Friday, September 13, 2019

Rankings of the day

We have two. Ranking number one: #34. India has jumped 18 spots in four years to come in at #34 in the World Tourism Index. Spain is #1, followed by France and Germany. Ranking number two: #0. Yup, there isn’t a single Indian institution in the top 300 listed in the World University Rankings—and that’s for the first time since 2012! The reason: The Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, dropped 50 places to fall out of the top 300 list.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Finding a ‘Super Earth’ among the stars

Astronomers are super-excited because they have found the first potentially habitable planet in a galaxy far, far away. 

The background: One of the great quests of astronomy is to find signs of alien life in the universe. A key way to do it is to discover a planet that could potentially host living organisms. And the first requirement for any kind of life is the presence of water. As of now, scientists have discovered 4000 exoplanets—i.e. planets that orbit a star outside our solar system.

Ok, tell me about this one: It is charmingly called K2-18b and lies 110 light-years away in the constellation Leo. The planet is twice the size of Earth, with eight times the mass. And it orbits a red dwarf star—which is the smallest kind of sun with the coolest temperatures. Temperatures on the planet are estimated to range between -100 ℉ (-73 ℃) and 150 ℉ (66 ℃)—which is not too different from Earth.

And what’s so special about it? Scientists detected two key factors that determine whether a planet is habitable or not. One: there is lots of water vapour in its atmosphere. Two: the planet is located in a very sweet spot—i.e. ‘habitable zone’—within its solar system. So just like Earth, it is neither too close nor too far from its sun. As the lead astronomer Angelos Tsiaras put it, “This is the only planet right now with the correct temperature [for Earth-like life] and water outside the solar system."

Wow, so it’s like Earth then? Ah, not so fast. Even though folks are calling it a ‘Super Earth’, scientists disagree on whether or not it is likely to host life. Tsiaras admits it isn’t a second Earth, but describes it as “the best candidate for habitability that we know right now.” However, his peers are more sceptical. They point to the fact that it has far too much hydrogen in its atmosphere which “forms a thick, gaseous envelope” that would exert way too much pressure on the surface for life-forms to survive. 

The bottomline: is that we just don’t know enough right now to make a better guess. The Hubble Telescope isn’t powerful enough to tell us more about the planet’s atmosphere. So we will have to wait until the more powerful James Webb Telescope kicks into gear. But hope for alien life on K2-18b springs eternal. As notes, “After all, it's entirely possible—perhaps even likely, given the incredible diversity of alien worlds—that life has taken root on many different types of planets (and, perhaps, moons) throughout the galaxy.”

Learn more: Washington Post offers the most sceptical take on the new find. NASA offers an explainer video with lovely visuals. Also from NASA: this great clip that maps the 4000 exoplanets across a timeline.

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sharing Broadsheet with all and sundry😂😂

How bad will a no-deal Brexit be? The alarming answers were revealed by a five-page internal document released by the government. It outlines the “reasonable worst case planning assumptions” which include: fresh food and fuel shortages and inflation; shortages in medicines and medical supplies; trucks stuck at border crossings for days; disruption due to protests; rise of the black market etc. etc. (BBC)

The aftermath of Dorian: 2,500 people are still missing and feared dead in the Bahamas. Worse: damaged tankers are leaking oil and the spills are spreading. But the shocking extent of the damage is starkly evident in this piece of aerial footage. At least 2,500 people registered as missing in the Bahamas; oil spill spreads. (Miami Herald)

Bad news about deforestation: A new report finds that the world is losing forest cover equivalent to the size of the UK every year—that’s 64 million acres and most of it is tropical rainforest. A related must-read from Time: This is what it’s like to live in one of the hottest cities in the world: Jacobabad, Pakistan—a city slated to soon become uninhabitable.

The bizarre physics of the Indian economy: Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goel made waves yesterday with this priceless quote: “Do not get into the calculations that you see on television: ‘Oh, if you are looking at (the target of a) $5-trillion economy, the country will have to grow at 12%. Today, it is growing at 6-7%.’ Do not get into those maths. Those maths have never helped Einstein discover gravity. If he had only gone by structured formulae and what was past knowledge, I do not think there would have been any innovation in this world.” (watch it here) Umm, except it was Isaac Newton who discovered gravity—later, Einstein used math to explain gravity. So Piyush-ji issued clarification #1—which hilariously expanded on Einstein’s use of math. Then came an even more muddled clarification #2, this time in text but with nary a word on Einstein or mathematics. Earth to Goyal: when in pit, stop digging.

In related economic news: Here are three news reports that caught our eye:

  • Mint reports from India’s rural heartland where farmers consider biscuits an unnecessary luxury, brush their teeth with rakh (wood ash)—and labourers use kaali mitti (black soil) to wash their hair. It is an excellent and important read.

  • Scroll reports on the plans of the National Cow Commission (yes, it exists) to encourage startups that create products using cow dung and urine. They will soon receive up to 60% of their initial funding from the government.

  • India Spend has an important ground report on the economic crisis in Kashmir where the lockdown has crippled every kind of business, including traditional fruit and tourism trade and budding ecommerce and software enterprises.

Indian, middle-aged and salaried? Be very afraid, say experts. The threat of mid-career stagnation is real: “Age discrimination is slowly rising in India Inc, particularly in the tech industry. Older workers are seen as rigid, expensive and outdated.” And if you don’t hit the highest ranks of leadership by 50, the chances are that you will be sidelined or shown the door. Of course, this hurts women the most. (Quartz

New discoveries about our menstrual cycles: include the fact that they on average last 29.5 days—not 28 days as previously thought—which is a bit ‘meh’. But the really important discovery: not every woman ovulates at the same time in her cycle. And that has huge implications for fertility. (Quartz)

‘Lovers of Modena’ are men: Two skeletons—likely from between the 4th and 6th century AD—were found buried holding hands in a cemetery in 2009 near Modena, Italy. Turns out they are men. But the ‘couple’ may or may not be lovers as previously assumed. We include this only because the photos are worth a look. (BBC)

Our swag link broke for some mysterious reason: Yesterday, we reminded our subscribers to use their unique link to invite their friends, family etc to sign up (See ‘Invite Friends’ button at the top). The reason: 10 sign-ups get you an awesome tee. But the link to our Insta post broke for no apparent reason. So please do click through to see those awesome tees now. And even better: follow us on Instagram already! We’re purty, smart and fun!

Your daily quota of sunshine items: include the following:

  • This awesome, awesome profile of Imran Khan by Aatish Taseer in Vanity Fair. One of our fave lines: “Here, I remember feeling, was a man who had dealt so little in ideas that every idea he had now struck him as a good one.”

  • The good news that Ola is launching a rental car service in Bangalore. It will first test an internal pilot program before extending it to customers.

  • This hilarious collection of finalists for the Comedy Wildlife Photography awards.

  • The brilliant news that racing legend Michael Schumacher is finally conscious after receiving a stem cell treatment—and that’s six years after he suffered a traumatic ski accident.

  • The happy news that the Taj Mahal will soon be open to visitors for five nights a month.

  • Yet another reminder why camels are worse than cows. ICYMI: this was the first one.

  • This weird story of a froggie divorce. The amphibians were married two months ago by drought-stricken villagers in Bhopal who were hoping the nuptials would bring rain. Guess why they’ve now decided to rudely separate the newly weds? 

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Stuff we buy, use or love.

A Monsoon List of Excellent Chatris
Hey, we know there is no shortage of fun and super-cheap umbrellas. But they rarely last more than a rainy season or two. So we just use and throw. We recommend investing in these quality picks which are sturdy, look fab and will last a long time.
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If you’re looking for bold and exuberant…

Pick up the Colour Pop Scooter Umbrella. Pop art items can often be way too busy and loud. This one, however, strikes the perfect balance with its super-fun scooties and the bold reds that really do pop. And the wooden handle adds a nice grown-up touch.

Price: Rs. 899 | Colour Pop Scooter Umbrella | India Circus

The informer 2

If you want a cool iteration of a classic design…

Opt for this Striped Folding Umbrella. We love its clever and unexpected riff on the classic striped shirt. And the jaunty white-and-blue will brighten up the dreary gray of a rainy day. We think it’s both chic and playful—a combination that is hard to find.

Price: Rs. 1390 | Striped Folding Umbrella | Mango

The informer 3

If you are looking to splurge on elegance…

Go all out with the Indian Ocean Umbrella. It seems crazy to spend this kind of money on a lowly chatri, but this atlas-themed number is totally worth it. We bought one from this collection nearly six years ago—ok, in a moment of wine-fuelled enthusiasm at the Mumbai store🙈. But it is still as gorgeous and in perfect working order. Also: the fact that it is insanely pricey—and much loved—ensures that we never, ever leave it behind. (For a more unisex look: check out Nappa Dori’s collection that has a lovely cover with a shoulder sling.)

Price: Rs. 4800 | Indian Ocean Umbrella | Good Earth


Note: These products are personally picked by the editors. We do not receive any revenue from the brands recommended. 

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