Researched by: Rachel John & Aarthi Ramnath
Chandrayaan-3 is ready for touchdown
The spacecraft’s lander module is set to begin its final descent this evening. If successful, India will become the first nation to achieve a soft landing on the Moon’s south pole. The descent starts around 5:45 pm and will be streamed on ISRO’s website—and across social media platforms. Reminder: Russian spacecraft Luna-3 crashed onto the surface on Sunday—while trying to attempt the exact same feat. The Telegraph and Indian Express have lots more on what to expect. And this Big Story has all the details on the mission.
Intelligence Bureau visit to Ashoka
The context: Ashoka University professor Sabyasachi Das’ working paper alleges vote manipulation in seats narrowly won by the BJP in 2019 (explained in this Big Story). The research turned into an ugly ideological battle on social media. The university distanced itself from Das—who later resigned. A couple of other professors resigned in solidarity—while the faculty demanded the reinstatement of Das.
What happened now: According to an exclusive in The Wire, Intelligence Bureau officials paid a visit to Ashoka looking for Das—to discuss his paper (?!):
IB officials visited the private university on Monday armed with newspaper cuttings seeking to meet the author of the paper, Sabyasachi Das, who is currently in Pune. A suggestion that other members of the faculty meet with them to discuss the contents of the paper found no takers as the officials refused to convey their request for information in writing. They then left after saying they would return to the campus again on Tuesday.
The Wire reports this is part of a larger pressure campaign—which includes calls to the university’s investors. Rumours are that the university is considering bringing back Das.
OTOH: A former faculty member says the visit maybe connected to the licence to accept foreign remittances—which is up for renewal in September:
IB regularly visits many institutions, so no surprise. It is also part of FCRA protocols that IB visits institutions before renewal…. We went through all this at (his current employer when their renewal was due). And no surprise the government is acting more thuggish.
Hotter summers = going hungry
A new study shows that extreme heat will have a devastating effect on the working class—who often labour in the sun. The reason: when temperatures climb, they may not be able to work or will be less productive. The loss of income, in turn, will shrink the budget for food. Unsurprisingly, the effect is higher in countries where incomes are lower or are linked to daily labour such as farming: “If a country with the population of India experienced a particularly hot week, an additional 8.07 million people would probably experience moderate-to-severe food insecurity.” (ABC News)
Keep those screens from toddlers!
Those who had spent four or more hours with screens were 4.78 times more likely to have underdeveloped communication skills, 1.74 times more likely to have subpar fine motor skills and two times more likely to have underdeveloped personal and social skills by age 2. By age 4, risk remained only in the communication and problem-solving categories.
The research doesn’t establish a causal relationship—but a strong association. One interesting point to note: higher screen time may also imply less face-to-face time with a parent.
David J. Lewkowicz, a developmental psychologist at the Yale Child Study Center, said that face-to-face interaction between parent and child is crucial in giving babies a rich set of information, including about how facial expressions, words, tone of voice and physical feedback all combine to convey language and meaning. “It doesn’t happen when you’re watching the screen,” he said, adding that he was not surprised by the research results.
A Bharatiya crash test for cars
The context: New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) is a safety assessment programme for vehicles—which get star ratings based on crash tests. Many countries have their own standards—and there is a global version.
What happened now: The government is planning to roll out an Indian version called Bharat New Car Assessment Programme or B-NCAP in October. Why this matters:
At present, crash testing of vehicles is not mandatory but a few companies have got some of their vehicles tested at NCAP-accredited centres in Europe, particularly Germany, voluntarily, and a few others cars were shipped to Germany for testing.
Also coming to India: Porsche. The car company will begin assembly of its iconic Cayenne SUV—due to “unprecedented surge” in demand. Porsche sales in India grew 64% in 2022 and Cayenne accounted for almost 50% of it. This is good news for anyone in the market for one—since India imposes a 100% duty on imported cars—compared to 15 to 35% for auto components. Point to note: other luxury car companies like Volvo and Mercedes Benz already assemble some of their models in India. There have been recent reports of Tesla jumping in the fray. (Economic Times)
A tourism mega-boom cometh
According to a new report, tourism will become a $15.5 trillion industry in the next decade—and make up 11.6% of the global economy. By 2033, the industry will employ 430 million people—and account for one in every nine jobs worldwide. Tourism has bounced back from the pandemic with a vengeance. Spending by overseas visitors grew by a record 82% to reach $1.1 trillion in 2022. (Bloomberg News, paywall, Travel Pulse)
A YouTube-Universal collab on AI music rules
YouTube will partner with Universal Music Group—the largest label in the world—to set out rules for AI-generated music. The project is confusingly called Youtube AI Music Incubator—but it won’t be ‘incubating’ any music. Instead, artists like Anitta, ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, Max Richter, Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic will offer their “input” on AI music tools and products. Why this matters: AI tools have made copyright a lightning rod—be it in music, media or publishing. Aligning the interests of the creators, industry and tech companies will be challenging. And any framework will also be difficult to enforce:
YouTube’s content ID system can be heavy-handed with its automated takedowns—something that pleases rights holders. It can also be gamed by copyright trolls and has shown itself to lack a certain amount of nuance. At one point, a single man’s video upload of white noise was hit with five copyright claims. The job of sorting out what is or is not AI-generated music and who should get paid for it will likely be a much more daunting task for years to come.
Meanwhile, over at Snapchat: The company is working on a generative AI feature called Dreams. Users can take or upload selfies that will allow the app to generate new pictures of you in “fantastical places and scenarios.” (TechCrunch)
Fab news for Indian movies
The Indian box office is hopping again—and not just in the South. Rajnikanth’s ‘Jailer’ is at #1—crossing Rs 5 billion (500 crore) in global revenues. Happily for Bollywood, Sunny Deol’s ‘Gadar 2’ isn’t far behind with Rs 4 billion (400 crore). Even Akshay Kumar’s ‘OMG 2’ hit the Rs 1 billion (100 crore) mark. In fact, box office collections hit Rs 3.9 billion (390 crore) between August 11 to 13—which is the highest in the film industry’s history. (Economic Times)
Two things to see
One: A rare baby giraffe was born without any spots at a Tennessee zoo—and it may be the only one of its kind in the world. The six-foot calf belongs to an endangered species called reticulated giraffes—which refers to the unique pattern on their skin. FYI: the last spotless giraffe was born at the Tokyo Zoo in 1972. As you can see it still looks pretty darn cute:) (USA Today)
Two: Here’s a romcom trailer with a distinctly middle-aged cast for a change. ‘She Came to Me’ features Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei and Anne Hathaway caught in a goofy triangle—and they all look fab. The movie drops in theatres on September 29.