Friday, 23 December 2011

How to Picture the Size of the Universe

It's Full of Galaxies

It's Full of Galaxies

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has produced the deepest image of the universe ever taken. Astronomers generated this picture by pointing Hubble at one small patch of the sky for several months and recording every tiny photon of light they could get. The entire image (below) contains nearly 10,000 galaxies, but here you can see a small sample of what’s out there.

Because looking back in space means we’re also looking back in time, these galaxies are seen as they would have appeared nearly 13 billion years ago, just short of the beginning of time. If you're more spatially inclined, this means that the objects are 30 billion light years away.

But because the universe is ever expanding, and our estimates of its size get more refined over time, astronomers have actually come up with a better way of stating distances. As the universe grows larger, the light waves within it get longer, like a slinky being pulled apart. The wavelength of the light moves toward the redder part of the electromagnetic spectrum, so astronomers talk about the “redshift” of an object, meaning the amount that light waves from that object have expanded since they were emitted.

The galaxies in this image would be more accurately described as being at a redshift of 7.9.

Images: 1) NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team 2) NASA and the European Space Agency

Thursday, 22 December 2011

How to Delete Carrier IQ From Your iPhone or Android Phone


Carrier IQ has been dominating the headlines ever since 25-year-old security researcher Trevor Eckhart posted a paper online saying Carrier IQ was secretly gathering data about users' cell phone activity on the behalf of cell phone companies Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The company insists it's not malicious, but that hasn't stopped several parties from suing it for allegedly violating federal wiretap laws.

Carrier IQ isn't on every phone - and you can check if it's on yours with a free app from Lookout or BitDefender - but if you have detected it and want to remove it there are a couple options:

1. The easiest is to purchase Eckhart’s own removal app from the Android Market ($0.99), called Logging TestApp Pro Key. You need to root your phone first. And beware: several reviewers have warned that even after you buy the app, you need to donate money before it works.

2. The other way is to flash your Android smartphone with a custom ROM that doesn't contain Carrier IQ. The most popular is CyanogenMod, which gives you an option to opt out of data logging.

"We at CyanogenMod would like everyone to know that if you are running our software, you are not running theirs," CM wrote in a blog post.

Check out a video demo below from 'AbrahamsTech' of how to do this.

As for iOS devices, you can really only block Carrier IQ. For those running iOS 5 and above, simply click into Settings/General/About/Diagnostics & Usage, and hit “Don’t Send.” If you're stuck on iOS 3 or 4, or have a jailbroken device, Chpwn’s instructions should do the trick.

Apple told my colleague Chloe Albanesius that it stopped supporting Carrier IQ on most of its devices with iOS 5 and will remove it from all products in a future software update—most likely an incremental one rather than a full update like iOS 6.

Although Carrier IQ says its software is intended to help its clients monitor network performance and it denies gathering any personal information from users like screen shots or the content of their text messages and emails, many people still loathe the idea of a company recording how they use their phones.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

How To Stay Mercury Free

1. Know your seafood.
Most mercury poisoning happens by eating contaminated sea animals, whose flesh absorbs the air pollution brought down by rain. How does all that muck get into the air? Coal-fired power plants are America's biggest source of mercury pollution, spewing dozens of tons of the illness-causing element every year. To keep it off your plate, consult this chart (PDF) to learn which kinds of fish are safe -- and which aren't. A good rule of thumb: The bigger and older the animal, the more likely it is to be contaminated. So turn away tuna and swordfish in favor of sardines or clams. Sushi aficionados: Check the Sierra Club's site on Thursday, December 8, when we'll be launching a smart-phone app to help you gauge which types of sushi will help keep your body mercury-free.

2. Tap into your inner activist.
As President Obama prepares to approve the first nationwide protections against mercury emissions from coal plants, big-business lobbyists are working to block these safeguards. If you'd like to show your support for the regulations -- which would cut 90% of mercury from coal-fired power plants -- consider coordinating or attending a rally, demonstration, or teach-in to urge the president to stand up to polluters and protect all Americans, especially children and pregnant women, from the ills of mercury. If you've only got time to quickly sign a petition, you can do so here.

3. Conserve electricity.

Sure, it's Big Coal's fault there's tons of mercury in our air and water. But who's really to blame? The consumer. That's right: you and me. As long as the demand for electricity stays as unsustainably massive as it is right now, corporations will be glad to provide and supply. While it's not realistic to boycott electricity completely, there are things that, if each of us did, would deliver a collective blow to the polluting powers that be. Solutions include pursuing energy-efficiency at home and at the office, installing a power meter to identify waste, and asking your utility company to rely more on renewable energy sources, like the sun and wind.

4. Get tested.
Mercury, a potent neurotoxin, can affect anyone. But it's a particular threat to babies and pregnant women, since it can cause birth defects, developmental problems, learning disabilities, even premature death. In the U.S., at least one woman in 12 has enough of this heavy metal in her body to harm a fetus -- which means that more than 300,000 babies born each year are at risk of mercury poisoning. The good news for women: You can lower your body's mercury level before you get pregnant. If you're of childbearing age, take a hair test, a urine test, or ask your doctor for a blood test (though some dispute blood tests' accuracy for mercury). If your levels are high, reevaluate the kinds of seafood you're eating.

How to Schedule Your Workout During Holidays

Every serious athlete, whether recreational or elite, knows that the key to conditioning is consistency. Skip just a few training sessions, and you first have to make up for any deterioration before you can once again start to make progress.

It's especially important to remember that during this time of year, when frenzied shopping and social occasions are a time-consuming distraction. Though you may love the parties and celebrations, how can you stick to your regular routine when often, you have to spend that exact same time getting ready for a big dinner or office party?

The simple answer? Rearrange your schedule.

The first thing to do, and this will have actual athletic benefits long after the holidays, is to assess your training program. Do you waste time in the gym? Do you sit at a machine or on a bench with a loaded bar, and do all your sets with a long rest period in between? That's a time waster. Instead, use the circuit method to exercise opposing muscles. Do a quad exercise, then immediately do a hamstring exercise. Or, do exercises that go well together — such as a set of squats, then a set of dead lifts.

A good upper body circuit would be biceps curls, lat pulls, triceps pull downs and shrugs. Go from one to the other with one minute rest between sets. Figure out how to cut time from your program without skipping the training of any body part. Practice this system a few times until you know exactly how long a workout will now take.

Next, write down a full schedule of all your plans and obligations, including the time you'll need to start getting ready for the occasion, shopping, decorating and gift wrapping. Put these statistics on one side of a piece of paper. Use the other side of the paper to write down the time you can handle these busy requirements, yet still fit in a workout without conflict. If you get home from work at 6 p.m., and have to be at a party that starts at 8, can you manage a half-hour at the gym or on your bike and still have time to shower and get ready for the party?

The time it takes to shop may not be within your control. There may be heavy crowds, you may have to search several shops to find what you're looking for and traffic may add time to the entire thing. If possible, wake up earlier and try to do your workout in the early morning. This may provide an unexpected benefit, especially if you're accustomed to doing your conditioning in the evening. The body benefits from training 'shock,' an unexpected change in routine that forces it to adapt to change. Working out before you begin your job may actually be beneficial, even if you'd rather stay snugly warm in bed.

The most important point is to concentrate on the necessity to do your conditioning program. It should take precedence over everything. The holidays will pass, the need to do your regular workouts won't. Yes, it may be unavoidable that you have to skip one or two sessions, but that should be on an emergency basis only. Put your workouts right up there with taking a shower or brushing your teeth — something you just don't skip.

Once the training of your body takes on that kind of sacred importance in your mind, you'll find ways to fit it in. It will soon become easy and natural. And keeping that attitude even after the holidays are long gone will stay with you; making you athletically better than ever.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

How to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

Worried about gaining weight over the holidays? Here are some simple tips for healthy holiday eating :

#Get “Off” the Diets

How many of you said the day after Thanksgiving that you had to go back on your “diet.” If you think of yourself as being “on” or “off” a diet, chances are you are going to get in trouble. Most of the time going off a diet can mean “going off the deep end.” A taste of Aunt Matilda’s famous holiday pie doesn’t mean you have “sinned” and definitely doesn’t mean ”What the heck, I might as well eat the whole pie.” Don’t set yourself up for disaster.

#It’s All About Portion Control

Many people lose weight and keep it off with the simple strategy of portion control. Eat reasonably small portions, limit the foods you know you should limit, and don’t stuff yourself. We all know eliminating or even limiting certain foods is extremely hard during a holiday. Don’t listen to those that say “The holidays only come once a year so you might as well eat.”


Ben and Jerry may be my best friends at times and also my “trigger” food. Most of us know what our “trigger” foods are and the effects certain foods have on our mood, appetite and energy. If you can’t abstain from problem foods all of the time during the holidays, abstain from them most of the time. The next best thing to behaving perfectly is behaving well.

#Never Arrive Hungry

The foods you need to avoid are harder to resist when you are starving and your blood sugar is low. An ounce of prevention goes a long way. A glass of low sodium tomato juice, some whole-grain crackers, a slice or two of cheese will keep your appetite at bay. Try any of these snacks an hour or so before a holiday celebration and watch your willpower soar while your waistline stays in place.

#Don’t Skip Meals

A common strategy during the holidays is to skip breakfast and/or lunch because you know a big meal is coming and you want to “save up” the calories. This strategy backfires because you come to the meal starving and wind up eating more than you ever intended.

#Eat Slowly

Hormones signal the brain when you are full. It takes about 20 minutes from start time before you feel it. Slow eating not only aids digestion but also gives your brain a chance to know what your stomach is doing. You can make the meal last by talking, putting down your fork between bites, or just plain waiting, you are less likely to eat on “automatic pilot” and more likely to realize you are full.

#Use Smaller Plates

A full salad plate looks like a lot of food and psychologically “feels” the same way. You can always go back for seconds or even thirds. If you do this simple act it will slow down the eating process which gives you more time to feel full.

#Finish the Meal Within an Hour

The body produces a second insulin hit if it senses a lot of food coming in continuously. You can avoid that second hit by finishing you meal within an hour of starting. If you see something you like that you forgot to eat within the hour you can save it for tomorrow.

#Divide Your Plate

Think protein, vegetables and the carbohydrates you probably crave. Imagine that your plate is divided into thirds, one section for each food group. The carb section has to include not only the carbs that are staples of holiday dinners, but the desserts too. If you are going to eat dessert, adjust your portion of the other carbs accordingly.

#Stay Hydrated

Many times when we crave food, it is not really hunger that is driving the urge, it’s mild dehydration. Solution: drink lots of water. A slice of orange, lemon or lime will flavor the water and cut your cravings.

Monday, 19 December 2011

How to Download YouTube Videos

One question I’m frequently asked is if I know of a way to download YouTube videos, to which my answer is, “Why, yes! Yes, I do.” As such, I’ve decided to write a quick post addressing this popular question, as well as chime in with a couple of additional mentions that are relevant to the subject.

Now, while I know that many of you reading this already have the know-how to download YouTube videos, this post is for those who comprise the 6,000,000+ (according to my Google keyword research) monthly searches on this topic! What follows are the 3 solutions I personally use that 100% fill my needs for downloading not only YouTube videos, but just about everything else as well. With that said, these certainly aren’t the *only* solutions out there, so I encourage others of you to chime in with any differing solutions you use!

1 - : When it comes to saving YouTube videos, KeepVid is my first choice, without question. While there are tons of sites out there that perform the same function, KeepVid is consistently on top of YouTube when changes are made that temporarily “break” services like this. It’s quite simple to use: just copy the link of the YouTube video you would like to save, paste it into the URL box at the top of KeepVid’s site, click the “Download” button, then select which quality and format you would like to download the video in from the links that show up afterward. From copying the link to visiting the site and running through the process, you can have a video downloading in under 7 seconds! To note, KeepVid also supports downloading videos from Vimeo, Google Video, DailyMotion, Metacafe, and Megavideo.
Visit site: KeepVid

2 - JDownloader : This program is one of my favorite programs, period! For Windows, Mac, and Linux, JDownloader is a download manager for just about every site imaginable that streams and hosts files. You can have it monitor your clipboard so that it automatically grabs links you copy, so if you find that you want to download something like a whole series of videos from YouTube, you can just copy the link for each of them and they’ll automatically paste into JDownloader. Removing the step of having to paste all of those links really helps to save some time. And like KeepVid, JDownloader allows you to choose the quality and format you’d like to download YouTube videos. But really, this functionality is but a minor piece of a greater sum, for JDownloader is SO much more.

If you have any premium accounts with sites like RapidShare, HotFile, FileServe, etc., you can enter your log-in credentials for those sites and furiously download files from them with only the limitation of your bandwidth. Not only that, but because it’s a download manager at its core, you can queue up download links from just about anywhere. And for sites that require you to enter CAPTCHA information (the pictures with weird, almost unreadable word combinations/numbers, like “Bicycle PancaKeS”), JDownloader will auto-enter that information from CAPTCHAs it recognizes (offhand, MegaUpload is one site I know it recognizes them from)! Definitely check out JDownloader if you’re looking to download YouTube videos en masse.
Visit site: JDownloader

3 - DownloadThemAll : For my Internet browsing needs, I primarily use Firefox. As such, I have a multitude of add-ons that I use, including download manager add-ons like “DownloadThemAll!”. Unlike the two suggestions above which have YouTube download capabilities, this add-on is solely for “other curious things.” If you’ve ever been on a page with a ton of pictures, MP3s, documents, or other file types, “DownloadThemAll!” gives you the ability to download all of those files with just a few clicks. So, instead of having to save 100 pictures, songs, PDFs, or whatever else file-by-file, you can quickly save them all to a folder of your choosing. Once installed, it’s as simple as right-clicking on a page, selecting “DownloadThemAll!…”, then choosing the folder you would like to save the files to and clicking “Start!”. It also has plenty of functionality for you advanced users who would like to specify/negate certain file types to download (like if you work with files that have uncommon file extensions that “DownloadThemAll!” doesn’t recognize), etc. Overall, an invaluable add-on if you frequently download groups of files.
Visit site: DownloadThemAll!

That’s it! Those are the three solutions (outside of the old standby, that is; “right-click, save target as…”) I use to download YouTube videos and other curious things. Again, these are far from the only solutions out there, and while my chosen three may not be “the best” or the most efficient, they’re certainly good enough for me; an individual who has yet to harness the virtue of patience.

Do you have any personal recommendations for download managers/sites/programs/add-ons you’d like to contribute? Please do so in the comments below!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

How To Get The Most Out of Your Kindle Fire

Amazon's Kindle Fire is the newest addition to the world of tablets. While the Kindle Fire is sleek, inexpensive and lightweight, you may have some questions about how to streamline your tablet and make it even easier to use.

We bring you top ten tricks and tips for making your new Kindle Fire an powerful and streamlined tool, including how-to save battery power, how-to download books for free, how-to download Android apps on the Kindle Fire, how-to check your memory, how-to search for specific words in an eBook and more.

10. When you first buy your Kindle Fire, it comes preloaded with some applications and documents that you might not want using up your memory. To delete unwanted applications or documents on your Fire, press on the item, hold down your finger, and options should pop up to "favorite" or "delete" an item. Select delete to rid your Kindle of the unwanted app.

9. While the Kindle Fire comes preprogrammed with a number of apps, there are a number of applications you will need to download to make your tablet even better. Our must-have free applications include: Netflix, Hulu+, Angry Birds, Alarm Clock Xtreme Free, TweetCastle, Wikidroid for Android, Evernote and Wifi Analyzer.

8. Most people will use their Kindle Fire to enjoy a book or two, but after spending $199 on your Fire, you might not be in the mood to buy more books. The Amazon Store offers a number of free classics that you can find by searching for "Kindle Free Classics." You can also download free books from,,, and

7. There are a number of tricks you can use to maximize your Kindle Fire's battery life. First, each time you are finished using your Kindle, be sure to put it to sleep by tapping the power button on the bottom of the Kindle. Another trick to maximize your Kindle Fire's battery life is to turn off WiFi when you do not need to be connected to the Internet. You can also lower the brightness of the Kindle Fire screen to preserve power. Lastly, you can set your Kindle screen to lock automatically (thereby setting it in sleep mode), which will also save power energy.

6. After downloading, apps, books, music, video and magazines, you might be uncertain of how much memory you have available. To check the available memory on your Kindle Fire, touch the settings icon in the top right hand corner of your Fire. Select "more" and then select "device." Once you're in the device viewing area you can see the available memory left as well as how much battery power is left on your Kindle Fire.

5. Applications that are running in the background will hurt your battery life and also might cause your Kindle Fire to slow down. To check what applications are running in the background of your Kindle Fire, return to the settings menu. Select "more" and then "applications." Once you are in the "applications" section of the settings, you will be able to see all the applications that are running in the background of your Kindle Fire. Select an application that you wish to close and select "force stop." The application will now be closed and you may notice your Kindle Fire is running faster than before.

4. Another easy trick is to search for a specific word in an eBook. While reading a book, select the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen and then type in a word that you would like to find. You can also click directly on a word and hold down. Select more and you will see a number of options related to that word.

3. If you have subscriptions to daily newspapers or weekly magazines, you might notice that the issue that appears in your newstand is the most recent one - all the others seem to disappear. Don't worry! The Kindle Fire keeps all your issues hidden behind each other. If you need to find an older issues, press down on the magazine or newspaper and an option will appear for you to see all the back issues of that periodical.

2. Sometimes you might get bogged down with too many tabs in your Amazon Silk Browser. To clear out all the tabs at once, you can touch one tab, hold down on it and then select the option to close all tabs. You will then have a fresh browser with no open tabs.

1. If you're disappointed by the size of the Amazon App Store, you can access the Google Android Market on you Kindle Fire to download other applications as well. To download Android Apps on your Kindle Fire, you can use the web site


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