06 th July, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Solar Probe’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: As NASA prepares for an Aug. 4 launch, it has unveiled a “cutting-edge heat shield”, installed on June 27 that will keep the spacecraft from being burnt to a crisp.
About the Parker Solar Probe mission
The probe’s mission will take it within 4 million miles of the sun, a region of space never before visited by a human-made spacecraft. The heat shield is a rounded “carbon-carbon composite sandwiching a lightweight carbon foam core.” It is also sprayed with “a specially formulated white coating to reflect as much of the Sun’s energy away from the spacecraft as possible.”
The shield will prevent the core of the spacecraft from being exposed to temperatures reaching nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (or or roughly 1,370 degrees Celsius).
‘India-US mission’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: The Indian Ocean Research Vessel (ORV), Sagar Nidhi, will set out from Chennai on Friday as part of an Indo-US expedition seeking to find answers to the vagaries of the Bay of Bengal-fed southwest monsoon, which accounts for 70% of India’s annual rainfall.
About the research
- The project seeks to cast light on the complex mechanics of the monsoon, which have confounded researchers for a long time. The biggest challenge is the unpredictability of the weather phenomenon, including, crucially, why there are breaks in the June-September rainy season.
- The research project, which began in 2013, is funded by the ministry of earth sciences, under the national monsoon mission, and the US Office of Naval Research, which has been working with institutions such as Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency.
- Scientists on the ship will also release radiosondes—types of instrument packages attached to weather balloons—to gather meteorological data.
Need for such a research
The forecasting skills of the existing models are limited, largely due to their inability to represent the complex interaction of the north Indian Ocean with the atmosphere, which is key to understanding the origin of variations in monsoon.
The intra-seasonal variability of the monsoon is a major problem in India, where long dry spells have been associated with droughts, while long wet spells have caused floods, landslides, loss of life and damage to property. Skilful prediction of these varying patterns could help officials prepare better for the monsoon each year.
‘Drug Resistant Bacteria’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has initiated a joint research with Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) to develop new antibiotics for drug-resistant bacterial infections in newborns.
About the study
- GARDP is a joint initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi).
- The study will generate an evidence base on how neonatal sepsis is managed, which can then be used as a basis for evaluating future interventions in neonates (newborns). Neonatal sepsis is a type of neonatal infection and specifically refers to the presence of a bacterial blood stream infection such as meningitis, pneumonia or gastroenteritis with fever.
- The study will reveal more information on mortality, antibiotic use and duration of antimicrobial therapy.
Need for a study
- The body’s response to infection can be life-threatening and poses a particular threat to newborns as their immune systems are not fully developed. Increasing rates of bacteria resistance to existing treatments are reported globally, with hospitalized newborns and infants at high risk of developing drug-resistant hospital-acquired infections.
- Newborns’ susceptibility to sepsis is further compounded by the challenges of diagnosing serious bacterial infections since symptoms and signs can be non-specific and difficult to detect
- The National Health Policy 2017 identifies antimicrobial resistance as a critical priority and calls for effective action to address it. The ministry of health and family welfare identified AMR as one of the top 10 priorities for the ministry’s collaborative work with WHO
- While significant progress has been made in recent years to improve child health globally, including a 50% reduction in child mortality since 1990, the number of preventable deaths in newborns remains unacceptably high. Neonatal deaths now represent 44% of all deaths in children under the age of five.
‘Malaria and Dengue’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: Scientific studies have shown an epidemiological shift in dengue viruses, which means changes in the virus’s geographical incidence and distribution, and have indicated that climate change might be a reason for increase in dengue cases.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the main vector that transmits viruses causing dengue and chikungunya. Malaria is spread by anopheles mosquitoes. Special focus has helped bring down malaria by 47% in the past five years, according to Union health ministry data but dengue and chikungunya continue to be a major public health problem.
What the new study says?
- Earlier, dengue cases used to surface only around monsoon, but with climate change and other environmental factors, dengue cases occurrence is also changing. Now, we see dengue cases round the year.
- The study stated that India’s mean temperature rose by more than 0.5 degree Celsius between 1960 and 2009 due to several environmental factors, including climate change. The researchers studied the temperatures in different seasons and found that an increase in temperature led to a shorter incubation period for the dengue virus.
- A study published by The Lancet in July 2017 identified climate change as a potential factor for the rise in dengue cases. Between 2010 and 2016, India has recorded a 356% increase in the number of dengue cases
‘Crew Escape System’ (GS3: Space Technology)
Issue: The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) successfully carried out a flight test for a newly-designed Crew Escape System, meant for saving lives of astronauts in an exigency.
About the ‘Pad Abort Test’
The system is an emergency measure designed to quickly pull away the crew module along with the astronauts to a safe distance from the launch vehicle if the mission gets aborted.
The test was over in 259 seconds, during which the Escape System and the module soared skyward, before arching out over the Bay of Bengal and floating back to earth using its parachutes, about 2.9 Km from Sriharikota
‘4G’ (GS3: Cyber Security)
Issue: All devices using longterm evolution (LTE), or fourth generation (4G) as it is better known, are at risk, reveals a new study carried out by security experts from the Horst Görtz Institute at Ruhr-Universität Bochum.
What the study says?
LTE documentations reveal that an integrity protection, which would prevent attacks, has been deliberately omitted, network operators ignored this issue because they would have had to attach “additional four bytes to each payload” to implement this security measure, which would increase data transmission costs. The general integrity protection has also not been provided in 5G mobile telephony standard as yet. The researchers advocate closing the 5G security gap by default.
India had 238 million 4G subscribers by the end of December 2017, according to a report by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). Globally, LTE subscriptions are forecast to rise from 1 billion in 2015 to 4 billion by 2020
‘Leprosy awareness’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: The Supreme Court directed the government to constitute a separate wing devoted to create and extend public awareness that leprosy is curable and not contagious.
A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra ordered All India Radio and Doordarshan to air programmes nationally as well as regionally in the States.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. Leprosy is known to occur at all ages ranging from early infancy to very old age. Leprosy is curable and early treatment averts most disabilities.
Signs/symptoms and diagnosis
Clinical signs are easy to observe. In a country or area with a high incidence of leprosy, an individual should be regarded as having leprosy if he or she shows ONE of the following cardinal signs:
- skin lesion consistent with leprosy and with definite sensory loss, with or without thickened nerves
- positive skin smears
‘Project Sashakt’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: With a view to fast track NPA resolution, bankers today finalized the inter-creditor agreement (ICA) framework that envisages effective communication among lenders
About the framework
Under Project Sashakt, financial institutions will enter into an inter-creditor agreement to authorize the lead bank to implement a resolution plan in 180 days.
The agreement is the bedrock of the bank-led resolution approach (BLRA) for loans between Rs 50-500 crore. This inter-creditor agreement will be a legal document and enforceable in any court of law
‘Great Barrier Reef’ (GS3: Environmental Pollution)
Issue: One of the seven wonders of the natural world, and the largest living thing on earth, visible from outer space – The Great Barrier Reef is facing the dangers of coral bleaching which under the present greenhouse gas pollution levels, may suffer a bleaching event every two years by 2034, according to a study.
Other observations made by the study
- Limiting temperature rise above pre-industrial levels to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius is critical for the survival of reefs worldwide
- The study also predicts that 70 per cent of coral reefs will be at risk of long-term degradation by 2100 if the global temperature rises by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. While a 2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature above pre-industrial levels would put 99 per cent of the corals at risk.
What is Bleaching?
Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, which results in draining them of their color.
Algae are essential for corals, as it uses the organic products of photosynthesis to help it grow. The algae are also responsible for their lively colors, as most coral polyp bodies are clear and colorless.
The loss of algae makes them more susceptible to disease and would eventually lead to their death.
However, if the water temperature drops and the algae are able to re-colonize them, coral can recover.
‘India-US ties’ (GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: The ongoing negotiations between India and the U.S. on multiple trade tussles are progressing smoothly and a deal could be announced when an Indian delegation visits America
What would the deal entail?
- The deal is likely to involve bringing down the duty on high-end Harley-Davidson motorcycles to zero
- As part of a package deal, America is likely to maintain the Generalized System Preferences (GSP) for India, which allows many exporters to enjoy lower tariffs on specific exports to the U.S. India is likely to change the price restrictions imposed on medical devices imported from America to trade margin rationalization, a more acceptable global practice being demanded by American manufactures.
‘Cryptocurrency’ (GS3: Science and Technology)
Issue: The Supreme Court refused to stay the RBI’s directive to banks instructing them to stop all business with entities dealing in cryptocurrencies, which means the ban would come into effect from July 6
What RBI circular says?
As per the April 6 circular, entities regulated by RBI are prohibited from providing any service in relation to virtual currencies, including those of transfer or receipt of money in accounts relating to the purchase or sale of virtual currencies.
What is a Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of currency units and verify the transfer of funds. They operate independently of a central bank.