Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Laser Surface Micro-texturingPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Laser surface micro-texturing

Mains level : NA


International Advanced Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI) an autonomous R&D Centre of Dept. of Science and Technology has developed ultrafast laser surface texturing technology, which can improve the fuel efficiency of internal combustion engines.

Laser surface micro-texturing

  • This technology offers precise control of the size, shape and density of micro-surface texture features. This has gained momentum as a way to control friction and wear.
  • In this technology, a pulsating laser beam creates micro-dimples or grooves on the surface of materials in a very controlled manner.
  • Such textures can trap wear debris when operating under dry sliding conditions and sometimes provide effects like enhancing oil supply (lubricant reservoir) which can lower friction coefficients and may enable reduced wear rate.
  • The texture surfaces were created on automotive internal combustion engine components, piston rings and cylinder liners using 100 fs pulse duration laser.
  • The micro dimples of 10-20 μm diameter and about 5-10 μm deep which have been created with laser beams had a regular pattern.

Benefits of micro-texturing

  • The created textures were tested in an engine test rig under different speeds and temperatures of coolant and lubrication oil, and it was observed that there was a 16% reduction in the lube oil consumption with the use of texture on the piston rings.
  • The 10-hour lube oil consumption test shows that the blowby substantially reduced with textured rings.
  • Fabrication of a pattern of micro dimples or grooves on the surface of materials results in a change in surface topography which generates additional hydrodynamic pressure, thereby increasing the load-carrying capacity of the surfaces.
  • Hence these become useful for trapping wear debris when operating under dry sliding conditions and sometimes provide effects like enhancing oil supply (lubricant reservoir) which can lower friction coefficients and may enable reduced wear rate.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Supercomputers

Mains level : Applications of Supercomputers


The Union Ministry of Science & Technology has informed about the progress of the National Supercomputing Mission.

National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

  • NSM is a proposed plan by GoI to create a cluster of seventy supercomputers connecting various academic and research institutions across India.
  • In April 2015 the government approved the NSM with a total outlay of Rs.4500 crore for a period of 7 years.
  • The mission was set up to provide the country with supercomputing infrastructure to meet the increasing computational demands of academia, researchers, MSMEs, and startups by creating the capability design, manufacturing, of supercomputers indigenously in India.
  • Currently there are four supercomputers from India in Top 500 list of supercomputers in the world.

Aims and objectives

  • The target of the mission was set to establish a network of supercomputers ranging from a few Tera Flops (TF) to Hundreds of Tera Flops (TF) and three systems with greater than or equal to 3 Peta Flops (PF) in academic and research institutions of National importance across the country by 2022.
  • This network of Supercomputers envisaging a total of 15-20 PF was approved in 2015 and was later revised to a total of 45 PF (45000 TFs), a jump of 6 times more compute power within the same cost and capable of solving large and complex computational problems.

IWhat is a Supercomputer?

  • A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of performance as compared to a general-purpose computer.
  • The performance of a supercomputer is commonly measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions per second (MIPS).
  • Since 2017, there are supercomputers which can perform over a hundred quadrillion FLOPS (petaFLOPS).
  • Since November 2017, all of the world’s fastest 500 supercomputers run Linux-based operating systems.

Why do we need supercomputers?

  • Developed and almost-developed countries have begun ensuring high investments in supercomputers to boost their economies and tackle new social problems.
  • These high-performance computers can simulate the real world, by processing massive amounts of data, making cars and planes safer, and more fuel-efficient and environment-friendly.
  • They also aid in the extraction of new sources of oil and gas, development of alternative energy sources, and advancement in medical sciences.
  • Supercomputers have also helped weather forecasters to accurately predict severe storms, enable better mitigation planning and warning systems.
  • They are also used by financial services, manufacturing and internet companies and infrastructure systems like water-supply networks, energy grids, and transportation.
  • Future applications of artificial intelligence (AI) also depend on supercomputing.
  • Due to the potential of this technology, countries like the US, China, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia have created national-level supercomputing strategies and are investing substantially in these programmes.

When did India initiate its efforts to build supercomputers?

  • India’s supercomputer programme initiated in the late 1980s, when the United States ceased the export of a Cray Supercomputer due to technology embargos.
  • This resulted in India setting up C-DAC in 1988, which in 1991, unveiled the prototype of PARAM 800, benchmarked at 5 Gflops. This supercomputer was the second-fastest in the world at that time.
  • Since June 2018, the USA’s Summit is the fastest supercomputer in the world, taking away this position from China.
  • As of January 2018, Pratyush and Mihir are the fastest supercomputers in India with a maximum speed of Peta Flops.

What are the phases of the National Supercomputing Mission?

Phase I:

  • In the first phase of the NSM, parts of the supercomputers are imported and assembled in India.
  • A total of 6 supercomputers are to be installed in this phase.
  • The first supercomputer that was assembled indigenously is called Param Shivay. It was installed in IIT (BHU) located in Varanasi.
  • Similar systems, Param Shakti (IIT Kharagpur) and Param Brahma (IISER, Pune) were also later installed within the country.
  • The rest will be installed at IIT Kanpur, IIT Hyderabad and Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Studies (JNIAS).

Phase II:

  • The supercomputers that are installed so far are about 60% indigenous.
  • The 11 systems that are going to be installed in the next phase will have processors designed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and will have a cumulative capacity of 10 petaflops.
  • These new systems are to be constructed more cost-effectively than the previous ones.
  • One of the 11 proposed supercomputers will be installed
  • at C-DAC exclusively for small and medium enterprises so that they can train employees as well as work on supercomputers at a very low cost.

Phase III:

  • The third phase aims to build fully indigenous supercomputers.
  • The government had also approved a project to develop a cryogenic cooling system that rapidly dispels the heat generated by a computing chip. This will be jointly built together by IIT-Bombay and C-DAC.

What are the advantages of the National Supercomputing Mission?

  • The National Supercomputing Mission can ensure accessibility to supercomputers at an affordable rate to the scientific community and medium and small enterprises.
  • It can exponentially enhance the quality and quantity of R&D and higher education in the areas of science and technology.
  • It can solve the current and future challenges that are plaguing the country.
  • Currently, the world’s top supercomputers are mostly under the control of advanced nations like the US, Japan, China and the European Union. This Mission has the potential to bring India into this select league of such nations.
  • These supercomputers can be used in the areas of climate modelling, weather predictions, computational biology, atomic energy simulations, defence, disaster simulation, astrophysics etc.
  • These computers have played a crucial role in scientific and technological advancements in numerous fields.
  • Unlike other computers, these high-performance machines can crunch the most complex of data at a speed, which is millions of times faster than a desktop PC.
  • This mission, aiming to provide supercomputing facilities to about 60-70 institutions across the nation and thousands of active researchers, academicians, is moving fast towards creating a computer infrastructure within the country.
  • This mission can also enhance the country’s capacity to develop the next generation of supercomputer experts.

How do other countries make use of supercomputers?

China:

  • Jiangsu Province has a supercomputer called “Sunway TaihuLight”.
  • This supercomputer performs a wide range of tasks, including climate science, weather forecasting and earth-system modelling to help ships avoid rough seas, improve farmers’ yields and ensure the safety of offshore drilling.
  • TaihuLight has already led to an increase in profits and a reduction in expenses that justify its cost ($270 million).

United States:

  • In the US, supercomputers are radically transforming the healthcare system.
  • The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has used supercomputers to create a far more detailed model of the Hepatitis-C virus, a major cause of the liver disease that costs $9 billion in healthcare costs in the US alone.
  • Using supercomputers, the researchers have now developed a model that comprehensively simulates heart down to the cellular level and can lead to a substantial reduction in heart diseases.

These are some of the very few cases of how supercomputers have enhanced breakthroughs in various fields.

How do supercomputers help fight coronavirus?

  • Earlier, the US had established COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium that will bring together industry, academic institutions, and federal laboratories to try to identify or create candidate compounds that might prevent or treat coronavirus infection.
  • One of the members of the consortium, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, aimed to look into compounds that are already available in the market that might combat COVID-19.
  • For this purpose, the world’s fastest supercomputer “Summit” was used.
  • Like other viruses, the novel coronavirus uses a spike protein to inject cells.
  • Using Summit with an algorithm to investigate which drugs could bind to the protein and prevent the virus from doing its duty, the researchers have a list of 77 drugs that show promise.
  • Starting with 8,000 compounds, Summit has shortened the time of the experiment exponentially, ruling out the vast majority of possible medications before settling on 77 drugs, which are ranked based on how effective they are likely to be at halting the virus in the human body.

Way forward

  • It is evident that supercomputers would become a vital part of our lives as it can provide solutions to the current and future problems and India, one of the most populous nations in the world, must ensure that it also has access to this technology for the welfare of its people.
  • Supercomputers, as they operate at such incredible speeds, will encounter numerous barriers like network and interconnectivity hardware that previous generations of designers did not have to deal with.
  • The cooling system is also one of the major design constraints.
  • Hence, India must give a high emphasis on innovation to tackle these challenges.
  • India must also give high emphasis to the application rather than the technology itself.
  • Supercomputing research also requires fundamental research of the next stages of computing like quantum computing that are still in the theoretical stage.
  • Bureaucratic red-tapism must be circumvented and scientists and researchers must be allowed to take bold and radical steps without fear of reprisal.
  • The government must also invest in necessary physical and digital infrastructure.
  • It must also address the challenges of:
  • Limited funding and delayed release of funds
  • The increasing need for imports for necessary hardware components to build supercomputers

Conclusion:

  • Supercomputers are strategically important for India as it can help the country to become a knowledge-driven economy.
  • This technology also can support cutting edge research that can benefit the economy, society, businesses, environment, etc.
  • Thus, enhancing investments, improving flexibility for research and providing other necessary infrastructures must be ensured for it to grow.
  • Without this technology, India risks being surpassed on the global stage by other nations and will consequently miss the huge benefits that come from having this strategically important technology at the disposal of the country’s best and brightest minds

 

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Picking up the quantum technology batonop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NM-QTA

Mains level : Paper 3- Research on Quantum technology and its applications in India.


Context

With the Budget announcement providing direction for the development in quantum technology, the stakeholders need to roll-out the national mission quickly.

Pushing India into second quantum revolution

  • Budgetary allocation for NM-QTA: In the Budget 2020 speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a welcome announcement for Indian science — over the next five years she proposed spending ₹8,000 crores (~ $1.2 billion) on a National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications.
  • This promises to catapult India into the midst of the second quantum revolution, a major scientific effort that is being pursued by the United States, Europe, China and others.

Timeline of the development of Quantum Mechanics

  • Science to describe nature on atomic-scale: Quantum mechanics was developed in the early 20th century to describe nature in the small — at the scale of atoms and elementary particles.
  • Foundation for understanding: For over a century it has provided the foundations of our understanding of the physical world, including the interaction of light and matter.
    • It also led to ubiquitous inventions such as lasers and semiconductor transistors.
    • Despite a century of research, the quantum world still remains mysterious and far removed from our experiences based on everyday life.
  • Second revolution: A second revolution is currently underway with the goal of putting our growing understanding of these mysteries to use by actually controlling nature and harnessing the benefits of the weird and wondrous properties of quantum mechanics.
  • Challenge of experimental realisation: One of the most striking of these is the tremendous computing power of quantum computers, whose actual experimental realisation is one of the great challenges of our times.
  • Quantum supremacy: The announcement by Google, in October 2019, where they claimed to have demonstrated the so-called “quantum supremacy”, is one of the first steps towards this goal.

Applications and challenges

  • Applications: Besides computing, exploring the quantum world promises other dramatic applications including the creation of novel materials, enhanced metrology, secure communication, to name just a few.
    • Some of these are already around the corner.
    • Application in communication: China recently demonstrated secure quantum communication links between terrestrial stations and satellites.
    • Applications in cryptography: Computer scientists are working towards deploying schemes for post-quantum cryptography — clever schemes by which existing computers can keep communication secure even against quantum computers of the future.
    • Exploring fundamental questions: Beyond these applications, some of the deepest foundational questions in physics and computer science are being driven by quantum information science. This includes subjects such as quantum gravity and black holes.
  • The need for collaboration: Pursuing these challenges will require unprecedented collaboration between physicists (both experimentalists and theorists), computer scientists, material scientists and engineers.
  • Challenges on the experimental front: On the experimental front, the challenge lies in harnessing the weird and wonderful properties of quantum superposition and entanglement in a highly controlled manner by building a system composed of carefully designed building blocks called quantum bits or qubits.
    • These qubits tend to be very fragile and lose their “quantumness” if not controlled properly, and a careful choice of materials, design and engineering is required to get them to work.
  • Challenges on the theoretical front: On the theoretical front lies the challenge of creating the algorithms and applications for quantum computers.
    • These projects will also place new demands on classical control hardware as well as software platforms.

Where India stands

  • India late in starting work on technology: Globally, research in this area is about two decades old, but in India, serious experimental work has been underway for only about five years, and in a handful of locations.
  • What are the constraints on Indian progress in this field? So far we have been plagued by a lack of sufficient resources, high-quality manpower, timeliness and flexibility.
    • Resource and quality manpower problem: The new announcement in the Budget would greatly help fix the resource problem but high-quality manpower is in global demand.
    • In a fast-moving field like this, timeliness is everything — delayed funding by even one year is an enormous hit.
  • A previous programme called Quantum Enabled Science and Technology has just been fully rolled out, more than two years after the call for proposals.
  • Laudable announcement: One has to laud the government’s announcement of this new mission on a massive scale and on a par with similar programmes announced recently by the United States and Europe.

Limits and way forward

  • But there are some limits that come from how the government must do business with public funds.
  • Role of the private sector: Here, private funding, both via industry and philanthropy, can play an outsized role even with much smaller amounts.
  • For example, unrestricted funds that can be used to attract and retain high-quality manpower and to build international networks — all at short notice — can and will make an enormous difference to the success of this enterprise.
  • Private participation is the effective way: This is the most effective way (as China and Singapore discovered) to catch up scientifically with the international community, while quickly creating a vibrant intellectual environment to help attract top researchers.
  • Connection with industry: Further, connections with the Indian industry from the start would also help quantum technologies become commercialised successfully, allowing the Indian industry to benefit from the quantum revolution.
  • We must encourage industrial houses and strategic philanthropists to take an interest and reach out to Indian institutions with an existing presence in this emerging field.
  • For example, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), home to India’s first superconducting quantum computing lab, would be delighted to engage.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Friction-reducing Nanocomposite CoatingsPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nano-composites and its applications

Mains level : Not Much


A group of scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI) have developed a process for size-selective deposition of nanocomposite coatings which can reduce friction of these dynamic systems.

What are Nanocomposites?

  • Nanocomposite coatings are formed by mixing two or more dissimilar materials at nanoscale to improve the physical, chemical and physicochemical properties of the new materials.
  • The scientists have found that nickel tungsten-based coatings with infusion of particular sized Silicon Carbide (SiC) submicron particles using a pulsed electroplating can provide an excellent combination of wear and corrosion resistance.

Applications

  • Many aerospace, defence, automobile, space devices need to reduce friction, wear, and tear to enhance the life of components.
  • Lubricating these dynamic systems add to the cost, complexity, and weight of these systems.
  • The coating could help in reducing the friction of such devices.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Quantum coin or ‘qubit’ and Entanglement TheoryPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Qubit, Quantum Entanglement

Mains level : Quantum Computing and its applications


Researchers from Raman Research Institute (RRI), an autonomous institution under the Dept. of Science & Technology, have devised a new test for fairness of quantum coin or ‘qubit’ using entanglement theory. The Qubit is the basic unit of information in a quantum computer.

Entanglement Theory

  • It is a special type of correlation that exists in the quantum world with no classical counterpart.
  • The researchers from RRI made use of this quantum resource to arrive at a test for fairness of a quantum coin (a qubit).
  • Their strategy, which makes use of entanglement, enables better discrimination between quantum states. Such advantage is valuable in quantum sensors.
  • This work is a significant contribution to the domain of quantum state discrimination, which is an essential aspect of quantum information science.
  • It brings out the crucial role of entanglement in improving our ability to discriminate quantum states.
  • In this work the researchers concretely implemented the theoretical idea on the simulation facility of the IBM quantum computer.

Quantum coins

  • By repeated trials, one can determine the fairness of a classical coin with a confidence which grows with the number of trials.
  • A quantum coin can be in a superposition of heads and tails.
  • Given a string of qubits representing a series of trials, one can measure them individually and determine the state with a certain confidence.
  • The team has shown that there is an improved strategy which measures the qubits after entangling them, which leads to a greater confidence.

Significance

  • This is a significant contribution to quantum state discrimination, an essential aspect of quantum information science which is expected to influence quantum sensing.
  • The domain of Quantum Information and Quantum Computing Technology is a growing area of research which is expected to influence Data Processing, which in turn, plays a central role in our lives in this Information Age.
  • For instance, bank transactions, online shopping and so on crucially depend on the efficiency of information transfer.
  • Thus the recent work on quantum state discrimination is expected to be valuable in people’s lives in the current era.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC)PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC)

Mains level : Read the attached story


Scientists at International Advanced Research for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad have developed Polymer Electrolyte Membrane fuel cells (PEMFC).

Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells

  • Proton-exchange membrane fuel cells, also known as polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells (PEMFC) are a type of fuel cell being developed mainly for transport applications, as well as for stationary fuel-cell applications and portable fuel-cell applications.
  • Their distinguishing features include lower temperature/pressure ranges (50 to 100 °C) and a special proton-conducting polymer electrolyte membrane.
  • PEMFCs generate electricity and operate on the opposite principle to PEM electrolysis, which consumes electricity.
  • They are a leading candidate to replace the aging alkaline fuel-cell technology, which was used in the Space Shuttle.

Working

 

  • The PEMFC uses a water-based, acidic polymer membrane as its electrolyte, with platinum-based electrodes.
  • The protons pass through the membrane to the cathode side of the cell while the electrons travel in an external circuit, generating the electrical output of the cell.

Applications in disaster management

  • Emergency Operation Centres (EOC) backed with 10 kW systems is being planned as a natural disaster management measure.
  • Tamil Nadu is generally affected by five to six cyclones every year, of which two to three are severe and is followed by frequent power cuts.
  • ARCI is now planning to set up a PEMFC system for Tamil Nadu to operate the systems like early warning systems, VHF set, IP phone, BSNL Ethernet and office equipment like scanner, computers, printers, phone, FAX and normal requirements like lighting and fan.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What is the ‘Raman effect’?Prelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Spectroscopy, Raman Effect

Mains level : Applications of Raman Effect


 

 

Yesterday, February 28th was celebrated as National Science Day. In 1986, the Govt. of India designated this Day, to commemorate the announcement of the discovery of the “Raman effect”.

CV Raman

  • Raman conducted his Nobel-prize winning research at IACS, Calcutta.
  • While he was educated entirely in India, Raman travelled to London for the first time in 1921, where his reputation in the study of optics and acoustics was known to physicists such as JJ Thomson and Lord Rutherford.
  • The Raman Effect won scientist Sir CV Raman the Nobel Prize for physics in 1930.
  • It was also designated as an International Historic Chemical Landmark jointly by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS).
  • His speciality was the study of vibrations and sounds of stringed instruments such as the Indian veena and tambura, and Indian percussion instruments such as the tabla and mridangam.

The Raman Effect

  • In 1928, Raman discovered that when a stream of light passes through a liquid, a fraction of the light scattered by the liquid is of a different colour.
  • While Raman was returning from London in a 15-day voyage, he started thinking about the colour of the deep blue Mediterranean.
  • He wasn’t convinced by the explanation that the colour of the sea was blue due to the reflection of the sky.
  • As the ship docked in Bombay, he sent a letter to the editor of the journal Nature, in which he penned down his thoughts on this.
  • Subsequently, Raman was able to show that the blue colour of the water was due to the scattering of the sunlight by water molecules.
  • By this time he was obsessed with the phenomenon of light scattering.

Observing the effect

  • The Raman Effect is when the change in the energy of the light is affected by the vibrations of the molecule or material under observation, leading to a change in its wavelength.
  • Significantly, it notes that the Raman effect is “very weak” — this is because when the object in question is small (smaller than a few nanometres), the light will pass through it undisturbed.
  • But a few times in a billion, light waves may interact with the particle. This could also explain why it was not discovered before.
  • In general, when light interacts with an object, it can either be reflected, refracted or transmitted.
  • One of the things that scientists look at when light is scattered is if the particle it interacts with is able to change its energy.

Applications

  • Raman spectroscopy is used in many varied fields – in fact, any application where non-destructive, microscopic, chemical analysis and imaging is required.
  • Whether the goal is qualitative or quantitative data, Raman analysis can provide key information easily and quickly.
  • It can be used to rapidly characterize the chemical composition and structure of a sample, whether solid, liquid, gas, gel, slurry or powder.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Responsible AI for Social Empowerment (RAISE) 2020PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RAISE 20202

Mains level : Creating a roadmap to harness AI


 

 

The Govt. has announced the mega event, RAISE 2020- ‘Responsible AI for Social Empowerment 2020,’ to be held in April in New Delhi.

RAISE 2020

  • RAISE 2020 is a first of its kind, a global meeting of minds on Artificial Intelligence to drive India’s vision and roadmap for social empowerment, inclusion and transformation through responsible AI.
  • It is India’s first Artificial Intelligence summit to be organized by the Government in partnership with Industry & Academia.
  • The summit will be a global meeting of minds to exchange ideas and charter a course to use AI for social empowerment, inclusion and transformation in key areas like Healthcare, Agriculture, Education and Smart Mobility amongst other sectors.
  • It will facilitate an exchange of ideas to further create a mass awareness about the need to ethically develop and practice AI in the digital era.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The hype over hypersonicsop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avangard-HGV

Mains level : Paper 3- Hypersonic Glide Vehicle, whether India go for developing it- and challenges to Indian security.


Context

Russia announced that its new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), Avangard, had been made operational.

What HGV is and where the US and China stand

  • What is HGV and what is it capable of?
    • Speed over 5 Mach: A hypersonic delivery system is essentially a ballistic or cruise missile that can fly for long distances and at speeds higher than 5 Mach at lower altitudes.
    • Invulnerable to interception: This allows it to evade interception from current Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD).
    • High manoeuvrability: It can also execute a high degree of manoeuvres.
    • Avangard-Developed by Russia: Russia claims that this HGV can fly at over 20 times the speed of sound.
    • Invulnerable to interception: and is capable of such manoeuvring as to be invulnerable to interception by any existing and prospective missile defence means of the potential adversary.
  • China and the U.S. are also close on the heels: The U.S. has moved from the research to the development stage.
    • Where China stands: China demonstrated the DF-17, a medium-range missile with the HGV, at the military parade in October 2019.
  • What were the reasons for the development: The U.S. walked out of anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2002, prompted by the U.S. exit from the treaty and fear of the U.S. anti-ballistic missile defence system.

How would hypersonics complicate the security concerns?

  • First complication-Increase in the possibility of miscalculation: These missiles are being added to the military capabilities of countries that possess nuclear weapons.
    • For these nations, the concern is always an attack on nuclear assets to degrade retaliation
    • Destination ambiguities: Another layer of complication is added by the fact that these missiles bring in warhead and destination ambiguities.
    • Increasing tendency to assume worst: In both cases, when an adversary’s early warning detects such missiles headed in its direction, but cannot be sure whether they are conventional or nuclear-armed, nor ascertain the target they are headed towards, the tendency would be to assume the worst.
    • For an adversary that faces a country with a BMD but itself has a small nuclear arsenal, it would fear that even conventionally armed hypersonic missiles could destroy a portion of its nuclear assets.
    • The tendency to shift to trigger-ready postures: The tendency could then be to shift to more trigger-ready postures such as launch on warning or launch under attack to ostensibly enhance deterrence.
    • Risk of miscalculation: But such shifts would also bring risks of misperception and miscalculation in moments of crisis.
  • Second complication-Offence defence spiral: According to reports, the U.S. has begun finding ways of either strengthening its BMD or looking for countermeasures to defeat hypersonics, besides having an arsenal of its own of the same kind.
    • Possibility of arms race: The stage appears set for an arms race instability given that the three major players in this game have the financial wherewithal and technological capability to play along.
    • This looks particularly imminent in the absence of any strategic dialogue or arms control.
  • Third complication-Possibility of the arms race into outer space: A third implication would be to take offence-defence developments into outer space.
    • Sensors are already placed into space: Counter-measures to hypersonics have been envisaged through the placement of sensors and interceptors in outer space.
    • While none of this is going to be weaponisation of outer space would, nevertheless, be a distinct possibility once hypersonic inductions become the norm.

Conclusion

The induction of this technology would likely prove to be a transitory advantage eventually leading nations into a strategic trap. India needs to make a cool-headed assessment of its own deterrence requirements and choose its pathways wisely.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Frame rules to govern how devices identify usop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Face recognition technique, its uses and related issue.


Context

Facial recognition technology is set to become an integral part of the law enforcement toolkit, but we should regulate this technology before it pervades our public spaces.

What are the issues with the use of facial recognition?

  • Enormous possibilities for law enforcement agencies:
    • Detectives have been using facial recognition to solve crimes for almost as long as the camera has been in existence.
    • Use of AI for facial recognition: It is but a logical extension of the modern crime solver’s toolkit to use artificial intelligence (AI) on the most identifiable physical feature of people, their face.
    • Screening faces within hours: An image captured at the scene of a crime can now be screened against photographs of entire populations for a match within a matter of hours.
  • Uneasiness with being watched: The idea of being watched by devices linked to vast databases far out of sight makes liberal societies uneasy.
  • Invasion of privacy:  The intrusion that is causing alarm, however, has nothing to do with the technology itself, and everything to do with the all-pervasive surveillance it enables.

Should there be no rules governing it?

  • Issue of accuracy: How accurately faces are identified by machines is a major point of concern. Deployed in law enforcement, false matches could possibly result in a miscarriage of justice.
    • Judicial scrutiny: Even a low rate of error could mean evidence faces judicial rejection. It is in the judiciary’s interest, all the same, to let technology aid police-work.
  • Racial bias: First up for addressal is the criticism that facial recognition is still not smart enough to read emotions or work equally well for all racial groups.
    • With iterative use, it will improve.
  • Mala fide use: Since such tools can be put to mala fide use as-rogue drones equipped with the technology, for example, should never be in a position to carry out an assassination.
    • Nor should an unauthorized agent be able to spy on or stalk anyone.
    • Caution in the developed countries:  Apart from California, the European Union has also decided to exercise some caution before exposing people to it.
  • Privacy as fundamental rights in India: India, which has recently accepted privacy as a fundamental right, would do well to tilt the Western way on this.

Conclusion

  • We need regulations that restrict the use of facial recognition to the minimum required to serve justice and ease commercial operations. For the latter, customer consent should be mandatory.
  • There will be some overlaps. Its use at an aerobridge to board an aircraft, for example, could serve the interests of both state security and the airline, but data-sharing could risk leakage.

 

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

XenobotPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Xenobot

Mains level : Utility of stem cells in bio-robotics


Scientists in the US have created the world’s first “living machines” — tiny robots built from the cells of the African clawed frog that can move around on their own.

Xenobot

  • Scientists have developed living robots from frogs stem cells.
  • They have named this millimetre-wide robots “xenobots” — after the species of aquatic frog found across sub-Saharan Africa from Nigeria and Sudan to South Africa, Xenopus laevis.
  • Scientists have repurposed living cells scraped from frog embryos and assembled them into entirely new life-forms.
  • The xenobots can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload (like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient) — and heal themselves after being cut.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Virtual human’ NEONPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NEON

Mains level : Applications of AI


NEONs are being called the world’s first artificial humans. They look and behave like real humans, and could develop memories and emotions — though from behind a 4K display.

NEON

  • Star Labs is headed by India-born scientist Pranav Mistry who underlines that what was showcased at CES was the product of just four months’ work.
  • The company says NEONs are computationally created virtual humans — the word derives from NEO (new) + humaN.
  • For now, the virtual humans can show emotions when manually controlled by their creators.
  • But the idea is for NEONs to become intelligent enough to be fully autonomous, showing emotions, learning skills, creating memories, and being intelligent on their own.
  • Star Labs thinks they can be “friends, collaborators, and companions”, but all that is a few years away.

How does it work?

There are two core technologies behind his virtual humans.

  • First, there is the proprietary CORE R3 technology that drives the “reality, real time and responsiveness” behind NEONs.
  • It is the front-end reality engine that is able to give you that real expression.
  • The company claims CORE R3 “leapfrogs in the domains of Behavioral Neural Networks, Evolutionary Generative Intelligence and Computational Reality”, and is “extensively trained” on how humans look, behave and interact.
  • But in the end, it is like a rendition engine, converting the mathematical models to look like actual humans.
  • The next stage will be SPECTRA, which will complement CORE R3 with the “spectrum of intelligence, learning, emotions and memory”.
  • But SPECTRA is still in development, and is not expected before NEONWORLD 2020 later this year.

How could NEONs be used?

  • NEONs are the interface for technologies and services.
  • They could answer queries at a bank, welcome you at a restaurant, or read out the breaking news on television at an unearthly hour.
  • This form of virtual assistance would be more effective, for example, while teaching languages, as NEONs will be capable of understanding and sympathizing.

How are they different from Virtual Assistants?

  • Virtual Assistants now learn from all the data they are plugged into. NEONs will be limited to what they know and learn.
  • Their leaning could potentially be limited to the person they are catering to, and maybe her friends — but not the entire Internet.
  • They will not be an interface for you to request a song, rather they will be a friend to speak to and share experiences with.
  • Currently, its developer doesn’t want NEONs to have collective memory, or to share data among themselves.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed of the day] The age of ubiquitous drones and the challenges overheadop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Drones, applications and security threats.


Context

Increasing the use of drones in warfare and other areas has brought into focus the potential the use of drones hold and the other issues related to its misuse.

Recent events featuring drones

  • A drone was used by the U.S. to fire the missile at Qassem Soleimani to assassinate him.
  • A few days before that, less-lethal drones monitored crowds of student protesters rocking India.

A potential area of use of drones

  • Military and Policing: Drones are largely used for military or policing purposes, but they also have other uses.
  • Recreation and Sports: They are used for recreation and sports. The Chinese company DJI dominates this space.
  • Logistics: Logistics is another use, with Amazon developing last-mile drone delivery.
  • At scale, this delivery model can save money, energy and time.
  • Domino’s extended this logic to deliver its first pizza by drone in New Zealand and is experimenting with scaling this model up in many markets.
  • Botswana has had some successful trials where drones have delivered blood and life-saving drugs to villages out in the wilderness.
  • Agriculture: A startup called Terraview uses drones with advanced image processing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality to increase the productivity of vineyards.
  • A drone can be used to measure the amount of grain that’s piled up after harvest.
  • Mining Output: Tata Steel has used drones quite effectively to measure mining output.
  • Access the inaccessible places: Drones can go where people cannot.
  • So, inspection and repair at remote wind farms on an island, or pipelines in the remote tundra, or equipment in a rainforest can be done more cheaply and precisely.
  • Drone surveillance is now widely used by the insurance industry in the aftermath of floods or pest inspections.
  • They can provide organizations a 360-degree view of the status of any construction project and its assets.
  • Explosive detection and defusing: In many places, it is just safer to send a drone, such as while using explosives in deep mines or defusing suspected bombs.
  • Wildlife protection and survey: drones are used to survey wildlife and detect poaching in the jungles of Africa.

Drones as commodity

  • Drones will soon become a hardware commodity, much like personal computers.
  • It will be the software loaded on it that will be the real force-multiplier.
  • Industry 4.0 revolution: Business like “drones-as-a-service” will emerge, dramatically reducing the time taken for tasks and serving as a vital tool in the Industry 4.0 revolution.

A potent tool for Swarm-attack by military

  • Perhaps the most fascinating developments will occur where drones originated, in
  • Drones will mutate into swarms, where multiple, intelligent, small drones act as one vast network, much like a swarm of birds or locusts.
  • Advanced militaries have drone swarms under trial that could revolutionize future conflicts.
  • These swarms could overwhelm enemy sensors with sheer numbers and precisely target enemy soldiers and assets using data fed into them.
  • They will be difficult to shoot down as there will be hundreds of small flying objects rather than one big ballistic missile.
  • The swarm will use real-time ground data to organize itself and operate in concert to achieve its goal.

Issues with drones

  • It will be us humans who will decide whether we use drones for beneficial or malevolent ends.
  • National Security Issues: Drones have demonstrated the potentials for their threat to the security of a country. Drones are operated remotely and can strike where it want it to strike. Raising serious security issues.
  • Terrorism: Drones have been used by various terrorist organisations like ISIS in Syria and Iraq to hit their targets.
  • Aviation safety: Drones flying too close to commercial aircraft has called for regulations.
  • Privacy: Drones have been used by the paparazzi to take the images of individuals breaching their privacy.

Conclusion

Drones can indeed be a fantastic tool for good projects, from helping save the planet to identifying and nabbing criminals, and preventing the loss of human life. However, for that, we will have to change the DNA that they were born with, as lethal weapons of war. Otherwise, they will remain anonymous killers, wreaking death and destruction as they hover innocuously above.

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Lithium-Sulfur BatteryPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lithium-Sulfur Battery

Mains level : Application of Li-S batteries in EVs


Researchers from Australia have claimed that they have developed the world’s most efficient lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery, capable of powering a smartphone for five continuous days. With this equivalence, an electric car would be able to drive a distance of over 1,000 km in one charge.

What are Lithium-Sulfur Batteries?

  • Researchers who have developed this new Li-S battery claim it has an “ultra-high capacity” and has better performance and less environmental impact.
  • This means that they may be able to outperform the Li-ion batteries by more than four times.
  • With Li-ion batteries, some disadvantages include their susceptibility to overheating and their being prone to damage at high voltages.
  • Such batteries also start losing their capacity over time — for instance, a laptop battery in use for a few years does not function as well as a new one.

Construction

While the materials used in the Li-S batteries are not different from those in Li-ion batteries, the researchers have reconfigured the design of the sulfur cathodes (a type of electrical conductor through which electrons move) to accommodate higher stress without a drop in overall capacity.

Advantages of the Li-S batteries

  • Li-S batteries are generally considered to be the successors of the Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries because of their lower cost of production, energy efficiency and improved safety.
  • Their cost of production is lower because sulfur is abundantly available.
  • Even so, there have been some difficulties when it comes to commercialising these batteries, mainly due to their short life cycle and poor instantaneous power capabilities.

Why is this development important?

  • As the market share of electric vehicles (EV) is increasing and people are becoming more aware and conscious of global warming and climate change.
  • There is a need for development in terms of the kind of batteries used in these vehicles.
  • The growth of the EV market is linked to the development of batteries that are cost-effective, more efficient and leave a smaller environmental burden.
  • Today, most EV use Li-ion batteries, but are slowly reaching their theoretical limits of being able to provide roughly up to 300-watt hour per kilogram of energy.
  • Thus arises the need for batteries that can store more energy to run these cars, and Li-S batteries are considered to be a good alternative.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Russia’s Avangard MissilePrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avangard and other ICBMs

Mains level : Not Much


  • Russia’s military deployed a new intercontinental weapon, the Avangard hypersonic missile system that can fly 27 times the speed of sound.
  • This will be the Russian military’s first Avangard hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
  • This feat is highly significant and comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.

Avangard Hypersonic Missile

  • Previously referred to as Project 4202, the Avangard hypersonic missile system is a reentry body carried atop an existing ballistic missile, which has the capability to manoeuvre.
  • The missiles have a range of over 6,000 km, weigh approximately 2,000 kg and can withstand temperatures of over 2000 degree celsius.
  • It’s manoeuvring capability makes it difficult to predict its trajectory and gives it the ability to protect itself from the air and ballistic missile defences by delivering nuclear warheads to targets, for instance, in Europe and the US.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Carbon DotsPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carbon Dots

Mains level : Applications of Carbon Dots


In an extraordinary waste-to-wealth feat, researchers from Assam have used the commonly found invasive plant water hyacinth to produce carbon nanoparticles.

Carbon Dots

  • The researchers harvested water hyacinth leaves, removed the chlorophyll, dried and powdered it.
  • The sieved powder underwent several treatments including heating at 150 degree Celsius to convert it to carbon dots.
  • When a nanoparticle is less than 10 nanometres call it a dot or nanodot.

Features of these dots

  • These carbon dots were able to give a green fluorescence under UV light.
  • These extremely tiny (less than 10 nanometres) particles can be used for detecting a commonly used herbicide — pretilachlor.
  • The nanoparticles were found to be selective and sensitive for the detection of the herbicide.
  • Some teams are exploring if its fibre can be used to make furniture.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] New System for Measurement of WeightPIBPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kibble Balance, Kilogram and its definiton

Mains level : Not Much



The prototype of one kilogram (NPK-57) is now available in India and placed at the National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi. The new definition of kilogram which has come into effect from May 2019 and few countries have developed the system of realization of unit of mass ‘kg’.

How much is a kilogram?

  • Over the centuries, it has been defined and redefined, with a standard in place since 1889.
  • Called Le Grand K, a cylinder of platinum-iridium is locked up in a jar at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris.
  • For nearly 130 years, the mass of this cylinder has been the international standard for the kilogram.

Redefining what constitutes 1 Kg

  • Representatives from 57 countries will vote in Versailles, France, to redefine SI, or the International System of Units.
  • The kilogram’s definition will be based on a concept of physics called the Planck constant.
  • Reports worldwide suggest that the new definition is set to be voted in.

Using a Kibble Balance

  • Kibble balance is a self-calibrating electromechanical balance and provides the measurements of mass, traceable in terms of electrical parameters and provides linkage of macroscopic mass to the Planck constant (h).
  • The advantages of Kibble balance would be that the NPK need not to be sent to BIPM for calibrations and the accuracy and stability of Kibble balance is very high.
  • This is very important where low weights with high accuracies are essential, for example in pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop projectPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hyperloop

Mains level : High speed connectivity in India: Prospects and Challenges



The new coalition government in Maharashtra is set to discuss the progress of ambitious Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop One.

What is Hyperloop?

  • It is a next-generation travel system that uses pods or capsules travelling at high speeds through low-pressure tubes erected on columns or tunneled underground using magnetic levitation.

How does it work?

  • The system is fully autonomous and sealed, so no driver-related error is anticipated.
  • In a sealed environment with almost no air resistance, the pods are expected to reach very high speeds.
  • The top speed could reach over 700 mph or 1,125 km/h.
  • This speed is more than two and a half times the top speed of the world’s fastest train, the Shanghai Maglev (267 mph or 430 km/h), and some 200 mph faster than the cruising speed of a commercial jetliner (460-575 mph/740-925 km/h).

What was the Branson plan?

  • Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One proposed a hyperloop between Mumbai and Pune, which would reduce the travel time between the two cities to just 25 minutes from the existing three hours.
  • It would link central Pune, Navi Mumbai International Airport, and Mumbai. It was pitched as a plan with potential to transport 26 million people and make 159 million passenger trips per year.
  • The route would be 100 per cent electric, which means a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions up to 86,000 tonnes over 30 years.
  • The project involves construction across a length of 117.5 km; an initial testing track of 11.8 km was to be constructed in the first phase from Pune’s Hinjewadi.

What did the Maharashtra government do to take forward the proposal?

  • It was categorised as a “public infrastructure project”, and received Cabinet clearance to speed up land acquisition for the testing track.
  • The Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority was assigned the task of overseeing the implementation of the first phase.
  • The government also decided to use the “Swiss challenge” method for the bidding of the project.
  • That means the first bidder would be challenged by other global bidders, and in order to stay in the game, would have to match those bids.
  • The method is normally used for unsolicited bids for public infrastructure projects.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Universal Product Code (UPC) or BarcodePrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Barcode QR Code

Mains level : Applications of Barcode



Yesterday, engineer-scientist George Laurer died in North Carolina, USA, at age 94. He was the co-developer of the Universal Product Code (UPC), or barcode, in 1973.

What is Barcode?

  • A barcode is a method of representing data in a visual, machine-readable form. Initially, barcodes represented data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines.
  • These barcodes, now commonly referred to as linear or one-dimensional, can be scanned by special optical scanners, called barcode readers.

How the idea took shape

  • Barcode was the brainchild of Woodland; Laurer is credited with bringing the idea to fruition.
  • It was in the 1950s that Woodland thought about developing a system based on barcode symbology, called Bulls-Eye Barcode, which would describe a product and its price in a code readable by a machine.
  • Initially, Woodland took inspiration from the Morse Code, the well-known character-encoding scheme in telecommunications defined by dots and dashes.
  • Woodland’s idea seemed workable but he was unable to develop the system as the cost of laser and computing technology was extremely high in the 1950s.
  • Two decades later, in the 1970s, Laurer, who was then working for IBM, put Woodland’s idea to work, armed with less expensive laser and computing technology.
  • Laurer found that a rectangle system, which we see on most barcodes today, would be more workable than Bulls-Eye, which used a series of concentric circles that looked complicated.

Transformation brought about

  • Today, shoppers simply pick up a product at a store or a mall, and pay the bill as determined by a scan of the barcode.
  • Barcodes can be found in hundreds and thousands of products for identification and scanning, and allow retailers to identify prices instantly.
  • They also allow for easy check-outs and fewer pricing errors, and let retailers keep better account of their inventory.
  • The barcode also changed the balance of power in the retail industry.

Back2Basics

QR Code

  • The Quick Response (QR) code is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan.
  • In practice, QR codes often contain data for a locator, identifier, or tracker that points to a website or application.
  • A QR code uses four standardized encoding modes (numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, and kanji) to store data efficiently; extensions may also be used.
  • The main advantage of a QR code is its versatility. QR codes can be used for anything and everything.
  • It became due to its fast readability and greater storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

“Contract for the Web”Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WWW

Mains level : Global measures for Internet governance



Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has announced a “Contract for the Web” — aimed at saving the future of his invention, which is now almost an essential condition for human existence.

The Contract for the Web

  • Berners-Lee announced plans for this “Contract” nearly a year ago, and the World Wide Web Foundation, a non-profit he has founded, worked on it.
  • The idea is to create a global plan of action for all stakeholders to together commit to building a “better” Web.
  • The Contract consists of nine principles — three each for governments, private companies, and individuals and civil society to endorse — with 76 clauses each.
  • The plan of action is that governments who are looking to regulate in the digital era, can use the contract as a roadmap to lay out their policies and laws going forward.
  • Citizen action is an important part of the Contract, and the organisation hopes citizens would hold governments and companies accountable for violations of its terms.

Who has created this Contract?

  • Representatives from over 80 organisations, including governments, companies, civil society activists, and academics.
  • The goal was to create a standard policy for a Web that benefits all. The nine principles emerged after a series of discussions over almost a year.

Principles of the Contract

  1. Governments will “Ensure everyone can connect to the Internet”, “Keep all of the Internet available, all of the time”, and “Respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights”.
  2. Companies will “Make the Internet affordable and accessible to everyone”, “Respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust”, and “Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst”.
  3. Citizens will “Be creators and collaborators on the Web”, “Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity”, and “Fight for the Web” so that it “remains open and a global public resource for people everywhere, now and in the future”.

Legal check

  • The ‘Contract for the Web’ is not a legal document, or a United Nations document — though the organisation is in talks with the UN.
  • The companies that do not implement the Contract would be delisted from it — which may not be the strongest deterrent.
  • It cannot currently bend governments or companies — even those that are on board — to its will.

Why such a contract?

Currently there’s no real accepted standard of best practices for even designing user interfaces, to make sure that people actually understand what they’re consenting to, what information is being collected.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) SystemPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AIP system

Mains level : Indigenization of defense production


  • DRDO is a step closer to boosting endurance of submarines with the indigenous Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System.
  • It has successfully tested the operation of the indigenous land-based prototype.

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System

  • Air-independent propulsion (AIP) is any marine propulsion technology that allows a non-nuclear submarine to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen (by surfacing).
  • AIP is usually implemented as an auxiliary source, with the traditional diesel engine handling surface propulsion.
  • Most such systems generate electricity which in turn drives an electric motor for propulsion or recharges the boat’s batteries.
  • AIP can augment or replace the diesel-electric propulsion system of non-nuclear vessels.
  • It enables conventional submarines to remain submerged for longer duration.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Explained: Edge ComputingExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Edge Computing

Mains level : Applications of Edge Computing



  • Cloud computing — by which remote servers hosted on the Internet store and process data, rather than local servers or personal computers — is ready to move to the next level i.e. ‘Edge Computing’.

Cloud Computing

  • Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by the user.
  • The term is generally used to describe data centres available to many users over the Internet.

Why need an upgrade?

  • Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google — the technology giants that provide cloud computing infrastructure to major corporates and governments.
  • They want to leverage 5G wireless technology and artificial intelligence to enable faster response times, lower latency (ability to process very high volumes of data with minimal delay), and simplified maintenance in computing.
  • This is where Edge Computing comes in — which many see as an extension to the cloud, but which is, in fact, different in several basic ways.
  • By 2025 companies will generate and process more than 75% of their data outside of traditional centralised data centres — that is, at the “edge” of the cloud.

So, what is Edge Computing?

  • Edge computing enables data to be analysed, processed and transferred at the edge of a network.
  • The idea is to analyse data locally, closer to where it is stored, in real-time without latency, rather than send it far away to a centralised data centre.
  • So whether you are streaming a video or accessing a library of video games in the cloud, edge computing allows for quicker data processing and content delivery.

How is edge computing different from cloud computing?

  • The basic difference between edge computing and cloud computing lies in the place where the data processing takes place.
  • At the moment, the existing Internet of Things (IoT) systems performs all of their computations in the cloud using data centres.
  • Edge computing, on the other hand, essentially manages the massive amounts of data generated by IoT devices by storing and processing data locally.
  • That data doesn’t need to be sent over a network as soon as it processed; only important data is sent — therefore, an edge computing network reduces the amount of data that travels over the network.

And how soon can edge computing becomes part of our lives?

  • Experts believe the true potential of edge computing will become apparent when 5G networks go mainstream in a year from now.
  • Users will be able to enjoy consistent connectivity without even realizing it.
  • Nvidia, one of the biggest players in the design and manufacture of graphics and AI acceleration hardware, has just announced its EGX edge computing platform.
  • This will help telecom operators adopt 5G networks capable of supporting edge workloads.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Dirac metals: New class of quantum materials for clean energy technologyPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dirac Metals

Mains level : Applications of Dirac materials



  • Researchers from IIT Bombay have discovered special properties in a class of materials called “semi-Dirac metals” that have been recently talked about in the scientific literature.

What are Dirac metals?

  • Normal metals like gold and silver are good conductors of electricity.
  • A key aspect that decides the quality of conduction is the way energy depends on the momentum of electrons.
  • Dirac metals differ from normal metals in that the energy depends linearly on the momentum. This difference is responsible for their unique properties.
  • Semi-Dirac metals behave like Dirac metals in one direction and like normal metals in the perpendicular directions (since their microscopic structure is different along the two directions).
  • Within any material, charge carriers, such as electrons, acquire an effective mass which is different from their bare mass depending on the nature of the material.
  • The effective mass and the number of states available for the electron to occupy when it is excited by an electric field, for example, determine the conductivity and other such properties.
  • This is also true of a semi-Dirac metal. In particular, the effective mass becomes zero for conduction along a special direction.

Significance

  • Examples of semi-Dirac metals are systems such as TiO2/V2O3 nanostructures (Oxides of Titanium and Vanadium).
  • Through calculations, the researchers have shown that such materials would be transparent to light of a given frequency and polarization when it is incident along a particular direction.
  • The material would be opaque to the same light when it falls on it from a different direction.
  • There are many known applications for transparent conducting films – the common example being touch screens used in mobiles.
  • Optical conductivity is a measure of the opacity offered by the material to the passage of light through it.
  • The research shows a very high optical conductivity of semi-Dirac materials for electromagnetic waves [light waves] of a specific frequency and specific polarization.

Applications

  • The researchers show theoretically that semi-Dirac materials can display such thermoelectric properties.
  • The study of thermoelectrics dwells on the heat-to electricity conversion efficiency, for which there has been recent and tremendous interest due to the advent of nanomaterials and quantum materials.
  • Thermoelectricity is a clean energy technology that uses waste heat to produce electricity typically in low power applications.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Explained: What is Quantum Supremacy, claimed by Google?Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quantum Supremacy

Mains level : Quantum Computing and its applications



  • Google announced that it has achieved a breakthrough called quantum supremacy in computing.
  • Scientists have developed an experimental processor that took just 200 seconds, to complete a calculation that would have taken a classical computer 10,000 years.

Quantum supremacy

  • It refers to a quantum computer solving a problem that cannot be expected of a classical computer in a normal lifetime.
  • This relates to the speed at which a quantum computer performs.
  • The phrase “quantum supremacy” was coined in 2011 by John Preskill, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology in a speech.
  • According to reports, the quantum processor took 200 seconds to perform a calculation that the world’s fastest supercomputer Summit would have taken 10,000 years to accomplish.

What is quantum computing?

  • Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time.
  • Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.

How is Quantum computer different from a traditional computer?

  • What differentiates a quantum computer from a traditional computer is the way the two store information.
  • Quantum computers perform calculations based on the probability of an object’s state before it is measured – instead of just 1s or 0s – which means they have the potential to process exponentially more data compared to classical computers.
  • Classical computers carry out logical operations using the definite position of a physical state.
  • These are usually binary, meaning its operations are based on one of two positions. A single state – such as on or off, up or down, 1 or 0 – is called a bit.
  • In quantum computing, operations instead use the quantum state of an object to produce what’s known as a qubit.
  • These states are the undefined properties of an object before they’ve been detected, such as the spin of an electron or the polarisation of a photon.

 What makes a quantum computer so powerful?

  • In their research paper published in the journal Nature, scientists have announced that their Sycamore computer has solved a problem that is considered intractable for classical computers.
  • This was achieved by developing architecture of what is known as “qubits”.
  • “Qubits” is short for “quantum bits”, which are to quantum computers what bits are to traditional computers.
  • The more the number of qubits, the higher the amount of information, which increases exponentially compared to the information stored in the same number of bits.

What exactly has Google achieved?

  • From the development of a single superconducting qubit, the researchers proceeded to systems including architecture of 54 qubits with Sycamore.
  • One of these did not perform, the University of California, Santa Barbara said in a statement.
  • This architecture led to the 53 qubits being entangled into a superposition state.
  • Preparing this superposition state was accomplished in a matter of microseconds.
  • The researchers then sampled from this distribution by measuring the qubits a million times in 200 seconds.
  • The equivalent task for a state-of-the-art classical supercomputer would take approximately 10,000 years, they wrote in their paper.

Why does it matter?

  • First, it is important to know that scientists are still a long way from developing a quantum computer.
  • What they have achieved is the development of an architecture of qubits, and the demonstration of its computing capabilities.
  • In the long term, scientists are always looking to improve on what they have already achieved.
  • If and when created, a quantum computer could revolutionise science research and technological advances.
  • It could boost areas like artificial intelligence, lead to new energy sources and even to new drug therapies.

Issues with QC

  • On the other hand, there may also be issues of national security.
  • They could also override the encryption that protects our computers and the data we use online.
  • Because of that, the governments of the United States and China consider quantum computing a national priority.
  • As some scientists work on quantum computers, others are devising security techniques that could thwart their code-breaking abilities.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

WiS and WiBSPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WIS, WIBS

Mains level : Applications of Lithium ion battery


  • The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has developed a Lithium-ion battery that will not catch fire.

WiS and WiBS

  • Lithium-ion batteries are vulnerable to fire and explosion, which often happens without warning.
  • This is because they are built with flammable and combustible materials.
  • The researchers has announced the discovery of a new class of “water-in-salt” and “water-in-bisalt” electrolytes—referred to as WiS and WiBS.
  • The new class of electrolytes, when incorporated in a polymer matrix, reduces water activity and elevates the battery’s energy capabilities and life cycle.
  • This rids it of the flammable, toxic, and highly reactive solvents present in current Li-ion batteries. It’s a safe, powerful alternative.

Why it matters

  • Li-ion batteries have emerged as the energy storage vehicle of choice for portable electronics, electric vehicles, and grid storage.
  • These safety advancements, the university release, mark a significant step forward in transforming the way Li-ion batteries are manufactured and used in electronic devices.
  • Li-ion batteries are already a constant presence in our daily lives, from our phones to our cars, and continuing to improve their safety is paramount to further advancing energy storage technology.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Microbial fuel cellsPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Microbial fuel cells

Mains level : Microbial fuel cells and its applications



  • The London Zoo has used plants to power camera traps and sensors in the wild. This they achieved by installing microbial fuel cells in Pete, a fern.

Microbial fuel cells

  • They are devices that use bacteria as the catalysts to oxidize organic and inorganic matter and generate current.
  • Electrons produced by the bacteria are transferred to the negative terminal and flow to the positive terminal.
  • Plants naturally deposit biomaterial as they grow which in turn feeds the natural bacteria present in the soil.
  • This creates energy that can be harnessed by fuel cells and used to power a wide range of vital conservation tools remotely, including sensors, monitoring platforms and camera traps.

Benefits over other power sources

  • Among conventional power sources, batteries must be replaced while solar panels rely on a source of sunlight.
  • On the other hand, plants can survive in the shade, naturally moving into position to maximise the potential of absorbing sunlight.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Elastocaloric effectPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Elastocaloric effect

Mains level : Elastocaloric effect and its applications



Elastocaloric effect

  • When rubbers bands are twisted and untwisted, it produces a cooling effect.
  • This is called the “elastocaloric” effect, and researchers have suggested that it can be used in a very relevant context today.
  • Researchers have found that the elastocaloric effect, if harnessed, may be able to do away with the need of fluid refrigerants used in fridges and air-conditioners.
  • These fluids are susceptible to leakages, and can contribute to global warming.

How it works?

  • In the elastocaloric effect, the transfer of heat works much the same way as when fluid refrigerants are compressed and expanded.
  • When a rubber band is stretched, it absorbs heat from its environment, and when it is released, it gradually cools down.
  • In order to figure out how the twisting mechanism might be able to enable a fridge, the researchers compared the cooling power of rubber fibres, nylon and polyethylene fishing lines and nickel-titanium wires.
  • They observed high cooling from twist changes in twisted, coiled and supercoiled fibres.

Efficiency

  • The level of efficiency of the heat exchange in rubber bands “is comparable to that of standard refrigerants and twice as high as stretching the same materials without twisting”.
  • To demonstrate this setup, the researchers developed a fridge the size of a ballpoint pen cartridge that was able to bring down the temperature of a small volume of water by 8°C in a few seconds.
  • They suggested that their findings may lead to the development of greener, higher-efficiency and low-cost cooling technology.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Nobel Prize in Chemistry: for Lithium ion batteryPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lithium ion battery

Mains level : Significance of Li-ion batteries in FAME schemes



  • This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry recognizes the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power most of the portable devices that we use, such as mobile phones and more recently the e-vehicles.
  • The prize has been given jointly to Stanley Whittingham, John B Goodenough and Akira Yoshino.

Li-Ion battery

  • Whittingham developed the first functional lithium-ion battery in 1976, Goodenough brought in a major improvement in 1980, while Yoshino made the first practical-use lithium-ion battery in 1985.
  • Commercially manufactured lithium-ion batteries, based on what Yoshino had developed, made their first appearance in 1991.

Working

  • Batteries convert chemical energy into electricity.
  • A battery comprises two electrodes, a positive cathode and a negative anode, which is separated by a liquid chemical, called electrolyte, which is capable of carrying charged particles.
  • The two electrodes are connected through an electrical circuit.
  • When the circuit is on, electrons travel from the negative anode towards the positive cathode, thus generating electric current, while positively charged ions move through the electrolyte.

Why Li-Ion battery is the best?

  • Researchers have continued to look for other materials to make more efficient batteries, but so far none of these has succeeded in outperforming lithium-ion battery’s high capacity and voltage.
  • The lithium-ion battery itself has, however, gone several modifications and improvements so that it is much more environment friendly than when it was first developed.

How it is different from conventional batteries?

  • Single-use batteries stop working once a balance is established between the electrical charges.
  • In rechargeable batteries, an external power supply reverses the flow of electric charges, so that the battery can be used again.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] High Temperature Fuel Cell SystemPIBPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fuel Cells

Mains level : Fuel cell technology and its uses



  • The President of India unveiled the first Indigenous High Temperature Fuel Cell System developed by CSIR.

What is Fuel Cell?

  • A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy of a fuel (often hydrogen) and an oxidizing agent (often oxygen) into electricity through a pair of redox reactions.
  • Fuel cells are different from most batteries in requiring a continuous source of fuel and oxygen (usually from air) to sustain the chemical reaction.
  • Whereas in a battery the chemical energy usually comes from metals and their ions or oxides that are commonly already present in the battery, except in flow batteries.
  • Fuel cells can produce electricity continuously for as long as fuel and oxygen are supplied.

High Temperature Fuel Cell System

  • The Fuel Cells developed are based on High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (HTPEM) Technology.
  • The 5.0 kW fuel cell system generates power in a green manner using methanol / bio-methane, with heat and water as bi-products for further use.
  • It has greater than 70% efficiency, which otherwise may not be possible by other energy sources.

Utility of the cell

  • It is most suitable for distributed stationary power applications like; for small offices, commercial units, data centers etc.; where highly reliable power is essential with simultaneous requirement for air-conditioning.
  • This system will also meet the requirement of efficient, clean and reliable backup power generator for telecom towers, remote locations and strategic applications as well.
  • This development would replace Diesel Generating (DG) sets and help reduce India’s dependence on crude oil.

Why fuel cell?

  • In the field of clean energy, Fuel Cell distributed power generation systems are emerging as promising alternative to grid power.
  • The developed technology is world class and the development has placed India in the league of developed nations which are in possession of such a knowledgebase.
  • The Fuel Cells fit well in India’s mission of replacing diesel with green and alternate fuels.
  • The development of this technology is indigenous and carries immense national importance in terms of non-grid energy security.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Quantum SupremacyPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quantum Supremacy

Mains level : Quantum Computing



  • A draft research paper claimed Google researchers have achieved a long-ought-after goal in physics called “quantum supremacy”.

Quantum supremacy

  • It refers to a quantum computer solving a problem that cannot be expected of a classical computer in a normal lifetime.
  • This relates to the speed at which a quantum computer performs.
  • The phrase “quantum supremacy” was coined in 2011 by John Preskill, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology in a speech.
  • According to reports the quantum processor took 200 seconds to perform a calculation that the world’s fastest supercomputer, Summit, would have taken 10,000 years to accomplish.
  • The draft paper is believed to be an early version of a paper that has been submitted to a scientific journal.

What is quantum computing?

  • Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time.
  • Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.

How is Quantum computer different from a traditional computer?

  • What differentiates a quantum computer from a traditional computer is the way the two store information.
  • Quantum computers perform calculations based on the probability of an object’s state before it is measured – instead of just 1s or 0s – which means they have the potential to process exponentially more data compared to classical computers.
  • Classical computers carry out logical operations using the definite position of a physical state.
  • These are usually binary, meaning its operations are based on one of two positions. A single state – such as on or off, up or down, 1 or 0 – is called a bit.
  • In quantum computing, operations instead use the quantum state of an object to produce what’s known as a qubit.
  • These states are the undefined properties of an object before they’ve been detected, such as the spin of an electron or the polarisation of a photon.

Back2Basics

Quantum Mechanics

  • Quantum mechanics (QM) is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles.
  • It is the body of scientific laws that describe the wacky behavior of photons, electrons and the other particles that make up the universe.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Ready to reveal secrets from the right side of the moonop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Chandrayaan 2


CONTEXT

On 7 September, when the Vikram Lander ejects the Pragyan Rover to roll out and analyse the lunar terrain, India is the world’s first country to land on the moon’s highly uneven south pole. 

Background

    • It is labeled as “India’s Sputnik moment”, for its big leap forward for Indian science.
    • Such missions require decades of scientific effort, government planning, and adequate allocation of resources.

Importance of the event

    • It shows the ability to orbit a solar-system object.
    • It shall demonstrate the capability to land on the surface and carry out scientifically valuable exploratory missions around landing points through robotic rovers.
    • Data from the eight scientific payloads would make precise measurements of the chemical and mineral composition of the moon, map the topography of the lunar surface to intensify a search for the presence of hydroxyl and water molecules.
    • Exploring the south pole area will significantly improve our understanding of the moon as it contains an undisturbed historical record of the inner solar system environment.

Background of Chandrayaan

  • India had conducted an exhaustive study over 1999 to 2003 to chart out its future space missions. 
  • The study led to the decision of India’s first moon mission, Chandrayaan-1.
  • The decision was influenced by two factors: 
      • satellite-building and launch vehicle capabilities of ISRO and the interest of India’s scientific community
      • opportunity to upgrade our technological capabilities in areas such as control, guidance and navigation, deep-space communications, and other fields
  • Chandrayaan-1 satisfactorily fulfilled its mission objectives.
      • It discovered the possible existence of water in the exosphere and on the surface as well as sub-surface of the moon
      • mapped the mineralogical and chemical properties of the lunar regolith, atmosphere and ionosphere
      • studied aspects of solar radiation interaction with the moon

Indian space mission today

    • India’s launch vehicle program has matured; As of 2018, India had launched 237 satellites for 28 different countries.
    • Using these technologies, India has also built a series of sophisticated satellites for applications such as remote sensing, communication, broadcasting and navigation and for scientific missions
    • In this background, Chandrayaan 2, involving far higher level of technology, more detailed scientific measurements and increase in complexity was approved.

What it holds for the future

    • India hopes to play its rightful role in such future ventures which could be mostly international
    • The use of the moon as a take-off point to reach other locations in the solar system is also recognized as an attractive strategy
    • The preliminary experience gained from Chandrayaan 2 could be very valuable from technical and scientific points of view.
    • Near-Earth orbital missions, geosynchronous missions, near-Earth human spaceflight missions, robotic lunar and planetary exploration involving many solar system objects will be well within India’s reach in the next decade
    • The mission is a boost for India to conceive even more complex undertakings to nearby and distant planets and other bodies of the solar system like Gaganyaan.

Challenges remain

    • The allocation of resources to research and development in India is the lowest among BRICS nations. In 2014-15, India spent only about 0.69% of GDP on R&D, while Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa spent 1.24%, 1.19%, 2.05%, and 0.75%, respectively.
    • Also, the level of spending on R&D as a fraction of GDP has remained stagnant for the past two decades.

CONCLUSION

The success of the Chandrayaan 2 mission should draw the attention of our policymakers to increase the country’s level of support to science.

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

CSIR to certify air quality monitoring sensorsPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CSIR, NPL

Mains level : Not Much


  • The Union Environment Ministry has tasked the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Physical Laboratory (NPL) with certifying air quality monitoring instruments.
  • CSIR-NPL will develop necessary infrastructure, management system, testing and certification facilities conforming to international standards.

Why such move?

  • This is in anticipation of a rising demand by States — against the backdrop of the National Clean Air Campaign — for low cost air quality monitoring instruments.
  • The Centre in January launched a programme to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20%-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.
  • An edifice of this initiative is to have a vast monitoring network of sensors that can capture the rapid fluctuations of pollutants, necessary to ascertain how these gases and particles affected health.
  • Currently, the machines employed by State and Central Pollution Control Boards (SPCB and CPCB) are imported and can cost up to ₹1 crore to install and about ₹50 lakh to maintain over five years.
  • Several new sensors, which are far cheaper, are likely in the future, and it would be useful to have a creditable agency that can rate the quality of these devices.
  • Still several monitoring units were poorly calibrated, that is, over time, they were susceptible to erroneous readings.

About CSIR

  • The CSIR was established by the Government of India in September of 1942 as an autonomous body that has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India.
  • Although it is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • The research and development activities of CSIR include aerospace engineering, structural engineering, ocean sciences, life sciences, metallurgy, chemicals, mining, food, petroleum, leather, and environmental science.

CSIR NPL

  • The CSIR-NPL , situated in New Delhi, is the measurement standards laboratory of India.
  • It maintains standards of SI units in India and calibrates the national standards of weights and measures.
  • Each modernized country, including India has a National Metrological Institute (NMI), which maintains the standards of measurements. This responsibility has been given to the NPL.
  • The NPL maintains standard units of measurement such as Metre, Kg, Seconds, Ampere, Kelvin, Candela, Mole and Radiation.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

RoboBee X-WingPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RoboBee X-Wing

Mains level : Applications of Nanotechnology



RoboBee X-Wing

  • The Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory in Cambridge has claimed to have made possible the “lightest insect-scale aerial vehicle so far to have achieved sustained, untethered flight.
  • The robot can sustain a flight for less than a second. It is essentially a flying machine, which can flap its wings 120 times a second and is half the size of a paperclip.
  • Initially, the researchers called this lightest centimetre-sized vehicle, “RoboBee”, but with the current advancement which makes it possible for RoboBee to fly untethered, its name has been upgraded to “RoboBee X-Wing”.

Working

  • The robot weighs 259 mg and uses 110-120 milliwatts of power using solar energy, matching the “thrust efficiency” of similarly sized insects such as bees.
  • Much like aircraft, the robot is heavier than the air it displaces — a concept referred to as “heavier-than-air flight”.
  • However, when objects become smaller, achieving a heavier-than-air flight becomes more complicated.

Why make insect like robot?

  • Studying the mechanisms that insects use to flap their wings and navigate in the air is a matter of interest to biologists.
  • Flapping-wing robots can help in addressing questions related to the evolution of flight, the mechanical basis of natural selection and environmental monitoring.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Deep Ocean MissionPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Deep Ocean Mission

Mains level : India's quest for ocean bed resources


  • The Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) to explore the deepest recesses of the ocean has finally got the green signal from the government.

Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)

  • Nodal Agency: Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES)
  • The mission proposes to explore the deep ocean similar to the space exploration started by ISRO.
  • Underwater robotics and ‘manned’ submersibles are key components of the Mission which will help India harness various living and non-living (water, mineral and energy) resources from the seabed and deep water.
  • The tasks that will be undertaken over this period include deep-sea mining, survey, energy exploration and the offshore-based desalination.
  • These technological developments are funded under an umbrella scheme of the government – called Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART).

Objective of the mission

  • A major thrust of the mission will be looking for metals and minerals.
  • It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of Polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean.
  • These are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.

Exploring our EEZs

  • Exclusive Economic Zones (EZs) are boundaries prescribed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which give rights to a state regarding the exploration and use of marine resources.
  • India’s EEZs spreads over 2.2 million sq. km. and in the deep sea lies unexplored and unutilized.
  • India has been allotted a site of 75,000 sq. km. in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN).
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Ramanujan MachinePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ramanujan Machine

Mains level : Utility of the machine/algorithm


  • Scientists from Israel have developed a concept they have named the Ramanujan Machine, after the Indian mathematician.

Ramanujan Machine

  • It is not really a machine but an algorithm, and performs a very unconventional function.
  • With most computer programs, humans input a problem and expect the algorithm to work out a solution.
  • With the Ramanujan Machine, it works the other way round.
  • Feed in a constant, say the well-know pi, and the algorithm will come up with a equation involving an infinite series whose value, it will propose, is exactly pi.

Why named after Ramanujan?

  • The algorithm reflects the way Srinivasa Ramanujan worked during his brief life (1887-1920).
  • With very little formal training, he engaged with the most celebrated mathematicians of the time, particularly during his stay in England (1914-19), where he eventually became a Fellow of the Royal Society and earned a research degree from Cambridge.
  • Throughout his life, Ramanujan came up with novel equations and identities —including equations leading to the value of pi— and it was usually left to formally trained mathematicians to prove these.

What’s the point?

  • Conjectures (assumptions) are a major step in the process of making new discoveries in any branch of science, particularly mathematics.
  • Equations defining the fundamental mathematical constants, including pi, are invariably elegant.
  • New assumptions in mathematics, however have been scarce and sporadic, the researchers note in their paper, which is currently on a pre-print server.
  • The idea is to enhance and accelerate the process of discovery.

How good is it?

  • The paper gives examples for previously unknown equations produced by the algorithm, including for values of the constants pi (=3.142) and e (=2.7182).
  • The Ramanujan Machine proposed these conjecture formulas by matching numerical values, without providing proofs.
  • It has to be remembered that these are infinite series, and a human can only enter a finite number of terms to test the value of the series.
  • The question is, therefore, whether the series will fail after a point. The researchers feel this is unlikely, because they tested hundreds of digits.
  • Until proven, it remains a conjecture. By the same token, until proven wrong, a conjecture remains one.

Where to find it

  • The researchers have set up a website, ramanujanmachine.com.
  • Users can suggest proofs for algorithms or propose new algorithms, which will be named after them.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Black GoldPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Black Gold

Mains level : Special features of the new material


  • Using gold nanoparticles Indian scientists have developed a new material called “black gold”, which can potentially be used for applications ranging from solar energy harvesting to desalinating seawater, according to a study.

Black Gold

  • To develop the material, the team from Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) rearranged size and gaps between gold nanoparticles.
  • It has unique properties such as capacity to absorb light and carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Gold does not have these properties therefore ‘black gold’ is being called a new material.
  • In appearance it is black, hence the name ‘black gold’, according to the findings published in Chemical Science
  • The researchers varied inter-particle distance between gold nanoparticles using a cycle-by-cycle growth approach by optimizing the nucleation-growth step.
  • They used dendritic fibrous nanosilica, whose fibers were used as the deposition site for gold nanoparticles.

Features of Black Gold

  • One of the most fascinating properties of the new material is its ability to absorb the entire visible and near-infrared region of solar light.
  • It does so because of inter-particle plasmonic coupling as well as heterogeneity in nanoparticles size.
  • Black gold could also act as a catalyst and could convert CO2 into methane at atmospheric pressure and temperature using solar energy.
  • If we develop an artificial tree with leaves made out of back gold, it can perform artificial photosynthesis, capturing carbon dioxide and converting it into fuel and other useful chemicals.
  • The efficiency of conversion of CO2 into fuel, at present, is low but researchers believe it could be improved in future.
  • The material can be used as a nano-heater to covert seawater into potable water with good efficiency, the researchers said.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Explained: SuperconductivityExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Superconductivity

Mains level : Superconductors and their future uses


  • About a year ago, two scientists from IISc Bangalore had observed superconductivity at room temperature, in a new composite material made of gold and silver.
  • If the claimed discovery is confirmed, it could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in physics in this century so far.

Silver embedded gold matrix

  • The material that exhibited superconductivity is in the form of nanosized films and pellets made of silver nanoparticles embedded in a gold matrix.
  • Interestingly, silver and gold independently do not exhibit superconductivity.

What is Superconductivity?

  • Electricity is essentially the movement of free electrons in a conducting material like copper.
  • While the movement of electrons is in one particular direction, it is random and haphazard.
  • They frequently collide with one another, and with other particles in the material, thus offering resistance to the flow of current.
  • The picture is similar to one of messy traffic in a congested urban area. In the process, a lot of electrical energy is lost as heat. Resistance is a measurable quantity, which varies with the material.
  • Superconductivity is a state in which a material shows absolutely zero electrical resistance.
  • While resistance is a property that restricts the flow of electricity, superconductivity allows unhindered flow.
  • It is a phenomenon that, so far, has been possible only at extremely low temperatures, in the range of 100°C below zero.

A phenomenon of zero resistance

  • The search for a material that exhibits superconductivity at room temperature, or at least manageable low temperatures, has been going on for decades, without success.
  • In a superconducting state, however, the material offers no resistance at all.
  • All the electrons align themselves in a particular direction, and move without any obstruction in a “coherent” manner.
  • It is akin to vehicles moving in an orderly fashion on a superhighway.
  • Because of zero resistance, superconducting materials can save huge amounts of energy, and be used to make highly efficient electrical appliances.

Why is superconductivity difficult to achieve?

  • The problem is that superconductivity, ever since it was first discovered in 1911, has only been observed at very low temperatures, somewhere close to what is called absolute zero (0°K or -273.15°C).
  • In recent years, scientists have been able to find superconductive materials at temperatures that are higher than absolute zero.
  • But in most cases, these temperatures are still below -100°C and the pressures required are extreme.
  • Creating such extreme conditions of temperature and pressure is a difficult task.
  • Therefore, the applications of superconducting materials have remained limited as of now.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Mendeleev and his periodic table of elementsPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Modern Periodic Table

Mains level : Not Much



  • This newscard is supplementary to an must-read article published in the The Hindu

The Modern Periodic Table

  • The periodic table is an arrangement of all the elements known to man in accordance with their increasing atomic number and recurring chemical properties.
  • They are assorted in a tabular arrangement wherein a row is a period and a column is a group.
  • Until 1863, the world was aware of only 56 known elements.
  • The rate of scientific progress was such that every year, a new element was being discovered.
  • It was during this time that Mendeleev came up with the idea of the Periodic Table.
  • He published the Periodic Table in his book– The Relation between the Properties and Atomic Weights of the Elements.
  • Mendeleev said that he arrived at the idea in his dream, where he saw all chemical elements falling into place on a table according to their chemical properties.
  • Mendeleev had found a definitive pattern following which, each element could be placed according to their atomic weight.
  • He had also predicted the qualities of the ‘missing’ (yet to be discovered) elements and gave them Sanskrit names.

Its Evolution

  • The noble gases including helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and radon (Rn) were added to the table between 1895 and 1901.
  • Likewise, additions have been made to the periodic table as new elements have been discovered in the last hundred years
  • In 1914, English physicist Henry Gwyn-Jeffries Moseley found out that each atomic nucleus can be assigned a number, according to the number of protons in that atom.
  • This changed the way the periodic table worked. The table was redesigned according to the atomic number of elements rather than their atomic weight
  • Rare-earth elements, including the elements in the Lanthanide series, were included in the atomic table in the late 19th century.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Full circle: on the change in kilogram’s definitionMains Onlyop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Planck's Constant

Mains level : How changes have taken place over the time in defining standard metrics


CONTEXT

As of May 20, the kilogram joined a bunch of other units — second, metre, ampere, kelvin, mole and candela — that will no longer be compared with physical objects as standards of reference.

Background

  • The change comes after nearly 130 years: in 1889 a platinum-iridium cylinder was used to define how much mass one kilogram represented.
  • Now, a more abstract definition of the kilogram has been adopted in terms of fundamental constants, namely, the Planck’s constant h, and the metre and second which already have been defined in terms of universal constants such as the speed of light.
  • With this redefinition, the range of universality of the measurement has been extended in an unprecedented way.

New Method

  • Earlier, if a mass had to be verified to match with a standard kilogram, it would be placed on one of the pans of a common balance, while the prototype would have to be placed in the other pan — and mass would be measured against mass.
  • Now, by using a Kibble balance, which balances mass against electromagnetic force, to measure the mass of an unknown piece, the very methodology of verification has been altered.
  • The constants involved are known precisely and are universal numbers. Hence, whether the mass is measured on earth or, say, on the moon, it can be determined with precision.

 

History of standards

  • This is the culmination of a series of historical changes, which are also described by Richard S. Davis et al in their 2016 article in the journal Metrologia.
  • Originally the definition of mass was in terms of what was then thought of as a universal physical constant.
  • In 1791, 1 kg was defined as the mass of one litre of distilled water at its melting point. Thus, the density of water was the physical constant on which this definition hinged.
  • In 1799, the kilogram came to be defined using a cylinder of platinum – the first time an artefact was used for this purpose.
  • But it was also defined as equivalent to the mass of one litre of distilled water at atmospheric pressure and at about 4 degrees Celsius, the temperature at which water has the maximum density.
  • This was done away with in 1889 when the community adopted the International Prototype of the Kilogram — a cylinder made of an alloy that’s 90% platinum and 10% iridium.
  • The reference to the ‘physical constant’, i.e. mass of one litre of water, was abandoned.

Planck’s Constant

  • Now, as a culmination of this historical process, we come back full circle and find that the kilogram is defined again in terms of a fundamental physical constant — the Planck’s constant.
  • Planck’s constant is a robust number to match. Not until the art of travelling at relativistic speeds, close to the speed of light, is mastered, will we have to redefine these abstract definitions. Until then, it looks like metrologists are on a stable berth.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG)PIB


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Working of the AWG

Mains level: Utility of the AWG in light of depleting water resources


News

  • A Navratna PSU Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has unveiled the Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG).
  • It can be used to provide drinking water in community centres and public places.

Atmospheric Water Generator

  1. The AWG is being manufactured by BEL in collaboration with CSIR-IICT and MAITHRI, a start-up company based in Hyderabad.
  2. It employs a novel technology to extract water from the humidity present in the atmosphere and purify it.
  3. It uses heat exchange for condensing the atmospheric moisture to produce pure, safe and clean potable water.
  4. It comes with a Mineralization Unit, which is used to add minerals which are required to make the water potable.
  5. The AWG is configurable in static and mobile (vehicular) versions and is available in 30 litres/day, 100 litres/day, 500 litres/day and 1,000 litres/day capacities.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The potential that quantum internet holdsop-ed snap


Image result for quantum computing

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Quantum computing and internet

Mains level: Potential uses of quantum internet and how it is better than traditional internet


Context

Present computing theory

  1. All of today’s computing takes its root from the world of “bits”, where a transistor bit, which lies at the heart of any computing chip, can only be in one of two electrical states: on or off
  2. When on, the bit takes on a value of “1” and when off, it takes on a value of “0”, constraining the bit to only one of two (binary) values
  3. All tasks performed by a computer-like device, whether a simple calculator or a sophisticated computer, are constrained by this binary rule
  4. Eight bits make up what is called a “byte”
  5. Today, our computing is based on increasing the number of bytes into kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and so on
  6. All computing advances we have had thus far, including artificially intelligent programmes, and driverless cars are ultimately reduced to the binary world of the bit

Advent of quantum computing

  1. Classical internet is constrained by a binary thought process
  2. With quantum computing, information is held in “qubits” that can exist in two states at the same time
  3. A qubit can store a “0” and “1” simultaneously
  4. If you build two qubits, they can hold four values at once—11, 10, 01, and 00
  5. Adding on more qubits can greatly increase the computing capability of such a machine

Towards quantum internet

  1. The logical extension of quantum computing is a quantum internet, where computers don’t just compute in isolation, they also communicate with one another
  2. Scientists are now working on how a quantum internet might work
  3. To accomplish this, they are beginning by providing a vision of fundamentally new technology protocols to enable network communications between any two quantum computing machines on Earth
  4. They say that such a quantum internet will—in synergy with the “classical” internet that we have today—connect quantum computers in order to achieve unparalleled capabilities that are impossible today
  5. Several major applications for the quantum internet have already been identified, including secure communication, secure identification, achieving efficient agreement on distributed data, as well as secure access to remote quantum computers in the cloud

Advantages of the quantum internet

  1. The ability of a quantum internet to transmit “qubits” that are fundamentally different than classical “1” and “0” bits is what is paramount
  2. Qubits also cannot be copied, and any attempt to do so can be detected
  3. This makes qubits well suited for security applications

Way forward

  1. The transmission of qubits require radical new concepts and technology, requiring concerted efforts in physics, computer science, and engineering to succeed
  2. Although it is hard to predict what the exact components of a future quantum internet will be, it is likely that we will see the birth of the first multi-node quantum networks in the next few years
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] World’s standard definition of kilogram now redefinedPIBPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about Kilogram and Weighing system, Planck’s constant

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

Redefining Kilogram

  1. CGPM is the highest international body of the world for accurate and precise measurements and comprises of 60 countries including India and 42 Associate Members.
  2. The 26th meeting of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) was held during November 13-16 2018 at Palais des Congréss, Versailles, France.
  3. In the meeting, the members have voted for the redefinition of 130 years old “Le grand K – the SI unit of kg” in terms of the fundamental Planck’s constant (h).
  4. The new definitions will come into force on 20 May 2019.

How will this take place?

  1. The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the main executive body of CGPM has the responsibility of defining the International System of Units (SI).
  2. This revision of the SI is the culmination of many years of intensive scientific cooperation between the National Metrology Institutes (The national Physical Laboratory for India) and the BIPM.
  3. The dissemination of SI units for the welfare of society and industries in the country is the responsibility of Legal Metrology, Department of Consumer Affairs, GoI.

International prototype of kilogram (IPK)

  1. The International prototype of kilogram (IPK) is kept at the BIPM, Paris and serves as the international standard of kilogram.
  2. It is made of 90% platinum and 10% iridium and is a cylinder of 39 mm diameter and 39 mm height.
  3. Replicas of the IPK are made of the same material and used at BIPM as reference or working standards and national prototype of kilogram (NPK), kept at different National Metrology Institutes (NMIs).
  4. NPK-57, kept at CSIR- National Physical Laboratory, is sent periodically to BIPM for calibration.
  5. NPK further is being utilized through transfer standards of mass to provide unbroken chain of traceability for dissemination of mass through Legal Metrology to the user industries, calibration laboratories etc.
  6. The precise and accurate measurements help country in the production of international quality products and help commerce through elimination of the technical barrier to trade.

Using a Kibble Balance

  1. Kibble balance is a self-calibrating electromechanical balance and provides the measurements of mass, traceable in terms of electrical parameters and provides linkage of macroscopic mass to the Planck constant (h).
  2. NPL-UK, NIST-USA,NRC- Canada, PTB-Germany etc. have successfully developed Kibble balance for 1 kg with an uncertainty of measurement in order of 10-8.
  3. The advantages of Kibble balance would be that the NPK need not to be sent to BIPM for calibrations and the accuracy and stability of Kibble balance is very high.
  4. This is very important where low weights with high accuracies are essential, for example in pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies.

Making a truly Universal System

  1. After the kilogram’s definition is changed officially- on 20th May, 2019, also known as World Metrology Day- most people will never notice the difference.
  2. It would not change baking ingredients on a kitchen scale, or even have an effect on the tons of goods shipped globally every day.
  3. For astronomers calculating the movements of stars and galaxies or for pharmacologists trying to define doses of medications sown to the molecule, the new standard of measurement could change the way they work.
  4. The metric system was intended to be rational, universal set of units “for all people, for all time”.
  5. The SI unit will finally be truly universal system, free of any human artifacts.

Supplement this newscard with:

How much is a kilogram? Here comes a new way to measure it

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

How much is a kilogram? Here comes a new way to measure itPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about Kilogram and Weighing system, Planck’s constant

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

How much is a kilogram?

  1. Over the centuries, it has been defined and redefined, with a standard in place since 1889.
  2. Called Le Grand K, a cylinder of platinum-iridium is locked up in a jar at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris.
  3. For nearly 130 years, the mass of this cylinder has been the international standard for the kilogram.

Redefining what constitutes 1 Kg

  1. Representatives from 57 countries will vote in Versailles, France, to redefine SI, or the International System of Units.
  2. The kilogram’s definition will be based on a concept of physics called the Planck constant.
  3. Reports worldwide suggest that the new definition is set to be voted in.

Why redefine the fundamental units?

  1. Scientists want to create a measurement system that is based entirely on unchanging fundamental properties of nature.
  2. Le Grand K, the “international prototype kilogram”, is the last physical object used to define an SI unit.
  3. It is far from unchanging as it gets dusty and is affected by the atmosphere, and when cleaned, it is vulnerable to change.
  4. The Planck constant, on the other hand, is just that, a constant, if a complex one — it is a quantity that relates a light particle’s energy to its frequency.
  5. It is described in a unit that has the kilogram built into it.

The kilogram comes next

  1. The Planck constant, which it is based on, is usually measured in joule seconds, but this can also be expressed as kilogram square metres per second.
  2. We know what a second and a metre is from the other definitions.
  3. So by adding these measurements, along with an exact knowledge of Planck’s constant, we can get a new, very precise definition of the kilogram.

New Concepts coming to Picture

  1. Since 1967, the ‘second’ has been defined as the time it takes for a certain amount of energy to be released as radiation from atoms of Caesium-133.
  2. This became the basis of all measures of time, and is used in atomic clocks. Once the second was defined, the metre fell into place.
  3. This was based on another universal constant: the speed of light.
  4. Today, the metre is defined as the the distance travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second (which is already defined).

Importance of Redefining

  1. The redefinition of certain aspects really helps science.
  2. Indeed, the new definition of the ‘second’ helped ease communication across the world via technologies like GPS and the Internet.
  3. This is evident from the failure of rubidium atomic clocks onboard IRNSS, the Indian version of GPS.

Back2Basics

Time Measurement standards

  1. The second was initially based on the length of a day of 24 hours; in 1956, the standard was set to a fraction of the solar year.
  2. It was only in the middle of the 20th century that the more complex definitions began to be adoptedThe Indian measurement of time, for instance, is widely recognised as the oldest in the world.
  3. It was only in 1875, with the creation of BIPM, that measurement began to be standardised internationally.
  4. A treaty called Metre Convention was signed among 60 countries, leading to international standards.
  5. The BIPM reports to the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM), to which India became a signatory in 1957. The SI system was adopted in 1960.

Fundamental Units

  1. There are seven fundamental units.
  2. Every other unit of measurement can be derived from one or more of these seven units: the unit for speed, for instance, factors in the units for distance and time.
  3. While four of the fundamental units, including the kilogram, are on the way to being redefined, the other three are already based on unchanging properties of nature.
  4. These are the second (time), the metre (distance), and the candela (luminous intensity, a measure for light’s brightness).
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

World’s fastest man-made spinning object developedPrelims Only


A nanodumbbell levitated by an optical tweezer in vacuum can vibrate or spin, depending on the polarization of the incoming laser.

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the finding

Mains level: Quantum mechanics and its applications


Fastest rotor

  1. Scientists have developed the fastest man-made rotor in the world, which they believe will help them study quantum mechanics
  2. At more than 60 billion revolutions per minute, this machine is more than 100,000 times faster than a high-speed dental drill

Working of the rotor

  1. The team synthesised a tiny dumbbell from silica and levitated it in a high vacuum using a laser
  2. The laser can work in a straight line or in a circle – when it is linear, the dumbbell vibrates, and when it is circular, the dumbbell spins
  3. A spinning dumbbell functions as a rotor, and a vibrating dumbbell functions like an instrument for measuring tiny forces and torques, known as a torsion balance

Applications of the rotor

  1. These devices were used to discover things like the gravitational constant and density of Earth
  2. As they become more advanced, they will be able to study things like quantum mechanics and the properties of the vacuum
  3. By observing this tiny dumbbell spin faster than anything before it, scientists may also be able to learn things about vacuum friction and gravity
  4. There are a lot of virtual particles which may stay for a short time and then disappear and these can be studied better by sensitive torsion balance

Quantum Mechanics

  1. Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Pigment in Goa mushroom may help fight cancerPrelims Only


Termitomyces mushrooms

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pigment discovered and its uses

Mains level: Science research being carried out in India


World’s first sulphur-rich edible melanin

  1. The mycological laboratory of the Department of Botany, Goa University has reported the discovery of a new pigment from local wild mushrooms
  2. The new sulphur-rich melanin biopigment is obtained from local Roen alamis (wild variety of Goan mushrooms that grows on termite hills) or Termitomyces species

About the research

  1. This discovery shows the chemical nature of the brown or black colour that is seen in these wild edible mushrooms
  2. The problem had eluded the scientific community from 40 countries for the past 100 years
  3. The scientist claim it to be the world’s first sulphur-rich edible melanin. Its structure is similar to black pigment found in human hair
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Growth in the machineop-ed snapPriority 1


Note4students

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 UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Applications of AI

Mains level: This editorial talks about the “still emerging” AI technology which has so unique advantages for India compared to other countries. This raises attention for India to harness AI for boosting growth.


 Context

Getting the ‘Developed’ tag

  1. India has perhaps now only a limited window of a decade to get into the developed country tag or stay perpetually in the emerging group of economies.
  2. To get to the developed country status, this is one factor that has to change dramatically.
  3. This begs the question: How do we get India’s productivity to spike in 10 years?

India is trailing behind US and China in AI

  1. AI — the simulation of human intelligence and learning by machines — has been talked about by many as the productivity booster we have all been waiting for.
  2. While India is expected to be a player, it is far from being among the leading actors in AI.
  3. According to PwC, of the $15.7 trillion increase in global GDP in 2030 attributable to AI, $7 trillion will be in China, $3.7 trillion will be in the US and Canada.
  4. Accenture pegs the number for India to be below 1 trillion in 2035.Without question, the race for AI dominance is between the US and China.

AI-relevant advantages unique to India.

Three are particularly worth noting and give me reason for hope. It is hard to find another country ready with these many deep value-creating AI applications.

(A) Versatile platform:

  • With a billion-plus people populating the unique-ID system, Aadhaar, and the India Stack of digitally enabled offerings built on top of Aadhaar, the country has a platform for growth unlike any other in the world.
  • It can, in principle, catalyse innovative applications, nurture an entrepreneurial ecosystem and generate a massive amount of data that can train algorithms and help develop more intelligence — the “I” in AI.
  • To be sure, there are plenty of challenges to overcome: Getting the right participants, stakeholders and talent base to come together, providing capital and ensuring privacy, security and usability of the data.

(B) Key actors:

  • The good news is that India has an early start here.
  • The global AI majors are active in India and view it as one of the world’s most promising digital growth markets. This puts India in a clear third place behind the US and China and ahead of Europe.
  • Europe’s more stringent data protection rules and regulations and slowing digital momentum will further constrain the interests of innovative companies.
  • With economies of scale working in India’s favour, this could create a virtuous cycle of private sector AI investment and innovation activity.

(C) Abundant applications:

  • The technology can address long-standing societal and human development problems of the kind that abound in India.
  • Think of tackling dengue and Chikungunya, two of the more formidable mosquito-borne public health crises. It is essential to get data on its incidence early and predict its path.
  • Project Premonition, for example, an AI project of Microsoft, uses mosquitoes themselves as data collection devices.
  • AI can be used for myriad other purposes stretching across farming, transport, infrastructure, education and crime prevention — all productivity-boosting and job-creating applications ready and waiting across India.

India moving Forward on AI

  1. The budget for Digital India was doubled; the IT ministry has formed four AI committees; the government’s think tank, the Niti Aayog, is tasked with coordination across AI initiatives.
  2. The Niti Aayog, for its part, has just announced an AI partnership with Google and has released a white paper, National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.
  3. If done right, it can spike productivity, save lives and produce new livelihoods — jobs that the country’s youth desperately need.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Central task force on AI recommends setting up of N-AIM


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Artificial Intelligence (AI), National Artificial Intelligence Mission (N-AIM)

Mains level: Using technology for mass benefit in various sectors


National Artificial Intelligence Mission (N-AIM)

  1. A central task force on Artificial Intelligence (AI) has suggested creating a National Artificial Intelligence Mission (N-AIM)
  2. It will serve as a nodal agency for coordinating AI related activities in the country

Defining AI

  1. Artificial Intelligence is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programmes

About the mission

  1. The mission shall involve itself in core activities, coordination of AI-related projects of national importance and establish Centers of Excellence
  2. The core activities include funding establishment of a network among Academia, services industry, product industry, startups and Government ministries, besides helping studies to identify concrete projects in each domain of focus
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Can hashgraph succeed blockchain as the technology of choice for cryptocurrencies?


Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Hashgraph, Blockchain, Byzantine agreement

Mains level: New technological developments and their effects


News

Alternative for blockchain technology

  1. Blockchain, the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, could be on its way out
  2. Hashgraph, a data structure based on Swirlds algorithm could replace blockchain

About Hashgraph

  1. Hashgraph was developed by Leemon Baird in 2016
  2. Hashgraph offers “consensus time-stamping” while retaining the functionality of blockchain
  3. Unlike blockchain, which is a data structure organized into a series of interconnected blocks, hashgraph comprises of a chain of events
  4. A block consists of a timestamp, the transactions pertaining to it, the hash of the block, and its predecessor

Hash functions

  1. In mathematics, a hash function is one that maps data of arbitrary size into a fixed size
  2. For instance, a hash function can take data comprising of say, n characters and return its hash value which may be say, 256 characters
  3. To retrieve the original data which comprises of n characters, processors will have to consult a data structure called the hash table pertaining to that function
  4. In hashgraphs, data is organized into events, with each instance containing the transactions associated with its timestamp, and the hash of both the parent events that created it

Pros and cons of hashgraph

  1. Fairness
  • In blockchain, the order of transactions is dependent on the order in which miners process information and add to the block
  • It is vulnerable to forking and delay depending on the whims of miners who can manipulate the order in which transactions are added to the block
  • However, since hashgraph is based on consensus, it is faster and the ordering of transactions is chronological depending on the timestamp

2. Speed

  • Hashgraphs are limited only by bandwidth
  • All member nodes are connected to the network and the distributed ledger is updated simultaneously

3. Byzantine

  • This term means that no single member can hold up the community from reaching a consensus
  • It also prohibits consensus from being disturbed
  • The biggest advantage that hashgraph has over blockchain is that it guarantees Byzantine agreement

4. Non-permissioned

  • Both blockchain and hashgraph are open source, but only blockchain is open system
  • A non-permissioned system is one where only trusted members can participate
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indian company among finalists in ‘water from air’ competition


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: XPRIZE, water from air technology

Mains level: Innovations to solve big challenges being faced across world


Technology to create water from the air

  1. Indian startup Uravu that has developed a technology to create water from the air is among the five finalists in a global competition
  2. The Hyderabad-based company will compete with four other companies in the final round of the Water Abundance XPRIZE

About the competition

  1. Los Angeles-based XPRIZE, which designs incentive competitions to solve humanity’s big challenges, is running the water abundance prize with the support of the Tata Group and Australian Aid
  2. The two-year competition is to create a device that extracts a minimum of 2,000 liters of water per day from the air using 100% renewable energy
  3. This should be done at a cost of no more than two cents per liter
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

A new state of matter created


Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rydberg polarons, Bose-Einstein Condensation

Mains level: Developments related to atomic science


“Rydberg polarons”

  1. An international team of physicists have successfully created a “giant atom” and filled it with ordinary atoms
  2. They have created a new state of matter termed “Rydberg polarons”
  3. These atoms are held together by a weak bond and are created at very cold temperatures

How was the new polaron created?

  1. It uses ideas from two different fields: Bose-Einstein Condensation and Rydberg atoms
  2. A BEC (Bose-Einstein Condensate) is a liquid-like state of matter that occurs at very low temperatures
  3. A BEC can be perturbed to create excitations which are akin to ripples on a lake
  4. Electrons in an atom move in orbits around the nucleus
  5. A ‘Rydberg atom’ is an atom in which an electron has been kicked out to a very large orbit

Experiment methodology

  1. In this work, the authors used laser light on a BEC of strontium atoms so that it impinges on one strontium atom at a time
  2. This excites an electron into a large orbit, forming a Rydberg atom
  3. This orbit is large enough to encircle many other strontium atoms inside it
  4. As the electron moves around many strontium atoms, it generates ripples of the BEC
  5. The Rydberg atom becomes inextricably mixed with these ripples and forms a new super-atom called a ‘Rydberg polaron’

What will be the use of these Rydberg polarons?

  1. Some theories of dark matter postulate that it is a cosmic Bose-Einstein Condensate, perhaps composed of an as-yet-unknown type of particle
  2. This experiment can suggest ways to detect it
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

National Virtual Library of India: C-DAC spearheads massive virtual library project


Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Virtual Library of India, National Mission on Libraries, National Knowledge Commission, Treasure Trove

Mains level: India’s cultural heritage and its preservation


National Virtual Library of India (NVLI)

  1. The National Virtual Library of India (NVLI) will be an online platform covering fields, ranging from arts, music, dance, culture, theatre, science and technology to education, archaeology, literature, museums, cartography maps, e-papers, and manuscripts, among others
  2. This programme is a part of the National Mission on Libraries initiated by the National Knowledge Commission under the Ministry of Culture

Development of portal

  1. The project is being spearheaded by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC)
  2. Other partnering institutions for this project include IIT-Mumbai, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library Foundation, Kolkata, and Kalyani University, West Bengal

Largest in the world

  1. Once formally launched, this could be one of the world’s largest virtual libraries where information on such diverse subjects are available
  2. Currently, Australia operates a similar facility named Treasure Trove
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] How AI can help the Indian Armed Forcesop-ed snap


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Artificial Intelligence, Project Maven

Mains level: Deploying new technologies in military


Context

Controversies surrounding autonomous weapons

  1. The idea of military Artificial Intelligence (AI) immediately brings to mind the notion of autonomous weapon systems or “killer robots”
  2. These are machines that can independently target and kill humans
  3. The possible presence of such systems on battlefields has sparked a welcome international debate on the legality and morality of using these weapon systems

Usage of AI in military

  1. Like most technologies, AI has a number of non-lethal uses for militaries across the world
  2. It can be very useful for Indian military too

Potential uses of AI in Indian scenario

There are three areas where AI can be readily deployed without much controversy or effort

  1. Logistics and supply chain management
  • Substantial work has already been done in deploying AI for logistics and supply chain management in the civilian sector
  • An efficient logistics system lies at the heart of any well-functioning military
  • This is especially complicated for the Indian Armed Forces given the diverse environments and conditions they operate in

2. Cyber-operations

  • Cyber warfare has become faster, more sophisticated and more dangerous
  • It becomes necessary to develop both offensive and defensive cyber-war capabilities both to protect the military’s own assets and communication links and to attack similar assets of opposing militaries
  • Specifically trained AI systems could actually prove to be far more efficient and effective than humans for such tasks

3. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)

  • This has already been put into practice by various countries, including the US, and, possibly, China
  • Using AI for ISR tasks can take two different forms
  • The first is the use of AI in unmanned vehicles and systems, whether on air, land or on and underwater
  • Such “intelligent” unmanned systems could be used for patrolling in harsh terrains and weather conditions, providing harbor protection, and allowing the deploying force to scout the battlefield or conflict zone with no danger to human soldiers
  • The second use is for data analysis and interpretation
  • An AI system could, for instance, be trained to pick out predetermined suspicious behavior from the video footage of a surveillance drone, and thereby identify potential targets
  • This fact has led the US to develop and deploy an experimental system called Project Maven, which analyses video footage from drones to identify potential threats in the US’ fight against the Islamic State (IS)

Way forward

  1. The incorporation of these AI systems in the functioning of the Indian military could potentially lead to a long-term reduction in costs while improving its technological capabilities
  2. Integration of AI technologies needs to be done if the Indian military is to prepare itself for warfare in the 21st century
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

British bank RBS hires “digital human” Cora on probation


Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Digital human, Cora, chatbots

Mains level: Use of digital tools in banking


Using digital human for customer service

  1. A life-like avatar called Cora is being put through her paces by Royal Bank of Scotland
  2. It is helping customers with basic queries and giving its digital banking drive a more human face

About Cora

  1. It can have a two-way verbal conversation with customers via computers, tablets or mobile phones and learn from mistakes
  2. The digital teller answers simple questions on getting a mortgage or what to do if a customer loses their card
  3. It could even be used to train members of staff

Experiment and way forward

  1. The RBS experiment is the latest by an industry trying to adapt to changing customer behavior, rapid technological change and the threat posed by new entrants
  2. Initiatives range from now-commonplace chatbots or installing tablets in branches to bolder forays into the future, such as robot door staff
  3. Cora could free up human colleagues to deal with more complex issues
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indigenous light transport aircraft ‘Saras’ design to be finalised by June-July: Minister


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Note4students

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 SARAS

Mains level: Importance of the project. The project can be seen as a part of Make in India in Defence Sector.


News

Finalization of the Design

  1. According to the Ministry of Science and Technology, the design of the country’s indigenous light transport aircraft Saras(in its production version) will be finalised in the next 3-4 months
  2. The production version will be certified initially for military use and subsequently for civilian usage

Induction into the Indian Air Force

  1. The Indian Air Force will induct the first 15 aircraft after production starts in a period of three years

Why important?

  1.  Saras will be priced around `40-45 crore as against `60-70 crore for imported planes
  2. The plane promises to be operable in high and hot airfields and even semi-prepared airfields

Production

  1. HAL has been identified as the production agency for the military version of Saras, while the production of civil version is likely to be handed over to private industry
  2. Companies like Mahindra, Reliance and Tata have been talking to the government about the civil production of the Saras, but the decision is likely to be taken once the design is finalised

Back2basics

Saras

  1. The NAL Saras is the first Indian multi-purpose civilian aircraft in the light transport aircraft category as designed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL)
  2. In January 2016, it was reported that the project has been cancelled
  3. But in February 2017, the project has been revived
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Digital India: IT ministry sets up four committees to encourage AI research


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Artificial Intelligence, Digital India initiative, Digital Locker

Mains level: Rising use of AI in various fields and various aspects related to it


Emphasis on promotion of artificial intelligence (AI)

  1. The IT ministry plans to graduate to the second phase of Digital India programme‘s rollout with emphasis on promotion of artificial intelligence (AI) and electronic manufacturing
  2. The ministry has set up four committees to encourage research related to AI

About the committees

  1. These committees will research and work on development of citizen-centric use cases; data platform; skilling, re-skilling, research and development; and legal regulatory, ethical and cyber-security
  2. They will be headed by directors of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Nasscom and eminent researchers

Digital India campaign

  1. It was launched in July 2015 to ensure that government services are made available to citizens electronically through improved online infrastructure
  2. Digital Locker, e-education, e-health, e-sign and national scholarship portal also come under this initiative

Back2Basics

Artificial Intelligence

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans
  2. The term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”
  3. The traditional problems (or goals) of AI research include reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, natural language processing, perception, explainability and the ability to move and manipulate objects
  4. General intelligence is among the field’s long-term goals
  5. High-profile examples of AI include autonomous vehicles (such as drones and self-driving cars), medical diagnosis, creating art (such as poetry), proving mathematical theorems, playing games (such as Chess or Go), search engines (such as Google search), online assistants (such as Siri), image recognition in photographs, spam filtering, prediction of judicial decisions and targeting online advertisements
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[oped snap] Big discoveries have small originsop-ed snap


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Note4students

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: Not much

Mains level: Importance of small-scale science research and some funding issues related to it.


News

Research and development expenditure in India

  1. The Economic Survey 2018 calls for doubling research and development expenditure from its current level of about Rs. 1 lakh crore, amounting to 0.8% of the GDP
  2. Even if instantly doubled through a miraculous diktat, it would still lag behind China, Israel, Japan and the U.S., each spending more than 2% of their GDP on research

Critical issue: small-scale science research

  1. The other critical part is ‘diminishing funds for exploratory small-scale science research’
  2. But it escapes attention due to the debate based on comparative GDP figures
    Consider the fine print in this year’s Budget
  3. Of the Rs. 27,910 crore allotted to science ministries, Rs. 900 crore(or 3.22%), is earmarked for basic science projects to be disbursed as competitive research grants
  4. While in the US, the National Institutes of Health, alone disbursed $25 billion as research grants in 2017, representing 36% of the country’s non-defence science budget
  5. The U.K.’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council distributes nearly 10% of the research budget as grants
  6. Clearly, India’s provision for competitive research grants needs upward revision

Why is small-scale science research important?

  1. (1) In 2012, the discovery of Higgs boson hit the world’s headlines
  2. The Higgs boson had its humble origins in seminal theoretical works of several scientists, including Peter Higgs, working independently
  3. (2) Even the $100 billion enterprise Google began as an innovative mathematical idea of Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  4. Which was funded by modest grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), at Stanford University
  5. (3) The global market for Raman spectrometers is about $1.2 billion
  6. In 1928, C.V. Raman spent about Rs. 200 on his laboratory-built spectrometer that heralded the era of Raman spectroscopy as an analytical tool and also brought to India its first science Nobel prize
  7. (4) Through the 1960s, Vikram Sarabhai was experimenting with simple sounding rockets that ultimately grew into the ISRO of today
  8. And many more such examples

What should be done?

  1. Enhanced competitive research grants for the IITs, the IISER, and universities will help address the needs of a larger pool of scientific talent outside national labs
  2. This will bring in returns by way of publications, patents and innovations that can meet immediate needs
  3. The Economic Survey offers a glimmer of hope
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

India launches high performance computer system Mihir


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: HPC Mihir

Mains level: India’s rising supercomputing capabilities and schemes related to it


Initiative to improve India’s weather forecasting

  1. The ministry of earth science (MoES) launched a high-performance computer (HPC) system named Mihir
  2. It will help in improving India’s weather forecasting

India’s ranking to rise

  1. The HPC will be India’s largest in terms of peak capacity and performance
  2. It will propel the country’s ranking from the 368th position to the top 30 in list of HPC facilities across the world
  3. India will now also be ranked 4th, after Japan, UK and US for dedicated HPC resources for weather/climate community

What will this HPC help in?

  1. Prediction of cyclones with more accuracy and lead time
  2. Improve ocean state forecasts including marine water quality forecasts
  3. Tsunami forecasts with greater lead time
  4. Air quality forecasts for various cities and climate projections
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Why were prime numbers in the news recently?


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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Prime numbers, GIMPS, cryptography

Mains level: Mathematical findings in news and their applications


Largest known prime number

  1. Last week, a very big number — over 23 million digits long — became the “largest known prime number”
  2. The number was discovered using a software called GIMPS, which allows volunteers to search for Mersenne prime numbers

What are prime numbers and why are they important?

  1. A prime number is a number that can only be divided by itself and by 1
  2. For example 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, and so on
  3. Prime numbers are the very atoms of arithmetic
  4. Mastering these building blocks offers the hope of discovering new ways through the vast complexities of the mathematical world

Why is the new number called a Mersenne prime number?

  1. A Mersenne prime is a prime number of the form 2n-1
  2. For example, 7 = 23-1 and is a prime, so it is a Mersenne prime
  3. On the other hand, 11 is a prime, but it is not of the form 2n-1. So it is not a Mersenne prime
  4. Not all numbers of the form 2n-1 are primes either. For example, 24-1 = 15 is not a prime

Applications of prime numbers

  1. One of the major applications of primality testing (testing whether a number is prime) is in cryptography
  2. Cryptography is the study of secret messaging and involves sharing information via secret codes
  3. This is based on the following principle: multiplying two numbers is easy, factoring a number is hard
  4. For cryptographic applications, we need a number N that is a product of two primes p and q (N = pq)
  5. It is very difficult to find p and q just by knowing the value of N which is public
  6. Our credit cards, cell phones, all depend on cryptography
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What are bosons and how did they get their name?


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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Higgs boson, Fermions, Bosons, Planck’s law of radiation, quantum statistics, Bose-Einstein Statistics

Mains level: Contribution of India to modern science


Context

  1. This year marks  the 125th birthday of the famous physicist Satyendra Nath Bose
  2. Bose’s name was very much in the news when CERN discovered the Higgs boson a few years back
  3. Many reports pointed out and celebrated the fact that that the word “boson” in “Higgs boson” had been coined from Bose’s surname

Difference between matter and field quanta

  1. The relation between matter particles and field quanta is simple — Matter particles interact with each other by exchanging the appropriate field quanta
  2. Electron, proton, neutron, neutrino are matter particles
  3. The photon is a quantum, or tiny bundle, of the electromagnetic field
  4. Matter particles such as electrons, protons etc obey what is known as the Fermi-Dirac statistics and hence are known as ‘Fermions
  5. Field quanta, for instance, obey what is called Bose-Einstein Statistics and are collectively called ‘Bosons
  6. There is the Higgs boson which gives mass to particles like protons and neutrons. There are the W and Z bosons associated with the weak force and the neutrinos

Why call them bosons?

  1. It was Bose who actually figured out (in the specific case of photons) how a group of identical photons would behave
  2. He was interested in reproducing, mathematically, Planck’s law of radiation using only quantum mechanical ideas
  3. He employed a technique in this calculation that laid the foundation of quantum statistics
  4. He then sent his paper to Albert Einstein who recognized the value of his calculation
  5. Bose himself did not realize the enormous breakthrough he had made, Einstein did, and he took Bose’s work much further
  6. This paper turned out to a seminal one and the technique used by Bose goes under the name of Bose-Einstein Statistics and the particles such as photons that obey these statistics are called bosons
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

New form of matter ‘excitonium’ discovered


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Excitonium, bosons

Mains level: Discovery and its details can be asked in Mains


Scientists prove the existence of new form of matter

  1. Existence of Excitonium – which was first theorized almost 50 years ago, has been proved by scientists
  2. This has been done by studying non-doped crystals of a transition metal— dichalcogenide titanium diselenide (1T-TiSe2)

About Excitonium

  1. Excitonium exhibits macroscopic quantum phenomena, like a superconductor
  2. It is made up of excitons, particles that are formed in a very strange quantum mechanical pairing

How is exciton formed?

  1. When an electron, seated at the edge of the crowded-with-electrons valence band in a semiconductor, gets excited and jumps over the energy gap to the otherwise empty conduction band, it leaves behind a “hole” in the valence band
  2. That hole behaves as though it were a particle with positive charge, and it attracts the escaped electron
  3. When the escaped electron with its negative charge, pairs up with the hole, the two remarkably form a composite particle, a boson – an exciton
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

‘Petro’: Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro announces launch of oil-backed cryptocurrency


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Petro, bitcoin

Mains level: Rise of cryptocurrencies and its effects


News

Venezuela will create a cryptocurrency

  1. In order to circumvent US-led financial sanctions, Venezuelan President announced the launch of the “petro” backed by oil reserves
  2. This will also help shore up a collapsed economy
  3. It will be backed by oil, gas, gold and diamond reserves

Advantages

  1. The petro would help Venezuela advance in issues of monetary sovereignty,
  2. To make financial transactions and
  3. Overcome the financial blockade

Why this move?

  1. The real currency, the bolivar, is in freefall, and the country is sorely lacking in basic needs like food and medicine
  2. Washington has levied sanctions against Venezuelan officials, PDVSA executives and the country’s debt issuance
  3. This pivot away from the U.S. dollar comes after the recent spectacular rise of bitcoin, which has been fueled by signs that the digital currency is slowly gaining traction in the mainstream investment world
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The AI battlefieldop-ed snap


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Note4students

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 UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: This is a first-of-its-kind meet of the UN, on issues related to AI.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about Artificial intelligence and concerns related to it

UN group of experts on machine autonomy

  1. A United Nations group of experts in Geneva kicks off the first formal inter-governmental discussion on what machine autonomy means for the laws of armed conflict
  2. And the future of international security
  3. There are 125 state parties in the convention

Norms acceptable in the warfare

  1. The norms around what is considered acceptable in warfare have also evolved in response to new technologies
  2. Since the 19th century, those norms have been codified in international humanitarian law, which is more or less universally accepted as regulating armed conflict among civilised nations
  3. Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are throwing up a new challenge to these norms

Concerns related to the AI

  1. Reality might not have yet caught up with popular culture depictions of “killer robots” and “conscious synths” demanding their rightful place in society
  2. Indeed, such depictions can be a distraction from the complex challenges that do exist
  3. But many technology leaders are worried about autonomous systems taking life-and-death decisions without “meaningful human supervision or control”
  4. The American tech billionaire Elon Musk and over 100 others recently signed a letter warning that the weaponisation of AI-based technologies risks opening a Pandora’s box

Other concerns related to the AI

  1. These are not the only concerns about AI
  2. Technologists and ethicists are also grappling with other questions
  3. Such as legal liability when autonomous vehicles share the streets with pedestrians, predictive analytics subverting due process, and the algorithmic entrenchment of human biases

Important question infront of the UN expert group

  1. How, then, to deliver on the promise of AI while protecting the hard-won tenets of international humanitarian law and respecting the legitimate security and commercial interests of states and industry?
  2. This is the question we will be grappling with this week in Geneva

Importance of the UN solving such kind of issues

  1. In an era of diffusion of power and mistrust among the major powers, multilateral inter-governmental forums remain the only way to extend norms across the globe
  2. For bad or for worse, governments still decide matters of war and peace. And the UN still offers a neutral venue to bring different points of view together

The way forward

  1. The discussions in Geneva are an opportunity to test a new approach, one we might call ‘distributed technology governance’
  2. This means the multilateral system’s search for durable international norms needs to integrate national regulatory approaches and industry self-regulation.
  3. Each level in this chain of subsidiarity — international humanitarian law, national regulations, and industry self-regulation — needs to move in full cognition of the other two
  4. We need to find ways for them to enjoy their respective sovereignty, while working in unison to deliver what the international community expects
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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


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Note4students

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.


News

Context

  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

Accuracy

  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

Back2basics

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)
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Beauty and the regulatory beastop-ed snap


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Note4students

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.


News

Context

  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

Concerns

  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

 

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

AI smartphone system can spot fake productsop-ed snap


Image Source

Note4students

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.


News

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

 

 

 

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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


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Note4students

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


News

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

Back2basics

  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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Detecting possibilities


Note4students:

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.


Context:

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
    challenge
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Nanoparticles to treat eye infection


Note4students:

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


Context:

  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
    blindness

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

Back2basics:

Nanoparticles:

  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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The neutrino opportunityop-ed snap


Note4students:

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.


Context:

  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

Neutrinos:

  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

Back2basics:

Neutrino

  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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What is Antrix?


  1. Antrix Corporation Limited will be completing 25 years next year in marketing niche products and services from India’s satellites and launch vehicles
  2. It is a mini ratna under the Department of Space/ISRO
  3. The turnover of Antrix for 2015-16 was Rs.1,920 crore. About 70-75% of this comes from the satcom (satellite communications) business

Note4students:

Antrix keeps coming in the news from time to time. Students tend to ignore such things, but they are important from a prelims perspective.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Bullish investors back Team Indus moon shot


  1. Three major investors in the stock market have picked up a stake in Team Indus
  2. Team Indus is a start-up that plans to send India’s first privately-funded spacecraft to the moon next year
  3. The start-up is the only Indian aspirant and among the four from across the world that plan to send spacecraft to soft-land on the moon before December 2017
  4. It will deploy a rover on the moon and send back lunar pictures
  5. Last year, it won a $1 million milestone prize from Google Lunar X Prize for completing the viable concept of its moon lander
  6. The final prize amount stands at $ 30 million
  7. The company is poised to start building its 600-kg-plus moon lander. It plans to launch it on a hired PSLV rocket of ISRO
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

India begins to drill into the Antarctic ice


  1. What: An Indo-Norwegian project to understand the response of Antarctic ice shelves to the global warming has begun
  2. Where: In the less-studied areas of East Antarctica, especially the Dronning Maud Land (DML)
  3. DML is characterised by loosely-connected ice shelves along the 2000-km-long coast
  4. Who: The National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa, is one of the co-leaders of the team for 2016-17 field campaign
  5. Maitri, India’s Antarctic research station, will serve as the logistic support base
  6. The scientific programme isjointly funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, India and the Research Council, Norway
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] CSIR’s Initiatives for enabling the Indian Leather IndustryGovt. SchemesPIB


  1. What’s new? Waterless chrome tanning technology is a first of its kind technology to reduce chromium pollution load
  2. Chromium is the most sought after tanning agent
  3. CSIR – CLRI’s “Waterless tanning technology” is a game changer and it reduces the use of water in tanning.
  4. CSIR-CLRI is a recognised Centre for testing of restricted substances, finished leather certification
  5. Central Leather Research Institute: Technologies for bio-processing of leather, zero waste water discharge, value added materials from leather and indigenous chemicals for processing, are some of the highlighting features of this institute
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Scientists produce electricity from water without using energy


  1. Team: Scientists at Delhi’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have developed a novel way of producing electricity from water at room temperature
  2. Advantage of method: The new method does not use any power or chemicals
  3. Nanoporous magnesium ferrite was used to split water into hydronium (H3O) and hydroxide (OH) ions
  4. Additionally, silver and zinc were used as electrodes to make a cell that produces electricity
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The ethics of our AI-enabled futureop-ed snap


  1. Theme: Ethical implications of future advancement in artificial intelligence.
  2. Concerns of data privacy: For consumer AI to offer the ease of use, it must offer as close a facsimile of having a conversation with another person as possible.
  3. That requires two components: sophisticated algorithms and vast amounts of data. And that includes every scrap of personal data possible raising the concerns of data privacy.
  4. Other ethical questions posed: The trade-off between protecting users’ data and governments’ demand for access to user data for legal purposes; as seen recently in case of Apple.
  5. Also, the use of artificial intelligence in future can pose a wide range of ethical questions. Imagine, for instance, a bank using AI to recommend or screen loan applicants, and the algorithm using causal relationships to discriminate on the basis of gender or caste or race.
  6. Or, the multiple implications of AI deployed in a military context or controlling driverless vehicles—or the issue du jour, employment.
  7. Steps taken by the industry to address these concerns: Amazon, Facebook, Google’s DeepMind division, IBM and Microsoft have recently founded a new organization called the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society that aims to initiate a wide dialogue about the nature, purpose and consequences of AI.
  8. A similar organisation ‘OpenAI’ aimed at addressing such issues was founded last year.
  9. The way ahead: The rise of AI cannot be left to the industry; it demands the involvement of everyone from social scientists to ethicists and philosophers.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

A new handheld device to detect melamine in milk


  1. The detector is developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore
  2. This has made detecting melamine in milk extremely easy, quick and inexpensive
  3. Leaf extract of a commonly seen weed parthenium along with silver nitrate is used for detecting the presence of melamine in milk
  4. It can be detected at room temperature within a few seconds through a change in colour
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

IIT-M develops a lab-on-a-chip diagnostic device


  1. The device: A simple, self-powered, lab-on-a-chip
  2. Could enable diagnoses of several diseases, which is both affordable and accessible even in resource-constrained settings
  3. Has successfully passed preclinical trials
  4. Does not require any external or internal power as it relies on capillary force to draw blood
  5. Also the separation of plasma from blood cells is achieved through differential wetting behaviour of the microchannel walls
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

CSIR scientists must strive for time bound delivery of technology: Modi


  1. Context: The 75th anniversary of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
  2. PM: The CSIR labs have immensely contributed to developing affordable technology- from tractors to diabetic drugs, for the country
  3. However, it needs to ensure that there was no duplication of research efforts
  4. There should be a platform such that scientists learn what’s happening in one lab and then orient themselves to new challenges
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Sugarcane waste yields carbon for use in batteries


  1. Who? Researchers from Pune’s National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER)
  2. What? They have used a simple, cost-effective and quick process to convert sugarcane bagasse into anode-grade porous, conducting, activated carbon material for use in Li-ion batteries
  3. Benefits: The process time and the electrical energy input to get anode-grade carbon are cut down dramatically
  4. Making anode-grade carbon is currently very expensive and time-consuming
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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


  1. Researchers at IIT-Madras have found a way 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
  2. Sustainable: The water wastage is only 25% & it can work independent of the grid using solar energy
  3. Usual reverse osmosis is energy intensive and causes 65-70% of water to be rejected as waste
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indian-American scientist bags innovation award worth $500,000


  1. What? An Indian-origin scientist has bagged the prestigious Lemelson–MIT Prize worth $500,000
  2. Who? Nasik-born Ramesh Raskar, 46, is founder of the Camera Culture research group at the MIT Media Lab and an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
  3. Why? For his groundbreaking inventions, commitment to youth mentorship, and dedication to improving our world with practical yet innovative solutions
  4. Has more than 75 patents to his name, and has written more than 120 reviewed publications
  5. The co-inventor of radical imaging solutions including Femto-photography- an ultra-fast imaging system that can see around corners
  6. Also, low-cost eye-care solutions for the developing world & a camera that allows users to read pages of a book without opening the cover
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

New Chinese system named world’s top supercomputer


  1. News: Sunway TaihuLight, a new Chinese computer system has claimed the top spot on “TOP 500”, a list of 500 of the world’s most powerful supercomputers
  2. The supercomputer can make 93 quadrillions calculations per second
  3. Developed by the National Research Centre of Parallel Computer Engineering and Technology (NRCPC) and is installed at the National Supercomputing Centre in China
  4. Displaced Tianhe-2, an Intel-based Chinese supercomputer that claimed the leader spot earlier
  5. Trend: For the first time, China leads the TOP 500 list with 167 systems and the US is second with 165 systems
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Monsoon forecasting to get a high-tech makeover


  1. Context: Indian Meteorological Department is spending $60 million on a new supercomputer
  2. Aim: To improve the accuracy of one of the world’s most vital weather forecasts in time for next year’s rains
  3. The new system is based on a U.S. model tweaked for India & requires immense computing power to generate three-dimensional models to help predict how the monsoon is likely to develop
  4. Benefits: Better forecasting could help India raise its farm output by nearly 15%
  5. How? By helping farmers tweak the best time to sow, irrigate or apply fertiliser to crops and if rains fail plan state-wide measures
  6. Currently: A statistical model is used for forecasting which was introduced under colonial rule in 1920s
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Chinese firm plans space expedition in a balloon


  1. Context: First space parachute suit developed by China
  2. Develop by JHY Space Technology Co Ltd (Space Vision)
  3. Aim: Send people into space using a high-tech balloon
  4. They will come back to earth by parachute
  5. The adventures will soar into stratosphere
  6. Features: A radar, space-ground communications system and an image transmission system
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Hologram for better fraud protection


  1. Context: Secure holograms for better fraud protection developed by a US researcher
  2. Nanotechnology is used
  3. Working: Holograms will be programmed by polarisation
  4. By using nanostructure that are sensitive to polarisation they produce images
  5. Images are produced depending upon polarisation of incident light
  6. Features: Compact, more efficient, very little light is lost to create the image
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

‘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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Graphene may help generate solar power even when it rains


  1. How? Raindrops are not pure water. They contain salts that dissociate into positive and negative ions
  2. In aqueous solution, graphene can bind positively charged ions with its electrons
  3. Graphene coating over the solar cells will help generate a potential difference enough to produce a voltage and current
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

New technology helps understand genomes


  1. Context: Scientists have developed a novel technology that allows them to read and interpret the human genome
  2. Benefit: Help researchers connect mutations in the so-called genomic ‘dark matter’ with the genes they affect
  3. It may pave the way for new drug targets to treat many genetic diseases
  4. TargetFinder: It is the computational method that can predict where non-coding DNA interacts with genes
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Encyclopedia on Srinivasa Ramanujan



 

  1. Context: An encyclopedia of Srinivasa Ramanujan and his mathematics is being launched by Springer, a US Maths Journal
  2. What? A comprehensive reference book that will contain information on all the mathematical contributions of Ramanujan
  3. Will also contain his impact on scientific fields, important aspects his life, important individuals in his life and work
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Scientists develop green technology for water purification


  1. News: Scientists have made a biopolymer from shellfish using nanotechnlogy, which could help in water-softening and water-purification applications
  2. Agency: Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology, Assam
  3. Significance: This natural material is the first of its kind with potential to act as a biodegradable and green material for water-softening applications
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indian and Belgian PM jointly launch Asia’s biggest telescope


  1. News: They remotely launched Asia’s biggest telescope built with Belgian assistance
  2. The telescope with a 3.6-metre-wide primary mirror located is at Devasthal near Nainital in Uttarakhand
  3. Agency: The Aryabatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences
  4. Purpose: It will be used to study star structures and magnetic field structures of stars
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Ladakh to get world’s largest telescope


  1. Context: Hanle in Ladakh has been short-listed as a prospective site for world’s largest telescope
  2. Telescope: The $1.47-billion Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) International Observatory
  3. India is already building edge sensors, actuators and system support assemblies & contributing to the software of TMT
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

IISc scientists find a novel method to kill cancerous cells


  1. News: A novel way to kill cancerous cells by using iron-based compounds “decorated” with organic groups
  2. Which Therapy Used? Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
  3. How it works? Red light acts as a switch that turns these compounds on and off
  4. Like a Trojan horse, the organic molecule directs compound into the mitochondria of cancerous cells
  5. Light-sensitive iron-based compound generates reactive oxygen species when exposed to red light
  6. Reactive oxygen species so generated destroy the mitochondria, thus killing the cancerous cells
  7. Why targeting mitochondria? Unlike nuclear DNA that repairs itself when damaged by drugs, mitochondria have no repair mechanism, So cells die once the mitochondria are damaged
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Meta-Skin, Truly Cloaks Objects From Radar


Invisibility-cloak-youve-been-waiting-for-670-jpg


  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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

A simple recipe for light


  1. News: Researchers from Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have developed an eco-friendly lamp that runs entirely on salt water
  2. Context: Salt water-run battery is as powerful as four AA batteries, and can power an LED lamp for 1,500 hours (or a little more than 2 months) at a stretch
  3. Barely half a litre of water and 2 spoons of salt is the recipe for light
  4. Concept: Electricity can be produced when 2 electrodes (one that can readily give away its electrons, and another to accept them as easily) are dipped in an electrolyte
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

LED bulb could connect you to Internet


lifitechnology


  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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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


CHINA-SCIENCE__2739329f


  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
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What is e-beam lithography?


  1. Practice of scanning a focused beam of electrons to draw custom shapes on a surface covered with an electron-sensitive film called a resist (“exposing”).
  2. The electron beam changes the solubility of the resist, enabling selective removal of either the exposed or unexposed regions of the resist by immersing it in a solvent (“developing”).
  3. The purpose, as with photolithography, is to create very small structures in the resist that can subsequently be transferred to the substrate material, often by etching.
  4. This form of maskless lithography has high resolution and low throughput, limiting its usage to photomask fabrication, low-volume production of semiconductor devices, and R&D.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

IISc’s invention powers up nanoelectronics industry


When it becomes a prototype for commercial use it can break into the billion-dollar sector.

  1. An invention by Bengaluru-based scientists at IISc is all set to make inroads into the billion-dollar nanoelectronics industry.
  2. This is disruptive because the technology can drastically reduce the cost of the existing state-of-the-art e-beam lithography and optical lithography.
  3. Invention is a new way to etch thin lines on a substrate using electrodes, termed electrolithography.
  4. This will come in very useful in inscribing, for instance, nanometer-scale circuits which make up IC chips, minute transistors among others.
  5. This would come in useful not just in the industry but in academia, too, with more colleges being able to afford research in nanotechnology.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Hisar institute becomes second centre to clone buffalo


With this achievement, CIRB becomes the world’s third and India’s second institute to produce cloned buffalo.

  1. Scientists at the Central Institute for Research on Buffaloes (CIRB) in Hisar, Haryana claimed to have successfully produced a cloned buffalo offspring ‘Cirb Gaurav’.
  2. As this is produced from cells of ventral side of tail of superior bull buffalo.
  3. This part is least exposed to sunlight and may have less mutation rate, and can be a good choice for isolation of donor cells to produce healthy clones.
  4. National Dairy Research Institute in Karnal was the first to produce a cloned calf in India.
  5. This achievement has been made under the project entitled – Cloning for conservation and multiplication of superior buffalo germplasm.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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).
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indian scientists discover three bacterial clusters


Among the three new LOHAFEX clusters that were discovered, the first was related to class of Bacteroidetes while the second and third belonged to Firmicutes.

  1. The discovery happened during LOHAFEX (Loha means iron in Hindi while Fex is an acronym for fertilisation) experiment in the Southern Ocean, Antarctica.
  2. Aimed at increasing CO sequestration through ocean iron fertilisation as part of studies on global warming mitigation.
  3. Both biotic (grazing of phytoplankton by microzooplankton) and abiotic factors (deficiency in the micronutrient iron) could decrease the levels of CO sequestered.
  4. If iron deficiency is overcome by exogenous addition of iron, it would facilitate a phytoplankton bloom and thus lead to CO sequestration.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

IISc develops solar hybrid desalination system


The system met the major objectives of desalination system: low lifespan cost and performance.

  1. With desalination, that involves converting saline seawater to potable water being out of reach currently for the shallow pockets of the government.
  2. Researchers of Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have hit upon the idea of utilising copious solar energy in the South to reduce the costs of the process.
  3. This system works for both saline and brackish water.
  4. The process include Low Carbon Technologies shows that at its peak (27 degree C) could the system can purify nearly 6.5 litres of saline water per sq.m. of the instrument in 6 hours of use.

This system shows promise that the problem of clean drinking water can be solved in any coastal area where seawater and sunlight are available freely.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Tesla’s technology reinvented


flyte_bulb


  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.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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 ?

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

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.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

‘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.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

DRDO sets up world’s highest terrestrial centre in Ladakh



 

  1. The region is a frozen desert with temperatures hovering around -40 degrees Celsius.
  2. The centre will serve as a natural cold storage for preserving rare and endangered medical plants for generations to come.
  3. A large number of Life Sciences activities are proposed to be undertaken at this centre.
  4. DRDO has been rallying for more defence research budget as China spends almost 20% of their defence budget for R&D.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

DRDO sets up world’s highest terrestrial centre in Ladakh


World’s highest terrestrial centre at 17,600 feet above sea level at Changla near Pengong lake in Ladakh

  1. The centre will serve as a natural cold storage for preserving rare and endangered medical plants for generations to come.
  2. The centre will act as an important utility for research work in frontal areas of food and agriculture and bio-medical sciences.
  3. Used for well being of the soldiers deployed in high altitude cold desert.
  4. A large number of Life Sciences activities are proposed to be undertaken at this centre.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Union Government gives nod to IAF’s IACCS


Approval for implementation of Integrated Air Command & Control System (IACCS) project of Indian Air force (IAF) 

  1. IACCS is an automated Air Defense command and control center for controlling and monitoring of Air Operations by Air Force.
  2. It provides an appropriate solution to identify the track information in the Air.
  3. It enables surveillance of national airspace for Air Traffic operations and overall airspace safety.
  4. It facilitates real-time transport data, images and voice amongst aircraft, satellites and ground stations.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Four new isotopes discovered


Manipal university professor is part of the team that made this discovery.

  1. The burgeoning periodic table will see four more isotopes being added to its fag end.
  2. H. M. Devaraja from the Manipal Centre of Natural Sciences at Manipal University, Karnataka – who was a part of an international collaboration.
  3. These are one isotope each of the heavy elements berkelium (Bk, atomic number 97) and neptunium (Np, 93) and two isotopes of the element americium (Am, 95).
  4. Deep inelastic multinucleon transfer method succeeded to used in generating many different atomic nuclei at once.
  5. This becomes important for the study of super-heavy elements.
  6. The collaboration is seeing the development of the next generation separator “SuperSHIP” (which can record decay reactions of up to 100 nano seconds – that is, 0.01 micro seconds), which will enable detection of far more isotopes.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indigenous anti-tank missile Amogha-1 test-fired


  1. Developed by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), successfully test-fired an indigenously developed Amogha-1.
  2. It is second generation, 2.8 km range, anti-tank guided missile.
  3. This is the first ever design and developmental effort in respect of missiles by BDL, Hyderabad. Amogha-I missiles will be offered to the army after due qualification and validation trials.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Pentagon creates India Rapid Reaction Cell


  1. The Pentagon has established a first-ever country India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC) to speed up its defence ties with India.
  2. It accelerate the process of co-development & co-production of hi-tech military equipment in the country.
  3. India is the only country to have a specific cell of its kind inside the Pentagon.
  4. The purpose of IRRC is to work all the initiatives that under (India-US) Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Udaipur Is Now Home to India’s Largest Solar Telescope



 

  1. India will now be able to capture high resolution three dimensional images of the sun.
  2. The Udaipur Solar Observatory witnessed the inauguration of India’s biggest multi-application solar telescope (MAST).
  3. Udaipur is the second place in the world, after China, to have the unique telescope.
  4. MAST will also capture high resolution 3D images of solar activities like solar blast and flares which will now be easier to understand.

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