Current Affairs Apr 26


Why in News?

  • The 19th edition of the Indian and French Navy bilateral exercise ‘VARUNA-2021’ is to be conducted in the Arabian Sea.
  • From the Indian Navy’s side, guided missile stealth destroyer INS Kolkata, guided missile frigates INS Tarkash and INS Talwar, Fleet Support Ship INS Deepak, with Seaking 42B and Chetak integral helicopters, a Kalvari class submarine and P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft, will participate in the exercise.
  • The French Navy will be represented by the Aircraft Carrier Charles-de-Gaulle with Rafale-M fighter, E2C Hawkeye aircrafts and helicopters Caïman M and Dauphin embarked, Horizon-class Air defense destroyer Chevalier Paul, Aquitaine-class multi-missions frigate FNS Provence with a Caïman M helicopter embarked and Command and supply ship Var.
  • The three day exercise will see high tempo-naval operations at sea, including advanced air defence and anti-submarine exercises, intense fixed and rotary wing flying operations, tactical manoeuvres, surface and anti-air weapon firings, underway replenishment and other maritime security operations.




Recycling Aluminium scraps

Why in News?

  • A team of Scientists has developed a cost-effective technology to recycle aluminum scraps efficiently minimizing material losses in the process, which can be used by small and medium scale industries.
  • Developed a technology system that could combine value added / non-value added and hazardous / non-hazardous wastes, aluminium alloys and assorted scraps for industrial applications and recycle them efficiently.
  • The technology was developed with support from the Advanced Manufacturing Technologies programme of the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
  • The developed technology can be used in tiny & cottage Industries, Small Scale Industries and MSME Aluminium foundries and recycling industries.

Conventional Technique

  • Conventional aluminium recycling techniques require high investment in processing and generate dangerous residues in form of ferrous (Fe), tin (Sn), lead (Pb) and burning of Mg in the crucible red hot.
  • The process also involves manual separation and sorting of magnesium alloys, ferrous alloys and high silicon alloys etc.
  • Moreover the separated magnesium is hazardous to the environment. Melting of these alloys are in the form of graded aluminium scraps. These industries sell the ingots based on chemical composition of the melt.

New Technique

  • The new technology increases the purity and quality of recycled aluminium melt.
  • The technology involves washing the basic inputs — assorted aluminium scraps (mixed), drying and preheating, removal of basic impurities in melting furnace, degassing in nitrogen atmosphere and addition of alloying elements in holding furnace, filtering (refining) and pouring the metal into the mold.
  • Three problems are addressed during the process.
  • Separation of iron and silicon materials, preventing the loss of magnesium and adding of other elements like chromium, strontium, zirconium and so on to improve the mechanical properties under the prescribed limits.
  • The conversion rate in the existing technology is 54% and with the new technology developed, the conversion rate has been increased by 70% to 80% depending on various cases of scraps dealt with.




China’s first Mars rover named ‘Zhurong’

  • China’s first Mars rover will be named Zhurong after a traditional fire god.
  • The rover is aboard the Tianwen-1 probe that arrived in Mars orbit on February 24 and is due to land in May to look for evidence of life.
  • It is part of Chinese space plans that include launching a crewed orbital station and landing a human on the moon. China in 2019 became the first country to land a space probe on the little-explored far side of the moon and in December returned lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.
  • The rover’s title fits with the Chinese name for Mars — “Huo Xing,” or fire star.
  • The top candidate for the landing site is Utopia Planitia, a rock-strewn plain where the U.S. lander Viking 2 touched down in 1976.
  • Tianwen-1’s goals include analysing and mapping the Martian surface and geology, looking for water ice and studying the climate and surface environment.
  • China would become the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to put a robot rover on Mars.




‘Creative’ genes gave Homo sapiens edge over Neanderthals

  • Researchers have discovered a series of creativity-linked genes that may have given Homo sapiens a significant edge over Neanderthals, enabling them to avoid extinction.
  • The findings suggest that these genes played “a fundamental role in the evolution of creativity, self-awareness and cooperative behaviour”.
  • Such genes were like “a secret weapon” that gave modern humans “a significant advantage over now-extinct hominids by fostering greater resilience to ageing, injury, and disease.
  • The experts identified 267 genes unique to humans, and through genetic markers, genetic expression data and AI-related MRI techniques, found they were related to creativity.
  • The scientists were able to identify the regions of the brain in which those genes (and those with which they interacted) were overexpressed. These regions are involved in human self-awareness and creativity, and include the regions that are strongly associated with human well-being and that appeared relatively recently.
  • Previously, the same team had identified a pool of 972 genes organised into three brain networks, the oldest — which relates to learning habits, social attachment and conflict resolution — dating back 40 million years.
  • The second network — which relates to intentional self-control — emerged 2 million years ago, while the newest, governing creative self-awareness, only emerged 100,000 years ago.




‘The Unicorn’

Why in News?

  • Scientists have discovered what may be the smallest-known black hole in the Milky Way galaxy and the closest to our solar system — an object so curious that they nicknamed it ‘the Unicorn.’
  • The black hole is roughly three times the mass of our sun, testing the lower limits of size for these extraordinarily dense objects that possess gravitational pulls so strong not even light can escape. A luminous star called a red giant orbits with the black hole in a so-called binary star system named V723 Mon.
  • The black hole is located about 1,500 light years — the distance light travels in a year, 9.5 trillion km — from Earth.
  • By way of comparison, the closest star to our solar system, Proxima Centauri, is 4 light years away.
  • Black holes like this one form when massive stars die and their cores collapse.
  • Nicknamed this black hole ‘the Unicorn’ partly because V723 Mon is in the Monoceros constellation — which translates to unicorn — and partly because it is a very unique system” in terms of the black hole’s mass and relative closeness to Earth.

There are three categories of black holes:

  1. The smallest, like ‘the Unicorn,’ are so-called stellar mass black holes formed by the gravitational collapse of a single star.
  2. There are gargantuan ‘supermassive’ black holes like the one at our galaxy’s center, 26,000 light years from Earth, which is four million times the sun’s mass.
  3. A few intermediate-mass black holes also have been found with masses somewhere in between.
  • ‘The Unicorn’ falls into what the researchers called a “mass gap” between the largest-known neutron stars – objects similarly formed by a large star’s collapse – at around 2.2 times the mass of our sun and what previously had been considered the smallest black holes at around five times the sun’s mass.
  • Its strong gravity alters the shape of its companion star in a phenomenon known as tidal distortion, making it elongated rather than spherical and causing its light to change as it moves along its orbital path. It was these effects on the companion star, observed using Earth-based and orbiting telescopes, that indicated the black hole’s presence.
  • Unlike some other black holes orbiting with a star, this one was not observed to be drawing material from its companion, which is 173 times more luminous than our sun.
  • The only smaller potential black hole is one with a mass 2.6 times that of our sun that was spotted in another galaxy.




KG-D6 block

  • Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) and BP announced the start of production from the Satellite Cluster gas field in block KG-D6 off the east coast, aiding the country’s gas production.
  • RIL and BP have been developing three deep-water gas developments in block KG-D6 — R-Cluster, Satellite Cluster and MJ — which together are expected to produce around 30 mmscmd (1 billion cubic feet a day) of natural gas by 2023, meeting up to 15% of India’s gas demand.
  • The developments will each utilise the existing hub infrastructure in the KG-D6 block.
  • RIL is the operator of the block with a 66.67% participating interest and BP holds a 33.33% participating interest.




Oxygen concentrators

  • It’s only a little bigger than a computer monitor, yet as cases surge and with oxygen cylinders in short supply across several states, the concentrator is among the most sought after devices for oxygen therapy, especially among patients in home isolation and for hospitals running out of oxygen.

How does it work?

  • An oxygen concentrator is a medical device that concentrates oxygen from ambient air. Atmospheric air has about 78 per cent nitrogen and 21 per cent oxygen, with other gases making up the remaining 1 per cent.
  • The oxygen concentrator takes in this air, filters it through a sieve, releases the nitrogen back into the air, and works on the remaining oxygen.
  • This oxygen, compressed and dispensed through a cannula, is 90-95 per cent pure. A pressure valve in concentrators helps regulate supply, ranging from 1-10 litres per minute.
  • According to a 2015 report by the WHO, concentrators are designed for continuous operation and can produce oxygen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for up to 5 years or more.
  • At 90-95 per cent purity, is the oxygen from concentrators pure enough?
  • While it is not as pure as LMO (99%), experts say it is good enough for mild and moderate Covid-19 patients with oxygen saturation levels of 85% or above. It is, however, not advisable for ICU patients.

How are concentrators different from oxygen cylinders and LMO?

  • Oxygen concentrators are the easiest alternatives to cylinders but can only supply 5-10 litres of oxygen per minute (critical patients may need 40-50 litres per minute) and are best suited for moderately ill patients.
  • Concentrators are portable and unlike LMO that needs to be stored and transported in cryogenic tankers, need no special temperature. And unlike cylinders that require refilling, concentrators only need a power source to draw in ambient air.




Oscars 2021

  • Chloé Zhao made history as the first woman of colour to win best director with Nomadland, while Anthony Hopkins and Frances McDormand won the top acting awards during a very strange Oscar ceremony.
  • Chadwick Boseman was the favourite to posthumously win best actor for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but Anthony Hopkins instead won for his role in The Father, in which he plays an elderly man with dementia. He also became the oldest-ever acting Oscar winner.
  • Frances McDormand, won her third Best Actress award for Nomadland.




Pink Supermoon

  • A pink supermoon is set to brighten the night skies over the UK next week, though there will not be any noticeable difference in colour, as the name might suggest.
  • The full moon in April is also known as the “pink moon” as it is named after pink flowers, known as phlox, which bloom in the springtime.
  • It is also a supermoon because the full moon will occur when it is near its closest point to the Earth in its orbit.
  • During this time, the Earth’s natural satellite will still appear about 14% bigger and 30% brighter.
  • A supermoon is the result of a full moon occurring when the moon is near its closest point to the Earth in its orbit. This can happen because the moon orbits the Earth on an elliptical path, rather than a circular one.




 Net Zero

What is net zero and why is it important?

  • The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C says ‘net zero’ is a state in which “human activities result in no net effect on the climate system”.
  • This will involve balancing all residual emissions with emission (CO2) removal. This will also involve accounting for regional or local bio-geophysical effects of human activities that affect local climate or surface albedo (light reflected by a surface).
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have raised the global average temperature by around 1°C from the pre-industrial era.
  • The consequences of driving this temperature rise onward are already severe and will be catastrophic.
  • The IPCC says the world must reach net zero emissions by 2050 for the increase in temperature to remain below 1.5°C.This target has become a new marker of climate ‘ambition’, with the world now divided into countries with net zero targets, and those without.

Is net zero possible? Is it viable?

  • Getting to net zero means we can still produce some emissions, as long as they are offset by processes that reduce GHGs already in the atmosphere. However, to meet the goal of net zero, new emissions of GHGs must be as low as possible.
  • Global net human-caused emissions of CO2would need to fall by 45 per cent by 2030 from the 2010 levels, and radically regenerate nature at the same time,reaching net zero around 2050.
  • Strictly speaking, this means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.
  • The IPCC 1.5°C report notes that effectiveness of techniques and technologies to remove CO2 from the air remains unproven at scale, and some may even carry significant risks for sustainable development.
  • Then there is the question of viability. It has two aspects. Firstly, it is important to note that climate change and biodiversity are the core planetary boundaries that have a profound impact on all others—any shift in the balance of these two bookends can compromise the resilience of Earth as a system.
  • Secondly, once we stop emitting GHGs from fossil fuels, we still need to offset the emissions already liberated in the atmosphere over the years.
  • That is the difference between zero and net zero. On its own, just reaching net zero in 2050 is not enough to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC. What will be required—at a planetary scale—is to reduce emissions by 7.6 per cent every year, between 2020 and 2030.
  • Thirdly, net zero is also intrinsically inequitable. Big polluters are setting net zero targets of 2050 for themselves. This will not do.
  • Given the fact that there is a huge and completely disproportionate difference in the emissions of the old-developed world and now newly developed China and the rest of the world, it would be logical to say that if the world needs to be net zero by 2050, then these countries needed to have already turned net zero or do so by 2030.
  • No later. Then it would provide space for countries like India—way below in the historical emissions and current emissions—to declare a net zero goal by 2050.