Woman on her Smartphone

10 Of The Best Smartphone Apps To Help Keep You Organized 

During the Covid-19 lockdown, we’ve all had to adjust to a new life of working from home, attending classes, and organizing our lives to adjust to this new normal of at-home living. Apps like Zoom, Slack, and Discord have made collaboration and remote work possible, but what about when it comes to personal productivity and lifestyle goals? Below are some of the most popular apps that individuals are using at-home right now to better organize their lives: 

FamilyWall: This App is Android and iOS friendly and is perfect for keeping in touch with your large family. The app itself connects you with your family members and allows you to share your weekly schedules with one another so that you can better coordinate when to do certain chores, errands and other family activities. 

Focus: This app is available for all Apple devices and is known for assisting users in managing their time. It structures your day into 25-minute working blocks with other small task/break times. You can use the app to further track the tasks you’ve already done around the house for a given week. 

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Kitche: Kitche is a great app for smartphone users who are teaching themselves the art of frugal cooking and working with pantry ingredients to create something delicious. Users can simply scan their supermarket receipts so the app knows what ingredients you have available. The app will then help you plan a meal based on what’s in your cabinets and can even warn you when certain products are about to expire.

Slidebox: Slidebox is an app that will help assist photo hoarders better organize their phone’s photo albums so that unnecessary/unwanted images are no longer taking up storage on your device. It scans through your device for duplicate images and random screenshots and will then give you options to delete certain pictures while providing album organization ideas. 

Evernote: Evernote has been one of the most popular note apps on all Android and Apple devices for years now. Now, the app is completely upgraded and is one of the easiest note-taking apps to navigate and use in 2020. 

Cardhop: Cardhop is an app that assists users who are used to doing a lot of networking. This app works as a second contact storage list for your phone, and lets users write down specific notes and attachments to certain contacts in their phones to make some more easily recognizable. 

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Smart Receipts: Smart Receipts is the best app for compiling your receipts digitally for the year so that when it’s time to file for your tax returns/need your tax information for employment purposes you’ll have it all in one place. The data from the receipts is collected and compiled into various spreadsheets that can be formatted to be exported across multiple devices. 

Any.Do: This app has been reviewed as the “swiss army knife of productivity apps” due to its part calendar, part to-do list format. The app uses smart features for syncing up with other apps on your device to make your life as easy and organized as possible. 

GoHenry: GoHenry is the app made for parents with kids who now have their own bank accounts. This app allows parents to easily manage and monitor their kids finances so that they can add or remove funds with the click of a button. This way if your child was out and needed some money quickly for a train ticket or what not, parents can easily send them the funds in less than a minute. 

Otter: Otter is an excellent tool for workers who either talk to themselves a lot, are involved in a lot of meetings, are responsible for transcribing, etc. The voice-recording app helps users transcribe the memos they take to make it easy for them to search through in the future.

Healthy Lifestyle

Study Finds That a Healthy Lifestyle can Add a Decade of Life Free From Disease

Everyone knows that practicing healthy habits, such as dieting, exercising, and avoiding cigarettes, can extend one’s life span and improve one’s quality of life. However, it can be difficult to conceptualize exactly how much of a benefit these habits offer in one’s life, as it’s easy for these metrics to become somewhat abstract. As such, a study published in the British Medical Journal sought to quantify exactly how much a healthy lifestyle benefits one’s life, and found that practicing a healthy lifestyle can expand one’s disease-free lifespan by an average of ten years.

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The study looked at five factors associated with a healthy lifestyle, which included drinking alcohol in moderation, not smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating well. The study, which looked at more than 100,000 people, found that people who practiced four of these five traits lived as much as ten years longer without diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, than people who practiced none of these habits. Not only does a healthy lifestyle allow people to live longer lives, but the quality of life increases when people practice healthy lifestyle habits, as the risk of developing diseases decreases dramatically.

Specifically, the study found that women who practiced any four of the five traits in question lived an average of 84 years without disease, whereas women who practiced none of the five habits only lived an average of 74 years without disease. Likewise, men with four out of the five healthy habits lived to 81 years old without disease, whereas men who practiced none of the healthy habits lived to 73 years old without disease. The most unhealthy characteristics a person can have, the study found, were smoking more than 15 cigarettes a day or having a BMI greater than 30, which is defined as obesity.

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While the study shows that moderate drinking is far healthier than heavy drinking, it’s important to note that other studies have shown that no amount of alcohol is good for you, despite persistent rumors that suggest that having a glass of wine with dinner can improve one’s health. In fact, using recreational drugs at all is widely considered to have either a neutral or a negative impact on one’s health, and definitely not a positive one. Instead of relying on drugs as a method of reducing stress, doctors recommend other methods that help to both relieve stress and improve health. Regular exercise, for instance, has been shown to improve one’s overall mood, and meditation, a practice whereby people focus on paying attention to their experiences in the present moment, can improve mental health as well. If, like most people, you’re concerned about extending the longevity and quality of your life, it’s not a bad idea to think about the various ways in which your current lifestyle habits might contribute to disease and develop strategies to improve your lifestyle habits.

Great Barrier Reef

How Scientists are Using Sound Waves to Repopulate the Great Barrier Reef

Climate change is transforming the Great Barrier Reef, turning a once lively and colorful underwater ecosystem into a massive coral graveyard. Already, about 89% of the reef is dead or dying, putting the future of countless species of underwater life in jeopardy. Once teeming with life, large sections of the reef are now eerily quiet, which scientists believe led fish to abandon this habitat. In an attempt to revitalize this dying ecosystem, scientists have installed loudspeakers in various areas of the reef to make them sound as though they are healthy. Scientists have observed that reefs that sound lively attract fish to return to these habitats, paving the way for a potential future project to restore, at least in part, the once-lively and diverse ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef.

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Using a process they call “acoustic enrichment,” which they described in a report published by Nature, scientists played noises including “the crackle of snapping shrimp and the whoops and grunts of fish” via a network of underwater loudspeakers. The scientists observed that twice as many fish arrived, and stayed, in areas of the reef that sounded lively compared to equivalent areas where no sounds were played. As the presence of fish is necessary for sustaining the ecosystems of coral reefs, scientists hope that attracting fish back to the Great Barrier Reef will help to kickstart other life in the region, potentially undoing some of the disastrous effects of rising ocean temperature levels. In other words, scientists hope that making coral reefs seem to be teeming with life will attract fish, beginning a natural recovery process.

As the field experiment lasted only six weeks, scientists have not yet had the opportunity to determine to what extent the repopulation of coral reefs impacts the larger surrounding ecosystem. However, the success of the experiment thus far has provided hope that interventions using science and technology can mitigate the damage of ecological collapse caused by climate change and other effects of human activity. That being said, while acoustic enrichment has proven to be an effective strategy for attracting fish, a number of threats to the Great Barrier Reef as well as the larger underwater ecosystem remain and will have to be accounted for to ensure the ongoing health of the ocean. These threats include climate change, overfishing, and water pollution.

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The span of time during which scientists observed the reef was too short for the fish to start breeding, and as of yet it’s unclear whether the fish will stay in this habitat long enough to spawn multiple generations of animals and to revitalize the surrounding coral. Coral depends upon the natural byproducts created by fish in order to survive, as they work as vitamin filters that allow the reefs to absorb nutrients. And as up to 85% of the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from the ocean, the health of underwater reefs also directly impacts life above land.

While large swaths of the Great Barrier Reef are entirely dead, a small percentage of the reef remains alive, albeit less populated with life than they used to be. Other projects to revitalize sections of the reef have also been conducted, with varying degrees of success. For example, scientists working for the Mote Marine Laboratory grew small pieces of reef in the laboratory and implanted these pieces alongside compromised sections of reef, which helped to regrow coral in just a few years, as the implanted sections of reef reproduced naturally. Additionally, the University of Hawaii is undergoing a project to selectively breed species of coral that are resistant to bleaching by using specimens that have shown to be particularly resilient. There is a long, uphill battle ahead to preserve the Great Barrier Reef, but scientific interventions provide hope that such an enormous task is possible.


New Research Hints at Origin of Life on Earth

While the theory of evolution is broadly accepted as fact among scientists, more controversy exists over explanations for the ultimate origin of life on Earth. However, new research published in Nature Ecology & Evolution sheds light on a potential theory for the origin of living things by attempting to recreate the conditions of the early earth and exploring how they could lead to the development of “protocells,” which are thought to be fundamental “building blocks” of all life. In an experiment, researchers successfully created conditions that led to the development of protocells by replicating the environment of underwater hydrothermal vents, whose combination of heat, alkalinity, and minerals are instrumental in the creation of protocells.

Though multiple competing theories explaining the origin of life exist, including Darwin’s assertion that life probably first evolved in shallow pools of warm water, the theory that life originally began within underwater thermal vents is supported by evidence, including the discovery of some of the world’s oldest fossils nearby these vents. Now, this explanation for the creation of life seems even more likely, as demonstrating the creation of protocells under these conditions is a key argument supporting the theory. Although the results of this research do not definitively prove that life on earth began in underwater hydrothermal vents, the researchers assert that the possibility of this explanation cannot be ruled out.

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Hydrothermal vents are located deep under the Earth’s seas, where minerals from the planet’s crust react with seawater, creating a warm, alkaline, and hydrogen-rich environment. This process leads to the creation of so-called chimneys, which are rich with alkaline and acidic fluids, enabling the formation of complex organic compounds, including, as this new research shows, protocells. These vents emerge spontaneously along fault lines as a result of geological processes, and have existed on Earth for millions, if not billions of years. Hydrothermal vents are known for being areas of the deep sea where life is relatively abundant, as they tend to be populated by shrimp, worms, and clams, who feed off of the energy and materials present around the vents.

This research has strong implications not only for the beginning of life on Earth, but for the potential for life to form elsewhere in space.

Protocells are, in essence, the most basic form of a cell, consisting of a bilayer membrane around an aqueous solution. Previous experiments succeeded in creating these cells in cool, fresh water, but only under tightly controlled conditions. Also, previous experiments attempting to replicate hydrothermal vents have failed to generate protocells which don’t fall apart. In this most recent experiment, however, the scientists identified a flaw with previous research on creating protocells in hydrothermal vents; namely, these experiments used a limited number of types of molecules, whereas in natural environments, you would expect to see a wide range of different types of molecules.

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Whereas it was previously thought that heat, alkalinity, and salt posed obstacles in the creation of protocells, this new research shows that these factors were actually beneficial in the process. This is because head allowed long carbon chains to form into a protocell structure, an alkaline solution helped protocells keep their electric charge, and saltwater helps fat molecules band together, forming more stable structures. What’s notable about this experiment is that while protocells have been created artificially in laboratory environments before, they had never been before created under conditions that match the chemistry of the early Earth.

This research has strong implications not only for the beginning of life on Earth, but for the potential for life to form elsewhere in space. This is because space missions have revealed the presence of similar hydrothermal vents on extraterrestrial bodies, including the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Life on other planets or moons has not yet been discovered, of course, but research into the origins of life on Earth could give scientists a better idea of where in space to look for extraterrestrial life. 


Income Inequality

The Cultural Impact of Income Inequality

Over the past several decades, as tax cuts and other economic policies have benefited wealthy Americans at the expense of lower and middle-class Americans, the gap between the wealthy and the poor has continued to widen. A number of factors account for this; not only have wages remained virtually stagnant since the 1970s despite accelerating economic growth overall, but the cost of living has also increased, as have expenses for education and health care. This radical transformation in the country’s economic landscape has not only had effects on the financial world, but on the broader cultural environment that informs human behavior in society. Nearly every aspect of life is affected, from entertainment to politics to our shared system of fundamental values. 

Perhaps the most striking example of the broader impacts of income inequality is the fact that rich people live longer lives than poor people. For some groups of disadvantaged people, life expectancy is shorter than it was for their parents, pointing to the extreme effects of these people’s inability to earn as much as their parents did. A number of factors account for this difference in life expectancy; one possible explanation is racism in the healthcare industry, as minorities are both likely to receive less in wages and face discrimination in hospitals and doctor’s offices. Another factor is the fact that people are not able to retire as young as they used to be able to; many workers continue their jobs into their 60’s and 70’s, opening them up to stress and work-related health complications in old age. Additionally, as healthcare costs increase, many lower-income individuals may delay or opt out of doctors’ visits over financial concerns, leading to exacerbated illnesses and early death.

The type of work people engage in, too, is shaped by income inequality. While human societies have virtually always been divided by class, with lower classes working in service of the upper classes, the widening income gap between the classes has led to an explosion of service-related jobs, such as manicure and massage therapy. These types of jobs often employ immigrants and workers who did not receive a college degree, and are characterized by low pay and poor working conditions. Nail salons in particular are plagued by poor and illegal working conditions, leading to a statewide investigation by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

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This category of work, which many call “wealth work,” also applies to jobs like driving an Uber or delivering food. Though these jobs are beneficial to those without a college education, particularly in the aftermath of the collapse of the American manufacturing industry, they also point to a cultural shift towards more rigid definitions of class, which makes it hard for lower-class individuals to advance in their careers. What’s more, these jobs are often performed with a certain degree of anonymity, as they are performed through an app or in urban business centers far from the worker’s place of residence, in contrast with the more personal interactions between the classes of several decades ago.

The gap in income between the classes correlates with an increase in polarization in American politics; as the Right has moved further to the political right under authoritarian leader Donald Trump, the Democratic Party as a whole has moved to the left in recent years, with once-taboo leftist policy positions like a substantial raise of minimum wage, entirely socialized medicine, the cancellation of student debt, and the idea of a universal basic income becoming topics of open discussion. The wealthy class has also transformed politics through the use of substantial political donations, with Donald Trump having raised well over $100 million for his re-election campaign this year alone. Wealthy donors, including oil executives and Wall Street titans, have successfully lobbied to cut taxes on the super-rich and roll back regulations which are meant to protect customers but impose costs on large companies. On a large scale, the effects of these policy changes have been to further disenfranchise the lower and middle classes in service of the upper class, as evidenced by the rapidly declining quality-of-life of most Americans.

Enceladus Planet

Enceladus, One Of Saturn’s Moons, Shows Evidence Of Life

Saturn’s moon Enceladus is making headlines for scientists this week as NASA has discovered one of its oceans may contain the basic building blocks of life. 

NASA analyzed data regarding the water that shoots out of ocean vents from below the moons icy crust. The ocean is under the crust, but the vents are able to shoot out water through cracks in the moon’s surface, and into space. To break down the findings, scientists found both nitrogen and oxygen in the water from the ocean that’s shot out into space. Nitrogen and Oxygen when together can be used as building blocks for amino acids. Amino Acids are complex molecules that connect like Lego’s to make proteins. As we know, without protein, life cannot exist, we all need proteins, carbohydrates and fats to stay alive, all of which we normally get through our diet. 

While the scientists only found the compounds that are used to build the actual building blocks of life, the discovery is still hugely significant. Scientists have long suspected that Enceladus would contain some sort of life creating compounds, and have even found organic molecules on the moon before, however, this time they discovered them in the water under the moon’s surface, which is a game changer. The presence of nitrogen and oxygen in the deep parts of Enceladus’s ocean means that the two could undergo a chemical reaction in the water which would turn them into amino acids, and thus, proteins. 

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Saturn with six of its moons

“This work shows that Enceladus’ ocean has reactive building blocks in abundance, and it’s another green light in the investigation of the habitability of Enceladus,” Frank Postberg, a co-author of the study at NASA, said in a press release

According to the press release, these compounds were dissolved in the ocean water below the crust’s surface and evaporated as they reached the surface. Since the moon is extremely cold, the compounds froze into the icy crust, the only thing that made them detectable to scientists were the ocean vents that sent plumes of the ocean water out through the cracks in the surface. This evidence shows that Enceladus could potentially develop the same life creating process that occurs here on Earth. 

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Surface level image of an underwater volcano erupting 

In Earth’s oceans, underwater volcanoes under the ocean floors produce magma that is shot out in the same way the plumes of water are on Saturn’s moon. However for Earth, the magma then breaks through the ocean floor through cracks in the surface and it then mixes with the surrounding seawater. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), this interaction of magma and seawater creates something known as a hydro-thermal vent. These vents spew water that is now rich in hydrogen which induces a chemical reaction that turns organic compounds into amino acids which then work together to build proteins that are “crucial for replicating the genetic information that creates life,” according to the NOAA.

“If the conditions are right, these molecules coming from the deep ocean of Enceladus could be on the same reaction pathway as we see here on Earth. We don’t yet know if amino acids are needed for life beyond Earth, but finding the molecules that form amino acids is an important piece of the puzzle,” said Nozair Khawaja, who led the research team behind the latest discovery, said in a release.

This discovery has inspired NASA scientists to develop even more missions that will further investigate Enceladus and the chemical properties and processes the moon endures to see if the creation of life is actually possible. Additionally, NASA is now planning another mission to Titan, another one of Saturn’s moons, which is known for containing a lot of organic compounds as well. The mission plans to launch a spacecraft to the moon in 2026 and have it arrive on Titan by 2034, and the search for signs of alien life will continue.