Crickets – Nature’s Weather Reporters

By Anupum Pant

Background

An annoying Cricket’s treet-treet-treet noise is really unbearable sometimes, especially when a house cricket ends up under your bed and treets all night long. To others, it’s pleasing, they associate it with the night time, and it makes them go to sleep.

Whatever it is for you, there’s one interesting thing universal about that noise they make. If you can count the number of chirps, you can almost accurately estimate the atmospheric temperature using a simple formula! Good ‘ol farmers used to do this.

I know all of us have smartphones these days, so counting cricket chirps to estimate temperature probably makes no sense to you. Still, I’ve said it back then and I say it again, it’s never bad to know anything.

Here’s how you do it

For doing it, you somehow should be able to measure 14 seconds. In those 14 seconds, count the number of times a single cricket chirps. Suppose there are 35 chirps heard, you save that number and add it to 40 (always 40). And this gives you the present temperature in Fahrenheit.

35 chirps + 40 = 75 degrees Fahrenheit

Now, since only a handful of countries use Fahrenheit to measure temperature, you might want to convert it into Celsius scale. I personally am comfortable with only the Celsius scale. But you don’t have to go through the trouble of converting because, to measure the temperature in Celsius scale using the cricket’s treet, this is what you have to do.

Simply count the number of chirps it makes in 25 seconds. Now divide the number by 3 and add 4 to it. There you have your ambient temperature in Celsius scale. Suppose the cricket chirps 50 times…

(50 chirps/3) + 4 = 20.67 degrees Celsius 

Why it works

To know that it is first important to understand how a cricket makes that sound. Remember only male crickets of a few species make this sound. They do this by a process called stridulation – rubbing 2 body parts to make a sound. Rubbing the underside of one wing with the upper side of the other wing does this trick – as they have rough and hard structures over there.

To move these wings it requires a particular chemical reaction to happen in their muscles. The speed of this chemical reaction is dependent on how hot or cold it is. The hotter it is, the faster the reaction happens and the faster it is able to move its muscles to produce more sounds in those 14/25 seconds…

via [Scientific American] and  [Howstuffworks] and [Farmer’s Almanac]

A Chat With Srikant of Red Matter Tech

By Anupum Pant

Experiences

Experiences are precious, and learning from the experiences of others is, I think, a very efficient way of avoiding mistakes and identifying the patterns to success. I treasure them. I view it like, collecting XP (experience points) in a Pokémon game – where the game is your life and the greater XP you manage to collect, the better you do in the game.

A great man’s biography no doubt is one good source of this precious experience. A better way to go about collecting XP is by simply asking the successful person himself – by doing an interview maybe. That is what I did… (an interview once again!)

Red Matter Tech and Dabblr

I had a chat with one of the four masterminds, Srikant Rajasekharuni of, Red Matter Tech. They are the ones who chose themselves (not the traditional office cubicles) and brought in this one of its kind student companion smartphone app, Dabblr. It is creating waves in the student community. If you are a student and you have a smartphone that does not have Dabblr installed in it, you are seriously missing out on something.

It is an app which lets you carry the updates on most important college events, current affairs, open courseware, student deals, campus news,  your time-table, and more, in your pocket all the time. The interface is slick and the app is neatly polished. You’ll get addicted.

[Get it here]

The Chat

Listen to what Srikant shares with us. Pay attention because “Learn and Discover” is what we do at AweSci too.

Me: Tell us about the company.

SR: We are Red Matter Tech, a relatively young product development and marketing firm started by four friends! It’s been almost 9 months all of us quit our jobs, we work out of our own office space and plugged in most of the time.

Me: Dabblr is your first product. It seems to be more than just an app. Can you tell us more about it?

SR: Dabblr prima facie, is a student companion app. If you are a student who’s looking for an application that will provide necessary information about your curricular, co & extra curricular life! Course and aptitude related gyaan. Aggregation of content from various news feeds and event information! You can even check out your college timetable on the application!

Me: Who is the team behind your first product – Dabblr?

SR: The team consists of us, the co-founders. Bhagat handles tech. Shirish product. Rohit handles operations and sales and I handle content and marketing. All of us have prior decent experience in marketing. Shirish and I studied together in MICA, Shirish & Rohit have studied from the same engineering college. 80 % of the current team have experience in the gaming industry too. Avani, Bhagat’s much better half is the coder!

Me: Why did you feel the need for this app?

SR: As we graduated from engineering and moved out of Hyderabad for further studies, we noticed a stark difference in approach towards life from students of different states. It made us realise that education is not the same across the country and we decided to create a platform of equal opportunities and information. And completely free.

Me: What is that one big lesson you learnt while developing your first product? Something which you’d have not learnt, had you not endeavored to create this.

SR: Biggest learning would be the unconditional support that your family and friends extend when you are completely focussed on creating something on your own.

Me: Where on the web and print have you been featured?

SR: We have been on Inc42, The Hindu and Deccan Chronicle so far. All of them have been real kind to us.

Me: People who inspire you, the books you love, websites and blogs you read and your favorite pastimes. Favorite music, specific songs.

SR: Inspirations:  B R Ambedkar, Rajnikanth.
Books I Love: The Foundation Series, Sandman (Graphic Novels)
Websites: Reddit, of course. Business insider. Awesci.

Me: Before you go, share with us an interesting piece of science trivia for the day

SR: Total Eclipses are possible only because the sun and moon appear the same size from earth. That’s possible only because the sun’s diameter is about 400 times larger than that of the moon – Amazingly, if you think coincidences don’t happen, the sun is also about 400 times farther away. Mind blowing!

[Dabblr Website] [Facebook Page]

Working Memory – Chimpanzees vs. Humans

By Anupum Pant

At least in one known cognitive area, chimpanzees prove to be far smarter than human beings. While it is possible for humans to train themselves up to some extent at it, they lack the capacity for an excellent working memory. On the other hand, chimps naturally display a remarkable working memory.

So, naturally the next question we’d ask – what exactly is working memory and how can I beat chimps at it?

But before that is answered, let us have a look at this study conducted by Japanese scientists.
In the study, scientists use a test where numbers from 1 to 9 are arranged on a screen randomly. The test taker is given a chance to remember all the nine positions. When the subject is ready, the areas go blank and the user is required to recall all the nine numbers in sequence. One mistake and the subject has to start over. In the test, we see this chimpanzee named Ayumu showing remarkable ability in terms of working memory. The opponent human loses badly.

BTW at this test, the chimp Ayumu, can now recall 19 numbers in sequence without making a single mistake. Not just Ayumu, this knack is observed in all chimps.

Why?

As the researcher mentions, chimps are not the same as humans. Both humans and chimps had a common ancestor several millions of years ago. Now, both of these species have evolved in their own ways for all these years. While they’ve gotten good at something, we’ve picked up different abilities. You don’t have to feel bad about it.

This ability to actively hold multiple pieces of information in the mind and play with them has helped these chimps to survive in the wild by helping them to make quick decisions. As a result, they have evolved to master it.

Training + Caveat

Although you can train yourself to have an amazing working memory, you’ll probably never be able to beat chimps. Also, you should know that very few humans have a nearly equal level of working memory as compared to chimps, and these are the people who are affected by a mental disability called the Savant syndrome. It is beyond common humans to train themselves to chimp-level-working memory.

A game known as n-back, used as a test and an exercise tool can help you to master your working memory. The game starts easy. Then you move on to the second level where things straight away move from easy to difficult. The next levels seem impossible at first. But it has been proved that this game can help you to improve your working memory. The harder you train, the better you get at it; of course, never as good as Ayumu.

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