Science & Technology

In this file photo youths act in front of a mobile phone camera while making a TikTok video on the terrace of their residence in Hyderabad. – AFP

This is TikTok’s time. The social video platform which was already a favorite of teens is increasingly being used by adults looking for ways to pass the time during coronavirus lockdowns. Users post short videos — no longer than 60 seconds but often as short as 15 — to showcase their bite-size dance skills or share relatable experiences with a humorous twist. The application, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, saw 65 million worldwide downloads in March, according to analytics site SensorTower.

In addition to the existing 800 million reported in January by DataReportal, the app is nearing a billion users — though TikTok itself does not publish such data. And though teens have been posting on the platform for months, it seems adults with more free time — as much of the world is encouraged to stay at home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus — are finally catching on.

Cecile, stuck at home in Paris with her six- and three-year-old children, was intrigued when a friend sent her a video. Soon, she had downloaded the app and was posting clips herself. “I said to myself: ‘Well, this is something funny I could do with the boys to pass the time, if only for fifteen minutes,'” she said. “When I say, ‘Come on, we’re making a video,’ they’re ready to go. It makes them laugh.”

Celebrities have joined the fun too, from Jennifer Lopez to Mariah Carey — even 82-year-old Jane Fonda. Social media use is up across the board as movement is restricted around the world, but TikTok — already having a moment before the pandemic — is doing better than others. Idyllic vacation views and perfectly framed artistic shots — long the markers of the Instagram aesthetic — are currently out of reach for most. But the typical TikTok post does not require a beautiful background, explained Thibault Le Ouay, founder of Pentos, a company that helps brands with their marketing strategy on the platform.

“On TikTok, you do a dance in your own house,” he said, pointing to 15-year-old Charli D’Amelio, one of the app’s biggest stars with 46 million subscribers. “She is at home in leggings. It’s not a video of a beach paradise,” he said. “It’s still something you can do at home.” Plus, TikTok has levity baked into its DNA. Many videos on the platform — a descendant of the website — are amateur performances of short choreographed dances and lip syncs to song clips, repeated and riffed on over and over.

“It’s a very interesting position to be in for TikTok right now, because the videos are generally pretty light, humorous, fun and easy,” said Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst for market research company eMarketer. “And with all of the negative news that people are hearing on a daily basis from other media, TikTok is something different, and I think that people need that right now.”


The site has also taken on the role of promoting stay-at-home content in an effort to help fight the virus, a TikTok spokeswoman said. The hashtag #happyathome has seen more than 7.9 billion views. “We’re committed to doing our part to help the broader community get through this difficult time,” she said. The app also has a page with information about COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, with contributions from the World Health Organization (WHO) that “dispel some of the myths” around the illness, she said. Multiple brands have used civic responsibility as an entry point into TikTok, where advertising has been scarce until recently.

US personal hygiene and cleaning product giant Proctor & Gamble has worked with Charli D’Amelio for a campaign about social distancing, for example. Brands’ marketing ability in general — including the opportunity to monetize content on TikTok — is limited by the pandemic, experts say. But they are still interested, according to Williamson. “The problem is for some companies (that) TikTok is an experiment for advertising,” she said. “And if they are being forced to cut their ad budgets — which many companies are right now — things that are experimental often times are the easiest to cut.”

And the app’s Chinese origins could be a concern for some brands in the US that are worried about data usage, she said. eMarketer, which already predicted TikTok will grow this year to 45 million US users, up from 37 million, has not changed its forecast based on impact from coronavirus. “The question I have for TikTok and all of the social media platforms that are seeing increases in engagement now is whether it will continue once things get back to normal, once older adults are back working and they have other things going on,” Williamson said. “It’s too soon to tell right now.” – AFP

Alphabet (Google) subsidiary Wing has become the first company in the United States to deliver packages by drone.

In Christiansburg, the small Virginia town chosen as Wing's test location, the 22,000 residents can order products normally shipped by FedEx, medicine from Walgreens and a selection of candy from a local business — all of which will arrive via drone.

Wing, which already operates in two Australian cities as well as Helsinki, announced in a statement that the first drone-powered deliveries had taken place Friday afternoon in Christiansburg, “paving the way for the most advanced drone delivery service in the nation”.

One family used the Wing app to order Tylenol, cough drops, Vitamin C tablets, bottled water and tissues, the statement said. An older resident ordered a birthday present for his wife.

Although the majority of the delivery was done by a FedEx truck, the last mile was completed by drone.

The yellow and white drones are loaded with packages at a local centre of operations called the “Nest,” where Wing employees pack them with up to three pounds (1.3 kilogrammes) of goods, deliverable within a six mile (10 kilometre) radius.

Once they have arrived at their destination, the drones don't land. Instead, they hover above the house and lower the package with a cable.

Other companies are working to launch similar services, most notably Amazon, UPS and Uber Eats. But Wing was the first to obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), authorising company pilots to fly multiple drones at the same time.

WhatsApp sued Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group on Tuesday, accusing it of helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents in a hacking spree whose targets included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco, messaging service WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook Inc., accused NSO of facilitating government hacking sprees in 20 countries. Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were the only countries identified.

WhatsApp said in a statement that 100 civil society members had been targeted, and called it an unmistakable pattern of abuse.

NSO denied the allegations.

"In the strongest possible terms, we dispute today's allegations and will vigorously fight them," NSO said in a statement. "The sole purpose of NSO is to provide technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime."

WhatsApp said the attack exploited its video calling system in order to send malware to the mobile devices of a number of users. The malware would allow NSO's clients — said to be governments and intelligence organisations — to secretly spy on a phone's owner, opening their digital lives up to official scrutiny.

WhatsApp is used by some 1.5 billion people monthly and has often touted a high level of security, including end-to-end encrypted messages that cannot be deciphered by WhatsApp or other third parties.

Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research laboratory based at the University of Toronto that worked with WhatsApp to investigate the phone hacking, told Reuters that the targets included well-known television personalities, prominent women who had been subjected to online hate campaigns and people who had faced assassination attempts and threats of violence.

Neither Citizen Lab nor WhatsApp identified the targets by name.

Governments have increasingly turned to sophisticated hacking software as officials seek to push their surveillance power into the furthest corners of their citizens' digital lives.

Companies like NSO say their technology enables officials to circumvent the encryption that increasingly protects the data held on phones and other devices. But governments only rarely talk about their capabilities publicly, meaning that the digital intrusions like the ones that affected WhatsApp typically happen in the shadows.

Unprecedented move

Lawyer Scott Watnik called WhatsApp's move "entirely unprecedented", explaining that major service providers tended to shy away from litigation for fear of "opening up the hood" and revealing too much about their digital security. He said other firms would be watching the progress of the suit with interest.

"It could certainly set a precedent," said Watnik, who chairs the cybersecurity practice at the Wilk Auslander law firm in New York.

The lawsuit seeks to have NSO barred from accessing or attempting to access WhatsApp and Facebook's services and seeks unspecified damages.

NSO's phone hacking software has already been implicated in a series of human rights abuses across Latin America and the Middle East, including a sprawling espionage scandal in Panama and an attempt to spy on an employee of the London-based rights group Amnesty International.

NSO came under particularly harsh scrutiny over the allegation that its spyware played a role in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul a little over a year ago.

Khashoggi's friend Omar Abdulaziz is one of seven activists and journalists who have taken the spyware firm to court in Israel and Cyprus over allegations that their phones were compromised using NSO technology.

Amnesty has also filed a lawsuit, demanding that the Israeli Ministry of Defense revoke NSO's export license to "stop it profiting from state-sponsored repression".

NSO has recently tried to clean up its image after it was bought by London-based private equity firm Novalpina Capital earlier this year. In August, NSO co-founder Shalev Hulio appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes and boasted his spyware had saved "tens of thousands of people". He provided no details.

NSO has also brought on a series of high-profile advisers, including former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge and Juliette Kayyem, a senior lecturer in international security at Harvard University. Last month, NSO announced it would begin abiding by United Nations guidelines on human rights abuses.

NEW YORK (AP) — Samsung’s folding phone is finally hitting the U.S.

Samsung will start selling the Galaxy Fold, a phone with a screen that folds together like a book, on Friday. There will be an AT&T version as well as an unlocked version sold at Best Buy and Samsung stores.

The South Korean tech giant had put the Galaxy Fold’s launch on hold for months after reviewers encountered problems with the device’s innovative folding screen. Some reviewers peeled back a protective layer meant to stay on the screen, other devices flickered and turned black.

The nearly $2,000 phone launched on Sept. 6 in South Korea and Sept. 18 in France, Germany and Britain, with versions for next generation 5G networks available in the latter two countries. The U.S. phone does not support 5G.

چینی کمپنی ٹی سی ایل نے کانسیپٹ اسمارٹ گلاس متعارف کرایا ہے جو کہ ہوم تھیٹر کی طرح کام کرتا ہے۔

جی ہاں اس اسمارٹ گلاس میں 2 او ایل ای ڈی ڈسپلے دیئے گئے ہیں جو آنکھوں کے سامنے ایسا احساس دلاتے ہیں کہ آپ کسی سنیما میں ہی بیٹھے ہوئے ہیں۔

آئی ایف اے ٹیکنالوجی نمائش کے دوران اسے متعارف کرایا گیا اور سونی، گوگل یا دیگر کمپنیوں کے برعکس ٹی سی ایل نے اپنے اسمارٹ گلاس کو تفریحی مقاصد کے لیے تیار کیا ہے جس میں اسپیکر کمانی میں نصب ہیں۔

یو ایس بی سی کی مدد سے اسے اسمارٹ فون (فی الحال ٹی سی ایل فون) سے کنکٹ کیا جاسکتا ہے اور اسے چلتے پھرتے نہیں بلکہ آرام سے بیٹھ کر ہی استعمال کیا جاسکتا ہے، یا ٹرین میں سفر کے دوران ہوم تھیٹر کا مزہ لیا جاسکتا ہے۔

آنکھوں کے سامنے موجود 2 ڈسپلے اتنے بڑے ہیں کہ فلم دیکھتے ہوئے سنیما کا احساس تو ہوتا ہی، مگر آنکھوں کے سامنے منظر بھی دیکھا جاسکتا ہے۔

دماغ کو یہ دھوکا دینے کے لیے کہ آپ 100 انچ اسکرین پر فلم دیکھ رہے ہیں، یہ ڈیوائس بہترین کام کرتی ہے، بالکل ایسا محسوس ہوتا ہے کہ آپ کسی چھوٹے کمرے میں نہیں بلکہ ملٹی پلیکس سنیما میں موجود ہیں۔

ڈسپلے کے گرد موجود ٹرانسپیرنٹ ہالہ صارف کے تحفظ اور آس پاس کے حالات سے آگاہی کے لیے دیا گیا جبکہ ڈیوائس کو چلانے کے لیے سر کو حرکت دینا کافی ہوتا ہے تاہم اسمارٹ فون کو بھی کنٹرولر کے طور پر استعمال کیا جاسکتا ہے۔

اس کمپنی نے اپنا پروٹوٹائپ فولڈنگ فون بھی پیش کیا جو آئندہ سال کسی وقت باقاعدہ متعارف کرایا جائے گا۔

7.2 انچ کے فولڈ ایبل ٹیبلیٹ ڈسپلے والے اس کاسنیپٹ فون میں باہر کی جانب سیکنڈری ڈسپلے نہیں دیا گیا جبکہ 2 کے امولیڈ ڈسپلے دیا گیا ہے۔

کمپنی کے مطابق اس ڈیوائس کو 2 لاکھ بار فولڈ کیا جاسکتا ہے تاہم باضابطہ ماڈل میں اسے مزید بہتر کیا جائے گا۔

This file photo shows the first photograph of a black hole and its fiery halo, released by Event Horizon Telescope astronomers (EHT), which is the "most direct proof of their existence," one of the project's lead scientists had told AFP.  — AFP

WASHINGTON: The 347 scientists who collaborated to produce the world’s first image of a black hole were honoured on Thursday with the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, winning $3 million for what is known as the “Oscars of science”.

The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration grabbed global headlines on April 10 when they published the first image of a supermassive black hole circled by a flame-orange halo of white hot plasma.

Directed by Shep Doelman at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the team spent over a decade simulating an Earth-sized computational telescope that combined the signals received by eight radio telescopes working in pairs around the world with their sights trained on the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy, 55 million light years away.

Through this technique, they were able achieve an unprecedented resolution and observe the black hole’s silhouette for the first time in history, confirming theoretical predictions about these celestial objects.

“For many years, I would tell people that we were going to image a black hole, and they would say, ‘Well, we’ll believe it when we see it,’ Doelman said in an interview. “But when you finally come with very strong evidence, when you make a breakthrough like this, then you have the satisfaction of really giving birth to a new field. We are now in an era of precision imaging of black holes, we can approach the event horizon and map spacetime for the first time,” he added.

The event horizon of a black hole is the point at which its gravitational effects are strong that light cannot escape its pull. Now in its eighth year, the Breakthrough Prize was launched by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to recognise and reward the world’s top scientists.


ریون پاکٹ نامی اے سی فی الحال صرف جاپان میں دستیاب ہوگا — فوٹو بشکریہ سونی


کیا آپ کو گرمی بہت لگتی ہے اور دل کرتا ہے کہ ہر وقت ائیرکنڈیشنر آپ کے ساتھ ہو؟

اگر ہاں تو اچھی خبر یہ ہے کہ جاپانی کمپنی سونی نے اس کا حل لگتا ہے کہ تلاش کرلیا ہے۔

جی ہاں یہ کمپنی ایسا وئیرایبل ائیرکنڈیشر متعارف کرانے کا ارادہ رکھتی ہے جسے جیب میں رکھا جاسکتا ہے جبکہ اسے استعمال کرنے کے لیے ایک خاص ٹی شرٹ کو پہننا ہوگا۔


ریون پاکٹ نامی اے سی کو اس خصوصی ٹی شرٹ کی گردن اور کمر کے درمیان موجود جیب میں رکھ دیا جائے گا اور یہ خاموش ڈیوائس گردن پر ٹھہر کر تھرمو الیکٹرک کولنگ خارج کرے گی۔

اگر موسم گرم ہے تو یہ اے سی آپ کا جسمانی درجہ حرارت 13 ڈگری تک پہنچائے گا جبکہ سرد موسم میں یہ جسمانی درجہ حرارت بڑھا کر 8 ڈگری تک لے جائے گا۔

کمپنی کے مطابق اس اے سی میں پلیٹیر ایفیکٹ استعمال کیا گیا ہے جو کہ عام طور پر گاڑی کو ٹھنڈا کرنے کے لیے استعمال کیا جاتا ہے۔

اس اے سی کو ایک موبائل ایپ کی مدد سے کنٹرول کیا جاسکے گا جبکہ آٹومیٹک موڈ بھی کمپنی مستقبل میں متعارف کرانے کا ارادہ رکھتی ہے اور ہاں سنگل چارج پر 24 گھنٹے کام کرسکے گا۔

اس کے بعد یو ایس بی سی پورٹ سے 2 گھنٹے میں اسے مکمل چارج کرنا ممکن ہوگا۔

فی الحال یہ اے سی کراﺅڈ فنڈنگ کے لیے پیش کیا جارہا ہے جس کی شپنگ مارچ 2020 میں شروع ہونے کا امکان ہے اور وہ بھی صرف جاپان میں۔

اس کی قیمت 12 ہزار جاپانی ین (لگ بھگ 19 ہزار پاکستانی روپے)سے زائد رکھی گئی ہے۔

اس ڈیوائس کا وزن محض 85 گرام ہے جبکہ حجم ایک اسمارٹ فون سے بھی چھوٹا ہے۔



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