How the Lounge team is feeling this week
From the birth of China's gene-edited twins to the Mars landing of Nasa's first outer space robotic explorer, Lounge takes on the biggest updates of the week
Harari is coming to town
Over the years, despite its sometimes Bollywood-led programming, the Penguin Annual Lecture has given us several sparkling sessions—a highlight remains the Dalai Lama’s “The Art of Happiness" talk in 2011. We are very glad to hear that Yuval Noah Harari will deliver this year’s lecture in Mumbai on 16 December. In keeping with the contemporary concerns of his latest book, the lecture will be on “The New Challenges Of The Twenty-first Century".
While Harari’s connection with India is strong—he has been coming here for Vipassana meditation since 2001—this will be a rare opportunity for a general audience to hear him speak. —AG
InSight lands on Mars
After almost a seven-month and 458-million-km-long journey, Nasa’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander successfully arrived on Mars on 26 November. As part of its two-year mission, InSight will have two primary science objectives: to study the red planet’s interior to learn how celestial bodies with rocky surfaces—like the earth and moon—came into being, and determine the present level of tectonic activity and meteorite impact rate on Mars. While this is the eighth time Nasa has successfully landed an exploration vehicle on the planet, InSight is the first outer space robotic explorer to study the “inner space" of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. All previous missions have studied the planet’s surface.
This is yet another positive step towards the ultimate goal of sending a manned mission to Mars. According to Nasa’s website, the information gathered by InSight will enable experts to learn more about the planet’s vital signs and understand if earth and Mars “are made of the same stuff, and provide a sneak peek into how the planet evolved." —NS
Hakuna Matata encore
If you’ve grown up in the early 1990s, the teaser of Disney’s live-action The Lion King remake will make you sit up and reminisce. It takes you into the African wilderness and enlivens childhood memories. The CGI remake has apparently been faithfully matched—almost frame to frame—with the 1994 animated original. The film has upped the ante by having voice-overs by Donald Glover (as Simba) and Beyonce (as Nala). Within 24 hours of its online release, the teaser garnered over 47 million views globally. The movie has been slated for a 19 July release. However, comments floating online commentate on the “redundancy" of reinventing a classic and why it has been called a “live-action" film, since the remake is an animation too. All these questions are superfluous for the real Lion King fans, because all they will care about is watching the “Hakuna Matata" sequence on screen once again. —RI
Those gene-edited twins
It’s no secret that Chinese scientists have had a bit of an unhealthy fascination for the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 ever since it was used to edit the human genome in 2013. In 2015, a few Chinese scientists went ahead and used CRISPR to edit genes in human embryos—but these were non-viable ones that were not going to be implanted and result in real humans, they argued. Then, a few days ago, this too became a reality with the birth of twin girls Lulu and Nana, the world’s first genetically edited babies. Even as the global scientific community explodes into a debate over scientific progress vs ethics, it’s easy to see how dystopias, beloved theme of sci-fi writers, actually come about. Cliched as it may seem, all it takes is the potent combination of an ambitious scientist, an evil corporation or two, and lax regulations. —SB