world records

Not just sun: yoga powers first solar plane attempting to fly around the world

The pilots credit India's yoga with helping them to subsist on scanty sleep in flight.

The world’s first solar aircraft to attempt to circumnavigate the globe was to land in Ahmedabad on Tuesday night. If successful, this flight could be the first step in making air travel less polluting.

After spending an unspecified amount of time in Gujarat, the plane, Solar Impulse 2, will move on to Varanasi and from there to Mandalay in Myanmar. It is expected to finish its journey by July or August.

Apart from its pit stops in India, the plane has another link with the subcontinent. Bertrand Piccard and André  Borschberg, the pilots and masterminds of the project, will use yoga and self-hypnosis to ensure that they use their 20-minute sleep slots as efficiently as possible.

“Yoga originated in India over 5,000 years ago, and today is used by André Borschberg while flying Si2,” the website says about the aircraft's stop in Ahmedabad.  It added that the two men will "use the opportunity to talk about clean technologies among Gujarat's rapid technical innovation”.

The attempt by Solar Impulse 2 comes 90 years after four US military planes completed the world’s first aerial circumnavigation in 1924, but could not be more different. The 1924 flight could only be monitored from one landing point to another. Solar Impulse 2, however, can be tracked on the internet every minute of its flight.

A website streams a live feed from the cockpit and the control room in Monaco. Piccard and Borschberg are live tweeting updates from the plane and posting pictures and videos from each destination. And there has been a blitz of explainer videos for several months now.

The two seem to have cordial relations with the Indian government. They tweeted at Piyush Goel, Minister of Energy and Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel about their flight plans.

Creating aviation history

Solar planes have been around since 1979, but have become viable enough for long flights only in the past decade. These spindly creatures are still a far cry from the giant passenger planes that ferry millions of people across the world each year. The Solar Impulse-2, much like early mechanical planes, is only a two-seater and putters along at only 55 km per hour. It can, however, fly through the night, because of an impressive array of solar batteries.

Piccard and Borschberg, both Swiss citizens and the innovators behind the plane, have been working on this project since 2003, in an attempt to develop viable alternate clean travel technology. At each destination, the two plan to speak with schools, NGOs and governments to pitch their idea of clean energy. The prototype of the plane, Solar Impulse 1, has already flown from Morocco to Switzerland and across America.

The plane began its journey in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on March 9 and will cover 12 stops around the world in 25 flight days spread across an estimated five months. Their longest stretch of flying will be five days and five nights crossing the Pacific Ocean from China to the US.

If the two succeed, this will be Piccard’s second circumnavigation record. In 1999, he became the first person to fly around the world in a balloon, a craft that is considerably more difficult to direct than a plane, even one that is powered only by solar energy.

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Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.


In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.


Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.


The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.


The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

If financial drama is your thing, then block your weekend for Billions. You can catch it on Hotstar Premium, a platform that offers a wide collection of popular and Emmy-winning shows such as Game of Thrones, Modern Family and This Is Us, in addition to live sports coverage, and movies. To subscribe, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.