Sweden becomes 32nd NATO member

Sweden became the latest country to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), ten months after neighbour Finland joined the military alliance. As of February 2024, NATO has 32 member nations.

Political parties in both the Nordic countries decided in the face of Russia’s aggresion, they needed the security guarantees that only come with full membership in the alliance, led by USA.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>With the aim to block expansion of the former USSR, NATO was formed in 1949 by 12 countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.

>An armed attack against one or more of them is considered an attack against them all. The countries must uphold democracy and strive towards market economy.

>When Iceland signed the Treaty in 1949, it did not have – and still does not have – armed forces. However, Iceland has a Coast Guard, national police forces, an air defence system and a voluntary expeditionary peacekeeping force.

Sudarshan Setu: India’s Longest Cable-Stayed Bridge

Sudarshan Setu is a marvel of engineering and architecture that connects the island of Beyt Dwarka to the mainland of Okha in Gujarat. The bridge, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 February 2024, is India’s longest cable-stayed bridge, with a total length of 2,320 metres. The bridge also features solar panels on the upper portions of the footpath, which generate one megawatt of electricity.

KnowALLedge Plus:

> Originally called Signature Bridge, it is renamed after Sudarshan Chakra, the divine weapon of Lord Krishna. It has a pedestrian path embellished with verses from the Bhagavad Gita. The bridge provides round-the-clock access to the Dwarkadhish temple, which is one of the most revered shrines of Lord Krishna.

> The bridge has a central double-span cable-stayed portion of 900 metres, which is also the longest in India. The bridge has four lanes, two in each direction, and a 2.5-metre-wide footpath on each side.

> The bridge was constructed by SP Singla Construction Pvt Ltd at a cost of ₹978 crore. The bridge is designed to withstand wind speed of up to 200 kmph and earthquake of up to 7.5 magnitude on the Richter scale.

Odysseus becomes the first commercial spacecraft to soft-land on the moon

US makes a historic return to Moon after over 50 years as Odysseus becomes the first private lunar lander to touch down on the lunar surface. This feat took place on February 22, 2024. Odysseus was developed by Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based company, and was launched on February 15, 2024, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

KnowALLedge Plus:

> Odysseus, also known as Ulysses, was a legendary Greek hero and the protagonist of Homer’s epic poem, the “Odyssey.” He is best remembered for his long and perilous journey home to Ithaca after the conclusion of the Trojan War. During this journey, he faced numerous challenges, which is why the name is apt for any adventurous voyage.

> During the Cold War, the USA and USSR were engaged in a space race, which culminated with Apollo XI carrying man on the moon. In the 21st century, China, India and Japan have all landed spacecraft on the moon — with the latter two making their first touchdowns within the past six months.

> Odysseus also carried a piece of art by Jeff Koons, a renowned American artist, as a symbol of humanity’s creativity and curiosity. Called “Moon Phases,” the 125 min-sculptures of the moon show 62 lunar phases as seen from Earth, 62 phases visible from other viewpoints in space, and one lunar eclipse. Each sculpture is inscribed with the name of a famous figure, including Aristotle, David Bowie, Leonardo da Vinci, Gandhi, Billie Holiday, Gabriel García Márquez, Andy Warhol and Virginia Woolf.

> In an unexpected turn of events, Odysseus stopped working two hours before touchdown, when NASA’s Navigation Doppler LIDAR came to rescue. In fact, LIDAR, a technology developed by NASA for lunar landings, has a more earthly application. It is used in self-driving cars, among others.

From 1883-2024, Lyle’s Golden Syrup held a unique Guinness World Record

The original logo of Lyle’s Golden Syrup has remained constant for over 140 years, earning the Guinness World Record for the world’s oldest unchanged brand packaging. However, in 2024, the company decided to modernize its logo and packaging design to appeal to a 21st century audience. The new logo features a lion’s head and a single bee, both in a golden syrupy shape.

KnowALLedge Plus:

> The story of the logo of Lyle’s Golden Syrup is based on a biblical tale of Samson and the lion. According to the Book of Judges, Samson killed a lion with his bare hands and later found a swarm of bees and honey inside its carcass. He ate some of the honey and gave some to his parents, without telling them where it came from. He also posed a riddle to his wedding guests: “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”

> The founder of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, Abraham Lyle, was a religious man who chose this story as a symbol of his product. He registered the image of a dead lion surrounded by bees as his trademark in 1883, along with the slogan “Out of the strong came forth sweetness“.

> In terms of just the logo, another British company, Twinings Tea has used the same logo — capitalized font beneath a lion crest — continuously for 237 years, making it the world’s oldest unaltered logo in continuous use.

> The first registered trademark ever issued by the British government belongs to the red triangle logo of the Bass Ale, in use since 1876. It became so popular that Edouard Manet featured it in his 1882 work “A Bar at the Folies Bergere”.

Ameen Sayani: The Voice of an Era

Ameen Sayani’s journey commenced in the nascent years of Indian radio. Born in 1932 in Mumbai, Sayani’s passion for broadcasting was ignited early. His career soared when he became the host of the iconic radio show “Binaca Geetmala” in 1952, which soon became synonymous with his name. The nonagenarian broadcaster passed away on February 20, 2024, after suffering a heart attack.

KnowALLedge Plus:

> He was born in a family with a cultural bent of mind. His mother used to run a newsletter called Rehbar. His brother Hamid Sayani was an eminent English broadcaster himself.

> Ameen Sayani began his stint with Radio Ceylon in 1952. His career spanned over six decades, producing and presenting over 54,000 radio programs and 19,000 voice-overs for various advertisements and jingles.

> He also dabbled in acting, appearing in various films like Bhoot Bungla, Teen Devian, Boxer, and Qatl, often portraying an announcer.

> He was the voice behind the Bournvita Quiz Contest when it was broadcast on radio. Due to his contribution in popularising quizzing in its early years in India, he was awarded the ‘Scroll of Honour‘ at the 6th season of Kolkata International Quiz Festival (then KQF) in 2017, an honour also bestowed upon iconic luminaries like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Neil O’Brien, among others.

The Chenab Bridge is the world’s highest railway bridge

February 20, 2024 saw the opening of the magnificent Chenab Bridge in Jammu & Kashmir, an engineering marvel 20 years in the offing. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with a slew of infrastructural projects in the region. This also includes flagging off the first Electric Train in the valley, train service between Sangaldan and Baramulla station, and the inauguration of AIIMS Jammu and IIM Jammu.

KnowALLedge Plus:

Here’s three quick facts on the Chenab Bridge:

> It is 1.3km long and stands at the height of 359m above the river, which is 35 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

> It is part of the Rs 35000 crore Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link (USBRL) project which aims to boost connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir, through one of the most difficult terrains in the world. The project to build the bridge was approved in 2003 but was delayed due to fears of stability and safety. In 2008, the contract for construction was awarded.

> The bridge will have a lifespan of 120 years and will be able to withstand winds with speeds up to 260 kmph.

India shines once again at the Grammy Awards

The 66th Grammy Awards, held on February 4, 2024, at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, were a memorial night for Indian music. The fusion band ‘Shakti‘, featuring vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, John McLaughlin, percussionist V Selvaganesh, Zakir Hussain, and violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan, bagged the ‘Best Global Music Album’ award for their latest album, ‘This Moment’.

Zakir Hussain has also won in two further categories in 2024, in Best Global Music Performance and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, both along with Rakesh Chaurasia.

Apart from Shakti, Falguni Shah, the singer-songwriter popularly known as Falu, was nominated for the Best Global Music Performance for Abundance in Millets, a song that featured the voice of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The song was pat of her album Foras Road, which was inspired by her childhood in Mumbai. Falu is based in New York and blends classical Indian music with pop, rock, and jazz.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>The first Indian to win a Grammy was the legendary sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar, who won the award for Best Chamber Music Performance in 1968 for his album West Meets East, a collaboration with violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

>The most nominated Indian musician is the renowned conductor Zubin Mehta, who has been nominated 18 times for various categories.

>The only Indian to win an Oscar and a Grammy is A.R. Rahman, who won two in 2010 for his work on the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire. He won the Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media and the Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for the song Jai Ho.

> Zakir Hussain first won the Grammy in 2009 in the Contemporary World Music Album category for his collaborative album Global Drum Project with Mickey Hart, Sikiru Adepoju & Giovanni Hidalgo.

> Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, a slide guitar player, won the Best World Music Album in 1994 for his album A Meeting by the River with guitarist Ry Cooder. In recent years, Ricky Kej won the awards thrice, in 2015, 2022 and 2023.

Super Bowl 2024 was entirely powered by renewable energy

In a historic first, the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, home to the Las Vegas Raiders and host of Super Bowl LVIII, was fully powered by solar power harnessed from a Nevada desert solar farm, thus achieving a significant green milestone.

Due to a 25-year agreement between the stadium and NV Energy, more than 6,21,000 solar panels found in a barren area of the Nevada desert with the capability to power close to 60,000 residential customers became the source of all the glitter and shine as the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the US National Football League (NFL), a federation of professional gridiron football teams. It is played by the winners of NFL’s American Football Conference and National Football Conference championships and is hosted by a different city each year.

>More than 100 million viewers watch the Super Bowl every year. This is in addition to the very expensive tickets, which are also very hard to get. The event has come from a long way since the first Super Bowl in 1967, which had 30000 empty seats.

> The Super Bowl also provides for some of the most sought-after space for brands. A 30-second ad spot comes with a $7-million price tag, or about $233,333 per second.

> The two teams of this year’s Super Bowl have interesting origin. While the Kansas City Chiefs were reportedly named after Kansas City Mayor H. Roe Bartle, who was nicknamed “The Chief” and helped lure the franchise from Dallas in 1963, the San Francisco 49ers are named after the people who came to California during the famous Gold Rush of 1849.

2024 sees highest number of Bharat Ratna in a single year

Five people will be awarded the Bharat Ratna in 2024, the highest ever since 1999, when four people were bestowed with the prestigious honour. The awardees include Karpoori Thakur, L.K. Advani, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Chaudhary Charan Singh and M.S. Swaminathan, out of which four are posthumous.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>Karpoori Thakur: A former Chief Minister of Bihar, he was known as ‘Jan Nayak’ (people’s leader) for his efforts to uplift marginalized communities.

>Lal Krishna Advani: A veteran politician and former Deputy PM of India, the nonagenarian played a pivotal role in shaping the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

>PV Narasimha Rao: The 9th PM of India, he introduced economic reforms and steered India towards liberalization and globalization. He was a polyglot, who was conversant in 15 languages.

>Chaudhary Charan Singh: A former PM of India, he is often referred to as the “Champion of India’s peasants”. The international airport in Lucknow is officially named after him.

>MS Swaminathan: A renowned agricultural scientist and the “Father of Green Revolution in India”, he made significant contrubutions to improving crop productivity and food security.

Elon Musk says Neuralink has implanted first brain chip in human

Neuralink, the neurotechnology company co-founded by Elon Musk in 2016, has finally put its first brain chip in human to test its implants in people, after receiving an approval from regulators in 2023. Musk took to X (formerly Twitter) to confirm that initial results show promising neuron spike detection.

The entrepreneur further added, the first product is Telepathy, aptly called so as it enables control of the user’s phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking. “Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal,” wrote Musk.

The startup aims to create a direct connection between the human brain and computers. It uses a device called the Link, which is implanted in the brain through surgery. The Link can record and stimulate neural activity, and send information to a Neuralink app, which can translate it into actions and intentions. The technology could help people with paralysis, neurological disorders, or enhance human capabilities.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>The Link is a coin-sized device that is placed inside the skull, with thin wires or threads that connect to the brain tissue. It can communicate wirelessly with a smartphone or computer, and can be charged without wires.

>The company has demonstrated the Link device in pigs and monkeys, showing that they can control a computer or a video game with their minds.

>It also faces many challenges and risks, some of which include, the safety and ethics of brain surgery and implantation, the reliability and durability of the device and the threads, the compatibility and security of the wireless communication and the app, the potential side effects or complications of brain stimulation or manipulation, the social and psychological impact of having a brain-computer interface, to mention a few.

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