By: J Mulraj
AUG 5-11, 2023

Can the former innovate fast enough?

Some 2400 years ago, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said ‘there are, in fact, two things. Science and opinion. The former begets knowledge. The latter begets ignorance.’

Read the news pages of any newspaper and you would conclude that the politicians, with their misguided opinions, are, like Pied Piper, leading us all to hell. Turn to the technology pages, however, and you feel the warm glow of an optimistic future beckoning us.

Let us first analyze the polity generated gloom and doom scenario, so that we can end on a positive note. A clueless Biden pushed an obedient but myopic EU to wage a senseless war against Russia, with Ukraine as its proxy. This avoided the pressure of body bags returning to their countries and building public opinion to end it. Today Ukraine has been destroyed, physically, socially and economically. Some 18 m. (out of 38) Ukrainians have migrated and an estimated 350,000 killed, yet the smug polity of the West is not seeking a negotiated end to the senseless killing. On the contrary, if Poland enters the war, as it threatens to, the foolish move will drag NATO into it, and that could escalate to WW3.

A depressing thought, indeed.

China, following wolf warrior diplomacy, ratcheted up tensions using water cannons on a Philippine ship seeking to supply provisions to its troops stationed on a decommissioned warship grounded on a ship in the South China Sea. On the basis of an arbitrary 9-dash line under which China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, a claim dismissed by UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea). China refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of UNCLOS. So, both China-Taiwan  and China-Philippines are potential powder kegs.

A depressing thought, indeed.

The situation in the African country of Niger, witnessing a civil conflict, is also distressing. Once colonized by France, the country was exploited for its uranium resources. France needs uranium to fire its nuclear power plants, which constitute 70% of its energy needs. African nations resent the use of their resources for use by the developed nations, at the cost of their own development. Russia has promised free grain to 6 African nations, after the collapse of the grain deal, and has offered to build a nuclear power plant in Uganda to use uranium from Niger for Africa.

Civil wars in Africa, driven by the need to exploit its mineral wealth, are depressing, indeed.

To emerge from depression, turn to the Science and Technology pages. The scientific world is abuzz with the possibility that a new, room temperature, superconducting material called NK-99 has been re-discovered. It was, actually, discovered by two South Korean scientists, Lee and Kim, in 1999 (hence LK-99) but rediscovered after they got funding during Covid.

A superconductive material allows electricity to be passed through it without resistance, which can take as much as 70% away. to make superconductive materials, they have to be cooled to sub zero temperatures, or under high pressure. So, if there is a material which could superconduct at room temperature, there would be huge benefits. Other than use in energy, ambient superconducting material can be used in Quantum computing, magnetic levitation (trains, even cars, can float above a road or a track, for frictionless motion), and, over a longer term, nuclear fusion, which promises an endless supply of clean, free, energy.

An uplifting thought, indeed.

China is setting up a Thorium reactor in its Gobi desert, to produce nuclear energy from molten salt. A tonne of thorium produces the same amount of energy as 3.5 m. tonnes of coal, at a much lower price, so will benefit China economically as well as environmentally.

An uplifting development, indeed.

Last week the BSE Sensex closed at 65322, down 399 over the week.

Some corporate results for the quarter ended June have been very good. LIC’s net profits for the quarter were up 14 times, to Rs 9544 crores. Those opportunistic politicians and sensation seeking journalists who had jumped the gun and criticized LIC after the Hindenberg report on Adani was released should, if they have any self respect, apologize to it for their knee jerk reaction.

Q1 Net profits for auto component maker Samvardhana Motherson International, quadrupled to Rs 401 crores. However, PAT at Grasim were down 56%, SJVN fell 55%, and Hindalco’s fell 58%.

The RBI left interest rates, but imposed incremental CRR (cash reserve ratio) to suck out over Rs 1 trillion from the system. This liquidity, could, however, be restored before the festive season.

With greater domestic and foreign inflows, it can be an external factor only that can deter the bull. One that can emanate from a politician, seeking to destroy, not a scientist, seeking to create.


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