Polity & Governance
- Nine parties oppose proposal for simultaneous elections
Issues related to Health & Education
- Fish samples test positive for formalin
- All you want to know about Currency Derivatives
Defence & Security Issues
- Centre plans stronger defences for key data
Art & Culture
- 17th World Sanskrit Conference held in Canada
- Aphelion Day
Science & Technology
- Einstein’s gravity theory passes extreme test: Study
- Protein’s novel role in embryo implantation studied
- NASA prepares to extract data as Kepler runs very low on fuel
- NASA funding project RAMA to turn asteroids into spaceships
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Polity & Governance
Nine parties oppose proposal for simultaneous elections
Political parties were divided on the issue of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections during consultations with the Law Commission of India.
- As many as nine parties expressed their reservations while four parties supported the move.
- Simultaneous elections were held in the country during the first two decades after Independence up to 1967. Dissolution of certain Assemblies in 1968 and 1969 followed by the dissolution of the Lok Sabha led to the “disruption of the conduct of simultaneous elections.
Why we need simultaneous elections?
- Elections are held all the time and continuous polls lead to a lot of expenditure. More than Rs1,100 crore was spent on the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the expenditure had shot up to Rs4,000 crore in 2014.
- Also, over a crore government employees, including a large number of teachers, are involved in the electoral process. Thus, the continuous exercise causes maximum harm to the education sector.
- Security forces also have to be diverted for the electoral work even as the country’s enemy keeps plotting against the nation and terrorism remains a strong threat.
Is simultaneous elections a good idea?
- This will help save public money.
- It will be a big relief for political parties that are always in campaign mode.
- It will allow political parties to focus more on policy and governance.
About Law Commission of India:
Law Commission of India is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India. Its major function is to work for legal reform.
- Its membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a mandate by the Government.
- The Commission is established for a fixed tenure and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice
- The first Law Commission was established during the British Raj era in 1834 by the Charter Act of 1833.
- After that, three more Commissions were established in pre-independent India.
- The first Law Commission of independent India was established in 1955 for a three-year term.
Issues related to Health & Education
Fish samples test positive for formalin
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) officials have been undertaking tests at fish markets and harbours across the Tamil Nadu State to test for formalin.
- In Chennai, fish samples test positive for formalin. This is the first time that samples of fish in Tamil Nadu have tested positive for formalin.
What is formalin?
- Formalin is a cancer-inducing toxic chemical, colourless solution that is derived by dissolving formaldehyde gas in water.
- Formalin causes irritation in the eyes, throat, skin and stomach. In the long run continued exposure causes harm to the kidneys, liver and can even cause cancers.
- There are several risks associated with ingesting formalin – having even 30 ml of a solution, which contains as little as 37% formalin, can kill a fully grown adult. Once ingested, formalin releases toxins into the body, and the sustained ingestion of formalin can eventually lead to cancer.
- Formaldehyde is a highly reactive, flammable gas, which means it can become a fire hazard when exposed to flame or heat.
- Formaldehyde solutions can be flammable when there are high concentrations of formaldehyde or methanol.
Formalin is used for:
- Formalin, a derivative of formaldehyde, is often used to preserve fish, which is an easily perishable food whose value depends on its freshness. And when fish is imported from another state, to prevent rot during transport, fish traders resort to using formalin, even though formalin consumption is harmful to human beings.
- It is used in the manufacture of pesticides, fertilisers, glue, paper and paint, among other products.
[Ref: The Hindu]
All you want to know about Currency Derivatives
The Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX), the country’s largest commodity bourse in terms of market share, is planning to enter the currency derivatives segment.
What are currency derivatives?
- Currency derivatives are exchange-based futures and options contracts that allow one to hedge against currency movements.
- Simply put, one can use a currency future contract to exchange one currency for an another at a future date at a price decided on the day of the purchase of the contract.
- In India, one can use such derivative contracts to hedge against currencies like dollar, euro, U.K. pound and yen. Corporates, especially those with a significant exposure to imports or exports, use these contracts to hedge against their exposure to a certain currency.
- While all such currency contracts are cash-settled in rupees, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), early this year, gave a go-ahead to start cross currency contracts as well on euro-dollar, pound-dollar and dollar-yen.
How can one trade in currency derivatives?
- The two national-level stock exchanges, BSE and the National Stock Exchange (NSE), have currency derivatives segments.
- The Metropolitan Stock Exchange of India (MSEI) also has such a segment but the volumes are a fraction of that witnessed on the BSE or the NSE.
- One can trade in currency derivatives through brokers. Incidentally, all the leading stock brokers offer currency trading services too.
Why were such derivatives introduced on exchange platforms?
- Prior to the introduction of currency derivatives on exchanges, there was only the OTC – over the counter – market to hedge currency risks and where forward contracts were negotiated and entered into. It was kind of an opaque and closed market where mostly banks and financial institutions traded. Exchange-based currency derivatives segment is a regulated and transparent market that can be used by small businesses and even individuals to hedge their currency risks.
About Multi Commodity Exchange Ltd (MCX):
- The MCX is the country’s largest metals and energy commodity bourse.
- It began functioning in November 2003 and operates within the regulatory framework of the Forward Contracts Regulation Act, 1952 (FCRA, 1952).
- It is country’s first listed commodity futures exchange that facilitates online trading, and clearing and settlement of commodity futures transactions, thereby providing a platform for risk management.
- It offers futures trading in bullion, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, energy, and a number of agricultural commodities (mentha oil, cardamom, potatoes, palm oil and others).
- Globally, MCX ranks first in silver, second in natural gas, and third in crude oil and gold in futures trading.
Defence & Security Issues
Centre plans stronger defences for key data
Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is upgrading National Information Security Policy and Guidelines (NISPG) to secure government data and control access to it in order to prevent sensitive information making its way to internet.
- The upgraded and updated policy will cover issues pertaining to the Official Secrets Act.
- Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating and overseeing information security initiatives of public as well as private sector.
- It is empowered to create a National Information Security Policy and Guidelines (NISPG), define procedures for handling information and issue guidelines for security of classified information assets.
- MHA has been designated as the lead agency for the protection of the “Information” in Cyberspace. In 2013, cybersecurity, which was sole preserve of MHA, was moved to National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) under Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
- Besides, critical infrastructure was moved to National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and non-critical part to Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY).
- Recently in June 2018, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had presided over meeting to review evolving cyberthreats and had directed that NISPG to be upgraded and updated for government sector.
About National Information Security Policy and Guidelines (NISPG):
- NISPG has been prepared by MHA, based on experience of existing security standards and frameworks and global best practices and experience of implementation in the wake of expanding information security threat scenario.
- It aims at improving information security posture of organization possessing any information, including classified information and does not restrict organizations from adopting additional stringent practices over and above these guidelines.
- It elaborates baseline information security policy and highlights relevant security concepts and best practices, which government ministries, departments, and organizations must implement to protect their information.
Art & Culture
17th World Sanskrit Conference held in Canada
The 17th World Sanskrit Conference was held at Vancouver, Canada from 9th July to 13th July, 2018.
- The purpose of this conference was to promote, preserve and practice Sanskrit language all over world by the people.
- It was hosted by the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
About World Sanskrit Conference:
- The World Sanskrit Conference is the premier international forum for professional researchers and educators of the Sanskrit language and its literatures, and of the history, religion, and cultures of premodern South Asia.
- The conference is being held in various countries across the globe once in every three years under the auspices of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies (IASS). So far it has been held thrice in India.
About International Association of Sanskrit Studies (IASS):
- At the 29th International Congress of Orientalists, held in Paris in 1973, Sanskritists from various countries endorsed the formation of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies and drafted its constitution.
- The main task of the IASS was agreed to be the organizing of a World Sanskrit Conference at different venues around the world.
- The 1972 International Sanskrit Conference in New Delhi was recognised retrospectively as the First World Sanskrit Conference.
- Indologica Taurinensia is the journal of the IASS.
[Ref: PIB, sanskritassociation.org]
- Aphelion Day is a special event that takes place once a year. On this date, the Earth is at its biggest distance from the sun. This point is called the aphelion.
- At aphelion, Earth receives about 7% less sun than it does in January.
- This year on July 6, Earth was at aphelion, officially at its farthest from the sun, orbiting at a distance of 94,507,803 miles, as opposed to its usual 93 million miles.
Science & Technology
Einstein’s gravity theory passes extreme test: Study
According to a study, Albert Einstein’s insights into gravity hold true even in one of the most extreme scenarios the universe can offer.
- Einstein’s Theory of Relativity has passed test after test here on Earth, but scientists have wondered whether it still holds true for some of the most massive and dense objects in the known universe, an aspect of nature known as the Strong Equivalence Principle.
About Einstein’s Theory of Relativity:
- Einstein’s understanding of gravity, as outlined in his general theory of relativity, predicts that all objects fall at the same rate, regardless of their mass or composition.
- In 1915, Albert Einstein presented his theory of general relativity, which proposed that gravity itself was the result of a warping of spacetime by massive objects like stars and planets.
The theory is based on two fundamental principles:
- Relativity – The laws of physics do not change. Even for objects moving at inertial, constant speed frames of reference.
- The speed of light – It is the same for all observers regardless of their relative motion to the source of light.
Experimental evidences of Theory of Relativity:
- As light gets closer to the sun, it bends towards the sun twice as much as classical physics (the system used before general relativity) predicts.
- Light around a massive object, such as a black hole, is bent, causing it to act as a lens for the things that lie behind it. Astronomers routinely use this method to study stars and galaxies behind massive objects.
Changes in the orbit of Mercury:
- The orbit of Mercury is shifting very gradually over time, due to the curvature of space-time around the massive sun.
- The perihelion of the planet Mercury rotates along its orbit more than is expected under Newtonian physics. General relativity accounts for the difference between what is seen and what is expected without it.
Frame-dragging of space-time around rotating bodies:
- The spin of a heavy object, such as Earth, should twist and distort the space-time around it. Imagine the Earth as if it were immersed in honey. As the planet rotates, the honey around it would swirl, and it’s the same with space and time.
The Shapiro delay:
- Light appears to slow down when it passes close to a massive object. This was first seen in the 1960s by space probes headed towards the planet Venus.
- The electromagnetic radiation of an object is stretched out slightly inside a gravitational field. Think of the sound waves that emanate from a siren on an emergency vehicle; as the vehicle moves toward an observer, sound waves are compressed, but as it moves away, they are stretched out, or redshifted.
- Known as the Doppler Effect, the same phenomena occurs with waves of light at all frequencies.
- Violent events, such as the collision of two black holes, are thought to be able to create ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves. In 2016, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced that it found evidence of these tell-tale indicators.
Alternatives to Einstein’s general theory of relativity:
- Alternatives to Einstein’s general theory of relativity predict that compact objects with extremely strong gravity, like neutron stars, fall a little differently than objects of lesser mass.
- That difference, these alternate theories predict, would be due to a compact object’s so-called gravitational binding energy – the gravitational energy that holds it together.
However, to date, Einstein’s equations have passed all tests, from careful laboratory studies to observations of planets in our solar system.[Ref: The Hindu, Business Standard, space.com]
Protein’s novel role in embryo implantation studied
In a latest development, Mumbai-based researchers have shown the molecular features of embryo–endometrium crosstalk that helps in embryo implantation.
- The team has discovered that the endometrium is not a passive tissue which readily promotes embryo implantation but undergoes extensive remodelling brought about by the embryo at the time of implantation.
- They discovered that a protein OVGP1 is induced in the endometrium precisely at the time when the embryo has to implant.
About OVGP1 protein:
- The OVGP1 protein is required for balancing the expression of genes required for implantation.
Significance of this research:
- Women who had repeated IVF failure apparently had reduced levels of OVGP1 protein. The levels of OVGP1 are reduced by 30% in women with repeated IVF failure. A large number of couples are infertile and in many cases IVF is not successful and there are repeated failures.
The research in long term might have implications in management of infertility.[Ref: The Hindu]
NASA prepares to extract data as Kepler runs very low on fuel
Scientists at NASA are preparing to download the latest bit of data stored in its plant-hunting Kepler space telescope as the spacecraft is now running “very low” on fuel.
- NASA has placed the spacecraft in a no-fuel-use safe mode to save the remaining fuel so that data extraction can be completed.
About NASA’s Kepler Mission:
- NASA had launched Kepler spacecraft in 2009 to hunt for exoplanets in single patch of sky.
- The spacecraft had crippled the telescope in 2013 due to mechanical failure. However, by changing its field of view periodically, astronomers and engineers had then devised way to repurpose and save the space telescope which had paved way for K2 mission.
- The telescope hunts exoplanet transits by registering dips in light caused by shadow after it crosses in front of its host star.
- Most of extra-solar planets, or exoplanets are planets that are ranging between the size of Earth and Neptune (which itself is four times the size of Earth). Most of these planets were discovered in a small region of the constellation Cygnus, at which Kepler was pointed for the first four years of its mission.
What are exoplanets?
- Planets outside our solar system are called exoplanets. Most of these are part of star systems. There are some “rogue” exoplanets, which are not attached to any star system.
When was the first exoplanet discovered?
- The first exoplanet, 51 Pegasi b, was discovered in 1995 by Michael Mayor and Didier Queloz.
Do these exoplanets support life?
- The search for exoplanets is also the search for alien life and habitable spaces beyond our star system. NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions have identified several such candidates. One of the factors that must be satisfied in order to be considered habitable is that exoplanets must orbit within a distance of their stars in which liquid water can exist on the planet’s surface, receiving about as much sunlight as Earth. This distance is called the “Goldilocks” zone because it is neither too far or too close to the star that life becomes impossible.
NASA funding project RAMA to turn asteroids into spaceships
NASA has announced it would give funds to Made In Space’s project- RAMA (Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata), for finding ways to turn asteroids into giant, autonomous spacecrafts, which could fly to outposts in space.
- The concept received funding through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which will provide $100,000 for feasibility studies.
About Project RAMA (Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata):
- The Project RAMA has been designed to leverage the advancing trends of additive manufacturing (AM) and in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).
- The objective of this study is for Made In Space (MIS) to establish the concept feasibility of using the age-old technique of analog computers and mechanisms to convert entire asteroids into enormous autonomous mechanical spacecraft.
- Upon completion, the asteroid will be a programmed mechanical automata carrying out a given mission objective; such as relocation to an Earth-Moon liberation point for human rendezvous.
Significance Project RAMA:
- This technique could some day create an affordable and scalable way for NASA to achieve future roadmap items for exploring the solar system.
- These techniques could be beneficial to scientific goals for understanding the solar system and its formation, as it is estimated that an order of magnitude increase in NEO targets could be explored for the same mission cost compared to the SOA.
- RAMA would enable this by removing the need to launch all spacecraft subsystems and instead converting the asteroid material in-situ.