Current Affairs Analysis

27th May 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA); Govt. open sources Aarogya Setu; BS-VI emission norms for quadricycles; Chamba Tunnel under Chardham Pariyojana; Chardham yatra; Rise of the mosquitoes; Tianwen-1: China’s Mars Mission; Neutrinos; Fifth state of matter; Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC); Quantum Computing; Ramkinkar Baij; RT-LAMP based diagnostic test; CoAST India; Spectrin; Bev Q; FAITH trial; R5519; Skill map of migrants in UP etc.
By IASToppers
May 27, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Govt. open sources Aarogya Setu
  • BS-VI emission norms for quadricycles

Government Schemes and Policies

  • Chamba Tunnel under Chardham Pariyojana

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Rise of the mosquitoes

Science and Technology

  • Tianwen-1: China’s Mars Mission
  • ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna
  • Fifth state of matter

Art and Culture

  • Ramkinkar Baij

Key Facts for Prelims

  • RT-LAMP based diagnostic test
  • CoAST India
  • Spectrin
  • Bev Q
  • Skill map of migrants in UP
  • FAITH trial
  • R5519

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Polity & Governance

Govt. open sources Aarogya Setu

Amid privacy concerns over Arogya Setu, the government announced that it was open sourcing the contact tracing Application.

Objective:

  • With the release of the source code in the public domain, the government is looking to expand collaboration and to leverage the expertise of top technical brains amongst the talented citizens of our nation.
  •  Govt. aims to collectively build a robust and secure technology solution to help support the work of frontline health workers in fighting this pandemic together.

Major Highlights:

  • With open sourcing, developers can look at the code of the application, suggest improvements and also use it to develop similar products.
  • It had been a long-standing demand by privacy and security experts.
  • The government has also launched a Bug Bounty programme wherein financial rewards will be given to security researchers for finding any vulnerability in the application or suggesting improvements to the source code.
  • Anyone who points out a security vulnerability in the app source code will be eligible for a reward of up to ₹3 lakh, and up to ₹1 lakh for pointing out a suggestion or improvement in the source code.

Significance:

  • The adoption of Open Source software encourages formal adoption and use of open source software in government organisations.
  • This will improve transparency on how the data is used, improve security by minimising bugs and empower experts to improve the app via public contributions.

What is open source and closed source?

  • Almost every computer software is created using source code, which is the technical blueprint that tells a program how to function.
  • When creators release their finished product to the public, they must decide whether to make its code open source or closed source.
  • With closed source software (or proprietary software), the public is not given access to the source code, so they can’t see or modify it in any way.
  • But with open source software, the source code is publicly available to anyone who wants it, and programmers can read or change that code if they desire.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

BS-VI emission norms for quadricycles

The government has notified BS-VI emission norms for quadricycles recently.

Major Highlights:

  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued notification regarding the emission norms for L7 (quadricycle) category for BS-VI.
  • This notification completes the process of BS-VI for all category vehicles in India.
  • The emission norms are on the lines of the European Union’s World Motorcycle Test Cycle (WMTC).
  • The move paves the way for higher production of quadricycles which were introduced in 2018.
  • India’s automobile industry has been urging the ministry to set BS-VI emission standards for quadricycles, after the norms were rolled out for other segments starting 1 April, 2020.

Quadricycle:

  • According to the road transport ministry, a quadricycle is the size of a three-wheeler but with four tyres and is fully covered like a car.
  • It has an engine like that of a three-wheeler.
  • This makes it a cheap and safe mode of transport for last-mile connectivity.
  • In 2018, the government had introduced the quadricycle segment with necessary standards to produce the vehicle for both commercial and private use.
[Ref: Live Mint]

 

Government Schemes and Policies

Chamba Tunnel under Chardham Pariyojana

Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways inaugurated the newly constructed Chamba Tunnel under the Chardham Pariyojana through video conference mode recently.

Major Highlights:

  • Border Roads Organisation achieved this major milestone by digging up a 440 m long Tunnel below the busy Chamba town on Rishikesh-Dharasu road Highway (NH 94).
  • The tunnel aims to decongest busy Chamba town, Himachal Pradesh and reduce the distance by one kilometer and journey through the town would take only ten minutes as compared to thirty minutes earlier.
  • The tunnel will be ready to handle traffic by October 2020, which is before the scheduled date of completion, i.e., January 2021.
  • This will ease the movement of pilgrims on Char Dham yatra, and also bring economic prosperity.

Chardham Project:

  • Chardham National Highway project comprises improvement as well as the development of 889 km length of national highways into a two-lane stretch.
  • The project will connect Badrinath Dham, Kedarnath Dham, Gangotri, Yamunotri, and part of the route leading to Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
  • The prestigious project costs around Rs 12,000 Crore.
  • BRO is constructing 250 Km of National Highways leading to holy shrine Gangotri and Badrinath.

Chardham Yatra:

  • Chardham Yatra in Uttarakhand is a pilgrimage to four destinations – Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
  • All of these four sites are devoted to a specific deity.
  • Gangotri is dedicated to the Goddess Ganga, Yamunotri is dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna, Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the 12 jyotirlingas, and Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
[Ref: The Tribune, TOI]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Rise of the mosquitoes

The scientists from a US based institute have created models to forecast how mosquito breeding grounds would change with rising temperatures.

Prevalence of mosquitoes:

  • India, home to around 400 species of mosquitoes, is the ideal place for the winged creatures.
  • Tropical weather, characterised by warm temperatures and rainfall, helps mosquitoes spread and grow.
  • This is why mosquitoes are more prevalent in Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Can mosquitoes survive cold temperatures?

  • Though it is not ideal for them, mosquitoes can survive in colder temperatures.
  • That’s why they are found in countries like Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia located in the Arctic tundra region.
  • Iceland, a small island country floating on the North Atlantic Ocean, is the only country in the world free from mosquitoes.
  • Though Iceland is also a part of the Arctic tundra region but unlike other places, there are sudden changes in temperature.
  • Being cold-blooded, mosquitoes fail to adapt to these temperature changes and hence avoid the country altogether.

Global warming and mosquitoes:

  • According to the study, mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus that prefer the temperate climate are likely to migrate to the US, a historically cold region where temperatures are rising due to global warming.
  • As temperatures rise due to high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, regions that have so far been too cold for the mosquitoes are getting warmer.
  • As a result, regions like Europe may see unprecedented growth in mosquito population in a few decades.
  • The threat is greater in cities, where the potential of a disease outbreak is higher.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Science and Technology

Tianwen-1: China’s Mars Mission

China will launch its first Mars mission ‘Tianwen-1’ which is expected to land on the Red Planet’s surface in the first quarter of 2021.

The Tianwen-1 mission:

  • The Tianwen-1 mission will lift off on a Long March 5 rocket, a launch system developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology from the Wenchang launch centre.
  • It will carry 13 payloads (seven orbiters and six rovers) that will explore the planet.
  • The Chinese mission will be the first to place a ground-penetrating radar on the Martian surface, which will be able to study local geology as well as rock, ice, and dirt distribution.
  • The Chinese mission is expected to take off in late July, around the same time when NASA is launching its own Mars mission– Perseverance which aims to collect Martian samples and bring them to Earth.
  • The success of the mission will make China the third country to achieve a Mars landing after the USSR and the United States.
  • The Mission willsearch the Martian surface for water, ice, investigate soil characteristics, and study the atmosphere.

Previous Mars missions:

  • The USSR in 1971 became the first country to carry out a Mars landing– its ‘Mars 3’ lander being able to transmit data for 20 seconds from the Martian surface before failing.
  • The country made its second Mars landing two years later in 1973.
  • The second country to reach Mars’s surface, the US holds the record for the most number of Mars landings.
  • Since 1976, it has achieved 8 successful Mars landings, the latest being the ‘InSight’ in 2019 (launched in 2018).
  • India and the European Space Agency have been able to place their spacecraft in Mars’s orbit.
  • India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or ‘Mangalyaan’ was able to do so in September 2014, almost a year after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.

Significance of Mars:

  • After the Moon, the most number of space missions in the Solar System have been to Mars.
  • The Red Planet has several Earth-like features– such as clouds, polar ice caps, canyons, volcanoes, and seasonal weather patterns.
  • In the past few years, Mars missions have been able to discover the possible presence of liquid water on the planet, either in the subsurface today or at some point in its past.
  • This has made space explorers more curious about whether the planet can sustain life.
[Ref: Indian Express]

ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna

ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna – an experiment maintained by researchers at NASA, has made some startling discoveries hinting at a possible parallel universe.

What is ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna or ANITA?

  • It is an experiment that is maintained by NASA.
  • It involves an array of radio antennas attached to a helium balloon which flies over the Antarctic ice sheet at 37,000 meters.
  • ANITA antennas are designed to detect high-energy particles, known as neutrinos, which constantly bombard the planet.
  • ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna or ANITA – an experiment maintained by researchers at NASA – has suddenly come into the limelight.

What are neutrinos?

  • Neutrinos are high-energy particles that pose no threat to us and pass through most solid objects without anyone even noticing.
  • Neutrinos constantly bombard Earth and as per some estimates emerging from studies, 100 trillion neutrinos pass through your body every second!
  • They interact rarely with matter.
  • But if they do smash into an atom, they produce a shower of secondary particles we can detect, which allows us to probe where they came from in the universe.
  • ANITA detects neutrinos pinging in from space and colliding with matter in the Antarctic ice sheet.

What has ANITA found?

  • Over the years, ANITA has detected a handful of “anomalous” events.
  • During flights in December 2006 and December 2014, ANITA detected a fountain of high-energy particles erupting from the ice – much like an upside-down cosmic-ray shower.
  • Instead of the high-energy neutrinos streaming in from space, they seem to have come from a strange angle, through the Earth’s interior, before hitting the detector.
  • These findings can’t be explained by current understanding of physics.
  • When ANITA reported signals that looked like extremely high-energy neutrinos, physicists were puzzled.
  • These neutrinos had arrived at an angle that suggested they had just travelled through most of the planet, which is not expected for neutrinos at these energies.
[Ref: Times Now]

Fifth state of matter

A physicist has created the fifth state of matter Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) recently from her living room.

Major Highlights:

  • The India born physicist Dr Amruta Gadge has created a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) – a state of matter where extremely cold atoms clump together and act as if they were a single entity.
  • It is the first time someone has established a BEC remotely in a lab that didn’t previously have one.
  • The achievement could provide a blueprint for using a computer to operate quantum technology remotely, in inaccessible environments such as space or underwater.
  • Quantum technology makes use of quantum physics to vastly speed up information processing, which could lead to the most powerful computer on Earth.

Bose-Einstein Condensate:

  • A Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) is known as the fifth state of matter, after solid, liquid, gas and plasma.
  • The fifth state of matter is produced when the atoms in a gas become ionised.
  • It is formed at a fraction above absolute zero and only in atoms that act like bosons, one of two types of fundamental particles.
  • When bosonic atoms are cooled to form a condensate, they can lose their individuality.
  • They behave like one big collective superatom, a bit like how photons become indistinguishable in a laser beam.
  • In the mid-1920s, Albert Einstein and Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose predicted that quantum mechanics can force a large number of particles to behave like a single particle, heralding research into the so-called fifth matter. 
  • The first BEC was shown experimentally in June 1995 by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder in the US, by cooling a gas of around 2,000 Rubidium atoms.

What is Quantum Computer and How does it work?

  • The key to a quantum computer is its ability to operate on the basis of a circuit not only being ‘on’ or ‘off’, but occupying a state that is both ‘on’ and ‘off’ at the same time.
  • It is possible due to the laws of quantum mechanics, which govern the behaviour of the particles which make up an atom.
  • At this micro scale, matter acts in ways that would be impossible at the macro scale of the universe we live in.
  • Quantum mechanics allows these extremely small particles to exist in multiple states, known as ‘superposition’, until they are either seen or interfered with.
  • A classical computer has ‘bits’ made up of zeros and ones, a quantum computer has ‘qubits’ which can take on the value of zero or one, or even both simultaneously. 
[Ref: Daily Mail]

Art and Culture

Ramkinkar Baij

National Gallery of Modern Art will organise a virtual tour to commemorate the 115th Birth Anniversary of Ramkinkar Baij on 26th May 2020.

Major Highlights:

  • NGMA under Ministry of Culture will organise the tour titled “Ramkinkar Baij | Journey through silent transformation and expressions”.
  • This virtual tour presents the works of art from the prominent artworks of Ramkinkar Baij from reserve collection of NGMA, grouped in a series of five different themes:

(i) Portrait, (ii) Life Study, (iii) Abstract & Structural Composition, (iv) Nature Study & Landscape and (v) Sculptures.

Ramkinkar Baij:

  • Ramkinkar Baij (1906-1980) was one of the greatest sculptor, painter – an iconic artist of modern India who did restless experiments with forms – figurative and abstractive both.
  • He was born in West Bengal. In 1925, he made his way to Kala Bhavana, the art school at Santiniketan and was under the guidance of Nandalal Bose.
  • One of the earliest modernists in Indian art, he assimilated the idioms of the European modern visual language and yet was rooted in his own Indian ethos.
  • His themes were steeped in a deep sense of humanism and an instinctive understanding of the symbiotic relationship between man and nature.
  • His use of cement, laterite and mortar to model the figures, and a personal style in which modern western and Indian pre-classical sculptural values were brought together was equally radical.
  • In 1970, the Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to Indian art.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Facts for Prelims

RT-LAMP based diagnostic test

  • CSIR-IIIM, Jammu has partnered with Reliance Industries Limited to develop and scale-up a new Reverse Transcriptase-Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP) based COVID-19 diagnostic kit.
  • COVID-19 RT-LAMP test is a nucleic acid based test carried out from nasal/throat swab samples from patients.
  • The test recipe has been developed and successfully demonstrated using synthetic templates and is a rapid (45-60 min), cost effective and accurate test.
  • The advantage of this test is that the kit components are easily available and these can be completely manufactured in India.

 

CoAST India

  • India Observator has come up with a GIS-enabled dashboard that includes an India map reflecting the movement of migrants in real time on their long journeys, often on foot, along with facilities and relief organisations on their routes.
  • The platform called CoAST India (Collaboration/Covid Action Support Group) is a collaboration with Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Anand as its main nodal point.
  • It draws information from 55 organisations on the ground, mostly in villages, and aims to make such data available so that it would enable governments and small local civil society groups to be of assistance.

Spectrin

  • Scientists from Raman Research Institute and Paris Diderot University have found out that spectrin, which are flexible rod-shaped molecules present in axons, act as ‘shock absorbers’ to protect axons from stretch-induced damage.
  • Axons are long tubular extensions of nerve cells that transmit electrical signals across long distances and can be up to a meter long in the case of humans.
  • At such lengths, they are subjected to large stretch deformations during limb or other bodily movements. Axons in the brain too undergo significant deformations, even during normal activities like jumping.
  • The study can help in understanding and treatment of concussion from head injuries as well as stretch-induced nerve injuries.

Bev Q

  • Bringing cheers to thousands of tipplers across Kerala, Google has accorded its approval to the mobile virtual queue management app, Bev Q, clearing the decks for the reopening of liquor outlets in compliance with physical distancing norms.
  • Bev Q is a mobile app which will generate virtual tokens in a bid to reduce rush at liquor outlets
  • The app was developed by the Kochi based startup Faircode Technologies Private Limited.

 

Skill map of migrants in UP

  • The Uttar Pradesh government has released its first skill map of migrant workers who returned to the State during the lockdown.
  • It will provide them employment in the State as per their skills and experience and will constitute a Migrant Commission for the purpose.
  • The list includes construction workers, painters, carpenters, drivers, electricians and persons associated with electronics, security guards, furniture and fitting workers and auto-repair mechanics.

 

FAITH Trial

  • Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd. has announced a new randomised, open-label study to test the combined efficacy of two antiviral drugs — Favipiravir and Umifenovir — as a potential COVID-19 treatment strategy.
  • The new combination clinical trial will be called FAITH – (FA vipiravir plus Um I fenovir (efficacy and safety) Trial in Indian Hospital setting).
  • Favipiravir is an oral antiviral drug approved in Japan in 2014 for the treatment of novel or re-emerging influenza virus infections.
  • Umifenovir is another oral antiviral drug licensed for the treatment and prophylaxis of influenza A and B infections in Russia and China.
  • A combined use of Favipiravir and Umifenovir acting on different mechanisms offers a comprehensive antiviral cover on pre-entry and post-entry life-cycle of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

R5519

  • An extremely rare cosmic ring of fire shaped galaxy has been discovered by astronomers located 10.8 billion light-years away from the Earth.
  • The galaxy has been named R5519 and its discovery was announced in the Nature Astronomy journal.
  • As per the scientists, it is the first one ever “collisional ring galaxy” located in the early universe and it took this shape after a massive collisional between two galaxies.
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