SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CURRENT AFFAIRS SEPTEMBER 2016

PSLV-C35 places SCATSAT-1, seven other satellites in orbit

  • Isro’s PSLV-C35 places SCATSAT-1, seven other satellites in orbit in longest ever launch mission
  • It is for the first time that satellites were placed in two different orbits with a single rocket.
  • The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C35) carrying the eight satellites took off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 9.12am. Around 17 minutes later, SCATSAT-1, the main payload of PSLV in its 37th flight, was placed in the polar sun synchronous orbit at an altitude of about 730km.
  • SCATSAT-1, which will provide weather forecast including cyclone detection and tracking, will succeed the now defunct Oceansat-2 satellite launched in 2009.
  • Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar said SCATSAT-1 would be a stop gap arrangement between Oceansat-1 and Oceansat-2.
  • After the first satellite injection, PSLV-C35 coasted for an hour before its fourth-stage engine was reignited and shut down, for about 20 seconds. This provided the rocket the necessary thrust to coast into the polar orbit at an altitude of 689km.
  • Again, after an hour, the engine was restarted and cut off within a period of about one minute for it to further coast. It then began injecting the rest of the satellites.
  • They included two satellites developed by educational institutions — Pratham from IIT-Bombay and Pisat from PES University, Bangalore, and its consortium — and five other commercial satellites from Algeria, Canada and the US.
  • The challenge in the launch was igniting and shutting down the fourth-stage engine, called multiple burn technology, twice within a short span of time in a cold and low-gravity environment and letting it coast further.
  • Isro demonstrated the technology in its two previous PSLV launches – PSLV-C34 in June 2016 and PSLV-C29 in December 2015. But the trickiest part was to cool down the engine between two restarts and protect the rocket and satellites from the heat generated when the engine is operational.
  • Mastering the technology meant that Isro can accommodate satellites meant for different orbits in a single rocket thereby saving costs. Earlier, they had to build separate rockets to be flown to different orbits. It would cost around Rs 120 crore on an average to build a PSLV.
  • Placing satellites in different orbits will also facilitate launching more such commercial satellites in the future.

Health Ministry launches the biggest Leprosy Case Detection Campaign in the country

  • In a bid to eradicate Leprosy from India, Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has launched the biggest Leprosy Case Detection Campaign (LCDC) in the country across 149 districts of 19 states/UTs
  • The states and UTs covered in this campaign are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Delhi and Lakshadweep.
  • The districts having a prevalence rate of more than one case per 10,000 population in any of the last three years have been included in this campaign.

Leprosy Case Detection Campaign

  • The Leprosy Case Detection Campaign is a unique initiative of its kind in the world where each and every member of the targeted population will be examined. This is a fortnight-long
  • Objective –
    • Early detection of leprosy in affected persons
    • so that they can be saved from physical disability and deformity
    • by providing them timely treatment and
    • thus also halting the transmission of disease at the community level.
  • It will cover 1656 blocks/urban areas of these districts and screen a total of 32 crore people for leprosy.
  • For this purpose, 297604 teams comprising of one lady ASHA worker and one male volunteer each would visit every house in their allotted area and
  • screen all the family members for leprosy.
  • House to house visits will be done by the search team as per the micro plan prepared for the local area to detect hidden and undetected leprosy cases.
  • The first LCDC was launched during March-April 2016 in 50 districts of 7 states covering a population of about 6.8 crores. During this campaign 65427 suspected cases were identified out of which 4120 were later confirmed.

A new handheld device to detect melamine in milk

  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore have developed a handheld melamine detector. With this detecting melamine in milk is expected to become easy, quick and inexpensive.

Method of detection

  • In this method, leaf extract of a commonly seen weed parthenium along with silver nitrate is used for detecting the presence of melamine in milk. With this technique, the presence of melamine in milk can be detected at room temperature within a few seconds through a change in colour
  • Prior to melamine detection, the milk is processed to remove fat and proteins as they tend to interfere with detection.
  • The change in colour depends on the amount of melamine present and, therefore, the extent of its interference with the synthesis of silver nanoparticles. The colour change can be directly observed by the naked eye and also recorded by spectral change.
  • The silver nanoparticles are reddish yellow in the absence of melamine, while it becomes nearly colourless when melamine is present. Light absorption at 414 nm wavelength is a signature of silver nanopartciles. But when melamine is present the absorption of light is reduced as nanoparticle formation decreases.

Why be concerned about Melamine in milk?

  • Melamine is an organic base chemical most commonly found in the form of white crystals rich in nitrogen.
  • Melamine content of more than 1 ppm in infant formula and more than 2.5 ppm in other foods should be viewed with suspicion of adulteration.
  • Melamine is widely used in plastics, adhesives, countertops, dishware, whiteboards.
  • The addition of melamine increases the nitrogen content of the milk and therefore its apparent protein content.
  • However, addition of melamine into food is not approved by the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius (food standard commission), or by any national authorities.

What are the health effects of melamine consumptions in humans?

  • While there are no direct human studies on the effect of melamine data from animal studies can be used to predict adverse health effects. Melamine alone causes bladder stones in animal tests. When combined with cyanuric acid, which may also be present in melamine powder, melamine can form crystals that can give rise to kidney stones.
  • These small crystals can also block the small tubes in the kidney potentially stopping the production of urine, causing kidney failure and, in some cases, death.
  • Melamine has also been shown to have carcinogenic effects in animals in certain circumstances, but there is insufficient evidence to make a judgment on carcinogenic risk in humans.

MICA Missile Firing by ‘TIGER’ Squadron of IAF

  • The Tiger Squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has successfully fired the recently acquired BVR (Beyond Visual Range) air-to-air MICA missile on a target from an upgraded Mirage-2000 aircraft.
  • The missile achieved a direct hit on a target which was much smaller than an actual aircraft and flying at low altitude. The target was destroyed on impact, validating the missile’s launch envelope.
  • With this, the IAF has become one of the few air forces in the world with the capability of such missile. The operational success of this mission confirms a critical capability of Indian Air Force.

Background:

  • India purchased 450 MICAs from European missile major MBDA as part of the Mirage 2000 upgrade deal from France in 2012 for $1.23 billion.
  • The MICA will be mounted on the 36 Rafale combat jets that India is purchasing from France.

World’s largest radio telescope:

  • China has unveiled the world’s largest radio telescope. The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) was launched in a mountainous region of China’s Guizhou province. Like radio telescopes in other parts of the world, FAST will study interstellar molecules related to how galaxies evolve.

Decline in Africa’s elephant population:

  • IUCN, in its report, has said that Africa’s elephant population has suffered its worst drop in 25 years, blaming the plummeting numbers on poaching. Africa’s total elephant population now is at around 4,15,000, a decline of around 1,11,000 over the past decade. Habitat loss is also increasingly threatening the species.

Health Ministry receives detailed report on Scrub Typhus from HP Govt

  • In view of the rising number of cases and reported deaths due to of Scrub Typhus in Himachal Pradesh, Shri J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare had sought a detailed report from the State Government.
  • Having received the detailed report, the Union Health Minister has assured all support to the Himachal Pradesh Government in managing the endemic disease observed in this region.
  • The government has decided to send an expert committee to the State on its request.scrub typhus
  • It is also very closely monitoring the situation and is ready to provide all logistical and technical support to the Himachal Government to strengthen their capacity to effectively manage the situation.

About Scrub Typhus:

  • Scrub typhus is an infectious disease with symptoms similar to any viral fever. However, it is not caused by a virus, but by a parasite called Orientia tsutsugamushi, which is transmitted by the bite of infected mite larvae in soil containing scrub vegetation.
  • The disease is also known as bush typhus because the mites (Leptotrombidium deliense, commonly known as trombiculid mite) that cause it reside in vegetation predominantly comprising small shrubs.
  • The disease is more common during the wet season when the mites lay eggs. Incubation period (time between bite and beginning of symptoms) is 10 – 14 days.

Transmission:

  • It is usually transmitted by mites that are found in the shrubs in hilly areas. It can also be transmitted by lice, ticks and fleas.

Causes of Scrub Typhus:

  • The species which transmits Scrub typhus are found in areas which have heavy scrub vegetation.
  • Orientia tsutsugamushi gets transmitted through the bite of trombiculid mites. These mites feed on rural and forest rodents, including voles, rats and field mice.
  • A person develops infection after the bite of the mite larva. When a person gets bitten by this mite, it leaves a characteristic black colored eschar which helps with the diagnosis.

Symptoms:

  • The symptoms of scrub typhus are similar to chikungunya. At onset there is fever, headache, bodyache, cough and gastrointestinal symptoms. Patients with a mild infection may recover without any other symptoms. However, roughly every second patient develops a visible black scab at the point of the bite, with a swelling of the lymph nodes.
  • In about a third of cases, a delayed onset of rashes occurs 4-6 days into the disease. Severe cases typically include encephalitis and interstitial pneumonia due to vascular injury. The fatality rate is 7%.
  • Other symptoms include high fever, skin rashes, respiratory problems, red eyes and unconsciousness. Some of the patients also develop joint pains, which is characteristic of chikungunya.
  • It may progress on to respiratory distress, pneumonitis (inflammation of lung tissue), and multi-organ failure.

Endemic areas:

  • Himachal Pradesh is one of the endemic areas for the disease — it is also endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, northern Australia, the Arabian peninsula and Japan. It is an occupational disease frequently found in people who work in the fields and are in the habit of gardening.

Why Himachal Pradesh is more vulnerable?

  • In Himachal Pradesh, the disease spreads most commonly during grass cutting operations in the orchards, and is alleged to have taken a serious turn this year due to laxity in controlling the mite.

What needs to be done?

  • If detected in time, the disease can be cured using antibiotics. Antibiotics like Doxycycline or Azithromycin are commonly used to treat the disease. Dengue and chikungunya are self-limiting viral diseases that do not have any treatment, apart from management of symptoms. In scrub typhus, however, administering antibiotics on time can save lives.
  • But, getting an early diagnosis is a problem in Himachal, where Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital (IGMCH) is the only scrub typhus testing and treating centre

Preventive measures:

  • Limit the spread of rodents.
  • Pets should be cleaned regularly.
  • Skin should be properly covered while visiting jungle or area with lot of shrubs.

Vaccines

  • No vaccines are available as of now. Clearing the brush and using residual insecticides to spray the infested areas help in decreasing and eliminating mite population. Insect repellants should be used when the patient is at risk for exposure.

 

PM Modi dedicates seven new home-grown plant species to the nation

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dedicated seven new indigenously developed varieties of plants to the nation to mark the 75th anniversary of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Key facts:

  • The new varieties of the plants that have ornamental and medicinal qualities were developed by the CSIR laboratories, especially Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP).
  • The plants include new varieties of lemongrass, citronella, vetiver and canna lily plant.

About CSIR:

  • CSIR, constituted in 1942 by a resolution of the then Central Legislative assembly, is an autonomous body registered under the Registration of Societies Act XXI of 1860.
  • Known for its cutting-edge R&D knowledgebase in diverse S&T areas, CSIR is a contemporary R&D organization, having pan-India presence, with a dynamic network of 38 national laboratories, 39 outreach centers, 3 Innovation Complexes and 5 units.
  • CSIR covers a wide spectrum of science and technology – from radio and space physics, oceanography, geophysics, chemicals, drugs, genomics, biotechnology and nanotechnology to mining, aeronautics, instrumentation, environmental engineering and information technology.
  • It provides significant technological intervention in many areas with regard to societal efforts, which include environment, health, drinking water, food, housing, energy, farm and non-farm sectors. Further, CSIR’s role in S&T human resource development is noteworthy.

WHO study on Air pollution

  • According to a study conducted by WHO, air pollution could have killed at least 600,000 Indians in 2012.
  • India is second among all countries in the absolute number of deaths caused due to exposure to air pollution, just behind China
    • About 2,49,388 Indians died of Ischemic heart disease;
    • 1,95,001 of stroke;
    • 1,10,500 of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and
    • 26,334 of lung cancer.
  • Industries, households, cars and trucks emit complex air pollutants, including invisible PM2.5 particulates.

Impact of PM2.5 highlighted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) study

  • Of all of pollutants, fine particulate matter has the greatest impact on health. A lot of the fine particulate matter comes from fuel combustion, both from mobile sources such as vehicles and from stationary sources such as power plants, industry, households or biomass burning
  • About a fifth of the 3 million who died worldwide were exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that may have aggravated or been directly responsible for cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer
  • The impact of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is felt through a broad spectrum of acute and chronic illnesses that cause premature death. These include lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Worldwide its caused
    • 16% of lung cancer deaths,
    • 11% of COPD deaths, and
    • more than 20% of ischaemic heart disease and stroke.
  • More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) limits.
  • The study gave the WHO air quality guidelines for PM2.5 as 10 micrograms per cubic metre annual average, and 25 micrograms per cubic metre 24-hour average.
  • While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted. Overall, 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56%.

World’s largest solar power plant:

  • The ‘world’s largest solar power plant’ with an installed capacity of 648 MW has been commissioned at Kamudhi in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu.
  • It is set up by Adani Group. The plant comprises 3.8 lakh foundations, 25 lakh solar modules, 27,000m of structure, 576 inverters, 154 transformers and 6,000km length of cables.

India successfully test fires long range surface-to-air missile

  • India has successfully test-fired the Barak-8 long-range surface-to-air nuclear-capable ballistic missile, jointly developed with Israel, from a defence test facility off the Odisha coast.

 

About the missile:

  • LRSAM is also called Barak 8 missile in Israel which in Hebrew language means Lightning.
  • The missile configuration is same for both LRSAM/MRSAM.
  • For the LRSAM, DRDO has designed and developed Dual Pulse Propulsion System and other safe arm mechanisms for Solid Propulsion system.
  • It has the ability to hit targets within radii of 70 km to 90 km.
  • The missile is designed to defend against any type of airborne threat including aircraft, helicopters, anti-ship missiles, and UAVs as well as cruise missiles and combat jets.
  • Both maritime and land-based versions of the system exist.
  • The LRSAM programme consists of Missiles, MFSTAR (Radar), Weapon Control System, Vertical Launcher unit and Two- way data link.

Avian Influenza (H5N1)

  • Why in News:The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers welfare has declared India free from Avian Influenza (H5N1).
  • India had notified outbreak of Avian Influenza (H5N1) in May 2016 in Karnataka. There has been no further outbreak reported in the country thereafter.
  • However, the Center has emphasized the need for continued surveillance especially in the vulnerable areas bordering infected countries and in areas visited by migratory birds.
  • H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza (or “bird flu”). Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person. When people do become infected, the mortality rate is about 60%.
  • Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments. The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual. There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food.

Centre sends BS-V auto emission norms for a ‘six’

  • The Centre has notified the Bharat Stage (BS)-VI emission standards for two-wheelers and four-wheelers from April 2020 across the country.

Key facts:

  • With this, the government has decided to skip the BS-V emission standards and move directly to BS-VI from the BS-IV norms currently being followed in various cities.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has given the Union Petroleum Ministry four years to make BS-VI fuels available to auto companies.
  • Oil companies will be investing more than Rs.60,000 crore towards BS-VI fuels. BS-VI is the Indian equivalent of the Euro-VI norms. At present, BS-IV norms are being followed in over 30 cities while the rest of the country followBS-III norms.

Bharat norms

  • In a bid to curb vehicular pollution, the government, in January 2016 decided to implement stricter emission norms of Bharat Stage (BS) VI from April 1, 2020 by skipping BS-V altogether.
  • Introduced in the year 2000, the Bharat norms are emission control standards put in place by the government to keep a check on air pollution. Based on the European regulations (Euro norms), these standards set specifications/limits for the release of air pollutants from equipment using internal combustion engines, including vehicles. Typically, the higher the stage, the more stringent the norms.
  • The BS IV norms were introduced in 13 cities apart from the National Capital Region from April 2010. Currently, BS IV fuel is being made available across the country in stages, with the entire nation expected to be covered by April1 2017.

BS-VI Norms:

 

  • The particulate matter emission in BS-V and BS-VI is same for diesel cars though it is 80% less than BS IV.
  • The nitrogen oxide (NOx) level is, however, 55% less in BS-VI over BS-V which in itself is 28% lower than BS IV.
  • The sulphur content in fuel norms for diesel and petrol under both BS-V and -VI standards does not change at 10 ppm, though it is substantially less than 50 mandated for both the fuels under BS-IV.

PARAM-ISHAN:

  • It is a super computing facility launched recently at IIT, Guwahati. PARAM-ISHAN have power of 250 Teraflops and three hundred tera bites capacity and this will not only augment the research initiatives in the Institute, but also help in creating an ecosystem for attracting right talents to the field of research. PARAM-ISHAN can be used in the application areas like Computational Chemistry, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Computational Electromagnetic, Civil Engineering Structures, Nana-block Self Assemble, Optimization etc. North East India receives heavy rainfall during monsoon, which leads to flooding and landslides. PARAM-ISHAN can also be used for Weather, climate modeling and seismic data processing.

INSAT-3DR

  • Why in News: In its tenth flight (GSLV-F05) conducted recently, India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, equipped with the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS), successfully launched the country’s weather satellite INSAT-3DR, into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
  • The launch took place from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (SDSC SHAR), Sriharikota, the spaceport of India.
  • This was the first operational flight of GSLV equipped with CUS and the fourth to carry the indigenous CUS.
  • This flight was the third consecutive success achieved by GSLV carrying indigenous CUS.
  • The 2211 kg INSAT-3DR is the heaviest satellite to be launched from the Indian soil.
  • INSAT-3DR satellite is now orbiting the Earth with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 169.76 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 36,080.5 km with an orbital inclination of 20.62 deg with respect to the equator.

About INSAT- 3DR:

  • INSAT-3DR is an advanced meteorological (weather observation) satellite built by India to provide a variety inputs essential for accurate weather forecasting.
  • INSAT-3DR carries a satellite aided Search and Rescue Transponder that picks up and relays alert signals originating from distress beacons of maritime, aviation and land based users.
  • The major users of the service will be the Indian Coast Guards, Airports Authority of India (AAI), Directorate General of Shipping, Defence Services and fishermen.
  • The Indian service region will cover a large part of the Indian Ocean and will also include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Tanzania for providing distress alert services.

Significance:

  • The successful launch marks a departure from the long history of failures with the GSLV; except for the first, every launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the workhorse of ISRO, has been a success. That September 8 launch marks the third consecutive success; the fact that it is the first operational flight by the GSLV carrying the indigenous cryogenic upper stage is confirmation that India now belongs to the elite club of countries that have mastered the cryogenic technology.
  • Maintaining structural and thermal integrity of the engine at very high temperatures during combustion just a few centimetres away from – 250° C, a temperature at which materials behave very differently, is a huge challenge. Likewise, igniting a cryogenic fuel and sustaining the combustion for a prolonged period is a daunting task.
  • It has fully utilised the maximum payload carrying capacity of the GSLV-Mk II by carrying the heaviest satellite (2,211 kg) ever from Indian soil. This became possible only because the cryogenic upper stage was used.

Sarathi

  • It is an Indian Coast Guard Ship commissioned recently.
  • It is the third ship in the series of six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV).
  • ‘Sarathi’ meaning charioteer is a projection of Indian Coast Guard’s will and commitment ‘To serve and protect’ the maritime interest of the nation.
  • It has been designed and built indigenously by GSL and is fitted with most advanced state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment, sensors and machineries.
  • The ship is designed to carry one twin engine Light Helicopter and five high speed boats including two Quick Reaction Inflatable Boats for swift boarding operations, search and rescue, law enforcement and maritime patrol.
  • The ship is also capable of carrying pollution response equipment to contain oil spill at sea

National Initiative for Development and Harnessing Innovation (NIDHI)

  • NIDHI (National Initiative for Development and Harnessing Innovations), an umbrella program is pioneered by the Department of Science & Technology(DST) for nurturing ideas and innovations (knowledge-based and technology-driven) into successful startups.
  • NIDHI focuses on building a seamless and innovation driven entrepreneurial ecosystem especially by channelizing youth towards it and thereby bringing in the positive impact on the socio-economic development of the country.
  • The program aims to provide technological solutions not only to the pressing needs of the society but also targets to create new avenues for wealth and job creation.
  • NIDHI, by design connects and strengthens all the links of the innovation chain from scouting to sustaining to securing to scaling to showcasing, because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
  • The key stakeholders of NIDHI includes various departments and ministries of the central government, state governments, academic and R & D institutions, mentors, financial institutions, angel investors, venture capitalists, industry champions and private sectors.
  • NIDHI strongly addresses the new national aspirations by massively scaling up DST’s experience of three decades in promoting innovative startups
  • The Central government has recently approved six proposals to set up centres of excellence to promote and fund start-ups under the programme.
  • The government has earmarked ₹500 crore to scale up the start-up eco system,
  • Under this seed funding of up to ₹10 lakh – to develop a prototype and access fabrication facilities in incubators.

Zika alert in India

  • According to a study, India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh are vulnerable to Zika virus.
  • These countries receive a combination of high volumes of travelers from Zika-affected areas, have mosquitoes capable of transmitting Zika virus, climate conditions conducive to local spread, and limited health resources.
  • According to the study, identifying where and when populations would be most susceptible to local transmission of Zika virus could help inform public health decisions about the use of finite resources.
  • Even though Zika virus was first identified in Africa, and sporadic cases have been reported in both Africa and Asia-Pacific, little is known about whether the Asian strain of the virus (now circulating in the Americas) will affect individuals differently if they have previously been infected with the African strain.

Zika virus:

  • Zika virus disease is an emerging viral disease transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. This is the same mosquito that is known to transmit infections like dengue and chikungunya.
  • World Health Organisation has reported 22 countries and territories in Americas from where local transmission of Zika virus has been reported.

Majuli named world’s largest river island

  • Majuli Island on the Brahmaputra in Assam was recently declared the largest river island in the world, toppling Marajo in Brazil, by Guinness World Records. According to Guinness World Records, the island lost around one-third of its area in the last 30-40 years due to frequent flooding of the river.

Majuli

  • Majuli is a large river island in the Brahmaputra River, Assam, India.
  • The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti, an anabranch of the Brahmaputra, joined by the Subansiri River in the north.
  • The island was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit.
  • The river island covers an area of around 880 sqkm.
  • Home to an estimated 160,000 people of different ethnic groups, the island is an assembly constituency reserved for scheduled tribes.
  • It was recently declared a district and was earlier a sub-division under Jorhat district.
  • Majuli is the nerve centre of neo-Vaishnavite

IUCN World Conservation Congress

  • 25th World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)has begun in Hawaii. Since IUCN’s foundation in 1948, member countries have gathered 24 times in all corners of the world. The last Congress was held in Jeju, Korea in 2012. This is the first time the US is hosting the event.
  • The theme for this year’s IUCN Congress is ‘Planet at the crossroads’.

Majuli named world’s largest river island

  • Majuli Island on the Brahmaputra in Assam was recently declared the largest river island in the world, toppling Marajo in Brazil, by Guinness World Records. According to Guinness World Records, the island lost around one-third of its area in the last 30-40 years due to frequent flooding of the river.

Majuli

  • Majuli is a large river island in the Brahmaputra River, Assam, India.
  • The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti, an anabranch of the Brahmaputra, joined by the Subansiri River in the north.
  • The island was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit.
  • The river island covers an area of around 880 sqkm.
  • Home to an estimated 160,000 people of different ethnic groups, the island is an assembly constituency reserved for scheduled tribes.
  • It was recently declared a district and was earlier a sub-division under Jorhat district.
  • Majuli is the nerve centre of neo-Vaishnavite

IUCN World Conservation Congress

  • 25th World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)has begun in Hawaii. Since IUCN’s foundation in 1948, member countries have gathered 24 times in all corners of the world. The last Congress was held in Jeju, Korea in 2012. This is the first time the US is hosting the event.
  • The theme for this year’s IUCN Congress is ‘Planet at the crossroads’.

Details:

  • The Congress aims to improve how we manage our natural environment for human, social and economic development.
  • The main issues to be discussed at the Congress are wildlife trafficking, ocean conservation, nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and private investment in conservation.
  • Over 9,000 delegates from 190 countries, including heads of state, high-level government officials, scientists, indigenous people and business leaders will share, debate and act on the latest issues in conservation and sustainable development and define a global path for nature conservation for the future.
  • The IUCN Congress is expected to set the course for using nature based solutions to help move millions out of poverty, creating a more sustainable economy and restoring a healthier relationship with our planet.

IUCN

  • IUCN was founded in October 1948 as the International Union for the Protection of Nature (or IUPN) following an international conference in Fontainebleau, France.
  • It was renamed as International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 1956 with the acronym IUCN.
  • IUCN is the world’s first global environmental organization. Today it is the largest professional global conservation network
  • The Union’s HQ is located in Gland, near Geneva, in Switzerland.
  • It demonstrates how biodiversity is fundamental to addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges such as climate change, sustainable development and food security.
  • The IUCN Red List is set upon precise criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. The aim is to convey the urgency of conservation issues to the public and policy makers, as well as help the international community to try to reduce species extinction.
  • Species are classified by the IUCN Red List into nine groups, set through criteria such as rate of decline, population size, area of geographic distribution, and degree of population and distribution fragmentation.

NASA’s Cassini to make final, closest observations of Saturn

  • After studying Saturn, its rings and moons for more than 12 years, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has entered the final year of its epic voyage during which it will make the closest-ever observations of the planet.
  • The conclusion of the historic scientific odyssey is planned for September 2017.

Details:

  • Cassini’s final phase, called the Grand Finale, begins in earnest in April next year. A close flyby of Saturn’s giant moon Titan will reshape the spacecraft’s orbit so that it passes through the gap between Saturn and the rings, an unexplored space only about 2,400 kilometers wide.
  • During the Grand Finale, Cassini will make the closest-ever observations of Saturn, mapping the planet’s magnetic and gravity fields with exquisite precision and returning ultra-close views of the atmosphere.
  • Cassini’s orbit will send the spacecraft just past the outer edge of the main rings. These orbits, a series of 20, are called the F-ring orbits.
  • During these weekly orbits, Cassini will approach to within 7,800 kilometres of the centre of the narrow F ring, with its peculiar kinked and braided structure.

 

 Cassini Mission:

  • Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit.
  • Its design includes a Saturn orbiter and a lander for the moon Titan. The lander, called Huygens, landed on Titan in 2005. The spacecraft was launched on October 15, 1997. This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System.

Objectives:

  • Determine the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the rings of Saturn.
  • Determine the composition of the satellite surfaces and the geological history of each object.
  • Determine the nature and origin of the dark material on Iapetus’s leading hemisphere.
  • Measure the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the magnetosphere.
  • Study the dynamic behavior of Saturn’s atmosphere at cloud level.
  • Study the time variability of Titan’s clouds and hazes.
  • Characterize Titan’s surface on a regional scale.

PSLV-C35 places SCATSAT-1, seven other satellites in orbit

  • Isro’s PSLV-C35 places SCATSAT-1, seven other satellites in orbit in longest ever launch mission
  • It is for the first time that satellites were placed in two different orbits with a single rocket.isro-launch
  • The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C35) carrying the eight satellites took off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 9.12am. Around 17 minutes later, SCATSAT-1, the main payload of PSLV in its 37th flight, was placed in the polar sun synchronous orbit at an altitude of about 730km.
  • SCATSAT-1, which will provide weather forecast including cyclone detection and tracking, will succeed the now defunct Oceansat-2 satellite launched in 2009.
  • Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar said SCATSAT-1 would be a stop gap arrangement between Oceansat-1 and Oceansat-2.
  • After the first satellite injection, PSLV-C35 coasted for an hour before its fourth-stage engine was reignited and shut down, for about 20 seconds. This provided the rocket the necessary thrust to coast into the polar orbit at an altitude of 689km.
  • Again, after an hour, the engine was restarted and cut off within a period of about one minute for it to further coast. It then began injecting the rest of the satellites.
  • They included two satellites developed by educational institutions — Pratham from IIT-Bombay and Pisat from PES University, Bangalore, and its consortium — and five other commercial satellites from Algeria, Canada and the US.
  • The challenge in the launch was igniting and shutting down the fourth-stage engine, called multiple burn technology, twice within a short span of time in a cold and low-gravity environment and letting it coast further.
  • Isro demonstrated the technology in its two previous PSLV launches – PSLV-C34 in June 2016 and PSLV-C29 in December 2015. But the trickiest part was to cool down the engine between two restarts and protect the rocket and satellites from the heat generated when the engine is operational.
  • Mastering the technology meant that Isro can accommodate satellites meant for different orbits in a single rocket thereby saving costs. Earlier, they had to build separate rockets to be flown to different orbits. It would cost around Rs 120 crore on an average to build a PSLV.
  • Placing satellites in different orbits will also facilitate launching more such commercial satellites in the future.

IIT-M’s cheap solution to make brackish water potable

  • IIT-M has come up with an idea to convert brackish water into drinking water at about 12 paisa per litre right on the kitchen table by using a potential difference of just 1.8 volts.
  • The researchers used a stack of tissue paper and carbonised it at high temperature to make graphene. Graphite electrodes were then coated with the graphene produced in the lab.
  • When the electrodes are dipped into brackish water and 1.8 volt potential is applied to the electrodes, the sodium and chloride ions move towards respective electrodes and get adsorbed.
  • In about five minutes, the brackish water turns into potable water with less than 500 parts per million (ppm) of sodium chloride, which is less than the permissible limit for drinking water.
  • To render the graphene porous, silica precursors were added to the graphene and removed subsequently. The removal of silica makes the graphene porous while retaining its structural integrity.

Lemelson-MIT prize

  • India-born innovator and scientist Ramesh Raskar has been awarded a $500,000 prize, one of the world’s largest single Ramesh Raskarcash awards that recognizes invention.
  • He is known for his trailblazing work which includes the co-invention of an ultra-fast imaging camera that can see around corners, low-cost eye-care solutions and a camera that enables users to read the first few pages of a book without opening the cover.
  • The annual Lemelson-MIT prize, administered by the School of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, honors U.S. inventors who are mid-career and trying to improve the world through science and technology.

Tiangong 2

  • It is a space station launched by China recently.
  • It is part of China’s plan to establish a manned space station around 2022.
  • It is placed at 380 kilometres above Earth.
  • There are two astronauts on board
  • Tiangong 2 will be used to test space technology and conduct medical and space experiments.

HAL’s LUH completes technical flight

  • HAL conducted a technical flight of the indigenous Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) in the city
  • The flight was carried out by HAL test pilots.

About HAL’s LUH:hal-helicopter

  • This is the third indigenous helicopter after the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH).
  • The LUH has a maximum All-Up-Weight (AUW) of 3,150 kg. Fitted with Safran HE Ardiden-1U engine of 750 KW power, it has a range of 350 km, service ceiling of 6.5 km and seating capacity of six passengers plus two pilots.
  • The helicopter is designed to carry out utility roles such as reconnaissance, transport, cargo load and rescue operations
  • The helicopter can operate from sea level to high altitudes of Himalayas.

INSAT-3DR

Why in News: In its tenth flight (GSLV-F05) conducted recently, India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, equipped with the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS), successfully launched the country’s weather satellite INSAT-3DR, into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). fb_1469862753_725x725

  • The launch took place from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (SDSC SHAR), Sriharikota, the spaceport of India.
  • This was the first operational flight of GSLV equipped with CUS and the fourth to carry the indigenous CUS.
  • This flight was the third consecutive success achieved by GSLV carrying indigenous CUS.
  • The 2211 kg INSAT-3DR is the heaviest satellite to be launched from the Indian soil.
  • INSAT-3DR satellite is now orbiting the Earth with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 169.76 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 36,080.5 km with an orbital inclination of 20.62 deg with respect to the equator.

About INSAT- 3DR:

  • INSAT-3DR is an advanced meteorological (weather observation) satellite built by India to provide a variety inputs essential for accurate weather forecasting.
  • INSAT-3DR carries a satellite aided Search and Rescue Transponder that picks up and relays alert signals originating from distress beacons of maritime, aviation and land based users.
  • The major users of the service will be the Indian Coast Guards, Airports Authority of India (AAI), Directorate General of Shipping, Defence Services and fishermen.
  • The Indian service region will cover a large part of the Indian Ocean and will also include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Tanzania for providing distress alert services.

Significance:

  • The successful launch marks a departure from the long history of failures with the GSLV; except for the first, every launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the workhorse of ISRO, has been a success. That September 8 launch marks the third consecutive success; the fact that it is the first operational flight by the GSLV carrying the indigenous cryogenic upper stage is confirmation that India now belongs to the elite club of countries that have mastered the cryogenic technology.
  • Maintaining structural and thermal integrity of the engine at very high temperatures during combustion just a few centimetres away from – 250° C, a temperature at which materials behave very differently, is a huge challenge. Likewise, igniting a cryogenic fuel and sustaining the combustion for a prolonged period is a daunting task.
  • It has fully utilised the maximum payload carrying capacity of the GSLV-Mk II by carrying the heaviest satellite (2,211 kg) ever from Indian soil. This became possible only because the cryogenic upper stage was used.

Internet of Things India Congress

Why in News: The first edition of ‘IoT India Congress, 2016’ has begun in Bengaluru.

  • The congress aims to bring together key stakeholders across the value chain and verticals to collaborate, ideate and share a common roadmap for Internet of Things (IoT) implementation.
  • Besides tech start-ups, the congress brings top executives from multinational companies such as Philips, GE, and IBM on one platform.
  • IoT is likely to generate economic benefits of almost $2 trillion to India.

About Internet of Things:

  • The internet of things (IoT) is the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
  • The Global Standards Initiative on Internet of Things (IoT-GSI) defined the IoT as “the infrastructure of the information society.”
  • The IoT allows objects to be sensed and/or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure,creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit
  • When IoT is augmented with sensors and actuators, the technology becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems, which also encompasses technologies such as smart grids, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities.
  • Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.
  • The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a smart grid, and expanding to the areas such as smart cities internet-of-things_55b5fd609e52f_w1500

OSIRIS-REx spacecraft

Why in News: NASA has launched OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to collect samples from an asteroid 101955 Bennu and return to Earth.

  • OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.
  • OSIRIS-REx is the third missionin NASA’s New Frontiers program
  • Earlier Mission: New Horizons spacecraft- Pluto and the Juno spacecraft – Jupiter.
  • OSIRIS-REx will spend two years travelling towards Bennu, arriving at the asteroid in August 2018. The probe will orbit the asteroid for 3 years, conducting several scientific experiments, before returning to Earth, with the sample capsule expected to land in Utah, USA in September 2023.
  • During its three year orbit of Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will be conducting a range of scientific experiments in order to better understand the asteroid.
  • The aim of the mission is to collect a sample of regolith- the loose, soil-like material which covers the surface of the asteroid.

Why was Bennu chosen?

  1. Bennu was selected for a the OSIRIS-REx mission from over 500,000 known asteroids, due to it fitting a number of key criteria. These include:
  2. Proximity to Earth
  3. Size:Small asteroids, those less than 200m in diameter, typically spin much faster than larger asteroids, meaning the regolith material can be ejected into space. Bennu is around 500m in diameter, so rotates slowly enough to ensure that the regolith stays on its surface.
  4. Composition:Bennu is a primitive asteroid, meaning it hasn’t significantly changed since the beginning of the Solar System (over 4 billion years ago).
  5. Additionally, Bennu is of interest as it is a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA). Every 6 years, Bennu’s orbit brings it within 200,000 miles of the Earth, which means it has a high probability of impacting Earth in the late 22nd Century.

Indian scientists unlock preterm birth mystery

  • Indian researchers have made a major discovery by understanding the mechanisms by which preterm births (between 28 and 32 weeks of gestation) occur. At 35%, India accounts for the highest burden of preterm births in the world.
  • The researchers found that gram-positive Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria produce small balloons called membrane vesicles, which contain toxins that kill both foetal and maternal cells and destroy the collagen that binds the cells together.
  • The researchers found that the toxins present in the vesicles fragmented the collagen of the amniotic membrane. Fragmentation of the collagen leads to loss in elasticity and weakening of the amniotic membrane thus making it susceptible to rupture due to pressure from the growing foetus. This leads to preterm birth. The vesicles also degrade the collagen in the womb.
  • Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria are normally found in human vagina and their numbers can shoot up in some pregnant women. The GBS bacteria have been associated with premature rupture of amniotic membrane and preterm birth.
  • Preterm, also known as premature birth is a birth that takes place more than three weeks before the baby is due. In other words, a premature birth is one that occurs before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. Normally, a pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks. Premature birth gives the baby less time to develop in the womb

Zika alert in India

  • According to a study, India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh are vulnerable to Zika virus.
  • These countries receive a combination of high volumes of travelers from Zika-affected areas, have mosquitoes capable of transmitting Zika virus, climate conditions conducive to local spread, and limited health resources.
  • According to the study, identifying where and when populations would be most susceptible to local transmission of Zika virus could help inform public health decisions about the use of finite resources.
  • Even though Zika virus was first identified in Africa, and sporadic cases have been reported in both Africa and Asia-Pacific, little is known about whether the Asian strain of the virus (now circulating in the Americas) will affect individuals differently if they have previously been infected with the African strain.

Zika virus:

  • Zika virus disease is an emerging viral disease transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. This is the same mosquito that is known to transmit infections like dengue and chikungunya.
  • World Health Organisation has reported 22 countries and territories in Americas from where local transmission of Zika virus has been reported.

Real time video monitoring of crowds at railway stations

  • In a first, the Indian Railways has deployed ‘intelligent video analytics’ to assess crowd density at major railway stations and initiate crowd control measures when the number of passengers/visitors exceeds a prescribed limit.
  • Taking cue from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) guidelines on crowd control, the railway has included crowd management in its revised Disaster Management Plan.The inflow of passengers is usually high during long weekends and festive season. Besides, major railway stations are vulnerable to terror attacks in view of the large gathering of people, multiple entry/exit points and stoppage of trains at wayside stations where adequate security arrangements are not in place. Hence, effective crowd management plans should be in place.

Details:

  • The facility has been installed in the surveillance system on a trial basis at Chennai Central and Egmore railway stations.
  • The technology incorporated in the integrated security system will give an automatic alert to the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel to set in motion certain Standard Operating Procedures.
  • SOPs include a temporary ban on the issue of platform tickets and closure of parking lots till normalcy is restored.
  • Zonal railways have also been told to analyse past crowd disasters and focus on crowd management strategies, risk analysis and preparedness, information management and dissemination, safety measures and emergency planning, transportation and traffic management.

Significance of video analytics:

  • Video analytics would help security agencies get timely alerts when large crowds build up in the station premises and help implement preventive protocols.
  • Visuals stored on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) network system would be of immense help in identifying miscreants and in ensuring effective legal action.