PM Modi inaugurated the world’s largest office building, in Surat

A 15-story complex that covers over 35 acres of land and has more than 7.1 million square feet of floor space– yes, this is the Surat Diamond Bourse building, that has become the world’s largest office building, surpassing the mighty Pentagon in the US.

The Surat Diamond Bourse is expected to boost the local economy and save thousands of people from commuting to Mumbai, where most of the diamond trading used to take place so far. It is also seen as a symbol of India’s rising prominence in the global diamond market and a testament to the country’s engineering and architectural prowess.

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>The Surat Diamond Bourse is designed to house the world’s largest community of diamond traders, cutters, and polishers, who account for about 90% of the global diamond processing industry.

>The building features over 4,700 office spaces, 131 elevators, and various amenities such as dining, retail, wellness, and conference facilities. It aims to be a convenient hub for over 65,000 diamond experts.

>The construction of the Surat Diamond Bourse concluded on 1 August 2023. A week later, it was officially acknowledged by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest office building.

>Prime Minister Narendra Modi also inaugurated a new integrated terminal building at Surat Airport, which has been recently designated international status. This will increase connectivity to the diamond hub from the world over.

MS Dhoni’s jersey number retired by BCCI

The custom of retiring jerseys in sports is a symbolic gesture that honors and pays tribute to exceptional athletes who have made significant contributions to a team or sport. When a team decides to retire a player’s jersey, it means that no other player on that team will be allowed to wear that specific jersey number in the future.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) retired the iconic No. 7  jersey of MS Dhoni. This is only the second instance of a similar commemoration. In 2017, four years after he hung up his boots, Sachin Tendulkar’s signature No. 10 jersey was retired by BCCI, following a social media backlash when Shardul Thakur wore it on his ODI debut in 2017.

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>Although there is no official rule to retire jerseys in cricket, a special instance happened when Cricket Australia retired the jersey number of Phil Hughes, a promising Australian batsman, who tragically died after being hit by a bouncer during a domestic match in 2014. No Australian player has worn the No. 64 jersey since then.

> Among cricket-playing nations, New Zealand has retired the most number of jerseys. These include No. 7 for Stephen Fleming, No. 11 for Daniel Vettori, No. 42 for Brendan McCullum, No. 5 for Chris Harris, No. 9 for Nathan Astle and No. 6 for Chris Cairns. Among India’s neighbours, Nepal Cricket Association has retired No. 77 jersey, worn by its former captain Paras Khadka.

>Michael Jordan, widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, had his No. 23 jersey retired by the Chicago Bulls in 1994. Later, when he returned to the Bulls after a brief retirement, he wore the No. 45 jersey. After his second retirement, the Bulls retired both the No. 23 and No. 45 jerseys.

>Known as “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 jersey was retired by the Edmonton Oilers in 1999. Gretzky, considered the greatest ice hockey player in history, led the Oilers to multiple Stanley Cup victories and set numerous records during his illustrious career.

>The Los Angeles Lakers retired Magic Johnson’s No. 32 jersey in 1992 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s No. 33 jersey in 1989. Both players were instrumental in the Lakers’ success during the 1980s, winning multiple NBA championships.

>In 2017, the New York Yankees retired Derek Jeter’s No. 2 jersey to honor the iconic shortstop. Jeter, known for his leadership and clutch performances, played his entire 20-season career with the Yankees and won five World Series championships.

>The Boston Celtics retired the jerseys of Larry Bird (No. 33), Kevin McHale (No. 32), and Robert Parish (No. 00) in recognition of their contributions to the team’s success during the 1980s, a period that included multiple NBA championships.

>Brazilian soccer legend Pele had his No. 10 jersey retired by the New York Cosmos in 1977. As recently as December 2023, following Santos’ relegation, the club president announced no player of the team will wear the number 10 jersey made globally famous by Pelé until the club plays in the country’s first division again.

>No one at the Serie A club Napoli wears No. 10 since it was a number eternally connected to their greatest player ever — Diego Maradona, while Johan Cruyff’s iconic number 14 jersey was retired by Ajax Amsterdam in 2007.

Narges Mohammadi is the 5th person to win the Nobel Peace Prize while being imprisoned

2023 marks the 5th time the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to someone under imprisonment. On December 10, the date on which Nobel Prizes are handed in person, the teenage twins of the jailed Iranian activist accepted the coveted award on her behalf.

As of December 2023, Mohammadi is still in prison, currently serving a 10-year jail term in Tehran. An empty chair was symbolically placed between her children on the podium, to mark her absence. Her speech was smuggled out from prison and read out by the twins, who also collected the cheque for 11 million Swedish crowns (about Rs. 8.3 crores) – at a ceremony in Oslo’s City Hall.

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Here’s a lookback at the past four similar instances:

>Carl von Ossietzky (1935): A German journalist and pacifist who exposed the secret rearmament of Nazi Germany. He was arrested and sent to a concentration camp, where he died in 1938. His recognition so infuriated Hitler that he stopped any German Nobel Laureate from attending the ceremony.

>Aung San Suu Kyi (1991): A Myanmar opposition leader and democracy activist who spent 15 years under house arrest for challenging the military dictatorship. She was released in 2010 and became the country’s de facto leader in 2015, but was ousted and detained again in 2021 following a coup.

>Liu Xiaobo (2010): A Chinese writer and human rights advocate who co-authored a manifesto calling for political reforms and greater freedoms in China. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion and died of liver cancer in 2017.

>Ales Bialiatski (2022): A Belarusian pro-democracy campaigner and founder of the Viasna Human Rights Center, which provides legal and financial assistance to political prisoners and their families. He was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to four and a half years in prison for tax evasion. He was released in 2014 and continued his work until he was arrested again in 2021.

Pantone chooses ‘Peach Fuzz’ as its Colour of the Year 2024

Every year, Pantone, the global authority on colour, announces a colour that sets the trend for the following year. This colour is called the Pantone Colour of the Year, and it influences design, fashion, marketing, and culture in various ways.  For 2024, it has chosen PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz, a velvety gentle tone whose all-embracing spirit enriches mind, body, and soul. This warm and welcoming shade of peachy orange captures our desire to nurture ourselves and others.

The Pantone Colour of the Year is chosen by a group of experts from the Pantone Color Institute, a division of Pantone that provides colour consulting and forecasting services. These experts include colour specialists, trend analysts, psychologists, and designers, who gather information from various sources and domains, such as art, fashion, entertainment, media, travel, sports, and social movements.

The experts meet twice a year, usually in a European capital, to discuss and debate the colour candidates for the next year. They consider the emotional, psychological, and cultural meanings and associations of each colour, as well as the technical and practical aspects, such as the availability and compatibility of the colour in different materials and formats.

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Here are the previous five Pantone Colours of the Year:

>2023: Viva Magenta (Pantone 18-1750). A vibrant and powerful red shade that is rooted in nature, bold, and fearless. It symbolizes courage, confidence, and vitality, and inspires joy and optimism.

>2022: Ultimate Gray (Pantone 17-5104) and Illuminating (Pantone 13-0647). A combination of a solid and dependable gray and a bright and cheerful yellow. It represents resilience, strength, and hope, and expresses a positive outlook and a desire for recovery.

>2021: Classic Blue (Pantone 19-4052). A timeless and elegant blue hue that evokes the sky at dusk. It signifies calmness, stability, and trust, and offers a sense of peace and tranquility.

>2020: Living Coral (Pantone 16-1546). A lively and warm coral shade that reflects the beauty and fragility of coral reefs. It conveys a sense of energy, sociability, and optimism, and encourages connection and empathy.

>2019: Ultra Violet (Pantone 18-3838). A deep and rich purple tone that suggests the mysteries of the cosmos and the unknown. It embodies creativity, originality, and visionary thinking, and challenges the status quo and the conventional.

Gujarat’s Garba included in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Garba, the traditional dance form of Gujarat, has been recognized at the 18th session of the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Botswana.

The word comes from the Sanskrit word garbha, meaning “womb.” Traditionally, the dance is performed by women in a circle, wearing colourful costumes and accessories, around a clay lantern with a light inside, called a garbha deep (“womb lamp”).

The dance is accompanied by rhythmic clapping and singing of devotional songs, and sometimes by musical instruments such as dhol, tabla, and harmonium. Garba is a symbol of joy, devotion, and unity, as people from different communities and backgrounds come together to celebrate the divine feminine energy.

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Garba of Gujarat joined 14 other elements from the country that have been inscribed on this prestigious list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Here’s the other entries in the list, ranked chronologically:

2008: Kutiyattam (Sanskrit theatre),
Tradition of Vedic chanting,
Ramlila (the traditional performance of the Ramayana)

2009: Ramman (religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas)

2010: Chhau dance, Kalbelia (folk songs and dances of Rajasthan), Mudiyettu (ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala)

2012: Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir

2013: Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur

2014: Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab

2016: Nowruz, Yoga

2017: Kumbh Mela

2021: Durga Puja in Kolkata

Taylor Swift is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2023

Be it her record-shattering “The Eras” global tour or her becoming the world’s most-streamed musical artist, 2023 has truly been Taylor Swift’s year. And now to top it all, the mega pop-star has been named “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine.

2023 has been the year of “The Taylor Effect”. Wherever she has had a new concert, a mini economic boom took place locally as hotels and restaurants saw a surge of visitors. Time has noted how “politicians from Thailand, Hungary, and Chile implored her to play their countries. Cities, stadiums, and streets were renamed for her.” There are college classes dedicated to her, including one at Harvard.

The 33-year-old has recently turned a billionaire, joining the ranks of Rihanna, Beyonce and Jay-Z and the only entrant in the list to have accumulated her wealth from music alone. By a margin, she has been the most influential personality on this planet for this year and fittingly chosen by Time for its annual accolade.

KnowALLedge Plus:

The Time Person of the Year is an annual issue of Time magazine that features a person, group, idea, or object that “for better or for worse, has done the most to influence the events of the year.” The tradition began in 1927 when the magazine’s editors decided to highlight a prominent figure on the cover of its year-end issue. Although initially called “Man or Woman of the Year”, in 1999, the title was changed to the gender-neutral “Person of the Year”.

Here is a brief overview of the history of the Time Person of the Year:

First Selection (1927): The first Time Person of the Year was Charles Lindbergh, an American aviator who made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Notable Early Selections: In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi was chosen as the first non-American to be its Man of the Year. Franklin D. Roosevelt  was chosen thrice (1932, 1934, and 1941), and Winston Churchill twice (1940 and 1949).

Groups and Ideas: Time has also chosen groups of people and even ideas as the Person of the Year. For example, in 1950, “The American Fighting-Man” was chosen, representing the U.S. forces involved in the Korean War. In 1960, it was “U.S. Scientists,” in 1966, it was “The Inheritor” and in 1975, it was “American Women”.

Controversial Selections: The Person of the Year has sometimes been a controversial figure. In 1938, Adolf Hitler was chosen, and in 1979, it was Ayatollah Khomeini. Even the choice of having Donald Trump as its Person of the Year in 2016 courted controversies. Time’s selection is not necessarily an endorsement but an acknowledgment of impact.

Recent Selections: In recent years, Time’s selections include Volodymyr Zelenskyy and “The Spirit of Ukraine” (2022), Elon Musk (2021), Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (2020), and Greta Thunberg (2019).

Oxford University Press names ‘Rizz’ as Word of the Year 2023

A common buzzword among the younger generation mostly used as a slag is now recognized by the Oxford University Press (OUP). ‘Rizz’, considered to be derived from the word ‘charisma’, is OUP’s Word of the Year 2023.  The word essentially means the ability to attract a romantic partner.

Rizz beat out words like “Swiftie” (an enthusiastic fan of Taylor Swift), or “prompt” (an instruction given to an artificial intelligence program), all chosen to reflect the general mood of 2023, in the annual decision by lexicographers at the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary.

KnowALLedge Plus:

Here’s a lookback at the OUP Word of the Year in the last ten years:

2022: Goblin Mode– ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.’

2021: Vax– short form of ‘vaccination’, ultimately deriving from the word ‘vacca’, Latin for cow.

2020: No single word was chosen in an unprecedented year.

2019: Climate Emergency

2018: Toxic

2017: Youthquake– ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’.

2016: Post-truth– ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

2015: ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji– For the first time ever, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a pictograph.

2014: Vape– the act of using an e-cigarette.

2013: Selfie

UK Biobank opens world’s largest dataset of human genome sequences

5 years, £230 million, over 350,000 hours – that is the scale of work involved in UK Biobank’s project of genome sequencing of its half a million volunteers. The UK Biobank aims to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of diseases by providing researchers with access to its rich and diverse data. The final set of whole exome sequencing data was released for 470,000 participants in 2022.

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is a technique that reads the entire DNA code of an individual, which consists of about 3 billion letters. The genome is the set of genetic material present in the cells of an organism, which contains the instructions for building and maintaining that organism. In genome sequencing, the DNA is analyzed to identify the order of its nucleotide bases (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine, abbreviated as A, T, C, and G).

WGS can help researchers to discover rare and novel genetic variants that are associated with diseases, traits, and drug responses. This unique and powerful resource will advance the understanding of human biology and improve the health and well-being of millions of people.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>The UK Biobank WGS project was funded by a public-private partnership involving the UK government, the Wellcome Trust, and four pharmaceutical companies: Amgen, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Johnson & Johnson.

>The sequencing was carried out by two leading genomics institutes: deCODE Genetics in Iceland and the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK. The project started in 2018 and was completed in 2023, generating 27.5 petabytes of data.

>The UK Biobank WGS data is now available to approved researchers through the UK Biobank Research Analysis Platform, which is a secure cloud-based platform that allows researchers to access and analyse the data online.

>The UK Biobank WGS data is expected to have a huge impact on biomedical research and innovation. It will enable researchers to identify new genetic risk factors, biomarkers, and drug targets for a wide range of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular diseases.

Chess has its first ever Grandmaster brother-sister pair in history

Vaishali Rameshbabu has joined her brother Praggnanandhaa as the only pair of siblings to achieve the title of Grandmaster in chess. This unique feat came as she surpassed 2500 ELO rating during the 2023 IV Elllobregat Open. She also became the third female Grandmaster from India, after Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli. Her brother Praggnanandhaa was already a Grandmaster in 2018, when at the age of 12, he became the second youngest in the world to be so.

The siblings are from Chennai and train at the Bloom Chess Academy. They are supported by their parents, Ramesh Babu and Nagalakshmi, who have sacrificed a lot for their children’s chess careers. Praggnanandha has been a guiding light for his sister, encouraging her to aim for the Candidates and giving her tips and advice. They are both inspired by the legendary Viswanathan Anand, who is also from Chennai and has been the World Chess Champion five times.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>Both the siblings have also made it for the Candidates tournament, the qualifying event for the World championship match.

>Among her recent laurels in Indian soil include the individual bronze in the Chess Olympiad at Mamallapuram in 2022. She played a key role in India winning the bronze medals in the same women’s event. She followed it up with a superb win for the blitz title at the Tata Steel Chess India tournament in Kolkata.

>One of their earliest international wins came in 2012, when Vaishali and Praggnanandhaa won the nationals and qualified for the Asian youth championships in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Despite the family struggling to put together their travel expenses, both returned champions – Vaishali in the under-12 girls, and Praggnanandhaa in the under-8 boys.

>Praggnanandhaa is only the second Indian after Viswanathan Anand to make a World Cup final and qualify for the Candidates tournament. He is also the only other Indian apart from Anand to have defeated Magnus Carlsen, that too multiple times.

World’s saddest elephant dies in captivity

Mali, the “world’s saddest elephant” passed away on November 28, 2023. A resident of the Manila Zoo, she was the sole captive elephant in the Philippines. News of her living alone raised concerns among conservationists and many prominent people and organizations campaigned for her release. In the last days, she suffered from cancer and was in agonizing pain.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>Originally from Sri Lanka, she was given as a gift to the Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos by the Government of Sri Lanka in 1977. She has been in the Manila Zoo since then.

>Mali caught the attention of Paul McCartney (of the Beatles) in 2013. The singer-songwriter worked with PETA to raise awareness about the elephant. He even penned a letter to the then Philippine President Benigno Aquino III urging the transfer of Mali to an elephant sanctuary in neighbouring Thailand.

>Other celebrities, including actress Pamela Anderson and reputed conservationist Jane Goodall joined the effort to “free Mali.”

>It is said Asian elephants, who are usually smaller than their African cousins, have an average lifespan of about 70 years in the wild. In captivity, it’s about 80 years.

>The oldest Asian elephant in captivity was Chengalloor Dakshayani, a female Asian elephant owned by Travancore Devaswom Board. She died in 2019 at 88 years old.

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