Saturday, July 11, 2020

Alija Izetbegović: Journey from prison to Bosnian Presidency

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Inshiya Nalawala

Article Title

Alija Izetbegović: Journey from prison to Bosnian Presidency

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Global Views 360

Publication Date

July 11, 2020

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Alija Izetbegovic meeting with US President Clinton in Tuzla, Bosnia

Alija Izetbegovic meeting with US President Clinton in Tuzla, Bosnia | Source: William J. Clinton Presidential Library via Wikimedia

In a world that still holds up the burden of racisms and prejudice, the struggle of vanquishing differences between various religious sects and political groups that emerged vibrantly back in the late 20th century sets an exemplary path for leaders today to follow.

The legendary Bosnian leader, Alija Izetbegović, who dedicated his entire life in the process of protecting human rights of Bosnian Muslims who were subjected to brutal crimes and violence by the neighboring countries, with his visionary and revolutionary thoughts played an important role during the dramatic changes that took place post the World War II.  

Born in 1925, Alija was always driven by his strong moral compass. For him, his ethics and his moral principles served him as a winning weapon in all battles. According to him, ethics added meaning and purpose to life.

He studied from the ‘University of Sarajevo’ with a degree in arts, laws, and science. His life journey began when he first appeared in the frontline as a civil right activist of an organization established by Sheikh Muhammad Kharji and Sheikh Cassim Dobreje.

It was in 1946 that he was first arrested when he was a twenty-one year old youngster. He was condemned for being a part of a group/organization that expounded religious freedom and human rights. He was sentenced to jail for 3 years. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an end to his hardship. In 1949, young Izetbegović was once again imprisoned, as per the orders received from a special military court. This time he was given a five-year sentence. His crime - active support behind the Young Muslim Organization. Izetbegović spent his youth behind the bars thinking and strengthening his spirit of establishing a multicultural Bosnia once again.  

Later in August of 1983, Izetbegović along with eleven other scholars was sentenced to 14 years in prison. It was during this time that Izetbegović wrote his book, “Notes from Prison: 1983-88”. In his book, he encompasses his experience at the prison cell and how resistance grew in him during all these years.

Izetbegović soon faced national and international Media under his virtue of engagement with the social and political affairs of the country. In 1990, he founded the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and won the elections with a majority in 1992. The man who spent years in jail yet, filled with optimism and encouragement, had made it through all the agonies and challenges life put him through. With his party gaining central power, Izetbegović was elected as the first President of the country. Later, he also announced Bosnia-Herzegovina an independent republic.

Although Izetbegović was now the president of a young republic country, an end to criticism and racial crimes was not yet achieved. During the Croat-Bosniak war in 1993, the Croats destroyed the Mostar bridge (also known as Stari Bridge). Underlining their catastrophic act falsely as strategically driven, the Croats through this destruction attacked the symbolic importance of the Bridge, which was to connect diverse communities across it.

Despite the sustained attacks and strenuous efforts of the neighboring countries to curb rising unity and ethnicity in Bosnia, the Bosnian Leader always taught his fellow countrymen and soldiers to be superior morally first. He believed that it is this superiority that will fetch them their ultimate goal. For him, instituting peace was a fundamental duty, a greater win, or “greater jihad” over any other military victory. Rising international pressure ultimately brought peace in 1995.

Finally, he stepped down from the presidential throne in 2000. After he grimly fell ill, the greatest revolutionary thinker died in 2003. His eternal story of life struggle is inspiring, making him worthy of the title “wise king”.

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April 13, 2021 2:10 PM

Detecting The Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays With Smartphones

Smartphones have become the most commonplace objects in our daily lives. The unimaginable power that we hold in our hands is unrealized by most of us and, more importantly, untapped. Its creativity often gets misused but one can only hope that it’s fascinating abilities would be utilized. For example, did you know that the millions of phones around the globe can be connected to form a particle detector? The following article covers the CRAYFIS (Cosmic RAYs Found in Smartphones) phone-based application developed by the physicists from the University of California—Daniel Whiteson, Michael Mulhearn, and their team. CRAYFIS aims to take advantage of the large network of smartphones around the world and detect the cosmic or gamma rays bursts which enter the Earth’s atmosphere almost constantly.

What Are Cosmic Rays?

Cosmic rays are high velocity subatomic particles bombarding the Earth’s upper atmosphere continuously. Cosmic ray bursts have the highest energy compared to all forms of electro-magnetic radiation. When we say ultra-high energy particles (energy more than 1018^eV), we mean two million times more energetic than the ones that can be produced by the particle colliders on Earth.  These rays are thought to be more powerful than typical supernovae and can release trillions of times more energy than the Sun. They are also highly unpredictable as they can enter Earth’s atmosphere from any direction and the bursts can last for any period of time ranging from a few thousand seconds to several minutes.

Despite many theoretical hypotheses, the sources of these ultra-high energy cosmic rays are still a mystery to us even after many decades of their discovery. These rays were initially discovered in the 1960’s by the U.S. military when they were doing background checks for gamma rays after nuclear weapon testing. Cosmologists suggest that these bursts could be the result of super massive stars collapsing - leading to hypernova; or can be retraced to collisions of black holes with other black holes or neutron stars.

How Do We Detect Them?

When the high-energy particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, the air and the gas molecules cause them to break apart and create massive showers of relatively low-energy particles. Aurora borealis i.e., the Northern and the Southern lights are the lights that are emitted when these cosmic rays interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. Currently, these particles are hitting the Earth at a rate of about one per square meter per second. The showers get scattered to a radius of one or two kilometers consisting mostly of high-energy photons, electrons, positrons and muons. But the fact that these particles can hit the Earth anytime and anywhere is where the problem arises. Since the Earth has a massive area, it is not possible to place a detector everywhere and catch them at the exact moment.

Energetic charged particles known as cosmic rays hit our atmosphere, where they collide with air molecules to produce a shower of secondary particle | Source: CERN

Detecting such a shower requires a very big telescope, which logically means a network of individual particle detectors distributed over a mile or two-wide radius and connected to each other. The Pierre Auger Observatory in South America is the only such arrangement where 1,600 particle detectors have been scattered on 3,000 square kilometers of land. But the construction cost of the same was about $100 million. Yet, only a few cosmic ray particles could be detected using this arrangement. How do we spread this network around the Earth?

In addition to being cost-effective, such a setup must also be feasible. The Earth’s surface cannot possibly be dotted with particle detectors which cost huge fortunes. This is where smartphones come into the picture.

Detecting The Particles Using Smartphones

Smartphones are the most appropriate devices required to solve the problem. They have planet wide coverage, are affordable by most people and are being actively used by more than 1.5 billion users around the planet. Individually, these devices are low and inefficient; but a considerably dense network of such devices can give us a chance to detect cosmic ray showers belonging to the highest energy range.

Previous research has shown that smartphones have the capability of detecting ionizing radiation. The camera is the most sensitive part of the smartphone and is just the device required to meet our expectations. A CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) device is present in the camera- in which silicon photodiode pixels produce electron-hole pairs when struck by visible photons (when photons are detected by the CMOS device, it leaves traces of weakly activated pixels). The incoming rays are also laced with other noises and interference from the surroundings.  Although these devices are made to detect visible light, they still have the capability of detecting higher-energy photons and also low-ionizing particles such as the muons.

A screenshot from the app which shows the exposure time, the events- the number of particles recorded and other properties

To avoid normal light, the CRAYFIS application is to be run during nighttime with the camera facing down. As the phone processor runs the application it collects data from its surroundings using a camera as its detector element. The megapixel images (i.e., the incoming particles) are scanned at a speed of 5 to 15 frames per second, depending on the frame-processing speed of the device. Scientists expect that signals from the cosmic rays would occur rarely, i.e., around one in 500 frames. Also, there is the job of removing background data. An algorithm was created to tune the incoming particle shower by setting a threshold frequency at around 0.1 frames per second. Frames containing pixels above the threshold are stored and passed to the second stage which examines the stored frames, saving only the pixels above a second, lower threshold.

The CRAYFIS app is designed to run when the phone is not being used and when it is connected to a power source. The actual performance would be widely affected by the geometry of the smartphone’s camera and the conditions in which the data is being collected. Further, once the application is installed and is in the operating mode, no participation is required from the user, which is required to achieve wide-scale participation. When a Wifi connection is available the collected data would be uploaded to the central server so that it could be interpreted.

There is much complicated math used to trace back the information collected from the application. The most important parameters for the app are the local density of incoming particles, the detection area of the phone and the particle identification efficiency. These parameters are used to find the mean number of candidates (photons or muons) being detected. Further, the probability that a phone will detect no candidates or the probability that a phone will detect one or more candidates is given by Poisson distribution. The density of the shower is directly proportional to the incident particle energy with a distribution in x and y sensitive to the direction in which the particle came from. An Unbinned Likelihood (it is the probability of obtaining a certain data- in this case the distribution of the cosmic rays including their energy and direction, the obtained data is arranged into bins which are very, very small) analysis is used to determine the incident particle energy and direction. To eliminate background interference, a benchmark requirement has been set that at least 5 phones must detect and register a hit to be considered as a candidate.

It is impossible to express just how mind-blowing this innovation is. As the days pass, Science and Technology around us keep on surprising us and challenge us to rack our brains for more and more unique ways to deal with complex problems. The CRAYFIS app is simply beautiful and it would be a dream-come-true to the scientists if the project works out and we are able to detect these high energy, super intimidating cosmic rays with smartphones from our backyard.

Further Reading

The paper by Daniel Whiteson and team can be found here.

An exciting book “We Have No Idea” by Daniel Whiteson and cartoonist Jorge Cham can be found here.

The CRAYFIS app can be found here.

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