Beyond Planet Earth With Google Maps

We’ve all probably used Google Earth at some point of time, whether it was to look at relief features, exotic locations, or the roofs of our own houses (don’t try to deny that you’ve zoomed in on your own house); but have you ever heard of Google Mars? Or Google Io, perhaps?

Literally right under our noses, we have access to a much-overlooked portal to 20 other worlds; including Mars, the Moon, Enceladus, Ganymede and Titan. Just like on Google Earth, important regions and locations are labelled on these other planets and moons, too, such as Mars’ Olympus Mons.

Launch the website here! Visit the mares of our Moon, the mysterious “canals” on Mars, and even view Earth through the cupola of the International Space Station! The solar system is yours to explore. 🙂

mars
Zoom in to explore Mars’ relief!
ganymede
Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon.

 

titan
Explore the hydrocarbon lakes of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
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10 Amazing Body Hacks That Will Change The Way You Live

Recently, I came across an article online that mentioned that coughing while getting an injection could ease the pain, and I was thinking, “What? How did I not know this?” This “discovery” inspired me to look up other things that could help me hack my life understand better how the different parts of the human body are linked to each other, and how we can control it. Here’s a compilation of some of the interesting tips I found:

  1. If your throat tickles, scratch your ear: Stimulating the nerves in the ear causes a muscle in the throat to spasm reflexively and get rid of the tickle. Who knew?
  2. Relieve nausea/motion sickness: Apply pressure on the two tendons below your wrist (the Nei-Kuan pressure point), measuring a distance of three finger breadths from the base of your palm. My brother- who has motion sickness- tried this out, and he found it effective!
  3. Get rid of brainfreeze: Press your tongue as hard as you can to the roof of your mouth, covering as much area as possible. This keeps the nerves there from getting too cold, and your brain in turn perceives your mouth as warmer. Doing this, along with pressing the space between your eyebrows at the same time can clear your sinuses, too.
  4. Bring your right ear closer to someone you can’t hear: An American study on 3000 infants has shown that our right ears are better attuned to hearing and understanding speech, while our left ears better perceive sounds from music. So the next time you have no idea what someone’s talking about, take a seat to their left.
  5. Write to remember your dreams: Writing down what you’ve dreamt-even if it’s a small part- supposedly makes your brain prioritise storing what you dream, and helps you remember the following dreams better. Definitely something I will try out! Another place where writing comes in handy: penning your emotions before a big test can help relieve stress and even help you perform better.
  6. Smile when you’re sad: When you’re down in the dumps, stick a pencil in your mouth. This activates the muscles you use when smiling, and tricks your brain into boosting your mood.
  7. Suppress your gag reflex: When you feel the urge to gag, grip your left thumb as firmly as you can inside your fist to suppress it. Useful for the next time you go to dentist!
  8. Avoid the horrendous “side stitch”: While running, we tend to exhale when the right foot hits the ground, which puts pressure on the liver and causes the stitch. Reverse this effect by exhaling when your left foot touches the ground.
  9. Hold your breath for longer: Take short, successive breaths instead of a single long one to achieve this. The science behind it says that hyperventilating can trick your brain into thinking it has a higher supply of oxygen, effectively increasing the time you can hold your breath by as much as a few seconds.
  10. Stifle laughter/tears: You can control inappropriate laughter using a physical sensation like pinching yourself or biting your tongue. Crying in public can be inconvenient and embarrassing- but you can control it by keeping your eyes wide open without blinking. If the tears have already started flowing, look upwards.

That’s all for today! Let me know if you have any hacks of your own, and thanks for reading! 🙂

 

7 Ways to Keep Kids Busy

Let’s talk about a task most of us would’ve faced: having to entertain or care for young children. First off, I want to clarify the title of this post: I do not have children of my own, and when my twin five-year-old cousins paid my family a visit, I was, to say the least, pretty overwhelmed. Armed with only paper, scissors, art supplies, the Internet (for reading Instructables) and the great outdoors, I set out on my task. Here are a few of the things we did to occupy ourselves:

  1. Origami: This project was a true life-saver. Reserve this for the end of the day when the kids are too tired to do anything but fold paper. All you need are squares of paper (preferably coloured paper, if you don’t have origami paper at hand). Origami was perfect for me, since it requires virtually no supplies, is fun and also keeps your hands busy. We made origami flowers, butterflies, and transformable ninja stars. I used Fumiaki Shingu’s Origami: The Art of Japanese paper folding, and the internet to search for instructions. Like I said, origami is needs practically zero effort. Coming to its benefits, it improves neatness and stimulates creative thinking, apart from its being a calming activity.
  2. Snowflake-making: Another wonderful project; the only materials you need being paper and scissors. Check out this site to learn how to create these beautiful holiday decorations. I had to help the younger two out with this project because the paper we had to cut was a bit thick for them since we’d had to fold it several times. The great thing about paper snowflakes is that you’ll never run out of new designs to cut out! This activity can probably keep kids occupied for hours as they explore the different patterns that they can create. It also encourages them to learn about symmetry and mirror images.
  3. Bookmark-making: You’ve probably inferred by now that my preferred activities involve minimal supplies and minimal effort. All you have to do to make a bookmark is cut out a rectangle of paper, colour it any way you want, maybe write a motivational message on it like “Read!”, slap some stickers on it, get it laminated and ta-da! Before you know it, you’re done! This is a pretty useful project and it would probably make kids want to read more.
  4. Drawing/Painting: Oh boy, this can keep kids busy for hours, maybe even days. And of course, all you need are paper, paints and brushes (or coloured pencils/chalk pastels/oil pastels/crayons). If they can’t think of anything to draw, pose for them, ask them to draw a self-portrait, or give them a prompt! We used watercolours and acrylic paints, and did some sketching as well. I learnt that the most important part of this activity  is to let kids develop their own style and not limit their imagination. Painting, of course, is amazing for improving creativity.
  5. Go on a walk with them: You can explore your neighbourhood, meet new people, and show kids the different kids of trees, bugs and flowers. You could also maybe visit the library or the park. This wold be refreshing after being cooped up inside for a long while!
  6.  DIY science projects: Scour the Internet for different ideas that could cultivate the kids’ interest in science and keep them engaged at the same time! Growing crystals, creating a terrarium, and making a map are some of my favourite ideas.
  7. Let them ask questions: Sit down with an encyclopedia or an infographics book, let the kids flip through and ask questions on the things they’re curious about (and answer them to the best of your ability)! We did this with Eyewitness Space and it led to a two-hour-long discussion about tectonic plates!

Those are just a few ideas on what you can do, and of course there are thousands more. Let your imaginations run wild! You’ll find yourself getting into bed happily exhausted. 🙂

WIN_20180411_07_47_41_Pro (2)

 

How to become Ambidextrous

Hi guys! Today I’m going to be talking about one of the coolest things I’ve done in my life; becoming ambidextrous. At first I thought it would be a useful skill in case I broke my right hand (I’m naturally right-handed), but in reality having a proficient non-dominant hand can be helpful even in situations you wouldn’t expect to use it! Here, I will list a few things you can do to strengthen your non-dominant hand:

  1. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand: This one’s really simple. Most of us have reached that point in our lives where brushing our teeth is pure muscle memory. Try to actively brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand to strengthen the muscles in your palm, wrist and forearm. It will be uncomfortable for a week or so, but after that you’ll find yourself reaching for your toothbrush with your non-dominant hand. Learn exactly which muscles you’ll be using with this study.
  2. Practice writing with your non-dominant hand every day: This, of course, is really important. The more you practice, the faster and neater your writing will become. For a quick, comprehensive exercise, check out some pangrams. These are short sentences or phrases that include all the alphabets in the English language. Don’t forget to practice numbers as well!
  3. Switch out the hand you use normally to do things: This can help you familiarise your non-dominant hand with things your dominant one would usually do, such as stirring, holding a fork, grasping things, picking things up, playing sports, using scissors, opening a door, and more. What I do to remind myself to use my left hand is write a note to myself on my right hand; something like “Use your other hand!”

How long you take to become ambidextrous depends on how much you decide to use your non-dominant hand. For me, it’s taken about eight months. I’ve also read about others who’ve taken only three months! So, let us go forth, and finally get around to using that hand that doesn’t even know how to hold a pencil!Two ambidextrious hands writing simultaneously.

Off Social Media?!

If you’re a millennial, or simply a denizen of the twenty-first century, social media has most probably pervaded every aspect of your daily life. Gone to a fancy restaurant? Oh, I’ve got to post a picture of that delicious caviar so my followers will know how privileged I am! Meeting friends? Awkward selfies are gonna be a definite addition to my Snapchat story. Sharing minute details of our everyday lives has become a narcissist obsession. One that doesn’t exclude me.

While I may not be actually taking photos of everything I see and do, I find myself actively checking social media every few hours, if not minutes. I’ve become another unfortunate victim of infomania- of course the half hour I’m away from the screen to do some math homework will be the time all my friends respond to my texts! I wouldn’t say I am addicted, but yes, close to it. Social media will always have something new to feast your eyes on. Its offerings are unlimited; but our time is not.

So in honour of one of my New Year’s Resolutions being to spend half an hour per week on social media, I’ve decided to try an experiment. Staying off social media completely for a week. Goodbye, Instagram, WhatsApp, Hangouts and Youtube.

In the beginning, I felt a sort of disconnect with the outside world. I had to realize what I was doing and stop myself from checking notifications on my phone or iPad. It took some serious restraint from caving in and allowing myself to send that one last message, post that one last update, stalk that one last person…After a few days, the storm weathered. I considered how much more time I had on my hands. I could now pursue that Astronomy course I’d always wanted to take, I could work on becoming ambidextrous, I could get things done for Google Code-in, finish my math prep for exams, and go cycling, all with time to spare. I stopped taking photos for others; in fact, I stopped thinking about taking photos to post at all. Whenever I went out, I enjoyed my experience without the poor lighting, windiness, or imperfect ambience spoiling my mood. I stopped living for others; started living for myself. I stopped worrying what others thought of me; stopped allowing my schedule to be dictated by others’ texts. For maybe the first time since I have come across social media, I exercised true free will. If I wanted to do something, it was truly because I desired it, not because I wanted to show off. My life involved different numbers now: the number of things I had learnt, the new people I was exposed to, rather than the number of followers I had on Instagram or the number of likes I’d gotten on that last post.

However, when I did log on to social media after that trial week, there was still that indescribable magic of being able to communicate with your friends when they weren’t physically talking to you. But, the experiment was beneficial in the fact that I wasn’t obsessively checking for updates as I had before.

As the old adage goes, there are two sides to every coin. I may uphold my resolution, or I may give up the moment I get in touch with a special friend. Similarly, social media can be an oppressive addiction, or a useful conduit for communication. I’ll let you decide which side you’d like to land face up.

Haiku

I recently finished a book series called Young Samurai by Chris Bradford. Seven books tell the story of Jack Fletcher, an English boy shipwrecked off the coast of Japan. Jack learns how to adapt to Japanese life as a samurai warlord’s ward, and eventually picks up well-guarded ninja skills as well. Though Young Samurai is a riveting book series, filled with adventure, suspense, and humour, it is the Japanese short form of poetry-haiku, that I will be shedding some light on in this post.

The essence of haiku is capturing nature’s subtle beauty in a cutting, plain manner. Often haiku are written about different seasons.

Here are a few haiku of my own.

 

Winter

Branches sway in wind

Snow cloaking the frozen ground

Bare land everywhere

 

Spring

Flowers bloom from buds

Animals scamper outside

Dew coats morning grass

 

Summer

Hot sun bakes the ground

Creatures look for cool reprieve

Shades of brown and red

 

Autumn

Golden and maroon

Trees wreathed in colorful robes

Leaves blanket the earth

You Are Wanted

You know those days when nothing goes your way? The days when the sun beats down on you, but all you feel is biting cold? The days when you’re cocooned in your own despair and shame, and nothing your loved ones do can help?

You do know these days. And you aren’t alone. Coming in second isn’t losing. Failing once doesn’t mean the world is going to end. That one special person ignoring you doesn’t mean you aren’t loved. That person is just missing out.

Sometimes, you aren’t half of what you claim to be. Most times, you’re much more. And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that you shouldn’t forget you’re worth more than life to someone, somewhere in the world. No one is useless. There are the “uncool”, the underprivileged, the homeless, the sick…whoever you are, you have a purpose. You have the right to live, and to do it on your own terms. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

It doesn’t matter what you look like- we’re all just skin, bone and flesh moulded in different ways. It doesn’t matter how far you are educated; because clearly an illiterate person with a compassionate heart is far more learned than an unfeeling, snooty scientist. It doesn’t matter what your family history is, because you are your own person. You have the capability to change the world. Whether for the better or the worse, it’s up to you.

So please don’t throw this chance away. Keep breathing. Keep riding the tides of change. Your life isn’t going to be a perpetual cakewalk. But that also means bad times won’t last. There’s this thing called hope. Sometimes we call it “light at the end of the tunnel”, sometimes “the only thing stronger than fear”. Why has the human mind been designed to hope? We are creatures that control our own futures. And a future without goodness, without salvation, without forgiveness, is unimaginable.

Negativity is natural. We have to train ourselves to filter our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We hold our futures, and the futures of others in our hands. We need neither power, nor wealth, to be able to make a difference. Experiences are worth more than material things. Donating to charity puts a person higher on the happiness meter than purchasing a gold-plated toilet.

So invest in others’ satisfaction. Don’t let anyone rule your mind. You are an individual with your own beliefs, values, and heritage, and that’s nobody else’s business. So don’t let them meddle in things that don’t concern them. And take solace in the fact that everything is temporary.

Some will mock you, others will mourn you when you’re gone. Swimming against the current is always harder than going with the flow. The mind is a curious thing, especially in the fact that everyone’s is different. It’s impossible to make everyone happy. So why not begin with only yourself? You are the only one who will always have to live with your decisions. All other naysayers and well-wishers, rewards and setbacks, are immaterial. A will of steel, a considerate disposition, and calculated determination are all you need to overcome all the odds.

So take a stand. Do what you love. Learn to adapt, and to bounce back.

And no matter what, remember you are wanted. 🙂