All posts by debadyutim

I'm a school student who seeks to gain experience in the field of report writing and content writing. Happy reading!

AUTONOMOUS DRIVING

What does ‘autonomous driving’ mean?

An autonomous car is a vehicle capable of sensing its environment and operating without human involvement. A human passenger is not required to take control of the vehicle at any time, nor is a human passenger required to be present in the vehicle at all. An autonomous car can go anywhere a traditional car goes and do everything that an experienced human driver does.

Levels of Driving Automation

  • No automation: Manual control. The human performs all the driving tasks (steering, acceleration, breaking, etc.).
  • Driver assistance: The vehicle features a single automated system (example: it monitors speed through cruise control).
  • Partial automation: The vehicle can perform steering and automation. The human still monitors all tasks and can take control at any time.
  • Conditional automation: Environmental detection capabilities. The vehicle can perform most driving tasks, but human override is still required.
  • High automation: The vehicle performs all driving tasks under specific circumstances. Geofencing is required. Human override is still an option.
  • Full automation: The vehicle performs all driving tasks under all conditions. Zero human attention or interaction is required.

Autonomous vs Automated vs Self-Driving

The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) uses the term automated instead of autonomous. One reason is that the word autonomy has implications beyond the electromechanical. A fully autonomous car would be self-aware and capable of making its own choices. For example, you say “drive me to work” but the car decides to take you to the beach instead. A fully automated car, however, would follow orders and then drive itself.

The term self-driving is often used interchangeably with autonomous. However, it’s a slightly different thing. A self-driving car can drive itself in some or even all situations, but a human passenger must always be present and ready to take control. Self-driving cars would fall under Level 3 (conditional driving automation) or Level 4 (high driving automation). They are subject to geofencing, unlike a fully autonomous Level 5 car that could go anywhere.

Technical Challenges

There are different systems that help the self-driving car control the car. Systems that need improvement include the car navigation system, the location system, the electronic map, the map matching, the global path planning, the environment perception, the laser perception, the radar perception, the visual perception, the vehicle control, the perception of vehicle speed and direction, and the vehicle control method.

The challenge for driverless car designers is to produce control systems capable of analyzing sensory data in order to provide accurate detection of other vehicles and the road ahead. Modern self-driving cars generally use Bayesian simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) algorithms, which fuse data from multiple sensors and an off-line map into current location estimates and map updates. Waymo has developed a variant of SLAM with detection and tracking of other moving objects (DATMO), which also handles obstacles such as cars and pedestrians. Simpler systems may use roadside real-time locating system (RTLS) technologies to aid localization. Typical sensors include lidar, stereo vision, GPS and IMU. Control systems on automated cars may use Sensor Fusion, which is an approach that integrates information from a variety of sensors on the car to produce a more consistent, accurate, and useful view of the environment. Heavy rainfall, hail, or snow could impede the car sensors.

Driverless vehicles require some form of machine vision for the purpose of visual object recognition. Automated cars are being developed with deep neural networks, a type of deep learning architecture with many computational stages, or levels, in which neurons are simulated from the environment that activate the network. The neural network depends on an extensive amount of data extracted from real-life driving scenarios, enabling the neural network to “learn” how to execute the best course of action.

Human Factor Challenges

Self-driving cars are already exploring the difficulties of determining the intentions of pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals, and models of behavior must be programmed into driving algorithms. Human road users also have the challenge of determining the intentions of autonomous vehicles, where there is no driver with which to make eye contact or exchange hand signals. Drive.ai is testing a solution to this problem that involves LED signs mounted on the outside of the vehicle, announcing status such as “going now, don’t cross” vs. “waiting for you to cross”.

Two human-factor challenges are important for safety. One is the handoff from automated driving to manual driving, which may become necessary due to unfavorable or unusual road conditions, or if the vehicle has limited capabilities. A sudden handoff could leave a human driver dangerously unprepared in the moment. In the long term, humans who have less practice at driving might have a lower skill level and thus be more dangerous in manual mode. The second challenge is known as risk compensation: as a system is perceived to be safer, instead of benefiting entirely from all of the increased safety, people engage in riskier behavior and enjoy other benefits. Semi-automated cars have been shown to suffer from this problem, for example with users of Tesla Autopilot ignoring the road and using electronic devices or other activities against the advice of the company that the car is not capable of being completely autonomous. In the near future, pedestrians and bicyclists may travel in the street in a riskier fashion if they believe self-driving cars are capable of avoiding them.

In order for people to buy self-driving cars and vote for the government to allow them on roads, the technology must be trusted as safe. Self-driving elevators were invented in 1900, but the high number of people refusing to use them slowed adoption for several decades until operator strikes increased demand and trust was built with advertising and features like the emergency stop button.

Impact

According to a 2020 study, self-driving cars will increase productivity, and housing affordability, as well as reclaim land used for parking. However, self-driving cars will cause greater energy use, traffic congestion and sprawl.

According to a 2020 Annual Review of Public Health review of the literature, self-driving cars “could increase some health risks (such as air pollution, noise, and sedentarism); however, if proper regulated, AVs will likely reduce morbidity and mortality from motor vehicle crashes and may help reshape cities to promote healthy urban environments.”

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving. The ideal characteristic of artificial intelligence is its ability to rationalize and take actions that have the best chance of achieving a specific goal.

Machine Learning – the core of AI

Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can access data and use it learn for themselves.

The process of learning begins with observations or data, such as examples, direct experience, or instruction, in order to look for patterns in data and make better decisions in the future based on the examples that we provide. The primary aim is to allow the computers learn automatically without human intervention or assistance and adjust actions accordingly.

But, using the classic algorithms of machine learning, text is considered as a sequence of keywords; instead, an approach based on semantic analysis mimics the human ability to understand the meaning of a text.

Uses of AI:

  • Chatbots: Chatbots are artificial intelligence software that can simulate a conversation (or a chat) with a user in natural language through messaging applications, websites and mobile apps or through the telephone. A chatbot is often described as one of the most advanced and promising expressions of interaction between humans and machines. However, from a technological point of view, a chatbot only represents the natural evolution of a Question Answering system leveraging Natural Language Processing (NLP). Formulating responses to questions in natural language is one of the most typical Examples of Natural Language Processing applied in various enterprises’ end-use applications. Together, chatbots and AI can create a very powerful experience. Artificial Intelligence serves as the learning mechanism for many chatbots. Chatbot AI teaches the bots how to respond to your inquiries and helps the bot learn about your personal preferences. AI bots are responsible for engaging in meaningful conversation with an end-user using chatbot AI as a source of intellect.
  • Healthcare: Artificial intelligence in healthcare is the use of complex algorithms and software in another words artificial intelligence (AI) to emulate human cognition in the analysis, interpretation, and comprehension of complicated medical and healthcare data. Specifically, AI is the ability of computer algorithms to approximate conclusions without direct human input. What distinguishes AI technology from traditional technologies in health care is the ability to gain information, process it and give a well-defined output to the end-user. AI does this through machine learning algorithms and deep learning. The primary aim of health-related AI applications is to analyze relationships between prevention or treatment techniques and patient outcomes. AI programs have been developed and applied to practices such as diagnosis processes, treatment protocol development, drug development, personalized medicine, and patient monitoring and care. Large technology companies such as IBM and Google have also developed AI algorithms for healthcare. Additionally, hospitals are looking to AI software to support operational initiatives that increase cost saving, improve patient satisfaction, and satisfy their staffing and workforce needs. Companies are developing predictive analytics solutions that help healthcare managers improve business operations through increasing utilization, decreasing patient boarding, reducing length of stay and optimizing staffing levels.
  • Cyber Security: Cybercriminals will steal an estimated 33 billion records in 2023 according to the projections mentioned in the 2018 study from Juniper Research. That’s something very grave to watch for, and this sheds light on the pressing need to fortify cybersecurity across organizations. To tackle cybersecurity proactively and accurately, infusing intelligence across the entire security ecosystem of an organization is the need of the hour”. If the recent history is any indication, the targeted cyber-attacks that happened recently and even the past attacks suggest that no one is immune to these threats unless companies are fully prepared to respond. This calls for the implementation of fortified cyber security measures. Just the stand-alone cyber security solutions would not suffice. Artificial Intelligence has a huge potential to boost the cyber security profile of a company. AI could work in harmony with the cyber security implementations, to accelerate risk reduction exponentially. Many of the Cyber Security Solutions in the market uses AI models.  For example, LogRhythm uses machine learning to profile and detect threats, compromised accounts, privilege abuse and other anomalies. The Versive Security Engine (VSE) uses artificial intelligence to separate critical risks from routine network activity.  Cybereason’s AI-powered hunting technology determines whether an organization is under attack.

Latest Developments in AI

  •  Robotics is a prime area of development for the AI community so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of start-ups conducting research with the intention of taking the field further. Seattle company Olis Robotics caught the attention of GeekWire earlier this year with a solution designed to take robotics not just to the next level, but somewhere else entirely. According to CEO Don Pickering, “Olis Robotics’ innovation currently manifests in a plug-and-play controller loaded with our AI-driven software platform. The controller and our proprietary software can operate tethered robots on the ocean floor, satellite servicing robots using high-latency satellite links in space, or industrial robots cleaning up a dangerous chemical spill on land using 4G/5G networks. Our innovation will exponentially expand the role of robots to make an impact on human advancement and exploration.”
  • New AI software developed by researchers at the University of Oxford can recognize and track the faces of individual chimpanzees in their natural habitats. The software will allow researchers and wildlife conservationists to significantly cut back on time and resources spent analyzing video footage, according to a new paper. In Science Daily, Dan Schofield, researcher and DPhil student at Oxford University’s Primate Models Lab, School of Anthropology explained, “For species like chimpanzees, which have complex social lives and live for many years, getting snapshots of their behavior from short-term field research can only tell us so much. By harnessing the power of machine learning to unlock large video archives, it makes it feasible to measure behavior over the long term, for example observing how the social interactions of a group change over several generations.’ The computer vision model was trained using over 10 million images from Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute (PRI) video archive of wild chimpanzees in Guinea, West Africa. The team at Oxford hopes the new software will help improve conservation efforts in areas where chimpanzees are endangered.

PlayStation 5

History:

The PlayStation was released in Japan in December 1994, and it made its American debut in September 1995; both releases elicited critical acclaim and impressive sales. By 2005 the PlayStation had become the first console ever to ship 100 million units. It was discontinued by Sony is 2006.

The PlayStation 2 was first released in Japan on March 4, 2000, in North America on October 26, 2000, and in Europe and Australia on November 24, 2000, and is the successor to the original PlayStation, as well as the second installment in the PlayStation console line-up. It was discontinued by Sony in 2013, long after the release of the PlayStation 3

The PlayStation 3 was released on 11th November, 2006. In September 2009, the Slim model of the PlayStation 3 was released. It sold a total of 89.90 million consoles, just edging out Microsoft’s Xbox 360 in terms of consoles sold. It was officially discontinued in 2017 by Sony.

The PlayStation 4 was released on November 15, 2013, in the United States and Canada, followed by further releases on November 29, 2013. By the end of 2013, the PS4 was launched in more European, Asian and South American countries. It sold a quite good 110.4 million consoles and the numbers are still increasing. It is still not officially out of market.

PlayStation 5:

The PS5 design was officially revealed on June 11, 2020. When it came to the reveal of the console itself, Sony nailed it – the icing on the PS5 games reveal event, and with a few surprises in store too. Not one, but two PlayStation 5 consoles will launch – a standard edition with a 4K Blu-Ray disc drive, and a slimmer, disc-free Digital Edition. Both make use of USB-C charging for their controllers, and can make use of a HD camera accessory, alongside a new PS5 wireless headset and media remote. The consoles themselves feature a striking design that’s sure to split opinion. 

A curvy mixture of black and white plastics with blue highlight lighting, it’s far removed from the ‘black box’ designs of previous PlayStation consoles. The digital edition sees Sony moving with what’s increasingly becoming a physical-media-free hobby, banking on players to make use of digital downloads and streaming services rather than buying games or movies on disc-based hardware. 

It’ll certainly make swapping games with friends a challenge, as well as trading them in, and gaming stores will likely be a little worried by its presence – especially if it proves significantly cheaper than the main version of the machine. But for those that enjoy building a physical library, the disc-based console remains an option at least

According to rumors, the PlayStation 5 may come out into the markets by 20th November, 2020. It’s the 5th part to the Sony PlayStation saga and keeping in mind the epic hit of the PlayStation 4, it can be pretty well assumed that the PS5 is also going to be a big hit.  Its CPU is going to feature the AMD Zen 2-based CPU with 8 cores at 3.5 GHz. The GPU will be running at 10.28 TFLOP and the 36 CUs at 2.23 GHz. The memory interface will have a 16GB GDDR6 and the memory bandwidth will be 448GB/ s. Although Sony said that the internal storage will be 825GB SSD but as per the latest information, the PS5 will have a classic 1TB version and a premium 2TB version. So most probably the company was referring to the usable storage space on the 1TB version.

Previous rumors had pegged that the price of the PS5would be priced at $500 (roughly 37,900 rupees) in the US and the prices are expected to be higher in UK. But according to the latest updates, the PS5 is going to have a price of $760 (roughly 57,700 rupees) in the US and about €670 in UK.

Games on PS5

The new releases that are announced by Sony for the PS5 include Horizon Forbidden West, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Gran Turismo 7, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Demon’s Souls, Project Athia, Returnal, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Astro’s Playroom, Destruction AllStars and Godfal.

Third party games for PS5 include Resident Evil Village, Pragmata, Deathloop, Ghostwire: Tokyo, Little Devil Inside, NBA 2K21, Solar Ash, BugSnax, Kena – Bridge of Spirits, Goodbye Volcano High, Oddworld Soulstorm, Stray, Jett: The Far Shore, Hitman 3, Metal: Hellsinger, Chivalry 2, Paradise Lost, Dirt 5, Chorus, Madden 21, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Observer: System Redux, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, Outriders and WRC 9.

Special features of the PlayStation 5

  • Backwards Compatibility: In a world where Microsoft is touting backwards compatibility on their new Xbox 2/Project Scorpio system, the pressure is on for Sony to match that with the PS5. Of course, when we talk about backwards compatibility, we have to consider how far back we want. PlayStation has a lot of classic titles from PS1, PS2, and PS3. In fact, the PS4 has already racked up several titles that will no doubt be remembered fondly by history. PlayStation fans want compatibility as far back as we can get. There are so many games we want to have access to on our latest console. Sony has made some progress here with PS2 Classics on PS4, and they’ve certainly done plenty of remasters to bring games like The Last of Us and God of War III to the new console. For PS3 games, we have the streaming service known as PlayStation Now, but that’s yet another thing to pay for, and its selection is good but not overwhelmingly great. Meanwhile, Xbox players are getting more and more 360 games on their system for free if they already own it. I have to give them a point for that, because it is the right way to handle backwards compatibility. Ideally, PS5 will take this approach where you can keep the games you own and play them on the new system. Digital titles will be accessible, and physical games can be inserted to validate them and add them to your library like Xbox does.
  • Graphics Power: Any time there’s a new console, graphics are a major point of discussion. After all, power is the selling point of any next generation system. How much better will make games look and play on this system? Microsoft’s upcoming console boasts 6 teraflops of graphical power, which is above even the PS4 Pro. An analyst named Damian Thong recently weighed in and said Sony would be releasing the PS5 with 10 teraflops of power! That’s the equivalent of today’s top-shelf video cards on PC, so with another few years, that tech could reasonably find its way to consoles. With that kind of power, 4K wouldn’t be a problem. Graphics would look significantly better than they do now. Textures, lighting effects, antialiasing, 10 teraflops could do it all.
  • More Games: What do we talk about after graphics? Yep, it’s games. This feature is something that Sony has been bringing since the launch of PS4. New exclusives like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Nioh, and Persona 5 are just some of the many titles that Sony secured on their platform. With powerhouse developments like Guerilla Games, Naughty Dog, and Sucker Punch, Sony has no problems with their lineup. If anything, it’s the launch titles that will require special attention. Coming out of the gate strong is important, and that’s what I believe gamers want to see from this specific feature.
  • Processing power: All too often, this gets lumped in with graphics, but they’re two very different things. Graphics processing handles the way the game looks and the resolution. The CPU and RAM are the ones who put it into motion and calculate all those mathematical equations to make the game run. Without a powerful processor to back it up, the graphics could look as good as they want, but the frame rate would be slow and sluggish. You need both to make the machine run well. Of course, PlayStation’s architect, Mark Cerny, knows all about this, so I have faith he will bring the heat with PS5.
  • Hard Drive Space/Speed: With the release of the PS4, we saw games that were 50+ gigabytes in size for the first time on consoles. Even with the 500GB drives that came out, they filled up fast! Thankfully, not every game is that big, but my PS4 Pro’s 1TB of space went pretty quickly despite being double the size. PS5 should, at the very least, have a 1TB hard drive, but I would argue that 2TB is more of a sweet spot for hardcore gamers. Now, the speed of the hard drive matters as well. If Sony were to opt for a SSD inside the PS5, it would drive up costs. The trade-off, of course, would be faster loading times, but you pay more per gigabyte on a hard drive like that. I’m not too worried about the type of drive, more so the space. That being said, SSDs are more reliable, so I think we would certainly welcome the option.
  • Virtual Reality: Virtual reality is still a toddler in the realm of technology. There’s a lot of argument as to whether VR will take off, but I’m convinced that Sony has found the sweet spot this time. Bringing the Move controller back was a smart move, and incorporating the camera created a trifecta of peripherals that all suddenly found purpose. VR is one of those things that you won’t believe until you try it. Naysayers are often the very same people who have never experienced it. We’re confident Sony will win the VR war with their PlayStation VR headset and its successor on PS5.
  • Console Design: You know, console design isn’t a make-or-break scenario, but it does help to have a sexy looking system in your entertainment center. The PS4’s design was pretty sleek and, while the PS4 Pro has been compared to a Big Mac in its triple layered design, I still dig that model as well. Honestly, I would mind a glossy finish on the PS5. Bring back some of the style that the PS3 had, which of course was also compared to a George Foreman grill when it first released. People will always have their laugh, but I think a striking design with a glossy finish would be sweet for PS5.
  • Controller design: The design of the controller would be more important for me. This is an important feature. The DualShock 4 is perhaps the pinnacle of controller design, but we all like new things. I think Sony will try to one-up themselves again with the PS5’s controller. They’ll keep the basic layout the same (or risk riots), and add something new. This time around, we got the touch pad, and the lightbar. What’s next? Time will tell.

Marietas Islands

Location

The Marietas Islands are a group of small uninhabited islands a few miles off the coast of the state of Nayarit, Mexico, located in federal waters approximately 7.9 kilometres (4.9 mi) southwest of the peninsula known as Punta de Mita, in the municipality of Bahía de Banderas. The islands are a popular tourist destination because of the abundant marine life populations due to the islands being protected from fishing and hunting by the Mexican government. The ocean water depth around the islands is between 70 and 110 feet.

Geography

The Marietas islands were originally formed many thousands of years ago by volcanic activity, and are completely uninhabited. The islands are about an hour-long boat ride west-northwest from the coast of Puerto Vallarta or a 15-minute boat ride from the resort area of Punta Mita and are visited daily by hundreds of tourists. However, visitors cannot legally set foot on the islands. In the early 1900s, the Mexican government began conducting military testing on the islands since they were uninhabited. Many bombings and large explosions took place on the islands causing caves and rock formations to be created. After a massive international outcry, started by scientist Jacques Cousteau in the late 1960s, the government eventually decided to declare the islands a national park and therefore protect it against any fishing, hunting or human activity. Situated in a sort of open sun-drenched crater, this beach is affectionately nicknamed the “hidden beach” or “beach of love”. It is accessible only when the tide is low.

Tourism

Protection by the government has created an environment conducive to the development of the marine ecosystem, and is a popular location for snorkeling and scuba diving. Not even during whale watching tours, people often report seeing sea turtles, manta rays, octopus, wild dolphins, humpback whales and thousands of species of tropical fish around the islands. The islands are also home to a few thousand birds, with species such as the blue-footed booby. Currently, the Mexican government allows only a few companies to go to the islands and allows the landing of passengers onto one secluded beach with the necessary permit from SEMARNAT.

From Punta de Mita, small boats do tours through the islands to see the wildlife of this region. From December to March, gray and humpback whales can be observed that come from Alaska to give birth off the coast of Nayarit.

It has been estimated in studies that the so-called “hidden beach” or the “love beach” can accommodate up to 116 visitors a day without degrading. The carrying capacity of the entire park is 625 visitors. However the actual number of visitors is typically three or four times this limit with more than 2500 visitors landing on it each day during 2016. During the Easter holidays more than 250 boats landed on the island per day, some of them carrying as many as 400 tourists. This has been due to recent interest in the Island. The number of tourists in 2012 was only 27,500, but this skyrocketed to 127,372 in 2015.

Things to do

  1. Islas Marietas Eco Discovery

In terms of pristine natural beauty and scenic seaside vistas, few areas in the world are richer than the Marieta Islands. Protected as part of Islas Marietas National Park, these natural wonders are home to a number of native wildlife species, as well as some of the most breathtaking landscapes in all of Mexico. On this tour, guides give you the opportunity to enjoy the natural majesty of the Las Islas Marietas at your own pace. Explore the serene seawater while snorkeling, kayaking, or paddle boarding. No matter what type of natural wonder you’re looking for, on the tour of Islas Marietas, the guides will make sure you find it.

The Bay of Banderas is one of the few places in the world that is a natural sanctuary for a profusion of natural land and sea life. Within the Bay of Banderas, there are few areas lusher in life than the waters surrounding Islas Marietas National Park. During the winter months, it is common to see humpback whales in the bay, since this is a centuries-old breeding ground and respite following their annual migrations. Dolphin encounters are a regular year-round occurrence. You may see them in large groups leaping out of the water or in pairs riding along near the bows of boats in the bay.

2. Rhythms of the Night –SAVIA

Deep in the heart of the steamy tropical rainforest at Las Caletas, near a crumbling pyramid, there is a mystical amphitheater where excitement is waiting for you. As the stars appear in the sky, the spirit world convenes here in a dazzling world-class show that will take your breath away. Conceived of, written and directed by Gilles Ste-Croix, co-creator of Cirque du Soleil, Rhythms of the Night – SAVIA is a celebration of spectacular acrobatic skill, pulsating rhythms, vibrant dance, amazing costumes and Ste-Croix’s breathtaking interpretation of the Aztec creation story.

SAVIA: The Legend of the 5 Suns is truly a feast for the senses. Great entertainment, food, and adventure await. As you take your place in the incredible outdoor amphitheater for a show at the pyramid under a serene starry sky, you’ll feel like you’re entering another time, another place. And perhaps you are, for each night in Puerto Vallarta, this is where the spirit world of the ancients once again comes alive!

An explosion of color, sound and spectacle, SAVIA tells a powerful story about the persistence of the human spirit using colorful imagery, music, dance and movement. Legend has it there were four civilizations of humanity prior to ours. Each new period saw the evolution of the human race, as well as its demise. These previous worlds were destroyed by tornadoes, fires and floods, yet rituals and sacrifices have kept the human spirit alive. From the bones and ashes of the ancients comes a celebration of the fifth sun and the unflagging hope for a better world. Rhythms of the Night dinner and show, with its intimate setting, vibrant story and stunning feats of acrobatics, are nothing short of magical.

3. Valarta Canopy tour

A canopy tour zip line tour is a pre-established route through a forested or other beautiful landscape, often with mountains and valleys making use mainly of zip-lines and suspended bridges between platforms that are built upon trees. Visitors are harnessed to steel cables all the time while on these tours, ensuring their safety.

Canopy tours have existed for a long time, but just recently have they become a tourist attraction and a popular tour in Mexico, Costa Rica and many other places around the world. Canopy tours in Puerto Vallarta are a truly thrilling ecological experience that offers you the unique opportunity to glide through the treetops on a network of cables suspended high above the jungle trails in the local tropical forest. The list of the main canopy zip line tours in the area includes – Canopy River, Canopy Los Veranos, Extreme Zip Line Adventure, Canopy La Vista, Mundo Nogalito Canopy, Las Animas Adventure Park and Rancho Mi Chaparrita, to name a few.

Why visit the Marietas Islands?

  1. Hidden Beach

Officially it’s called Playa del Amour, but visitors reckon Hidden Beach does the job better. After all, it’s tucked away in a cave underneath one of the islands and can only be reached by swimming through a tunnel. But what makes it really bucket list-worthy is the fact that the cave has no lid, opening it up to the sunshine – and savvy aerial photographers.

2. The snorkeling scene

With a snorkel and fins, the Marieta Islands are your oyster. There are more than 10 kinds of coral around these parts, reeling in the biggest load of reef fish in Banderas Bay. In winter, the kings of the ocean and humpback whales mooch through the waters.

3. The boobies

It’s not all about the amazing sea life. Around 100 bird species hang around the Marieta Islands, including a few record breakers. There’s the world’s largest colony of brown boobies, for starters, and the islands are also home to biggest swallow breeding grounds in Mexico.

4. The castaway vibe

Hidden Beach is the closest you can get to actually stepping foot on the Marieta Islands. And thanks to their uber protected status – they’re national park territory – only a few tour operators can weigh anchor in their waters. With all that peace and quiet, it’s hard to believe you’re only an hour’s boat ride from Puerto Vallarta.

5. The History

Way back in the early 1900s, the Mexican government used the Marieta Islands as a military testing site. These explosions carved out some of the caves and oddly-shaped rock formations you’ll see when you visit today. In fact, rumour has it that even Hidden Beach was created by one of these test bombs.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and set out for this paradise on the face of the earth!

LADAKH

Location and history

Ladakh (“land of high passes”) is a region in northern India. It is located between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Himalayas to the south. Ladakh is well-known for its remote mountain scenery. It is inhabited by a mix of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan people. Their la nguage is an archaic dialect of the Tibetan language. It is sometimes called “Little Tibet”, because it has been strongly influenced by Tibetan culture. Ladakh is one of the least populated regions in the area.

Historically, the region of Ladakh included neighboring Baltistan, the Indus and Zanskar Valleys, Lahaul and Spiti, Aksai Chin and the Nubra Valley. The modern region borders Tibet to the east, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, and Kashmir, Jammu and Baltistan to the west. The largest town in Ladakh is Leh. It is one of the few remaining places in South Asia where Buddhism is very strong. A majority of Ladakhis are Tibeta Buddhists and the rest are mostly Shia Muslims. Leh is followed by Kargil as the second largest town in Ladakh. 

How to go

The nearest airport to Ladakh is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh which is just 3.8 km from the main city. The cabs are available outside the airport; by which you can get transferred to the heart of Ladakh easily. This is one of the highest commercial airports that is directly connected to the major cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Srinagar and Jammu. The International travelers can directly board a flight from the major cities like Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi to reach Leh Airport by air and then ultimately to Ladakh, by a cab.

Places to Visit

Pangong Lake:

Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, China. Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies within the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 km2. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It is not a part of the Indus river basin area and geographically a separate landlocked river basin.

Zanskar valley:

Zanskar or Zahar (locally) or Zangskar is a subdistrict or tehsil of the Kargil district, which lies in the Indian union territory of Ladakh. The administrative centre is Padum. Zanskar, together with the neighboring region of Ladakh, was briefly a part of the kingdom of Guge in Western Tibet. The Zanskar Range is a mountain range in the union territory of Ladakh that separates Zanskar from Ladakh. Geologically, the Zanskar Range is part of the Tethys Himalaya, an approximately 100-km-wide synclinorium formed by strongly folded and imbricated, weakly metamorphosed sedimentary series. The average height of the Zanskar Range is about 6,000 m (19,700 ft). Its eastern part is known as Rupshu.

Chadar trek:

The Chadar Trek or the Zanskar Gorge is a winter trail in the Zanskar, in the Indian administered union territory of Ladakh. Traditionally the only means of travel in the area during the harsh winter months, the trail has become popular with international adventure tourists.

Nubra valley:

Nubra is a subdivision and a tehsil in the Indian union territory of Ladakh. Its inhabited areas form a tri-armed valley cut by the Nubra and Shyok rivers. Its Tibetan name Ldumra means “the valley of flowers”. Diskit, the headquarters of Nubra, is about 150 km north from Leh, the capital of Ladakh. The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachan River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges. The Shyok River is a tributary of the Indus River. The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 ft. i.e. 3048 metres above the sea level. The common way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La pass from Leh town.

Hemis National Park:

Hemis National Park (or Hemis High Altitude National Park) is a high altitude national park in the eastern Ladakh Union Territory of the Republic of India. Globally famous for its snow leopards, it is believed to have the highest density of them in any protected area in the world It is the only national park in India that is north of the Himalayas, the largest notified protected area in India (largest National park) and is the second largest contiguous protected area, after the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and surrounding protected areas. The park is home to a number of species of endangered mammals, including the snow leopard. Hemis National Park is India’s protected area inside the Palearctic ecozone, outside the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary northeast of Hemis, and the proposed Tso Lhamo Cold Desert Conservation Area in North Sikkim. The park is bounded on the north by the banks of the Indus River, and includes the catchments of Markha, Sumdah and Rumbak, and parts of the Zanskar Range.

Magnetic Hill:

Magnet Hill is a “Cyclops hill” located near Leh in Ladakh, India. The layout of the area and surrounding slopes create the optical illusion of a hill. The hill road is actually a downhill road. Objects and cars on the hill road may appear to roll uphill in defiance of gravity when they are, in fact, rolling downhill. It is 7.5 km southeast of Nimmoo and 26.5 km west of Leh on Srinagar-Ladakh road.

Why visit Ladakh?

Sweeping scenic beauty

Enclosed in between the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges, the Ladakh region is a highland that is layered in spectral of red, orange, brown, green, and grey with large crystal blue water bodies. The rugged landscape under the stark blue sky, aligned by snow crested peaks and some lush green patches of vegetation along the valleys formed by the perennial streams together make for a surreal scenic beauty. So if you are still thinking that Ladakh is just a barren landscape, I’m afraid, you are going to miss the shelter in heaven.

Foodie benefits

I know you must have tried out both momos and thukkpas out here in the city at some Indo-Tibetan restaurant or at any edge eateries. But out there in the mass of indigenous Indo-Tibetan sphere you will just relish each bite of momos and slurp of thukkpa. Just imagine that there is a mystical spice hidden in the valley that top-ups the steamy momos to a lip smacking snack and lashing of red chilli in the bowl of thukkpa will just counteract the chilly and dry winds ensuing a great solace.

Vibrant and indigenous festivals

You might have read or heard about the indigenous culture of the Indo-Tibetans – about their lifestyle, rituals and festivals. I bet it will be a pleasure to your eyes if you are visiting Ladakh during the auspicious festivals of Losar, Hemis, Naro Nasjal, Kalachakra, Dosmoche, Tak, and Phyang. These festivals are not just vibrant and unique in their own ways, but if you trigger the traveler inside you, you will find a sensational vibe of ritual that drives away the evil spirit. And if you can’t trigger that out, you have got to capture and enjoy the drama performance, which is a fusion of drums and trumpets, and thumping steps of the masked Lamas.

Lose yourself in the barren panorama

So, when you can afford your sound health to that altitude then why not to spend a bit more and explore the barren and rugged beauty that is dispersed throughout the region.  It is a region where you can breathe in some fresh air, let go all the weariness and explore the untraceable landscape of Ladakh.

Limber up your photography skills

The mountainscapes, desertscapes and riverscapes altogether offers a wonderful scenic frame to limber up your photography skills. So you have got a chance to click countless candid moments. Not to miss moments are the heavenly horizons, unplugged landscapes, wildlife and culture and sparkling blue lakes.

Conquer the highest trekkable peaks and mountain passes

You know Ladakh is quite popular for certain trekkable peaks like Stok Kangri, Nun-Kun and Kang-Yatse? Well conquering that altitude isn’t a cup of tea but you are still fit to go for it. You can dream of a strenuous climb and days like Eskimos! Even if you think it is hard for you to get acclimatized to the high altitude of 6,000 meters and above, you got those historical mountain passes that used to be the trade routes once upon a time between India and China. Once you conquer one of these mountain passes I bet you will receive the best bird’s eye view of the distant valleys and remote villages tucked in the midst of the Trans-Himalayan ranges. Some of the notable mountain passes are the Khardung La, Tanglang La, Chang La, Wari La, and Namshang La.

Being an abode of some of the ancient Buddhist monasteries and gompas

The Ladakh region is also notable for housing some of the ancient Buddhist monasteries and gompas that chronicle the footsteps of Buddhism in India. The vibrant festivals, indigenous attire and strange rituals are some other things that you are going to see in addition when you visit these monasteries. Further, the artistic décor, ancient manuscripts and antiques like statues, thangkas and murals are simply going to take you back to the pre-historic era. Some of the notable Buddhist monasteries and gompas in the Ladakh region are the Hemis monastery, Alchi monastery, Matho monastery, Spituk monastery, Thiksey monastery, Stakna monastery, Stok monastery, and Lamayuru monastery.

Acclimatize your driving skills and snaking through mountain passes

If you are a traveler on wheels the aslant roads snaking through the barren mountains will give you an opportunity to acclimatize your driving skills. The drive from Manali to Leh, crossing some of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world; an expedition through Khardung La to Nubra Valley; and a thrilling journey from Leh to Srinagar is some of the best routes in Ladakh region where you can whizz and snake through the mountainscapes.

Stretch your money with cheap accomodations

Ladakh is one such destination where you are going to spend much on travelling than lodging. You will find neat and tidy rooms in Leh starting at just Rs. 600 even during the peak tourist season. Then you can also find accommodation in some local villages in the Ladakh region and experience the local culture throughout your trip. Further, you have plenty of options for camping in Ladakh.

Away from the Hi-tech life, live like a nomad

Overlooking the sparkling blue Pangong Lake an overnight camping is much needed for techies like you. Just imagine a life other than technology, civilization and infrastructure and you step into the wide open space of nature. How about a part of your life spending at the Hunder Sand Dunes? It is beyond your dreams. Amid the towering mountains camping in Hunder Sand Dunes makes you feel like you are living life like a nomad. There again if you can afford further couple of days, camping at the Tso Moriri Wetland will surely give you an opportunity to get acquainted with some of the beautiful species of high altitude birds and animals.

So if you are still thinking why to visit the Ladakh region once in your lifetime, you have got your own vibe to add further as another reason. If you are an adventurer then the winter is the best time to exploit every bit of Ladakh. The Snow Leopard trek and Frozen River trek are some of the notable winter expeditions in the Ladakh region which you can go for. If you are a leisurescaper, then you have time to plan a customized trip starting from April and continuing till October. So what are you waiting for?

FERMI BUBBLES

What are Fermi Bubbles?

Fermi Bubbles are giant gamma ray structures emanating from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, extending tens of thousands of light-years north and south of the galactic plane. They were discovered using the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope during a survey for dark matter.  In 2010, gamma-ray observations by Fermi revealed previously unknown features in our galaxy that stretch halfway across the sky. Now called the Fermi Bubbles, these mysterious structures emerge above and below the center of our galaxy, spanning a total length of about 50,000 light-years.

The plane of our galaxy glows brightly in gamma rays, which result when high-energy particles called cosmic rays interact with gas and dust. The Fermi Bubbles emit higher-energy gamma rays than the rest of the galaxy’s disk.  The bubbles may be related to the release of vast amounts of energy emitted from the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. We know that in other galaxies, supermassive black holes that ingest large amounts of matter can power high-energy jets. It’s possible the Milky Way’s central black hole went through such a phase in the past, producing jets responsible for the Fermi Bubbles we see today.

What are Gamma Rays?

A gamma ray, or gamma radiation {\displaystyle \gamma }, is a penetrating electromagnetic radiation arising from the radioactive decay of atomic nuclei. It consists of the shortest wavelength electromagnetic waves and so imparts the highest photon energy.  Natural sources of gamma rays originating on Earth are mostly as a result of radioactive decay and secondary radiation from atmospheric interactions with cosmic ray particles. However, there are other rare natural sources, such as terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, which produce gamma rays from electron action upon the nucleus. Notable artificial sources of gamma rays include fission, such as that which occurs in nuclear reactors, and high energy physics experiments, such as neutral pion decay and nuclear fusion.

Gamma rays and X-rays are both electromagnetic radiation, and since they overlap in the electromagnetic spectrum, the terminology varies between scientific disciplines. A large fraction of astronomical gamma rays are screened by Earth’s atmosphere. Gamma rays are ionizing radiation and are thus biologically hazardous. Due to their high penetration power, they can damage bone marrow and internal organs. Unlike alpha and beta rays, they pass easily through the body and thus pose a formidable radiation protection challenge, requiring shielding made from dense materials such as lead or concrete.

Latest developments

  • For the first time, scientists have observed visible light from the Fermi bubbles, enormous blobs of gas that sandwich the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. The newly spotted glow was emitted by hydrogen gas that was electrically charged, or ionized, within the bubbles. Originally observed in 2010, the bubbles spew high-energy light known as gamma rays. The towering structures are thought to be relics of an ancient outburst of gas from the galaxy’s center. But scientists don’t know the source. The outflow could have been the result of the black hole at the center of the galaxy messily gobbling up matter, or emissions caused by bursts of stars forming. Within the bubbles, gas is expanding outward, its motion altering the apparent wavelength of its light. Material closer to the solar system is traveling toward it, appearing bluer and more distant gas is moving away, appearing redder.  The wavelength shift allowed the researchers to pinpoint the gas’s velocity at one location within the bubbles. Using the Wisconsin H-Alpha Mapper telescope, or WHAM, the researchers determined that the gas flowed outward at about 220 kilometers per second. The estimate agreed with an earlier measurement made using ultraviolet light. By taking measurements in other locations, the researchers hope to more fully map out the velocity of the gas.
  •  In 2010, astronomers working with the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope announced the discovery of two giant blobs. These blobs were centered on the core of the Milky Way galaxy, but they extended above and below the plane of our galactic home. Their origins are still a mystery, but however they got there, they are emitting copious amounts of high-energy radiation.  More recently, the IceCube array in Antarctica has reported 10 super-duper-high-energy neutrinos sourced from the bubbles, leading some astrophysicists to speculate that some crazy subatomic interactions are afoot. Recently, a team of researchers pored through the available data, even adding results from the newly operational High Altitude Water Cherenkov detector and combined that information with various theoretical models for the Bubbles, searching for just the right combo.  In one possible scenario, protons inside the Bubbles occasionally slam into each other and produce pions, which are exotic particles that quickly decay into gamma rays. In another one, the flood of high-energy electrons in the Bubbles interacts with the ever-present radiation of the cosmic microwave background, boosting some lucky photons into the gamma regime. In a third, shock waves at the outer edges of the Bubbles use magnetic fields to drive local but lethargic particles to high velocities, which then begin emitting cosmic rays. But try as they might, the authors of this study couldn’t find any of the scenarios (or any combination of these scenarios) to fit all the data. In short, we still don’t know what drives the gamma ray emission from the Bubbles, whether the Bubbles also produce neutrinos, or what made the Bubbles in the first place.
  • A pair of gigantic gamma-ray bubbles centered on the core of the Milky Way galaxy was discovered by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope 10 years ago. But how these so-called “Fermi bubbles” arose was a mystery. Recently, however, researchers at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory (SHAO) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have presented a new model that, for the first time, simultaneously explains the origins of both the Fermi bubbles and the galactic center biconical X-ray structure, which was discovered in 2003. According to this model, the two structures are essentially the same phenomenon and was caused by the forward shock driven by a pair of jets emanating from Sagittarius A* (commonly called: Sgr A*) – the supermassive black hole lurking at the galactic center—about five million years ago. Although they cannot be seen with the naked eye, they are very bright in diffuse gamma-ray emissions. In gamma rays, the Fermi bubbles have very sharp edges and the edges coincide well with an X-ray structure called the galactic center biconical X-ray structure. Seeing the very similar edges of Fermi bubbles and the galactic center biconical X-ray structure, the SHAO researchers realized these structures might share the same origin. Furthermore, the biconical X-ray structure could be naturally explained by the shock-compressed thin shell of hot thermal gas driven by a past energy outburst from the galactic center. In previous theoretical models and computer simulations of the Fermi bubbles, two major competing energy sources were proposed, i.e., star formation at the galactic center and Sgr A*. However, in both models, the Fermi bubbles are explained as ‘ejecta’ bubbles, while the forward shock is always located much further away from the edge of the Fermi bubbles. In other words, these models could not explain the Fermi bubbles and the galactic center biconical X-ray structure simultaneously. In contrast, the theoretical model in this study, proposed by Guo Fulai and his graduate student Zhang Ruiyu from SHAO, used computer simulations to demonstrate for the first time that the Fermi bubbles and the galactic center biconical X-ray structure are the same phenomenon. In this model, the edge of the Fermi bubbles is the forward shock driven by a pair of jets emanating from Sgr A* about five million years ago. The age of the bubbles inferred in this study is also consistent with that derived from recent ultraviolet observations of some high velocity clouds along many sightlines towards the bubble region. The new model indicates that the total energy injected during the Fermi bubble event by the supermassive black hole is close to that released by about 20,000 supernovae. The total matter consumed by Sgr A* during this event is about 100 solar masses. Near the galactic center, the biconical X-ray structure has a very narrow base, while the forward shock produced by star formation or black hole winds can easily propagate to large distances, leading to a base much wider than observed. In contrast, collimated jets deposit most of the energy quickly to large distances along the jet direction, naturally leading to a narrow base for the shock front near the galactic plane.

HAMPI

What is Hampi?

Hampi or Hampe (in Kannada) also referred to as the Group of Monuments at Hampi, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in east-central Karnataka, India. It became the pilgrimage centre of the Hindu religion. It was the capital of Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century. Chronicles left by Persian and European travelers, particularly the Portuguese, said that Hampi used to be a prosperous, wealthy and grand city near the Tungabhadra River, with numerous temples, farms and trading markets. By 1500 CE, Hampi-Vijayanagara was the world’s second-largest medieval-era city after Beijing and probably India’s richest at that time, attracting traders from Persia and Portugal. The Vijayanagara Empire was defeated by a coalition of Muslim sultanates; its capital was conquered, pillaged and destroyed by sultanate armies in 1565, after which Hampi remained in ruins.

Located in Karnataka near the modern-era city of Hosapete, Hampi’s ruins are spread over 4,100 hectares (16 sq mi) and it has been described by UNESCO as an “austere, grandiose site” of more than 1,600 surviving remains of the last great Hindu kingdom in South India that includes “forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, memorial structures, water structures and others”. Hampi predates the Vijayanagara Empire; there is evidence of Ashokan epigraphy and it is mentioned in the Ramayana and the Puranas of Hinduism as Pampaa Devi Tirtha Kshetra. Hampi continues to be an important religious centre, housing the Virupaksha Temple, an active Adi Shankara-linked monastery and various monuments belonging to the old city.

Location

Hampi is situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in the eastern part of central Karnataka near the state border with Andhra Pradesh. It is 376 kilometers (234 mi) from Bangalore, 385 kilometers (239 mi) from Hyderabad and 165 kilometers (103 mi) from Hubli. The closest railway station is in Hosapete, 13 kilometers away and the closest airport is 32 kilometers at Jindal in Toranagallu which has connectivity to Bangalore and Hyderabad. Overnight buses and trains also connect Hampi with Goa, Secunderabad and Bangalore.  It is 140 kilometers (87 mi) southeast of the Badami and Aihole archaeological sites.

History

A place of such great magnificence and opulence is sure to have a rich cultural heritage to it too. Hampi was a part of the Mauryan Empire back in the third century BC. There has been enough evidence of the fact that the rock edifices found in the Bellary district were a common form of recording relevant information in the times of Ashoka. Hampi was the capital city during the four different dynasties altogether in the Vijayanagar city that came into existence in the year 1336 AD. The Vijayanagara Empire reached unfathomable heights under the guidance of King Krishnadeva Raya of the Tuluva Dynasty. There is a legend associated with the place in relation to Ramayana. It is well known that the epic Ramayana is divided into seven ‘Kaands’ or episodes. One particular episode named ‘Kishkindha Kaand’ which has special significance concerning Hampi. According to the legend, the episode took place when Lord Rama and Lord Lakshman reach the Land of Monkeys. The place where they reach is said to be Hampi, and there are many geographical proofs in relation to that too.

Iconic spots

  • The Lion God Narsimha: Hampi also has a story which related it to Lord Narasimha. There is a temple known as Lakshmi Narasimha Temple which is just a little south of the famous Krishna Temple. Intricately designed pillars here show the different shades of Prahlad’s life, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Lord Narasimha’s destruction of the demon king Hiranyakashyap is displayed here in the form of articulate carvings.
  • Bhima’s Gate: It is said that during the exile of the Pandavas, Draupadi came across a flower named Saugandhika which had a lovely smell. Enchanted, she desired more of these flowers, so Bhima set forth to find its source. After overcoming many obstacles, he found a pond full of the Saugandhika flower. At this point, Lord Hanuman took the form of an old man and lay across on the pathway. When Bheem asked him to move, he said that he is too old and that Bheem should move his tail himself. When repeated attempts by Bheem failed, he realized that he was facing Lord Hanuman. Bheem then fought two demons guarding the pond and returned with the flower for Draupadi.
  • Yantrodharaka Hanuman Temple: Yantrodharaka Hanuman Temple is present at a distance of around 2km from the famous Virupaksha temple. This temple is a part of a cave standing at the peak of a hill and is dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Hanuman. Also, the Tungabhadra flows through the steps of this hill. Here, you can find Lord Hanuman indulged in a state of deep meditation. Within a distance of five minutes from here, you can find another temple dedicated to Lord Srinivasa. In case you feel hungry, you can approach small stalls nearby selling mangoes, biscuits or cucumbers. It is best if you plan on your itinerary to this place in between October to March.
  • Queen’s Bath: Reckoned as a large bath of Hampi, Queen’s Bath exemplifies the Vijayanagara’s architectural excellence. It lies close to one of the most awful places to visit in Hampi- the Royal Enclosure. Although built around 500 years ago, this magnificent structure still remains intact in its construction. Its simplest exterior perfectly blends with an ornate interior to embrace its overall appearance. It a rectangular building admeasuring around 30 square meters and has a large sunken bath at its center. It may interest you to find arched corridors all around this Royal bath.
  • Prasanna Virupaksha Temple (Underground Temple): Underground Shiva Temple’s every single piece of the structure reflects a perfect blend of mythology and history. This is amongst the only places to visit in Hampi lying under water. The central portion of this ancient shrine always lies immersed in water. According to local beliefs, it is the Tungabhadra which flows through the interior of this temple through canals. There is the main hall, a courtyard, a small hall that leads to the innermost sanctum. All around the temple is a lush green lawn where you can sit and relax for some time.

Reasons why you should visit Hampi

  • Heaps of giant boulders perch precariously over miles of undulating terrain. The Vijayanagara kings chose Hampi/Vijayanagara as their capital because of its location because surrounded by hills on three sides and fronted by the Tungabhadra; it offered enemies a difficult target. Today, the hillside and the river offer tourists some unforgettable natural and archeological splendor. Any visitor to South India should not miss this epitome of Hoysala architecture.
  • Hampi is charismatic even in its ruined state, attracting thousands of visitors every year. Vast stretches of boulder-strewn hills make the backdrop of Hampi unique. Dotted around the hills and valleys are 500 plus monuments. Among them are beautiful temples, basements of palaces, remains of aquatic structures, ancient market streets, royal pavilions, bastions, royal platforms, treasury buildings.., the list is practically endless.
  • Hampi is a backpacker’s paradise, the same way a pilgrim’s delight. Unreal and bewitching, the forlorn ruins of Hampi, around 330km from Goa, make a highly worthwhile and popular, side trip from the coast. They lie scattered over a landscape that leaves you spellbound.
  • Hampi is also famous for its religious history rather than just the architectural beauty of its ruins. There are many well known temples here including the Virupaksha Temple, the Vittala temple and Anjeneyadri. The Tungabhadra, one of the major rivers of Karnataka flows serenely along this town, providing an awe-inspiring natural setting near the ruins.
  • The stone chariot at the Vittala Temple stands as an icon of the rock carving traditions of the Vijayanagara kings, and has been adopted as the emblem of the state’s tourism department.
  • Thought it is not primarily known for climbing, Hampi has a number of places where the bouldering folks camp. There are even some guesthouses who rent out the basic gadgets.

The best time to visit Hampi is during the winters between November and February. Unfortunately quality hotels in Hampi are hard to find. Therefore, if you are looking for better facilities then Hospet is a better option.

Finance Bill 2020

The Finance Bill 2020 has been passed by the Lok Sabha on 23 March 2020 and also duly returned by the Rajya Sabha. There were significant changes made to the original Finance Bill 2020 which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 1 February 2020.

The Lok Sabha passed the Finance Bill by voice vote with 40 amendments amidst the coronavirus pandemic. On March 27, President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to amend the Finance Bill 2020 and now it became the Finance Act 2020.

In the Union Budget 2020-2021, the government proposed to spend INR 30,42,230 crore in the next Fiscal Year which is 12.7% higher than the revised estimate of the year 2019-2020. After the Financial Bill 2020 has passed in the Lok Sabha, these proposals have been given effect.

What is a Finance Bill?

As per Article 110 of the Indian Constitution, Finance Bill is a Money Bill having a Memorandum containing explanations of the provisions included in it. The Finance Bill can only be introduced in Lok Sabha. However, Rajya Sabha can recommend amendments to be made in the Bill and it is up to Lok Sabha to accept or reject the recommendations. The bill must be passed by the Parliament within 75 days of its introduction.

Importance of Finance Bill

All the elements included in the Finance Act associated with a particular Financial Year are of course important. Even so, there are particular elements that take precedence over the others. The most important element is the rules laid down in the Act with respect to Income Tax Rates. Every year, the Act lays down in detail all the associated provisions related to Income Tax in the country. Since this applies to a large number of taxpayers, it is considered one of the most important elements.

The Finance Act is responsible for laying down the tax slabs that applies to taxpayers. The Act includes various details related to – Income through salary, agricultural income, tax slabs for senior citizens, tax slabs for very senior citizens, income Tax Surcharges, taxes chargeable to companies and advance tax.

These are a few important elements included and elaborated upon in detail in the Finance Act for a particular year.

Direct taxes

The Finance Act for a particular financial year also includes the amendments that have been made with respect to Direct Taxes. The Amendments made under various sections are noted down in this section of the Finance Act and each amendment of every section is noted down separately. Also included in the Finance Act are the details of the insertion of new sections, if any.

List of important amendments in the Finance Bill 2020

1- Additional excise duty on Petrol and Diesel by up to Rs 18 per litre and Rs 12 per litre respectively as and when required.

2- The original Finance Bill proposed to reduce the time spent in India by the Indian citizens or people of Indian origins to qualify as Indian tax resident from earlier 182 days to 120 days in 2019. Now, the Finance Act states that the 120-day rule will not apply to those citizens having Indian-sourced income less than INR 15 lakh in the relevant Fiscal Year. 

3- The Tax Deducted at Source or TDS rate on payment of dividend to non-residents and foreign companies have been set at 20% after the amendment. 

4- In the original Finance Bill, the dividend received by the shareholders was taxable. However, after the amendment, the dividends received by the shareholders will not be taxed if DDT has been paid as per the original law with effect to April 1. 

5- After the amendment, 1% of TDS has been imposed on e-commerce transactions. 

6- Finance Act, 2020 has extended reduced tax withholding rate of 2% to royalty in the nature of consideration for sale, distribution or exhibition of cinematographic films.

RECESSION AFTER CORONA

The global economy will contract by 3% this year as countries around the world shrink at the fastest pace in decades, the International Monetary Fund says. The IMF described the global decline as the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It said the pandemic had plunged the world into a “crisis like no other”. The Fund added that a prolonged outbreak would test the ability of governments and central banks to control the crisis. Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s chief economist, said the crisis could knock $9 trillion (£7.2 trillion) off global GDP over the next two years.

An economic consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the first major sign of the coronavirus recession was the 2020 stock market crash on 20 February. IMF projects suggest that the coronavirus recession will be the most severe global economic downturn since the Great Depression, and that it will be “far worse” than the Great Recession of 2009. The United Nations (UN) predicted in April 2020 that global unemployment will wipe out 6.7 per cent of working hours globally in the second quarter of 2020—equivalent to 195 million full-time workers. In western nations, unemployment is expected to be at around 10%, with more severely affected nations from the COVID-19 pandemic having higher unemployment rates. The developing world is also being affected by a drop in remittances.

The recession saw the collapse of the price of oil triggered by the 2020 Russia–Saudi Arabia oil price war, the collapse of tourism, the hospitality industry, the energy industry and a significant downturn in consumer activity in comparison to the previous decade. Global stock markets crashed around 20 to 30% during late February and March 2020, respectively. During the crash, global stock markets made unprecedented and volatile swings, mainly due to extreme uncertainty in the markets.

2019 Global Economic Slowdown

During 2019, the IMF reported that the world economy was going through a “synchronized slowdown”, which entered into its slowest pace since the Great Financial Crisis. ‘Cracks’ were showing in the consumer market as global markets began to suffer through a ‘sharp deterioration’ of manufacturing activity.  Global growth was believed to have peaked in 2017, when the world’s total industrial output began to start a sustained decline in early 2018. The IMF blamed ‘heightened trade and geopolitical tensions’ as the main reason for the slowdown, citing Brexit and the China–United States trade war as primary reasons for slowdown in 2019, while other economists blamed liquidity issues.

In April 2019, the U.S yield curve inverted, which sparked fears of a 2020 recession across the world. The inverted yield curve and trade war fears prompted a sell-off in global stock markets during March 2019, which prompted more fears that a recession was imminent. Rising debt levels in the European Union and the United States had always been a concern for economists. However, in 2019, that concern was heightened during the economic slowdown, and economists began warning of a ‘debt bomb’ occurring during the next economic crisis. Debt in 2019 was 50% higher than that during the height of the Great Financial Crisis.  Economists have argued that this increased debt is what led to debt defaults in economies and businesses across the world during the recession. The first signs of trouble leading up to the recession occurred in September 2019, when the US Federal Reserve began intervening in the role of investor to provide funds in the repo markets; the overnight repo rate spiked above 6% during that time, which would play a crucial factor in triggering the events that led up to the crash.

Sino-American Trade War

The China–United States trade war occurred during 2018 to early 2020, and caused significant damage across global economies. President Donald Trump in 2018 began setting tariffs and other trade barriers on China with the goal of forcing it to make changes to what the U.S. says are “unfair trade practices”. Among those trade practices and their effects are the growing trade deficit, the alleged theft of intellectual property, and the alleged forced transfer of American technology to China.

In the United States, the trade war brought struggles for farmers and manufacturers and higher prices for consumers, which resulted in the U.S manufacturing industry entering into a ‘mild recession’ during 2019. In other countries it has also caused economic damage, including violent protests in Chile and Ecuador due to transport and energy price surges, though some countries have benefited from increased manufacturing to fill the gaps. It has also led to stock market instability. The governments of several countries, including China and the United States, have taken steps to address some of the damage caused by deterioration in China–United States relations and tit-for-tat tariffs. During the recession, the downturn of consumerism and manufacturing from the trade war is believed to have inflated the economic crisis

Financial Crisis

The global stock market crash began on 20 February 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, global markets, banks and businesses were all facing crises not seen since the Great Depression in 1929.

From 24 to 28 February, stock markets worldwide reported their largest one-week declines since the 2008 financial crisis, thus entering a correction. Global markets into early March became extremely volatile, with large swings occurring in global markets. On 9 March, most global markets reported severe contractions, mainly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and oil price war between Russia and the OPEC countries led by Saudi Arabia. This became colloquially known as Black Monday I, and at the time was the worst drop since the Great Recession in 2008.

Three days after Black Monday I there was another drop, Black Thursday, where stocks across Europe and North America fell more than 9%. Wall Street experienced its largest single-day percentage drop since Black Monday in 1987, and the FTSE MIB of the Borsa Italiana fell nearly 17%, becoming the worst-hit market during Black Thursday. Despite a temporary rally on 13 March (with markets posting their best day since 2008), all three Wall Street indexes fell more than 12% when markets re-opened on 16 March. During this time, one benchmark stock market index in all G7 countries and 14 of the G20 countries had been declared to be in Bear markets.

Conclusion

With the lockdown still in hand and the consistent fall in economy, it seems we have a tough time ahead. The recession, as predicted by the various agencies across the word, is going to be very hash upon us. A lot of people are going to lose their jobs with nowhere to go. Companies may go bankrupt and entire nations will be in debts. We all have no choice but to face the crisis.

“This too shall pass.”

CRYPTOCURRENCY

What is cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency (or crypto currency) is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange wherein individual coin ownership records are stored in a digital ledger or computerized database using strong cryptography to secure transaction record entries, to control the creation of additional digital coin records, and to verify the transfer of coin ownership. It typically does not exist in physical form (like paper money) and is typically not issued by a central authority. Some cryptocurrencies use decentralized control as opposed to centralized digital currency and central banking systems. When a cryptocurrency is minted or created prior to issuance or held on a centralized exchange, it is generally considered centralized. When implemented with decentralized control, each cryptocurrency works through distributed ledger technology, typically a blockchain that serves as a public financial transaction database.

Bitcoin, first released as open-source software in 2009, is the first decentralized cryptocurrency.Since the release of bitcoin, over 6,000 altcoin (alternative variants of bitcoin, or other cryptocurrencies) have been created.

Bitcoin:

Bitcoin is a digital currency created in January 2009 following the housing market crash. It follows the ideas set out in a whitepaper by the mysterious and pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto. The identity of the person or persons who created the technology is still a mystery. Bitcoin offers the promise of lower transaction fees than traditional online payment mechanisms and is operated by a decentralized authority, unlike government-issued currencies.

There are no physical bitcoins, only balances kept on a public ledger than everyone has transparent access to, that – along with all Bitcoin transactions – is verified by a massive amount of computing power. Bitcoins are not issued or backed by any banks or governments, nor are individual bitcoins valuable as a commodity. Despite it not being legal tender, Bitcoin charts high on popularity, and has triggered the launch of hundreds of other virtual currencies collectively referred to as Altcoins.

Blockchains:

If this technology is so complex, why call it “blockchain?” At its most basic level, blockchain is literally just a chain of blocks, but not in the traditional sense of those words. When we say the words “block” and “chain” in this context, we are actually talking about digital information (the “block”) stored in a public database (the “chain”).

“Blocks” on the blockchain are made up of digital pieces of information. Specifically, they have three parts:

  1. Blocks store information about transactions like the date, time, and dollar amount of your most recent purchase from Amazon. (NOTE: This Amazon example is for illustrative purchases; Amazon retail does not work on a blockchain principle as of this writing)
  2. Blocks store information about who is participating in transactions. A block for your splurge purchase from Amazon would record your name along with Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN). Instead of using your actual name, your purchase is recorded without any identifying information using a unique “digital signature,” sort of like a username.
  3. Blocks store information that distinguishes them from other blocks. Much like you and I have names to distinguish us from one another, each block stores a unique code called a “hash” that allows us to tell it apart from every other block. Hashes are cryptographic codes created by special algorithms. Let’s say you made your splurge purchase on Amazon, but while it’s in transit, you decide you just can’t resist and need a second one. Even though the details of your new transaction would look nearly identical to your earlier purchase, we can still tell the blocks apart because of their unique codes.

While the block in the example above is being used to store a single purchase from Amazon, the reality is a little different. A single block on the Bitcoin blockchain can actually store up to 1 MB of data. Depending on the size of the transactions, that means a single block can house a few thousand transactions under one roof.

Hash:

A hash algorithm turns an arbitrarily-large amount of data into a fixed-length hash. The same hash will always result from the same data, but modifying the data by even one bit will completely change the hash. Like all computer data, hashes are large numbers, and are usually written as hexadecimal.

Bitcoin uses the SHA-256 hash algorithm to generate verifiably “random” numbers in a way that requires a predictable amount of CPU effort. Generating a SHA-256 hash with a value less than the current target solves a block and wins you some coin

Distributed ledger:

A distributed ledger is a database that is consensually shared and synchronized across multiple sites, institutions, or geographies, accessible by multiple people. It allows transactions to have public “witnesses”. The participant at each node of the network can access the recordings shared across that network and can own an identical copy of it. Any changes or additions made to the ledger are reflected and copied to all participants in a matter of seconds or minutes.

A distributed ledger stands in contrast to a centralized ledger, which is the type of ledger that most companies use. A centralized ledger is more prone to cyber attacks and fraud, as it has a single point of failure.

Underlying distributed ledgers is the same technology that is used by blockchain, which is the technology that is used by bitcoin. Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger used by bitcoin

Mining:

Cryptocurrency mining, or cryptomining, is a process in which transactions for various forms of cryptocurrency are verified and added to the blockchain digital ledger. Also known as cryptocoin mining, altcoin mining, or Bitcoin mining (for the most popular form of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin), cryptocurrency mining has increased both as a topic and activity as cryptocurrency usage itself has grown exponentially in the last few years.

Each time a cryptocurrency transaction is made, a cryptocurrency miner is responsible for ensuring the authenticity of information and updating the blockchain with the transaction. The mining process itself involves competing with other cryptominers to solve complicated mathematical problems with cryptographic hash functions that are associated with a block containing the transaction data.

The first cryptocurrency miner to crack the code is rewarded by being able to authorize the transaction, and in return for the service provided, cryptominers earn small amounts of cryptocurrency of their own. In order to be competitive with other cryptominers, though, a cryptocurrency miner needs a computer with specialized hardware.

Market Capitalization:

Within the blockchain industry, the term market capitalization (or market cap) refers to a metric that measures the relative size of a cryptocurrency. It is calculated by multiplying the current market price of a particular coin or token with the total number of coins in circulation.

Market Cap = Current Price x Circulating Supply

For example, if each unit of a cryptocurrency is being traded at $10.00, and the circulating supply is equal to 50,000,000 coins, the market capitalization for this cryptocurrency would be $500,000,000.

While the market cap may offer some insights about the size and performance of a company or cryptocurrency project, it is important to note that it is not the same as money inflow. So, it does not represent how much money is in the market. This is a common misconception because the calculation of market cap is directly dependent on price, but in fact, a relatively small variation in price may affect the market cap significantly.

Considering the previous example, a few millions of dollars could potentially pump the cryptocurrency price from $10.00 to $15.00, which would cause the market cap to increase from $500,000,000 to $750,000,000. However, this doesn’t mean there was an inflow of $250,000,000 in the market. Actually, the amount of money needed to cause such an increase in price is dependent on volume and liquidity, which are distinct but related concepts. While volume relates to the number of assets exchanged within a certain period, liquidity is basically the degree to which the asset can be quickly bought or sold without causing too much impact on the price. 

Simply put, a high-volume and liquid market cannot be easily manipulated because there are many orders in the order book and possibly a big volume of orders within the different ranges of price. This would result in a less volatile market, meaning that a whale would need a lot of money to significantly manipulate the price.  In contrast, a thin order book of a low-volume market could be easily over passed with a relatively small amount of money, causing a significant impact on both the price and market cap.