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How Africa’s largest city is staying afloat

How Africa’s largest city is staying afloat

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By Ayodele Johnson22nd January 2021The most populous city in Africa is also one of its most vulnerable to sea level rise and floods. To stay afloat, everything from its architecture to its transport may have to change.N Navigating the thronging streets of Lagos, Nigeria, is a challenge at the best of times. But during the rainy seasons, the city's streets can become almost impassable. Home to more than 24 million, Lagos is Nigeria's economic powerhouse, making it a destination for people seeking new opportunities. But that rapid growth creates pressure on the streets, and the environment. The streets are often flooded, in part due to the dysfunctional disposal of the 6,000-10,000 tonnes of rubbish generated daily in the city. After a downpour, rubbish pi...
Will Hollywood ever show us the ‘real India’?

Will Hollywood ever show us the ‘real India’?

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By Charukesi Ramadurai22nd January 2021The White Tiger is the latest high-profile film to cast its gaze on Indian society. But how accurate is the picture of the country audiences are getting, asks Charukesi Ramadurai.I In a minor scene in the new film The White Tiger, released today on Netflix, rich-kid businessman Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) exclaims to his driver, Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav), "you know the real India". The two of them are at a Delhi dhaba – a local quick-stop restaurant, one of hundreds spread over north India – tucking into what looks like a simple meal. Balram possibly eats an even sparser version of this food every day. But Ashok is just back from the US, American-Indian wife in tow, and giddy at the promise of what this market of over a billion people ...
How the world embraced consumerism

How the world embraced consumerism

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By Kerryn Higgs21st January 2021From The MIT Press ReaderOver the course of the 20th Century, capitalism moulded the ordinary person into a consumer. Kerryn Higgs traces the historical roots of the world's unquenchable thirst for more stuff.T The notion of human beings as consumers first took shape before World War One, but became commonplace in America in the 1920s. Consumption is now frequently seen as our principal role in the world. People, of course, have always "consumed" the necessities of life – food, shelter, clothing – and have always had to work to get them or have others work for them, but there was little economic motive for increased consumption among the mass of people before the 20th Century. Quite the reverse: frugality and thrift were more appropriate t...
How to stop another ‘Day Zero’

How to stop another ‘Day Zero’

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By Kalpana Sunder6th January 2021The city of Chennai, on India's south-eastern coast, infamously ran dry in the summer of 2019. Now, the city is looking to its ancient wetlands to keep its taps running.K Kalaiselvi Murugan's day starts early. She is a domestic worker in Chennai, India, who rises at dawn to beat the queue and place her red plastic pot in line, ready for the water to be released at the neighbourhood water pump. After collecting water for her tiny third-floor flat, she walks to work in a wealthier neighbourhood, where the apartments have piped water supplied by tankers throughout the day. Chennai, with a population of nearly 11 million, has no perennial rivers to supply its water. The city is dependent on the north-east monsoons and four large reservoirs for i...
The viruses that prey on human diseases

The viruses that prey on human diseases

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By Pearly Jacob18th January 2021Once scorned as Soviet pseudoscience, phage therapy is gaining ground as a potential solution to antibiotic resistance but regulatory challenges may be its biggest hurdle.T Three years ago, Esteban Diaz was advised by his doctors to get on the lung transplant list after a life-long battle with cystic fibrosis. The disease causes excessive production of mucus in the lungs and pancreas, leaving patients extremely vulnerable to bacterial infections. In the 47-year-old Frenchman’s case, the antibiotics he had been prescribed since childhood were no longer effective against incessant infections caused by Pseudomonas aergonisa, a bacteria now classified as a superbug. Instead, Diaz (not his real name) travelled to Georgia, a former Soviet state on ...
Why some bike shares work and others don’t

Why some bike shares work and others don’t

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By Hope Ngo13th January 2021Bicycle share schemes have had huge success in some cities and flopped spectacularly in others – what is it that makes or breaks a bike share?A A set of iconic photos from 2017 show brightly coloured fields which, at first glance, look like meadows filled with flowers in full bloom. It takes a while to register that the images aren't of verdant fields, but ones filled with bicycles: hundreds and thousands of two-wheelers, stacked end-to-end in what came to be called China's bicycle graveyards. The fields were the remains of a countrywide boom-to-bust bike share scheme. The scheme had captured the world's imagination for its innovative use of technology involving a smart digital lock and GPS. The digital lock innovation was a game changer for Chin...
The ‘megascale’ structures that humans could one day build

The ‘megascale’ structures that humans could one day build

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By Anders Sandberg14th January 2021What are the biggest, boldest things that humanity could engineer? From planet lifters to space cannons, Anders Sandberg explores some of history's most ambitious visions – and why they're not as 'impossible' as they seem.I In 1603, a Jesuit monk invented a machine for lifting the entire planet with only ropes and gears. Christoph Grienberger oversaw all mathematical works written by Jesuit authors, a role akin to an editor at a modern scientific journal. He was modest and productive, and could not resist solving problems. He reasoned that since a 1:10 gear could allow one person to lift 10 times as much as one unassisted, if one had 24 gears linked to a treadmill then one could lift the Earth… very slowly. Like any modern academic who ...
Why self-compassion – not self-esteem – leads to success

Why self-compassion – not self-esteem – leads to success

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By David Robson13th January 2021Talking about being kind to yourself may sound like something from a nursery classroom. But even cynics should care about self-compassion – especially if they want to be resilient.T Think back to the last time you failed or made an important mistake. Do you still blush with shame, and scold yourself for having been so stupid or selfish? Do you tend to feel alone in that failure, as if you were the only person to have erred? Or do you accept that error is a part of being human, and try to talk to yourself with care and tenderness? For many people, the most harshly judgemental responses are the most natural. Indeed, we may even take pride in being hard on ourselves as a sign of our ambition and resolution to be our best possible self. But a wea...
The other virus that worries Asia

The other virus that worries Asia

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By Harriet Constable12th January 2021The death rate for Nipah virus is up to 75% and it has no vaccine. While the world focuses on Covid-19, scientists are working hard to ensure it doesn't cause the next pandemic.I It was 3 January 2020, and Supaporn Wacharapluesadee was standing by, awaiting a delivery. Word had spread that there was some kind of respiratory disease affecting people in Wuhan, China, and with the Lunar New Year approaching, many Chinese tourists were headed to neighbouring Thailand to celebrate. Cautiously, the Thai government began screening passengers arriving from Wuhan at the airport, and a few select labs – including Wacharapluesadee's – were chosen to process the samples to try to detect the problem. Wacharapluesadee is an expert virus hunter. She runs th...
The rise of apocalyptic novels

The rise of apocalyptic novels

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By Hephzibah Anderson11th January 2021In our times of uncertainty, the latest fiction about climate disaster is unsettling – but also strangely comforting. Hephzibah Anderson speaks to the authors.I Imagine you're enjoying much-needed time away with your family, staying in a luxurious Long Island holiday rental, miles from anywhere. Then comes a late-night knock at the door and strangers bearing news of a sinister power outage in New York City. The internet has gone down, phone service has been severed, and when you switch on the TV, every channel shows the same blank screen. Your children are asleep down the hallway, and you've no way of knowing what's going on, or even whether these people are telling the truth. Hooked? You wouldn't be alone. It's the premise of Leave the Worl...