Wednesday, September 30, 2020

US Presidential Elections: Effect of Modi-Trump Relationship on Voters

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Vanshita Banuana

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US Presidential Elections: Effect of Modi-Trump Relationship on Voters

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Global Views 360

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September 30, 2020

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President Trump and Prime Minister Modi in India-US bilateral meeting

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi in India-US bilateral meeting | Source: Twitter

With the US Presidential Elections scheduled to happen in just over a month, an important voter pool is emerging into the limelight for both contesting parties. The Indian American diaspora, one of the largest Asian American populations and a large pool of potential voters, currently stands at a crossroads. They face a choice that has been brought about by their unique connection to two men: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American President Donald Trump.

President Trump in India during Namaste Trump | Source: Twitter

Both have a lot in common, and both have definitely tried to capitalise on that. Trump and Modi have held rallies in each other’s country, which has influenced voters in both countries and drawn out massive crowds. An estimated 50,000 Indians gathered in Houston in September 2019 to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Howdy Modi” rally, reportedly the largest-ever gathering of a foreign political leader in the USA. Trump received the gift of a crowd over twice as large as that at Modi’s Namaste Trump rally in Gujarat in February 2020.

Indian American voters have historically tended to vote for the Democratic Party: as recently as the 2016 elections, a large majority voted for Hillary Clinton. While that may remain true for the younger voters, the older generation seems to be leaning more to the right, as events in the homeland have led to majoritarian and communal support for the authoritarian PM Modi.  Al Mason, who works with the Trump Victory Indian American Finance Committee, claimed to have conducted an analysis of voter sentiments in the states of Michigan, Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. According to him, a “mass exodus” can be expected: hundreds of thousands of Indian American potential voters switching sides to favour Trump.

The worsening and brutal situation in Kashmir, increasingly polarised religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims, as well as increase in lynchings against Dalits and other oppressed castes is becoming an important driving force for Indian diaspora in deciding who to vote for. Trump’s Islamophobic and anti-China sentiments may be striking a cord with the Indian American diaspora, since most of them are uppercaste, affluent Hindus— mirroring the political majority in India. Additionally, at least some Indian Americans are surely misconstruing Democrats’ criticism of Modi’s policies as a criticism of India— especially when it comes from Indian American members of the House of Representatives— leading them to feel defensive towards both.

Indian American Trump supporters are rallying strongly behind him, with organisations such as The Texas India Forum and Hindus4Trump claim to possess a large pool of funds and members geared towards making Trump 2020 a reality.

On the other hand, concerns regarding visas and green cards seem to be diminishing among the Indian diaspora already settled in America, despite the mounting pressure from Trump’s largely white and Christian base to keep cracking down on immigration. Indian origin supporters of Trump, in India as well as the USA, seem convinced that the visa reforms will eventually work out in their favour. It isn’t hard to see that given the massive amount of support Trump receives from (and provides to) white supremacists, it would actually be in the best interests of Indian Americans to not vote for him.

Biden’s recent decision to choose Kamala Harris as his running mate for Vice President could prove to be an important aspect for Indian American voters. Harris is of South Indian ancestry from her mother’s side, and being one of the first South Asian women to be on the ticket for a position of major power has the potential to influence voters who want to see more representation on the political stage. You can read more in our deep dive on Kamala Harris, including her views and policies regarding India, here at Kamala Harris: A Look At Joe Biden’s Running Mate.

In response to Harris becoming running mate and the praise it received from Indians, Trump released a commercial showing him and Modi together, and applauding the support Trump receives from Indian Americans. Democrats are also ramping up their efforts and releasing targeted advertisements in multiple languages. Biden and his senior advisors addressed the community on August 15, Indian Independence Day; a month before that the Democratic National Committee Chairman addressed a virtual gathering of 800 Indian American prospective voters along with a former ambassador to India.

While there are quite a few who support one but denounce the other, the similarities between Modi and Trump lead to a general trend of supporting one invariably leading to support for the other, and vice-versa. Both Democrats and Republicans recognise the precarious position that Indians all over the world, including in the United States, are in right now; opinions are shifting and solidifying, and performance of this particular demographic in the upcoming election could very well surprise the community itself.

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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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