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Facebook and Instagram users are reporting the sites are now back up after the sites went down across Europe, Canada and America on Wednesday evening.
Facebook said it was aware of access issues and said Instagram, which it owns, was also having problems.
“We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing Facebook and Instagram. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
Outage-monitoring website DownDetector.com showed that there were thousands of incidents of people reporting issues with Facebook.
The problem, which began to appear around 4pm UK time, did not impact all users, while others reported the site was simply slow or some features were taking longer than usual to load.
The news quickly spread on rival social network Twitter, with the hashtag #facebookdown quickly trending, as Facebook refugees were welcomed by its denizens.
It disrupted many people’s routines.
One person revived the oft-made joke that social media going down would force people to go outside.
Another person suggested, optimistically, that the fall of Facebook would mean “people might reset to baseline human status”.
DownDetector.com showed that there were more than 12,000 incidents of people reporting issues with Facebook.
A total of 40% of those people were reporting a total blackout of the site, while 36% said they were having login issues.
The site also reported 2,500 people struggling to use Instagram, of whom 25% could not log in and 51% struggle to see their news feed.
They say laughter is the best medicine. They also say there’s nothing better than a good cry. But what do you do when you have no control over these displays?
Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), also known as emotional incontinence, causes people to laugh and/or cry uncontrollably at any given moment. People who suffer from the condition find themselves reacting this way, even though there might be little or no trigger.
A degenerative condition
Scott Lotan is your average family man – husband, father of two beautiful children and lover of pugs. What makes him different from the average family man, though, is that he suffers from PBA.
PBA is the result of brain injury or a traumatic neurological condition. In Lotan’s case, PBA is the result of multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative condition where the central nervous system and the brain are affected.
Because MS damages or destroys the protective fatty layer that covers the nerves, suffering from this condition may result in several secondary conditions, and PBA is one of them.
PBA or depression?
Depression is a secondary condition that people with MS may suffer from.
People may confuse suffering from PBA as depression, because both conditions involve emotion. PBA Info, however, lists a number of distinct differences to tell the two conditions apart:
- In PBA, there is a neurological condition or brain trauma, while in depression there may not have been any brain trauma or neurological condition.
- PBA sufferers have frequent, random outbursts of laughing fits and/or bouts of crying or sobbing, whereas those suffering from depression may or may not experience crying.
- Those suffering from depression may have control over their crying, whereas PBA sufferers have no control.
- Those suffering from depression display the emotions they’re actually feeling, so if they are crying, they will be feeling sad. PBA sufferers may be sobbing when they’re not sad at all.
- Depression may be experienced without any brain or nerve trauma, but in the case of PBA, there will be definite brain or neurological trauma.
Another condition PBA should not be confused with is pseudobulbar palsy, which is much worse than PBA, in that sufferers aren’t able to control facial movements and have difficulty with speech and chewing.
Inappropriate display of emotions
Living with PBA can be extremely challenging and embarrassing, because there are many occasions where the emotion displayed is inappropriate.
A documentary has been produced to raise awareness about the condition, and many sufferers, including Lotan, have been able to share their stories and experiences living with the condition.
There are a few questions to find out if you or someone you care about may be suffering from the condition. The first would be if your laughter or crying matches the way you’re feeling?
A neurologist would be able to give a proper diagnosis and recommend treatment, which may include taking medication, although there is no known cure for the condition.
There are several conditions that may cause people to develop PBA, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.
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Of the thousands of species of fungi, there are only a few that can cause disease or discomfort in people.
Furthermore, invasive fungal disease is relatively rare in healthy persons because of our sophisticated immune systems. However, fungal diseases frequently occur in immunocompromised patients.
Uncontrolled HIV infection, for example, makes many people vulnerable to lethal fungal diseases.
Cancer treatments (e.g. chemotherapy) and diabetes can also compromise our immunity.
In addition, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants and prolonged courses of antibiotics can also make the body more susceptible to fungal infections.
According to Human Diseases Forum and Conditions, fungi can cause anything from minor skin conditions to life-threatening diseases. Opportunistic fungal infections include Aspergillosis, Candidiasis and Mucormycosis.
Fungi can produce two kinds of infections, i.e. systemic and superficial. Systemic infections affect internal organs (e.g. lungs, blood, heart, brain, kidneys and liver), while superficial infections affect the skin, nails and hair.
Common fungal infections
Fortunately superficial fungal infections are much more common and there are very few people who have not had to cope with at least one of the following at some stage of their lives:
1. Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis) is a fungal infection of the feet with itching, scaling and redness. It can be caused by a number of different fungi, including Trichophyton, Epidermophyton and Microsporum.
2. Ringworm (Tinea Corporis) can appear in the form of a red or silver rash anywhere on the body. It is usually ring-shaped and is most commonly caused by the fungus Trichophyton rubrum.
3. Tinea Capitis is ringworm that affects the scalp.
4. Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the toenails or fingernails that can involve any component of the nail, including the matrix, bed or plate. It can cause pain, discomfort and disfigurement. Onychomycosis is caused by various fungal organisms, the most common being dermatophyte. Yeast and moulds also cause nail infections.
5. Tinea Versicolor or pityriasis versicolor is a common condition that causes small patches of skin to become scaly and discoloured. They can be darker or lighter than the surrounding skin, or even red or pink. The condition is caused by a yeast called Malassezia, which lives on the skin of most people without causing any problems.
6. Cutaneous Candidiasis can involve almost any skin area of the body, but mostly occurs in warm, moist, creased areas such as the armpits and groin. Candida is the most common cause of nappy rash in infants. Candida is also common in people who are obese or have diabetes. Antibiotics, steroid therapy and chemotherapy increase the risk of cutaneous Candidiasis.
Candida can also cause:
- Infections of the nails
- Infections of the corners of the mouth
- Oral thrush (a form of infection of the moist lining of the mouth)
- Vaginal yeast infections
Image credits: iStock
If you think about all the places that you enjoy reading a book, there is probably a chance that two of them wouldn’t have been possible if you owned an Amazon Kindle.
Well now reading in the bath and by the pool are back on the list as Amazon’s brand-new Kindle Oasis is completely waterproof.
This is the second-generation of Amazon’s flagship Oasis e-reader which means that overall the design language remains very similar to the previous version.
While the design might look familiar there’s also a lot that’s changed. The new Kindle Oasis is much bigger sporting a new 7-inch high-resolution display.
It’s also sturdier thanks to an all-aluminium back that feels solid to hold yet still remains surprisingly light.
Whereas the original Kindle Oasis was able to boast a staggering 9 week battery life with its charging case attached, the new one achieves a still extremely impressive 7 weeks and manages it without a special battery-pack case.
There’s the same one-handed design which flips automatically depending on which hand you hold it in and there’s a new adaptive light sensor that will adjust the light of the display to maximise battery-life even further.
One of the other big new features is the ability to stream Audible audiobooks straight from the Oasis to a pair of wireless headphones or speakers.
A rather neat feature that runs alongside this is that if you own both the book and the audiobook both will sync along with your progress. So you could listen to some of it on the way into work and then carry on reading where you left off at lunch.
What’s even better is that if you buy the book or the audiobook Amazon will then discount the price of its counterpart.
Finally there are a range of cases available, including some water-safe fabric cases and the more premium leather cases.
Now for the bad news, the original wasn’t cheap and neither is this one. For the standard 8GB version that allows downloads over WiFi it’ll cost you £229.
If you want more storage then the price goes up to £259.99 and finally if you want increased storage and the ability to download literally anywhere using free 3G then it goes all the way up to an eye-watering £319.99.
Amazon still has a huge range of Kindles, so it sees the Oasis as not only a flagship but also as an ultra-premium device for the most devoted of readers.
There have been 26 significant ‘space weather’ events affecting Earth over the last 50 years. These solar events can severely disrupt the Earth’s magnetosphere (the boundary between the Earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind), and pose a direct threat to electrical infrastructure – knocking out technologies that we rely on every single day, like GPS signals, electrical grids, computers and satellites. To put it lightly, if a major event were to happen tomorrow, it’s likely to cost at least $2 trillion in damages in the first year alone.
So, we’re all doomed – right? Well, not exactly.
Luckily for us, NASA has founded a Solar Space Team, which sits within the Frontier Development Lab (FDL). Bringing together the best technological minds from across the world, the FDL tackles space science head-on, deploying specialised machine learning techniques to help protect the planet from space weather. Soon, they hope to be able to accurately predict any future ‘trillion dollar storm’.
What exactly is ‘Space Weather’?
‘Space weather’ refers to conditions on the Sun and in the solar wind that influence our planet’s magnetosphere and upper atmosphere. Solar flares, filament eruptions, solar radio bursts, active solar regions and enhanced solar wind all play a part in space weather and the behaviour of the magnetosphere.
How much of a threat is it really?
While many space weather events pass us by without much fuss, the main source of dangerous space weather is the violent and sudden release of magnetised plasma bubbles from our Sun, or Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs).
Occurring anywhere between several times a day to once a week, CMEs send shock waves and bursts of energetic particles that stream near the speed of light straight towards Earth. These blasts of radiation make it difficult for satellite signals to penetrate the atmosphere, interrupting vital services including GPS and the WAAS system used by air traffic. They do this by destabilising our planet’s ionosphere – the part of the atmosphere through which radio signals travel, and through which many satellites orbit.
According to NASA, we have more than a 1 in 10 chance of being hit by a CME sometime in the next decade. In fact, Earth is no stranger to these events, with the most recent happening only 15 years ago. Dubbed the ‘Halloween Solar Storms of 2003’, numerous satellites and communications systems were affected, there was an hour-long power outage across Sweden, and aircrafts were advised to avoid certain altitudes near the Polar Regions.
However, as bad as that was, the biggest Solar Storm ever recorded is the Carrington Event of 1859, which caused telegraph networks around the globe to fail catastrophically, with telegraph paper catching fire and operators receiving electric shocks from equipment. Whilst that was deemed catastrophic back then, many believe that in today’s world of interconnectivity the effects would be much, much worse.
How is Machine Learning helping?
For the first time, sophisticated data processing and machine learning is enabling scientists to make significant breakthroughs in defending our planet from asteroids and solar weather, and in particular, monitoring CMEs. Machine learning can now be used to detect early warning signs of potentially hazardous solar storms, which is improving predictive models of major solar events and the emergence of new sunspot groups that predict the state of the Sun tomorrow.
Machine learning also offers the opportunity to analyse variations in the solar magnetic field and solar corona using data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO, surface vector magnetograms and EUV images). This data can be used to discover relationships between the observed magnetic activity in the photosphere and corona, and to identify the agents that drive solar eruptive events, such as flares and CMEs.
The scale of the challenge is not to be underestimated, with each data centre recording a reading for every minute of every day, amounting to 525,600 readings per data centre, per year. Our solar team has examined this across 14 data centres from 2010 to 2016, meaning that in a non-leap year there are 51,508,800 records to train and validate neural networks on. This is where the latest data processing techniques come into their own, with teams currently deploying complex neural networks to increase their predictive capabilities.
With the ability to effectively crunch and make predictions on such large datasets, other potential breakthroughs become increasingly possible. Amongst others, scientists are already looking to such technology to locate and model the orbits of comets, and to change radar images of asteroids into accurate 3D models to help determine shape and spin.
To infinity, and beyond!
There is no doubt that in the future, the pairing of data aggregation with machine learning techniques will become the critical enabler of future Space Exploration and defending our planet from asteroids and solar weather. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, as space weather events can affect our ground-based technological systems, and in serious cases, can even endanger human life or health. Monitoring space weather will also allow for us to move out of LEO (Launch and Early Orbit) and into deep space exploration; permanently manning facilities on the moon and fulfilling NASA’s goal to visit Mars within the next two decades.
The space sector, and engagement with space, is changing rapidly, with the global space market expected to grow to be worth $400bn by 2030. As this ‘New Space’ era generates increasing amounts of data in years to come, it is even more important for the technology community to provide new innovations to help us to succeed in tackling this global issue.
As the seasons change, many people start sneezing because of allergies. Numbers are rising, with those in urban areas particularly affected, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
It is springtime in South Africa, the worst time of year for most allergy sufferers.
Allergies can start at any age
Symptoms in the autumn are most likely caused by ragweed (found especially in North America, but also prevalent along the east coast of South Africa). Summer sneezes? Blame grass and weed pollens. Symptoms in the spring? You’re probably allergic to tree pollen.
Climate change is making things worse. The spring allergy season is starting earlier and lasting longer. And ragweed pollen is being produced for a longer period, too.
These allergies can start at any age – often by age 10. But you can develop them as an adult, too.
Your doctor can diagnose seasonal allergies based on your symptoms, a physical exam and, sometimes, allergy tests. They can then prescribe medication to tamp down your reaction.
Practical ways to cope
- Try to stay inside between 5:00 and 10:00 during ragweed season. Schedule outdoor activities for late afternoon when pollen counts are usually lower. Keep your grass short and wear a mask if you have to mow it yourself.
- Use a clothes dryer instead of an outdoor clothesline to keep pollen off your clothes. Turn on an air conditioner instead of opening your windows. Avoid window and attic fans, which just blow allergens into your home.
- Also consider getting an indoor air purifier with a HEPA filter to trap as many allergens as possible, but have someone else change the filter for you as needed. If allergies seem out of control, it may be time to check in with an allergist – often an ENT, or ear, nose and throat specialist.
Image credit: iStock
Britain risks losing its position in research and drug development without clarity, a research leader warns.