The fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale features creative works by 95 artists in 10 locations around the heritage Fort Kochi district, as well as nine satellite venues. See Part Iand Part II of our photo essays, as well as our coverage of the Bangkok Biennale.
From politics to nature, the art works in this photo essay point a way to hope in their own creative manner. For example, some artists go beyond paints and sculptures to show how ropes (Mrinalini Mukherjee) and seashells (Julie Gough) can be used in installations.
Crushed dreams, the sorrow of conflict, and displacement after natural calamities leave deep scars on society (Rula Halawani, Srinagar Biennale, Chittoprasad Bhattachary). Social divides continue to thrive even after the end of the colonial era (BV Suresh). Rising corruption plagues emerging economies, holding back their right to progress. Reckless urban and rural development wreak havoc on habitat and nature.
It takes sensitisation and a demand for justice to dissect and tackle social-political problems. The artists in this photo essay go beyond images of doom and gloom to show that creative solutions can indeed be found, and in a sustainable manner. They raise awareness about the importance of human rights, dignity, identity, inclusion and expression (Zanelle Muholi; the Braille edition of the Biennale brochure).
“Success for an artist comes from the happiness of making a connect with the audience. It comes from sensitising them to the loss of others, and helping them be grateful for what they have,” said painter-photographer Manisha Gera Baswani, in a chat with YourStory.
Her exhibit, titled Postcards from Home, features photographs of Indian and Pakistani artists whose parents moved across the border during partition. Those who have overcome their sense of loss and displacement in a dignified manner are a source of inspiration for the next generation, she explains.
She advises aspiring artists to listen to their heart, and have faith that the impact of their work will eventually emerge. This is particularly important in a time of international tension and domestic conflict, Manisha urges.
Now, what have you done today to pause and take stock of the world around us, and do your bit to create a better place for us all?
On Tuesday, the Trump administration signed a preliminary agreement with Brazil that could one day lead to US rockets launching from the South American country’s coastal spaceport. President Trump praised the idea of using the site, arguing that “because of the location, tremendous amounts of money would be saved.” But while the launch site offers up a few key benefits to US launch providers, it’s possible that these advantages may not be enough to draw all major rocket companies to the area.
The biggest asset of Brazil’s spaceport is its proximity to the equator. The site, known as the Alcântara Launch Center, is located at a latitude of just 2.3 degrees south. For anyone launching a rocket, that’s a juicy spot. There aren’t many options on Earth for launching that close to the equator, and the site would make it much easier for satellite operators to send payloads into an equatorial orbit. Additionally, rockets at the equator get an extra boost in speed, thanks to the Earth’s rotation, which helps rockets save on fuel.
However, the logistics of setting up a new launch site in Brazil could be an issue for some. The larger US rocket companies, such as SpaceX, the United Launch Alliance, and Blue Origin, already have multiple options for launching out of the US that are relatively close to the equator. A new site would need a lot of upfront investment in order to create the ground infrastructure in Brazil to support each company’s unique rocket design. It’s a lot of money and work for a small amount of benefit in flights. Plus shipping overseas to Brazil can add an extra layer of time and money that wouldn’t be an issue when launching from the US.
There are some launch providers on the smaller end of the rocket scale that see big opportunities in Brazil. Companies like startup Vector, which are focused solely on launching small satellites, have openly advocated for the chance to launch out of Alcântara. It would allow them to launch missions that they simply cannot do in the United States because of their smaller size. Since the company’s hardware isn’t as big as that of a Falcon 9 or an Atlas V rocket, very little investment is needed to make the launchpad infrastructure. “I think it’s really going to be the domain of the future small rockets that go there,” Jim Cantrell, CEO and co-founder of Vector, tells The Verge.
Rockets launching again from Alcântara would reinvigorate what was once a major national resource for Brazil. Numerous sounding rockets took flight from the area throughout the 1990s. But in 2003, a rocket intended for orbit exploded on the site’s launchpad during some ground tests, killing 21 people nearby and leveling the pad’s launch tower. The accident halted Brazil’s efforts to launch two planned satellites, and the country’s space efforts have had difficulty recovering.
Since then, Brazil has been looking for international partnerships to bring other countries’ vehicles to Alcântara. The country even courted the Bush administration back in 2000 to bring commercial launches to the site, but those efforts were met with opposition from Brazilian lawmakers. Now, Brazil is trying again. In 2018, the government invited two major US players in aerospace, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to visit Alcântara, according to a report in Reuters. The goal is to offer up a cheaper location than the nearby Guiana Space Centre in South America’s French Guiana where all of Europe’s rockets take flight.
Alcântara boasts a few impressive geographic benefits that are needed for a spaceport. It’s on the coast of Brazil, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east. That’s key for a launch site, as many rockets launch eastward to match the direction of Earth’s orbit. Launching over a large body of water is important for safety, as it reduces the risk of a falling rocket part hitting someone on the ground or damaging someone’s property. It’s the reason why US launches occur in coastal areas, such as Cape Canaveral, Florida, or the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Brazil has a slight advantage over Cape Canaveral, which is located at around 28.5 degrees north. Being near the equator is great for sending satellites into a type of orbit known as a geostationary orbit. This is a path 22,000 miles above the Earth’s equator where satellites are traveling at the same speed as the Earth’s rotation. The result is that satellites basically hover over the same patch of Earth at all times. It’s a perfect spot to deposit a communications satellite or a surveillance probe that needs to look at the same region of the planet at all times.
Getting to geostationary orbit from Florida takes a little extra work, though. Rockets must deposit a satellite on a path that’s slightly askew from the equator (at a 28.5-degree tilt), and the satellites then need to change their direction in orbit by burning an onboard engine. That requires fuel, which takes up space on a satellite and influences the vehicle’s design. At a spot like Alcântara or the Guiana Space Center, such a plane change would be minuscule, requiring less fuel.
Additionally, the Earth is actually moving faster at the equator than other points on the planet, which is good news for rockets. The Earth’s equator is its widest section, so it has a long way to travel each time the planet makes a full 24-hour rotation. One spot on the equator has to go a much greater distance than a spot near the poles, for instance. So a rocket launching on the equator gets an extra speed boost, making it easier for the vehicle to reach the extra high velocities needed to achieve orbit. The rocket doesn’t need as much fuel, making launches more efficient and potentially allowing companies to pack in more cargo on a flight.
“You can use a less powerful rocket to launch the same satellite, or you can launch a bigger satellite using the same launch vehicle,” Lakshmi Kantha, a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, tells The Verge.
WHO ACTUALLY WANTS TO LAUNCH FROM BRAZIL?
Are all of these benefits enough to lure major US companies to Brazil? It’s not an enormous inconvenience to ship rockets over water. In fact, Arianespace ships its rockets by boat from Europe and Russia to French Guiana. The ULA also ships parts of its Delta IV Heavy by boat, and NASA used to ship the Space Shuttle’s external tank from New Orleans to Florida. “Large ships are used to accommodate oversized hardware,” Dennis Jenkins, an aerospace engineer at the California Science Center who used to work on the Space Shuttle, tells The Verge. “Most large rockets throughout history have been shipped at least partially by sea.”
However, moving by boat is time-consuming and somewhat costly, especially when traveling to Brazil via the Panama Canal. “That, of course, is one of the problems with ships — they’re very slow,” says Jenkins. Having a launch site closer to where a rocket is built does make things more efficient. Recently, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk noted that the company’s next-generation rocket, the Starship, would be built in Texas and Florida, next door to two of SpaceX’s launch sites. Plus, locations like Texas and Florida are still quite far south, so the performance benefit of moving even farther south isn’t going to be as consequential for US companies, as it would be for Russia or European nations.
Then there’s the cost of outfitting Alcântara to meet a launch provider’s needs. For larger rockets, companies will have to add concrete pads, towers, and fuel storage tanks to the surrounding area to support flights of their vehicles. Creating all of that in the Brazilian jungle, where there is minimal infrastructure in place already, will require a lot of work and investment. Plus, all of this would be in service to booking more missions to geostationary orbit, which is a type of flight that has seen a recent downturn in the market.
SpaceX already told Reuters that it was not interested in building at Alcântara and declined to comment to The Verge. Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which oversee the United Launch Alliance, confirmed they had looked at the site but haven’t made any major plans to invest there yet. “While we have made no concrete plans at this time, the potential for a new launch site is an encouraging development given the global interest in fast and efficient launch opportunities,” a representative for Lockheed Martin said in a statement to The Verge. Boeing declined to comment.
Ultimately, Alcântara may be a better investment for rocket companies that don’t look like SpaceX or ULA, ones that are chasing another market entirely. Companies like Vector are only capable of launching smaller satellites to low Earth orbit, and these types of probes are incapable of changing their directions significantly in space. So if a small satellite operator wants to go into a lower orbit over the equator, they basically have to launch at the equator. “Virtually nobody is launching any rockets to low Earth orbit equatorial orbits,” says Cantrell. “Virtually nobody.” Vector hopes to be one of the first companies to offer that option, claiming that around 10 customers have asked for it.
An extra boost in speed for a small launcher like Vector means much more than for SpaceX or the ULA. It could be the difference between launching 200 pounds and 300 pounds, opening up the company to different types of missions. Plus, the infrastructure and transportation costs for Vector’s smaller rockets are less of an inconvenience. “All we really need there is a concrete pad like we built already in Alaska, and we need permission to launch,” Cantrell says, adding that the company’s rocket can fit inside of an airplane.
Alcântara is nowhere close to being open for the US rocket business yet. The US signed what is known as a technology safeguards agreement with the company, which is the same kind of agreement Bush signed back in 2000. The deal needs to be approved by the Brazilian Congress, and if that happens, there are still a lot of regulatory hurdles to go through. But if it is allowed someday, the site seems much more suited for smaller rockets than bigger ones.
Those living in the US can finally try out Creative’s SXFI Amp — and it will cost just $150.
The dongle can be used with any USB Type-C Android phone, or consoles such as the PlayStation 4, and dramatically expands the sound on your headphones such that they sound like it’s coming from speakers around you.
Retailing online on Nov. 1, the SXFI Amp delivers sound to your ears based on its ear shape and works incredibly well. Check out our hands-on for more information. The online launch in the US takes place after a soft launch in the company’s home market of Singapore, though US customers will not be able to get a custom ear fitting like in Singapore.
Lastly. Apple iPhone users who want to try out the magic will have to wait for the release of its Bluetooth SXFI Air headset, when it arrives, though Creative did not say when that’s launching.
Taking It to Extremes: Mix insane situations — erupting volcanoes, nuclear meltdowns, 30-foot waves — with everyday tech. Here’s what happens.
Fight the Power: Take a look at who’s transforming the way we think about energy.
Uber Technologies will pay $148 million (roughly Rs. 1,000 crores) for failing to disclose a massive data breach in 2016, marking a costly resolution to one of the biggest embarrassments and legal tangles the ride-hailing company has suffered.
The settlement with 50 US states and Washington, DC brings closure to one of several high-stakes legal battles Uber is seeking to resolve before an initial public offering next year, while also delivering a national rebuke against Uber’s history of flouting laws and basic business ethics.
The amount is the largest among attorneys general settlements in privacy cases. By comparison, the multi-state settlement with Target Corp in 2017, over a breach in which 41 million people had their data stolen, was $18.5 million (roughly Rs. 134 crores).
The settlement follows a 10-month investigation into a data breach that exposed personal data from 57 million Uber accounts, including 600,000 driver’s licence numbers. Uber’s new Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi disclosed the breach in November, more than a year after the company was hacked under the previous CEO. Khosrowshahi has said the incident should have been disclosed to regulators at the time it was discovered in 2016.
The cover-up, widely seen by states as violating data breach reporting and data security laws, drew the ire of authorities across the United States and also in the United Kingdom, Australia and the Philippines. About half of the data breach victims lived in the United States.
The settlement terms include changes to Uber’s business practices aimed at preventing future breaches and reforming its corporate culture. Uber will be required to report any data security incidents to states on a quarterly basis for the next two years, and implement a comprehensive information security programme overseen by an executive officer who advises executive staff and Uber’s board of directors.
“We know that earning the trust of our customers and the regulators we work with globally is no easy feat,” said Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West. “We’ll continue to invest in protections to keep our customers and their data safe and secure, and we’re committed to maintaining a constructive and collaborative relationship with governments around the world.”
In November 2016, Uber paid the hackers – who included a 20-year-old Florida man and a hacker in Canada – $100,000 to destroy the stolen data, using its “bug bounty” programme, which is designed to reward security researchers who report flaws in a company’s software. Uber then chose not to report the matter to victims or authorities.
“Uber’s decision to cover up this breach was a blatant violation of the public’s trust,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Consistent with its corporate culture at the time, Uber swept the breach under the rug in deliberate disregard of the law.”
California, one of lead states in the settlement effort, will keep $26 million, to be split between the state Attorney General’s Office and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, a spokeswoman for Becerra’s office said.
Khosrowshahi fired two of Uber’s top security officials when he announced the breach, and other members of that team have since departed. The company recently hired a chief privacy officer and chief security officer.
It still faces lawsuits from riders, drivers and the cities of Chicago and Los Angeles over the data breach.