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[op-ed snap] How technology can deliver freedom from male calf

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Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Q.) “There can be nothing worse for dairy farmers than their cows or buffaloes delivering male calves.” Examine the usefulness of Sex Semen Technology in this context.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic concepts behind sex semen technology

Mains level: This technology can be very useful for Indian farmers. It will make animal husbandry less stressful.



  1. The article talks about a new technology capable of producing only female calf offspring

New Technology

  1. Technology is in the form of ‘sexed semen’ having 90%-plus sperms carrying the X-chromosome, and capable of producing only female offspring
  2. The aim is to deliver freedom from male calves
  3. How: by ensuring that cows are inseminated by semen containing only X-chromosome-bearing sperms

How it works?

  1. A bull’s/cow’s sperm has 30 chromosomes, including one which is either an X- or a Y-chromosome whose genes code for sex
  2. When a sperm and egg unite, and the sperm carries the X-chromosome, the resultant offspring is female (XX)
  3. And, when a Y-chromosome-bearing sperm fertilises an egg, the result is a male calf (XY)

Objective of this technology

  1. Sexed semen technology is about preselecting the sex of offspring by sorting or separating the X-sperms from Y-sperms
  2. The aim is to deliver freedom from male calves, by ensuring that cows are inseminated by semen containing only X-chromosome-bearing sperms


  1. Sperm-sorting technology is claimed to be 93% accurate
  2. Thus, if a cow is inseminated using such sexed semen, there is a 93% chance that the calf produced will be female
  3. But with ordinary semen used in artificial insemination (AI), probability is 50-50

Issues with Male Calves

  1. If a cow after insemination and 9-10 months of pregnancy produces a male calf, the loser is the farmer
  2. As, farmer will have to rear an animal that’s not going to yield him either milk or an income

Issues with Sexed Semen Technology

  1.  For AI using conventional semen frozen in 0.25-ml vials (‘straws’), is just over Rs 50 per insemination dose
  2. And the comparable cost of sexed semen to the farmer is anywhere between Rs 1,200 and Rs 2,600 per straw

Two reasons behind high prices of using Sexed Semen Technology

  1. The first is the virtual monopoly 
  2. Sexed semen is produced from raw ejaculate, largely using ST’s proprietary sperm-sorting technology
  3. Second, the sexed semen currently being used by farmers is entirely imported
  4. Moreover, Semen imports are subject to cumbersome procedures entailing approvals from both at the centre and state levels

The way forward

  1. But with all its drawbacks, this is a technology still evolving and destined for improvement
  2. Sexed semen’s usefulness is obvious, particularly in a country where even male calves cannot be sent freely to the slaughterhouse


Concept behind Sex Chromosomes 

  1. Sex chromosome, either of a pair of chromosomes that determine whether an individual is male or female
  2. The sex chromosomes of human beings and other mammals are designated by scientists as X and Y
  3. In humans the sex chromosomes comprise one pair of the total of 23 pairs of chromosomes
  4. The other 22 pairs of chromosomes are called autosomes.
  5. Individuals having two X chromosomes (XX) are female; individuals having one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (XY) are male
  6. The X chromosome resembles a large autosomal chromosome with a long and a short arm
  7. The Y chromosome has one long arm and a very short second arm
  8. This path to maleness or femaleness originates at the moment of meiosis, when a cell divides to produce gametes, or sex cells having half the normal number of chromosomes
  9. During meiosis the male XY sex-chromosome pair separates and passes on an X or a Y to separate gametes; the result is that one-half of the gametes (sperm) that are formed contains the X chromosome and the other half contains the Y chromosome
  10. The female has two X chromosomes, and all female egg cells normally carry a single X
  11. The eggs fertilized by X-bearing sperm become females (XX), whereas those fertilized by Y-bearing sperm become males (XY)

[op-ed snap] Beauty and the regulatory beast

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Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Q.) ‘The fight today is more about which of the threats rate higher for Mankind: Artificial Intelligence (AI) or gene editing?’ Critically examine.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CRISPR technique

Mains level: Article explains valid concerns related to Designer Babies. These kind of topics are important for Mains paper.



  1. The article is related to the topic of Designer Babies and concerns related to it

What are designer Babies?

  1. A baby whose genetic make-up has been selected in order to eradicate a particular defect, or to ensure that a particular gene is present
  2. Technique Used: It can be done by editing our genes by bacterial DNA scissors called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)

More about the CRISPR technique

  1. CRISPR/Cas9 has been tested across an array of domains, such as human health (gene-based therapy) and agro biotech (pest-resistant crops)
  2. In fact, trials for gene-based therapies are already under way
  3. And scientists has successfully edited genetic mutations that code for disorders such as
    (1) hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a functional impairment of the heart) and
    (2) retinitis pigmentosa (a degenerative disorder of the eye)

How can this techniques be tested?

  1. Most drug regulatory regimes insist that drug makers submit clinical trial data to establish that their drugs are safe and effective
  2. Gene therapies and the defect-free babies that flow forth ought to be subject to a similar regulatory standard


  1. Genetic changes and alterations take years to show their exact results and side effects can take even more time to reveal
  2. Even after best testing of standard drugs, the most voluminous of safety data still does not ensure that the drug is safe
  3. There are plenty of instances of adverse effects reported well after the drug has been cleared by the regulatory bodies
  4. If we are to wait for the perfect safety data, that wait may well be forever
  5. Important Question:  how long must these trials last?

What should be done to minimize the risks related to these techniques?
We could begin by establishing certain Baseline Principles

  1. First, We should go for a more rigorous regulatory standard (safety/efficacy data, etc.)
  2. Second, all data relating to safety and efficacy of these new technologies ought to be put out in the public domain

The way forward

  1. We need to encourage more transparency and openness in trial results
  2. And open up this trial data to the wider public, and to scientists and doctors
  3. By this, we can effectively counter the dangers related to designer babies



AI smartphone system can spot fake products

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Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the AI

Mains level: E-Commerce is becoming more and more famous these days. This system can help it grow more.


System to spot fake products

  1. Recently, a team of Indian-origin researchers in the U.S  has developed a new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm
  2. It allows smartphones to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit versions of the same product
  3. Why is this system important: Some reports indicate that counterfeit trafficking represents 7% of the world’s trade today 

How it works?

  1. It provides a solution to easily distinguish
    (1) authentic versions of the product created by the original manufacturer and
    (2) fake versions of the product made by counterfeiters
  2. It does so by deploying a dataset of three million images across various objects and materials such as fabrics, leather, pills, electronics, toys and shoes





In a scientific first, disease gene ‘edited’ in human embryos

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Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CRISPR “gene editing”

Mains level: These kind of new scientific researchs on DNA are important for UPSC


Repairing of Gene

  1. Scientists in the United States have repaired a disease-causing mutation in the DNA of early-stage human embryos
  2. Why Important: This is an important step in Engineering babies free of inherited disorders
  3. The team successfully uses the CRISPR “gene editing” tool in viable embryos
  4. This research is hailed by experts around the world


  1. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) are segments of prokaryotic DNA containing short, repetitive base sequences
  2. These play a key role in a bacterial defence system, and form the basis of a genome editing technology known as CRISPR/Cas9 that allows permanent modification of genes within organisms

[op-ed snap] Detecting possibilities


Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of LIGO Project

Mains level: LIGO is one of the most important scientific projects which are currently working. Therefore, it is an
important topic for Mains Paper 3.


The Article is about the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO)

Why in News?

  1. LIGO detectors have picked up signals of yet another merger of two black holes
  2. These black holes are 3 light years away

Why is this important?

  1. It will help in (1) gravitational wave astronomy, (2) detection of new heavenly bodies and (3) gaining a better understanding of that most elusive (difficult to understand) of theories — Einstein’s general theory of
    relativity, and the fundamental force of gravitation

India’s Contribution: Indians have made a significant contribution to this, with nearly 67 Indians from 13 institutions across the country taking part in the theory and experiment

Existing detectors are not sufficient:

  1. The two existing detectors are not sufficient to locate exactly where in the sky the signals are coming from
  2. However, if the LIGO-India project start working (by 2024, as planned), then these problems will be solved

Challenges associated with the LIGO-India:

  1. LIGO-India will start off as a complex organism, the many constituents of which will evolve simultaneously in
    different parts of the country
  2. Assembling the parts to form a mature scientific enterprise, a first for India, will be an enormous

Nanoparticles to treat eye infection


Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights

The newscard has important information on how the nanoparticles are being used to treat eye infection.

Following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Make note of what is keratitis, and what are its causes. You may not
be asked a direct question but expect a well worded, confusing one Mains Level: Note

Mains Level: Note own the way nanoparticles can be used for the treatment. Could be a one liner in a mains question based on uses of nanoparticles


  1. Scientists at the Hyderabad-based CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) have
    developed a novel way to treat fungal keratitis

What is Keratitis?

  1. Keratitis is the inflammation of the eyeIt starts with redness and itching and might eventually lead to

Cause of infection: 

  1. Keratitis can be caused by both bacteria and fungi
  2. Fungi attach themselves to the cornea and release enzymes that break down the corneal proteins for their nutritional requirements
  3. In the process the cornea also gets inflamed

What are the effects of this disease?

  1. Corneal damage causes wound and scar formation leading to severe visual impairment
  2. It is estimated that about 30% of keratitis cases in India lead to blindness

Difficult treatment and the way out:

  1. Treating keratitis infection is a challenge because it is difficult to maintain a therapeutic dose at the corneal
    surface for long periods as blinking and tear formation washes off the drug
  2. A two-member team led by Dr. Ch. Mohan Rao of CCMB is addressing this challenge
  3. It has developed protein-based nanoparticles that encapsulate the drug



  1. A nanoparticle (or nanopowder or nanocluster or nanocrystal) is a microscopic particle with at least one
    dimension less than 100 nm
  2. Nanoparticle research is currently an area of intense scientific research
  3. This is because of a wide variety of potential applications in biomedical, optical, and electronic fields
  4. Nanoparticles are of great scientific interest as they are a bridge between bulk materials and atomic or molecular structures
  5. Size-dependent properties are observed such as quantum confinement in semiconductor particles, surface
    pleonasm resonance in some metal particles and super para magnetism in magnetic materials

[op-ed snap] The neutrino opportunity


Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology | Science and Technology- Achievements of Indians in science and technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

The op-ed is about a major science development- Neutrino.

Following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Remember the basics of INO project for Prelims Mains Level:

Mains Level: Note down the importance, criticsm and public apprehensions of science projects. For a country of young minds, we should generate sufficient public support for high technology and science projects.


  1. India’s wait to join the elite club of countries undertaking neutrino research suffered a procedural delay
  2. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the India-based
    Neutrino Observatory (INO)
  3. It was ordered it to file a fresh application for clearance

INO project:

  1. The proposed INO project primarily aims to study atmospheric neutrinos in a 1,300-m deep cavern in the
    Bodi West Hills in Theni district, Tamil Nadu
  2. If completed, the INO would house the largest magnet in the world
  3. It will be four times more massive than the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN’s Compact
    Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector’s magnet


  1. Neutrinos are tiny particles. They are almost massless. They travel at near light speeds.
  2. They are born from violent astrophysical events such as exploding stars and gamma ray bursts
  3. Therefore, they are abundant in the universe and can move as easily through matter as we move through air
  4. They are notoriously difficult to track down. If you hold your hand towards the sunlight for one second, about a
    billion neutrinos from the sun will pass through it
  5. This is because they are the by-products of nuclear fusion in the sun

Aim of the INO project:

  1. It aims to use to understand some of the unsolved mysteries of the universe Setback of delayed project
  2. The suspension of INO’s environmental clearance is a setback
  3. The scientific community hopes these procedural lapses will be addressed in an earnest and time-bound manner

Criticism of INO Project:

  1. The explosives used in construction are a threat to the highly sensitive ecology of the Western Ghats
  2. The relevant radiation safety studies for carrying out the long baseline neutrino experiment in the second phase of INO have not been done
  3. There are further allegations that neutrinos are radioactive particles
  4. The INO will double up the storage of nuclear waste

The better side of the story:

  1. The proposed excavation is planned to be carried out by a controlled blast, limiting the impact of vibrations with the help of computer simulations
  2. Additionally, building the INO involves constructing an underground lab accessed by a 2 km-long horizontal access tunnel, resembling a road tunnel
  3. Such tunnels have been built extensively in India and the relevant studies show that the environmental impact
    (mainly dust and noise in the initial phase) have been managed



  1. A neutrino is a fermion (an elementary particle with halfinteger spin) that interacts only via the weak subatomic force and gravity
  2. The mass of the neutrino is much smaller than that of the other known elementary particles
  3. The neutrino is so named because it is electrically neutral and because its rest mass is so small (-ino) that it was
    originally thought to be zero
  4. The weak force has a very short range, gravity is extremely weak on the subatomic scale, and neutrinos, as
    leptons, do not participate in the strong interaction
  5. Thus, neutrinos typically pass through normal matter unimpeded and undetected

Kolkata celebrates botany legend Janaki Ammal

  1. Event: Exhibition celebrating the contribution of E.K. Janaki Ammal
  2. Her achievements: She organised the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) 60 years ago
  3. One of the first women scientists to receive the Padma Shri way back in 1977. Her example is important since India is focusing on educating girls
  4. She is credited with putting sweetness in our sugarcane varieties, speaking against the hydro-electric project in Kerala’s Silent Valley
  5. She also did a phenomenal study of chromosomes of thousands of species of flowering plants titled The Chromosome Atlas of Cultivated Plants, co-authored with biologist C.D. Darlington

What is autophagy?- II

  1. In the context of disease, autophagy has been seen as an adaptive response to stress, which promotes survival, whereas in other cases it appears to promote cell death and morbidity
  2. In the extreme case of starvation, the breakdown of cellular components promotes cellular survival by maintaining cellular energy levels
  3. Background: Contemporary autophagy research was kickstarted in 1990s with the identification of autophagy-related genes by yeast researchers
  4. One of them, Yoshinori Ohsumi, received the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

What is autophagy?- I

  1. Greek: Auto- self; phagein-to eat
  2. The 1974 Medicine laureate, Christian de Duve, coined the term in 1963
  3. Self-destruction: This concept emerged during the 1960s, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents
  4. How? By enclosing it in membranes, forming sack-like vesicles that were transported to a recycling compartment, called the lysosome, for degradation
  5. It allows the orderly degradation and recycling of cellular components

China to build deepest, largest high-speed rail station at Great Wall

  1. What? China will build the world’s deepest and largest high-speed railway station at a popular section of the country’s Great Wall
  2. Why? This is a part of its preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics
  3. The station will be at Badaling, the most visited section of the Great Wall which lies about 80 km (50 miles) northwest of Beijing
  4. It will be located 102 metres (335 feet) below the surface, with an underground construction area of 36,000 square metres (387,501 sq feet)
  5. This is equal to five standard soccer fields, making it the deepest and largest high-speed railway station in the world

How FAST has and will affect lives?

  1. The telescope requires a radio silence within a five-km radius, resulting in the relocation of more than 8,000 people from their homes in eight villages to make way for the facility
  2. Reports in August said the villagers would be compensated with cash or new homes from a budget of about $269 million from a poverty relief fund and bank loans.
  3. China has also completed the construction of tourist facilities such as an observation deck on a nearby mountain
  4. Such facilities can be a draw for visitors — the one in Puerto Rico draws about 90,000 visitors and some 200 scientists each year

Let’s know more about FAST

  1. Measuring 500-meters in diameter, the radio telescope is nestled in a natural basin within a stunning landscape of lush green karst formations in southern Guizhou Province
  2. It took five years and $180 million to complete
  3. It surpasses that of the 300-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars that led to a Nobel Prize
  4. Researchers quoted by state media said FAST would search for gravitational waves, detect radio emissions from stars and galaxies and listen for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life
  5. The ultimate goal of FAST is to discover the laws of the development of the universe

World’s largest radio telescope begins operations

  1. Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, the world’s largest radio telescope has begun functioning
  2. The project demonstrates China’s rising ambitions in space and its pursuit of international scientific prestige
  3. Beijing has poured billions into such ambitious scientific projects as well as its military-backed space programme, which saw the launch of China’s second space station earlier this month

Stephen Hawking warns against contacting aliens

  1. News: British physicist Stephen Hawking has warned against announcing our presence to any alien civilisations, especially to those more technologically advanced than humans
  2. Our first contact from an advanced civilisation could be equivalent to when Native Americans first encountered Christopher Columbus and things didn’t turn out so well
  3. They will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria

Microsoft develops AI to help cancer doctors find the right treatments

  1. New data & researches: There are hundreds of new cancer drugs in development and new research published minute to minute
  2. These are helping doctors treat patients with personalized combinations that target the specific building blocks of their disease
  3. Problem: There’s too much to read and too many drug combinations for doctors to choose the best option every time
  4. Solution: A Microsoft Research machine-learning project, Hanover
  5. It aims to ingest all the papers and help predict which drugs and which combinations are most effective

China has world’s longest bullet train network

  1. News: China’s high-speed railway has completed over 20,000 kms of track network in the country, becoming the world’s longest bullet train network
  2. Context: A high-speed railway linking Zhengzhou in China’s central Henan Province with Xuzhou in eastern Jiangsu Province opened recently
  3. The 360-km line connects high-speed railway in the west with two major north-south lines, helping cut travel time between the west and east

Let’s know more about CFL technology

  1. Tungsten lamp: Energy is lost due to the heating required by the tungsten filament
  2. CFL lamp: Needs a switch as opposed to tungsten lamp & works through a gas discharge
  3. IGBT: Used to generate the gas discharge, which lights up the bulb
  4. Advantages: Allow for electronics to fit into the small volume of the base below the gas tube
  5. Reduced size & cost of CFL lamps & improved lighting efficiency by 75%
  6. Footprint: Use of CFLs instead of traditional lighting, in the last 25 years, has saved the world 73,000 Terawatt-hours of energy and almost 5.7 trillion litres of gas, and has helped decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 49.5 billion metric tonnes

Man with the largest negative carbon footprint in the world

  1. Jayant Baliga: Indian-born American electrical engineer & an alumnus of IIT, Madras
  2. IGBT: Invented of the insulated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT)- a device that enabled the electronics in the now ubiquitous CFL lamp
  3. Accolade: The global energy prize in 2015

Intel unveils Merged Reality with Project Alloy device

  1. Merged reality: A new way of experiencing virtual reality and real world together, using cutting-edge technology, which is more dynamic and natural, and allows people to do things that are now impossible
  2. Beyond virtual reality: Digitises the real world and allows people to experience the virtual world without coming into conflict with the real world
  3. Example: Playing two musical instruments at the same time- a virtual piano with one hand and a cello with the other
  4. Project Alloy: A device that creates merged reality
  5. It is a headset that uses the RealSense technology enabling people to use their hands to interact with elements of the virtual world

A background on Airlander development

  1. The aircraft was initially developed for the U.S. military
  2. But the U.S. blimp program was scrapped in 2013
  3. Since then Hybrid Air Vehicles, a small British aviation firm that dreams of ushering in a new era for airships, has sought funding from government agencies and individual donors
  4. The vast aircraft is based at Cardington, where the first British airships were built during and after World War I
  5. That program was abandoned after a 1930 crash that killed almost 50 people

Let’s know more about Airlander

  1. A hybrid of blimp, helicopter and airplane, it can stay aloft for days at a time
  2. Can reach 16,000 feet, travel at up to 148 kmph and stay aloft for up to two weeks
  3. Nicknamed the flying bum because of its bulbous front end
  4. Designed to use less fuel than a plane, but carry heavier loads than conventional airships
  5. Developer: Hybrid Air Vehicles

Giant hybrid airship takes off for first time

  1. News: Airlander has flown for the first time with a short but historic jaunt over an airfield in central England
  2. Airlander: A blimp-shaped, helium-filled airship, considered the world’s largest aircraft
  3. It’s a British innovation


What is Quantum communication?

  1. It is based on the idea that information science depends on quantum effects in physics
  2. It has ultra-high security as a quantum photon can neither be separated nor duplicated
  3. Hence it is impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through it
  4. It holds enormous prospects in the field of defense

Let’s know about QUESS satellite

  1. In its two-year mission, QUESS is designed to establish ‘hack-proof’ quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground
  2. It will enable secure communications between Beijing and Urumqi
  3. Urumqi: The capital of China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang, where China is battling an Islamist insurgency
  4. The satellite marks a transition in China’s role- from a follower in classic information technology development to one of the leaders guiding future achievements

China launches ‘hack-proof’ communications satellite

  1. News: China launched the world’s first quantum satellite, which will help it establish hack-proof communications between space and the ground
  2. Priority: President Xi Jinping has urged China to establish itself as a space power, and apart from its civilian ambitions, it has tested anti-satellite missiles
  3. Satellite: The Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, or QUESS, satellite, was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the remote northwestern province of Gansu

Cyborg stingray swims toward light, breaks new ground

  1. Harvard University researchers created a translucent, penny-sized stingray with a gold skeleton, silicone fins and the heart muscle cells of a rat
  2. It’s remote-controlled, able to move toward pulses of blue light
  3. The creation could spark new research into autonomous, part-living machines or machines powered by living cells

China’s lunar rover Jade Rabbit retires

  1. News: China’s Jade Rabbit lunar rover has whirred its last
  2. Achievement: It was designed for a lifespan of a mere three months but it surveyed the moon’s surface for 31 months and became a national icon
  3. Background: The rover was part of the Chang’e-3 lunar mission
  4. It began its adventure on December 2013, sending back photographs of the lunar surface and gaining huge popularity with Internet users along the way
  5. Not long after landing its legend grew after a mechanical control abnormality forced it offline, prompting anxiety from its many supporters
  6. The rover later turned dormant and stopped sending signals during the lunar night, which lasts for two weeks and sees temperatures plummet
  7. But it made a dramatic recovery later on

3D hydrogel biochips to detect bowel cancer

  1. Context: Scientists have discovered new technology to detect cancer
  2. They have created a hydrogel-based biochip with 3D cells
  3. Biochip: Based on hydrogel, will help to help diagnose colorectal cancer
  4. Colorectal cancer: It is the third most common type of cancer

Breakthrough as new form of light discovered

  1. Context: Scientists have discovered a new form of light
  2. New form of light: The angular momentum of each photon (a particle of visible light) takes only half of this value
  3. Earlier: In all forms of light, the angular momentum would be a multiple of Planck’s constant
  4. Planck’s constant: The physical constant that sets the scale of quantum effects
  5. Experiment by: William Rowan Hamilton and physicist Humphrey Lloyd
  6. Effect: Creates impact on fundamental understanding of light, enable strange new possibilities of particles whose quantum numbers were fractions of those expected

World’s first holographic flexible phone is here

  1. Holoflex: World’s first holographic flexible Smartphone
  2. Equipped with a bend sensor that allows user to bend phone
  3. 3D printed flexible micro lens array to project the pixel box
  4. Pixel box gives view of 3d object from any point
  5. Features: A high-definition Flexible Organic Light Emitting Diode touch-screen display
  6. Benefits: User can see 3d images and videos without using headgear or glasses, facilitate with editing of 3D models

‘Noise net’ could save birds and aircraft

  1. Context: Introduction of a new technique called Noise Net
  2. Noise net: A controlled air around the aircraft is filled with acoustic noise
  3. It will make the area much riskier for birds to occupy
  4. It can reduce the number of birds to 80% near the aircraft
  5. Hence, it will save many birds by avoiding collision of birds and aircraft

Scientists record heat travelling through materials

  1. Context: Scientists have, for the first time, recorded how heat travels through materials at the speed of sound
  2. Device: It was possible with the aid of an ultra-fast electron microscope
  3. Benefit: It provides unprecedented insight into roles played by individual atomic and nanoscale features
  4. It could aid in the design of better, more efficient materials with a wide array of uses, from personal electronics to alternative-energy technologies

What is Molybdenum disulphide?

  1. About: Molybdenum disulphide is in a class of materials known as chalcogenide glasses that have flexible electronic characteristics that have made them popular for high-tech components
  2. Context: Molybdenum disulphide crystal’s refractive index, the property that quantifies the strength of a material’s effect on light, has a high value of 5.5
  3. For comparison: Diamond, whose high refractive index causes its sparkle, is only 2.4, and water’s refractive index is 1.3
  4. It survives at high temperatures, is a lubricant, a good semiconductor and can emit photons too

World’s thinnest lens developed

  1. News: Australian scientists have developed world’s thinnest lens which is 2000 times thinner than human hair
  2. Context: Newly developed lens is 6.3 nanometres thick. Previous versions of lenses were 50 nanometers thick
  3. Scientists have used a crystal of molybdenum disulphide as a special ingredient in this lens
  4. Applications: In medicine, science and technology and bendable tv and computer screens
  5. Properties: Single layers of molybdenum disulphide, 0.7 nanometers thick, had remarkable optical properties, appearing to a light beam to be 50 times thicker, at 38 nm
  6. This property, known as optical path length, determines phase of light and governs interference and diffraction of light as it propagates

New mini fuel cell powers drones for over an hour

  1. News: Scientists developed a miniaturised fuel cell that can power drones for more than 1 hour and may lead to smartphone batteries that require charge only once a week
  2. About Solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC): Developed by researchers in South Korea, may replace lithium-ion batteries in smartphones, laptops, drones
  3. SOFC, referred to as a third-generation fuel cell, has been intensively studied since it has a simple structure and no problems with corrosion or loss of the electrolyte
  4. About Fuel cell: converts hydrogen into electricity by oxygen-ion migration to fuel electrode through an oxide electrolyte
  5. Fuel cells are made by a combination of tape casting-lamination-cofiring (TLC) techniques that are commercially viable for large scale SOFC

Meta-Skin, Truly Cloaks Objects From Radar


  1. News: Scientists have developed a new flexible, stretchable and tunable meta-skin
  2. Significance: Can protect objects from radar detection, and may help develop next generation of stealth aircraft or even invisibility cloaks
  3. How it Works? By stretching and flexing the polymer meta-skin, it can be tuned to reduce the reflection of a wide range of radar frequencies
  4. The stretchable polymer skin doesn’t visually hide objects, but makes them invisible to radar
  5. Rows of small, liquid-metal devices effectively trap radar waves, rendering the cloak and the cloaked undetectable

What are the benefits of Li-Fi?

  1. Visible light spectrum: Available in plenty, unlicensed and free to use
  2. Double benefit: bulb giving us light as well as internet access
  3. Low interference: leads to very high data speed
  4. Li-Fi works under water as well
  5. Not harmful unlike RF: that can interfere with electronic circuitry
  6. Light won’t pass through walls: making eavesdropping nearly impossible
  7. LED illumination: efficient and data transmission needs very little additional power
  8. Data density: 1,000 times of Wi-Fi, since light can be contained in an area

What is Li-Fi?

  1. Context: Light-Fidelity is a new technology that uses light waves, instead of radio frequency waves, as a medium to carry data.
  2. An improvised LED bulb functions as a router
  3. Relevance: An ordinary off-the-shelf LED bulb connected to a device, which in turn is connected to the Internet
  4. How stuff works? The Internet data flows in via the device into the bulb, and is carried by light waves
  5. At the other end, light waves carrying the Internet data falls on a receiver or a dongle which is connected to the computer

LED bulb could connect you to Internet


  1. Context: A bulb would help us access the Web might not be too far away, if a new technology called Li-Fi (or Light-Fidelity) goes mainstream
  2. Inventor: Prof. Harald Haas of the University of Edinburgh, who coined the term Li-Fi in 2011
  3. The News: He streamed a video from the Internet on a laptop using light from an LED bulb to access the Web
  4. Significance: Li-Fi was a disruptive technology that could transform business models, create new opportunities, and was poised to be a $113 billion industry by 2022
  5. Relevance: RF (radio frequency) spectrum would not be enough considering the rate of growth of wireless data communication.
  6. Internet in Night: The stream of photons can be reduced to a minimal level that won’t produce visible light but enough to carry data

What is FAST?

  1. Context: FAST is a radio telescope under construction located in a natural basin, in Guizhou Province, southwest China
  2. History: First proposed in 1994 and was approved by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in In July 2007
  3. Importance: It will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope and three times more sensitive than the Arecibo Observatory

China to relocate 9,000 for world’s largest radio telescope


  1. Context: will relocate over 9,000 people residing within the 5-km radius of the world’s largest radio telescope
  2. Why relocation? To create a sound electromagnetic wave environment
  3. Background: 5-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) will be the world’s largest radio telescope after its completion
  4. Overtaking the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico which is some 300m in diameter
  5. Objective of FAST: To help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy

Let’s know about Photonics?

  1. Photonics is the science of light (photon) generation, detection, and manipulation through emission, transmission, modulation, signal processing, switching, amplification, and detection/sensing.
  2. It will exploit high-speed Silicon photonics to improve data transfer between the core and the memory exponentially.
  3. It would exponentially improve the power of microprocessors.
  4. A single optical fibre has the capacity to carry three million telephone calls simultaneously.
  5. Possible photonic applications are photonic switching, silicon photonics, photonic networks, and the photonic computer.

Photonics to drive terabit chips

  1. Scientists from the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering (CeNSE) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru are working on two projects in the area of photonic integrated circuits.
  2. Researchers and scientists at CeNSE are building a next-generation processor, in which each unit is still electrical.
  3. The processor has millions of transistors connected with copper lines.
  4. Researchers are planning to replace the copper lines with photonic components.
  5. This is being tried under a project supported by the Defence of Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  6. Under this project, scientists are trying to develop indigenous technology for high-speed optical interconnect technology.

What is Augmented Humanity ?

  1. Augmented Humanity is a phrase that was coined in 2010 by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
  2. It defines the use of technology to both aid, and replace, human capability in a way that joins person and machine as one.
  3. This is the next stage of our reliance on technology, where wearable devices begin to pre-empt what we want through our mood, heart rate and body temperature.
  4. This augmentation also defines machinery used to replace or enhance parts of the body.

The age of augmented humanity

  1. The next stage of our reliance on technology has devices that pre-empt what we want.
  2. It’s clear that consumer technology has taken a huge leap forward.
  3. Video games that get harder as your heart rate rises, headwear which gives you “superhuman” vision and other devices which promise to deliver results based on the way we think, feel and act.

Four new elements added to periodic table

  1. The periodic table now has its seventh row completed with the introduction of four new chemical elements: 113, 115, 117, 118.
  2. These are the first to be added to the table since 2011. Discovered by scientists in Japan, Russia and US.
  3. The new additions were formally verified by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
  4. New elements can be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist.
  5. The names will be finalised after divisional acceptance and two letter symbols being presented for public review are given go ahead by the Council (highest body of IUPAC).

Let’s know more about ATLAS ?

  1. ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) is one of the 7 particle detector experiments (ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, TOTEM, LHCb, LHCf and MoEDAL)
  2. Constructed at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a particle accelerator at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland.
  3. The experiment is designed to take advantage of the unprecedented energy available at the LHC.
  4. To observe phenomena that involve highly massive particles which were not observable using earlier lower-energy accelerators.

What is Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS)?

  1. The CMS experiment is one of 2 large general-purpose particle physics detectors built on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland and France.
  2. To investigate a wide range of physics, including the search for the Higgs boson, extra dimensions, and particles that could make up dark matter.

Has LHC discovered a mysterious new particle?

Once verified, the intriguing signal will mean a new particle has been found.

  1. Members of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) and the ATLAS detectors working with the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
  2. They have independently identified signals that could lead to the discovery of a new fundamental particle of nature.
  3. Both experiments have observed an excess of pairs of photons which could arise from the decay of heavy particles created during the collision.
  4. Physics would have a new elementary particle about 6 times as massive as the Higgs boson which explains why other particles have mass.

Tesla’s technology reinvented


  1. Flyte Levitating Light combines Tesla’s technology with magnetic levitation to offer wireless power via induction.
  2. The result was a completely new way of looking at light that came forth in the form of Flyte Levitating Light.
  3. Flyte has been designed in Sweden and does not need any batteries. It powers light in the air via induction.
  4. The base is made out of sustainably- sourced oak, ash, or walnut, and the light bulb uses LEDs that are energy efficient and are rated at 50,000 hours.
  5. This means that the levitating light will keep your desk or study illuminated for 12 hours each day for 11 years.

Neutrinos: Oscillations and open questions

Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli postulated the existence of Neutrinos particle.

The IceCube neutrino observatory located in the south pole detected neutrinos coming from outer space. Photo: Special Arrangement

  1. Neutrinos come in three flavours, electron neutrino, muon neutrino and tau neutrino.
  2. Super-Kamiokande detector from Tokyo built to detect Cosmic neutrinos.
  3. Observed that the muon neutrinos were “oscillating” into a different type and suspected that the muon neutrinos were actually changing into Tau neutrinos.
  4. The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, is built to study Solar neutrinos, neutrinos created deep within the Sun.

Now, some questions still remains ?

  1. Difference between masses of the three types of neutrino are known, the absolute mass of the lightest is not?
  2. Would the electron neutrino be heavier than the Tau and muon neutrinos, or vice versa ?
  3. Similarly, would neutrino have an antiparticle which is different from itself or is each neutrino its own antiparticle?

May be, another Nobel will reveal the answers ?

Indian scientists solve a century-old light puzzle

For the first time in history, our experiment validates the century old Minkowski theory near Total Internal reflection

  1. Debatable question between scientists Hermann Minkowski and Max Abraham, finally sees the answer recreated in a lab in Mohali.
  2. An indigenous experimental set-up, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali.
  3. Experiment shows, Minkowski was right , light does gain momentum as it enters another medium.
  4. This novel sensitive technique can be used to precisely measure properties of light non-invasively.

‘Psychic Robot’ System Guesses Intentions From Your Movements

  1. Bioengineers have created a “psychic robot” that can see what humans intend to do even if they don’t do it.
  2. The algorithm could eventually power the cars and prosthetics of the future, allowing them to understand what their owners are trying to do with them, even if they get stopped mid-way.
  3. The invention will allow robots to become much more understanding of humans, by replicating the way that we respond to events in the real world.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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