Weekly Digest #37
Updated: Apr 26
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The building blocks of imagination
By: Abhimanyu Rao
In Weekly Digest #11, Mihir talked about the power of imagination, and that got me thinking about one specific type of toy that can be said to define imagination, and I wanted to explore this with you. Of course, the type of toys I am talking about… are LEGOs!
Legos are blocks that you can build various structures with, and while they may appear to be basic, these toys have engrossed generations of children with their charming addictiveness! These toys, and various other types of building blocks have been a success, and are popular with children around the world!
What’s more, these blocks continue to be popular, even in a world where video games are the rulers of the market - now why is that?
Well, it’s simple. Two reasons - one, classics never get old. If there is value in a product, it will stand the test of time. Two, they also keep on adapting themselves to the present needs, partnering with various franchises and companies, including Minecraft, Marvel, and Star Wars. While that is interesting, it’s not what I am talking about today. Today we are focused on what makes them so good, and here are my reasons:
Freedom: The thing with these building blocks is that they are different from a regular dollhouse or something on those lines, because a dollhouse will always be a building, but you can buy a set with a police station, play with the station, then smash the station and make a castle, smash that and make a car, smash that and… you get the point. Basically, you have the freedom to do things that regular playsets don’t give you. (And no adults get to tell you “don’t break that toy!”)
Franchising: This is obviously an essential for companies, but as a Lego addict myself, I would like to weigh in on this. Franchised Lego sets are always eye catching for people, but when you end up building them, you feel proud, not just because you finished a rigorous build, but because you have seen the actual thing, and you know what it looks like, and you are proud of yourself for coming close to it.
MINIFIGURES: This is another very important aspect of these sets. The minifigures that you get with the set are valuable for many reasons. Firstly, they are valuable because they are collectibles, second, they look AMAZING! Lastly, they are great for pretend games, which I am getting to now.
Now that we have got why Legos are popular, we can talk about why they are good:
Firstly, they have a variety of possibilities. I know I talked about the freedom you get with them, but this is different. A usual set includes the pieces, a manual, and minifigures. This means that you can create amazing scenes, both real life, and imagined! Imagine this, you collect all the sets that were made for Avengers: Infinity War, and arrange them in such a way, that your minifigures are getting routed by Thanos’ forces, and then you place Thor there, inside a creation of the Bifrost you made by smashing the Police Station set, and keep that as it is. I know, pure cinematic glory!
Secondly, pretend play! I cannot count the number of hours my brother and I have spent creating complex storylines that involve everyone from Thor, to Obi-Wan Kenobi, to Emmet from The Lego Movie! Making stories like this will obviously help exercise the imaginative part of your brain, and doing that will help you everywhere in life, from when your exam paper asks you to write a short story, to when you have an unusual problem to solve later in life, and you have to think of an unusual solution for it!
Pro Tip- To all those who haven’t ever had a Lego set now, or haven’t opened one that they own, the set will always come with a few extra parts. These can be anything from regular pieces to some weapons or tools. These can be used to diversify old builds of yours, give weapons to weaponless characters, or build something new altogether! I have used two big eye pieces to add a comical element to a helicopter, and it looks quite cute!
I would like to end by saying that this is not a sponsored article, and that I truly believe that Lego and other such building blocks can really help us all in the future! So what are you waiting for? Get out there, and build to your heart’s content!
An (Un)Fair Shot: Covid Vaccine Inequality
By: Agastya Rao
The Covid-19 Pandemic has made vaccines the need of the hour. All of us are comfortably sitting in our homes and are waiting for our turn to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Even though India may be manufacturing its own Covid-19 vaccine, and so are many other countries like the UK and the USA, there are many, many countries that are yet to have a sure shot at vaccination of their citizens. I know this article may not sound 100% positive, but I can assure you there is a positive side to all of this.
What are these Vaccines? Why are they important?
These vaccines are designed to combat the Coronavirus. These vaccines are extremely helpful to fight this virus. Once you get the two doses (Or one dose if you are taking the J&J vaccine) your body is trained to detect the virus and fight it off quickly. Now, this does not guarantee never contracting the virus, however it does reduce the symptoms, comorbidities and decreases the chance of hospitalisation. These vaccines help you build your immunity against the Virus- they give you a better shot at fighting it.
No vaccine yet has 100% efficacy but most of them have shown great promise. The Pfizer vaccine has a 95% efficacy, and the Moderna vaccine has a 94% efficacy. The vaccines available in India, for example Covishield (Astrazeneca-Oxford) has an efficacy of 90% when the second dose is taken after a 2-3 month gap, but without a certain gap, an average of 67%. The Covaxin (Bharat Biotech) has an efficacy of around 78%.
What are the main vaccines in India? ( Disclaimer: Vaccines listed are Not ranked in any order)
There are 3 approved vaccines in India so far are: 1. Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca) and 2. Covaxin (Bharat BioTech). The Sputnik V Russian Vaccine was also recently approved, but would only be available by the end of May. (Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare: Government of India). Some Vaccines approved in America are- 1. Pfizer- BioNtech, 2. Moderna, 3. Johnson & Johnson & Johnson -Janssen (Source- Centre for Disease Control and Prevention- USA)
Now, moving on to the main topic-
How and why is there inequality in the distribution?
The main issue is with the production of the Vaccine. India boasted that they were the fastest country to innoculate (vaccinate) 100 Million people, which is fairly good for a developing country, but for a country with a population of 1.2 Billion: not so much.
However (Positivity coming!) is that more than a Billion people have already been vaccinated (First dose) and 232 Million People have got the full dose! Yay!
The only problem is that vaccine makers are finding it hard to keep up with the number of orders. The bigger issue is that bigger countries with more resources (The US, UK and even India) snapped up big deals for millions of doses early on, leaving other countries in the dust. Just do the math, The doses given in the US, UK, China and India make up more than half of the doses taken world wide (The 4 countries= roughly 600-630 Million doses) with Congo being one of the lowest vaccinating around 14,000 people only.
This isn’t because countries don’t want the vaccines but because they don’t have the vaccine, or haven’t gotten those deliveries yet.
The Haves and Have nots: Which countries have and don’t have the vaccine
The Secretary General of the UN (In February,2021) said that 130 countries have not even received a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, regardless of which company manufactured it. There are around 195-197 countries in the world. (Sorry for these continuous calculations) 195-130 shows that only 65 countries have got the vaccine so far, and even these countries may not have got the sufficient number of doses yet.
This inequality has also been called a Vaccine Apartheid because the richer countries are getting the vaccines but the poorer ones are being maginalised. This has been a message to bigger countries to give vaccines to countries that can’t afford them. I am sorry if this was a bit too negative, but don’t fear positivity is here! (Ooh, I just realised- that rhymes!)
What is a possible solution to this inequality?
Well, firstly this starts off with a magic wand called cooperation! This means that countries must put their squabbles, disputes, wars, arguments aside and must step up and look at the bigger picture (Notice the song reference*? The Answer is at the end).
The WHO has formed a group called COVAX to help get all countries the Covid Vaccine. On their website they say that they aim to provide- Doses for at least 20% of countries' populations, help economies rebuild, split the vaccines diversely etc. They have sent millions of vaccines to various countries. The US which hadn’t initially joined COVAX (172 member countries) donated 4 Billion Dollars (2.5 Billion given for 2021) and Covax raised around 6 Billion dollars in funding. However, they still need an additional 2 Billion dollars. Even the deal for 1.1 billion doses from India (long term) has slowed down due to the recent second wave in India. But the heartening news is that they are making progress in vaccine distribution.
Bigger countries ARE stepping up now, and are donating vaccines to other countries. So it is moving a bit slowly, but its pace is increasing!
There most certainly is a Vaccine inequality, however the world is working to bridge the gap between the inequality. All we can do to improve this is wear a mask, stay safe and follow all Covid-19 precautions. Just follow my 3 Ps: Precaution, Positivity, Prevention!
*The song reference was from the hit song See You Again by Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth- “Had to step up, look at things different see the bigger picture”
Exciting Earth Day!
By: Mihir Rao
Just a few days ago, it was Earth Day! This day is special, since this is the day when the planet that supports us and gives us life is appreciated. But how did this day come to be?
Earth Day is an annual event to support protection of our environment, and do something to help the Earth. On this day, people gather and show their support and love for Earth, by doing something bold. Protesting against non environment friendly laws, or simply changing their lifestyle to be environmentally friendly!
Why did this day start in the first place? So, in a UNESCO conference way back in 1969, people were discussing about a day where people could come together to appreciate the Earth and show support for the environment, and the date was set to March 21st, 1970, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
But this did not cut it. A few weeks later, US Senator Gaylord Nelson thought that there should be more done about this, and he proposed a teach in (a sort of mild protest) that would encompass maybe a few hundred people. Along with a young activist called Denis Hayes, they renamed the day to Earth Day. But this day grew much much bigger than a few hundred people.
Over 15 million came out on the streets, and all of them protested against the environmentally unsafe laws. This was much, much bigger than they both expected it to be, but this was just the beginning.
Over the years, Earth Day has become a staple festival to celebrate the environment, and it has been celebrated in almost all of the countries in the world.
Now, with the Earth going through a second wave of one of the biggest pandemics it has had for some time, we need to support the Earth and help it.
So, you may ask, what can we do about this? Well, here are some things that you can do to help the environment:
Switch from plastic things to other alternatives. For plastic bags, use jute bags! For plastic bottles, use metal bottles!
Separate your waste. This is a no-brainer. Even though it is such an obvious thing that you should do, some people may not know why. Since a lot of the waste we have is non-biodegradable (which means it cannot just combine with the environment over time), it needs to be put in a separate area. Why? This leads me to my next point,
Recycle. This is one of the most important things that you have to do to help the environment. Many people have understood what recycling is, but they might have thought it to be a big pain and a very difficult thing to do. However, recycling is extremely easy. When you go to put your trash in a bin or give it to the waste disposers, you should look for a specific recycling bin, or ask them if you can take a different bag for recycling. Then, they will take it to the recycling plant, where it gets recycled.
Finally, the last thing that you have to do, is spread awareness. Loads of people don’t know about all of these things, and our newsletter can only go a small way. But you can do more. Tell your friends and family to recycle, separate waste, and give back to the environment because it has been giving for so many years.. Because the Earth is the one thing all of us have in common, and we should not let that go away.
By: Mihir Rao
When Hurricane Maria came and caused destruction in Puerto Rico, it didn’t cause only bad things. When this hit, monkeys of all things, expanded their social circles and became friends with their friends’ friends! (try understanding that 😂)
Green just became fashionable! But wait, not the colour, but the style! This time, loads of celebrities came to the Oscars in environmentally friendly dresses to show their support for the environment! What an awesome way to support the environment!
To end racist abuse and trolling online, English Football is doing a social media boycott to show the fact that they do not support people who are racist. This is to flush out the hate that is received by social media and to try and put an end to racist trolling.
Chloé Zhao has made history recently, as she was the first Asian woman of colour to win the Oscar for Best Director at the 2021 Academy Awards!! Not only that, she is also the second woman to win this honour!
By: Abhimanyu Rao
The Mars Perseverance mission is busy making giant leaps! In one of its latest feats, it converted the harmful Carbon Dioxide in Mars’s atmosphere into life-supporting oxygen! This is a huge feat, as this could help us in the future in our attempts to inhabit other planets, and create a housing area on Mars! Just imagine an advertisement for a house on Mars, “Unique location, with an out of this world view!”. Well, pretty soon, this may become a reality. It seems like Pablo Picasso was right, anything you can imagine is real!
The Mars helicopter Ingenuity has lifted off for the third time, and has managed its fastest flight so far! From its last flight, which went at approximately 1.8 km per hour, this flight went at a speed of 7.8 km per hour, that’s just over four times the previous speed. WOW! This will allow Ingenuity to explore Mars faster than before!
Making more leaps and bounds in the field of space, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has achieved a feat that may soon make your dreams come true. A SpaceX Dragon has recently docked with the International Space Station, carrying 2 NASA astronauts, one ESA astronaut, and one JAXA astronaut. However, what’s special about this mission is that this very Dragon was used in a previous mission, making this the first first flight to use a rocket booster that was already used! This could make space buses for commercial travel a reality soon!
While we have discovered various things about our universe, one thing that we have realised we still don’t know everything about is our own galaxy! We have recently discovered a new wave of stars at the edge of the Milky Way, which were sent into our galaxy by another small galaxy that is heading towards our own galaxy! The empty looking halo between arms of the galaxy have recently seen a host of new stars! How cool is that - another galaxy sent us stars as a heads-up that it is coming, like the universal version of a bouquet!
Entertainment quotient for the week:
The Year Earth Changed
From The Literary World: your weekly book review
This week's top book- Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson with Gregory Mone.
By: Agastya Rao
Tennis (Barcelona Open and Porsche Tennis GP)
The ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal defeated Pablo Carreño Busta in the Semi-Finals of the Barcelona Open: 6-3,6-2. World Number 5 Stefano Tsitispas defeated 19 year old tennis phenom and World Number 19 Jannik Sinner in the Semi Finals 6-3,6-3. Nadal defeated Tsitsipas in the Final 6-4, 6-7, 7-5.
Porsche Tennis GP
World Number 1 ranked Ashleigh Barty defeated World Number 5 ranked Elina Svitolina in the Semi Finals 4-6, 7-6^5,6-2. World Number 7 ranked Aryna Sabalenka defeated World Number 3 ranked Simona Halep 6-3,6-2 to reach the Finals. Ashleigh Barty won another WTA title on the same day, where she and 14th ranked in Singles Jennifer Brady defeated the first seeded duo of Doubles rank 24 Desirae Krawczyk and 16th Doubles ranked Bethanie Mattek- Sands 4-6, 7-5, 5-10. With this, Jennifer Brady won her maiden Doubles title and Ashleigh Barty won her 11th WTA Doubles title.
-As the NBA 2021 regular season nears an end, and the Playoffs come nearer the NBA announced a new format for 2021 called the NBA Play In tournament. Teams ranked 7 and 8th will battle it out and so will teams 9th and 10th to win two consecutive to fight for a berth in the Playoffs. The winners will be seeded 7th and 8th in their respective conferences in the Playoffs!
Rajasthan Royals defeated Kolkata Knight Riders by 6 wickets in their thrilling win. Rajasthan Royals’ Chris Morris was awarded the Player of the Match taking 4 wickets in 4 overs and conceding 23 runs.
On the 25th of April, one of the most anticipated matches of this season happened. The Chennai Super Kings defeated the Royal Challengers Bangalore by 69 runs. The Player of the Match was Ravindra Jadeja who put on a sensational performance of his superb cricket skills. Smashing 68 runs of 28 balls with his bat and taking 3 wickets and conceding 13 runs! He also scored 5 sixes and 4 4s.
A notable performance came from Faf Du Plessis from CSK who scored 50 runs off 41 balls. RCB’s Harshal Patel conceded the most runs in IPL history! He may have taken 3 wickets, but he also conceded 37 RUNS in one over to none other than Ravindra Jadeja, equalling Chris Gayle’s 37 scored in 2011 against bowler Prasanth Parameswaran.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad lost to the Delhi Capitals won in the Super Over. The Player of the Match was Delhi Capital’s Prithvi Shaw who scored 53 runs in 39 balls.
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