Why in News?
- Vajra Kavach removes the scourge of viral particles from equipment used by our Corona warriors.
- The disinfection system, developed by Mumbai-based startup Indra Water, removes any possible traces of the disease-causing SARS-Cov-2 virus from Personal Protective Equipment, N95 masks, coats, gloves and gowns.
- Enables reuse of PPEs and other materials used by healthcare workers.
- ‘Log reduction’ is a term used to signify the relative number of living microbes that are eliminated after a process such as disinfection.
- This is able to achieve a 1,00,000-fold reduction in the number of microorganisms; in scientific terms, tests showed 5 log (99.999%) reduction of viruses and bacteria.
Artificial Synaptic Network that Mimics Human Brain
Why in News?
- Scientists have fabricated a device that can mimic human brain cognitive actions and is more efficient than conventional techniques in emulating artificial intelligence, thus enhancing the computational speed and power consumption efficiency.
- AI can do much more such as facilitate self-driving autonomous vehicles, augmented reality for healthcare, drug discovery, big data handling, real-time pattern/image recognition, solving real-world problems, and so on.
- These can be realised with the help of a neuromorphic device which can mimic the human brain synapse to bring about brain-inspired efficient computing ability.
- The human brain comprises of nearly a hundred billion neurons consisting of axons and dendrites. These neurons massively interconnect with each other via axons and dendrites, forming colossal junctions called synapse.
- It is estimated that the brain consumes 20% of the total body energy. From the calory conversion (, it amounts to 20 watts. While the conventional computing platforms consume megawatts, i.e., 10 lakh watts of energy, to mimic basic human cognition.
- To overcome this bottleneck, a hardware-based solution involves an artificial synaptic device that, unlike transistors, could emulate the functions of human brain synapse.
- Scientists had long been trying to develop a synaptic device that can mimic complex psychological behaviors without the aid of external supporting (CMOS) circuits.
- To address this challenge, Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru devised a novel approach of fabricating an artificial synaptic network (ASN) resembling the biological neural network via a simple self-forming method (the device structure is formed by itself while heating).
- Aiming to develop a synaptic device for neuromorphic applications with a humble fabrication method, the JNCASR team explored a material system mimicking neuronal bodies and axonal network connectivity much like the biological system.
- In order to realize such a structure, they found that a self-forming process was easy, scalable, and cost-effective.
- Using programmed electrical signals as a real-world stimulus, this hierarchical structure emulated various learning activities such as short-term memory (STM), long-term memory (LTM), potentiation, depression, associative learning, interest-based learning, supervision, etc. impression of supervision.
- Synaptic fatigue due to excessive learning and its self-recovery was also mimicked. Remarkably, all these behaviors were emulated in a single material system without the aid of external CMOS circuits.
Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme
Why in News?
- The Department of Pharmaceuticals, with an objective to attain self-reliance and reduce import dependence in critical Bulk Drugs – Key Starting Materials (KSMs)/ Drug Intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs),
- Launched a Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for promotion of their domestic manufacturing by setting up greenfield plants
- With minimum domestic value addition in four different Target Segments (In Two Fermentation based – at least 90% and in Two Chemical Synthesis based – at least 70% ) with a total outlay of Rs.6,940 cr. for the period 2020-21 to 2029-30.
108 items to promote self-reliance & defence exports
Why in News?
- Ministry of Defence has approved a proposal of the Department of Military Affairs, Ministry of Defence (MoD) to notify the ‘Second Positive Indigenisation List’ of 108 items.
- This will give further boost to indigenisation with active participation of public and private sector for fulfilling the twin objectives of achieving self-reliance and promoting defence exports.
- All the 108 items will now be procured from indigenous sources as per provisions given in Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020.
- The second list (enclosed) lays special focus on weapons/systems which are currently under development/trials and are likely to translate into firm orders in the future.
- Like the first list, import substitution of ammunition which is a recurring requirement has been given special focus.
- The ‘Second Positive Indigenisation List’ comprises complex systems, sensors, simulator, weapons and ammunitions like Helicopters, Next Generation Corvettes, Air Borne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) systems, Tank Engines, Medium Power Radar for Mountains, MRSAM Weapon Systems and many more such items to fulfil the requirements of Indian Armed Forces.
- This second list is planned to be implemented progressively with effect from December 2021 to December 2025.
- In August 2020, the ‘First Positive Indigenisation’ List comprising 101 items was notified, in pursuance of Government’s endeavor of ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ and to boost indigenisation in the defence sector.
Why in News?
- Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar (IIT Ropar) in Punjab has developed a first-of-its-kind IoT device – AmbiTag that records real-time ambient temperature during the transportation of perishable products, vaccines and even body organs and blood.
- That recorded temperature further helps to know whether that particular item transported from anywhere in the world is still usable or perished because of temperature variation.
- This information is particularly critical for vaccines including Covid-19 vaccine, organs and blood transportation.
- AmbiTag continuously records the temperature of its immediate surroundings “from -40 to +80 degrees in any time zone for a full 90 days on a single charge.
- The device has been developed under Technology Innovation Hub – AWaDH (Agriculture and Water Technology Development Hub) and its Startup ScratchNest. AWaDH is a Govt of India project.
Horticulture Cluster Development Programme
Why in News?
- To ensure holistic growth of horticulture, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare launched the Horticulture Cluster Development Programme (CDP).
- In a pilot phase, the programme will be implemented in 12 horticulture clusters out of the total 53 clusters selected for the programme.
- A central sector programme implemented by the National Horticulture Board (NHB) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, CDP aims at growing and developing identified horticulture clusters to make them globally competitive.
- The programme is expected to converge with other initiatives of the Government such as the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund which is a medium – long term financing facility for investment in projects for post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets and will leverage the central sector scheme of the Ministry for Formation and Promotion of 10,000 Farmers Producer Organisations (FPOs).
World No Tobacco Day
- Every year, on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and global partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).
- The annual campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.
Theme for 2021
- The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2021 is on “Commit to quit.”
- Tobacco causes 8 million deaths every year.
- In India, over 1.3 million deaths are attributable to tobacco use every year amounting to 3500 deaths per day, imposing a lot of avoidable socio-economic burden.
‘India variant’ to be called ‘Delta’ in new WHO system
Why in News?
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended a set of names to label emerging coronavirus variants that are deemed to be of global concern.
- The variant first identified in India, technically known as B.1.617.2, can now be described as ‘Delta’ and the so called ‘UK variant’ as ‘Alpha’ .
- So far, four Variants of Concern (VOC) have been identified by the WHO: B.1.1.7, B.1.351, P2 and B.1.617.2. Their public labels will be Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta respectively, after the first four letters of the Greek alphabet.
- Other variants that too are known to be on the radar but less globally widespread and transmissible, or Variants of Interest, too had Greek names.
- A sublineage of the B.1.617 family is B.1.617.1 that was identified in India and now bears the popular label ‘Kappa.’
GDP shrinks by 7.3%
- India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 7.3% in 2020-21, as per provisional National Income estimates released by the National Statistical Office, marginally better than the 8% contraction in the economy projected earlier. GDP growth in 2019-20, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, was 4%.
- The Gross Value Added (GVA) in the economy shrank 6.2% in 2020-21, compared to a 4.1% rise in the previous year.
- Only two sectors bucked the trend of negative GVA growth — agriculture, forestry and fishing, which rose 3.6%, and electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services (up 1.9%).
- GDP had contracted 24.4% in the April to June 2020 quarter, followed by a 7.4% shrinkage in the second quarter. It had returned to positive territory in the September to December quarter with a marginal 0.5% growth.
- GVA from trade, hotels, transport, communication and broadcasting-related services recorded the sharpest decline of 18.2%, followed by construction (-8.6%), mining and quarrying (-8.5%) and manufacturing (-7.2%).
- With a lower contraction in GDP as well as GVA in 2020-21, the sharp recovery projected for 2021-22 by a number of agencies like the IMF at 12.5% and the RBI at 10.5% may have to be moderated.
- These projections were done prior to the impact of the second COVID wave.
- The combination of the second wave and the revised base effect may imply a lower GDP growth for the Indian economy for 2021-22, may be in the range of 9-9.5%.
High Vitamin D levels reduce COVID infection
Why in News?
- High Vitamin D levels reduce the risk of coronavirus infection, and administration of the vitamin in the infected patients considerably reduce mortality, says a study done by the doctors of Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS).
- Vitamin D is a potential immuno-modulator and its adjunctive role in the treatment of COVID-19 is established through the study.
- Improvement of Serum Vitamin D level to 80 to 100 Nanograms per MilliLitre (ng/ml) has significantly reduced the inflammatory markers of COVID 19 (N/L ratio, CRP, LDH, IL6, Ferritin) without any side effects.
- Vitamin D is known to enhance the production of various anti-microbial peptides by the immune cells and it also modulates the immune system apart from reducing the dysregulated production of self-damaging pro-inflammatory cytokines.
- The dynamic role of Vitamin D can be of immense value in the context of immune dysfunction observed in COVID-19 patients with cytokine storm and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Lacking Vitamin D levels
- Interestingly, 90% of Indians suffer from lack of sufficient Vitamin D in their bodies with the average presence being 13 to 15 ng/ml.
- Moreover, it is not sufficiently present in majority foods and the only source is sunlight between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and that too with constraints in absorption like pollution and age of the people.
China to allow couples to have third child
- China will for the first time allow couples to have a third child, , in a further relaxation of family planning rules five years after a “two-child policy” largely failed to boost birth rates.
- The change comes after the release of China’s once-in-a-decade population census that painted an alarming picture of declining births.
- China’s population was 1.41 billion in 2020, and increase of 72 million since the last census in 2010, reflecting a 5.38% growth in this period and a 0.53% annual growth.
- Forecasts say the population could peak in the next couple of years and most likely by 2025, when India will become the world’s most populous country.
- The census recorded 264 million in the age group of 60 and over, up 5.44% since 2010 and accounting for 18.70% of the population. Those in the 15-59 age group were 894 million persons, down by 6.79% since 2010 and accounting for 63.35% of the population. China’s workforce in the 15-59 age bracket peaked at 925 million in 2011.
- China introduced a “two child policy” in 2016, but the wide consensus is that it failed to have the desired impact.
Why in News?
- A species of frog lives in the rainforests of New Guinea that appears to be made from chocolate.
- It is called Litoria mira, inspired by the Latin adjective mirum, which means surprised or strange, stemming from the scientist’s surprise in discovering an undescribed member of the predominately Australian Litoria genus of tree frogs.
An Australian relative
- The Litoria mira has a well-known relative — the common green tree frog of Australia called Litoria cerulean. Except for the colour of their skins, the two seem alike.
- Litoria mira can be distinguished from all other Litoria by its unique combination of moderately large size, webbing on hand, relatively short and robust limbs, and small violet patch of skin on the edge of its eyes.
A link from the past
- The reason that the chocolate frog from New Guinea and the Australian green tree frog are similar is that Australia and New Guinea used to be linked by land for much of the late Tertiary period (2.6 million years ago), and share many biotic elements.
- The island of New Guinea is separated from the ‘horn’ of Queensland by the Torres Strait. New Guinea is dominated by rainforest, and northern Australia by the savannah.
Eighth Global Nitrogen Conference
- The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the main focus of the eighth triennial conference of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI).
- For the first time since the inception of INI two decades ago, its conference being hosted by Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt–UBA).
- Reactive nitrogen compounds like NOx, ammonia and the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide impact air, water and soil quality, health, biodiversity and climate change, among others. These compounds are lost from fertilisers, manures and sewage as well as from fuel burning in transport and industry.
- Assessing and managing them sustainably will be crucial to achieve the 17 UN SDGs targeted for 2030.
- Nitrous oxide has upto 300 times higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
- South Asia is one of the global hotspots for nitrogen pollution.
Pesticides leading cause of poisoning in India
- Pesticides are the leading cause of poisoning in India, with two in every three cases of poisoning happening because of pesticide consumption either intentionally or unintentionally.
- Researchers revealed that pesticides were the main case of poisoning, with an overall prevalence of 63 per cent due to widespread use of pesticides for agricultural and household activities.
- The prevalence of pesticide poisoning in the adult population was 65 per cent and 22 per cent in children.
- Other types of poisoning included corrosives, venoms, drugs and miscellaneous agents. The second most common cause of poisoning was miscellaneous agents, followed by drugs, venoms and corrosives.
- An analysis of the region-wise distribution of the prevalence of poisoning showed that it was the highest in north India at 79 per cent (more than three-fourths of the total cases of poisoning), followed by south India (65.9 per cent), central India (59.2 per cent), west India (53.1 per cent), north east India (46.9 per cent) and east India (38.5 per cent).
- The World Health Organization and its member countries initiated a programme of safe access of pesticides, which has resulted in a decrease in the prevalence of fatal poisoning by 10 per cent across the world.
- However, pesticides remain the leading cause of poisoning in south Asian countries including India and in south east Asia and China.