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Science & Technology current affairs 2021

Following the current events and news in the area of science and technology is very very important for the general studies paper in the UPSC exam. In recent times questions are set on only those topics that have made news. Regular study of science from NCERT books or otherwise is no longer required. The idea is to follow the current affairs news related to science and technology and understand the science behind those issues. This is true for all levels of teh IAS exam - prelims, mains and also the interview.

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Current Affairs in Science and Technology - June 2021

ANITA: It refers to Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna. ANITA is the first NASA observatory for neutrinos of any kind. It is a radio telescope to detect ultra-high energy cosmic-ray neutrinos from a scientific balloon flying over the continent of Antarctica. ANITA detects neutrinos pinging in from space and colliding with matter in the Antarctic ice sheet through the Askaryan effect.

Recently, NASA’s Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna(ANITA) have detected high energy particles from ice in Antarctica. The researchers believe that these particles are proof to parallel universe.

The high-energy particles usually move from space to earth (i.e. from top to bottom) but ANITA has detected an anomaly i.e. particles have been detected travelling bottom to top.

The ANTIA has so far made 4 major cosmic ray detections. The cosmic rays that are coming from the sky are reflected off the ice. However, two of these detections have proofs that they are generated from the ice below.

Askaryan effect: It is the phenomenon where a particle travelling at a velocity faster than light in a dense electric medium, produces shower of secondary charged particles. The dense electric medium can be ice, salt of lunar regolith. It is named after Gurgen Askaryan, a Soviet-Armenian physicist who postulated it in 1962.

Neutrinos: They are subatomic particles with no electric charge and with a very small mass. The mass of the neutrino is much smaller than that of the other known elementary particles.They are considered to be the second most abundant particle in the universe after photons or light particles.The direction from which they arrive points directly back to their original source. They are produced during natural radioactive decays and all sorts of nuclear reactions in nuclear power reactors, particle accelerators or nuclear bombs.

However, the most common sources of neutrinos are celestial phenomena which is natural nuclear reactions like the birth and death of stars, collisions, and explosions happening in space.

NASA: It is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. The Administrator of NASA is Jim Bridenstine and the Deputy Administrator of NASA is James Morhard. 

Recently, NASA renamed its next-generation space telescope- Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), after the space agency’s first chief astronomer Nancy Grace Roman. The WFIRST Telescope will now be called Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (or Roman Space Telescope, for short) which is set for launch in 2025.

Nancy Grace Roman: She is the US space agency’s first chief astronomer. She came to NASA in 1959, just 6 months after the agency had been established. She paved the way for space telescopes focused on the broader universe. She is considered as the mother of Hubble Space Telescope, which had launched 30 years ago. Through Roman's leadership, NASA launched four Orbiting Astronomical Observatories between 1966 and 1972.

TIANWEN-1: It is China's first Mars mission. China’s space program is planning to launch its first Mars mission named ‘Tianwen-1’ which is expected to land on the Red Planet’s surface in the first quarter of 2021.

 The Tianwen-1 mission will lift off on a Long March 5 rocket. It is expected to take off in late July, around the same time when NASA is launching its own Mars mission– the ambitious ‘Perseverance’ which aims to collect Martian samples and bring them back to Earth in a two-part campaign.

The success of the mission will make China the third country to achieve a Mars landing after the USSR and the United States.

Previous Mars missions:

China’s previous ‘Yinghuo-1’ Mars mission, which had piggybacked on a Russian spacecraft, had failed after it could not leave the Earth’s orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean in 2012.

The USSR in 1971 became the first country to carry out a Mars landing. It’s Mars 3 lander is able to transmit data for 20 seconds from the Martian surface before failing. The country made it’s second and Mars landing two years later in 1973.

The US holds the maximum records on Mars landings missions, the latest mission being the  ‘InSight’ in 2019 (launched in 2018).

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan is a space probe orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Trojan Asteroid: These are Jupiter trojans, commonly called Trojan asteroids or simply Trojans . They are a large group of asteroids that share the planet Jupiter's orbit around the Sun. Relative to Jupiter, each Trojan librates around one of Jupiter's two stable Lagrange points: L4, lying 60° ahead of the planet in its orbit, and L5, 60° behind.

Recently, astronomers at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy (UH IfA) have spotted a new asteroid with a comet-like tail moving in the same orbit as Jupiter. It is described as something between an asteroid and a comet. The object has been called an active asteroid.

They are usually known as Trojan asteroids. However, it is the first one of its kind to be seen with a comet-like-tail. The object has been called an active asteroid because these objects appear to be asteroids at first, but later develop activity, such as tails, like that of comets.

The object was first discovered in June 2019 and given the name 2019 LD2. It was discovered using the university's Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), which was funded by NASA and developed to search space for objects that may pose threats to the Earth. It was discovered moving in the same orbit travelled by Jupiter around the sun. These asteroids follow the same orbit like that of a planet. But it remains 60 degrees ahead of or behind along the orbit.

The Jupiter Trojan asteroids orbit the Sun in two huge swarms, one swarm orbiting ahead of the planet (where 2019 LD2 was found) and one swarm orbiting behind it.

As per the researchers, the Trojan asteroids have been captured into these orbits by Jupiter's strong gravity. 2019 LD2 is the first-of-its-kind as because most Jupiter Trojans were captured billions of years ago.

Ultra Swachh: It is a disinfection unit named Ultra Swachh to disinfect a wide range of materials, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), electronics items, fabrics, etc. It has been developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

DRDO's Delhi based Institute of Nuclear Medicine & Allied Sciences (INMAS) developed this product with industry partner M/s Gel Craft Healthcare Private Ltd, Ghaziabad in compliance with International Standards of Industrial, Occupational, Personal and Environmental Safety.

The Ultra Swachh comes in two variants namely Ozonated Space and Trinetra Technology. Trinetra technology is the combination of Ozonated space and radical dispenser. Treatment is optimised with automation for quick disinfection cycle. The system uses an advanced oxidative process comprising of Ozonated Space Technology and uses the advanced oxidative process for disinfection process.

The system is double layered with specialised Ozone sealant technology assuring trapping of ozone for the necessary disinfection cycle. It also has catalytic converter to ensure environment friendly exhaust i.e. only oxygen and water.

SpaceX: Space Exploration Technologies Corp., trading as SpaceX, is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company. It was founded on 6 May 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars. It is headquartered in Hawthorne, California. The SpaceX founder & CEO is Elon Musk. The current SpaceX president & COO is Gwynne Shotwell.

Recently, marking the beginning of a new era in the United States (US) space programme, NASA astronauts Robrt Behnken and Douglas Hurley docked the SpaceX capsule with the International Space Station (ISS). The two NASA astronauts made history on Saturday as they became the first Americans to launch on a US rocket from American soil to the space station in nearly a decade. 

The SpaceX’s Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon capsule – Endeavour  designed and built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX lifted off on May 30 at 3:22 p.m (1.50 am Sunday in India) from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is the same launch pad, which was used during the Apollo mission to the moon a half-century ago. With this, SpaceX has become the first private company to fly astronauts into orbit.

Coro-bot: It is an ‘Internet-controlled’ robot developed by a 23 year old engineer Pratik Tirodkar from Thane. Coro-bot which is designed and created by him is the first of its kind that addresses the needs of the hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

This robot can be operated from any part of the world through internet. It can deliver food, water, medicines and interact with the patients through a camera. Through a speaker, it can also advise patients on various precautions like sanitizing their hands before picking up anything from the robotic tray. It eliminates the need of physical presence or contact of nurses or ward boys with the patient.

The Coro-bot has three nozzles. The first nozzle is used to provide disinfectant bath for the robot himself, the second is used to spray sanitizers on both sides of the path and the third is used to disinfect the ground with UV light as the robot moves. It also has dispensers for water, tea and coffee.

The robot becomes the first in world to be operated using Internet of Things (IoT) technology in medical field.

Pratik Tirodkar: He is designer and creator of the first of its kind robot named Coro-bot. He is also the founder of a start up ‘PNT solutions’. He has developed other unique creations when he had barely stepped to college. This includes world’s first ‘Humanoid’ with 47 body (axis) movements, a robotic bird ornithopter for various outdoor applications, a mini packaging robot and several others.

This young genius has even given over a 100 guest lecturers to the brain students of IITs and NITs in the country.

DIAT: It refers to the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology. DIAT is the Premier Deemed University under the Department of Defence Research & Development, Ministry of Defence, Government of India (GoI). It was established in 1952. Earlier it was called the Institute of Armament Studies (1952–1967) and Institute of Armament Technology (1967–2006). Ministry of Human Resource Development, GoI has placed DIAT in Category 'A' Deemed University & accredited by National Assessment and Accreditation Council and National Board of Accreditation. The institute trains officers of Indian Ordnance Factories, Coast Guards, Indian Armed Forces (Air Force, army and Navy). The Defence Minister of India Rajnath Singh is the current Chancellor of the Institute.

Recently, DIAT, Pune developed a Nano-technology based disinfectant spray to combat COVID-19 by disinfecting all types of surfaces. It has been named “ANANYA”.

This can be used by anyone, from a common man to a healthcare worker and individual. It can also be used for large scale use. This spray can be used on masks, PPEs, hospital linens, as well as other likely contaminated surfaces such as medical instruments, door knobs, corridors elevator buttons and rooms.

The spray which has been prepared based on Nano-Technology assisted formulation will not only stop the novel coronavirus from entering human body, but it will also kill the virus when the virus comes in contact with this formulation layer on masks and PPEs.

This is a water based spray and will be effective for more than 24 hours after spray. It adheres very effectively to fabric, plastic and metallic objects and it's toxicity of the spray is negligible to humans. The shelf life of the spray is said to be more than 6 months.

Ananya has been tested by the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and Infrared Spectroscopy methods.

Gussies Electric Boat Awards: Gussies Electric Boat Awards were instituted in memory of Gustave Trouvé, a French electrical engineer and pioneer in electric cars and boats. Trouvé was a prolific inventor with over 75 patents. Back in 1881, he developed a 5-m-long prototype electric boat. There are 3 award categories:-

1. Electric boats up to 8m in length,

2. Electric boats more than 8 m long and

3. Electric ferry boats (passenger boats)

Recently, India’s first solar-powered ferry, Aditya has been shortlisted for the Gustave Trouvé Award as the sole entrant from Asia. It has been shortlisted for  Electric ferry boats (passenger boats) category award.

Aditya:  Aditya is a solar-powered ferry operating between Vaikkom and Thavanakkadavu in the Indian state of Kerala. It is not only the first solar-powered ferryand but also the largest solar-powered boat in India. The boat was inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Sri. Pinarayi Vijayan and Central Cabinet Minister for Power, Renewable Energy, Sri. Piyush Goyal on 12 January 2017. The vessel was designed and built by NavAlt Solar and Electric Boats in Kochi, India. It is operated by the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD).

It is powered by a motor that can source energy from solar panels, batteries, and generators so the per km energy cost of Aditya is low and it does not create air and noise pollution. It operates 22 trips a day, covering a total of 66 km, carrying 75 passengers per trip. It covers a total distance of 66 km with just ₹180 per day energy cost. Till now the ferry has transported 11 lakh passengers, covering a distance of 70,000 with a zero carbon footprint.

Health Ministry: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is an Indian government ministry charged with health policy in India. It is also responsible for all government programs relating to family planning in India. The Minister of Health and Family Welfare holds cabinet rank as a member of the Council of Ministers. It was founded in 1976.The current Minister of Health and Family welfare is Harsh Vardhan.

Recently, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan launched India's first mobile I-Lab (Infectious disease diagnostic lab). It is part of government Aatmnirbhar Bharat. It was built in a record time of 8 days from the date of receipt of Automotive Chassis, from Bharat Benz. The laboratory aims to promote and support the idea of becoming self sufficient in difficult times.

The Laboratory is to be deployed in remote, interior and inaccessible parts of the country. It has the capability to perform 25 Covid-19 RT-PCR tests per day, 300 ELISA tests per day and additional tests for TB and HIV.

The Infectious Disease Diagnostic Lab (I-LAB) is supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, under the COVID-Command strategy.

The lab is a BSL-2 facility with on site Elisa, real-time reverse tranion polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test and Bio chemistry analysers.

ELISA refers to Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay. ELISA is designed to detect soluble substances such as antibodies, proteins and hormones.

Antarctica: Antarctica is the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole. it is a virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. It is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Most cruises to the continent visit the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches toward South America. It’s known for the Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor, striking, iceberg-flanked passageways, and Port Lockroy, a former British research station turned museum. The peninsula’s isolated terrain also shelters rich wildlife, including many penguins. Antarctica is bigger than Europe and almost double the size of Australia. Most of Antarctica is covered in ice over 1.6 kilometres thick (1 mile). It is the coldest continent on Earth with the lowest recorded temperature reaching -89.2 degrees Celsius. Not only is Antarctica the coldest continent, it is also the driest, highest and windiest with winds reaching over 200mp.

Recently, in a new study published in the journal Nature has revealed that a mysterious fossil discovered in Antarctica in 2011 turned out to be a giant soft-shell egg from 68 million years ago.  It Measures upto 29 cm by 20 cm and it is the first fossil egg found in Antarctica and the largest soft-shell egg that the world has ever seen. 

A group of Chilean researchers from South American Nation Chile, during a scientific expeditiond, discovered a fossil 200 meters away from the spot where the fossil of a 10-meter long Mosasaur (an ancient reptile) was unearthed. This egg shaped fossil was discovered on the Seymour Island of Antarctica off the coast of Antarctica. The fossil, since then was kept in the Chilean National Museum of Natural History and was named ‘The Thing’ for almost a decade before being studied. Though, there was nothing left inside the egg to prove what animal it once carried but some scientists speculate that it was laid by a giant marine reptile.

Fossils: Fossils are the preserved remains, or traces of remains, of ancient organisms. Fossils are not the remains of the organism itself! They are rocks. It can be any preserved remains, impression, or trace of any once-living thing from a past geological age. For e.g., bones, shells, exoskeletons, stone imprints of animals or microbes, objects preserved in amber, hair, petrified wood, oil, coal, Bones, shells, feathers, leaves and DNA remnants. A fossil can preserve an entire organism or just be a part of one.

LUS: It refers to an automated lung ultrasound (LUS) for COVID-19 screening and monitoring through cloud-based image analysis and scoring system. It has recently been developed by Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Palakkad.

The app is the first of its kind in India. It is now available for clinicians to perform automated analysis by just uploading the ultrasound video.

A nursing assistant (in the absence of a skilled clinician) by following a simple protocol of LUS, acquires the lung images and transfers the images to the cloud.

The images are analyzed over the cloud and scores are assigned according to certain criteria either for the type of infection or its severity.

The methodology would be extremely useful in time-critical COVID-19 working conditions, where clinicians have time limitations in manually evaluating ultrasound videos of all patients.

The approach is not only restricted to COVID-19 detection but also helps to identify other lung infections.

LUS has the additional advantage because it is easy to use, portable, repeatability, absence of radiation exposure, and it is of low cost.

BDS: It refers to the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System. The BDS is named after the Chinese term for Big Dipper. It is a Chinese satellite navigation system. The BDS has been designed to reach accuracy levels similar to those of GPS and Galileo Open Service by positioning accuracy within 10 meters, timing accuracy within 50 ns and velocity accuracy within 0.2 meters per second. China started developing the Beidou satellite system in the 1990s with the aim of being self-sufficient in navigation technology and having an alternative system to GPS.

Recently, China successfully launched the final member in its Beidou satellite system (BDS) for global coverage constellation. It was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch center in Sichuan Province on 23 June 2020 by a Long March 3B rocket into the orbit. The satellite launched is a part of the third generation of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS-3) and the 55th satellite of the whole Beidou system.

The launch marked the completion of the country's domestically developed BeiDou constellation, one of four global navigation networks alongside with the United States Global Positioning System GPS, Russia's GLONASS and the European Union's Galileo. BDS is being projected by Beijing as a rival to the American Global Positioning System (GPS).

BDS-1 also known as the first generation was a constellation of 3 satellites was launched with 3 working and one backup satellite between 2000 to 2003. The first satellite under this system was launched on 30th October 2000. The BDS started providing independent services over China in 2000.

BeiDou-2 also known as the second generation of the system became operational in China in 2011 with a partial constellation of 10 satellites in orbit. This system provides coverage in the Asia-Pacific Region. The first satellite under this system was launched on 13th April 2007.

BDS-3 also known as the third generation of the system was launched on 30 March 2015. The BDS-3 System satellite has a higher bandwidth, enabling enhanced communication. This system consists of 35 satellites. They are 3 Geosynchronous satellite, 3 Inclined Geosynchronous Satellite and 24 Medium Earth Orbits Satellite. Fifteen BDS-3 satellites were launched till October 2018. BDS-3 started providing global navigation services from December 2018 to countries that had signed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China.

ISRO: It is an abbreviation for the Indian Space Research Organizatin.  ISRO is the space agency of the Government of India (GoI) and was formed in 15 august 1969. It superseded the erstwhile “Indian National Committee For Space Research” (INCOSPAR) which was established in 1962 by the efforts of Independent India's first prime minister‚ Jawaharlal Nehru‚ and his close aide and scientist Vikram Sarabhai. In 1972, the Government of India had set up a Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS), bringing ISRO under the DOS. ISRO then embarked on its mission to provide the Nation space based services and to develop the technologies to achieve the same independently. Its vision is to “harness space technology for natural development while pursuing space science research & planetary exploration”. ISRO built India’s first Satellite Aryabhata. It is headquartered in Bangalore, India. The current Chairman of ISRO is K sivan.

Recently, ISRO received a patent for its Liquid Cooling and Heating Garment (LCHG) that is suitable for space applications.

LCHG are made of biocompatible fabrics and components to provide a comfortable temperature and removal of sweat for astronauts, for use in space for protection from hot and cold environments. The patent garment has an outer layer that is made of polymeric fabric net and the inner layer of polymeric fabric tricoting that comes in contact with the wearer. The outer and inner layers are separated by tubes configured to circulate heat transfer through inlet and outlet valves. The garment permits the long term use without any impact on the wearer in terms of skin irritation or infection.

LCGH was invented by Srirangam Siripothu, Reshmi Balachandran, Saraswathi Kesava Pillai Manu, and Gurumurthy Chandrasekaran.

LCGH would provide a comfortable temperature to the astronauts wearing it in space. It can also be used in  military applications, fire fighting as well as for personal cooling and heating purposes for protection from extreme hot and cold environments of industrial areas.

ISRO has initiated the Human Space Flight Programme, Gaganyaan, to take humans to space by 2022. Under the programme, three astronauts are to orbit the earth at an altitude of 400 kilometres for 7 days. They are undergoing training in Russia.

Space Sector Reforms: The Union Cabinet recently has approved far reaching reforms in the Space sector. It was approved in the Cabinet meeting held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an aim to boostprivate sector participation in the entire range of space activities.

The Cabinet decision comes weeks after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the opening up of the space sector for private entities.

Union Atomic Energy and Space Minister, Dr. Jitendra Singh informed that that government will constitute Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACE) for effective socio-economic usage of space technology.

The Public Sector Enterprise, New Space India Limited (NSIL) will endeavour to re-orient space activities from a supply driven model to a demand driven model, thereby ensuring optimum utilization of our space assets.

IN-SPACe will not only provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure but will also guide them through encouraging policies and a friendly regulatory environment.

IN-SPACe will not be a separate institution but work as an extension into ISRO and these reforms will allow ISRO to focus more on research and development activities, new technologies, exploration missions and human spaceflight programme. The Department of Space comes under the PMO.

IISc Bangalore: It is the Indian Institute of Science located in Bangaluru city, in the Indian state of Karnataka. It is a public, deemed, research university for higher education and research in science, engineering, design, and management. The institute was established in 1909 with active support from Jamsetji Tata and Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV and thus is also locally known as the "Tata Institute". It was granted the deemed to be university status in 1958 and the Institute of Eminence status in 2018.

Recently, a research team at IISc Bangaluru developed nanozymes that destroy the cell membrane of bacteria by directly targeting its phospholipids. According to the former PhD students Kapudeep Karmakar and Kritika Khulbe, who conducted the research, the nanozymes developed by them can replace the antibiotics that have become ineffective as several bacteria have developed resistance to them by producing their own enzymes.

The study conducted by the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry and the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology was published in ACS Applied BioMaterials journal.

Nanozymes are nanomaterials that can behave like human enzymes. It can disintegrate the cell membranes of a range of diseases causing bacteria. This nanomaterial has been tested on several potentially pathogenic bacteria causing typhoid, gastroenteritis, dysentery, cholera and pneumonia. It was found that the nanozyme stopped growth and killed the microbes.

Nano Urea Liquid: Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), the premier farmers’ cooperative, on May 31, 2021, introduced the world’s first Nano Urea Liquid fertilizer.

Highlights:

  • The world's first Nano Urea Liquid was unveiled in IFFCO's 50th annual general body meeting held in the online-offline mode in India.
  • The ‘Nano-technology’ based product has been researched and developed at the IFFCO Nano Biotechnology Research Centre (NBRC), an advanced research and development centre based at Kalol Unit.
  • This new Nano Urea Liquid that has been indigenously developed through a proprietary technology is in line with 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' and 'Atmanirbhar Krishi'.

Production and Rollout:

  • IFFCO has informed that the production of Nano Urea Liquid will commence by June 2021.
  • The commercial rollout will start soon thereafter.
  • IFFCO has planned a massive countrywide campaign exercise to demonstrate and train the farmers about its usage and application.
  • Nano urea will be primarily available to farmers through its cooperative sales and marketing channel apart from its sale on IFFCO's e-commerce platform.
  • The liquid is now included in Fertiliser Control Order (FCO, 1985) on the basis of multi- location and multi-crop trials undertaken under National Agriculture Research System (NARS) at 20 ICAR research institutes, State Agriculture Universities and KVKs on 43 crops.

 Benefits of Nano Urea Liquid:

The following are the benefits of Nano Urea Liquid.

  • These nanostructured formulations have been found effective and efficient for plant nutrition which increases the production with improved nutritional quality.
  • The products are meant to:-
  • Improve soil health,
  • Reduce emission greenhouse gases 
  • Ensure upto 15-30% increase in crop production 
  • Reduce the requirement of conventional chemical fertilizer by 50%
  • Boost the plants immunity against harmful pathogens
  • Help increase the activity of plant growth hormone and improves overall plant growth and development.
  • It will also have a huge positive impact on the quality of underground water, very significant reduction in the global warming with an impact on climate change and sustainable development.
  • The effectiveness of Nano Urea Liquid has been tested in over 11,000 farmers’ fields for 94 crops like rice and wheat.
  • It is more effective than the conventional granular urea which when used the excess urea causes environmental pollution, harms soil health, and makes plants more susceptible to disease and insect infestation, delayed maturity of the crop and production loss.
  • It will prove very beneficial for farmers. The benefits are as follows:
  • It will be cost-effective as it is cheaper and it will help in increasing farmers' income.
  • Nano urea contains 40,000 ppm of Nitrogen in a 500 ml bottle, which is equal to nitrogen nutrient impact provided by one bag of conventional Urea.
  • This will reduce the input cost of farmers and due to its small size, it will also significantly bring down the cost of logistics and warehousing too.
  • The 500 ml bottle of Nano Urea will be priced at Rs 240 for the farmers, which is 10% cheaper than the cost of a bag of conventional Urea.

What is Nano urea?

  • Urea that is produced from nano-technology to improve the efficiency of the nutrients of the crops is called as nano urea.
  • The nano urea liquid seeks to replace conventional Urea and can curtail its requirement by at least 50 percent.

About IFFCO:

  • Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited, also known as IFFCO is a Multi-state cooperative society engaged in the business of manufacturing and marketing of fertilizers headquartered in New Delhi, India.
  • It was founded on 3 November 1967 with 57 member cooperatives it is today the biggest co-op in the world by turnover on GDP per capita with around 35,000 member cooperatives reaching over 50 million Indian farmers.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi, India.
  • The current chairman and CEO/MD are B.S Nakai and Dr. U.S Awasthi respectively.

 

Space Agreement: New Zealand recently became the latest country to sign “space agreement with NASA”.

Key Points:

  • New Zealand became the eleventh signatory to the Artemis Accords.
  • Artemis Accords is a blueprint for space cooperation and supporting the U.S. space agency's plans to return humans to the moon by 2024 and also to launch a historic human mission to Mars.

Note: The other signatories to the accords are the US, Australia, Britain, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Ukraine.

Objective:

  • The agreement was signed with an objective to boost the nascent space industry of New Zealand.
  • The country wants to ensure the next phase of space exploration is conducted in a safe, sustainable and transparent manner and in full compliance with international law,”.
  • It is particularly interested in making sure that minerals taken from the moon or elsewhere in space are used sustainably.

New Zealand Space industry:

  • California-based company Rocket Lab, which specializes in putting small satellites into orbit began commercial launches in 2018.
  • It made history in New Zealand four years ago when it launched a test rocket into space from the remote Mahia Peninsula.

Artemis Accords:

  • Artemis accords are an international agreement and American-led effort which seeks to relaunch humans to Moon by 2024.
  • The Agreement was signed by governments participating in Artemis programme with the objective of expanding and deepening space exploration.
  • It was drafted under the aegis of NASA.
  • It provides a framework for cooperation in civil exploration and peaceful use of Mars, Moon and other astronomical objects. 
  • The accord was signed on October 13, 2020.

 

AmbiTAG: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Ropar in Punjab has developed “AmbiTAG” which is India’s first indigenous temperature data logger developed for cold chain management.

Ambitag has been developed under Technology Innovation Hub – AWaDH (Agriculture and Water Technology Development Hub) and its Startup ScratchNest.

About AmbiTAG:

  • AmbiTAG is shaped as USB device.
  • It continuously records temperature of its immediate surroundings.
  • The recorded data can be retrieved by connecting the USB with any computer. 
  • It can detect temperatures “from -40 to +80 degrees” in any time zone for 90 days on a single charge unlike other devices available in market that record data only for duration of 30- 60 days.

Significance:

  • AmbiTag records real-time ambient temperature during the transportation of perishable products, vaccines and even body organs and blood.
  • That recorded temperature further helps to know whether that particular item transported from anywhere in the world is still usable or perished because of temperature variation.
  • This information is particularly critical for vaccines including Covid-19 vaccine, organs and blood transportation.
  • Apart from perishable items like met, vegetables, and dairy products it can monitor temperature of animal semen during transit.

 

About AWaDH:

  • AWaDH is a research center at IIT Ropar.
  • It was established with support of Department of Science & Technology (DST) and Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB).
  • It carries out extensive research in agriculture and water.

 

Asia-Pacific Cybersecurity Council: Microsoft has recently launched its first ever “Asia Pacific Public Sector Cyber Security Executive Council”.

It was launched with the aim of building strong communications channel to address cyber threats and to share best practices among participating countries.

About the Council:

  • Cybersecurity Council comprises of policy makers and influencers from countries like Indonesia, Korea, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Thailand.
  • It is supported by cybersecurity professionals. Council was set up with the aim of accelerating public-private partnerships in cybersecurity, and share threat intelligence.

Reason for setting up the Council:

  • Council was set up to build strong coalition and to strengthen cyber security defense.
  • It was launched in the view that the above mentioned countries experience higher-than-average encounter rate of malware and ransomware attacks.
  • They experience 1.6 times higher malware attacks and 1.7 times higher ransomware attacks as compared to other countries.

What are the functions of Council?

The following are the functions of the Council.

  • The Council will meet virtually on a quarterly basis so as to continuously exchange information on cyber threats and related cybersecurity solutions.
  • They will learn from Microsoft security certification trainings, hands on lab sessions and dedicated workshops to improve digital skills of workforce.
  • It will in turn help in reducing talent gap in cybersecurity.

About Microsoft:

  • Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology company.
  • Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on 4 April 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States.
  • It is headquartered in Redmond, Washington.
  • It is considered one of the Big Five companies in the U.S. information technology industry, along with Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.
  • It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services.

 

NASA"s Robotic Mission to Venus: The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) recently announced its plans of launching two new scientific missions to Venus between 2028 and 2030.

About the Mission:

  • The missions have been awarded about $500 million under NASA’s Discovery Program.
  • Each one is expected to launch in the 2028-2030 timeframe.
  • The two new robotic missions are dubbed as Davinci+ and Veritas.
  • Both the mission to Venus are aimed at examining atmosphere and geological features on the planet.
  • The two missions to the Earth’s sister planet by NASA which will be it's first one in decades aims to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface.
  • These two missions were selected after a peer-review process.
  • They were chosen on the basis of their potential scientific value and feasibility of their development plans.

About Davinci+ Mission:

  • The first mission Davinci+ is an acronym for “Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging”.
  • It will measure atmosphere of Venus to gain insight into how it formed and evolved.
  • It also seeks to determine whether Venus ever had an ocean.
  • DAVINCI+ will also consist of a fly-by spacecraft and an atmospheric descent probe.
  • It is expected to return the first high-resolution images of the unique geological characteristics on Venus called ‘tesserae’.
  • Scientists have believed that those features may be comparable to the continents of Earth and suggest that Venus has plate tectonics.

Veritas Mission:

  • The second mission, Veritas (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) will map surface of Venus to understand its geologic history.
  • It will also investigate how it developed differently than Earth.
  • It will use a form of radar to investigate surface elevations and will discover if volcanoes and earthquakes are still happening.

Background:

  • The US and the former Soviet Union sent multiple spacecraft to Venus in the early days of space exploration.
  • In 1962, NASA’s Mariner 2 performed the first successful flyby.
  • In 1970, the Soviets’ Venera 7 made the first successful landing.
  • In 1990, NASA used a space shuttle to send its Magellan spacecraft into orbit around Venus.
  • The European Space Agency put a spacecraft around Venus in 2006.

About Venus:

  • Venus is the hottest planet of solar system and second planet from the sun.
  • It is Earth’s closest planetary neighbor.
  • It is similar in structure to Earth but slightly smaller, with a diameter of about 12,000 kilometres (7,500 miles).
  • Its surface temperature is 500 degree Celsius which is hot enough to melt lead.

Current Affairs in Science and Technology - May 2021

JNCASR: The abbreviation stands for Jawaharlal Nehru Centre For Advanced Scientific Research. Scientists from JNCASR have recently developed “Berberine” based Alzheimer inhibitor. The scientists from JNCASR selected isoquinoline natural product Berberine to make a natural product based Alzheimer’s inhibitor.

Berberine which is used in traditional medicine as well as other applications is found in India and China. This research work of scientists from JNCASR has been published in the scientific journal iSceince.

ATULYA: It is microwave steriliser called 'ATULYA' to "disintegrate" COVID-19. ATULYA has been developed by Defence Institute of Advanced Technology, Pune. The virus gets disintegrated by differential heating in the range of 56 degree to 60 degree Celsius temperatures.

This system was tested for human and operator safety and has been found to be safe. Depending upon size and shape of various objects, time of sterilisation is from 30 seconds to one minute. The approximate weight of the system is 3 kilogrammes and it can be used for non-metallic objects only. It can be operated in portable or fixed installations.

NASA: It is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. The Administrator of NASA is Jim Bridenstine and the Deputy Administrator of NASA is James Morhard.

Recently, NASA has honoured a 17 year old Indian-origin Girl Vaneeza by naming it's First Mars helicopter as ‘Ingenuity’. Vaneeza Rupani, a high school junior from Northport, Alabama had submitted her essay into NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest. She has suggested the name ‘INGENUITY’ for the helicopter, which was chosen among 28,000 essays.

Earlier in March 2020 NASA had announced the name for its next rover to Mars as Perseverance. Perseverance and Ingenuity are scheduled to be launched in July 2020 and land at Mars in February 2021. Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to attempt powered flight on another planet.

 

JNCASR: It refers to Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research. JNCASR is a multidisciplinary research institute located at Jakkur, Bangalore, India. It is an autonomous institute which was established by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of the Government of India, to mark the birth centenary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of independent India.

Recently, Scientists at JNCASR headed by Prof.T.Govindaraju have developed an injectable Silk fibroin-based hydrogel for sustained insulin delivery in diabetic patients. They have developed the silk fibroin (SF) formulation using biocompatible additives and prepared an injectable SF hydrogel (iSFH) that can ease insulin delivery in diabetic patients. The gel was first tested in rats and was successful. The results have been published in the journal ACS Applied Bio Materials. 

ARCI: It refers to International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials. ARCI is an Autonomous Research and Development Centre of Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. Its main campus is based at Hyderabad with operations in Chennai and Gurgaon. It was established in 1997. The main function of ARCI is the development of High Performance Materials and Processes for Niche Markets, demonstration of Technologies at Prototype / pilot scale and transfer of Technology to Indian Industry.

 Recently, the scientists at ARCI and Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram, under the Department of Science & Technology (DST) have jointly developed new generation Iron-Manganese based alloys for biodegradable metal implants for use in humans.

The newly developed alloys are suitable for biodegradable stent and orthopedic implant applications.

Biodegradable materials like Fe, Mg, Zn, and polymer can participate in the healing process and then degrade gradually by maintaining the mechanical integrity without leaving any implant residues in the human body. According to the scientists, the newly developed alloys are alternatives to currently used metallic implants which remain permanently in the human body and can cause long-term side effects like systemic toxicity, chronic inflammation, and thrombosis.

 

TROGLOMYCES TWITTERI: It is a new species that has just been recently discovered using a Twitter image and thus has been named as Troglomyces twitteri. This new parasitic fungus was discovered by the biologist Sofia Reboleira of University of Copenhagen, Denmark while scrolling though Twitter where she stumbled upon a photo of a North American millipede shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech. There, she spotted a few tiny dots that struck her well-trained eyes.

Troglomyces twitteri: It is a type of parasitic fungus. It belongs to an order called Laboulbeniales. These tiny fungal parasites which look like tine larvae attack insects and millipedes. These fungi live on the outside of host organisms. In this case it was found living on the reproductive organs of millipedes. Laboulbeniales were first discovered in the middle of the 19th century. 

Textiles Committee: It is a statutory body established in 1963 through an Act of Parliament and is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. It has been formed to ensure the quality of textiles and textile machinery both for internal consumption and export purpose. The Committee is tasked with the functions of establishing laboratories for the testing of textiles and textile machinery and providing for their inspection and examination, besides other functions which flow from the main objective of ensuring quality of textiles products and textiles machinery.

Recently, the Textiles Committee Mumbai, (Maharashtra) operating under Ministry of Textiles has launched testing equipment for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The Committee will now on test the PPEs produced in the country. The Equipment is called Synthetic Blood Penetration Testing Equipment. This equipment tests the resistance of the PPE (masks, covers, etc) to penetration of synthetic blood under different levels of pressure.

The laboratory set up to test the PPEs was accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). A Unique Certification Code has been passed to test the samples submitted by the manufacturers of PPEs. The UCC has been uploaded in all official websites such as Ordnance Factory Board, DRDO (Defence Research Development Organization).

The Textiles Committee is a statutory body established in 1963 through an Act of Parliament. It functions under the administrative control of the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. The current Textile Committee Secretary is Ajit Chavan and the current Union Textile Minister is Smriti Zubin Irani

Agappe Chitra Magna (ACM) Kit: It is a magnetic nanoparticle-based RNA extraction kit for use during testing for detection of COVID-19. The ACM kit is developed by the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) and manufactured by Kochi-based Agappe Diagnostics Ltd. It was validated by the National Institute of Virology and the approval of the kit was provided by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO).

 

The ACM Kit uses an innovative technology for isolating RNA using magnetic nanoparticles to capture the RNA from the patient sample. The magnetic nanoparticle beads bind to the viral RNA and, when exposed to a magnetic field, give a highly purified and concentrated RNA. As the sensitivity of the detection method is dependent on getting an adequate quantity of viral RNA, this innovation enhances the chances of identifying positive cases.

Recently, the Government of India (GoI) announced the commercial launch of Agappe Chitra Magna. The commercial launch of the Made-In-India Medical kit seeks in helping to increase the rate of testing and bringing down its costs which is a crucial step for combating the pandemic. It will also reduce the dependence on imported kits and make COVID testing more cost-effective.

CACTus and CMEs:

Scientists have recently developed a new technique for tracking the huge bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines that are ejected from the Sun, disrupting space weather and causing satellite failures, geomagnetic storms, and power outages.

The new technique will be used in India’s first solar mission Aditya-L1.

Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs):

  1. The ejections from the Sun are technically called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs).
  2. These cause several disturbances to the space environment and thus forecasting their arrival time is very crucial.
  3. The forecasting accuracy is however hindered by limited CME observations in interplanetary space.

Computer Aided CME Tracking Software (CACTus):

  1. Computer Aided CME Tracking Software (CACTus) is a software-based on computer vision algorithm that was so far used to detect and characterize such eruptions automatically in the outer corona where these eruptions cease to show accelerations and propagate with an almost constant speed.
  2. However, due to the vast acceleration experienced by these eruptions, this algorithm could not be applied to the inner corona observations.
  3. This problem limited the capability to track the eruptions as CMEs accelerate in the lower corona.
  4. Furthermore, with the advancement in space technology, there has been a tremendous increase in the amount of data obtained from spacecraft.
  5. Thus, it can become a tedious task to identify and track the solar eruptions in a huge number of images if done manually.

CMEs Identification in Inner Solar Corona (CIISCO):

  1. Research led by Mr. Ritesh Patel, Prof. Dipankar Banerjee, and Dr. Vaibhav Pant from Aryabhatta Research Institute of observational sciences (ARIES), Nainital along with their collaborators from Royal Observatory of Belgium, has led to the development of an algorithm, CMEs Identification in Inner Solar Corona (CIISCO).
  2. CIISCO has been developed to detect and track the accelerating solar eruption in the lower corona.
  3. CIISCO was tested on various eruptions observed by space observatories, including Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory, PROBA2/SWAP, and Solar Dynamics Observatory launched by ESA and NASA, respectively.
  4. The parameters which are determined by CIISCO are helpful in characterizing these eruptions in the lower corona.
  5. When CIISCO will be implemented on the large volume of data available from space observatories, it will help in improving our understanding of eruptions in the inner corona.
  6. The research was published in the Solar Physics journal.

Aditya-L1

  1. Aditya-L1, the first solar mission of India, will observe the lower region of the solar corona. Thus, implementation of CIISCO on the Aditya-L1 data will provide new insight into the CME properties in this less explored region.

Science and Technology Empowered Committee:

A Science and Technology Empowered Committee for COVID-19 response have recently been constituted.

Key Points:

  1. This empowered committee has been constituted for manufacturing in high technology areas" in order to facilitate investments and promote manufacturing in technology-intensive sectors.
  2. The committee will be chaired by Vinod Paul (member, NITI Aayog) and K. Vijay Raghavan (Principal Scientific Adviser to the government).
  3. It said this committee would coordinate virus research among science agencies, scientists, industries and regulatory bodies.
  4. The Committee will work with the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology(DoB), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO) and Indian Institute for Science to take speedy decisions on research.

Plant-Insect Gene Transfer:

International teams led by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing have recently identified the transfer of genes from plants to insects.

Key facts:

  1. Usually transfer of genes happen among the same family. For instance, the genes of a human parent get transferred to his or her child. However, this is not the case in the recent discovery.
  2. The Chinese scientists discovered that whiteflies use a plant gene to defend themselves against plant toxins.

About the Gene Transfer:

  1. The transfer of gene from one family to another is referred to as horizontal gene transfer. Here, in the recent discovery the transfer of gene is from the plant family to insect family.
  2. The Chinese scientists have found that the insect whiteflies use the stolen gene to degrade common toxins in plants.
  3. Plants use these toxins to defend themselves against insects.
  4. The incorporation of the plant gene in the whiteflies allow the insects to feed on the plants safely.
  5. The incorporated gene found was BtPMaT1.
  6. The whiteflies use this gene to neutralize the toxic compounds produced by the plants against them.
  7. According to the scientists, the whiteflies have incorporated the gene from the plants more than 35 million years ago.
  8. This is one of the main reasons why whiteflies still prevail as the major threat to agricultural crops. It is because of this that they have built a strong defence mechanism against the plants using this gene incorporation.

Whiteflies:

  1. Whiteflies are one of the major agricultural pests in the world.
  2. They are capable of attacking 600 different plants all over the world.
  3. Lately, these pests have acquired incredible adaptations to circumvent plant defences.
  4. Using this discovery, the Chinese scientists have now developed a strategy to counter back the super power of whiteflies.
  5. They have developed a new molecule that will interfere with the gene BtPMaT1.

Whiteflies Resistant Cotton:

  1. In 2020, the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow developed a Whiteflies resistant cotton variety.
  2. Cotton is one of the worst hit crops by whiteflies in India.
  3. Whiteflies are the greatest threat to agriculture in warm and tropical regions and also in green houses.

National Super Computing Mission (NSM):

India is fast emerging a leader in high power computing with the National Super Computing Mission (NSM).

About NSM:

  • The NSM was launched to enhance the research capacities and capabilities in the country by connecting them to form a Supercomputing grid, with National Knowledge Network (NKN) as the backbone.
  • The Mission is being jointly steered by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
  • It is implemented by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.

Phases:

  • This will include three systems of 3 Petaflops (PF) each and one system of 20PF as a national facility.
  • Computing infrastructure has already been installed in four premier institutions and installation work is in rapid progress in 9 more.
  • Completion in of Phase II of NSM in September 2021 will take the country’s computing power to 16 Petaflops (PF).
  • Phase III, initiated this year, will take the computing speed to around 45 Petaflops.
  • The three phases will provide access to High-Performance Computing (HPC) Facilities to around 75 institutions and more than thousands of active researchers, academicians working through Nation Knowledge Network (NKN) - the backbone for supercomputing systems.

List of supercomputers:

PARAM Shivay, the first supercomputer assembled indigenously, was installed in IIT (BHU), followed by PARAM Shakti, PARAM Brahma, PARAM Yukti, PARAM Sanganak at IIT-Kharagpur IISER, Pune, JNCASR, Bengaluru and IIT Kanpur respectively.

PARAM Siddhi - AI, the high-performance computing-artificial intelligence (HPC-AI) supercomputer, has achieved global ranking of 62 in TOP 500 most powerful supercomputer systems in the world, released on 16th November 2020.

Indian National Young Academy of Sciences (INYAS):

INYAS recently launched a multipronged nationwide mass awareness campaign to bust myths about Covid 19 vaccination programme.

The campaign will be carried out through COVACNEWS android-based mobile app.

About INYAS:

  • Indian National Young Academy of Sciences (INYAS) in the first and only recognized young scientist academy of India.
  • It was founded by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) council in 2014.
  • Its vision is to promote Science education and networking among young scientists at National as well as International level.

Xenobots:

Xenobots is the name given to new living robots that have been created using the stem cells of frogs by the scientists.

  • The new creatures were designed on a supercomputer at UVM — and then assembled and tested by biologists at Tufts University

How were the Xenobots created?

  1. The scientists created Xenobots by micro engineering amphibian eggs with RNA.
  2. The biologists later removed the egg membrane after 24 hours.
  3. They then harvested the stem cell tissue from the embryo.
  4. The tissues then formed into spheres with tiny hair like structure called cilia.
  5. The cilia moved to propel the bots across a surface creating a Xenobot.

About Xenobots:

  1. Xenobots are made from frog cells.
  2. They have been named after the Xenopus laevis frog that supplied its cells to create the robot. Xenopus laevis is an African frog.
  3. These robots are to be used to detect diseases and deliver drugs to specific areas of the body.
  4. Xenobots are capable of healing themselves.
  5. They can record memories.
  6. Xenobots are less than 1 milli metre long.
  7. They are comprised of 500-1000 living cells.
  8. Xenobots come in different basic shapes and can scoot themselves in linear or circular directions.
  9. They are capable of joining up together to act collectively.
  10. They can move small objects by harnessing their cellular energy for a maximum of ten days.

How was the memory of the Xenobots created?

  1. The memory retaining capability of the Xenobots was propelled by a protein called EosFP.
  2. EosFP normally glows green. However, it emits red colour when exposed to a light of 390 nm wavelength.
  3. The cells of frog embryos with messenger RNA coding enabled the Xenobots to record when exposed to blue light (at around 390 nm of wavelength).
  4. The scientists tested the above function on ten Xenobots that were swimming around a surface where one spot was illuminated by the light of 390 nm of wavelength.
  5. After two hours, three of the bots emitted red light and the rest remained green. This provides a memory of their travel experience.

NASA's MARS ODYSSEY:

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft marks 20 historic years of mapping red planet - Mars.

Highlights:

  1. NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft was launched 20 years ago on April 7.
  2. It has made it the oldest spacecraft still working at the Red Planet.
  3. The orbiter, which takes its name from Arthur C. Clarke's classic sci-fi novel "2001: A Space Odyssey", was sent to map the composition of the Martian surface in 2001 providing a window to the past so scientists could piece together how the planet evolved..
  4. Project Scientist Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California said that before Odyssey, we didn't know where water was stored on the planet.
  5. The feasibility of humans traveling to Mars was also the focus of an instrument aboard Odyssey that measured how much space radiation astronauts would have to contend with before it stopped working in 2003.
  6. The most complete global maps of Mars were made using Odyssey's infrared camera, called the Thermal Emission Imaging System, or THEMIS.

Rewaconodon Indicus: The Tiki Formation in Madhya Pradesh, a treasure trove of vertebrate fossils, has recently yielded a new species and two genera of cynodonts, small rat-like animals that lived about 220 million years ago.

Key Highlights:

  1. The researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, used scanning electron microscopy to study about 10 teeth samples collected from the village of Tihki in Shahdol District, Madhya Pradesh.
  2. The results showed that they had found a new species, and they named it Rewaconodon indicus, indicating India, the country it was discovered from.
  3. The team also identified two new genera from the area.
  4. The first was named Inditherium floris, after India and the Latin word therium meaning beast. As the teeth had a flower-shaped crown, it earned the species name floris.
  5. The second was named Tikiodon cromptoni, after Tiki Formation and Greek word odon meaning tooth. The species name is after paleontologist A.W. Crompton.

Tiki Formation:

  1. The Tiki Formation is a Late Triassic geologic formation in Madhya Pradesh.
  2. Dinosaur remains are among the fossils that have been recovered from the formation, although none have yet been referred to a specific genus.
  3. Phytosaur remains attributable to the genus Volcanosuchus have also been found in the Tiki Formation.
  4. The genera Tikiodon, Tikitherium and Tikisuchus and species Rewaconodon tikiensis, Hyperodapedon tikiensis and Parvodus tikiensis have been named after the Tiki Formation.

Disc-footed bat: Meghalaya has recently yielded India’s first bamboo-dwelling bat with sticky discs.

  1. The disc-footed bat (Eudiscopus denticulus) was recorded in Meghalaya’s Lailad area near the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, about 1,000 km west of its nearest known habitat in Myanmar.
  2. The disc-footed bat has raised Meghalaya’s bat count to 66, the most for any State in India.
  3. It has also helped add a genus and species to the bat fauna of India.

Whitest Paint: Engineers from Purdue University in the US have recently created what they are calling the whitest paint yet.

Buildings coated with this paint may be able to cool them off enough to reduce the need for air conditioning.

About the Whitest Paint:

  1. The team of researchers at the university created an ultra-white paint in October pushing the limits of how white paint can be.
  2. The older formulation was made of calcium carbonate, while the new one is made up of barium sulphate, which makes it whiter.
  3. The newer paint not only is whiter but also can keep surfaces cooler than the formulation that the researchers had previously demonstrated.
  4. If this new paint was used to cover a roof area of 1,000 square feet, it may be able to get a cooling power of 10 kilowatts.
  5. Typical commercial white paint gets warmer rather than cooler and that paints currently available in the market that are designed to reject heat reflect only 80-90 per cent of the sunlight and therefore, they can’t make surfaces cooler than their surroundings.
  6. The team has also claimed that this paint may be the closest equivalent to the blackest black paint called “Vantablack” that is able to absorb up to 99.9 per cent of visible light.

What makes the whitest paint so white?

Two features give the paint its extreme whiteness.

  1. The first feature is the paint’s very high concentration of a chemical compound called barium sulfate, which is also used to make photo paper and cosmetics white.
  2. The second feature is that the barium sulfate particles are all different sizes in the paint. How much each particle scatters light depends on its size, so a wider range of particle sizes allows the paint to scatter more of the light spectrum from the sun.

Absorption of light by different colours:

  1. One needs to note that whenever an object is seen by the eye, it is either because of sunlight or the artificial light in the room.
  2. This light is made up of seven different colours (Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red or VIBGYOR).
  3. Specifically, light is made up of wavelengths of different colours.
  4. For Example: If an individual is looking at a sofa that is green, this is because the fabric or material it is made up of is able to absorb all the colours except green.
  5. It implies that the molecules of the fabric reflect the green coloured wavelengths, which is what the eye sees.
  6. Therefore, the colour of any object or thing is determined by the wavelength the molecules are not able to absorb.

What determines which wavelength of light will be reflected and absorbed?

  1. The determination of which wavelength of light will be reflected and absorbed is dependent on how electrons are arranged in an atom (the building block of life, an atom is made up of electrons, protons and neutrons.
  2. These three particles make up everything that exists in the universe.
  3. In contrast, if an object is black, it is because it has absorbed all the wavelengths and therefore no light is reflected from them.
  4. This is the reason that darker objects, as a result absorbing all wavelengths tend to heat up faster (during absorption the light energy is converted into heat energy).

DuroKea Series: Union Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ virtually launched “World 1st affordable and long-lasting hygiene product DuroKea Series”, developed by IIT Hyderabad researchers.

Highlights:

  1. The researchers have developed innovative DuroKea long-lasting technologies to combat COVID-19 virus spreading.
  2. This next generation DuroKea antimicrobial technology starts at Rs. 189.
  3. It kills 99.99% of germs instantly and leaves behind the long-lasting protective nanoscale coating up to 35 days till next wash.
  4. The unique property of DuroKea range is to ensure instant killing (within 60 sec) and prolonged protection which is an immense necessity during this current pandemic situation.
  5. This revolutionary antimicrobial property of DuroKea products has been tested and certified by Indian Government accredited lab and field-tested at the IIT Hyderabad campus.

Space Station Crew-2 Mission With Four Astronauts Launched: Four astronauts were recently launched to the International Space Station (ISS) from Florida as part of collaboration between NASA and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Program.

Key Points:

  • The mission is called Crew-2 and is the second crew rotation of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the first with international partners.
  • Out of the four astronauts, two are from NASA and two are from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
  • Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur from NASA will serve as the mission’s spacecraft commander and pilot, while Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet will serve as mission specialists to the space station for a six-month science mission.

Background:

  • Earlier, in May 2020, NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight lifted off for the ISS carrying astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.
  • The aim of this test flight was to see if SpaceX capsules could be used on a regular basis to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.
  • Demo-2 was followed by the Crew-1 mission in November, which was the first of six crewed missions between NASA and SpaceX marking the beginning of a new era for space travel.

Crew-2 mission:

  • Now, Crew-2 astronauts will join the members of Expedition 65. They will stay aboard the ISS for six months during which time they will conduct science experiments in low-Earth orbit.
  • Their central focus during this time will be to continue a series of Tissue Chips in Space studies.

What are Tissue Chips?

  • Tissue Chips are small models of human organs that contain multiple cell types that behave similarly to the human body. According to NASA, these chips can potentially speed up the process of identifying safe and effective drugs and vaccines.

About Commercial Crew Program:

  • Development of the Commercial Crew Program began in the second round of the Commercial Crew Development program, which was rescoped from a technology development program for human spaceflight to a competitive development program that would produce the spacecraft to be used in the Commercial Crew Program.
  • The main goal of this program is to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS, enabling greater scientific research.
  • Through this program, NASA plans to lower its costs by sharing them with commercial partners such as Boeing and SpaceX, and also give the companies incentive to design and build the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS).
  • Secondly, by encouraging private companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to provide crew transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA can focus on building spacecraft and rockets meant for deep space exploration missions.

Unicorn: Scientists have discovered what may be the smallest-known black hole in the Milky Way galaxy and the closest to our solar system.

Key Points:

  1. The researchers have nicknamed it Unicorn.
  2. They said that the black hole is roughly three times the mass of our sun, testing the lower limits of size for these extraordinarily dense objects that possess gravitational pulls so strong not even light can escape.
  3. A luminous star called a red giant orbits with the black hole in a so-called binary star system named V723 Mon.
  4. The black hole is located about 1,500 light years - the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km) - from Earth. While it may be the closest one to us, it is still far away. By way of comparison, the closest star to our solar system, Proxima Centauri, is 4 light years away.
  5. Black holes like this one form when massive stars die and their cores collapse.
  6. The study is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
  7. The astronomers have named it Unicorn because V723 Mon is in the Monoceros constellation, which translates to unicorn, and partly because it is a very unique system" in terms of the black hole's mass and relative closeness to Earth.

What is a black hole?

A black hole is a place in space where gravity is so strong that nothing—no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from it. The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform spacetime to form a black hole.

There are three categories of black holes.

  1. The smallest, like 'the Unicorn,' are so-called stellar-mass black holes formed by the gravitational collapse of a single star.
  2. There are gargantuan 'supermassive' black holes like the one at our galaxy's center, 26,000 light-years from Earth, which is four million times the sun's mass.
  1. A few intermediate-mass black holes also have been found with masses somewhere in between.

MOXIE: The Perseverance rover of Mars 2020 Mission of NASA recently converted carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Highlights:

  • This is for the first time that this has been achieved in another planet.
  • This was achieved by MOXIE, an instrument placed in the front side of the rover.

About MOXIE:

  • The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment is better known as MOXIE.
  • MOXIE was designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
  • It is also called “Mechanical Tree” because, it uses electricity and chemistry to split carbon molecules into carbon and oxygen. In due process, it produces carbon monoxide as a byproduct.
  • It is capable of generating ten grams of oxygen in one hour.
  • It produced five grams of oxygen in its first run. It is equal to ten minutes of breathable oxygen for an astronaut performing a normal activity.
  • It was built with nickel-alloy. The alloy is heat-resistant and is designated to tolerate temperatures of 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • It was covered with gold coating so that the heat radiated does not harm the rover.
  • According to the scientists at MIT, one ton version of MOXIE is capable of producing twenty-five tonnes of oxygen.

Note: Earlier missions have proved the presence of ice in Mars.

Scientists believe that extracting oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, that is rich in carbon dioxide is more feasible than extracting oxygen from ice that is present in its under surface.

Perseverance:

Perseverance carrying the Ingenuity helicopter landed on Mars on February 18, 2021. The helicopter recently made its successful flight. This was first flight in another planet.

Mars Mission- Ingenuity: Recently, NASA successfully flew its tiny experimental helicopter Ingenuity on Mars, the first powered flight on another planet and a feat a top engineer called "our Wright brothers' moment."

Data and images from the autonomous flight were transmitted 173 million miles (278 million kilometres) back to Earth where they were received by NASA’s array of ground antennas and processed more than three hours later.

About Ingenuity

  • More than six years in the making, Ingenuity is just 19 inches (49 centimeters) tall, a spindly four-legged chopper.
  • Its fuselage, containing all the batteries, heaters and sensors, is the size of a tissue box.
  • The carbon-fiber, foam-filled rotors are the biggest pieces: Each pair stretches 4 feet (1.2 meters) tip to tip.
  • Ingenuity also had to be sturdy enough to withstand the Martian wind, and is topped with a solar panel for recharging the batteries, crucial for surviving the minus-130 degree Fahrenheit (minus-90 degree-Celsius) Martian nights.
  • Ingenuity was on autopilot for its entire flight, out of sight, direct control, or contact with the men and women on Earth who had ordered it aloft—because radio signals take too long to travel between the planets for any human operator to intervene.
  • The mini 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) copter even carried a bit of wing fabric from the Wright Flyer that made similar history at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.

About NASA

 

  • NASA is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
  • NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
  • NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).
  • It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.
  • The acting administrator of NASA is Steve Jurczyk.

About Mars

  • Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury.

About Mars:

  • Mars is sometimes called the Red Planet. It's red because of rusty iron in the ground. Like Earth, Mars has seasons, polar ice caps, volcanoes, canyons, and weather.
  • It has a very thin atmosphere made of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon.
  • Mars is named for the ancient Roman god of war. The Greeks called the planet Ares (pronounced Air-EEZ). The Romans and Greeks associated the planet with war because its color resembles the color of blood.
  • Mars has two small moons.

Single Crystal Blades Technology: In a major technological breakthrough, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Monday said it has developed single crystal blade technology and it has supplied 60 of them to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the company’s indigenous helicopter development program for helicopter engine application.

About:

  • It is part of a programme taken up by the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), a laboratory of the DRDO.
  • The DRDO will develop total five sets 300 in number, of single crystal high pressure turbine (HPT) blades using a nickel-based super alloy.
  • They supply of other 4 sets will be completed in due course.
  • This single crystal blades technology has been developed by the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), one of the DRDO’s laboratories.
  • A few countries such as the US, the UK, France and Russia have the capability to design and manufacture single crystal components.

What is the use of single crystal blades in helicopters?

Helicopters need compact and powerful aero-engines for operating at extreme conditions and as single crystal blades have complex shape and geometry and are manufactured out of nickel-based superalloys, they are capable of withstanding high temperatures.

About DRDO:

  • DRDO is an acronym for the Defence Research and Development Organization.
  • It is India's largest research organisation. It was founded in 1958.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi, India.
  • It is an agency under the Ministry of Defence, Government of India.
  • It is charged with the military's research and development.
  • It has a network of laboratories engaged in developing defence technologies covering various fields, like aeronautics, armaments, electronics, land combat engineering, life sciences, materials, missiles, and naval systems.
  • The Minister currently responsible for DRDO is Rajnath Singh, Minister of Defence.
  • The present Chairman of DRDO is Dr. G. Satheesh Reddy.

About HAL:

  • It refers to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
  • HAL is an Indian state-owned aerospace and defence company and  is governed under the management of the Indian Ministry of Defence.
  • It is headquartered in Bangaluru, India.
  • The founder of HAL is Walchand Hirachand.
  • It was founded on 23 December 1940.
  • The current Chairman and Managing Director is R Madhavan.

Tianhe space station core module: China, on April 29, 2021, launched the Tianhe space station core module of its Space Station.

It is the latest in Beijing's increasingly ambitious space programme.

Highlights:

  • The module that was launched is called Tianhe.
  • The Space Station China is building is called Tiangong.
  • China kick started the series of key launch missions that aim to complete the construction of the station by the end of next year.
  • The Long March-5B Y2 rocket, carrying the Tianhe module, blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan.
  • The launch begins the first of 11 missions necessary to construct and provision the station and send up a three-person crew by the end of next year.
  • The astronauts will live on the station for six months at a time.

Tianhe module:

  • Tianhe has a total length of 16.6 meters, a maximum diameter of 4.2 meters and a take-off mass of 22.5 tonnes, and is the largest spacecraft developed by China.
  • The Tianhe module will act as the management and control hub of the space station Tiangong

About Tiangong:

  • Tiangong means “Heavenly Space”.
  • It is to begin its operations in 2022.
  • Still 11 more modules are to be launched and assembled to complete the space station.
  • According to the Chinese Government, the completed Space Station will look like the “Mir Station”. Mir was a Russian Space Station that orbited between 1980s and 2001.
  • The Chinese Space Station, Tiangong will orbit the earth in the low earth orbit at a height of 400 to 450 kilometres.
  • The lifespan of the space station is 15 years.
  • It weighs more than 90 tonnes.
  • The size of Tiangong Space Station will be a quarter the size of the International Space Station.

Space ambitions:

  • The station is also expected to contribute to the peaceful development and utilisation of space resources through international cooperation, as well as to enrich technologies and experience for China's future explorations into deeper space.
  • The Chinese space station was expected to be a competitor to the aging International Space Station (ISS) which is a modular space station in low Earth orbit.
  • After International Space Station retires, Tiangong will be the only space station orbiting the earth.

International Space Station (ISS):

  • The International Space Station (ISS) is a multinational collaborative project involving five participating space agencies which included NASA, (US), Roscomos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
  • It is due to be retired after 2024, although NASA has said it could potentially remain functional beyond 2028.

Note: Russia has planned to launch its own space station in 2025.

Previous Chinese Mission

  • In 2011, Chinese launched the Tiangong – 1. It was the first prototype module that laid groundwork for the permanently crewed station.
  • In 2016, the second lab Tiangong – 2 was launched.

China's Lunar Missions

  • The Chinese are also planning to build a separate lunar space station with Russia. This space station might either be placed in the orbit of the moon or on its surface.
  • China's space programme has also recently brought back the first new lunar samples in more than 40 years and expects to land a probe and rover on the surface of Mars later next month.

NEO-01’ Clear Space Debris: The Chinese government has recently launched a robot prototype named as ‘NEO-01’, in the Earth’s low orbit, on its Long March 6 rocket.

  • The 30kg robot prototype has been developed by Shenzhen-based space mining start-up ‘Origin Space’.
  • The NEO-01,  will also peer into deep space to observe small celestial bodies, was launched on along with a handful of satellites.
  • It will pave the way for future technologies capable of mining on asteroids.
  • Since the establishment of the world's first asteroid mining company Planetary Resources in 2009, more than a dozen firms across the world have entered the fledging sector, including 3D Systems of the United States and Japan's Astroscale.
  • Unlike Astroscale's technology, which uses magnets to gather up space junk, NEO-01 will use a net to capture debris and then burn it with its electric propulsion system,

Objective:

  • China's main objective is to observe small celestial bodies in deep space and to experiment with space debris removal techniques.
  • NEO-01 will use a large net to capture debris left behind by other spacecraft and then burn it using its electric propulsion system.

Zhurong: China has recently named its first-ever Mars rover “Zhurong” after an ancient fire god ahead of a landing attempt on the Red Planet in May.

Key points:

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) revealed the name at the sixth China Space Day held in Nanjing.

The Chinese name for Mars, “Huoxing,” literally means “fire star.”

About Zhurong:

  • Zhurong was the most popular of 10 shortlisted names for a public vote that opened in January, and that choice was backed by an expert panel and the CNSA itself.
  • The rover carries panoramic and multispectral cameras and instruments to analyze the composition of rocks.
  • Zhurong will also investigate subsurface characteristics with ground-penetrating radar if all goes according to plan.

Uranium-214: The scientists have recently created lightest form of Uranium.

Key Facts:

The new found uranium is called the Uranium-214.

The researchers created the new uranium isotope at the Heavy Ion Research Facility in Lanzhou, China.

The discovery could reveal more about a weird alpha particle that gets ejected from certain radioactive elements as they decay.

About Uranium-214:

  • Uranium-214 is an isotope, or a variant of the element, with 30 more neutrons than protons, one fewer neutron than the next-lightest known uranium isotope.
  • Neutrons have mass.
  • The recently found uranium-214 is much lighter than more common uranium isotopes.
  • This includes uranium-235, which is used in nuclear reactors and has 51 extra neutrons.
  • It had a half-life of just half a milli-second. The half life of a radioactive sample is the time taken for half of the radioactive sample to decay.
  • The most common isotope of uranium — called uranium-238.
  • It has a half-life of about 4.5 billion years, which is about the age of Earth.

Significance:

  • This newfound isotope isn't just lighter than others, but it also showed unique behaviors during its decay.
  • As such, the new findings will help scientists better understand a radioactive decay process known as alpha decay, in which an atomic nucleus loses a group of two protons and two neutrons — collectively called an alpha particle.

Note: The alpha particles are those particles that get ejected from radioactive elements as they decay.

  • However, though scientists know that alpha decay results in the ejection of this alpha particle, after a century of study but they still don't know the exact details of how the alpha particle is formed before it gets ejected.

How was Uranium-214 created?

  • A beam of Argon was projected on Tungsten inside a machine called a gas-filled recoil separator — in this case the Spectrometer for Heavy Atoms and Nuclear Structure, or SHANS.
  • The researchers then added protons and neutrons to the material through a LASER beam to create Uranium-214.
  • The scientists found that protons and neutrons of Uranium-214 interacted much more strongly than in isotopes with similar number of neutrons and protons.
  • In other words, nuclear force in Uranium-214 was greater than the nuclear force in other isotopes.

8 extremely rare 'millisecond pulsars' discovered inside globular clusters

Millisecond pulsars: An international team of astronomers have recently discovered eight millisecond pulsars.

These pulsars were located within the dense clusters of stars, known as "globular clusters," using South Africa's MeerKAT radio telescope.

About Milli second Pulsars:

  • Millisecond pulsars are neutron stars.
  • They are extremely compact stars mainly made up of neutrons, and are amongst the most extreme objects in the universe.
  • They pack hundreds of thousands of times the mass of the Earth in a sphere with a diameter of about 24 km.
  • They spin at a rate of hundreds of rotations per second.
  • They emit a beam of radio waves that are detected by the observer at every rotation, like a lighthouse.
  • The formation of these objects is highly enhanced in the star-rich environments at the centers of globular clusters.

About the discovery:

  • The Pulsar discovery comes from two international collaborations TRAPUM and MeerTIME.
  • This is the first pulsar discovery using the MeerKAT antennas.
  • Ridolfi and his colleagues used the MeerKAT telescope — an array of 64 individual satellite dishes run by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO).
  • The astronomers directed the telescope towards nine globular clusters and they discovered new pulsars in six of them. Of these, six of them orbit around another star.
  • The discovery will help the Globular Cluster Pulsar Survey of TRAPUM.

MeerKAT Telescope

  • MeerKAT Telescope
  • It is a Karoo Array telescope with sixty-four antennas.
  • It is also a radio telescope.
  • It is located in the Northern Cape of South Africa.
  • It is soon to be expanded to MeerKAT+ by installing twenty more antennas.

 

Mapping of Osteocytes: The researchers from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research have mapped the unique genetic profile of the skeleton's 'master regulator' cells, known as Osteocytes for the first time.

  • The study published today in Nature Communications.

Key Findings of the study:

  • The researchers have outlined the genes that are switched on and off in osteocytes.
  • This will help in diagnosing bone diseases that have genetic component.
  • For the first time, the researchers have pictured the whole landscape of osteocytes.
  • They have found that majority of the genes that are active within osteocytes had no role in bones.
  • This means that they only give commands.
  • This discovery will help to understand what controls the skeleton actually.

About Osteocytes:

  • Osteocytes are the longest living bone cell, making up 90–95% of cells in bone tissue in contrast to Osteoclasts and Osteoblasts making up ~5% (40).
  • They are oblate shaped bone cells.
  • They are found in bone tissues.
  • They live as long as the organism lives.
  • There are more than 42 billion Osteocytes in human body.
  • The Osteocytes do not divide.
  • Their average half life is 25 years.
  • The skeleton of the humans keeps changing structurally throughout his life.
  • Osteocytes are the most abundant cell present in bones.
  • Osteocytes form when osteoblasts become buried in the mineral matrix of bone and develop distinct features.
  • These osteocytes form a network similar to the neurons in the brain.
  • There are more than 23 trillion connections between 42 billion osteocytes.
  • This network is responsible for monitoring bone health.
  • It responds to ageing.
  • They also send signals to other cells in the bone to build or break down an old bone.
  • The diseases such as osteoporosis are caused due to imbalance in these processes.

Development of Bones:

  • During Bone formation Osteoblast is left behind.
  • Osteoblasts are cells that synthesize bones.
  • The process of bone formation is still not known completely.

Mucormycosis-Black Fungus Infection in COVID: Mucormycosis, also known as black fungus infection is increasing among the COVID patients.

  • The National COVID Task Force recently issued an advisory against Mucormycosis.
  • This disease is rare but recently this disease has been increasing among COVID patients in Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

What is Mucormycosis?

  • Mucormycosis sometimes also called zygomycosis is a disease that mainly affects the skin, lungs and brain.
  • It is rare fungal infection.
  • It is caused by a group of molds called Mucoromycetes which are found in soil, leaves, or rotting woods.
  • The fungus can enter the body through breathing, open wounds or cuts.
  • It mainly affects people who are on medication.
  • The lungs or sinuses of the recovering COVID patients get affected after they inhale fungal spores from the air.
  • However, it is not a major threat to those with a healthy immune system.

Symptoms:

  • It causes redness around the eyes, nose.
  • Also, the person suffers from headache, fever, bloody vomits, shortness of breath, altered mental status.
  • Mucormycosis is suspected when a person suffers from sinusitis, local pain on cheek bone, blackish discoloration over bridge of nose, chest pain, thrombosis, plural effusion, necrosis, blurred vision, etc.

How can it be diagnosed?

  • You should see a doctor if you are experiencing the above symptoms post the COVID recovery.
  • A definite diagnosis will be made by the identification of fungi in the patient's tissue.
  • For this, a doctor may collect a sample of your nasal discharge.

Treatment:

  • Mucormycosis might lead to loss of eyes or upper jaws.
  • Such patients might require a surgery.
  • The treatment of Mucormycosis includes infusion of saline, Amphotericin and other anti-fungal therapies.

Task Force Advisory:

  • Advisory goes on to say that Mucormycosis, if uncared for, may turn fatal.
  • To prevent disease, blood glucose level should be monitored post-Covid discharge
  • The COVID Task Force has recommended to control hyperglycemia after discharge.

Why are COVID patients susceptible to Mucormycosis?

  • The immunity level of a person recovering from COVID-19 is very low.
  • The Mucoromycetes easily affects persons with very low immunity levels.
  • It is especially common among COVID patients who are treated with steroids to reduce inflammation.
  • Inflammation is a condition where a part of the body is swollen, reddened and is often painful due to an infection or reaction to injury.

OSIRIS-REx: The NASA Spacecraft called the “Osiris-Rex” has started a two year long journey back to the earth.

Main Facts:

  • The spacecraft reached asteroid Bennu in 2018.
  • It then spent two years flying around it and collected rubbles.

Note: Rubbles are rough fragments of brick, stones.

  • It will be the biggest cosmic haul for the U.S. since the Apollo moon rocks.
  • While NASA has returned comet dust and solar wind samples, this is the first time it's gone after pieces of an asteroid.
  • Japan has accomplished it twice, but in tiny amounts.

About the OSIRIS-Rex:

  • The mission launched to study asteroid Bennu spent 2.5 years mapping its surface.
  • In 2020, the scientists directed Osiris Rex to drop down and collect sixty kilo grams of regolith (top soil).
  • They also found that the asteroid has lots of accessible water.
  • The mission will help to understand the origin and evolution of solar system.

About Bennu:

  • Bennu — considered a broken chunk from a bigger asteroid — is believed to hold the preserved building blocks of the solar system.
  • It is the most hazardous asteroids currently known to the earth. Meaning it has one in 2,700 chances of hitting the earth in the late 22nd century.
  • It makes its closest approach to the earth once in six years.
  • The size of Bennu also makes it approachable.
  • Most of the asteroids spin very fast. This rapid spinning makes it difficult for the spacecrafts to collect samples.
  • The returning pieces could shed light on how the planets formed and how life arose on Earth.
  • They also could improve Earth’s odds against any incoming rocks.

Additional Info:

However, Bennu is not the first mission on an asteroid.

Hayabusa:

  • Japan had sent Hayabusa.
  • It was launched in 2014 to collect samples from Ryugu.
  • It reached Ryugu in 2018.
  • It spent 18 months there and returned to the earth in December 2020.

Rosetta Mission:

  • European Space Agency had sent Rosetta Mission to explore comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2004.
  • It was the first mission to orbit a comet.
  • It was also the first mission to land a probe on its surface.

Smokeless Cremation: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ropar has recently developed a prototype of a moveable electric cremation system.

This system is claimed to be using first of its kind technology that involves smokeless cremation despite using wood.

The cart has been developed in collaboration with a company Cheema Boilers Limited

About the system:

  • The moveable electric cremation system uses half of the wood otherwise required for the cremation and still is eco-friendly because of the technology that uses combustion air system.
  • It is based on wick-stove technology in which the wick when lighted glows yellow.
  • This is converted into smokeless blue flame with the help of combustion air system installed over the wicks.
  • The cremation system or incinerator heats up at 1044 degree Celsius which ensures complete sterilization.

Keeping in view the present pandemic situation if this system is adopted, then it may provide respectable cremation to the near and dear ones of those who cannot afford the financial burden of arranging wood.

Supercomputer Simorgh: Iran has recently launched its supercomputer called Simorgh.

  • This supercomputer is hundred times more powerful than the previous Iranian supercomputers.
  • This important development ranks Iran among the 10 countries with the petaflops knowledge.

About Simorgh:

  • The Supercomputer has been named after the benevolent Phoenix-like bird called the Simurgh.
  • It was developed by the Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran, the capital of Iran.
  • It is located at the Iranian High Performance Computing Research Centre (IHPCRC).
  • The performance capacity of the Simorgh Supercomputer is 0.56 petaflops.
  • It is to reach 1 petaflops in two months.
  • In its subsequent levels it is to reach to speed of 10 petaflops.
  • It comprises of 42 racks in an area of 250 square metres.
  • In future this is to be upgraded to 400 square metres.
  • The total budget of the supercomputer is expected to be 9 million USD.
  • The Supercomputer is to be used for image processing, artificial intelligence work load, traffic and weather data.
  • It will also be used for cloud hosting local private firms.

Key Facts:

  • The supercomputer is said to be wholly designed and built by a team of Iranian engineers, who developed the country’s first supercomputer a decade ago, but some of its hardware has been imported.
  • As United States (US) had imposed sanctions on Iran and the doors of business is completely closed to the country.
  • The US had imposed anti terrorism trade sanctions and has been trying to slow down its nuclear programme for decades.
  • Therefore, Iran must have got the US chips used in supercomputers illegally.
  • Iran is using bitcoin mining facilities to buy required raw materials from US and other countries.
  • Most of these are illegal under the sanctions imposed against the country.

In 2001, the Amirkabir University developed a 32-node PC based on Intel Pentium processors.

 Again in 2007, the country had its hands on 216 AMD cores which in turn led to the most powerful supercomputer of all time.

About Iran:

  • Iran also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran is a country in Western Asia.
  • It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan,to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq.
  • Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance.
  • The capital of Iran is Tehran.
  • The currency used there is Iranian Rial.
  • The current President of Iran is Hassan Rouhani.

iSAVE: A team of Indian-origin researcher  in the United States has come up with splitters for ventilators that will address the shortage of the life-saving equipment.

Highlights:

  • The splitters for ventilators have been named called iSAVE (Individualized System for Augmenting Ventilator Efficacy).
  • The equipment was recently approved by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, Bengaluru.
  • IndVentr is the Indian partner making the device
  • The research and the findings have been published in the medial journal, Science Translational Medicine.

What does iSAVE do?

  • The equipment re-purposes the flow valves of a ventilator to provide customised support to two patients.
  • Ventilator support to groups of patients in emergencies has been tried out with limited success, as there are concerns about contamination and the right parameters of the patients being ensured.
  • Excess or too little flow of oxygen could harm the lungs.
  • The team took up the challenge when COVID-19 surged through the U.S., and hospitals struggled with a huge inflow of patients.
  • By the time the team validated its device, the flow of patients had fallen.

About the equipment:

  • The equipment can be assembled with an existing ventilator in less than 10 minutes even by an inexperienced staff member
  • The device has been validated on pig models.
  • The researchers used a large and small animal each and compared the values for individual ventilation and combined ventilation, which showed no significant changes.
  • The device is such that a small person and a large person can be ventilated at the same time, providing versatility to the equipment.
  • Training manuals and videos to help have also been prepared.”

Note: The team validated the device in India, and the first batch has been delivered to two hospitals in Kerala.

By the month-end, 100 more units will be deployed at several hospitals.

SBIRS Geo-5 Missile Warning Satellite: The United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched the Atlas V Rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

  • The Atlas V rocket carrying SBIRS Geo-5 Missile Warning Satellite for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) lifted off on May 18 at 1:37 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

SBIRS Geo-5 Missile Warning Satellite:

  • The satellite will provide key capabilities in missile warning, battle space, missile defence.
  • It weighs 4,850 kilograms.
  • As of 2018, ten SBIRS satellites were launched.
  • This was the 87th launch of the Atlas V rocket and the 72nd Atlas V to launch from Space Launch Complex-41 in Florida.

Atlas V:

  • Atlas V is a two-stage rocket which is fueled with rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen in its first stage and hydrogen and liquid oxygen in the second stage.
  • The rocket put SBRIS at a height of 35,753 kilo metres.

About SBIRS:

  • SBIRS is an acronym for Space Based Infrared System.
  • SBIRS is designed for missile warning, missile battle space and defence characterization.
  • It is basically a Space Tracking and Surveillance System.
  • It was designed to meet the Infrared Space Surveillance of United States Space Force System.

Note: In 2020 alone, the SBIRS satellites detected more than thousand missiles.

About United Launch Alliance (ULA):

  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) is an American spacecraft launch service provider.
  • It manufactures and operates a number of rocket vehicles that are capable of launching spacecraft into orbits around Earth and to other bodies in the Solar System.
  • The company is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Space and Boeing Defense, Space & Security.
  • It was formed in December 2006.
  • Launch customers of the United States government include the Department of Defense (DoD), NASA, and other organizations.

United Nations Space Force:

  • The United States Space Force is the space service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • It is one of the eight U.S. uniformed services, and the world's first.
  • Currently, it is the only independent space force.
  • It was founded on 20 December 2019.
  • It is operated by Department of Air Force which is one of the three civilian led military departments in Department of Defence.
  • The current Commander-in-Chief is President Joe Biden

Haiyang-2D (HY-2D) Satellite: China recently launched a new ocean-monitoring Haiyang-2D (HY-2D) satellite into orbit.

Highlights:

  • The satellite was launched by a Long March-4B rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, Gobi desert in northwest China.
  • The HY-2D has been developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), and the carrier rocket by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.
  • The HY-2D will form a constellation with the HY-2B and HY-2C satellites which will support the country's early warning and prediction of marine disasters, sustainable development and utilization of ocean resources, effective response to global climate change as well as ocean research.
  • It was the 370th launch by the Long March rocket series.

China's Space Programme:

  • The Long march rocket series has been developed by Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.
  • The HY-2B was launched in October 2018.
  • The HY-2C was launched in September 2020.
  • China's rover named Zhurong landed in Mars in May 2021.
  • It has become the second country after the United States to have a rover on the red planet.

Note: China, on 15 September 2020 successfully launched a solid propellant carrier rocket from a ship in the Yellow Sea, China.

About China National Space Administration (CNSA):

  • China National Space Administration (CNSA) is the national space agency of China responsible for the national space program and for planning and development of space activities.
  • CNSA was created in 1993 when the Ministry of Aerospace Industry was split into CNSA and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
  • The CNSA operates three launch facilities: Jiuquan, in Gansu province; Taiyuan, in Shanxi province; and Xichang, in Sichuan province.
  • Its current Administrator is Zhang Kejian.

About CAST:

  • China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) is the main spacecraft development and production facility in China.
  • CAST was founded on 20 February 1968.
  • It is headquartered in Haidian District,Beijing, China.

NMMS app and Area officer monitoring App: Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar recently launched a National Mobile Monitoring Software, NMMS app and Area officer monitoring App through Video-Conferencing.

Highlights:

  • The NMMS App permits taking real time attendance of workers at Mahatma Gandhi NREGS worksites along with geotagged photograph, which will increase citizen oversight of the programme besides potentially enabling processing payments faster.
  • Area Officer Monitoring App facilitates them to record their findings online along with time stamped and go-coordinate tagged photograph for all the schemes of Deptt of Rural Development- Mahatma Gandhi NREGS, PMAYG, PMGSY.

Aim:

  • These two Apps aim towards bringing in transparency and effective monitoring of schemes.
  • This would not only enable better record keeping of inspections by field and supervisory officials but also facilitate analysis of the findings for better programme implementation.

Lunar Eclipse 2021: The First lunar eclipse of 2021 will take place on May 26, 2021.

Highlights:

  • The moon on its journey around the earth will be passing through the earth’s shadow and will be totally eclipsed
  • On May 26 evening, a rare celestial event will unfold its mesmerizing act when a Super Blood Moon will be seen in the eastern sky, just after a total lunar eclipse.
  • It will be a super lunar phenomenon because three major events will be taking place all at once, namely 'Supermoon', 'Red Blood Moon' and a Lunar Eclipse.
  • In India, the eclipse will only be visible partially at a few places in the eastern parts of the country while it will be best seen from Australia, parts of the United States, western South America, the Pacific and South-East Asia.

What’s a super moon?

  • A super moon occurs when a full or new moon coincides with the moon’s closest approach to the Earth.
  • The Moon’s orbit around Earth is not perfectly circular.
  • This means the Moon’s distance from Earth varies as it goes around the planet.
  • When full or new moon coincides with perigee of Moon to the Earth, super moon event occurs.

 Note: The closest point in the orbit, called the perigee.

  • A full moon that happens near the perigee is called a super moon because close proximity of moon makes it bigger and brighter in appearance than usual. Though, difference between super and normal moon is hard to notice.

What is lunar eclipse?

  • A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth’s shadow covers all or part of the Moon.
  • This event only happens during full moon.
  • Lunar eclipse happens twice a year during which, moon comes in same horizontal plane as the Earth and Sun.

What is a full moon?

  • When Moon and Sun are on opposite sides of Earth, full moon happens.
  • This makes it possible to observe entire lit-up side of the moon.

What is a blood moon?

When moon gets completely covered by Earth’s shadow, it appears dark.

It does not get completely black but appears red. Because of this red colour, total lunar eclipses are called as red or blood moons.

Why does the moon appear red?

  • Sunlight contains all colors of visible light.
  • The particles of gas that make up Earth’s atmosphere are more likely to scatter blue wavelengths of light while redder wavelengths pass through.
  • This is called Rayleigh scattering, and it’s why the sky is blue and sunrises and sunsets are often red.
  • In the case of a lunar eclipse, red light can pass through the Earth’s atmosphere and is refracted – or bent – toward the moon, while blue light is filtered out.
  • This leaves the moon with a pale reddish hue during an eclipse.

Smart Window Material: Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) researchers have recently developed smart window materials for automatic climate control of buildings.

Key Points:

  • Such smart window materials would help in Climate control.
  • The smart window material has been developed by Dr. Debabrata Sikdar, Assistant Professor in Electronics and Electrical Engineering department at IIT Guwahati along with his research scholar Ashish Kumar Chowdhary.
  • According to the researchers, the smart window material designed by them can effectively control the amount of heat and light passing through it in response to an applied voltage and would ultimately help in developing efficient automatic climate control.
  • The results of their study have recently been published in the journal, Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells.
  • The reason for developing this window was that there has been increased attention to sustainable architectural designs for better light and heat management in buildings in recent years, and deploying smart windows is the first step for such structures.

About Smart Windows:

  • The design of smart windows is suitable for all-weather conditions.
  • Smart window glasses have been designed using noble metals which can dynamically control the solar radiations.
  • They are inexpensive as they make use of materials like copper and indium tin oxide.
  • It can maintain the ambient indoor temperature and lighting in buildings or vehicles.

How is it different than conventional windows?

  • Conventional window designs are static. They are designed for specific climatic conditions where as the newly developed window can dynamically adjust the amount of light and heat radiation entering through it which in turn helps in conserving the energy of the building.

About IIT Guwahati:

  • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati established in 1994 has completed 25 years of glorious existence in 2019.
  • At present, the Institute has eleven departments, five inter-disciplinary academic centers, and four schools covering all the major engineering, science and humanities disciplines, offering BTech, BDes, MA, MDes, MTech, MSc, and Ph.D. programmes.

New Earth System Observatory:  National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is developing a new system called the Earth System Observatory.

Key Points:

  • Currently, NASA has initiated formulation phase for First integrated part of the observatory.
  • In first integrated parts, the new system will be aided by the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) from the Indian Space & Research Organisation (Isro).
  • NISAR will carry two radar systems to measure changes in the Earth’s surface, during one of the observatory’s first missions intended as a pathfinder

Purpose of New Earth System Observatory:

  • The new observatory will help in mitigating climate change, forest fires and hurricanes.
  • It will also support real-time agriculture.

About the Earth System Observatory:

  • Each satellite in the observatory will be designed uniquely and will complement the others.
  • As part of the Earth System Observatory, each will work in tandem to produce holistic 3-dimensional view of Earth, from bedrock to atmosphere.
  • The Observatory will study clouds and weather, aerosols, water supply, and surface & ecosystems of Earth for an unprecedented understanding of the critical interactions between Earth’s atmosphere, land, ocean, and ice processes, which determines how the changing climate will play out at regional and local levels, on near and long-term time scales.

What is Earth System Observatory?

  • It is a program by US Space Agency, NASA consisting of series of artificial satellite missions and scientific instruments in Earth orbit.
  • Satellite component of this program was launched in 1997.

About NASA:

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of U.S. federal government, running civilian space program, aeronautics and space research.
  • It was established in 1958 and succeeded National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

Current Affairs in Science and Technology - April 2021

ARI: It refers to Agharkar Research Institute. ARI is an autonomous institute of Government of India (GoI). It functions under the department of Science & Technology, GoI.

Recently, Scientists from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) have developed biofortified high quality wheat MACS 4028. It has high protein content. It not only has a better nutritional quality having zinc 40.3 ppm, and iron content of 40.3ppm and 46.1ppm but also it has a good milling quality and overall acceptability. This semi-dwarf variety which matures in 102 days has shown the superior and stable yielding ability of 19.3 quintals per hectare. It is resistant to stem rust, leaf rust, foliar aphids, root aphids, and brown wheat mite.  The  development of MACS 4028 was published in the Indian Journal of Genetics and Plant Breeding.

The MACS 4028 variety is also included by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) programme for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to reduce malnutrition in a sustainable way. This new variety of wheat can boost the Vision 2022 “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat”, the National Nutrition Strategy. Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has also tagged this variety under the Biofortified category during the year 2019.

Kuposhan Mukt Bharat: It is an initiative of the GoI to tackle the hidden hunger in the rural areas of India.  

USSF: It refers to United States Space Force. The USSF is the space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces, and is one of the eight U.S. uniformed services. It was founded on 20 December 2019. It is headquartered at The Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia, United States. It was established by the Trump administration to identify and develop new space defence technologies. The Space Force is established also to prove US dominance in the Space among other force that is quietly establishing their powers in Space. The current and the first Chief of Space Operations is Gen John W. Raymond

Recently, The USSF launched an Advanced Extremely High-Frequency satellite (AEHF-6) for its military communications. With the launch of the satellite, US have begun its first National Security Mission.

The launching of The Lock Heed Martin AEHF-6 (Advanced Extremely High Frequency) satellite took place from the Atlas V551 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The satellite is to provide global protected communications. This will enhance tactical operating warfare skills of the US on ground, aerial and maritime platform.

SCTIMST: It refers to Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology. SCTIMST is an autonomous institute which was founded in 1976 by the Government of India. It functions under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Ministry of Science & Technology. It is one of the premier research Institutes and centers in India and is located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.

Recently, SCTIMST has tied up with Wipro 3D, Bengaluru to jointly build upon a prototype of an emergency ventilator system based on Artificial Manual Breathing Unit (AMBU) which was developed by SCTIMST followed by its clinical trial and manufacture. The ventilators are expected to meet urgent requirements arising out of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

AMBU Bag: AMBU bag or a bag-valve-mask (BVM) is a hand-held device which is used to provide positive pressure ventilation to a patient who is either not breathing or who is breathing inadequately.

NASA: It is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. The Administrator of NASA is Jim Bridenstine and the Deputy Administrator of NASA is James Morhard. 

Recently, the US space agency, NASA selected a new mission-SunRISE (Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment) to study Giant Solar Particle Storms. This mission will not only help scientists to understand how the Solar System works but will also help protect future astronauts from Solar Storms while going to the Moon or Mars. The mission is led by Justin Kasper at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It is also managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The mission is expected to be launched on July 1, 2023.

NASA: It is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. The Administrator of NASA is Jim Bridenstine and the Deputy Administrator of NASA is James Morhard. 

Recently, the US space agency, NASA selected a new mission-SunRISE (Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment) to study Giant Solar Particle Storms. This mission will not only help scientists to understand how the Solar System works but will also help protect future astronauts from Solar Storms while going to the Moon or Mars. The mission is led by Justin Kasper at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It is also managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The mission is expected to be launched on July 1, 2023.

DRDO: It is an acronym for the Defence Research and Development Organisation. DRDO is India's largest research organisation. It was founded in 1958. It is headquartered in New Delhi, India. It is an agency under the Ministry of Defence, Government of India.

It is charged with the military's research and development. It has a network of laboratories engaged in developing defence technologies covering various fields, like aeronautics, armaments, electronics, land combat engineering, life sciences, materials, missiles, and naval systems. The Minister currently responsible for DRDO is Rajnath Singh, Minister of Defence. The present Chairman of DRDO is Dr. G. Satheesh Reddy.

Recently, DRDO has developed a Bio-suit named as “Personal Protective Equipment”(PPE). The Bio-suit is capable of keeping medical, paramedical, staff nurse, and other personnels  who are engaged in combating with Coronavirus disease safe from the deadly virus.

This Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been prepared and tested rigorously for textile parameters as well as protection against synthetic blood as per the criteria defined for body suits by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).

JNCASR: It refers to Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research. JNCASR is a multidisciplinary research institute located at Jakkur, Bangalore, India. It is an autonomous institute which was established by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of the Government of India, to mark the birth centenary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of independent India.

Recently, in yet another breakthrough by Indian Scientists, a protective chemical coating likely to be effective against COVID-19 has been approved by the Department of Science & Technology (DST). The antimicrobial coating to tackle the spread of deadly influenza virus, the main cause behind severe respiratory infections has been developed by JNCASR (Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research). The technology has been developed by Professor Jayanta Haldar's group at JNCASR including Sreyan Ghosh, Dr. Riya Mukherjee, and Dr. Debajyoti Basak.

The coating is likely to be used on PPEs, masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, used by doctors for enhanced protection. The Science and Engineering Research Board, a unit of the DST also supports the further development of the coating for India's combat against COVID-19.

 During the research, the coating has proven efficient in 100% destruction of the influenza virus. The coated surfaces completely killed different drug-resistant bacteria and fungi as well within 30 to 45 minutes. The leading scientists believe that the coating may also be effective in destroying the novel Coronavirus. The coating is likely to be used on PPEs, masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, used by doctors for enhanced protection.

NASA: It is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. The Administrator of NASA is Jim Bridenstine and the Deputy Administrator of NASA is James Morhard. 

Recently, NASA unveiled plan to setup Artemis, the first human base camp on Moon’s South Pole by 2024. NASA also released a 13-page report titled “NASA’s Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development”. The 13 page report submitted by NASA to the National Space Council offered a summary of how the space agency will accomplish the 2024 moon landing mission. As per the report, Artemis base Camp will demonstrate the US’s continued leadership in space and will help them prepare to undertake humanity’s first mission to Mars.

The Artemis program aims to land first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. NASA's initial plan is to make a one to two-month stay at the South Pole of the moon to learn more about it and the universe. It also gives information on what the US would achieve from a long-term presence on the moon and lunar orbit. 

The Artemis program is carried out by NASA along with European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Australian Space Agency (ASA).

Madhubangajar: It is a bio fortified Carrots that has been developed by farmer scientist Shri Vallabhai Vastambhai Marvaniya. The Madhuban gajar is very nutritious has high ß-carotene and iron content. The highly nutritious Madhuvangajar  variety is developed through the selection method with higher ß-carotene content of 277.75 mg/kg and an iron content of 276.7 mg/kg dry basis.

The variety is being cultivated in more than 1000 hectares of land in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh during the last three years. Madhuban Gajar is benefitting more than 150 local farmers in Junagadh. It is planted in an area of over 200 hectares by the local farmers and it has become the main source of income for the local farmers. The Madhubangajar is not only used for various value-added products like carrot chips, juices, and pickles but also as a fodder to improve the quality of milk.

The validation trials of the carrot were conducted by National Innovation Foundation (NIF) India, at Rajasthan Agricultural Research Institute (RARI), Jaipur, between 2016 and 2017. NIF operates under Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Vallabhai Vastambhai Marvaniya: He is a by farmer scientist from Junagadh district, Gujarat. He was conferred with a National Award by the President of India at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi during Festival of Innovation (FOIN)–2017. He was also conferred with Padma Shri in the year 2019 for his extraordinary work.

International Day of Human Space Flight: The day was observed on 12 April 2020 to commemorate the anniversary of the first historic human space flight which was carried out by a Soviet citizen Yuri Gagarin On 12th of April 1961.  April 12 was also the date of the first Space Shuttle launch, STS-1 of Columbia in 1981, which is also commemorated on this date.

The United Nations General Assembly, at its 65th session, in its resolution of 7 April 2011, declared 12 April as the International Day of Human Space Flight  to celebrate the beginning of the space era for mankind, the contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples. The day also aims to promote aspirations to explore and maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.

Yuri Gagarin crewed the Vostok 1 space flight in 1961, making one orbit around the Earth over 108 minutes in the Vostok 3KA spacecraft launched by Vostok-K launch vehicle. This historic event opened the way for space exploration for the benefit of all humanity.

In the Soviet Union, April 12 was commemorated as Cosmonautics Day since 1963. It is still observed in Russia and some former Soviet states. Yuri's Night, also known as "World Space Party" is an international observance initiated in the United States in 2001, on the 40th anniversary of Gagarin's flight.

NIF: It refers to the National Innovation Foundation India. NIF was founded in 2000. It is located in Gandhinagar,Gujarat. It functions under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India (GoI). The responsibility of NIF is to provide institutional support for spawning, sustaining, scouting, and scaling up grassroots innovations across the country.

Recently, NIF have developed an indigenous herbal medication (dewormer) called Wormivet. This herbal medication is an alternative to chemical methods that are currently being used to treat worms among livestock. It is developed in the form of commercial products for livestock owners. It is a medication to treat endoparasite (worm) infestation among livestock sent by Harshadbhai Patel, Gujarat. The medication was assessed by NIF and found that the medication in treatment of endoparasite (worm) infestation among livestock worked and was found to be unique.

MoEFCC: It refers to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. MoEFCC is a nodal agency at the central government level. The main functions of MoEFCC are planning, coordination and implementation body of India's environment and forest policies and programmes in the country. It is headquartered in New Delhi. The current Minister responsible for MoEFCC is Cabinet Minister Prakash Javedkar.

Recently, MoEFCC has recategorized all the bulk drugs manufacturers under category ‘A’ to category ‘B2’. For this purpose an amendment was made on 27 March 2020 to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006.

The projects that fall under Category 'A' require mandatory EIA  whereas the projects that fall under the  ‘B2’ category are exempted of the Environment Impact Assessment(EIA).

The amendment aims to address the unprecedented situation arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increase the availability of various drugs.

EIA: It refers to Environment Impact Assessment. EIA is a process of evaluating environmental impacts either positive or negative caused due to a plan, policy, program, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action  The EIA is backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision makers consider the environmental impacts when deciding whether or not to proceed with a project. The EIA follows 4 stages that are screening, scoping, public hearing and appraisal.

ICMR: It is an abbreviation for the Indian Council of Medical Research. The ICMR is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research. It was founded in 1911 by the Government of India Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA) but was redesignated as the  Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 1949. It is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The governing body of the council is presided over by the Union Health Minister. It is also one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world. It is headquartered in New Delhi. the current Secretary & Director General of ICMR is Dr. Balram Bhargava.

Recently, ICMR researchers have found coronaviruses in 2 species of bats that are Pteropus and Rousettus in India. According to the study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research. 25 bats of Rousettus and Pteropus species from Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu were found positive for BtCoV in Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu. The study was carried out from samples collected between 2018 and 2019.

Dr Pragya D Yadav, Scientist at the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune and also the first author of study stated that there was no evidence or research to claim that these bat coronaviruses can cause disease in humans.

However, ICMR stated that active surveillance of bats is also essential to find the emerging strains of the virus.

Bats are recognised as the natural reservoir for many viruses, of which some can infect humans. Many viruses have their origin in bat species. Bats are known to harbour coronaviruses and serves as reservoirs.

GBRC: It refers to Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre. GBRC was established in 2017 by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of Gujarat. It was established to undertake Biotechnology research in the state priority areas. The major strength of GBRC is Biobanking, Bioprospecting, Genomics, and Bioinformatics.The focus of GBRC is to conduct cutting-edge research leading to Product/ Prototype/ Process development with application in Healthcare, Agriculture, Environment, and Marine.

Recently, the scientists at GRBC have succeeded in decoding the entire genome sequence of the novel coronavirus. They have also identified three new mutations of COVID-19 virus. With this, GBRC has become the first state government laboratory in India to achieve this. The breakthrough will help the country in an ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, at present there are 9 mutations including the newly found mutations of the virus that have been found. According to Dr Chaitanya Joshi, Director of GBRC the virus could mutate for various reasons, adding that a virus can mutate two times in a month’s time.

The first genome sequence of the COVID-19 virus was found by Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Bejing.

Genome Sequencing: The Genome Sequencing is a method that is used to determine the DNA sequence of genome of an organism. Under this method samples are obtained from the positive tested patients and then these samples are sent to the sequencing centers.

NIF: It refers to the National Innovation Foundation India. NIF is an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. It was set up in February 2000 at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Its mission is to provide institutional support for scouting, spawning, sustaining and scaling up the grassroots innovations across the country.

Recently, NIF has developed an indigenous herbal medication (dewormer) in the form of commercial products for livestock owners. The dewormer has been named wormivet.

NIF worked on a medication in treatment of endoparasite (worm) infestation among livestock sent by Harshadbhai Patel, Gujarat.

The product is to be an alternative to the chemical method of treatment of worms.

TIFAC: It refers to Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council. It is an autonomous technology think tank that was established in 1988. It operates under Department of Science and Technology. The main objective of TIFAC is to foresee the technological innovation in select technology areas which are of national importance. The Technology Vision 2035 released by PM Modi at the 103rd Science Congress was prepared by TIFAC.

Recently, TIFAC has planned to come up with a white paper to strategize revival of post-COVID 19 Indian economy. The main objective of the document is to strengthen Make in India initiatives and also to commercialize Indigenous technology. 

It aims to focus on developing a technology-driven transparent Public Distribution System (PDS),  efficient rural health care delivery, adoption of emerging technology domains such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Data Analytics and many more.

TIFAC’s team of scientists from a range of disciplines is exploring the best methods to revive the Indian economy and reduce the impact on it post COVD 19.

Feluda: It is a low cost COVID-19 test strip developed by the Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research's Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) in New Delhi. This low cost Coronavirus testing kit gets results in less than one hour. It was developed by two scientists Dr Debojyoti Chakraborty and Dr Souvik Maiti. The affordable test has been named after Feluda, after the detective character 'Feluda' in legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray's stories.

The test is expected to cost around Rs 500 against the usual RT-PCR test that costs Rs 4,500 in private labs.

CSIR-IGIB: It refers to Council of Scientific & Industrial Research's Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology. The Director General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is Shekhar C. Mande while the Director of Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology is Anurag Agrawal.

CSIR is a department under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology. CSIR was established by the Government of India in September 1942. It operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.

IIA: It refers to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. IIA is a premier institute devoted to research in astrophysics. It is based in Bengaluru, Karnataka.

Recently, researchers at IIA, Bengaluru discovered hundreds of Li-rich giant stars. The discovery proves that Li is being produced in the stars and accounts for its abundance in the interstellar medium.

They have also established the connection between Lithium rich Helium (He) burning stars with red giant stars also known as red clump giants.

This association could open up new vistas in the evolution of the red giant stars.

The team cracked the long-standing problem in stellar astrophysics.

This association could open up new vistas in the evolution of the red giant stars.

NIF: It refers to the National Innovation Foundation of India. NIF is an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. It was set up in February 2000 at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Its mission is to provide institutional support for scouting, spawning, sustaining and scaling up the grassroots innovations across the country.

Recently, NIF has developed ten varieties of Anthurium, a flower with high market value, by cross-pollination. It was developed by D Vasini Bai, a women innovator from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. She has not only developed large and medium-size flowers with uncommon color combinations of spathe and spadix but also developed a new method for raising the seedlings in limited space using corrugated asbestos sheets. Anthurium is a vast group of beautiful blooming plants available in a wide range of colors. The plants of the varieties are having high demands due to its use as indoor decorative plants.

Anthurium: Anthurium is a genus of about 1000 species of flowering plants, the largest genus of the arum family, Araceae. General common names include anthurium, tailflower, flamingo flower, and laceleaf. It is a vast group of beautiful blooming plants available in a wide range of colors. It is one of the best domestic flowering plants in the world. They are not only beautiful but also purify the surrounding air and remove harmful airborne chemicals like formaldehyde, ammonia, toluene, xylene, and allergens.

NASA has placed it in the list of air purifier plants because of its importance of removing toxic substances from the air. Anthurium has larger economic importance because of its eye-catching and beautiful inflorescence and fetches a good market price.

A team of Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India (GoI) have found a method to mimic nature’s own process of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, namely photosynthesis, to capture excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Key Points:

  • The scientists from JNCASR designed and fabricated an integrated catalytic system based on a metal-organic framework (MOF-808).

  • The system comprising of a photosensitizer (molecules which absorb light and transfer the electron from the incident light into another nearby molecule) can harness solar power and a catalytic centre that can eventually reduce CO2.

  • The artificial photosynthesis (AP) method harnesses solar energy and converts the captured carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide (CO).

  • Then this CO can be used as a fuel for internal combustion engines.

  • The work described above has been accepted for publication in the journal ‘Energy& Environmental Science’ of Royal Society of Chemistry, UK.

About Photosensitizer:

  • Photosensitizers are molecules which absorb light (hν) and transfer the energy from the incident light into another nearby molecule.

  • It is chemically called “ruthenium bipyridyl complex ([Ru(bpy)2Cl2])”.

  • It also comprises of a catalytic part called rhenium carbonyl complex ([Re(CO)5Cl]).

  • Both of the molecular entities lie in the close proximity and are confined to a nano-space of the porous metal-organic framework system.

  • This helps in absorbing the CO2 at room temperature.

  • The catalyst has the capability to oxidize the water in order to produce oxygen.

  • This photocatalytic assembly is when assessed to reduce the CO2 under direct sunlight under a water medium, it produces CO.

About Artificial Photosynthesis:

  • Artificial photosynthesis is a chemical process that biomimics the natural process of photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen.

  • The term artificial photosynthesis is commonly used to refer to any scheme for capturing and storing the energy from sunlight in the chemical bonds of a fuel (a solar fuel).

  • Photocatalytic water splitting converts water into hydrogen and oxygen and is a major research topic of artificial photosynthesis.

  • Light-driven carbon dioxide reduction is another process studied that replicates natural carbon fixation.

Difference between Natural photosynthesis and Artificial photosynthesis:

Natural photosynthesis is very inefficient in terms of solar-to-biomass conversion.

Artificial photosynthesis short-circuits the natural process by utilizing the most energetically efficient primary events of light capture, charge separation and charge transfer.

About JNCASR:

  • Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) is a multidisciplinary research institute located at Jakkur, Bangalore, India.

  • It is an autonomous institute which was established by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of the Government of India, to mark the birth centenary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

  • Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of independent India.

State-owned Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. has recently entered into a joint venture with Israel-based battery technology startup Phinergy to develop aluminium-air technology based battery systems for electric vehicles and stationary storage, as well as hydrogen storage solutions.

IOC Phinergy Private Limited is an Israeli start-up company specialising in hybrid lithium-ion and aluminium-air.

Highlights:

  • Top automakers, including Ashok Leyland and Maruti Suzuki have already signed letters of intent with the newly formed joint venture to commercially deploy the battery solutions produced by IOC Phinergy.

  • Aluminium-air batteries are said to be a lower cost and more energy-dense alternative to lithium-ion batteries which are currently in widespread use for electric vehicles in India.

  • Aluminium-air batteries utilise oxygen in the air which reacts with an aluminium hydroxide solution to oxidise the aluminium and produce electricity.

  • The joint venture will manufacture Aluminum-Air systems in India to boost India's flagship programme - "Make in India" and recycle used Aluminum to strengthen India's energy security.

Benefits:

Aluminium-air battery-based electric vehicles are expected to offer much greater range of 400 km or more per battery compared to lithium-ion batteries which currently offer a range of 150-200 kilometres per full charge.

The aluminium plate in an aluminium-air battery is converted into aluminium trihydroxide over time and that aluminium can be reclaimed from aluminium trihydroxide or even traded directly for industrial uses.

Aluminium-air based batteries are also expected to be significantly cheaper than lithium-ion batteries, thereby reducing the cost of electric vehicle.

Aim:

The joint venture aims to help India in its journey towards clean, sustainable, affordable, safe, and long-lasting energy options and facilitate much faster adoption of e-Vehicles in the country.

Main Concerns:

One of the key downsides of aluminium-air batteries is that they cannot be recharged like lithium-ion batteries.Therefore, large scale use of aluminium-air battery based vehicles would require the wide availability of battery swapping stations.

An aluminum air battery is not commercially produced, mainly due to the high production cost of the anode, As well as issues with corrosion of the aluminium anode due to the carbon dioxide in air.Because of this, use of this battery is restricted to mainly military applications.

NISAR: NASA and ISRO are collaborating on developing a satellite called NISAR, which will detect movements of the planet’s surface as small as 0.4 inches over areas about half the size of a tennis court.

What is NISAR?

  • NISAR is an all-weather satellite that’s going to give us an unprecedented ability to look at how Earth’s surface is changing.

  • It is a SUV-sized satellite which is being jointly developed by the space agencies of the US and India.

  • The name NISAR is short for NASA-ISRO-SAR. SAR here refers to the synthetic aperture radar that NASA will use to measure changes in the surface of the Earth.

  • Essentially, SAR refers to a technique for producing high-resolution images.

  • Because of the precision, the radar can penetrate clouds and darkness, which means that it can collect data day and night in any weather.

Key Points:

  • The partnership agreement was signed between NASA and ISRO in 2014.

  • NASA will provide one of the radars for the satellite, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers and a payload data subsystem.

  • ISRO, on the other hand, will provide the spacecraft bus, the second type of radar (called the S-band radar), the launch vehicle and associated launch services.

  • The satellite will be launched in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, into a near-polar orbit.

  • It will scan the globe every 12 days over the course of its three-year mission of imaging the Earth’s land, ice sheets and sea ice to give an “unprecedented” view of the planet.

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO):

  • ISRO is the space agency of the Government of India (GoI) and was formed in 15 august 1969.

  • It superseded the erstwhile “Indian National Committe For Space Research” (INCOSPAR) which was established in 1962 by the efforts of Independent India's first prime minister‚ Jawaharlal Nehru‚ and his close aide and scientist Vikram Sarabhai.

  • In 1972, GoI had set up a Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS), bringing ISRO under the DOS.

  • ISRO then embarked on its mission to provide the Nation space based services and to develop the technologies to achieve the same independently.

  • Its vision is to “harness space technology for natural development while pursuing space science research & planetary exploration”. ISRO built India’s first Satellite Aryabhata.

  • It is headquartered in Bangalore, India.

  • The current Chairman of ISRO is K sivan.

NASA:

  • NASA is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  • It is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

  • NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

  • It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.

  • The 14th Administrator of NASA is senator Bill Nelson.

Bill Nelson: US President Joe Biden has recently nominated former Senator Bill Nelson to serve as the 14th NASA Administrator.

Highlights:

  • Nelson will serve as NASA’s chief executive officer and will be directly accountable to the US President Biden.

  • In this role, he will articulate the space agency’s vision, will set its programmatic and budget priorities, internal policies and assess the agency’s performance.

  • A one-time astronaut, Nelson flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist on the STS-61C mission in 1986.

Additional Info:

  • Last month, Indian-American Bhavya Lal was appointed as the agency’s acting chief of staff by NASA.

  • Lal had previously served as a member of the Biden Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for the agency and oversaw the agency’s transition under the administration of President Joe Biden.

World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2021: Telecom Minister Sanjay Dhotre recently represented India at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2021.

  • The other participants were Secretary-General of ITU (Houlin Zhao), Ministers of Russia, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe and Iran.

Key Points:

  • The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2021 represents one of the world’s largest annual gatherings of the ‘ICT for development’ community.

  • It is co-organized by International Telecommunications Union (ITU), UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD in close collaboration with all WSIS Action Line Facilitators.

Initiatives Highlighted by India at the Forum:

The Telecom Minister Sanjay Dhotre highlighted the policies and programmes undertaken by his Ministry such as:

  • Arogya Setu platform to monitor and alert health status of citizens.

  • CovidSavdhan system for targeted messaging in a specified area, facilitation framework for Work from Home and Work from Anywhere.

  • Effective use of public Wi-Fi under PM-WANI scheme enabling effective service delivery for the citizens across the country.

  • Under the flagship program BharatNet, nearly 6,00,000 villages are being connected through laying of more than 4,00,000 Km length of optical fiber cable and use of satellite communication services.

  • Using submarine cable networks small and remote islands of Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep and other inaccessible areas are being connected with funding from Government.

  • Establishment of ITU Area office and Innovation Centre in India with involvement of SMEs, Academia and Startups in the region will go a long way in development of technologies, standards and solutions best suited for rural and remote areas of developing nations.

Current Affairs in Science and Technology - March 2021

INCOIS: It is an acronym for Indian National Centre for Ocean Information. INCOIS is an autonomous organization that functions under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). It was established in 1999. It is headquartered in Pragathi Nagar, Hyderabad. The organizations have provided a number of free services to users in the marine realm.

Recently, INCOIS launched 3 ocean-based advanced warning systems- Swell Surge Forecast System (SSFS), Algal Bloom Information Service (ABIS) and the Small Vessel Advisory and Forecast Services System (SVAS). The main objective of this technology is to significantly reduce damage and losses to fishermen, offshore oil exploration industries and coastal population during extreme weather and oceanic events.

Swell Surges: Swell Surges often referred to as surface gravity waves as they are caused due to surface gravity. They are not the normal wind waves as Wind Waves are generated by the by the local winds. The swell waves originating from the Southern Indian Ocean frequently cause damage to the coastal region. They are like flash floods which take place without any noticeable changes in local winds or coastal environment. They cause damage to the boats and nets of the fishermen and are often mistaken for tsunamis.

National Science Day: The day is celebrated by India on 28 February since 1987 every year. It is celebrated to honour the discovery of 'Raman Effect'. The Raman Effect was discovered by the Professor Sir C V Raman on February 28, 1928. He was later awarded the Nobel Prize for this discovery in 1930.

On 28 February 2020, India celebrated National Science Day 2020. The theme this year was "Women in Science". It was celebrated at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. The theme aims to appreciate the contribution of women in the field of science.

C V Raman: Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born on 7th November 1888 in the then Madras Presidency (Tamil Nadu) in British India. He was exceptional in studies. He passed the matriculation at only 11 years of age. Two years later, he passed the Intermediate-level of exam and joined the Presidency College in 1902. He was fascinated with the scattering of light since his early years. It was in Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) Calcuta that Raman was carrying out experiments on scattering of light that he ended up discovering the Raman Effect in 1928. He discovered the change in wavelength of light that is seen when a beam of light is deflected by molecules. This scattering phenomenon was later termed as ‘Raman scattering’ or the ‘Raman effect’.Raman was appointed to be the first Indian director of Indian Institute of Science (IIS) in 1933. He became the first National Professor of the India after India gained independence in 1947. He received the highest civilian award from his home country, the Bharat Ratna, in 1954.

CRISPR (CaS9): It stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. It is a Gene Editing Tool used to treat blindness.

A person with a genetic condition that causes blindness has become the first to receive a CRISPR–Cas9 gene therapy administered directly into their body. The patient underwent the procedure at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. However, the doctors said that it may take up to a month to see whether the procedure worked to restore vision.

Genome India Project: It is a gene-mapping project.  The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has initiated this project. This initiative involves twenty leading institutions including the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru and a few Indian Institute of Technology (IITs).

 Recently, the Department of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science and Technology cleared the Genome India Project. India will begin its first human genome mapping project by October 2020. In the first phase, the project will take samples of 10,000 persons to develop a reference Genome.

The Centre for Brain Research, which is an autonomous institute in the IISc, Bengaluru, will act as a nodal point of the project. The Government of India (GoI) was inspired by the Human Genome Project.

The Human Genome Project started in 1990 and ended in 2003. It was an international project funded by the US government. The objective of this project was to map the human genome and gather them together to obtain a complete sequence of chromosomes. This led to mapping of nucleotides in the genome.

ICONSAT: It refers to the International Conference on Nano Science and Technology. ICONSAT is a series of biennial international conferences held under the aegis of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India (GoI). India's nano technology journey began with the launch of "Nano Science and Technology Initiative" (NSTI) for 5 years in 2001. Then in 2007 it was renamed as "Nano Mission". The aim of the Nano Mission of India is to provide a global platform for interaction between eminent scientists.

Recently, the Department of Science of Technology operating under Ministry of Science and Technology organized an International Conference on Nano-Science and and Nano Technology (ICONSAT) at Kolkata. The Conference was held from 5th March 2020 to 7th March 2020.The main aim of the conference is to provide a platform for the young researchers & students from within the country and abroad, with the latest development in the emerging areas of Nano Science and Technology.

The conference focused on the recent advances in this frontier research field. The current need of India in the field of Nano-Science was also highlighted during the event. It included 5Ms namely Material, Machines, Mechanical, Manufacturing and Manpower. The Conference was attended by more than 450 scientists from all over the world.

NASA: It is an abbreviation for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is headquartered in Washington D.C., United States. The current Administrator of NASA is Jim Bridenstine.

Recently, NASA named the 5th Mars (red planet) rover as Perseverance. Earlier, the project has been known only by its code name - Mars 2020.  The name was announced by the director of science, Thomas Zurbuchen at an event in Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. The name "Perseverance" was suggested by a 7th standard Student Alexander Mather from Virginia. His name was chosen out of 28,000 entries that participated in NASA's naming competition.  

Perseverance: Perseverance is a Mars rover manufactured by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for use in NASA's Mars 2020 mission. The Perseverance rover has a new, more capable wheel design, among other improvements. It is used to collect the samples from the Martian rocks which help the scientists to determine about the ancient microbial life that existed in red planet. It is the fifth exploratory vehicle which will begin the process of trying to bring rocks back to Earth for study. The other four Mars rover are Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.

TIH: It refers to Technology Innovation Hub. As a part of the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS), the Department of Science and Technology (DST) sanctioned a sum of Rs 7.25 crore to IIT Mandi, to establish a Technology Innovation Hub (TIH). TIH will be established at the institute in Himachal Pradesh.

The main focus of TIH will be on human-computer interaction (HCI) research. The projects will highlight designing and developing computer technology (interfaces), and study the interaction between humans (users) and entrepreneurship. It will also collaborate with other leading institutes. The function of TIH is to develop tools, education material, hands-on experiments with specialized tool kits, connecting with existing innovation ecosystems.

It will not only inter-link with different stakeholders but also connect with other initiatives of the Government of India. It seeks to provide an innovation platform for schools, colleges and advanced technical training institutes in the targeted areas.

TIFAC: It refers to Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council. The TIFAC is an autonomous body under ministry and it functions under the Department of Science & Technology, Ministry of Science & Technology. It was founded in 1988. Its function is to foresee the technological innovation in select technology areas that are of national importance.

Recently, TIFAC launched the Vigyan Jyoti scheme. The scheme was launched on International Women's Day. The main aim of the scheme is to encourage women to pursue science.

Vigyan Jyoti: It was launched by the President of India Ram Nath kovind. It is an initiative to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education among girls.

Under the scheme, selected women from more than 500 districts will be given opportunities to attend science camps at Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), NITs, and other leading institutions of science and technology education where women are not adequately represented.

Huntington disease (HD): It is a progressive genetic disorder that affects the brain. It causes uncontrolled movements, impaired coordination of balance and movement, a decline in cognitive abilities, difficulty in concentrating and memory lapses, mood swings and personality changes. The cause of this disease is due to mutation in a gene called HTT. The main function of HTT genes is the production of a protein called Huntingtin. They provide the instruction for making the protein. The mutation of HTT gene gives faulty instructions and as a result the normal functioning of the brain is disrupted resulting in Huntington disease.

Recently, a team of scientists from National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) in Pune led by Dr. Amitabha Majumdar unravelled that the pathogenic protein called the Huntingtin Protein causes decrease in overall protein production. They found that Huntingtin protein in a diseased person interfered with the protein production of the cells and how faulty information was sent to the brain. They are also the cause of the reduced level of protein production of a normal cell.

INST: It refers to Institute of Nano Science and Technology. It is an autonomous institute of Department of Science & Technology, Government of India under the Society Registration Act, 1960. It was established in January 2013 under the National Mission of Nano Science and Technology or NANO mission. The main aim of the  mission is to promote growth of nano science and technology. The Chairperson of INST is C. N. Ramachandra Rao.

Recently, INST developed a starch-based ‘hemostat’ material named calcium-modified carboxymethyl-starch which absorbs excess fluid by concentrating the natural clotting factors in the blood that stops the rapid blood loss.

Starch Based Hemostat possesses increased absorption capacity and improved absorption. It is inexpensive, biocompatible and biodegradable. This product was developed by Dr Ghosh’s team developed as a realistic solution for lower-income economies worldwide.

Geo-spatial sector in India: The Ministry of Science and Technology Monday recently released new guidelines for the Geo-spatial sector in India.

Highlights:

  1. The guidelines deregulate existing protocol and liberalises the sector to a more competitive field.
  2. The move is aimed at liberalizing geospatial services.

About Geospatial Data:

  1. Geospatial data is a data about objects on the surface of the earth, both natural and manmade.
  2. The location may be static in the short-term, like the location of a road, an earthquake event, malnutrition among children, or dynamic like a moving vehicle or pedestrian, the spread of an infectious disease.
  3. Geo-spatial data combines location information, attribute information (the characteristics of the object, event, or phenomena concerned), and often also temporal information or the time at which the location and attributes exist.
  4. Geo-spatial data usually involves information of public interest such as roads, localities, rail lines, water bodies, and public amenities.
  5. The past decade has seen an increase in the use of geo-spatial data in daily life with various apps such as food delivery apps like Zomato or Swiggy, e-commerce like Amazon or even weather apps.

The present policy on geo-spatial data is as follows:

  1. There are strict restrictions on the collection, storage, use, sale, dissemination of geo-spatial data and mapping under the current regime.
  2. The policy had not been renewed in decades and has been driven by internal as well as external security concerns.
  3. The sector so far is dominated by the Indian government as well as government-run agencies such as the Survey of India and private companies need to navigate a system of permissions from different departments of the government (depending on the kind of data to be created) as well as the defence and Home Ministries, to be able to collect, create or disseminate geo-spatial data.
  4. Initially conceptualized as a matter solely concerned with security, geo-spatial data collection was the prerogative of the defence forces and the government.
  5. GIS mapping was also rudimentary, with the government investing heavily in it after the Kargil war highlighted the dependence on foreign data and the need for indigenous sources of data.

Expected impact of new guidelines:

  1. By liberalizing the system, the government will ensure more players in the field, competitiveness of Indian companies in the global market, and more accurate data available to both the government to formulate plans and administer, but also for individual Indians.
  2. Startups and businesses can now also use this data in setting up their concerns, especially in the sector of e-commerce or geo-spatial based apps – which in turn will increase employment in these sectors.
  3. Indian companies will be able to develop indigenous apps, for example an Indian version of google maps.

SANDES: The National Informatics Centre (NIC), under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, has launched an instant messaging platform called Sandes (Sandes in hindi means message).

Key Highlights:

  1. This instant messaging platform is similar to WhatsApp.
  2.  
  3. Like WhatsApp, the new government instant messaging systems (GIMS) platform can be used for all kinds of communications by anyone using a mobile number or email id.
  4. GIMS, like other instant messaging apps in the market, uses a valid mobile number or email id to register the user for the first time. It also offers features such as group making, broadcast message, message forwarding and emojis.
  5. Although there is no option to transfer the chat history between two platforms, the chats on GIMS can be backed up to a users’ email.
  6. The instant messaging app, called Sandes, has an interface similar to many other apps currently available in the market.
  7. The need to build a home-grown messaging platform was felt by the government to ensure secure communication between people as they worked from home, following the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19.
  8. The app can be used by central and state government officials for intra-organisational and inter-organisational communication.
  9. The Sandes app is also a part of the government strategy to encourage the use of India-made software so as to build an ecosystem of indigenously developed software and products.
  10. Sandes was initially launched for Android users and mainly for government officers. Later, the service was also extended to iOS users and it is now available for the common public as well.

Background:

  1. In 2020, the ministry of home affairs had issued the advisory for the government employees to not use the platforms like Zoom for official communications because of security concerns.
  2. Before that, the Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert-In) had also issued an advisory against Zoom with respect to the safety and privacy concerns.

About National Informatics Centre (NIC):

  1. National Informatics Centre (NIC) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is the technology partner of the Government of India (GoI).
  2. It is headquartered in New Delhi.
  3. It was established in 1976 with an objective to provide technology-driven solutions to Central and State Governments in various aspects of development.
  4. NIC has been instrumental in adopting and providing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and eGovernance support to Central Government.
  5. The current Director-General (DG) is Neeta Verma.

Perseverance on Mars: The American space agency NASA successfully landed its fifth rover 'Perseverance' on Mars 18 February 2021 Successfully.

  1. It landed in a deep crater near the planet's equator called Jezero.
  2. It touched down the surface of Mars after successfully overcoming a risky landing phase known as the seven minutes of terror.
  3. Then it began sending images of the local area back to Earth.
  4. The rover is only the fifth ever to set its wheels down on Mars. This feat was first accomplished in 1997 and all so far has been American.

Background:

  • Perseverance’s mission officially began on July 30, 2020, when NASA launched the $3 billion Mars 2020 mission from Florida’s Cape Canaveral.

Perseverance’s mission

  • The Perseverance rover is expected to continue exploration for at least one Martian year, which is 687 Earth days.
  • Its goal is to explore the Jezero crater, which scientists have speculated was once an 820ft lake that existed around 3.5 billion years ago.
  • The six-wheeled vehicle will now spend at least the next two years drilling into the local rocks, looking for evidence of past life.

About Preserverance: It is about the size of an SUV. It weighs a ton. It is equipped with a seven feet long robotic arm, has 19 cameras, two microphones and a suite of cutting-edge instruments to assist in its scientific goals. It has a laser spectrometer on board that will be able to examine rocks using different wavelengths of energy.

Note: The shadow of NASA’s Perseverance rover was seen on the surface of Mars as it landed on the planet. With this, NASA is set to become the first space agency to fly a drone in the atmosphere of another planet.

Snakepedia: A team of scientists, doctors and photographers in Kerala have launched a mobile application named “Snakepedia”.

Highlights of Snakepedia:

  1. This mobile app will present all relevant information on snakes, to help the public as well as doctors in treating snake bites.
  2. The app aims to help the public identify snakes and avail proper treatment on time for snakebites. It will also help in busting myths about snakes, and protect snakes as well as snakebite victims.
  3. The android mobile application documents information on snakes with the help of pictures, infographics and podcasts and analyses its first aid, treatment, myths and superstitions.

Cadmium (Cd) doped Silver Antimony Telluride (AgSbTe2): Recently, a new Lead (Pb) free material which can efficiently convert waste heat to power our small home equipment and automobiles has been found.

Details:

  • Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bengaluru, an autonomous institution of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of have now identified a lead-free material called Cadmium (Cd) doped Silver Antimony Telluride (AgSbTe2).
  • Most efficient thermoelectric materials developed by scientists so far use Lead (Pb) as a major constituent element, restricting their use for mass-market applications.
  • This material which can efficiently allow recovery of electricity from ‘waste heat’ marking a paradigm shift in the thermoelectric puzzle.
  • This work is supported by Swarna-Jayanti fellowship and project fund from Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) and Department of Science & Technology (DST), India.

About Waste Heat:

  • Energy conversion is not a very efficient process.
  • Only a small fraction of energy that is used is actually productive.
  • The rest of it becomes waste, often getting released as heat.
  • This waste heat can be tapped, and further converted into electrical energy.

DIWALI: It is an abbreviation for Dutch Indian Water Alliance for Leadership Initiative. Recently, in order to find solutions for water related challenges a platform called DIWALI has been developed.

Under the DIWALI platform, Both India and Netherlands could participate for designing solution for water challenges.

Highlights:

  • The consortium of experts from the two counties would explore the potential and sustainability of Dutch Solutions to resolve challenges in specific water challenged sites in India which are scalable, sustainable and affordable.
  • It is being led by Dutch consortia titled “Water for Change. Integrative and Fit-for-Purpose Water Sensitive Design Framework for Fast Growing Livable Cities” and
  • IIT Roorkee as lead along with other consortia member named MANIT, Bhopal; CEPT University, Ahmedabad; IIT Gandhinagar; CWRDM, Calicut.
  • In addition, based on assessment of R&D needs for cleaning of Ganga system and study on impacts of agriculture on quality and quantity of water in its basin, the DST and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) is stimulating sustainable research collaboration between the two countries.
  • They are supporting joint research in which 13 Indo-Dutch proposals involving premier research and academic organizations from both sides have been funded.

Devasthal Telescope: It is a world-class 3.6 meter optical telescope set up at Devasthal which has recently assumed global importance for observing a number of time-critical cosmic explosive events such as Gamma Ray Bursts and Supernovae.

Key Highlights:

  • This telescope is the Asia’s largest fully steerable optical telescope.
  • It was set up in year 2016 by Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), an autonomous research institute of DST with support from Belgian government and established India’s role as a global player in astronomy research.
  • It is facilitating strong future collaborations with national, international institutions and industries.
  • The technological know-how gained from the development of this telescope and back-end instruments are beneficial for optical facilities planned for future such as the Thirty Meter Telescope – one of the mega projects in which the country is participating.

About Devasthal:

  • Devasthal is a picturesque mountain peak in Uttarakand from which the snowcapped Himalayas is clearly visible and the nearest settlement is 8 Km away.
  • The tranquil place far from the maddening crowd however stands out from many such hilly spots is being a symbol of India’s rising position in global science and technology.

Carbon Watch: It is a mobile application to assess the carbon footprint of an individual. Recently, Chandigarh became the first state or Union Territory in India to launch Carbon Watch.

Highlights:

  • The app focuses on individuals’ actions and calculates carbon footprint on the basis of Transport, Energy, Waste and Water consumption.
  • Although the app can be accessed by everyone, it has specific options for the residents of Chandigarh to compile a detail study.
  • The application can be downloaded through a QR code in Android supported smart cell phones.
  • As a person downloads the application, they will need to fill details in four categories. They are as follows:
  1. In the category of Water, the person will be required to inform about the consumption of water.
  2. In the Energy category, the details regarding the electricity units consumed every month at the house, monthly bill etc and usage of solar energy will have to be furnished.
  3. In the Waste category, the individual will need to inform about the waste generated on their part and their family.
  4. In the transport section, the individual will have to inform them about the mode of transport used by the- four-wheeler, two-wheeler or bicycle.
  • With the mentioned information, the mobile application will automatically calculate the carbon footprint of the individual.
  • The application will also provide information such as the national and world average of the emission, and the individual’s level of emission generation.
  • It encourages people to be Climate-Smart Citizens while suggesting methods to reduce the carbon footprints as per the information furnished by the individuals.

What is Carbon Footprint?

  • Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases-especially carbon dioxide-released into the atmosphere by a particular human activity.

Dr Swati Mohan: The world witnessed the historic landing of NASA's Perseverance rover on the Martian surface.

It was Indian-American scientist, Swati Mohan, who led the guidance, navigation, and control operations of the Mars 2020 mission.

Indian-American Dr Swati Mohan spearheaded the development of attitude control and the landing system for the rover.

She is the key communicator between the GN&C subsystem and the rest of the project's teams.

About:

Dr Mohan had emigrated from India to the United States at the age of One. She was raised in Northern Virginia and Washington DC metro area. She completed her bachelor's degree from Cornell University in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, and her M.S. and Ph.D from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Aeronautics/Astronautics.

She has worked on Mars-2020 since almost the beginning of the project in 2013 and is currently working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

National Science Day: National Science Day is observed on 28th of February every year across India.

The day is celebrated to commemorate the discovery of the ‘Raman Effect’.

On this day, Physicist CV Raman announced the discovery of the 'Raman Effect' for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930.

The day is aimed at spreading the message of the importance of science and its application in human life.

The theme for National Science Day 2021 is ‘Future of Science and Technology and Innovation: Impact on Education Skills and Work'.

With a view to promote science and innovation, the government presents the National Science Communication Awards on this day.

The award was instituted in 1987.

Arktika-M: Roscosmos State Corporation successfully launched its first satellite to monitor the Arctic’s climate and environment.

  • Roscosmos is the space agency of Russia.

  • The satellite called “Arktika-M”, was launched on February 28, 2021, onboard Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

  • This satellite will help to collect information to solve operational meteorology and hydrology problems, and monitoring the climate and environment in the Arctic region.

About Arktika-M:

  • Arktika-M is the first of the two satellites launched by Russia.

  • The second satellite is set for launch in 2023.

  • The Arktika-M is a remote-sensing and emergency communications satellite.

  • It will help collect meteorological data from the polar regions of the Earth.

  • The data will help improve weather forecasts and enable scientists to better study climate change.

  • It is a series of planned remote-sensing and emergency communications satellites that Russia plans to operate in a highly elliptical 12-hour orbit.

  • Through the launch of the satellites, Russia aims to develop a unique satellite network dedicated to monitoring the weather conditions of the Arctic region.

About Roscosmos State Corporation:

  • The Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities, commonly known as Roscosmos, is a state corporation of the Russian Federation responsible for space flights, cosmonautics programs, and aerospace research.

  • It was founded on 25 February 1992.

  • It is headquartered in 42 Shchepkina Street, Moscow, Russia.

Russia: Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia.

  • Once the preeminent republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.; commonly known as the Soviet Union), Russia became an independent country after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

  • The capital of Russia is Moscow.

  • The currency used here is Russian Ruble.

  • The current President of Russia is Vladimir Putin.

Udaipur Science Centre: The Governor of Tripura, Ramesh Bais recently inaugurated the Udaipur Science Centre, at Udaipur, Tripura.

Key Points:

  • The Udaipur Science Centre has been developed at a cost of Rs 6 crore funded jointly by Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India and Dept. of Science, Technology & Environment, Government of Tripura.

  • Udaipur Science Centre is the 22nd Science Centre which has been developed by National Council of Science Museums (NCSM) and handed over to the State Governments under the Ministry of Culture’s Scheme for Promotion of Culture of Science.

  • With this, NCSM has now set-up science centres in all the north eastern states.

Additional Info:

  • NCSM will open 4 more new science centres in different parts of India during 2021.

About Udaipur:

  • Udaipur, formerly known as Rangamati, is the third biggest city in Tripura.

  • The city was a former capital of the state during the reign of the Maharajas.

  • This city is famous for the Tripura Sundari temple also known as Tripureswari temple.

Space Hurricane: The scientists have discovered a “space hurricane” for the first time.

  • These hurricanes usually occur in the lower atmosphere of the Earth.

  • It was never observed in the upper atmosphere.

  • Earlier, the space hurricane was detected in August 2014 during a retrospective analysis which was led by the researchers at Shandong University of China.

  • Its findings were published in February 2021 in Nature Communications

Key Highlights:

  • The tech of scientists from USA, Norway, China and United Kingdom (UK) observed and produced the image of space hurricane using the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites and a 3D magnetosphere modeling.

  • The hurricane swirled for eight hours over the North Pole in the upper atmosphere of Earth.

  • The hurricane that was detected over North Pole comprises of plasma with multiple spiral arms.

  • It was spinning in an anticlockwise direction.

  • The hurricane had the diameter of 1,000 kilometres while in altitude it reached from 110 kilometres to 860 kilometres.

  • It had the speed of up to 2,100 metres per second.

How will the study of space hurricane help the scientists?

  • The study of space hurricane will help the scientists to understand the important space weather effects like disturbances in high frequency radio communication, satellite drag, satellite navigation, errors in over-the-horizon radar location and communication systems.

What is space Hurricane?

  • A space hurricane is a huge, funnel-like, spiral geomagnetic storm that occurs above the polar Ionosphere of Earth, during extremely quiet conditions.

  • They are related to the aurora borealis phenomenon, as the electron precipitation from the storm's funnel produces gigantic, cyclone-shaped auroras.

  • The hurricane results into the stunning effect that is a huge, cyclone-shaped glowing green aurora can be observed below it.

  • Scientists believe that they occur in the polar regions of planets with magnetic fields.

Note: The astronomers have spotted hurricanes in space on Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

Superior Mirage:

Recently a large tanker appeared to be floating off the south coast of England in an optical illusion caused by a rare weather phenomenon called the superior mirage.

The extraordinary optical illusion was spotted by David Morris who was walking along the coast by Falmouth in Cornwall. He captured it on camera.

About Superior Mirage:

  • A mirage is a naturally occurring optical phenomenon in which light rays bend via refraction to produce a displaced image of distant objects or the sky. The word comes to English via the French mirer, from the Latin mirari, meaning "to look at, to wonder at".

  • In contrast to a hallucination, a mirage is a real optical phenomenon that can be captured on camera, since light rays are actually refracted to form the false image at the observer's location.

  • There are two types of mirages. They are inferior mirage (meaning lower) and superior mirage (meaning higher).

  • An inferior mirage occurs when you have a dense layer of cold air sitting on above of your line of sight, with a layer of less dense warmer air below your line of sight.

  • A superior mirage is seen above a flat surface of much lower temperature than the air above it. Superior mirages occur because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion. Passing through the temperature inversion, the light rays are bent down, and so the image appears above the true object, hence the name superior. Superior mirages tend to be more stable than inferior mirages, as cold air has no tendency to move up and warm air has no tendency to move down.

  • The mirage is common in the Arctic Circle but can only very rarely be seen during the UK in winter.

Fugaku:

The world’s most powerful supercomputer Fugaku is now fully developed in Japan, and the machine is available for research use.

Highlights:

  • The Japanese scientific research institute called RIKEN and Fujitsu started developing the “Fugaku” six years ago.

  • Fugaku has been named after an alternative name for Mount Fuji.

  • In April 2020, it was tested particularly in projects to combat COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Now, this supercomputer is fully ready and developed in Japan and is now available for research use.

  • The Research Organization for the Information Science and Technology (RIST) of Japan has selected some 74 projects which will use this supercomputer in the financial year 2021.

  • RIST has also called for proposals for new projects in several categories, and invited researchers who are interested to apply.

  • This supercomputer has been developed with the aim of making the device core of the computing infrastructure of Japan.

About Fugaku

  • It is a key national technology that has been developed with the goal to achieve research results that ultimately will help in building a long-lived and healthy society, better energy use and disaster mitigation.

  • It also aims to establish the government’s vision of making “ultra-smart Society 5.0”.

  • The supercomputer has topped the Top500 list, which is a “Supercomputer benchmark index”, for the second year in line.

  • The computer has 100 times the application performance of K supercomputer.

  • It has been developed to implement high-resolution, large-scale and long-duration simulation.

  • It started development in the year 2014 as the successor to the K computer.

It is built with the Fujitsu A64FX microprocessor.

Japan:

  • Japan is an island country located in East Asia.

  • It is made up of 6,852 islands.

  • The Japanese name for Japan is Nihon or Nippon which means sun origin.

  • It is bordered by the Sea of Japan to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, and spans from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Philippine Sea in the south.

  • Tokyo is the capital of Japan.

  • The currency used there is Japanese Yen.

  • The current Prime Minister of Japan is Yoshihide Suga.

Joint Earth Observation Satellite Mission Radar:

ISRO recently completed the development of a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capable of producing extremely high-resolution images for a joint earth observation satellite mission with the US space agency NASA.

Key points of NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR):

  • NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) is a joint collaboration for a dual-frequency L and S-band SAR for earth observation.

  • It is the first satellite mission which will use two different radar frequencies called L-band and S-band.

  • These radar frequencies will be used to measure the changes in Earth’s surface less than a centimetre across

  • The mission is targeted to launch in early 2022 from ISRO’s Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore district, about 100 km north of Chennai.

  • The payload was shipped from the Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre (SAC) to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA.

About the NASA-ISRO Collaboration:

  • NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) had signed a partnership on September 30, 2014, to collaborate on and launch NISAR.

  • NASA is providing the mission’s L-band SAR, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid-state recorder and payload data subsystem.

  • ISRO is providing the spacecraft bus, the S-band radar, the launch vehicle and associated launch services for the mission, whose goal is to make global measurements of the causes and consequences of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging.

Purpose of the Mission:

  • The mission will provide a means of highly spatial and temporally complex processes such as ecosystem disturbances, ice sheet collapses and natural hazards like volcanoes, landslides, earthquakes and tsunamis.

  • It will measure the changing ecosystems of Earth, dynamic surfaces & ice masses.

  • The mission will also provide information regarding the biomass, natural hazards, groundwater and sea level rise.

ISRO:

  • ISRO is the space agency of the Government of India (GoI) and was formed in 15 august 1969.

  • It superseded the erstwhile “Indian National Committe for Space Research” (INCOSPAR) which was established in 1962 by the efforts of Independent India's first prime minister‚ Jawaharlal Nehru‚ and his close aide and scientist Vikram Sarabhai.

  • In 1972, the Government of India had set up a Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS), bringing ISRO under the DOS.

  • ISRO then embarked on its mission to provide the Nation space based services and to develop the technologies to achieve the same independently.

  • Its vision is to “harness space technology for natural development while pursuing space science research & planetary exploration”.

  • ISRO built India’s first Satellite Aryabhata. It is headquartered in Bangalore, India.

  • The current Chairman of ISRO is K sivan.

NASA:

  • NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

  • NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

  • It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.

  • The Administrator of NASA is Jim Bridenstine and the Deputy Administrator of NASA is James Morhard.

Lunar Space Station:

The space agencies of China and Russia have recently signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) on behalf of their national governments, to jointly construct a lunar space station that will be open to all countries.

The MoU was officially signed between the Chinese space agency, China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, on March 09, 2021.

About International Lunar Research Station:

  • Dubbed as the “International Scientific Lunar Station (ISLS)”, will be a complex of research and experimental facilities which will be created on the surface or in orbit of the moon.

  • The complex will be designed to conduct multipurpose and multidisciplinary research work.

  • The goal of setting up ISLS is to strengthen research cooperation and promote the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes in the interests of all mankind.

Current Affairs in Science and Technology - Feburary 2021

ISRO: It is the acronym for Indian Space Research Organisation. It is the space agency of the Government of India and has its headquarters in the city of Bengaluru. Its vision is to "harness space technology for national development while pursuing space science research & planetary exploration". It was founded on 15 August 1969 by Vikram Sarabhai. The Director of ISRO is Kailasavadivoo Sivan.

Recently, ISRO announced that it is preparing low-cost satellite launch vehicles costing around RS. 30-35 crores. These vehicles are capable of carrying satellites weighing 500 kg. The first launch from the country is expected to take place in the next four months.

An amount of 1,600 million USD has been allocated by ISRO to manufacture these satellite vehicles. 870 million USD from the allocated amount is to be used to produce PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) while the remaining is to be used for Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. This capability will help ISRO give a big commercial boost as it will be able to cater to micro, mini and medium segments of the market.

India also aims for opportunities to join hands France Space agencies to set up a model for the Moon Programme that is currently under operation in India.

NASA: It stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The founder of NASA is Dwight D. Eisenhower It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.

Recently, NASA's Parker Solar Probe took one step closer to the sun when it executed its 4th flyby of our star. The Parker Solar Probe's trajectory carried the warhead within about 11.6 million miles (18.6 million kilometers) of the sun, more than 3 million miles (5 million km) closer than previous flybys. By doing so it broke its own record for the closest a spacecraft has come to the sun. The probe will continue to do repeatedly over the course of its seven-year mission.

This is the 1st such maneuver, called a perihelion, that the spacecraft has completed since swinging past Venus in December, a move that shrank the probe's orbit. The main objective of Parker Solar Probe is making a series of 24 close flybys on the sun through 2025 in order to help scientists understand how the sun works.

Innovation Festival: It is one of its kind festival that is being organized by the Arunachal Pradesh State Council for Science & Technology in collaboration with the National Innovation Foundation.

The ‘Innovation Festival’ kic------------------------------------------------------------------------------ked off at the Science Centre in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh. The main aim of the Innovation Festival is to foster the culture of innovation among all people of the state, especially in all the educational institutions. The two-day programme will witness interaction sessions, technical session and discussion among the innovators and motivation by several eminent personalities, scholars and persons from educational institutions.

DST: It refers to Department of Science and Technology. The DSF works under the Ministry of Science and Technology. It was founded in May 1971. It is headquartered in New Delhi.

Recently, DST launched a special scheme called “Sophisticated Analytical & Technical Help Institutes (SATHI)”. The scheme aims to create shared, professionally managed and strong Science and Technology infrastructure in India. The SATHI scheme will enable academia, start-ups, manufacturing, industry and R&D labs to offer high-end analytical testing. This will not only help to avoid duplication, reduce the dependency on foreign sources but also foster a strong culture of collaboration between institutions.
Christina Koch: She is a 41 year old astronaut from USA. She broke the world record for the most time spent by a woman in space. She has spent 328 days on International Space Station (ISS), surpassing the previous record of 289 days was held by fellow American Peggy Whitson.

She returned home safely after an 11 month mission.

OneWeb company: It is a UK based company. The company is headquartered in London, England. The CEO of OneWeb company is Adrian Steckel.

The UK-based OneWeb company start-up is building a mega-constellation in the sky to deliver broadband internet to all corners of the globe. It has sent 34 satellites into orbit on a single Soyuz rocket, from Baikonur port, Kazakhstan. The company seeks to have the full network in operation by the end of 2021.

The company seeks to have the full network in operation by the end of 2021. Its intended goal is to provide internet services to "everyone, everywhere" delivering much-needed connectivity to rural and remote places as well as to a range of markets including aero, maritime, land mobility, cellular backhaul.

This is the 50th Soyuz mission conducted by Arianespace and the company plans to perform 19 more medium-lift Soyuz from three spaceports by 2021.

Baby Giant Planet: The scientists from Rochester Institute of Technology has discovered the nearest-known ‘baby giant planet’ which is named as “2MASS 1155-7919 b”. The data from Gaia space observatory was used by the scientists to find the baby giant planet.

This massive newborn planet is closer to Earth and is located in the Epsilon Chamaeleontis Association. It lies only about 330 light-years from our solar system.

This planet which has only ten times the mass of Jupiter orbits a star that is about 5 million years old.

The discovery offers an exciting new way to study how gas giants form.

The findings were published in Research Notes of the American Astronomical Society.

Apiary on Wheels: Apiary on Wheels is a holistic approach to address the challenges faced by the beekeepers. It is a platform to carry 20 Bee Boxes from one place to another without any difficulty. The vehicle has 2 large wheels on either side of a 4 separate compartments to place the boxes. It is designed in such a way that it can easily be connected with tractors or trolleys. It is connected with a solar panel system that automatically triggers a fan inside the compartment as soon as the temperature reaches 35-degree centigrade or above. Cooling with the help of solar panels and sugar drips with zero risks to the lives of bees.

Recently, Union Minister of Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Nitin Gadkari flagged off 'Apiary on Wheels' on 13 February. The concept designed by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) was launched as a part of National Honey Mission launched in 2017. It aims to addresses the challenges faced by the beekeepers. The mission since its launch has been training beekeepers, educating unemployed youths, distributing bee boxes in order for them to earn extra income through beekeeping activities at their doorstep. Under the mission, KVIC provides training and awareness to Bee farmers.

PPP Research Reactor: Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the premier research organization of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has recently evolved a design for the first PPP Research Reactor for production of Nuclear Medicines.

Key Highlights:

In the proposed partnership, the private entities will get exclusive rights to process and market the isotopes produced in the research reactor, in lieu of investing in the reactor and processing facilities.

Earlier, in May 2020, the Union Finance Minister had announced establishment of a Research Reactor in PPP mode for production of medical isotopes as a part of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat initiatives for DAE.

Significance: This project will be a major step towards making India self-reliant in key radio isotopes used in medical and industrial applications.

Globally, nuclear medicine is a USD 6 Billion market and is expected to grow rapidly to reach USD 30 Billion by 2030.

India produces all major isotopes in the country under the aegis of BARC.

BARC: BARC is India's premier nuclear research facility, headquartered in Trombay, Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is a multi-disciplinary research centre with extensive infrastructure for advanced research and development covering the entire spectrum of nuclear science, engineering and related areas. Previously, the Government of India (GoI) created the Atomic Energy Establishment, AEET with Homi J. Bhabha (also known as the "Father of Indian Nuclear Programme"), as the founding director on 3 January 1954. After Homi Jehangir Bhabha's death in 1966, the centre was renamed as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre on 22 January 1967. 

AXIOM MISSION 1 (AX 1): SpaceX Axiom Space-1 is a planned SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station (ISS), operated by SpaceX on behalf of Axiom Space.

The Axiom Mission 1 (AX 1) flight is the first entirely-private orbital space mission.

A former Israeli fighter pilot, an American technology entrepreneur and a Canadian investor are all set to be a part of the crew of this flight. The flight will launch in January 2022.

These three men are paying $55 million each to fly aboard a SpaceX rocket for an eight-day visit to the International Space Station, organized by Houston-based spaceflight firm Axiom.

The Axiom Mission 1 (AX 1) flight is being arranged under a commercial agreement with NASA. The mission will be led by former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who now works for Axiom space.

While private citizens have travelled to space before, the AX 1 mission will be the first to use a commercially built spacecraft, the SpaceX Dragon 2, best known for flying its first two crews to the ISS late last year.

Note: This is not the first time that civilians have been launched into space. Private civilians have travelled to the space station before.

Since 2001, Russia has been selling rides to the ISS to wealthy businessmen around the world. They travelled onboard the Russian Soyuz aircraft along with professional cosmonauts and NASA astronauts.

NICSI: It stands for National Informatics Centre services Incorporated. NICSI celebrated 25 years of its establishment on 28 January 2021.

The NICSI is a Public Sector Enterprise under National Informatics Centre(NIC), Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India (GoI).

NICSI started its journey in the ICT service industry on 29th August 1995. It has provided end-to-end IT solutions for e-governance projects for Central and State Governments and other PSUs across India. NICSI extends its services to the International level too in certain projects.

Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Communications and Law and Justice honoured the event as Chief Guest.

On this occasion, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad launched: TEJAS - A Visual Intelligence Tool, e-Auction India, Work from AnyWhere, NIC Products Portfolio and rolled out the Silver Jubilee e-Brochure of NICSI.

  • Tejas – a Virtual Intelligence tool (NIC&NICSI-CEDA) that extracts critical information from data to make its meaningful information for policy decisions and improving efficiency in government services and citizen delivery;
  • e-Auction India – to cater to electronic forward and reverse auction requirements of the Govt. organizations serving online 24×7;
  • Work from Anywhere Portal (WAW)  – a virtual environment, provisioned shall empower employees access routine applications like eoffice, calendar, mail, and other departmental applications and communicate across through VC ensuring safety during this pandemic with social distancing and work assurance from anywhere;
  • NIC Products Portfolio- for International Offering to augment Digital India branding through promotion of productized software applications at global level.

LUNAR SAMPLE 76015,143: NASA has loaned a Moon rock for display in the Oval Office of the White House at the request of the Joe Biden administration.

Reason: As per tradition in the United States (US), every incoming President gets to redecorate the Oval Office – the commander-in-chief’s principal place of business which is visited by the most powerful people in the world.

So, after taking office as the 46th US President on January 20, Democrat Joe Biden has made a couple of changes to the Oval Office, including replacing portraits, carpets, and removing the “Diet Coke button”.

The Moon rock now sits in the Oval Office in symbolic recognition of earlier generations' ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America's current Moon to Mars exploration approach.

About: The "Lunar Sample 76015,143" is from the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Lunar Sample 76015,143, which weighs 332 grams, was collected by Apollo 17 astronaut Ronald Evans and moonwalkers Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan.

Apollo 17 was the last mission to send humans to set foot on the lunar surface. This sample was chipped from a large boulder at the base of the North Massif in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, 3km from the Lunar Module. It was collected in 1972. It is a 3.9-billion-year-old sample formed during the last large impact event on the nearside of the Moon, the Imbrium Impact Basin, which is 1,145 km in diameter.

Note: NASA plans to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

Stardust 1.0: The launch vehicle Stardust 1.0 was recently launched from Loring Commerce Centre in Maine, US, a former military base.

The launch of the vehicle is significant as it has become the first-ever commercial space launch powered entirely by biofuel. In addition it is also the first-ever commercial launch for the US State Maine.

About Stardust 1.0:

  1. The rocket is manufactured by Maine-based aerospace company bluShift.
  2. It is totally is non-toxic for the environment as opposed to traditionally used rocket fuels.
  3. The launch vehicle is suitable for student and budget payloads.
  4. It is 20 feet in height and approximately 250 kg in weight.
  5. It can carry a maximum payload mass of 8 kg.
  6. These rockets will help to launch small satellites called cubesats into space in a way that is relatively cheaper than using traditional rocket fuel and is less toxic for the environment.

In its first launch, the rocket carried three payloads including, a metal alloy which is designed to lessen vibrations, a CubeSat prototype which was built by high school students, and a CubeSat that was procured from software company Rocket Insights.

BluShift: It is an aerospace company based in Maine, US. The startup was founded in the year 2014 and has received grants from the Maine Technology Institute and NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program as it embarks on a quest to become the 'Uber for space.'

This company is involved in developing the rockets powered by bio-derived fuels. It was manufacturing the Stardust 1.0 launch vehicle since 2014.

The company is also developing other rockets such as Stardust Gen. 2, Starless Rouge, and Red Dwarf.

Biofuel: Biofuel is the fuel produced through the contemporary processes from biomass which can directly be converted into liquid fuels. It can be used as transportation fuels. It is not produced by the usual slow geological processes of formation of fossil fuels like oil.

The two most common kinds of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel. They both represent the first generation of biofuel technology. Biodiesel is produced by combining alcohol with new and used vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled cooking grease while Ethanol is renewable and made from different kinds of plant materials.

MCA21 Version 3.0: India’s Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget 2021 speech has proposed the usage of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Data Analytics for the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs will launch the data Analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning driven MCA21 Version 3.0. by October 2021 in the financial year 2020-21.

The MCA21 version 3.0 system is the Mission Mode e-Governance project of India. 

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs highlighted that the new MCA-21 V 3.0 will have features of the additional modules for e-Adjudication, e-Consultation and Compliance Management. All these features are aimed at improving the authenticity and comprehensiveness of corporate

It may also make the current registrar of companies (RoC) appear obsolete.

New protein based Biosensors: A team of researchers led by David Baker, who is the professor of biochemistry and director of the Institute for Protein Design at UW Medicine, have recently created a new protein-based biosensor that will detect the Corona Virus.

The protein-based biosensors will detect the proteins that make up the pandemic coronavirus. It would also help in detecting the antibodies against it. The biosensor will glow when mixed with components of the virus or specific COVID-19 which in turn will enable the faster and more widespread testing.

Bhavya Lal: Indian-American Bhavya Lal was recently appointed by NASA as the Acting Chief of Staff of the US space agency.

She will be responsible for the day-to-day operations at NASA’s headquarters and will work towards shaping the strategic direction of the space agency.

Earlier, she served as a member of the Biden Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for the agency and oversaw the agency’s transition under the administration of President Joe Biden.

NASA: It is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. The Administrator of NASA is Jim Bridenstine and the Deputy Administrator of NASA is James Morhard.

Budget 2021-22 - Science and Technology: To strengthen the overall research ecosystem of the country, the Union Budget FY 2021-22 announced a slew of new initiatives to boost Innovation and R&D in the country. While presenting the Budget in Parliament today, Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, proposed initiatives covering digital payments, space sector and deep ocean explorations.

The key highlights of the initiatives are as follows:

National Research Foundation: The Finance Minister proposed an outlay of Rs 50,000 crore, spread over five years, for National Research Foundation.

Boost to digital payments: Rs 1,500 crore has been proposed for a scheme that will provide financial incentive to promote digital modes of payment and further boost digital transactions.

National Language Translation Mission (NTLM): A new initiative called National Language Translation Mission (NTLM) has been proposed that will digitise the wealth of governance-and-policy related knowledge on the Internet and be made available in major Indian languages.

Indias’ Space Sector: New Space India Limited (NSIL), a PSU under the Department of Space, will execute the PSLV-CS51 launch, carrying the Amazonia Satellite from Brazil, along with a few smaller Indian satellites.

Four Indian astronauts are also being trained on Generic Space Flight aspects, in Russia for the Gaganyaan Mission, slated to be launched for December 2021.

Deep Ocean Mission: To better understand the realm of Oceans Smt. Sitharaman proposed to launch a Deep Ocean Mission with a budget outlay of more than Rs 4,000 crores, over five years.

Vaccine Maitri Initiative: It is an initiative launched by India to gift COVID-19 vaccines to neighbouring countries. Under this initiative, Sri Lanka and Bahrain have recently received the COVID-19 vaccines from India.

The Vaccine Maitri initiative was launched by India on January 20 to gift COVID-19 vaccines to neighbouring countries.

About the initiative:

Sri Lanka has received 5 lakh Covid-19 vaccines from India and consignment of vaccines has also been sent to Bahrain. The country will receive 10,800 vaccines as a part of the “Vaccine Maitri” initiative.

Before Sri Lanka and Bahrain, under this initiative, India has already delivered over 5 million doses to 7 countries in the neighbourhood.

The 7 countries are-

  1. Nepal (1 million vaccines)
  2. Bangladesh (2 million vaccines)
  3. The Maldives (100,000 vaccines)
  4. Bhutan (150,000 vaccines)
  5. Myanmar (1.5 million vaccines)
  6. Mauritius (100,000 vaccines)
  7. Seychelles (50,000 vaccines)

Commercial supplies of Covishield have also been sent to Morocco, Brazil, (2 million doses each), and Bangladesh (5 million doses).

The COVID-19 vaccination programme started in India on January 16, 2021, with the two approved vaccines (Emergency-use) – Covaxin and Covishield.

In phase 1, health workers are being vaccinated followed by people who are above the age of 50 years.

Sunflower seed-sized chameleon: A team of scientists have recently found a sunflower seed-sized subspecies of a chameleon in Madagascar.

The scientists discovered two miniature lizards, one male and the other female. The male lizard dubbed Brookesia nana or nano-chameleon is merely 13.5 mm (0.53 inches) long. This is the smallest of all the roughly 11,500 known species of reptiles.

The researchers believe the male chameleon could be the tiniest reptile on the planet.

Einsteinium: A team of scientists at the Berkeley Lab recently reported some of the properties of element 99 in the periodic table called “Einsteinium”, named after Albert Einstein. This new study published in the journal Nature.

It is for the first time that the researchers have been able to characterise some of the properties of the element.

About Einsteinium:

  1. It was discovered in 1952 in the debris of the first hydrogen bomb (the detonation of a thermonuclear device called “Ivy Mike” in the Pacific Ocean).
  2. Since its discovery, scientists have not been able to perform a lot of experiments with it because it is difficult to create and is highly radioactive. Therefore, very little is known about this element.
  3. The most common isotope of the element, einsteinium 253 has a half-life of 20 days.
  4. It has been noted that due to high radioactivity of the element, most of it has decayed since the beginning of the Earth.
  5. The element is invisible to the naked eye.

This is the reason that it cannot be found in nature and needs to be manufactured using very precise and intense processes.

The discovery of the Einsteinium:

When Ivy Mike was detonated on November 1, 1952, as part of a test at a remote island location called Elugelab on the Eniwetok Atoll in the South Pacific, it produced an explosion that was about 500 times more destructive than the explosion that occurred at Nagasaki.

This isotope was identified by Albert Ghiorso and coworkers at Berkeley, California, in debris taken from the first thermonuclear (hydrogen bomb) explosion, “Ivy Mike,” in the South Pacific (November 1952).

The element was named after the German-born physicist Albert Einstein.

BL Lacertae: Indian Astronomers recently detected one of the strongest optical flares in one of the oldest astronomical objects that is a super massive black hole or blazar called BL Lacertae.

The analysis of the flare from this blazar which is one of the oldest astronomical objects can help trace the mass of the black hole and the source of this emission. It can also provide a lead to probe into mysteries and trace events at different stages of evolution of the Universe.

What are Blazers?

Blazars are feeding super-massive black (SMBH) holes in the heart of distant galaxies. Like other forms of active galactic nuclei (AGN), blazars are the most luminous and energetic objects in the known universe.

They emit jets of charged particles traveling nearly at the speed of light and are one of the most luminous and energetic objects in the Universe.

BL Lacertae blazar:

BL Lacertae blazar is situated 10 million light-years away and is among the 50 most prominent blazars that can be observed with the help of a relatively small telescope.

This blazar was predicted to be experiencing flares with the help of the Whole Earth Blazar Telescope (WEBT), an international consortium of astronomers.

The Blazers receive a lot of attention from the astronomical community because of their complicated emission mechanism.

ASIIM: It is an abbreviation for Ambedkar Social Innovation and Incubation Mission. The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India (GoI) recently launched ASIIM under Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Castes (VCF-SC) on 30th September 2020.

The main objective is to boost entrepreneurship and innovation among the SC students/SC Divyang youth.

Under this initiative, the companies/entrepreneurs owned by Scheduled Castes enrolled /registered with Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) are eligible to get maximum capital of Rs.30 lakhs over a period of 3 years i.e. Rs.10 lakhs every year.

Financial support of up to Rs.10 lakhs per year for a period of 3 years aggregating to Rs.30 Lakhs shall be provided to eligible applicants as equity funding.

Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Castes:

Venture Capital Fund is a Social Sector Initiative to be implemented nationally in order to promote entrepreneurship among the Scheduled Castes population in India.

“Entrepreneurship” relates to entrepreneurs managing businesses which are oriented towards innovation and growth technologies.

The spirit of the above mentioned fund is to support those entrepreneurs who will create wealth and value for society and at the same time promoting profitable business.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science: The day is observed globally on the 11th of February annually. The United Nations (UN) in December 2015 adopted a resolution to celebrate February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

The day is celebrated with an aim to recognize the critical role of women and girls play in science and technology. The day's purpose is to promote full and equal access to participation in science for women and girls

The day was celebrated for the first time in 2016.

The idea behind this day is to ensure equal participation and involvement of women and girls in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Recently, on the occasion of the International Day of Women & Young Girls in Science, the Ministry of Women & Child Development in association with Ministry of Education and MyGov, Ministry of Electronics and Information technology launched an online campaign to celebrate women in Science.

This campaign not only celebrates women who have carved a niche for themselves in the field of STEM but also encourages young girls who aspire to excel in STEM and contribute towards nation building. It honours young girls from across the country who have performed well in Maths and Science.

Mars Mission: The Chinese Tianwen-1 mission to Mars successfully entered Mars orbit on February 10, 2021, just one day after the United Arab Emirates mission Hope arrived at the red planet on February 9.

They’ll soon be followed by NASA’s Perseverance mission which is set to arrive and land on February 18.

Hope and Tianwen-1 thereby made their respective countries the 5th and 6th earthly cultures respectively to successfully reach the red neighboring planet, after the United States, India, the former Soviet Union and Europe (via the European Space Agency).

Both the Chinese and the American missions are robotic which consists of an orbiter, a lander and a rover. Both the missions aim to land on the surface of Mars whereas the Hope mission, carrying 3 instruments, including a high-resolution camera and a spectrometer, the spacecraft is on an orbital mission to collect data on Martian climate dynamics and help scientists understand why Mars’s atmosphere is decaying into space.

UAE Hope Mission: The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first mission to Mars entered the orbit of the red planet, seven months after the Emirati-built ‘Hope Probe’ was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-II A rocket.

The unmanned spacecraft is called ‘Al-Amal’ — the Arabic word for hope. The historic event was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the unification of the UAE’s seven emirates.

First announced in July 2014, the Mars Mission was developed and operated by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in collaboration with the University California, Berkeley, Arizona State University and the University of Colorado-Boulder in the United States.

Hope is the UAE’s fourth space mission and first interplanetary one. The previous three were all Earth-observation satellites. Its overall mission life is one Martian year, which is about 687 days on Earth.

Chinese Tianwen-1 mission: Tianwen-1 is China’s first Mars exploration mission. It is named after an ancient Chinese poem meaning Heavenly Questions. After traveling 292 million miles (470 million km) from Earth, the mission has entered a polar orbit around Mars on February 10, 2020.

Current Affairs in Science and Technology - January 2021

DRDO: It refers to the Defense Research Development Organization. The DRDO is an agency of the Government of India, charged with the military's research and development, headquartered in New Delhi, India. It was founded in 1958.

The Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) test fired the Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile (QRSAM) successfully. The test fire was conducted on 23 December 2019 at the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, off the Odisha coast.  The QRSAM was flight-tested with full configuration in deployment mode intercepting the target mid-air, meeting the mission objectives. The entire event was monitored by Ground Telemetry Systems, Range Radar Systems and Electro Optical Tracking System.

QRSAM: Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile System (QRSAM) is a Short Range Surface to Air Missile system designed to protect moving armored columns from aerial attacks. The entire weapon system is configured on highly mobile platforms and is capable of providing air defense on the move. It was developed by DRDO along with Bharat Electronics Limited for the Indian Army.

New Laser Technology: scientists in China have developed a new laser technology that is the 'space junk identification system' that can measure the space junk accurately. The researchers found a new way of using lasers to find space junk in a way similar to how bats use echolocation to track their prey. A unique set of algorithms for the laser ranging telescopes has improved the success rate of space debris detection. Laser ranging technique uses laser reflection from the objects to measure their distance. However, it has proved tricky to exactly pinpoint the swift, small specks of space Junk.

Space Junk: Earth is surrounded by space junk. This junk is formed from fragments of old satellites to exploded spacecraft. The clutter is a potential hazard for current and future spaceflight. Even small pieces of space junk can damage satellites and spacecraft as they whiz around Earth at up to about 17,500 mph. According to NASA uncountable debris is as small as a marble while millions are too small to be traced and some are just paint flecks from spacecraft. Even these very tiny particles have caused damage to the windows of the International Space Station.   

Annular eclipse: An annular solar eclipse happens when the Moon covers the Sun's center, leaving the Sun's visible outer edges to form a “ring of fire” or annulus around the Moon. The ring of fire marks the maximum stage of an annular solar eclipse.

The annular solar eclipse occured in 26 December 2019. The eclipse was witnessed by thousands of people, including children and the aged, especially in northern districts of Kerala, while in some places, due to the clouds, it was not visible. The rare spectacle was first visible at Cheruvathur in Kasaragod, in the state followed by places in Kozhikode and Kannur.

Hundreds of devotees also reached the Ganga Ghat in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi for a holy dip in the river and offered special prayers on the occasion of solar eclipse.

Russia: Russia, officially the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. Its Capital is Moscow. The currency used there is Russian ruble. The President of Russia is Vladimir Putin.

Russia has deployed its ‘world’s first’ unstoppable hypersonic nuclear weapon. Russia’s defense ministry stated that a new hypersonic weapon with latest strategic missiles of intercontinental range has become operational.

Avangard Hypersonic missile system: It is Russia’s first missile unit equipped with Avangard Hypersonic glide vehicle. It can carry a nuclear weapon of up to 2 megatons. It is designed using new composite materials to withstand temperatures of up to 2,000 Celsius resulting from a flight through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. The Avangard is ‘invulnerable to interception’ and can travel at 27 times the speed of sound, before unleashing a two megaton blast more than 100 times as powerful as the bomb which wiped out Hiroshima.

China: China, officially the People's Republic of China, is a country in East Asia and is the world's most populous country. Its capital is Beijing. The currency used there is Renminbi. The President of China is Xi Jinping.

China has successfully launched its largest carrier rocket “Long March-5“carrying the Shijian-20 satellite. The rocket was launched from Wenchang Space Launch Center (WSLC) in south China’s Hainan Province. The rocket is also known as CZ-5. It was China’s third attempt to launch the rocket.

The Shijian-20 satellite is a communication satellite and it was placed into its designated orbit. The satellite will lay the foundation for the development of highly sensitive space probes. It is China’s heaviest and most advanced communications satellite in geosynchronous orbit.

Christina Hammock Koch: She is an American engineer from Livingston, Montana and a NASA astronaut who is onboard the International Space Station (ISS) since 14 March 2019.

Christina Koch creates a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, surpassing the earlier record of 288 days in space. By the time she arrives back on Earth in February 2020, she will have spent more than 300 days in space. She has surpassed the earlier record of 288 days in space which was previously established by NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in 2017. Koch also has set another milestone as part of first all-female spacewalking team in October 2019 which was her 4th spacewalk.

The world record for the single longest mission by any space explorer whether man or woman, is held by cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who spent 438 consecutive days on board Russia’s former space station Mir from January 1994 to March 1995.

IIT Guwahati: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati researchers has developed materials that can produce energy from water, on a small scale in household environments to support the decentralization of energy sources.

IIT-G researchers used the nanoscale phenomenon called ‘Electrokinetic streaming potential’ to harvest energy from flowing water on a small length scale including water flowing through household water taps.

To extract power from stagnant water, devices by employing doped graphene flakes fabricated by them.The complementary charge transfer activities of doped graphene flakes based devices generate power just upon dipping in any kind of water source including lake, river or seawater.

A research team led by Dr. Kalyan Raidongia, Department of Chemistry, IIT Guwahati, along with his research team Jumi Deka, Suresh Kumar, Kundan Saha and Hemant Kumar Srivastava worked on this novel research. Their findings were recently published in ACS Applied Nanomaterials.

The generation of energy from water in various forms – river flow, ocean tides, stagnant water, and even raindrops, is now known as “blue energy”. While hydroelectric power from rivers is the traditional form of blue energy, there have been efforts to harness the power of water in other ways in recent years.

Thoothukdi: It is a place in Tamil Nadu where India’s second spaceport for launching small satellites would be located. Thoothukudi is about 600 km southeast of Chennai. ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) chief K Sivan announced it on 1 January 2020. The space center will be established in 2300 acres of land. According to the ISRO chief the new location is ideal for launching smaller satellites of less than 500 kg in the sun-synchronous orbit. The ISRO Chairman also announced that the Government has approved the Chandrayaan–3 mission to the moon, comprising of a lander and a rover. Gaganyaan is to be launched by 2022.

The country's first spaceport is at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, about 90 km northeast of Chennai.

Swarna Jayanti Fellowships: Swaran Jayanti Fellowships are awarded to young and brilliant scientists to pursue research with financial freedom and flexibility.

The Union Ministry of Science and Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan have awarded Swarna Jayanti Fellowships to 14 scientists. The award is conferred to them to pursue basic research in frontier areas of science and technology. The fellowship covers all the requirements for performing the research and includes a fellowship of 25 thousand rupees per month. A research grant of 5 lakh rupees for 5 years is also being provided in addition to their salary.

DRDO: It refers to Defence Research Development Organization. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday dedicated the five Young Scientists Laboratories of Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to the nation at a function held at Aeronautical Development Establishment. It is here that Former President Abdul Kalam had joined DRDO. The labs will give wings to thoughts and action to young scientists.

US Space Force: The United States Space Force is the space operations service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. It is one of the eight U.S. uniformed services. It is the sixth branch of the U.S. military, and the youngest as well as the first new armed service since the establishment of the independent U.S. Air Force in 1947. It was founded on 20 December 2019 and its Commander-in Chief is President Donald Trump. It is headquartered in the Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia, United States.

The President of United States Donald Trump has signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act which authorizes the establishment of US Space Force. The Space Force would be part of the Department of the Air Force. The launch of the Space Force which will be led by Air Force General Jay Raymond will be funded initially an amount of $40m for its first year.

HSFC: It is an acronym for Human Space Flight Centre. HSFC is a body under ISRO to coordinate Indian Human Spaceflight Programme. The HSFC was formally announced in January 2019. Currently it works from a temporary place at the ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru, Karnataka.

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has proposed 2,700-crore master plan to create top infrastructure that will house its young Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) which will become the single-stop consolidating infrastructure and activities related to space travelers. This was announced by ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space K Sivan on 6 January 2020. This astronaut hub will be established Challakere, Chitradurga district of Karnataka. The expensive facility for training astronauts will be established on 400 acres of land. After establishing the centre, everything connected with events and planning of the Human Spaceflight Programme (HSP) will be moved to the Challakere campus. The facility is expected to become operational in 3 years. Challakere is also known as Science City and houses ISRO facilities and those of the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Advanced Aeronautical Test Range, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Indian Institute of Science.

The main aim of ISRO is to establish a self-contained training facility here and bring all the features that are provided by Russia and begin training astronauts within the country as India is all set to send its first manned mission Gaganyaan into space. ISRO In July 2019 had signed a deal with Russia’s Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of the state-run Roscosmos State Corporation to help with training and provide support in conducting medical examinations of the astronauts. At present, India is paying a huge sum to Russia for the training of the first set of four astronaut candidates for the first Gaganyaan mission of 2022. Currently, HSP work is split across various centres like Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram and the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru.

Goldilocks Zone: It is a Zone that refers to the habitable zone around a star where the temperature is just right which is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to exist on an planet. Scientists are always looking for planets in the Goldilocks Zone to hone in their search for Earth-like planets that could contain life.

For the first time, American space agency NASA's planet-hunter satellite Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered an Earth-sized world within the habitable range of stars, which could allow the presence of liquid water. The newfound exoplanet named "TOI 700 d", is relatively close to Earth- only 100 light-years away. This new found exoplanet has become a good place for the scientists for their follow-up observations by other instruments.

TESS: It refers to Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. It is NASA's planet hunter satellite. It was designed and launched specifically to find Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby stars. It was launched in April 2018. The satellite hunts for planets using the "transit method," looking for telltale dips in stellar brightness caused by orbiting worlds crossing stars' faces from the satellite's perspective.

As per the reports of astronomers, based on Kepler space mission data in November 2013, there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs in the Milky Way, 11 billion of which may be orbiting Sun-like stars. Kelper is NASA's space telescope.

Dwarf galaxies: A dwarf galaxy is a small galaxy composed of about 100 million up to several billion stars, a small number compared to the Milky Way's 200–400 billion stars.

Recently, astronomers have found massive blackholes near the Dwarf galaxies. These black holes are more than 100 times smaller than our own Milky Way and are apparently 400,000 times the mass of our Sun. The scientists by studying these black holes and the differences of the black holes in the larger and smaller galaxies are hoping to know about the evolution of Black holes from the earlier times.

DFI: It refers to the Drone Federation of India. The DFI is an association of UAV industry players that acts as a central agency for drone powered businesses and operations across the country. It is a non-profit industry-led body that promotes and strives towards building a safer and scalable Drone industry in India.

The DFI on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Amazon Web Services (AWS) with an aim to boost India's drone ecosystem. As per the MoU, AWS will become the preferred partner for providing cloud service to drone companies. DFI will also establish a drone innovation and operations hub in the country to support drone-based innovation using AWS cloud services. The hub will work towards helping drone companies to develop their applications and stay up to date in evolving technologies.

Drosophilia: Drosophilia is a genus of flies, belonging to the family Drosophilidae, whose members are often called "small fruit flies" or pomace flies, vinegar flies, or wine flies, a reference to the characteristic of many species to linger around overripe or rotting fruit. This fruit-fly Drosophila melanogaster is widely used in scientific and medical research. As these flies genetically bear a strong resemblance with human genes as per the studies of experts it has been extensively studied for over a century as a model organism for genetic investigations. It also has many characteristics which make it an ideal organism for the study of animal development and behavior, neurobiology, and human genetic diseases and conditions. Its importance for human health was recognised more recently by the award of the Nobel prize for medicine in 1995, for work on the genetic control of early embryonic development

Recently, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) organized the 5th Asia Pacific Drosophila Research Conference in Pune, Maharashtra. The conference is held twice a year. Two Nobel laureates, Eric Wieschaus and Michael Rosbash, renowned for their work in development biology and chronobiology respectively, will be among the 100 international and 330 Indian participants in this five-day conference. The event is the largest meet of Drosophila researchers in the whole world. The main objective if this event is to promote interaction between the Drosophila researchers in the region of Asia-Pacific and also act as a common platform to link the Asia-Pacific researchers with other parts of the world.

China: China has launched the world's largest and most sensitive single-dish radio telescope.

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) is a single-dish telescope with a diameter of half a kilometer and a receiving area equivalent to about 30 football fields and has double the collecting power of the Arecibo. It is located in a naturally deep and round karst depression in southwest China's Guizhou Province. It is also known by the name “Sky Eye” in China.

The telescope will gradually open to astronomers around the globe, providing them with a powerful tool to uncover the mysteries surrounding the genesis and evolutions of the universe.

After its commissioning, FAST can now be used for observation at full capacity, and is expected to make a number of major scientific discoveries in the coming two or three years.

NASA: It is an acronym for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA is an independent agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

NASA’s Artemis mission: Under the Artemis program, NASA wants to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before.

ARTEMIS: It is an acronym for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun. The mission is named Artemis after the Greek goddess of the Moon Artiemis. With this mission NASA aims to establish a lunar outpost, investigate the Moon’s resources and how they might be exploited, inspire a new generation and encourage careers in STEM and broaden commercial and international partnerships

GSAT-30 satellite: GSAT-30 is a communication satellite of India which is configured on ISRO’s enhanced I-3K Bus structure to provide communication services from Geostationary orbit in C and Ku bands. The satellite derives its heritage from ISRO’s earlier INSAT/GSAT satellite series and is equipped with 12 C and 12 Ku band transponders. GSAT-30 is to serve as replacement to the “aging” INSAT-4A spacecraft services with enhanced coverage. It was recently launched onboard Arianne 5 rocket from French Guiana successfully. The satellite aims to provide high- quality television, telecommunications and broadcasting services. The satellite provides Indian mainland and islands coverage in Ku-band and extended coverage in C-band covering Gulf countries, a large number of Asian countries and Australia.

Seismic Hazard Microzonation: In most general terms, seismic microzonation is the process of estimating the response of soil layers under earthquake excitations and thus the variation of earthquake characteristics on the ground surface. This necessitates the development of microzonation maps for big cities for detailed seismic hazard analysis.

The Ministry of Earth Science under the Government of India (GoI) has launched “Seismic Hazard Microzonation” to minimize the hazards of seismic activities by putting in adequate measures.

So far, microzonation has been done in the state of Sikkim and in the cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Guwahati, Jabalpur, Dehradun, Ahmedabad and Gandhidham.

Japan is the best example where microzonation techniques are well implemented.

Vigyan Samagam: It is India's first global Mega Science Exhibition. is being hosted in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Delhi from May 2019 to March 2020.

The Union Minister of State (I/C) Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, Dr. Jitendra Singh inaugurated multi-venue mega-science exhibition being held at National Science Centre, New Delhi on 21 January 2020. It is being jointly organized by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM). The exhibition brings several collaborative mega-science projects under one roof.

The main aim of the exhibition is to showcase India’s contribution to some of the biggest international collaborations on fundamental science and research undertaken by Units and Institutions of DAE and DST. It also provides a common interactive platform for mega-science activities, industry, academia and institutions.

(HCFC)-141b: Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-141b is one of the most powerful ozone-depleting chemicals after Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). It is mainly used as a blowing agent in the foam manufacturing industries to produce rigid polyurethane (PU) foams.

India has successfully completed the phasing out of Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-141b, used by foam manufacturing companies and one of the most potent ozone-depleting chemicals. HCFC-141b is not produced in India and all the domestic requirements are met through imports.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued a notification for the prohibition of HCFC-141b from Jan 1st, 2020 under the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Amendment Rules, 2019 issued under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. This was achieved through the ministry’s HCFC Phase out Management Plan (HPMP).

Under the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Amendment Rules, 2014, the use of the chemical by foam manufacturing industry was also closed as on 1st January, 2020.

India is one of the few countries globally and a pioneer in some cases that use technologies, which are non-Ozone Depleting and have a low Global Warming Potential (GWP). India has now fully prohibited the import of HCFC-141 b.

Ozone: The ozone layer or ozone shield is a region of Earth's stratosphere. It occurs naturally in small amounts in the upper atmosphere of the earth. It protects life on earth from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation by absorbing most of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation. It contains high concentration of ozone in relation to other parts of the atmosphere, although still small in relation to other gases in the stratosphere.

ISRO: It refers to Indian Space Research Organization. ISRO is the space agency of the Government of India. It is headquartered in the city of Bengaluru. It was founded by Vikram Sarabhai in 15 August 1969. Its vision is to "harness space technology for national development while pursuing space science research & planetary exploration. The current Director of ISRO is Kailasavadivoo Sivan.

ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) is to send a half-humanoid robot called the “Vyom Mitra” as an experimental mission to Gaganyaan. The robot Vyom Mitra was introduced by ISRO at the “Human Space Flight and Exploration-Present Challenges and Future Trends” seminar that was held in Bengaluru. Robot Vyom Mitra with the capablility of conversing with astronauts, recognizing them, and responding to their queries will be placed in the first unmanned mission under ‘Gaganyaan’ that are planned in December 2020 and in June 2021.

Vyom Mitra: She is half-humanoid robot and her body stops at the torso and has no legs. The Sanskrit name Vyom Mitra means a friend in sky. It is designed at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvanantha-puram. The robot can communicate in two languages - Hindi and English. It can mimic human activities such as recognizing other humans and responding to their queries. The robot not only can handle switch panel operations but it is also capable of providing air pressure change warnings.

Gaganyaan Mission: Gaganyaan is India's manned space mission which the ISRO aims to launch by December 2021. The project aims at sending the astronauts to a lower orbit of the earth and the spacecraft will have a capsule with adequate supply of oxygen and other essential material and facilities for the astronauts.

Indian flight surgeons for the ambitious human space mission Gaganyaan will be trained by France as per the announcement made on 21st January 2020. France is to train Indian flight surgeons to enable them to monitor the health of astronauts selected for the human space mission Gaganyaan. The training will be given for two-week. It is a critical aspect of the Gaganyaan project that is aimed at sending three Indians to space by 2022. The flight surgeons are the Indian Air Force (IAF) doctors specializing in aviation medicines who will be responsible for the health of astronauts before, during and after the flight.

France not only has a well-established mechanism for space medicine but also has the MEDES space clinic, a subsidiary of CNES, where space surgeons undergo training. The 4 shortlisted astronauts all test pilots from the IAF are currently in Russia for an 11-month training programme.

Naegleria fowleri: It is a single celled amoeba. It is also called the brain-eating Amoeba. It is usually found in warm fresh water. However, the climatic changes have helped the amoeba to spread even during winter. It multiplies rapidly at forty-six degree Celsius.

The amoeba is usually found in rivers, lakes and causes infection called Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis. It is also called PAM and can be fatal

Recently, Naegleria fowleri has been in news because this amoeba is now rapidly spreading in the US. The news comes after a mysterious disease called Eluru was discovered in the districts of Andhra Pradesh.

PAM: It stands for Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis. The symptoms of PAM start to occur after 24 hours the amoeba entered the human body. The most common early symptom of the infection is head ache. The other symptoms are dizziness, stiff neck, vomiting, fever, nausea, seizures, etc.

The amoeba enters the human body through nose. It reaches the brain from the nose, where it feeds on the brain tissues. The unique fact about the amoeba is that it does not cause harm to the human body if it enters through the mouth. Thus, a person does not get infected by PAM by drinking contaminated water.

The Amoeba enters the human body from inadequately chlorinated swimming pools, contaminated tap water.

FAST: It refers to the Five Hundred Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope. FAST is the world's largest Radio Telescope. China recently announced that it is opening its Five Hundred Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope to international scientists.

About FAST: The telescope FAST nicknamed Tianyan (Eye of Heaven) was completed in 2016. It was built at a cost 175 million USD. It displaced thousands of villagers. It is located in the Dawodang depression.  The Dawodang depression is a natural basin in Guizhou, southwest China.

It is located in a natural sinkhole which was formed due to erosion.

FAST has a fixed 500 m (1,600 ft) diameter dish constructed in a natural depression in the landscape. It is the world's largest filled-aperture radio telescope and the second-largest single-dish aperture, after the sparsely-filled RATAN-600 in Russia.

The telescope has a reflecting surface of 500-metres in diameter of which only a circle of 300 metres diameter can be used at one time.

It has super sensitivity to detect cosmic phenomena.

This includes radio bursts and pulsars as well.

The science objectives of FAST are Pulsar Observations,Large Scale Neutral Hydrogen survey, Detection of Interstellar molecules, Pulsar Timing Arrays, Detecting Interstellar Communication signals and Leading International very long baseline interferometry network.

Digital Ocean: It is web-based application “Digital Ocean (www.do.incois.gov.in)” developed by INCOIS of M/o Earth sciences. Digital Ocean was recently inaugurated by the Union Minister of Earth Sciences, Science & Technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan.

Digital Ocean, a first of its kind digital platform for Ocean Data Management has been developed by Hyderabad-based Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) an autonomous organization under M/o Earth sciences. Digital Ocean is a first of its kind digital platform for Ocean Data Management.

Highlights of Digital Ocean:

  1. It is a step towards Prime Minister’s vision of Digital India, to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.
  2. It includes a set of applications developed to organize and present heterogeneous oceanographic data by adopting rapid advancements in geospatial technology.
  3. It will serve as a one-stop-solution for all the data related to the ocean.
  4. It facilitates an online interactive web-based environment for data integration, 3D and 4D data visualization, data analysis to assess the evolution of oceanographic features, data fusion and multi-format download of disparate data from multiple sources
  5. It will help to share knowledge about the ocean with a wide range of users including research institutions, operational agencies, maritime industry, strategic users, academic community and policy makers. Digital Ocean also provides free access to information to the general public and the common man.
  6. It seeks to play a central role in sustainable management of our oceans and expanding our ‘Blue Economy’ initiatives.
  7. It will be promoted as a platform for capacity building on Ocean Data Management for all Indian Ocean Rim countries.

Note: The Indian Ocean Rim Association is composed of 14 members. They are India, Bangladesh, Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Kenya, Iran, Malaysia, Madagascar, Singapore, South Africa, Maldives, Oman, Mozambique, Australia, Indonesia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, UAE, Yemen and Thailand.

BARC: It is an acronym for Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. BARC is India's premier nuclear research facility, headquartered in Trombay, Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is a multi-disciplinary research centre with extensive infrastructure for advanced research and development covering the entire spectrum of nuclear science, engineering and related areas. Previously, the Government of India (GoI) created the Atomic Energy Establishment, AEET with Homi J. Bhabha (also known as the "Father of Indian Nuclear Programme"), as the founding director on 3 January 1954. After Homi Jehangir Bhabha's death in 1966, the centre was renamed as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre on 22 January 1967. 

Recently, BARC has developed Eye Cancer therapy in the form of the first indigenous Ruthenium 106 Plaque for treatment of Ocular Tumours.

The handling of plaque is very convenient for the Surgeon and it has been acknowledged to be at par with the international standards.

So far the BARC plaques made in India through the Department of Atomic Energy have been used for seven cases for Ocular Cancer.

Ocular tumors: Ocular tumors are tumors inside the eye. They are collections of cells that grow and multiply abnormally and form masses.

Ruthenium-106: Ruthenium-106 is a radioactive form of the rare heavy metal ruthenium, which is a "platinum group" metal similar to platinum.

It is produced from the fission or splitting of uranium-235, the type of uranium used in nuclear fission reactors, so it's found in spent nuclear fuel.

It is used in medicine for cancer radiation therapy, especially for skin and eye tumours. It is also used in radioisotope thermoelectric generators that power satellites.

Proxima Centauri: Proxima Centauri is a small, low-mass star located 4.2 light-years away from the Sun. It is considered a close distance in cosmic terms. This object was discovered in 1915 by Robert Innes and is the nearest-known star to the Sun. Its mass is about an eighth of the Sun’s, and it is too dim to be seen with the naked eye from Earth.

Recently, astronomers running the world’s largest initiative at the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project, started by the legendary physicist Stephen Hawking picked up an “intriguing” radio wave emission from the direction of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Sun.

The news has sparked renewed interest in Proxima Centauri, one of whose planets is believed to revolve in the star’s habitable zone, giving rise to the possibility that it could have, or does, sustain life.

QRNG: It refers to Quantum Random Number Generator. The DRDO Young Scientist Laboratory for Quantum Technologies (DYSL-QT), a DRDO facility based in Mumbai, has recently developed a QRNG. It has the ability to detect random quantum events and convert those into a stream of binary digits.

The facility has developed a fiber-optic branch path based QRNG.

The branch path based QRNG is based on the principle that if a single photon falls on a balanced beam splitter, it will take either of the beam-splitter output paths randomly

As the path chosen by photon is random, the randomness is translated to sequence of binary digits, also called bits.

QRNG system developed by the laboratory has passed the global randomness testing standards including NIST and Die-harder Statistical Test Suites at the speed of ~150 kbps after post-processing.

With this development India has entered the club of countries who have the technology to achieve the generation of random numbers based on the Quantum phenomenon.

Random Numbers: Random numbers play an important role in many fields, such as quantum communication, scientific simulation, cryptography (key generation, key packaging, identity verification, etc.), lotteries and fundamental physics experiments.

The generation of genuine randomness is generally considered impossible with classical means. Quantum mechanics has the inherent potential to provide real random numbers, so it has become the first choice for scientific applications that require randomness.

DYSL-QT: It is one of the five YSLs (Young Scientist Laboratories) of the DRDO which are working on five different technologies.

The other four facilities are:

  1. Cognitive Technologies (DYSL-CT) Chennai
  2. Artificial Intelligence (DYSL-AI) Bengaluru
  3. Asymmetric Technologies (DYSL-AT) Kolkata
  4. Smart Materials (DYSL-SM) Hyderabad.

These 5 facilities were dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister in January this year.

Advanced Biodigester MK-II Technology: A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU0 was recently inked  between Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (MAHA –METRO) through which DRDO will render technical support for the implementation of its advanced biodigester Mk-II technology for the treatment of human waste (night soil) in the metro rail network.

The DRDO and MAHA –METRO are working together to conserve water and protect the environment by installing DRDO's eco-friendly biodigester units (a non-sewered sanitation technology) in its facilities.

This biodigester by DRDO is an indigenous, green and cost-effective technology, with a rare distinction of having one of the largest numbers of DRDO-licensees (ToT holders).

Around 2.40 lakh biodigesters have already been installed by Indian Railways in its fleet of passenger coaches.

As for now, the technology for MAHA-METRO has been revamped and further improved in a bid to save the water and space.

40th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica: India recently launched 40th scientific expedition to Antarctica.

This Indian expedition which marks four decades of country’s scientific endeavor to the southern white continent was flagged off from Goa on January 5, 2021, with 43 members onboard.

The chartered ice-class vessel MV Vasiliy Golovnin made this journey and will reach Antarctica in 30 days. After leaving behind a team of 40 members, it would return to India in April 2021.

On return, it will also bring back the winter team of the preceding trip.

Note: The Indian Antarctic expeditions began in 1981. The first trip comprised of a team of 21 scientists and support staff led by Dr SZ Qasim. The Indian Antarctic programme has built three permanent research base stations in Antarctica—named Dakshin Gangotri, Maitri, and Bharati.

At present, India has two operational research stations in Antarctica named Maitri and Bharati.

The entire Indian Antarctic program is managed by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa.

The main aim of planning this expedition is to provide support to the ongoing scientific projects on geology, climate change, electric and magnetic flux measurements, ocean observations, environmental monitoring. This mission will also felicitate the return journey of winter crew by resupplying the of fuel and food.

The expedition will strictly follow all the required protocols for the deployment of materials and men as per COMNAP.

COMNAP is the abbreviation for Council of Managers of National Antarctic Program.

NIP: It refers to the National Innovation Portal. The Union Minister for Science & Technology Dr. Harsh Vardhan recently dedicated an Innovation Portal, developed by National Innovation Foundation (NIF) - India, an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India (GoI), to the nation.

NIP is currently home to about 1.15 lakh innovations scouted from common people of the country, covering Engineering, Agriculture, Veterinary and Human Health.

At present, in terms of domain areas, the innovations cover Energy, mechanical, automobile, electrical, electronics, household, chemical, civil, textiles, Farm / cultivation practice, storage practice, plant variety, plant protection, poultry, livestock management, nutraceuticals etc.

Innovation Portal is a step towards Atmanirbhar Bharat and an excellent resource for students, entrepreneurs, MSME’s, Technology Business Incubators (TBI’s) and common people engaged in a variety of occupations.

CSIR-NIScPR: The Union Minister of Science & Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan recently inaugurated a new institute of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) i.e. CSIR-National Institute of Science Communication and Policy Research (CSIR-NIScPR), in New Delhi.

The new institute has been established consequent to the merger of two prestigious institutes of CSIR namely, CSIR-National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (CSIR-NISCAIR) and CSIR-National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (CSIR-NISTADS).

CSIR-NIScPR will serve the society with its core areas of science communication and policy research which has proved to be so important during the Covid19 pandemic.

The VISION of the institute is to become a globally respected Think Tank and Resource Centre for understanding Science, Technology & Innovation (STI) Policy Research and Communication. It aims to promote STI policy studies and science communication among diverse stakeholders.

Vanadium: Arunachal Pradesh is likely to become India’s prime producer of vanadium. The Geological Survey of India (GSI) found promising concentrations of vanadium in the palaeo-proterozoic carbonaceous phyllite rocks in the Depo and Tamang areas of Papum Pare district in Arunachal Pradesh.

This was the first report of a primary deposit of vanadium in India, with an average grade of 0.76% V2O5 [vanadium pentoxide].

Vanadium mineralization in Arunachal Pradesh is geologically similar to the “stone coal” vanadium deposits of China hosted in carbonaceous shale. This high vanadium content is associated with graphite, with a fixed carbon content of up to 16%.

Indian scenario: India is a significant consumer of vanadium, but is not a primary producer of the strategic metal. According to data provided by the GSI, India consumed 4% of about 84,000 tonnes of vanadium produced across the globe in 2017.

Global scenario: The largest deposits of vanadium of the world are in China, followed by Russia and South Africa. China, which produces 57% of the world’s vanadium, consumed 44% of the metal in 2017.

Vanadium: Vanadium is a by-product obtained from the processing of Vanadiferous magnetite ores. In its pure form, Vanadium is soft, ductile and grey in colour. It is a chemical element with the symbol V and atomic number 23.

It is a hard, silvery-grey, malleable transition metal which is rarely found in nature. It is recovered as a by-product from the slag collected from the processing of vanadiferous magnetite ores (iron ore).

Vanadium is a high-value metal used in strengthening steel and titanium. The addition of the alloy improves the tensile strength of steel and of the reinforcing bars that are used for tunnels, buildings, and bridges. The alloys made of vanadium are durable in extreme environments and temperatures and are also corrosion-resistant.

 

Geo-Hazard Management: Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) recently entered into a framework MoU with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to strengthen collaboration in the field of technical exchange and co-operation on sustainable geo-hazard management.

The MoU was signed by Secretary MoRTH Mr. Giridhar Aramane and Secretary DRDO Dr. Satieesh Reddy.

DRDO is an apex organization of our country working on various cutting-edge technologies while Defence Geo-Informatics Research Establishment (DGRE), a premier laboratory of DRDO, is leader in the development of critical technologies for enhancing combat effectiveness with a focus on terrain and avalanches.

The role and charter of DGRE is mapping, forecasting, monitoring, control and mitigation of landslides and avalanches in Himalayan terrain.

MoRTH is responsible for development & maintenance of National Highways across the country.   

It has been agreed by both the organizations that the expertise of DGRE will be utilized in providing sustainable mitigation measures to damages caused by landslides, avalanche and other natural factors on various National Highways in the Country.

The areas of collaboration are as follows:

  • Planning, designing and formulation of sustainable mitigation measures for geo-hazards for NHs including tunnels.
  • Detailed investigation of the existing critical avalanches/geo hazards such as landslides, slope instability, sinking problems etc.
  • Supervision or monitoring during implementation of the mitigation measures.
  • Any other services, as may be required.

MeerKAT Radio Telescope: Astronomers using the MeerKAT radio telescope at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory in Cape Town, South Africa, recently discovered two giant radio galaxies (GRGs). The galaxies, named MGTC J095959.63+024608.6 and MGTC J100016.84+015133.0, were discovered under the MIGHTEE (MeerKAT International GHz Tiered Extragalactic Exploration) survey.

The findings of this new discovery have been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

These two new radio galaxies with sizes of more than 6.5 million light-years, are 62 times larger than the Milky Way. Light takes 6.5 million light years to travel from one end to the other.

About MeerKAT Radio Telescope: MeerKAT, originally the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT) is the world’s biggest radio telescope and is located in Northern Cape of South Africa. It is a radio telescope consisting of 64 antennas. It was designed to detect and map radio-frequency signals coming from the furthest reaches of the universe.

It will address key questions of astrophysics such as how did the galaxies evolve, how are the galaxies formed, etc. It is built in the semi-desert Karoo region of Northern Cape.

It is operated by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) and has been operational since July 2018.  It is one of the four precursors to the final Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The array configuration of MeerKAT Radio Telescope has 61% of antennas located within one kilo metre diameter circle and the remaining 39% is distributed to a radius of four kilo metres.

SKA: The SKA is an intergovernmental radio telescope project built in South Africa and Australia. If built as planned, it should be able to survey the sky more than ten thousand times faster than before.

The receiving stations of SKA are to extend out to a distance of 3,000 kilometres. The four precursor facilities of the project are as follows:

  1. MeerKAT
  2. Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA) in South Africa
  3. Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP).
  4. Murchison Widefield Array in Western Australia

The SKA will be built in the Southern Hemisphere in Karoo region in South Africa and the Murchison Shire region in Australia for technical and scientific reasons. The atmosphere above the deserts are favourable with clear sky and also the view of the Milky Way Galaxy is the best and radio interference is at its least.

The headquarters of the project are located at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK

590 MW of Solar Power Plant: France and Spain have recently signed an agreement to build 590 MW of solar power plant. It will be the largest solar power plant in Europe. The agreement was signed between Danone of France and Iberdrola of Spain.

The 364 million USD project is to be located in the western province of Caceres located in Spain.The solar power plant is to supply power to 375,000 people per year. It will avoid emission of 245,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide.

The project is to begin supplying power in 2022.

Spain: According to a BloombergNEF report, Spain, at present is  Europe’s busiest subsidy-free photo-voltaic market, and leads the sector’s booming growth in the region. It commissioned 2.9 GW in 2020, four times the 729 MW of capacity added in 2019.

France: A target to installing 18 to 20 gigawatt of solar power by 2023 has been set by France. In 2016, France as well as India laid the foundation of International Solar Alliance (ISA). Though France is not a country located in the tropics, it joined hands with India in ISA mainly because the Solar Alliance was framed and announced at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015 (the Paris agreement conference) hosted by France.

Aim of ISA: The main aim of International Solar Alliance (ISA) is to bring about major decrease in cost of solar energy. This is to be achieved by involving countries rich in solar energy, that is, those countries that are located between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.

Solar Energy of India: India has set a target of achieving 100 gigawatt of solar power by 2022 and has been increasing its solar power capacity. As of November 2020, the installed solar power of India was 36.9 GW. India has established 42 solar parks to make land available to the promoters of solar plants.

Signal: Signal is a cross-platform centralized encrypted messaging service developed by the Signal Technology Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC.

The non-profit Signal Foundation was launched in 2018 with initial funding of $50 million from Brian Acton. It uses the Internet to send one-to-one and group messages, which can include files, voice notes, images and videos. It can also be used to make one-to-one and group voice and video calls.

Signal uses standard cellular telephone numbers as identifiers and secures all communications to other Signal users with end-to-end encryption.

Recently, Signal saw a surge in new user registrations. The reason for this surge was due to a WhatsApp privacy policy.

 Facebook-owned WhatsApp recently updated its privacy policy. This privacy policy triggered a mass digital migration of users from the messaging platform to its rivals. The switch gained momentum after the Elon Musk and Edward Snowden urged their followers on Twitter to install the Signal app.

Anveshak: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) have developed a software platform from which apps and algorithms can intelligently track and analyze video feeds from cameras spread across cities. Such analysis will not only prove to be useful for tracking missing persons or objects, but also useful for “smart city” initiatives such as automated traffic control.

Key Features of the Platform:

Yogesh Simmhan, Associate Professor in the Department of Computational and Data Sciences (CDS), and his team developed ‘Anveshak’, which not only runs these tracking models efficiently, but also plugs in advanced computer vision tools and intelligently adjust different parameters, such as a camera network’s search radius, in real time.

Anveshak can be used to track an object across a 1,000-camera network. A key feature of the platform is that it allows a tracking model or algorithm to focus only on feeds from certain cameras along an expected route, and tune out other feeds.

Anveshak will be useful not only for tracking missing persons or objects, but also for “smart city” initiatives such as automated traffic control.