Researched and collated by: Sara Varghese, Meghna Mathew & Prerna Barooah
A date at Red Fort with splainer
A magical tour: We are absurdly excited about our first ever offline experience—created in collaboration with our partners Urbanaut and Cities of Dehli. This is a memorable event at one of India’s greatest architectural gems: the Red Fort. The event includes a unique immersive visit to the recently opened Dalmia Museum, an unforgettable after-hours viewing experience of the lit up Fort when the sun goes down. The icing on this cake: ending the evening at the rooftop of one of Chandni Chowk’s treasures, Gumbad Cafe—nibbling on appetisers as you admire its stunning views of the Jama Masjid. We have an extended description with lovely pictures, maps and photos right here.
Your erudite guides: for the Red Fort tour will be Shaleen Wadhwana—who is an independent researcher, art curator, and culture professional. She trained in Art History at SOAS, London—and in Cultural Heritage Law at the University of Geneva-UNESCO. Also: Akash Chattopadhyaya, a cultural maven who is well-versed in Farsi, Urdu, the Mughal dynasty and Medieval and Early-Modern South Asia. He has led many heritage walks in Delhi—and worked with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library on the Prime Ministers’ Museum.
Where and when: November 26, 2022. We start the tour of the Fort at 4:30 pm—and find ourselves in Gumbad after about 2.5 hours.
What about tickets? The ticket price is Rs 2,000 which covers all tour costs, museum entry tickets and nibbles at Gumbad. You can buy them over here.
Big thing to remember: We are holding onto all 20 spots for you until November 19—of which a number have already been booked! After that, partners will open them up to their audiences.
We are eight-billion strong
The world population crossed the 8 billion mark yesterday. It comes just 11 years after we hit the 7 billion mark—and the total has doubled in 48 years (from 4 billion in 1974). But the days of population explosion are behind us. By 2030, the population will be 8.5 billion, and will grow to 10.4 billion by 2100. By 2050, eight countries—the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania—will be home to more than half the new humans we add by 2050. While it’s not official yet, a baby girl, Vinice Mabansag, born in the Philippines may be the symbolic eighth billion person in the world. Indian Express has more on what the numbers say about India.
OTOH, sperm counts are falling: According to a new study, sperm counts are falling at an accelerated rate among men around the world. They have fallen by 51% over the last four decades—and are now dropping at a rate of around 1.1% a year. Point to note: this data only looks at men who are not known to be infertile. And before we panic, the concentration of sperm is still very much in the normal range. And some experts aren’t convinced by the research—saying we have "simply gotten better" at the difficult task of counting sperm, which could account for the falling rates. (France24)
A Russian missile hit Poland
Russia pounded cities and energy facilities across Ukraine in the heaviest wave of missile strikes in nearly nine months of war. One of the missiles fell in the eastern part of Poland, killing two people—marking the first time that a NATO country was caught in the crossfire. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called it “a very significant escalation”—while the Polish government was more cautious. It identified the missile as being made in Russia—but said, “We are acting with calm.” Neither Warsaw or NATO are treating this as a Russian strike for now. Moscow has denied any responsibility for the missile. (Associated Press)
A spate of resignations in Meta India
WhatsApp’s head Abhijit Bose has stepped down—as has Meta's public policy head Rajiv Aggarwal. Shivnath Thukral is now leading public policy for both Meta and WhatsApp. The resignations come on the heels of the exit of Meta India chief Ajit Mohan—who quit to join Snap. (Indian Express)
Point to note: For some reason, the Indian media don’t mention the fact that Thukral was the right-hand man to Ankhi Das—the former policy head of Facebook India. Her cosy relationship with the Modi government was the subject of a Wall Street Journal investigation. Thukral’s resume includes crafting a key online initiative for Narendra Modi’s 2014 campaign before he joined Facebook. We have those details in this Big Story.
Meanwhile, over at Google India: The company has finally added UPI as a payment option on its Play Store. This is a huge relief for many customers who could not automate recurring payments thanks to strict RBI rules. TechCrunch has more details.
Meanwhile, over at Amazon India: The company is under fire from an RSS-controlled publication. The Organiser has accused it of funding religious conversions in the Northeast. The proof is absurdly thin—and centres on the AmazonSmile program that allows you to donate 0.5% of your purchase to charitable organisations of your choice. One of them is the American Baptist Church—which is accused of secretly converting Hindus. (Indian Express)
Djoko is headed Down Under
Last year, tennis ace Novak Djokovic was not allowed to play in the Australian Open because he refused to get a Covid jab. He had to leave the country after his visa was revoked—which triggered an automatic three-year ban (see: our previous Big Story). But Australia no longer requires visitors to be vaccinated—and so the government is planning to overturn the ban to let Djoko play this year. But there is no official confirmation as yet. (The Guardian)
New data on crypto losses
According to a new study, three out of four people who invested in bitcoin have lost money. It looked at small investors from 95 countries between 2015 and 2022. This is the period when bitcoin jumped from $250 in 2015 to peak at nearly $69,000 in 2021—and then fell back down to its current rate of $16,500. Now, here’s what’s interesting:
"Our analysis has shown that, around the world, bitcoin price increases have been tied to greater entry by retail investors," the researchers wrote. Moreover, they said they found that "as prices were rising and smaller users were buying bitcoin, the largest holders (the so-called 'whales' or 'humpbacks') were selling—making a return at the smaller users' expense."
FYI: The biggest segment of new cryptocurrency investors (40%) were men under 35. Gizmodo has more on the study.
Still big on NFTs: Nike is not giving up on NFTs. The company launched its virtual store called Swoosh—a platform that will eventually allow users to buy, sell, and trade virtual shoes and apparel. Creators can also “enter a community challenge to win the opportunity to co-create virtual product with Nike” and earn royalties. While signups open on November 18, Swoosh’s first digital collection doesn’t come out until January. Clearly, Nike hasn’t paid attention to Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse woes. The Verge has lots more details.
Two studies of note
About those aliens: NASA scientists have published a new ‘Great Filter’ theory that argues we may never encounter intelligent life from other planets. The reason:
“The ‘Great Filter’ theory—as in ‘filtering out’ various forms of life—argues that other civilizations, possibly several, have existed during the life of the universe. But they all destroyed themselves before they could make contact with Earth.”
And humans are likely to meet the same fate—unless we work very hard to avoid our own extinction. Point to note: the “Great Filter” theory is not new and was first propounded as early as 1998 by economist Robin Hanson. Read the paper here. Daily Beast has lots more on the fascinating argument.
The first cooked meal: Humans may have discovered fire—and therefore cooking—a lot earlier than we previously believed. Researchers in Israel have discovered the earliest remains of a cooked meal that is 780,000 years old. That’s 600,000 years older than the evidence we had before. What these prehistoric humans were cooking: a carp-like fish. Why this matters:
“The fact that the cooking of fish is evident over such a long and unbroken period of settlement at the site indicates a continuous tradition of cooking food. Gaining the skill required to cook food marks a significant evolutionary advance, as it provided an additional means for making optimal use of available food resources. It is even possible that cooking was not limited to fish, but also included various types of animals and plants.”
Cosmos magazine has all the nerdy details you need.
Something to see
Say hello to the cute—and somewhat weird—mascots for the 2024 Paris Olympics. That giant red blob is a Phrygian cap—which became a symbol of liberty during the French Revolution. The name: ‘Les Phryge’ (pronounced as “freezh”). FYI: the Paralympics version has a prosthetic leg. (Associated Press)