Today’s Word : syzygy

Word : syzygy




1. An alignment of three objects, for example, sun, moon, and earth during an eclipse.
2. A pair of related things.


From Latin syzygia, from Greek syzygia (union, pair). Ultimately from the Indo-European root yeug- (to join), which is also the ancestor of junction, yoke, yoga, adjust, juxtapose, rejoinder, jugular, and junta. Earliest documented use: 1656.


One could hyperpolysyllabically contrive a longer word having four Ys, but syzygy nicely lines up three of them organically in just six letters.


“‘To me it’s two dots that connect,’ Douglas Coupland says, ‘I don’t know if there’s going to be a third one so it makes a syzygy.'”
John Barber; Douglas Coupland; The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada); Oct 2, 2009.

Explore “syzygy” in the Visual Thesaurus.

courtesy: wordsmith

Puzzle : A Strange Liar

Ravi is a strange liar. He lies on six days of the week, but on the seventh day he always tells the truth. He made the following statements on three successive days:

Day 1: “I lie on Monday and Tuesday.”
Day 2: “Today, it’s Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday.”
Day 3: “I lie on Wednesday and Friday.”

On which day does Ravi tell the truth?


We know that Ravi tells the truth on only a single day of the week. If the statement on day 1 is untrue, this means that he tells the truth on Monday or Tuesday. If the statement on day 3 is untrue, this means that he tells the truth on Wednesday or Friday. Since Ravi tells the truth on only one day, these statements cannot both be untrue. So, exactly one of these statements must be true, and the statement on day 2 must be untrue.

Assume that the statement on day 1 is true. Then the statement on day 3 must be untrue, from which follows that Ravi tells the truth on Wednesday or Friday. So, day 1 is a Wednesday or a Friday. Therefore, day 2 is a Thursday or a Saturday. However, this would imply that the statement on day 2 is true, which is impossible. From this we can conclude that the statement on day 1 must be untrue.

This means that Ravi told the truth on day 3 and that this day is a Monday or a Tuesday. So day 2 is a Sunday or a Monday. Because the statement on day 2 must be untrue, we can conclude that day 2 is a Monday.

So day 3 is a Tuesday. Therefore, the day on which Ravi tells the truth is Tuesday.


An explorer wishes to cross a barren desert

An explorer wishes to cross a barren desert that requires 6 days to cross, but one man can only carry enough food for 4 days. What is the fewest number of other men required to help carry enough food for him to cross?


The answer is clearly that only two other men are required. The first helper only goes one day into the desert. He feeds the other two men during the first day, so that at the beginning of the second day, he only has one day rations left. So he goes back to camp. On the second day, the second helper feeds himself and the explorer. On the beginning of the third day the helper now has two days rations left so he heads back. The explorer is two days into the journey and still has all four days of his food left, so he continues on alone.

Pound of cotton or a Pound of gold

Which would you say is heavier, a pound of cotton or a pound of gold?


A pound of cotton is heavier than a pound of gold because cotton is weighted by the avoirdupois pound, which consists of 16 ounces, whereas gold, being a precious metal is weighted by the troy pound which consists 12 ounces.

(Generally we can say, one ounce of gold is heavier than one ounce of cotton and one pound of gold is lighter than one pound of cotton. )

Tweeting a lot to gain popularity is inefficient

The imbalanced structure of Twitter, where some users have many followers and the large majority barely has several dozen followers, means that messages from the more influential have much more impact. Less popular users can compensate for this by increasing their activity and their tweets, but the outcome is costly and inefficient. This was confirmed by an analysis of the social network performed by researchers from the Technical University of Madrid.

Visualisation of the spreading of messages on Twitter (retweets network in green) on the followers network (grey). The nodes represent users and their size is proportional to the number of followers that they have. Red indicates users who have written original tweets and yellow indicates users who have retweeted them.
Visualisation of the spreading of messages on Twitter (retweets network in green) on the followers network (grey). The nodes represent users and their size is proportional to the number of followers that they have. Red indicates users who have written original tweets and yellow indicates users who have retweeted them.

Credit: Image adapted by A.J. Morales, R.M. Benito et al. – Social Networks

What can Twitter users do to increase their influence? To answer this question, a team of researchers at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) has analysed thousands of conversations, applied a computational model and devised a measure that relates the effort spent to the influence gained by tweeters.

The results, published in the journal ‘Social Networks’, confirm that the actual structure of Twitter is the key to the influence. It is a heterogeneous network, or rather, one where there is a large number of users with very few followers (61 on median, according to O’Reilly), and a few -very few- with an enormous number of followers (up to 40-50 million).

With this type of distribution, network position or ‘topocracy’ comes before meritocracy: “Having a larger number of followers is much more important than the user’s ‘effort’ or activity in sending lots of messages,” Rosa M. Benito, head of the research team, tells SINC.

“However, if the underlying network were homogeneous (something which it is not), users would have approximately the same number of connections and their position on the network would not be important; their influence would depend directly on their activity,” establishes the researcher.

According to the study, on heterogeneous networks like Twitter the way in which users send messages does not matter, because there is always going to be a highly influential minority. Tweets that more popular people or institutions send are spread more and have greater impact, even though they send very few, which is also quite usual.

“The data shows that the emergence of a group of users who write fewer tweets but that are largely retweeted is due to the social network being heterogeneous,” Rosa M. Benito points out.

The researcher is not exactly encouraging for the majority of tweeters who wish to be more influential: “Ordinary users can gain the same number of retweets as popular users by increasing their activity abruptly. Then it is possible to increase their influence through activity, but it is costly and inefficient”.

Courtesy: AlphaGalileo

Scientists invent tool to improve usability of mobile devices

The rapid increase in mobile technology such as smart phones and watches, tablets and Google Glass, has resulted in the need for more research to ensure those devices work well.

But, says Wichita State assistant professor Jibo He, there are no good tools to properly test mobile devices. So He, along with WSU professor Barb Chaparro, invented a solution using the latest technology of Google Glass.

It’s called uSee Glass and is a software application that allows remote observers to conduct usability testing. This week, He and Chaparro filed for a patent on the software.

These are the ways it works:

Participant point of view: The user can wear Google Glass, which includes the uSee Glass software and a video camera. The uSee Glass will capture scenes from the participant’s point of view and stream it for remote observation.

Researcher point of view: The researcher can have the uSee Glass application installed in his or her Google Glass and capture scenes from the researcher’s point of view. The researcher can also have uSee Glass installed in an Android tablet or a smart watch and use the application to communicate with remote observers. Wearing Google Glass or a smart watch allows the researcher to receive a tactile notification when a new message from remote observers arrives. They can also tap on the touchpad of Google Glass to mark important events.

Remote observation: A researcher can observe the scene remotely from anywhere using a computer with an Internet browser. The remote observer can communicate with the researcher via an Android device.

“Currently there’s no good way to do mobile research,” He said. “You can use a web cam, but that’s not from the point of view of the user. USee Glass for Google Glass and smart watches provides a new tool for mobile research. ”

Widespread possibilities

Part of what stands out about this tool is that it allows the researcher the ability to text and communicate with the user while he/she is looking at and interacting with a device. It makes for more efficient research, Chaparro says.

uSee Glass will also help further research that He is conducting on Google Glass. He is one of only a few people in Wichita to have early access to Google Glass and is researching the safety of people using the device while they drive.

While He and Chaparro are focusing their research on Google Glass and other mobile devices, there are potential ramifications for all kinds of industries, such as science, health care, aviation and agriculture.

“The possibilities apply to really any domain,” Chaparro said.

Courtesy: NewsWise

Oceans arrived early to Earth via Meteorites

Earth is known as the Blue Planet because of its oceans, which cover more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface and are home to the world’s greatest diversity of life. While water is essential for life on the planet, the answers to two key questions have eluded us: where did Earth’s water come from and when?

In this illustration of the early solar system, the dashed white line represents the snow line -- the transition from the hotter inner solar system, where water ice is not stable (brown) to the outer Solar system, where water ice is stable (blue). Two possible ways that the inner solar system received water are: water molecules sticking to dust grains inside the "snow line" (as shown in the inset) and carbonaceous chondrite material flung into the inner solar system by the effect of gravity from protoJupiter. With either scenario, water must accrete to the inner planets within the first ca. 10 million years of solar system formation.
In this illustration of the early solar system, the dashed white line represents the snow line — the transition from the hotter inner solar system, where water ice is not stable (brown) to the outer Solar system, where water ice is stable (blue). Two possible ways that the inner solar system received water are: water molecules sticking to dust grains inside the “snow line” (as shown in the inset) and carbonaceous chondrite material flung into the inner solar system by the effect of gravity from protoJupiter. With either scenario, water must accrete to the inner planets within the first ca. 10 million years of solar system formation.

Credit: Illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

While some hypothesize that water came late to Earth, well after the planet had formed, findings from a new study led by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) significantly move back the clock for the first evidence of water on Earth and in the inner solar system.

“The answer to one of the basic questions is that our oceans were always here. We didn’t get them from a late process, as was previously thought,” said Adam Sarafian, the lead author of the paper published Oct. 31, 2014, in the journal Science and a MIT/WHOI Joint Program student in the Geology and Geophysics Department.

One school of thought was that planets originally formed dry, due to the high-energy, high-impact process of planet formation, and that the water came later from sources such as comets or “wet” asteroids, which are largely composed of ices and gases.

“With giant asteroids and meteors colliding, there’s a lot of destruction,” said Horst Marschall, a geologist at WHOI and coauthor of the paper. “Some people have argued that any water molecules that were present as the planets were forming would have evaporated or been blown off into space, and that surface water as it exists on our planet today, must have come much, much later — hundreds of millions of years later.”

The study’s authors turned to another potential source of Earth’s water — carbonaceous chondrites. The most primitive known meteorites, carbonaceous chondrites, were formed in the same swirl of dust, grit, ice and gasses that gave rise to the sun some 4.6 billion years ago, well before the planets were formed.

“These primitive meteorites resemble the bulk solar system composition,” said WHOI geologist and coauthor Sune Nielsen. “They have quite a lot of water in them, and have been thought of before as candidates for the origin of Earth’s water.”

In order to determine the source of water in planetary bodies, scientists measure the ratio between the two stable isotopes of hydrogen: deuterium and hydrogen. Different regions of the solar system are characterized by highly variable ratios of these isotopes. The study’s authors knew the ratio for carbonaceous chondrites and reasoned that if they could compare that to an object that was known to crystallize while Earth was actively accreting then they could gauge when water appeared on Earth.

To test this hypothesis, the research team, which also includes Francis McCubbin from the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico and Brian Monteleone of WHOI, utilized meteorite samples provided by NASA from the asteroid 4-Vesta. The asteroid 4-Vesta, which formed in the same region of the solar system as Earth, has a surface of basaltic rock — frozen lava. These basaltic meteorites from 4-Vesta are known as eucrites and carry a unique signature of one of the oldest hydrogen reservoirs in the solar system. Their age — approximately 14 million years after the solar system formed — makes them ideal for determining the source of water in the inner solar system at a time when Earth was in its main building phase. The researchers analyzed five different samples at the Northeast National Ion Microprobe Facility — a state-of-the-art national facility housed at WHOI that utilizes secondary ion mass spectrometers. This is the first time hydrogen isotopes have been measured in eucrite meteorites.

The measurements show that 4-Vesta contains the same hydrogen isotopic composition as carbonaceous chondrites, which is also that of Earth. That, combined with nitrogen isotope data, points to carbonaceous chondrites as the most likely common source of water.

“The study shows that Earth’s water most likely accreted at the same time as the rock. The planet formed as a wet planet with water on the surface,” Marschall said.

While the findings don’t preclude a late addition of water on Earth, it shows that it wasn’t necessary since the right amount and composition of water was present at a very early stage.

“An implication of that is that life on our planet could have started to begin very early,” added Nielsen. “Knowing that water came early to the inner solar system also means that the other inner planets could have been wet early and evolved life before they became the harsh environments they are today.”

courtesy: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Your new year investment resolutions!

New Year brings with it new beginnings and optimism. A lot of people like to usher in the New Year with resolutions that they eventually end up breaking. Many of these New Year resolutions revolve around personal finance since financial well being is an important aspect of life. A lot of people usually fail to maintain such New Year financial resolutions because they over complicate their resolutions making them hard to maintain.


Before making your resolutions for 2014, the most important thing you should do is to review your current financial status. Here is a quick check for making a simple and achievable New Year resolution for anyone irrespective of earnings and expenditure. Apart from improving the overall financial health, this can help you take smarter financial decisions in the long term.

Review your investment portfolio: Reviewing one’s investment portfolio by the end of the year is one of the best steps for taking a good investment related resolution. While reviewing the overall investment portfolio, one must ask some basic questions as to how risky the investment portfolio is and explore the adjustments where required. If you are single and have started working only recently, you can afford a riskier portfolio compared to married people with families. One thing that is common while evaluating your personal investment portfolio for the year is to always maintain a balance between long term goals and any emergency requirements for a rainy day.

Pay off Debt: Paying off old debt is one of the best ways to usher in the New Year. Budgeting and paying off old debt might not be as difficult as it may appear and only require a principled approach. One can set up accounts to automatically deduct monthly expenses. Get out of the old debt trap to increase the chances of improving your financial health in the coming year.

The best approach is to start by paying off the debt with higher interest rates like credit card des and personal loans. If you have some surplus cash, you may also consider paying off loans as pre payment instead of paying EMIs. The best way to resolve pension debts is to keep a lookout for better interest options in the market to reduce the total term of the home loan thereby saving on the interest cost.  You can use the additional pay outs you received this year like bonus, incentives, LTA etc for paying off unwanted debts.

Invest in an Emergency Fund: In this day and age of increasing inflation, sudden job loss or a sudden illness of any family members can damage your finances. Therefore, it is imperative to consider investing in an emergency fund. Most financial experts are of the view that such emergency funds which also known as contingency fund, must hold finances that can sustain the dependent members of the family for a minimum period of six months. If you have not given due though to have an active emergency fund, make plans to start it this New Year. Make regular investments in your emergency fund which can gradually help you a build a corpus that is liquid with the ability to earn handsome returns.

Protect your family’s Financial Future: Protecting your family’s financial future is an essential step that needs to be a part of each financial resolution. A lot of people explore life insurance but totally ignore medical insurance for dependants and immediate family members. If you are one of those who have neglected medical insurance of your dependants, plan for a good package by this New Year.

For people seeking life insurance as an investment, one needs to understand that life insurance helps your dependants in case you are not around. Considering insurance purely as an investment vehicle is a bad financial decision that must be changed.

Improve Credit Scores: Another great New Year resolution is to improve your overall credit score (CIBIL). Many people are stuck with bad credit score due to their own financial mismanagement. Take a call before this New Year to cut out on unwanted credit cards and loans so that you do not end up spoiling your credit score in the coming year. If you are planning to avail some loans in the coming months, make sure that you keep a minimum gap of six months between the two loan applications. Pay your loans and credit cards on time avoiding late payments.

courtesy : Bank Bazar

The Elephant Rope : Failure is part of learning

As a man was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.

He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before?

Failure is part of learning; we should never give up the struggle in life.

Author : Unknown