NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News is the leading news website on Israeli innovations. We cover all the latest innovation in the fields of technology, health, environment and lifestyle.2015-04-27T12:01:44Z Betty Ilovici, NoCamels <![CDATA[How Israeli Desalination Technology Is Helping Solve California’s Devastating Drought]]> 2015-04-27T12:01:44Z 2015-04-27T12:01:44Z

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Four years of devastating droughts in California have pushed cities and counties in the Golden State to seriously consider turning to the one drinking source that is not depleting anytime soon – seawater. With the Pacific Ocean abutting their shores, water desalination may be the much-needed solution for Californians. But desalination has its disadvantages, the chief ones being the high costs and the potential environmental damage.

To address these challenges, California is turning to the world leader in cutting edge desalination technology – Israel. A $1 billion desalination project is already underway in San Diego County – which will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere – and Israeli engineers have been called in for their expertise.

     SEE ALSO: TaKaDu’s Water-Saving Technology Saves Australia Millions Of Dollars

Currently under construction in Carlsbad, 35 miles north of San Diego, the plant could potentially provide Californians with 54 million gallons of water a day. The plant is using technology Israelis have been using for years, reverse-osmosis, which involves forcing seawater through a film with tiny holes that allow only water molecules to pass through, while the larger salt molecules cannot.

San Diego area

“A complete game changer for desalination in the US”

2014 was California’s third driest year in 119 years and according to the US Geological Survey; it was also the warmest year in recorded history, leading California to declare a drought state of emergency last year. Earlier this month, another frightening figure was published: The California Department of Water Resources measured the statewide water content of Sierra snowpack (which provides about one-third of the water used by California’s cities and farms) at 5 percent, the lowest level since 1950. In response, the governor recently announced mandatory State-wide water cutbacks.

Despite this, the Golden State has only a handful of small desalination plants. But with the help of Israel Desalination Enterprises (IDE Technologies), the $1 billion desalination plant San Diego is due to become reality next year. According to IDE – which is also working on desalination projects in China, India and Australia – the Carlsbad project is a “complete game changer for desalination in the US.” This project is expected to provide clean water to 300,000 people and generate roughly $50 million annually for the regional economy. “The plant overcame significant practical, regulatory and economic hurdles to deliver a cost-effective and environmentally friendly water supply,” IDE said.

Critics of the reverse-osmosis technology have claimed that it is too cpstly and requires too much energy, making it environmentally damaging. But IDE Technologies says its production costs are among the world’s lowest and that it can provide an average family’s water needs for roughly $300-$500 a year. Israel’s largest desalination plant, for example, sells desalinated water to the Israeli government for about 60 cents per cubic meter, which is lower than traditional water purification methods. Using highly efficient pumps, the plant also consumes less energy than similar desalination stations around the globe.

Carlsbad desalination project

Necessity is the mother of invention

Israel, a land that is two-thirds arid, has long been forced to come up with creative ways to conserve, recycle and desalinate water. Over the past several years, it has become a leader in the field of water preservation, coming up with industry-changing technologies such as drip irrigation in 1964. In fact, the serious attention Israel has paid to its water supplied now means that the country now has a water surplus – a first in its history. About 40 percent of Israel’s tap water is desalinated sea water – a figure expected to reach 50 percent by 2016 – and so is a large quantity of the water for agriculture.

And with an estimated 1.8 billion people around the globe who don’t have adequate access to clean water, desalination technologies developed in Israel are in high demand.

     SEE ALSO: Green 2000 Teaches Agricultural Techniques To Nigeria, Sudan

Sorek desalination plant

Israelis quench the thirst of Marshall Islands residents  

In the Marshall Islands, for example, an island country located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean with a serious shortage in drinking water, Israeli company GAL Water Technologies has introduced a one-of-its-kind emergency water purification vehicle, called the GalMobile. According to the company, the main challenge when large scale natural disasters or terrorist attack strike, is lack of fresh clean water in the first 72 hours. The GalMobile is then highly efficient as a self-contained automatic vehicle that can connect to any possible water source – like rivers, lakes, oceans, brackish water and wells – and produce drinking water at WHO water standards.

For the past two decades, GAL has also provided water treatment technologies on a humanitarian basis to African nations.

GAL's desalination vehicle

But despite its past achievements, Israeli desalination technology will largely be measured on the success in San Diego. If that reverse osmosis plant achieves its goals, we can expect to see many more Israeli engineers teaching the world about the benefits of desalination.

Israel's Negev Desert

Photos: IDE Technologies, GAL Water TechnologiesGodot13Stefan LinsIsrael_photo_gallery

Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[GPS App Waze Announces New Alerts On Kidnappings, Hit-And-Runs]]> 2015-04-26T13:29:16Z 2015-04-26T13:29:16Z

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The popular Israeli-made navigation app Waze owned by Google now has life-saving potential – if you live in Los Angeles, that is. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Waze have embarked on a data-sharing partnership that will provide real-time alerts to Waze users on kidnappings, hit-and-run accidents and other incidents in the City of Angels, with the hope that users will report anything they witness in relation to such incidents.

     SEE ALSO: Researchers Use Waze Data To Make Roads Safer

In addition to informing the public of more serious events, the city will also introduce crowdsourced information regarding film sets and city-wide events that could lead to road closures. The city hopes that Waze will eventually be connected to its 311 hotline, allowing users to report road maintenance issues, street light repairs and other potential safety hazards. According to reports in the LA Times, the data will be scraped of information that could reveal users’ identities.


“This is going to be updated in real-time, every two minutes, giving motorists the information they need to…get home for dinner in time,” Garcetti said of the municipal move to make Waze a part of its official Amber Alert policy. The app has about 1.3 million users in the city, infamous for having the worst traffic jams in the United States.

     SEE ALSO:  Reached Their Destination: Waze Acquired By Google For Over $1B

The announcement of the partnership comes just four months after LAPD Chief Charlie Beck sent a letter to Google, Waze’s parent company, claiming that the application endangered police officers because it is used to reveal their location. At the time, Beck reportedly referenced the shooting of two New York police officers that was carried out using location information collected on Waze. However, in light of the recent agreement, Beck seemed confident that progress had been made in safe usage of the application, “The Los Angeles Police Department is going to work with Google and Waze to provide more information so that they’re able to help the monitoring public make their way through this difficult city,” he said in a statement.

Waze was founded in 2007 by Uri Levine, Amir Shinar and Ehud Shabtai and was acquired by Google for almost $1 billion in 2013.

Photos: Waze

Jacob Ryan, NoCamels <![CDATA[3D Print Your Own Personalized Foods With ‘The Genie’!]]> 2015-04-25T15:21:07Z 2015-04-25T15:21:07Z

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Have you ever had a sudden craving for a particular treat without any way to get it? Or perhaps a cake that could be ready in just one minute, with no preparation necessary? A new kind of food processing machine, called the Genie –  inspired by Star Trek’s sci-fi “replicator” which was used to make instant meals on the show – has brought this once futuristic concept out of television and into reality. Now, personalized foods can be made with the press of a button, giving everyone the choice of their own meal – when they want it.

     SEE ALSO: SXSW: Israeli ‘Fooducate’ Wins App Competition

Following a night of seemingly endless work and a hungry staff at White Innovation, an Israeli company that engineers products for other businesses, founders Doron Marco and Ayelet Carasso found themselves sitting around their office table with empty stomachs, tired of ordering out or preparing their own food night after night. After about 90 minutes of brainstorming and discussing among their eight staffers, the inspiration behind the Genie was born. “At first, the product was for ourselves, but other companies loved it,” Marco tells NoCamels.

The Genie food processor

And so, last year, Marco and Carasso Launched the Genie with their own small investment. This uniquely shaped kitchen appliance of sorts includes both the capsules and the machine that 3D prints ingredients into edible foods.

“Investors tend to look at it from the ROI (return on investment) perspective, but we are looking to make a real change. We are looking at how to get the Genie in every house, we want people to have all these new options,” Marco says.

Carasso adds: “Think about a family that eats the same food: one may need more sugar or vitamins, while the other may not. There is no option to do this today, outside of cooking individual meals for everyone, but now the Genie gives you that choice.”

the genie couscous

The food capsules are designed to maintain a long shelf life of up to five years, with no preservatives used. According to Marco, “30 percent of food bought in the US is thrown away. We are trying to eliminate it,” stressing his environmentally friendly approach.

     SEE ALSO: 3D Print Your Own Homemade Superfood With Israeli Tech ‘Green Onyx’

The Genie will initially be marketed to businesses, and then the company will consider marketing to households, with an estimated price tag of $1,000. “At most, we are looking at one year until we enter the private sector”, Carasso told NoCamels.

According to the company’s founders, they have already seen a great deal of interest and are in the mass production stage for their business clientèle. So far, the company has received thousands of orders from Israel, the US and Greece.

The Genie - muffins

Couscous and muffins in less than one minute

Each capsule is designed for a single serving and ranges anywhere from couscous to cake, to muffins and many others. The meals are available in both medium- and large-sized portions. So far, the Genie has options such as gluten-free and vegetarian.

“Obesity is another issue; every nutritionist will tell you that you need to eat several small meals throughout the day but not many can do it,” Carasso and Marco say. “Here, it is possible and will happen, in less than one minute.”

The Genie - couscous 3D food printers, such as the Genie and its competitors Foodini and the Green Onyx, allow the consumer to individually add in supplements and vitamins to their liking. The Genie also features an interactive smart technology that evolves and adapts, based on personal eating habits.

Genie founders contend that other products lag behind the Genie in preparation time. Also, many food printing machines require a subscription to meal planning services at an additional cost, while the Genie offers single-portion capsules. “Our aim with the Genie is for the consumers to get used to our smaller portions, rather than giving in to the demand of the mass market,” Marco stresses. Carasso went on to explain the company’s interest in creating healthy meals, not just “processed junk.”

Photos: The GenieScott Spaeth

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Earth Day 2015: Israeli Tech Can Predict El Niño Events With Up To 75 Percent Accuracy]]> 2015-04-22T08:54:00Z 2015-04-22T09:47:15Z

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From California mudslides, to Australian droughts, to empty fishing nets off the South American coast, El Niño is a catastrophic worldwide weather phenomenon that emerges every few years, leaving devastation in its wake. While meteorologists have up until now had only limited ability to predict when the next such event will occur, a research team made up of Israeli and German scientists recently discovered a way to predict El Niño’s events – with high of accuracy – a full year in advance.

“There are over fifty climate models that have been used to try to predict El Niño events, but they provide warning at relatively low accuracy, and only about six months ahead of time,” says Prof. Shlomo Havlin, of Bar Ilan University. “In our new approach, which uses climate network analysis to reveal the evolution of network links in the Pacific Ocean, we were able to double the advance warning time to one year, while providing a predictive accuracy of an unprecedented 75 percent.”


Seeing the bigger picture

According to Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a co-author of the study, the researchers’ predictive model benefits from seeing the bigger picture while focusing on one specific factor: temperature. “Large-scale warming events occur when temperature changes build up over time and affect one another,” he says. “It is like an orchestra of 200 musicians playing together. If the different regions in the Pacific are rather playing their own tunes, like soloists, no El Niño develops. On the other hand, when there’s a ‘harmony’ building up – a harmony which collapses when the El Niño event finally arrives – this serves as a warning, and a very accurate one at that.”

       SEE ALSO: Meteo-Logic Promises New-Generation Weather Forecasting

Prof. Armin Bunde, who contributed to the study, describes how the team detected data strongly predictive for a 2014 El Niño event already in September 2013 – a prediction that was later proven to be correct.

“Predictions by other, much bigger models wobbled up and down and as late as November 2014 gave a likelihood of only 58 percent that an El Niño will arrive,” Bunde recalls. “In contrast, the new and early forecast was stable over the whole period before the event and provided a significantly higher probability of 75 percent.” Bunde points out that the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration only recently declared El Niño’s arrival – the event started last year, but it has to last for some time to be officially recognized. Japan’s weather bureau saw the conditions fulfilled in December last year.


Applying a multi-facted approach

As Prof. Havlin explains, the researchers’ predictive method combines mathematics, physics – and history. “We used weather data dating back to 1980, examining temperature changes in sites throughout the Pacific, and characterizing the network-based interactions between these individual sites,” he says. “Correlating this temperature data with the weather events occurring during this time period, we were able to positively identify the network characteristics that were present – at least 75 percent of the time – when an El Niño event broke out the following year.”

     SEE ALSO: What’s With The Crazy Weather On Uranus And Neptune?

The next step for the scientists was to put their model to work, and accurately predict the onset of an El Niño event in the future. The researchers’ success was the basis for their recent publication.

“Our results indicate that this new predictive method is more accurate and reliable than other models,” Havlin says. “This is something very important for societies wishing to plan ahead, and minimize El Niño’s devastating effects.”

The scientists’ findings were recently published in an article entitled “Very Early Warning of Next El Niño” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Prof. Shlomo Havlin is a former President of the Israel Physical Society and a faculty member in Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Physics. Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber co-authored the study and is director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Prof. Armin Bunde is a theoretical physicist at Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (JLU) in Germany, who led the study together with Havlin and Schellnhuber.

Photos: Matt Granz Photography/ Steev Selby/ Stein Liland

Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Earth Day 2015: Tel Aviv Zookeeper Captures Hilarious Footage Of Animals Drinking]]> 2015-04-22T08:46:23Z 2015-04-22T08:37:43Z

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If one phrase were to capture the nature of viral videos of late, it would be “Animals do the darndest things.” From cats attacking bananas to the unlikely friendships between pets, raising animal awareness on the Internet has never been more popular.

A zookeeper at the Zoological Center in Tel Aviv, Israel is joining the viral craze with a hilarious video documenting the different ways that animals drink water. Elad Hershkowitz captured the unique footage by placing a GoPro camera at the bottom of animals’ water troughs to get a closer look at how giraffes, lions, rhinos and lemurs relieve their parched pallets – providing us with an entertaining way to celebrate Earth Day!

lemur drinking

A lemur lapping it up

Carnivores and herbivores differ in their drinking styles

Filming a total of 30 hours of footage, Hershkowitz got the idea for the video spontaneously, “I had the idea whilst walking around the enclosures and I saw the zebras drinking,” he tells Daily Mail. “It made me curious to see what was going on below so I decided to check how the rest of the animals drink.”


Can you guess which animal this is?


In analyzing his footage, Hershkowitz discovered that every animal has its own unique drinking style. “There is a massive difference in how each animal drinks. Carnivores, like lions, drink a lot like domesticated cats and dogs. Herbivores like the rhinos and zebras suck up the water with their lips,” he says. Hershkowitz also noted that the animals were suspicious regarding the object that had been placed at the bottom of their water troughs, with many of them sticking in a hoof or paw to check the status of the water before gulping it up.

     SEE ALSO: Wildlife Photographer Ofer Levy Wins International Acclaim With Awe-Inspiring Images Of Birds


Though Hershkowitz is surrounded by and observes hundreds of animals each day, the hilarious and highly education visual insight into their drinking habits was a whole new experience, “Capturing this footage was really special. It offers a completely unique perspective to anything I’ve ever seen before.”

Photos: Screenshots

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli Industry Leaders Partner To 3D Print Titanium Airplane Parts]]> 2015-04-21T14:51:29Z 2015-04-21T14:45:55Z

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Israel is making further strides in the ever-popular and continuously growing 3D printing sector. A new initiative funded by the Office of the Chief Scientist hopes that the first titanium airplane parts will be 3D printed by the end of 2015.

Chief Scientist Avi Hasson told TheMarker newspaper: “3D printing is making its first strides into the manufacturing process. This is a fascinating field and it is possible that these developments will significantly contribute to the nature of manufacturing processes and products in the future. It is important for Israel to enter the field of 3D printing and it is particularly challenging to begin with materials that need to uphold quality measures and strict strength requirements, as is the case in the aerospace industry.”


Making the most of the printers we’ve got

The collaboration effort, called ‘Atid’, is headed by the international defense technology company Elbit Systems’ subsidiary Cyclone, which will work to develop generic technologies that will act as the format for 3D-printed aerospace parts. The collaborators will not actually develop the 3D printers that will be used to print the titanium parts, and instead will try to make the most of existing models of 3D printers to create complex airplane parts.

     SEE ALSO: First Of Its Kind In Israel: 3D Metal Printer Gets To Work At Technion

In addition to Cyclone, the Israel Aviation Industry, Israel Military Industries, Orbit, Algat, Kass and Admar as well as researchers at academic institutions throughout Israel will participate in Atid, an initiative supported monetarily by the OSC’s Magnet Committee.

If all goes as planned, by the end of this year you may be able to construct a safe, titanium-clad airplane from the comfort of your living room.

Tamar Pileggi, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Fish Skin-Inspired Armor Is The Latest Innovation In Bullet-Proof Tech]]> 2015-04-21T12:40:02Z 2015-04-21T12:40:02Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Israeli scientists have recently developed an innovative new material able to withstand bullets and knife attacks that could revolutionize body armor technology.

Inspired by the scaly skin of fish, researchers from the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology designed a hybrid double-layered material that provides protection against penetration while preserving flexibility.


“The secret behind this material is in the combination and design of hard scales above with soft, flexible tissue below,” lead researcher Assistant Professor Stephan Rudykh told American Technion Society — a university-affiliated website — last month.

     SEE ALSO: Something Fishy: Research Discovers Why Fish May Be Nearing Extinction

While strength and flexibility are generally competing properties, Rudykh said that his team found that by varying the angle in which the scales are arranged, it was possible to increase their resistance to penetration by up to 40 times, while the flexibility of the material only decreased by 5 times.


Researchers used a 3D printer to create the hard, outer surface out of acrylic-based plastic scales positioned at varying angles between 10 and 45 degrees. Afterwards, the outer layer was attached over a softer material, meant to mimic the flexibility of skin. Rudykh hopes that by using 3D printing, body armor made from the material could be customized for body type or fined-tuned for different scenarios. In addition to making bulletproof clothing for the military, the material could be used to protect space-walking astronauts from radiation and micro-meteors.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: Chris Favero/ Mike Hartz/ Technion Israel Institute of Technology

Jordana Wolf, NoCamels <![CDATA[Learning To Kick Addictions In Your Sleep With Exposure To Smelly Odors]]> 2015-04-20T16:12:33Z 2015-04-20T16:12:32Z

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We spend about one-third of our lives asleep, so it’s no wonder that for centuries we have been searching for ways to learn while we slumber. Now a new study from the Weizmann Institute in Israel suggests that certain kinds of mental conditioning applied during sleep may induce us to change our behavior; information that could be vital in helping individuals kick bad habits.

Researchers Prof. Noam Sobel and Dr. Anat Arzi found that when they exposed subjects to a tone followed by an odor, subjects would soon exhibit the same response to the tone as they would to the odor, suggesting that in the case of smelling, the sleeping brain acts similar to when it is awake.

Pairing bad smells with bad habits

Building off research from 2012 Sobel and Arzi found that associative conditioning – a type of learning in which the brain is trained to subconsciously associate one stimulus with another – could occur during sleep by using an odor as the unconditioned stimulus.

     SEE ALSO: Study: The Weight You Gain When Quitting Smoking May Actually Be Muscle

Encouraged by their previous results and eager to put their research to good use, the team’s most recent study was designed to determine whether smells would be able to influence smokers’ habits. To test this theory, the researchers exposed the sleeping smokers to pairs of smells – cigarettes paired with the smell of rotten eggs or fish – then asking them to record how many cigarettes they smoked the following week. The results revealed that following conditioning during sleep, the smokers reduced their cigarette intake by about thirty percent.


Evidence that scent is our connection to the outside world as we sleep

While most research has largely discredited traditional “sleep learning” as we know it, Sobel and Arzi suggest that olfactory conditioning looks promising.  This is especially true for addiction research, since the brain’s reward center, which is involved in addictive behaviors such as smoking, is closely interconnected with the regions that process smell. These regions, they say, not only remain active when we sleep, but may even enhance the information we absorb during our slumber.

     SEE ALSO: Want To Quit Smoking? Omega 3 Supplements May Be The Answer

To prove this theory, the researchers focused on cigarette smoking, a behavior that can be easily quantified. Sixty-six volunteers who wanted to quit smoking participated in the study. They were asked to fill out questionnaires about their smoking habits, and then those in the sleep group got to doze off in a special sleep lab where they were closely monitored. During certain stages of the sleep cycle, subjects were exposed to the paired smells – cigarettes and foul odors – one right after the other, repeatedly throughout the night. Interestingly, the subjects were unable to recall the orders when they woke up, but reported smoking less over the course of the next week, while those who were exposed to the paired smells in an awake state did not reduce their nicotine intake.

Specifically, the researchers noted that the best results occurred during stage 2, or non-REM sleep, when dreaming is very rare and brain activity very high, supporting earlier findings that suggested that we forget most of what happens in our dreams. Conditioning that occurs during the “memory-consolidation” stage, however, may stick.

Arzi explains, “We have no yet invented a way to quit smoking as you sleep.  That will require a different kind of study altogether. What we have shown is that conditioning can take place during sleep, and this conditioning can lead to real behavioral changes. Our sense of smell may be an entryway to our sleeping brain that may, in the future, help us to change addictive or harmful behavior.”

Photos: Examined Existence

Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Cannabis Cure: Marijuana May One Day Be A Cure For Cancer, Israeli Study Shows]]> 2015-04-20T08:28:34Z 2015-04-20T08:14:00Z

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Recently, the conversation about marijuana has shifted from “bashing” weed as a recreational drug to praising its miracle qualities when used for medicinal purposes. The scientific community feels more confident than ever before prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment for life-threatening diseases, like cancer, and other ailments that cause chronic pain. Despite the boost in confidence, marijuana  has rarely been cited as an actual cure for these ailments, until now.

A preliminary study conducted by Israeli scientists found that cannabis may help slow the growth of certain cancerous tumors, namely brain and breast cancer tumors, and may even eradicate them completely. The study, conducted by Dr. David Meiri and his team at the Technion – Israel’s Institute of Technology over the last year, focused on the healing properties of the plant, with hopes that it may one day be used as a cancer cure.

     SEE ALSO: Meet The ‘Designer’ Strains Of Marijuana Bred In Israel To Treat A Wide Range Of Illnesses

“There is a large body of scientific data which indicates that cannabinoids specifically inhibit cancer cell growth and promote cancer cell death,” Meiri explained to Haaretz. “In addition to active cannabinoids, cannabis plants also contain a multitude of other therapeutic agents, such as terpenoids and flavonoids that are usually present in small quantities, but can have beneficial therapeutic effects, especially as synergistic compounds to cannabinoids.”


A growing industry

The project at the Technion is part of a joint research agreement with Cannabics Pharmaceuticals, an American pharmaceutical company that specializes in the development and commercialization of cannabis products ranging from drugs and therapies to food supplements. Cannabics’ flagship product, which is still patent pending, is Cannabics SR—a capsule designed specifically for cancer patients as a palliative care treatment. Drug companies in the past have shied away from investing heavily in producing and patenting marijuana products, namely due to the fact that it is a controlled substance, but also because it’s difficult to patent products from a natural plant, let alone all of its different strands and permutations. Cannabics SR is an example of the changing sentiments in the pharmaceutical industry regarding  cannabis products and their future importance.

While preparing for their launch in the US and EU, the company plans to start another project at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa soon, which will study the effect of cannabis capsules on typical symptoms, like a loss of appetite and weight loss, in cancer patients.


High hopes

While Dr. Meiri notes it is too early to draw definitive conclusions, he and his colleagues have seen some intriguing results. For example, they recently managed to target brain cancer cells, forcing them to “commit suicide” (a phenomenon called apoptosis) and have seen comparable results with breast cancer cells. Cancer cells are notorious for being able to evade the various mechanisms of cell death, which makes this an important finding. The goal now is to find more types of cancer cells that cannabis can “kill off” in the same way.

     SEE ALSO: World’s First Precision Medical Marijuana Inhaler Hopes To Remove The Stigma Of Smoking The Green Stuff

“Many businesspeople deal with and say things about cannabis. It seems some of them are overdoing it. I think it is now the turn of science to put things in order and find out how it helps, who it helps and exactly how it does so,” Meiri says.

Scientists continue to conduct studies using an estimated 50 different varieties of cannabis produced in Israel, measuring its effects on 200 different types of cancer cells. The promising results could be a major breakthrough in future cancer prevention, and bode well for cannabis’s positive stigma in the scientific and medical communities, though the study is still in its very early stages.

Photos: Marijuana Business Association/ Camille/ BoQunabo

David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Nano-Sized ‘Bullet’ Invented In Israel Used To Treat The Deadliest Cancers]]> 2015-04-19T13:38:13Z 2015-04-19T13:32:48Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

The worst form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is considered largely incurable by doctors. Victims generally die within a year and a half of being diagnosed with the tumors. It’s such a devastating disease that the National Academy of Sciences calls it “the Terminator.” But an innovative nanotech-based “end-run” around cancer cells by Tel Aviv University researchers could provide doctors with a new way to treat – or even cure – GBM and other malignant killer cancers.

The technique, developed by Prof. Dan Peer of TAU’s Department of Department of Cell Research and Immunology and Scientific Director of TAU’s Center for NanoMedicine, has proven itself in the past: It’s based on the “cancer bullet” system Peer and other TAU researchers developed that delivers chemotherapy directly to cancer cells, using bioadhesive liposomes (BALs), consisting of regular liposomes reduced to nano-sized particles that attach themselves to the cancerous cells. Peer and Prof. Rimona Margalit, with whom he developed the method, have published several studies showing its effectiveness.


That research was done on ovarian cancer tumors, and it proved to be effective – but that wasn’t the case when it came to GBM, which is far less responsive to chemotherapy. Prof. Zvi R. Cohen, Director of the Neurosurgical Oncology Unit and Vice Chair at the Neurosurgical Department at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer Hospital in central Israel, contacted Peer to discuss whether anything could be done for individuals suffering from the aggressive and fatal form of brain cancer.

     SEE ALSO: Cancer Breakthrough: Israeli Researchers Discover Cancer Suppressing Proteins

“I was approached by a neurosurgeon insistent on finding a solution, any solution, to a desperate situation,” said Peer. “Their patients were dying on them, fast, and they had virtually no weapons in their arsenal. Prof. Zvi Cohen heard about my earlier nanoscale research and suggested using it as a basis for a novel mechanism with which to treat gliomas,” the cancers that originate in glial cells in the spine or brain, of which GBM is the most devastating.

Cohen had acted as the primary investigator in several glioma clinical trials over the last decade, in which new treatments were delivered surgically into gliomas or into the surrounding tissues following tumor removal.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: U.S. Navy/ I-CORE

Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Using DNA Nanotechnology, Israeli Scientists Develop The Future Of Flexible Display Screens]]> 2015-04-19T10:13:01Z 2015-04-19T10:13:01Z

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Imagine an electronic screen that looks and feels like paper that could connect to your smartphone. You can shift your longer readings and video viewing to this bendable screen, then roll it up and throw it in your bag when you arrive at your subway stop. This may sound like sci-fi, but Israeli researchers have actually found a way to develop such thin, flexible screens you can use on the go.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Startup Gauzy Raises $4M To Turn Any Glass Surface Into A Screen

A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that a novel DNA nanotechnology could produce a structure that can be used to produce ultra-thin, flexible screens. The research team’s building blocks are three molecules they’ve synthesized, which later self-assembled into ordered structures. Essentially, the team has built the molecular backbone of a super-slim, bendable digital display. In the field of bio-nanotechnology, scientists utilize these molecular building blocks to develop cutting-edge technologies with properties not available for inorganic materials such as plastic and metal.


This could provide a solution to roughly 2 billion smartphone users who may not want the content they view to be confined to a pocket-sized screen. That’s because currently the size of smartphone screens makes it particularly hard to read more than a few hundred words at a time or watch videos without feeling like you’re on the tilt-a-whirl at Six Flags.

The number of people using mobile devices to view media is on the rise. According to Pew Research Center, 68 percent of smartphone owners use their phone occasionally to follow breaking news stories, and 33 percent do it frequently. Moreover, YouTube reports that 50 percent of its 4 billion video views per month are watched on a mobile device.

     SEE ALSO: CES 2015: The Best Of Israeli Tech

The structures formed by the researchers were found to emit light in every color, as opposed to other fluorescent materials that shine only in one specific color. Moreover, light emission was observed in response to electric voltage — which makes this technology a perfect candidate for display screens.

The TAU researchers, who recently published their findings in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology, are currently building a prototype of the screen and are in talks with major consumer electronics companies regarding the technology, which they’ve patented. “Our material is light, organic and environmentally friendly,” TAU’s Prof. Ehud Gazit said in a statement. “It is flexible, and its single layer emits the same range of light that requires several layers today.” Moreover, fewer layers are better for consumers, he says: “By using only one layer, you can minimize production costs dramatically, which will lead to lower prices.”

lg g flex

Back to the good old newspaper display? 

It’s important to mention that this technology is still in its early stages and a price tag for these screens remains unknown. What is clear, however, is that the desire to consume content on portable, large screens isn’t going away and consumer preferences are trending more and more toward bigger screens.

Ironically, people seem to be drawn back to the old newspaper display – thin, flexible, and capable of being rolled up; now, all of these features are turning digital.

Regardless of flexibility, the tendency to enlarge mobile screens was already evident last year. It is widely believed that sales of Apple and Samsung (500 million smartphone in 2014) were buoyed by their newest smartphone iterations which boast larger screens than past versions. Apple especially took note of this trend, releasing the iPhone 6 (4.7 inch screen) and iPhone 6 Plus (5.5 inches) simultaneously.

While this particular segment of the technology industry is changing daily, at this rate, you’ll be reading NoCamels on a bendy-screen sooner than you might think!


Photos and video: LGU.S. Army RDECOM

Times of Israel Staff <![CDATA[Consuming Dates And Pomegranates Each Day Can Keep Heart Problems Away]]> 2015-04-16T13:05:13Z 2015-04-17T08:04:51Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

An Israeli study has linked regular consumption of pomegranate juice and dates to heart attack prevention.

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have found that half a glass of juice a day, along with three dates, can bring about a significant reduction in therosclerosis — the accumulation of fatty cells in arteries which can cause heart attacks and strokes.


According to the study published recently in British scientific journal Food & Function, the scientists tested the effects of the fruits on mice as well as on arterial cells grown in the laboratory. They found that, used regularly, the combination of antioxidants contained within pomegranates and dates could lower cholesterol in the arteries by 28 percent.

     SEE ALSO: Study Shows Pomegranate Reduces Cholesterol And Prevents Heart Disease

The researchers said the combination of the different types of antioxidants contained within the two fruits gave the best results in their tests for fighting arterial blockage.

Professor Michael Aviram, who headed the research, noted that the highest concentration of antioxidants is actually contained in the date’s pits. He suggested grinding them up for consumption as well.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: Pomegranate juice and dates/ Recipe

Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Virus Found in Sewage Can Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria, Study Shows]]> 2015-04-16T13:23:52Z 2015-04-16T13:10:32Z

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Every year, drug-resistant bacteria kill 50,000 people in Europe and the US, and hundreds of thousands more around the world. But an Israeli research team has come up with the most surprising way to fight these bacteria – by infecting them with tiny viruses found in the Jerusalem sewer.

While over the past decades, medicine has advanced tremendously, it still has to tackle an increase in drug-resistant bacteria. That is, bacteria that has grown immune to antibiotics and mutated into pathogens that are much harder to treat.

     SEE ALSO: Researchers Say Technique Can Neutralize Anti-Biotic Resistant Bacteria

Staphylococcus aureau bacteria

According to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, an academic group dedicated to tackling drug-resistant infections globally, if these infections are not properly addressed, they could cause up to 10 million deaths per year and cost up to $100 trillion by 2050.

But a research team from the Institute of Dental Sciences at the Hebrew University recently proposed a way to fight one of these tricky illnesses. Led by Dr. Ronen Hazan and Dr. Nurit Beyth, the researchers focused on ways to kill one such pathogen known as Enteroccus Faecalis.

The E. Faecalis pathogen is a mutation of a bacterium that inhabits gastrointestinal tracts in humans, and can cause a wide range of diseases such as endocarditis (potentially fatal heart infections), bacterermia (harmful bacteria in the bloodstream), urinary tract infections, meningitis, post-treatment root canal infections, and more.


While root canal infections may seem like the least of your worries on that list, roughly 20-33 percent of all root canal work entails infections that contain the E. Faecalis pathogen. This is mainly due to the presence of a “sticky” bacterial cluster called biofilm, which is associated with root canal treatment and makes it hard to target the E. Faecalis.

So, how can the medical community better target these dangerous pathogens in biofilm? Typically through a relatively new technique called “phage therapy”, where instead of antibiotics, Bacteriophages (essentially viruses that infect bacteria) are used to infect a pathogen and eventually kill it.

Oddly enough, it turns out that a specific phage, called EFDG1, which was retrieved from sewage effluents in a Jerusalem waste facility tested extremely well in killing E. Faecalis after root canal infections.

sewage cover

The research team conducted a number of experiments testing the efficacy of EFDG1 against E. Faecalis cells in biofilm (its most robust form). In all cases, EFDG1 was found to be highly effective against various forms of E. Faecalis regardless of their antibiotic resistance profile.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Researcher Discovers Protein That Could Replace Conventional Antibiotics And Kill Bacteria

This means that EFDG1 could effectively eradicate severe infection risks for roughly 33 percent of all root canal patients – definitely a good reason to smile!

Smiling Young Woman Drinking

Photos: NIAID

Times of Israel Staff <![CDATA[Study Finds Getting Pregnant Has The Same Effect As Injecting A Youth Serum!]]> 2015-04-16T09:36:43Z 2015-04-16T09:36:43Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

In addition to the joys of nausea, weight gain and fluctuating hormones, expecting mothers can now add “feeling younger and healthier” to the list of benefits that come with being pregnant.

According to a new Israeli study, pregnancy can have a “rejuvenating effect” on women and could slow down the aging process, especially in older women.

The pregnant woman in summer on grass

According to an article published in the scientific journal Fertility and Sterility cited by The Telegraph, medical researchers at Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem studied the effects of livers transplants in pregnant and non-pregnant mice, finding that in 96 percent of the older, pregnant rodents, the liver had regenerated within two days. This was compared with 82% of young, non-pregnant mice and 46% of older, non-pregnant one.

     SEE ALSO: Viral Infection During Pregnancy Can Trigger Diabetes In Babies, Study Finds

The study also found that the pregnancy protected the mice from tissue damage around the heart, which is part of the human aging process, and that pregnant mothers got an injection of “youth serum” from the babies they were carrying.

“As we age, it is more difficult for our tissue to regenerate itself,” the study found.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Worlds Colliding: New Israeli Study Solves Mystery Of Moon’s Origins]]> 2015-04-15T14:09:51Z 2015-04-15T12:55:13Z

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For decades, scientists have been trying to understand how and when the moon was formed. Until now, the dominant theory has been that the moon was created roughly 4.5 billion years ago from the debris that came off the earth’s surface after it had collided with another small planet. This was the prevailing theory because most of the moon’s geological makeup is similar to Earth’s composition. Surprisingly, what makes the earth and the moon almost identical is actually the planet that collided with Earth called Theia, a groundbreaking study shows.

     SEE ALSO: Are We Alone In The Universe? Research Says Chances Of Advanced Alien Life Are Slim

The study, conducted at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, suggests that the moon was formed out of the remnants of a small planet called Theia (“the impactor”), which hit Earth during a celestial collision. And, since Theia and Earth “grew up” in the same environment, they share many of the same materials.


The research, which is based on complex computer simulations of such collisions, was recently published in the scientific journal Nature. It was conducted by Alessandra Mastrobuono-Battisti and Hagai Perets of the Technion, along with Sean Raymond of the University of Bordeaux. “It turns out that an impactor is not similar to any other random body in the solar system. The Earth and Theia appear to have shared much more similar environments during their growth than just any two unrelated bodies,” explains Mastrobuono-Battisti. “In other words, Theia and Earth were formed in the same region, and have therefore collected similar material. These similar living environments also led them eventually to collide; and the material ejected mostly from Theia, ultimately formed the moon.”

Technion study casts a long shadow on previous theories 

Over the past 30 years – and while astrophysicists have been grappling with the formation of the moon – the accepted theory has been the “giant impact hypothesis” (also known as the Big Splash or The Theia Impact), whereby the moon was formed out of the debris left over from an indirect collision between the earth and an astronomical body the size of Mars called Theia approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

     SEE ALSO: What’s With The Crazy Weather On Uranus And Neptune?

Now, the revolutionary Technion study casts a long shadow on the “giant impact” model, showing that a greater percentage of these “impactors” actually matched Earth’s composition. “Our results reconcile what has been perceived as a contradiction between the process whereby moons are formed (from matter from the impacting body) and the similarity between Earth and the moon,” Mastrobuono-Battisti said in a statement. Perets adds: “The earth and the moon might not be twins born of the same body, but they did grow up together in the same neighborhood.”

So, it looks like the age-old mystery of the moon, which has fascinated humankind since the earliest days of history, has been solved; now, children won’t have to ask their parents whether the moon is made of cheese!

Swiss cheese

Photos: NASATechnion, AudreyNational Cancer Institute

Jordana Wolf and Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[A Year On, SCiO Is On Its Way To Revolutionizing Our Interaction With The Physical World]]> 2015-04-15T07:34:16Z 2015-04-14T12:29:57Z

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A year ago, Tel Aviv-based company Consumer Physics shattered all expectations with the launch of its cutting edge pocket spectrometer named SCiO.

A USB-sized device that can read and analyze the molecular composition of any physical object, SCiO raised $2.8 million on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, well surpassing its initial request for a measly $200,000. “We didn’t expect such a huge and wonderful result,” Dror Sharon, cofounder of Consumer Physics, which is behing SCiO, tells NoCamels, “Frankly we didn’t know what to expect. We thought this product would appeal to the geeks of the world but it seems there are many more people that this product resonates with.”

Now as the device is set to be shipped to its initial backers this summer, Sharon conveys the company’s goal of creating what could be called an encyclopedia of the physical world, “Every day we Google the things we want to know, but we can’t Google the physical stuff around us.  SCiO’s goal in this endeavor is to enable as many users to create what will eventually become a large database of elements from the physical world.”


Delivering on their promise

For those readers without a degree in physics, SCiO is basically a tiny spectrometer, a device that measures the intensity of physical elements. These readings can then be classified into more useful molecular information about the object in front of you, like for example the number of calories, sugar, carbohydrates, proteins in your meal; or the freshness of your apple; or the water levels of your plant.

“This device makes it simple to find out exactly what you are eating or what you’re about to buy. It’ll be as easy as taking a photo, uploading it to your smartphone and sharing it with your friends,” says Sharon of potential real-world applications for his product that syncs with an available Apple and Android app that keeps track of what users scan.

     SEE ALSO: SCiO: This Unbelievable Device Will Change The Way We Interact With The World

Ask any scientist or science fiction fan and they will tell you that making a mini spectrometer is an impressive feat, which is why the team at Consumer Physics remains focused on delivering their promise, shipping out the initial versions of the SCiO spectrometer ordered over Kickstarter this summer.


According to Sharon, there aren’t any new features in the works as of yet and instead the funds raised in the Kickstarter campaign are being used to redesign a more robust product that can be manufactured in high volumes. In addition, Consumer Physics will come out with a protective cover to safeguard the optical sensor used to scan items.

You can already get your hands on SCiO


Dror Sharon, CHO, Consumer Physics

One of the downsides that wildly successful crowdfunding campaigns often face after funding is that of course, they must deliver, and in the case of SCiO, in big numbers. Sharon reports that this stage peeling off (relatively) without a hitch, which means that Consumer Physics is probably doing a good job of figuring out how to properly divide their crowd-derived funds between production, shipping, and development. However, it’s worth noting that CrunchBase and other sources report that Consumer Physics had about $4 million in funding even before its campaign on Kickstarter, That initial funding had come from equity crowfunding firm OurCrowd; from Dov Moran, the inventor of the flash drive; from Khosla Ventures and others. And then in August, just a couple of months after the Kickstarter campaign closed, Consumer Physics raised an additional $10.5 million in venture capital that is a further boost in getting their product out on time.

Part of the product’s success is due to its seamless and intuitive user experience.  Training takes just three seconds: pair SCiO to your phone, point it towards an object, and press the button. Moments later, SCiO can analyze the chemical makeup of any physical object, send the data up to the cloud and send its assessment right back to you.

“We want to deliver a magical experience that people find useful,” says Sharon. “If it doesn’t help solve problems, make life easier or bring value and joy into their lives than it wont matter.”

     SEE ALSO: After Thousands Of Years Of Stitching, Israelis Invent New Wound Closure Method

Now SCiO, priced at $249.00, and its developer and education kits are available for pre-orders on the company’s website, a quick turn-over time for a gadget that has only been around for a year. With well over 13,000 SCiOs ordered so far, design work and software development are still being finalized to ensure an excellent customer experience. “We are doing everything that we can to debunk the system and product. To launch without any bugs is rare, but we will do as much as humanly possible to fix every bug and every issue that arises with the technology,” Sharon contends.

Just pair, point, and press

The founders of SCiO have essentially made an entire realm of complex knowledge, i.e. molecular biology, available to the masses. Currently it only has one rival in the field, a Canadian company called TellSpec that uses similar spectrometer technology to scan the chemical composition of food, but that’s where the similarities end.

Sharon explains that SCiO is really about the endless possibilities of life under a spectrometer. “We are not focused on a specific application, rather we are enabling other developers to create unique ways to use this technology.” Eventually the company hopes to adorn every smartphone with a miniaturized version of SCiO so that users can readily scan items and add to the growing database of molecular knowledge.

Photos: Courtesy

David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Cancer Breakthrough: Israeli Researchers Discover Cancer Suppressing Proteins]]> 2015-04-14T09:05:38Z 2015-04-14T09:05:38Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

A team of Israeli researchers at the Technion has discovered two proteins that can suppress cancer and control the cells’ growth and development.

The study was conducted in the laboratory of Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, an Israeli Nobel-prize winner in chemistry, and led by Dr. Yelena Kravtsova-Ivantsiv. The team included research students and physicians from the Rambam, Carmel and Hadassah Medical Centers.


Nobel laureate Aaron Chechanover

In a paper published in the journal Cell last week, the researchers showed how the proteins could repress cancerous tissues and detailed how a high concentration of a protein called KPC1 and another called p50 in the tissue can protect it from cancerous tumors.

     SEE ALSO: To Stop Cancer From Spreading, Shoot The Messenger

The research also detailed how the ubiquitin process — a cell system responsible for breaking down damaged proteins that can harm cells and tissues and co-discovered by Ciechanover, for which he won the Nobel — has a role in the mechanism.

The study was done on human tumors grown in mice, and samples of human tumors.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Andrey Kastelmacher, NoCamels <![CDATA[Vast Solar Roof Makes Israeli Knesset World’s Greenest Parliament]]> 2015-04-16T13:45:38Z 2015-04-13T10:18:50Z

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The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, is about to become the “greenest” parliament in the world thanks to the recent installation of a vast solar farm on the roof of the Knesset building in Jerusalem.

The recently unveiled 4,650-square-meter solar field consists of 1,406 photovoltaic panels, which will provide 450 kilowatts of energy. Along with additional energy-saving initiatives that were launched in 2014, the project is expected to reduce the Knesset’s energy consumption by a third by the end of 2015.

     SEE ALSO: Meet Seven Israeli Alternative-Energy Companies With Solutions To Fuel The Future

Knesset - solar roof

The new solar farm – which will absorb an abundance of sunlight thanks to Israel’s warm climate – is expected to generate most of the building’s electricity, including power for heating and air conditioning. “We are very proud to turn the Knesset into the greenest parliament in the world,” Knesset Director-General Ronen Plot said in a statement. The Knesset’s newest solar panel installation will make the German Bundestag the second-greenest parliament in the world.

The solar panel installation is part of a larger project called “Green Knesset”. The goal of this multi-year project is to convert the Knesset into a legislative branch that is guided in its conduct by the concept of sustainability. It consists of 13 initiatives focusing on saving water and energy. The Knesset will invest $1.75 million in these initiatives, and the average return from saving energy and water is estimated at $500,000 a year within five years.

     SEE ALSO: How Going Solar Can Earn You Some Extra Income

From their eco-friendly, sustainable house of representatives, the newly elected members of the Israeli parliament can now set an example for the rest of the country. The Green Knesset project includes the digitization of documents, switching to LED lamps, using fewer power-guzzling appliances, and more. “It is a true revolution,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in a statement.

The Knesset joins a host of other organizations that are in part or wholly self-sufficient in terms of energy, such as Walmart and Ikea. These corporations not only enjoy the economic benefits of going “green,” but they also improve their public image. Says Edelstein: “This saving of energy has far-reaching environmental implications, not only in the direct economic sense, but also in the sense that it will dramatically reduce the harm caused to the environment.”

Walmart California

Photos and video: Knesset, Walmart 

Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Personal Assistant App 24me Among First To Be Featured On Apple Watch]]> 2015-04-12T14:03:18Z 2015-04-12T14:03:18Z

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Since the newest addition to the Apple family, the Apple Smart Watch, was announced by company CEO Tim Cook in September, gadget geeks and fans around the world have patiently waited for this week to arrive. Now available for pre-ordering on the Apple website, the Apple Watch is (in Apple’s words) “an incredibly accurate timepiece, an intimate and immediate communication device and groundbreaking health and fitness companion.” The square smartwatch that tells you everything from the time, to the weather, and allows you to answer calls is also “highly customizable” according to the company, with one of the first apps available on the smartwatch being the Israel- created personal organizer 24me.


Ready for use after the Apple Watch general release on April 24th, 24me’s smart personal assistant application will give you access to your calendar, to-do lists and personal accounts at the comfort of your wrist. The Android and Apple application, which was voted among the best apps of 2014 in Apple’s IStore, allows its users to better organize their tasks, calendar dates and accounts in one user-friendly planning app. And although Apple has touted the watch as a revolutionary fitness gadget, apps like 24me that allow you to gift friends and pay your bills on the go are helping make the Apple Watch a handy financial tool too.

     SEE ALSO: Meet The Israelis Behind The Wildly Successful ‘Pebble Time’ Smartwatch


24me isn’t the only source of Israeli pride being made available for the Apple Watch. Israeli-created email app TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) will release an Apple Watch version of its shortened email application, as well the momentarily viral messaging app Yo!, and Glide, a video messaging app with over 10 million US users. It seems that the latter two apps may have timed the release of their shortened messaging platforms for the release of Apple’s first piece of wearable technology. That said more complex applications like 24me, which allow users to carry out a number of different tasks in one application, had to change the appearance and function of their app in time for the Apple Watch release.

Looking forward, those apps that are able to take the simplified format of the Apple Watch and run with it will be then smartwatch victors, which is good news for 24me’s early app release amidst a plethora of efficiency and organization app choices. Most tech specs suggest that the bulk of the 20 Apple Watch models will sell out in the pre-order phase, meaning there won’t be many watches available for purchase in-store on April 24th, unless you plan on buying the 18-karat gold watch worth $10,000-$17,000.

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[To Stop Cancer From Spreading: Shoot The Messenger]]> 2015-04-09T12:58:55Z 2015-04-09T08:30:03Z

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Humans need to communicate with each other in order to get things done – at work and at home. But so do the cells inside our bodies, which transmit messages from their outer walls to their inner nucleus. These messages prompt them to take immediate action. Now, it turns out that if cancerous cells don’t receive certain messages, the spread of cancer throughout the body can be halted. How? Israeli researchers have come up with a method of shutting off the overflow of information that creates cancerous mutations.

The average living cell must transmit a constant stream of messages quickly and efficiently from its outer walls to the inner nucleus, where most of the day-to-day “decisions” are made. But this rapid, long-distance communication system leaves itself open to mutations that can give rise to a “spam attack” that promotes cancer. Weizmann Institute scientists have identified a potential drug molecule that stops only cancerous cells (not healthy ones) from getting their “mail.”

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Create ‘Trojan Horse’ Of Chemotherapy

Weizmann Institute’s Prof. Rony Seger and his team have proposed a new method of shutting off the overflow of information before it can get to the nucleus. Their method could be used to treat a number of different cancers, especially several that develop resistance to current treatments, and it might possibly induce fewer side effects than those treatments do. These findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

stop spam sign

“Spamming” the cell with “messages” leads to disastrous results 

There are 15 different pathways for transferring the cell’s main internal messaging (membrane-to-nucleus communication). Seger has identified a number of the proteins involved in these pathways, especially in one particular pathway, called the MAPK/ERK cascade, which is involved in cancer. Dysregulation of this pathway shows up in 85 percent of all cancer types. Following certain mutations, the message sent to the cell becomes “spam.” It gets sent over and over, flooding the nucleus’ “inbox.” The response to this “spam attack” can be disastrous; in the case of such messages as those to grow or divide, the result may be cancerous.

     SEE ALSO: New Israeli Cancer Vaccine Triggers Response In 90% Of Cancer Types

A crucial step in this pathway takes place when a molecule called ERK undergoes a transformation that enables it to pass through the membrane surrounding the nucleus. Seger has revelaed an entire, complex process that must occur for ERK to get its message across. Seger realized that an effective nuclear “spam filter” on the ERK pathway would involve blocking just this step, thus preventing specific ERK “messages” from getting into the nucleus. His team then designed a variety of small molecules to enter the cell and block the transfer of ERK molecules into the cell’s nucleus. Working with Dr. Michal Besser of the Sheba Medical Center, they grew cells from different cancers in culture and then added the different molecules to see which of them would best target ERK.

“The cancer disappeared within days and did not return”

The team identified one potential drug molecule that performed well, even causing many of the cancer cells to die. Seger says that the cancer cells become “addicted” to the constant flow of ERK signals, so adding a filter that cuts this signal off causes them to die. Importantly, this molecule did not affect normal cells, suggesting that it mainly targets the cancer process and therefore might have fewer side effects than the present chemotherapy drugs.While testing the treatment on lab mice, “the cancers disappeared within days and did not return,” Seger says.In addition, the fact that the molecules do not destroy the ERK but only stop it from entering the nucleus may be good news for healthy cells: The ERK can still send a “delivery receipt” back up the relay to the receptors, so they don’t try to resend the message. According to Seger, the method of designing small molecules that can get inside cells and stop certain messages before they become “spam” might be useful in treating other diseases in addition to cancer.

One of the cancers that the molecule eradicated in the experiments was melanoma, an often fatal cancer with few available treatments. The drugs currently used for melanoma usually work for a while and then the cancer becomes resistant to them. Seger envisions the new molecule being added to the drug regimen in rotation with others, so that resistance cannot develop. Says Seger: “All in all, the molecule was completely effective in eliminating a dozen of the cancers the team tested, and many others showed a decline, if not complete destruction, of the cancer cells.”

Photos: Dr. Richard Lee/National Cancer Institute

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Living It Up In Downtown Tel Aviv: 5,000-Year-Old Egyptian Beer Mugs Discovered In Israel]]> 2015-04-08T17:39:38Z 2015-04-08T11:16:15Z

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Contemporary Tel Aviv is known for its vibrant nightlife, which offers dozens of pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. But a recent excavation mission shows that “the city that never sleeps” was already a party city in 3,000 BC!

     SEE ALSO: Oldest Human Skull Outside Of Africa Discovered In Israel

Evidence indicating the presence of an ancient Egyptian population from more than 5,000 years ago is being exposed these days in a site in Downtown Tel Aviv, where the Israel Antiquities Authority is salvaging artifacts prior to the construction of office buildings by a local company. Fragments of ancient pottery vessels used to prepare beer were discovered during these excavations.

A bowl dating to the Early Bronze Age (3500 BC)

“We found 17 pits in the excavations, which were used to store agricultural produce in the Early Bronze Age,” Israel Antiquities Authority’s Diego Barkan said in a statement. “Among the hundreds of pottery shreds that characterize the local culture, a number of fragments of large ceramic basins were discovered that were made in an Egyptian tradition and were used to prepare beer.”

Ancient brewery indicates that the Egyptian Empire stretched all the way to Tel Aviv

Beer was the national drink of Egypt in ancient times, and it was a basic commodity like bread. Beer was consumed by the entire population, regardless of age, gender or status. It was made from a mixture of barley and water that was partially baked and then left to ferment in the sun. Various fruit concentrates were added to this mixture in order to flavor the beer. The mixture was filtered in special vessels and was ready for use. Excavations conducted in the Nile Delta uncovered breweries that indicate beer was already being produced in the mid-fourth millennium BC.

     SEE ALSO: Tel Aviv Researchers Reveal Why Thriving Civilizations Perished 3,200 Years Ago In The Levant

In addition to the beer mugs and relics from what appears to be an ancient brewery, a bronze dagger and flint tools dating 6,000 years ago to the Chalcolithic period (the Copper Age) were also found at the site.

An ancient Egyptian artifact

According to Barkan, the vessels found in Downtown Tel Aviv were manufactured using organic materials in order to strengthen them, a method not customary in the local pottery industry. Vessels such as these were found in other Early Bronze Egyptian settlements.

“On the basis of previously conducted excavations in the region, we knew there is an Early Bronze Age site here, but this excavation is the first evidence we have of an Egyptian occupation in the center of Tel Aviv at that time,” Barkan says. “This is also the northernmost evidence we have of an Egyptian presence in the Early Bronze Age. Until now, we were only aware of an Egyptian presence in the Israeli Negev Desert… The northernmost point of Egyptian occupation was in Azor, just south of Tel Aviv.”

He jokingly adds that the Egyptians must have “also appreciated what the Tel Aviv region had to offer… They, too, knew how to enjoy a glass of beer, just as Tel Avivians do today.”

Tel Aviv

Photos: Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Teachers’ Gender Bias Discourages Girls From Pursuing Math, Science]]> 2015-04-08T08:43:16Z 2015-04-08T08:35:11Z

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It’s a fact: Women are vastly underrepresented in the fields of computer science, engineering, and mathematics. But less clear are the trajectories — academic and otherwise — that lead young women toward other professions. Higher education has already opened the door to equal opportunities for women and minorities in the US — so is it possible that elementary school, as a new Tel Aviv University study suggests, is the critical juncture at which girls are discouraged from pursuing science and mathematics?

New research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that elementary school teachers’ unconscious biases significantly influence female students’ academic choices later on. According to researchers Dr. Edith Sand and Prof. Victor Lavy, the classroom teacher’s unwitting prejudice is a key factor explaining the divergence of boys’ and girls’ academic preferences.

“It isn’t an issue of discrimination but of unconscious discouragement,” said Dr. Sand. “This discouragement, however, has implications. The track to computer science and engineering fields, which report some of the highest salaries, tapers off in elementary school.”

Taking the gender test

The research was carried out on three groups of students in Israel from sixth grade through the end of high school. The students were given two exams, the first graded by objective scorers who did not know their names and the second by instructors who did know them. In math, the girls outscored the boys in the test that was scored anonymously, but when graded by teachers who were familiar with their names, the boys outscored the girls. The effect was not the same for tests in non-math or science-related subjects.

      SEE ALSO: International Women’s Day: Are Women Equal In The Startup Nation?


The researchers concluded that, in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys’ skills and underestimated the girls’ abilities, and that this had long-term implications for students’ attitudes toward these subjects.

Opting out

“When the same students reached junior high and high school, we examined their performances in matriculation exams (‘Bagrut’ in Hebrew),” said Dr. Sand. “The boys who had been encouraged when they were younger performed significantly better than their female counterparts, though the latter had objectively scored higher at a younger age.”

     SEE ALSO: These 10 Female Israeli Tech Leaders Will Blow You Away

The researchers also monitored the advanced math and science courses that students chose to take in high school, concluding that the girls who had been discouraged by their elementary school teachers were much less likely than the boys to opt for advanced courses.

“If teachers take into account these effects, it could lead to a reduction of the gender gap in achievement, especially in science and math,” said Dr. Sand. “It is clear how important encouragement is for both boys and girls in all their subjects. Teachers play a critical role in lowering and raising the confidence levels of their students, which has serious implications for their futures.”

The research was conducted by Dr. Edith Sand, an economist at the Bank of Israel and an instructor at TAU’s Berglas School of Economics, and Prof. Victor Lavy, a professor at Hebrew University and University of Warwick in England.

Photos: BigStock

David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli Tech Powers Longest-Ever Driverless Car Journey, From San Francisco To Manhattan]]> 2015-04-07T12:12:50Z 2015-04-07T11:47:50Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Israel’s Mobileye, maker of safety systems that alert drivers of dangers ahead, is likely to be an integral part of the driverless car future, to judge from the results of the longest-ever – and most successful – driverless car demonstration.

Completed last week, just in time for this week’s New York Auto Show, a driverless vehicle supplied by international car parts maker Delphi Automotive traversed the 3,000-odd miles from San Francisco to Manhattan in nine days, driving itself nearly the entire way – with Mobileye’s road safety detection system providing the “eyes” for the Roadrunner as it passed through cities, towns, deserts and forests, on its way to the big city. The drive, according to Delphi, was the longest and most data-intensive autonomous car trip ever undertaken.

     SEE ALSO: Will Tesla’s Driverless Car Be Powered By Israel’s Mobileye Technology?

In previous tests, the company had successfully navigated its vehicle throughout Los Angeles and Las Vegas but it was time, said Jeff Owens, Delphi’s chief technology officer, “to put our vehicle to the ultimate test by broadening the range of driving conditions. This drive will help us collect invaluable data in our quest to deliver the best automotive grade technologies on the market.”

For legal and safety reasons – and perhaps, because Delphi engineers were just a bit nervous – a team of human drivers followed the Roadrunner, keeping tabs on how it behaved in traffic and on the open road.

The nine-day trip traversed 15 states and the District of Columbia. Along the way, the vehicle encountered complex driving situations such as traffic circles, construction zones, bridges, tunnels, aggressive drivers and a variety of weather conditions.

Crucial to the success of the Roadrunner’s journey was the vehicle’s “eyes” — its radar, vision and Advanced Drive Assistance Systems (ADAS), most of which were supplied by Mobileye.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here

Photos and video courtesy of Delphi Automotive

Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[New Study Examines Autistic Brain Function, Finds Every Brain Unique]]> 2015-04-13T08:41:25Z 2015-04-07T08:31:32Z

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Difficulty communicating with their environment, engaging in repetitious behavior, and feeling frustration with their surroundings; these are only some of most notable symptoms of autism. However, new research from the Weizmann Institute in Israel may be the first step in explaining how autism really works in the brain, and why so many autistic individuals struggle to communicate with their environment.

By comparing the function of “normal” brains to autistic brains in their resting states, Avital Hahamy and Prof. Rafi Malach were able to show that autistic brains are unique, each in their own right. This may seem like quite an obvious observation, but when Hahamy conducted her study, recently published in “Nature Neuroscience,” it was largely thought that autistic brains could be categorized together when compared with a normal functioning brain. Now it is clear that each and every individual case of autism produces different habits in the brain, explaining the wide-range of social disturbances that autistic individuals experience, and justifying the rather vague name of the condition, autism spectrum disorder.autismbraincover

No two autistic brains are alike

Hahamy was able to come to the conclusion that each autistic brain is unique following her and her colleagues’ research into brain connectivity, and functional brain connectivity in particular. Functional connectivity is a measure of how well activity in different areas of the brain is synchronized. Hahamy sought to examine resting state functional connectivity, or the level of synchronization between activities in different parts of brain while an individual is at rest, in order to find out how an autistic brain differs from a typical brain. This is measured with an fMRI scanner that reads brain activity by analyzing changes in blood flow.

    SEE ALSO: Exposure To Air Pollution In Womb Raises Risk Of Autism, Study Finds

Although the practice of examining resting state functional connectivity in the brain to examine disorders like autism isn’t new, research on how autistic brains function remained a mystery in extant literature; some researchers found that autistic people have increased connectivity in the brain, while others reported a decrease in functional connectivity. Hahamy and her team were able to establish that each autistic brain acts in a unique fashion, in comparison to a typical brain, even when examined together with other autistic brains. According to Hahamy, “This makes it difficult to identify what is common across all autistic patients because their brains are not all the same,” despite the fact that the research describes better than ever before how autistic brains function on a general level.

The way our brains function can tell us more about our habits

Another important finding in the research touched upon the implications of resting state functional connectivity on autistic behavior. If you have ever encountered or personally know an autistic person, then you are probably aware that some autistic individuals struggle to complete ordinary functions, while others conduct themselves in a more stable social state. Hahamy’s hypothesis suggests that resting state functional connectivity can tell us more about how our brains function in the day-to-day (when they aren’t resting), and hopefully shed light on which habits autistic individuals engage in that makes their brain activity differ from the norm.

autism“Looking at resting state functional connectivity can tell us about our daily behavior, or the way that we interact with the external world, our habits, our traits and everything that makes us who we are. The main assumption here is that our routine behavior is reflected in our brain activity during rest,” Hahamy explains.

She points to a paper published by a fellow Israeli researcher, Tamar Makin, that examined resting state functional connectivity in people who were only born with one hand, examining brain activity in the areas that control hand movement. It showed that those who had full function of both of their hands had higher levels of functional connectivity than those with control of only one of their hands. This study and the results of her own research lead Hahamy to hypothesize that unique patterns of interaction with the world lead to unique connectivity patterns in the brain, and vice versa in individuals without autism. Though still only a hypothesis, such a finding could have major implications for the way autism is treated, and the way that autistic children are educated.

     SEE ALSO: Meet The 6 Israeli Startups On ‘Forbes’ Top 10 Health Tech Changing The World

Though Hahamy reinforces the fact that her findings are still preliminary, she is optimistic for their possible future contributions to the treatment of autism and other brain disorders, “If our hypothesis is correct, if your daily life and habits are imprinted into your resting state functional connectivity, we could probably encode certain brain functions not only in autistic individuals, but in other clinical populations too, and maybe even in typical individuals looking to improve their brain function.”

The study was conducted by principle researcher Avital Hahamy and Prof. Rafi Malach of the Weizmann Institute’s Neurobiology Department, and Prof. Marlene Behrmann of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.

Photos: Mt. Carmel Films/hepingting/ Hanson

Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[Harnessing Energy From Ocean Waves, Eco Wave Power Establishes First Plant In China]]> 2015-04-06T17:42:59Z 2015-04-06T17:31:57Z

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Water covers three-quarters of the earth’s surface, but the world has yet to capitalize on the power of ocean waves, even though the energy that can be harvested from oceans is equal to twice the amount of electricity that the world produces now, according to the World Energy Council. But Israeli startup Eco Wave Power is taking giant steps in the field of renewable energy harvested from the sea, moving forward with a first-of-its-kind plant in China.

     SEE ALSO: Israel To Sell China Water Technologies For $300M

The company, which was founded in Tel Aviv in 2011, turns water into electricity using uniquely shaped buoys (floating devices), which rise and fall with the waves’ up-and-down motion and the changes in water levels.

Jaffa Port Facility - Eco Wave Power

With over 18,000 kilometers of coastline and approximately 6,500 islands, China is believed to be one of the biggest markets for wave energy, and that’s exactly where the Israeli startup is headed. According to the China New Energy Chamber of Commerce, which will next week hold the Ninth China New Energy International Forum in Beijing, economic development in the country is relying more and more on innovation-driven, energy-saving solutions. “In this context, the new energy industry will have a big role to play.”

Reducing pollution around the globe

China’s wave energy potential reaches a whopping 12,852 Megawatt, with most massive resources in Taiwan, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Fujian and Shandong. “We believe that China is being very innovative by replacing some of its coal and other polluting methods with renewables such as solar, wind and now wave energy,” David Leb, Eco Wave Power co-founder, said in a statement. “We’re confident that wave energy is one of the most significant possibilities for emissions reduction and lowering the worldwide pollution.”

Eco Wave Power recently established a subsidiary in Suzhou, China, after receiving an approval – as well as funds – from the Chinese government. Investments from a Chinese governmental fund will assist in the building of the company’s 100 Kilowatt plant, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The $450,000 power station will initially serve 100 households, serving hundreds more as it grows. “Israel is certainly a powerhouse when it comes to water technologies, including desalination and irrigation. The world positively views technologies that were developed in Israel,” Eco Wave Power co-founder Inna Braverman tells NoCamels.

     SEE ALSO: TaKaDu’s Water-Saving Technology Saves Australia Millions Of Dollars

According to Braverman, who along with Leb founded Eco Wave Power four years ago, the company is in negotiations regarding the expansion of the plant in China to produce 50 Megawatt. “Eco Wave Power’s commercial-scale power plant in China will be the first of its kind,” she proudly declares.

The company currently operates a small power station in Jaffa, Israel, and is investing about $5 million in the building of a 5 Megawatt plant in Gibraltar. “Gibraltar is so small, that vast solar farms were out of the question,” Braverman says. “In two years, 15 percent of Gibraltar’s electricity will be produced by Eco Wave Power.”

The startup company, which is in the midst of raising $5 million from private investors (seed money was provided by Leb), can potentially succeed in what other companies have failed to achieve: Producing cost-effective electricity from sea waves. “Our competitors have tried to establish power stations offshore, where the waves rise to 17 meters; but the costs of maintaining a power station 4-5 kilometers from the coastline were very high,” Braverman says. “In contrast, we operate close to the pier, where the waves are not as powerful but the cost of operation is not expensive. Our goal is to harvest as much energy as possible with our uniquely shaped devices, so that we can be competitive in the market.”

eco wave power

Photos and video courtesy of Eco Wave Power

Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[TaKaDu’s Water-Saving Technology Saves Australia Millions Of Dollars]]> 2015-04-13T09:05:08Z 2015-04-06T09:18:37Z

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Each year, 8.6 trillion gallons of water are lost to leakage in water utility systems worldwide — that’s enough to supply Niagara Falls for more than four months. But losing water to leakage is a problem that could be solved using a technology developed in Israel by TaKaDu, which has been saving countries millions of gallons of water (and dollars), with Australia being its latest success story.

TaKaDu provides a cloud-based software service that enables water utility companies to monitor their water network, detect leaks and bursts in pipes, inefficiencies or problems with other equipment, and operational issues — all in real-time. In its most recent project, TaKaDu saved Yarra Valley Water, the largest water and sanitation utility in Melbourne, thousands of megaliters of water.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Tech Brings Clean Water Solutions To China’s Cities

Yarra Valley Australia

The recent success in Melbourne has the company gaining momentum in the Land Down Under. Sydney Water, Unitywater on the Sunshine Coast, and Queensland Urban Utilities in Brisbane all recently signed on for TaKaDu’s services. According to the Australian Financial Review, over the last three years in Australia, TaKaDu has saved over 2,700 megaliters of water (about 1,100 Olympic swimming pools), resulting in roughly $5000 per day in water savings. Yarra Valley, for example, has reduced its water loss from 14 percent to 10.8 percent, mostly by limiting pipe leakage.

By collecting real-time data on the patterns of water flow from pipes in a neighborhood, and comparing it with corresponding data from days, weeks, and even years prior, TaKaDu developed a statistical model that learns what the right flow is for a Monday in January, for example.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Technology Turns Air Into Drinking Water For Troops

The comparison process occurs on the company’s online cloud system and is done through a unique mathematical model that the company developed, which consists of algorithms and statistical tools such as time-series-analysis systems and correlations. According to TaKaDu, this mathematical model provides accurate insights about the water network’s condition—sensing whether there could be a pipe leak, burst, or abnormal consumption.

Old Leaking Water Pipe

“Unlike computer networks or the internet, which are both effectively functioning via programs and algorithms, the water sector doesn’t operate through progressed tools like these,” TaKaDu CEO Amir Peleg told NoCamels. “We bring the power of math and algorithms to the water sector, and that is the wisdom and the innovation of our solution.”

From Brazil to Australia, Israel teaches the world how to conserve water

According to industry research firm The Water Network, TaKaDu now holds a 40 percent market share of the top ten largest water networks in Australia. Over the past five years, the company has attracted some heavy investment from venture capital firms and other companies such as 3M and ABB that have invested over $20 million. TaKaDu also continues to operate globally, working with 14 utilities in cities from Campo Grande, Brazil to Bilbao, Spain. Collectively, the company manages roughly 40,000 miles of water pipelines, and its revenues have grown by 50 percent annually over the past two years, Peleg told Bloomberg News.

TaKaDu was founded in 2009 by Peleg, after he had sold his first company YaData, which does ad targeting software, to Microsoft in 2008. Peleg had learned that some utility companies were losing 20-30 percent of their water, some even more than that. Not only was this a financial problem for utilities, but a critical problem for many countries that struggle with drought or lack of clean water supply. Growing up in Israel, a country where water is scarce and therefore precious, Peled recognized the need for a better system and decided to develop a software that could use raw data generated by smart sensors in water pipes to conserve more water.


Takadu is not the first water tech company to come out of Israel, a world leader in water technologies like desalination and irrigation. Israel recycles roughly 85 percent of its waste-water, and its tap water is 80 percent desalinated. Countries that struggle with drought or lack of clean water supply can actually learn from Israel – it is home to the largest seawater desalination plant in the world.

Photos: Tourism VictoriaJorge Láscar,

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli Researcher Rebrands Sleep Disorder Narcolepsy As ‘Autoimmune Disease’, Paving Way For Better Treatment]]> 2015-04-05T10:20:39Z 2015-04-05T08:25:00Z

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Narcoleptics suffer from bouts of sleepiness and sleep attacks, which impair their ability to function in daily life. But the precise cause of narcolepsy has long eluded scientists, and the cure for the devastating neurological disorder afflicting an estimated three million people worldwide — and one in 3,000 Americans — remains at bay.

A new study conducted by one of the world’s leading autoimmune disease experts, Tel Aviv University Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld, finds that narcolepsy bears the trademarks of a classic autoimmune disorder and should be treated accordingly. The research points to a particular autoimmune process as the trigger for the specific loss of orexin neurons, which maintain the delicate equilibrium between sleep and wakefulness in the brain.

Not just the genes

“Narcolepsy is interesting, because although it has been considered to be strictly genetic, it is induced by environmental factors, such as a burst of laughter or stress,” said Prof. Shoenfeld. “Narcolepsy is devastating to those suffering from it and debilitating to children, in particular. There is no known therapy to treat it.”

     SEE ALSO: Let’s Relax: Researchers Show Stress Leads To Increase In Autoimmune Diseases

Narcolepsy first strikes people aged 10 to 25, plaguing them for life. Narcoleptics may experience any or all of the following symptoms: falling asleep without warning, anywhere, anytime, making it difficult to concentrate and fully function; excessive daytime sleepiness; the sudden loss of muscle tone; slurred speech or weakness of most muscles for a few seconds or a few minutes; a temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or upon waking; and hallucinations.


Prof. Shoenfeld first became interested in the subject after an avalanche of narcolepsy diagnoses swept Finland in 2009 following the administering of the H1N1 flu vaccine. “Following the H1N1 vaccine, 16 times the average incidence of narcolepsy was reported,” said Prof. Shoenfeld.

Prof. Shoenfeld discovered that a group of researchers from the Sleep Control Project at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Psychiatry in Japan had published a study on an autoantibody presence attacking tribbles, small granules in our brains containing regulatory orexin neurons, which maintain the balance between sleep and wakefulness in the brain.

Pinpointing the culprit

“In patients and animals that develop narcolepsy, we have seen an evident depletion of orexin in the brain, and therefore a lack of balance, and later attacks of narcolepsy,” said Prof. Shoenfeld. “Why is the orexin disappearing? We think the culprit is an autoimmune reaction — the binding of autoantibodies to the tribble granules to destroy them.”

For the purpose of the new study, Prof. Shoenfeld and his team collaborated with the Japanese research group led by Dr. Makoto Honda to isolate the specific antibodies. These antibodies were then injected directly into laboratory mice. Their behavior was monitored for several months, tracking their sleep patterns. “What we saw was an increased number of sleep attacks and irregular patterns of sleep in mice,” said Prof. Shoenfeld. “Mice fall asleep like dogs, circling around before going to sleep. Suddenly, in this experiment, the mice just dropped off to sleep and then, just two minutes later, woke up as though nothing had happened.

     SEE ALSO: New Vaccine Tested Against Autoimmune Diseases

“Our hope is to change the perception and diagnosis of narcolepsy, to define it as the 81st known autoimmune disease, because a better understanding of the mechanism causing this disease, which debilitates and humiliates so many people, will lead to better treatment and, maybe one day, a cure,” Prof. Shoenfeld says. He is currently collaborating with Dr. Honda and his team to locate the area of the brain to which the targeting autoantibodies bind.

The research, the Laura Schwarz-Kipp Chair for Research of Autoimmune Diseases at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Head of Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases at Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, and conducted by doctoral student María-Teresa Arango, was published in “Pharmacological Research”.

Photos: Bigstock

Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[New Synthetic ‘SynVaccine’ May Forever Settle The Vaccination Debate]]> 2015-04-02T11:28:04Z 2015-04-02T11:12:03Z

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If you’re the parent of a young child, or an adamant reader of health news, you may have heard of the recent wave of parents who refuse vaccination. Insisting that vaccines are unsafe and have harmful side effects, the ‘anti-vaccine’ movement just got a huge reality check when over twenty people were infected with measles after visiting the Disneyland Amusement Park with their kids.

Now there is good news – one Israeli company may have the safe vaccination solution that will knock the socks off the anti-vaccination movement. Founded only 18 months ago but soon to begin clinical trials, SynVaccine creates novel vaccines to treat some of the most serious and currently untreatable viral diseases on the planet: Dengue fever, Ebola, HRSV and HIV. If SynVaccine passes all the checks and makes it to the market, it may change the way people think about vaccination and even deter future generations from categorizing vaccines as hazardous.

Creating safe, synthetic vaccines from scratch

The story of the safe vaccine, SynVaccine, begins at the Weizmann Institute in Israel where company co-founder and chief scientist Dr. Tuval Ben Yehezkel came up with the idea to change the way vaccines are conceived. Tuval realized that vaccines don’t need to be created from microorganisms belonging to existing viruses, but instead could essentially be built from scratch, using our own tissue cells to create ‘synthetic’ viruses (hence the name “SynVaccine”). Together with co-founder Dr. Tamir Tuller, a computational biologist at Tel Aviv University, the two noticed that they could actually design a vaccine from the bottom up without ever having to refer to organisms in the host virus.


“Basically, research in bioengineering and mathematics have allowed us to make the genomes of organisms from scratch. This means that we aren’t relying on the templates of existing organisms and changing them, but are actually building them from chemicals, from the ground up,” Tuval tells NoCamels, explaining the novelty of SynVaccine’s methods. According to Tuval, biological engineers are now able to manipulate the human genome, or the complete set of genetic information belonging to humans, with greater ease than ever before, which has made it possible for the team to dramatically revise the way vaccines are made.

     SEE ALSO: New Vaccine Triggers Response In 90% Of Cancer Types

Using knowledge in rational computational design, bioinformatics, and good old computer science, Tuval and his team create new virus genomes, analyze them and even predict how they will react to certain environments. “We take viruses that cause disease in humans and we redesign their genome so that they no longer cause disease, and can actually protect us from their nasty cousins (or spin-offs of the virus),” Tuval asserts. This process weakens the virus so that it can no longer infect different parts of the body, isolating it and thereby making it easier for our immune system to grab hold of the virus and attack, “This means that the virus will not cause disease, but will be effectively dealt with by the immune system, keeping us protected against future outbreak for years.”

Making vaccines safe, and acceptable, is key

In addition to creating vaccines from ‘hand-crafted’ viruses, which are not based on organisms taken from animals infected with the disease (the traditional practice), Tuval explains that the SynVaccine method eliminates the typical trial-and-error method used by most researchers to create vaccines.

“The traditional vaccine is created in a trial-and-error method, which can be expensive and often unsafe. Our technology is based on rational computational design, allowing us to design the viruses to be very safe and effective immunizers against the disease, cutting down on development costs because they are not trial-and-error based,” says Tuval with pride. SynVaccine is also proud of the fact that their methods of developing the vaccines cut out animal testing altogether. He claims that because the vaccines are designed on a computer and tested with tissue cultures, no animals are involved in any stage of production of the vaccine.


This, of course, not only makes SynVaccine’s methods more humane than those currently used, but also – and this is the important part – potentially safer. “The real emphasis of our technology is on making vaccines safer, in comparison to the ways that traditional vaccines are made, allowing us to design safety into the genome of the new vaccine, and ensuring that the vaccines won’t revert back to the nasty nature of the disease.”

Despite the opposition to vaccination from an increasing number of parents, Tuval is clear on where he stands in that debate.

     SEE ALSO: How Israel’s Leading Ebola Expert Could Eradicate The Virus And Why The US Military Is Investing In  Him

“I think that it’s important to state that vaccines are the most important lifesaving medical intervention of all time and this is something that has to be said, in light of voices that say that vaccines are unsafe,” Tuval emphasizes, and not just because he’s in the business of making vaccines. According to statistics provided by the Cleveland Clinic, between two to three millions deaths are prevented annually as a result of proper vaccination. SynVaccine believes that vaccinating against some of the world’s most deadly diseases, like Dengue and Ebola, which are currently untreatable, can be done in a safe manner that results in full compliance.

Fueled by academic research

SynVaccine began as and remains to be a heavily academic effort. Tuval met his mentoring professor Shapiro when he was still a graduate student at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, and his business partner, Tamir Tuller, is an acting professor at Tel Aviv University. In order to create SynVaccine, Tuval and Tamir licensed patents and technology from Weizmann and Tel Aviv, and the team still uses academic expertise to develop its innovative R&D program.


“In Israel we are known for our ability to translate innovative ideas from the lab into useful technologies. This is what we have specialized in at SynVaccine and we hope to bring the ideas and technologies we have been developing as academics into a stage in which they are mature enough to attract the attention of large pharmaceutical companies,” says co-founder Tamir Tuler of SynVaccine’s academic background. In fact, Tuval tells me that the majority of their new research and clinical studies are still conducted at Weizmann laboratories by students.

SynVaccine’s effort to make vaccines safe attracts its share of international attention. The company was a finalist in the Berlin Falling Walls Venture competition, in which it was named one of the top three science-based startups of 2014. SynVaccine has also received grants from the Office of the Chief Scientist and was part of the RadBiomed technological incubator. The company’s rational computational design methods for creating the synthetic vaccines are protected under patents, which is a good thing since the market of safe vaccines is hot and only getting hotter.

With SynVaccine poised to begin clinical trials on some of their vaccines in the next six months, the next time a global Ebola-type outbreak comes around, a safe vaccination solution may come out of Israel.

Photos: Bigstock/ The Wall Street Journal

Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[New Drone Camera Percepto Follows You From The Sky To Film Your Wildest Moments]]> 2015-04-02T12:47:45Z 2015-04-01T11:41:52Z

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Frustrated because you can’t take awesome pictures of yourself snowboarding? How about filming yourself climbing all the way to the mountaintop? Now, you can fasten a camera to a drone that recognizes you and seamlessly follow your movements from the sky while you’re hiking, surfing or climbing. New Israeli gizmo Percepto essentially removes the cumbersome barrier of trying to manually videotape high-speed activities, including extreme sports.

While drones are usually associated with the military, they are increasingly being used by tech and gadget companies to capture pictures or videos from a bird’s-eye view. Most drones look like a small remote control helicopter that you can fly through the air using a wireless remote or a smartphone.

Percepto, launched a few weeks ago on Indiegogo, is a tiny camera that fastens to almost any drone and uses smart technology to capture enhanced pictures and videos. Automatically factoring in things like sunlight and optimal camera angles, Percepto could potentially surpass the sometimes shaky footage captured on Go Pro cameras. Ultimately, it will be able to film “action shots” just like a Hollywood cameraman!

     SEE ALSO: Zano’s Micro-Drone Follows You To Capture HD Selfies From The Sky

The idea for this gadget came up while Percepto founder Dor Abuhasira was snowboarding on a recent ski trip with his friends. It’s not every day that folks from sunny Israel get out to hit the slopes, so it was important for them to capture every second. After some brainstorming with Raviv Raz and Sagi Blonder, now his partners in Percepto, Abuhasira came up with the idea to develop a technology for drones that understands and responds to their environment.

Already backed by some prominent investors such as Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and founder of DIY Drones, Percepto is currently raising funds on Indiegogo, the popular crowd-funding platform, and is aiming to launch its first product by October 2015. Percepto has raised $64,000 in less than three weeks, surpassing the company’s goal of $60,000.

Percepto App

Taking drones to new heights

For people who are more technically inclined, Percepto is also a mobile platform that can host different applications for capturing footage. For example, its “follow me” function makes the camera lock on to a specific target and automatically follow it while filming. In the future, this platform will be open to all developers, meaning anyone who knows how to build an application can try it out using the Percepto camera. Essentially, Percepto is an open-source drone camera that you can modify with apps; you can add new features to your drone camera almost as easily as downloading apps from an app store.

     SEE ALSO: Lightbox, The World’s Smallest Social Camera, Is Giving GoPro A Run For Its Money

Percepto units will sell for $400-$600, a fraction of what competitor AirDog charges for its drone camera – $1,295. However, Zano’s portable unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which we  covered recently and is also equipped with its own camera, will go for $265.

It’s important to note that Percepto’s environment recognition technology isn’t just for taking cool videos; its potential is big. Think about police forces trying to capture a criminal, using Percepto to follow them. “The real change will be in ways we might not think about today. In more traditional industries like agriculture, search and rescue, and security,” Abuhasira told NoCamels.

Percepto camera

Photos and video courtesy of Percepto

Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Inside The Rise Of ‘Meerkat': How The Israeli App Is Helming Live Mobile Broadcasting]]> 2015-04-02T10:47:14Z 2015-03-31T08:08:03Z

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Meerkats are social animals, famous for traveling in large packs and rarely ever separating as they wander the Kalahari Desert. But over the past few weeks, a new breed of “Meerkat” has navigated its way into our digital landscape. Recently emerging from its burrow in Tel Aviv, Israel, this new tech startup is part of the first wave of new media companies that will change the way you watch live content forever.

Formerly known as Yevvo, Meerkat is a mobile application that enables users to live-stream videos for their Twitter followers to watch on their mobile devices. It gives anyone with a smartphone the ability to create a live broadcast anytime, anywhere. When a live stream begins, users are notified on their smartphone that someone they follow is now live-streaming. Anyone with the Meerkat app can then tune in and comment in real time on what they are seeing. Meerkat’s surging popularity suggests that people want to follow the news and current events in a new, different way.

     SEE ALSO: Yevvo: Will Micro-Broadcasting Overthrow Twitter’s Micro-Blogging?


And… We’re live: Meerkat goes viral

Interest in Meerkat has peaked over the past week following a successful showing at South by Southwest (SxSW), the preeminent US film, music, and interactive conference held annually in Austin, Texas. Less than a month into its existence, the company has amassed over 100,000 users, which was enough to entice Greylock Partners, one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms, to invest $12 million, valuing the company at $40 million.

The company, currently operating in Tel Aviv and San Francisco, was co-founded by three Israeli entrepreneurs, CEO Ben Rubin, CTO Itai Danino, and VP Product Uri Haramati. Using some of the components of its former app Yevvo, developed in 2013, Rubin claims to have built the new Meerkat app in less than eight weeks. What started as a side project has become an overnight success: within three days of launching in late February, Meerkat had 15,000 users and had streamed 8,000 videos.

Part of Meerkat’s initial success came from its partnership with Twitter. When the app launched, everyone you followed on Twitter automatically synced to Meerkat, so if you followed @jimmyfallon and he was live-streaming, you were automatically notified via Twitter and provided a link directly to the Meerkat livestream. However, on the eve of SxSW, Twitter announced that they would no longer be linked to Meerkat, essentially forcing users to manually re-add everyone they wanted to follow – onto Meerkat. Twitter also announced that it had acquired a competitor streaming app called Periscope. From a business perspective, this makes sense: instead of letting a third-party app cannibalize its traffic, Twitter decided to buy and operate its own service. Nonetheless, Rubin and his co-founders marched into SxSW, possibly with some Israeli chutzpah, and after three days, user growth nearly doubled.

However, Apple has since removed Meerkat from its list of featured apps, and it dropped from No. 140 to No. 661 on the list of the most popular iPhone apps. Also, last week Twitter launched its Periscope service, which drove many early adopters of Meerkat to switch to Periscope. Some critics were quick send Meerkat to an early grave, blaming the media for creating an exaggerated hype. But whoever is going to rule the mobile live streaming market – Meerkat, Periscope, or some other app – mobile video broadcasting is here to stay, with millions of teenagers and youngsters keeping abreast of their favorite celebrities.

Iphone Displaying Twitter Application

Capitalizing on FOMO: our Fear Of Missing Out

It hasn’t hurt that the likes of Jimmy Fallon, Jaret Leto, Ashton Kutcher, Shaquille O’Neil and many other celebrities are using Meerkat to interact with their fans. Businesses, media personalities, and other organizations are also seeing the upside of reaching viewers in live bursts from their smartphones such as Mashable, Red Bull, Spotify, and the Miami Dolphins Football Club, just to name a few.

Now, it’s true that Meerkat requires you to be constantly on your phone, reacting to push notifications notifying you when your favorite stars are going live. This works because many smartphone users suffer from a serious affliction, referred to as FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. They don’t want to miss a second of what Shaq is doing today, so they stay glued to their screens. As a result, the company has reported that 20 percent of Meerkat users are watching over two hours per day.

Fallon Tweet

To put that in perspective, a recent Neilsen Media Research study reported that Americans aged 18-24 watched roughly 2.5 hours of TV per day in 2014. So Meerkat, less than a month old, seems to be well on its way to competing with traditional television for viewing time. With younger age segments, it’s even fairing better than YouTube for viewing time.

Is live mobile video a threat to TV and YouTube?

Admittedly, we’re using a minuscule sample size of four weeks for Meerkat, and this wouldn’t be the first app with huge potential that burned out faster than you can say “Yo”, but there is reason to believe that this one can hang in an industry that is exploding.

Nielsen Media Research reports that in 2015, online video will account for between 50 – 70 percent of traffic on mobile networks, and over the next five years, one-third of all online advertising spent (projected to be $200 billion by 2018) will go into online video production.

Live smartphone content is also largely targeting an audience that consists of the coveted age 16 – 25 users, and these users are actively participating in the content they’re watching — all streams enable live commenting and often include calls to action, asking viewers to comment on what the person behind the camera should choose to do next. From real estate agents doing showings, to American Idol streaming auditions, to Jimmy Fallon rehearsing his monologue before The Tonight Show. Expect the company to get creative with monetization, but one option is similar one to YouTube, giving video creators a cut of the revenue they generate.

     SEE ALSO: Stevie: Turning Your Social Media Content Into A TV Show

Two Funny Women Friends Laughing And Sharing Media In A Smart Ph

The future of news

Meerkat and its competitors are also considered by some to be the future of news broadcasting, with the potential to heavily shape global events such as the 2016 US Presidential Election. The service will give candidates easy and direct access to key demographics of the American electorate. It should be noted that live-streaming for news has been around since 2007, but never seemed to have the same virality seen today. In other words, they never captured the hearts and minds of college kids and tech nerds, and smartphones with HD video quality weren’t as ubiquitous.

Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama recently endorsed Meerkat in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. He predicted that “if 2004 was about Meetup, 2008 was about Facebook, and 2012 was about Twitter, 2016 is going to be about Meerkat (or something just like it).”

Politicians are already embracing the opportunity, as Senator Rand Paul and Jeb Bush were both live on Meerkat last week. “I think the thing is, we’re trying to get new people engaged,” said Paul to the Wall Street Journal, “When you look at Snapchat’s audience, they have probably the biggest 18-24 audience… If you don’t go to a platform where they are, you’ll not find them.”

Consider this: @BarackObama has 56 million Twitter followers – how many of those users would follow his live broadcasts on Meerkat too? How many would follow the next presidential hopefuls during the election? The answer to both of those questions is millions. Up until now, only broadcast and cable networks had the power to reach people with live video. YouTube has done live broadcasts in the past, but they pay for the right to syndicate that content. Meerkat video content is user-generated, created by individuals from a first-person perspective. In other words, it’s free.

@BarackObama on Twitter

Mobile live streaming has just poked its head out of the sand

Mobile live-streaming has arrived, and while Meerkat wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last company to compete in this space, for a month-old Israeli company to be at the forefront of this shift is more than impressive.

The question isn’t “will mobile broadcasting become dominant,” it’s “who will lead the revolution”. Meerkat is the newest application driving the nexus between our smartphones, access to information, and creative expression.

meerkat screen shot fashion

Jonathan Neff, NoCamels <![CDATA[Location-Based Tags App ‘Meetey’ Joins Slew Of New Check-In Apps]]> 2015-03-31T08:24:02Z 2015-03-30T19:58:36Z

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Back in the day, you would stay in a boutique hotel or visit a popular landmark and sign a guestbook chronicling your visit. But over the past few years, thanks to new mobile technologies, guestbooks have become obsolete. Nowadays, you might write a review on TripAdvisor or even upload an artsy photo to Instagram. With a few swipes of the finger, you’ve posted your location, along with a picture and a witty caption, not to mention tagging your friends. One Israeli newcomer to the virtual check-in arena is Israeli startup Meetey, which hopes to make its geolocation-based guestbook the new frontier in social networking. It is set to release a new, revamped version of its app this May.

Since check-in apps have come and gone in recent years, Meetey is trying to redesign the user experience. However, Meetey developers – much like the ones at Israeli competitor SpaceTag – may need to learn from other location-oriented apps. For example, the trendiness of Foursquare’s check-in app eventually wore off. It had to reinvent itself as it struggled to appeal to users, which are now using mostly Facebook and Instagram.

     SEE ALSO: The Next Social Network? ‘Space Tag’ Allows Users to Leave Eternal Tags Around The Globe


Founded in 2012, Meetey is a social network that relies on the geolocations of its users and their local experiences. Anything you experience – from trying a new burger to going to a great concert – can become a post. Additionally, the location at which you upload your post becomes an eternal tag for anyone else to see. What sets Meetey apart from the rest of the pack is the feedback you can get from other users about shared experiences. Meetey also offers the possibility of posting anonymously.

The challenge: gathering additional users in a competitive field 

The company currently employs eight full-time employees, and recently opened an office in New York that will house an additional few. The app launched in September 2013, and is set to release a new version in May. The app, available for iPad, iPhone and Android users, prompts the user to either create an account or link a Facebook account. At the home screen of the app, you immediately see local activity. Now, the local Meetey community might not be necessarily “buzzing”, so seeing posts from weeks, even months back is not uncommon.

Even Meetey’s CEO, Tomer Yosef, admitted to NoCamels that the company has “struggled with getting enough engagement and traction into our product”, despite success with user growth. He declined to share the exact number of Meetey’s users. For now, the app still lacks a large enough user base to find people picking up on your activity and relating to your experiences. That aside, the app is easy to use, intuitive and well structured.

Fighting cyber-bullying 

Since Meetey also offers to post anonymously, it becomes an inherent target for cyber-bullying. The leadership at Meetey has made it a goal to thwart malicious behavior, and has even hired a full-time monitoring team to help prevent online attacks. The developers have come up with algorithms similar to those of Israeli start-up Red Button, which actively search for keywords and phrases that might indicate hurtful activity.

Meetey launched with an initial seed investment of $1 million from Israeli investment firm GK, led by serial entrepreneur Gal Kalkshtein. The Meetey app is set to relaunch in May at the Collision Conference in Las Vegas, where Yosef will begin to scout investors for a second round of financing. The company is looking to raise an additional $3 to $4 million in the next round. While Meetey is surviving on investments now and its eventual business plan is to monetize in-app, integrated advertising.

SEE ALSO: Correlor: Unlocking People’s ‘Social DNA’ To Make Advertisment More Targeted

Tourists using an iPad in front of the Eiffel tower

The rise and fall of check-in apps

Foursquare, too, has been struggling with user retention (like any other app in the category); also, after Facebook’s 2012 acquisition of Instagram, its user base shot up to nearly 300 million users, six times as much as Foursquare’s current number.

Foursquare attempted a product redesign to keep up with its competition, but the Facebook empire has continued to rule the market. With former Foursquare users now mostly on Facebook and Instagram, it will be interesting to see how Meetey plans to keep up with such major competitors and avoid a similar, Foursquare-esque demise.

Another competitor in this sector is American company Nextdoor, which has developed a similar platform to those of Israeli SpaceTag and Meetey. However, it’s much farther along in fundraising— raising an impressive $100 million so far.

It remains to be seen whether Meetey will make the right move with its upcoming redesign, and be able to compete with mega social networks.

Meetey Screen Shot

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli Study Forces Us To Rethink Hibernation, Finds Bats Hibernate In Warm Weather Too]]> 2015-03-29T10:50:48Z 2015-03-29T10:41:10Z

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Many mammals — and some birds — escape the winter by hibernating for three to nine months. This period of dormancy permits species that would otherwise perish from the cold and lack of food to survive to see another spring. The Middle East, with temperate winters, was until recently considered an unlikely host for hibernating mammals.

New research from Tel Aviv University is set to not only correct this assumption but also change the very concept of hibernation. Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Schor and doctoral student Dr. Eran Levin found two species of the mouse-tailed bat (the Rhinopoma microphyllum and the R. Cystops) hibernating at the unusually warm and constant temperature of 20°C (68°F)  in caves in Israel’s Great Rift Valley. From October to February, these bats were discovered semi-conscious, breathing only once every 15-30 minutes, with extremely low energy expenditures.

“Hibernation in mammals is known to occur at much lower temperatures, allowing the animal to undergo many physiological changes, including decreased heart rate and body temperature,” said Prof. Kronfeld-Schor. “But we have found these bats maintain a high body temperature while lowering energy expenditure levels drastically. We hypothesize that these caves, which feature a constant high temperature during winter, enable these subtropical species to survive on the northernmost edge of their world distribution.”


Taking their temperature

The researchers monitored the activity of the bats during this period and found that they neither fed nor drank, even on warm nights when other bat species were active in the same caves. The researchers used heat-sensitive transmitters to measure the bats’ skin temperature in the caves. Then in the laboratory, they measured the bats’ metabolic rates and evaporative water loss at different ambient temperatures.

The researchers found that the bats, like camels, flare their nostrils to conserve water. A month before hibernating, they also changed their diets from unsaturated to saturated fats, feeding only on queen ants with wings to gain a 50 percent increase in body mass.

The bats’ average skin temperature in the caves was found to be about 22°C (71.6°F). Both bat species reached their lowest metabolic rates at cave temperatures (about 20°C/68°F). During hibernation, the bats also exhibited long periods of suspended exhalation.

“Until recently, it was believed that there was no mammalian hibernation in Israel, apart from hedgehogs,” said Prof. Kronfeld-Schor. “But this discovery leads us to believe there may be others we don’t know about. Scientists haven’t been looking for incidences of hibernation at warm temperatures. This is a new direction for us.”

     SEE ALSO: No Bat About It: Bats Eavesdrop To Help Friends Find Food

“The second main finding is that hibernating animals don’t need to lower their body temperatures in order to lower their energy expenditure. These bats exhibited dramatic metabolic depression at warm body temperatures in the hottest caves in the desert,” Kronfeld-Schor added.

The researchers are further exploring the importance of heated caves for the conservation of these species.

The research, conducted by Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Schor Chair of the Department of Zoology at TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences and doctoral student Dr. Eran Levin, was published in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Facebook Messenger Incorporates Slick Israeli Video App ‘Magisto’]]> 2015-03-26T19:45:55Z 2015-03-26T19:45:55Z

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If you’ve ever felt embarrassed to share your funny home videos, now you can let a smartphone app make a professional short film for you, and then instantly share it with your friends and family. Facebook Messenger has just added a slick instant video feature that was developed by Israeli company Magisto. Now, hundreds of millions of people can use Magisto Shot, a mobile application that turns photos and videos from your smartphone into a 7-second animated film you can share with your messenger buddies.

     SEE ALSO: New Youtube Feature Automatically Edits Any Raw Videos

It looks like Magisto could potentially revolutionize the way we interact with our friends on Facebook Messenger. The Magisto Shot app, available for iOS and Android, is part of Facebook’s newly launched messenger platform, which brings the ability to add more forms of expression and rich media into conversations. Using artificial intelligence technology, Magisto Shot advances messaging by automatically turning a single photo and a text message into an entertaining video story. The app allows users to pick from their own videos and photos, choose a theme (such as “love” or “party”), pick a song to accompany the video – and after a few minutes, the film is complete with colors, music and graphics.

Currently boasting 55 million registered users who generate 14,000 movies every hour, Magisto will now tap into a much larger market, serving 600 million existing Facebook Messenger users, with the potential to reach another 750 million Facebook users who are yet to install Facebook Messenger.

Couple taking a photo with smartphone

Magisto, which was founded in 2011 by Dr. Oren Boiman and Dr. Alex Rav-Acha, develops cloud-based mobile technology services for creating and sharing personal movies. Its video editor automatically selects the most compelling moments from ordinary videos and photos and, like an expert video editor, weaves them together to convey a story with customized styles and music. Over the past three years, Magisto has raised $23 million from Qualcomm, SanDisk and Lee Ka-Shing, among others.

     SEE ALSO: Li Ka-Shing: How The Chinese Billionaire Became The Startup Nation’s Biggest Supporter

“You can truly show how you feel”

CEO Boiman says Magisto Shot is the next step in the evolution of messaging, turning text and photos into expressive micro-movies with music, motion and visual effects. “Messaging has been continually evolving from its plain text beginnings to more expressive forms of communicating using photos and emoticons,” Boiman said in a statement. “However, these enhancements don’t always succeed in conveying the true depth and richness of human emotion.”

In his opinion, “emoticons somewhat improve plain text, but adding a smiley is like a drum roll that tells you to laugh at a joke’s punchline. Magisto Shot makes messaging much more powerful than it is today by using video to make your message genuinely funny, or happy or sad so you can truly show how you feel.”

It’s important to note that Magisto has a standalone app that’s available for everyone to download and use – without having to connect to Facebook; but from now on, the new Magisto Shot app is available on Facebook Messenger, so you can use your Facebook videos and photos to create short films.


Jacob Ryan, NoCamels <![CDATA[Squids Can Change Their DNA On The Spot, Study Shows, Paving The Way For Human DNA Modification]]> 2015-03-26T12:00:43Z 2015-03-26T11:56:28Z

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While science has come up with ample evidence to support the slow, ongoing process that alters the genetic makeup of species – a process we know as Evolution – it has remained unknown whether organisms are capable of transforming themselves ad hoc to adjust to changing conditions. Now, a new study shows that squid have the ability to quickly recode and “edit” their genetic makeup to adapt to their ever-changing surroundings. This demonstration could have important implications for the treatment of human diseases.

The study, led by Tel Aviv University’s Dr. Eli Eisenberg, shows that a squid can change its own genetic makeup on the fly and modify most of its proteins, which enables it to adjust to new situations or unfamiliar surroundings. “We proved that an organism’s self-editing is a critical evolutionary and adaptive force,” Eisenberg says.


The genetic editing process learned by studying the squid has many substantial implications for humans as well. Protein recoding “has been shown to be important in neural processes, as impaired functions of this mechanism are known to cause several neural diseases, such as epilepsy, ALS and neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression and schizophrenia,” Eisenberg says. In other words, through the research of the squid, greater information and discoveries regarding various neural diseases in humans are on the horizon.

During the study, researchers looked at both DNA and RNA (which is responsible for decoding genes) from the squid. They then studied and observed differences between the RNA and DNA, and later classified these differences as edited. “It was astonishing to find that 60 percent of the squid RNA transcripts were edited,” Eisenberg says. “The fruit fly, for the sake of comparison, is thought to edit only 3 percfent of its makeup.”

     SEE ALSO: Fruit Flies Inspire Scientists to Optimize Computer Networks

Fruit fly

Responding to changing temperatures

Why do squids edit their genetic code to such an extent? “One theory is that they have an extremely complex nervous system, exhibiting behavioral sophistication unusual for invertebrates,” Eisenberg says. “They may also utilize this mechanism to respond to changing temperatures and other environmental parameters.”

The researchers plan on studying and sequencing other organisms to get a bigger picture. The team recently received a grant to further explore the subject of genetic editing specifically in octopuses. Going forward, Eisenberg says he would like to “study related animals and try to understand if squid is a rare exception or maybe represents a large class of heavily recoded organisms.”

     SEE ALSO: Knot So Fast: Israeli Researchers Discover Incredible Octopus Self-Defense Mechanism

Most importantly, the squid have some mechanisms that we can learn from; further research into protein recoding could actually cure diseases in human beings. “Human diseases are often the result of ‘misfolded’ proteins, which often become toxic,” he says. “Therefore, the question of treating the misfolded proteins, likely to be generated by such an extensive recoding as exhibited in the squid cells, is very important for future therapeutic approaches.”

Photos: Bill Abbott 

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Tel Aviv Researchers Identify Genetic Mutation Associated With Ovarian Failure]]> 2015-03-25T15:31:43Z 2015-03-25T15:31:43Z

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Premature ovarian failure, also known as primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), affects 1 percent of all women worldwide. In most cases, the exact cause of the condition, which is often associated with infertility, is difficult to determine.

A new Tel Aviv University study throws a spotlight on a previously unidentified cause of POI: a unique mutation in a gene called SYCE1 that has not been previously associated with POI in humans.

While the genes involved in chromosome duplication and division had been shown to cause POI in animal models, this is the first time a similar mutation has been identified in humans. The research was led by Dr. Liat de Vries, Prof. Lina Basel-Vanagaite and a team of researchers from TAU and Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Israel.

A new insight

“Researchers know that POI may be associated with Turner’s syndrome, a condition in which a woman has only one X chromosome instead of two, or could be due to toxins like chemotherapy and radiation therapy,” Dr. de Vries said in a statement. “However, in 90 percent of the cases, the exact cause remains a mystery.”

     SEE ALSO: Essential Protein May Be Key In Slowing Down Biological Clock

The idea for the study, recently published in the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism,” surfaced when Dr. de Vries was asked to treat two POI patients, daughters of two Israeli-Arab couples who were related to each other. The girls presented typical POI symptoms: one had the appearance of puberty but had not gotten her period, and the other one had not started puberty at all. After ruling out the usual suspects (toxins, autoimmune disease, and known chromosomal and genetic diseases), the researchers set out to identify the genetic cause of POI in the two young women.

“One of my main topics of interest is puberty,” Dr. de Vries said. “The clinical presentation of the two sisters, out of 11 children of first-degree cousins, was interesting. In each of the girls, POI was expressed differently. One had reached puberty and was almost fully developed but hadn’t menstruated. The second, 16-years-old, showed no signs of development whatsoever.”pregnancytest

The researchers performed genotyping in the patients, their parents, and siblings. For this, DNA from the affected sisters was subjected to whole-exome sequencing. Genotyping was also performed in 90 ethnically matched control individuals.

Identifying the culprit

The genotyping revealed a mutation that results in nonfunctional protein product in the SYCE1 gene in both affected sisters. The parents and three brothers were found to be carriers of the mutation, and an unaffected sister did not carry the mutation.

     SEE ALSO: Study: Women Should Time Their Meals To Reduce Chances Of Infertility

“By identifying the genetic mutation, we saved the family a lot of heartache by presenting evidence that any chance of inducing fertility in these two girls is slight,” Dr. de Vries said. “As bad as the news is, at least they will not spend years on fertility treatments and will instead invest efforts in acquiring an egg donation, for example. Knowledge is half the battle — and now the entire family knows it should undergo genetic testing for this mutation.”

The researchers are currently investigating evidence of the effects of this genetic mutation on male members of the family. “We are trying to get more family members tested, but it is not always easy in traditional societies. There is still a lot to be done on this subject,” Dr. de Vries said.

Photos: Tatiana

Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Nice To Sniff You: Why Do Humans Smell Their Hands After Handshaking?]]> 2015-03-26T10:27:25Z 2015-03-25T12:36:17Z

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Everyone knows the custom of handshaking; it has been around for centuries. But why do people shake hands when they meet? A new Israeli study suggests that one of the reasons for this ancient tradition may be to check out each other’s odors – by sniffing the hand that shook. Even if we are not consciously aware of this, handshaking provides us with a socially acceptable way of communicating via the sense of smell. It turns out that our canine friends are not the only ones who sniff each other!

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Doc Teaches Dogs To Sniff Out Cancer

According to a new Weizmann Institute study led by Prof. Noam Sobel, not only do people often sniff their own hands subconsciously, but they do so for a much longer time after shaking someone else’s hand. The study, which was recently published in the scientific journal eLife, found that the number of seconds the subjects spent sniffing their right hand more than doubled after an experimenter greeted them with a handshake.

dogs sniffing

“Our findings suggest that people are not just passively exposed to socially significant chemical signals, but actively seek them out,” Idan Frumin of the research team said in a statement. “Rodents, dogs and other mammals commonly sniff one another in social interactions, and it seems that in the course of evolution, humans have retained this practice – only on a subliminal level.”

Odors serve as meaningful chemical signals 

Handshaking subjects’ hands, the researchers found that a handshake alone was sufficient for the transfer of several odors known to serve as meaningful chemical signals (which contain social and emotional information) in mammals. “It’s well known that germs can be passed on through skin contact in handshakes, but we’ve shown that potential chemical messages, known as chemosignals, can be passed on in the same manner,” Frumin says.

     SEE ALSO: Sense Of Smell Is Physiological, Not Psychological, Study Shows

In order to explore the potential role of handshakes in communicating odors, the scientists used cameras to document some 270 volunteers before and after they were greeted by an experimenter, who either shook their hand or didn’t. The researchers found that after shaking hands with an experimenter of the same gender, subjects more than doubled the time they later spent sniffing their own right hand (the shaking one). In contrast, after shaking hands with an experimenter of the opposite gender, subjects increased the sniffing of their own left hand (the non-shaking one).

According to the study, “this reflects an ongoing comparative process whereby sniffing of the left hand subserves self-recognition and sniffing of the right hand subserves the investigation of others.” This notion of a comparative process, however, remains a speculation deserving further address. “The sense of smell plays a particularly important role in interactions within gender, not only across gender as commonly assumed,” Frumin says.

Woman sniffing her hand

The nose knows 

In order to verify that the hand-sniffing indeed served the purpose of checking out odors and was not merely a stress-related response to a strange situation, the scientists performed a series of further tests. First, they measured nasal airflow during the task and found that subjects were truly sniffing their hands and not just lifting them to their nose. It turned out that the amount of air inhaled by the volunteers through the nose doubled when they brought their hands to their face.

Next, the scientists found they could manipulate the hand sniffing by artificially introducing different smells into the experimental setting. For example, when experimenters were tainted with a commercial unisex perfume, the hand sniffing increased. In contrast, when the experimenters were tainted with odors derived from sex hormones, the sniffing decreased. These final tests confirmed the olfactory nature of the hand sniffing behavior.

“Handshakes vary in strength, duration and posture, so they convey social information of various sorts,” Prof. Sobel said in a statement. “But our findings suggest that at its evolutionary origins, handshaking might have also served to convey odor signals, and such signaling may still be a meaningful, albeit subliminal, component of this custom.”

Photos and video: The Weizmann Institute, Roland Geider, Hernán Piñera

Betty Ilovici, NoCamels <![CDATA[Planning A Holiday? Meet The Top Israeli Startups That Make Travel So Much Easier]]> 2015-03-29T19:25:39Z 2015-03-23T13:51:20Z

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Over the past decade, travel agents have gradually lost their dominance over trip planning, hotel booking and airline tickets, while the tourism industry has shifted to the internet. In the meantime, alongside giant web portals such as Expedia and Orbitz, smaller travel tech companies have arisen. The tourism industry has seen the birth of many startups with big dreams to revolutionize the way people travel and vacation. These companies have raised funds and gathered millions of users around the world, while maximizing efficiency and ease in the fields of transportation, air travel and tourism.

     SEE ALSO: Dreaming Of Privacy On Packed Flights? Israeli-Designed ‘B-Tourist’ May Be The Solution

In the melting pot of tech and innovation that is Israel, the annual International Mediterranean Tourism Market expo recently showcased some of the Israeli leaders in digital transit and travel. Yes, there’s more to Israeli travel tech than the popular navigation app Waze, which sold to Google for $1.1 billion in 2013. Here are NoCamels’ top Israeli travel tech companies that will make traveling much easier this spring:


Lost track of your frequent flyer miles? Haven’t used your miles in years? Well, you’re at risk of losing hundreds of dollars worth of miles. Enter Israeli startup SuperFly, which manages your miles and loyalty points with different airlines, car rentals and hotels. “SuperFly uses your entire history of travel to figure out which options from the ones that are presented to you are the best,” SuperFly CEO Jonathan Meiri told NoCamels.Airplane


Forget tourist traps and overcrowded restaurants; EatWith offers authentic dining experiences in locals’ homes. Founded by Guy Michlin and Shemer Schwartz in 2012, EatWith is often described as the Airbnb of food. In recent years, Israeli EatWith has gained popularity among tourists and native residents alike, giving people opportunities to enjoy homemade delicacies, learn about the local cuisine, and enjoy conversations with people from around the globe. With roughly 500 active hosts in 160 cities around the world, EatWith has shown the power of the sharing economy. Recently, the company won a $4.9 million award in advertising money from ProSieben, providing an opportunity to share its vision on multiple media platforms.

    SEE ALSO: EatWith Will Help You Make Friends And Have A Good Meal Abroad



Once you arrive at your destination, you usually use public transportation – but which bus line will drive you to the Metropolitan Museum of Art the fastest? Israeli app Moovit can help you. The app has changed the way people use public transportation, using crowd-sourcing data and real-time information from passengers, as well as from other resources, in order to recommend the fastest public transport routes at any given time. Founded in 2011 by Nir Erez, Roy Bick and Yaron Evron, the app was launched in Israel in 2012 . Working to reproduce Waze’s success, but with public transportation users, the app is now available in 500 cities around the globe, where it’s integrated with taxi services such as GetTaxi. Moovit boasts 15 million users, it has recently raised $50 million and is valued at $450 million.


Most people know the annoyance of running to catch a bus, barely making it, and then dropping all contents of your wallet as you fumble for change to pay for a ticket. Israeli app HopOn, created in 2012 by Ofer Sinai and David Mezuman, addresses this frustration. HopOn makes public transport payment efficient and effortless – executed through a simple click of a button on your smartphone, much like an electronic wallet. The app can be used for buses, light-rail trains, and bike rental stations. HopOn’s main goal is to completely change the experience of using public transit and to make the ticketing process as effortless as possible.

Tourism technologies iPad


The Israeli company that brought the taxi-hailing whistle to your smartphone screen is GetTaxi: Just a few clicks, and a taxi is on its way. App users can get estimated time of arrival, receive information about their driver including a picture, name, license, phone number and ratings by other users. The app founded by Shahar Waiser and Roi More, is available in 32 cities, and reaches 15 million users, with one GetTaxi ride every second at peak times. “We want to be the preferred public transport, inside and outside of the city. We aim to educate people that it is legitimate and cost-effective to leave their cars at home and ride with GetTaxi,” Iris Hermon, GetTaxi’s head of marketing, told NoCamels.

Taxi cabs


Guesty offers management services for Airbnb hosts. Founded by Amiad and Kobi Soto in 2013, this service allows Airbnb hosts to choose from a variety of online tools for 3 percent of the Airbnb price listing. Some of these services include screening guests to fit the host’s demands, sending e-mails before and after rental periods, and even scheduling cleanings. The app even helps the host determine an appropriate rental rate by evaluating the prices of hotels and rentals nearby. “The vision of Guesty is changing the way short-term rentals are managed and helping Airbnb hosts reduce their hassle and increase their bookings,” Nathan Tobin, Guesty’s head of marketing, told NoCamels.


Every traveler has experienced the frustration of canceling hotel bookings and fighting to be refunded. Founded in 2011 by Gon Ben-David, Ben Froumine, and Adi Zellner, Roomer is the Israeli startup that has risen to the challenge of helping people avoid cancellation fees. The concept of Roomer is to connect travelers who cancel their trips with travelers who are looking for hotel deals. Roomer alleviates travelers’ frustration by acting as a marketplace for non-refundable hotel reservations, which top hundreds of millions of dollars a year.


Andrey Kastelmacher, NoCamels <![CDATA[Understanding Gender Differences Could Improve Autism And Alzheimer’s Treatment]]> 2015-03-22T15:04:23Z 2015-03-22T15:04:23Z

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While modern society strives to reach equality between men and women, the scientific community has often raised the question of whether gender differences could affect our health and well-being. A new Israeli study shows that gender differences affect autism and Alzheimer’s disease; its results could potentially help in improving treatment for other illnesses as well.

Autism and Alzheimer’s are cognitive-physical conditions that pose great difficulties for the patient, family and friends. While men are more likely to have autism with a ratio of three to one, women are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. At this point, medicine can only offer limited treatments for these conditions, but this new Tel Aviv University study could shed light on how these diseases are formed, and more specifically, on what drives their development – so that doctors can better treat them.

     SEE ALSO: Exposure To Air Pollution In Womb Raises Risk Of Autism, Study Finds

autism syndrome

The new research focuses on how a certain gene called ADNP – which regulates 400 proteins involved in the development of the human body – is causing gender-specific tendencies towards autism and Alzheimer’s disease. This means that to find a cure, men and women should be tested separately because they may respond differently to treatment.

Male and female mice have different cognitive abilities

In the study, researchers removed the ADNP gene from mice, and compared them to mice that had the gene. The mice showed gender-specific learning and memory differences: Male mice that had the gene removed expressed degraded object recognition, which means they could not identify objects well. They also exhibited degraded social memory.

Female mice of the same test group, however, showed social deficiency without degraded object recognition. “The gene’s gender-dependent expression changes male and female chemical tendencies toward different neurological disorders,” TAU’s Prof. Ilana Gozes said in a statement. “Male and female mice may look the same and their brains may look the same, but they are not. When the expression of ADNP is different, it may cause different behaviors and different cognitive abilities.”

Lab mouse

Providing new hope for patients and their families

Gozes has studied ADNP in the past 15 years, and her new findings may be just enough to propel a revolution in drug research for autism and Alzheimer’s disease. “This study emphasizes the need to analyze men and women separately in clinical trials to find cures for diseases because they may respond differently,” she says.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Company ‘Neuronix’ Offers Hope For Alzheimer’s Disease With Unique Treatment

While further investigation into gender differences in conditions such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease is needed, the researchers believe that this study could provide a stepping stone in finding a cure for autism and Alzheimer’s. Says Gozes: “If we understand how ADNP acts differently in males and females, we can try to optimize drugs for potential future therapeutics to treat both autism and Alzheimer’s disease.”Alzheimer's

Research for the study was led by Prof. Ilana Gozes, and conducted by graduate students Anna Malishkevich, Noy Amram, and Gal Hacohen-Kleiman, in collaboration with post-doctoral fellow Dr. Iddo Magen, and staff scientist Dr. Eliezer Giladi.

Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[International Day of Happiness: What Top Israeli Studies Say About What Makes Us Happy]]> 2015-03-20T16:20:23Z 2015-03-20T11:08:09Z

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How can we be happier? How can happiness contribute to our success and health? Over the past century, researchers in the fields of psychology and sociology have tried to answer these fundamental questions in order to improve our well-being. But it was only in 2011 that the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that recognized happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples.” March 20 was then established as the annual International Day of Happiness.

Despite the UN’s good intentions, many people around the globe are far from being happy, especially those who live under autocratic rule, suffer from violence and wars, and their freedom of expression is limited. On the flip side, the citizens of countries that enjoy lasting peace, freedom and good healthcare, are the happiest. According to the 2014 Legatum Prosperity Index, Norway is the happiest country in the world, followed by Switzerland and New Zealand; the saddest country in the world is the Central African Republic (CAR).

So, take note: These four groundbreaking Israeli studies on the links between happiness, success and health could transform the way we live.

     SEE ALSO: To Be Healty, All You Have To Do Is Be Happy, Say Doctors

happy toddler

Power is the secret to happiness

A Tel Aviv University study by Prof. Yona Kifer suggests that people who feel more powerful and in control of their actions tend to be more content in life than those who feel powerless. The study surveyed 350 participants to determine if feelings of autonomy or power are related to career, friendships and romantic relationships. The results indicated that people who felt the most powerful were 16 percent more satisfied then their less powerful counterparts. The strongest correlation to power and contentment was in the workplace, where employees in positions of power were 26 percent more satisfied with their jobs than their less powerful counterparts.

Moral of the story? When you can act autonomously, you feel more authentic and true to yourself. Having authenticity in what you are doing, and knowing your actions closely align to your beliefs and desires, incite satisfaction and contentment.

Powerful businesswoman

Happiness can fight breast cancer

Women who are happy and optimistic are less likely to develop breast cancer, according to a study by Ben Gurion University’s Prof. Ronit Peled. Peled and a team of researchers interviewed 622 women between the ages of 25 and 45 — 255 of whom had breast cancer. The scientists asked the women about their life experiences and evaluated their levels of happiness, optimism, anxiety, and depression prior to diagnosis.

     SEE ALSO: Researchers Find Promising Therapy For ‘Treatment-Resistant’ Breast Cancer

The results showed a clear link between outlook and risk of breast cancer, with optimists being 25 percent less likely to have developed the disease. Conversely, women who suffered two or more traumatic events had a 62 percent greater risk. Peled urges further research into these findings: “The mechanism in which the central nervous, hormonal and immune systems interact and how behavior and external events modulate these three systems is not fully understood,” she said in a statement. “The relationship between happiness and health should be examined in future studies and relevant preventative initiatives should be developed.”

Whatever makes you happy: Schadenfreude develops in early childhood 

They say there is no joy like the joy at another’s misfortune, but at what age do we already know how to feel and express it? What was once thought of as a sophisticated emotion, “schadenfreude,” or feeling pleasure at another’s pain or misfortune, is apparently prevalent in children as young as two years old. Prof. Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory of The University of Haifa led a social experiment to test the development of more sophisticated emotions in young people, including different forms of happiness.


After being divided into 35 groups comprised of a mother, her child, and a friend of the child, each group was subjected to two situations. The first was an “equal” situation, in which the mother encouraged the children to play together, ignored them for two minutes, and then began to read a book aloud to herself for two minutes. After those two minutes, the mother was told to take a glass of water that was on the table and pour it by “accident” on the book. In the second, “unequal” situation, after the first two minutes, the mother took the child that wasn’t hers on her lap and began reading the book aloud to him or her. Here, too, after two minutes, the mother spilled the cup of water on the book.

The researchers found that when the unequal situation was brought to an end, the mother’s own child showed visible signs of happiness, as expressed by jumping up and down, clapping his hands, or rolling on the floor. By contrast, when the water was spilled while the mother was reading the book to herself, there were no similar reactions. According to the researchers, the misfortune that made the children happy was the fact that their peer had stopped hearing the story, which strengthens the theory that schadenfreude is a social development that is a reaction to inequality.

The key to well-being: Having a sense of meaning 

In recent years, several positive psychology studies have been conducted, looking into the what makes us happy – and happier. Established by the renowned Dr. Tal Ban-Shahar at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel, the much-hyped positive psychology movement focuses on how to improve quality of life and optimal individual functioning, in order to create personal and social change. Whereas traditional psychology typically focuses on people’s social-emotional difficulties and seeks to alleviate their psychological symptoms and suffering, positive psychology goes beyond alleviation of symptoms by promoting self realization, human happiness, fulfillment and a sense of meaning.

Man on top of mountain

The positive psychology approach developed by happiness guru Ben-Shahar, who taught one of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history, emphasizes optimal human functioning. It focuses on human growth, and the importance of having a sense of meaning and satisfaction in life. It is based on the belief that people naturally aspire to live meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. Or, as Ben-Shahar put it in his bestseller Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, “Happy people live secure in the knowledge that the activities that bring them enjoyment in the present will also lead to a fulfilling future.”

Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Meet Google Israel’s Yossi Matias, The Genius Behind Many Of Google’s Most Stunning Achievements]]> 2015-04-05T15:58:20Z 2015-03-19T17:04:03Z

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You know that function on Google Search that finishes your sentences for you? Or what about the helpful information boxes that you often see at the top of a search inquiry? These central features of Google’s most valuable offering have helped the Internet giant beat out other worthy competitors, like Yahoo and Bing, and continuously do their share to make information more accessible.

What you may not know is ‘Live Results’ (autocomplete in search), Google Trends, and a number of other features on Google were developed in Israel under the supervision of global Google VP of Search Yossi Matias. Tasked with establishing one of Google’s first research and development centers outside of the United States in 2006, Matias has been responsible for directing the Israeli R&D center towards stunning achievements and technological breakthroughs in the realms of search, and big data, as well as initiating impressive cultural entrepreneurship programs that too have “gone global”. In an exclusive interview with NoCamels, Matias paints a picture of just how important a member Google Israel has become in the company’s global family, and offers up his assessments on where the future of Israeli entrepreneurship is heading.

Product of the “idea factory”

Sitting down with Matias at Google’s Tel Aviv offices, he starts off the interview with the rather broad statement: “I have always sought to combine scientific research and technological entrepreneurship.” Though I frantically wrote it down, on second thought I wasn’t convinced that I totally understood what Matias was referring to. However, at the end of our hour-long conversation, his adage became clear.


Google Tel Aviv’s office

Matias began his career as a research scientist after receiving his doctorate in computer science at Tel Aviv University, setting off almost immediately to become part of one of the first “idea factories” at Bell Labs in New Jersey. What Matias calls “the place were innovation was born,” Bell Labs has produced work that has led to eight Nobel prizes and was the workplace of the likes of Google exec Eric Schmidt, computer science pioneer Richard Hamming, and Gordon Gould, the man to receive the first patent for a laser. It was there that Matias was able to become a big part of the first research into “big data,” or the act of processing huge databases of information into tangible figures, winning him and his partners the prestigious Gödel  Prize in Computer Science in 2005.

     SEE ALSO: Check Out Google’s Awesome New Tel Aviv Offices!

After co-founding his very own startup Zapper Technologies and joining enterprise software company HyperRoll, which was acquired by software giant Oracle in 2009, Matias received a call from Google tasking him with the establishment of an R&D center in Israel. “Even then, Israel was high up on the list for Google in terms of founding a research and development center. However, I still had two questions for the company before I committed to joining. The first was, ‘Why in Israel?’ and the second was ‘What would you like us to build here?’” According to Matias, the answer he received to the first question was a complement to Israel’s entrepreneurial flavor, similar to the arguments presented by Saul Singer in his book “The Startup Nation,” while the answer to the second was much more vague, along the lines of ‘We’d like you to figure it out’.

“The latter statement really describes that period at Google,” Matias accounts. “Eight years ago Google was a much younger company and there were a good many experiments into different sectors. Today, the strategic decisions on what we want to build and how are more organized and structured as part of our organization.” Brin and Page gave Matias a lot of responsibility in establishing an Israeli R&D center, and combining its two centers in Tel Aviv and Haifa, which may be the reason that the Israeli office tends to soar beyond others in terms of its role in Google’s core innovation.

Google Israel: The masters of search

Asked to explain some of the things that Google Israel’s offices are responsible for, the list pans out to be surprisingly long. “Israel has become one of the fastest growing centers in all of Google, now reaching the order of some 500 or so engineers alone, and one of the biggest areas we specialize in is search.” Anyone who has ever used Google (or the Internet) knows that search is what Google does best, and you may be asking – ‘what remains to be improved?’ – but as Matias and the team at Google Israel see it, there is still plenty work to be done. “I literally got this kind of question all the time back in 2006 because people said, ‘Well, I search for stuff and it’s better than I ever remember search being.’ However, this statement is rather naïve because in the past couple of years we have seen some of the most dramatic changes to search.”


The constant strive to improve the ease of access to information as well as the intelligence of search commands is what drives Google Israel towards international recognition and success. Google’s Israeli engineers developed the ‘autocomplete’ function for inquiries, YouTube videos, images and more, a feature that we use and take for granted on a daily basis. The team is also working hard to improve search on mobile, with Matias showing me one such feature; the ability to search for and purchase things like movie tickets by simply talking to Google Search. Other features developed in Israel include webmaster tools designed to improve the relationship between the world’s number one search engine and website owners, Google Trends, a project to track “viral” search words on the Internet, and features based on the Knowledge Graph, or a global initiative to give us a better understanding of the world at a semantic level, providing more intelligent answers to the questions we ask. The latter feature may be familiar to you from events like the World Cup, when Google displayed the game scheduling information according to a user’s location, or the currency conversion services that eliminate the need to hop from one website to another in order to find the right conversion rates.

As Matias sees it, these impressive accomplishments are only a small piece of the pie, “Really, the ultimate goal of search, despite all of the progress we have, is still ahead of us. It’s no longer the case of collecting information – you want to get your information and get things done, simultaneously.”

This keen understanding about the current state and future of search, which Matias repeats is all about getting stuff done on mobile, is what won him the prestigious position of VP of Search in the company in December 2014, “This is recognition of the fact that some of the work done by teams here in Israel is central and strategic to what is being done at Google,” Matias says with pride and striking modesty.

Raising Google’s social, cultural impact

When Matias isn’t busy trying to figure out how to answer all of our questions, he deals with important aspects of the Internet ecosystem: Internet privacy and engaging minority entrepreneurs. One of the earliest researchers to study the implications of the Internet on our privacy, a sensitive topic that often comes knocking at Google’s doorstep, Matias believes that we must remain active in ensuring that our information is secure. “I think that a major point here is that as a society, we need to adapt to technology. One of the most obvious challenges in this realm is developing technologies that help protect user privacy while maintaining technological innovativeness,” he says.


PM Benjamin Netanyahu visits Campus TLV with Matias

In addition to keeping our information safe, the Israeli team has initiated a number of impressive cultural engagement projects that have since gone global (within Google, that is).” One of the programs that began at Google Israel is called ‘Mind the Gap,’ an initiative to get more girls and women involved in tech and computer science by showing them that women play a crucial role in Google’s team. “The hypothesis going in was that much of the problem is one of perception, that if you can really change the perception of girls at that age to show them that technology is suitable for them, then you can make a difference in the future,” says Matias of the program originally proposed by two female engineers at Google Israel. According to Matias, the program has seen about 6,000 girls come through its doors since it began six years ago and has since spread to other Google offices in Poland, Tokyo and New York.

Another interesting project that began at Google Israel is called ‘Campus for Moms,’ which is all about keeping new moms and women on maternity leave busy and active in the high tech space. The initiative was sprung from another to get more minorities, particularly Arabs and orthodox Jews, more involved in tech through the Campus TLV, a mentorship program for young startups that started off by chance. Two years, 900 events and 60,000 participants later, Google Israel’s Campus TLV program succeeded in winning over global Google, and the ‘LaunchPad’ section of Campus TLV, an opportunity to connect early-stage startups with mentors, is now active in at least five other countries.

     SEE ALSO: The Other Silicon Valley: The Role Of Multinational Companies In Israel’s Startup Ecosystem

And the buck doesn’t stop there – Google Israel has played a central role in the development of one of Google’s most profound programs, the Cultural Heritage Program. Launched by Google in 2011 as the Google Art Project (though it was developed in Israel beforehand), the goal of the program was to put art exhibits and other cultural information online to educate and inspire future generations. Google Israel contributed to the project by taking over 130,000 images and documents from the Holocaust Museum in Israel (known as Yad Ve’Shem) and putting them online, later to be followed by an ambitious project to put the five Dead Sea Scrolls online, as well as the Nelson Mandela archive. According to Matias, the archives project “has become one of the main pillars for the Google Cultural Institute in Paris,” setting off what is now known as the Collections Project to bring archives online.


One of Google TLV’s projects has been to bring the Holocaust archives online

Adopting the global perspective

Now getting back to the connection between scientific research and innovation, a relationship that Matias seems to think will drive the future of technology. “One of the things that I have discovered over the years was that technologies could be built based on theories and research questions, and I discovered that research could be used to discover and think up new technologies.” He adds: “The opportunity to have impact on the end user in the development of technologies is now greater than any time that I can remember.”

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[NewCO2Fuels Markets Revolutionary Alternative To Fuel Based On Water And CO2]]> 2015-03-19T16:38:27Z 2015-03-18T15:25:08Z

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Turning water and carbon dioxide (the dreaded CO2) into sustainable fuel may sound like science fiction, but Israeli researchers and companies are making it a reality. The fuel alternatives they’re developing could lead the world on a cleaner, more sustainable future.

In 2013, NoCamels reported that a research team at Israel’s Ben Gurion University came up with an alternative fuel, made from nothing but water and CO2.

Now, Israeli company NewCO2Fuels is working on a cost-effective, CO2-based fuel substitute to power the clean transportation of the future and give hope to the ongoing fight against global warming. NewCO2Fuels, founded in 2011, commercializes a technology conceived by Prof. Jacob Karni’s laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Turning water into fuel

By combining two of the most plentiful and naturally occurring chemical compounds on earth, CO2 and water (H2O), the team at NewCO2Fuels hopes to make sustainable fuels more accessible. Using carbon dioxide excess from industrial factories, combining it with water, and heating components of both to very high temperatures, the company has created an environmentally friendly fuel called Syngas (synthesis gas) in a fascinating process.


One proof that these extraordinary technologies are being taken seriously, is that BIRD Energy, the joint fund of the US Department of Energy and Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure, recently invested $4 million in five joint American-Israeli projects in the clean energy sector, including NewCO2Fuels.

Karni has been researching solar energy for 20 years now, and NewCO2Fuels is his third company. But, as they say, success is learned the hard way, and for Karni, the process of scientific research was nothing short of complex.

     SEE ALSO: Energy Does Grow On Trees, As Israeli Design First Solar eTree

Using a patent-protected reactor powered by concentrated solar energy, the carbon dioxide released from industrial factories is broken apart into its two components: carbon monoxide and oxygen. Then, employing the same powerful reactor, water is broken down into its two constitutional parts: hydrogen and oxygen. When the carbon monoxide from CO2 and the hydrogen from H2O are combined, the result is NewCO2Fuels’ Syngas, a mixture that can be converted into methanol used to fuel vehicles, with a 40 percent conversion efficiency rate, according to the company.

Though methanol is already used as a fuel alternative in countries like Brazil and the US, for others it remains an expensive alternative to accessible fossil fuels like crude oil. Company officials hope that using their clean, sustainable and scientific method, they will be able to produce relatively cheap methanol. However, one of the biggest challenges for the company is marketing the product in countries like the US, where gasoline prices remain low (compared to Europe) and fossil fuel lobbies are highly active.

The reactor

The reactor

Syngas is not alone in the realm of renewable fuels

But before it can begin marketing itself as a viable alternative to gasoline, NewCO2Fuels faces the more immediate challenge of scaling up the Syngas production process. The company has begun to look into potential industries that have excess heat involved in their production processes, such as the steel industry, ceramics and more, aimed at large companies looking to reduce their environmental footprint. “For now we are looking out for large businesses who seek to reduce their CO2 emission and make additional profit off it,” NewCO2Fuels CEO David Banitt tells NoCamels. The company recently signed a cooperation agreement with one of the world’s largest steel producers, whose name he declined to reveal.

     SEE ALSO: Meet Seven Israeli Alternative-Energy Companies With Solutions To Fuel The Future

The next step is scaling the solar-powered reactor up to work on breaking apart large amounts of carbon dioxide and water molecules into the Syngas ingredients. Last year, the company’s team of researchers celebrated success in their production trials at the Weizmann Institute’s solar power testing facility, producing Syngas using concentrated solar power in a laboratory for the very first time. However, this was able to produce only a limited amount of the fuel, and indeed one of the biggest challenges facing the team is breaking down carbon dioxide on an industrial scale.


Fossil fuels? No more!

Following the success of the lab trials, NewCO2Fuels is now looking to construct a demonstration facility that will house its patent-protected reactor. And this next development seems to be in the cards with $9 million in funding from Australian companies, Greenearth Energy and Erdifuel, as well as a $600,000 grant from the Israeli Ministry of Energy. According to the company, investments total well over $10 million so far and the company continues to enjoy support from the Israeli energy sector. Recently, the company was awarded the World Technology Network award in the corporate energy category, following in the footsteps of the automotive industry giant Tesla that won the award in 2013, and has received funding for its cooperative projects from the BIRD Foundation.

Once NewCO2Fuels succeeds in its next step of scaling up the production of Syngas and methane fuels, attention in the energy sector could shift from the Gulf and OPEC countries to a different region of the Middle East — Israel.

Photos: CO2/ NewCO2Fuels/ Screenshot

David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Evogene Develops GMO Tech To Secure The Food Of The Future]]> 2015-03-18T12:03:00Z 2015-03-18T12:03:00Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

The genetic modification of plants and crops is still a red flag for many consumer groups and legislators, but GMOs are slowly making their way into the food and farming ecosystem. Eventually, supporters say, GMOs will become a vital tool to ensure that the world has enough to eat.

Israel’s Evogene is one company that is applying GMO technology to improve crop quality and productivity. Through its PointHit platform, the biotech firm is using big data to analyze molecules in weeds and identify key plant macro-molecules responsible for essential biological processes in weeds. By targeting those processes, Evogene — or the companies that license its platform — will be able to develop herbicides that will be more effective in killing weeds.


     SEE ALSO: Israel’s Evogene Tells NoCamels What It’s Like To Become A Major Public Company

The cutting-edge technology has caught the eye of Monsanto — a multinational that has done more than any other to commercialize genetic modification — which is now a major investor in Evogene.

Critics point to numerous studies that they claim provide evidence that genetically modified crops are damaging, with some scientists claiming that the few studies that have been conducted show clearly that many of the benefits of GMO touted by its supporters have not come to fruition, and that in fact GMO has its own set of major problems.

Other scientists disagree, claiming that the studies opponents cite are inconclusive.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: Evogene

Rachel Dinh, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israeli Startup Is Reimagining Events With Automatic Albums]]> 2015-03-16T14:14:51Z 2015-03-16T14:14:51Z

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Have you ever come home from a party or concert and scrolled through the few photos you took, wishing you could see the event from other perspectives? a website and mobile application lets you do exactly that, without lifting a finger (well, maybe just once in order to open the app).

This Tel-Aviv based startup, founded three years ago by Ronny Elyakam, Eilon Tirosh, and Boaz Adato, automatically aggregates photos, videos, and tweets from specific events, pulling together related content from all over the web. I had the chance to visit headquarters, where I sat down with CEO and co-founder Ronny Elkayam and learned the simple concept behind this million-dollar startup.

Real moments, virtual sites

“We started the company based on the principle that real life happenings or events are the most important things to people. We realized that the virtual world and the real world are extremely different, and wanted to close that gap by giving real life events more meaning within the virtual world,” Elkayam explained in an interview. “At, we are taking real life happenings – parties, events, conferences, and trying to replicate them in the virtual world as closely as possible.”

momentmeapp built and launched their first product about two years ago– a mobile application for consumers, which garnered more than 4.2 million unique users. Drawing most of their users from Southeast Asia, South America, and the United States, hit it off immediately with iPhone-savvy, selfie-loving millennials. Almost all of’s users are under the age of 26, a group that gravitated toward the ease and ingenuity of automatic album creation.

     SEE ALSO: Flayvr: The Israeli App That Automatically Organizes Your Photos

But why exactly does one take real events and make them virtual? Elkayam offered this example to best illustrate the process: “Imagine you are enjoying yourself at a party and you take some pictures and tweet a bit, and the friends and strangers around you are doing the same. When you go home, you don’t have a good reflection of what happened, you don’t get the beauty of the event. You have your five photos and that’s it. We are taking everything that is posted to social networks, aggregating that information and centralizing them into one event. That means that you will be able to see a beautiful album of the party from every angle and everyone’s different points of view.”

Data mining to maximize the moment

The technology starts by identifying items that are related to a specific location, using tools like geotags and keywords. It only needs to find a few items since most of the content is not geotagged, but it’s enough to find a few pictures, videos, or tweets from that location. The technology then identifies what is in the photos, words, objects, and goes back to social networks to look for more related photos. The system is self-learning, so whenever there is a reported error, the algorithm corrects itself. analyzes and clusters about 50 million photos per day and has already clustered close to 15 billion photos using their smart data mining technology.

This of course, raises the issue of user privacy, since pulls content from the web without manual approval from the owners of each individual picture or video. When I broached this question, Elkayam clarified that only shows public content, and complies with the privacy settings of the social networks it gathers from. That means if you’re posting photos to a select group of friends on Facebook or Instagram, those photos will only be viewable on the app to those selected friends.

A ‘microsite’ feature for event, conference planners

Although the app has reached relative success with steady growth and media spotlight with their mobile app for personal moments, the company has bigger plans for the future. Using a recent $1.5 million cash injection from Blumberg Capital, the company has recently unveiled its newest product: a feature called a “microsite” which targets businesses instead of individuals. The so-called microsites don’t aim to replace company websites, but serve as automatically generated hubs of content for events such as conferences or weddings. The microsites use the same event-based aggregation technology, collecting related content from the web onto one page for clients to easily navigate without ever leaving the site. Event planners and organizers can use “tabs” to add event sponsors, agendas, directions, floor map, guest-lists, etc.


To give hosts more control over the content of their microsites, allows them to personally approve photos before they appear and most recently added the option to send out event invitations in the form of “online campaigns”. These campaigns are customizable event invitation emails, which are tracked so hosts can see who received, opened, clicked, and RSVP’d to the event. Elkayam explained the campaign feature with another analogy. “Imagine you are organizing a conference and you have a list of 5,000 people you want to invite. You create and format an email campaign with tools we provide, you send them this invite when you’re done, and then you can keep track of who has registered. And that’s a service that’s currently not accessible to small businesses. They are accessible to medium and large sized businesses in the form of marketing email automation, which is a very expensive service, but we give small businesses these tools, free to use.”

     SEE ALSO: NBA All-Star Game And Dunk Contest To Use Israeli Tech For Real-Time 3D Replays

Currently, this microsite service is free for seven days, after which the site disappears unless the host pays to keep it live. In this revenue-generating model, it costs $10 to keep the event live for a month, and $20 for unlimited, permanently live microsites. has marketed and sold this service to clients like wedding planners, nightlife promoters, small business owners, and more.

Here to stay

After hearing about the company’s successful consumer app for personal moments, available in the App Store and Google Play, and burgeoning popularity of their newest microsite feature, I asked Elkayam what other features has in store. “We have different products that we will launch in the future with the same principle. The latest product is venue-centered aggregation. So it could be a concert venue or bar and we could stream a live feed of everything happening in that bar. Then every night could be an event,” he said. This new feature is called ‘Places,’ allowing users to see any event or place in the world as real viewers see it an in real time.

With exciting new products in store and steadily growing users, Elkayam says has proved that it’s not looking to join the ranks of fading automatic album creators like Everpix and Flayvr. Instead, he says is learning how to differentiate itself among competitors and adapt to changing user demands. “We offer the best replication of real life events in the virtual world. It’s as simple as that.”

Photos: Bigstock

Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israeli Election: Meet The Top 5 Israeli Apps Revolutionizing Civic Engagement]]> 2015-03-16T13:00:41Z 2015-03-16T12:54:26Z

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How can we become better citizens, more aware and involved? How can we exercise our right to vote in the most meaningful way? Over the past few months leading up to the Israeli elections, there has been no shortage of hotly contested issues that have been fiercely debated among candidates and the media. But citizens also want to have a say!

Elections always raise questions about citizenship and civic duty, so as the March 17 election nears, NoCamels is profiling five leading Israeli tech platforms that give citizens a voice, help people give back to their communities, and sometimes shift political activism from street rallies – to smartphones.

     SEE ALSO: Israelis Launch Striking Instagram Campaign Against Violence


Elections 2015 App

The Israeli E-Gov Unit, a branch of government designed to improve the online interaction between the government and citizens, has developed a smartphone application in order to provide the public with up-to-date information on the upcoming elections.

The application, available only in Hebrew, which at its core is a basic information hub, provides background on each party and the names of candidates, their ideological platforms and general information. In addition, the app provides citizens with voting locations and on March 17 will generate real-time updates on the percentages of voters. By the end of voting, the public will be able to track real-time results and analysis by geographic distribution and by political party.

     SEE ALSO: True Leaders Emerge From Life-Threatening Situations, Study Finds

While the app doesn’t include much of an option for social interaction among users, it is an important step for the government to address the need for citizens to be connected to government through new media and receive accurate political information.


iVote App

iVote is a non-profit mobile application that aims to capture public sentiment about political issues, combined with accurate voting information in order to spur Israeli participation in politics.

iVote allows you to anonymously indicate who you’ll vote for, watch election poll results based on your circle of friends (linked with Facebook), and influence your social circle by creating open discussions in a moderated, respectful online environment. By enabling the public to start open discussions and invite their friends to chime in, iVote is getting people to talk about the issues that matter to all citizens, allowing for different perspectives and opinions.


WePowerApp, which claims to be the world’s first citizens’ network, is taking political upheaval off the streets – and into the palm of your hand. The app is expected to launch within the next week, right after the Israeli elections, but its main purpose – allowing citizens to protest online – is hoping to create rich public discourse all over the world.


The platform is dedicated to both giving citizens a voice through mobile polling and to capturing public discourse in one place. WePower facilitates mobile polling on a plethora of political issues and moderates user-generated proposals to solve community problems. The goal is to enhance civic engagement through anonymous voting and unite individuals to come together to influence political leaders in a positive way.

In the short term, WePower might help influence political decisions at the community level, such as what a city should do with a vacant parking lot, or whether the speed limit in a school zone should be reduced. In the long term, WePower aims to have a farther-reaching influence on tackling macro issues, such as economic policies or civil rights legislation.


In addition to political involvement, volunteering is another way to become involved in your society. Israeli web portal Goodnet – Gateway to Doing Good is an example of an online hub that connects people, organizations, and businesses to inspirational opportunities for “doing good.”

It’s similar to a news portal that showcases many forms of charity and volunteering activities. Founded by The Ted Arison Family Foundation, Goodnet features daily updated content, directories of the best organizations for volunteering, wellness, education, as well as videos and images of “good-doing” from around the world. Goodnet seems to be a powerful tool for connecting people looking for opportunities to volunteer in a specific field or for a specific cause.



One of the main challenges charitable organizations are facing is increasing donations. By streamlining online fundraising, Israel’s Give2gether improves donor participation rates and substantially helps to increase the total amount of money raised for charitable causes.

     SEE ALSO: Justin Bieber Uses Israeli Platform ‘give2gether’ For Fundraising Campaign

Developed in 2007, this platform is based on a decade of behavioral economics research and experiments on what makes people give, why people give online and what makes them inspire others. Give2gether’s software specifically bolsters online fundraising capabilities by providing the tools to launch customized campaigns, and use social media analytics to grow donor communities.

When technology meets politics 

It’s still unclear how these platforms will compete with larger social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, or how they will moderate discussions in a respectful way. But it’s evident that technological advancements and the growing use of smartphones enable individuals from all over the world to join together and propel real change. Now that technology meets public engagement and philanthropy, many more people can become involved in their communities in a meaningful way.

Social media on smartphone

Photos: Elizabeth Merriam/U.S. Navy, Beny Shlevich, avivi 

Kyla Blumenfeld, NoCamels <![CDATA[True Leaders Emerge From Life-Threatening Situations, Study Finds]]> 2015-03-15T12:31:17Z 2015-03-12T11:55:13Z

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As Israeli elections next Tuesday are nearing, Israelis are asking themselves what qualities they want to see in their next leader. Both Isaac Herzog, the current front runner according to the most recent polls, and Benjamin Netanyahu, are pointing to their calm and assertive demeanor when faced with tough situations. Now, a new study confirms what we’ve suspected all along: In life-threatening situations, few are able to overcome their fear, compose themselves and become the leaders of the pack.

A research team led by Tel Aviv University’s Prof. David Eilam recently simulated a hostile environment of predatory owls hovering over voles (small rodents resembling mice) in a cage. It turned out that the voles organized themselves into social structures from which leaders emerged. The study, which examined group behavior and qualities that leaders must possess in order to influence it, could very well inspire human society. Human leaders might be able to learn from their more primitive companions and make leaps forward into better facing the challenges ahead.


Voles are prayed on by owls

At this point in time, however, our understanding of leaders and their contribution to collective behavior is somewhat superficial. “There are always certain individuals who simply contribute more than others, but who they are and what traits make them leaders are questions we’ve managed to answer in a limited realm,” Eilam said in a statement.

Leaders don’t arise spontaneously

During the experiment, the voles, albeit in a secure cage, were under the impression that they were in a life-threatening situation because of the hovering predators. Some voles, however, emerged as leaders of the group thanks to exhibiting certain traits. “Less affected by the owl attacks, the experienced, larger male voles set the behavioral code, leading the other voles to imitate their behavior,” Eilam says. The larger, older male voles were competent not only because of their strength and size, but also thanks to their ability to remain calm and set a behavioral pattern for the smaller, highly anxious voles.

     SEE ALSO: Putin Is A ‘Romantic Loner’ And Obama ‘Mistrustful’ According To Israeli Personality Algorithm

Flying Owl

The organized behavior of a group rests on its ability to establish a structure of followers and leaders; however, the leader was found to emerge specifically out of an emergency situation. “Our study bucks against the notion that leaders arise spontaneously,” Eilam says.

The dominant voles remained calm and were able to assert themselves as leaders. This enabled the smaller, female voles to go from a frightened state of panic to a calmer mindset. This ripple effect was supported by tests that established a clear difference of corticosterone (the hormone in charge of the regulation of stress responses) levels before and after the owl attacks. The result: smaller voles displayed elevated levels of this hormone, while the larger voles showed stable results.

Right after 9/11 local leaders emerged in New York 

“These leaders have a dual role, not just to protect but also to stabilize the behavior of the group,” Eilam says. “You can also see such leaders emerge in human societies that are in distress — take post-9/11 New York City, for example. All differences are set aside and a typical behavioral code under threat emerges, with a few dominant figures at the head.” Other examples include Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the Indian independence movement, and Winston Churchill, who led the UK during World War II.

     SEE ALSO:  HA! Study Shows Comedy Shows Have Greater Political Influence Than The News

But further research into this phenomenon is needed. Says Eilam: “We are also trying to uncover what the leaders benefit from their role in the group, and how information is passed on from one group to the next.”

Group leader

Photos: Sudosurootdev, Joel Olives, Preston Keres, Tony Smith,

NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Check Out Our New Video Series ‘The Office’ – Episode One: WeWork]]> 2015-03-12T11:40:49Z 2015-03-12T11:40:49Z

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NoCamels ‘The Office’ – Ep. 1 “WeWork” from Maya Yarowsky on Vimeo. ]]>
NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Faces Of The Startup Nation: Q&A With ‘Dots Connector’ Anat Weissman]]> 2015-03-11T14:58:51Z 2015-03-11T14:58:51Z

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Anat Weissman is the founder of ‘Connecthedots,’ a strategic marketing consulting firm that helps startups and companies build their brand’s “story.” Weissman was born in Haifa, Israel, but spent 10 years of her childhood living in Nairobi, Kenya where she learned her share of important life lessons. The mother of two kids and a dog, Weissman also works as a mentor to a number of startup accelerators in Israel, including ‘The Rally,’ a social tech accelerator.

What is your biggest inspiration? It might sound lame but my kids are my inspiration. Having them grow up in a fast-paced world, much quicker than the one I grew up in, with access to information makes it challenging to keep up and the equilibrium of who teaches and guides who has flipped in some cases.

What were your first steps into the business world? After university, I planned to be in human resources, yet found myself elsewhere. Then it was ‘hello’ to the business and marketing worlds and ‘goodbye’ to HR – thank God that happened.

If you were a selfie, what would you look like?


Who is the one person, past or present, you’d love to have dinner with? My grandmother who passed away when I was eight-years-old, over 30 years ago and until today is remembered and spoken about in our family as if she was here until 5 minutes ago. I also wouldn’t mind picking up on her perspective on life.

What is the best place that you have ever traveled to? Kenya, had the pleasure of growing up there until I was 19 – an amazing mix of cultures, faces, colors and definitely the correct pace to live in…..and Costa Rica.

Falafel or shawarma? Falafel.

What are some of your favorite weekend activities? Restaurant scouting, resting, baking, and working.

What is your homepage? Usually the current companies I work with.

What is your hidden talent? I bake, make the best Alfajores (a traditional South American dessert)– and that has been said by real Argentinians.

Who was your first celebrity crush? Patrick Swayze – I had a whole wall with his photos and until today whenever Dirty Dancing is on TV – the world has to stop so I can watch it….:-)

Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze

Star Wars or Star Trek? Stars in general!!!

What are you totally addicted to? Dried mango ever since I lived in Kenya.

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Becoming a mother (that does not come with a manual) and starting my own business.

If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you be? Unsatisfied!

Tel Aviv or New York? Tel Aviv most of the year, but give me an opportunity to go to New York and I am there.

What’s your motto? Always smile. It’s contagious.

What’s your favorite Hebrew word? ‘Yalla’ (means ‘Let’s go’) – which definitely expresses the energy that I usually live in.

Burger or green juice? Burger, medium.



NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Overcharged On Car Repairs? New App Engie Takes The Stress Out Of Repairs, Saves Money]]> 2015-03-10T17:19:40Z 2015-03-10T17:06:57Z

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Have you ever suspected, like most of us do, that you might be overcharged by your car repair shop? A new car maintenance app that detects car problems – and the exact cost to repair them – could save car owners hundreds of dollars. Engie, a smartphone application launched in Israel last year, is hoping to disrupt an industry that has barely changed over the past century: auto repair shops.

According to a customer survey conducted by research firm Harris Interactive, a whopping 66 percent of car owners believe they’ve been ripped off by a repair shop; overall, 72 percent of car owners said they get anxious about the cost of repair.

The app is connected to the on-board car computer, and sends the owner notifications about issues and problems. The owner can then get price quotes from mechanics in his or her area. After identifying the problem, the application invites nearby auto repair shops to bid for the repair job. CEO Yarden Gross tells NoCamels that Engie’s app can detect 60-70 percent of auto problems. Ultimately, Engie founders want to create an empowered driving community, one that would shop around for the best price through their app.

     SEE ALSO: ‘Life-Saving’ iPhone App Created By Person Who Drove By Brother’s Crash

auto repair shop17,000 users within 6 weeks 

Launched in December 2014, six weeks later the app had over 17,000 users. Engie’s service, which works with a bluetooth-enabled, on-board diagnostics device (which is separate from the app), interprets the codes from the car computer to inform the driver about everything from engine problems to maintenance updates to their true gas mileage. Engie provides users with the device for free, charging $5 for the shipping.


Engie founders Oren Handelman, Yarden Gross and Gal Aharon

Waze founder provides seed money, mentorship

Gross, CMO Gal Aharon and CTO Alon Hendelman met at a boot camp-like summer program at the Zell Entrepreneurship Program at the IDC in Israel in 2014. They brainstormed for months with mentor Uri Levine – co-founder of navigation app Waze (which sold to Google for $1.1 billion in 2013), until one morning the check-engine light in Gross’ car turned on. He dutifully headed to a nearby auto shop and by the time he arrived at the meeting with his team, he was frustrated and angry. Then, the idea for Engie was finally born. Soon after, Levine provided seed money for the young company.

     SEE ALSO: AutoTalks Will Put Car To Car Communication On The Road By 2015

It is no coincidence that Engie’s office is located in a scruffy neighborhood in Tel Aviv, full of car dealerships and auto-repair shops; by locating next door to their potential affiliates, the company was able to get 15 mechanic shops on board in just a few weeks. “It actually saves the mechanic a lot of time, arguments and frustration, because even if he does his job correctly, customers often think he’s messing around with them,” Aharon tells NoCamels. “We’re not replacing the mechanic, he’s still going to do his job, but we’re going to help him.”

Girl fixing car

“Better than mechanics”

The app, currently available only on Google Play for the Israeli market (the iPhone app is set to come out in a couple of months), asks the user to enter the car model and year, from which it matches the model specifications. Upon detecting a problem, the driver is able to scroll through a list of prices for various parts and services. Want original or aftermarket replacement parts? Do you go to a dealership-approved auto shop, or a general one? All options are available.

However, the app is not flawless. The car tested by NoCamels was a few hundred kilometers short of its recommended oil change at 45,000 km. Most maintenance guides prompt you to schedule a check based on either mileage or time – usually whichever comes first – but Engie appears to lack the time interval option, which is one of its shortcomings.

On the other hand, the clean interface of the app is one of its charms. As Aharon says, it’s designed to “simplify the data and the services to make something that me, you and my grandmother will all understand and could use in a simple and intuitive way.”

ladies in car

The company, six employees and growing, is now working on an English language application for global markets. The next version is expected to have a different design and more features than the current one. In 8-10 months, Engie expects it will handle car repairs, but it will also cater to second-hand sales, with an app that will transfer the car’s digital history. “Mechanics are plugging into the same computer we are, and their process is very similar to ours. The advantage is that we have a lot of data from many cars, and we’ll be able to have a much better diagnostic system than the mechanics.”

To keep the app and device free for their users, Engie will charge the auto shop with the winning bid a 10 percent affiliate fee. However, this early in the game, that model is not yet in operation, but the management insists it is fully committed to free services for users. “We are consumer-oriented; the whole focus of the company is on the consumer, the mechanic is just the service-provider”, Yarden tells NoCamels. Regarding the company’s finances, the management confirmed that Engie is currently in the midst of a Series A Round of funding, but declined to give any details about valuation, investors or on how much they have managed to raise so far.

Photos: Engie, A Girl’s WorldRobert Couse-Baker, ANT Berezhnyi, mahalie stackpole

David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Daydreaming Can Actually Help You Get Stuff Done, Study Finds]]> 2015-03-09T13:29:58Z 2015-03-09T13:28:46Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Teachers may now need to reconsider reprimanding daydreaming students in class, as a new Israeli study found that mind-wandering actually enhances brain performance and prepares the mind for complex tasks.

In a study published in February in American scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Bar-Ilan University were able to show that, contrary to common belief, a wandering mind does not hamper the ability to accomplish a task, but actually improves it.\

     SEE ALSO: Dreame: The Startup That Sketches Your Dreams Into A Beautiful Reality (Literally)

This surprising result may occur due to the convergence of both “thought-freeing” activity and “thought-controlling” mechanisms in a single region of the brain, according to Professor Moshe Bar, director of the University’s Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center.


“Over the last 15 or 20 years, scientists have shown that – unlike the localized neural activity associated with specific tasks – mind wandering involves the activation of a gigantic default network [of] many parts of the brain,” said Bar. “This cross-brain involvement may be involved in behavioral outcomes such as creativity and mood, and may also contribute to the ability to stay successfully on-task while the mind goes off on its merry mental way.”

The Israeli researchers were also able to show that an external stimulus can substantially increase the rate at which daydreaming occurs, which in turn offers a positive effect on task performance.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: Sheldon NalosNoah Sydnor

Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[International Women’s Day: Are Women Equal In The Startup Nation?]]> 2015-03-08T16:59:15Z 2015-03-08T16:01:06Z

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“When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today on International Women’s Day. Naturally, Israeli women are actively involved in the Startup Nation, but while many headlines point to female success stories in the Israeli high tech industry, the numbers tell a different story. Which begs the question: Is the fairer sex getting a fair share of the  Startup Nation pie?

According to a report issued last week by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, only 35.5 percent of high tech workers in the country are women. In 2014, nearly 183,000 men were employed in the Israeli high tech, compared to 100,500 women. Still, Israel is closer to equality than Silicon Valley, where only 20 percent of the developers and 11 percent of executives are women. However, Israeli women earn a staggering 32 percent less than men.

     SEE ALSO: Women Entrepreneurs Are More Successful Than Men In Crowdfunding Campaigns

Equality scales weigh gender justice and sex issues

NoCamels spoke to female high tech entrepreneurs to understand the phenomenon. According to Yael Lador, co-founder of customer-loyalty startup AppFront, the problem starts at an early age. “Girls are viewed differently,” she tells NoCamels. “They hardly participate in competitive sports, they’re made to think that boys are more computer-savvy, and they end up not studying computer science in college.”

“Society paints us pink”

Liat Mordechay Hertanu, another female startup entrepreneur and the founder of personal assistant app 24Me, agrees. “It’s not fair to say there aren’t enough women in high tech, without looking at the roots of the phenomenon,” she tells NoCamels. “Very few girls take physics in high school, and girls hardly enroll into computer science and engineering in college. The process should start early on: a girl can help her father build a cabinet or fix the car.”

     SEE ALSO: Dr. Michal Tsur, The ‘Iron Lady’ Of Israeli Startups, Tells NoCamels About Success Sans Coding And Women In High-Tech

Hertanu says she was the only girl majoring in physics in her high school class. “Society paints us pink,” she says. “Technology has tremendously progressed in recent years, but labor equality in high tech didn’t catch on. Many young women still believe they’re not capable of learning technological professions.”


Liat Mordechay Hertanu

Liat Mordechay Hertanu

Will Israel breed the next Marissa Mayer?

But are they incapable? “On the contrary,” says Dr. Michal Sela, CEO of civil organization Israel Women’s Network. “The few female students who major in engineering and computer science actually get better grades than their male counterparts.”

But the lack of role models, such as female engineers, makes high tech intimidating for many women. “With not enough female mentors, getting into the high tech sector seems very scary to women,” Sela tells NoCamels. “You see many physics high school students enroll into law school.”

According to Sela, Israel will be able to have its own female role models like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer or Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, though it would be a long process. “Discrimination still exists; though it’s illegal, there’s a lot of hidden discrimination,” she says. “All women deserve the opportunity, all women deserve to be equal, but there’s more work to be done.”

In the meantime, women need to work twice as hard, Sela says, and quotes Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass: “It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”