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Its environmentalists sweet-spot right in the middle of the bustling port city of Visakhapatnam, in Andhra Pradesh. Surrounded by a concrete forest of towering buildings, is Andhra Pradesh’s only biodiversity park of its kind, quietly spreading the good word on ecology and conservation.
Over the past 20 years, thousands of young impressionable student minds have volunteered at the Biodiversity Park, seen nature at work from close quarters, and returned as converts to the cause of protecting mother nature.
The biodiversity park in Vizag is unique in that despite a spread over a relatively small area of 3 acres, it is home to no less than 2,000 plant and tree species, 160 varieties of butterflies, 60 bird species, and numerous organisms.
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This man-made forest and haven of biodiversity is the result of the tireless efforts of a marine biologist-turned zoology professor Dr. M. Rama Murthy who along with his wife, set up the Dolphin Nature Conservation Society in 2001.
The biodiversity park is an ode to the unflagging spirit of the 66-year young retired professor, his wife, and the hundreds of students he taught over the decades.
The beginnings were humble but slowly the idea of setting up a diverse park took shape in Murty’s mind.
“Initially we used to organize tree plantation campaigns, awareness camps, and nature treks. But students felt we should have something more substantial and that’s how the idea for a biodiversity park was born. A place where students can actually see nature at work. We brought in seeds and saplings from authorized sources in places like Dehra Dun, Bengaluru, and Kozhikode.”
While the society was established in 2001 and began working on the biodiversity park, the origins go back further.
It all began in 1986 when Murthy set up the ‘Penguin Nature Club’ at the college he was working in, in association with the WWF.
However, to cater to a larger cross-section of interested students from different colleges, the Dolphin Nature Conservation society was registered and the Penguin Nature Club amalgamated into it.
A sympathetic district administration allotted the society 1,000 square yards of land in the premises of the Rani Chandramani Devi Hospital. The society had to literally clear the land, square inch- by square inch, as it was overrun with weeds, and littered with trash and medical wastes from the hospital.
Slowly but surely, the results became evident as the land regained lost fertility, and thrived with greenery.
Subsequently, the land allotment was increased, to its present 3 acres, and the biodiversity park took its present shape.
The park boasts of three different ecosystems — aquatic, desert, and hill. Almost all the major plant and tree specimens of the subcontinent thrive here. Despite the ambient humidity, the society used a bit of ingenuity to grow some of the cold environment species too — like growing orchids on tree branches.
The park is home to an assortment of birds ranging from the Golden-backed Woodpecker, Spotted Owlet, Parakeet, Brahminy Starling, and Greater Coucal, to the Red-whiskered Bulbul, Purple Sunbird, and Barn Owl.
Separate sections for different categories of flora include a section for sacred groves, where forests, plants, and trees considered holy by different sections of society are planted. Similarly, there is a section dedicated to gymnosperms or living fossil plants dating back to the Jurassic period.
There are also separate sections housing ornamental plants, medicinal plants, orchids, bamboo, palm groves, cacti and succulents, aquatic plants, and orchids.
The park is a nature lover’s paradise, and some rare and endangered species found here, include Maidenhair trees (Ginkgo biloba), Krishna’s Buttercup, Jesus Smile, Autograph Tree, Upside-down Tree, Mickey Mouse Tree, Laughing Buddha Bamboo, and Octopus Tree.
The profusion of fauna in such a limited area is something that makes the park stand out.
However, Murthy feels it serves a purpose. “Regular botanical gardens are vast and spread over hundreds of acres. Who will be able to see the entire park if it is so large? Who will be able to explain all that? That’s why we say any biodiversity park or garden should be small enough to visit easily.
“So that students can spend half a day and see the biodiversity. Our biodiversity park is really such a wonderful, living lab with all systems. In all textbooks CBSE or others, whatever is being taught we’re showing it here.”, he says.
His supporters spread all over the world, join in whenever possible. Mamata, a former student and founder volunteer of the DNCS, presently residing in Bengaluru recalls how the volunteering changed her outlook towards nature conservation.
“I’ve seen that place change right in front of my eyes, in five years. When we started, we used to find so much trash. We cleaned the ground and rejuvenated the soil. Within five years, the place became a nature-lover’s paradise. It has been a life-changing experience for me. Whenever Murthy sir reaches out to us, we immediately rush to Vizag and lend a hand,” she says.
The DNCS is no stranger to unforeseen challenges. Advisor to the DCNS, Professor Kameswara Rao recalls how Cyclone Hudhud laid waste the park in 2014.
“During Hudhud, the park and forest were extensively damaged. Almost all the trees got uprooted, the greenhouse collapsed and everything in the park suffered damage. We lost most of the sensitive species. But everybody got back to work immediately. Wherever possible, damaged trees were bandaged and helped to regrow. The sensitive plant species that perished were procured and replanted. Within a year and a half, the park was back to normal.”
Cut to the year 2020, and the Covid pandemic has forced schools and colleges to shut down. Compared to around 50,000 student visitors per year previously, visitor footfalls to the park have come down drastically for a year now. But DNCS continues to soldier on.
With no official support worth the name from the government, it’s been tough going for the DNCS. A little help comes in from the district authorities while volunteers and former students step in from time to time with donations and service. The rest of the work is handled by Murthy and his volunteers.
Ever since his retirement in 2013, the biodiversity park has become a full-time vocation for the retired professor.
Having put in close to Rs 40 lakh of his personal money into the forest and park over the past three decades, he hopes the state government comes forward to help out.
“The thing is the gene bank, wonderful precious gene bank of plants should be carried forward for the future generations to enjoy and conserve. This is our main concern and problem.
“Government should come forward to identify and if they take up with our society as the nodal body or coordinating agency, we’ll be happy,” he signs off. (IANS/KB)
As robots evolve to do more work around us, the UK-based humanoid robot manufacturer Engineered Arts has infused more human-like facial expressions into one of its robots, which may leave you with an eerie feeling.
In a video posted on YouTube, the robot called 'Ameca' displays various human expressions, like appearing to "wake up" from sleep, as its face shows confusion and frustration when it opens its eyes.
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Once awake, 'Ameca' starts looking at its hands and arms, opens its mouth and raises its eyebrows, just like a human does.
At the end of the video, Ameca smiles and holds a welcoming hand out towards the viewer.
According to Engineered Arts, the humanoid bot is currently unable to walk and it is working towards giving it the ability in the near future.
"Designed specifically as a platform for development into future robotics technologies, 'Ameca' is the perfect humanoid robot platform for human-robot interaction," says the company.
The 'Ameca' hardware is a development based on its own research into humanoid robotics and built on its advanced 'Mesmer' technology.
Ameca' on display at the CES 2022 conference in Las Vegas in the US in January.Unsplash
Also read: NASA humanoid robot dances to technology
Engineered Arts is slated to put 'Ameca' on display at the CES 2022 conference in Las Vegas in the US in January.
"Human-like Artificial Intelligence needs a human-like artificial body. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning systems can be tested and developed on Ameca alongside our powerful 'Tritium' robot operating system," the company posted on its website. (IANS/PR)
(Keywords: Humanoid Robot, Ameca, Technology)
Microsoft has disrupted the activities of a China-based hacking group, gaining control of the malicious websites the group used to attack organisations in the US and 28 other countries around the world.
The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) said in a statement that a federal court in Virginia granted its request to seize websites of the hacking group called 'Nickel', enabling the company to cut off Nickel's access to its victims and prevent the websites from being used to execute attacks.
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"We believe these attacks were largely being used for intelligence gathering from government agencies, think tanks and human rights organisations," said Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft.
Obtaining control of the malicious websites and redirecting traffic from those sites to Microsoft's secure servers will help the company protect existing and future victims while learning more about Nickel's activities.
Also Read : Fortnite : A Gold Mine for Hackers
"Our disruption will not prevent Nickel from continuing other hacking activities, but we do believe we have removed a key piece of the infrastructure the group has been relying on for this latest wave of attacks," Burt said late on Monday.
To date, in 24 lawsuits - five against nation-state actors -- Microsoft has taken down more than 10,000 malicious websites used by cybercriminals and nearly 600 sites used by nation-state actors.
"We have also successfully blocked the registration of 600,000 sites to get ahead of criminal actors that planned to use them maliciously in the future," the tech giant informed.
"We believe these attacks were largely being used for intelligence gathering from government agencies, think tanks and human rights organisations."Unsplash
In some observed activity, Nickel malware used exploits targeting unpatched on-premises Exchange Server and SharePoint systems.
"However, we have not observed any new vulnerabilities in Microsoft products as part of these attacks. Microsoft has created unique signatures to detect and protect from known Nickel activity through our security products, like Microsoft 365 Defender," the company noted.
Nickel has targeted organisations in both the private and public sectors, including diplomatic organisations and ministries of foreign affairs in North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : hacking, China, Microsoft, website, victim, intelligence, attack, malicious, traffic, server, company, disruption, lawsuits, cybercriminals, vulnerability.)
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Chip manufacturer MediaTek on Monday announced that it is focused on making 2022 a year aimed at rapid growth, business success, substantial expansion in Research and Development capabilities.
MediaTek's plans to boost technology democratisation and enable access to disruptive connectivity with its range of mainstream to flagship 5G chips.
"We at MediaTek are focused on making 2022 a year aimed at rapid growth, business success, and substantial expansion in our R&D capabilities. For 2022, we are focused on further strengthening our presence in India, offering incredible experiences to customers, and supporting the country's technology initiatives with our expertise and collaboration with leading OEMs," Anku Jain, Managing Director, MediaTek India said in a statement.
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In the flagship segment, MediaTek recently announced the Dimensity 9000 chip, which is a milestone of innovation and a rise to the incredible, built-to-power flagship 5G smartphones in the world, the company claims.
MediaTek Dimensity 9000 features a single Cortex-X2 performance core clocked at 3.05GHz, three Cortex-A710 cores at 2.85GHz and four Cortex-A510 efficiency cores at 1.8GHz.
It packs a 10-core Arm Mali-G710 that takes care of graphics processing, the report said.
The chipset also comes packed with MediaTek's fifth-generation APU with six total cores for AI processing.Unsplash
Also read: Realme Unveils First 5G Smartphone
The chipset also comes packed with MediaTek's fifth-generation APU with six total cores for AI processing.
The chipset can handle screens with up to a 180Hz refresh rate at Full HD+ resolutions. It is also the first chipset to have an 18-bit image signal processor, offering the ability to capture 4K HDR video using up to three cameras at the same time, or still photos using up to a massive 320MP sensor. (IANS/PR)
(Keywords: 5G, smartphones, Mediatek)