WhatsApp May Soon Get Improved Music Sharing, Larger Emojis

In addition to the upcoming features that had been spotted earlier this week – mentions and group invite links – it appears WhatsApp is also set to get improved music sharing features and larger emoji.

WhatsApp May Soon Get Improved Music Sharing, Larger Emojis

Reported by German publication Macerkopf, the upcoming features were spotted in the WhatsApp for iOS beta, just like mentions and group invite links. Let’s start with music sharing. The report notesthat users can now share songs with their contacts. The songs can be stored locally, or users can link to the song on Apple Music. The recipient will see album art as well as a music icon. Currently shared ‘audio’ files do not have this functionality.

Coming to larger emoji – the move follows Apple’s unveiling of larger emoji with iOS 10, and WhatsApp appears to be preparing for their introduction, using what’s said to be the same size of emoji – three times bigger than regular ones.

Another feature recently spotted in the WhatsApp Beta for iOS changelog was gif image support. However, general WhatsApp for iOS users haven’t received gif image support so far.

Earlier this month, WhatsApp received a feature that allowed users to quote messages when replying. The user needs to long press a message in any conversation to see a reply option pop up alongside star, delete, forward, and copy.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has been adding new features steadily, and the most anticipated is video calling, which was recently spotted in testing on the Android beta app. To recall, the last major update to the platform was last month – the addition of document sharing on WhatsApp Web. Shortly before that, the company rolled out its first desktop app for Windows and OS X.

Should You Pop Vitamin D Pills Regularly?

Vitamin D supplements have no significant effect on preventing heart attack, stroke, cancer or bone fractures, according to a review of scientific evidence published Friday.

Researchers led by Mark Bolland of the University of Auckland in New Zealand looked at 40 high-quality trials to see if supplements met a benchmark of reducing risk of these problems by 15 percent or more.

Should You Pop Vitamin D Pills Regularly?

Previous research had seen a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and poor health in these areas. But the new study, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, strengthens arguments that vitamin D deficiency is usually the result of ill health — not the cause of it. Its authors say there is “little justification” for doctors to prescribe vitamin D supplements as a preventive measure for these disorders.

“Available evidence does not lend support to vitamin D supplementation and it is very unlikely that the results of a future single randomised clinical trial will materially alter the results from current meta-analyses,” they write.

Vitamin D is a key component for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It is produced naturally when the skin is exposed to sunlight or derived from foods such as oily fish, egg yolks and cheese.

In March last year, British scientists, in a comparison of 4,000 women, found that vitamin D supplements taken in pregnancy made no difference to the child’s bone health. And in September 2012, researchers at New York’s Rockefeller University saw no evidence that vitamin D supplements lowered cholesterol, a factor in heart disease, at least over the short term.

In contrast, a November 2012 investigation into pregnant women who lived in high-latitude, northern hemisphere countries with long, dark winters found a link between low levels of natural vitamin D and an increased risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) in their offspring.

For these women, taking vitamin D supplements to offset the effects of long periods without sunlight could be advisable, according to that research.

Excess Vitamin A May Damage Your Immune System

Vitamin A is an essential, fat-soluble vitamin with many diverse health benefits.  It promotes eyesight by converting light into brain signals that allows to us to perceive images. It aids in the differentiation of cells of the skin and helps the heart, kidneys, and other organs to function properly. It protects against infection by helping create healthy white blood cells and promotes healthy skin.

Excess Vitamin A May Damage Your Immune System

Since Vitamin A cannot be produced in our body, it has to be derived from our diet. While eat, fish, poultry and dairy foods have preformed Vitamin A, plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables contain the other type – pro-Vitamin A. Deficiency of Vitamin A may lead a decrease in immune function, dry skin, problems with reproduction and cessation of bone growth.  But this new study, published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, shows that excess of vitamin can also be harmful.

Too much Vitamin A shuts down the body’s trained immunity, opening door to infections to which we would otherwise be immune, says a new study. According to the study, excess Vitamin A makes the body ‘forget’ past infections. The findings suggest that although Vitamin A supplementation can have profound health benefits when someone is deficient, supplementation of the vitamin above and beyond normal levels may have negative health consequences.

“This study helps to explain the mechanisms of anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin A and by doing so opens the door to identifying novel ways to modulate the immune response and restore its function in situations in which it is dis-regulated,” said one of the researchers Mihai Netea from the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

The amount of vitamin A needed depends on age and reproductive status. Getting too much vitamin A can also cause dizziness, nausea and even death.

To make this discovery, Netea and colleagues stimulated immune cells, isolated from volunteers, with Vitamin A and saw that the cells produced fewer cytokines, key proteins that help ward off microbes, upon stimulation with various mitogens and antigens. Furthermore, the cells were also stimulated with various microbial structures, which resulted in long-term activation or training of the cells. When the same experiments were performed in the presence of vitamin A, the microbial structures were no longer able to activate the immune cells.

Desert Scope Stakes Out Supermassive Black Hole

A desert telescope has focused with unprecedented sharpness on a star circling a supermassive black hole thought to lurk at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, excited astronomers announced on Wednesday.

This means they will be able to observe the star’s movements in more detail than ever before, in an important test for Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Desert Scope Stakes Out Supermassive Black Hole

Dubbed S2, the star lies about 25,000 light years from our Solar System.

It is the celestial body known to make the closest approach to our galaxy’s central black hole, named Sagittarius A, on a 16-year elliptical orbit.

S2 is a relative youngster in astronomical terms no more than 100 million years old.

It has been studied before, but in much less detail than can now be observed by the European Southern Observatory’s Gravity instrument in Chile’s Atacama desert.

“The Gravity observations will be about 15 times more accurate,” said project leader Frank Eisenhauer of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, and recalled “a lot of high fives” when S2 came into focus.

Gravity combines the light from Europe’s four largest telescopes to create a combined 130-metre (427-foot) diameter lense with “much sharper” imaging.

It will seek out miniscule but telltale deviations in the movement of gas and stars swirling around Sagittarius A ultimately proving its existence.

Sagittarius A is thought to be four million times more massive than our Sun.

Black holes are regions in space-time where mass is collapsed into such a small area that gravity takes over completely, and nothing, not even light, can escape making them invisible.

Was Einstein right?
Their existence is inferred from the behaviour of objects nearby, including stars swirling around them as planets orbit our Sun.

Black holes were theorised in Einstein’s gravity theory, which was published in 1915 and still forms a bedrock of modern physics.

It has withstood every single experimental test to date, but the theory fails to explain some of the forces in the Universe particularly those at the subatomic, quantum level.

If Einstein was right, the Gravity team would expect to see minute changes in S2’s orbit in the extreme gravity environment nearest Sagittarius A.

And they managed to set up their instrument just in time.

In 2018, S2 will make its closest approach to the black hole on its egg-shaped orbit “just” 17 light hours or 18 billion kilometres (11 billion miles) away.

It will travel at nearly 30 million kilometres per hour or 2.5 percent of the speed of light, just out of reach of the black hole’s all-devouring reach.

“The trick is to measure its (S2’s) orbit in the year before and the year after its closest approach, because the effects of general relativity strongly increase when you approach the black hole,” Eisenhauer told AFP.

It would resemble an “extra kick” as the star shaves past, “and it’s this ‘kick to the orbit’ we want to see,” he said.

The next time S2 will be this near will be in 16 years.

Sony Xperia XA Dual Now Available in India

Following its announcement from earlier this week, Sony has brought the Xperia XA Dual to India. The company at its launch event earlier this month had said that the Xperia XA Dual will be made available in the third week of June, and the company mostly appears to have kept its promise.

Sony Xperia XA Dual Now Available in India

The Sony Xperia XA Dual is now listed for purchase via Amazon India at Rs. 20,990. The smartphone will also be available via authorised Sony retailers across the country. The Sony Xperia X Dual (Review) was priced at Rs. 48,990, and became available in India from June 7 There is no word of the Sony Xperia X Performance Dual, which was launched alongside at MWC 2016.

Sony has already revealed launch offers for the Xperia XA Dual, specifically, Rs. 2,700 worth of free content in the form of a three-month subscription to Sony Liv, a three-month subscription to Hungama Play, and Kindle ebooks worth Rs. 1,000. The Xperia X Dual will come bundled with Gameloft games alongside free credits worth Rs. 780.

For specifications, Xperia XA Dual smartphone runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with company’s UI on top. It features a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) display powered by Mobile Bravia engine 2. It is powered by a MediaTek MT6755 coupled with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of built-in storage. Like the Xperia X, the Xperia XA Dual also supports expandable storage via microSD card (up to 200GB).

The Sony Xperia XA Dual sports a 13-megapixel camera with Exmor RS for mobile sensor, hybrid autofocus, and LED flash. It also houses an 8-megapixel front camera. It is backed by a 2300mAh battery, measures 143.6×66.8×7.9mm, and weighs 138 grams.

The Italian Wine Star That Came Back From Oblivion

It is the rising star of Italian wine, a greeny-gold white starting to earn an international reputation for its distinctive minerally edge and ageing potential.

Yet pecorino, which shares its name with one of Italy’s best-known cheeses, might not even exist but for the vision of a trailblazing pioneer fondly remembered by his daughters as being “a little bit crazy”.

The Italian Wine Star That Came Back From Oblivion

The late Guido Cocci Griffoni is revered as a hero of Italian viticulture and his native region of Marche for having hauled the ancient grape back from the brink of extinction.

In the early 1980s however, the self-taught winemaker was almost alone in identifying the potential of a varietal now enjoying critical acclaim and commercial success after a four-fold increase in plantings between 2000 and 2011.

“Pecorino is not just a great grape variety; it is also one of Italy’s biggest wine success stories of the 21st century,” says writer Ian d’Agata, the author of “Native Wine Grapes of Italy”.

The grape’s name is derived from the Italian word for sheep, “pecora”, which are ubiquitous in the hills of central Italy, where both wild and cultivated pecorino vines abounded in the 19th century, providing a ready snack for shepherds.

Things began to change after World War II as rural depopulation emptied mountain villages in Marche and the neighbouring Abruzzo region.

Professional grape growers turned away from pecorino to the higher-yielding but less characterful varieties trebbiano and malvasia, grapes generally destined to be made into non-descript wines by cooperatives lacking Cocci Grifoni’s vision.

“Pecorino is not generous in yield terms and, at that time, volume was everything; farmers needed money,” explains Marilena Cocci Grifoni, who now runs the estate alongside her winemaker sister Paola.

– Reborn in Marche –

But their father had a hunch that pecorino could produce interesting results and in 1982 he began experimenting with a parcel of wild vines acquired from an 80-year-old farmer no longer able to tend his garden vineyard at Arquata del Tronto, 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) above sea level in the Marche mountains.

Experimental samples were made from vines planted on four different slopes before the decision was made to go with the coolest of them, a steep north-facing slope licked by salty breezes from the Adriatic Sea.

A peach orchard was ripped up to make way for what is now the “mother vineyard” and the first Cocci Grifoni Pecorino was made from the 1990 harvest.

That year’s production had to be bottled as a humble table wine but recognition was to come quickly.

In 2001, Pecorino from the Offida area was granted DOC or controlled origin status. A decade later it completed an extraordinarily quick ascent to the top rank of Italian wine by obtaining the DOCG classification occupied by the likes of Barolo and Chianti Classico.

Export markets are the next horizon with the wine now starting to appear on the shelves of British supermarkets and restaurant wine lists in North America.

– Baptized in Abruzzo –

Winemaker Paolo says a good pecorino should smell of tropical fruits but also display balsamic, herbal and honey notes thanks to the grapes’ combination of high sugar and high acidity.

“The sugar means it is always strong in alcohol and the acidity brings freshness,” she says. “These two elements give the wine its potential to age and this evolution leads to a particularly complex range of tastes.”

Marilena says their father would regard the pecorino success story as a miracle.

“He has given the possibility of work to the children of farmers who believed there was no future in their area. Now young people are deciding to stay, to invest and not to abandon the vines. This is what he’d be proudest of.”

Despite Cocci Griffoni leading the way in Marche, more pecorino is now produced in Abruzzo, where Luigi Cataldi Madonna was the first producer to market a pure pecorino based on the varietal name.

“The Cocci Griffonis rediscovered pecorino but I was the one to baptise it,” says the university philosophy lecturer.

Cataldi Madonna says acidity-based freshness should be the defining quality of a pecorino, and his lead has influenced the style of other producers in Abruzzo.

“If I need to meditate I read Saint Augustine, I don’t drink a glass of wine,” he told AFP, saying he has no time for those who seek to elevate fermented grape juice into something overly complex.

“I drink when I’m happy, with friends and having fun. That’s what wine is for.

“The only noble drink is water!”

– Diluted versions –

Wine expert D’Agata meanwhile warns that rapidly expanding production could make pecorino a victim of its own success.

“Right now it is Italy’s hottest white. And there is no doubt it can give complex, age-worthy wines,” he says.

“But it is being planted everywhere and from high yielding biotypes, whereas pecorino is a low yielder by definition. The result is that a lot of Pecorino doesn’t resemble what I think the wine should smell and taste like.”

Xiaomi Launches Mi Community in India, Opens Registration For Mi Max Event

As expected, Xiaomi has launched its Mi Community in India, dedicated to its fans in the country. The new community will allow interested users to share feedback, participate in contests, and also attend Xiaomi launch events in the country.

Xiaomi Launches Mi Community in India, Opens Registration For Mi Max Event

Xiaomi had announced that it was looking for 500 people to beta test the Mi Community. It made the beta site live on June 14, where only the chosen beta testers were given access, and given the authority to provide feedback to Xiaomi. However, the forum is now live for all users who can register and participate freely.

The Chinese conglomerate has taken to its forum to announce that it has begun taking registrations for its Mi Max launch event in New Delhi on June 30. The Chinese smartphone company is set to launch the Mi Max in the country at an event in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Registrations will close on June 23 at 8pm IST.

The company has announced that there are a limited amount of invites being rolled out, and it is also giving away a goody bag with a surprise gift in it to all the invitees. The selected fans will be alerted via an SMS. Furthermore, sharing the event registration link on Facebook would could also entitle the user to a Royal Package, which includes air fares, all-inclusive hotel fares, and a VIP seat at the launch event.

The Xiaomi Mi Max was unveiled in China in May, and it boasts of a 6.44-inch full-HD (1080×1920) 342ppi display. It sports an all-metal body and will be available in Dark Grey, Gold, and Silver colours. The Mi Max also features a fingerprint scanner which is located at the rear panel. In China three models were released. A 3GB RAM and 32GB storage model powered by a 1.8GHz hexa-core Snapdragon 650 processor; a 3GB of RAM and 64GB of storage model powered by a 1.8GHz octa-core Snapdragon 652 processor, and a third model with 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and powered by Snapdragon 652 processor. It is not known which SKU is coming to India.

Optics include a 16-megapixel rear camera with an f/2.0 aperture, phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and LED flash. There is a 5-megapixel front camera also on board with 85-degree wide-angle view, and a f/2.0 aperture. The dual-SIM (hybrid tray) handset supports 4G LTE with VoLTE, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS/ A-GPS with Glonass, and Wi-Fi 802.11ac with Mimo. It is backed by a massive 4850mAh battery.

Aliens May Take 1,500 More Years to Contact Earth

Aliens may take another 1,500 years to contact us as Earth’s physical attributes are not unique making it difficult for the extra-terrestrials to locate us, a new study has found.

“We haven’t heard from aliens yet, as space is a big place – but that doesn’t mean no one is out there,” said Evan Solomonides, from the Cornell University in the US.

Aliens May Take 1,500 More Years to Contact Earth: Study

“It’s possible to hear any time at all, but it becomes likely we will have heard around 1,500 years from now,” said Solomonides.

“Until then, it is possible that we appear to be alone – even if we are not. But if we stop listening or looking, we may miss the signals. So we should keep looking,” he said.

Astronomers from Cornell University deconstructed the Fermi Paradox and paired it with the Mediocrity Principle into a fresh equation.

According to the Fermi Paradox, billions of Earth-like planets exist in our galaxy, yet no aliens have contacted or visited us. Thus the paradox: the cosmos teems with possibility.

The mediocrity principle – proposed by 16th-century mathematician Copernicus – states that the Earth’s physical attributes are not unique, as natural processes are likely common throughout the cosmos, and therefore aliens would not discover us for a while.

Hunting for extraterrestrials means sending out signals like television broadcasts, for example. As Earth’s electronic ambassador, TV and radio signals are sent into space as a byproduct of broadcasting.

These signals have been travelling from Earth for 80 years at the speed of light.

For aliens receiving these transmissions, they would likely be indecipherable, said Solomonides, as the extraterrestrials would need to decode light waves into sounds, then parse 3,000 human languages to grasp the message.

Earth’s broadcast signals have reached every star within about 80 light years from the Sun – about 8,531 stars and 3,555 Earth-like planets, as our Milky Way galaxy alone contains 200 billion stars, researchers said.

Combining the equations for the Fermi Paradox and the mediocrity principle, the researchers suggest that the Earth might hear from an alien civilisation when about half of the Milky Way Galaxy has been signalled in about 1,500 years.

Modi’s US Speech Was Letter Perfect, Ticked Off Every Box

Every diplomatic visit is a mix of substance and symbolism. In the context of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fourth visit to the United States in his two years in office, the symbolism is easy enough to assess. The well-choreographed itinerary, the meeting with business leaders at the US-India Business Council, the pilgrimage to the Arlington National Cemetery where America’s martyred soldiers lie, the juxtaposition of Arlington and the anniversary of D-Day – part of a larger World War II experience where Indian and Americans were allies, the address to the Houses of Congress, and the set of related events that made for “Modi’s Day on the Hill”: every moment was well-planned and well-chosen.

The speech to the joint meeting of the Houses was letter perfect. It ticked off every box – from Lincoln to Gandhi, Martin Luther King to Ambedkar, Vivekananda to Walt Whitman; the salute to “the shared ideals and common philosophy of freedom”; the common threat perception from terrorism; the quest for a meaningful partnership that was fundamental to India’s development, and could re-order the world to America’s comfort.

In Washington, DC, where the US Congress has emerged as Pakistan’s toughest interrogator on terrorism, Modi presented his case subtly but effectively. His talking up the Indian diaspora on previous visits – which some analysts dismissed as little more than an ego trip – paid dividends too. After all, this is an election year and Congressmen seeking re-election need every vote and every fundraising opportunity they can get. Being on the right side of India and welcoming of its popular Prime Minister could do no harm domestically.

PM Modi addresses a joint sitting of the US Congress in Washington on Wednesday

Here one sees a continuum from the Madison Square Garden event of 2014 to the address to the US Congress in 2016; over two years, Modi has followed a strategic plan. The emergence of Capitol Hill as a robust constituency for India in the US capital city may just be a legacy of the Modi government. Of course, much depends on how opportunities that present themselves over the next few months, before voting day in November, are exploited.

The bond and working relationship between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Modi has surprised many. In fact, sections of the American press, including The New York Times and Washington Post – which competed with each other for thin and non-substantial coverage of the visit and its implications – have spent the past two years continuing to be surprised by it and rehashing the same stories and same sets of quotes.

True, Modi and Obama are very different individuals with very different backgrounds. Yet, Modi is more of a thinking man than his critics give him credit for, and Obama more of a consummate, goal-oriented politician than his gushing fans believe. They met as strangers two years ago – but there has been no sign of estrangement since then. That is why those who claim to be still surprised by the friendship do themselves and their sense of analysis no credit.

As the Modi-Obama talks and joint statement made apparent, behind the bonhomie, there was give-and-take and transactionalism. The Paris climate change talks and their successful conclusion are an important element of the Obama legacy. India, under Modi, emerged as a constructive problem-solver in Paris. By committing India to “full implementation” of the Paris Agreement and making substantive reference in the joint statement to a clean energy initiative that will involve India-US commercial and technological partnerships in nuclear and solar energy, Modi gave Obama enough to be able to sell back home.

PM Narendra Modi shakes hands with US President Barack Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House

The logistics agreement, which allows the two militaries to use each other’s facilities and has India getting that much more aligned (though not quite allied, and there is a difference) with US defence and military postures, was another issue behind which Modi was willing to put his weight. In contrast, previous governments had dithered. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been thwarted by his own Defence Minister. On cyber-security and Internet governance, Modi and Obama have essentially made India and the US co-custodians of freedom on the electronic highway.

In turn, Obama welcomed India into the Missile Technology Control Regime and promised to support its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG). These are crucial clubs for access to sensitive, dual-use technology. The expectation now is that Obama will use his political capital to persuade China to agree to open the NSG door. The coordinated US-India diplomacy of 2008 – in the run up to the NSG waiver to India – could return. The G20 meeting in September in Hangzhou, where Obama and Modi will meet again, is a possible milestone.

It is facile to suggest that very little of the above is specific and that these are works in progress. We need to measure Modi’s Mission America not in terms of just one visit but as an aggregation of the achievements of a set of interactions in the US and in India, including when President Obama arrived in January 2015. From climate change to defence ties, from nuclear commerce to the testy intellectual property argument, the “not give an inch” rhetoric of the past is giving way to a “let’s make it work” maturity.

Rather than a perennial complainer, Modi’s India has emerged as a doer. A case in point is Pakistan and terrorism. Without taking recourse to the old wailing sheet and cribbing to everyone about Islamabad, Modi has devised a mechanism to shape the debate to India’s advantage. The joint statement says the US and India “will work together to combat the threat of terrorists accessing and using chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological materials”. It also has the US promising to participate in a “Summit on Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism” to be hosted by India in 2018. The message to Rawalpindi is obvious.

Samsung Galaxy J3 Pro With 4G Support

Samsung has quietly introduced a new J-series smartphone, the Galaxy J3 Pro, in China. The company has listed the Samsung Galaxy J3 Pro on its official China website tipping an imminent launch soon. There is no pricing or availability announced as of now but we can expect Samsung to reveal the details soon.

Samsung Galaxy J3 Pro With 4G Support Goes Official

Similar to other J-series Samsung phones, the Galaxy J3 Pro also features frames with metal-like finish. The handset sports the signature home button seen on almost all Galaxy smartphones. The Samsung China listing confirms that the Samsung Galaxy J3 Pro will be available via China Telecom.

For specifications, the Galaxy J3 Pro features a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) Super Amoled display. It is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor paired with 2GB of RAM. It comes with 16GB of inbuilt storage that is further expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB). The dual-SIM based Galaxy J3 Pro runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. It sports an 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and f/2.0 aperture and a 5-megapixel front camera. The rear camera can record full-HD videos at 30fps. The handset measures 142.2×71.3x8mm and weighs 139 grams.

The Galaxy J3 Pro supports 4G, GPRS/ EDGE, 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, GPS/ A-GPS, Glonass, NFC, and Micro-USB connectivity options. The Samsung China listing confirms that the Galaxy J3 Pro will be compatible with Indian LTE bands as well. The handset is backed by a 2600mAh battery. The official listing confirms that the smartphone will be available in Grey and Gold colours.