The Wire: The Wire News I India
Get the latest news, top headlines, opinions, analysis and much more from India and World including current news headlines on elections, politics, economy, business, science, culture on The Wire.
The Moon of Science or the Moon of Lovers? - The Wire Science
The Moon was the domain of romanticism until it became the target of cold, hard science.
Representative image of an aeroplane passing the moon. Photo: Reuters. These days, its easy to forget that the Apollo 11 mission wasnt just about science and politics, but about metaphysics too. People had to come to terms with a new kind of Moon. Many wondered if the eternal mystique of the Moon could survive the onslaught of cold, hard science. What would lovers do if gazing at the night sky made them think of rockets instead of romance? Would humanity lose something precious by taking technology into the realm of myths and legends? Changing perceptions of the Moon can be mapped through the pages of popular magazines. The Australian Womens Weekly, for example, published numerous stories, columns, and poetry about the Moon. In the 1930s, poems celebrating the Moon as mysterious and feminine were common. By 1946, after the World War II, science (and satire) started to creep into the poems. In this excerpt from Australian poet and war correspondent Dorothy Drain, the Man in the Moon laments that hes had to neglect the lovers, poets, and songwriters because of increased scientific interest: “Kindly tell the scientistsI am overworkedAnd wishThey would leave me alone with my craters.” At this time, the US, the USSR, France, and the UK were developing rockets for space launch. The Cold War was heating up and after Earth orbit, the Moon was the next target. The prospect brought science and culture face to face: Goodbye, romantic moon, lamented an unknown writer in the pages of the Weekly in 1957. Poor lovers: its black, hot and full of dust. Lunar science was tarnishing the perfect pearly light, which bestowed ethereal beauty and inspired contemplations of the ineffable. The kindly Moon beloved of little children was also the confidante of lovers, but this too was threatened by the spectre of Soviet space surveillance. For how will lovers be able to gaze uninhibited at the moon, without shrinking into the shrubbery and whispering Big Brother will be up there any moment? asked the 1957 writer. This image recast the Moon as the betrayer of lovers secrets if the Russians got there first. And the Russians did get there first. In 1959 the robotic probe Luna 2 became the first human object to land on the Moon, scattering pentagonal medallions stamped with USSR 1959 as it crashed. After the Apollo 8 lunar orbiting mission returned close-up images of the surface in 1968, the Weeklys columnist Robin Adair wrote about how old ideas of the Moon would have to be abandoned: As one music magnate remarked, What the heck do I do with records and sheet music that go Blue Moon, I saw you standing alone when Astronaut Lovell said, in effect, Moon, I saw you standing below, a whitish grey, like dirty beach sand ? With this comparison, a thousand poets turned in their graves, according to journalist Kay Keavney. Adair was scathing of a US protest group called Hands off the Moon, who wished to keep the Moon pristine as a romantic symbol. He admitted, though, that it will rather take the mystery and glamour out of the old moon when blokes have roamed around it. All of this tongue-in-cheek banter concealed a serious concern. The tension between the Moon of science and the Moon of romance was captured by chemist and writer C.P. Snow in his influential 1959 essay ‘The Two Cultures.’ Snow argued that science was in the ascendancy, but that neither the sciences nor the traditional culture of literature and art understood each other, to the detriment of both. There were, he said: Literary intellectuals at one pole at the other scientists, and as the most representative, the physical scientists. Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension sometimes (particularly among the young) hostility and dislike, but most of all lack of understanding. In many ways, the Moon was the battleground not only of communist and capitalist Cold War ideologies, but for which of the two cultures would write the script for the universe. By May 1969, the confrontation was imminent. In a few weeks, proclaimed a headline in the Weekly, purple [science] fiction will be changed to prosaic fact when men land on the moon. And with one small step, neither the Moon nor Earth was ever the same again. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot for Apollo 11, poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an extravehicular activity (EVA) on the moon, July 20, 1969. The lunar module (LM) is on the left, and the footprints of the astronauts are visible in the soil. Photo: Neil Armstrong/NASA/Handout via Reuters Was Apollo 11 the end of the lovers Moon? It seems not. People found a way to reconcile the dissonance between the two cultures in their everyday lives. No doubt many looked up at the Moon in the weeks that followed, wonderingly, and came to the same conclusion as Australian writer Nan Musgrove, who wrote on 6 August 1969: It looked so ugly in those pockmarked cratered pictures taken by Apollo 11. But on Sunday night in the sky it was as lovely as ever, caught up in a halo showing through the overcast. One did not have to choose which Moon to keep; science and the arts had not been fatally riven apart by the encounter with reality. Perhaps, on the contrary, it had brought them closer together. Alice Gorman is a leader in the emerging field of space archaeology. She is a Senior Member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Associate Professor at Flinders University, Adelaide, and the author of Dr Space Junk Vs The Universe, from which this article is excerpted. She tweets at @drspacejunk. This article has appeared on the MIT Press Reader. An earlier version was published on The Conversation.
In First Ever Election, Seema Mustafa Becomes Editors Guild of India's President - The Wire
Until now, the body's leadership was chosen by consensus. Sanjay Kapoor was elected as the Guild's general secretary and Ananth Nath as the treasurer.
New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India has its first-ever elected president, general secretary, and treasures. Senior journalist Seema Mustafa, founder of the news website The Citizen, was elected as the president and Sanjay Kapoor, Editor of the Delhi-based Hardnews magazine was elected as the Guilds general secretary. Ananth Nath, editor of the Caravan magazine who was the only valid nomination for the post of treasurer, was elected unopposed. The election was conducted on October 16 and the results were announced on Saturday. Until this election, members were chosen by consensus. The Editors Guild is considered the top body of editors, critically looking at both the media and the state. It was founded in 1978 with the two primary objectives of protecting press freedom and raising the standards of editorial leadership of newspapers and magazines. Before the elections, the guild was headed by Shekhar Gupta. Of the 195 members, 140 members voted in the election. While Mustafa bagged 87 votes, her opponent M.D. Nalapat received 51 votes. For the general secretarys position, ANI news agencys Smita Prakash had contested against Kapoor. She bagged 50 votes, 40 less than Kapoor. Interestingly editors like R. Jagannathan, who is the editorial director of Swarajya and Navika Kumar of Times Now, who had resigned from the Guild in the past, also participated in the election and supported Nalapat and Prakashs candidature. They participated under the pretext that their resignation was not accepted.
How Do You Fold Two Metres' Worth of DNA Into a Cell Nucleus 10 Microns Wide? - The Wire Science
Bit by bit, biologists are deciphering the complex 3-D — and 4-D — architecture of the genome and learning how all the squeezed-together stuff of DNA keeps itself in order. What they find could lead to medical advances.
Featured image: qimono/pixabay Squinting through his microscope at salamander cells, late-nineteenth-century biologist Walther Flemming spotted a curious substance deep inside the cells nuclei that selectively soaked up the stain he was using. The stuff looked like a skein of wool until, that is, a cell underwent division. Then the skein separated into fatter, discrete threads: the chromosomes, Greek for color bodies. Flemmings scientific descendants are still squinting, but with ever more powerful molecular, imaging and computational tools. In a collective global effort, hundreds of researchers are now piecing together the three-dimensional architecture of the nucleuss entire allotment of chromatin our DNA and its associated proteins across space and time. Driving the project are questions like these: How does our DNA pack itself so neatly within the cells tiny nucleus? How does it pack even tighter when its time for a cell to divide, and uncoil at just the right spots and moments in different cells to control, with precision, the activity of our 20,000-plus genes? A major push in this global effort, dubbed the 4D Nucleome program, was initiated by the US National Institutes of Health in 2015 out of a growing realization that parsing the 3-D architecture of the genome will be crucial for answering myriad questions about gene control across the human lifetime, in health and in disease. Add how this 3-D architecture changes with time and you get the fourth dimension. With the recent start of its second phase, the efforts overall funding amounts to some $280 million, involving dozens of research projects and hundreds of scientists. If you want to understand how a genome works, or even a chromosome, you have to understand its three-dimensional structure, says chromosome biologist Job Dekker of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The packing problem invites a raft of fundamental questions, says molecular biologist and immunology researcher Ananda L. Roy, the 4D Nucleome projects program leader. Consider that the roughly two meters worth of double-helical DNA in each cell condenses 200,000- to 250,000-fold to fit in the nucleus, which has a diameter of 8 to 10 millionths of a meter or so. How do you do this folding? Roy asks. Does it have a meaning? How is that related to health? Is the genome folding the same way in all cells? How does it change in time? Also read: Why Do We Not Inherit Mitochondria From Our Fathers? The answers, some scientists are betting, will offer novel medical leads. Through studying genome geometry, they think they can uncover ways to develop new categories of treatments, ones that heal by tweaking genome architecture to reestablish health-promoting patterns of gene activity. Of genetic letters, coils and loops The scientific community cheered in 2003 when the decade-long, $2.7-billion Human Genome Project delivered the entire linear sequence of the 3 billion DNA letters, or nucleotides adenines, guanines, cytosines and thymines that make up our 23 pairs of chromosomes. It was a momentous achievement, but also an eclipsing one. Though Dekker cheered too, he also says that a fixation on genetic sequencing for decades distracted researchers from the importance of genome geometry and the role it might play in determining which genes are active and which are silent. Its the most amazing thing, he says. You have all of this DNA inside one nucleus. Its a very crowded place. How can it keep everything from becoming entangled when you think that even if you have your headphones in your pocket, the thing is a total mess every time you take it out of your pocket? If it were up to DNA itself, the genome would clump into the mother of all tangles. After all, stuffing the two meters worth of a genomes DNA into a nucleus eight micrometers in diameter is akin to stuffing a 7,500-meter length of spider-silk thread within the confines of a walnut. But Flemmings chromatin is more than DNA: Its an intimate assembly of DNA and proteins, particularly ones called histones. Together, these form minuscule spools that have stretches of DNA some 150 nucleotides long wound around them, like molecular fishing lines. In the genome there are millions of these DNA-wound spools, known as nucleosomes, separated by short, naked stretches of DNA to give the look of beads threaded onto a string. A file photo of a DNA double helix in an undated artist’s illustration released by the National Human Genome Research Institute to Reuters. Photo: Reuters/National Human Genome Research Institute/Handout The nucleosome wrappings get you a several-fold compaction of nuclear DNA, but not the 250,000-fold shrinkage Roy speaks of. That takes additional contortions. Nobody knows all of the details of the compaction process, but one way to think of it is to imagine clasping the ends of a string between thumb and forefingers of each hand and then twisting like crazy. The string undergoes multiple coilings and bucklings until it all fits into a dramatically shorter diameter compared to its original outstretched length. The chromatin’s version of such compaction and buckling yields, among other structural features, fibers about 700 nanometers wide, which correspond to the spaghetti-like structure Flemming and his contemporaries observed nearly 150 years ago in non-dividing cells. But theres order, too, among all the coils. Researchers know that even during most of a cells life, when chromosomes exist in these spaghetti-like forms (as opposed to the super-condensed, stubby chromosomes you see when a cell is dividing), each strand sits in the nucleus in its own discrete territory. They glom together like so many skeins of wool, snuggling close but remaining untangled and neatly separable during division. Also read: Does the New Coronavirus Linger in the Body? Nor is the DNA of individual chromosomes coiled up willy-nilly. Within each chromosome, reiterated many times over, are DNA loops often termed topologically associated domains, or TADs that are crucial for the genomes proper functioning that is, for its pattern of gene activity. Genome researchers are amped up today by their growing ability to explore and map out the details of this schema. Its taking their understanding of molecular biology to new depths and opening new medicinal pathways. Genome, express thyself One of the Human Genome Projects surprises was the revelation that our DNA hosts only about 20,000 genes, constituting a mere 1 to 2 percent of the genomes overall length. Researchers devoted to revealing how the 3-D and 4-D genomes work want to know what the other 98 percent of the genome is doing, and how it helps control the activity of the gene-bearing 2 percent. Plenty of control is needed: One of the most beguiling questions about the genome is how a human beings different cell types from neurons to immune cells to muscle cells all share the same DNA yet have distinct biological personae. What is the reason that all of these cell types exhibit different structures, functions and activities? says molecular biologist Bing Ren of the University of California, San Diego, a participant in the 4D Nucleome project and coauthor of an overview of 3-D genome architecture in the Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology. That architecture, it turns out, is key to determining which genes turn on and off and when and where they do so. TADs may be key to the process. They can be millions of genetic letters in length down to tens of thousands: In a mouse embryonic stem cell, there are some 2,200 of them with an average size of almost 900,000 letters. The TAD count in humans might be more like 15,000, says biologist Richard Young of the Whitehead Institute and MIT. Within each TAD (Young also refers to them as insulated genomic domains, or IGDs) reside specific genes, along with DNA segments that control them: promoters, enhancers and insulators. A TADs loop-like structure is crucial, as it can bring together DNA segments that would otherwise be far apart if that same piece of DNA were stretched out. So promoters and especially enhancers can appear very distant from the gene they activate yet snuggle close when viewed through a 3-D lens helping to solve a conundrum that geneticists scratched their heads over for decades. But how are the TADs created to begin with? It could be through something called loop extrusion, a process whose untangling has been one of the most important achievements of the past few years, says biophysicist Erez Lieberman Aiden, head of the Center for Genome Architecture at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. It turns out that small teams of proteins collaborate to form multitudes of loops rooted at locations on the genome demarcated by specific DNA sequences. The protein teams form bolo-like structures at these genomic signposts, and DNA gets extruded through them, creating the loops. Any genes, promoters, enhancers or other regulatory elements such as insulator segments within a given loop of DNA are thereby brought into proximity with each other, enabling appropriate genetic control. Also read: How a Tiny Insect Was Used to Trace the Origins of Human Clothing Woven into this dynamic of genome structure and control is yet another spectacularly complex layer: the epigenome, chemical marks that are added to the chromatin and influence gene activity. Some of these modify histone proteins in ways that tighten or loosen the local chromatin thereby puffing out and exposing genes for activation, or coiling them yet tighter and shutting them down. Others methyl groups stud stretches of DNA and render silent any genes in these locations. Genomic bushwhacking Bringing the genomes three-dimensional structure to light has required a workshop of observational tools and techniques. Some of the greatest leaps in structural insight have come by way of microscopy-based imaging and methods known as chromosome conformation capture (3C). In the 3C methods, which Dekker helped to pioneer in the early 2000s and which he and many others have built upon since then, researchers chemically link those places in the genome where bits of DNA lie near each other inside the cells nucleus. Then, using DNA sequencing methods and computational techniques, they produce contact maps that depict thousands upon thousands now even millions of places where genomic pieces just about touch. From such maps emerges a sense of the genomes three-dimensional conformation and how it changes during a cells life cycle and in response to stimuli such as hormones. Early 3C methods revealed contacts only at stretches of DNA that researchers had preselected for study. Since then, Dekker and others have devised increasingly powerful and revealing variations on the theme, some with cute names. One workhorse among these is Hi-C; in 2017 a research group used it to identify almost 2 million unique contact points in egg-producing oocytes of mice. Another is ChIA-PET (chromatin interaction analysis by paired-end tag), which can identify interactions between promoters and other gene-regulating players where proteins called transcription factors attach and help turn genes on or off. Other powerful genome insights come from a microscope-based method known as FISH, short for fluorescence in situ hybridization. To a cell, scientists add fluorescent probes that attach to specific DNA sequences; once in place, the probes serve as tiny beacons visible with a microscope. By placing and observing the beacon in different genome locations in experiment after experiment, scientists get a composite picture of the genomes structure the way lights on a Christmas tree reveal the shape of the tree. This allows you to trace the genome in 3-D, Aiden says. This is a transformative capability. Credit: qimono/pixabay Test-driving the genomic machine As fundamental discoveries about genome structure and expression pile up, research momentum has been building. Its now spawning biomedical applications and business ventures. This field is very vibrant, Ren says. Its like a supernova where new stars, new planets, are being formed. He points to a November 2019 report in Science as an example of what these supernova progeny look like. In it, a team of 26 researchers, Ren included, chronicle how they refined their understanding of variants of genes called risk variants linked with late-onset Alzheimers disease. Many such risk factors have been found for sundry diseases, often in the 98 percent of the genome that doesnt contain genes. But precisely what they do is seldom understood. In the work, Ren and colleagues used techniques that identify the more loose and open regions of chromatin, spots more likely to be genetically active. They examined the patterns in four different types of brain cells: neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and microglia. The team found, first of all, that the airier and more genetically active chromatin locations differed between the four cell types. They also found that the different cell types use distinct enhancers even when controlling the same gene. Most tantalizing of all, the researchers saw that Alzheimers risk variants largely reside inside enhancers that are specifically used in microglia. The strong implication here is that these risk variants are altering the enhancers control over gene activity in ways that raise the risk of Alzheimers. Also read: What Fossils and DNA Tell Us About the Evolution of Modern Intelligence This is intriguing, Ren says, because microglia are cells that clean up cellular debris, including proteins that otherwise build up in the brain and are associated with Alzheimers. Malfunctioning microglia have long been implicated in the disorder, and this finding adds heft to the case. Insights like this werent possible before the new tools came along, Ren adds. We realize now that accessibility of enhancers meaning if the chromatin is open enough is being highly regulated in a cell-type-specific manner. That is why you have cell-type-specific gene expression. Ren would next like to know whether one could develop drugs for serious diseases to coax abnormal chromatin conformations back to healthy, disease-free patterns. And so would Young of the Whitehead Institute and MIT. Young is convinced that the genomes 60,000 or so enhancer sequences, and their spatial relationships to its 20,000 genes within its 15,000 or so TADs, are a next big thing in pharmaceutical innovation. He has co-started several companies to pursue this genomic perspective in search of new medicines. One of them, launched in 2016 with colleague Leonard Zon of Harvard Medical School, is CAMP4 named after the final encampment for Mount Everest climbers before they start for the summit. Its aim is to identify TADs and other gene regulatory elements involved in a given disease, then apply machine learning to design drugs that could recalibrate gene activity patterns gone awry. Another of Youngs companies, Omega Therapeutics, is zeroing in on the loop-extrusion process that generates the TADs (or IGDs) to begin with. The notion here is to design controller molecules that can reengineer the size and location of TADs thus changing the genomic neighborhood and packing or opening up chromatin in ways that tamp down disease. This is fundamental science about how you fold up the blueprint for life, Young says. If you dont fold it up properly, all hell breaks loose. When Flemming published his 1880 paper in which he coined the term chromatin, about all he could say about the genetic material he was observing was that it took on the colors of his aniline stain while other, achromatic substances in the nucleus did not. The tools of the time precluded him and his research brethren from discerning the deeper dramas surely unfolding in the nucleus. Now, 140 years later, these wish-list tools are here and in the hands of those just as driven to plumb the genomes mysteries. This, Aiden says, is the task of my generation of scientists.
Great Barrier Reef Has Lost Half Its Corals, Thanks to Warming - The Wire Science
"That means the resilience of the reef, its ability to bounce back from recurrent mass bleaching events, has been compromised," said Terry Hughes, professor at James Cook University.
Featured image: A tourist snorkels above coral in the lagoon located on Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef, 80 kilometers north-east from the town of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, June 9, 2015. Photo:Reuters/David Gray Sydney: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral in the last three decades and scientists fear the loss caused by frequent bleaching will compromise its ability to recover. Record-breaking temperatures that triggered bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 have meant fewer small, baby corals and breeding adult ones, said Terry Hughes, professor at ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. “That means the resilience of the reef, its ability to bounce back from recurrent mass bleaching events, has been compromised,” said Hughes. Also read: Corals at Risk as Marine Heat Waves Strike More Often “We used to think the Great Barrier Reef is protected by its sheer size, but our results show that even the world’s largest and relatively well-protected reef system is increasingly compromised and in decline.” Bleaching early this year could have caused more damage to the reef’s southern region, Hughes said. The reef suffered its most extensive bleaching event in March, the third one in five years. The Great Barrier Reef runs 2,300 km (1,429 miles) down Australia’s northeast coast spanning an area half the size of Texas. It was world heritage listed in 1981 by UNESCO as the most extensive and spectacular coral reef ecosystem on the planet.
India Ranks 94 Among 107 Countries in Global Hunger Index 2020 - The Wire
India ranks lower than most of its South Asian neighbours.
New Delhi: India now ranks 94th among 107 countries in terms of hunger, and continues to be in the ‘severe’ hunger category according to the Global Hunger Index 2020. According to the study, 14% of India’s population is undernourished. Last year, India’s GHI rank was 102 out of 117 countries. South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara have the worst hunger conditions among global regions, the GHI found. The GHI is “a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at the global, regional, and national levels”. Data from the United Nations and other multilateral agencies are used for the calculation. India ranks lower than most of its South Asian neighbours Pakistan (88), Nepal (73), Bangladesh (75), Sri Lanka (64) and Myanmar (78) and only Afghanistan fares worse, at 99th place. The statistics for Bhutan are not available. Also read: Are We Entering a New Phase of Increasing Hunger? South Asia has the highest child wasting rate for any region, and India is the worst performer. At 17.3%, India’s child wasting rate is only slightly better than it was last year, at 20.8%. Child stunting is also extremely high across South Asia. “Data from 1991 through 2014 for Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan showed that stunting is concentrated among children from households facing multiple forms of deprivation, including poor dietary diversity, low levels of maternal education, and household poverty,” the report found. Source: GHI 2020 One positive in the report on India is the reduction in under-five mortality. However, this doesn’t mean the problem is over: “Indiathe regions most populous countryexperienced a decline in under-five mortality in this period, driven largely by decreases in deaths from birth asphyxia or trauma, neonatal infections, pneumonia, and diarrhea. However, child mortality caused by prematurity and low birthweight increased, particularly in poorer states and rural areas. Prevention of prematurity and low birthweight is identified as a key factor with the potential to reduce under-five mortality in India, through actions such as better antenatal care, education, and nutrition as well as reductions in anemia and oral tobacco use,” the study recommends. According to the 2020 GHI, no country that has been ranked falls in the “extremely alarming” category on hunger. Three countries Chad, Timor-Leste and Madagascar have come under the “alarming” category.
America Will Vote to Heal This November. Will India Follow Suit? - The Wire
Like America, India needs to heal; the nation is dangerously divided.
On November 3, Americans will pick whom they want the country to be run by for the next four years. Among incumbent Donald Trump or former vice-president Joe Biden, their likely pick is Biden, based on opinion polls. It is not at all surprising that US voters have turned against the populist incumbent. Trump has given them ample reasons. Prime amongst them is mismanaging the outbreak of COVID-19, which has so far killed over 2,10,000 Americans and brought the world’s largest economy to its knees. What is amazing, however, is how quickly misfortune befell Trump who seemed invincible just a few months ago. His bad luck foreshadows the fate of communal politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. To be fair, Modi has handled the coronavirus pandemic better than Trump, even though the prime minister’s scorecard is hardly anything to brag about. His principal test, however, will be over how he brings India’s economy back on track. India’s economy is expected to shrink by 10.3% this year, according to the IMF, and per capita income will dip below Bangladesh’s. By way of comparison, India’s economy was 40% higher than Bangladesh’s before Modi assumed power in 2014. To ride out tough times, a leader must maintain domestic tranquillity and enjoy public trust. Modi has fractured the nation and sent the economy into a tailspin. When populist leaders like him squander political capital, they walk on thin ice. A man crosses a nearly deserted Nassau Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in the financial district of lower Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 3, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Mike Segar Trump has caused deep anxiety among many Americans by playing such racially charged politics. Barry Sternlicht, a billionaire corporate mogul, is among those worried about the country’s future. Once a Trump ally, Sternlicht is chairman of the Starwood Capital Group, an investment fund that manages $60 billion in assets. He has made a name for himself in corporate America as the founder of Starwood Hotels. Given his stakes in real estate, he had a natural affinity for fellow real estate tycoon Donald Trump. But no more. Also read: Why Modi Will Prefer a Trumpian World Order, Rather Than a Biden-Harris Presidency India needs to heal Sternlicht is no way connected to India or anything Indian. But the way this business magnate speaks of Trump nowadays is something that might resonate with many Indians. The nation needs to heal, and I think we need to get back together, and I dont think were going to do that with the rhetoric from the right, Sternlicht recently lamented on CNBC television. To reunify America, he wants a healer in the White House. Biden is his probable choice. Like America, India needs to heal, too; the nation is dangerously divided along religious lines. But Indians can’t rely on Modi to unite the country. Like Trump, Modi is the divider-in-chief, and both of them use the same dirty tricks to energise their respective bases just to stay in power. When Modi was swept into power, despite his record of religious bigotry as the chief minister of Gujarat, many Indians hoped he would rise above the fray as the nation’s chief executive. India’s prime minister and Gujarat’s chief minister are two different political animals. India’s top leader takes the high road, leads the word’s largest democracy and doesn’t stoop to the level of nasty sectarian politics that threatens to split apart a nation that 1.4 billion Indians call home. Because of his good economic showings in Gujarat, people expected Modi to shape India’s economy to give it a stiff dose of pragmatism and put it on the fast track to prosperity. Sadly, his record is bleak, as is Trump’s. Modi’s performance in foreign affairs is equally dismal. Modi’s Indo-Pacific trap Trump created a circus by first warming up to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and then retreating into hibernation. Modi did the same by first embracing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and then ratcheting up tensions with Pakistan. Trump is now locked in a fistfight with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Modi is trapped in the Indo-Pacific conundrum, a ghost of SEATO, a 1950s’ US-inspired military pact that included Pakistan. Worst of all, Modi has played the Hindutva card to rile up his fanatical saffron warriors to stir-up trouble. He has played provocateur by revoking Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy. For political purposes, he cheered up his lapdogs to propagate the notion that India would use its military to wrest control of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and make the dream of Akhand Bharat come true someday. All of his predecessors, including the two immediate-past prime ministers, Manmohan Singh and Atal Behari Vajpayee, sought peace with Pakistan; Singh came very close to a deal with President Pervez Musharraf. Also read: Time to Wake Up and Smell the Bigotry Modi has undone everything. His mishandling of border, water and trade issues with Bangladesh and Nepal has vitiated the environment in the neighbourhood. India’s smaller neighbours are now tilting toward China. With their backs against the wall, the Kashmiris would today even welcome Beijing’s intervention. Indian security personnel stand guard along a deserted street during restrictions in Jammu, August 5, 2019. Photo: Reuters/Mukesh Gupta Violence made Muslims voiceless Soaring violence against Muslims has made India’s largest minority group timid and meek. Black Lives Matter enjoys a groundswell of popular support in America. But sympathy for Muslims is nonexistent amongst common Indians. Unlike American CEOs, India’s business executives have been mum on the rise of the far-right; they have failed to denounce Hindutva supremacists. Facing criticism online, The Tata Group just this week caved in and pulled down an ad, showing a Hindu bride receiving affection from her Muslim mother-in-law at a baby shower. India’s famous conglomerate had no guts to stand up to religious bigotry. Last month, US financial giant Citigroup Inc. found that racial bias cost America $16 trillion in wealth during the past 20 years. The US economy would add $5 trillion over the next five years if the social injustice issue was addressed today. India’s loss from its sectarian curse has yet to be calculated, but no doubt the number would be staggering. India has suffered far too long both socially and economically from this debilitating menace. It’s now high time for India Inc. to end its deafening silence and help India heal. B. Z. Khasru is author of Bangladesh Liberation War, How India, U.S., China and the USSR Shaped the Outcome. His new book, One Eleven Minus Two, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s War on Yunus an America, will be published shortly by Rupa & Co., New Delhi.
The Story of How Scientists Discovered the Black Hole at the Milky Way's Centre - The Wire Science
Since the early 1990s, two international teams have been studying the Milky Way's centre to determine if a powerful emission of radio waves there could be associated with a supermassive black hole.
One of the twin Keck Telescopes at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, fires a laser guide to create an artificial star image to help correct for atmosphere-induced blur. Photo: Keck Observatory website. On October 6, the Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy, and to Roger Penrose for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity. Black holes are one of the most enigmatic objects in the universe, and they have fascinated scientists and non-scientists alike. In the 18th century, based on Isaac Newton’s work, John Mitchell and Pierre-Simon Laplace first proposed the idea of objects so heavy that even light couldn’t escape their gravitational pull. In 1915, Albert Einstein proposed an ‘upgraded’ theory of gravity called the general theory of relativity. He postulated that gravity as a force was created when objects with mass bent the space-time continuum. The heavier the object, the more it bends space-time around itself, and so more its gravitational pull is felt to be. Einstein’s theory contained a set of equations that could be used to determine the strength and direction of the force of gravity exerted in any natural situation. The German physicist Karl Schwarzschild, while serving in the army during the First World War, published the first exact solutions to these equations. In his calculations, he determined the curvature of space-time around a spherical object, which physicists later found in nature in the form of black holes. Curiously, Schwarzschild found that at two locations, the theory breaks down and becomes unable to predict what could happen there. One was at the centre of the sphere, and the other at a certain radius from the centre, called the Schwarzschild radius. Following the work of the American physicists Robert Oppenheimer and Hartland Snyder in 1939 and of David Finkelstein in 1958, we now understand these ‘locations’ a bit differently. The centre of the object is known as the singularity. The surface of the sphere described by the Schwarzschild radius is called the event horizon. The singularity at the centre of a black hole is formed when too much matter is crammed into too small a space, and the density becomes infinite. The event horizon is the ‘point of no return’: once something, including light, has crossed beyond this point in the black hole, there is no escape. However, based on his own work Einstein had previously speculated that such ultra-compact masses can’t exist. Several other physicists also thought that such ‘singularities’ might be artefacts of approximations and assumptions in the theory itself, and not something we might observe in the natural universe. The black hole at the centre of the M87 galaxy, as observed by the Event Horizon Telescope in 2017. Image: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration Roger Penrose, a mathematician and physicist at the University of London, wanted to analyse the Einstein equations without assuming a spherical geometry, like Schwarzschild had. For this, he employed a branch of advanced geometry called topology and introduced a new concept to aid his calculations, called trapped surfaces. His work expanded on the ideas of the Indian physicist Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri and the Soviet physicist Lev Landau specifically, the Raychaudhuri-Landau equation. If you have a bunch of particles sitting at rest with respect to each other, they will eventually come together and form a singularity. This is because gravity is an attractive force. In reality, there are other forces in play between particles that prevent them from collapsing into a singularity every time they come close enough (‘like charges repel’ is one of them). Penrose showed that if light becomes trapped inside some region and cannot escape, then a singularity must occur and the path of light will lead to the singularity. This trapped surface is the event horizon of a black hole. When the core of a sufficiently massive star collapses at the end of its life, the gravity at its centre is so strong that no other force can prevent it from imploding into a small, ultra-dense region, bending the space-time continuum infinitely at its centre and trapping light within its event horizon. Penrose proved that some stars will inevitably collapse into a singularity surrounded by an event horizon, forming a black hole. His theory, however, doesn’t account for quantum physics, which describes how physics works at very tiny scales. Also read: A Black Hole Paradox Where Relativity and Quantum Physics Meet Heart of darkness In the 1950s and 1960s, astronomers working with radio telescopes found tiny dots in their data that seemed to be the source of strong radio waves. When they observed these dots with visible-light telescopes, the dots appeared to be blue in colour and seemed to be stars in our galaxy. They were thus named quasi-stellar objects, or quasars. (The prefix ‘quasi-‘ means ‘almost’.) A Hubble space telescope image of quasar 3C 273, the first quasar to be identified. It is around 2.5 billion light-years away. Photo: ESA/Hubble & NASA/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0 Later, astronomers found that these were not stars in our galaxy but objects associated with distant galaxies, many of which were more than a billion light-years away. Even at such awesome distances, their light was thousands of times brighter than all the light originating from the Milky Way. Their brightness also appeared to flicker across a matter of days and months. In astronomical terms, this is a blink of the eye. Only a supremely dense object could produce such extreme brightness and rapid flickering. No wonder then that astronomers quickly suspected quasars could be supermassive black holes surrounded by superhot, radiation-emitting plasma. Donald Lynden-Bell, a physicist at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, provided one of the first theoretical descriptions of quasars, and suggested that most galaxies contain supermassive black-holes at their centres. In 1971, Lynden-Bell and Martin Rees, of the University of Cambridge, compared a map of quasars to radiation coming from the Milky Way. Based on their analysis, they predicted that the Milky Way should also host a massive black hole at its centre. If you looked at the centre of the Milky Way through a visible-light telescope, you’ll notice a large amount of dust blocking your view. But while dust blocks visible light, radio-waves can penetrate it, so astronomers prefer radio telescopes. In 1974, two astronomers named Bruce Balick and Robert Brown used the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s radio telescope to study the Milky Way’s centre. They found a small ‘core’ in this region that was powerfully emitting radio waves. Brown called it Sagittarius A* (pronounced ‘Sagittarius A-star’, and shortened as Sgr A*). In this image of the neighbourhood of Sgr A*, high-energy X-ray emission captured by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory appears in green and blue, and low-energy radio emission captured by SARAO’s ground-based MeerKAT telescope array is coloured red. Caption and photo: X-Ray: NASA, CXC, UMass, D. Wang et al.; radio: NRF, SARAO, MeerKAT Astronomers subsequently used infrared telescopes to study this region and also found a large cluster of stars. The compact radio source Sgr A* was at the centre of this cluster. They studied the apparent movement of Sgr A* (by comparing its position against the background of faraway galaxies) and concluded that Sgr A* was part of the galactic centre, and not a distant background object. All of this evidence pointed to this region being the Milky Way’s nucleus. Estimates in the late 1970s suggested Sgr A* had a mass of 5 million times that of the Sun, clumped together in a very small volume of space. But one question remained: was Sgr A* a supermassive black hole or something else? Despite the weight of data, answering this question turned out to be quite difficult. Since the early 1990s, two international teams one at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Germany, led by Reinhard Genzel and another at the University of California, Los Angeles, led by Andrea Ghez have been studying the galactic centre for this purpose. Both teams studied the infrared radiation coming from the Sgr A* region, which the dust couldn’t block, for information about what could be going on there. Genzel’s team used the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) infrared telescopes in Chile, and Ghez’s team used the Keck Telescope in Hawaii. The first few light-years from the galaxy’s centre contain hundreds of stars, all orbiting the nuclear point. By studying their orbits, astronomers can tell if Sgr A* is a single, massive object or a large number of stars or stellar remnants, like neutron stars or small black holes, close to each other. Observing these stars is not easy. Turbulence in Earth’s atmosphere blurs the starlight, so it’s hard to determine their position accurately using ground-based telescopes. The long observation time required makes the use of space telescopes unfeasible. To overcome this challenge, the two teams developed a technique called speckle imaging: taking many short-exposure pictures of stars and stacking them together to improve the quality of images. But this technique worked only for the brighter stars. They had their next breakthrough when the telescopes they were working with were upgraded with adaptive optics. This technology creates ‘artificial stars’ in the field of view by firing strong lasers; then, by using the lasers’ light as a reference, the telescope can correct for the blur (see image on top). This way, the teams discovered dozens of stars within 0.1 light-years of Sgr A*. These are called the S-stars. One of them, S2, has an orbital period of only 16 years, and it comes within 17 light-hours, or 120-times the Earth-Sun distance, at its closest approach. The teams studied S2 and several other stars in the S-cluster for many years, particularly their distances, speeds and orbits. In the end, they were able to determine that Sgr A* contains a mass of 4 million Suns within a region of space the size of our Solar System, and the only way this is possible is if Sgr A* is a supermassive black hole. In 2008, both teams presented the results of their long observations and analyses, confirming the presence of a black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. For this work, Genzel and Ghez together received one-half of the 2020 Nobel Prize for physics. Physicists have subsequently further observed SgR A* using a new technique called infrared interferometry, with the GRAVITY instrument aboard the ESO’s Very Large Telescope. They have improved Genzel’s and Ghez’s measurements a hundred-fold, and have also reported that S2’s orbit shows effects predicted by the general theory of relativity, further confirming the results. The Event Horizon Telescope is poised to study the shadow of this supermassive black hole in the coming years. Abhijeet Borkar is a postdoctoral researcher at the Astronomy Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Ondejov.
Andhra CM Jagan Declares War on Justice Ramana, Next-in-Line to be Chief Justice of India - The Wire
In a letter to CJI S.A. Bobde, Y. Jagan Mohan Reddy accused Justice N.V. Ramana of corruption and of conspiring against his government on behalf of TDP leader Chadra Babu Naidu. The letter is dated October 6, the same day Jagan met Prime Minister Modi in Delh…
Vijayawada: Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jaganmohan Reddys ongoing confrontation with the state judiciary took a dramatic turn Saturday evening when he levelled serious allegations against Justice N.V. Ramana of the Supreme Court the judge who is due to become the next chief justice of India (CJI) as well as the chief justice and several other judges of the Andhra high court. Reddy spelt out his allegations in a letter to CJI S.A. Bobde, perhaps the first time in the republic’s history that a chief minister has formally accused sitting members of the higher judiciary of political bias and even corruption. The move comes days after Reddy met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 6, and with Union home minister Amit Shah a few days earlier. At a press briefing here on October 10, the chief minister’s principal advisor, Ajeya Kallam, distributed copies of Jagan Reddy’s letter dated October 6, 2020 and also read out a note in which the chief minister alleged that Justice Ramana had used his influence with the erstwhile N. Chandra Babu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government in the state to favour his daughters. Since this specific allegation figures in the FIR that was registered last month on the Amaravati land allotment issue and which the AP high court has injuncted the media from reporting, The Wire is refraining from providing any details of the charges. In another order, the high court also put on hold a report submitted by the cabinet sub-committee of the Reddy government on various acts of commission and omission of the previous TDP government. According to Kallam, Reddy also said that Justice Ramana has played a crucial role in swaying judicial appointments in the state courts, which Reddy believes was done to swing decisions in favour of TDP leaders who are facing multiple corruption charges. He claimed that his government has established through a probe that former chief minister Naidu and many others associated with his party had amassed huge wealth by illegal means. Kallam quoted Reddy as saying that Justice Ramana and his cohorts had allegedly acted against his government. He further accused the Supreme Court judge of sharing a close relationship with the former TDP chief minister. I am making this statement with utmost responsibility. I may only bring it to your notice that a former judge of the honourable Supreme Court, Justice Chelameswar, placed this fact on record with EVIDENCE, Reddys note said, while emphasising Justice Ramanas alleged proximity to Naidu. The evidence the chief minister referred to is the fact that the opinion Justice Ramana expressed in a letter to the CJI in 2017 about the suitability of certain judges for the AP high court was identical to what Naidu had also written about them as chief minister. Kallam, who served as chief secretary during the Naidu government, told reporters that the government deemed it fit to speak to ensure that dignity of all institutions of the state is preserved. After reading out statement, he wound up his media interaction without taking any questions from the media. Initially, there was a talk of the chief minister himself holding the media meet but the job at the last minute was entrusted to Kallam. In his letter to Chief Justice Bobde, Jagan Reddy cited instances of how Naidu was allegedly scuttling investigations and functioning by using his cohorts in the state judiciary. Reddys note alleged that Justice Ramana helped the Naidu regime handpick six out of an eleven-member panel of members from the high court bar and promoted them as acting judges. Sri Justice N.V Ramana has been influencing the sittings of the High Court including the roster of a few Honourable Judges and instances of how matters important to Telugu Desam Party have been allocated to a few Honourbale Judges, the Chief Ministers note said, adding that he has annexed documents which show the nexus between Justice Ramana, TDP, and a few judges of the high court. With a sense of pain and anguish at the politicisation of institutions personally monitored by Sri N. Chandrababu Naidu through honourable sitting Judges of Supreme Court, facts would clearly demonstrate that the august institution of the High Court is being used to destabilize and topple the democratically elected Government of the State of A.P. with indelible trail leading back to the overt and covert actions of Sri N. Chandrababu Naidu through Honourable Sri Justice N. V. Ramana, Reddy said in his letter. The ‘media note’ issued by Reddy made further allegations:
- Since the new government undertook the enquiry into the actions of Sri N. Chandrababu Naidu in his regime between 2014-2019, it is now clear, that Sri Justice N. V. Ramana, started influencing the course of administration of justice in the State, through the Chief Justice Sri Jitendra Kumar Maheswari.
- Roster for sitting of the Honourable Judges, whereby important matters of policy and protection for Chandrababu Naidus interests were posted before a few Honourable Judges Justice A.V. Sesha Sai, Justice M. Satyanarayana Murthy, Justice D.V. S.S. Somayyajulu, Justice D. Ramesh.
A Quick Intro To This Year's Nobel Prize Winners in the Sciences - The Wire Science
Eight scientists were awarded the three Nobel Prizes in the sciences this year.
The Nobel Prize medal. Credit: robynmack96/Flickr, CC BY 2.0. Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine (L-R) Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton, Charles M. Rice. Image: Twitter/@NobelPrize 1. Harvey J. Alter () 2. Michael Houghton () 3. Charles M. Rice () Citation: “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus” (scientific background) Notable papers: *Posttransfusion hepatitis after exclusion of commercial and hepatitis-B antigen-positive donors *Isolation of a cDNA clone derived from a blood-borne non-A, non-B viral hepatitis genome * An assay for circulating antibodies to a major etiologic virus of human non-A, non-B hepatitis * Transmission of hepatitis C by intrahepatic inoculation with transcribed RNA Nobel Prize for physics (L-R) Rogen Penrose, Reinhard Genzel. Image: Twitter/@NobelPrize 1. Roger Penrose (½) 2. Reinhard Genzel (¼) 3. Andrea Ghez (¼) Citation: (scientific background) Penrose “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity” Genzel and Ghez “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy” Ghez became the fourth woman to receive the Nobel Prize in physics. Notable papers: * Asymptotic Properties of Fields and Space-Times * “Golden Oldie”: Gravitational Collapse: The Role of General Relativity * High Proper-Motion Stars in the Vicinity of Sagittarius A*: Evidence for a Supermassive Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy * Observations of stellar proper motions near the Galactic Centre * Stellar proper motions in the central 0.1 pc of the Galaxy Nobel Prize for chemistry Emmanuelle Charpentier (L) and Jennifer A. Doudna. Image: Twitter/@Nobel Prize 1. Jennifer Doudna (½) 2. Emmanuelle Charpentier (½) Citation: “for the development of a method for genome editing” (scientific background) The first time the Nobel Prize has been awarded to an all-women group of laureates. Notable papers: * CRISPR RNA maturation by trans-encoded small RNA and host factor RNase III * A programmable dual-RNA-guided DNA endonuclease in adaptive bacterial immunity * CRISPRCas9 Structures and Mechanisms
Website in 'Foreign Plot to Cause UP Riots' Says 'Avoid NYPD, White Supremacists' - The Wire
How anyone could trigger riots in Uttar Pradesh with English content cut-and-paste from a Black Lives Matter protest site in the United States is not clear.
New Delhi: Facing widespread criticism for its handling of the gang rape and brutal murder of a young woman in Hathras, the Uttar Pradesh police has now alleged that there is an international plot to cause caste and communal riots in the state and defame chief minister Yogi Adityanath. There’s only one problem. The website set up by unknown persons and touted as being at the centre of this conspiracy has crudely plagiarised a Black Lives Matter protest site without bothering to cover up their tracks by at least deleting the obvious US references and making it relevant to Uttar Pradesh. An FIR has been lodged against unidentified persons at the Chandpa police station on Hathras under several sections of the IPC including sedition. At the same time, more than a dozen similar FIRs have been lodged in different districts. Though the FIR at Chandpa PS does not mention it, senior police officials say that an English language website, justiceforhathrasvictim.carrd.co, is linked to the conspiracy. The website has since been taken down but a cached version is available for reference. Carrd.co is a publishing platform that allows anyone with an email address to open a blog site with it. The UP police have not disclosed if they know the identity of the site’s creator. The Wire has written to Carrd.co seeking that information but has yet to receive a reply. What the police has not explained is how a website in English would end up instigating riots in a state that is largely Hindi speaking. Curiously, the most ‘damaging’ entries from the website shared with The Wire by the state police and touted as evidence for the international plot to cause riots have clearly been lifted in a ‘cut and paste’ operation from a Black Lives Matter protest-related site in the United States. The ‘Hathras’ site reproduces that language verbatim, leading to a bizarre set of instructions for would-be protestors and rioters in UP. Sample these:
- Those considering joining a protest are advised to research the protest to ensure they are not a set up where white supremacists try to lure in people and counselled the residents of Uttar Pradesh to be smarter than those in San Diego and Pheonix.
- The website which the police says aimed to get villagers and town dwellers in UP to riot also advised that if they see black people running to run with them. It is unclear whether the UP police expected African Americans to riot in Hathras as part of the international plot.
- In a section on What to Not Wear to a protest, villagers in Uttar Pradesh are instructed not to put vaseline, mineral oil or oil based sunscreen on skin, it can trap chemicals. They were also told not to wear contact lenses and ties and jewellery and branded clothes.
- The website also instructed protestors, presumably people in UP villages and towns, to wear loose clothing and swimming goggles.
- People were told to wear sneakers that are comfortable to run in, a hat where the brim has to be bended to keep it low. A hat would allow UP villagers prone to rioting from being identified as well as protect them from the sun and chemical exposure. A bicycle hat was also recommended and so were gloves.
- Villagers were also told not to wait for an Uber, presumably in Hathras, after protesting but to use a bike to navigate since thats more discreet.
- Protestors were also told to bring a backpack with snacks, water, a portable charger and cloths to drench in milk or water in case the police fired teargas.