the smallest religious community in the nation.

Map source – Google Maps

Images – Photographed

Climate change and Global warming set to make flying more turbulent

Air turbulence has always been a nightmare for pilots, whether it is experienced while taking off or landing or even mid-air. Just a day ago, on August 3rd, 2016 two aircrafts missed a mid-air collision by a whisker, because one of the aircrafts climbed 300 feet to avoid turbulent air, and the other aircraft crossed it. There have been instances where there have even been crashes due to air turbulence while landing.

The UN air travel agency has now warned that this issue could only become worse with time, due to Global Warming and climate change. All aircrafts rely on the air flow around it to fly and due to global warming, the air near the airports is becoming hotter and thinner by the day, increasing the chances of turbulence. Climate change also poses the risk of formation of ice on the mechanisms in the wings and tail while flying.

The ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) also has warned that low lying airports face a threat due to rising sea levels while, increase in clouds also is set to reduce visibility especially in West Asia and Latin America. The Environmental report of 2016 by ICAO stated that preparation for a warmer world should start now.

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“Climate Change poses a new set of risks that airports need to assess properly. The last decades have provided a glimpse of the future climate, but the main effects will be more evident three or four decades from now”

-ICAO environmental report, 2016.

The aviation Industry has been criticised many times before by environmentalists all over, since it is a well-known fact that Civil Aviation is a major contributor to greenhouse gases. As a result of all this, the only way forward seems like, twin-engined aircraft with larger seating capacity, instead of the quad-engined aircraft in use today, and the manufacturers have already understood this change in trend, as Boeing has the 787 Dreamliner and Airbus has the recently launched A-350.

 

Image Credits – Airlinernet, Google Images.

 

 

Engineers develop wearable skin patch which can detect blood alcohol levels by analysing sweat

We have all heard of or read about someone complaining that a drunken driving case was unnecessarily filed against them even though they did not even drink any alcohol that particular day. Well, there are chances that the breathalyser used to check the alcohol level by analysing the person’s breath was malfunctioning. These machines can malfunction and give out the wrong readings sometimes.

Well, engineers at the university of California, San Diego have found a solution to the menace. The engineers have developed a flexible, wearable sensor which measures the alcohol level in the blood of that person by analysing the sweat, and then wirelessly sends the data to a laptop or a smartphone.

The device consists of a few components which enable it to work. It uses a temporary tattoo beneath the patch worn by the user which sticks to the skin and induces sweat which is then analysed by the flexible electronic circuit board which is the patch worn by the user. The electronic circuit then communicates the information to another device via Bluetooth.

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The project was initiated and led by nano engineering professor Joseph Wang and electrical engineering professor Patrick Mercier who teach at the University of California, San Diego. The Blood alcohol concentration is the most accurate way of measuring the alcohol levels of a person and checking the blood requires pricking of the skin to extract blood which can cause pain to the person and requires the equipment to be replaced after each use, making it ineffective for use at Police checkposts. As said before, breath analysers are not always accurate, hence the way forward seems to be the wearable sweat analysing device created in San Diego.

This device can have more uses than just at a police checkpost. The device can be linked to a mobile phone based app which can give the current blood alcohol level, allowing the user to monitor and control the same. The most suitable use though could be integration in automobiles for safety. The device could be connected to the ignition circuit of the vehicle, and an alcohol check map can be activated in the vehicles ECU (Electronic Control Unit) every time the driver turns the key. When the system realises that the alcohol content is too much to drive, it would not turn on the engine.

Technology like this is very useful and can make our everyday life much safer than it currently is.

Technology set to take over the most basic survival instinct of cooking

3D printers have been taking the world by storm for quite some time now and have been used to ‘print’ products which was thought to be impossible before. Scientists and developers have been able to print objects, both extremely large and intricately small, ranging from aerospace components to parts of the human body. 3D printers seem all set to revolutionise the way humans manufacture and use things.

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Now, in a recent development, Scientists in New York have developed a prototype 3D Food Printer which can ‘cook’ the most delicious dinner for us using Computer Aided Design software. The printer is a result of a design project headed by Hod Lipson, a roboticist working in the areas of artificial intelligence and digital manufacturing at the Colombia University based in New York. Hod and his students created the working prototype as a project which is not meant to replace conventional cooking.

The space research organisation, NASA had expressed interest in such a device when the idea first came through in 2013 as equipment such as this would be very useful in outer space to provide nutritional food. Since then, there have been a lot of developments in the same field and has led to this, smart looking prototype being created in New York.

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There are consumer ready food printers such as ‘Foodini’ already on sale in international markets. These printers use frozen protein cartridges in order to create food. Hod and his students are working on incorporating an infrared heating arm into the printer so that the frozen food can be heated and cooked.

The Industrial revolution in the last century was created by mass production and it definitely looks like we are on the verge of another industrial revolution which will be created by 3D printers.

Pokemon Go added as a Credit Course at the University of Idaho

The Mobile Phone based Reality Game Pokemon Go has been quite literally taking the world by storm for a while now. It first became the most downloaded app from the android play store, then was criticised by many because of the kind of incidents being cause by players who were not cautious in their approach to playing the game, and just last week, it was the cause for a kid to land in police custody. Now, in latest news, the University of Idaho has made news because it added Pokemon Go to its list of credit courses.

Students of the University of Idaho who have opted for the ‘Pop Culture Games’ class can now earn credits by playing this game during the physical activity sessions of the class which aims to teach students about leading active lifestyles, improving teamwork and exploring their communities more often.

Many have Criticised the game, and some even went on to say that it is a Spying tool which is being used by the CIA, but I feel it is a really nice and Innovative way to get the students to go out there and explore their surroundings more. Pokemon Go is an Augmented Reality game based on the Pokemon Animated TV series which was really popular a decade ago. The reason for the game to be so popular among the Young adults today, is because Pokemon was a huge part of their Childhood, which was a decade ago.

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The biggest problem faced by the Young Generation of today is the addiction to technology which makes them stick to one place, but this move by the University of Idaho would help the youngsters stay fit and active even when they are using technology. Pokemon Go is making people go out and explore more, in some cases, it might be their very own street that the players need to explore. Alongside Pokemon Go, the university has added another Live Game called Humans versus Zombies to their credit courses list.

Thought these games are criticised heavily, there is no hiding from the fact that games like these help today’s generation to be more Physically and Socially active.