Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 16th 2015 Contents A27
Blackmailers are reportedly sending
letters to users of the Ashley Madison
dating site, threatening to reveal their
membership to friends and family
unless they pay money.
The dating site for married people
was hacked in the summer.
Security expert Graham Cluley
blogged he had received "a steady
stream of emails" from the site's users
worried about the hack. Cluley advised
anyone receiving such a letter to
Ashley Madison --- which has the
tagline 'Life is short, have an affair' ---
was hacked in July, and data belonging
to its 33 million members was leaked
on to the so-called dark web, meaning
it was accessible via encrypted
browsers. A month later, police in
Canada reported that two individuals
associated with the leak of data had
taken their own lives.
It has left many members concerned
about how their data could be misused.
One such user wrote the following
note to Cluley: "I just received a physical
postal letter to my house asking for
US$4,167 or exposed my AM account
to people close to me." (BBC)
Ashley Madison hack victims receive blackmail letters
Twenty-one-year-old Zahra Gomes is a brilliant
student. She won a national scholarship and was
accepted to Cambridge University but turned down
the opportunity because the award wasn t enough
to cover all her expenses.
"Zahra is easily the most outstanding student we
have had graduate from the Faculty of Science and
Technology in many decades," said UWI lecturer
But when one of Gomes lecturers in the Depart-
ment of Physics suggested that she apply for the
prestigious Rhodes Scholarship for post-graduate
study at Oxford University, given every year to only
one student in the Caribbean outside of Jamaica, she
"She didn t know if she want[ed] to do it because
the chances are so slim," said Gomes mother, Vanda,
recalling a conversation earlier this year, shortly
after Gomes graduated. "I said that if your teacher
thinks that you have it in you to apply go ahead
and give it a try. And she did."
Last month, Gomes was chosen from six final-
ists to become the 13th T&T citizen to get the
award since 1962, and now she s on to another
challenging goal. She wants to become an astro-
physicist in T&T.
Astrophysicists, says the Nasa website, "discover
how the universe works, explore how it began
and evolved, and search for life on planets around
other stars." There aren t a lot of astrophysicists
or similar professionals in the English-speaking
Caribbean. Haque is the only professional
astronomer in the region.
"People don t even know what cosmology is," said Gomes,
using another word for the study of the universe. "They think
when you re saying cosmology you re saying cosmetology .
It s a totally different field!" Cosmetology, of course, refers
to hairstyling, make-up and other cosmetic beauty treat-
Gomes decided on her career when she was around 15.
"I knew I wanted a career in science," she said. "I went
online and looked at different careers and I found cosmology
and said, OK. That s the one I want. I decided that would
be the most interesting field for me to enter and spend my
The universe, she said, "is so grand and big, and it s some-
thing I think humans should figure out."
Gomes agreed that religious belief keeps people from accept-
ing and seeking to understand the origins of the universe.
"I don t know how you can ignore the scientific proof that
certain processes took place, like the Big Bang," she said. "The
idea that the universe took so long to form - that at least
[people] should understand. We have the scientific proof."
Although Gomes now leans towards agnosticism, she said
even when she held religious belief it didn t keep her
from accepting the scientific explanation for the exis-
tence of the universe.
"God made the universe. This was the method he
chose. It was as simple as that," she said. "I didn t
believe the stories in the Bible in the literal sense, so
it wasn t hard for me to reconcile those two ideas."
Currently there are no astrophysicists at UWI.
Gomes plans to come back and fill that void.
"I want to help advance science research in the
Caribbean. We don t have much of it in the
Caribbean," she said. "We should have something
like a large-scale science museum. There is the Niherst
Science City coming up. But we should have
more. That would encourage tourism and encour-
age an interest in science."
Gomes is already working towards spreading
understanding of science in the wider commu-
One of the things that made her attractive to
the Rhodes scholarship panel in Barbados was
a programme she started earlier this year with
two other former UWI classmates in which they
visited orphanages using games and other inter-
active activities to teach children about science.
"People don t think science is fun," she said.
She wanted to introduce science to children in
a way that will get them excited about the subject
and possibly motivated to seek a career in the field.
Gomes hero in science is Nobel Prize-winning American
physicist Richard Feynman, who was best known for his work
in quantum mechanics and attempts to educate the wider
public about science.
"He was just so curious about life, everything about the
world and the universe. That s why I admire him so much,"
She shared one of her favourite quotes from him: "I was
born not knowing and have had only a little time to change
that here and there."
few Trinis have
Zahra Gomes beams after being honoured by
Barbados governor general Sir Elliot Belgrave,
left, for receiving her Rhodes Scholarship.
PHOTO: BARBADOS GOVERNMENT
arch in the Caribbean.
ave much of it in the
We should have
ike a large-scale
eum. There is the
Niherst Science City coming up.
But we should have more. That
would encourage tourism and
encourage an interest in science.
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