Oct
20

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What is the relation between science and religion? This is an important question. The world we inhabit today is shaped by modern science and its practical applications. The way we perceive nature is deeply informed by our understanding of the vastness of the cosmos and the complexities of the sub-atomic worlds as revealed by science. At the same time, religion is an integral part of Pakistani society, and shapes the identity of millions of its citizens. For a place like Pakistan, both science and religion are essential.

It is no surprise then that the question of the relation between science and religion often comes up in conversations. From a historical perspective, there is no single narrative that defines this relation. There have been times when religious authorities  stymied science. On other occasions, holy books have provided the inspiration, and religious institutions the support, to help discover the secrets of the universe. There have been religious scientists: Ibn al-Shattir was a muwaqqit at a mosque in Damascus, Mendel was a priest. And there have been scientists who have been vocal in their opposition to religion. Thus, it is hard to define the relation between science and religion in any other way than complex.

In Pakistan today, there seems to be consensus that science and religion are not opposed to each other. This signals a positive approach, as Pakistan needs to develop a strong scientific culture to meet the challenges of the 21st century. However, for a large majority, this view is shaped by the pseudoscience of finding scientific miracles in the Qur’an (also known as I’jaz). This is neither good science nor good religion! If many of our bright, young minds are being introduced to science this way, then the practice of I’jaz is perhaps a major impediment to the development of a vibrant scientific culture in Pakistan.

Science is driven by curiosity about the natural world. Unsolved problems attract the attention of its practitioners. The harder the problem, the more attention it gets.

For example, one of the hottest areas in astronomy today is exploring the nature of “dark matter” — we know it exists but we cannot see it, nor does it interact with ordinary matter. Some of the brightest minds are searching for dark matter in the largest particle accelerators in the world as well as in observatories looking for evidence in large galaxy clusters. We do not know when or where we will find the evidence. It is also possible (though unlikely) that someone will show that dark matter does not exist and that our inference about its existence was deeply flawed. Science will go wherever evidence will take it.

On the other hand, those who are seeking scientific miracles in the Qur’an are driven neither by curiosity about the natural world nor by the desire to find explanations of unsolved problems. Instead, they know that they already know the answer. For them, the primary goal is to seek validity of one’s own belief through the authority of science.

This search for science in scriptures is a relatively new phenomenon. It is the religious response to the advent of modernity and the rise of modern science as the most powerful method for explaining the natural world. Muslims are not alone in seeking validity from science. Christians find science in the New Testament, Jews find it in the Torah, Hindus find it in Bhagavad Gita, and Mormons find it in the Book of Mormon. Everyone is convinced that their holy book contains snippets of modern science. Take the specific case of dark matter: you can find websites and even books that claim that dark matter is already mentioned in the Qur’an (for Muslims), the Bible (for Christians), the Torah (for Jews), and Bhagavad Gita (for Hindus). Of course, everyone will be scrambling to change his or her respective interpretations if the dark matter idea turns out to be wrong.

Make no mistake. None of this is science.

It is ironic that when medieval Muslim scholars dominated natural philosophy (what we may loosely call science today), they did not seek ‘scientific miracles’ in the Qur’an. Instead, the Qur’an served as an inspiration to understand the natural world through reason.

So what can we do to rekindle the spirit of scientific culture in Pakistan? This is a large question, but we can take the small step of appreciating the joy of finding things out. From the condensation of water into rain here on Earth, to the detection of lakes of liquid methane on the Saturn’s moon, Titan. From understanding the way leaves change colours in the winter, to figuring out the how stars form in galaxies.

Science seeks answers about how the universe works. Religion provides inspiration to explore the natural world. The late American biologist Stephen J Gould called science and religion two equal but separate spheres of life, or Non-overlapping Magisteria, in his own words. The former deals with the physical world and the latter with questions of ethics and the meaning of life. The building blocks of a scientific culture in Pakistan will have to be laid upon this mutual respect and separation of these two vital spheres of life.

Oct
20

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Google has a developer preview of the next version update of Android, Nougat 7.1, available for Nexus devices.

Google typically announces the next Android preview during its Google I/O developer conference held annually in May. This year – for the first time – the preview was made available early so many could test Android 7.0 before launch. Once again, Google is using a developer preview for Android 7.1, so Nexus owners can beta test the latest Google goodies prior to final launch in December.

  • When is Android 7.1 Nougat coming to my phone?

Here are two different routes you can take: the traditional developer route and the super-friendly Android Beta Program route.

A developer preview is a “work in progress” build that is released to developers prior to a consumer rollout of the final software. Google offers a preview to collect and incorporate developer feedback. In the case of the Android 7.1 developer preview, as the software has already released on the Pixel and Pixel XL phones, it is being offered at beta quality, i.e., near final.

The aim is really to tease out problems with specific devices and allow developers to update apps to support 7.1’s new features.

In the initial phases Google is offering Android 7.1 for the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6Pand Pixel C. Additional devices will be added to the programme in November, including the Nexus 6, Nexus 9 and Nexus Player (probably).

As the Android 7.1 Nougat developer preview is arriving in beta, it should be stable, but some features may still be subject to change.

Google wants to make it easier for you to try Android 7.1 Nougat on device, so it’s also offering the Android Beta Program that allows anyone enrolled to update their Android devices to the developer preview and receive ongoing, over-the-air updates. It’s very much like Microsoft’s Windows Insider programme.

The beta ran for Android 7.0 Nougat and is very simple, meaning you don’t have to get involved in flashing updates or anything complicated.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Visit android.com/beta to sign-up to the Android Beta Program.
  2. Sign into your Google account when prompted.
  3. Your eligible devices will be listed on the next page, click to enrol in the Beta Program.
  4. Updates will arrive over the air direct to your device.

That’s it, it’s so simple.

If you’ve used the Android Beta Program before and enrolled your device previously, it will already be on the list and will automatically receive the updates when they become available.

If you don’t want those updates, you can follow the steps above, but then click to “unenrol device”.

Oct
20

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ALABAMA: “COKE”

Soda is “pop” in the Midwest and “tonic” in parts of New England, but it’s “coke” in the Alabama and most of the South. Even if you want Sprite or root beer or Dr. Pepper, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for them by saying you want a “coke.” You’ll then be asked, “What kind of coke do you want?” Come on, Southerners, you know damn well what Coke is!

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ARIZONA: “SWAMP COOLER”

What’s a swamp cooler? Well, it’s just another word for an evaporative cooler. OK, great… Follow-up question: What’s an evaporative cooler?

If you live in the drier parts of the west, you’ll probably already know that this is an air conditioner that uses the evaporation of water to both cool the air and add moisture to it. Not only is this more effective in drier climates, but it cools at a lower cost.

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ARKANSAS: “CADDYWONKERS”/“CADDYWONKED”/“CATTYWAMPUS”

This is one of those terms that will catch you off-guard the first time you hear it, and you might momentarily worry that you’ve walked into a Dr. Seuss story. However, caddywonkers/caddywonked (or cattywampus) is just another term for sideways, unconventional, or askew. The easiest way to illustrate its use is by saying, “The term ‘caddywonked’ is a little caddywonked, but it’s acceptable in the South.”

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CALIFORNIA: “HELLA” OR “HECKA”

“Hella” is a slang term for “very,” “really,” and “a lot” that originated in the San Francisco region before expanding to the greater Northern California area. Used mostly by the younger crowd, the music industry made it mainstream for a short time in the late ‘90s (as did the 1998 South Park episode “Spookyfish”), but the word mostly fell out of vocabularies outside of the west coast in the 2000s. Even there, it’s not nearly as popular as it was 15 or 20 years ago. Some folks also use or used the term “hecka” in a similar way, but it wasn’t hella popular.

Oct
18

LAHORE: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Monday issued show-cause notices to 72 cable TV operators in the Lahore region for showing excessive foreign content during the last two days after expiry of the deadline, Oct 15.

Pemra had announced on Aug 31 that strict action would be taken against the channels airing foreign content more than the prescribed limit and the traders selling illegal Indian Direct-to-Home (DTH) sets.

Only 10pc of the airtime is allowed for foreign content while the maximum limit for Indian content is six percent in 24 hours.

The Pemra authorities had also fixed the time for Indian news and entertainment channels content could be shown from 4pm to 7pm.


Indian content allowed only from 4pm to 7pm


Pemra Lahore Region Assistant Manager Operations Hafiz Jamil told Dawn that they were taking strict action against the local cable TV networks for showing excessive foreign content.

He said the regional general manager had proposed a comprehensive plan with coordination of sub-offices Faisalabad and Sargodha and constituted 16 teams. During the drive, 124 inspections of cable TV operators were made across the region and only 39 violations were observed on Oct 16 when the teams confiscated 161 equipments.

Mr Jamil added the regional office Lahore, sub-offices Faisalabad and Sargodha had made 102 inspections of cable TV operators across the region and observed 33 violations. The teams issued show-cause notices to the violators of different cable TV operators and also seized equipment of 70 during raids. He said eight

FM radio stations were also inspected and no one was found violating the Pemra rules.

“Pemra teams faced resistance from certain cable TV operators and police were called to establish Pemra writ. The operators were first issued notices and given a chance to defend themselves before the decision to cancel their licences.”

Pemra regional manager Dr Safdar Rehman said the Lahore team had not yet registered any case against the cable TV operators and no one was found guilty of showing foreign content in the area.

According to our Sialkot correspondent, five cable operators’ offices were sealed on Monday by Pemra teams in Sialkot.

Pemra Inspector Qaiser Shehzad Tarar told reporters the operators were found airing Indian channels in Maraakiwal, Merajkey, Uggoki and Sambrial on their cable networks.

Teams seized equipment found in the offices and recommended cancellation of their licences.

Oct
18

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Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Chairman Absar Alam on Tuesday said a request has been sent to the federal government for a complete ban on airing of Indian content.

The federal government had earlier suggested banning airing of Indian content in a tit-for-tat move after Pakistani content was completely banned by India.

“A letter has been sent to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in this regard,” he said, adding that the federal government would decide on the matter within a week.

The Pemra chairman insisted that as India has banned films starring Pakistani artists, “we will have to do the same”.

Alam also said a crackdown was initiated against illegal Indian Direct-to-Home (DTH) sets on Oct 15, adding that action is being taken against cable operators who do not comply with the instructions.

The Pemra chairman said Pemra has received a complaint against three television channels that have been airing more than 6 per cent Indian content.

As per the law, only 10pc of airtime is allowed for foreign content, while the maximum limit for Indian content is 6pc in 24 hours.

“If the channels are found guilty they will be banned”, Absar Alam added.

In regard to the Pakistani DTH licences, the Pemra chairman said that seven more companies have requested the licence, whereas nine companies have already been shortlisted.

He added that 16 requests have been received for three DTH licences and the licences will be granted over the next few weeks. Alam added that the floor price for the DTHs has been kept at Rs200 million.

A company owned by PML-N leaders and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s son Hamza Shahbaz has also been shortlisted for DTH licence, he said.

Earlier in October, Pemra granted Absar Alam the authority to revoke or suspend licences of companies airing Indian content without providing prior notice.

On Aug 31, Pemra had announced that strict action would be taken against the channels airing foreign content more than the prescribed limit and traders selling illegal DTH sets.

Oct
18

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BOL TV launched its transmission on Tuesday after a 16-month-long delay caused by a legal proceeding against the newly launched media group.

According to a tweet by BOL TV’s management, the channel’s transmission started on Tuesday at 6pm.

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on September 26 ordered restoration of BOL TV’s licence .

Earlier, the TV channel was set to be launched in 2015 but the plan was jettisoned after parent company Axact became embroiled in a fake degree scandal.

The Axact scandal surfaced in May last year when The New York Times (NYT) published a report that claimed the company sold fake diplomas and degrees online through hundreds of fictitious schools, making “tens of millions of dollars annually”.

Subsequently the offices of Axact were sealed, its CEO and key officials were arrested and a probe was launched on the basis of the allegations levelled by NYT.

Oct
18

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There are two elements for small businesses’ security: firstly, information technology (IT) security, and secondly, physical security. Securing IT infrastructure in Pakistan is quite easy.

Off-the-shelf systems and even capable vendors are readily available. However, what’s important to understand is how your online presence impacts your physical security.

Continue Reading…