Prepare Prelims 2017-Day-66-Science & Tech CA (Nov-Feb 17)

Niti Aayog launches ‘Performance on Health Outcomes’ index

Government think tank Niti Aayog today launched a performance index on health services to nudge states to improve health outcomes and improve data collection systems.

  • “This initiative (launch of ‘Performance on Health Outcomes’ index) is envisioned to bring about the much required improvements in the social sector outcomes, which have not kept pace with the economic growth in the country.
  • It will be used to propel action in the states to improve health outcomes and improve data collection systems.
  • The index is launched along with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • It is meant to capture the annual incremental improvements by states rather than focus on historical achievements, it noted.
  • The government’s think tank further said it is anticipated that the index will assist in the state level monitoring of performance, serve as an input for providing performance-based incentives and improvement in health outcomes, and meet citizens’ expectations.
  • The statement said the index has been developed over several months, with inputs from domestic and international experts, including academicians and development partners, seeking feedback from states.
  • The exercise involves the participation of several partners including technical assistance from the World Bank, mentor agencies to hand-hold states, where required, during the exercise and third party organisations to validate the data submitted prior to calculation of the index.
  • Stating that data will be entered and results published on a dynamic web portal hosted by Niti Aayog, it pointed out a similar exercise has also been launched for the education and water sectors.

The features of the index, measures and methods of data submission will be disseminated to states through workshops, it added.


China Clones World’s first Goat with superfine wool

  • The world’s first cloned goat with superfine Cashmere wool was born in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
  • The goat will be raised in a center for animal husbandry research conducted by experts from agricultural universities and academies in southwest China’s Yunnan
  • Province and Inner Mongolia. Cashmere wool is obtained from Cashmere goats and few other types of goat.
  • The wool fibre is less than 13.8 micrometres thick and is finer and softer than sheep’s wool.
  • It is much finer than the average of 15.8 micrometres of the famous Erlang Mountain goats in Inner Mongolia.

Cloning is a scientific process of creating genetically identical copies of genes, cells, tissues or entire organisms.


Delhi HC quashes government ban on fixed dose combination drugs

  • Delhi high court has quashed the ban on Fixed dose combination (FDCs).  
  • The ban was imposed based on the recommendations of Kokate committee.
  • It was imposed over fears that these drugs cause anti-microbial resistance and might even cause organ-failure because of high toxicity.
  • It also aimed at curbing the misuse of medicines.
  • However, the pharmaceutical companies contend that no prior enquiry was made from them or show cause notice issued prior to ban notification by the Central Government.
  • They also held that these drugs in the same combination are being marketed in other countries. 
  • With this, the banned drugs – including D’Cold, Benadryl and Phensedyl that are widely used to treat headaches and colds – will continue be available freely in the market. 
  • The court observed that the decision was taken by the Centre without following procedure prescribed in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
  • It noted that the government had not consulted the Drugs Technical Advisory Board or the Drugs Consultative Committee but had acted on the advice of a ‘technical committee’, which, they said, violated the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

Combination medicines (or fixed-dose combination [FDC] medicines) are:

  • medicines containing two or more active components in fixed proportions in a single dosage form 
  • Several medications in fixed combination to be taken together, presented in composite packaging (co-pack).

What is interglaciation?

  • Interglaciation is the term used by geologists to refer to the alternating periods of warming and cooling in the earth’s past.
  • The cooler times are called the “glacial period” during which ice shelves from the Arctic slowly creep southward and spread across the earth.
  • Times when the earth is covered in these large ice sheets are known as glacial periods (or ice ages).
  • When the ice sheets are not spread, it is called an interglacial period.
  • The most recent glacial period occurred between about 120,000 and 11,500 years ago.
  • Since then, the earth has been in an interglacial period called the Holocene.

What is a Megamaser?

  • At core, they are cousins of lasers. Just as lasers are devices used to emit a beam of light by controlling the emission of photons from excited atoms, masers — a play on the word ‘laser’ — do the same in the microwave region.
  • They can be made in labs or can also be found naturally in galaxies such as the Milky Way.
  • Earlier this week, the Hubble telescope found a ‘Megamaser’ that was around 100 million times brighter than the masers found in galaxies like the Milky Way.
  • This megamaser galaxy, called IRAS 16399-0937, is located over 370 million light years from Earth.
  • It hosts a double nucleus, formed of two separate cores in the process of merging.
  • The two components, named IRAS 16399N and IRAS 16399S for the northern and southern parts respectively, sit over 11,000 light years apart.
  • However, they are both buried deep within the same swirl of cosmic gas and dust and are interacting, giving the galaxy its peculiar structure.

What is the Gibraltar Arc?

  • The Gibraltar Arc is a geological region, considered one of the most narrowest landforms on Earth.
  • A team of Andalusian scientists, led by the University of Granada (UGR), has been able to reconstruct for the first time what the Gibraltar Arc was like 9 million years ago.
  • The researchers have been able to prove that, since then, large blocks of land, with sizes about 300 kilometres long and 150 kilometres wide, have rotated clockwise (in the case of the Baetic System mountain range) and counter-clockwise (in the case of the Rif mountain range, in the north of Morocco).
  • The said movements have completely reshaped the Gibraltar Arc, since they have been carried out at a very high speed: 6° per million years (in total, 53° for the block of the Western Baetic System), and are compatible with both the opening of the Strait of Gibraltar about 5 million years ago as with the current movements measured with GPS.
  • Their research culminates with a reconstruction of the Gibraltar Arc 9 million years ago — at a key moment in the tectonic history of the collision between Africa and Iberia, shortly before the closure of the connection between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and when the Gibraltar Arc was situated more to the East than at present.

TIFR discovery challenges theory of superconductivity

  • Researchers at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, have made a landmark discovery that challenges the conventional understanding of superconductivity.

About the discovery:

  • Researchers have discovered bismuth semi-metalin bulk form becoming a superconductor when the temperature is lowered to 530 microKelvin (about -273 degree C), which is three orders of magnitude higher than the theoretical prediction.
  • The Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory[which explains superconductivity in most low Tc superconductors] cannot explain the superconductivity seen in bismuth.

Significance of the discovery:

  • The discovery demands a new theory and a new mechanism to understand superconductivity in bismuth. This discovery provides an alternative path for discovering new superconducting materials which are very different from the conventional superconductors.

What are superconductors?

  • Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with no resistance whatsoever.
  • To become superconductors, the element should have mobile electrons, and these electrons should come together to form pairs, known as Cooper pairs.

About Bismuth:

  • Bismuthis a chemical element with the symbol Bi and the atomic number 83.
  • Unlike other elements in the periodic table, bismuth has unusual phenomenon — while metallic superconductors have one mobile electron per atom, bismuth has only one mobile electron per 100,000 atoms.
  • Also, bismuth’s electronic energy (Fermi energy) is comparable to the lattice (phonon) energy.

What is BCS theory?

  • The theory describes superconductivityas a microscopic effect caused by a condensation of Cooper pairs into a boson-like state.
  • The theory is also used in nuclear physics to describe the pairing interaction between nucleons in an atomic nucleus.
  • It was proposed by Bardeen, Cooper, and Schrieffer in 1957; they received the Nobel Prize in Physics for this theory in 1972.
  • Superconductors abruptly lose all resistance to the flow of an electric current when they are cooled to temperatures near absolute zero.
  • Cooper had discovered that electrons in a superconductor are grouped in pairs, now called Cooper pairs, and that the motions of all of the Cooper pairs within a single superconductor are correlated; they constitute a system that functions as a single entity.
  • Application of an electrical voltage to the superconductor causes all Cooper pairs to move, constituting a current. When the voltage is removed, current continues to flow indefinitely because the pairs encounter no opposition. For the current to stop, all of the Cooper pairs would have to be halted at the same time, a very unlikely occurrence. As a superconductor is warmed, its Cooper pairs separate into individual electrons, and the material becomes normal, or nonsuperconducting.
  • Many other aspects of the behaviour of superconductors are explained by the BCS theory. The theory supplies a means by which the energy required to separate the Cooper pairs into their individual electrons can be measured experimentally. The BCS theory also explains the isotope effect, in which the temperature at which superconductivity appears is reduced if heavier atoms of the elements making up the material are introduced.

PSLV-C36 Successfully Launches RESOURCESAT-2A Remote Sensing Satellite

  • In its thirty eighth flight (PSLV-C36), ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle has successfully launched the 1,235 kg RESOURCESAT-2A Satellite from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota.
  • This is the thirty seventh consecutively successful mission of PSLV.
  • With this launch, the PSLV has yet again demonstrated its reliability. The total number of satellites launched by India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV including today’s RESOURCESAT-2A has now reached 122, of which 43 are Indian and the remaining 79 are from abroad.


RESOURCESAT-2A is a Remote Sensing satellite intended for resource monitoring. It is a follow on mission to RESOURCESAT-1 and RESOURCESAT-2, launched in 2003 and 2011 respectively.

  • RESOURCESAT-2A is intended to continue the remote sensing data services to global users provided by RESOURCESAT-1 and RESOURCESAT-2.
  • RESOURCESAT-2A carries three payloads which are similar to those of RESOURCESAT-1 and RESOURCESAT-2. They are a high resolution Linear Imaging Self Scanner (LISS-4) camera, medium resolution LISS-3 camera, and a coarse resolution Advanced Wide Field Sensor (AWiFS) camera.
  • RESOURCESAT-2A carries two Solid State Recorders with a capacity of 200 Giga Bits each to store the images taken by its cameras which can be read out later to ground stations.  
  • The data sent by RESOURCESAT-2A will be useful for agricultural applications like crop area and crop production estimation, drought monitoring, soil mapping, cropping system analysis and farm advisories generation.


Japan Launches Magnetic Tether To Clean Up Space Junk

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched a spacecraft from the Tanegashima Space Center that carried a magnetic tether designed to move vast amounts of space junk from the Earth’s orbit.

  • The automated cargo ship – called Stork or Kounotori in Japanese – which is carrying the junk collector is bound for the International Space Station and blasted off from Tanegashima Space Center in the North Pacific.
  • The tether, made of aluminium strands and steel wire, is designed to slow the debris, pulling it out of orbit.
  • The innovative device was made with the help of a fishing net company.
  • Researchers say the lubricated, electro-dynamic tether will generate enough energy to change an object’s orbit, pushing it towards the atmosphere where it will burn up.
  • The experiment is part of an international initiative designed to make space safer for astronauts by getting rid of space junk.


China launches satellite to monitor global carbon emissions

China has launched a global carbon dioxide monitoring satellite to understand climate change.

More Details:

  • The 620-kg satellite TanSat was put into orbit by Long March-2D rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China’s Gobi Desert.
  • Besides TanSat, the rocket also carried a high-resolution micro-nano satellite and two spectrum micro-nano satellites for agricultural and forestry monitoring.
  • The satellite was sent into a sun synchronous orbit about 700 kms above the earth and will monitor the concentration, distribution and flow of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
  • The satellite will help understanding climate change and provide China’s policy makers with independent data.
  • On a three-year mission, TanSat will thoroughly examine global carbon dioxide levels every 16 days, accurate to at least 4 ppm (parts per million).
  • The new satellite will enable China to obtain emissions data first-hand and share it with researchers worldwide.
  • The satellite can trace the sources of greenhouse gases and help evaluate whether countries are fulfilling their commitments.

TanSat means a louder voice for China on climate change, carbon reduction and in negotiations with a bigger say on carbon trading.


First 2G (Second Generation) Ethanol Bio-refinery in India to be set up at Bathinda (Punjab)

  • The government is planning to set up the country’s first Second Generation (2G) Ethanol Bio-refinery at village Tarkhanwala, Bathinda (Punjab), with an approximate investment of Rs 600 crores. 
  • Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), a Central Government Public Sector Undertaking, is setting up the project.


  • The Government of India is encouraging production of Second Generation (2G) Ethanol from agricultural residues to provide additional sources of remuneration to farmers, address the growing environmental concerns and support the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme for achieving 10% Ethanol Blending in Petrol.

Key facts:

  • The Bathinda Bio-refinery will be utilizing agriculture residues for production of 100 KL per day or 3.20 crore litres per annum of ethanol which may be sufficient to meet the 26% of the ethanol blending requirement of the State.
  • The proposed Bio-refinery will generate employment for about 1200 -1300 persons in the Biomass supply chain and generate an additional income of approximately Rs 20 crores per annum for the farmers through purchase of their agriculture residues.
  • The project shall also help in reducing CO2 emissions from the paddy straw which currently is being burnt after harvesting.
  • One of the major outputs of this Bio-refinery shall be Bio-fertilizer approximating 30,000 tonnes per annum which shall be incorporated into the soil for improving soil fertility and overall productivity of farms in Punjab.
  • The Bio-refinery shall also produce more than 1.00 lakh Kg of Bio-CNG per annum which can cater to transport and clean cooking requirements.

 About 2G ethanol:

Second generation (2G) ethanol draws on previously unused (ligno-) cellulosic plant parts, such as straw or corn cobs. First generation biofuels are made from the sugars and vegetable oils found in arable crops, which can be easily extracted using conventional technology.


Agni 5, India’s Longest Range Nuclear Capable Missile 

  • Agni-5, India’s longest range nuclear capable missile, was recently successfully test fired from the Kalam Island off Odisha coast by the Defence Research and Development Organisation or DRDO.
  • The intercontinental surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile, the latest in India’s “Agni” family of medium to intercontinental range missiles, has been through four trials now.
  • The Agni 5 missile, with new technology for navigation and guidance, gives India the strategic depth it needs to contain its enemies, say scientists. After a few more trials, it will soon join India’s military arsenal.
  • This was the first test of the Agni-5 missile after India became a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime, a 35-nation group to check the spread of unmanned delivery systems for nuclear weapons.

Key facts:

  • Agni-5 has a range of over 5,000 km and can carry about a 1,000-kg warhead. It can target almost all of Asia including Pakistan and China and Europe.
  • The solid propellant driven missile will be tested from a canister which gives it all-weather and any terrain mobile launch capability.
  • The 17-metre long Agni-5 Missile weighs about 50 tonnes and is a very agile and modern weapon system.
  • The surface-to-surface missile is a fire-and-forget system that cannot be easily detected as it follows a ballistic trajectory.
  • India describes the Agni – 5 missile system as a ‘weapon of peace’.

The first missile of the series, Agni-I was developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program and tested in 1989.

World’s most heat resistant material found

Scientists have identified materials that can withstand temperatures of nearly 4,000 degrees Celsius, an advance that may pave the way for improved heat resistant shielding for the faster-than-ever hypersonic space vehicles.

Key facts:

  • Researchers from Imperial College London in the UK discovered that the melting point of hafnium carbide is the highest ever recorded for a material.
  • Tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC) are refractory ceramics, meaning they are extraordinarily resistant to heat.
  • Their ability to withstand extremely harsh environments means that refractory ceramics could be used in thermal protection systems on high-speed vehicles and as fuel cladding in the super-heated environments of nuclear reactors.

How the materials were tested?

There is no technology available to test the melting point of TaC and HfC in the lab to determine how truly extreme an environment they could function in. Therefore, the researchers developed a new extreme heating technique using lasers to test the heat tolerance of TaC and HfC.

  • They used the laser-heating techniques to find the point at which TaC and HfC melted, both separately and as mixed compositions of both.

They found that the mixed compound was consistent with previous research, melting at 3,905 degrees Celsius, but the two compounds on their own exceeded previous recorded melting points. The compound TaC melted at 3,768 degrees Celsius, and HfC melted at 3,958 degrees Celsius.

First functional biological pacemaker developed

  • Scientists have developed the first functional pacemaker cells from human pluripotent stem cells which can regulate heart beats with electrical impulses, paving the way for an alternate, biological pacemaker therapy.

 How they were developed?

Pluripotent stem cells have the potential to differentiate into more than 200 different cell types that make up every tissue and organ in the body. These cells were coaxed in 21 days to develop into pacemaker cells by the researchers.


Sinoatrial node pacemaker cells are the heart’s primary pacemaker, controlling the heartbeat throughout life. Defects in the pacemaker can lead to heart rhythm disorders that are commonly treated by implantation of electronic pacemaker devices. 

Significance of these findings:

  • Biological pacemakers represent a promising alternative to electronic pacemakers, overcoming such drawbacks as a lack of hormonal responsiveness and the inability to adapt to changes in heart size in pediatric patients.
  • Learning how to generate pacemaker cells could also help in understanding disorders in pacemaker cells, and provide a cell source for developing a biological pacemaker.

Insertion of LEAP SECOND in the Indian Standard Time

This year will have an extra leap second added to the end of it, making it slightly longer than 2015.

Why is it added?

  • The Earth’s rotation around its own axis is not regular, as sometimes it speeds up and sometimes it slows down, due to various factors including the moon’s gravitational Earth-braking forces that often results in ocean tides. As a result, Astronomical Time (UT1) gradually falls out of synch with Atomic time (UTC), and as and when the difference between UTC and UT1 approaches 0.9 seconds, a “Leap Second” is added to UTC through Atomic clocks worldwide.
  • Leap seconds are needed to prevent civil time drifting away from Earth time. Although the drift is small — taking around a thousand years to accumulate a one-hour difference — if not corrected, it would eventually result in clocks showing midday before sunrise. Therefore, a “Leap Second” is added every now and then to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in order to synchronize clocks worldwide with the Earth’s ever slowing rotation.

Key facts:

  • Since 1972, 36 “Leap Seconds” have been added at intervals varying from six months to seven years. 37th “Leap Second”will be added to UTC at the midnight of December 31, 2016 in the countries within this time zone. However, countries in other time zones will have “Leap Second” inserted according to their longitude.
  • As the “Leap Second” is added simultaneously all over the world at UTC 23:59:59 on December 31, 2016, implying that in India the “Leap Second” will be inserted at IST 05:29:59 on January 1, 2017 (IST being five hours and thirty minutes ahead of UTC).
  • The “Leap Second” adjustment is not so relevant for normal everyday life; however this shift is critical for applications requiring of time accuracies in the nanosecond e.g. astronomy, satellite navigation, communication networks etc.

Nirbhay missile fails again, for the third time

  • The flight-test of Nirbhay, India’s subsonic cruise missile, from the Integrated Test Range, Balasore in Odisha, on Wednesday, was “an utter failure”, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources said.
  • The missile veered off dangerously from its flight path leading to its destruction. This is the third failure out of the four Nirbhay missions so far.

About Nirbhay:

  • A long range, subsonic cruise missile designed and developed in India by the Defence Research and Development Organisation. 
  • Nirbhay is an all-weather, low-cost, long-range cruise missile capable of carrying conventional and nuclear war heads.
  • The missile has a range of more than 1000 km, weighs about 1500 kg and has a length of 6 metres. 
  • The missile is powered by a solid rocket booster for take off which is developed by Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL).
  • Upon reaching the required velocity and height, Turbofan engine in the missile takes over for further propulsion.
  • The missile is guided by a highly advanced inertial navigation system indigenously developed by Research Centre Imarat (RCI) and a radio altimeter for the height determination.
  • Nirbhay is able to pick out a target and attack it among multiple targets.
  • The missile has a loitering capability, i.e., it can go round a target and perform several manoeuvres and then re-engage it.
  • With two side wings, the missile is capable of flying at different altitudes ranging from 500 m to 4 km above the ground and can also fly at low altitudes (like low tree level) to avoid detection by enemy radar.
  • It is capable of delivering 24 different types of warheads depending on mission requirements and uses an inertial navigation system for guidance.

The missile supplements Brahmos by delivering warheads farther than the 290 km range of Brahmos.

Huge dead zone discovered in Bay of Bengal

  • The Bay of Bengal hosts a ‘dead zone’ of an estimated 60,000 square kilometres – an area that contains little or no oxygen and supports microbial processes that remove vast amounts of nitrogen from the ocean, scientists including those from India have found.
  • Dead zones are well known off the western coasts of North and South America, off the coast of Namibia and off the west coast of India in the Arabian Sea.
  • “The Bay of Bengal has long stood as an enigma because standard techniques suggest no oxygen in the waters, but, despite this, there has been no indication of nitrogen loss as in other ‘dead zones’ of the global ocean.
  • The researchers also discovered that the Bay of Bengal hosts microbial communities that can remove nitrogen, as in other well-known dead zones and even some evidence that they do remove nitrogen, but at really slow rates. “Remove the last amounts of oxygen, and the Bay of Bengal could become a major global player in nitrogen removal from the oceans.
  • Removing more nitrogen from the oceans could affect the marine nitrogen balance and rates of marine productivity.
  • Globally, warming of the atmosphere through climate change is predicted to lead to an expansion of ‘dead zones’ in the ocean.
  • It is currently unclear whether climate change would lead to the removal of these last traces of oxygen from the Bay of Bengal waters.
  • However, the Bay of Bengal is also surrounded by a heavy population density, and expected increases in fertiliser input to the Bay may increase its productivity, contributing to oxygen depletion at depth.

Dead Zone is an area in water body that contains little or no oxygen (or they are hypoxic) in bottom and near-bottom water.

Study decodes how diamonds form

  • Scientists claimed to have figured out how the world’s biggest and most-valuable diamonds are formed
  • large gem-quality diamonds, like the world-famous Cullinan or Lesotho Promise, may be born in metallic liquid deep inside the Earth’s mantle

Study on Formation:

  • The research team, led by Evan Smith of the Gemological Institute of America, reached the conclusion after examining so-called “offcuts” of massive diamonds, which are the pieces left over after the gem’s facets are cut for maximum sparkle.
  • They found tiny metallic grains trapped inside in more than 30 exceptionally large stones, which are made up of a mixture of metallic iron and nickel, along with carbon, sulphur, methane, and hydrogen.
  • These inclusions led the researchers to conclude that these diamonds formed, like all diamonds, in the Earth’s mantle, but they did so under conditions in which they were saturated by liquid metal.

Most diamonds formed at depths of 150 to 200 km under the continents and shoot to the surface in volcanic eruptions. Pure carbon crystallised in this mix of molten metallic liquid in Earth’s deep mantle to form diamonds.

‘Nanoceramic’ material for safer, cheaper nuclear reactors

  • Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have created a nanoceramic material, which may be used in next-generation nuclear reactors that will operate at higher temperatures and radiation fields, producing energy more efficiently and economically.
  • Tougher under radiation
  • The material can not only withstand the harsh effects of radiation, but also becomes tougher under radiation, researchers said.
  • Traditionally, water has been used as the primary coolant in reactors, absorbing the heat released from fission reactions.
  • Though water poses fewer risks of corrosion damage to materials, there are also limits to the temperatures up to which water-cooled reactors can operate — and in advanced reactors, increasing their temperature is the best way to increase energy production.

New coolants, such as liquid metals like sodium and lead, are effective at much higher temperatures, but also are much more corrosive to the materials from which a nuclear reactor is made. “There is a preferred use of metallic materials for structural components, but many of these materials cannot withstand high-temperature corrosion in advanced reactors.

National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke

  • While health is a State subject, Government of India is implementing a comprehensive National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS).
  • The objectives of NPCDCS, being implemented under National Health Mission (NHM) for interventions up to the district level includes awareness generation for Cancer prevention, screening, early detection and referral to an appropriate level institution for treatment.  The focus of the programme is on breast, cervical and oral cancer.
  • Operational guidelines have been released for prevention, control and screening of Diabetes, Hypertension and common Cancer (Cervix, Breast and Oral) to the States for implementation.
  • The screening includes screening for risk factors of these diseases. Such screening will also generate awareness on risk factors of these diseases. Suspected cases are to be referred for confirmatory diagnosis by various tests including histo-pathological biopsy. Electronic and Print media is utilized for health awareness for cancer.


  • a communicable disease and not a life style disease, which spreads through a virus (HIV) in certain body fluids that attack the body’s immune system.
  • If left untreated, the virus may severely reduce the immune capacity of infected person and ultimately impede the capacity of body to fight infections and some other disease.
  • The stage of disease when body’s immune system is severely impacted and it gets susceptible to all infections is called AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
  • National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) is currently implementing the fourth phase of National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) and aims to accelerate the process of reversal and further strengthen the epidemic response in India through a cautious and well defined integration process.

Hepatitis B vaccination

  • is included under the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) of the Government of India.
  • Screening of blood reduces the risk of transmission of Hepatitis B and C by blood transfusion.
  • Therefore, blood banks mandatorily screen for Hepatitis B and C as per Drugs & Cosmetics Act 1940 and Rules thereunder.
  • A National Programme on Surveillance of Viral Hepatitis under the 12thFive Year Plan has been launched by the Government. National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi has been entrusted the responsibility for coordinating various activities under this programme.

NCDC also provides technical guidance to State Governments, laboratory support for outbreak investigations and etiological diagnosis besides conducting regular training courses for development of trained manpower. Funds are released to States/UTs under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) to strengthen surveillance and to detect and respond to outbreaks of epidemic-prone diseases.

Satellites Designed for Benefit of Farmers

  • The satellite-enabled services in conjunction with ground data, to support farmers in India include weather forecasting, agro-advisory, agromet services, soil moisture and agricultural extension activities to support farming operations in the country by India Meteorology Department (IMD), Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • Also, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) collaborates with Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare on various applications using satellite data and geospatial technology in agriculture sector, which include –

(i) horticultural crop inventory and site suitability for expansion in under-utilised areas,

(ii) crop assessment using medium and high resolution satellite data,

(iii) field data collection with field photos using mobile App,

(iv) crop cutting experiments based on satellite derived crop vigor information.

Earlier, ISRO had transferred the technology to Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmer’s Welfare for

(i) Forecasting Agricultural Output using Space, Agro-meteorology and Land based observations (FASAL) and

(ii) National Agricultural Drought Assessment and Monitoring System (NADAMS) and internalised the monitoring of irrigation infrastructure at Central Water Commission.

The satellites designed by ISRO, which are currently in operation, to support these services and applications, include Resourcesat-2, Resourcesat-2A, RISAT-1, Cartosat-1, Kalpana-1, INSAT-3D and INSAT-3DR..


  • To provide multispectral images for inventory and management of natural resources, Crop production forecast, wasteland inventory, Land & Water Resources development, and Disaster Management Support.


  • To provide high resolution images for Cartographic mapping, Stereo data for Topographic Mapping & DEM, and host of DEM Applications – Contour, Drainage network, etc.


  • To provide all weather imaging capability useful for agriculture, particularly paddy and jute monitoring in kharif season and management of natural disasters.


  • To provide meteorological data to enable weather forecasting services.


Designed for enhanced meteorological observations, including vertical profile of the atmosphere in terms of temperature and humidity for improved weather forecasting and disaster warning.

Genetically Modified Crops

  • The policy for introduction of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops in the country is based on recommendations of the Task Force on Application of Biotechnology and Agriculture under the Chairmanship of Prof. M. S. Swaminathan and constituted by Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India in May, 2003.
  • The policy for introduction of GM Crops in the country is aimed at providing direction to research and development in relation to priorities based on national problems and needs of agriculture as well as devising a system for commercialization of transgenic/ GM products; and developing a clear policy on GM food and feed in the country.
  • Introduction of GM crops in the country is also governed by Rules 1989 of Environmental Protection Act (EPA), 1986.
  • The regulatory framework involves biosafety data generation on several parameters in laboratory and field following an elaborate food and environmental safety assessment by statutory bodies under the EPA-1986.
  • Biosafety Research field trials of GM crops are usually conducted in State Agricultural Universities under confined conditions in accordance with the permission obtained from Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee on case by case under Rules, 1989 of EPA-1986.

While the recommendations of the Task Force on Application of Biotechnology and Agriculture under the Chairmanship of Prof. M. S. Swaminathan in 2003 identified certain priorities, recently National Academy of Agricultural Sciences of National Agricultural Research System has submitted a detailed report to accelerate utilization of Genetic Engineering (GE) technology for food & nutrition security and improving farmers’ income.



  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to send two nano satellites into space namely INS-1A & INS-1B, weighing 10 kg each including payload mass of 5 kg.
  • These nano satellites are meant for technology demonstration. Mission life is expected to be six months to one year.

China has successfully launched Fengyun-4 satellite

  • China has successfully launched Fengyun-4 satellite, first of its new generation weather satellitesinto geostationary orbit.
  • It was launched onboard of Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province.
  • The launch marked the 242nd mission of China’s Long March series of rockets.
  • Fengyun-4 is the first of China’s second-generation weather satellitesand also the country’s first quantitative remote-sensing satellite in highest orbit.
  • The satellite will make high time, spatial and spectral resolution observations of the atmosphere, clouds and space environment of China and surrounding regions, significantly improving capabilities of weather and climate forecasts.

World’s first Water Wave Laser unveiled

  • Scientists have created the first ‘water-wave laser’ that emits a beam through the interaction of light and water waves, and may be used in ‘lab-on-a-chip’ devices to study cell biology and test new drug therapies. The laser could someday be used in tiny sensors that combine light waves, sound and water waves.
  • For now, the water-wave laser offers a “playground” for scientists studying the interaction of light and fluid at a scale smaller than the width of a human hair, researchers said. The study conducted by Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is the first bridge between two areas of research that were previously considered unrelated to one another: nonlinear optics and water waves. A typical laser can be created when the electrons in atoms become “excited” by energy absorbed from an outside source, causing them to emit radiation in the form of laser light.
  • Researchers, led by Professor Tal Carmon, showed for the first time that water wave oscillations within a liquid device can also generate laser radiation. The possibility of creating a laser through the interaction of light with water waves has not been examined, mainly due to the huge difference between the low frequency of water waves on the surface of a liquid and the high frequency of light wave oscillations, Carmon said.
  • This frequency difference reduces the efficiency of the energy transfer between light and water waves, which is needed to produce the laser emission. To compensate for this low efficiency, the researchers created a device in which an optical fibre delivers light into a tiny droplet of octane and water. Light waves and water waves pass through each other many times (about one million times) inside the droplet, generating the energy that leaves the droplet as the emission of the water-wave laser.
  • The interaction between the fibre optic light and the miniscule vibrations on the surface of the droplet are like an echo, the researchers noted, where the interaction of sound waves and the surface they pass through can make a single scream audible several times. In order to increase this echo effect in their device, the researchers used highly transparent, runny liquids, to encourage light and droplet interactions.

Furthermore, a drop of water is a million times softer than the materials used in current laser technology. The minute pressure applied by light can therefore cause droplet deformation that is a million times greater than in a typical optomechanical device, which may offer greater control of the laser’s emissions and capabilities.

Earth Science Research

Only takeaways:

  • Under bilateral and multilateral international agreements with various Government agencies in the field of Earth system science, the Ministry supports research proposals, joint observational campaigns, joint development work, exchange of resources personnel and training abroad, workshops etc.
  • Projects being implemented under these collaboration provide excellent opportunity to students/researchers to work and interact with foreign researchers, visit their labs etc.
  • Under an MoU with Belmont Forum countries, Indian Scientists are supported for international collaborative research through joint calls in societal relevant global environmental change challenges.
  • Under an MoU with the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), the research institutes are participating in joint observational campaigns for studying the various processes involved in understanding the monsoonal behavior. Under this MoU, research institutes are part of projects funded by the ministry for undertaking research in Monsoon, Atmospheric Pollution and Human Health, Changing Water Cycle.
  • Under the MoU with Research Council of Norway, the research institutes are part of the various projects being funded by the ministry for undertaking research in Polar Research and Geo-Hazards.
  • The Ministry has launched a mission mode program such as Monsoon Missionwherein various national and international agencies work together to improve prediction of the monsoon in various spatial and temporal scales. In addition various flagship programs such as Metro Air Quality, Climate Change Research including atmospheric Chemistry wherein the researchers/scientists from universities and research institutes working in these projects get hands-on experience on the sophisticated equipment’s through participation in field campaigns, laboratory experiments and data analysis /modeling techniques etc.

India has signed an Implementing Agreement (IA) to become a member country of the International Energy Agency – Ocean Energy Systems (IEA-OES). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) to establish and promote cooperation between in the field of marine and earth science and technology.


National Programme for Organic Production

Ministry of Commerce has implemented the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) since 2001. The objectives of NPOP are as under:

1)            To provide the means of evaluation of certification programme for organic agriculture and products (including wild harvest, aquaculture, livestock products) as per the approved criteria.

2)            To accredit certification programmes of Certification Bodies seeking accreditation.

3)            To facilitate certification of organic products in conformity with the prescribed standards.

4)            To facilitate certification of organic products in conformity with the importing countries organic standards as per equivalence agreement between the two countries or as per importing country requirements.

5)            To encourage the development of organic farming and organic processing.

The organic pulses certified under NPOP are being cultivated in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh/Telengana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, H.P, Odisha and Punjab.

Reusable Launch Vehicle Details

ISRO has successfully carried out the first experimental mission of Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), on May 23, 2016 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.

  • In this mission, critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance & control and reusable thermal protection system have been successfully demonstrated.
  • The Development of Reusable Launch Vehicle is a technical challenge and it involves the development of many cutting edge technologies.
  • Presently, it is in the preliminary stage of total developmental process.

A series of technology demonstration missions would be required before it is made operational.

Scramjet Engine details

  • The first experimental mission of a sub-scale Scramjet engine, towards the realization of an Air Breathing Propulsion System, was successfully conducted on August 28, 2016 (at 0600 hrs IST) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. Various flight events, namely, burn out of booster rocket stage, ignition of second stage solid rocket, functioning of Scramjet engines, followed by burn out of the second stage took place exactly as planned. With this experimental flight, critical technologies such as ignition of air breathing engines at supersonic speed, holding the flame at supersonic speed, air intake mechanism and fuel injection systems have been successfully demonstrated.
  • The total cost incurred towards carrying out the first experimental mission of the Scramjet engine is Rupees 8 Crores.
  • The Scramjet engine, used in the first experimental mission is a scaled down version to demonstrate proof-of-concept.
  • Scramjet engine technology is a complex technology which is yet to be fully proven worldwide.
  • A series of technology demonstration tests are required before inducting the engine with required thrust into future launch vehicles.

The technology will be useful only during the atmospheric phase of the flight of launch vehicle and will benefit in bringing down the cost of access to space, by reducing the need of carrying the oxidizer along with the fuel.

Advanced Heavy Water Reactor Technology

  • Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), a constituent unit of Department of Atomic Energy, is working on the research and development of the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR).
  • It is a thorium fuel based vertical pressure tube type, heavy water moderated and boiling light water cooled reactor.
  • The 300 MWe capacity AHWR designed by BARC is intended to serve as a technology demonstrator for a range of technologies for Thorium utilisationas well as for several advanced safety features that have been incorporated.
  • With this objective, several innovative features of the design are currently being validated through large scale engineering experiments.
  • The current status is that design of all important nuclear systems of AHWR has been completed and various associated confirmatory R&D studies, detailed engineering of AHWR, various works related to obtaining the necessary site selection approvals and associated statutory/regulatory clearances are being taken up.
  • AHWR being a technology demonstration reactor will provide impetus for development of technologies for the third stage of India’s Nuclear Power Programme.
  • It will provide experience on use of Thorium fuel on a large and industrial scale.
  • In addition, the research programme which is underway for development of advanced safety systems will also provide benefits for post Fukushima related improvements for other operating / under-construction reactors.

PSLV-C36 Successfully Launches RESOURCESAT-2A Remote Sensing Satellite

  • In its thirty eighth flight (PSLV-C36), ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully launched the 1235 kg RESOURCESAT-2A Satellite from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota.
  • This is the thirty seventh consecutively successful mission of PSLV.

More Highlights

  • The data sent by RESOURCESAT-2A  will be useful for agricultural applications like crop area and crop production estimation, drought monitoring, soil mapping, cropping system analysis and farm advisories generation.
  • Like its predecessors RESOURCESAT-1 and 2, RESOURCESAT-2A has a unique 3-Tier imaging system with Advanced Wide Field Sensor (AWiFS), Linear Imaging Self Scanner-3 (LISS-3) and Linear Imaging Self Scanner-4 (LISS-4) cameras. The AWiFS provides images with a sampling of 56 metres, a swath of 740 km and a revisit of 5 days whereas the LISS-3 provides 23.5 metre sampled images with 141 km swath and a repitivity of 24 days. LISS-4 provides 5.8 metre sampled images with 70 km swath and a revisit of 5 days.
  • With this launch, the PSLV has yet again demonstrated its reliability.
  • The total number of satellites launched by India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV including today’s RESOURCESAT-2A has now reached 122, of which 43 are Indian and the remaining 79 are from abroad.




  • PSLV-C36 is the thirty eighth flight of ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) placed the 1235 kg RESOURCESAT-2A into an 817 km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).
  • PSLV-C36 was launched from the First Launch Pad (FLP) at Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. In this flight, the ‘XL’ version of PSLV with six solid strap-on motors was used.
  • PSLV is the ISRO’s versatile launch vehicle for launching multiple satellites in polar SSOs, Low Earth Orbits (LEO) as well as Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and sub GTO.

With 36 successful launches, PSLV has emerged as the workhorse launch vehicle of ISRO and is offered for launching satellites for international customers. During 1994-2016 period, PSLV has launched a total of 121 satellites, of which 79 satellites are from abroad and 42 are Indian satellites.

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