Child Care Leave
- Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions said that the male employees of the government are also now entitled to Child Care Leave.
- The provision and privilege of Child Care Leave (CCL) will be available only for those male employees who happen to be “single male parent”,
- which may include male employees who are widowers or divorcees or even unmarried and may therefore, be expected to take up the responsibility of child care as a single – handed parent.
- An employee on Child Care Leave may now leave the head quarter with the prior approval of Competent Authority.
- Leave Travel Concession (LTC) may be availed by the employee even if he is on Child Care Leave.
- Child Care Leave can be granted at 100% of leave salary for the first 365 days and 80% of leave salary for the next 365 days.
- In case of a disabled child, the condition of availing Child Care Leave up to the age of 22 years of the child has been removed and now Child Care Leave can be availed by a government servant for a disabled child of any age.
Sustainable Disinfectants And Sanitizers
- Safe disinfection and sanitization technologies have come from a total of 10 companies supported for disinfectants and sanitizers
- under Centre for Augmenting WAR with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH),
- an initiative by the National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB), Department of Science and Technology (DST),
- implemented by Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), IIT Bombay.
- Mumbai based start-up Inphlox Water Systems, with expertise in treating complex polluted water and wastewater, modified their technology to design and develop a system for space and equipment disinfection to fight COVID 19 contamination titled VAJRA.
- The VAJRA KE Series uses a disinfection system consisting of a multistage disinfection process by incorporating electrostatic discharge that generates ozone, and the powerful sterilizing effects of UVC light spectrum.
- VAJRA Kavach-E (KE) uses advanced oxidation, electrostatic discharge, and UVC light spectrum to inactivate the viruses, bacteria, and other microbial strains present on the PPE. This saves costs by making the PPE, medical, and nonmedical gear reusable.
- Inphlox Water Systems, which started with the Nidhi Prayas grant from DST (through IIT Bombay) for innovations in the water sector, used the CAWACH grant from DST to modify their technology to make it suitable for combating the COVID 19 infection.
- Coimbatore based Eta Purification offers advanced sterilization solutions.
- It is using environmentally-sound micro-cavity plasma technology.
- This novel technology, where the disinfectant is produced directly from air or oxygen offers a sustainable alternative to conventional chemical-based decontamination.
- The COSMO (Complete Sterilization by Microplasma Oxidation) system can rapidly disinfect Covid-19 infected areas, including quarantine facilities, ambulatory care, and equipment surfaces.
- This innovative micro-plasma sterilization system offers compact and scalable modular units which are robust, flexible, and energy-efficient.
- The disinfectant is produced on-site, thereby eliminating the transport, storage, and handling of hazardous chemicals.
- These decontamination systems are 10 times less than the conventional system of equivalent capacity, making it suitable for resource constraint environments.
- Their advanced sterilization systems surpass hypochlorite and other traditional disinfectants in its ability to neutralize multi-drug resistant pathogens.
- Weinnovate Biosolutions from Pune has developed silver nanoparticles based on non-alcoholic liquid sanitizer.
- Their technology pending for patent also inhibits the RNA replication activity – preventing spread of the virus and blocks surface glycoproteins – making the virus ineffective.
- An instant microwave-based handheld steriliser ATULYA and a microwave-assisted cold sterilization device OPTIMASER for hazardous biomedical waste disinfection and making linen and PPE reusable is the offering from Lucknow based Maser Technology.
- OPTIMASER is microwave-assisted cold sterilisation superior technological advancement over the conventional Autoclave.
- It allows for disinfection and sterilisation of the PPE Kits and the masks in order to ensure the 100 reusabilities, also ensuring the cost-effectiveness of the same.
Newly Identified Tectonically Active Zone In Himalayas
- The suture zone of the Himalayas or the Indus Suture Zone (ISZ) in the Ladakh region where Indian and Asian Plates are joined has been found to be tectonically active, as against current understanding that it is a locked zone.
- This could have major implications in terms of earthquake study, prediction, understanding the seismic structure of the mountain chains well as its evolution.
- A group of Scientists from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun, have found through observations and detailed mapping of geological features that the suture zone of Himalaya that was conventionally thought to be locked is tectonically active.
- They carried out the mapping of the remote regions of Ladakh that forms the most hinterland part of the Himalaya.
- The geologists observed that sedimentary beds are tilted and thrust broken, the rivers are associated with uplifted terraces, and the bedrock shows brittle deformation that occurred at much shallower depths.
- These deformed geological features were then dated in the laboratory at Dehradun using a technique called Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) (method for carrying Luminescence dating of geological sediments) and data of seismicity and denudation rate reviewed.
- The combination of field and lab data suggested the region of the Indus Suture Zone (ISZ) has been neo-tectonically active since the last 78000 — 58000 years and a recent earthquake in 2010 of low magnitude 4.0 near the village of Upshi that occurred due to a thrust rupture.
- Himalaya were known to be made up of north dipping thrusts like the Main Central Thrust (MCT), the Main Boundary Thrust (MBT), and the Main Frontal Thrust (MFT).
- As per the established models, all of these thrusts except MFT are locked, and overall deformation in Himalaya is being accommodated only along with the MFT.
- The new findings, which suggest a more remote fault at the suture zone being neo-tectonically active, could call for a serious relook into the existing evolutionary models using new techniques and a larger geological database.
India–Australia Circular Economy Hackathon(I-ACE)
- AIM (Atal Innovation Mission), in association with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), is organizing a two-day hackathon on circular economy, ‘India–Australia Circular Economy Hackathon (I-ACE)’, on 7 and 8 December.
- The idea of I-ACE was conceived during a virtual summit on 4 June, between the Indian and Australian prime ministers, exploring innovative ways to boost circular economy in India and Australia.
- I-ACE will focus on identification and development of innovative technology solutions by bright-minded students, startups and MSMEs of both nations.
The four key themes for the hackathon are as follows:
- Innovation in packaging reducing packaging waste
- Innovation in food supply chains avoiding waste
- Creating opportunities for plastic waste reduction
- Recycling critical energy metals and e-waste
- Shortlisted students and startups/MSMEs will be called for the hackathon, where two winners (one student and one startup/MSME) per theme from each country will be announced at an award ceremony on 11 December.
- The winning Indian student and startup/MSME teams will be awarded a prize of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh, respectively, coupled with post-hackathon product development opportunities.
- The winning Australian student will be awarded a prize of AUD$3500 and the winning Australian SMEs/startup team a prize of AUD$9500.
- The Asan Conservation Reserve (ACR) in Dehradun was declared as a site of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, becoming the state’s first entry into the coveted list.
- The Ramsar Convention was signed in 1971 and is considered as one of the oldest inter-governmental accord for preserving the wetlands.
- It was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar and aims to develop a global network of wetlands for conservation of biological diversity for sustaining human life.
- Home to over 330 species of birds and spread in around 59.05 hectares of land, ACR hosts many threatened and critically-endangered species like white-rumped vulture (gyps bengalensis), ruddy shelduck, Baer’s pochard (Aythya baeri), red-headed vulture (sarcogyps calvus), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and Asian woollyneck (ciconia episcopus) etc.
- Zoological Survey of India in its 2013 report had also ascertained the richness of this wetland which noted that it has a presence of 78 species of invertebrates, 40 species of fishes, 20 mammal species, four amphibians and one reptile.
Gollum : A 100 million-year-old fish
- A type of fish was discovered in the watery underground rocks of the Kerala state that scientists have named “Gollum”, after the dark and conflicted character of JRR Tolkien’s epic saga ‘Lord of the Rings’.
- ‘Aenigmachanna gollum’ belongs to an old family of fish, called dragon snakeheads, which retains its primitive characteristics after all these millennia.
- Besides the Gollum, a sister species has also been discovered, called ‘Aenigmachanna mahabali’.
A rare sighting
- The discovery of a new family of fish is very rare.
- The dragon snakeheads have evaded scientists till now because they live in subterranean aquifers and come to the surface only after heavy flooding from rain.
- The closest relative of the family Aenigmachannidae is the Channidae, of which at least 50 species can be found in the streams and lakes of Asia and tropical Africa.
- The two families split from each other 34 million to 109 million years ago.
- This may indicate that Aenigmachanna is a Gondwanan lineage, which has survived break-up of the supercontinent, with India separating from Africa at around 120 million years ago.
Poland’s Recent Court Ruling On Abortions
- Over the last few days, thousands of women have stormed the streets of Poland, protesting a recent court ruling that drastically restricts their right to access safe and legal abortions.
- Human rights activists and groups across the world, including Amnesty International, have widely condemned the Polish court’s ruling, calling it an attack on women’s basic human rights.
What was the Polish court’s recent ruling on abortions?
- Recently, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that an existing law allowing abortions of malformed foetuses was unconstitutional, immediately provoking an outcry from women and pro-choice activists across the country.
- In the ruling, the tribunal’s president Julia Przylebska said that permitting abortions in the case of foetal deformities legalised “eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity”.
- Since the Polish constitution assures a right to life, Przylebska argued that an abortion based on a foetal malfunction was “a directly forbidden form of discrimination.”
- Poland’s abortion laws were already considered some of the strictest in Europe.
- Now, once the court’s decision is enacted, abortions will only be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or if there is a threat to the mother’s life.
Is this the first pro-choice protest the country has witnessed?
- No, this is not the first time people in Poland have protested the country’s abortion laws.
- In 2016, thousands of women went on strike in protest against a proposal for a complete ban on abortions.
- They all dressed in black to signify that they were mourning the death of their reproductive rights.
- If the draft law was to be enacted, women who were found to have had abortions could have faced a jail term of up to five years.
- Doctors who carried out or assisted in abortions would also be liable for jail time.
- The draft law was proposed by an anti-abortion citizens’ group and was initially supported by the Catholic Church.
- However, the Church later backed out when bishops said they could not support the proposal to jail women who underwent an abortion.
Interim Arbitration Award To Amazon
- A tribunal in Singapore recently restrained Future Group and Reliance Industries Limited from proceeding with a Rs 24,713-crore deal signed in August for Future Retail to sell its retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing units to Reliance Retail and Fashion style.
- The emergency order by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) came on a plea from global e-commerce giant Amazon.
Why did Amazon approach SIAC for arbitration?
- The arbitral institution administering the arbitration, the applicable rules and the seat of arbitration is decided as per the contractual agreement between the parties.
- In this case Amazon and Future Group have under their agreement agreed to refer their disputes to SIAC, with Singapore presumably being the contractual choice for the seat/place of arbitration.
Why was an emergency award passed to stop the Future-RIL deal?
- Once a dispute is referred to arbitration pursuant to the agreement between the parties, the process of appointment of the arbitral tribunal takes place.
- Typically, in case of a three member tribunal, both the parties appoint one member each to the tribunal, while the third member is jointly appointed by the two nominees or, if they fail to agree, by SIAC.
- This process takes a certain time to complete.
- However, under the rules of SIAC, parties can move SIAC to appoint an emergency arbitrator to get urgent interim relief, even as the process of appointment of the main arbitral tribunal is underway.
- Accordingly, pursuant to Amazon’s request, an Emergency Arbitrator was appointed by SIAC, who after hearing the parties passed the emergency award.
How can this interim award be enforced on the parties in India?
- There is no express mechanism for enforcement of the orders of the Emergency Arbitrator.
- Typically, the parties voluntarily comply with the Emergency Award.
- However, if the parties don’t comply with the order voluntarily, then the party which has won the emergency award, in this case Amazon, can move the High Court in India under Section 9 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996, to get similar reliefs as granted by the Emergency Arbitrator.
Can Future Group challenge the interim award of the emergency arbitrator in India?
- The Future Group cannot challenge the order passed by the Emergency Arbitrator in India.
- It may either apply before the Emergency Arbitrator itself showing cause why the order should be vacated or modified, or await the constitution of the arbitral tribunal and then apply before the main tribunal.
- However, if a petition is filed before the High Court in India under Section 9 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996, then the Future Group could put forth its objections on why the reliefs as granted by the Emergency Arbitrator should not be granted by the High Court.
Why has Singapore become the hub of international arbitration?
- Singapore has emerged as the preferred location for international arbitration involving Indian companies as foreign investors typically want to avoid the rigmarole of the Indian courts.
- Foreign investors who have invested in India feel that Singapore is neutral ground for dispute resolution.
- Singapore itself over time has built a stellar reputation as jurisdiction driven by rule of law with international standards and high integrity.
- This gives comfort to investors that the arbitration process will be quick, fair and just.
- India now has its own international arbitration centre in Mumbai. But in context of arbitration, this is a recent development.
- According to the 2019 annual report of SIAC, India was the top user of its arbitration seat with 485 cases being referred to SIAC, followed by Philippines at 122, China at 76 and the United States at 65.
Will this interim award have any impact on the Competition Commission of India (CCI) decision in the Future-RIL deal?
- There is no specific requirement under the regulations that requires the CCI to defer its decision due this order of the Emergency Arbitrator.
- However, passive or perception-based impact of the order cannot be ruled out.
India-USA : 2+2 Ministerial dialogue
- India and the U.S. will sign the last foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA) during the 2+2 ministerial dialogue.
- The two Ministers reviewed bilateral defence cooperation spanning “military-to-military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing, defence trade and industrial issues” and also discussed ways to take bilateral cooperation forward,.
- They discussed potential new areas of cooperation both at the Service-to-Service-level and the joint-level.
- A maritime information agreement is also under discussion between India and the U.S.
- India already has such agreement with other Quad countries, Australia and Japan.
- Beginning 2016, India has signed three foundational agreements:
- the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA),
- Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) while
- the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) was signed a long time ago.
- An extension to the GSOMIA, the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), was signed at the last 2+2 dialogue.
- India has posted a liaison officer at the U.S. Navy Central Command in Bahrain recently and is also considering a U.S. request for posting liaison officers at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) and the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).
- The U.S. has already posted a liaison officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) meant to promote Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).
- Last week, India announced that Australia will join the Malabar exercise next month consisting of Japan and the U.S.
- There has been a sharp increase in India’s maritime interactions with the Quad countries on a bilateral basis centered around information sharing for improved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) in the Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific.
- While LEMOA has since been operationalised, COMCASA is in advanced stages of being operationalised.
- On September 25, for the first time a U.S. Navy P-8A long range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) landed at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands for refuelling under LEMOA.
- In July, frontline warships of the Indian Navy conducted a passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the US Navy’s Nimitz carrier strike group near the A&N islands as it was transiting the Indian Ocean after carrying out Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in the South China Sea.
Petitions challenging minority status of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsees
- A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court, seeking a transfer of all pending petitions before various High Courts challenging the validity of the Centre’s 26-year-old notification declaring five communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees — as minorities.
- It urged for a transfer of the cases pending in the Delhi High Court, Meghalaya High Court and Gauhati High Court, which have challenged the constitutional validity of section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, under which the notification was issued on October 23, 1993.
- It said in order to avoid multiplicity of litigations and conflicting views, the plea has been moved before the Supreme Court.
- “Denial of minority rights to real minorities and arbitrary and irrational disbursement of minority benefits to majority infringes upon the fundamental right to the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth,” the plea said.
- Hindus, who are a majority community according to national data, are a minority in several north-eastern States and in Jammu and Kashmir.
- However, the Hindu community is deprived of the benefits that are available to the minority communities in these States and the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) should reconsider the definition of minority in this context.
- The plea has sought to declare section 2(c) of the NCM Act 1992 “void” and “inoperative” for being “arbitrary”, “unreasonable” and “offending“.
- The definition of “minority”, according to Article 29-30 of the Constitution, has left leakages in the hands of the state, which shall be misused and are being misused for political benefits, and the minority status be granted to Hindus in States where the number of the community members has decreased.
- The plea has sought the minority status for Hindus in six States and two Union Territories, where the number of the community members has fallen according to Census 2011.
- The petition has stated that according to the 2011 Census, Hindus are a minority in six States — Mizoram (2.75%), Nagaland (8.75%), Meghalaya (11.53%), Arunachal Pradesh (29%), Manipur (31.39%), Punjab (38.40%) — and in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir (28.44%) and Lakshadweep (2.5%).
- Christians are in majority in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland and there is a significant Christian population in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, but they are treated as a minority community.
- Sikhs are in majority in Punjab and there is a significant Sikh population in Delhi, Chandigarh and Haryana, but they are treated as a minority community.
- Muslims are a majority in Lakshadweep (96.20%), Jammu and Kashmir (68.30%) and there is a significant representation of the community in Assam (34.20%), West Bengal (27.5%), Kerala (26.60%), Uttar Pradesh (19.30%) and Bihar (18%).
- They are enjoying the “minority” status and communities, which are real minorities, are not getting their legitimate share, jeopardising their basic rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
Madan Lokur Panel To Prevent Stubble-burning
- The Supreme Court decided to “keep in abeyance” its pre-Dussehra order appointing former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B. Lokur to a one-man committee to monitor/prevent stubble-burning in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.
- The decision to put on hold its recent order came soon after Solicitor General informed a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde that the Centre had “proposed a legislation to tackle the problem” which occurs annually and chokes the Capital.
- The new law may come out in the next few days that proposed to have a permanent body to deal with stubble-burning.
- Recently, the court asked Justice Lokur with the help of student volunteer forces deployed from the National Cadet Corps, National Service Scheme and Bharat Scouts and Guides to protect Delhi NCR from air pollution caused by stubble-burning in neighbouring Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh this winter.
- The court had said the student forces could patrol highways and fields in the three States and ensure that no fires were started in the fields.
Un Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty To Enter Into Force
- The United Nations announced that 50 countries have ratified a UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons triggering its entry into force in 90 days.
- A move hailed by anti-nuclear activists but strongly opposed by the United States and the other major nuclear powers.
- 50th ratification from Honduras had been received.
- International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped spearhead the nuclear ban treaty.
- The 50 countries that ratify this Treaty are showing true leadership in setting a new international norm that nuclear weapons are not just immoral but illegal.
- The 50th ratification came on the 75th anniversary of the ratification of the UN Charter which officially established the United Nations and is celebrated as UN Day.
- The United States had written to treaty signatories saying the Trump administration believes they made a strategic error and urging them to rescind their ratification.
- The US letter, obtained by The Associated Press, said the five original nuclear powers — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — and America’s NATO allies stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions of the treaty.
- It says the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, known as the TPNW, turns back the clock on verification and disarmament and is dangerous to the half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of global nonproliferation efforts.
- The NPT sought to prevent the spread of nuclear arms beyond the five original weapons powers.
- It requires non-nuclear signatory nations to not pursue atomic weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five powers to move toward nuclear disarmament and to guarantee non-nuclear states’ access to peaceful nuclear technology for producing energy.
New species of Echinops found
- A Mumbai University M.Sc. (Botany) student is reported to have discovered a new species of Echinops Sahyadricus (English Common Name — Sahyadri Globe Thistle) from the Rajgad Fort in the Sahyadri mountains.
- Echinops is a genus of about 130 species of flowering plants found in tropical and north Africa, the Mediterranean basin and West Asia, extending eastwards to China and Japan.
- The highest number of taxa (76) are concentrated in the Iranian plateau. Five species are found in India including two in Maharashtra.
- The new species is unique because of the size of its composite inflorescence which measures up to 9 cm in diameter that is relatively large compared to other Echinops species found around the world.
- The species is endemic to Western Maharashtra and found only on a few open hilltops in the northern western ghats.
- It is named after the Sahyadri mountains.
- The new species is close to other Indian species called Echinops echinatus AKA Indian Globe thistle and one European species called Echinops sphaerocephalus.
- But it differs in size of inflorescence, types of whorls of spine-like Bracts around the floret and type of leaves surface.
- It grows vegetatively on open grassy slopes of mountains in four months of monsoon and blooms in November. Fruiting can be seen in December.
- The researchers said projects like road widening in the ghats and construction activities on forts could affect populations of this species and this should be protected at all costs.
Water on Moon
- The moon lacks the bodies of liquid water that are a hallmark of Earth
- but scientists said recently that lunar water is more widespread than previously known,
- with water molecules trapped within mineral grains on the surface and more water perhaps hidden in ice patches residing in permanent shadows.
- Water is a precious resource and a relatively plentiful lunar presence could prove important to future astronaut and robotic missions seeking to extract and utilize water for purposes such as a drinking supply or a fuel ingredient.
- Previous observations have suffered from ambiguity between water and its molecular cousin hydroxyl, but the new detection used a method that yielded unambiguous findings.
- The only way for this water to survive on the sunlit lunar surfaces where it was observed was to be embedded within mineral grains, protecting it from the frigid and foreboding environment.
- The researchers used data from the SOFIA airborne observatory, a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a telescope.
- The second study, focused upon so-called cold traps on the moon, regions of its surface that exist in a state of perpetual darkness where temperatures are below about negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 163 degrees Celsius).
- That is cold enough that frozen water can remain stable for billions of years.
- Using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, researchers of the University of Colorado, Boulder detected what may be tens of billions of small shadows, many no bigger than a small coin. Most are located in the polar regions.
- Another mystery that remains unsolved is the source of the lunar water.
Wrinkled ‘Super Pea’
- A type of pea known as the wrinkled ‘super pea’ may help control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, a new study claims.
- Researchers have found that the wrinkled peas prevent ‘sugar spikes’ where blood sugar levels rise sharply after a meal – thought to contribute to diabetes.
- Incorporating wrinkled peas into meals, either whole or ground into a pea flour, can help tackle the global type 2 diabetes epidemic by preventing these spikes.
- Wrinkled peas contain higher amounts of ‘resistant starch’ than regular smooth peas.
- Resistant starch takes longer for the body to break down compared with normal starch and ends up being fermented in the large intestine, rather than digested in the small intestine.
- Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar in the blood to become too high and is often linked with being overweight or inactive.
- There is much evidence that diets rich in a type of carbohydrate called resistant starch have a positive impact on controlling blood glucose levels, and hence reduce susceptibility to type 2 diabetes.’
- Starch is a word of Germanic origin related to ‘strengthen’ or ‘stiffen’ and is a form of energy storage in plants.
- Starch is a carbohydrate that the body breaks down to release sugar, but resistant starch is broken down more slowly.
- That means sugar from resistant starches are in turn released more slowly into the blood stream, resulting in a more stable increase in blood sugar rather than in a spike.
- A high amount of resistant starch is due to the way the starch is made in the cell, and the fact that the cells themselves are more resistant to digestion.
- Researchers used wrinkled ‘super’ peas with a naturally occurring genetic variant.
- This variant produces a greater amount of resistant starch, but a lower overall carbohydrate content.
- These starches are not completely digested in the upper parts of the digestive tract and are available for fermentation by bacteria in the colon.’
- As the bacteria ferment the starch, they produce compounds called short chain fatty acids.
- These compounds in turn help boost the function of cells that produce insulin, which helps control blood sugar.
Massive Underwater Coral ‘skyscraper’ Discovered
- A skyscraper-esque spire of detached coral discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef stands taller than the Empire State Building at 1,640 feet (500 metres) high.
- Researchers from the US and Australia mapped out the blade-like coral mount — the first to be discovered in some 120 years — off the coast of Cape York.
- Reefs form from the growth of successive generations of corals — first attached to rocks on the seafloor and later to the skeletons of their predecessors.
- They grow up until they reach the ideal depth beneath the sea surface — and over thousands of years can form vast structures as they adapt to changing sea levels.
- The scientists — who are working onboard the research vessel ‘Falkor’ — are presently undertaking a 12-month exploration of the ocean surrounding Australia.
- At its base, the blade-like reef is some 0.9 miles (1.5 kilometres) in width — and reaches up to just 131 feet below the sea surface.
- It joins the seven other tall detached reefs in the area — most of which were mapped in the late 1800s. These include the reef at Raine Island — the world’s most important green sea turtle nesting area.
- In April, researchers discovered the longest recorded sea creature — a 148 feet (45 metres) -long siphonophore, a creature related to the jellyfish, in Ningaloo Canyon — as well as 30 new species.
- In August, five previously undescribed species of black coral and sponges were uncovered by the team — who also recorded Australia’s first observation of rare scorpionfish in the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks.
- The maps created by the researchers on their voyages will be available through AusSeabed, a national Australian seabed mapping program, and will also contribute to the Nippon Foundation’s GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project.
New ‘super-white’ Paint
- Scientists have created a new super-white paint that reflects 95.5 percent of the sunlight that hits it.
- The new acrylic, developed at Perdue University, remains significantly cooler than the surrounding temperature in both daytime and at night.
- The team designed the paint with calcium carbonate fillers to minimize the amount of ultraviolet light the paint absorbs, instead of standard titanium dioxide particles.
- Researchers say and could be used to keep buildings cooler naturally, helping to lessen climate change caused by air-conditioning and other cooling technology.
- The new acrylic remained 10 degrees C below the surrounding temperature at night and at least 1.7 degrees C lower when the sun was at its peak.
- Other ‘heat-rejecting’ white paints only reflect about 80 to 90 percent of visible light and can’t achieve lower-than-ambient temperatures.
- The paint has many applications, including preventing outdoor telecommunications equipment from overheating.
Hydrogen Sulfide Helps Maintain Your Drive To Breathe
- Exposure to high levels of hydrogen sulfide can be toxic to mammalian health.
- However, hydrogen sulfide is produced in small quantities in the body by an enzyme called cystathionine beta-synthase (CBS) and is believed to act as a bioactive gas to regulate different body functions.
- CBS is located in both the brain and in peripheral systems including arteries, veins and kidneys.
- Production of hydrogen sulfide allows the regions of the brain that are responsible for controlling breathing patterns to function normally.
- Breathing normally requires cells located throughout the body to sense internal levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide and communicate this information to specific brain regions that control breathing rate and pattern.
- To determine how the different areas of the body are affected by hydrogen sulfide, researchers used different compounds to selectively block the production of hydrogen sulfide in the brain or in peripheral cells.
- Without hydrogen sulfide, the centers of the brain responsible for controlling breathing were not able to maintain the neural network to generate normal breathing pattern.
- These effects were specific to the brain, as inhibition of hydrogen sulfide in peripheral cells had no effect.
- Researchers can now begin to explore the potential role of hydrogen sulfide in disorders that affect breathing such as central sleep apnea or hyperventilation.
Alma Shows Volcanic Impact On Io’s Atmosphere
- Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanically active moon in our solar system.
- It hosts more than 400 active volcanoes, spewing out sulfur gases that give Io its yellow-white-orange-red colors when they freeze out on its surface.
- Although it is extremely thin — about a billion times thinner than Earth’s atmosphere — Io has an atmosphere that can teach us about Io’s volcanic activity and provide us a window into the exotic moon’s interior and what is happening below its colorful crust.
- Previous research has shown that Io’s atmosphere is dominated by sulfur dioxide gas, ultimately sourced from volcanic activity.
- To distinguish between the different processes that give rise to Io’s atmosphere, a team of astronomers used ALMA to make snapshots of the moon when it passed in and out of Jupiter’s shadow (they call this an “eclipse”).
- When Io passes into Jupiter’s shadow, and is out of direct sunlight, it is too cold for sulfur dioxide gas, and it condenses onto Io’s surface. During that time we can only see volcanically-sourced sulfur dioxide.
- The ALMA images also showed a third gas coming out of volcanoes: potassium chloride (KCl).
- This is strong evidence that the magma reservoirs are different under different volcanoes.
- Io is volcanically active due to a process called tidal heating. Io orbits Jupiter in an orbit that is not quite circular and, like our Moon always faces the same side of Earth, so does the same side of Io always face Jupiter.
- The gravitational pull of Jupiter’s other moons Europa and Ganymede causes tremendous amounts of internal friction and heat, giving rise to volcanoes such as Loki Patera, which spans more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) across.