- The flower-based compounds behind the perfumes and colognes you enjoy have been eliciting olfactory excitement since dinosaurs walked the Earth, a study has found.
- Researchers at Oregon State University in the U.S. found evidence that floral scents originated in primitive flowers as far back as 100 million years ago as pollinator attractants. They still play the role even though today’s flowers also have colourful petals for luring pollinators.
- In fact, floral essences from these early flowers could even have attracted these giant reptiles.
- The researchers examined amber flowers from Myanmar, including the now extinct glandular laurel flower (Cascolaurus burmensis) and veined star flower (Tropidogyne pentaptera).
- Without colourful petals, flowers from early period had to rely solely on scents to attract pollinators. “You can’t detect scents or analyse the chemical components of fossil flowers, but you can find the tissues responsible for the scents.
- The study also found that secretory tissues of these Cretaceous flowers are similar in structure to those of their modern descendants. That suggests modern and ancient flowers of the same lineages produced similar essences.
- Some of flowers studied were even in the process of emitting compounds at the time they were engulfed by the tree resin that later became amber.
- Scientists think they have detected a massive quadrillion tonnes worth of diamond underground. Researchers who were studying seismic data, had found that sound waves were travelling faster than expected in an ancient layer of rock under tectonic plates, called craton roots.
- So, after testing virtual 3D models of various rocks, they deduced that the region must be teeming with diamonds, whose structure is stiff and hard enough to allow sound to travel through them at speeds of 12,000 m/s, which is really fast.
- Bad news is, the craton roots lie as deep 250 km down, which further than any drill has ever gone, so the gems are virtually trapped down there.
NASA’s Curiosity rover
- NASA’s Curiosity rover — a mission that has spotted evidence of liquid water as well as potential signs life and habitability on Mars — has completed six years on the red planet.
- The Mars Science Laboratory mission’s Curiosity rover landed on the red planet’s Gale Crater on August 6 2012, using a series of complicated landing manoeuvres never before attempted. Curiosity’s mission is to determine whether the red planet ever was, or is, habitable to microbial life.
- The rover, which is about the size of a car, is equipped with 17 cameras and a robotic arm containing a suite of specialised laboratory-like tools and instruments.
- The specialised landing sequence, which employed a giant parachute, a jet-controlled descent vehicle and a bungee-like apparatus called a “sky crane,” was devised because tested landing techniques used during previous rover missions could not safely accommodate the much larger and heavier rover.
- The Curiosity rover is currently experiencing a global storm that has been raging in Mars for weeks. In 2013, the Curiosity rover found that ancient Mars had the right chemistry to support living microbes.
- The rover discovered evidence of sulphur, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon — key ingredients necessary for life — in the powder sample drilled from the “Sheepbed” mudstone in Yellowknife Bay. The sample collected by the rover also revealed clay minerals and not too much salt, which suggests fresh, possibly drinkable water once flowed there.
Forty-five new exoplanets discovered
- Scientists have discovered a trove of forty-four planets in solar systems beyond our own in one go, dwarfing the usual number of confirmations from extrasolar surveys.
- The findings will improve existing models of solar systems, and may help researchers investigate exoplanet atmospheres.
- Novel techniques developed to validate the find could accelerate the confirmation of more extrasolar planet candidates.
- Astronomers pooled data from NASA’s Kepler and the ESA’s Gaia space telescopes. They confirmed existence of these 44 exoplanets and described various details about them.
- A portion of the findings yield some surprising characteristcs.
- four of the planets orbit their host stars in less than 24 hours
- These contribute to a small but growing list of “ultrashort-period” planets, suggesting that they could be more common than previously believed.
- The planets also provide good targets for detailed individual studies to yield measurements of planetary composition, interior structure and atmospheres – in particular, the 18 planets in several multi-planet systems.
- FOXP2 is one of the most famous genes to be discovered because of its role in language. It is highly expressed during brain development and regulates some muscle movements, aiding in language production.
- Though found in all animals, a slight change in the composition of the gene in humans makes it possible for us to have speech.
- Those with a malfunctioning FOXP2 have been found to have severe speech defects.
- FOXP2 has also been shown to regulate language-like behaviours in mice and songbirds. Over the years, its presence has also been used to bolster the theory of natural selection: how a gene that helps a species continues to linger over generations.
- However a recent study contests this. An analysis of genetic data from a diverse sample of modern people and Neanderthals saw no evidence for recent, human-specific selection of FOXP2 and revises the history of how we think humans acquired language.
Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria
- Increased prevalence of mcr-1 gene that confers multidrug-resistance has now been reported in Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria, increasing the fear of infection by pan drug-resistant bugs. This gene endows resistance against last hope antibiotic — colistin.
- Evidence suggests that the overuse of colistin in farm animals has given rise to the emergence of mcr-1 gene. Since this gene is present on a mobile genetic element (plasmid) of bacteria such as E. coli and K. pneumoniae, the frequency of transmission to other bacteria is likely to be very high.
- Molecular studies revealed that one particular isolate carried mcr-1 gene and blaNDM-1 gene. “The blaNDM-1 encodes for a protein that gives resistance to all beta-lactam antibiotics. This shows that the particular isolate was resistant to carbapenems, third-generation cephalosporins, aminoglycosides and fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin) making the treatment very difficult.
- mcr-1 gene was seen in the chromosomal DNA of the bacteria. “The mcr-1 gene is usually found in the plasmid (small DNA in the cytoplasm) and the resistance gene is transmitted among different species.
- K. pneumoniae is considered more notorious and difficult to treat bacterium; hence emergence of mcr-1 gene in this bacterium is a major health-care threat. Adequate measures like total ban on colistin use in veterinary practices as growth promoter and its judicious use in human medicine may prevent the emergence and dissemination of this resistance gene among the bacteria.
- Scrub Typhus is an acute illness in humans caused by a bacteria.
- It is transmitted by the bite of infected mite larva present in the soil.
- Gorakhpur in U.P is treated as a hub of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).
- Number of patients affected by AES admitted in the Hospital has increased during Monsoon period.
- To find out the reason behind this, researchers has identified the role of scrub typhus.
- Almost, 65% of the AES patients got infected by Scrub Typhus.
- This finding is important, given that scrub typhus can be treated easily if detected early.
- The increase in infestation of rodents by mites during August-October explains why scrub typhus incidence peaks during monsoon.
- ISRO is developing green propellants for use in future rocket & satellite propulsion systems.
- It has made a beginning by developing an eco-friendly solid propellant to eliminate the emission of chlorinated exhaust products from rocket.
- The propellants are based on Glycidyl Azide Polymer (GAP) as fuel and Ammonium Di-Nitramide (ADN) as oxidizer.
- ISRO is also carrying out various technology demonstration projects involving green propellant combinations such as Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2), Kerosene, Liquid Oxygen (LOX), Liquid Methane etc.
- It has successfully developed ISROSENE, which is a rocket grade version of kerosene as an alternative to conventional hydrazine rocket fuel.
- It has already used Liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen combination in cryogenic upper stage of GSLV MK-III.
- The mineral came from the Uakit meteorite, named for the Russian location where it was found.
- The researchers predicted that uakitite is between 9 and 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, meaning it’s very hard — a diamond falls at 10.
- The scientists say that the meteorite had been subjected to temperatures of over 1,000 degrees centigrade forming troilite-daubreelite associations, one of whose early minerals is uakitite.
Thermal battery plant
- India became home to the world’s first-ever thermal battery plant, that was inaugurated in Andhra Pradesh.
- The plant aims to create a new energy storage form that is expected to have commercial applications, while also maintaining a low carbon footprint, and being less dependent on external factors like weather.
- Owned by Bharat Energy Storage Technology Private Limited (BEST).
- At the initial stage of commercial operations, set for May 2019, BEST plans to create a battery capacity of 1000MW. This is expected to be upgraded to a 10GW capacity by 2025.
- Thermal batteries use thermal energy to operate, i.e., the energy created by temperature differences.
- Therefore, the energy transfer in thermal batteries helps store heat when heat travels from one part of the battery setup to the other.
Startup Academia Alliance Programme
- For promoting the spirit of entrepreneurship and to fulfil the central government’s mission in the country, Startup India under Ministry of Commerce and Industry has launched the Startup Academia Alliance programme, a unique mentorship opportunity between academic scholars and startups working in similar domains.
- The Startup Academia Alliance aims to reduce the gap between scientific research and its industrial applications in order to increase the efficacy of these technologies and to widen their impact.
- The first phase of Startup Academia Alliance kickstarted through partnering with Regional Centre for Biotechnology, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Council on Energy, Environment and Water, and TERI School of Advanced Studies.
Restricted Area Permit (RAP)
- A foreign national is not normally allowed to visit a Protected / Restricted Area unless it is established to the satisfaction of the Government that there are extraordinary reasons to justify such a visit.
- Every foreigner, except a citizen of Bhutan, who desires to enter and stay in a Protected or Restricted Area, is required to obtain a special permit from a competent authority delegated with powers to issue such a special permit to a foreigner, on the application.
- The RAP is notified under Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963.
- Citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin are the exception and are not allowed to enter such areas.
- Recently the Union home ministry has excluded 29 inhabited islands in Andaman and Nicobar from Restricted Area Permit (RAP) with an aim to boost tourism.
- Foreigners are not allowed to enter most of the hundreds of Andaman &Nicobar Islands and they are required to obtain a RAP to visit the islands.
- Impacting Research Innovation And Technology (IMPRINT) is the first of its kind, Pan IIT and IISC joint initiative supported by Ministry of HRD.
- It aims to develop a roadmap for research to solve major engineering and technology challenges in technology domains relevant to India.
- The focus will be in direct research in the premier institutions into areas of social relevance.
- There are 142 research projects in implementation stage under IMPRINT-1.
- The government has recently approved 122 new research projects under IMPRINT-2.
- The proposals for new research projects is open for higher education institutions including private institutions.
- The various areas covered under this research projects are Energy, Security, Healthcare, Advanced Materials, ICT and Security/Defence domains.
Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF)
- The Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) has been taken away from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and brought under the domain of the Finance Ministry.
- It will now be under the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Finance Ministry.
- Budget 2018 amended the Central Road Fund Act, 2000, and renamed the Central Road Fund the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund.
- The objective of the amendment was to use proceeds of the road cess under CRIF to finance other infrastructure projects such as waterways, some portion of the railway infrastructure and even social infrastructure, including education institutions and medical colleges.
- Idukki dam in Kerala is constructed across the Periyar river, the longest river in Kerala.
- It is one of the highest arch dams in Asia.
- It supports a 780 MW hydroelectric power station in Moolamattom.
- The dam type is a concrete, double curvature parabolic, thin arc dam.
- It was commissioned in the year 1973 with financial aid from Canada.
- It is built between two granite hills such as Kuravanmala and kuravathimala.
- It is owned and constructed by the Kerala State Electricity Board.
- It supports a hydroelectric power station in Moolamattom.
- The hydel project is receiving water from two other dams at Cheruthoni and Kulamavu.
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite
- NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) probe will now take over the mantle to find new planets in the vicinity of our solar system.
- TESS is expected to transmit its first series of science data back to Earth in August, and thereafter periodically every 13.5 days, once per orbit, as the spacecraft makes it closest approach to Earth.
- TESS is NASA’s latest satellite to search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.
- The mission will spend the next two years monitoring the nearest and brightest stars for periodic dips in their light.
- These events, called transits, suggest that a planet may be passing in front of its star.
- TESS is expected to find thousands of planets using this method, some of which could potentially support life.
- Recently Earthquake hits Indonesia’s Lombak island
- It is located to the east of Bali and is a part of Indonesian group of Islands.
- It has triggered landslides from Mt.Rinjani volcano.
- Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
- In December 2004, a massive magnitude-9.1 earthquake off Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
- The Ring of Fire is a major area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
- The Ring of Fire isn’t quite a circular ring. It is shaped more like a 40,000-kilometer (25,000-mile) horseshoe.