STAR WARS

Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—India’s space shuttle, Obama in Vietnam, man-made meteors

What to watch for today

India launches a test version of its home-grown space shuttle. The short flight planned is a milestone toward India’s use of such reusable spacecraft, though the test model is about six times smaller than the eventual full-fledged shuttle.

Austria learns whether it’s getting a far-right president. The office is mostly ceremonial, but the election—which is too close to call until postal votes are tallied—is considered a test of whether nationalist parties in Europe will manage to further capitalize on the migrant crisis.

Vietnam hopes the US will lift a 32-year arms embargo. But such a move by president Barack Obama during his visit to Hanoi would heighten tensions with China.

Ryanair reports earnings. Investors are focused (paywall) on the low-cost airline’s outlook amid terror jitters at European airports, uncertainty about the direction of oil prices, and the upcoming UK vote on staying in the European Union.

Over the weekend

Tim Cook and Narendra Modi met. The May 21 visit by Apple’s CEO marked the first time India’s prime minister hosted an openly gay CEO. Cook outlined his vision for the world’s second-largest smartphone market, where Apple saw a 56% increase in sales for the fiscal second quarter, and where homosexuality remains a crime.

Japan reported a seventh straight month of falling exports. Shipments in April were hurt by a strong yen, weaker overseas demand, and supply-chain disruptions from last month’s earthquakes in the manufacturing hub of Kumamoto. A contraction in the April-June period looks likely for the nation’s economy.

The leader of the Taliban was killed. Afghanistan’s spy agency confirmed that Mullah Akhtar Mansour died in a US drone strike. Mansour, who assumed leadership of the group in July 2015, posed “a continuing, imminent threat to US personnel,” US secretary of state John Kerry said.

Venezuela’s food crisis intensified. Coca-Cola halted all production in Venezuela due to a sugar shortage, just the latest sign of the country’s desperate economic state.

Clinton’s lead over Trump in US polls shrank. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s advantage over presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump fell to three percentage points, from 11 in April, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The two would be the least-popular presidential nominees in the poll’s history.

Quartz obsession interlude

Mike Murphy on the state of virtual-reality systems. “Apple is in a bit of a rut right now. Sales of the iPhone, Mac, and iPad are down, and so far, the Apple Watch hasn’t moved the needle in the way other recent Apple product launches have. Apple is in need of a new device that ties into its ever-growing ecosystem. But… if current consumer VR devices are anything to go by, it’s highly unlikely that Apple will be releasing a VR system anytime soon.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Brexit is the biggest risk to global growth. Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda says a UK vote to leave the EU is the most serious threat to the world economy.

A software-powered world needs liberal-arts majors. Creative intuition and a desire to break convention come in handy when writing code.

There’s a strategic reason why some women scientists look “frumpy.” Young scientists are advised that anyone who looks fashionable signals a lack of dedication to science, or worse, a preoccupation with money.

Surprising discoveries

A four-armed robot can now improvise music as well as human bandmates. And it can play chord structures that would be physically impossible for humans to hit.

The Rio Olympics organizers are giving out enough condoms for each athlete to have sex 84 times. That’s an Olympic record.

A man-made meteor shower could open the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A Japanese startup aims to launch the artificial shooting stars by satellite.

A synthesizer has been created out of old telephone switchboards. The sound it produces is alien and scratchy, rather like the backing beats on a mid-90s Radiohead track.

Trees rest their branches at night. Scientists are studying whether the drooping can be likened to a sleep cycle.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, robot virtuosos, and frumpy fashion to hi@qz.com. You can download our iPhone app or follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search