Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
New earthquake sparks panic
Turkey and Syria were hit again by a 6.3-magnitude quake at 8 pm local time. Its epicentre was near the town of Uzunbag in Turkey’s Hatay Province. Three died and 213 were injured in the city—but others are trapped in the rubble:
The mayor of Hatay, Lutfu Savas, told the Turkish broadcaster NTV that some structures had collapsed, trapping people underneath. “Unfortunately, we are receiving messages about people remaining under buildings,” he said, saying they had returned to their homes because they believed they were solid or to rescue their belongings.
In Syria, people were injured by panic-stricken stampedes sparked by the tremors. (New York Times)
Speaking of disasters: The official investigation into the collapse of the Morbi bridge—which resulted in the death of 135 people—has uncovered serious lapses. One of the main cables was severely corroded—and nearly half of its wires were broken. This is the one that snapped leading to the collapse. The so-called renovation work undertaken by the Oreva group was shoddy—and unsafe. More importantly, municipal authorities had given Oreva the contract without board approval—and allowed it to reopen the bridge without an inspection. (The Hindu)
The great balloon brouhaha: A hilarious update
A hobby group called the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade says its balloon may be one of the “unknown objects” shot down by the military (see: our Big Story). It was last spotted in the same area in Alaska—where a F-22 jet used a Sidewinder missile to shoot down an object. But we may never know the truth since the Canadians have no intention of retrieving the debris—due to the frozen terrain and remote location of the site. FYI, the cost of a Sidewinder missile: $400,000. Cost of the balloon: $12. Sorry, we can’t stop laughing. (Politico)
Uber goes electric in India
The company plans to introduce 25,000 electric vehicles (EVs) over three years for ride-sharing. These will be Tata cars for now—though Uber is also talking to Mahindra. And while these EVs are only a fraction of Uber’s 300,000 fleet in India, it is a key step toward the company’s goal of going fully electric by 2040. Uber’s key rival in this space: local startup BluSmart. (Reuters)
Speaking of travel: Air traffic in India surged to a new post-Covid record in February—increasing to 420,000 passengers a day. The total is higher than the numbers recorded in peak festival season. Of course, this means that airfares have stayed high, as well. This augurs well for the airline companies—but not so much for customers when making plans for their summer holiday. (Mint)
An HNI exodus out of India
In 2022, over 225,000 citizens gave up their Indian citizenship and moved abroad—the highest since 2011. At least 8,000 (3.5%) of these are high net worth individuals (HNIs) using immigration programs that offer permanent residency for foreigners who invest a minimum amount of money. FYI: there are only 347,000 Indians that have a net worth of over $1 million—and qualify for the HNI category. As for why they’re leaving India, apparently, HNIs are broadening the “definition of wealth”:
Beyond financial assets, they now also consider good health, legacy, and the quality of life they enjoy with their families as key contributors to their holistic wealth. Today, wealthy families want better healthcare, open and flexible business environments, and access to better academic and professional opportunities.
So let’s review: 347,000 in a country of 1.4 billion people who can afford good healthcare, clean air and better business opportunities—all of which are available only if you leave the country. (The Hindu)
Brains doesn’t earn you big bucks
Here’s a thought to console you when you contemplate your skimpy salary. A Swedish study has found that the highest earners may not be the most intelligent people—at least among men. Yes, brains will help you get ahead—but only to a certain point—specifically, $53,000 a year. Beyond that, there isn’t much of a link between ability and salary:
We find no evidence that those with top jobs that pay extraordinary wages are more deserving than those who earn only half those wages… Extreme occupational success is more likely driven by family resources or luck than by ability.
Even more astonishing: “At the very top—corresponding to the top 5% of earners—cognitive ability tended to level off and even drop slightly”—especially in the top 1%. At times like this, it’s only fitting to quote the immortal Donald Trump: Sad. (Bloomberg News, paywall, Big Think)
A ‘molecular sieve’ to lose weight
Swedish scientists have developed a new kind of weight loss pill—which contains a ‘molecular sieve’:
The “molecular sieve” is a swallowable device that contains particles of silica. Each particle is pitted with thousands of tiny pores the same size as the enzymes used by the body to break down food. The idea is that they are like a lobster trap for such enzymes.
By preventing the enzymes from doing their work, the pill slows down digestion—and makes you feel full for a longer period of time. While it only works in mice, it offers a new way to tackle diabetes and obesity:
Our bodies are not made to eat the food they are eating today. The food is too processed and degrades very fast in the intestine. Why is that bad? It leads to high levels of blood sugar and lipids in the blood. You have a high peak of glucose.
Human trials will start soon—but the researchers also want to develop this drug to treat animals. As one lead author notes: “There are millions of obese cats out there.” (The Times UK, paywall)
Human beats machine, makes news
Finally, some consolation for us mere mortals. A human named Kellin Pelrine decimated a top-ranked AI system—developed by Google’s DeepMind—in a game of Go. This is a great reversal of the humiliation suffered in 2016 by the then world champion—who retired, claiming the AI was an entity that “cannot be defeated.” That event also marked the rise of AI—and the assumption that humans are inherently weaker than machines in complex games like Go.
What’s interesting is that Pelrine learned his winning strategy from another computer program—designed to probe for weaknesses in AI systems. Why this small victory matters:
The discovery of a weakness in some of the most advanced Go-playing machines points to a fundamental flaw in the deep-learning systems that underpin today’s most advanced AI... The systems can “understand” only specific situations they have been exposed to in the past and are unable to generalise in a way that humans find easy.
Ars Technica has lots more details on the game.
Something unusual to see
A 2,000 year-old wooden object that was first categorised as a “darning tool” has turned out to be an ancient sex toy. Discovered in 1992, it is the only known lifesize Roman dildo—which may have been put to, umm, practical use. Or it may even have been a good luck charm or “an erect penis-shaped pestle” (What? Why?). The phallus is currently 16 cm long—but could have been bigger, since wood is “prone to shrinkage and warping” (pun totally not intended lol). In any case, you can check out the dildo in all its glory below. (The Guardian)