Essential Facts (Prelims) – May 21 , 2019


Kilogram Update

Category: Sc/tech

  • 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.


Animal Migration

Category: Environment

  • 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

Category: Environment

  • 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.

Vayoshreshtha Samman

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.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – May 20 , 2019


RISAT-2B

Category: Sc/tech

  • RISAT-2B, the satellite due to be launched, will be the first in a new array of Indian all-seeing radar imaging satellites to be deployed after seven years.
  • At least a half-dozen could be foreseen in the near future, mainly to add to the reconnaissance capability from about 500 km in space.
  • A constellation of such space-based radars means a comprehensive vigil over the country.
  • If ISRO orbited its first two radar satellites in 2009 and 2012, it plans to deploy four or five of them in 2019 alone.
  • When it is cloudy or dark, ‘regular’ remote-sensing or optical imaging satellites — which work like a light-dependent camera — cannot perceive hidden or surreptitious objects on the ground.
  • Satellites that are equipped with an active sensor, the synthetic aperture radar (SAR), can sense or ‘observe’ Earth in a special way from space day and night, rain or cloud. This all-weather seeing feature is what makes them special for security forces and disaster relief agencies.


Troll Patrol

Category: Sc/tech

  • Amnesty India is recruiting 2,000 digital volunteers — for Troll Patrol India — to analyse abusive tweets sent to 100 women candidates in the ongoing Lok Sabha election, during, before and after polling.
  • Amnesty hopes to build an evidence base on the extent and nature of online abuse faced by prominent women politicians and its effect on their freedom of expression, and to initiate dialogue on the response and transparency procedures needed from online platforms.

Cyclone Resisting Trees

Category: Environment

  • Plant lovers have urged the Bhuvaneswar administration to undertake plantation of native species which could withstand strong cyclonic winds in future.
  • 99% of trees had suffered damage when Cyclone Fani hit the city on May 3.
  • Native species such as Karanja (Pongamia pinnata) and Chhatiana (Alstonia Scholaris) were found to have withstood ferocious wind speed of Fani.

Ultima Thule

Category: Sc/tech

  • NASA has found evidence of a unique mixture of methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface.
  • Ultima Thule is the farthest world ever explored by mankind.
  • It is an ancient relic from the era of planet formation.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – May 17 , 2019


Starlink Project

Category: Sc/tech

  • SpaceX postponed a launch of 60 satellites into low-Earth orbit that was scheduled.
  • The launch of 60 satellites is a part of the Starlink project.
  • The purpose of Starlink project is to beam broadband internet across the planet by launching 12 thousands satellites.

New Immigration Policy

Category: International

  • US has unveiled a new merit and points-based immigration policy that replaces the existing green cards with ‘Build America’ visa.
  • It hikes the quota for young and highly-skilled workers from 12 to 57 per cent, a move likely to benefit thousands of Indian professionals.
  • Every year the US issues nearly 1.1 million green cards, which gives foreign nationals life-time permission to live and work in the US and a path to citizenship in five years.
  • Currently, most of the cards are issued based on family links and diversity visa, and a small section is given to people who are professionals and highly-skilled.
  • The move is likely to benefit hundreds and thousands of Indian professionals and skilled workers whose current waiting period for a Green Card on an average is more than a decade.

Kerala

Category: Economy

  • Kerala is the first Indian state to tap into the market for masala bonds.
  • Masala bonds are the debt papers sold overseas by an Indian entity that are denominated in rupees.
  • The aim of the masala bonds is to raise development funds.
  • Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) became the first sub-sovereign entity in India to tap the offshore rupee international bond market.

CERC

Category: Economy

  • The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) has allowed power companies to claim compensation for the additional cost of coal procured from alternative sources due to Coal India’s failure to meet supply obligations.
  • While such compensation facility was available for the FY14-FY17 period under a modified coal distribution policy, it has since ceased to be in operation.
  • As per the modified fiats of the New Coal Distribution Policy (NCDP), power plants receive 75 per cent of their contracted fuel quantities through CIL linkages. The remaining coal are being sourced from other expensive means such as imports and e-auctions. However, the 2013 NCDP allowed power plants to claim higher tariffs for the additional cost till FY17-end.
  • Driven by shortage supply in the wake of sudden rise in electricity demand, power plants across the country imported 61.7 mt of coal in FY19, recording an annual rise of 9.3 per cent.

Offensive Weapons Bill

Category: International

  • The United Kingdom government has passed an amendment by which Sikhs in the country will be allowed to own a longer ‘kirpan (dagger)’ and use it during religious and cultural functions.
  • ‘The Offensive Weapons Bill’ received the royal assent.
  • Now the Sikhs can keep a 3-foot long kirpan.

Taiwan

Category: International

  • Taiwan has legalized same-sex marriage.
  • It is the first country in Asia to do so.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – May 16 , 2019


Fall Armyworm

Category: Agriculture

  • 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

Category: Economy

  • 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

Category: International

  • 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

Category: International

  • 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.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – May 17 , 2019


Slender Loris

Category: Environment

  • Commonly found in the tropical scrub and deciduous forests as well as the dense hedgerow plantations bordering farmlands of Southern India and Sri Lanka, the Slender Loris is a small, nocturnal primate.
  • It prefers to inhabit thick, thorny bushes and bamboo clumps where it can evade predators and also find insects, which is the main diet.
  • These animals are about 25 cm long and have long, thin arms. They weigh around 275 grams. They have a small, vestigial tail.
  • Their most prominent feature is the pair of two large, closely set, brown eyes.
  • Being arboreal, they spend most of their life on the trees.
  • These animals face a threat from poachers due to the misplaced belief that these animals have magical and medicinal powers. This hunting, along with destruction of their habitat, is their major threat.
  • IUCN has listed them as Endangered, whereas they are listed under the Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972, according them the highest level of legal protection.
  • WWF-India is working to protect the habitats of the Slender Loris through its wider conservation work in the Western Ghats – Nilgiris Landscape.


Crop Insurance

Category: Agriculture

  • Out of ₹1,400 crore earmarked annually for the north-eastern States under the Centre’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, only ₹8 crore — or just over half a per cent — was actually spent last year.
  • Four north-eastern States — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram — are not covered under the scheme at all.
  • Some large States like Bihar and West Bengal have withdrawn from PMFBY to set up their own State-level schemes and Punjab has never participated in the scheme, while UTs like Delhi and Chandigarh are largely urban spaces.
  • Although the north-eastern States have only 2.5% of the country’s cultivable area, 10% of the budget for PMFBY and RWBCIS [Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme] is earmarked for them. But all the funds are lapsed.

Risk officers for NBFCs

Category: Economy

  • The RBI has asked all shadow banks with a size of over ₹5,000 crore to appoint chief risk officers (CROs) with clearly specified roles and responsibilities.
  • The CRO is required to function independently so as to ensure highest standards of risk management.
  • Removal or transfer will need the board’s approval and has to be reported to the regulator.

Teen Pregnancies

Category: Health

  • Teen pregnancies contribute to under-nutrition in babies.
  • Children born to adolescent mothers (10-19 years) are 5 percentage points more likely to be stunted (shorter for their age) than those born to young adults (20-24 years) and 11 percentage points more stunted than children born to adult mothers.
  • Children born to adolescent mothers also had 10 percentage points higher prevalence of low weight as compared to those born to adult mothers.
  • Lower education levels among adolescent mothers had the strongest impact on stunting levels, followed by socioeconomic status.
  • Teen mothers were also likely to be underweight, exacerbating the stunting among their children.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – May 15 , 2019


OECD Index for Services

Category: International

  • India has found problems with the current method under which the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranks countries based on their services trade policies, indicating the outcomes are biased and counter-intuitive.
  • For example, the index seems to show the Indian services sector as one of the most restrictive, particularly in policy areas like foreign entry.
  • Launched in 2014, the Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI), computed by the OECD, is now available for 2018 for a total of 45 economies (36 OECD and the rest non-OECD) and 22 sectors.
  • The OECD index has a large number of problems associated with it, including some significant design issues that render it impractical for use, a study commissioned by the Commerce Ministry found.

Artemis

Category: Sc & tech

  • NASA is to return to the moon by 2024.
  • The mission back to the moon would be called Artemis.
  • In Greek mythology, Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo..

NPA

Category: Economy

  • The banking sector’s gross non performing assets (NPA) ratio is estimated to have declined to 10 per cent in end-March 2019 from 11.5 per cent the year before.
  • It happened as recoveries through the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) helped banks recovery bad loans.
  • The IBC requires a corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) to be completed in 180 days, which can be extended by another 90 days to a maximum of 270 days.
  • These time limits were set in to ensure that recovery of non performing assets (NPAs) happen in a time-bound manner and banks are able to reduce the quantum of stressed assets of more than Rs 10 lakh crore.
  • As on March 31, 2019, out of total 1143 that were undergoing resolution under the IBC, a total of 548 cases exceeded the 180-day deadline. This reflects that in nearly 48 per cent of the cases, resolution could not be achieved within 180 days. A total of 362 cases – or 31.67 per cent of the ongoing CIRPs – surpassed the outer limit of 270 days set out in the IBC.

GFDRR

Category: International

  • India is unanimously chosen as co-chair of the Consultative Group (CG) of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) for the fiscal year 2020.
  • The decision was taken during the CG meeting of GFDRR held in Geneva, Switzerland today, on the margins of the 6th Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) 2019.
  • The CG Meeting was co-chaired by Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, the European Union (EU) and World Bank.
  • GFDRR is a global partnership that helps developing countries better understand and reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change.
  • GFDRR is a grant-funding mechanism, managed by the World Bank, that supports disaster risk management projects worldwide.
  • India became member of CG of GFDRR in 2015 and expressed its interest to co-chair in last meeting of CG held in October 2018.
  • India’s candidature was backed by its consistent progress in disaster risk reduction (DRR) in the country and its initiative to form a coalition on disaster resilient infrastructure.
  • This is the first time that the country has been afforded the opportunity of co-chairing the CG meeting of GFDRR.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – May 14 , 2019


Yuvika

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.

CTBTO

Category: International

  • 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

Category: Environment

  • 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.

Beluga Whale

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.

Shrinking Moon

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.

 

Essential Facts (Prelims) – May 13 , 2019


Orchid Link

Category: Environment

  • An Assam forest officer’s chance discovery has given India one of its smallest orchids in terms of size and duration of bloom to be recorded botanically.
  • Lecanorchistaiwanianais a mycoheterotroph, one of two types of parasitic plants that have abandoned photosynthesis.
  • Lecanorchistaiwaniana adds to the orchid wealth of northeast India, which has 800 of some 1,300 species in the country.
  • About 300 species are found in the Western Ghats and 200 in the northwestern Himalayas.
  • The orchid, discovered earlier in Japan, Taiwan, and Laos, was found to have a maximum height of 40 cm and a blossoming period of five-six days.
  • As it derives its energy and nutrients from fungus, it may be of herbal importance.

Russian Poplar

Category: Sc& tech

  • In May every year, hospitals and doctors in the Kashmir Valley find themselves treating a high number of patients, especially children, with respiratory diseases. The patients complain of sore throat, cold, cough and fever.
  • While a common cause is pollen shed by various plants, the spike in illness has often been attributed to a phenomenon during this season — the shedding of fluffy cotton-covered seeds by poplar trees, commonly known as “Russian poplars”.
  • Three years ago, this led to the Jammu & Kashmir High Court ordering chopping of all Russian poplars in the Valley.
  • Scientists, on the other hand, have concluded that the seeds from these trees do not cause allergy.
  • “Russian poplar” is a misnomer as the tree has nothing to do with Russia.
  • It was introduced in Kashmir in 1982 under a Word Bank-aided social forestry scheme.
  • The tree is a Western American species known as Eastern Cottonwood (Populusdeltoides) in the US.
  • Over the years, people in the Valley have started to prefer the “Russian poplar” over the native Kashmiri poplar for its quick growth — 10-15 years to reach full size compared to 30-40 years for the Kashmiri poplar.
  • The poplar trees are used to make wooden boxes for transportation of apples and other fruits from the Valley.The high-quality wood is also used in veneer and plywood.
  • With the onset of May, the “Russian poplars” shed their seeds covered in cotton-like material. The cotton-covered seeds can be seen in the air, on the ground and in water-bodies. Around the same time, patients complaining of respiratory diseases swell many times.
  • Health experts stress that the cotton-like material from the poplars is not an allergen. It is the pollen — not visible to the naked eye — shed by “Russian poplars” that causes allergy, and in a relatively small number of people.
  • A study found that the pollen of “Russian poplars” can cause allergic reactions in less than 20% of the population. Compared to this, pollen from common grass is likely to cause allergic reactions in 73.5%, pollen from pine in 62.7% of the population, and pollen from chinar trees in 60% of the population. The study found that the biggest causative agent for respiratory diseases, in fact, is dust that can affect 92.7% of the population.

Manav

Category: Sc& tech

  • The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has launched ‘MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative’.
  • It is a project for mapping every tissue of the human body to help understand better the roles of tissues and cells linked to various diseases.
  • The programme will seek to provide better biological insights through physiological and molecular mapping, develop disease models through predictive computing, and allow for a holistic analysis and finally drug discovery.
  • The aim of the project is to understand and capture human physiology in two stages — normal stage and disease stage.

Blue Moon

Category: Sc& tech

  • Jeff Bezos has unveiled ‘Blue Moon’, A Lunar Spacecraft to Take Humans to the Moon’s Surface by 2024.
  • Blue Moon is essentially a robotic space cargo carrier that runs on Hydrogen and can make cargo deliveries to the Moon.
  • Built to deliver science payloads, moon rovers and even astronauts to the lunar surface, the spacecraft can also deploy small satellites into lunar orbit as a “bonus mission” on the way.
  • Blue Moon is planned to be capable of delivering 4,500 kg to the surface of the Moon and can also be used as cargo vehicle to support NASA’s outer space activities, or transport payloads of ice from Shackleton Crater, an impact crater that lies at the south pole of the Moon, to support space activities.

Deep Sea Fish

Category: Environment

  • The deep sea is home to fish species that can detect various wavelengths in near-total darkness.
  • The deep sea is the largest habitat on Earth and yet one of the least explored due to its inaccessibility.
  • Many organisms have adapted to life in the near-total darkness of this inhospitable environment. For example, many fish have developed highly sensitive telescope eyes that allow them to detect the tiny amount of residual light that makes it to the depths of the ocean.
  • Fish living in deep-sea habitat and discovered that certain deep-sea fish have expanded their rhodopsin genes.
  • The genes cover exactly the wavelength range of light “produced” by light-emitting organs of deep-sea organisms. This is known as bioluminescence, which is the ability of an organism to produce light on its own or with the help of other organisms.
  • Colour vision is only possible in daylight, however. In the darkness, vertebrates detect the few available light particles with their light-sensitive rod cells, which contain only a single type of the photopigment rhodopsin, explaining why nearly all vertebrates are colour-blind at night

Huntington’s Disease

Category: Sc& tech

  • Huntington’s disease attacks and destroys certain brain cells in human beings.
  • A toxic protein linked to Huntington’s disease can move from neuron to neuron through a nanotube tunnel whose construction is initiated by a protein called Rhes.
  • People with Huntington’s disease inherit a damaged protein that is somehow complicit in destroying brain cells.
  • Huntington’s disease brains are shrunken and degraded. As the neurons deteriorate, people lose motor control, they can have emotional problems and their thinking and memory suffer.
  • Symptoms usually begin around age 30 to 40 and last 15 to 20 years until death. A rarer and more aggressive form of the disease affects children, cutting their childhood and lives short.
  • About three to seven people out of 100,000 have the disease and it has mostly affected those with European ancestry.

Iterative Evolution

Category: Environment

  • A previously extinct species of bird has re-evolved back into existence.
  • The bird, Aldabra, rail first went extinct around 136,000 years ago. Now, it’s reclaimed its home island.
  • Aldabra is an island in Indian ocean.
  • The island has been completely submerged multiple times, wiping out all species inhabiting it.
  • Every time, every species on the island went extinct — but the Aldabra rail has returned, again and again.
  • The rail is an example of iterative evolution — when the same ancestral lineage leads to repeated evolution of a species at different points in time. The rare phenomenon means that species can re-emerge over and over, despite past iterations going extinct.
  • The Aldabra white-throated is a flightless bird — a descendant of a species of flying bird known as the white-throated rail.
  • It was completely wiped out when the island disappeared below sea level about 136,000 years ago.
  • Unlike the famous Dodo of Mauritius, the rails were able to re-emerge from Madagascar once sea levels lowered again.
  • Today, the flightless Aldabra rail has once again reclaimed its island — and it’s now the last surviving species of flightless bird in the Indian Ocean.
  • The study marks the first time iterative evolution has been observed in rails, and represents one of the “most significant” instances ever found in birds.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – May 12 , 2019


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.

Asiatic lion

Category: Environment

  • 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.

Plastic Waste

Category: Environment

  • 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.

Retting

Category: Agriculture

  • 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.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – May 11 , 2019


Chandrayaan-2

Category: Sc& tech

  • Chandrayaan-2 will have 14 Indian payloads or study devices.
  • It weighs 3,800-kg.
  • It includes
    • an orbiter which will circle the moon at 100 km;
    • a five-legged lander called Vikram that will descend on the moon .
    • and a robotic rover, Pragyan, that will probe the lunar terrain around it.
  • ISRO has chosen a landing area at the hitherto unexplored lunar south pole, making it the first agency to touch down at the south pole if it succeeds in its first landing attempt.
  • ISRO will send the mission on its heavy lift booster, the MkIII, from Sriharikota.
  • In 2008, ISRO had launched its orbiter mission Chandrayaan-1 on its PSLV booster.
  • The spacecraft had 11 payloads.

Industrial Output

Category: Economy

  • Growth in industrial activity dipped to a 21-month low in March, contracting 0.1% due in large part to a continuing slowdown in the manufacturing sector.
  • The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) contracted in March for the first time since June 2013.
  • IIP had grown by 5.3 per cent in March 2018, 4.6 per cent and 3.3 per cent in 2016-17 and 2015-16, respectively.
  • The manufacturing sector constitutes 77.63 per cent of the IIP.
  • One of the primary reasons for the slowdown in the overall economy is that the government has very little room to manoeuvre on the fiscal side (the fiscal deficit has exceeded the limits), even though the Reserve Bank of India has done what it can on the monetary policy side with two successive interest rate cuts.

Missing Firms

Category: Economy

  • The Finance Ministry clarified that the ‘missing’ enterprises in the MCA-21 database did not have a significant impact on the calculation of growth rates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross Value Added (GVA) as these companies still added to the total output of the economy.

  • The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in a recent survey report on the service sector found that, of a sample of 35,456 companies taken from the MCA-21 database, 38.7% were out-of-survey unit.
  • These enterprises are engaged in some economic activity, possibly in the manufacturing sector for instance. As a result, they cannot be classified as out-of-coverage enterprises for the purposes of estimating the GDP of the country. In other words, the GDP estimates based on the out-of-coverage enterprises are very much a part of overall GDP of the country.
  • In simpler terms, GDP estimates are affected by the share in the paid-up capital of the missing companies and not by their absolute number.

WTO

Category: International

  • Developing countries participating in the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in New Delhi are expected to prioritise discussions on measures to ensure the smooth functioning of the organization’s appellate body for dispute settlements.
  • WTO’s appellate body is a standing body that hears appeals from reports issued by panels in disputes brought by the organization’s members.
  • However, the appellate body has shrunk over the last two years from its required strength of seven members to three.This is because the United States has been blocking appointments of the body’s members.