- Fossils found in New Zealand have led to the discovery of a previously unidentified species of extinct monk seal, which biologists say is the biggest breakthrough in seal evolution in seven decades.
- The animal – named Eomonachus belegaerensis – was named after a sea in JRR Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings, and has radically changed scientists’ understanding of how seal species have evolved around the world.
- Eomonachus belegaerensis lived in the waters around New Zealand some three million years ago, and was 2.5 metres in length and weighed around 200-250kg.
- Until now, we thought that all true seals originated in the northern hemisphere, and then crossed the equator just once or twice during their entire evolutionary history.
- Instead, many of them appear to have evolved in the southern Pacific, and then criss-crossed the equator up to eight times.
- The equator usually acts as a barrier for marine animals crossing, as the waters are so warm, so the discovery that seals crossed numerous times over their evolutionary history is significant.
- It was previously thought that all true seals originated in the north Atlantic, with some later crossing the equator to live as far south as Antarctica.
- Eomonachus shows that many ancient seals, including the ancestors of today’s monk, elephant and Antarctic seals, actually evolved in the southern hemisphere.
INDIA’s m-RNA Vaccine
- India’s very own m-RNA (messenger-RNA) vaccine could be ready by March.
- Pune-based Gennova Biopharmaceutical’s novel m-RNA vaccine candidate was approved for funding as early as July by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
- However, being a biological product that requires genetic manipulation, it needs to be cleared by the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), a DBT body, before it can approach the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for human trials.
- Recently, Pfizer-BioNTECH, announced in a news release that their m-RNA vaccine candidate had shown “90% protection” in a sample of volunteers who were part of an ongoing Phase-3 trial.
- An m-RNA or simply “RNA vaccine” uses the genetic sequence of a portion of the virus that can be injected into the body.
- Once taken in by the body’s cells, the hope is that it makes an antigen to which the immunity machinery can manufacture antibodies.
- In this way, the adverse reactions that can result from the traditional approach of introducing an actual virus, or a piece of it, can be avoided.
- Another advantage of m-RNA vaccines is that they can be made in large quantities quicker than traditional vaccines as they don’t need to be cultured in chicken or mammalian cells.
- A challenge, as outlined by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, is storage.
- M-RNA vaccines require extremely cold temperatures (less than minus 50 degrees C) that make them challenging to distribute in most of the world.
20th Summit Of SCO of Heads Of State
- The Meeting was chaired by the President of the Russian Federation Mr. Vladimir Putin. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi led the Indian delegation. Other SCO Member States were represented by their Presidents, while India and Pakistan were represented at the level of Prime Minister.
- This was the first SCO Summit held in Virtual Format and third meeting that India participated after becoming a full member in 2017.
- Prime Minister, in his address, highlighted the imperative of a reformed multilateralism to meet the expectation of a world suffering from the social and financial after-effects of the pandemic.
- India, as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, beginning from 1 January 2021, will focus on the theme of ‘reformed multilateralism’ to bring about desirable changes in global governance.
- PM reiterated India’s firm belief in regional peace, security and prosperity and raising voice against terrorism, smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs and money-laundering.
- Underlined India’s strong cultural and historical connect with the SCO region and reiterated India’s firm commitment towards strengthening connectivity in the region with initiatives like International North-South Transport Corridor, Chabahar Port and Ashgabat Agreement.
- He also extended full support to observing the 20th anniversary of SCO in 2021 as the “SCO Year of Culture”.
- India’s own initiatives to hold the first SCO exhibition on Shared Buddhist Heritage to be organized by National Museum of India, SCO Food Festival in India next year and the translation of Ten regional language literary works into Russian and Chinese.
- Expressed India’s readiness to host the next regular Meeting of SCO Council of Heads of Government on November 30, 2020 .
- India has also proposed to set up a Special Working Group on Innovation and Startups and a Sub Group on Traditional Medicine within SCO.
- In an indirect reference to the Chinese infrastructure projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to respect “territorial integrity” and “sovereignty”.
- Prime Minister congratulated President Emomali Rahmon of the Republic of Tajikistan for assuming the chairmanship of SCO next year.
Hospital Management Information System(“HMIS”)
- Indian Railways with the objective of bringing hospital management on a single architecture to prevent pilferage and making operations seamless
- Has entrusted RailTel Corporation of India Limited (“RailTel”) .
- With implementation of hospital management information system (“HMIS”) .
- An integrated clinical information system for its 125 health facilities and 650 polyclinics across India.
- For improved hospital administration and patient healthcare.
- The features of the software extend from –
- Customizing clinical data according to the departments and laboratories,
- multi hospital feature that provide cross consultation,
- seamless interface with medical and other equipment’s and
- the patients will have the benefit of accessing all their medical records on their mobile device.
- The HMIS platform will be connected to the Unique Medical Identity System.
Medical Equipment’s & Aids Catering To Doctors
- Several start-ups supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) are showing the way with stethoscopes that doctors can use without touching the patient, oxygen concentrator that can help the hospitals generate their in-house oxygen and portable and app-controlled IoT (Internet of Things) based ventilator system.
- Department of Science and Technology (DST) through its Centre for Augmenting WAR with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH) initiative
- scouted, evaluated and supported promising ventilator, respiratory aids and other vital medical equipment from 5 companies who have now taken their products to Ayu Devices incubated at Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), IIT Bombay in 2017 has developed a digital stethoscope that can help doctors listen to heart and lungs sounds while keeping at a safe distance from the patients. It is designed as a wireless module to enhance the bluetooth range and help it to be controlled from a distance.
- A portable Oxygen Concentrator by Ambala-based WALNUT MEDICAL helps hospitals generate oxygen in-house. It is an intelligent closed loop system which monitors oxygen level and gives enough oxygen to the patient as per the patient need. This is the first oxygen concentrator made in India and is fitted with automated oxygen flow technology which will prevent patient suffering from hyperoxia deployment stage.
- Pune-based Nocca Robotics has developed a ventilator which operates in both invasive and noninvasive, pressure-controlled mode and solar powered with low wattage requirement. It works with medical airline and oxygen as well as ambient air and oxygen and has App based control and IoT enabled system.
- A smart ventilation system has been offered by Hyderabad based Aerobiosys Technologies. It is portable, cost-effective, IoT-enabled and powered by lithium ion batteries. It operates uninterrupted for 5 hours and is both invasive and non-invasive, with a smartphone app to control the device. The system displays a real-time information of the breath pattern and other critical lung parameters. It can attach to an oxygen cylinder and can operate on its own in ambient air
- Catering to heat diseases, Pune-based Jeevtronics has developed a device called defibrillator that restores normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse or shock to the heart. It is used to prevent or correct an arrhythmia, a heartbeat that is uneven or that is too slow or too fast. They have developed dual powered defibrillator (grid + hand cranked), as well a battery less defibrillator for sudden cardiac arrest.
- SINE, IIT Bombay is the implementation partner for the CAWACH program.
- Other eight incubation centers from different zones of India and the Indian STEPs and Incubators Association participated in call for applications, review and the selection process.
- CAWACH Program has been steered by National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB) of DST.
Indian Astronomers Contributed Significantly For Thirty Meter Telescope
- Indian astronomers had worked closely with 2020 Physics Nobel laureate Prof. Andrea Ghez on the design of back-end instruments and possible science prospects of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project being installed at Maunakea in Hawaii, which can revolutionize the understanding of the universe and the enigmas in it.
- Besides his remarkable contribution in the discovery of a super massive compact object at the center of galaxy along with Roger Penrose and Reinhard Genzel for which they shared the Nobel prize in physics,
- Ghez was deeply involved in the development of the related instrumentation and possible science prospects for the TMT, the next-generation observatory.
- The Thirty-meter telescope (TMT) project is an international partnership between CalTech, Universities of California, Canada, Japan, China and India through the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
- It seeks to advance scientific knowledge while fostering connection among the partner countries and their citizens, is expected to provide facilities with even greater capabilities to gather the observations needed to answer new and emerging questions in astronomy and physics in general.
- Some of the Indian astronomers like
- Dr. Annapurni Subramanium, Director of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) and
- Dr. Shashi Bhushan Pandey, a scientist at Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES)
- along with many others collaborated with Ghez in the ongoing research and developmental activities of the TMT project.
- It had resulted in two significant papers, among many others.
- The scientific prospects and simulations by the first generation instrument for the TMT called the Infrared Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), were described in one of the SPIE proceedings in 2016.
- The latest end-to-end data simulator on solar system bodies, the galactic center, energetic transient objects, active galactic nuclei, and distant gravitationally-lensed galaxies were used.
- It showed the capabilities of IRIS/TMT to continue front-line scientific research in the near future to understand the nature of the supermassive compact object at the center of the galaxy and many more new aspects to discover “unknown-unknowns”.
- The scientists highlighted the necessity of an advanced data management system and data reduction pipeline.
New Peace Deal Between Armenia And Azerbaijan
- Recently, Russia brokered a new peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the two countries that have been in a military conflict for over six weeks over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus.
- The deal, which is meant to end the conflict between the two nations, was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev and Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan.
- Since the conflict started in September, multiple ceasefire agreements have been signed between the two sides, but none so far have been successful.
So, what is the new peace deal?
- As per the new peace deal, both sides will now maintain positions in the areas that they currently hold, which will mean a significant gain for Azerbaijan as it has reclaimed over 15-20 per cent of its lost territory during the recent conflict.
- Further, under this agreement, all military operations are suspended, Russian peacekeepers will be deployed along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor that connects the region to Armenia.
- These Russian peacekeepers with a force of roughly 2,000 will be deployed in the area for a period of five years.
- Refugees and internally displaced persons will return to the region and the adjacent territories and the two sides will also exchange prisoners of wars and bodies.
- Significantly, a new corridor will be opened from Nakhchivan to Azerbaijan, which will be under Russian control.
What are the stakes for Russia?
- Russia’s role in the conflict has been somewhat opaque since it supplies arms to both countries and is in a military alliance with Armenia called the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
What is the Nagorno-Karabakh region?
- Straddling western Asia and Eastern Europe, Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but most of the region is controlled by Armenian separatists.
- Nagorno-Karabakh has been part of Azerbaijan territory since the Soviet era.
- When the Soviet Union began to collapse in the late 1980s, Armenia’s regional parliament voted for the region’s transfer to Armenia; the Soviet authorities turned down the demand.
- Years of clashes followed between Azerbaijan forces and Armenian separatists
- In 1994, Russia brokered a ceasefire, by which time ethnic Armenians had taken control of the region.
- While the area remains in Azerbaijan, it is today governed by separatist Armenians who have declared it a republic called the “Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast”.
- While the Armenian government does not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as independent, it supports the region politically and militarily.
- Have there been other ceasefire agreements?
- Even after the 1994 peace deal, the region has been marked by regular exchanges of fire. In 2016, it saw a Four-Day War before Russia mediated peace.
- The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, chaired by France, Russia and the US, has tried to get the two countries to reach a peace agreement for several years.
- This October, both countries agreed to a ceasefire agreement, which was also brokered by Russia but was unsuccessful.
What is the role of ethnicity in the conflict between the two countries?
- Ethnic tensions from decades ago have a crucial role in the dispute.
- While the Azeris claim that the disputed region was under their control in known history, Armenians maintain that Karabakh was a part of the Armenian kingdom.
- At present, the disputed region consists of a majority Armenian Christian population, even though it is internationally recognised as a part of Muslim-majority Azerbaijan.
- A large asteroid, which was expected to pass extremely close to Earth, may now hit the blue planet in 2068 due to a phenomenon called Yarkovsky effect.
- This effect has eventually accelerated the asteroid’s flow and also changed its path.
- Astronomers, closely studying the asteroid, believe that the chances of an impact on Earth are very low, but it is still a possibility. They “will know well before 2068 if there is any chance of an impact”.
- Discovered in 2004, asteroid Apophis is a 1,120-foot-wide (340-meter-wide) asteroid.
- That’s about the size of three-and-a-half football fields, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.
- The sun can heat an asteroid in a non-uniform way, causing the space rock to radiate heat energy asymmetrically. This can cause a thrust or a tiny push in a certain direction, sometimes changing the path of the asteroid.
- All asteroids need to reradiate as heat the energy they absorb from sunlight in order to maintain thermal equilibrium, a process that slightly changes the orbit of the asteroid.
- As per the new calculations by astronomers, asteroid Apophis, which will also be extremely close to Earth on April 13, 2029, is deviating from its actual orbit and may crash into Earth in 2028.
- Asteroid Apophis, named after the Greek God of Chaos, is expected to harmlessly zip past Earth on April 13, 2029.
- According to NASA, during its 2029 flyby, “asteroid Apophis will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere”. It will look like “a speck of light moving from east to west over Australia.”
Stranded Indian Merchant Ship At China’s Jingtang Port
- China has cited COVID-19 regulations for denying departure to a stranded Indian merchant ship loaded with Australian coal.
- The ship named Jag Anand been awaiting anchorage at the Chinese port Jingtang near Tangshan in China’s Hebei province since June this year.
- 23 crew members are stuck on the ship and most of them have exceeded their limit of 11 months to stay on board and are eligible for repatriation.
Port of Jingtang
- The Port of Jingtang is an artificial deep-water international seaport on the coast of Tangshan Municipality, Hebei, in Northern China.
- Jingtang port is located in Bohai bay (Bohai sea) close to the port of Tianjin.
- It is part of the Tangshan port complex, which consists of Jingtang, Caofedian and Fengnan ports. Combined, they constitute the 9th largest port in China.
- Jingtang port is separately but considered along with Caofedian and Fengnan as Tangshan port for statistical purposes.
- The Port of Tangshan is one of the fastest growing ports in the world and is counted among the ten largest ports of China.
National Agricultural Education Policy
- The first National Agricultural Education Policy is set to bring academic credit banks and degree programmes with multiple entry and exit options to the 74 universities focussed on crop sciences, fisheries, veterinary and dairy training and research.
- A six-member committee of Vice-Chancellors has been asked to submit a draft policy document to the Agriculture Ministry next month.
- The process started about two months ago, after the release of the National Education Policy.
- The NEP wants a shift to four-year undergraduate degrees, and all agricultural degrees are already four-year programmes.
- Similarly, the NEP mentions experiential education, and they have already mandated that since 2016.
- The Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) programme requires all students to undertake a six-month internship, usually in their fourth year, to gain hands-on training, rural awareness, industry experience, research expertise and entrepreneurship skills.
- One major challenge is how to ensure that this experiential learning is made available to all students if we implement the multiple entry-exit system.
- Even if a student leaves after two or three years, even with a diploma, he should not miss out on it.
- The Deans Committee, which is responsible for creating consensus on changes in the undergraduate curriculum about once in 10 years, is likely to be called to meet in three to four months to ensure that such adaptations are possible.
- Adoption of academic credit banks may also require some tweaking of curriculum requirements.
- Another major challenge for agricultural universities could be the push for multi-disciplinarity.
- In recent years, several domain specific universities in horticulture, veterinary science and fisheries sciences have come up. How to incorporate humanities and social sciences into these settings, that could be a big challenge.
- Though agricultural education is a State subject, the ICAR is responsible for the quality of education across the country, and expects to continue in a standards-setting role under the new system of higher education regulation proposed by the NEP.
However, it is not clear whether it will continue in its accreditation and grant making roles under the new regime
CCI Orders Probe Against Google
- The Competition Commission of India (CCI) ordered an investigation into allegations of abuse of dominance against Google.
- The investigation will look into two of several allegations made in a complaint filed in February by an unnamed informant related to
- exclusive use of Google Pay (GPay) for buying apps and in-app purchases (IAPs) via the Play Store and
- pre-installation and prominence of Google Pay on Android The complaint alleges that Google, through its control over the Play Store and the Android operating system (OS), favours Google Pay over competing apps. This amounts to abuse of its dominant position by Google.
- The company said numerous distribution channels exist for apps on the Android platform and that Play is not the only option for the OS.
- Users choose Google Play because we ensure a safe, secure, and seamless experience.
- The firm also faces antitrust proceedings in the US for its alleged abuse of dominance in the search and search advertising market, along with the European Commission flagging concerns against its mandatory payment system in the Play Store while investigating a similar complaint against Apple.
- The “mandatory use of application store’s payment system for paid apps and in-app purchases restricts the choice available to the app developers to select a payment processing system of their choice,” CCI said.
- On preferential treatment for Google Pay, the commission said the “conduct of Google amounts to imposition of unfair and discriminatory conditions, denial of market access for competing apps of Google Pay and leveraging on the part of Google.”
- The condition that only Google Pay can be used in the Play Store gave it control over significant payment volume, which in turn was being leveraged to impose an “allegedly” high commission fee of 30% on all such payments (15% in certain cases.
- Such a fee would put developers at a disadvantage as raising their prices to offset these costs could affect user experience and choice, the CCI said.
- Google recently postponed its decision to apply a 30% fee across the Play Store after the move led to a backlash from Indian app developers.
- According to the CCI informant, the pre-installation of Google’s payment app would drive the users to exclusively use Google Pay instead of looking for alternatives due to a “status quo bias.”
- National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) recent move to put a cap on the market share, it is also intended to limit abuse of dominance and so it indicates that CCI and other regulators are looking at these issues seriously
Uttarakhand’s Dharchula Region
- About 45 km from the new Kailash Mansarovar road, connecting Dharchula in Uttarakhand to Lipu Lekh on the China border,
- Scientists at Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology have unearthed large concentrations of micro and moderate magnitude earthquakes in the Dharchula region and adjoining areas of Kumaon Himalaya
- Due to stress in the region and explored the geological structure behind it.
- Scientists say these large concentrations of earthquakes are “release of stress’’ building up in the region and that in the near future, there is likelihood of an earthquake of high magnitude in the region.
- Apart from the Kangra earthquake in 1905 and Bihar-Nepal earthquake in 1934, this region has not experienced an earthquake of magnitude greater than 8.0 in the last 500 years, and hence the region is known as the Central Seismic Gap (CSG) region.
- A gap is a term used to denote an area with little tectonic activity.
- This, despite the Himalayas being one of the most tectonically active regions in the country.
- However, the Kumaon Central Himalayan, which belongs to this CSG region, is one of the most seismically active regions of the Himalayan belt that experienced a considerable number of moderate and strong earthquakes in the recent past.
- The Dharchula region falls between two knee-like structures, which traps the stress in this region.
- This is the reason why there have been crowded earthquakes here within a span of years, numerous smaller earthquakes have occurred here and the stress keeps building up.
- For the stress to be finally released, there is a strong possibility that a high magnitude earthquake of 8 on the richter scale may occur, unlike in other areas where earthquakes are scattered.
- In a rare find, scientists have identified a new species of primate, a lithe tree-dweller living in the forests of central Myanmar with a mask-like face framed by a shock of unruly grey hair.
- The Popa langur — named for an extinct volcano home to its largest population, some 100 individuals — has been around for at least a million years
- But with only 200 to 250 left in the wild today, experts will recommend that the leaf-eating species be classified as “critically endangered”.
- The lithe monkey with chalk-white rings around its eyes is threatened by hunting and habitat loss.
- The first evidence of the new species was found not in the wild but the backrooms of the London Natural History Museum, where genetic analysis revealed that specimens gathered more than a century ago when Burma was a British colony were something new.
- Trachypithecus popa, or T. popa for short, has a grey-brownish and white belly, with black hands and wrists that look a bit like gloves. Its agile tail — at nearly a metre — is longer than its body, with the creature weighing about eight kilograms.
- There are more than 20 species of langur in the world, several of them critically endangered.
- At least two dozen primates have been discovered since the beginning of the century, many through genetic analysis revealing that species similar in appearance were in fact distinct.
- Primates are divided into two suborders. Strepsirrhines — from the Greek for twisted-nose — includes lemurs and lorisids.
- The second suborder, haplorhines, or “dry-nosed” primates, includes the tarsier, apes and langurs.
Nepal President uveils Pictorial Anthology on Mahatma Gandhi
- A pictorial anthology on Mahatma Gandhi in the Nepali language was released by President Bidya Devi Bhandari to mark his 151st birth anniversary and bring the Nepalese youth closer to the revered global peace icon.
- The book titled Maile Bujheko Gandhi or the Gandhi as I understood, was released at a special function at Rashtrapati Bhawan in Kathmandu in the presence of Ambassador of India to Nepal.
- It was released to celebrate the 151st birth anniversary of the Father of Indian Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, and to mark the culmination of the two-year-long celebrations of ‘150 years of Mahatma’.
- The book has been published by the Embassy of India along with the B P Koirala India-Nepal Foundation to “cherish the values of the Mahatma’s universal teachings with our Nepali friends.
Catastrophic Food Crisis
- The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has pulled food systems apart, threatening food security and nutrition. At least 690 million people went hungry in 2019, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, 2020. Now, the pandemic could tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020, according to the report.
- Taking cognisance of the catastrophic food crisis and the urgency to tackle it, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations launched a Food Coalition on November 5, 2020.
- FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu virtually inaugurated it along with the Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Carola Schouten.
- The two countries have already pledged and delivered financial resources and technical support to the coalition. Italy has supported the alliance with an initial contribution of $1.2 million.
- Proposed by Italy and led by FAO, the global alliance aims to help countries get back on track to achieve the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, especially the ones on ending hunger and poverty.
- More than 30 countries have already expressed interest in joining the coalition.
- Global food prices continued to rise in October for the fifth successive month, according to the FAO Food Price Index.
- Even though the forecast for global cereal production was low, the output for 2020 was still expected to reach an all-time high.
- Working of the Food Coalition
- COVID-19 could add up to 132 million more people to the ranks of the world’s undernourished in 2020 — a grave challenge that the pandemic poses to the eradication of hunger by 2030.
- The Food Coalition would work towards:
- Mobilising resources, expertise and innovation
- Advocating for a joint and coordinated COVID-19 response
- Promoting dialogue and exchange of knowledge and expertise among countries
- Working towards solution-oriented plans and programmes
Govt Brings Online News, Streaming Platforms Under I & B Ministry
- The government has brought films, audiovisuals, news and current affairs content on online platforms under the domain of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
- According to a notification issued by the Cabinet Secretariat , content made available by online providers such as Netflix will also come under the Ministry.
- The notification, signed by President Ram Nath Kovind, said the decision has been taken in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (3) of article 77 of the Constitution, by amending the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 and it will come into effect immediately.
- nding international cooperation and partnership for a longer term impact
- With this, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has the power to regulate policies related to news, audio, visual contents and films available on online platforms.
- These rules may be called the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Three Hundred and Fifty Seventh Amendment Rules, 2020. They shall come into force at once.
Plasma Treatment Destroys Covid-19 On Surfaces Within 30 Seconds
- Researchers from the University of California carried out a study to prove that plasma treatment could be a breakthrough in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
- The study showed that strains of the novel coronavirus on surfaces like metal, leather, and plastic were killed in as little as 30 seconds of treatment with argon-fed, cold atmospheric plasma.
- For the experiment, the researchers employed an atmospheric pressure plasma jet they built with a 3D printer to spray surfaces that were treated with SARS-CoV-2 cultures.
- The surfaces included plastic, metal, cardboard, and basketball, football, and baseball leather.
- They observed that the spray using plasma fed by argon killed all the coronavirus on the six surfaces in less than three minutes. Most of the virus was destroyed after 30 seconds.
- Further examinations showed the virus was destroyed in similar times on cotton from face masks.
- The researchers carried the same experiment using helium-fed plasma, but the helium was not effective, even with treatments up to five minutes.
- The authors believe this was due to lower rates of reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen when using helium-fed gas, compared to argon.
Winter session of Maharashtra legislature to be held in Mumbai
- Considering the Covid pandemic situation in Maharashtra, it has been decided on by the business advisory committee of the State Legislature to hold the winter session in Mumbai.
- Since the formation of Maharashtra state in 1960 it is probably for the first time that the session is being held in Mumbai. Traditionally the session has been held in Nagpur.
- The Nagpur pact inked on 28 September 1953, which resulted in the creation of the Maharashtra state.
- Parts of old Bombay Presidency, Vidarbha, which used to be under the rule Nizam of Hyderabad were also amalgamated to form the state.
- The pact led Nagpur losing its capital position to Mumbai.
- However, it was decided to hold one session of the State Legislature in Nagpur so that demands of the local population could be fulfilled.
6 key questions about the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
How safe is the vaccine?
- The companies have said that no “serious safety concerns” have emerged so far, but they will continue to collect data.
- There are some side-effects – like a sore arm or fever – that are quite common with vaccinations.
- Given this is a brand-new type of vaccine – one which uses technology called mRNA that hasn’t until now been approved for use in humans – it is not impossible that someone could be allergic to a component of it.
Can the vaccine prevent severe disease?
- The study is designed to detect whether the vaccine can protect against severe Covid-19 disease, but data has not yet been made public.
- The vaccine stopped clinic symptomatic infection, but there is uncertainty over asymptomatic infection.
Does the vaccine prevent transmission?
- It is not yet clear whether or not the vaccine could protect against coronavirus infection or simply against developing symptoms once you are infected.
- If it’s stopping infection then, by definition, it should be stopping transmission from one person to another.
- Does the vaccine work with older people and children?
- Children above the age of 12 and adults aged up to 85 are included in the trial but data broken down by age has not yet been released.
- Most vaccines do not work as well in older people, as they do in younger people. This is is not surprising as older people don’t always mount an effective immune response to a natural infection either.
- So, it wouldn’t be surprising if elderly people didn’t respond as effectively as younger people to this vaccine.
Why doesn’t it work for 10% of people?
- The vaccine will act on different people differently.
- So one often get different rates of response within populations — it could be that they were all more elderly, or it could be they are from a different racial background, or it could just be that this thing only works nine times out of 10.
How long does protection last?
- The 90% effectiveness rate was calculated seven days after the second shot, but these results are likely to change as data is collected over the longer term.
- Generally, to ascertain how long protection lasts, follow up studies will be required to detect levels of both types of immune responses – antibody and T cell – as well any repeated exposure risks.
Mara River fish
- Fish are being driven to extinction in the Mara River basin, putting the livelihoods of more than a million people in Kenya and Tanzania in jeopardy, according to WWF.
- A report by the wildlife NGO details how farming, deforestation, mining, illegal fishing and invasive species could sound a death knell for the transboundary river.
- The first stocktake of biodiversity in the river basin identified 473 native freshwater species including four mammals, 88 waterbirds, 126 freshwater associated birds, four reptiles, 20 amphibians, 40 fishes, 50 invertebrate species and 141 vascular plants.
- At least 10 species – equivalent to 2% of total species – are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature list of threatened species.
- Three – the ningu, singida and Victoria tilapia – are “critically endangered”, threatened by the introduction of non-native fish such as the Nile perch.
- The grey-crowned crane, Madagascar pond-heron and the killifish are “endangered” while the shoebill, and some crab and freshwater mussel species, are listed as “vulnerable”.
- Health of the Mara River system was an indicator of how well the rest of the ecosystem is faring.
- When something goes wrong with the environment, it is the small species in the water that get affected first.
- The Mara basin (65% of which is in Kenya and 35% in Tanzania) covers 13,750 sq km (5,309 sq miles) and is home to the highest density of large herbivores on Earth.
- The area is known globally for the annual wildebeest and zebra migration, which brings in millions of dollars in tourism.
- The Mara River is key to this spectacle, as it is the only source of water during the dry season and the only habitat for the Nile crocodiles that play predatory roles during the migration.
- While the river’s flow has been erratic in recent years, human activities such as high levels of water abstraction for agriculture, hydroelectricity and tourism have been catalysts for rapid degradation.
- The increased demand for arable land has led to the deforestation of a large section of the Mau forest in Kenya, the source of the Mara River.
- Farming, including unsustainable grazing, is causing upstream soil erosion and downstream sediment, decreasing fish spawning sites and clogging their gills.
- Sediment that runs off agricultural land can carry nutrients and pesticides. In the headwater catchments of the Mara, such runoff has discharged directly into streams, and has resulted in increased nitrate concentrations and a decline in macro-invertebrate diversity.
- A number of small-scale goldmines in the region are responsible for high levels of heavy metal deposits that can endanger human and fish life.
Que- India recently gifted 20 fully trained military horses and 10 mine detection dogs to which countries Army?
- Afghanistan Ans- (2)