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Weekly Digest #41

Updated: May 24

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TOP STORIES

Animals have feelings too!

By: Abhimanyu Rao


In Weekly Digest #40, The Happiness Quotient featured this little snippet about animals being recognized as sentient beings in the UK. This is a big step, as it could open the doors for many more animal rights movements, and is a big success for all animal rights everywhere. However, this isn’t just some small decision. Acknowledging animals as sentient beings will ban the export of live animals, increase constraints on pet theft, shock collars will be banned, and much more. Confused? Don’t worry, I will be going over some of the big steps this law has taken, and then talk about it’s implications.


But first, we must start at the very beginning, which-as Maria from The Sound of Music so eloquently puts it- is a very good place to start.

Animal rights movements have been around for years, and they have always focussed on different sects of animal rights.


However, lately, there has been a rise in the protests against animal exports, and protests against the import of hunting trophies has fueled a long debated topic- “are animals sentient beings that deserve rights?”. “If they are, then isn’t exporting them unethical and wrong? What about using their heads as trophies?”. This debate was finally fueled enough for the lawmakers in the UK to acknowledge animals as sentient beings, and now, we shall discuss what this did.


The Result of this law:

This law has placed controls on a lot of things. I will now give some examples, and discuss what the law has done to these examples.


Shock Collars: Shock collars are a very controversial topic, but I find them unbearably barbaric. They are collars that deliver electric shocks to dogs in a controlled manner to train them. Now imagine if you had a little collar around your neck that delivered electric shocks if you did anything wrong, or if you tried to step out of your house. I know! It would be awful! And things like this happen to dogs all around the world all the time! This is one of the things that the UK has banned by acknowledging animals as sentient beings, and I for one am thrilled!


Shark Fin Trading:


Obtaining shark fins is one of the most disturbing acts of humanity. Fishermen capture sharks, cut off their dorsal fin, and then toss them back into the ocean. This not only causes severe, and usually near-fatal blood loss in sharks, but also greatly affects their mobility. Dorsal fins help sharks in sudden turns, and also provide a lot of stability, and prevent sharks from rolling if they are against a current. The removal of these fins greatly affects their stability, and effectively ruins their swimming capabilities. Due to this, if they don’t bleed out, they will starve to death because they won't be able to hunt.


The Status Quo in India


In India, animals haven’t been recognised as sentient beings, but they do have several rights. Neglecting the needs of animals is illegal, and you must ensure that they are well fed and comfortable. Maiming or killing any animals is a punishable offence, you can be imprisoned for abandoning any animal, and it is illegal to take part in, or organize any animal fights.


Lastly, and most importantly, Every citizen of India has the fundamental duty to be compassionate to all living creatures (this includes animals). This is just a gist of what India has done to protect animals, and they have several other laws to do so as well. However, legislators haven’t recognised the sentience of animals yet, but hopefully it will happen soon!


The way forward?


This big step will change the lives of several animals for the better, but we mustn't stop there. Other countries should begin passing similar laws for animal rights. Animals may not be in a position of power, but that doesn’t mean that their rights should be disregarded. Imagine this, in the year 2030, ‘Green Friends from Space’ (check out Agastya’s article for more on this), invade our planet, and begin treating us the way humanity has treated animals. We won't be in a position of power anymore, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have rights or feelings. Acknowledging animal sentience acknowledges animal rights and feelings, so there is no negative to it!


In conclussion, animals have feelings too, and what the UK has done is simply acknowledge that truth. This will protect animals from several heinous treatments like shock collars, and will help them live better lives. Since there is nothing wrong with accepting the truth, this should be an act that other countries follow, so that animals everywhere are happy!






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Cover Story-


Green Friends from space, UFOs and More! (Part 1)

By: Agastya Rao



UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) have been a part of Pop Culture for over a 100 years. With The Pentagon now investigating UFO sightings, President Obama himself acknowledged that the United States Military has evidence of unknown flying objects. So what are UFOs, have they ever been found, and do aliens exist?


Considering myself an amateur conspiracy theorist (Even though I wasn’t one of the people who stormed Area 51- more on this later) I still enjoy Unsolved Mysteries- remember my first Unsolved Mysteries column in Weekly Digest #6? With all the recent chatter about UFOs, I have made it my mission to dig up the history of UFOs, new and old evidence, sightings and reports of UFOs.


The first main sighting of a ‘Flying Saucer’ was way back in 1947 when Private Pilot Kenneth Arnold apparently saw 9 ‘unidentifiable objects’ which were travelling at high speeds. He compared them to ‘saucers skipping water’- this spawned the name ‘Flying Saucers’ and led to thousands of movies, books and myths on our little ‘green friends from space’. As the sightings of ‘flying saucers’ increased, so did mass hysteria and absurd theories.


This was around 1947-98 when the Cold War between Russia and the United States had just begun. Many people in America suspected the sightings as ‘advanced Russian Aeroplanes’. Now, whether these sightings were Russian Spy planes or not is not completely known, but most of the research points to it being Extraterrestrial.

There were numerous sightings and reports around this time of various flying saucers. These also piqued the interest of an Air Force base in Nevada, USA- Area 51.


Area 51, The U2 Spy Plane and more


In 1955 there was an old airfield that was selected to test a certain spy plane. This plane was called the (Lockheed) U2 Spy Plane which was used by the United States of America to spy on Russia. This plane was kept in and tested at the infamous Area 51. For those of you reading this who don’t know what Area 51 is, it is a Top Secret Air Force Base controlled by the USAF (United States Air Force), which is suspected by conspiracy theorists as a place where UFOs and Aliens are held.


Despite the main usage of Area 51 happening in 1955, the US Government only accepted that it existed in the year 2011. It took them more than 50 years to acknowledge its existence. Why so? Is it because they house aliens in Area 51?

Because of the good agents of the CIA, they decided that they wanted their work to be kept a secret- and a well kept one at that! They decided to engage in spreading rumours.


Because of their top secret spy planes being tested, they encouraged the idea of UFOs flying around Area 51. Any publicity is welcome, even if it is bad publicity!

In order to ensure that little to know information about Area 51 is spread to the public, it has been reported in the past that a secret airline takes scientists and other passengers daily on a nonstop flight to and from Area 51.


Various sightings of planes and other aircrafts flying around Area 51, combined with the high security levels and mystery that Area 51 is shrouded in continuously add fuel to the fire of Area 51’s dark Alien Holding past.

And very recently, a few curious people decided based on a bright idea from a

Facebook post that they would Storm Area 51. The very idea of ‘storming Area 51’ started as a joke from a Facebook event in 2019 when an enterprising man named Matty Roberts who said he was bored and created a Facebook event called ‘Storm Area 51, they can’t stop us all’. More than 2 Million People RSVP’D.


Though no ‘storming’ of Area 51 actually happened and 2 Million people didn’t show up- many YouTubers, Vloggers and normal people who wanted to get in on the fun showed up. YouTuber Mr Beast made an entire video about, even in it - no storming of area 51 actually happened.


A music festival called Alien-Stock was organised in the area around Area 51- but mostly it was just a few people in Kermit the Frog costumes.

No one person actually even attempted to storm or break into Area 51, and very few people were arrested. So as a whole, it was just a mini concert with beefed up security and an Air Force base nearby.


Only around 6000 people actually arrived, which made the extra security of hundreds of first responders and policemen an utter waste.


Alien Abductions, famous sightings and more- The Bright Lights and Flying Saucer


Alien Abductions are usually incredibly scary whenever you hear about them, and sometimes they might even be hard for you to believe.

One incident that occured in the September of 1961 set off a spring of events and investigations into Alien and UFO sightings. The Betty and Barney Hill Alien Abduction was the first Alien Abduction report in the United States at the time. I shall summarise the story for you, but I must warn you, this story shall leave you with chills running through your bones.


The Alien Abduction of Betty and Barney Hill-


It was the night of September 1961, and Betty and Barney Hill were in the car and were driving home. As they were driving back,a mysterious light kept following them from the sky, and no car was coming behind them.

When they got back home that morning both of them felt strange.They could not remember a whole 2 Hours of what happened during their car ride. What else was strange?


For one, both their watches had stopped working, Betty’s dress was ripped and Barney’s shoes were scuffed.

With the help of a psychiatrist they recounted the mysterious events of the night before and remembered roughly what happened in those missing two hours.The first thing was that no matter which turn they took, the light in the sky kept following them.


Then when Barney got out of the car and aimed his gun at a jet-like object hovering above them, he just was unable to press the trigger. When he ran back to his car, a sound came from the boot of their car and they were unconscious. When they regained their consciousness they were 56Km down the road.


With the help of the psychiatrist they recalled how they went up a grey ramp and various tests were conducted and they even talked to the people who abducted them, but couldn’t quite remember the entire picture.


This story even led to an investigation by the United States Air Force!

(Source: History.com and Vanity Fair)


This story freaked me out, and there are dozens of stories of alien abductions and weird bright lights that came and beamed the people up somewhere. We will never know if these stories are 100% true or a figment of our imagination. But the very possibility of them being true tells us that we are not alone in this universe.



To be Continued...


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The Mysterious Mechanics of A.I: Friend or foe?


By: Mihir Rao



A.I, the title given to machines that can learn, which has become a well known title that covers many areas - robots, autopilot, etc. But what is Artificial Intelligence exactly? Is it something that we see in the media, or is it something completely different? And finally, is A.I something to be revered, or something to be feared?


Firstly, let me tell you what an A.I is exactly: Basically, an A.I is a machine which is coded in such a way that it can teach itself to do many things which are coded into it. For example, if you code an A.I to be able to write stories for you (Which has been made!), the Artificial Intelligence will teach itself to write stories using predetermined code that you write, and it will perfect the art of story writing the more it learns.


Since artificial intelligence has been around for a while, there have been many adaptations of it in the media. From Iron Man, to Star Trek, these quirky machines have been in our media and that has also influenced the way we think about artificial intelligence! Here are a few examples of this in action :


(MILD SPOILERS AHEAD, PROCEED WITH CAUTION)


The Avengers is a classic, and the sequel to that, ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ talks about the pursuit of safety across the world, and creating robots that protect the world from threats. However, the creation of the same goes awry, and Ultron the A.I is created. His ideals of the world match his creators’ hopes and dreams, but they are just a little bit more violent. I’m not going to say anything other than you should go watch the movie!


Next, we have Wall-E. It’s a timeless movie that really would stay in our minds. The movie focuses on an Earth very, VERY far into the future, where humans have polluted the planet, and had to evacuate and go to space. The protagonist is WALL-E, an A.I designated with the task to clean up the Earth, one piece of trash at a time. But then, he meets another robot called Eve, and he follows her across the galaxy as the story unfolds. This time, the movie deals with the feelings of a robot.


Now, we come on to a favourite of many people: Star Wars. One of the biggest story arcs in the series is the Clone Wars, where the Galactic Republic fights the Separatists. It’s a long war, spanning 1 movie, 7 seasons of a show, and some graphic novels. In that war, the Separatists use expendable, quick to produce battle droids, which outnumber the opposition very easily; And even though they lose the war, they have a great many successes in between.


Fast-forward a bit, and Astromech droids like R2D2 help in charting flight paths, navigating through space, and piloting the ship. Also, there are Protocol droids like C3PO which are assigned to their master and help their owner however they can, whether it is running errands, translating languages, or doing menial tasks, almost like a robot butler.


Finally, The Terminator is a classic that is still a good movie at this time! It focuses on a cyborg assassin, camouflaged as a human who travelled back in time to kill a person whose child saves humanity from an evil artificial intelligence called SkyNet which causes a nuclear holocaust in the near future.


(SPOILER SECTION OVER)


As you can see, artificial intelligence is portrayed in many different ways, some good and some bad. But how do we even make a thing like that?



Firstly, you have to decide what type of A.I you are making, and what its main function will be. For example, you can make an image recognition A.I whose main purpose is to recognise objects put in front of it. Once you have decided that, you can proceed with the coding. Of course, there are many coding languages which are good for making A.I such as Python, C++ and Javascript, but I won’t get into the details of how to code. The code tells the A.I what to do, and what patterns to recognise.


Is that it? Is the A.I ready? No, not even a little bit.


This is the most crucial stage of coding a machine that learns: Practice. Just like us humans, the only way you can get better at something is with practice, and that is true for these machines too. First, you take a predetermined test which you keep putting the A.I through and after a while, it will show some signs of improvement, but may stop after a bit. That is when you have to intervene and change the code so that the A.I can do the task better, until it has perfected it. These trials are not in the tens. They aren’t in the hundreds or thousands either. It takes tens of thousands of trials to perfect an A.I, and even more if you want to commercially use it! And this brings me to my next point:


There are many applications of programs that utilise machine learning in our lives, and you may know some! Here are a few examples:



Recommendation Algorithms: The very thing that keeps you on YouTube, Instagram, or any social media platform is powered by an A.I! But no need to fear, because this A.I can be quite helpful at times. This program takes in your order information, and recognises patterns between them, and accordingly recommends you matching items or videos. When you watch a YouTube video on Nature, the website sees that and recommends you more videos on nature, which gives you more content to watch! The same thing also applies to online shopping websites like Amazon and Flipkart.







Autopilot: Well, this is probably one of the most well known applications of machine learning. We’ve seen it in many movies, and this is how it’s done: Through an algorithm that the people making the A.I decide, the aerial vehicle is able to pilot itself without any human intervention! Also, this technology is developing in cars like the Tesla!


Space Vehicles: Space: The final frontier. With space rovers like Curiosity and Perseverance and with spacecrafts that take us up to space, the controlling cannot be done only by us, because precise measurement is needed to have a safe journey. Therefore, we employ A.I to help us traverse unknown terrain, and reach greater lengths.


To conclude, artificial intelligence has worked its way into our daily lives, and we don’t need to be scared, we just need to be cautious.


Always treat Alexa and Siri with respect, you never know when the tables will turn and they will order you around" - Agastya Rao, Co-founder of the Paperless Press 😂


With all the leaps and bounds mankind is making through science, we need an assistant to make sure that we’re on the right track. But about the future? That is uncertain. What about the question, ‘Friend or Foe’? Well, you can be the judge of that. For now, the question remains unanswered.

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By: Mihir Rao

  1. The Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences has made a Covid-19 antibody detection kit, which is to be sold at 75 rupees nation-wide. This is a small step towards helping the Covid-19 patients in our country!

  2. Since cows produce methane, cattle farming accounts for a whopping 10% of all greenhouse gases produced by human activity! So, a new feed supplement was introduced that reduced the production of methane in cows by 30%! That is reducing methane emissions by about one ton of Carbon Dioxide per year!

  3. Recently, Vivian Cunningham, a great grandmother of 3, spent 6 years working to obtain her degree in liberal studies, and she has finally obtained it. Her passion for learning has made her work tirelessly towards this degree, and she has achieved her dream. The pursuit of knowledge does not know any age limit!

  4. A new "Big Five" project is underway, but one that has no connection to the term hunters use for animals. By a popular vote, 5 species- elephant, lion, polar bear , gorilla and tiger - have been crowned the Big Five that people want to shoot. But not with a gun, rather with a camera.

  5. Valuable 500, a global disability network, has worked with the top companies in the world to put disability inclusion in their boardroom agenda. These companies, including the BBC, Twitter and Coca-Cola have agreed to include disability representation in their quarterly reports. Definitely a step in the right direction!

  6. Lego is celebrating Pride Month by releasing an official LGBTQIA+ pride set. The set is called "Everyone is awesome" (inspired by the song "everything is awesome" from the soundtrack of The Lego Movie").

By: Agastya Rao



1. When you are calmly taking a stroll on a beach, you wouldn’t expect to unearth an Ancient Roman Bath Complex, would you? On a beach in Southern Spain, an ancient, but well preserved Bath Complex emerged on a beach. In addition to the Bath Complex, they also discovered an ancient tomb close by! The Burial site is said to be over 4000 years old!


2. Have you ever wanted to discover the brightest light in the universe? Well, astronomers on the Tibetan Plateau used a LHAASO- Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory and detected the brightest light particle! It is 700 Million times stronger than the light we can see with the human eye!


3. NASA has announced that they may have discovered organic salts on Mars! A new report published by the Journal of Geophysical Research said that compounds like magnesium oxalates and acetates, decomposed by radiation and oxidation, have turned into organic salts. These salts could just be formed by geological processes, or (Even better!), they may be the remnants of microbial life on Mars! The more we learn about possible life on Mars, the more this becomes exciting!


4. A new species of mammal was recently discovered in India! This animal is a shrew from the Andaman Islands. This shrew, the Crocidura narcondamica, is dark grey, with dense fur, and a dark tail. This species is only found on the Narcondam Island. The animal discovered was a female, and was very deeply examiled. Imagine being the center of attention for so long!


5. In more news relating to animals, Coelacanth, a species of fish that everyone thought was extinct, actually isn’t! A study by the South African Journal of Science reported 334 recent sightings of the fish as of may 2020! It’s really great that more and more animals have been able to return from the brink of extinction, and we are hopeful for the lives of other animals too!

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From The Literary World: your weekly book review


This week's top book- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson




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Entertainment quotient for the week:


Disney+

Masterchef Australia Season 13

Netflix

Penguins of Madagascar- The Movie















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