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The Scale of Things review: The Scale of Things review: An eye-opening perspective on human traits and motivations

If all our Milky Way’s stars were reduced to the size of peas, an Olympic-standard stadium would not hold all of them. Then, if all the empty space was removed from atoms, the human race’s entire volume would just be equal to that of a sugar cube. Also, one single day’s output of Instagram photos, if printed and stacked, would out-strip Mount Everest.

And then, would you know why it does not make sense for Bill Gates to pick up a $100 note he may have dropped?

The universe we exist in is not only infinite to an extent that may leave many of us unable to grasp its expanse, it is also strange in the configuration of its basic building blocks for many of us to conceive. We humans, the dominant species on the only planet supporting life, happen to be as strange, both in our construction and actions.

But, a lot of these facts about our surroundings and ourselves only kick in when we can relate them to some tangible scale of reference and that is what Mike Fairbrass and David Tanguy attempt in this book — as the examples above show.

the scale of things

The writers of The Scale of Things. Image from Twitter/@MikeFairbrass

Fairbrass, a writer and creative consultant, and Tanguy, a creative director at a London studio, take scale, in its meaning of the relative extent or size of something, assemble a wide array of “Mind-blowing Proportions, Remarkable Ratios and Extraordinary Facts”, as per the book’s subtitle.

“We realised that you can use scale as a tool not only to compare but to influence our perception and ‘feel’ new concepts — to render the unimaginable imaginable so that we may further understand and appreciate our world and its universe,” say the authors.

Using “readily available common knowledge” transposed into different scales, they use renowned Italian physicist Enrico Fermi’s unique technique of determining approximate answers using justified assumptions about difficult to calculate quantities, to present some vivid relationships, graphically illustrated, between things you could never think had any equivalence.

Say, between Formula One cars and human thought, the internet and eggs, and what all you would have to place on Mount Everest if you dumped it in the deepest part of the ocean so it could protrude out of water, among others.

There are many other examples spread across biology, the cosmos, the environment, our preoccupations of economics, power and technology, and humans and animals.

Take biology — could you hazard a guess how far our brain’s neural pathways reach if stretched out in length, or how its number of cells compare to the Amazon rain forest? Or tech buffs, do you know what the number of results you get by googling Google exceed?

But while Fairbrass and Tanguy frequently awe in the sections relating to our universe and nature, the issues they touch in typical human pursuits are sometimes more shocking and eye-opening. Especially where they concern the human traits of power grabbing, money accumulation and violence to each other.

Here we learn which dozen persons own 20 per cent of the Earth’s land mass, what all you could buy instead of a laptop if they had the same profit margin as perfume, why drug-running beats the pharmaceutical industry, and how the human-sacrificing Aztecs compared to the Nazi executioners or Chairman Mao to Genghis Khan.

There is much more too — about how nature can be more destructive than the most potent man-made weapons, how some animals, eg sharks, acquire an image of being relentless predators of humans when they pale before what humans are doing to each other, and how the Tyrannosaurus Rex would have needed a special cobbler if it wore shoes.

It is an engaging panorama that the authors present before us in their inimitable way — but it is not a collection of curious relationships for they use scale and juxtaposition highlight some complex issues in an easy to understand manner. That is the lesson we must imbibe about our social actions and pretensions.


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Malayalam actress assault case: Trial against Dileep and other accused to begin a year after abduction


Feb,18 2018 13:45 28 IST

Exactly a year later, the much-anticipated verdict in the Kerala actress kidnap case, in which actor Dileep has been named as the eighth accused, is to emerge with the trial set to begin very soon.

Dileep. File Photo

Dileep. File Photo

And the question that is uppermost in people’s minds is — will Dileep walk free or be behind bars.

It was this day last year that the abduction incident took place while the actress was on her way to Kochi from her house in Thrissur.

Her driver allegedly joined hands with a group of ‘criminals’ led by Pulsar Suni, who is the prime accused, and drove her through the busy streets of the commercial capital of the state and after two hours she was dropped near the home of director-actor Lal.

After she told him about what had happened to her, Lal called the police. The driver was first taken into custody and in a few days the rest of the gang, including Suni, was arrested.

But the twist in the tale, in true cinematic style, came when superstar Dileep was arrested on 10 July, 2017, after two rounds of questioning. After spending 85 days in jail, he got conditional bail.

Since then the police probe team has been busy in tying the loose ends in the now high profile case.

The trial court in December accepted the charge sheet that names a total of 12 persons, including Dileep as accused, while his former wife Manju Warrier, is a key witness.

The 650-page charge sheet included secret depositions. Among the list of witnesses, are around 50 from the film industry.

Now all eyes are on the beginning of the trial as the police is burning the midnight oil to see if they can successfully recover the visuals of the kidnapping and alleged molestation, which is reported to have been filmed by the gang.

Published Date: Feb 18, 2018 13:45 PM | Updated Date: Feb 18, 2018 13:45 PM


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Drake donates $1 million to struggling Miami residents on set of his God’s Plan music video

Los Angeles: The song is called God’s Plan and Canadian rapper Drake dropped a music video to match on Friday in which he gave away almost $1 million in cash to people in Miami.

Drake, the world’s best-selling artist of 2016, followed it up with a challenge on Instagram urging his fans to “go out and be nice to each other.”

Drake gives away a wad of cash in God's Plan music video. YouTube

Drake gives away a wad of cash in God’s Plan music video. YouTube

The God’s Plan video upended the usual lavish efforts from music production companies, and instead showed Drake handing out wads of cash to struggling families, toys to children, scholarships to students and checks to a women’s shelter and a youth club in Miami, Florida.

“The budget for this video was $996,631.90. We gave it all away. Don’t tell the label,” says the message at the start of the video

Before its release, Drake, 31, called the video “the most important thing I have ever done in my career.”

Emotional fans took to Twitter with effusive praise.

“If you’ve seen Drake’s God’s Plan video and it didn’t hit your heart then I just don’t know. That man’s doing it right,” tweeted one man, Michael McGraw.

“Cried reaaaal tears looking at God’s plan music video. it’s a good life,” a user called Janae wrote on Twitter.

Hours later the Grammy-winning singer issued a challenge on his Instagram saying “let’s all watch the world be nice to each other even if it’s for 24 hours.”

God’s Plan has held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for the past three weeks.

Published Date: Feb 18, 2018 13:48 PM | Updated Date: Feb 18, 2018 13:48 PM


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Ram Gopal Varma appears before Hyderabad police in obscenity case filed over God, Sex and Truth


Feb,17 2018 18:22 14 IST

Hyderabad: Filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma on Saturday appeared before Hyderabad police in connection with a case of obscenity booked against him for his movie God, Sex and Truth, and also for allegedly insulting the modesty of a woman.

Ram Gopal Varma. Image from Firstpost

Ram Gopal Varma. Image from Firstpost

The filmmaker, whose controversial movie with American adult entertainment star Mia Malkova was released on internet last month, appeared before the officials of Central Crime Station (CCS) in response to the notice served on him.

The police officials questioned him about the allegations made against him by women activists.

On 25 January, a day before the release of the movie, Varma was booked by the CCS. A case under section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 was booked against him for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form.

The filmmaker was also booked under sections 506 and 509 of Indian Penal Code for allegedly making personal comments against women activists during the debate on the movie on some television channels. When activists accused him of promoting obscenity, Varma allegedly offered to make similar movies with them. He has been charged with insulting the modesty of a woman.

The CCS this week issued fresh notice on Varma as he could not appear before the officials earlier.

Women’s organizations in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh had staged protest last month demanding ban on the release of the movie on web and Varma’s immediate arrest.

The activists alleged that Varma released the movie on web to avoid the certification by authorities. They said the filmmaker is portraying woman as a sex object and promoting pornography.

Published Date: Feb 17, 2018 18:22 PM | Updated Date: Feb 17, 2018 18:22 PM


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