Imagine being at a computer science conference or entertainment convention. It is crowded with hundreds or thousands of conference attendees or convention fans. You have to urgently fix something on your laptop, connect it to a projector or send an email. Suddenly, someone distracts you with a question or a comment and you talk for a few moments. You turn your attention back to your laptop and after a while you notice that it was just hacked and crucial data is lost, taken over by ransomware like WannaCry or your online credentials have been stolen. What just happened?
Just as you turned around to talk to the accomplice who intentionally distracted you, another person quietly slipped in a flash drive into one of your USB ports on your laptop. The malware on the flash drive hijacked your laptop without needing to access files on it. All that was needed was to stick the flash drive into the laptop and it was over. How can you protect yourself against an attacker using the USB ports on your Ubuntu laptop and wrecking havoc? Is there some way to disable USB storage or deny access to USB ports entirely? How do you disable USB ports on Ubuntu? Is there any way to do this that is both safe and easily reversible so that you can turn it off and on without much hassle without risking messing up crucial system files? Continue reading →
Giving a talk on a complicated research topic can be daunting. It is easy to cram way too much material into each slide and having way too many slides for the presentation to work. While it is very tempting to show the audience everything you have done to impress them, chances are that the information deluge will overwhelm and confuse them. Many people in the audience will probably stop paying attention after a few slides.
This issue becomes even more challenging when the talks are limited to just five or ten minutes. Now you have to really start making decisions on what to include and what to leave out, as well as how to create a compelling narrative and highlight specific findings and conclusions. How can this be done in an effective way? How can you reduce the risk of losing the audience? How do you structure a rapid-fire talk? How many slides? What are some helpful tips for a successful talk? What are some dos and don’ts for nailing that important presentation?
How to you become a disease detective and investigate outbreaks of infectious diseases? How do you discover an outbreak, collect data during an outbreak and use the data to identify the culprit, treat the patients and stop the outbreak? How do you solve practical matters as a disease detective?
What different kinds of epidemiological data exists and how can they be summarized? How do you measure risk? What is the difference between relative risks and odds ratios? What is an epidemiological association? What does it mean, and perhaps more importantly, what does it not mean? How do you visualize obtain epidemiological data? How can you even measure the impact of public health measures?
How was the structure of DNA discovered? James Watson and Francis Crick is often given the sole credit for this, but the story is much more complicated. What insights did X-ray data and chemical considerations provide into this historical discovery?
How did scientists come to the conclusion that it was DNA and not proteins that were the material basis for inheritance? These and many other questions is covered in a Nature collection of crucial historical papers in genetics that was published in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of the DNA double helix in 1953.
What are the different ways that HIV can be transmitted? How can you protect yourself? What are the different stages of HIV infection and how can the virus hide? What medications are available against HIV and when should a person with HIV start it? What does drug resistance mean in the context of HIV medication? Why is it important to adhere to HIV treatments?
What is the latest information on HIV clinical trials and HIV vaccine research? What does pre- and post prophylaxis mean? What opportunistic infections should people with HIV look out for? How can transmission of HIV between mother and child be prevented? What are some possible side effects of HIV?
What is the difference between an asteroid and a comet? How does the environment on Venus and Mars differ from Earth? How do you determine the mass and distance of starts in other galaxies? What happens when stars grow old? Why and how do neutron stars and black holes form? Why do some planets have rings, while others do not? How do moons form around plants?Why are some planets solid and others largely made of gaseous substances?
What does the Big Bang model actually state? How does space and time work in general relativity? How has general relativity been tested, and what practical applications does it have? What are the different types and properties of galaxies? How do galaxies change over time? What is the cosmic microwave background radiation? Is there life in other places in the universe?
“Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell” is a phrase that is commonly thrown around on social media websites and websites that share memes. But what does it really mean? Where did mitochondria come from and how do they work in more detail? What is the difference between mitochondria and chloroplasts, and do plants also have mitochondria?
What receptors do cells use to detect their surroundings and how do they work mechanistically? What changes occur in cells that develop into cancer? What is the difference between transcript and translation? How can DNA contain so many bases, yet be so tightly packed? What happens during the different steps of the cell cycle?
Seeking community with people is common throughout the world and the history of humans. People who join groups allow them to flourish and avoid harmful physical and psychological consequences of being alone. Yet in our modern era, groups have also formed around things that are much more loose and not tied to direct survival, such as sports teams, countries and so on. Yet the same kind of cognitive and social mechanisms can operate in these groups as well and this can bring with it both positive and negative consequences.
What happens if you get a bunch of people together in an experiment and create artificial groups based on completely arbitrary criteria and subject them to resource limitations? Will preference for in-group members and hostility towards the out-group develop rapidly? By what mechanism does this happen, and are there ways to reduce friction between competing groups?
In the past, many different forces of nature (such as the strong force, the weak force and electromagnetism) were unified. This all changes with a process called spontaneous symmetry breaking. Attempts to unify these three with gravitation has turned out to be much more complicated and harder to complete. Developments in these fields have been highly fruitful, from getting a fuller understanding the interplay of different particles at very high energies to probing the secrets of superdense matter.
Cosmology reveals profound insights into the structure and history of the universe. Far from being at the center of the universe, humans live on one of billion planets and our sun is just one of many billion stars. The universe has been around for 13.8 billion years and was much warmer, denser and smaller in the past. Since then, it has expanded substantially. Physicists have discovered that the universe expanded exponentially in the deep past in a process known as cosmological inflation.
There have been many deadly pandemics that have had severe effects on human populations such as malaria, cholera, plague, and HIV. Some human genetic variants are associated with protection against these diseases, whereas others are associated with vulnerability to them. Because they have had such an influence on a population level, these pandemics have influenced human genetic variation through evolution.
Protective alleles are more common in areas that have been ravaged by certain diseases than in other areas. Yet, not all beneficial alleles have reached fixation in the population and not all vulnerability alleles have been eliminated. Basic evolutionary considerations can explain these observations.