Monthly Archives: May 2015

Fake diploma scandal: Why we need to seriously address it?

By Syed Faisal ur Rahman


Recent scandal related to a Pakistani software company Axact’s alleged involvement in selling fake degrees has shocked the whole country especially IT industry, media related circles and academia. The story published on 17th May 25, 2015; in The New York Times written by Declan Walsh was not just another exposé about a criminal activity happening somewhere.

The story basically jolted the foundations of our developing IT industry which relies heavily on outsourcing. It also raised questions about the standards of academic integrity and how as a society we give importance to it. I am not interested in passing judgments over Axact’s credibility or their involvement in the alleged scam but my focus is on highlighting the importance of solving it with utmost seriousness and transparency.

We are a small economy of the size of roughly 232 billion dollars which is lesser than many countries with less than half of our population. We are stuck in over a decade long warfare and our industry has faced the worst of it. In the past few years our Software and other IT related industries have provided some hope for our aspiring entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams and show the world that they are more than suspected terrorists.

Scandals like the diploma scandal, if not handled seriously will cast doubts over the credibility and ethics culture in our IT industry which will eventually result in the loss of international clientage confidence. Our aspiring young engineers and technologists are now making some serious contributions in mobile applications, game development, e-commerce, cloud computing and many other related areas. It will be unfair for them if our government simply tries to put the issue under the carpet using delaying tactics and leave the question mark on our industry’s credibility unaddressed.

The bigger issue in my view however is related to academic integrity and how we see it as a society. Few years ago, the issue of fake MNA/MPA degrees has damaged the reputation of our education sector all over the world. As a result, students and professionals who want to go abroad, now go through some serious scrutiny process which is really embarrassing and time consuming. It becomes more painful when we see that people from various other countries do not need to go through such painstaking process. If, in any way, comes out that our government officials are involved in any capacity in covering up the issue then whatever credibility is left of our academic sector will suffer too.

Also, we should keep our eyes open to see if the issue is being used for some other motives. The recent statement by one of our federal ministers linking Axact issue with absence of cyber crime law should also be seen with a great concern. Mixing two different issues like the proposed controversial cyber crime bill and this diploma scam will worsen the situation and can create more panic in our local IT industry.

The need is to investigate and prosecute the issue with highest professional standards and transparency so that we can prove to our-selves (not just the world) that we believe in fair play especially when it comes to the most respected field of education.

At the same time, I will urge Axact and its affiliate institution BOL that if they feel that they have been falsely targeted as a result of some conspiracy then they should file a lawsuit against The New York Times instead of using social media to clear their image.


The article is also available on Daily Times website with slight editing.


This artist’s impression shows how Mars may have looked about four billion years ago. The young planet Mars would have had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 140 metres deep, but it is more likely that the liquid would have pooled to form an ocean occupying almost half of Mars’s northern hemisphere, and in some regions reaching depths greater than 1.6 kilometres.

ESO/M. Kornmesser

UAE’s Al-Amal Mars Mission: A Great Initiative with Even Greater Intent

The mission will be launched in 2020 and the landing is expected to be in 2021
 By Syed Faisal ur Rahman

Recently UAE has announced details of its mission to Mars named ‘Al-Amal’. Amal is an Arabic word and name meaning ‘hope’ or ‘aspiration’ and the program truly represents the desires of many in Arab or even the whole Muslim world to contribute something big in humanity’s endeavors to explore the universe.

There was a time when Muslim and especially Arab astronomers used to contribute or even lead in many areas of science. From algebra to astronomy and medicine, we can find a lot of literature in history highlighting the contribution of Muslim scientists and engineers.

If you look at the star charts and astronomy catalogues, you will find many Arabic names of celestial objects and that’s because some of the early discoveries in astronomy were made by Muslim scientists in a time when Europe was going through dark ages.

Unfortunately, Muslims lost their way into darkness 7-8 centuries ago and the intellectual leadership was taken over by people who pushed us away from the path of learning physical sciences, reasoning and exploring the uncharted territories. According to the details provided by Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center MBRSC, the mission will be launched in 2020 and the landing is expected to be in 2021. The mission will not only cover the entire Martian atmosphere for the first time but will also acquire critical data which will help in understanding climate and atmosphere on our own planet “Earth”.

The data from the probe will also help in learning more about Exo-planets and so will also help in finding prospects of life beyond Earth. Sheikh Mohammad of UAE rightly said “The Emirates Mars Mission will be a great contribution to human knowledge, a milestone for Arab civilization, and a real investment for future generations.” It is a good thing that after USA, Europe and Russia, Asian countries like India, China, Japan and now UAE are also excelling in space sector.

It will be good if Pakistan can also accelerate its space program and have put more focus on the civilian aspects of space technology. A right path for us will be to bring more scientists into our decision making structure and like India, make science and technology collaboration, especially in civilian or academic areas, as an important part of our foreign policy goals. Currently, our foreign policy goals mainly revolve around security, energy and aid related issues. We need to be pro-active if we want to be among the successful nations of the world.

In the end, I would like to wish best of luck to our brothers and sisters in UAE for their great initiative and hope that their mission will contribute greatly towards humanity’s goal of exploring worlds beyond our own.

The article is also published in Daily Times Pakistan.

Researchers unravel secrets of hidden waves

Region of world’s strongest “internal waves” is analyzed in detail; work could help refine climate models.

By David Chandler

CAMBRIDGE, Mass–Detailed new field studies, laboratory experiments, and simulations of the largest known “internal waves” in the Earth’s oceans — phenomena that play a key role in mixing ocean waters, greatly affecting ocean temperatures — provide a comprehensive new view of how these colossal, invisible waves are born, spread, and die off.

The work, published today in the journal Nature, could add significantly to the improvement of global climate models, the researchers say. The paper is co-authored by 42 researchers from 25 institutions in five countries.

“What this report presents is a complete picture, a cradle-to-grave picture of these waves,” says Thomas Peacock, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, and one of the paper’s two lead authors.

Internal waves — giant waves, below the surface, that roil stratified layers of heavier, saltier water and lighter, less-salty water — are ubiquitous throughout the world’s oceans. But by far the largest and most powerful known internal waves are those that form in one area of the South China Sea, originating from the Luzon Strait between the Philippines and Taiwan.

These subsurface waves can tower more than 500 meters high, and generate powerful turbulence. Because of their size and behavior, the rise and spread of these waves are important for marine processes, including the supply of nutrients for marine organisms; the distribution of sediments and pollutants; and the propagation of sound waves. They are also a significant factor in the mixing of ocean waters, combining warmer surface waters with cold, deep waters — a process that is essential to understanding the dynamics of global climate.

This international research effort, called IWISE (Internal Waves In Straits Experiment), was a rare undertaking in this field, Peacock says; the last such field study on internal waves on this scale, the Hawaii Ocean Mixing Experiment, concluded in 2002. The new study looked at internal waves that were much stronger, and went significantly further in determining not just how the waves originated, but how their energy dissipated.

One unexpected finding, Peacock says, was the degree of turbulence produced as the waves originate, as tides and currents pass over ridges on the seafloor. “These were unexpected field discoveries,” he says, revealing “some of the most intense mixing ever observed in the deep ocean. It’s like a giant washing machine — the mixing is much more dramatic than we ever expected.”

The new observations, Peacock says, resolve a longstanding technical question about how internal waves propagate — whether the towering waves start out full strength at their point of origin, or whether they continue to build as they spread from that site. Many attempts to answer this question have produced contradictory results over the years.

This new research, which involved placing several long mooring lines from the seafloor to buoys at the surface, with instruments at intervals all along the lines, has decisively resolved that question, Peacock says: The waves grow larger as they propagate. Prior measurements, the new work found, had been drawn from too narrow a slice of the region, resulting in conflicting results — rather like the fable of blind men describing an elephant. The new, more comprehensive data has now resolved the mystery.

The new data also contradict a long-held assumption — a “commonly held belief that was almost stated as fact,” Peacock says — that solitary internal waves are completely absent from the South China Sea during the winter months. But with equipment in place to reliably measure water movement throughout the year, the team found these waves were “carrying on quite happily throughout the entire winter,” Peacock says: Previously, their presence had been masked by the winter’s stormier weather, and by the influence of a strong boundary current that runs along the coast of Taiwan — the regional equivalent of the Gulf Stream.

The improved understanding of internal waves, Peacock says, could be useful for researchers in a number of areas. The waves are key to some ecosystems, for example — some marine creatures essentially “surf” them to move in toward shore, for feeding or breeding; in the South China Sea, this process helps sustain an extensive coral reef system. The waves also help carry heat from the ocean’s surface to its depths, an important parameter in modeling climate.

The research, which was primarily a collaboration between U.S. and Taiwanese scientists, was funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Taiwan National Science Council.

Source: MIT News Office