Articles on this Page
- 02/10/18--23:24: _Caregivers welcome ...
- 02/10/18--23:30: _Tuning in to good t...
- 02/10/18--23:35: _Padmaavat, Karni Se...
- 02/11/18--01:38: _Auto Expo shows sus...
- 02/11/18--01:40: _TVS vrooms ahead on...
- 02/11/18--01:40: _Don't rush to buy A...
- 02/11/18--01:42: _Charge people for f...
- 02/11/18--01:42: _Waymo, Uber Tech se...
- 02/11/18--01:44: _Amazon tests delive...
- 02/11/18--01:44: _How Budget will imp...
- 02/11/18--01:46: _Don't mix insurance...
- 02/11/18--01:46: _Decoding LTCG tax
- 02/11/18--05:28: _Music and dance rev...
- 02/11/18--20:36: _The everyday in the...
- 02/11/18--20:46: _Of creative empower...
- 02/11/18--20:48: _Divinity crafted in...
- 02/11/18--21:00: _The rite of sacred ...
- 02/11/18--21:10: _Physicists create '...
- 02/11/18--21:12: _Clues to the origin...
- 02/11/18--21:16: _Nature Bytes
- 02/10/18--23:24: Caregivers welcome job quota for specially abled
- 02/10/18--23:30: Tuning in to good times
- 02/10/18--23:35: Padmaavat, Karni Sena and the road to brand recognition
- 02/11/18--01:38: Auto Expo shows sustainable road ahead
- 02/11/18--01:40: TVS vrooms ahead on a higher growth path
- 02/11/18--01:40: Don't rush to buy Apple's homepod
- 02/11/18--01:42: Charge people for funding local news
- 02/11/18--01:42: Waymo, Uber Tech settle self-driving car dispute
- 02/11/18--01:44: Amazon tests delivery, shipping shares sink
- 02/11/18--01:44: How Budget will impact your financial plan?
- 02/11/18--01:46: Don't mix insurance with your investments
- 02/11/18--01:46: Decoding LTCG tax
- 02/11/18--05:28: Music and dance reviews
- 02/11/18--20:36: The everyday in the grandeur of Badami
- 02/11/18--20:46: Of creative empowerment
- 02/11/18--20:48: Divinity crafted in wood
- 02/11/18--21:00: The rite of sacred bath
- 02/11/18--21:10: Physicists create 'Star Wars'-style 3D projections
- 02/11/18--21:12: Clues to the origin of heavy elements
- 02/11/18--21:16: Nature Bytes
Autism is not going to hold them back. There is hope yet.
The Centre has directed that a three-four percent reservation should be reserved in government jobs for persons with autism, Downs Syndrome, intellectual disabilities, specific learning disabilities and acid attack victims. This follows the enactment of Right of Persons With Disabilities Act in April 2017.
For those on the autism spectrum and their parents, does this offer a beacon of light?
"On the face of it, it sounds like a good move," says Vanitha Rao, founder and director, Sunshine Autism Trust. "However, lets see how it is going to be implemented."
She says she will rejoice once it actually happens. "As per the order (I have only read the media reports), it will be for people with more than 40 per cent disability. Autism is present on a spectrum, only the very high functioning ones will be able to carry out some routine tasks and hold jobs. Will these individuals test as having a disability of 40 percent and above? And those who really fall into this category, will they be able to actually work?" she questions.
In spite of all breakthroughs, life is stifling and choices limited for parents of children on the autism spectrum. There is always the fear that their child will ever be able to live independently.
"When my baby boy was born, everything seemed normal in the beginning," says Pratiksha (name changed on request). "For one-and-half years, there was nothing amiss. Soon he seemed to withdraw into a shell, rather into his own imaginary world. He failed to acknowledge his name. He didnt call me mum. He was different. We realised that it was time to do his psychological assessment. The diagnosis was given. My child was mildly autistic."
Life has since changed for Pratiksha (name changed on request). She gave up her job. Every second of hers is for him. "He has his tantrums. It is overwhelming at times," she confesses.
Pratikshas narrative is not unfamilar. For parents who have children on the autistic spectrum, this is the life they live everyday.
A child or grownup in the autism spectrum need not always be a genius (Remember Rainman?) as sometimes movies portray them to be.
For them, there is much left undone -- understanding of early diagnosis, right intervention and support from the society. And acceptance does not come easily.
Trupti B G, COO, Tamahar, says, "We need many more early intervention centres which will provide all the necessary services under one roof including counseling for parents to cope with the diagnosis and the interventions."
"Lot of recreational, hobby options need to be given to the children. We need professionals who understand autism and also provide the needed service," she adds.
But clearly not all parents, especially those from lower middle class and poor families, can afford the right intervention in the right institution? "Though the number of centres is less in comparison with the need, we have a gamut of services available here with a wide fee structure, says Trupti.
At Tamahar, she says the fee structure is completely dependent on the revenue models of parents.
"We have parents who pay very little to someone who pays more which helps us to balance out." she informs.
"However, it is very important for the parents to understand their child, his/her capabilities and their own expectations. We believe in the developmental model of intervention which has also yielded excellent results," she adds
For Pratiksha though, life brought in more than she signed up for her.
With World Radio Day falling on February 13, Bengalureans tune into memories and stories with the radio channels.
Rakshit Shetty, Actor-director
"Earlier, we had only All India Radio and film music was aired only for an hour. These days, FM stations have movie-based or entertainment programmes all the time. Being in the industry, this is the best way I can update myself with film music. I love the way radio jockeys present programmes now. The content is more people-friendly too."
Favourite stations: Radio City 91.1 FM, Radio Mirchi and Big FM.
Favourite song on radio: Huttodh Yake Sayodh Yake.
Chaitra Rao, TV actor
"I recollect listening to cricket commentary on All India Radio in the late 80s and early 90s. What is really impressive now is how the radio channels have become more interactive and two-sided now. Earlier, one could switch the radio on and listen to the anchor talking while now there are more programmes that include audience interaction. Traffic updates and sudden occurrences are best communicated through the radio."
Favourite stations: Red FM, Fever 104 FM and Amrutavarshini regularly.
Favourite song on radio: Sooraj Dooba Hain.
Change in content
Danish Sait, Actor and RJ
"When Radio City was launched in the city, it was cool to listen to it. Everyone was familiar with names like Sunaina Lal and Rohit Barker. From dedication of songs to making prank calls, radio channels have become more interactive. A lot of things have changed now including delivery of content. Now, RJs are expected to present entertaining and educative information in a concise format."
Platform for classical music
Dr Jayanth Kumar Das, staff artiste with All India Radio and DD Chandana
"Earlier, there was no way to listen to music other than tuning into the radio. It was AIR that gave a strong platform for promotion of classical music. It still does. The best part is that technology has made it easier to access any form of music. The audience also sends feedback which encourages artistes now. Though the focus now on classical music is less despite the number of FM channels, the launch of the 24X7 channel, Raagam, has made it easier for people to listen to classical music now."
The city connect
Prem Kumar, student of LISAA School of Design
"I am hooked to the radio, be it when Im driving or through my mobile phone. Comparing to a decade or two ago, one can know their city better through the radio now. From offers at a nearby mall to social and political updates in the city, the radio keeps you informed about everything now."
Favourite stations: Radio City and Radio Indigo.
Favourite song on radio: River
Sreeja Sreedharan, Communications professional
"The radio stations are flooded with annoying commercials now. A long time back, I loved listening to radio channels while travelling. Later, with mobile phones, one had better access to the radio. Im not sure how popular radio is now but when I am travelling and am lazy to create a music playlist, I just opt for the radio."
Favourite stations: Radio Indigo and Radio Mirchi.
Favourite song on radio: Swag Se Swagat.
Sudha Murthy, retired banker,
"I used to listen to All India Radio as a youngster. One of my favourite programmes was Binaca Geethmala. Classical instrumental music, I remember, was played from 6 to 8 am. Now, there is a long list of music to listen to, including independent artistes. One can easily tune into varied channels for news updates and entertainment. Old is gold though and the charm of olden times can be never replicated."
Companion on the go
Usha Iyengar, teacher
Soon after the Rajput Karni Sena withdrew its agitation against 'Padmaavat' saying that there is no objectionable content in the film, another group, the Sarva Brahman Mahasabha in Rajasthan, started protesting against the film 'Manikarnika', directed by Krish and starring Kangana Ranaut.
Their reason? Historical tampering of queen Laxmi Bai! On Saturday, however, the Sarva Brahman Mahasabha also called off their protest after a written assurance from the producer that there was no distortion of history in the movie.
Are these protests in a way promoting the film and the fringe groups themselves?
Amutha Manavalan, an academician specialising in Public Relations, says, "These disputes tend to boost the publicity of these groups on a national level."
"When they are associated with a brand that is already popular, their brand value also increases. Having said that, these groups are also giving an indirect negative publicity to films like 'Padmaavat' and 'Manikarnika'. This evokes curiosity among viewers and pulls many to the theatres," says Amutha.
After Karni Sena withdrew their protests, many have started wondering whether it was a big PR stunt put up by the makers of the movie. What is it about period films that they go through such controversies?
"We need to understand that these films are historical reconstructions and not historical documents. And films are a medium of expression. If one says that they have a problem with such reconstruction, I think the entire argument is at fault. Secondly, if we say that we have a problem with historical reconstructions, then we also need to have a problem with history channels where every series or episode is a reconstruction," says Aasita Bali, a film scholar.
"A sensible filmmaker like Sanjay Leela Bhansali would go through the rigorous process of verifying facts before making the film. That's when we need to identify where the problem is. Is it the filmmaker, the film or the medium itself? Or do they have a problem with women's stories? 'Manikarnika', the story of Jhansi Ki Rani, is again a story that we all have heard as kids.There is nothing new. So where is the problem? Does this mean, it is all about grabbing eyeballs or are these groups genuinely concerned?" asks Aasita.
Since these protests have pulled people to the theatres, many film enthusiasts like Priyanka Bhaduri feels that it is hard to tell whether it was well-planned PR campaign or whether sentiments were genuinely hurt.
"Things could have been discussed between the parties. Ultimately even the Karni Sena, agreed that the film, in fact, glorified history. But whatever it was, it worked well for 'Padmaavat' and I think the entire cast and crew did a brilliant job."
More than 22 upbeat vehicle manufacturers showcased strong products, which are likely to rule their respective segments of the market. Key highlights of the Expo were electric vehicles, hybrids and vehicles that run on fuel cell technology, which depicted the future of mobility in India.
Working towards the governments vision of 100% electric vehicles (EVs) for public mobility and 40% for personal mobility by 2030, manufacturers committed to put investments in the new technology, while also seeking support and clarity on policies.
Maruti Suzukis third generation Swift and Hyundais Elite i20 were the much-awaited cars that were launched in the Expo. Beside this, the Toyota Yaris, Hondas all-new Amaze and the fifth generation CR-V were also unveiled. Hondas launch of its 10th generation Civic surprised its competitors. Renault showcased the Trezor, an all-electric grand tourer concept car. It also showcased ZOE e-Sport Concept, the Formula One racing car, R.S. 17 and the complete Indian range led by the newly launched Captur and Kwid.
On the luxury front, Mercedes-Benz displayed its Concept EQ, with the appearance of a sporty SUV, giving a preview of a new generation of vehicles with battery electric drives.
"It will have a 300 kW total output with a range of up to 500 km, along with driver assistance systems for maximum safety," the company statement said. Similarly, BMW India also showcased its plug-in hybrid electric vehicle i8 Roadster, which will be launched in India later this year, along with the i3S, an electric vehicle with a range of 280 km per charge.
South Korean car manufacturer Kia made its debut in India, unveiling the striking new SP Concept, which made its public premier at the Expo, along with 16 global models.
Homegrown Tata Motors showcased six electric vehicles in mass and personal mobility segments, which include a 12-metre electric bus and passenger carriers - Magic EV and Iris EV along with Tiago EV, Tigor EV, and Indian debutant sportscar Racemo EV.
Reiterating its commitment in making Vision 2030 come true, Tata Motors CEO and MD Guenter Butschek said, "We have taken several notches higher, outlining our plans for the future of Indias smart cities and its connected generation. Our Smart Mobility, Smart Cities pavilion has been designed keeping the future of Smart Cities and emerging market trends in mind. Our exhibits are a clear indication of our capability to meet the growing aspirations of our customers."
SML Isuzu introduced a new range of trucks based on the Isuzu design philosophy named Global Series. JBM Solaris Electric Vehicles launched its 100% electric bus series ECO-LIFE, powered by lithium batteries and can run 150-200 km in 10-15 hours of city bus operations.
Apart from this, the countrys largest electric two-wheeler manufacturer Hero Electric unveiled as many as eight of its global products, which the company is planning to launch in a phased manner.
"Hero Electric has been leading Indias electric mobility revolution over a decade now. Our commitment to sustainable mobility is manifested in the consistently superior products that we have launched over the years. Our new product range is an extension of this commitment. The AXLHE-20, HE-19, HE-18, HE-17 and e-bicycles A2B Blake, A2B Kroemer-MTB, A2B Speed and Kuo Boost are developed keeping in mind the needs and aspirations of such customers," Hero Electric CEO Sohinder Gill said.
The newly unveiled products are part of Hero Electrics plan to double sales every year over the next five years. The company will add to its current manufacturing capacity by setting up multiple plants in that time period.
Reducing the carbon footprint on the environment, TVS Motor Company showcased Apache RTR 200 Fi Ethanol, which could play a pivotal role in reduction of emission and CO2 levels.
Showcasing their vision of future mobility solutions for the evolving two-wheeler rider, the company also unveiled CREON, a performance-oriented electric scooter concept.
Vinay Harne, President â€" New Product Development at TVS Motor Company, said, "In the drive towards smart and sustainable transportation solutions, two-wheelers have a key role to play. TVS and Intel have worked together to transform urban mobility, with a product line of smart-connected gadgets on energy-efficient two-wheelers. This collaboration is aimed at creating a unique positioning for hybrid and electric scooter series from TVS as both green-energy champions and smart-connected gadgets."
Startups steal the show
On Day 2, startups arrived on the scene, promising their commitment towards working on the governments 2030 vision. Bengaluru-based Emflux Motors launched Emflux One, which is the first electric sports bike of India.
Menza Motors, Indias only bootstrapped automobile manufacturing startup, unveiled the first look of electric motorcycle - Menza Lucat - which is priced at Rs 2,79,999 (ex-showroom price). Aftek Motors showcased its entire line-up of motorcycles. Lohia Auto launched a high-speed comfort e-auto rickshaw with Lithium-ion Battery. Twenty Two Motors launched Indias first AI-enabled, cloud-connected Scooter FLOW at Rs 74,740.
UM-unveiled Renegade Thor and Duty at a price of Rs 4.9 lakh and Rs 1.10 lakh, respectively. Starkenn Sports launched an advanced version of the worlds fastest bike Giant TCR Advanced SL MAGILIA ROSA, costing Rs 6.9 lakh.
TVS Motor Company, the flagship company of the $7 billion TVS Group, has been growing steadily, even ahead of the industry, keeping customer satisfaction and delight in mind.
With its recent foray into the 125 cc scooter segment through the NTORQ 125, the company hopes to increase its share in Indias booming scooter segment, which is accelerating at even greater pace currently.
Sudarshan Venu, Joint Managing Director of TVS Motor Company, says that the company has always placed utmost importance on developing products that are aspirational for customers.
It is memorable to note that TVS has enthralled the Indian market with many class-leading products for many years. While the mopeds TVS 50 and TVS Champ contributed purpose to humble daily commuter needs, the youthful Scooty gave freedom of mobility to youngsters and women, and it was this product that heralded TVS push in the scooter space.
"We are very strong in scooters. We first came up with the Scooty and then the Wego. The scooter segment is growing faster than the industry, thanks to convenience that the zippy two-wheeler provides. We found that scooters will grow, and its segment forms one-third of the two-wheeler industry. Within the scooter segment, you will find segmentation happening," says K N Radhakrishnan, President and CEO of TVS Motor Company.
Radhakrishnan reiterates that while some customers like to have a general purpose vehicle like the Jupiter, certain customers prefer the Wego and others may like the Scooty.
It must be noted that the Wego and the Jupiter have carved their own niches in the scooter segment.
Pushing the limits
The NTORQ 125 has taken shape as a result of successful learnings in the scooter space, having served different types of customers with varied tastes.
"Many young customers like to have a scooter which is very convenient and performance-oriented. Gen Z looks for cool-looking, something outstanding and one with a lot of features. This was the thinking behind conceptualising our recent product NTORQ," Radhakrishnan tells DH.
The NTORQ, which was displayed at the Auto Expo 2018, is also the first connected (Bluetooth) scooter with TVS SmartXonnect, and is also the countrys first app-enabled scooter.
The company believes that the opportunity size is about 10% of the market, and it is targeting to sell 2 lakh units in a year.
TVS has always stood for innovative, easy-to-handle, and environment-friendly products. The company has an annual production capacity of 3.2 million two-wheelers and 1.2 lakh three-wheelers, and has four manufacturing plants, three located in India (Hosur in Tamil Nadu, Mysuru in Karnataka and Nalagarh in Himachal Pradesh), and one in Indonesia at Karawang.
From mopeds (XL 100, XL 100 Comfort and XL 100 Heavy Duty), to scooters (Jupiter, Wego, Scooty and NTORQ 125), and motorcycles (Apache Series RTR, Victor, StaR City+, Sport and Max4R), the company offers various products catering to different segments today.
The third largest two-wheeler manufacturer in India, TVS Motor Company registered a sales growth of 31%, increasing from 2,07,059 units in January 2017, to 2,71,801 units in January 2018.
Scooterisation in India gives the company huge opportunities to grow and delight customers. It targets to grow faster than the industry - at present the company is growing at 17%, and with the NTORQ 125, it hopes to grow much faster.
2nd largest 2-wheeler exporter
Rooted in a rich legacy going back a century, the company takes pride in making internationally aspirational products through innovative and sustainable processes. TVS is the second largest two-wheeler export manufacturer from India, and one among the top ten in the world exporting to more than 60 countries.
The companys total exports grew by 25.5% from 34,110 units registered in January 2017, to 42,802 units in January 2018. Two-wheeler exports grew by 19.6% increasing from 30,108 units in January 2017, to 36,003 units in January 2018. TVS Motor Company reported a 16.3% rise in net profit to Rs 154.35 crore, compared to a year ago, for the third quarter ended December 31, 2017.
Motorcycle sales grew by 26.7% to 3.14 lakh units in the quarter ended December 2017, from 2.48 lakh units registered in the third quarter of 2016-17. Scooter sales increased to 2.69 lakh units in the third quarter of 2017-18, from 2.21 lakh units in the third quarter of 2016-17, registering a growth of 21.6%.
According to its 25th Annual Report 2016-17, the company continued to grow ahead of the industry for the third year in succession, registering sales of 28.58 lakh two-wheelers in 2016-17, growing by 11% over the previous year. Sales of motorcycles increased by 6%, and scooters by 7%.
So whats the strategy to counter strong competitors, like Honda and Hero? The CEO says, "We respect them (competitors) and if you keep to your strategy and keep understanding your customers, and always coming up with new, innovative products for the market, it is the most important learning," he says.
The companys strength is Research and Development (R&D), and it is investing heavily in electric and hybrid models. "We are planning to come up with electric and hybrid models in the next fiscal. We want to keep investing in technology and delight our customers further," he says, adding that there should be a passion for change when it comes to electric two-wheelers.
On my second day with Apples new HomePod, I asked the artificially intelligent speaker to play some music. Siri, the virtual assistant that powers HomePod, enthusiastically replied, "OK, lets get going with some Dashboard Confessional."
I cringed. "Hey, Siri," I said. "Nobody likes Dashboard Confessional."
Siri replied, "Sorry, I couldnt find the song Nobody Likes Dashboard Confessional." Then to my horror, HomePod continued playing a track by the emo rock band.
At the time, I gave Siri a pass. After all, Apples HomePod, a rival to smart speakers from Amazon and Google, is supposed to study your music preferences over time to create special playlists just for you. I had had only one day with HomePod.
But after a week - during which I asked HomePod to play my favorite tunes from artists like Beck, Talking Heads and David Bowie - the smart speaker still did not learn. Instead, like a stubborn DJ, Siri kept playing music by artists outside my music palette: Taylor Swift and Leroy Francis, to name just two.
That leads to my conclusion: The $349 HomePod, which costs roughly three times its competitors and arrives in stores on Friday, is tough to recommend to you, dear reader.
Apples speaker is certainly an impressive piece of hardware. Audiophiles will appreciate that it has a woofer with a custom amplifier and seven tweeters. The result is a speaker with a deep bass and rich treble that is loud enough to fill a large room with superb sound. HomePod makes the Amazon Echo and Googles Home sound muffled and tinny in comparison.
But Siri on HomePod is embarrassingly inadequate, even though that is the primary way you interact with it. Siri is sorely lacking in capabilities compared with Amazons Alexa and Googles Assistant. Siri doesnt even work as well on HomePod as it does on the iPhone.
For Apple, thats unfortunate. The company was the first to bring virtual assistants to the mainstream with Siri on the iPhone in 2011, but it has since fallen behind Amazon and Google with smart speakers. Apple announced HomePod last June - but then delayed its release until this year.
Even now, Apple is shipping the HomePod unfinished. On day one, the device will lack some cool features, like the ability to link several HomePods together to create a multiroom sound system that Apple says will fill an entire home with music. That feature will come in a software update later this year.
And there are other limitations: The HomePod requires an iOS device, like an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod Touch, to set it up. To use your voice commands to play music, you will also need to subscribe to Apples streaming music service, Apple Music.
So how exactly did I reach my conclusion on HomePod? I tested it side by side with Echo and Home smart speakers, grading them on their ability to accomplish 14 tasks across several categories, including music, productivity, commuting, home automation and cooking. Let me walk you through the process and results.
Choosing the Tests
I started picking the 14 tasks by reading up on research studies that looked at how people use virtual assistants in the home. Activate, a management consulting firm, found the majority of people turned to virtual assistants to play music, get the weather and set a timer.
Apple also provided statistics on smart speaker usage from the research firm Parks Associates. That report also found that playing music and getting the weather were the top uses of smart speakers, while roughly 20 percent of people enjoyed using them for tasks like accessing a calendar and searching for recipes.
Amazon says most of its Echo customers use at least one "skill," or third-party app. So I added the ability to use Uber, the most popular ride-sharing service, as a test.
Now onward to the tests themselves.
Questions and Answers
I set up a HomePod, an Echo and a Home in my house and began with a battery of question-and-answer sessions. First up: traffic.
All the speakers gave a similar traffic estimate for a drive to San Jose, California - roughly a one-hour drive on the freeway. But when I asked HomePod to summon a car from Uber, Siri responded, "I wish I could, but I cant help with rides here."
The other speakers were happy to help - so I followed up with: "Hey, Siri, what gives?" HomePods colorful touch-screen lit up to show it had heard my question, but Siri remained silent.
Next, it was time for some cooking questions. All the speakers were able to flawlessly set a kitchen timer. But when I asked HomePod how to make pasta, Siri blanked and said, "I cant get the answer to that on HomePod."
Google Home was more responsive - it gave me the steps for making pasta from the recipe site Genius Kitchen. Amazon Echo was even more accommodating. Alexa listed the ingredients for a pasta dish, including noodles, milk and heavy cream, and offered to send the steps to my phone or play them aloud.
Then it was time to move on to some work-related tasks. I asked Siri to schedule a meeting for Tuesday. Siri responded: "I cannot access your calendar from here. Sorry about that." It couldnt look at my calendar for the day, either. Google Home and Amazon Echo, in contrast, managed to schedule new events and read my calendar for the day: a meeting in the morning, followed by a photo shoot and a business dinner in the evening.
When I asked Apple about Siris hiccups, the company said that for the first version of HomePod, it focused on including tasks that people use smart speakers for the most, like playing music and asking about the weather, and that it would continue to evaluate what other features to add over time.
I wondered whether HomePod would do better with smart home tasks and decided to ask all the smart speakers to turn on a Wi-Fi connected light bulb from the smart light company Lifx. In this test, HomePod got a higher score because setting up the smart light, which involved using the iPhone camera to scan a code on the instruction manual, was seamless and much easier than it was with Google Home and Amazon Echo, which required installing a third-party app.
Bonus: The light turned on when I asked.
One of the most crucial tests for HomePod had to do with audio. Thats because Apple has long emphasized that the smart speaker is first and foremost a music player.
Phil Schiller, Apples head of marketing, said at a gathering at the companys audio lab last week that Apple started developing HomePod six years ago with the intention of making a speaker that specialized in playing music in a unique way. The project started well before Apple introduced other services like Apple Music, which was released in 2015, and HomeKit, the home automation platform that was unveiled in 2014, he added.
Schiller said Apple wanted to stay true to the original goal of the project "without ever compromising that its a speaker first."
All three speakers did great playing music. Echo, Googles Home and HomePod were each able to play specific songs by artists, generate playlists for specific artists or music genres, and play podcasts. HomePod got a higher score in audio with its superior sound quality factored in.
Yet thats also where Dashboard Confessional came in and where HomePods biggest shortcomings became apparent. Whenever I asked HomePod to "play some music," it never played music that was relevant to my preferences or listening history.
That wasnt the case with the Google and Amazon speakers. When I asked those speakers to play music, the gadgets simply resumed what I was last playing on Spotify, which was satisfying.
(BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM.)
Siri also had laughably awkward pronunciations of some artist names. When I once asked HomePod to play songs by Tupac, Siri replied: "Sure, heres Tu," and after a short pause said: "Pac." (Im not sure Dr. Dre or Jimmy Iovine, whose streaming service was acquired by Apple to develop Apple Music, would approve.)
In response to my concerns, Apple said HomePod studies a customers music preferences over time. I figured a week should have been enough.
From the tests, I graded the speakers on their ability to accomplish each task on a scale from 0 to 4. (I gave a 0 for tasks that could not be done at all, a 2 for tasks that could be done with some issues, and a 4 for tasks that could be completed flawlessly.)
So how did they all stack up in terms of grade-point averages out of 4.0? The final results:
- Amazons Echo - 3.4
- Googles Home - 3.1
You could almost hear the trumpets blaring in the background of Mark Zuckerbergs announcement last week that Facebook would now promote local news stories in its News Feed.
"People who know whats happening around them are more likely to get involved and help make a difference," the Facebook chief wrote, espousing an eat-your-vegetables view of local news that jibes with his new effort to turn Facebook into a force for global good.
Theres little reason to doubt Zuckerbergs noble-sounding intentions. The internet has decimated the business model for large and small metropolitan newspapers, and Facebook, like other tech giants before it, just wants to help.
Still, when it comes to the news business, hasnt Facebook already done enough? Just last month, the social network said it would play down national news in its feed. Considering all that has gone wrong with Facebooks half-decade dalliance with news - the rise of filter bubbles, clickbait, rampant misinformation and propaganda, and in some places the very unmooring of democratic society - the new embrace of local news arouses instant suspicion. Picture Godzilla, having thoroughly savaged Tokyo and New York, now turning a hungry eye toward Peoria and Palo Alto.
There may be another way to save local news. Over the last few weeks, I chatted with Jessica Lessin of The Information and Ben Thompson of Stratechery, two of my favorite sites for understanding whats going on in the technology business. In different ways, both talked through a new way of thinking about local news, and a novel business model for funding it, one that doesnt depend on the beneficence of Facebook or Google (which also has a new plan for local coverage).
The plan, for any would-be entrepreneur brave enough to try it, goes like this: Hire some very good journalists; just one or two are OK to start. Turn them loose on a large metropolitan area - try San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston or any other city going through waves of change, and whose local press has been gutted by digital disruption.
Have your reporters cover stuff that no one else is covering, and let them ignore stuff that everyone else is covering. Dont do movie reviews, stock market analysis, Super Bowl coverage or anything else that isnt local. Instead, emphasize coverage thats actionable, that residents deem necessary and valuable for short- and long-term planning - especially an obsessive focus on housing and development, transportation, education and local politics.
Package it all in a form that commands daily attention - probably a morning email newsletter - and sprinkle it with a sense of community, like offline and online networking events for readers.
How will you fund all of this? This is the most important part: Shun advertising. Instead, ask readers to pay for it with real money - $5 or $10 a month, or perhaps even more. It will take time, but if you build it right, you just might create the next great metropolitan news organization.
This plan may sound simplistic, almost like a joke. Wait, Sherlock, your big idea is to create a really good product and charge people money for it? Havent people tried this before?
Less than you might think. The short history of digital media is lousy with advertising, which promotes all the wrong incentives for online news - volume over curation, aggregation over original coverage, speed over accuracy.
More recently, there has been a surge in online subscriptions. Netflix is doing it for TV, Spotify for music, and Patreon for podcasters and YouTubers. And many news outlets - big companies like The New York Times and startups like The Athletic, which covers sports - are making subscriptions the center of their journalism.
Yet few entrepreneurs have jumped on the subscription bandwagon for local news. The reticence makes sense; local markets are by definition small, and journalism is expensive.
But after studying Lessins and Thompsons methods, I suspect theres a market for subscription-based local coverage. Someone just has to build it.
How? Consider Lessins plan for The Information, the tech news service she started in 2013 after spending eight years at The Wall Street Journal. Back then, online subscriptions seemed antiquated; many companies had experimented with charging users, but most had failed to win large numbers of subscribers, and the big money in media was in ad-supported sites aiming for rapid expansion through viral traffic.
"People thought no one would pay for news, especially tech news," Lessin told me last month. "The problem was the news business hadnt been focused on a key question: How do I deliver a differentiated product that people would pay for?"
Her idea for differentiation was to charge a lot for The Information - a subscription is $399 a year, close to what The Wall Street Journal charges for print delivery - but she would offer readers quality instead of volume.
The Information publishes just two or three stories a day, often scoops and analysis, including a handy daily roundup of the most important stories in tech that day.
The effect is like that of a filter, and a necessary one. And The Information has broken many big industry stories, including last years news of sexual harassment allegations against venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck and Roy Price, Amazons former entertainment chief.
Thompson, who worked in the tech industry at companies like Microsoft, started Stratechery in 2013. It offers a daily newsletter featuring strategic analysis of developments in the tech industry. (Heres one example: Thompsons argument for why subscriptions are the best answer for local news.) In 2014, he began charging for the analysis. Now he publishes one article a week for free; to read the others, you have to pay $100 a year for the service.
Thompsons overhead is low: He is the only writer of Stratechery, which has become required reading among tech executives and many others in the industry. He declined to divulge any subscriber numbers, other than to say hes doing very well.
A high-priced subscription site may well have a natural audience ceiling. Lessin declined to divulge her subscriber base but said it was "significantly north of 10,000," which is lower than the audience for many ad-based digital publications.
Still, two years ago, she said, the site became cash-flow positive - that is, it pays for expansion from its subscriptions - and it plans to hire a half-dozen more journalists this year, adding to a workforce of 31 full-time employees. It has also started an "accelerator" program that invests $25,000 in new subscription news businesses; one of them, Detour Detroit, is a planned news service aimed at covering the Motor City.
Sure, there are reasons to be skeptical that this model could work in local news. Many subscribers to The Information and Stratechery think of the publications as a business expense - they work in tech or finance, wealthy industries that will pay just about anything for business intelligence.
Yet there are striking overlaps between what those publications do and what a subscription-based local news startup would look like. For one thing, a lot of those wealthy people also live in undercovered urban and suburban areas; if theyre paying for news about tech, wouldnt they also pay for in-depth investigations into their kids school district, their citys mayoral race or the traffic clogging their commute?
Theres also the opportunity to pay for a sense of community. The Information - through the Slack chat service, conference calls and in-person meet-ups - constantly brings subscribers together to talk about the industry. A local news startup could do the same, selling not just news but a sense of belonging.
Uber Technologies Inc will pay $245 million worth of its own shares to Alphabet Incs Waymo self-driving vehicle unit to settle a legal dispute over trade secrets, allowing Ubers chief executive to move past one of the companys most bruising public controversies.
The settlement announcement on Friday brought an abrupt halt to the captivating case just before the fifth day of testimony was to begin at a jury trial in federal court in San Francisco.
In a lawsuit filed last year, Waymo said that one of its former engineers who became chief of Ubers self-driving car project took with him thousands of confidential documents.
The lawsuit cost Uber precious time in its self-driving car ambition, which is a key to its long-term profitability. Uber fired its self-driving chief after Waymo sued, and it is well behind on its plans to deploy fleets of autonomous cars in one of the most lucrative races in Silicon Valley.
The settlement allows Ubers chief executive officer, Dara Khosrowshahi, to put another scandal behind the company and move ahead with development of self-driving technology, following the tumultuous leadership by former CEO Travis Kalanick, who testified at the trial on Tuesday and Wednesday.
As part of the deal, Waymo gets a 0.34% stake in Uber, worth about $245 million based on Ubers current $72 billion valuation, a Waymo representative said. The settlement includes an agreement to ensure that Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated into Uber technology, which Waymo has said was its main goal in bringing the lawsuit.
In settlement talks last year, Waymo had sought at least $1 billion from Uber, and wanted an independent monitor to ensure that Uber would not use Waymo technology in the future, Reuters reported. Waymo also asked for an apology. Uber rejected those terms as non-starters.
Waymo had agreed earlier this week to a settlement proposal valued at $500 million, and Khosrowshahi brought the proposal to the Uber board of directors, offering his support. But Ubers board rejected those terms on Tuesday, two sources familiar with the discussions said, sending Khosrowshahi and chief legal officer Tony West back to renegotiate.
In the interim, the famously pugnacious Kalanick testified in court, maintaining a calm demeanour as he answered questions about Ubers soured relationship with Alphabet and his admiration for Anthony Levandowski, the self-driving-car engineer whose actions led to the lawsuit.
After four days of testimony, Waymo had presented little public evidence that Uber used Waymos trade secrets. By late Thursday, Waymo agreed to the $245 million deal, one of the sources said. In a statement on Friday, Khosrowshahi expressed "regret" for Ubers actions. "While we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymos proprietary information in its self-driving technology, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work," Khosrowshahi said in a statement. Lidar is a light-based sensor crucial to autonomous driving. Elizabeth Rowe, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, analysed about 150 trade secret verdicts through 2014 and said $245 million would rank as the second highest. Given that landscape, along with the fact that Alphabet CEO Larry Page could have had to testify next week, the settlement makes sense for Waymo, she said.
"Their risks would have gone up on many levels," Rowe said. Waymos lawsuit said that Levandowski had downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files containing designs for autonomous vehicles in December 2015 before he went on to work at Uber in 2016.
Amazon.com Inc is testing a program to ship its sellers goods, sending shares in FedEx and UPS tumbling even though analysts and the companies played down any near-term threat to the two global delivery businesses.
Amazon is running "Shipping with Amazon" in Los Angeles and possibly other locations, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
News of the test sparked investor concern that the worlds largest online retailer would upend the shipping market. FedEx Corp and United Parcel Service Inc shares were down more than 4% in Friday trading.FedEx, UPS and analysts played down the idea that a trial poses a near-term threat to the couriers businesses.
Cowen and Co analyst Helane Becker estimated Amazon would have to invest $100 billion to build a global network of facilities, planes and trucks to compete with FedEx and UPS. The program, while still at an early stage, aims to reduce hurdles that some sellers face getting their inventory to Amazons facilities.
Under the new process being tested, Amazon sends a truck to pick up sellers products, which then takes inventory either directly to an Amazon fulfillment center or to the US Postal Service or to couriers like FedEx, depending on whats most cost-effective, said the person who spoke to Reuters. Amazon has run a number of experiments in Los Angeles because the city is spread out and is a big market for deliveries. "Shipping with Amazon" is currently intended for select third-party sellers in the test, not for businesses in general, and still it is not yet ready to roll out widely to sellers on Amazon, said the person.
So, you have begun your journey towards your long term goals with a well crafted financial plan. But financial plans are, by default, dynamic. That means you need to tweak your financial plan according to the situation and the budget is an important trigger. Does the Union Budget really trigger the need to tweak your financial plan? Here are a few key pointers to consider:
Imports of many consumer goods could become costlier
Your financial plan is based on a basic estimate of your incomes and expenses. We do not realise but a lot of the products that we use in our daily lives are imported. The Union Budget has imposed a 10% Social Welfare Surcharge on all imports. Additionally, customs duties on a host of imported products from mobile phones to cars to perfumes and footwear have been hiked. This is going to impact the rack prices of these products and that means your household budget is going to overshoot on the upside. Be prepared for this situation.
Higher inflation expectations need to be built in
Your financial plan includes extrapolating your future costs by using the inflation factor. If you have used a conservative inflation factor then you need to think again. The higher rural spending combined with the higher fiscal deficit is likely to be inflationary. That means inflation could remain slightly higher in the next couple of years. If your inflation estimate was too conservative then it means that either you will be left with lower real wealth in real terms or you will need more outlays. Either ways you need to rework your financial plan with a higher inflation assumption.
If you are invested in debt, then look at the yield story
The higher fiscal deficit will mean that the government will end up borrowing more. In addition, large corporates now have to raise 25% of their debt requirements through the bond market. You could see overcrowding in the bond markets and the means you will have to be prepared for higher yields and lower bond prices. When yields rise, the bonds with longer maturities will lose more. If you are relying on long-dated bonds funds for stability and regular income then you need to do a rethink based on the new interest outlook. After all, the Economic Survey has also warned about higher interest rates in the light of higher GDP growth projections.
Be cautious when you book profits in equities and equity funds
Your financial plan will call for a substantial allocation to equity for long term wealth creation. But investors do have a tendency to book profits after a period of one year in case of liquidity needs. Now you need to be cautious as long term capital gains will attract tax of 10% on gains above Rs 1 lakh per annum. You need to either adopt a more long term approach or you need to spread your capital gains on two sides of the fiscal year end.
The moral of the story is that there is a greater inducement to hold on to your equity funds over the longer term. However, there is an opportunity for you to book profits without paying LTCG if you do it before March 31 2018. In case the profit is booked after March 31, 2018 then the cost of acquisition will be the price at which it was bought and not the price as on March 31 or January 31.
Choice between growth plans and dividend plans of mutual funds
Normally the tendency is to opt for growth plans of mutual funds if you are looking at long term equity funds and dividend plans in case of debt funds. If you are in a dividend plan, there will be an additional 10% dividend distribution tax (DDT) that your fund will deduct before paying dividends. This is almost akin to double taxation because the DDT is already deducted in when the company declared the dividends. This will surely impact your choice of growth plans versus dividend plans.
What about your plan if you are a senior citizen?
The Budget does make a case for senior citizens in favour of bank FDs. After all, now the tax exemption limit has been raised from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000. Also there will be no TDS so you avoid the hassles of refunds and Form 15G. Add to it, dividends on equity funds will also attract DDT. All in all, for senior citizens there is a strong case for shifting a bigger chunk of their money into bank FDs.
(The writer is Head of Research & ARQ at Angel Broking Pvt Ltd)
There is a certain set pattern that most life insurance policy advertisements follow; the husband looks dubiously at his wife prior to signing on the dotted line of a life insurance policy, while the wife is convinced that the insurance cover is necessary and is the only way to secure their future.
The husband then, turns to his wife and asks, "Mere bina jee paogi?", and the wife responds in the negative. Upon being asked what she would do with the money once he passed, she replies that the insurance money would secure their childs future and the familys retirement. She explains how when everything is guaranteed, there is no tension; no tension results in a longer life. Thus, it is essentially for their long lives that he sign on the dotted line. The ad ends with the husband signing the papers and joking about having to endure the same wife for his entire life.
It was one such advertisement that had my friends wife nervous and coaxing him to purchase insurance policies for their daughters future and their own retirement. For the same, they got in touch with a couple of insurance companies, who pitched a multitude of products, ranging from childrens plans to pension plans. But instead of giving them some peace of mind, all these meetings led to excessive confusion on their part. When they approached me for some advice, their main question was, "What exactly is life insurance?".
Well, primarily, life insurance is a risk transfer tool which can be used to transfer the financial risk of the family, in case of the holders untimely demise, to the insurance company. The first step is to understand what risk means. Every individual faces two types of risks.
Pure risk is present in situations where there can only be a loss. This includes risk to life from death or illness and risk to property as a result of theft or any natural or man-made calamity. It also includes professional risk such as the personal liability of doctors and accountants.
Speculative risk (the kind that arises from making choices) is present in situations where there can be a loss or a gain, like investing in a business. If this decision leads to a gain, then its the reward for taking the risk. Other examples of this type of risk include gambling and investing in equities, commodities, real estate and gold.
The key issue is understanding how one can manage these risks. As the breadwinner of a family, the main question to ask while trying to understand the financial risk in case of loss of life is- If something were to happen to me today, will my family have the financial resources to maintain their lifestyle and achieve their financial goals, such as childrens education, marriage, etc.? The answer can be found only through detailed introspection and analysis.
Keeping the emotional loss aside, the death of the breadwinner is likely to result in financial loss for the family. This financial loss could either be because there isnt enough money, or because of mismanagement of money. In case of multiple claimants, poor planning might lead to tough times and litigation.
Ones current financial risk can be seen as the gap between their familys finances (monthly income, as well as one-time needs for the next several years) and what they have accumulated today.
Managing risk can be done in three ways: by avoiding, retaining or transferring. As far as risk related to death is concerned, there is no way to avoid the risk because human beings are mortal. Retaining the risk of death is an option that is available only to a small set people who currently have the means to address their familys needs in the future with the assets and wealth theyve accumulated in the present.
This however, isnt an option for a majority of the population and so, the next best way to address the risk is to transfer it to an insurance company. The insurance company generally accepts this risk (subject to medical and financial underwriting) at a cost, which is the premium one pays.
But, for people, is insurance or are insurance companies simply a means to transfer risks? For them, is life insurance just as important as their car insurance? What Ive generally found is that the same people who dont bat an eye while shelling out Rs 40,000 for their cars, immediately balk at the thought of paying the same amount for a life insurance cover of Rs 1 crore. (This example applies to a 35-year-old male purchasing a pure term plan with only risk cover, and no returns).
The surprising aspect of this entire situation is how willing, rather how eager, people are to pay for a car that is valued at Rs 20 lakh, but which depreciates each year, as opposed to insuring their own life.
By confusing insurance with investment, most people end up looking for returns and make imprudent choices.
(The writer is Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of HappynessFactory.in)
The reinstatement of the long-term capital gains (LTCGs) tax on listed securities has been creating a market buzz for quite some time now, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly stated that "those who profit from financial markets must make a fair contribution to nation-building through taxes".
Accordingly, it was speculated that there would be levy of tax on LTCGs in the 2017 Budget. However, provisions with respect to taxation of LTCGs were largely left untouched.
However, in the Finance Bill 2018, the finance minister has reintroduced the LTCGs tax with the intention to bring tax parity among investor groups and other taxpayers.
As per the provisions of Section 10 (38) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (the Act), capital gains arising on transfer of long-term capital asset (i.e. capital asset held for more than 12 months) being listed equity shares or unit of equity-oriented fund or unit of a business trust is tax-exempt, provided Securities Transaction Tax (STT) has been paid on such transfer.
The aforesaid exemption was introduced in 2005 to attract investments and the revenue loss for the same was made up by imposition of STT.
It was also said that since the ultimate source of LTCGs is corporate profit and dividends, which are already taxed, therefore tax on LTCG derived from such tax paid income would potentially amount to double taxation.
However, the above regime inherently resulted in some kind of bias towards the investment sector, encouraging investment in financial assets as opposed to real (manufacturing) sector.
Further, LTCGs being completely exempt in India resulted in significant erosion of the tax base, amounting to huge revenue loss. The Finance Bill, 2018, had amended the provisions of Section 112A of the ITA, thereby levying tax on LTCGs arising on transfer of listed equity shares, equity-oriented units or units of a business trust.
As per the recently introduced provisions, LTCGs on transfer of equity share or unit of equity-oriented fund or unit of business trust shall be taxable at 10% (without the benefit of indexation), where such capital gains exceed Rs 1 lakh, subject to following conditions:
n In case of equity shares - STT has been paid at the time of acquisition, as well as transfer of the capital asset.
n In case of unit of equity-oriented fund/business trust - STT has been paid at the time of transfer of the capital asset.
The payment of STT shall not be required:-
n If the equity shares are acquired in a manner as notified by the government.
n If the transfer is undertaken on a recognised stock exchange located at any International Financial Service Centre (IFSC) and the consideration for the same is in foreign currency
The above amendments shall be effective from April 1, 2018. Further, all LTCGs arising on or before January 31, 2018, shall be grandfathered and not subject to any capital gains tax. Thus, for the purposes of computation of LTCGs, the cost of acquisition of capital assets acquired before February 1, 2018, shall be higher of the following:
n Actual cost of acquisition
n Lower of FMV or full-value consideration arising on such transfer
n FMV for the above purposes shall be highest price quoted on January 31, 2018, on the recognised stock exchange in case of listed securities. In case of unlisted units, it shall be net asset value (NAV) of the asset as on January 31, 2018.
Further, in case of non-resident sellers, the tax payable on LTCGs shall be subject to withholding tax in India at 10%, and the tax withholding obligation shall be vested on the buyer. However, in case of on-the-market trading of shares/units, there would be practical challenges in complying with the tax withholding obligations due to ambiguity surrounding the identity of the buyer.
Since 1991, both the Indian economy and the stock market wealth (value of transactions) have magnified in real terms. However, the contribution of the stock market to the Indian treasury has been less than commensurate.
As per the income tax returns filed for financial year 2017-18, the loss to the government treasury due to capital gains tax exemption is approximately Rs 3,67,000 crore. Reintroduction of the LTCGs tax should enable the government to plug out this tax loss and deliver higher tax revenues.While the aforesaid amendment, along with other corrective measures, would help the Indian government recoup the revenue loss one will have to wait and watch to calibrate the impact of this announcement on the investment climate including on listed entities.
(Talreja is Partner at Deloitte India, while Bhane is Deputy Manager at Deloitte Haskins and Sells)
Smt B S Chandrakala was not only a vocalist but also a violinist, author, teacher and recipient of few awards. In her memory, the Bangalore Gayana Samaja conducts a music programme and presents awards, every year. This year senior journalist Dr R Poornima and Vidushi H N Meera received the "Swaralipi" Awards, last week.
Earlier H N Meera gave a brief concert, selecting compositions of different composers. She opened her concert with a well-known varna "Maathe" and decorated the composition "Vandenishamaham" with brief raga and swara. "Mamava Meenakshee" with nerval and swara, was the main item of the concert. Without overdoing anything, with a pleasant presentation, Meera pleased the gathering. "Krishnana Kolalina Kare" of Dr P T. Narasimhachar is also a good selection. Few devotionals like - Ninna Mana Deguladi, Gopiya Bhagyavidu and Yake Bandi Jeeva etc - were also presented in the concluding part. B. Raghuram and A. Renuka Prasad accompanied on violin and mridanga.
Sparkling theatre music
Naada Tarangini Balaga presented "Ranga Sangeetha Sammodini" - based on the music of professional drama theatres.
Earlier a C.D. of theatre music on Harmonium, performed by R Paramashivan, was also released on the occasion. Paramashivan has served the Kannada "Company Nataka" - especially as Harmonium player, singer and music director. Naturally, he is a recipient of several awards, including Sangeet Natak Akademy Award. He has created a world record by bringing out a C D of one Thousand "Ranga Geethe", performed by himself on Harmonium.
The Balaga presented excerpts from few old Kannada plays - humorous and lively. The opening song "Hellida Hage" was in the raga Kuranji and "Hindu Desha" was in raga Peelu. "Rama Samudra" in Madhyamavathi received loud applause. The Najukaiah part of the well-known play "Devadasi" was very popular, during those days. From that play, "Sukhaveeva" in Shankarabharana raga and the duet of "Kalla" and "Sadarame" was a hit song of yesteryears! So also songs in Kuranji, kadanakuthuhala were equally entertaining. Veterans R. Paramashivan (87), Manjula (75) sang and acted like young actors, with ease, beautiful birkha and aligning well with Sruthi - they stole the show. Along with them Deepak, Malini Agrahara, Shiva Prasad and Poornima - shared the honours. It was a rare treat for connoisseurs of both music and theatre.
The monthly programme of the Bangalore Lalithakala Parishat was "Sammilana" - a duet by husband and wife Surya N Rao and Prathama Prasad Rao of Mahamaya Arts Foundation. They have been trained by C. Navada, Veena Murthy, Dr Maya Rao and holds a bachelors degree in choreography and have performed in many countries and are recipients of few awards including "Nritya Shiromani".
"Sammilana" - was actually a jugalbandi of Kathak and Kuchipudi. The first piece "Aarambh" which was in rag Jog, gave them a bright start. The "Dashavathara" was well presented in the "Sanchari" of "Yela Nee Dayarada". It is a fine composition of Saint Tyagaraja in the raga Athana and beautifully performed by Surya in the Kuchipudi style. Prathama Prasad presented Thala mala to show footwork in Thishra, Chatushra, Khanda and Mishra. To dramatise few episodes from Ramayana Surya chose "Hanumantha Deva Namo". Prathama Prasad selected an Astapadi to perform a "Khanditha Nayaki" gracefully. They concluded with a "Thillana - Tharana". They performed with ease and assurance, catching the attention of the audience, successfully.
- Mysor V Subramanya
As we are constantly bombarded with images and ideas, it is rare in our age to be confronted with a picture of the unfamiliar. The worlds hyperlinked advancement has meant greater accessibility for all, wider avenues to know and understand, and not be awed by the depth and richness of our habitats and histories. Sometimes, however, this familiarity fails us and leaves our mind undefended to bear the sheer consequence of all that is at hand. These places and moments are rare in our lives, but their coming is truly an affective epoch which changes who we are.
The temples and caves of the Badami Chalukyas are just such places. Located in the valley of the River Malaprabha in Bagalkot district, the antiquity of these structures boggles the mind. The depth of imagination, the capricious will of a crown which caused rock and earth to be chiselled divine in the cave temples of Badami, speak of a singular vision of grace and grandeur.
Historians inform us that these temples of the Chalukyas are a bold fusion of the Nagara and the Dravidian styles, heralding a new eclectic art where kalashas of the north met vimanas of the south in an innovation never attempted before. They not only patronised the efflorescence of Puranic Hinduism but also gave support to Buddhist and Jain worship. They experimented with rock and paint, leaving an ample evidence of keen sense of beauty, sense and subtlety.
Most of us today lack the grammar to fully read into this significance, the tales which these structures narrate. The Mallikarjuna Temple complex in Pattadakal, for instance, is the universe distilled minutely in stone.
Dedicated to Shiva, to be within its intricately carved portals is to be hurled immediately to a cosmic vantage point and to have your eyes opened with the dim light of an ancient revelation - the unity of being and action. Similarly, in Ravanaphadi Cave in Aihole the grim glory of an ageless music can be heard along with the transcendental dance of Lord Nataraja.
Amidst this, it is the human alone which anchors the heart in the tidal wave of the immortal. To be human is not just to offer the soul in supplication: it is also to laugh and work and play, to seek beauty and to find joy in its realisation. Whether it be in the scenes of the amorous in the quiet, domestic porticos of Ladh Khan Temple in Aihole; or the festive joy of the dwarapalas at Virupaksha Temple in Pattadakal; or the bubbling mirth of the ganas of the Upper Shivalaya on the heights of Badami Fort. The walls and caves of Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami hide everywhere just such men and women in the deep shadows of gods. It is this human urge to give the transience of what is innately good a more permanent form which acts as a relational portal bridging the distance between then and now. This is how we may familiarise our long lost heritage.
All around in Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami, by scenes of creation and doom, of heroic battles and titanic struggles, ordinary men and women dance with gay abandon, their knotted hair was undone as their bodies twirl to an eternal beat. Their earthiness pales in significance to the power and pomp of the deities they worship, but in being so keenly alive these foster-children of silence mirror the deeds and desires of all of us.
A group of youngsters between 16 and 30 years are sitting in neat rows and making a variety of paper bags. Some women are making files using banana fibre, while the sound of sewing machines is heard continuously from a corner. Small talk and an occasional outburst of laughter in an otherwise silent atmosphere seem to break the monotony of work. This is what a normal day at Chetana Occupational and Rehabilitation Centre, on the outskirts of Sirsi, looks like.
Chetana Trust was founded by Dr Mala Giridhar, a psychiatrist, in 2008, in collaboration with her husband, Dr Giridhar, and other like-minded people. The main objective of the trust was to help build a life of dignity for youngsters with special needs. After reviewing multiple options, the trustees decided that making handicrafts from eco-friendly materials like banana fibre and paper would be a productive endeavour. "Society considers people with special needs as incompetent. But we see them as distinct individuals and try to understand their strengths," says Mala.
Once the plan was ready, the volunteers at Chetana surveyed some colonies in Sirsi town to identify individuals with special needs. Their parents did not have a proper understanding of the situation and were in a dilemma about the future course of action for their children. They were delighted when Chetana offered an opportunity. After proper evaluation, 30 youngsters were enrolled in the centre. Currently, all of them are undergoing training and rehabilitation. While some are mentally challenged, others are physically challenged.
Initially, many trainees were hesitant and were not interested in learning new skills; but some were keen learners and began making paper covers soon. Expert counselling, compassion and a pleasant atmosphere improved the behaviour of those who had communication problems. Gradually, they became enthusiastic about taking part in the training sessions.
Every morning, the trainees are picked up from home in a trust vehicle. The trainers, about seven of them, take over from here. They identify the interests and abilities of each trainee and work with them accordingly. The morning session is from 10.30 am to 1 pm. Post lunch, they take a nap and resume work. They also participate in group activities and leave the centre by 5 pm.
While the trainees mostly make paper bags, the trainers make utility and decorative items like files, pens, pen stands, boxes, lamps, bags and purses, from banana fibre. "None of us had prior exposure to such activities. We were managing household work before joining here," say trainers Vidya, Suma, Lalita, Spoorthy and Usha.
The team makes proper use of banana fibre, which is easily available in the region. A good demand for their commodities has encouraged these women to work harder and manufacture more. In 2009, Chetana won the TechnoServe business plan competition in southern India for creating economic opportunities for the disabled.
A growth-oriented space
"The basic idea is to create a happy and meaningful space for these individuals and thus, bring them peace of mind. Chetana has evolved into such a space where they work without any pressure. They get good food here and all efforts are made to help them lead a respectable life," says Saraswati Bhat, manager at Chetana. The trainees at the centre get a stipend of Rs 1,000 every month. Their parents have observed positive changes in them, both physically and mentally, after joining Chetana. "With better exposure, our children feel free to move with people," say the parents.
The trustees acknowledge the support extended by donors and other like-minded people. And, those associated with the centre feel that there is a need for more such efforts and are willing to guide and support people interested in conducting similar activities elsewhere. In fact, many have already approached them for advice and training.
"Three years ago, the trainees expressed their desire to go on a tour. Though we were apprehensive about managing them, we decided to fulfil their wish. They were very happy and enjoyed being with nature. Not just that, they were so well-behaved and cooperative throughout that we started travelling outside twice a year," says Mala.
It is also heartening to see them motivating each other to make paper bags. "We have trained them in some activities, in turn, they have taught us valuable lessons. I have not seen them fighting with each other. They are all good friends," says Mala proudly. One can contact Mala Giridhar on 9986143666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karnataka is known for its multifarious temples and the legends associated with them. The temples are not only places of worship, but centres of artistic expression through which the gods and goddesses are propitiated.
Likewise, located about 20 km from Kundapur and 8 km from the temple town of Barkur is a rare temple known for its wooden idols: the Nandikeshwara Temple of Mekkikattu. Legend has it that this temple located near Saibre Katte in Shiriyara village was built by Parashurama. Some believe that the temple was built by one of the Alupa kings, a minor dynasty that ruled the region between 200 BCE and 450 CE.
One of a kind
The main deity at Nandikeshwara Temple is Lord Nandi, the holy bull, which is the vehicle of Lord Shiva. The body of the idol is strong and voluminous with a raised head and an open tongue. The Nandi here is known as Akasha Nandi because of the general belief that it can actually fly.
Another important deity of this temple is Goddess Durga, seen with four hands, and locally known as Ammanavaru. Interestingly, Goddess Durga is seen riding a five-faced bull here, instead of a lion, as commonly depicted. Also, the crown of the goddess, known as the karanda mukuta, is shaped differently.
The most important feature of this temple is that all the idols, including the main deity, are made of wood. To maintain the idols intact, abhisheka is not performed on them. An abhisheka is essentially a holy offering of milk, curd, honey and tender coconut water to the main idols of a temple. The temple has as many as 156 wooden idols that are worshipped daily. Some of them are almost 10 feet high.
A majority of these idols are displayed in a gallery in the quadrangle adjacent to the main complex, in the urusale. The word uru means wooden images and sale means gallery in the local language. According to the priest, there is no other temple where daily worship of so many wooden idols is actively carried out. Mekkikattu is a centre of indigenous religious beliefs and customs, including the practice of worshipping spirits. There are several mythological stories associated with this temple and its wooden idols, which are believed to be spirits. One of the stories states that Sage Jambukeshwara installed the Nandi idol along with a number of bhootas (spirits) here as a protection against evil forces.
Another story says that Lord Shiva came here to bless Sage Markandeya and while leaving, he left behind his ganas(spirits) along with the bulls in the village. And, the other myth is that a sage got several ganas here so that he could be protected while performing penance.
A treasure trove of folk beliefs and practices, this temple has a plethora of major and minor divinities. Apart from Akasha Nandi and Ammanavaru, the sanctum sanctorum has several idols like Lord Vishnu, Goddess Nandini and Tottila Devi. Outside the sanctum, there are two striking idols, one is an ascetic in a seated position while the other is a monkey with its hand on its head. This is said to be the idol of Lord Hanuman.
Idols & the artisans
In the quadrangle outside the main sanctum, wooden figurines of all kinds including that of gods, goddesses, demons, soldiers, caretakers, elephants, horses, bulls, birds and monkeys are displayed.
These wooden idols are crafted by the Gudigar artisans residing in the neighbouring villages. It is believed that the Gudigar community migrated from Goa and settled in coastal Karnataka long ago.
These idols are characterised by their bright red, yellow and black colours that were originally obtained from natural sources. Today, however, natural pigments are being replaced by synthetic colours. There are only a few people in the village who are still engaged in this profession. Nonetheless, they help maintain the idols of the temple.
There are a number of ongoing efforts to preserve this woodcraft. There are workshops being conducted in Uppunda town in Udupi district to train those interested in the Mekkikattu style of wood carving and painting.
Hordes of pilgrims and devotees are flocking to the summit of a rocky hill, the higher one of two hills adjoining a small town in Hassan district, called Shravanabelagola. There, within a walled compound, over a period of nine days from February 17-25, they will witness the anointing of the tallest freestanding granite monolith in the world - an image of the Jain renunciate Gommateshwara, in a ritual of exuberant celebration. Tradition maintains that the first ever such ceremony was performed on the consecration of the 57-feet tall colossus, in 981 CE, presided over by the Jain gurus Ajitasena and Nemichandra, in the presence of the Ganga King Rachamalla and his illustrious minister Chavundaraya.
As per legendary accounts, the minister, who was instrumental in the carving of the monolith, wished to consecrate the image by bathing it with five fluids, called panchamruta. But despite pouring copious amounts of unguents over the image, he was unable to bathe it from head to toe. At this juncture, a poor old woman put in an appearance, holding a gourd containing milk, and wished to pour the contents on the colossal image. More to humour her, Chavundaraya escorted the ajji onto the scaffolding, whereupon she amazed all by anointing the entire image with the milk from her tiny vessel. This tale, which cautions against taking undue pride in ones achievements, however big, is probably the origin of the practice of Mahamastakabhisheka. Currently, this awe-inspiring spectacle of the gigantic image being bathed in holy water, milk, sandalwood paste and other unguents, is conducted once every 12 years.
Monuments & memorials
The town of Shravanabelagola nestles at the feet of the two rocky hills, known as Vindhyagiri (Indragiri) and Chandragiri or just Dodda Betta (Big Hill) and Chikka Betta (Small Hill). If any among the multitudes thronging this important religious centre of the Jains return after just witnessing the Mahamastakabhisheka and hurriedly surveying some of the prominent monuments on the bigger hill, they would be missing much that the smaller hill has to offer.
Legend informs us that the history of this place stretches back to the third century BCE, when the Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta Maurya arrived here, along with his preceptor, Srutakevali Bhadrabahu. Srutakevalis were the second line of successors of the tirthankaras. Chandragupta, who had abdicated his throne and embraced Jainism, accompanied Bhadrabahu to the small hill at Belagola, where it is believed that the master and the disciple embraced death by ritual fasting.
It is in honour of the former emperor that the small hill is called Chandragiri in popular tradition. However, the hill is referred to as Katavapra and Kalbappu, in Sanskrit and Kannada respectively, in several inscriptions extant at Shravanabelagola. The precise meaning of this name is unclear, but renowned scholar Prof S Settar, whose masterful study of Shravanabelagola is outlined in three books and numerous articles, favours the meaning Sepulchral Hill.
The recorded history of Shravanabelagola begins with an inscription dated to 600 CE, which describes the ritual death of a monk named Prabhachandra. Prof Settar believes that the earliest practitioners of ritual death did not leave behind any records of their penance. In his book Inviting Death, Prof Settar examines the inscriptional record and traces the evolution of this commemorative practice from mere inscriptions on rocks to carving of the imprints of feet and erection of structures like memorial pillars, pavilions and temples.
A pair of carved footprints on the floor of the cave, where Bhadrabahu is believed to have lived out his final days, commemorate the srutakevali. The Chandragupta Basadi was erected much later, in the ninth century. The most impressive structure on the hill, however, is the Chavundaraya Basadi. Elegant manasthambhas contribute to the variety of structures on the hill.
Vindhyagiri, which comes into the picture late in the tenth century, when Chavundaraya had the Gommata image carved, has its share of monuments, memorials and inscriptions. The first large structure one encounters upon finishing the long climb up the hillside is the Odegal Basadi. It is a trikuta structure enshrining Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara and father of Bahubali; as well as Neminatha and Shantinatha. The Tyagada Kamba marks the spot where Chavundaraya distributed gifts, according to local legend. The Akhanda Bagilu, beside a large boulder embellished with memorials called the Siddhara Gundu, is a portal leading to the walled compound surrounding the Gommata statue.
The bustling town that is Shravanabelagola today is a far cry from what it must have been at the beginning of its history. From the top of Indragiri, Gommata smiles beatifically, spreading his blessings over the land for over a millennium. The monuments of several dynasties dot the hills, and the township, symbols of the patronage bestowed upon the Jain faith. And Shravanabelagola continues to summon the faithful from all over, as it has been doing for more than two thousand years.
Daniel Smalley has long dreamed of building the kind of 3D holograms that pepper science fiction films. But watching inventor Tony Stark thrust his hands through ghostly 3D body armour in the 2008 film Iron Man, Daniel realised that he could never achieve that using holography, the current standard for high-tech 3D display, because Starks hand would block the holograms light source. "That irritated me," says Daniel, a physicist at Brigham Young University, USA. He immediately tried to work out how to get around that.
Daniels team has taken a different approach - using a technique known as volumetric display - to create moving 3D images that viewers can see from any angle. Some physicists say that the technology comes closer than any other to recreating the 3D projection of Princess Leia calling for help in the 1977 film Star Wars. "This is doing something that a hologram can never do - giving you an all-around view, a Princess Leia-style display - because its not a hologram," says Miles Padgett, University of Glasgow, UK.
The technique, described in the journal Nature last month, works more like a high-speed Etch a Sketch: it uses forces conveyed by a set of near-invisible laser beams to trap a single particle - of a plant fibre called cellulose - and heat it unevenly. That allows researchers to push and pull the cellulose around. A second set of lasers projects visible light - red, green and blue - onto the particle, illuminating it as it moves through space. Humans cannot discern images at rates faster than around 10 per second, so if the particle is moved fast enough, its trajectory appears as a solid line - like a sparkler moving in the dark. And if the image changes quickly enough, it seems to move. The display can be overlaid on real objects and viewers can walk around it in real space.
The images created so far are tiny - just millimetres across. And only simple line drawings can be created at the speeds needed to fashion moving images. The team managed to depict a moving spiral line drawing and the static outline of a butterfly. The technique needs substantial development but is a simple design with huge potential for improvement, says William Wilson, a researcher in nanotechnology at Harvard University, USA.
The approach has many advantages over existing 3D-display techniques. Hologram technology creates 3D images by sending light through a 2D screen that contains a diffraction grating. The grating manipulates the light rays paths such that they interfere to create the perception that an image has depth. State-of-the art holograms can be full colour and life-size but, because the light must always emerge from a 2D surface, the viewing angle is limited. And because changing a diffraction grating at speed is challenging, holograms are also generally static.
Volumetric displays physically recreate an image in 3D space. Most existing systems project images onto a rapidly spinning 2D screen. More sophisticated displays use balls of superheated plasma in 3D space. But these can currently use only a single colour. Other approaches use augmented-reality hardware, such as Microsofts HoloLens, that can create the illusion of a real-world 3D image. But these need specialised headgear and are data intensive, says Daniel.
The latest system can create images in higher resolution than a conventional computer screen - up to 1,600 dots per inch. But to create realistic pictures, with complex moving images and larger visualisations, physicists will need to find ways to speed up the movement of the particles and to control several of them at once. Daniel says he has ideas about how to address both these issues. "If we make as much progress in the next four years as we made in the last, I think we will be successful making a display of useful size," he says.
One drawback of the technique is that it will be difficult to get rid of the ghostly, see-through quality of the projections, says Nasser Peyghambarian, an optical physicist at the University of Arizona, USA. Thats because the eye will receive light from a particle at the back of an image as much as from the front.
A final problem is that because the forces used to control the particles are so tiny, the system is easily destabilised. That could hamper military applications, such as simulating a 3D battle scene to train soldiers, because any strong winds would knock the particles off their trajectories. To get around that, Daniel says, the system could be made to scatter light off mists of particles that appear only temporarily. "Youre never going to do it in a hurricane," he says. "But its not beyond the realm of imagination that it could happen outside."
Just over 300 years ago, in late 1717, the price of gold was first standardised by Sir Isaac Newton. It continues to be the economic standard to this day. In the form of gold coins and later as backing for paper money, it fluctuated with world crises, market forces and economic policies. After World War II, when the European nations were economically shattered, gold was tied to the US dollar, with the delegates at the Bretton Woods Conference, held in 1944, fixing the rate of 35 dollars to an ounce of gold. After 1971, when the dominant US dollar was no longer tied to gold, the metal became freely traded.
Gold, as a chemical element, is not vital to human existence like oxygen but with its imperishable shine and unusual properties like its malleability and density, it has become one of the most coveted commodities. From the ancient Egyptian pharaohs who insisted on being buried in the flesh of the gods to the financiers who made gold the bedrock of the global economy, humankinds attachment to the yellow metal is evident.
As the warden of the Royal Mint, UK, Newton had more to do with gold than standardising it. It appears that he was fascinated by the possibility of transforming base metals to gold, according to his handwritten manuscript that was discovered last year. In other words, he pursued alchemy. Apparently, Newtons laboratory notebooks, even the one containing the first full description of his seminal discovery that white light is actually a mixture of spectral colours, are also filled with recipes that were patently elaborated from several alchemical sources. Along with his explanation of optical and physical phenomena like freezing and boiling, we find the mention of Neptune, Trident and Mercurys caducean rod, among others. All of these represent the alchemical symbol.
Gold in stars
For many of the prominent 17th century chemists, the attempt to make gold from base metals was a viable research project. As spin-offs, a lot of contributions were made to pharmacology (mineral-based drugs), making of pigments and dyes, distillation of spirits and other areas. Mercury is often used to separate gold from rock, and millions of miners worldwide have inhaled the toxic vapour during the refining process with much damage to health and environment.
Now, what do gravitationally collapsing massive stars have to do with gold? Newtons law of gravity is universal, accounting for the motion and stability of celestial objects. A stable star like the sun is in hydrostatic and radiative equilibrium. The immense gravitational force that results in the collapse of the star is balanced by the outward pressure which is exerted by the superhot gas and radiation in its interior.
The stars maintain their hot core temperatures by nuclear reactions converting hydrogen to helium. In one second, the sun converts 600 million tonnes of hydrogen to helium, the nuclear energy released supplying the immense power it radiates. After the hydrogen fuel in its interior is used up, the core collapses under its gravity, and heats up again to 200 million degrees, when helium undergoes thermonuclear reactions. Stars like the sun are not massive enough to produce elements beyond carbon or oxygen.
In more massive stars, the core collapses again after the helium is used up, so that carbon, oxygen, and other lighter elements produce heavier elements like calcium and silicon, among others. When one set of heavier elements is used up, the core collapses again becoming hotter, and heavier elements up to iron and nickel are produced. However, the iron nucleus has the maximum nuclear binding energy, so that the thermonuclear reactions cannot go on to form elements beyond iron. So, in that case, how are much heavier elements like gold or uranium produced in the stars?
The iron core of the massive star now collapses till it turns into neutrons (the electrons and protons in the nuclei are all squeezed to super high density when they fuse to form neutrons). The envelope of the star meanwhile explodes to become a supernova. The elements in Group 8 of the periodic table, to which iron belongs to, are bathed in a huge flux of neutrons. The nuclei capture the neutrons in succession, giving elements of higher mass numbers. Together, with successive beta decays where the atomic number keeps increasing, the heaviest elements like gold or uranium are produced.
In this terminology, elements like gold are r-process elements, implying rapid neutron capture. Elements like silver and lead are, on the contrary, produced by the so-called s-process or slow neutron capture which occurs in pulsating red giant stars. So, rapid neutron capture is required to produce elements like gold (atomic number 79) from iron (with atomic number 26). After the supernova explosion of a massive star, the remnant is a dense neutron star with a density hundred trillion times that of water. Neutron stars were first detected as pulsars about 50 years ago. It is a star the size of Bengaluru and it spins more than 100 times every second.
Neutron stars are expected to merge together (collide) after millions or billions of years (depending on their initial separation). Neutron star mergers were predicted to produce gravitational wave bursts and also to produce the heaviest elements like gold, platinum and thorium as so many free neutrons could be captured rapidly by the lighter elements like iron.
In August 2017, scientists at the LIGO observatory detected the gravitational wave burst from a merger of neutron stars. Gamma ray bursts were also generated by the merging neutron stars. The aftermath of the neutron star collision resulted in the emission of optical and infrared radiation. Scientists at several telescope observatories were able to spot optical spectral signatures from the glow of gold, platinum and other heavy elements for the first time.
This provided strong evidence that it was indeed the formation of neutron stars by gravitational collapse and their subsequent merger can result in the formation of elements like gold. Thus, all the gold present in the universe was actually produced in a chain of nuclear processes starting from the gravitational collapse of massive stars. This fully follows Newtons law of universal gravitation.
The heavier elements released are incorporated into interstellar matter, the interstellar clouds later collapsing to form stars like the sun, hosting planets whose inhabitants use these elements for their own ends.
(The author is with Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru)
Turning garden waste into fuel
As garden owners are fond of keeping their gardens clean, they often trim the overgrowth and remove fallen leaves, twigs and other biomass. The garden waste that is generated after cleaning is usually burnt or disposed off. What if all that waste neednt be wasted but can instead be put to good use, by converting it into fuel for cooking? Scientists from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay have been exploring ways to do exactly this. In their new study, the scientists demonstrated an efficient way to convert garden waste into fuel pellets that could be used for cooking.
For the study, various parameters like moisture content, milling size and die size of the pellets that were formed were probed for optimal performance, using regression models. Their study showed that an increase in the moisture content of the biomass affected the durability of the final product. It also revealed a biomass moisture content of around 6% and a die size of 15 mm were ideal for the pellets to perform efficiently.
The pellets were also probed under a scanning electron microscope to study the effect of moisture on the final product, which showed the pellet particles sticking closely together when the moisture content in the biomass was considerably low. If commercialised, the technology could be used as a suitable substitute for cooking gas and other fuels.
How to get a killer whale to say hello
Have you ever wanted to talk to a killer whale? First, you should introduce yourself by saying hello. You might be surprised by what the whale says back. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B recently, scientists report that a 16-year-old orca named Wikie was able to copy a variety of new sounds on command. The study joins a growing body of research illustrating the deep importance of social learning for killer whales.
"We wanted to study vocal imitation because its a hallmark of human spoken language, which is in turn important for human cultural evolution," said JosÃ© Zamorano-Abramson, the researcher who led the study. This study provides "gold-standard, controlled experimental evidence" that orcas can learn fresh sounds through imitation, said Luke Rendell, a cetacean and social learning researcher at the University of St Andrews University, UK, who was not involved in the work.
For their study, JosÃ© trained Wikies calf, Moana, to make five sounds outside of Wikies natural repertoire. Then they instructed Wikie to copy each vocalisation, either by listening to Moana directly or through speakers. They also tested whether Wikie could emulate six human words or phrases. The researchers first asked human listeners to judge whether Wikies calls matched the ones she was asked to parrot. Then they used an algorithm to evaluate her vocalisations. Both human and machine methods deemed Wikie successful at learning the novel sounds presented to her, including those uttered by humans.
What happens when you sedate a plant
A study published in Annals of Botany has shown that plants can be frozen in place with a range of anaesthetics. The research also highlights that plants are complex organisms. "Plants are not just robotic, stimulus-response devices," said Frantisek Baluska, a co-author of the study. "Theyre living organisms which have their own problems. In order to navigate this complex life, they must have some compass." Plants sometimes use that compass to deal with stress, competition or development. They take in information from their environment and produce their own anaesthetics.
The researchers trapped pea plants in glass chambers with ether, soaked roots of the plant and seedlings of garden cress in lidocaine and even measured the electrical activity of a Venus fly traps cells. An hour or so later, the plants became unresponsive. The seedlings stayed dormant. And the Venus fly trap didnt react to a stimulus similar to a bug crawling across its maw. Its cells stopped firing. When the dope wore off, the plants returned to life.
Years of Living Dangerously
Years of Living Dangerously is a documentary series that focuses on global warming. The episodes explore the effects of rising sea levels, historic droughts and flooding, water scarcity, ocean acidification, deforestation and the rapidly increasing extinction rate of species. In addition, it also takes a look at the ways individuals, communities, companies and even governments can follow to address worldwide climate change, including solar and wind energy, and advancing battery technology.
Each episode in the series features celebrity hosts with a history of environmental activism and well-known journalists with a background in environmental reportage. They interview experts and ordinary people affected by, and seeking solutions to, the effects of global warming. To watch the documentary, visit www.bit.ly/2BN52eP.