Tuesday December 12, 2017
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Indian origin scientist develop hack-proof chip

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New York: An Indian origin researcher has made a breakthrough in developing a new type of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip which is virtually impossible to hack. This chip would prove to be beneficial in preventing your credit card number or key card information from being stolen.

Chiraag Juvekar, the graduate student in electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said the chip is designed to prevent so called side-channel attacks.

Side-channel attacks analyze patterns of memory access or fluctuations in power usage when a device is performing a cryptographic operation, in order to extract its cryptographic key.

“The idea in a side-channel attack is that a given execution of the cryptographic algorithm only leaks a slight amount of information,” Juvekar said.

“So you need to execute the cryptographic algorithm with the same secret many, many times to get enough leakage to extract a complete secret,” he explained.

One way to thwart side-channel attacks is to regularly change secret keys.

In that case, the RFID chip would run a random-number generator that would spit out a new secret key after each transaction.

A central server would run the same generator, and every time an RFID scanner queried the tag, it would relay the results to the server, to see if the current key was valid.

Such a system would still, however, be vulnerable to a “power glitch” attack in which the RFID chip’s power would be repeatedly cut right before it changed its secret key.

An attacker could then run the same side-channel attack thousands of times, with the same key.

Two design innovations allow the MIT researchers’ chip to thwart power-glitch attacks.

One is an on-chip power supply whose connection to the chip circuitry would be virtually impossible to cut and the other is a set of “nonvolatile” memory cells that can store whatever data the chip is working on when it begins to lose power.

For both of these features, Juvekar and Anantha Chandrakasan, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and others used a special type of material known as ferroelectric crystals.

Texas Instruments and other chip manufacturers have been using ferroelectric materials to produce nonvolatile memory or computer memory that retains data when it’s powered off.

Along with Texas Instruments that has built several prototypes of the new chip, the researchers presented their research at the “International Solid-State Circuits Conference” in San Francisco recently. (IANS) (picture courtesy: iran-daily.com)

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Bakelite: The Revolutionary Invention of Leo Baekeland

Today marks the 108th anniversary of the day when bakelite was first patented.

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leo baekeland
Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863- 1944)

Bakelite! Ah, the pioneering invention that defined the modern plastic industry. The plastic which had once been the primary substance of manufactured everyday items which now line up the boastful shelves of antiquity collectors: chokers, lockets, fine jewelleries and watches, furniture and radios…

This is in remembrance of the pioneer of modern plastic- bakelite- and of the man behind this revolutionary invention.

In what would probably have been his late forties, Leo Hendrik Baekeland had a goal in his mind: to find a replacement for shellac. Made from the shells of Asian female lac beatles, shellac had its uses as a colourant, food glaze and wood finish. Chemists had already identified natural resins like shellac as polymers and had started experiments to form synthetic polymers. Encouraged by these advances, Baekeland began his own experiments by first combining phenol and formaldehyde to create a soluble shellac. He called it “Novolak”. Unfortunately, this first phenol- formaldehyde combination fluttered away without a trace, never finding popularity. However, it did leave Baekeland with valuable experience.

It was the second attempt that set the boulder rolling! This time Baekeland chose precision. Initiating a controlled reaction between phenol and formaldehyde, the Belgian chemist found himself witnessing the birth of the plastic he had so long waited for.

About a hundred- and eight years ago on this very day, Leo Hendrik Baekeland patented the first thermosetting plastic- bakelite!

invention of bakelite
The Bakelizer was a steam pressure vessel used to produce commercial quantities of Bakelite since 1909. Photo from Chemical Heritage Foundation in wikimedia commons.

The Belgian’s invention was an instant success. Bakelite took the plastic industries of the world by storm, finding its use in more than a thousand of items and accessories. From jewellery and fashion equipments including the choker, bakelite earrings and lockets to kitchenware like bakelite handles, knobs and utensils, the revolutionary new plastic went on to find crucial uses in the radio and automobile industries, which during that age were undergoing rapid growth.

Picture of a bakelite radio at the Bakelite Museum, Somerset, UK. Photo from wikimedia commons

However, the fame that bakelite had earned was not destined to last long. With the synthesis of new plastic formulas after the end of the Second World War, the demand for bakelite began to diminish. New plastics like ABS and Lexan began surfacing across the industrial world to overthrow the reign of Leo Baekeland’s groundbreaking invention.

A little over a hundred years on though, bakelite still shines on! Besides being a collector’s item in the modern world, it still exists in brotherhood with the likes of aluminium and steel to fill catalogues and portals that sell quality kitchenware to the masses. Clearly, it never left. It was an invention which had been wrought out by Baekeland; a pioneer which was here to stay.

 

– Twitter Handle: @QuillnQuire

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Ethnic Indian Jai Sears responds to complaint against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada

Jai Sears wrote in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier

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Gandhi
Mahatama Gandhi, leader of non violence

Jai Sears from Grenada, Caribbean has written a letter to editor in response to complaints against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada. Here is the text:

I write in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier and published in the Grenada newspaper, The New Today (Nov 3, 2017). In his letter, Rougier is asking the Government to remove the bust-statue of Gandhi which overlooks Sauteurs Bay in Grenada where East Indians arrived 160 years ago. Rougier’s opinion is based on the false notion that Gandhi was racist because the Mahatma reportedly considered Indians to be superior to black Africans when he referred to the latter as “kaffirs.”

Gandhi was only 27 years old when he made that contextual statement. If Rougier had done his research, he would have found that Nelson Mandela said: “Gandhi must be forgiven for these prejudices in the context of the time and the circumstances.” The quote can be found in “Gandhi the Prisoner” by Nelson Mandela published in 1995. Gandhi was a man; he was not god. And even god made mistakes.

In favour of Mahatama Gandhi
Photo of Jai Sears

Rougier must instead focus on the Gandhi’s vision of non-violent protest and his belief in satyagraha which inspired rebels and revolutionaries around the world. Gandhi’s ideas influenced leaders of the African National Congress and the struggle by Indians and blacks against white apartheid rule in South Africa. From as early as 1956 when he was 27 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Gandhi as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

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Following the success of his boycott, King contemplated traveling to India to deepen his understanding of Gandhian principles. The fact is that Gandhi saw people of all races, castes, colours and creeds as equal which led to his assassination by a Hindu fanatic in 1948. So who is this unknown Josiah Rougier? Is he as illustrious as the great Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King? And is he disagreeing with his possible heroes?

A friend to all.
Jai Sears
Grenada, Caribbean

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Oldest recorded solar eclipse occurred 3,200 years ago

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Solar eclipse

Cambridge University researchers have pinpointed the date of what could be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded. The event, which occurred on October 30, 1207 BC, is mentioned in the Bible, and could help historians to date Egyptian pharaohs.

“Solar eclipses are often used as a fixed point to date events in the ancient world,” said Professor Colin Humphreys from University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy.

Using a combination of the biblical text and an ancient Egyptian text, the researchers were able to refine the dates of the Egyptian pharaohs, in particular, the dates of the reign of Ramesses the Great, according to the study published in the journal Astronomy & Geophysics.

The biblical text in question comes from the Old Testament book of Joshua and has puzzled biblical scholars for centuries.

It records that after Joshua led the people of Israel into Canaan, a region of the ancient Near East that covered modern-day Israel and Palestine – he prayed: “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. And the Sun stood still, and the Moon stopped until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.”

“If these words are describing a real observation, then a major astronomical event was taking place – the question for us to figure out is what the text actually means,” Humphreys said.

“Modern English translations, which follow the King James translation of 1611, usually interpret this text to mean that the Sun and Moon stopped moving,” Humphreys said.

“But going back to the original Hebrew text, we determined that an alternative meaning could be that the Sun and Moon just stopped doing what they normally do: they stopped shining. In this context, the Hebrew words could be referring to a solar eclipse, when the Moon passes between the earth and the Sun, and the Sun appears to stop shining,” Humphreys said.

This interpretation is supported by the fact that the Hebrew word translated ‘stand still’ has the same root as a Babylonian word used in ancient astronomical texts to describe eclipses, he added.

Independent evidence that the Israelites were in Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC can be found in the Merneptah Stele, an Egyptian text dating from the reign of the Pharaoh Merneptah, son of the well-known Ramesses the Great, the study said.

The large granite block, held in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, says that it was carved in the fifth year of Merneptah’s reign and mentions a campaign in Canaan in which he defeated the people of Israel.

Earlier historians had used these two texts to try to date the possible eclipse, but were not successful as they were only looking at total eclipses, in which the disc of the Sun appears to be completely covered by the moon as the moon passes directly between the earth and the sun.

What the earlier historians failed to consider was that it was instead an annular eclipse, in which the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, but is too far away to cover the disc completely, the researchers said.

In the ancient world, the same word was used for both total and annular eclipses.

The researchers developed a new eclipse code, which takes into account variations in the Earth’s rotation over time.

From their calculations, they determined that the only annular eclipse visible from Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC was on 30 October 1207 BC, in the afternoon.

If their arguments are accepted, it would not only be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded, it would also enable researchers to date the reigns of Ramesses the Great and his son Merneptah to within a year.

Using these new calculations, the researchers determined that Ramesses the Great reigned from 1276-1210 BC, with a precision of plus or minus one year.(IANS)