Researchers Discover Oldest Human Ancestor
Researchers have discovered microscopic sea animal Saccorhytus, the earliest known ancestor of humans along with a vast range of other species. The exquisitely well preserved fossilised traces of this 540-million-year-old creature were discovered. This balloon-like sea is the earliest known step on the evolutionary path that led to fish and eventually to humans. About Saccorhytus Saccorhytus is the most primitive example of deuterostomes, a category of animals which are common ancestors of a broad range of species, including vertebrates (backboned animals). It was about a millimetre in size and its body was symmetrical. This is a characteristic inherited by many of its evolutionary descendants, including humans. It was also covered with a thin, relatively flexible skin and muscles which concludes that it moved by contracting its muscles and got around by wriggling. It is thought to have lived between grains of sand on the sea bed. It had large mouth, relative to the rest of its body indicating that it probably ate by engulfing food particles, or even other creatures. Its body also had conical structures which might have allowed the water swallowed by it to escape. It also indicates these conical structures might have been a very early version of gills.
New TB-resistant cows developed in China
Chinese scientists from Northwest A&F University have produced world’s first live cows with increased resistance to bovine tuberculosis (TB). This development shows that genetic modification technology can be better suited to producing transgenic livestock with purposefully manipulated genetic. Key Facts Researchers had used a modified version of the CRISPR gene-editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9n to insert a new TB resistance gene NRAMP1 into the genome of bovine foetal fibroblasts, cell derived from female dairy cows. These cells were then used as donor cells in a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer. In it, nucleus of a donor cell carrying the new gene was inserted into an egg cell, known as an ovum, from a female cow. These ovum were then nurtured in the lab into embryos and transferred into mother cows for a normal pregnancy cycle. During this cycle, cows were produced with no off target effects on the animals’ genetics — a common problem when creating transgenic animals using CRISPR. Significance This scientific process revealed that NRAMP1 had successfully integrated into the genetic code at the targeted region in all of the calves. When it was exposed to Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis), bacterium that causes bovine TB, transgenic animals showed increased resistance to M. bovis. Further in laboratory tests, the white blood cells taken from the calves also showed much resistance to M. bovis exposure. What is CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique? CRISPR short form of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. It allows scientists to selectively edit genome parts and replace them with new DNA stretches. Cas9 is an enzyme that can edit DNA, allowing the alteration of genetic patterns by genome modification. CRISPR is a collection of DNA sequences that direct Cas9 where to cut and paste. CRISPR-Cas9 technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of blood diseases, tumours and other genetic diseases.
Scientists confirm existence of lost continent lies under Indian Ocean
Scientists have confirmed the existence of a “lost continent” under the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. It is left over by the break-up of the super-continent Gondwana, which started about 200 million years ago. The discovery was based on study of Zircon, a mineral found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions which is too old to belong to Mauritius. Key Facts The lost continent is just a small piece of island that probably broke of when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica split up and formed the Indian Ocean. The scientists found zircons on the island of Mauritius that are three billion years old. These remnants are too old to belong to Mauritius as it has no rock older than nine million years old. The piece of crust of lost continent was subsequently covered by young lava during volcanic eruptions. There are many pieces of various sizes of undiscovered continent which are collectively called as Mauritius. What are Zircons? Zircons are minerals that occur mainly in granite from the continents. They contain trace amounts of uranium, thorium and lead. They can survive geological processes. They contain a rich record and can be dated extremely accurately.
Toxins in litchi fruit may kill children
Scientists from US and India have found that consumption of litchi fruit on an empty stomach can result in very low blood glucose level and acute encephalopathy leading to seizures and coma, and causes death in Children in many cases. Litchi fruit contains the toxins hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropyl-glycine (MCPG). Its consumption and skipping evening meals causes very low blood glucose level (less than normal 70 mg/dL) and acute encephalopathy in children. Background Outbreaks of high fever followed by seizures and death in young children were reported in poor socio-economic backgrounds in rural Muzaffarpur in Bihar and other litchi-growing regions in India due to consumption of unripe lychees on an empty stomach. In 2014, fever and convulsions had killed 122 and hospitalised 390 children within three weeks in Muzaffarpur. All the sick children had eaten litchis without eating evening meal and had developed high fever, seizures and convulsions followed by coma before daybreak. Key Facts Unripened litchi contains Hypoglycin A, naturally-occurring amino acid that causes severe vomiting (Jamaican vomiting sickness). MCPG is a poisonous compound found in litchi seeds that cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, vomiting, altered mental status with lethargy, unconsciousness, coma and death. These toxins may block enzymes involved in normal glucose metabolism and result in an inability to synthesis glucose leading to acutely low level of blood sugar. The build-up of other metabolic by-products can also have an adverse effect (encephalopathy) on the child. Remedies: Dextrose therapy (giving children sugar to normalize their rapidly plummeting blood glucose levels), minimising litchi consumption, eating evening meal throughout the outbreak period, implementing rapid glucose correction for suspected illness.
Single-dose Zika vaccine works in animals: study
According to recent study, an innovative vaccine made from genetic material protected lab animals from the Zika virus in experiments. A single, low dose of the vaccine shielded mice exposed to Zika five months after the shot. Even monkeys exposed five weeks after they were innoculated were also not affected by the virus. Key Facts The new vaccine is based on a modified version of genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA). It is designed to pass under the radar of the immune system and enter directly into human cells. Once there, RNA vaccine is incorporated into the cell’s protein-making machinery, it mimics the action of a live virus vaccine building up an immune response. It can be delivered into the blood stream by fat-based nanoparticles. It can be injected just below the skin and is thus easy to administer. RNA-based vaccines are non-replicating, i.e. they cannot integrate into the host’s genetic blueprint. It overcomes safety concern that comes with live-virus vaccines. Background Zika virus had erupted on a large scale in mid-2015 in which more than 1.5 million people were infected, mostly in Brazil and other countries in South America. The virus is transmitted mainly by mosquitos. It causes mild, flu-like symptoms in most people, pregnant women run the risk of giving birth to babies with severe brain damage. The World Health Organization (WHO) had declared a global health emergency in February 2016, and declared it over in November 2016.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft completes fourth flyby of Jupiter
NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft completed closest flyby of Jupiter mysterious cloud tops for the fourth time. All eight of Juno’s science instruments were switched on during the flyby. During its closest approach it was roughly 4,300 km above Jupiter’s cloud tops and travelled at a speed of about 208,000 kmph. Currently, Juno is locked in a 53-day orbit around Jupiter. It is expected to perform three dozen flybys over the next one and a half years. During its flybys, Juno probes beneath the cloud cover of Jupiter and studies Jupiter’s auroras to learn more about its origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere About Juno spacecraft Juno was launched in August 2011 to study Jupiter’s composition and evolution. It’s the first solar power spacecraft to orbit Jupiter and second after Galileo. The unmanned spacecraft had successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit in July 2016 after a five year journey and traversing distance of nearly 2 billion miles. The primary goals of the mission are to find out whether Jupiter has a solid core, how its atmosphere and magnetosphere formed, and whether there is water in the gas cloud shrouding the planet. The information gathered from it will provide vital clues to how the planet formed and evolved, but also to how the solar system we live in came into existence. The spacecraft has been named after the Roman goddess Juno, the wife of Jupiter who is considered as the god of the sky in ancient Greco-Roman mythology.
World’s smallest pacemaker unveiled in US
Scientists for the first time have successfully implanted world’s smallest pacemaker dubbed as Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS) in a patient in United States. The pacemaker about size of large vitamin capsule is for patients with bradycardia, a condition characterised by a slow heart rate, usually fewer than 60 beats per minute. Key Facts TPS provides the most advanced pacing technology. It was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. It is one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker and is the only leadless (wireless) pacemaker approved for use in the US. It can be delivered through a catheter and implanted directly into the heart Unlike traditional pacemakers, it does not require cardiac wires (leads) or a surgical pocket under the skin to deliver a pacing therapy. It also allows us to automatically adjust pacing therapy based on a patient’s activity levels and another positive is the battery can last up to 10 years. It has unique feature that enables it to be permanently turned off so it can remain in the body and a new device can be implanted without risk of electrical interaction. What is Bradycardia? Patients with bradycardia have lower heart rate and their heart is unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body during normal activity or exercise, causing dizziness, shortness, fatigue of breath or fainting spells. Pacemakers are the most common way to treat bradycardia to help restore the heart’s normal rhythm and relieve symptoms by sending electrical impulses to the heart to increase the heart rate.
Neurocalyx calycinus plant possesses medicinal values
Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) have confirmed the multiple therapeutic properties of Neurocalyx calycinus, a medicinal plant endemic to the southern parts of Western Ghats and Sri Lanka The therapeutic properties of the plant were discovered based on traditional knowledge of Cholanaickan tribe, (one of the particularly vulnerable groups in Kerala) used it to treat inflammations and wounds. Key Facts The herbal drug formulation derived from Neurocalyx calycinus possesses burn-healing, wound-healing, anti-cancer, analgesic, immuno-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, platelet-augmentation and anti-oxidant effects. Animal trials have proved that the leaves of this medicnal plant possess wound-healing properties comparable to the standard drug Povidone/Iodine in the early phase of inflammation. The anti-inflammatory activity of the leaves was found comparable to the drug diclofenac sodium. The pre-clinical trials also have confirmed the therapeutic effects of N.calycinus against burn wounds and pain. The presence of high Vitamin E content and potent cytoprotective activity in cell lines has also enhanced the prospects of developing an anti-cancer drug. Besides it also has immuno-enhancing, platelet augmentation, and anti-oxidant potential
FAO calls for International collaboration on wheat rust
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), a United Nations agricultural agency has called for International collaboration on wheat rust to curb threat to global supplies. According to studies produced by scientists in collaboration with FAO, wheat in Africa, Asia and Europe is increasingly threatened by fresh groups of wheat rust. Key Facts The studies have showed emergence of two new groups or races of both yellow rust and stem rust in various regions of the world. They highlight urgent need for early detection and rapid action to keep the wheat rust under control which spread rapidly over long distances by wind. If not detected and treated on time, they can turn a healthy looking crop, only weeks away from harvest, into a tangle of yellow leaves, black stems and shriveled grains. Wheat is a source of food and livelihoods for over 1 billion people in developing countries. Some of the most vulnerable regions are also the highest producers of wheat. Northern and Eastern Africa, the Near East, and West, Central and South Asia alone account for some 37% of global wheat production. What is Wheat Rust? Yellow rust is a fungal disease which turns leaves yellowish and stops the photosynthesis. It is caused by the Magnaporthe oryzae fungus and was discovered in Brazil in 1985. The fungus attacks the leaf of the crop and eats its chlorophyll, thereby affecting the plant’s growth. It can cause up to 20% yield loss. In recent times, due to temperature rise caused by climate change has contributed to the spread of the fungus.
Scientists develop terahertz transmitter capable of sending data 10 times faster than 5G
Scientists from Japan have developed terahertz (THz) transmitter technology, a next generation system which can transmit digital data over 10 times faster than 5G mobile networks. It will pave transmitting digital data at a rate exceeding 100 gigabits per second (gbps) over a single channel using the 300-gigahertz band. Key Facts The THz band is a new and vast frequency resource expected to be used for future ultrahigh-speed wireless communications. The THz transmitter achieves a communication speed of 105 gigabits per second using the frequency range from 290 GHz to 315 GHz. These range of frequencies are currently unallocated but fall within the frequency range from 275 GHz to 450 GHz. It paves way for faster downloads and improve in-flight network connection speeds. Terahertz wireless is high-data-rate minimum-latency communications. Its possible applications include fast download from contents servers to mobile devices and ultrafast wireless links between base stations. In 2016, scientists had demonstrated that the speed of a wireless link in the 300-GHz band can be greatly enhanced by using quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). Later in 2017 they showed six times higher per-channel data rate, exceeding 100 gbps for the first time as an integrated-circuit-based transmitter.
Scientists identify evolutionary pathway of pitcher plants
According to new study was published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, scientists have identified the evolutionary pathway that led some plants to turn carnivorous. The new finding explains why pitcher plants (carnivorous plants) from different parts of the world appear strikingly similar despite having evolved independently. Pitcher Plants Pitcher plants or carnivorous plants grow in very nutrient-poor habitats. Just like other plants, they produce carbon through the usual photosynthetic processes. However, their habitats do not provide enough phosphorus and nitrogen for their growth. They obtain these essential nutrients feeding on insects. These plants capture insects by luring them into a trap, a cupped leaf with a waxy, slippery interior that makes it difficult to climb out. A mixture of digestive fluids sits at the bottom of cupped leaf’s chamber that breaks down the flesh and exoskeletons of prey. Key Findings The study had probed the origins of carnivory in several distantly related pitcher plants from Australia, Asia and America, which appear strikingly similar to the human (or insect) eye. Though, each species of the pitcher developed carnivory independently, scientists concluded that the biological machinery required for digesting insects evolved in remarkably similar fashion. The similarity for has long been known to be an example of convergent evolution in which distinct species independently develop the same traits. These plants have a genetic tool kit so they look similar, with a cupped, waxy leaf that is slippery on the inside to trap insect inside. In the course of their evolution, digestive fluid of these plants co-opted for proteins that were originally used to defend against disease, and repurposing them into enzymes that could aid the digestion of insects. These plants have enzymes basic chitinase, which breaks down chitin the major component of insects’ hard, exterior exoskeletons and purple acid phosphatase, which enables them to obtain phosphorus, a critical nutrient, from victims’ body parts.
Scientists successfully test male contraceptive on monkeys
Scientists from California National Primate Research Centre, US have successfully tested a new male contraceptive ‘Vasalgel’ that blocks sperm flow on monkeys. Now it is waiting for human trials. During the animal trials, the Vasalgel contraceptive provided effective birth control in rhesus monkey groups for more than one year. It brings the prospect of an alternative form of birth control for humans. Key Facts The trial use of Vasalgel in groups of rhesus macaques has confirmed the previous preclinical trail findings in rabbits on the efficacy of the new contraceptive. Vasalgel is a high molecular weight polymer containing styrene-alt-maleic acid (SMA) dissolved in dimethyl sulfoxide. The polymer forms a hydrogel after injection into the sperm-carrying tube vas deferens, creating a blockage to the passage of sperm rather than cutting it as in vasectomy, to filter sperms from the fluid ejaculation. The contraceptive effect of Vasalgel can also be reversed by flushing the material out with a simple sodium bicarbonate solution. Significance: The purpose Vasalgel is to prevent pregnancy, not just by eliminating sperm in larger animals more anatomically. In over a last century, male contraceptive options have not changed and currently are limited to vasectomy (meant to be permanent) and condoms and withdrawal (with high pregnancy rates). Vasagel could be the first long-acting, non-hormonal, potentially reversible male contraceptive to reach market.
Researchers develop battery powered by stomach acid
Researchers from MIT have developed a small battery that runs on stomach acids and is capable of powering e-pills to monitor patient health. The small system can generate enough power to run small sensors or drug delivery devices that can reside in the gastrointestinal tract for extended periods of time. Key Facts For this battery, researchers used idea of very simple type of voltaic cell, lemon battery which produces electric current between the two electrodes stuck in a lemon due to its citric acid. To replicate it, the researchers attached zinc and copper electrodes to the surface of their ingestible sensor. The zinc emits ions into the acid in the stomach to power the voltaic circuit. It can generate enough energy to power a commercial temperature sensor and a 900-megahertz transmitter to wirelessly transmit the data to a base station located 2m away, with a signal sent every 12 seconds. The current prototype of the device is a cylinder about 12 millimeters in diameter and 40 millimeters long. Researchers are anticipating to make the capsule about one-third that size. Significance: It offers a safer and lower-cost alternative to the traditional batteries used to power such devices. It can also help in manufacturing new generation of electronic ingestible pills that could enable novel ways of monitoring patient health and treating disease.
ISRO develops Telemetry and Telecommand Processor
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has indigenously developed Telemetry & Telecommand Processor (TTCP) and its productionisation will be initiated with the help of Indian industry. The processor development was undertaken up by ISRO as part of ‘Make in India’ campaign to replace the expensive imported equipment necessary for uplinking and downlinking to satellites. Key Facts TTCP has been developed by Bengaluru based of ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC). Besides, Spacecraft Checkout Group of ISAC is responsible for testing it. It will be used by ISRO in Integrated Spacecraft Testing of Low Earth Orbit, Geostationary Orbit and Interplanetary Spacecraft. It is configurable to meet uplink and downlink requirements of both CCSDS (Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems) and ISRO standards and multiple clients to remotely access for data and monitoring. The system was developed on Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) platform. The softcore processor on board the FPGA allows programming all features of TCCP remotely. It is being tested on the ground using the same communication protocols that will be used in space. During test, ground systems will communicate to spacecraft via the same uplink and downlink signals, as in space. This indigenously developed Processor has been successfully deployed for the first time in checkout of GSAT-19, which is scheduled to be launched shortly onboard of GSLV-Mk III-D1.
Scientists develop Thubber, stretchable rubber material with high thermal conductivity
Scientists have developed novel rubber like material nicknamed ‘thubber’ which has high thermal conductivity and elasticity. It is an electrically insulating composite material that exhibits an unprecedented combination of metal-like thermal conductivity, elasticity similar to soft, biological tissue. Key Facts Thubber consists of a soft elastomer with non-toxic, liquid metal microdroplets suspended within it. This semi-liquid state allows the metal to deform with the surrounding rubber at room temperature. When it is pre-stretched at room temperature, it stretches up to six times its initial length. During this phase, liquid metal microdroplets form into elongated pathways through which heat can easily travel through. At the same time, the material is electrically insulating. Potential applications: In developing wearable computing and soft robotics, industries like athletic wear and sports medicine and in advanced manufacturing, energy, and transportation etc.
ISRO successfully launches record 104 satellites in single mission
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) created history by successfully launching a record 104 satellites in single mission. These satellites were launched on board of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C37, on its 39th mission from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.’ Key Facts Of the total 104 satellites, three were Indian and remaining 101 belonged to international customers. India’s three satellites included earth-mapping Cartosat-2 satellite (main payload) and nanosatellites INS-1A and INS-1B. Foreign Satellites: Of the 101 co-passenger satellites, 96 belong to US and remaining 5 from Israel, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, respectively. Around 90 small satellites belonged to US-based company Planet Inc. They are named ‘Doves’ and their constellation will be used to image the earth at low cost. Launch Process: In this mission, PSLV first launched the Cartosat-2 and then its 103 co-passengers (together weighing about 664 kg) into the polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO), about 520 km from the Earth. Cartosat-2 Satellite: It was the primary payload of the mission. It is similar to the earlier four satellites in Cartosat-2 Series. It weighs 714 kg and has a mission life of five years. It is earth observation satellite that will provide remote sensing services. Images sent by it will be useful for coastal land use and regulation, road network monitoring and creation of land use maps, among others. INS-1A and INS-1B Satellites: They are nanosatellites. INS-1A was carrying Surface Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function Radiometer and INS-1B was carrying Earth Exosphere Lyman Alpha Analyser as payloads. Launch Vehicle: For this mission, ISRO had used XL Variant of PSLV rocket standing 44.4 metres tall and weighing 320 tonnes. It is most powerful rocket of ISRO and earlier was used in launching ambitious Chandrayaan and Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Records Broken: This mission beat the previous record held by Russia, which in 2014 had catapulted 37 satellites in a single launch, using a modified inter-continental ballistic missile. It also broke ISRO’s previous national record set in June 2016, after it had successfully launched 20 satellites, including 13 from the US in single mission.
Scientists ‘unmask’ superbug-shielding protein
Scientists from University of Western Australia have successfully mapped three-dimensional molecular structure of EptA protein that shields superbugs from antibiotics. The EptA protein causes multi-drug resistance by masking bacteria from both the human immune system and important antibiotics. Key Facts The shape of protein was mapped using technique called X-ray crystallography which is mainly used for determining the atomic and molecular structure of a crystal. The protein, EptA, allows some strains to shrug off colistin, a last antibiotic available in the world for treating infections when all other antibiotics fail. Significance: This mapping is a breakthrough because it will allow development of a drug to prevent superbugs hiding from medication. Thus, it open door to combating the threat of antibiotic resistance and is considered as a huge step forward in the global fight against superbugs. Background According to the World Health Organization (WHO), infections caused multi-drug resistant bacteria kills around 700,000 people each year. This figure is predicted to rise 10 million by 2050 justifying warnings of so-called antibiotic apocalypse which could be among the 21st Century’s greatest threats. A colistin-resistant strain of bacteria uncovered in 2015 is one of the grave concerns for health authorities. The spread of genes containing the colistan-resistant protein may make previously treatable bacterial infections untreatable.
Maharashtra Government approves cloud seeding project for 2017 monsoon
Maharashtra Government has approved Rs. 250 crore Cloud Seeding Programme during 2017 monsoon season to produce sufficient rain. Under this programme, weather scientists using aircrafts will spray chemicals (silver iodide) over clouds clouds hovering above Solapur district, a rain shadow region of Western Ghats in the state. Key Facts This will be the first controlled experiment to quantify the extent to which clouds form water drops large enough to make rain. This programme, coordinated by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, will be the first controlled experiment to quantify the extent to which clouds form water drops large enough to make rain. In this experiment, scientists will fly two aircraft and spray silver iodide and dry ice on 100 clouds and compare them with 100 unseeded clouds. Ground radar will be used to track the clouds and verify which ones contributed rain.
Scientists develop high-quality graphene from soybean
Scientists from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have made world’s strongest material graphene commercially more viable by using soybean. They have developed a novel “GraphAir technology” which transforms soybean oil, a renewable, natural material into graphene films in a single step. Background Earlier, graphene was produced in a highly-controlled environment with explosive compressed gases that required long hours of operation at high temperatures and extensive vacuum processing. This production process was costly and was major roadblock in its commercialisation. About GraphAir technology The technology grows graphene film in ambient air with a natural precursor, making its production faster and simpler. Soybean oil breaks down into a range of carbon building units when heat is applied. It makes it essential for the synthesis of graphene films. Significance: This unique technology makes graphene fabrication fast, simple, safe, potentially scalable and integration friendly. It results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to graphene made by conventional methods. It is expected to reduce cost of graphene production and improve uptake in new applications. Besides, it can also help to produce graphene from waste oil, leftover from cooking. What is Graphene? Graphene is a carbon material that is one atom thick. It is the world’s strongest and lightest known material derived from carbon. It has high conductivity and excellent electronic, mechanical, thermal and optical properties. It is used in many applications ranging from miniaturised electronics to biomedical devices, water filtration and purification, renewable energy, sensors, personalised healthcare and medicine etc. It also used to improve battery performance in energy devices, to cheaper solar panels.
ISRO successfully tests largest cryogenic engine for GSLV Mark III rocket
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully ground tested India’s largest indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage engine for GSLV Mark III. It was tested for full 10 minutes at ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Complex (ILPC) at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Key Facts The C25 stage is the most powerful upper stage so far developed by ISRO. It uses Liquid Oxygen and Liquid Hydrogen propellant combination stored at minus 253 degrees centigrade. The development of C25 cryogenic stage will provide ISRO capability to launch 4 ton class satellites in Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), an altitude where satellites revolve in sync with Earth’s rotation. So far, the cryogenic engine consisting very complex technology has been developed only by Russia, US, France, China, Japan and India. Significance of Test This was last test in the series before going for actual GSLV Mark III rocket launch in April 2017 where engine will be put into actual use. The GSLV Mark III rocket will be a successor to the GSLV Mark II which was first launched in 2001 and can carry a heavier payload than the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV.
Researchers develop first stretchable integrated circuit using an inkjet printer
Researchers from US based Michigan State University have developed the first stretchable integrated circuit (IC) made entirely using an inkjet printer. This elastic material is made up of several materials fabricated from nanomaterials and organic compounds. These compounds are dissolved in solution to produce different electronic inks, which can easily run through printer to make devices. Key Facts Using the ink, the researchers have successfully created the elastic material, the circuit and the organic light-emitting diode (OLED). The next step is combining the circuit and OLED into a single pixel. Benefits: As the material is produced using a standard printer, it has a major potential cost advantage over current technologies that are expensive to manufacture. Besides, stretchable electronic fabric can be easily folded and put in one’s pocket without breaking. Potential applications: The new stretchable ICs can be used in smart tablet that could be stretched in size, from small to extra-large. Besides, it can be used in wearable electronics like rubber band-like wrist monitor that measures the wearer’s heartbeat, soft robotics applications and wallpaper that turns an entire wall into an electronic display.
Scientists claim discovery of Zealandia a submerged continent in Pacific Ocean
Geologists have claimed discovery of new geological continent named Zealandia submerged beneath the south-west Pacific Ocean. Zealandia is around 4.5-million square km land mass and is 94% under water. Only its highest points — New Zealand and New Caledonia are visible. Key Facts Zealandia is two-thirds the size of Australia and spreads out over 4.9-million-square kilometres of continental crust. It was once a part of Australia. It is believed that it had broken off from Antarctica about 100 million years ago, and then from Australia about 80 million years ago as part of the breakup of super-continent Gondwanaland and sank beneath sea. Sea-floor samples show that Zealandia consists of light continental crust and not the dark volcanic rocks that make up nearby underwater plateaus.
Scientists discover four new miniature frog species in Western Ghats
Scientists have discovered four new species of miniature night frogs no bigger than a human thumbnail in Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot. These species were discovered among the seven new ‘Night Frogs’ by a team of researchers from the University of Delhi and Kerala Forest Department. Key Facts Four new species of miniature night frogs are (i) Athirappilly Night Frog: It was discovered close to the Athirappilly waterfalls. (ii) Sabarimala Night Frog: It was discovered near the Sabarimala hill shrine. (iii) The Radcliffe’s Night frog and (iv) Kadalar Night Frog: They were reported from plantation areas. Night Frogs belong to the Nyctibatrachus genus, endemic to the Western Ghats. They make a distinctive chirping sound comparable to that of a cricket. These tiny amphibians are present in abundance in the region but were overlooked in the past because of their extremely small size, secretive habitats and insect-like calls. They were confirmed as the new species with the help of integrated taxonomic approach that included DNA studies, detailed bioacoustics and morphological comparisons. Threats: Over 32% of the frog species in the Western Ghats are threatened with extinction. Out of the seven new species, 5 face considerable anthropogenic extinction threats and require immediate conservation. Ancient Group: Night Frogs represent an ancient group of frogs that diversified on the Indian landmass approximately 70 to 80 million years ago. Total Nyctibatrachus species: This discovery has taken the total number of known Nyctibatrachus species to 35, of which 20% are less than 18 mm in size (i.e. they are diminutive). As many as 103 new amphibian species were discovered from biodiversity rich Western Ghats region between 2006 and 2015.
Government launches Cyber Swachhta Kendra in New Delhi
The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has launched Cyber Swachhta Kendra in New Delhi for Botnet cleaning and Malware analysis. It was launched by Union Minister of Electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad as part of Union Government’s ambitious digital India initiative to create a secure cyber space by detecting botnet infections. Besides, minister also launched some cyber security tools. They are USB Pratirodh: It is a desktop security solution to protect from USB mass storage device threats. AppSamvid: It is a desktop solution to protect systems by allowing installation of genuine applications through white listing. It helps in preventing threats from malicious applications. M-Kavach: It is an indigenously developed mobile application to address the security threats in mobiles. About Cyber Swachhta Kendra The centre mission is to create a secure cyber space by detecting botnet infections in India and to notify, enable cleaning and securing systems of end users so as to prevent further infections. It is being operated by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) under provisions of Section 70B of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. The centre complies with the objectives of the National Cyber Security Policy, 2013 which aims at creating a secure cyber eco-system in the country. It operates in close coordination and collaboration with Internet Service Providers (ISPs), academia, banks and Product and Antivirus companies. Botnet: It is a network of private computers infected with malicious software and controlled as a group without the owners’ knowledge. Such infected computer is referred to as a zombie. It is used to steal data, send spam. Botnet is a combination of the words robot and network.The popular attacks that happen these days using botnets are called the Distributed Detail of Service (DDOS) attacks. Malware: It is malicious software which is specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain authorized access to a computer system. It is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive malicious softwares including computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, ransomware, adware, scareware etc.
Government launches Bharat QR code
The Union Government has launched Bharat QR code, a quick response (QR) code to enable digital payments without card swiping machines. It is world’s first interoperable payment acceptance solution launched by Indian Government to move towards less-cash economy. Key facts Bharat QR code has been developed by jointly by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Visa, MasterCard and American Express under instructions from Reserve Bank of India (RBI). It works as common interface for the MasterCard/Visa/RuPay platforms and also facilitate acceptance of Aadhaar-enabled payments and Unified Payments Interface (UPI). It enables person to make payments to retailers without using the merchant’s ID or number. It eliminated need of using card swiping machines making digital payments. Using, BharatQR code merchants will be required to only display one QR code instead of multiple ones. Users can make payment by scanning the code. BharatQR code is of two types static and dynamic. In static QR code, first code need to be scanned and then amount is entered to make payment. In case of dynamic QR code, new QR code will be generated in real time for every transaction. In this case there is no need to enter the amount. The payment is just made by scanning and entering the PIN. What is QR code? QR code (Quick Response code) is a two-dimensional (matrix) machine-readable bar code made up of black and white square. This code can be read by the camera of a smartphone. It is used for storing URLs or other information that link directly to text, emails websites phone numbers. It is capable of 360 degrees (omni-directional), high speed reading. QR Code can store up to 7089 digits as compared to conventional bar codes which can store max 20 digits. It encodes same amount of data in one-tenth the space of a traditional bar code. It carries information both horizontally and vertically. It has error correction capability and data stored in it can be restored even if it is partially damaged or dirty.
Astronomers discover 7 new Earth-sized exoplanets that may sustain life
Astronomers from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) for the first time have discovered seven new Earth-sized exoplanets that may be able to sustain life. The planets were detected using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and several ground-based observatories including Trappist robotic telescope at La Silla, Chile. Key Facts These exoplanets are orbiting dwarf star named Trappist-1, which at 39 light years away. They could have some liquid water and maybe supporting life. Of the seven planets, three are classified as TRAPPIST-1 e, f and g. These three planets orbit in the habitable (so-called Goldilocks zone) where temperatures are suited to surface oceans of liquid water. The star Trappist-1 is at least 500 million years old and has a temperature of 2550K. It is marginally larger than Jupiter and shines with a feeble light about 2,000 times fainter than Earth’s sun. The 6 inner planets lie in a temperate zone where surface temperatures range from zero to 100C. Their masses range from around 0.4 to 1.4 times the mass of the Earth. They are so close to each other that their gravitational fields interact with each other. However, their atmospheres needs more study before determining whether they could support some type of life. Astronomical terms Exoplanet: It is a planet that does not orbit the Sun and instead orbits a different star, stellar remnant, or brown dwarf. It is also termed as extrasolar planet. Goldilocks Zone: It refers to a habitable zone in space where the temperature is neither too high nor too low. Such conditions could allow for the presence on the planet’s surface of liquid water – a key ingredient for life.