Gravity, and how to defy it

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The past week (November 27 ~ December 4, 2016) threw up some photographs that were not just visually rich, but also morally enriching.

Be it in the laboratory, at comic-cons, on boats on the Thames, or in the streets, everything we do is a bid to defy the tyranny of gravity everyday. | Reuters

What is gravity? Whether you go by Einstein or Newton — call it a benign adherence to the shape of the universe, or a violent force that exerts dominance over all objects in the world — it is a phenomenon that you can't escape. It is all-pervasive, inevitable, indefatigable. It is the law of life. Can it be defied? Here are some examples showcasing the principle of a subjective entity making a wilful bid to surmount the curtailment of their freedom by seemingly inescapable forces.

Belgian Special Force personnel perform a drill during the Black Blade military exercise involving several European Union countries and organised by the European Defence Agency at Florennes airbase, Belgium, on November 30, 2016.

Abseiling may have originated as a method of recreational rock-climbing, where the climber suspends themselves from a secure rope, but it is also used for the tactical insertion of troops in urban warfare, where military personnel are airdropped into urban environments during aerial assaults, or in heliborne rescue missions. Here, the Belgian military performs a drill during the Black Blade exercise, which is part of what is reportedly Brussels' biggest boost to defence spending in a decade.

Funeral workers place ribbons on coffins holding the remains of those who died after a plane, which had members of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense on board, crashed into the Colombian jungles, in Medelin, Colombia, on December 1.

However, dropping from the air can be dangerous if you do not have a tether to counteract the lethal force of gravity. All but three members of Brazillian football team, Chapecoense de Futbol, died after their chartered plane crashed on the way to the Medellín airport in Colombia. The 2016 Copa Sudamericana trophy, the final of which was to be played between the Chapecoense and Atletico Nacional, will be awarded to the Brazilian club after the Colombian side conceded the match.

A man in a Spider-Man costume crouches stealthily outiside Tokyo Comic Con at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan, on December 2.

As superpowers go, perhaps the greatest one would be the power to defy gravity. If Superman was inherently endowed with the power of flight, Spiderman represents the utility of blending human ingenuity with animal instincts to produce an organically-secreted silken rope to sail the Manhattan skyline with.

Chemistry student Brandon Lee watches the beaker in which Daraprim, a compound found in an anti-parasitic medicine used to treat malaria, is prepared in their school lab at Sydney Grammar School in Sydney, on December 2.

Where evolution hasn't endowed a species with the ability to defy death, ingenuity comes into play and devises chemical solutions to fatal diseases. Daraprim, or Pyrimethamine, is an ingested medicine that helped combat Malaria. Malaria costs nations billions of dollars a year to combat and causes hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Daraprim is, however, no longer viable against Malaria, since viruses and parasites evolve as fast as or quicker than the medicines we can create to combat them. Antibiotic resistance is a virus's way of defying its gravity.

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood speaks at an event at which a collection of punk memorabilia belonging to Joe Corre, the son of Malcolm McLaren, the former manager of the Sex Pistols and Westwood, was burnt on a boat on the River Thames, in London, on November 26, 2016.

When culture oppresses society, rebels are birthed in defiance. Punk evolved in the 1970s as a response to the rising power of the political mainstream. Out of this harrowing cultural situation, youth took to overt anti-establishmentarianism, expressing their disaffection through a rebellious subculture — sporting unconventional haircuts, grimy attire, and aggressive off-kilter music and art. But if Punk sought to find pride and meaning in its social marginalisation, gravity has since led to it being subsumed by the mainstream.

A collection of punk music memorabilia went up in flames on Saturday in a protest that intended to highlight how the genre has been subsumed into the cultural establishment. Joe Corre, whose father was the manager of Punk band Sex Pistols, set fire to his collection of punk-era clothes and paraphernalia, reportedly valued at £5 million, in London.

Police shoot water cannon to disperse protesters at a rally for the right to self-determination in the Indonesian-controlled part of Papua, in Jakarta, on December 1.

West Papua has been an Indonesian colony since the 1960s. Military operations there have resulted in over 500,000 deaths till date. And the clamour for the right to self-determination or Independence has become more strident since over 200 people were last week arrested at a rally celebrating the anniversary of the first raising of the Morning Star flag, the banned Papuan nationalist symbol.

The Indonesian army is reported to have committed human rights violations in the bid for resource extraction and land grab. The Native Americans, though, breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday after plans to build the Dakota Access pipeline were thwarted. Sometimes, gravity is unnatural, man-made, and deserves to be defied. No?

A student of Havana University participates in a tribute to Cuba's late President Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, on November 28.

Politically, communism may be a byword. But that is predominantly because of the pejorative connotation it acquired in the American-driven political mainstream and pop culture. Fidel Castro, the Cuban politician and revolutionary who died late last month after a lifetime of opposition to Imperialist Capitalism, defied gravity in a world-famous way. Thus, he left his mark with his own cheek.

Trying to get a close-up glimpse of Jayalalithaa's casket, civilians scale the fence around Rajaji Hall in Chennai on December 6, 2016. | G. Gnanavelmurugan

Jayalalithaa, who passed away on Monday after a protracted illness and illustrious careers in film and governance, was a spark of feminine spirit in the challenging environment of patriarchal politics. As she defied societal gravity with equal measures of political savvy and sheer force of will, her well-wishers, numbering in their millions, thronged Rajaji Hall in Chennai as her body lay in state. Some defied gravity in their own inelegant but devoted way.

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