Meet the people making technology more ‘human’


All of the big players are doing it.

Apple has Siri, Google has Google Now, Microsoft has Cortana, and China’s Baidu has Duer. Even smaller players are getting into the market, too. New York-based start-up x.ai has Amy and Andrew. These virtual assistants are designed to make your life easier. Some have personalities all their own, while others simply stick to business.

But how do you inject humanity into technology? It’s not simply a matter of code and voice-over. Behind these assistants are writing teams crafting every word and phrase. And in many cases, those teams are anything but what you’d expect. Among their ranks: former poets, screenwriters, playwrights, and novelists who are being hired in increasing numbers to make virtual assistants come alive and, well, be more human.

Folklore to AI

At Harvard University, Anna Kelsey studied folklore and mythology but spent the bulk of her free time directing, producing, and managing plays. When she graduated, she thought she might pursue a career in theatre but wasn’t quite sure. She decided to move to New York. “New York is expensive and if you want to work in theatre, you still have to make money somehow,” said Kelsey, 24.

She found her way to the artificial intelligence (AI)-focused start-up x.ai and quickly moved up from AI trainer—where she annotated data extracted from scheduling related emails— to AI interaction designer, a position created by x.ai to design the dialogue model that determines Amy’s responses and to develop Amy’s voice.

“If Anna had gone and looked for that job, she wouldn’t have found it. It’s a role we invented,” said Stefanie Syman, the company’s head of communications.

For Kelsey, the liberal arts’ background has helped her succeed in her job: helping craft what Amy and Andrew, the company’s two virtual personal assistants, say to people in their email exchanges.

“A liberal arts’ education really teaches you about critical thinking, problem solving, and finding resolutions and pulling out meaning for different things and interpreting it,” she said. “You need to be excited about solving a problem that no one’s ever solved before, and that’s what we do here.”

A growth industry

X.ai, for its part, recently raised $23m in new funding. Since 2010, funding for artificial intelligence start-ups has gone up nearly sevenfold: from $45m to $310m. And the market is expected to reach $11.1bn by 2024, according to technology research firm Tractica.

It’s further proof that technology groups are calling for creative thinkers.

With all of that money will come the need for more writers and creative types to bridge the gap between technology and humanity.

“It’s further proof that technology groups are calling for creative thinkers,” said John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology. “As technology continues to intertwine with all industries, it will also continue to include professionals with various skill sets in order to create the most effective products and services possible.”

From TV to AI

Jonathan Foster, head of the writing team for Microsoft’s Cortana, began his career in film and television but said he always had a thing for tech. “Early on I was interested in the tech meets storytelling thing,” he said. Eventually he found himself at Microsoft, heading up the Xbox writing team. But it was his move to the Cortana team two years ago that made him feel he had really found his place – in the seemingly disparate worlds of AI and creative writing.

“Here we’re developing a personality, just like a screenwriter develops a character,” he said. “Whether it’s text or voice driven, it’s conversational interaction, which maps to the dialogue skillset I developed over years and years writing screenplays and before that, plays. It just kind of snapped into place for me.”

We’re developing a personality, just like a screenwriter develops a character.

Today, Foster leads a team of six in-house writers and another five writers spread around the globe. Surprisingly, humour has proven to be one of the hardest parts of Cortana’s personality to develop. Early on, it was decided that Cortana would have a “positive” personality, someone who left people feeling good after walking away from an interaction with her – but of course that also meant her humour needed to stay on the up and up. “It’s very difficult to stay positive with humour,” Foster said. “Because to be positive means you can’t throw anybody under the bus.”

For dilemmas like these, he calls on his team of writers, everyone from a poet in London, a screenwriter in Madrid, to a novelist in one of the offices down the hall.

 We are seeing an increasing need for infusing digital skills across the humanities.

It is crucial, he said, that artists who understand and appreciate the world of technology are brought into the field. “You have to love that part of it, you have to love the tech as a creative writer, because you’re going to be thrown into the thick of it,” Foster said. “The more immersed you are in that world, the better impact you are going to have on the writing. It requires the desire to understand a vast landscape.”

Universities taking note

As the demand for such hybrid interests increases at long-established tech companies and start-ups alike, universities are responding.

We are seeing an increasing need for infusing technology and digital skills across all disciplines including the humanities,” said Phil Ventimiglia, chief innovation officer at Georgia State University. “Every industry has been transformed as the result of technology.”

In response, the school launched the Digital Literacy Initiative in 2015. English Composition has been rethought to examine how learning the rhetoric of writing can also introduce students to creating a blog and designing a web page, according to Ventimiglia. The university is just one of many trying to infuse tech into humanities.

Too much of a good thing

I have the greatest respect for humans.

Of course, making virtual assistants and AI products too human can have its challenges. At x.ai, for instance, Andrew and Amy are so efficient and convincing in their email exchanges that some people have mistaken them for humans and suggested chatting by phone. One of Kelsey’s responsibilities has been to write the response to such a situation.

Meanwhile, at Microsoft, when asked if she is human, Cortana responds: “No, but I have the greatest respect for humans. You invented calculus and milkshakes.”

But, say experts, that might just be the price of successfully incorporating playwrights and poets into a very un-human world.

Facts You Never Know About Your Emotions.


Hormones, your diet, even Facebook—they can all toy with your emotions. Take charge and prime yourself for ultimate mental well-being.

Our moods color how we see the world. Sadly, many women will struggle with clinical depression (almost 13 percent) or anxiety (about 33 percent) at some point in their lives. In this handbook to your mind-set, you’ll learn about key factors that influence how you feel—from estrogen levels to sugar intake—as well as cutting-edge treatments. In search of quick pick-me-ups? We’ve got those, too. Read on to lift your spirits.

 mood

Fact No. 1: Depression doesn’t always mean sadness
For more than half of people with the diagnosis, irritability and anger are the most prominent symptoms. In fact, those emotions are associated with more severe depression, according to a 2013 study. “Patients report that it doesn’t take much to set them off,” says Philip R. Muskin, MD, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. “They bicker with their spouses as soon as they walk in the door or get upset over little annoyances, such as spilled milk.”

Also keep an eye out for these symptoms: difficulty concentrating, remembering things and making decisions; losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, like having sex; and appetite changes (one common complaint is that food has grown tasteless). Finally, you may feel as slow as molasses—your thinking, reactions and even physical movements could become sluggish. It’s also not uncommon to have trouble sleeping, adds Dr. Muskin: People who are depressed often wake up in the wee hours with no idea why.

Fact No. 2: Therapy really works
Research overwhelmingly shows that talk therapy can help with depression, either alone or in combination with medication. While a 2013 review of nearly 200 studies found that no single method was significantly better than any other, you may want to consider a form called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which teaches a blend of Eastern meditation techniques and practical skills to counter damaging thoughts. In a 2015 U.K. study, one group of subjects phased out their use of antidepressants while attending eight group MBCT sessions and practicing at home; another group stayed on antidepressants and did not receive therapy. Both treatments showed similar success rates after two years. (A little more than half the people in each group avoided a relapse.)

“When you’re depressed, your view of life becomes distorted, and you may not notice how your mood can spiral downward,” explains Simon Rego, PsyD, director of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Training Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “But mindfulness training helps you become more present in the moment, which in turn lets you detach from destructive thought patterns.”

Like any new practice, MBCT takes an investment of time (and often money) to start. The advantage is that it offers tools you can use your whole life, says Rego.

There are many varieties of therapy; your provider may use a combination of techniques, depending on her training and your specific needs. Here, a few common types.

Cognitive behavioral therapy: Aims to help you identify and change negative thought processes and habits.

Psychodynamic therapy and psychoanalysis: Work to raise awareness of how your past experiences and relationship patterns affect the way you feel and act.

Behavioral activation: Encourages you to do pleasurable activities (like exercising or hanging out with friends) to boost your mood.

Interpersonal therapy: Focuses on improving your relationships with others.

Problem-solving therapy: Helps you strengthen your ability to deal with stressful experiences.

Social skills therapy: Teaches communication techniques that can be applied to everyday situations.

Supportive counseling: Assists you through a stressful event (such as a death in the family or a divorce) and helps you develop coping strategies.

Fact No. 3: Foods can boost your mood
“In my opinion, food is one of the most powerful weapons we have in our arsenal when it comes to fighting depression,” says Dr. Ramsey, co-author of The Happiness Diet. A study published in June backs him up: Researchers found that higher consumption of fiber, whole grains and produce had protective effects—while a diet packed with added sugars and refined grains was associated with increased risk. Dr. Ramsey’s five suggestions for your grocery list:

Leafy greens: Try to eat at least one serving a day, urges Dr. Ramsey. Veggies like kale, spinach and Swiss chard are rich in folate, which is critical for making serotonin and dopamine.

Seafood: Women who ate fish at least twice a week had a 25 percent lower risk of depression than those who consumed fish less often, according to a 2014 Australian study. Shellfish count, too, says Dr. Ramsey.

Beans: Beans can help improve mood, says Dr. Ramsey, because their prebiotic fiber feeds the beneficial bacteria in our intestines, which play a role in regulating inflammation and brain health.

Nuts: A 2013 Spanish study showed that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with an ounce of nuts per day reduced a person’s risk of depression by about 20 percent. Nuts appear to help prevent low levels of the healthy-brain compound BDNF.

Dark chocolate: Snack on one small square of a bar that’s at least 70 percent cacao. The dark stuff possesses compounds that help increase blood flow to the brain.

mood

Fact No. 4: Perimenopausal mood swings don’t last
Doctors once thought that the natural drop in estrogen that occurs after menopause makes women more vulnerable to depression, says Pauline Maki, PhD, professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. But research has turned that theory sideways, finding that women were experiencing an uptick in bad moods duringperimenopause. “We realized that it was hormone fluctuations—not the final drop in estrogen—that made the difference,” says Maki. The good news is that those ups and downs will come to an end; like hot flashes, they should disappear once your hormones become stable again. But if the irritable dips are interfering with your everyday life, talk to your ob-gyn. Maki says that oral contraceptives are one effective approach. Your doc may suggest taking an SSRI as well.

Ancient bubbles in Australian rocks show early Earth’s air weighed less than half today’s atmosphere


The layers on this stromatolite from Western Australia show evidence of single-celled, photosynthetic life on the shore of a large lake
The layers on this stromatolite from Western Australia show evidence of single-celled, photosynthetic life on the shore of a large lake 

Air bubbles trapped in 2.7 billion-year-old Australian rock suggest the Earth’s atmosphere weighed less than half of today and was much thinner than previously thought.

Researchers analysed the size of air bubbles that formed at the top and bottom of lava flows  along the Beasley River in Western Australia’s Pilbara region almost three billion years ago and used the data to calculate the atmospheric pressure at the time.  The results suggest that the air at the time exerted at most half the pressure of today’s atmosphere.

The findings, published on Monday in Nature Geoscience, reverse the commonly accepted idea that the early Earth had a thicker atmosphere to compensate for sunlight being about one fifth weaker than now.

“For the longest time, people have been thinking the atmospheric pressure might have been higher back then, because the sun was fainter,” said lead author Sanjoy Som, who did the work as part of hisUniversity of Washington doctorate in Earth and space sciences. “Our result is the opposite of what we were expecting.”

According to the researchers their finding also has implications for which gases were in that atmosphere, and how biology and climate worked on the early planet.

“The result implies that the thin atmosphere was rich in auxiliary greenhouse gases and that atmospheric pressure fluctuated over geologic time to a previously unrecognised extent,” the scientists said.

Earth 2.7 billion years ago was home only to single-celled microbes, sunlight was about one-fifth weaker, and the atmosphere contained no oxygen.

The new finding however points to conditions being even more “otherworldly” than previously imagined. A lighter atmosphere could affect wind strength and other climate patterns, and would even alter the boiling point of liquids.

One of the lava flows analyzed in the study
One of the lava flows analyzed in the study 

“We’re still coming to grips with the magnitude of this,” co-author Roger Buick said. “It’s going to take us a while to digest all the possible consequences.”

Previous discoveries proved that liquid water existed on Earth at the time, in order for that to be possible the early atmosphere must have contained more heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide or methane and less nitrogen.

The result also reinforces Prof Buick’s 2015 finding that microbes were pulling nitrogen out of Earth’s atmosphere some three billion years ago.

“The levels of nitrogen gas have varied through Earth’s history, at least in Earth’s early history, in ways that people just haven’t even thought of before,” said co-author David Catling, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences. “People will need to rewrite the textbooks.”

The researchers will next look for other suitable rocks to confirm the findings and learn how atmospheric pressure might have varied through time.

While clues to the early Earth are scarce, scientists are looking outwards and studying planets outside our solar system in order to understand possible conditions and life on other planets where atmospheres might be thin and oxygen-free, like that of the early Earth.

Top Toxins to Avoid Especially If Pregnant


When pregnant, you should take extra care with the foods you eat and the chemicals you use in and outside of your home. There are many sources of toxic exposure that may put you, and your unborn baby, in harm’s way. This Infographic will tell you about the top toxins that you should avoid specially during pregnancy.

toxins-to-avoid-if-pregnant

Get Rid Of Double Fatty Chin Fast.


cats
Fat anywhere else on the body can be cleverly hidden by clothes, but there’s no escaping the obviousness of a double chin. Some men can grow a beard to hide it and some women can mask it with the appropriate haircut, but only for so long. A double chin is mostly because of too much weight gain, but it can also be due to ageing, which leads to skin sagging. Here’s how to get rid of double chin.

Watch the video. URL:https://youtu.be/DxrPJkgCGRM

NATA TECHNOLOGY : Ballooning Expectations for Astronomy


“Today is not just any ordinary day. Today is a day that matters. Today you will have the choice to make a difference in your life and those around you. Today it’s the time to be grateful rather than selfish, lift up rather than put down, accept rather than reject and love rather than hate.Today you will have the undivided attention of the King of the Universe. It all depends on you.”Contact here and get inspiring and technological ideas for your bright future.

Ballooning Expectations for Astronomy

A preliminary illustration of a 20-30 meter telescope, the space-based Large Balloon Reflector called the TeraHertz Space Telescope (TST) for probing the evolution of the universe through cosmic time.

Johns Hopkins Psychiatrist: ‘Transgendered Men Don’t Become Women,’ They Become ‘Feminized Men,’ ‘Impersonators’


Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and former psychiatrist–in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital, who has studied transgendered people for 40 years, said it is a scientific fact that “transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men.”

All such people, he explained in an article for The Witherspoon Institute,  “become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they ‘identify.’”

Dr. McHugh, who was psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital for 26 years, the medical institute that had initially pioneered sex-change surgery – and later ceased the practice – stressed that the cultural meme, or idea that “one’s sex is fluid and a matter of choice” is extremely damaging, especially to young people.

“Caitlyn” Jenner.  (AP) 

The idea that one’s sexuality is a feeling and not a biological fact “is doing much damage to families, adolescents, and children and should be confronted as an opinion without biological foundation wherever it emerges,” said Dr. McHugh in his article,Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme.

“I am ever trying to be the boy among the bystanders who points to what’s real,” said Dr. McHugh, who is also professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins.  “I do so not only because truth matters, but also because overlooked amid the hoopla—enhanced now by Bruce Jenner’s celebrity and Annie Leibovitz’s photography—stand many victims.”

“Think, for example, of the parents whom no one—not doctors, schools, nor even churches—will help to rescue their children from these strange notions of being transgendered and the problematic lives these notions herald,” warned McHugh.

They rarely find therapists who are willing to help them “work out their conflicts and correct their assumptions,” said McHugh. “Rather, they and their families find only ‘gender counselors’ who encourage them in their sexual misassumptions.”

“As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, as quoted by Dr. McHugh in his article.

However, there is plenty of evidence showing that “transgendering” is a “psychological rather than a biological matter,” said Dr. McHugh.

“Renee” Richards, former tennis

player who underwent male-to-female

sex-reassignment surgery.

“In fact, gender dysphoria—the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex—belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder,” said McHugh.

“Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction,” he said.

In fact, at Johns Hopkins, where they pioneered sex-change-surgery, “we demonstrated that the practice brought no important benefits,” said Dr. McHugh. “As a result, we stopped offering that form of treatment in the 1970s.”

In recent years, though, the notion that one’s sex is fluid has flooded the culture. It is “reflected everywhere in the media, the theater, the classroom, and in many medical clinics,” said McHugh.

It is biologically false that one can exchange one’s sex, explained McHugh.

 

“Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men,” he said.  “All (including Bruce Jenner) become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they ‘identify.’ In that lies their problematic future.”

When “the tumult and shouting dies,” McHugh continued, “it proves not easy nor wise to live in a counterfeit sexual garb. The most thorough follow-up of sex-reassigned people—extending over 30 years and conducted in Sweden, where the culture is strongly supportive of the transgendered—documents their lifelong mental unrest.”

“Ten to 15 years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to 20 times that of comparable peers,” said McHugh.

 

Nonetheless, the false “assumption that one’s sexual nature is misaligned with one’s biological sex,” can be treated with therapy and medication, said McHugh.

He further stressed that, “What is needed now is public clamor for coherent science—biological and therapeutic science—examining the real effects of these efforts to ‘support’ transgendering.”

“But gird your loins if you would confront this matter,” warned Dr. McHugh.  “Hell hath no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle.”

How you can find out everything Google knows about you


When you use Google, you are making a deal. You get to use services like Gmail, Drive, search, YouTube, and Google Maps for free.

In exchange, you agree to share information about yourself that Google can share with advertisers so their ads are more effective. For instance, airlines want to target people who love to travel. Children’s clothing makers want to target parents.

Google uses a lot of methods to learn about you. There’s the stuff you tell Google outright when you sign up for its Gmail or to use your Android phone. This includes your name, phone number, location, and so on.

But Google also watches you as you scamper around the internet, deducing your interests from your internet searches — what do you search for? click on? — from your use of Google’s other services and from other websites you visit.

By visiting a hard-to-find page called “Web & App Activity,” you can see what Google is watching.

Then by visiting a site called “Ads Settings,” you can see what Google thinks it knows about you, and you can change what it’s telling advertisers about you.

It’s not easy to find your “Web & App Activity” page. You must be logged in to Google to see it. Once logged in, go to “https://history.google.com/history/” and click on “all time.”

google1.jpg

 

This brings up a long list of all the web pages you searched. You can delete them, but it isn’t easy. Google lets you delete only one day at a time. That will take forever to cover years’ worth of data, but you can try it anyway. Click on today, then click the delete button at the top.

 

today.jpg

 

You’ll have to deal with a warning from Google telling you that you don’t really want to delete this information. The truth is, Google doesn’t want you to delete this information. You may or may not want to, but don’t worry if you do. You won’t break the internet or your Google account if you hit the delete button.

 

Now, click on the little menu button on the top left of the screen

nowclick.jpg

 

Here’s where you’ll find links to the voice, device, location, and YouTube records Google keeps on you. You can go to those pages and delete stuff, too. But you’ll have to delete everything one day at a time and deal with Google’s warnings on why you don’t want to do that.

If you click on “location history” in the menu, it takes you to a page with a map, which represents your “timeline” of where and when you traveled, with Google Maps or other location services. Now click on the settings button on the lower-right corner.

 

location1.jpg

 

From here you can delete all of your location data, if you choose. But if you really want to see all the data Google has collected on you, click on “download a copy of all your data.” You can also get to this download page from your “account settings” page. Click on “select all.” Scroll down and select “next.”

 

Select your file type. We recommend the default, .zip, since Windows and Macs can typically open those files without problems, and select your delivery method. You might want to save it to Drive if you have the space. Google warns that archives that are emailed may take hours or days to compile. You’ll have to be patient. It still took two hours when using Drive. Google will email you when it’s done.

Google sent me two ENORMOUS 2G files on what it is tracking on me. Inside were folders of stuff, including computer scripts on me and my data. But most of it was photos. Every photo I ever uploaded since 2013, full size. Here’s a photo of my puppy that it sent, and an example of the JSON scripts and the list of files it sent.

While you are waiting, you can explore what advertisers are told about you. While you are logged in, go to any Google service and click on your account icon. Then click on “my account.”

 

myaccount12.jpg

 

This takes you to your account-settings page. On the left, the “activity controls” lets you explore all the daily information Google keeps on you. “Control your content” lets you download all of your data. But this time, click on “ads settings,” then scroll down and click on “manage ad settings.”

 

ad.jpg

This is what Google thinks I’m into. Some stuff is accurate: bikes, fitness, books, food & drink, mobile phones. Some is not: East Asian Music? Banking? Cleaning Agents? Rap & Hip-Hop? I think that’s Google’s way of guessing my gender (cleaning/hair), my ethnic background (Asian) and my age (Hip-Hop) because I deleted my gender and age information two years ago, the last time I checked on what Google was monitoring.

 

go1.jpg

 

Scroll down and click on “control signed-out ads” and you can turn off “interest-based ads” at least for this browser, meaning Google won’t share stuff about you to advertisers. Google will warn you against it. Or you can switch to the DuckDuckGo search engine, which promises not to track you at all.

Forget boobs and long legs: what men really look for in women


George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin
Despite dating a string of attractive women George Clooney settled down with human rights barrister Amal Alamuddin 

Men value intelligence in women far above large breasts and long legs, a Cambridge evolutionary biologist has claimed.

Although having a large bust and never-ending pins are deemed by western culture as the epitome of femininity, when choosing a mother for their children, men look for brains first,

Professor David Bainbridge, of the University of Cambridge said thatintelligence is by far the most attractive quality for men looking for a long term partner because it demonstrates that his chosen partner is likely to be a responsible parent.

It also suggests she was brought by intelligent parents and so was likely to be well fed and looked after in childhood, and so healthier. It may explain why a man like George Clooney ended up marrying human rights barrister Amal Alamuddin.

Prof Bainbridge said men actually do not care how large breasts are as long as they are symmetrical while for legs, it only matters that they are straight, as bent, uneven legs suggest a developmental illness, like rickets.

“Breast size doesn’t matter,” he told the Hay Festival. “Actually large breasts are more likely to be asymmetric and men are more attracted to symmetry. And they look older more quickly, and men value youth.

“And men are not looking for long legs. Straight legs are a sign of genetic health so that is something that is more attractive, but surveys have shown most men prefer regular length.

“The main thing that men are looking for is intelligence. Surveys have shown time and time again that this is the first thing that men look for. It shows that she will be able to look after his children and that her parents were probably intelligent as well, suggesting that she was raised well.

Men also look for symmetry in facial and bodily features which suggests ‘stable’ genes and youthful partners. Studies have shown that men who are four to five years older than their partners are more successful

However men do like women to be curvaceous with voluptuous thighs and bottoms, and a waist that is much slimmer than their hips. Carrying a bit more weight on the thighs and the bottom suggests that a woman has stored enough fat during puberty to adequately provide for the huge requirements of a growing baby.

In fact the development of babies’ brains relies on fat supplies stripped directly from their mothers’ thighs and bottoms, especially during breastfeeding, and that the quantity of such fat supplies may directly affect a child’s intelligence and chances of survival.

It is one of the reasons why such fat is the hardest of all to shift by dieting because the body instinctively saves it.

Mammals’ and primates’ bodies typically have about 5 per cent -10 per cent of fat but in human women that rises to 30 per cent on average.

This is similar to the levels seen in bears going into hibernation or whales living in cold Arctic seas. Women have traded muscle for fat so they are about a third as strong.

Pak’s ‘Solar Kids’: After Sunset, They Are Paralyzed, Normal During Day


Pak's 'Solar Kids': After Sunset, They Are Paralyzed, Normal During Day

The brothers are undergoing extensive medical testing in the capital, Islamabad.

ISLAMABAD: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Brothers, aged 9 and 13, are normal active children during the day
  2. But once the sun goes down, both lapse into a vegetative state
  3. Pakistani doctors clueless about cause of the symptoms

The two brothers have come to be known as the “solar kids” and their case has mystified Pakistani doctors.

Aged nine and 13, the boys are normal active children during the day. But once the sun goes down, they both lapse into a vegetative state – unable to move or talk.

Javed Akram, a professor of medicine at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he had no idea what was causing the symptoms.

“We took this case as a challenge. Our doctors are doing medical tests to determine why these kids remain active in the day but cannot open their eyes, why they cannot talk or eat when sun goes down,” he said, as he visited the pair at his hospital.

The boys, aged nine and 13, are normal active children during the day.

Akram said the government was providing free medical care to the siblings, who come from an impoverished family.

The brothers are undergoing extensive medical testing in the capital, Islamabad, and samples of their blood have been sent to overseas specialists for further examination, he said. Researchers are also collecting soil and air samples from the family’s home village.

Mohammad Hashim, the father of the two brothers, comes from a village near Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province. He and his wife are first cousins and two of their six children died at an early age. Their other two children have not displayed any unusual symptoms.

His simple theory: “I think my sons get energy from sun.”

But doctors have already dismissed the idea that sunlight plays a role, noting that the boys can move during the day even when kept in a dark room or during a rainstorm.

During the day, 13-year old Shoaib Ahmed and his brother Abdul Rashid did indeed seem normally active, energetic and cheerful as they emerged from their hospital room on Friday and walked to a nearby canteen to have tea.

“I will become a teacher,” Shoaib Ahmed told the AP, while his younger brother said he wants to be an Islamic scholar.