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PopSci is spending September relearning how to eat. As intuitive as our love of chowing down is, a lot stands between us and optimal eating. This month, we’ll break down diet myths, unlock delicious kitchen hacks, and explore our most common misconceptions about our grub.

How would you describe the flavor of parmesan cheese? What about the aftertaste of a rich beef broth, or the earthy tones of fresh mushrooms? You can almost place it, it’s just at the tip of your tongue … ah, umami. This millennia-old flavor was identified in only the last 120 years, and entered Western lexicon even more recently. The Japanese word translates to “pleasant, savory taste” or “mouthfulness,” and has its place alongside sweet, salty, bitter, and sour as the basic gustations.

The core of the umami flavor comes from two non-essential amino acids: aspartic acids and glutamic acids, or glutamates. Aspartic acid occurs naturally in vegetables like asparagus, while glutamates are found in a myriad of ingredients, including ripe tomatoes, cured meats, aged cheeses, soy sauce, and kelp. The glutamate you’re probably most familiar with is monosodium glutamate (MSG).

In fact, the story of MSG’s mass production dates back to the century-old knowledge of umami. As legend has it, Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda was dining with his family when he noticed that the dashi broth that his wife Tei made had a striking flavor. This flavor reminded him of the unique taste in tomatoes, meat, and cheese. Tei had used kelp in the broth, so Kikunae embarked on understanding the plant’s composition. A year later, he isolated glutamate in kelp as the source of the savoriness. A year after that, he developed and patented the process to extract MSG as a salt. These days, about three million tons of MSG get cranked out by food manufacturers each year.

How our bodies understand umami

But how does the brain even know when umami, or any flavor, is in a dish? On the tongue, bundles of taste receptor cells form taste buds. While all different receptors are spread over the tongue, the particular family of receptors that clock umami flavors are called G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). Within the GPCR family are a group of siblings, so to speak, called T1R1, T1T2, and T1R3. All the T1R siblings have similar large structures to collect information from their environment. When the glutamates in umami-rich foods bind to these receptors, the cells kick into action.

The T1R receptors are also present all throughout the digestive tract, where they play another crucial role: They train your brain to crave protein-rich foods. “The glutamate receptors signal to the brain that what you just ate had protein in it,” says Linda Bartoshuk, a University of Florida professor who studies the psychophysics of taste. “And the brain is wired to make you like protein. So the brain produces what’s called a ‘condition preference’ for the sensory characteristics of the food that came with the glutamate.” That means when you eat cheese or meat, the glutamate receptors in your gut tell your brain to associate those tastes with protein and make you want to crave those foods more.

Flavor scientists still have plenty of questions on how and why the glutamate receptors function. A study out of China from January 2023 used a simulation to examine the compound effects of MSG, umami peptides, and the T1R1/T1R3 receptors to look at their chemical interactions. Meanwhile, this past July, researchers in Italy created the first 3D models of these taste receptors. These tools will be a great help to researchers who want to get a deeper understanding of what sets off the flood of umami flavors on the tongue—and in the brain.

“If we want to think about virtual taste experiences, or taste prosthetics, we actually need to understand the molecules that produce this experience for us to simulate that,” says Joost Maier, a neurobiologist at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

There’s also evidence that other animals sense umami. Hummingbirds, for example, love sweet nectar, but they lack the T1R2 receptor that’s typically connected to the flavor. Instead, they use T1R1 and T1R3 to detect sugary sensations, along with some savory ones.

The umami mystery continues

As delicious as umami-rich foods may be, there’s no consensus on whether it’s actually a core taste like sweet, salty, and so on. That’s not to say that umami isn’t a real flavor—there’s just contention over how prominent its sensory role is.

“Basic taste has no real definition,” Bartoshuk says, pointing to less-used descriptors like metallic and acidic. She believes the idea of umami being a core taste arose in the 1940s from companies that produce MSG-rich foods. “They thought they could call it something like a basic taste it would sell better,” she notes.

Maier has a different perspective; he says basic taste is a common experience that we can agree upon. “Salty has a certain experience that we can communicate to other people that makes sense to everybody,” he explains.

[Related: Learn the science to food pairing here]

One potential reason umami hasn’t been wholly welcomed into the taste family could be because glutamate receptors were discovered only recently, Maier says. US biologist Nirupa Chaudhari published the first paper on them in 1996.

“I don’t think [glutamates] play as big a role in the flavor of things like tomato and cheese as people claim,” Bartoshuk says. “I think that’s exaggerated, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a natural component of foods, and that’s fine.”

It’s also important to mention that glutamates work best in bringing out other tastes. MSG dissolved in water, for example, isn’t so appetizing—but in a broth or paired with other flavorings, you can have a Ratatouille moment.

In a nutshell, umami is the sophisticated sibling among its taste posse. While it might be tough to explain at first, it becomes one of those sensations where you know it when you taste it. After that, you won’t be able to get enough.

Correction September 23, 2023: Joost Maier’s last name was previously misspelled throughout the story. It has now been corrected.

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What Is Design Thinking Empathy? Is It Really Important?

blog / Product Design & Innovation What is Empathy in Design Thinking? Why is it Important?

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To want their products or services to genuinely function for customers is a reasonable goal for most businesses. While this sounds straightforward, there can be a mismatch between expectation and delivery. An important step towards avoiding that is to begin the design process with empathy, which is among the most crucial components of both design thinking and the broader field of human-centered design. You might be wondering what design thinking empathy is, and why is it so important to business? Let’s examine this and how it can assist you as a design thinker to develop solutions that truly benefit consumers.

What is Empathy in Design Thinking?

The first stage of the design thinking process is empathy. It is the capacity to see the world from the other person’s perspective, and put yourself in their situation in order to experience what they do. In order to properly relate with customers, a designer needs to intentionally set aside preconceived preconceptions and discover their true underlying requirements. This promotes developing long-term, sustainable solutions that are focused on relevant issues.

Why is it Important to Use Empathy in Design Thinking?

Design thinking empathy is a skill that allows you to understand and share the same feelings that others feel. Most of us tend to see other people and their feelings from our perspective, and we continue to create a distorted image of others based on our own preconceived assumptions. It’s crucial to amend this behavior since it limits our capacity for empathy. This is especially important for designers in order to understand the psychology of the user. 

Through careful observation and personal interaction, designers can create goods that delight customers and simplify their lives. Without empathy, the design process lacks the crucial user-centricity that frequently makes the difference between a successful and unsuccessful product.

Design Thinking Empathy Examples Intuit’s Follow Me Home Program

Intuit is the organization behind financial tools QuickBooks, TurboTax and Mint. These help over 37 million users keep track of their spending, manage payroll, and file their personal and company taxes. Since 1989, Intuit has operated a program called Follow Me Home, which enables the business to observe clients in their homes, workplaces, and other locations in order to learn how they use the company’s products in their everyday lives—their likes and dislikes as well as potential difficulties faced. These observations, together with further client feedback, lead to real product upgrades and adjustments.

OXO’s Good Grips Line

OXO is a manufacturer of home goods, office products, and kitchenware. It debuted its Good Grips range in 1990, revolutionizing consumer goods. The Good Grips range was created to make kitchenware simpler to use for everyone, including those suffering from arthritis. OXO researchers and designers learned that certain types of movements, such as tugging, pushing, or brushing, required a different style of handle as compared to other instruments. They realized this via observation and interviews. These handles needed to be more substantial and constructed from a material that was easier to hold onto. Consequently, the OXO handle was created and is today renowned for its unique ergonomic design and characteristic non-slip grip.

What are the Types of Empathy in Design Thinking?

There are two sorts of empathy involved here: emotional and cognitive.

Emotional Empathy

Instincts, emotions and common experiences serve as the foundation of emotional empathy. Students are encouraged through design thinking to develop their curiosity and confront prejudices in order to find something in common with those who may be different from them. Emotional empathy is a foundational skill that design team members need to develop before they focus on the user for whom they are generating solutions.

Cognitive Empathy

Learning and comprehending through ideas, experiences, and senses is known as cognitive empathy. This include knowledge, memory, judgment, reasoning, and decision-making, too. So, humility is required to understand diverse points of view. We need to acknowledge that, despite our expertise in our own fields of study, we don’t necessarily know everything.

Common Ways to Achieve Empathic Design

The five key ways for achieving design thinking empathy are:


Capturing data

Reflection and analysis

Brainstorming for solutions

Developing prototypes

Is Design Thinking Rooted in Human Empathy?

Simply put, empathy is essential to a human-centered design approach like design thinking because it enables you to put aside your own worldview and develop an understanding of your consumers and their requirements. It helps to gather as many experiences, insights, and observations as you can during the empathy stage of the design thinking process. In that sense, empathy is at the base of design thinking. 

Additionally, with its power to unearth and explain the innate needs and feelings of the people, design thinking empathy is significant and crucial for designers. Emeritus offers a wide range of online courses in Product Design and Innovation to help you hone your design skills and stay ahead of the pack.

By Siddhesh Shinde

Is Removing The Iphone 12 Charger Really Eco

David Imel / Android Authority

Apple’s iPhone 12 launch marked the end of including a charger in the box. Instead, you would get your new phone, a Lightning to USB-C cable, some required paperwork, and that’s it. Other OEMs have now copied the move, including a few that vowed not to ditch the charger. Here’s everything you need to know about the Apple iPhone 12 charger and why it’s no longer in the box.

See also: Apple iPhone 12 buyer’s guide: Everything you need to know

We’ll dig into Apple’s reasoning for ditching the charger, why that reasoning doesn’t really make sense, and what you can do instead. It’s not all bad news, as there are benefits to Apple’s decision, but it probably could have been executed a bit better. Let’s get into it.

Why did Apple leave the charger out of the box?

David Imel / Android Authority

During Apple’s iPhone 12 launch event, the Cupertino company made a big deal about its charger change. In fact, the company went so far as to put Lisa Jackson — the VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives — on the roof of Apple HQ to talk about how eco-friendly Apple is.

She discussed how ditching the wired EarPods helps to reduce carbon emissions and eliminate mining pollution. Jackson then points out how leaving these former staples out of the box allows Apple to use less packaging and ship more products in less space. Essentially, Apple is leaving the iPhone 12 charger out of the box as a way to reduce emissions and be kinder to the planet — or so they say.

See also: The best car chargers: A buyer’s guide

What iPhone 12 chargers can you use?

Alright, so we know that Apple isn’t bringing back the charger any time soon. We also know why the reasoning is a little fishy. So what can you do about an easy charging solution? Well, there are plenty of blocks out there, and here are a few of our favorites:

AUKEY Minima fast charger


The AUKEY Minima charger is a great pick if you want to save on space. The company boasts that it’s 50% smaller than the previous 20W charger, and it’s much smaller than Apple’s offering. You can choose from black or white finishes, and the overheating and overcharging protections are a bonus. AUKEY’s Minima even has folding prongs to take up less space.

Anker PowerPort III charger


Anker’s PowerPort III charger is just about the same size as AUKEY’s Minima, but you get a two-pack for your money. It comes in black or white as well, and it relies on PIQ 3.0 to keep you moving at top speeds. Anker’s latest block boasts three times faster speeds than the previous option, and the two-pack is tough to top.

WeMiss Power Delivery 3.0 20W charger


WeMiss is another brand offering a two-pack of speedy chargers. It’s helpful if you need to keep one charger in your office and another in your room, and Power Delivery 3.0 is a reliable way to charge. You can choose from matching black or white options, or pick up one of each color if you please. The prongs don’t fold for easier storage, but the charger itself is still extremely tiny.

Amoner 20W wall charger with a 3-foot cable


Our last charger is an MFi-certified option from Amoner. It looks almost identical to Apple’s first-party option, and it even comes with a three-foot cable to complete the setup. Amoner’s charger packs overcharge protection and short circuit protection, and it only comes in white. If you want a charger to replace Apple’s option as close as possible, this is the way to go.

What If There Is No Winner On Election Night? A Bu Expert Explains

What If There Is No Winner on Election Night? A BU Expert Explains

The White House could be ground zero in a crisis typical of unstable nations if President Trump loses on November 3 and refuses to leave office, says Robert Tsai, an incoming BU School of Law professor.

Presidential Election

What If There Is No Winner on Election Night? A BU Expert Explains Constitutional law expert Robert Tsai analyzes five possible crises after the vote

When a US Supreme Court nominee refuses to say that a president should peacefully relinquish power if he loses reelection, we’re in new territory. Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s answer to that question during her confirmation hearing—“To the extent that this is a political controversy right now, as a judge I want to stay out of it”—referenced President Trump’s hints that he might not leave office willingly should he lose to Democrat Joe Biden on November 3.

What would follow that unprecedented step? Or how will America deal with any of the other pitfalls posited by pundits—voter suppression, an undecided outcome on election night, or voting irregularities? We asked Robert Tsai, who will join Boston University’s School of Law faculty in January as a professor of law. Tsai, who comes to BU from American University’s Washington College of Law, specializes in constitutional law and law and government, among other areas.



A With Robert Tsai

BU Today:

What if there is no winner decided on election night?

Robert Tsai:  If we don’t have a clear Electoral College winner on election night, we will enter what elections experts call “overtime.” It will mean one or more states are too close to call, and it may take some time for enough of the ballots to be counted before someone is declared the victor and the results are officially certified by a state. Each campaign then must decide where, if at all, to contest the results. During the 2000 presidential election, George Bush and Al Gore were dueling in a handful of counties in Florida because they were tied in the Electoral College, and the outcome in Florida would decide the presidential election. The Florida Supreme Court had agreed with some of Gore’s arguments under state law and ordered a recount in certain counties, but the US Supreme Court, on a close vote, overturned the state supreme court, saying that the US Constitution’s equal protection clause would be violated by the recount. This extraordinary intervention under federal constitutional principles determined the winner of the presidential election and short-circuited a political process that had been set up to resolve contested elections of this sort. 

BU Today:

What if mail-in ballots are not all counted on election night?

BU Today:

What if there are voting irregularities or concerns?

BU Today:

What if Trump loses and refuses to accept the results?

 Ever since the first peaceful changeover in 1801, when Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams in a close election for the presidency, we have been lucky to enjoy mostly peaceful transitions of power. That’s including the incredibly controversial Hayes-Tilden contest in 1876 that was resolved through a compromise by a congressional commission, as well as the Bush v. Gore controversy, after Gore conceded once the US Supreme Court ruled against him.

BU Today:

What if Trump wins and Democrats raise concerns about voter suppression?

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Bluetooth: Is It Really As Secure As We Think

Bluetooth: Is It Really As Secure As We Think

Yes, it can be hacked too to get your personal information or just to tease you or whatever the reason is. Talking about Bluetooth getting hacked, let’s just know the types of Bluetooth attacks that can happen and how they work.

Types Of Bluetooth Attacks

Here are some of the major Bluetooth threats that you aren’t aware of:

It is the method in which hackers can send direct messages to users device by using wireless network. With Bluejacking, it gets easy to access someones Bluetooth enabled mobile phone, laptops, printers and PDAs as well. Hackers can get into the range of frequency of Bluetooth that is roughly 10 metres and can access phones through monitoring frequency. This can be protected by making your phone not discoverable or by turning Bluetooth off.



This technique is also used for getting into system. But, difference between this and the other techniques is that it uses software bug as a backdoor to get into the system instead of wireless medium. Fortunately, only few mobile phones are vulnerable to Bluebugging.

Denial of Service (DOS):

In this type of technique, hackers use their Bluetooth device to send requests repeatedly on user’s device for pairing. With these requests, services of phone are downed. This can also be used to trouble the victim and for creating nuisance.

Read Also: 10 Ways To Keep Personal Data Safe From Online Attackers

Bluetooth Attack Preventions

Well, there are few precautions that you could implement to save yourself from these types of attacks.

1. Turn Off Bluetooth

This is best way to stay out of danger. There would be no possibility of tracking frequencies when Bluetooth connection is disabled as the device will not be visible to the rest of the devices. So, there will no other way for hackers to get in through it.

2. Become Undiscoverable

This is another way of staying prevented from Bluetooth hacks. If your mobile phone has active Bluetooth connection but isn’t discoverable, then there are chances that your data might stay safe. So, if your Bluetooth is discoverable, just disable it when not in use.

3. Change Bluetooth PIN Frequently

Yes, if you change your Bluetooth personal identification number (PIN) then it would be very difficult for the active actors to get into the device. So, just to stay on the safe side make sure you change Bluetooth PIN every month.

4. Bluetooth Firewall

Last but not the least, you can always use a mobile Bluetooth firewall application on your device. Bluetooth firewall apps are available on play store. These apps would make your Bluetooth untraceable and more secure.

Must Read: Mobile Security Threats You Need to Know

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Is Project Documentation Really Important? How Does It Help?

blog / Project Management Is Project Documentation Really Important? How Does it Help?

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Project documentation is written information that describes the processes, plans, and activities involved in a project. It includes documents such as the project charter, requirements, design, test cases, and user manuals that provide a comprehensive overview of the project, its goals, and the steps taken to achieve them. It helps ensure that all stakeholders are informed and aligned and provides a reference for future use.

Benefits of Project Documentation Improved Communication

It helps to communicate project goals, plans, and progress to all stakeholders.

Increased Efficiency

Clear documentation helps streamline processes, reduces misunderstandings and rework, and saves time.

Better Collaboration

Documentation can facilitate collaboration between team members and improve coordination among different departments.

Improved Quality

Proper documentation helps ensure the project is executed according to established standards and processes, leading to higher-quality outcomes.

Reference for Future Use

It is a valuable reference for future projects, allowing organizations to learn from past experiences and continuously improve.


Documentation is often required to meet regulatory or legal requirements and helps demonstrate due diligence and accountability.

Types of Project Documentation

Project Charter:

Outlines the purpose, goals, stakeholders, and high-level plans for the project

Requirements Document:

Defines the specific needs and expectations of the stakeholders

Design Document:

Profiles the technical details of how the project will be executed

Test Cases:

Outlines the steps and conditions needed to test the project’s deliverables

User Manual:

Offers instructions on how to use and operate the project’s end product

Status Reports

: Give regular updates on the project’s progress, risks, and issues

Meeting Minutes

: Provide a record of discussions, decisions, and action items from project meetings

Risk Management Plan:

Outlines the processes and strategies for identifying, mitigating, and managing project risks

Change Management Plan:

Elaborates the processes and procedures for managing changes to the project scope, schedule, and budget

Lessons Learned Report:

Documents the successes and failures of the project and identifies opportunities for improvement in future projects

ALSO READ: How These Top 10 Project Management Tools Can Help You Streamline Your Workflow

What Makes Project Documentation So Important? 1. Enhances Communication

It helps to communicate project goals, plans, and progress to all stakeholders, reducing misunderstandings and miscommunications.

2. Facilitates Collaboration

It provides a shared understanding of the project and helps align expectations among all the stakeholders, improving collaboration and coordination.

3. Ensures Compliance

Documentation is often required to meet regulatory or legal requirements and helps demonstrate due diligence and accountability.

4. Increases Transparency

Project documentation provides a transparent record of the project and its progress, allowing stakeholders to track its development and make informed decisions

5. Improves Quality

It helps ensure that the project is executed according to established standards and processes, leading to higher-quality outcomes

6. Serves as a Reference

Project documentation is a valuable reference for future projects, allowing organizations to learn from past experiences and continuously improve

7. Supports Decision-Making

It provides a comprehensive understanding of the project, its goals, and the steps taken to achieve them, supporting informed decision-making and problem-solving

How to Create Project Documentation?

Here are the steps required to create project documentation:

1. Define the Purpose

Understand the purpose and goals of the project and determine what information should be included in the documentation.

2. Determine the Audience

Identify who the documentation is for, the information they need, and how they will use it.

3. Choose the Format

Decide on the format that best suits the needs of the audience.

4. Gather Information

Collect relevant information, such as project plans, status updates, meeting minutes, and other relevant data.

5. Organize Information

Organize the information in a logical and easy-to-follow structure, ensuring it is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

6. Write the Documentation

Write the documentation clearly, concisely, and professionally, using simple language and avoiding technical jargon.

7. Review and Approve

Have the relevant stakeholders review and approve the documentation to ensure accuracy and alignment with project goals.

8. Distribute and Maintain

You can distribute the documentation to all stakeholders and keep it updated throughout the project cycle.

9. Regularly Update

Regularly update the documentation as the project progresses to ensure it remains accurate and relevant.

Strategies for Writing Project Documentation

Here are some tips for writing effective project documentation:

Keep it Simple:

Use clear and concise language and avoid technical jargon

Focus on the Reader:

Write the documentation keeping the reader, their needs, and expectations in mind

Be Consistent:

Use consistent formatting, terminology, and tone throughout the documentation

Keep it Relevant:

Only include information that is relevant to the project and the reader

Use Visual Aids:

Utilize visual aids, such as diagrams, charts, and tables, to help illustrate the information and make it easier to understand

Regularly Update:

Keep the documentation updated to ensure it remains accurate and relevant

Get Feedback:

Seek feedback from stakeholders and make necessary updates based on the same

ALSO READ: 5 Best Software for Project Management That Can Be Used by Anyone

Tips for Project Documentation

Clearly define the purpose and goals of the project and document them in a project charter

Maintain a project schedule and track progress regularly. Document any deviations from the schedule and the reasons behind them

Keep minutes of all project meetings and decisions made. Store them in a central location for easy access to all team members

Document all project requirements, including functional and non-functional requirements

Maintain a change management log to record all the alterations made to the project and the reasons behind them

Document risks associated with the project, including potential impacts and mitigation strategies

Keep a record of resources used in the project, including time, money, and personnel

Document project deliverables, including specifications, timelines, and acceptance criteria

Maintain a log of project issues and their status. You can ensure sure that all issues are documented, assigned to a responsible person, and tracked until it is resolved

Conduct regular reviews of the project documentation and update it as needed. This will ensure that the documentation remains relevant and accurate throughout the project

Project Documentation Tools

Some popular project documentation tools include Microsoft Office Suite and project management software such as Asana, Trello, Jira, Google Workspace, Confluence, Notion, Evernote, and Dropbox Paper. These help streamline the documentation process and facilitate collaboration among team members. The choice of tool depends on the project’s specific needs and requirements.

How to Avoid Common Project Documentation Mistakes?

To avoid common project documentation mistakes, keep it up-to-date, use clear and concise language, focus on the reader’s needs and expectations, seek stakeholder feedback, regularly review and update documentation, store it securely and make it easily accessible, and only include relevant information. Additionally, start documenting early and use templates for consistency.

In conclusion, project documentation is a crucial part of any project. It acts as a roadmap and sets you up for success. Additionally, to learn more about project documentation and other project management-related tools, explore these online courses on project management offered by Emeritus, created in collaboration with leading global experts.

By Siddhesh Shinde

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