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Raising The Black Flag against Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel

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Vanshita Banuana

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Raising The Black Flag against Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel


Global Views 360

Publication Date

August 22, 2020


President Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

President Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel | Source: Government Press Office, Israel

The past few months have seen an unprecedented uprising against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, owing to rapidly rising unemployment rates and mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis. Protestors have been gathering at Netanyahu’s residences and demanding that he resign.

Many claim that while the government was initially able to control the spread of the coronavirus, it was too quick to reopen the economy, which led to a more devastating second wave of cases and ended up only hurting small businesses and employment even more. The crashing down of the economy and public healthcare system is touted as evidence of a selfish government which is too distant from the interests of its citizens.

Additionally, Netanyahu is facing trial for charges of corruption. Though the charges first began to surface back in 2016, the indictment came last November. On top of that, it is being alleged that Netanyahu is trying to leverage the pandemic to delay court hearings. In light of the corruption charges, calling Netanyahu “Crime Minister” has emerged as a popular slogan at the protests.

Anti-Government protest in Israel | Source: Middle East Monitor

The protests seem to be mostly organised and led by Israeli leftists, who hold up black flags representing their anti-Netanyahu, anti-corruption and pro-democracy stance. Some protestors have also taken to dressing up in space-themed costumes, in response to a comment by Netanyahu’s son calling the protestor’s “aliens.”

The biggests protests are those held regularly outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem and his private home in the high-profile neighbourhood of Caesarea. The police presence at the protests has been heavy; clashes and arrests are common. Small international protests in support of the ones in Israel have been organised in the United States and Britain.

The protests usually bring a mixed crowd of those protesting corruption charges and business In terms of demographics, some have noted that religious Israelis and Israeli Arabs have been a minority presence in the protests, perhaps the former due to political leanings and the latter due to marginalisation and disenfranchisement. At the same time, the protests are being admired for bringing together citizens across political lines, religious beliefs, and ages, as well as the sight of many families attending protests together.

Protests against Netanyahu 2020 Jerusalem | Source: Nir Hirshman Communication via Wikimedia

The supposed political leanings of the majority of the protestors is the key argument Netanyahu has given while dismissing them, calling them “anarchists,” while also reportedly accusing local media of giving them more coverage than they deserve. He has also denied the allegations of corruption levelled against him.

There have been many reports of counter-protests by right-wing groups, often alongside the anti-Netanyahu ones. Supporters of Netanyahu, attempted to ram a car into a protest, called protestors “germs”,  pepper sprayed and attacked them with bottles and clubs. For now, the courts seem to be protecting the Israelis’ rights to freedom of speech and to protest from appeals to curtail the protests in any manner.

There is speculation regarding whether resignation is the “right” demand, since it seems unlikely that someone like Netanyahu will ever follow through on that. But the people of Israel are out in the streets in the thousands. They are called aliens or anarchists all day but denial is a facade that can only last for so long.

Benny Gantz leader of Blue and White Party | Source: Reuven Kapuchinsky via Wikimedia

Netanyahu is now the longest serving prime minister of Israel. He started the new term when his right-wing Likud party signed a coalition deal with Benny Gantz led Blue and White Party which provisioned 18 month long terms for both of them. Gantz’s term is to begin from November 2021 and some analysts predict that Netanyahu might hold early elections to deny prime ministership to Gantz and in the process, delay Israel’s next budget.

The biggest ally of Netanyahu so far in his political career was his luck which finally seems to desert him. He might be thinking that the protests can be waited out and accountability can be avoided. However this time, his political instinct and survival skill may come up short in the face of determined opposition from the common citizens of Israel.

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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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