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China’s bicycle graveyards

Image Source: Getty Images

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 China, which was once known as the “kingdom of bicycles”, before the rapid growth of its automobile industry.

But while these firms started off with healthy balance sheets, there was no regulatory framework under which these bikes might be gradually introduced and integrated into China’s existing public transport system. A sudden influx of what amounted to millions of bikes inundated China’s urban centres. The lack of regulation also allowed copycat bike share companies to spring up unchecked, so that at one point, there were more than 40 dockless bike share companies operating around the country, leading to an oversupply of shared bicycles.

A multitude of choice of bike shares in large Chinese cities led to a surplus of bikes, many of which ended up abandoned, vandalised or confiscated (Image Source: Getty Images)

The sudden growth of the industry meant that China’s biggest cities including Shanghai and Hangzhou had to create their own guidelines which were meant to ring fence its players, because by this point, bikeshare bikes were being vandalised, stolen or simply ditched. At one point, more than 3,000 of these two-wheelers were reportedly found in rivers in southern China after a clean-up operation. Bikes are still being uncovered in rivers and vegetation to this day.

The graveyards where excess bicycles and those causing a nuisance were dumped became a massive recycling problem. The digital locks were complex to recycle, with some of the bikes even came with their own micro-sized solar panels, which would charge the bike’s batteries when the two-wheelers were not being used, says Kurt Kamminer, a US-based collector of shared bikes. There were other challenges for recycling too, including the durable solid tyres that were hard to separate from the frames.

Source: bbc.com

Change Your Car’s Color With the Touch of a Button

BMW’s iX Flow concept SUV features electrophoretic technology that lets the owner of the vehicle ditch the new paint job. On Jan. 5, it debuted a concept vehicle called the BMW iX Flow, which uses electrophoretic technology to change colors from black to white or combine black and white in a kaleidoscope of graphics across the surface of its body. The iX Flow is based on the electric iX SUV that BMW debuted in 2021.

“The car dresses you, it expresses you—not just from the inside but from the outside—so we have tried to create a technology and adapted it to the car that allows you to do that,” Christoph Grote, senior vice president of electronics at BMW Group, said during a roundtable interview during the launch. He also noted that being able to change a vehicle from dark to light while driving under hot temperatures would help with efficiency and thermal regulation inside the vehicle.

Change Your Car’s Color With the Touch of a Button
The BMW iX Flow uses a body wrap cut to hug the contours of the vehicle. When stimulated by electrical signals, the electrophoretic technology brings different color pigments to the surface, causing it to take on the preferred color. Photographer: Tom Kirkpatrick

BMW worked with a company called E-Ink to develop the application for vehicles. Founded in 1997, E-Ink developed the technology used in Kindle readers and commercial displays for such brands as Sony and Amazon.com. BMW’s application of e-ink works via a wrap tailored to cover the entire body of the SUV. The wrap contains different color pigments that, when stimulated by various electrical signals, will rise to the surface of the skin, causing it to change hue.

Adrian van Hooydonk, the head of BMW Group Design, called the color-changing technology on the iX Flow, which has not been confirmed for production, part of the group’s plan to develop “human-centric” products that stimulate all senses. BMW has said it will spend €30 billion ($34 billion) on future-oriented technologies by 2025.

New Tech Sees Virtual Debuts
BMW announced E-Ink to coincide with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company had planned a full program of in-person events at the annual technology show but canceled in favor of the virtual reveals streamed from Munich amid a rise in novel coronavirus cases. Mercedes-Benz also ditched plans to attend the convention, as did Amazon, Meta, and Lenovo, among others.

Source: bloomberg.com

Baby boy lost in Kabul evacuation is finally reunited with family

A baby boy separated from his parents during the US evacuation after Taliban had taken control of Afganistan has finally been reunited with his family. Sohail Ahmadi was just two-months old when he was passed over a fence to an American soldier at Kabul airport to protect him as crowds jostled to flee the country in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover.

After a frantic but futile search for the infant, his father Mirza Ali Ahmadi, who had worked as a security guard at the US embassy, mother Suraya and their four other children were put on an evacuation flight to the US. But after reading a Reuters report on the family’s search for Sohail, in November he was traced to the home of a 29-year-old taxi driver named Hamid Safi. Mr.Safi said he had found Sohail alone and crying on the ground at the airport, the news agency said. After trying to find the boy’s family, he decided to take him home to his wife and children, and raise him as his own son. They named the infant Mohammad Abed.

When Sohail’s whereabouts were confirmed, the baby’s grandfather, Mohammad Qasem Razawi, who lives in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan, made a long journey to Kabul to ask for the child to be returned. However, Mr Safi refused to hand the baby over and demanded he and his family also be evacuated to the US, according to Reuters.

After seven weeks of negotiations – and a brief detainment of Mr Safi – Taliban police arranged a settlement between the two families and the baby was returned to his grandfather on Saturday, Reuters reported. His parents said they were overjoyed after watching the reunion via video chat. “There are celebrations, dance, singing,” Mr Razawi said. “It is just like a wedding indeed.” They hope arrangements will soon be made for Sohail to be brought to them in the US state of Michigan, where they have now settled.

Source: bbcnews.com

Japanese consumers to get limited portions of McDonald’s french fries for another month

The announcement from McDonald’s follows a previous week-long restriction at the end of December. McDonald’s Holdings Company Japan said in a statement that from Sunday it would sell only S-sized fries for about a month “to make sure we have plenty of inventory and our customers can enjoy McDonald’s fries without interruption”. It had to take similar measures back in 2014, thanks to delays at US ports.

Japanese customers of McDonald’s will have to make do with small portions of fries for another month after further supply chain problems. The latest problems are blamed on the impact of flood damage on the port of Vancouver, a transit point for imported potatoes, and other disruptions since last year – and McDonald’s has warned that disruption in the distribution network is continuing.

Britain’s branch of McDonald’s has also experienced problems, which prompted it last summer to pull milkshake and bottled drinks from its menus.

Source : news.sky.com

Surprising and Fascinating Facts about Ancient Sumerian Civilization

Tablet with pictographic pre-cuneiform writing; late 4th millennium BC; limestone; height: 4.5 cm, width: 4.3 cm, depth: 2.4 cm; Louvre Museum

Sumer (/ˈsuːmər/) is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia (south-central Iraq), emerging during the Chalcolithic and early Bronze Ages between the sixth and fifth millennium BC. It is also one of the first civilizations in the world, along with ancient Egypt, the Caral-Supe civilization, the Indus Valley civilization, the Minoan civilization, and ancient China. Living along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Sumerian farmers grew an abundance of grain and other crops, the surplus from which enabled them to form urban settlements. Proto-writing dates back before 3000 BC. The earliest texts come from the cities of Uruk and Jemdet Nasr, and date to between c. 3500 and c. 3000 BC. Ancient Sumer was located in the southernmost region of Mesopotamia, and the civilization lasted for approximately 1,500 years from 5500 to 4000 BC. Its people were commonly referred to as the “black-headed people.” Sumer was a collection of city-states, each one operating independently.
Although the Sumerians lived thousands of years ago, much is known about their civilization and distinct way of life. Archaeological evidence unearthed throughout the years reveals plenty about these people. For instance, they kept meticulous records, using a writing system called “cuneiform” that consisted of wedge-like symbols carved on stone tablets. This civilization is also known for its elaborate architecture, which encompasses breathtaking mosaics, towering brick columns, grandiose palaces, and pyramid-like stepped temples referred to as “ziggurats.” There are many interesting things about the Sumerian way of life, and our endless fascination with this ancient civilization has only been exacerbated by the mountains of archaeological evidence that they left behind for us to discover.

The Anunnakis
The Anunnaki (also transcribed as Anunaki, Annunaki, Anunna, Ananaki and other variations) are a group of deities of the ancient Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. In the earliest Sumerian writings about them, which come from the Post-Akkadian period, the Anunnaki are deities in the pantheon, descendants of An and Ki, the god of the heavens and the goddess of earth, and their primary function was to decree the fates of humanity.According to the ancient Sumerians, over 400 thousand years ago, the Anunnaki, which means “those who came from the heavens,” a race of extraterrestrial aliens landed on Earth in the Persian Gulf looking for Gold. They could not find enough so they moved to Africa where there was more Gold. According to the Sumerian tablets, Enki was the name of the head science officer. Enki suggested making the primitive Earth dwellers a little more like them so the primitive prehumans would be able to do the work, essentially creating a slave race of workers.
According to Sumerian records, The Anunnaki race is also believed to have gone one step further, genetically engineering the entire human race for the sole purpose of serving as their slave species. Known as the ancient astronaut hypothesis, this claims that extraterrestrial beings have been posing as gods or divine beings to influence humans, like how the Anunnaki passed themselves off as “sky gods,” when giving the ancient Sumerians the building blocks of their scientific knowledge. This idea is undoubtedly compelling, but it would also explain why there are certain weak and unexplainable gaps in the theory of evolution. Additionally, this also paved the way for the theory that human DNA actually contains traces of alien compounds. After all, when the Anunnaki created man, the only genetic material that they had access to were the ones they had themselves.

Language
The most important archaeological discoveries in Sumer are a large number of clay tablets written in cuneiform script. Sumerian writing is considered to be a great milestone in the development of humanity’s ability to not only create historical records but also in creating pieces of literature, both in the form of poetic epics and stories as well as prayers and laws.
Triangular or wedge-shaped reeds were used to write on moist clay. A large body of hundreds of thousands of texts in the Sumerian language have survived, including personal and business letters, receipts, lexical lists, laws, hymns, prayers, stories, and daily records. Full libraries of clay tablets have been found. Monumental inscriptions and texts on different objects, like statues or bricks, are also very common. Many texts survive in multiple copies because they were repeatedly transcribed by scribes in training. Sumerian continued to be the language of religion and law in Mesopotamia long after Semitic speakers had become dominant.

Temple organisation
Ziggurats (Sumerian temples) each had an individual name and consisted of a forecourt, with a central pond for purification. The temple itself had a central nave with aisles along either side. Flanking the aisles would be rooms for the priests. At one end would stand the podium and a mudbrick table for animal and vegetable sacrifices. Granaries and storehouses were usually located near the temples. After a time the Sumerians began to place the temples on top of multi-layered square constructions built as a series of rising terraces, giving rise to the Ziggurat style.
Sumerian Deities
An as the full-time god equivalent to heaven; indeed, the word an in Sumerian means sky and his consort Ki, means earth.
Enki in the south at the temple in Eridu. Enki was the god of beneficence and of wisdom, ruler of the freshwater depths beneath the earth, a healer and friend to humanity who in Sumerian myth was thought to have given humans the arts and sciences, the industries and manners of civilization; the first law book was considered his creation.
Enlil was the god of storm, wind, and rain.  He was the chief god of the Sumerian pantheon  and the patron god of Nippur. His consort was Ninlil, the goddess of the south wind.
Inanna was the goddess of love, sexuality, and war.  The deification of Venus, the morning (eastern) and evening (western) star, at the temple (shared with An) at Uruk. Deified kings may have re-enacted the marriage of Inanna and Dumuzid with priestesses.
The sun-god Utu at Larsa in the south and Sippar in the north,
The moon god Sin at Ur.

Beer
Invention and innovation quickly gained pace in ancient Sumer. There were great advances in pottery, law, literature, writing, and the brewing of beer. The techniques for brewing are still a mystery, but it is known that barley was the main ingredient as it was widely available at the time. Beer provided a source of pleasure and relief from everyday life, and the people even had a goddess of beer called Ninkasi.

Mathematics
The Sumerians developed a complex system of metrology c. 4000 BC. This advanced metrology resulted in the creation of arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. From c. 2600 BC onwards, the Sumerians wrote multiplication tables on clay tablets and dealt with geometrical exercises and division problems. The earliest traces of the Babylonian numerals also date back to this period. The period c. 2700–2300 BC saw the first appearance of the abacus, and a table of successive columns which delimited the successive orders of magnitude of their sexagesimal number system. The Sumerians were the first to use a place value numeral system. There is also anecdotal evidence the Sumerians may have used a type of slide rule in astronomical calculations. They were the first to find the area of a triangle and the volume of a cube.

Marriage
Marriages were usually arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. Engagements were usually completed through the approval of contracts recorded on clay tablets. These marriages became legal as soon as the groom delivered a bridal gift to his bride’s father. One Sumerian proverb describes the ideal, happy marriage through the mouth of a husband who boasts that his wife has borne him eight sons and is still eager to have sex.

Baba Vanga’s predictions for 2022

Who was Baba Vanga?
Vangeliya Pandeva Gushterova (3 October 1911 – 11 August 1996), commonly known as Baba Vanga was a Bulgarian mystic. She was Blind since early childhood, Gushterova spent most of her life in the Rupite area in the Kozhuh mountains in Bulgaria.
In the late 1970s and 80s she had become widely known in the Warsaw Pact Eastern Europe for her alleged abilities of clairvoyance and precognition. Zheni Kostadinova claimed in 1997 that millions of people believed she possessed paranormal abilities. Although Vanga passed away 26 years ago, many people still believe her predictions have some truth to them.

For the upcoming twelve months, Baba Vanga made six notable predictions:

  1. There will be water shortages
    A shortage of water in many countries will generate political problems as governments struggle to secure access to additional supplies.
  2. Virtual reality takeover
    This prediction, which suggests that people will become hopelessly glued to their computer screens, seems to have been interpreted as more to do with general computer/Internet use than genuine ‘virtual reality’ which is something that Baba Vanga would not have known about. It could also be argued that this has already come to pass, at least to some extent.
  3. Locust swarm in India
    Vanga reportedly predicted that India will be subjected to soaring temperatures and a devastating swarm of locusts at some point over the next twelve months.
  4. Aliens will arrive on Earth
    This one seems by far the most ‘out there’ of all her predictions and it’s something that we’ve heard before numerous times; it seems that this is highly unlikely to come to pass in 2022.
  5. Another virus
    Most would interpret this as a prediction of another Covid-19 variant, however Vanga reportedly mentioned another pandemic, this time discovered in Siberia, that is caused by a frozen virus that will be released by climate change.
  6. More catastrophes
    A general prediction about flooding, earthquakes and tsunamis.

(NOTE: What Next Club doesn’t vouch for the authenticity of the claims made by the mystic and is not in favour of promoting any superstition.)

Taking photos of breastfeeding mothers to be made illegal in England and Wales

Taking a photograph of a mother breastfeeding their child without their consent is to be made a crime in England and Wales.

As per reports, Julia Cooper was breastfeeding her baby in a park when a man on another bench got out his camera, attached a zoom lens and took a picture. She was “shocked and devastated” to find the police could do nothing about it because no crime had been committed at the time. Manchester-based designer Julia Cooper began the campaign to make taking pictures of breastfeeding mothers illegal after her own experience in a local park last April 2021.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the move would stop women being “pestered, whether it’s for self-gratification or for harassment purposes”. Campaigners welcomed the decision, calling it “a victory for breastfeeding mothers”. The law will form part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill going through Parliament. Mr.Raab also confirmed another amendment to the bill to give victims of domestic abuse more time to report crimes to police, and “plug gaps” in the law that risks offenders escaping justice. Ms Cooper said she was “delighted” by the move, despite what she described as “too-ing and fro-ing from government” on the issue. “It is a victory for breastfeeding mothers and it will provide the reassurance that we can breastfeed in public without strangers freely photographing and filming us as they wish.

It will make a new offence of “recording images of, or otherwise observing, breastfeeding without consent or a reasonable belief as to consent” and to be found guilty, the perpetrator “must be acting for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification or of humiliating, alarming or distressing the victim”. The other amendment being made to the same bill focuses on extending the six-month time limit victims of common assault face in England and Wales when it comes to reporting the crime.

Source : bbc.com

Weirdest weapons ever invented. Part-1

A replica of Tsar Tank near Moscow. Image source: amusingplanet.com

During World War I, the Russians built a gigantic tank that had two huge wheels and looked like a tricycle. Known as the “Tsar tank,” this 60-ton monster required 15 men to control it and had a height of a three-story building. It was capable of bringing an entire fortress down, but it never managed to move from the place of production. Its unarmed model was tested near Moscow and weighed 50% more than what was expected. The project was abandoned because it didn’t move well along soft patches. Its center of gravity was too far aft, and its engine was not powerful enough.

Kugelpanzer, This odd-looking German tank, which carried only one man and no weapons, never actually saw action in World War II. It might not even have been real. Captured by the Soviets in Manchuria in the last days of the conflict, it was put in a museum, with no further study allowed – with many scholars believing the vehicle was some kind of Japanese-built hoax.

A replica of the original umbrella. Image source: spycraft101/reddit.com

An umbrella weapon having a chamber from which a poisonous pellet containing ricin could be fired is called the “Bulgarian Umbrella.” It was reportedly used in the assassination of a Bulgarian dissident writer, Georgi Markow, in September 1978. The victim thought he was stung by a bee and only died four days later. Indeed, the building of this strange weapon was fascinating to the public eye, and it still finds its place in a number of publications. The entire breakdown of the poisonous umbrella could be found displayed in the German Spy Museum.

Depiction of the Claw of Archimedes. Image source: learnodo-newtonic.com

The Claw of Archimedes was an ancient anti-ship weapon developed by Archimedes to defend the sea-facing city walls of the city of Syracuse. Sources say that it was a crane-equipped weapon with a grappling hook that enabled the user to lift the attacker’s ship by the prow and drop it. Its strike often caused the victim ship to capsize or at least face severe damage. It is said that this weird defending weapon was put into use during the Second Punic War in 214 BCE. It was when the Roman Republic attacked Syracuse with 60 ships under the command of Marcus Marcellus.

The Great Panjandrum at Westward Ho!, an abortive attempt at beach clearing. Image source: British Government/IWM via Wikimedia.org

Panjandrum was a massive rocket-propelled, explosive-laden cart that was designed by the British in World War II. The weapon’s structure was basically two wheels held together by a bomb that included rocket propulsion. During its final testing, the wheels disintegrated, the rockets broke free in all directions, and the generals were forced to dive into barbed wires. It was never used in the war. When activated, it spun erratically and the entire machine fell apart. One of the military dogs was chased by a rocket and was killed by it.

Vespa Military. Image source: C. Galliani via Wikimedia.org

The French invented a “bazooka Vespa.” It was a Vespa 150 TAP scooter armed with an M20 75-millimeter recoilless rifle, also known as a light anti-armor cannon. The vehicle carrying the weapon could only reach the speed of 40 miles per hour and was intended to be used by French paratroopers. Nearly 600 such scooters were created in the 1950s. The weapon was ready to use as soon as it was received on the battleground. The Frenchmen used to ride it until they got to a suitable point. Then they dismounted to set the gun up at a perfect angle using the M1917 Browning Machine Gun tripod which came along with the scooter.

Image source: Idot / Wikimedia Commons

What could be more efficient than launching an airplane from something that’s already in the air? Many different variations on flying aircraft carriers have been tried, from the US airships Akron and Macon in the ’30s to the Soviet Zveno, a gigantic airplane with smaller airplanes attached to it. The Zveno saw minor success in the early days of World War II, but was retired soon after because of its vulnerability. Virtually every other attempt to launch planes from a flying plane has failed.

Image source: Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald L. Heppner / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Designed as a way of deterring and stopping a Soviet invasion of Germany in the aftermath of World War II, Project Blue Peacock involved seeding the North German Plain with nuclear landmines. But the mines had to be kept warm to prevent spontaneous detonation, and British engineers devised a bizarre way to do it: Chickens!! Chicken coops would be set up over the mines, and the body heat from the chickens would provide the needed warmth to prevent the mines from going off and turning half of Germany into a dead zone. But the scheme had a number of problems, the least of which is that the chickens wouldn’t live long, and it was never implemented.

Cities are reportedly canceling their New Year’s Eve events

For a while we were assuming we can celebrate New Year’s Eve without any restrictions. But another rapid spread of the new the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus have dashed our hopes — at least in some parts of the world. people stepping out of their homes should avoid large New Year’s Eve gatherings and stick with small gatherings of vaccinated family or close friends.

As per reports, the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square will be “scaled back,” with everyone required to wear a mask. But some major cities in Europe, where the spread of Omicron has been startling, have already announced they’re flat-out cancelling plans.

Other cities around the world with traditionally iconic celebrations still plan to host their events but with safety precautions in place.

ATHENS

No fireworks show over the Acropolis this year. Health Minister Thanos Plevris said during a news briefing on Thursday, December 23, that all public Christmas and New Year celebrations planned by municipalities are cancelled.

ATLANTA
Georgia’s capital city is cancelling the New Year’s Eve Peach Drop at Underground Atlanta because of the rising number of Covid-19 cases, according to a tweet from Underground Atlanta.

BERLIN

Germany is imposing strict contact restrictions to curb the spread of Covid starting on December 28 and prohibiting New Year’s Eve gatherings, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Tuesday, December 21.

EDINBURGH

Public New Year’s Eve celebrations in Scotland will be cancelled, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday, December 21.

LONDON

A planned New Year’s Eve event in London has been cancelled over Covid concerns, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted on Monday, December 20.

NEW DELHI

The government of India’s union territory of Delhi, which encompasses the national capital of New Delhi, has announced a ban on all social, cultural, political and festival gatherings until further notice because of a rise in Covid-19 cases, CNN’s New Delhi Bureau reports.

PARIS

Paris has cancelled its traditional fireworks display over the Champs-Elysées Avenue to welcome the New Year because of the renewed coronavirus surge.

ROME

In Italy, Rome is among several cities that have decided to cancel festivities over Covid health concerns.

Even though it’s not the same as watching fireworks and big shows in person, but you can catch all the action from the comfort — and safety — of a crowd-controlled home. Stay Safe!

Feel Free to share your views in the comments section.

Source CNN Travel

NASA hired 24 theologians

NASA is hiring 24 theologians as a part of its efforts to determine how different religions around the world would react to contact with aliens. It sounds like the plot of a bad sci-fi movie, but NASA really is recruiting a priest to help prepare for humanity’s contact with aliens. It seems The reason NASA is hiring the experts now is because of advances in humanity’s efforts to find life in the great unknown.

So basically, who are Theologians and what they do?

A theologian may refer to someone who is specialized in the study of god and various religious beliefs and delve into the subject of religion and rational questions relating to god. They are educated and well versed in the various concepts, ideas, notions and the approaches to god and religious beliefs.

University of Cambridge religious scholar Rev. Dr. Andrew Davison (doctorate in biochemistry from Oxford) is one of the 24 theologians enlisted to help with the project. Davison informs, his research so far has already seen “just how frequently theology-and-astrobiology has been topic in popular writing” during the previous 150 years. In Davison’s book, Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine, he asks questions about whether God could have created life elsewhere in the universe. Or, could he have sent a saviour to die for the sins of alien species?

Humans are seeing more UFOs every year. Studies have shown links between religiosity and belief in extra-terrestrials intelligence. Research Published in 2017 found that people with a strong desire to find meaning, but a low adherence to a particular religion, are more likely to believe aliens exist. According to reports, Dr.Davison’s book notes that a “large number of people would turn to their religious traditions for guidance” if extra-terrestrials were actually found for the sake of very existence of humanity.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Feel free to share your views in the comments section.