Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Nov, 27, 2018

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

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
Nov, 20, 2018

[pib] World’s standard definition of kilogram now redefined

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

Nov, 16, 2018

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

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).
Jul, 25, 2018

World’s fastest man-made spinning object developed

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


News

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
Jul, 13, 2018

Pigment in Goa mushroom may help fight cancer

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


News

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
Jun, 21, 2018

[op-ed snap] Growth in the machine

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.
Mar, 29, 2018

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


News

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
Mar, 28, 2018

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
Mar, 24, 2018

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


News

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
Mar, 09, 2018

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


News

“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
Mar, 06, 2018

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


News

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
Mar, 05, 2018

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

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
Feb, 23, 2018

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


News

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
Feb, 22, 2018

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

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 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
Feb, 10, 2018

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


News

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
Feb, 09, 2018

[oped snap] Big discoveries have small origins

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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
Jan, 31, 2018

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


News

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
Jan, 11, 2018

Why were prime numbers in the news recently?

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: Prime numbers, GIMPS, cryptography

Mains level: Mathematical findings in news and their applications


News

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
Jan, 02, 2018

What are bosons and how did they get their name?

Image source

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
Dec, 11, 2017

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


News

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
Dec, 04, 2017

‘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
Nov, 13, 2017

[op-ed snap] The AI battlefield

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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
Aug, 16, 2017

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

Image Source

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)
Aug, 14, 2017

[op-ed snap] Beauty and the regulatory beast

Image Source

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

 

 

Aug, 14, 2017

AI smartphone system can spot fake products

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

 

 

 

 

Aug, 03, 2017

In a scientific first, disease gene 'edited' in human embryos

Image Source

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
Jun, 14, 2017

[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
Jun, 09, 2017

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
Jun, 08, 2017

[op-ed snap] The neutrino opportunity

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
Nov, 30, 2016

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.

Nov, 26, 2016

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
Nov, 24, 2016

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
Nov, 21, 2016

[pib] CSIR’s Initiatives for enabling the Indian Leather Industry

  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
Oct, 18, 2016

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
Oct, 17, 2016

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
Oct, 12, 2016

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

  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.
Sep, 30, 2016

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
Sep, 29, 2016

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
Sep, 28, 2016

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
Sep, 27, 2016

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
Sep, 27, 2016

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
Sep, 27, 2016

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
Sep, 27, 2016

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
Sep, 24, 2016

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
Sep, 22, 2016

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
Sep, 22, 2016

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
Sep, 15, 2016

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
Sep, 12, 2016

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
Aug, 22, 2016

Man with the largest negative carbon footprint in the world


  1. Jayant Baliga: Indian-born American electrical engineer & an alumnus of IIT, Madras
  2. IGBT: Invented of the insulated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT)- a device that enabled the electronics in the now ubiquitous CFL lamp
  3. Accolade: The global energy prize in 2015
Aug, 20, 2016

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
Aug, 19, 2016

Giant hybrid airship takes off for first time

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

 

Aug, 17, 2016

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
Aug, 09, 2016

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
Aug, 08, 2016

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
Jun, 21, 2016

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
Jun, 10, 2016

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
May, 28, 2016

3D hydrogel biochips to detect bowel cancer

  1. Context: Scientists have discovered new technology to detect cancer
  2. They have created a hydrogel-based biochip with 3D cells
  3. Biochip: Based on hydrogel, will help to help diagnose colorectal cancer
  4. Colorectal cancer: It is the third most common type of cancer
May, 23, 2016

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
May, 21, 2016

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
May, 21, 2016

Sticky coating to glue pedestrians to cars if hit

  1. Context: A new patent of Google for sticky coating
  2. When car having adhesive layer of sticky glue hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian will remain with car till it stops
  3. Application: To prevent pedestrians from injury when hit by car
May, 16, 2016

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
May, 10, 2016

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
May, 09, 2016

‘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
Apr, 17, 2016

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
Apr, 11, 2016

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
Apr, 09, 2016

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
Apr, 05, 2016

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
Apr, 04, 2016

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
Mar, 31, 2016

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
Mar, 26, 2016

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
Mar, 22, 2016

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
Mar, 14, 2016

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
Mar, 11, 2016

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
Mar, 09, 2016

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
Mar, 08, 2016

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
Feb, 19, 2016

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
Feb, 17, 2016

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
Feb, 01, 2016

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.
Feb, 01, 2016

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.
Jan, 22, 2016

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.
Jan, 22, 2016

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.
Jan, 12, 2016

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.
Jan, 09, 2016

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).
Dec, 28, 2015

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.
Dec, 21, 2015

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.
Dec, 14, 2015

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.

Oct, 28, 2015

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.
Oct, 12, 2015

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 ?

Oct, 12, 2015

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.
Oct, 10, 2015

'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.
Oct, 06, 2015

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.
Oct, 05, 2015

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.
Sep, 26, 2015

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.
Sep, 21, 2015

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.
Sep, 21, 2015

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.
Sep, 16, 2015

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).
Aug, 10, 2015

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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