Current Affairs for OAS Prelims 2018: Science and Technology- January 2018

1. Scientists identify four new balsam species in Arunachal Pradesh

Pratyush: Fastest Super Computer of India

Throwing fresh light on the uncharted biodiversity in India’s north-eastern region, researchers from the University of Calicut in Kerala have reported the discovery of four new species of balsam from various locations in Arunachal Pradesh. The team came across the new species while scouring the Eastern Himalayas as part of an expedition supported by the Department of Science and Technology and the International Association for Plant Taxonomy, Slovakia.

Commonly known as jewel weeds because of the diverse colour of the flowers, balsams are distributed throughout the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats, Sri Lanka, South East Asia, Africa and Madagascar. The genus is scientifically named as Impatiens, signifying the impatient nature of the fruits which explode suddenly when touched. The researchers have published their findings in the international journals Phytotaxa and Webbia .

New Species

  1. Impatiens Haridasaniiwas named after Haridasan, former scientist, State Forest Research Institute, Arunachal Pradesh, for his contribution to the taxonomy of the north-eastern States. The species is characterised by small pure yellow flowers and hairy leaves.

  2. Impatiens pseudocitrina, discovered from Anjaw district, sports bright yellow flowers with small red spots on the throat and a long spur at the back. The species name denotes the similarities with I. citrina .

  3. A magnificent species discovered from the Lower Dibang valley, Impatiens nilalohitae grows to a height of more than one metre and has dark purple flowers with pale yellow throat and green stalk. The name nilalohitae denotes the dark purple colour in Sanskrit.

  4. Another spectacular balsam, roingensis, was found growing in Roing and Upper Siang. The plant has clustered white flowers with yellow patch on the mouth and hooked spur.

According to the authors, road widening works, deforestation and other development activities are posing a threat to the natural habitat of the new species.The researchers have also reported the rediscovery of another species I. agastyamalayensis from the Western Ghats after a gap of more than a century.

India is home to more than 230 balsam species. Earlier this year, scientists had reported the discovery of Impatiens arunachalensis , a critically endangered species, from the Upper Siang district. Another balsam species Impatiens walongensis has been reported from Anjaw district.

2. WHO approves Indian Typhoid vaccine for global use

Bharat Biotech, a vaccine company, has received Pre-Qualification tag from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for Typbar TCV or Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine. The WHO tag would allow the firm to access global public vaccination programmes. This enables the procurement and supplies of the vaccine to UNICEF, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and GAVI supported countries.

3. India unveils Pratyush, India’s fastest Supercomputer yet

India’s supercomputing prowess moved up several notches after it unveiled Pratyush, an array of computers that can deliver a peak power of 6.8 petaflops. One petaflop is a million billion floating point operations per second and is a reflection of the computing capacity of a system.

According to a statement by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pratyush is the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world dedicated for weather and climate research, and follows machines in Japan, USA and the United Kingdom. It will also move an Indian supercomputer from the 300s to the 30s in the Top500 list, a respected international tracker of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

The machines will be installed at two government institutes: 4.0 petaflops HPC facility at IITM, Pune; and 2.8 petaflops facility at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast, Noida.

The government had sanctioned ₹400 crore last year to put in place a 10-petaflop machine. A key function of the machine’s computing power would be monsoon forecasting using a dynamical model. This requires simulating the weather for a given month — say March — and letting a custom-built model calculate how the actual weather will play out over June, July, August and September. With the new system, it would be possible to map regions in India at a resolution of 3 km and the globe at 12 km.

4. 5000 year old Rock Art in Kashmir may be oldest evidence of Supernova

In a recent discovery, scientists have found the oldest evidence of a supernova in human history — carved on a 5000-year-old stone. The astonishing find came from Jammu and Kashmir, India, where a sky with two bright objects and a hunting scene was found depicted on a stone.

More about the 5000-year-old stone:

Earlier thought to be just an imaginary scene or a picture drawn according to mythology, this stone was found in a rock wall, with the stone facing the site wall. Researchers believe that the importance of this stone was unknown and thus, the stone was reused in the construction of another structure. The site where the stone was found dated back to around 2100 BC.

Which supernova does the ancient painting represent?

Astrophysicist Mayank Vahia and his colleagues at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research mentioned in their study that after some research, they learned about the occurrence of a supernova between 4100 BC to 2100 BC. Further research showed that supernova HB9 had exploded around 3600 BC, making it highly probable that the markings indeed show evidence of the same supernova.

Researchers believe that the stone which has been dated back to over 5 thousand years might have similar stones in the region with more illuminating markings. Apparently, Vahia and his colleagues guessed it to be a supernova and along with sun in the strange picture where few peoples are hunting down a dear-like animal under two bright objects.

5. MEITY launches Cyber Surakshit Bharat Initiative

Recognizing the need to strengthen the cybersecurity ecosystem in India, and in alignment with the Honourable Prime Minister’s vision for a ‘Digital India’, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), announced the Cyber Surakshit Bharat initiative in association with National e-Governance Division (NeGD) and industry partners at an inaugural event in Delhi.

Conceptualized with the mission to spread awareness about cybercrime and building capacity for safety measures for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and frontline IT staff across all government departments, Cyber Surakshit Bharat will be operated on the three principles of Awareness, Education and Enablement. It will include an awareness program on the importance of cybersecurity; a series of workshops on best practices and enablement of the officials with cybersecurity health tool kits to manage and mitigate cyber threats.  Cyber Surakshit Bharat is the first public-private partnership of its kind and will leverage the expertise of the IT industry in cybersecurity. The founding partners of the consortium are leading IT companies Microsoft, Intel, WIPRO, Redhat and Dimension Data. Additionally, knowledge partners include Cert-In, NIC, NASSCOM and the FIDO Alliance and premier consultancy firms Deloitte and EY.

Cyber Surakshit Bharat aims to conduct a series of training programs in the next six months across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.

6. Gen-next smart solar windows could produce electricity

Scientists have discovered a new material for next-generation smart windows that not only darken automatically when the Sun is too bright but also convert solar energy into electricity. Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) in the US found a form of perovskite that works well as a stable and photoactive semiconductor material that can reversibly switch between transparent and non-transparent state, without degrading its electronic properties. The scientists made the discovery while investigating the phase transition of the material, an inorganic perovskite.

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