Categories
News Science

Hereditary Memories?

The BBC has recently been reporting that memories can be carried from one generation to another through genes. We always knew that certain characteristics were passed on, but we had never known if or how memories were transferable.

Well it seems that they are, but what might this actually mean?

On 1 December Nature Neuroscience published a report that you can read the abstract of here although it is extremely technical.

In lay terms the research aimed at understanding how experiential and behavioural traits could be passed on. In the case under discussion they used mice to see if traumatic stress experiences could be seen to influence the next generation.

The experiment went something like this. A mouse is put into an environment that has a particular smell, cherry blossom for example. In that environment and accompanied by the smell the mouse is traumatized in order to produce stress.

The post traumatised mice then produce offspring, and they themselves produce a new generation. The grandchild mouse is exposed to the smell (cherry blossom) and their activity is monitored to see if they behave differently as a reaction to that particular smell, and they do.

Passing it all on
Passing it all on

The mice were “extremely sensitive” to cherry blossom and would avoid the scent, despite never having experienced it in their lives, and changes in brain structure were also found related to the smell.

The report concluded that “the experiences of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations”.

I wonder if associations are just negative? My children love the smell of Indian food, my father was raised in India and also loved the food, but he died many years ago and my children never knew him. Do they like the smell because my dad passed a liking of the food through my genes to them?

This is a simple example to question, but what are the implications for society after war? If we think about the Vietnam conflict, or more recently Afghanistan or Iraq for our our US veterans, what have they passed on to their children? Could the post war generation be suffering from a form of Post Traumatic Stress disorder thanks to their parents’ experiences?

And could the memory be more complete in a human brain, possibly being better functioning that that of a mouse?

And think about the implications for the theory of evolution.

Categories
Computers How To Guides

Some simple ways to speed up your Windows PC

According to StatCounter in August 2012, globally, Microsoft Windows XP, Vista and 7 accounted for the operating systems on 87.85% of computers around the world. That means that the majority of people own a PC which runs on Windows, as opposed to one which runs on iOS, MacOSX, Unix or another operating system.

An issue many Windows users often find is that after a while their computer seems to slow down. If this sounds familiar, then you should find this article extremely useful, as in it I am going to give you my personal tips on how to keep your Windows PC (XP, Vista and 7) running fast. This guide applies to both laptops and desktop PCs. 🙂

What Slows Computers Down?

The trick to understanding how to make your machine run faster involves working out what slows your computer down. It would be interesting to know what most people think slows their computer down, so if you have an idea, let me know in the comments.

The first and one of the biggest culprits which slow your computer down are background processes. These are things which go on in the background whilst you are doing things. Say you are trying to open up an internet browser, lets take Firefox as an example, then when you click on Firefox, it is very possible that plugins you have installed also try to start up and do things in the background. Until recently an really good example of this was the Google toolbar, which would start up a process to talk to Google and find out if it was up to date.

There are likely to be a lot of programs trying to do things in the background, whilst you are focusing on your task. Java, Apple, Google, Adobe (Flash Player and Reader) are big culprits, always whirring away in the background. If you have anything Google installed like Google Earth, Google Chrome, Google Talk etc. then the chases are it is taking a lot more resources than it needs. Likewise anything Apple like iTunes, QuickTime etc. are also likely to be slowing your PC down.

Another big culprit is disorganised hard disk files. Every time you delete something, move something, create a new file or folder etc. you change the layout of your hard disk and the structure of your files. This can often mean that related files can be put far apart on the disk, which is not optimal, also in order to get to a file, the computer may first have to locate it via following a redirect from where it used to be – this takes time.

The final major culprit I am going to address is unnecessary visual effects. Your computer can often get really bogged down trying to display fancy effects which you don’t really need, meaning you can’t get on and do what you wanted to do.

Now we know three of the main issues, lets fix them!

Stopping Unnecessary Background Processes

A tortoise with a rocket on its backStopping bad background processes is easier than you might think. There are a few ways to go about it, the way I find the most effective is though a tool named ‘MSConfig’. This can be found on Vista and 7 by typing in msconfig into the search box on the start menu, in in Windows XP by typing msconfig into the Run command box.

MSConfig allows you to make a lot of changes to your system, but unless you know what you are doing, I would stick to just two tabs, Services and Startup. To start speeding up your PC, go to the ‘Services’ tab and click ‘Hide all Microsoft Services’, which will stop you accidental stopping anything you need. Now untick anything you don’t feel you need. An example of a service you might want to untick is ‘Google Update Service‘, whilst an example of one you probably don’t want to is your Anti-Virus software’s one.

Remember stopping a service does not stop you opening a program. Say there is an Office service which you stop, it will not run in the background, but you will still be able to run Word, Excel and Outlook.

Now lets move onto the ‘Startup’ tab. Here you can also remove any service you don’t want to run, but this is specifically when you start up your PC. For example, if you have Skype installed, but don’t want it to run when your computer starts, then untick the Skype service. Likewise if you don’t want Google Talk to automatically start running, untick googletalk.exe – the Google Talk service.

Reorganise Your Hard Disk

Reorganising your files is really easy, it just takes time. A disk defragmenter is what you need for this, and Windows comes with one built in for free! There are third party ones available too, some of which are good, and others not so – your choice.

Simply start Windows Disk Defragmenter via searching for it in the start menu, or open My Computer >> right-click on the hard disk you want to defragment >> click Properties >> click the Tools tab >> click click Defragment now.

It may take any amount of time from 5 minutes to 12 hours (potentially more if you have a really big and messy hard disk) and during the process, I would advise against using your computer. Typically it takes an hour or two to defragment a hard disk.

Turn Off Unneeded Visual Effects

If you are happy to loose some of the sleekness your system has then this tip could really boost your computers performance.

First you need to open the visual effects panel. In Windows 7 right-click Computer on the start menu >> click Properties >> click Advanced system settings (on the left) >> then select Settings under the Performance section. In XP right-click My Computer >> click Properties >> click the Advanced tab >> then select Settings under the Performance section.

From here you can remove visual effects you don’t really need. If you like you can remove them all, but that could really change how your PC looks. Animate windows when minimizing and maximising, Show shadows under mouse pointer and Show window contents while dragging are all effects which really slow down your PC, but you are unlikely to miss. Experiment, and see which ones you can live without.

I hope these tips work for you, and have fun with your fast(er) computer!

Got any tips yourself? Why not share them below?

Categories
How To Guides Internet

How to be a smart online buyer

When you decide you want to buy something off the internet, how do you go about doing so? I’m not talking about getting your shopping delivered to your door, I am talking about buying something like maybe a laptop, digital camera or a new mobile phone.

Many people just look for the make and model they want and they go straight in for the buy. Do you? If so, you may want to read on, as you could save yourself a lot of money!

Say I wanted to buy a laptop, one of the first things I would do would be to go to a money saving site like Money Saving Expert in order to establish whether there are currently any great offers on laptops that other people on the web have noticed.

If you are still looking for the best type of laptop for you, try review and comparison sites like Test Freaks. These can help you decide what laptop to buy, as they can give you reviews that people who have bought laptops have written. They often also present data in a very easy way, often giving the product a score, based on its price, spec (and therefore value for money) and what peoples reviews are like – i.e. positive or negative.

Test Freaks LogoIf/once you have your heart set on a particular laptop, then your next step is to look for discount codes for that sit/product. Sites like My Voucher Codes can often save you 5-10% on your goods, simply because they know the latest discounts for your product. 5-10% might not sound that much, but if you are buying a £350 laptop (lets say $500) 10% is £35/$50 which is enough to buy you a really good travel case as well as a decent wireless laser mouse and a USB hub.

The final bit of advice I would give you is to take your time. When spending a large amount of money over the internet check reviews of the site you are buying off, to see if it is reputable, check that the item is exactly what you want and make sure you get the best price!

Often online sites have deals which change all the time, meaning that tomorrow that perfect laptop may now be 25% cheaper, as it was only higher priced so that they could bring it down and slap a ‘25% off!’ label on it.


Good luck making any online purchases 🙂

Anyone got any other advice/experiences to share?

Categories
Business Technology

Lessons Learned from Using Electronic Signatures

Ever since the E-Sign Act was passed, many businesses and individuals have turned to electronic signatures. Let’s explore some electronic signatures benefits, and how they can help your business, too.

If you are considering e-signatures for your business needs, this technology is sure to make your business operate more efficiently and make your life easier. Here are some of the things that you will quickly learn for yourself as you begin using electronic signatures.

Electronic signature can allow your office to go paperless. Documents requiring signature are one of the few reasons businesses still have printers and fax machines. What’s the need for paper when signatures can be obtained online? This is not only environmentally friendly, but will also help keep the office better organized and provide a more inviting work environment for you and your employees.

Electronic SignaturesYou will save lots of time by using electronic signatures. How? Your deals and transactions will be almost instantaneous, completed with just a click or two of the mouse. You will also save the money that is currently spent on paper, ink, envelopes, stamps, and all the supplies need for printing and mailing contracts and other documents. More important areas of the business can then receive more attention, thus increasing your revenue.

Likewise, if you are the customer who is signing a contract, electronic signatures will save you the time and frustration of signing a contract and looking around for a fax machine or stamp to return the signed contract.

Electronic signatures offer a greater sense of security to both parties in an agreement, as most electronic signature providers allow the parties involved to store and view the contract and associated audit and authentication data in a secure online archive. This also eliminates the risk of losing important records and paperwork through misplacement.

Based on these benefits, it is no surprise to see a majority of businesses implementing electronic signatures. In the near future, most businesses that are still doing things the old way will join the paperless revolution. Maintain your competitiveness, and don’t be the last one to make the change!