About: This is a light-hearted story on what happened this week, in our World.
Brexit, what exactly is happening over here? Let’s cross the English Channel.
The United Kingdom consists of the island of Great Britain and the northeastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands, collectively called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK). Looking from another angle, the UK consists of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island. Capitals are London, Edinburg, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively. What most of us know as Britain is loosely applied to mean the UK, as defined above. Now, we have the boundaries in place!
The European Union (EU) was born in the year 1993 as a political and economic union of 27 member countries of Europe to develop together as a ‘single market’ for goods and services. Chief among the members are, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark. Chief ‘not among’ them is Switzerland, which is not part of the EU, but is associated though a series of treaties to participate in the single big market.
Going backwards in time, Britain has ‘exited’ from almost all the countries it conquered and ruled in the long tortuous history of the World. And these liberated counties make it a habit of celebrating their independence (from Britain), year after year — refreshing memories. It could be, that the hangover effects of colonisation that led the British to join the European Union (EU). Supreme loneliness got to them, I guess?
But then, over a period of time the once mighty British Empire probably realised that occupying other countries is one thing and others coming-in to occupy their own, under immigration, is quite another. Sovereign and monetary issues grew to be a stranglehold on the minds of the British, and they began thinking whether the marriage with the EU was indeed beneficial to delivering the kind of offspring they expected? The thoughts began to bulge. Then, a British Prime Minister won an Election promising to hold a referendum on ‘remaining’ with the EU or ‘leaving’ (Britain exiting the EU, called Brexit). On 23rd June 2016, the referendum was held: ‘Leave’ won with 51.9% votes and ‘Remain’ lost with 48.1% votes. On that day Britain decided to exit the EU.
After years of wrangling with how to go about it — and after many British Prime Ministers left Office on this account — Brexit finally happened, becoming an island, again, when the UK left the European Union on 31st January 2020. However, both sides agreed many things will ‘remain as they were’ for eleven months to allow the partners to get used to the divorce, feel the emptiness, and reach a deal by building bridges, on life thereafter. That time runs out on 31st December 2020.
When the UK was with the EU, Businesses could buy and sell goods across the EU borders without paying taxes (tariffs). If there is a no-trade deal, Businesses will have to start paying taxes, which could make things more expensive. Same for services. Agreements on movements across the borers, airline safety, medicine and hiring, or information about security threats are also very important.
I think that Brexit should not have happened at all, in the first place. Now that it has indeed happened, they should either sign clever trade deals to benefit from the common market — maybe, think and learn from Switzerland — or simply apply to rejoin the EU. Why ‘remain’ in splendid isolation. They voted to ‘leave’, didn’t they?
The Space above our heads has been dominated by The United States of America (USA) and Russia, until China and India began catching-up. India’s, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), became a force to reckon with due to its dirt cheap method of launching satellites throwing them into successful orbits; as many as 104 satellites in a single rocket launch from Sriharikota, India in February 2017. Remember, that was a world record. While our heads were spinning with satellites, private agencies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic came into being and suddenly Space was getting crowded, after all.
We lost count of the number of times Astronauts and Cosmonauts left for and returned from the International Space Station, riding on the many options before them. Space became another place on Earth.
After ISRO’s great struggle in the initial years and reaching this level of superiority — except in manner missions — I was wondering when would an Indian private player first launch a rocket from India.
We are reaching there, and we just need to keep looking hard at the skies during 2021. And learn to distinguish between shooting stars and man-made rockets.
Hyderabad-based, Skyroot Aerospace is getting its Vikram series of launch vehicles ready, and in the month of August this year successfully test-fired its upper stage Engine called ‘Raman’ which used a 3D-printed propellant injector -reduces engine mass by 50% and drops the components required and manufacturing time by as much as a whopping 80%. ISRO is lending a shoulder to this and other start-ups, and its Chairman K Sivan said, such new players should explore disruptive technologies and break away from conventional methods of manufacturing launch Vehicles. Wow, I reckon Skyroot was all ears on that one and got to the root of the message!
Chennai based, IIT-Madras incubated Agnikul Cosmos is also quietly building a satellite’ launch vehicle called ‘Agnibaan’, while yet another, Coimbatore-based Bellatrix Aerospace is working on its ‘Chetak’ launch vehicle. Looking for a ride is Pixxel which aims to put a constellation of 30 earth observation micro-satellites in a sun synchronous orbit anytime soon. All these companies started-up over the past few years.
While the new stars are rooting for the cosmos, ISRO quietly launched its 42nd communication Satellite, CMS-01 using its workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C50, on its 52nd mission, on Thursday. Is was the 77th launch mission from India’s Sriharikota. Need I say more? India is one of the best in this kind of business.
Unbelievable pace of development in India for a slice of Space. In the month of June this year, India’s far-sighted Prime Minister Narendra Modi set up the launch pad by opening the space sector to private players and allowing use of ISRO’s facilities and technical know-how. That’s a rocket step for India, and an ISRO step for the Private Sector, I’m sure! Proud to be an Indian.
Meanwhile, with what’s happening to the World, we need another Planet to inhabit should Plant Earth decide to quit! Ask the sun, maybe a friendly black hole?
We are not done with space — the one just above the Earth — and ‘waves’, not yet. Not the loudly familiar waves of the coronavirus but a second wave of Locusts. New swarms of desert locusts are eating into the livelihoods of millions of people in the Horn of Africa and Yemen despite a year of efforts to control the spread. This year has already seen the worst East Africa invasion in 70 years.
The Locusts destroy large tracts of crops, vegetation and pastures and in turn deprive livestock of food, which in turn endangers the people dependent for a livelihood on one or all of them.
Central Somalia and Eastern Ethiopia received higher than average rainfall in the rainy season from September to November, which meant the ground saw significant generation and expansion of vegetation. This then become fertile breeding ground for the locusts. And these areas are really huge! With these conditions, within a couple of months locusts move from single insects to ganging-up as a group. This then leads to small bands of wingless hoppers and small swarms of winged adults. Desert locusts can multiply massively and within a year there can be 160,000 times as many as when they first started out.
Of course we can spray pesticides to get rid of them, which requires enormous funding and timely action based on close-knit surveillance. Maybe, we should hire all the Satellites India in pumping into space and eye the Locusts without battering an eyelid.
Is there no end to the kind of things that can happen in 2020? Should we learn to eat locusts for breakfast, lunch and dinner? No Time To Eat — the next Locust Film.
With COVID-19 Vaccines becoming the last word as we close this year I read this wonderful explanation about why we should not fear the ‘Virus in the Vaccine’ or that it would mix with our DNA. No it doesn’t.
“An mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine doesn’t actually contain the virus itself. Think of it as an email sent to your immune system that shows what the virus looks like, instructions to kill it, and then — like a Snapchat message — it disappears. Amazing technology”. Long live the world!
I’ve been reading Tamil historical fiction writer, Kalki’s, old classic Sivakamiyin Sabatham (Sivakami’s Vow) revolving around real historical events, in the Tamil region of South India. This was only my second foray into ‘epic reading’ of this kind after having first read and enjoyed the fantastic Ponniyin Selvan.
Initially, I was put-off by beautiful Bharathanatyam dancer Sivakami’s mindless love for the crown Prince Narasimhavarman, aka Mamallar, when the Pallavas ruled from Kanchi, but the story gets thrilling in the second half. The Pallava King, Mahendravarman, tries to break the romance of his only son and the heir to the throne, and instead tries to hook him on to a suitable Princess (read as a Pandya Princess) who can carry forward the royal bloodline and also strengthen the Kingdom with a regional marriage alliance. He does succeed, but in the process Sivakami is captured by an enemy Chalukya King, Pulakesi, who unsuccessfully tries to break -in the impregnable and heavily fortified Kanchi Fort. Sivakami is taken and held captive in his capital, Vatapi and forced to dance in front of visiting emissaries. Sivakami vows to return to the Pallava Kingdom (despite having a chance to escape during a rescue attempt by the Prince) only when her lover Narashimavarman burns down the city of Vatapi and rescues her.
I takes nine long years, a marriage to the Pandya Princess, two heirs produced for the next-in-line for the once-madly-in-love-with-Sivakami Mamallar and now King, to get the job done with the supremely combat-qualified Pallava Army Commander, Paranjothi, to assist him.
In the end Sivakami realises her fruitless love for the Prince who became King, and only learns about his marriage after being rescued. She dedicates her life to Lord Shiva of Kanchi and ‘continues to wow’ the Pallava Kingdom with her flawless, sculpture-making, bharatnatyam moves.
Writer Kalki keeps the language simple and the narrative pulsates with the dance rhythm at every twist and turn. If you can fairly read Tamil, it’s worth a fighting read, I swear!
Read that Warner Bros-DC Comics’ Wonder Women 1984 has just hit the movie screens. I liked Amazon woman, Diana (played by the ravishing Gal Gadot), getting in our world -to save it, in the first edition, and the reviews of this one say it is a full-of-heart, spectacular extravaganza, and one of the best releases of 2020. Look up, and wonder!
‘I wish’ Wonder Woman 2020–21 could rid the world of the coronavirus and use the Lasso Of Truth to get to the bottom of how the pandemic began. We need more superheroes, don’t we?
More ‘wonder’ful stories coming up in the week(s) ahead. We are here to stay for the long term.