Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
A lethal explosion in Pakistan
Forty four people have died—and 200 injured—after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a political rally. The district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is near the Afghan border—and was a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban. But initial investigations point the finger at a wing of the Islamic State—which is a rival of the Taliban within Afghanistan. FYI: the critical parliamentary elections are slated for October. This Big Story has lots more on the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI’s support for the Taliban—and why experts had warned of consequences once the US exited Afghanistan. (NPR)
Ukraine war: Saudis play peacemaker
The country will hold peace talks in August. The 30 invitees will include European countries, the US, even powerful developing nations like Egypt, India and Brazil. Of the two warring parties, Ukraine will attend—but not Russia. The Saudis just may be able to persuade Moscow’s staunchest ally China to show up—which would be a big win. However, the gap between developing countries and Kyiv remains far too large to allow for an international consensus over terms for a peace deal. (Wall Street Journal, paywall, Reuters)
A big breakthrough for breast cancer
The context: There is a 99% chance of survival if we catch breast cancer early. And the common way to detect the disease is a mammogram—i.e an x-ray of the breast. But they still miss one in eight cases. The other problem: women at high-risk are also vulnerable to “interval cancers”—“develop in between routine scans, make up 20 to 30% of all breast cancer cases and can be more aggressive.”
Fitted up with a matching bra, the scanner can be moved around to six different spots to image the entire breast—no special training needed… The researchers tested their device on a 71-year-old subject with a history of breast cysts, and were able to detect cysts as small as 0.3 centimetres in diameter up to 8 centimetres deep in the tissue.
So high risk patients can reuse the device to keep tabs on any possible anomalies. And those who don’t live close to a hospital or clinic can still have access to regular scanning. (Telegraph UK, paywall, Popular Science)
Threads user count is crashing
All that excitement over acquiring 30 million users in the first 24 hours is fading fast. According to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the app has lost half its users—dropping from a peak of 100 million. Independent research firms say the drop is as high as 70%. Meta execs say the fall is “normal”—and due to missing features such as DMs, search etc. But some experts say that replacing Twitter isn’t that easy:
It’s actually a lot easier to emulate physical infrastructure than cultural infrastructure. Many habitually online users stay on Twitter for the jokes, the drama, the stories, and the information. In other words, people may follow new app features in the short term, but they’ll follow culture and community in the long term.
Say hello to 46,000-year-old worms
Researchers have revived ancient worms who were frozen in permafrost in Siberia for 46,000 years—and started wiggling again once thawed in a bit of water. But here’s the interesting bit: all this while, they survived by remaining in a dormant state called “cryptobiosis.” They died within days after being revived in keeping with their natural life cycle. Though after breeding, we have more than 100 generations of these creatures.
The key takeaway: is not that we can make any creature live for an absurd number of years. Rather: “The major take-home message or summary of this discovery is that it is, in principle, possible to stop life for more or less an indefinite time and then restart it.” Or to put it differently:
Researchers are also curious whether there is any limit on how long an organism can survive and be resurrected, and what it means for evolution and even the notion of extinction if animals that typically live, reproduce and die over weeks can stretch out their existence by centuries or millennia.
Are you freaked out? We certainly are. (Washington Post, splainer gift link)
An IndiaSize for footwear
In this previous Big Story, we looked at the conundrum of clothing sizes—and the government’s plan to introduce an Indian size chart. Now, it plans to roll out a desi footwear sizing chart—based on a survey undertaken by the Central Leather Research Institute. According to Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal: "We will soon come out with an IndiaSize which would help us distinguish our products from the rest of the world." (Economic Times)
Finally, Bollywood bigotry gets called out
The world has finally woken up to just how excruciatingly offensive Indian movies can be—thanks to ‘Bawaal’. This time around, it isn’t offended Hindu leaders calling for a ban—but leading Jewish groups in the US. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called on Amazon Prime to take down ‘Bawaal’ for trivialising the "suffering and systematic murder of millions.”
The context: This is what happens when some dumbass director thinks it’s genius to include lines declaring "every relationship goes through their Auschwitz"—Nazi Germany's largest death camp that killed a million Jews. But that isn’t the worst bit:
The film includes a fantasy scene inside a gas chamber and uses Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and the Auschwitz death camp as metaphors… In a recreation of the horrors at the camp, the couple dressed in striped clothing are placed inside a gas chamber, where they are surrounded by people who are screaming and suffocating.
FYI: Dhawan claims that people take “offence at small things in Hindi films”—but “give more leeway to English films.”
The real kicker: Hubby Varun Dhawan is “a history teacher and his aim is to make Instagram reels to teach World War Two to his students and she [Janhvi Kapoor] is hoping to make one last attempt to save their failing marriage.” Think we just threw up a little in our mouths. (BBC News)
Moving on to movie ratings: A new parliamentary bill puts in place more granular age-based ratings for movies—to help parents make better decisions about what they allow their kids to watch. For example, the U/A rating—which signals a movie can be seen by a child accompanied by an adult—have been split into U/A 7+, U/A 13+, and U/A 16+:
In theory, this could mean that films that deal with mature content could be released without being given an ‘A’ or adult only certificate, which the film industry usually dislikes due to the limited distribution it entails in cinemas.
However, it retains the government’s censorship powers over all movies—even movies that are rated ‘A’—so it isn’t clear if any of this marks a substantive change. (The Hindu)
Taylor Swift sparks a mini earthquake?
The Swifties apparently generated seismic activity equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake at her latest concert in Seattle. The record 72,171 fans outdid the last such event at a 2011 NFL match—when the earth moved after a player scored a touchdown. Swift later thanked her fans for “all the cheering, screaming, jumping, dancing, singing at the top of your lungs.” We understand Taylor’s concerts are excellent for the local economy—but to be honest, we looked very hard for clips from the concert that show an extreme event. And all we found were vids (here and here) that look like pretty much any superstar concert 🤷🏽♀️. Maybe no one measured seismic activity at a Bono or Madonna or Coldplay concert at their peak? (CNN)
Four things to see
One: It is not always fun being a pop superstar—as this clip shared by Shakira shows. She was shooting a music vid for her upcoming song ‘Copa Vacía’—lying on a trash pile. And then she had an unwelcome, furry visitor. Yikes! Something to keep in mind when you see a sexy music vid. Also: wtf happened to green screens? (Entertainment Weekly)
Two: A 2000-year-old shipwreck has yielded astonishingly preserved treasures including a large collection of stunning blown glass tableware, including bowls, cups, bottles and plates. The Roman vessel called the Capo Corso 2 was found 1,148 feet below the surface between France and Italy. Quite astonishing considering our glasses barely last a couple of years here on land. (Smithsonian Magazine)
Three: Afghan batsman Sediqullah Atal broke Yuvraj Singh’s record of six sixes in a single T20 over. That seems a little difficult since an over only has six deliveries. But Atal got one with a no-ball and one other delivery where the bowler gave away five wides—and he sent all the rest sailing over the boundary. Of course, naysayers will point out this was just a local Kabul Premier League. But there have been plenty of minor league matches played since Yuvie set the record in 2007. So kudos to Atal. (Indian Express)
Four: Elon Musk rebranded Twitter as ‘X’—which is entirely his right. But the giant bright sign of the new logo on the company headquarters is driving folks—living in residential buildings nearby—completely insane. X marks the spot of… a giant migraine. (Associated Press)