03 rd July, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Super k’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Super-Kamiokande (or “Super-K” as it’s sometimes referred to) is a neutrino detector. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles which travel through space and pass through solid matter as though it were air
Buried 1,000 metres underground, Super-Kamiokande is as big as a 15-storey building
The enormous tank is filled with 50,000 tonnes of ultra-pure water. This is because when travelling through water, neutrinos are faster than light.
The chamber is lined with 11,000 golden-colored bulbs. These are incredibly sensitive light-detectors called Photo Multiplier Tubes, which can pick up these shockwaves
Neutrinos are one of the fundamental particles which make up the universe. They are also one of the least understood.
Neutrinos are similar to the more familiar electron, with one crucial difference: neutrinos do not carry electric charge. Because neutrinos are electrically neutral, they are not affected by the electromagnetic forces which act on electrons. Neutrinos are affected only by a “weak” sub-atomic force of much shorter range than electromagnetism, and are therefore able to pass through great distances in matter without being affected by it. If neutrinos have mass, they also interact gravitationally with other massive particles, but gravity is by far the weakest of the four known forces.
Three types of neutrinos are known; there is strong evidence that no additional neutrinos exist, unless their properties are unexpectedly very different from the known types. Each type or “flavor” of neutrino is related to a charged particle (which gives the corresponding neutrino its name). Hence, the “electron neutrino” is associated with the electron, and two other neutrinos are associated with heavier versions of the electron called the muon and the tau
‘Discovery of a new planet being formed’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Astronomers say they’ve captured the first confirmed image of a planet forming in the dust swirling around a young star.
About this new discovery
It has a cloudy atmosphere and a surface temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit).
‘Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’ (Fact that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Lopez Obrador won a landslide election victory on Sunday, getting more than double the votes of his nearest rival, becoming the first leftist to win the Mexican presidency since one party rule ended in 2000.
Mexico, country of southern North America and the third largest country in Latin America, after Brazil and Argentina
Mexico is one of the chief economic and political forces in Latin America. It has a dynamic industrial base, vast mineral resources, a wide-ranging service sector, and the world’s largest population of Spanish speakers—about two and a half times that of Spain or Colombia.
Sharing a common border throughout its northern extent with the United States, Mexico is bounded to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, to the east by the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, and to the southeast by Guatemala and Belize.
Mexico is located in one of the Earth’s most dynamic tectonic areas. It is a part of the circum-Pacific “Ring of Fire”—a region of active volcanism and frequent seismic activity.
Because of its vast size and topographic diversity, Mexico has a wide array of climatic conditions. More than half of the country lies south of the Tropic of Cancer. In those areas, tropical maritime air masses from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, are attracted by the relatively low pressures that occur over land. The maritime air masses are the main sources of precipitation, which is heaviest from May through August. Tropical hurricanes, spawned in oceans on both sides of the country, are common in the coastal lowland areas from August through October. Northern Mexico is dominated by the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, and arid and semiarid conditions predominate over much of the Mexican Plateau.
Seasonal temperature variations within the tropics are small, often only about 10 °F (5 °C) between the warmest and coolest months. In those areas winter is defined as the rainy rather than the cold season. Elevation is a major climatic influence in most parts of Mexico, and several vertical climatic zones are recognized.
‘Neutron Star’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: In August 2017, a group of scientists detected gravitational wave signals indicating a merger between two neutron stars some 130 million light-years away from Earth. The event, first of its kind ever to be observed, was confirmed by several ground and space-based observatories and came to be known as GW170817.
When the team peered NASA and European Space Agency’s Hubble Space Telescope on the distant galaxy, they found a bright afterglow from the site of the merger. The collided neutron star was producing an immensely powerful beam of light, one which did not directly point to our planet but was starting to spread out in direction.
This beam of light or afterglow, as the researchers described, is the result of a jet of material being streamed out of the neutron star at extremely high-speed. Specifically, it is the first visual evidence suggesting the collision is ejecting powerful material even after 110 days after being observed.
About Neutron Star
When stars four to eight times as massive as the sun explode in a violent supernova, their outer layers can blow off in an often-spectacular display, leaving behind a small, dense core that continues to collapse. Gravity presses the material in on itself so tightly that protons and electrons combine to make neutrons, yielding the name “neutron star.”
Neutron stars pack their mass inside a 20-kilometer (12.4 miles) diameter. They are so dense that a single teaspoon would weigh a billion tons — assuming you somehow managed to snag a sample without being captured by the body’s strong gravitational pull. On average, gravity on a neutron star is 2 billion times stronger than gravity on Earth. In fact, it’s strong enough to significantly bend radiation from the star in a process known as gravitational lensing, allowing astronomers to see some of the back side of the star.
‘Waste storage tank’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: The Supreme Court refused to direct the central government to shut down the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP)
The Supreme Court passed an order stating that it cannot order for the shutdown of the plant and gave the central government an extension of four years, till 2022, for the construction of an Away From Reactor (AFR) facility to store the nuclear waste.
About Koodankulam nuclear power plant
Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (or Koodankulam NPP or KKNPP) is the single largest nuclear power station in India, situated in Koodankulam in the Tirunelveli district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
It is built in collaboration with Atomstroyexport, the Russian state company and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), with an installed capacity of 6,000 MW of electricity
‘Bio-plastic’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: A bio-derived product could be as much a threat to marine life as a plastic item, warns expert
Some 100,000 tonnes of bioplastics were produced in 2016 in the world, according to Germany’s specialist Nova-Institute. In 2017, biodegradable plastic production capacity rose to 8,00,000 tonnes globally
Concerns about bioplastics
- A separate collection system for bioplastic waste would need to be set up in order for the shift to really work, and that would involve millions in investment from States.
- Activists, however, fear that bio-waste may end up in the oceans — much like plastic has for decades.
‘Quantum Computing’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Researchers have set a new world record in simulating quantum computing power on a classical computer.
What is Quantum computing?
Quantum computing is the area of study focused on developing computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature and behavior of energy and matter on the quantum (atomic and subatomic) level. Development of a quantum computer, if practical, would mark a leap forward in computing capability far greater than that from the abacus to a modern day supercomputer, with performance gains in the billion-fold realm and beyond. The quantum computer, following the laws of quantum physics, would gain enormous processing power through the ability to be in multiple states, and to perform tasks using all possible permutations simultaneously.
About quantum theory
Quantum theory’s development began in 1900 with a presentation by Max Planck to the German Physical Society, in which he introduced the idea that energy exists in individual units (which he called “quanta”), as does matter. Further developments by a number of scientists over the following thirty years led to the modern understanding of quantum theory.
The Essential Elements of Quantum Theory:
- Energy, like matter, consists of discrete units, rather than solely as a continuous wave.
- Elementary particles of both energy and matter, depending on the conditions, may behave like either particles or waves.
- The movement of elementary particles is inherently random, and, thus, unpredictable.
- The simultaneous measurement of two complementary values, such as the position and momentum of an elementary particle, is inescapably flawed; the more precisely one value is measured, the more flawed will be the measurement of the other value.
‘Intellectual Property rules’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Union Ministry of Finance has amended Intellectual Property rules to revoke the power vested with Customs authorities to seize imported products based on complaints of patent infringement.
Another amendment incorporates further conditions that oblige the right-holder to notify the Commissioner of Customs of any amendment, cancellation, suspension or reaction that concern Intellectual Property rights, and require the Customs authorities to accordingly amend, suspend or cancel the corresponding protection provided by them.
‘Pollution linked Diabetes’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: Particulate matter that exists as fine dust in the air can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, particularly in low-income countries such as India.
Analysis of the burden of pollution-linked diabetes (in the journal, Lancet Planetary Health) estimates that in 2016, air pollution resulted in as many as 3.2 million new cases of diabetes. This is 14% of all new diabetes cases for that year, and India’s share was 20% of new cases. Annually, the researchers estimated that pollution-linked diabetes caused more than 2 lakh deaths in 2016.
The risk of incident diabetes increased with rising concentrations of PM2.5 (fine dust less than 2.5 microns in diameter), even reaching significant impact at concentrations of 12 micrograms per cubic meter (m3).
Cause of this problem
Studies have shown that this fine dust enters the bloodstream through the lungs, reducing insulin production and triggering inflammation. This factor adds to the diabetes burden which affects more than 420 million people globally.
India tops the list in terms of ‘Disability-Adjusted Life Years’, which measures years of healthy life lost due to pollution-linked diabetes. Researchers estimate that nearly 8.2 million years of healthy life were lost globally in 2016, and India lost 1.625 million healthy years. After all, while the global PM2.5 average was 42.3 micrograms per c3, in India, it was 72.6 per m3. The study finds that a modest reduction in PM2.5 levels may lead to a reduction in diabetes cases in India.
‘Chinese space power’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: China is working on a super-powerful rocket that would be capable of delivering heavier payloads into low orbit than NASA
About this new mission
By 2030, the Long March-9 rocket under development will be able to carry 140 tonnes into low-Earth orbit — where TV and earth observation satellites currently fly
This compares to the 20 tonnes deliverable by Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket or the 64 tonnes by Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy, which in February catapulted one of the US entrepreneur’s red Tesla Roadster cars towards Mars.
It would also outstrip the 130 tonnes of NASA’s Space Launch System, which is due to become operational in 2020.
China’s Long March-9 would have a core stage measuring 10 metres in diameter and boast four powerful boosters, each with a diameter of five metres.
‘Police reforms’ (GS2: Issues related to Governance)
Issue: The Supreme Court passed today a slew of directions on police reforms in the country and ordered all states and Union territories to not appoint any police officer as acting Director General of Police (DGP).
Major directions include:
- A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also directed all the states to send names of senior police officers to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for being considered as probable candidates to be appointed as DGPs or Police Commissioners as the case may be
- The UPSC, in turn, will prepare a list of three most suitable officers and the states will be free to appoint one of them as police chief
- The bench also said that endeavor should be made that a person, who had been selected and appointed as DGP, has reasonable period of service left
- The apex court also ruled that any rule or state law on the subject of appointment of police officers “will be kept at abeyance”.
- The bench, however, granted liberty to the states, which have made laws on police appointments, to move before it seeking modification of its order.
History of police reforms in India
- In 1995, Prakash Singh, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh filed a PIL regarding police reforms in India.
- This led to the government constituting a new committee under the chairmanship of Julio Ribeiro, and the Julio Ribeiro Committee was formed in 1998.
- This was followed by further committees like Padmanabhaiah, Malimath committee, Soli Sorabjee committee.
- In 2006, since there were no movements in the direction of reforms, the Supreme Court made the police reforms a mandatory reform to be taken up by the central and state governments.
The apex court gave its nearly revolutionary directions in 2006, a decade after Mr. Singh first filed his petition. The states and union territories were directed to comply with seven binding directives that would kick-start reform.
1) Directive One
Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to:
- Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
- Lay down broad policy guideline.
- Evaluate the performance of the state police.
2) Directive Two
- Ensure that the DGP is appointed through the merit-based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years.
3) Directive Three
- Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years.
4) Directive Four
- Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police.
5) Directive Five
- Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
6) Directive Six
- Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
7) Directive Seven
- Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organizations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.