How to Stay Relaxed on a Plane

Despite the downturn in economy, people are still flying, more so in economy class rather than business these days. I read an interesting article on TED on how to stay relaxed when flying by Pico Iyer.

Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian origin, best known for his travel writing. He is the author of numerous books on crossing cultures including Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk and The Global Soul. He is also a frequent speaker at literary festivals and universities around the world, who delivered popular TED talks in 2013 and 2014 (ref ref) and has twice been a Fellow at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

What is unique about Pico is that he is one of the first writers to take the international airport itself as his subject, along with the associated jet lag, displacement and cultural minglings. He writes often of his delight in living between the cracks and outside fixed categories. Most of his books have been about trying to see from within some society or way of life — revolutionary Cuba, Sufism, Buddhist Kyoto, even global disorientation — but from the larger perspective an outsider can sometimes bring.

“I am simply a fairly typical product of a movable sensibility, living and working in a world that is itself increasingly small and increasingly mongrel. I am a multinational soul on a multinational globe on which more and more countries are as polyglot and restless as airports. Taking planes seems as natural to me as picking up the phone or going to school; I fold up my self and carry it around as if it were an overnight bag.”

Pico’s article on TED (click here) teaches you how to find solace in a busy world.

Airplane Mode: What Happens if You Forget to Turn it On?

I am sure you have heard or seen the warning sign to turn of your mobile devices when you’re about to take off in an aeroplane.


But what if you didn’t switch off your mobile? Will you cause an accident?

Apparently NOT.

Flying would be very scary if anyone one of us did not switch off our phone during a flight. If that was really the case, then airplanes would have those devices seen in movies where mobile signals are blocked within a certain radius.

But if mobile phones are harmless, then why do they ask us to switch off or put our phones on Airplane Mode during each flight.

The problem lies with your mobile phone trying to make contact with the nearest ground tower. According to Wikipedia, “In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) restricts cell phone usage on aircraft in order to prevent disruption to cellular towers on the ground.”

The premise given is that most mobile phone towers were not designed to keep track of mobile phones whizzing around them at around 400 km/h. Most mobile phone towers have a donut shaped range – any handphone in this range gets captured by the mobile tower.

Source of pictures: Datasync


The vertical range is about 8000 feet or 2400 meters.



A plane traveling at an altitude of  1000 feet or 300 meters at 500 knots will have a window of opportunity to get a signal in the white region shown below. The grey region is the region with no signal due to the Doppler Blocking effect.


At a slower speed, the window of opportunity widens.


In other words, during take off and landing is your best chance to make calls as the window of opportunity to get a decent cell phone signal drops of as the plane speeds up. Even then, at 500 knots and a 5-second gap, several hundred mobile phones trying to make contact with a mobile phone tower is a pretty traumatic event for the mobile tower.

Another amazing fact is that phone signals can only escape from an aeroplane via its windows. The aeroplane is encapsulated via a law attributed to Michael Faraday known as Faraday’s Cage:


A Faraday cage or Faraday shield is an enclosure formed by conductive material or by a mesh of such material. Such an enclosure blocks external static and non-static electric fields by channeling electricity along and around, but not through, the mesh, providing constant voltage on all sides of the enclosure. Since the difference in voltage is the measure of electrical potential, no current flows through the space. Faraday cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.

Scientific reasons are not the only explanation why mobile phones are not allowed on planes. A social explanation is that passengers expect quietness on the plane. Just imagine if everyone was allowed to use their mobile phones in a confined aeroplane. It would be a disaster.

Furthermore, an economic reason is that aeroplanes have always provided telephone services at a cost. Why lose this stream of revenue?

So, the moral of the story is that your mobile phone, if it ever rings on the plane, will not bring the plane down. But having the mobile phone off during flights gives passengers a peace of mind during their “confinement” in the plane.

And that is priceless!


Android Free App of the Day

Google recently launched a new service where it gave for free a new app every day on the Google Play store.



Download the free App of the Day icon to be notified of the newly available app daily. Most of the apps offered are paid versions offered for free. Each offer only lasts for 24 hours.



Important Social Skills

Have you taken the public transport lately?


What have you observed? People staring at their mobile phones.

We seem to have lost the art of socializing these days. Gone were the days when people mingled with those around them face to face and not through a small screen.

So here’s a refresher course on some basic social skills:

  1. Smile – this is an instant ice breaker (when someone doesn’t smile at you, it doesn’t mean their mean or grumpy. People will low self-confidence never make the first attempt to smile.)
  2. Be humble.
  3. Shake hands with confidence. This step is important to counter balance step number 2 because power players may think of your humbleness as a sign of weakness.
  4. Ask questions. A wise, fat man once said that everyone is only interested in themselves. Thus the one that asks questions is the one who controls the conversations.
  5. Never interrupt the speaker. I have seen people who can’t wait for the speaker to finish speaking before they can say something. This puts you in a very bad light. Always take a second or two after the speaker has finished speaking to provide your reply. This shows that you’re thinking about your reply before replying.
  6. Empathize with the person you’re speaking with. Understand what’s important to them.
  7. Maintain eye contact. Don’t look over them, around them or at their chest. Look at them. People tend to note your eyes to see if you’re interested in what they’re saying.
  8. Maintain interest.

A long time, Dale Carnegie wrote an excellent but simple book, “How to win Friends and Influence People“. The book became a best seller and was translated into many languages. It’s still one of the best and simplest book you’ll ever find on this subject. This book was originally published in 1937 but it’s still one of the best sellers on Amazon. It was recently updated in 1998.

Financial success, Carnegie believed, is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.”

But most importantly, people like to be valued. No one likes to be attacked, especially in public. And it’s always easier to convince someone of your ideas by speaking to them gently than either berating them or humiliating them.

Get Outside For Improved Health and Memory


Go outside: It helps improve your focus—even when it’s cold out.

University of Michigan psychology research in the December issue of Psychological Science explored the cognitive benefits of interacting with nature and found that walking in a park in any season, or even viewing pictures of nature, can help improve memory and attention.

U-M psychology researchers Marc Berman, John Jonides and Stephen Kaplan found memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after people spent an hour interacting with nature.

Researchers believe the findings could have broader impact on helping people who may be suffering from mental fatigue.

“Interacting with nature can have similar effects as meditating,” Berman said. “People don’t have to enjoy the walk to get the benefits. We found the same benefits when it was 80 degrees and sunny over the summer as when the temperatures dropped to 25 degrees in January. The only difference was that participants enjoyed the walks more in the spring and summer than in the dead of winter.”

Kaplan and his wife, Rachel Kaplan, a researcher in psychology and the School of Natural Resources and Environment, argue that people are far more likely to be satisfied with their lives when their environment supports three basic needs: the ability to understand and explore; to feel they make a difference; and to feel competent and effective.

Berman decided to test that theory by sending study participants on walking routes around Ann Arbor. Participants walked on an urban route down main streets and also on a route in U-M’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, taking in nature. When participants walked in the Arboretum, they improved their short-term memory by 20 percent, but showed no improvements after walking down city streets.

The researchers also tested the same theory by having subjects sit inside and look at pictures of either downtown scenes or nature scenes and again the results were the same: when looking at photos of nature, memory and attention scores improved by about 20 percent, but not when viewing the urban pictures.

Source: UMich

Smelly Shoe? Use a Tea Bag


A simple remedy to removing strong (smelly) odors from your shoes. Leave a tea bag or two in your shoes for two or three nights. It is guaranteed to give your shoes a nice smell (especially if green tea is used).

The best solutions are natural!

How Does Your Brain (Mental Ability) Compare With Your Peers?

Have you ever wondered how quick your brain functions compared to your colleagues?

Have you ever wondered which mental skills you excel in most?

Then maybe you should give Lumosity a go.

Lumosity is a brain training tool involving games. It’s based on extensive research in the field of neuroplasticity. There are many published results on the benefits on Lumosity.




You’re given a set of games each day which focuses on specific brain functions like memory, speed, attention and so forth. A sample of games are shown below:

This is one of my favourite games, guiding multiple trains into stations.


The game on the left tests your speed while the one on the right tests your memory (this is a hard one).



The observation tower building is an interesting memory game where you have to remember a sequence of numbers.


This is my hardest game. I am very bad in remembering names but I am improving:

Familiar Faces


After each session of 5 games, you’re shown your brain performance chart, indicating your scores for 5 aspects of your brain.


Lumosity also compares your performance with those in your age bracket:



Lastly Lumosity has data showing the skills different industries require of their people.

lumo-media lumo-millitary lumo-finance lumo-management

Constantly training your brain helps delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Dont you think that’s worth playing a few games daily?

Copenhagen Wheel – Making Your Bicycle Smart

This is not about the bike.

This is about a wheel.

A “smart wheel” that fits on just about any bike, the Copenhagen wheel captures energy from braking or riding downhill and then gives the rider a boost when he needs it. An app lets the cyclist adjust the settings and the wheel learns the users habits to optimise the ride.



The features the wheel provides are:

Riders are given a boost as they pedal by measuring their effort, instead of using a throttle. This preserves the normal biking experience while enabling riders to bike faster, farther, and easier.

As you bike, the wheel is able to capture energy when braking or going down hill that it stores in the integrated lithium battery pack.

All actuation of the wheel happens automatically via the pedals through sensing and control algorithms. When the rider pedals harder, such as when going uphill, the wheel pushes with increasing power. Using your smartphone with the Superpedestrian app, you can vary the level of powered assist.

The Copenhagen Wheel SDK enables developers to get creative and develop a host of applications ranging from navigation to customizing the behavior of the wheel.

The Copenhagen Wheel makes your bike look even better. It’s completely wireless, compact and simple; all designed for your everyday commute. Twist two nuts, install the wheel, download the app and you’re ready to go!

Get more from your Wheel by downloading the complimentary mobile app, which allows you to lock/unlock your wheel, choose amongst a menu of customizable rides, and track personal usage statistics including time, distance, calories burned, elevation climbed and more, all of which can be compared and shared with friends.

Here’s the wheel in action: