- The definition of the ‘kilogram’ has got a global, technical makeover.
- Until now, the kilogram derived its provenance from the weight of a block of a platinum-iridium alloy housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in France.
- All other prototypes that served as national reference standards, including the one at New Delhi’s CSIR-National Physical Laboratory (NPL), were calibrated to it.
- On May 20, the kilogram joined other standard units of measure such as the second, metre, ampere, Kelvin, mole and candela that would no longer be defined by physical objects.
- The measures are all now defined on the basis of unchanging universal, physics constants.
- The kilogram now hinges on the definition of the Planck Constant, a constant of nature that relates to how matter releases energy.
- ‘Kibble Balance’ is a device that was used to measure the Planck Constant and thereby reboot the kilogram.
- An updated kilogram doesn’t mean that weights everywhere will be thrown off balance. For everyday measurements, consumers wanting to calibrate their instruments — whether it’s for high-precision drug manufacturing or retail weighing machines — will continue doing it the same way.
- The NPL itself will be relying on the kilogram maintained in the U.S.-based National Institutes of Standards and Technology to calibrate its one-kilogram weight.
- A campaign has been launched to raise awareness on illegal wildlife trade.
- The campaign has been launched by Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of India and UN Environment aimed at airports across India.
- Tiger, Pangolin, Star Tortoise and Tokay Gecko featured in the campaign.
- In India, illegal trade in wildlife has seen a sharp rise in recent years.
- In the first phase of the campaign, Tiger, Pangolin, Star Tortoise and Tokay Gecko have been chosen as they are highly endangered due to illegal trading in International markets.
Wildlife Crime Control Bureau
- Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.
- Under Section 38 (Z) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, it is mandated to collect and collate intelligence related to organized wildlife crime activities and to disseminate the same to State and other enforcement agencies for immediate action.
Category: Social sector
- Nominations for Vayoshreshtha Samman- National Awards for Senior Citizens 2019 for individuals/institutions has began.
- The Department of Social Justice And Empowerment had invited nominations for the awards on 17th April, 2019.
- The Ministries/Departments of Government of India and their autonomous organistions/State Govts. or UT Administration can nominate the suitable individuals/institutions for the said Awards.
- Eligible individuals/institutions may forward nomination for conferment of the award to the Department of Social Justice And Empowerment.
- The Department of Social Justice And Empowerment as part of celebration of the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP) on 1st October every year has been conferring National Award – Vayoshreshtha Samman to eminent senior citizens and institutions involved in rendering distinguished services for the cause of elderly persons.
- The National Awards are conferred by the President of India on the International Day of Older Persons i.e. 1st October every year.
- Mizoram has been attacked by fall armyworm (FAW).
- It attacked a district named Lunglei.
- From Lunglei, the FAW spread to Assam and Manipur.
- The present crisis got aggravated due to non-insurance of crops and farmers.
- The farmers and their crop are not insured because the PMFBY could not be introduced in Mizoram for want of a desirable company.
- The PMFBY aims at providing insurance coverage and financial support to farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crops due to natural calamities, pests and diseases.
- The prescribed premium is 2% to be paid by farmers for all kharif crops and 1.5% for all rabi crops. In the case of annual commercial and horticultural crops, the premium is 5%.
- There is no upper limit on subsidy by the government, which bears the expense even if the balance premium is 90%.
Payment Systems Vision 2021
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has envisaged four times growth in digital transaction in two years, in the payment system vision document for 2019-2021.
- Payment Systems Vision 2021 has 36 specific action points and 12 specific outcomes.
- It aims to achieve a ‘highly digital’ and ‘cash-lite’ society through the goal posts of competition, cost effectiveness, convenience and confidence (4Cs).
- A 35% growth has been targeted in use of digital modes of payment for purchase of goods and services through increase in debit card transactions at point-of-sale terminals during the vision period.
- Interestingly, no specific target has been considered for reducing cash in circulation.
AI for Tea
Category: Agriculture/ Sc-tech
- Tea Research Association (TRA) has introduced artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology aimed at improving quality.
- The technology has been developed through a collaboration between TRA and Agnext, a start-up which was incubated by IIT Kharagpur.
- The machine, called TRA Agnext QualiteaProfiler (QTP), developed through this technology would help determine the ‘fine leaf’ of a tea batch ‘without human intervention.’
- The objective is to improve accuracy and reduce time.
- Fine leaf count (FLC) determines the presence of the two (or three) leaves and a bud in a batch, which go towards enhancing quality.
- The proverbial two leaves and a bud or three leaves and a bud is crucial for determining tea quality.
China blocks Wikipedia
- China has blocked Wikipedia.
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites have long been blocked in China.
- Individual Wikipedia articles about sensitive issues, such as the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and Tibet, have long been blocked in China, however, even while the main site was accessible.
- Since 2015, Wikipedia’s Chinese-language site was blocked by China’s “Great Firewall”, which prevents Internet users from accessing certain foreign websites.
- Internet authorities in China often ramp up censorship before major political events or sensitive anniversaries. This June will mark 30 years since the army used force to suppress the pro-democracy protests centred around Tiananmen Square.
- This month marked the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth movement, which began as student protests against imperialism but quickly grew into widespread protests against the government.
- Alabama has passed the most restrictive abortion Bill in the U.S.
- It places a near-total ban on the termination of pregnancy — even in cases of rape and incest — and could punish doctors who perform the procedure with life in prison.
- Abortions would only be legal if the life of the mother is in danger or the foetus has a fatal condition.
Category: Sc& tech
- As many as 110 teenagers, aspiring space scientists from all States and Union Territories, began a two-week residential training programme to learn about the national space programme first hand.
- They are the first batch of young scientists or ‘Yuvika’ (YuvaVigyaniKaryakram) that the Indian Space Research Organisation plans to hold every year.
- Yuvikafocusses on one such important area and would inculcate a scientific temper in the students apart from contributing to national integration and nation building.
- Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) has invited India to be an observer in the CTBT.
- Being an observer would give India access to data from the IMS — a network which when complete will consist of 337 facilities (321 monitoring stations and 16 radionuclide labs) located in 89 countries.
- This system can detect even small nuclear explosions using seismology, hydroacoustics, infrasound and radionuclide technology.
- CTBTO is located in Vienna.
Coastal Regulation Zone
- While the CRZ Rules are made by the Union Environment Ministry, implementation is supposed to be done by state governments through their Coastal Zone Management Authorities.
- The states are also supposed to frame their own coastal zone management plans in accordance with the central Rules.
- CRZ Rules govern human and industrial activity close to the coastline, in order to protect the fragile ecosystems near the sea.
- The Rules, mandated under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, were first framed in 1991.
- They sought to restrict certain kinds of activities, like large constructions, setting up of new industries, storage or disposal of hazardous material, mining, or reclamation and bunding, within a certain distance from the coastline.
- In all CRZ Rules, the regulation zone has been defined as the area up to 500 m from the high-tide line.
- Despite several amendments, states found the 1991 Rules to be extremely restrictive.
- The Centre notified fresh CRZ Rules in 2011, which addressed some concerns.
- An exemption was made for the construction of the Navi Mumbai airport.
- After even these Rules were found inadequate, however, the Environment Ministry in 2014 set up a committee under ShaileshNayak to give suggestions for a new set of CRZ Rules.
- The January this year, the government notified new CRZ Rules with the stated objectives of promoting sustainable development and conserving coastal environments.
- For the so-called CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two separate categories have been stipulated. In the densely populated rural areas (CRZ-IIIA) with a population density of 2,161 per sq km as per the 2011 Census, the no-development zone is now 50 m from the high-tide level, as against the 200 m stipulated earlier.
- In the CRZ-IIIB category (rural areas with population density below 2,161 per sq km) continue to have a no-development zone extending up to 200 m from the high-tide line.
- The new Rules have a no-development zone of 20 m for all islands close to the mainland coast, and for all backwater islands in the mainland.
Category: Sc& tech
- A beluga whale swimming in the Arctic off Norway has given rise to speculation that it is a spy being used by the Russians.
- Beluga whales generally live in the icy waters around Greenland, Norway and Russia. They can grow up to 6 m long, and are related to dolphins.
- Other marine mammals are known to have been used for military use, including bottlenose dolphins by the US Navy since the 1960s.
- A dolphin can identify objects underwater that would be invisible to human divers.
African Swine Fever
Category: Sc& tech
- Around 1.2 million pigs have been culled in Vietnam due to the risk of being infected with African swine fever,
- The outbreak spread into the country from neighbouring China.
- The African swine fever is a highly infectious disease for pigs and is no vaccine or medical remedy available.
- However, the virus is harmless to humans.
Square Kilometre Array (SKA)
Category: Sc& tech
- Scientists at Cambridge have finished designing the ‘brain’ of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope.
- When complete, the SKA will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the entire sky much faster than any system currently in existence.
- The SKA’s Science Data Processor (SDP)’s total compute power is to be around 250 PFlops — that’s 25 per cent faster than IBM’s Summit, the current fastest supercomputer in the world.
Category: Sc& tech
- The Moon is steadily shrinking, causing wrinkling on its surface and earthquakes, according to an analysis of imagery captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
- Lunar basin Mare Frigoris near the Moon’s north pole — one of many vast basins long assumed to be dead sites from a geological point of view — has been cracking and shifting.
- Unlike our planet, the Moon doesn’t have tectonic plates; instead, its tectonic activity occurs as it slowly loses heat from when it was formed 4.5 billion years ago. This in turn causes its surface to wrinkle, similar to a grape that shrivels into a raisin.
- Since the moon’s crust is brittle, these forces cause its surface to break as the interior shrinks, resulting in so-called thrust faults, where one section of crust is pushed up over an adjacent section.
Fast Neutrino Oscillations
Category: Sc& tech
- Neutrinos could be the driving force behind supernova explosions, a new study finds.
- The study puts forth the idea that “fast neutrino oscillations” could hold the key to why some stars explode forming supernovae at the end of their lives.
- Neutrinos come in three flavours: electron neutrino, muon neutrino and tau neutrino, so named because of the corresponding leptons they are associated with (electron, muon and tau).
- Earlier when measuring the number of neutrinos coming from the sun, experimentalists found that only a third of the number of solar neutrinos that was expected was being intercepted on earth. This was later explained by the understanding that they have a small mass and they can change from one flavour to another – a phenomenon named neutrino oscillations.
- Fast neutrino oscillations are another phenomenon – When the same neutrinos are in the presence of many other neutrinos and when the different flavours are emitted slightly differently in various directions (anisotropy) the oscillations from one flavour to another happen at a higher frequency. This is called fast oscillation and is proportional to the density of neutrinos in the medium, and not the masses of the neutrinos.
- For the first time, the entire genome of Asiatic lion, an endangered species, has been sequenced by scientists from CSIR.
- With the complete genome of royal Bengal tiger, African Cheetah and Jaguar available, comparative studies of all these big cats would be possible.
- The population of the endangered Asiatic lion is very low — only 523 animals are present in the Gir forests.
- The genome sequencing would enable scientists to develop specific markers to study population genetics (the differences at the gene level within a population) and get newer insights into its population status and subsequent management.
- Around 180 governments agreed in Geneva on a new UN accord to regulate the export of plastic waste, some eight million tonnes of which ends up in the oceans each year.
- The Geneva meeting amended the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of hazardous wastes to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework.
- The meeting also undertook to eliminate two toxic chemical groups — Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic Acid. The latter has been used in a wide variety of applications, including non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, carpets, paper and paints.
- The U.S. has not signed the accord, but it cannot ship plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.
- Raw jute availability is expected to improve in 2019-20 with an almost 10% increase being projected for the crop.
- The fibre is available after a long process called retting which involves the extraction of the fibre from the plant through washing and drying.