About –the stories of the world this week, 2 October to 8 October 2022: deadly football, a tight election in Brazil, 5G in India, a fierce helicopter, Noble Prizes – and human evolution.


Crushing Football in Indonesia

Football – Association Football – is the most popular sport in Indonesia in terms of attendance, participation, and revenue. And the domestic league, played at all levels – from children to middle-aged men – is widely followed across the country.

Liga 1, the Indonesian domestic league is hugely popular and was started around 1930 in the Dutch colonial era. The National Body that kicks the football around the country is the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI). Some of the major teams are: Persija Jakarta, Persib Bandung, Persebaya Surabaya, PSM Makassar, Persita Tangerang, PSMS Medan, PSIS Semarang, Persik Kediri, Persipura Jayapura, Persiwa Wamena, and Arema Malang.

Few places in the world can match the passion for football generated by fans in Indonesia, where stadiums are regularly packed to the rafters to cheer their sides. Fans are strongly attached to their clubs, and such fanaticism often ends in violence and hooliganism, mostly outside the stadiums.

On Saturday, last week, in Malang, East Java the home team Area FC lost, 2-3, to long-time, bitter rival Persebaya Surabaya at an overcrowded Kanjuruhan stadium. On the final whistle, marking the defeat, Arema FC fans invaded the pitch, causing the Police to chase them to bring order. They then started attacking the Police, damaging vehicles and a Police car was set on fire. In response, the Police began firing tear gas, on the spread of which spectators in the stadium panicked and started running towards the exits. And in the stampede and the surge to leave the Stadium that followed, at least 130 people were suffocated or crushed to death and hundreds injured. This is one of the world’s worst stadium disasters. Two police officers also died in the melee.

The Kanjuruhan stadium has a stated capacity of 38,000 and 42,000 tickets were sold for the match. However, being the home ground of Arema FC, Persebaya Surabaya fans were banned from buying tickets, fearing clashes between the sides – whoever wins or loses.

FIFA, the world’s governing football body, states that no ‘crowd control gas’ should be carried or used by stewards or Police at matches. Here, Police had fired numerous tear gas rounds ‘continuously and fast’ after the situation with the fans became ‘tense’. If the crowds panic and the Police also panic, it can lead to nothing but disaster. It did.

Across the world, other instances of Stadium disasters are:

In the year 1964, 320 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured during a stampede at a Peru-Argentina Olympic qualifier in Peru’s Capital, Lima.

In 1985, during the European Cup final between England’s Liverpool and Italy’s Juventus Clubs, 39 people died and 600 were hurt at the Heysel stadium in Brussels, Belgium, when fans were crushed against a wall that then collapsed.

In 1989, in the United Kingdom, crush of football fans led to the death of 97 Liverpool fans attending the club’s FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield. The tragedy was largely attributed to mistakes by the Police.

Lessons still to be learnt: new ‘safety’ goals are to be set by the Police and Authorities managing sport in stadiums.

Close Presidential Elections in Brazil

Brazil’s bitterly divisive presidential election is headed for a runoff on 30th October as incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro beat expectations to finish a closer-than-expected second to front-runner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula, seeking a presidential comeback, secured 48.4% of the vote to Bolsonaro’s 43.2%. Simone Tebet, a member of the Brazilian Federal Senate, an academic and lawyer politician came a distant third with 4.2% of the votes.

It was an unexpectedly strong result for the combative ex-army captain Bolsonaro, and for Brazil’s far-right, which also had surprise good showings in a series of key congressional and governors’ races.

Lula, the popular but tarnished ex-President who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, had been the favourite to win the race – possibly in a single round.

Super-fast 5G in India

On 1st October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 5G services in India ushering a new era of super-fast communications.

In telecommunications, 5G is the Fifth Generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, which cellular phone companies began deploying worldwide in 2019, and is the planned successor to the 4G networks which provide connectivity to most current cellphones. 5G is up to 100 times faster than 4G.

Let’s go back a decade to when it all started with 1G and move up a decade and a Generation, at a time.

In 1980 we had 1G with mobile voice calls. In 1990 we stepped on to 2G with mobile voice calls and SMS (Short Message Service). In 2000 we walked fast on 3G with mobile web browsing. Then in 2010 we began running on 4G with mobile video consumption and higher data speed. Now 5G provides the sprint: faster connectivity speeds, ultra-low latency and greater bandwidth dramatically enhancing day-to-day experiences. Services that we used to see as futuristic, such as e-health, connected vehicles and traffic systems, and advanced mobile cloud gaming have arrived.

Like its predecessors, 5G networks are cellular networks, in which the service area is divided into small geographical areas called cells. All 5G wireless devices in a cell are connected to the Internet and telephone network by radio waves through a local antenna in the cell. The new networks have higher download speeds, eventually up to 10 gigabits per second. In addition to 5G being faster than existing networks, 5G has higher bandwidth and can thus connect more of different devices, improving the quality of Internet services in crowded areas.

India’s Blue Thunder

India’s indigenously built Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) was commissioned this week and named Prachand, meaning ‘fierce’.

This is a fierce lift-off for India’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan campaign, which intent is to make India a self-reliant country in all aspects.

Prachand is a multi-role, light attack helicopter, capable of taking-off and landing at an altitude of 16,400 feet – perhaps the only one of its kind in the world with such a high flight ceiling. It is manufactured by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and designed by its in-house Rotary Wing Research and Design Centre.

It has been ordered by the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army based on a lessons -learnt outcome during the 1999 Kargil War, in which India successfully staved off and attack by Pakistan. The war revealed that Indian armed forces lacked a suitably armed rotorcraft capable of operating unrestricted in the high-altitudes.

Prachand is equipped with a two-person tandem cockpit to accommodate a pilot and co-pilot gunner and can perform both the anti-infantry and anti-armour missions. The features that are unique to Prachand include its narrow fuselage, a crashworthy tricycle landing gear arrangement and self-sealing fuel tanks, armour protection, and a low visibility stealth profile. It is protected via an extensive electronic warfare suite which comprises multiple defensive elements to guard against various kinds of threats. These include a radar warning receiver, laser warning receiver and a missile approach warning system. The protective measures included consist of a digital camouflage system, an infrared suppressor fitted to the engine exhaust, and an exterior covered by canted flat panels to minimise its radar cross-section. It is furnished with an integrated dynamic system, including a hingeless main rotor and bearing-less tail rotor, which works in conjunction with an anti-resonance isolation system to dampen vibrations.

That’s breathtaking capability developed by India. Way to go! Prachand whirled memories of the 1983 Hollywood movie, ‘Blue Thunder’ starring ‘Jaws fame’ Roy Scheider, about a combat style Police surveillance helicopter. Remember the movie?

Rewards for Path-Breaking Work – The Nobel Prizes

The question of our origin and what makes us humans unique has engaged humanity since ancient times. I’ve always been fascinated by human evolution: how did we get here in our present shape? Finally, we are getting some definitive answers to the many puzzling questions about our origins.

First, a few scientific definitions: hold your head tight before it starts spinning.

Taxonomy is a scheme of hierarchical classification in which things are organised into groups or types. Human taxonomy is the classification of the human species within the zoological taxonomy. Genome means the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism. It is made of DNA (or RNA) and other elements that control the activity of genes. Genome sequencing is a laboratory method that is used to determine the entire genetic makeup of a specific organism or cell type.

We humans belong to the Kingdom – Animalia, Phylum-Chordata, Class-Mammalia, Order-Primates, Family-Hominidae, Subfamily-Homininae, Tribe-Hominini, Genus-Homo, Species-Sapiens. Going deeper, the genus Homo is placed in the tribe Hominini alongside Pan-Chimpanzees. The two genera diverged over an extended time of hybridization spanning roughly 10 to 6 million years ago, with possible admixture as late as 4 million years ago.

The genus, Homo includes both anatomically modern humans and extinct varieties of archaic humans. In the Tribe ‘Homini’ only one species exists today – that’s us Homo Sapiens (meaning ‘wise man’, in Latin), or plain human beings. Other human varieties went extinct just like the Dinosaurs did. And the reasons are yet to be conclusively established.

Now, armed with this scientific background, let’s move to more nobler things:

This year’s The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to Sweden’s Svante Paabo for his work on human evolution – for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution. The Prize committee said he achieved the seemingly impossible task of cracking the genetic code of one of our extinct relatives – Neanderthals (Homo Neanderthalensis). He also performed the ‘sensational’ feat of discovering a previously unknown relative – Denisovans (Homo Denisova). His work significantly helped explore our own evolutionary history and how humans spread around the planet.

Svante Paabo successfully sequenced the genome of a Neanderthal in the year 2010 by extracting the DNA from the femur bones of three 38,000 years old female Neanderthal specimens from Vindija Cave, Croatia, and other bones found in Spain, Russia, and Germany.

Recall, by the end of the 1990’s, almost the entire human genome had been sequenced, which was an outstanding, path-breaking accomplishment that allowed subsequent studies of the genetic relationship between different human populations.

Paabo found that gene transfer had occurred from these now extinct hominins to Homo Sapiens following the migration out of Africa. This ancient flow of genes to present-day humans has physiological relevance today, for example affecting how our immune system reacts to infections.

Paabo’s seminal research gave rise to an entirely new scientific discipline: paleogenomics. By revealing genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominins, his discoveries provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human.

Paleontological and archeological research provided evidence that the anatomically modern Homo Sapiens, first appeared in Africa approximately 300,000 years ago, while our closest known relatives, Neanderthals, developed outside Africa and populated Europe and Western Asia from around 400,000 years until 30,000 years ago, at which point they went extinct. About 70,000 years ago, groups of Homo Sapiens migrated from Africa to the Middle East and, from there they spread to the rest of the world. Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals thus coexisted in large parts of Eurasia for tens of thousands of years.

We know about our relationship with the extinct Neanderthals from clues derived from genomic information. Comparisons with contemporary humans and chimpanzees demonstrated that Neanderthals were genetically distinct. It has also been demonstrated that the most recent common ancestor of Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens lived around 800,000 years ago. This means that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens interbred during their millennia of coexistence. In modern day humans with European or Asian descent, approximately 1 to 4% of the genome originates from the Neanderthals.

In 2008, a 40,000-year-old fragment from a finger bone was discovered in the Denisova cave in the southern part of Siberia. The bone contained exceptionally well-preserved DNA, which Paabo’s team sequenced. The results caused a sensation: the DNA sequence was unique when compared to all known sequences from Neanderthals and present-day humans. Paabo had discovered a previously unknown hominin, which was given the name Denisova. Comparisons with sequences from contemporary humans from different parts of the world showed that gene flow had also occurred between Denisova and Homo sapiens. This relationship was first seen in populations in Melanesia and other parts of South East Asia, where individuals carry up to 6% Denisova DNA.

At the time when Homo Sapiens migrated out of Africa, at least two now extinct hominin populations inhabited Eurasia. Neanderthals lived in western Eurasia, whereas Denisovans populated the eastern parts of the continent. During the expansion of Homo sapiens outside Africa and their migration east, they not only encountered and interbred with Neanderthals, but also with Denisovans Interbreeding occurred when Homo sapiens spread across the continent, leaving traces that remain in our DNA.

A flashback: Neanderthals were the first species of fossil hominins discovered and have secured their place in our collective imagination ever since. The first Neanderthal fossils were found in Engis, Belgium in 1829, but were not identified as belonging to Neanderthals until almost 100 years later. The first fossils to be called Neanderthals were found in 1856 in Germany, at a site in the Neander Valley (where Neanderthals get their name from).

The other Nobel Prizes of 2022, announced are:

The Nobel Prize in Physics to France’s Alain Aspect, USA’s John F. Clauser and Austria’s Anton Zeilinger, ‘for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science’.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry to USA’s Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Denmark’s Morten Meldal, and USA’s K. Barry Sharpless, ‘for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistrye’.

The Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to the French author Annie Ernaux ‘for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory’.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organisation Memorial, and the Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties: they represent civil society in their home countries. Said the announcement , “They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy”.

Over the years there was a grouse about the ‘tiny amount’ of female prize winners. Maybe someone heard?

As of 2022, Unique Nobel Prize laureates include 885 men, 59 women, and 25 Organizations. Only one woman, Marie Curie, has been honoured twice, with the Nobel Prize in Physics 1903 and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1911.

More gritty, armoured stories coming up in the weeks ahead, work hard and stay the course, you may win a Nobel; meanwhile, keep reading World Inthavaaram to evolve better.


One thought on “WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2022-40

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s