Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Smriti Arora
SpaceX mega-rocket launch postponed
Starship is the world’s more powerful rocket. At 120 metres, the rocket is almost 30.5 metres taller than the Statue of Liberty—and can carry up to 100 people. And the 33 raptor engines give it double the thrust of any rocket ever. A test launch was supposed to happen yesterday—but was postponed minutes before takeoff. According to founder Elon Musk, the problem was caused by a frozen "pressurant valve.” SpaceX will make another attempt in 48 hours. Why Starship matters:
Elon Musk is hoping to completely upend the rocket business with Starship. It's designed to be fully and rapidly reusable. He envisages flying people and satellites to orbit multiple times a day in the same way a jet airliner might criss-cross the Atlantic. Indeed, he believes the vehicle could usher in an era of interplanetary travel for ordinary humans.
This uncrewed mission aims to send the upper-stage of the vehicle into orbit to complete almost one circuit of the globe. (BBC News)
Supreme Court considers same-sex marriage
A five-judge bench—led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud—is getting ready today to consider a batch of 15 petitions seeking to legalise same-sex marriages. The union government has already filed a plea asking for their dismissal:
The court should not try to judicially create a “new social institution” by endorsing same-sex marriages. The judges should leave the task to the Parliament, the people would decide whether such a “marriage of a different kind” is socially and religiously acceptable or not, the Centre said.
The government also claims that the petitions reflect “urban elitist views''—which cannot be the sole basis of a court ruling. The legislature’s decision would reflect a broader consensus. (The Hindu)
The Bhatinda killings: The latest update
The context: On April 12, four army soldiers were killed in their sleep at the military station in Punjab. An army jawan Desai Mohan—the sole eyewitness—claimed that he had seen two masked men in kurta pyjamas running into a nearby forest. The police had been sceptical of the account—and suspected an inside job.
What happened now: Mohan has been arrested and has confessed to the murders. He stole a rifle within the base and used it to commit the crime. At the press conference, police officials refused to share any details about his motive: “All I can say is that there are personal reasons which we cannot disclose to the media and I would request you to not ask further.” But unnamed police sources claim that the soldier claimed he had been repeatedly sexually assaulted over a period of time—and killed the four soldiers in an act of revenge. Indian Express has lots more on this tragic case.
Apple soars in India
The company has hit a new high of almost $6 billion in sales in just the fiscal year ending in March. Its revenue has spiked by nearly 50%—from $4.1 billion in FY 2021-22. This information was revealed by an unnamed source to Bloomberg News—ahead of the company’s quarterly earnings report in May. Apple’s global revenue is expected to decline—which makes the Indian market more critical than ever to CEO Tim Cook. Hence, the big moves with two Apple store openings in Mumbai and Delhi. But here’s a reality check:
Yet its base is small — just about 4% of India’s nearly 700 million smartphone users have iPhones — as the world’s second-biggest mobile market is led by cheaper local brands as well as Chinese and South Korean manufacturers. But the… company ranked No. 1 in unit sales of devices above $365 last year.
In other words, Apple pretty much owns the upmarket segment in India. Bloomberg News has more details.
Also going up, up, up: US trade with India. The United States is now India’s biggest trading partner—as bilateral trade rose by almost 8% to $128.55 billion. (Quartz)
Hollywood writers go on strike
Members of the Writers Guild of America voted by a historic margin—98% to 2%—to authorise its leaders to call a strike. The WGA is in the middle of renegotiating a three-year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Talks have stalled because writers want a bigger slice of the streaming cake:
Writers are seeking a package of compensation increases valued at nearly $600 million. That includes increases in minimum pay and higher residual payments from streaming, along with increased contributions to the union’s health and pension plans. Writers argue that despite the streaming boom, their median pay has fallen in the last decade, citing a WGA report.
But their demands come at a time when every streaming service and studio is slashing costs—hence, the stalemate. FYI: the last time WGA went on strike in 2007, it lasted 100 days and shut down Hollywood production—postponing new seasons and episodes of the biggest shows. (Los Angeles Times)
A (small) heatwave cometh!
The India Meteorological Department has warned that vast swathes of the country will be boiling over the next couple days. Maximum temperatures will hit 40-42°C—which is around 3-5 degrees above normal. Earlier, the Met predicted hotter than usual temperatures from April to June. Most of the north, northeast and parts of the south like Andhra Pradesh will be the hardest hit. But the good news is that it won’t last more than a couple of days. (Indian Express)
Also rising sky-high: International airline ticket prices—which have jumped between 40-60% compared to last year. The reasons include rising fuel prices and supply chain disruptions—as grounded planes wait for parts. But none of this has dimmed the spiralling demand—which in turn pushes the fares even higher. (The Hindu)
Drake ft The Weeknd: The AI version
Here’s something to give every musician nightmares. AI created a fake Drake song—featuring The Weeknd—titled ‘Heart on my Sleeve’. It was uploaded on social media by an anonymous person who calls themselves ‘ghostwriter’. Twitter sleuth—Mitchell Cohen of Appsumo—figured out that the song was actually created by a startup named Laylo and dropped as a “genius marketing stunt.” Other fake tracks that have gone viral recently include a "deepfake" of Rihanna singing Beyoncé's ‘Cuff It’—and a cloned Kanye West singing ‘Hey There, Delilah’.
Neither artist has said anything about the song as yet. But we’re not sure this excuse is going to hold water for long:
The author has also made it explicit that Drake and The Weeknd were not involved in the making of the song, which should (in theory) protect them from a "passing off" claim, where they profit from misleading the audience into believing it is genuine.
Artists have already created a coalition called Human Artistry Campaign to fight back against plagiarising machines. FYI: the song has two men talking about a woman—in this case, The Weeknd’s ex Selena Gomez. Because AI has as little imagination as the male artists it copies? Watch it below. (BBC News)
Two things to see
One: A company in Surat has unearthed a rare diamond—that has a smaller diamond nesting inside it. The find has been sent on to DeBeers—which has named it Beating Heart. According to the company, the 0.329 carat gem was “found to have an internal cavity enclosing a smaller diamond that is trapped yet free to move around within the space.” It looks pretty cool, yes? (Independent UK)
Two: Here’s a reminder why we all love Neeraj Chopra—and it’s not just because he scored an Olympic gold medal. Here he is talking about why he is so excited about all the other Indian athletes at a recent press conference. (Scroll)