Stay Away From The World’s Most Dangerous Tree

By Anupum Pant

Background

Today we talk about Manchineel – An evil tree that is found in Florida, Caribbean and several other places around it. It holds the Guinness book of world record for the most dangerous tree, and you have a fair reason to stay at least ten feet away from it, if you ever go on a vacation to Florida, Caribbean or other nearby places.

What can it do?

  • Touch any part of this tree, its bark, leaves, fruits etc, and you’ll be left with serious blisters on your skin. The blisters will come with an excruciating pain that even after being treated by a doctor will continue to trouble you for several days. That’s not all.
  • If anything from this tree goes into your eyes, by anything I mean, even the rain water that touches the plant, you could end up with the kind of pain you’d have never experienced or could even make you go blind.
  • Swallowing a part of its little apple-like fruit will ensure that you get painful blisters on the internal walls of your mouth and throat. Try eating the complete, sweet smelling and pleasant tasting fruit and it will easily kill you. In fact in Spanish they call it manzanilla de la muerte; meaning – the little apple of death.
  • Try to get rid of it by breaking its branches or cutting the trunk and it will squirt its sap on your skin, inflicting you with the painful long-lasting blisters once again.
  • Try burning it down, while turning into ash, it will ensure that the smoke it exudes, makes you and others standing near it, go blind.

Is this tree any useful?

Yes. The Indians that used to live around the Caribbean used the sap derived from the plant to poison their darts and arrows. Also, they used the stump of this tree to tie up invaders. It killed them within a few hours.

How to avoid?

Pretty easy! The identified trees all around the region are marked with a red sign board that clearly tells you to stay away. So, do that.
In case you find a wild unmarked tree, stay away from anything that has leaves which look like shiny apple-tree-leaves and bears a deliciously sweet-smelling yellow/green little-apple like fruit.

Fun facts:

  • Despite having a bad name for its poisonous parts, there is an animal that can eat its fruit without experiencing any ill effects – A land crab found in the region. [Source]
  • In the Telugu language, Manchineel means something that can never be related to a tree which turns the water to poisoned water. Manchineel translates to – pure water or potable water in Telugu.

Halo Effect – Helping You Make Poor Judgements

By Anupum Pant

Despite being well aware of the adage – “Don’t judge a book by its cover” – our not-so-smart-brains fail us on this every time. Unknowingly, humans are prone to the Halo effect. And they’ll even deny that this harmless looking effect was what led them to make a wrong judgement about someone or something.

Halo Effect: In simple terms, we create a whole fake image about anything in our minds, based on a single trait.  For instance:

  1. Don’t you thing Steve Jobs must have been a perfect human being in person? I’m not saying he wasn’t, may be he was. Assuming you never met him, what made you construct that image of his, in your mind? Probably his warm, friendly presentations. Or it is even possible that the seemingly flawless physical designs of Apple products did that trick. Often marketers use this effect to create a warm image of themselves in the audience’s mind by saying little of any substance.
  2. By the good looks of this website, which I’ve made sure are really good, you’d unknowingly judge it as a page presenting you with quality content. You might do this without even looking at the content. May be it really is good content in this case, but it isn’t always.
  3. A well known brand that releases good commercials is often believed to be a quality brand. You’d feel no pain in shelling out thousands of bucks for a simple pair of shoes, saying it is a good quality shoe and will last long. There is a chance that you’ve never really looked deeper into the quality of the shoes this company makes. You’ll simply trust them because of the world-class commercials they come out with – which of course are only a result of outsourcing of creative work to a professional company. Which is not to say that the company really does make poor quality shoes. May be it doesn’t. But you just made a snap judgement without enough information.

The name Halo effect:
Its called the Halo effect because of this general tendency among us to make a snap judgement about the overall good traits of a person by just looking at a halo painted on top of their heads (one good trait of their’s).

But here is the catch, it works both ways:

Suppose you dislike one thing about something, you’ll build an image of “bad” around it, in your mind. This has been tested widely and it is true. People unknowingly do it and don’t realize why they did it. Moreover they’ll deny that it affects them.

Suppose you go to a restaurant and see that there is nothing fancy inside – naked tables, poorly dressed waiters and shabby flooring – you’ll never expect tasty food coming out of its kitchen.

Same thing happens with poorly designed websites. The content isn’t considered credible if they don’t look good. That is one reason, I take time to muster up good-looking images for my featured section.

[Read more]
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Scientifically, Do Retina Displays Make Sense?

By Anupum Pant

Our eye doesn’t work like a camera – with pixels and frame rates. It moves rapidly in small amounts and continuously updates the image to “paint” the detail. Also, since we have two eyes, both the signals are combined by the brain to increase the resolution further. Due to this, a much higher resolution image than possible with the eye’s abilities, can be generated in the brain. The very fact that we haven’t been able to come up with artificial devices that work the way a human eye does, confirms that we haven’t been completely able to understand this complex device yet.

But what we know about the average human eye is that its ability to distinguish between two points is measured to be around 20 arcsecs. That means, two points need to subtend an angle of at least 0.005 degrees to be distinguished by the human eye. Points lying any closer than that would mean that the eye would see it as a single point.

One thing needs to be noted that if an object subtends 0.005 degrees when it lies 1 foot away, it will subtend a lesser angle as it moves away. This is the reason you have to bring tiny text closer in order to read it. Bringing it closer increases the angle it subtends, only then the eye is able to resolve individual letters. Or in other words, anything is sharp enough if it is far enough.

Apple Science

Retina display, the Apple’s flagship display is said to be so sharp that the human eye is unable to distinguish between pixels at a typical viewing distance. As Steve Jobs said:

It turns out there’s a magic number right around 300 pixels per inch, that when you hold something around to 10 to 12 inches away from your eyes, is the limit of the human retina to differentiate the pixels. Given a large enough viewing distance, all displays eventually become retina.

Basically, Apple has done science at home and has come out with a nice number, 300 PPI. Practically, you don’t need anything higher than that. Technically, you do.

Isn’t “more” better?

No one is really sure. According to my calculations, an iPhone 5s’s display (3.5X2 in) would subtend 13.3 degree X 7.6 degrees from a 15 inch distance. With the kind of resolving power our eye sports, you’d need a screen that is able to display 4 megapixels on that small screen. Or in layman words, you need a screen that can pack around 710 PPI; practically, that sounds a bit too extreme (or maybe my calculations are wrong, please point it in the comments). I’d go with Steve Job’s calculation.

My shitty screen is a retina display

So, technically any device can said to be sporting the most touted screen in the industry today – a retina display – if it is kept at a sufficient distance. For instance, my laptop’s monitor with a resolution less than one quarters (~110 PPI) of what we see on today’s devices becomes a retina display when I use it from a distance of about 80 cm. 80 cm is normally also the distance I use my laptop from. Also, even doctors consider 50-70 cm as an optimum distance from screen to eye, to avoid eye strain.

On my shitty screen, the pixels are at a distance of 0.23 mm from center to center. And at 80 cm, my eye is practically unable to see the difference between a retina display and a shitty display. So, I say, do you really need higher and higher PPI devices? But that is just my opinion.

My Shitty phone is a retina display

As phones are generally used from a much closer distance, they require a higher PPI for the screen to look crisp. My phone, Lumia 520 has a 233 PPI screen. It becomes a retina display after a distance that is anything more than 15 inches. I’m required to hold my phone at 4 inches more than an iPhone to turn it into a display which is as good as an iPhone’s. Do I bring my phone any closer for anything? No. Do I need a higher PPI? No.

Conclusion

Recent phones from Samsung, Nokia and HTC pack in 316, 332 and 440 ppi, etc or more. Companies are spending billions to decrease the distance between their pixels. Sony, for instance, has recently come up with a 440 PPI display. And now, we have 4K TVs. Practically, I’d say, put an end to this manufacturer pissing contest and use this money for something more worthwhile. Technically, according to calculations, I say that we yet have to develop far more complicated technologies to cram in more pixels for pleasing the human eye.

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