Current Affairs Jun 18

Reducing Road Accident Deaths by 50%

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Road Transport & Highways said that the Government’s target is to reduce road accident deaths by 50% by year 2024.
  • Need for identification of ‘black spot’ in every state, district and city.
  • The World Bank and ADB have already sanctioned a scheme by which the Government is allocating Rs.14,000 crores for states, NHAI and other stakeholders to remove black spots.
  • By restructuring and strengthening four ‘E’ of road safety, that are, Engineering (including road and automobile engineering), Economy, Enforcement and Education.
  • The Ministry pointed out that 50% of the road accidents are due to road engineering problems and now the government has taken special initiatives to improve the black spot. This will greatly contribute towards the vision of ‘zero road accident’ in India.
  • Soon an independent road safety council, headed by a retired IAS officer would come into force.




Space-time induces neutrino oscillations

Why in News?

  • Scientists have shown that the geometry of space-time can cause neutrinos to oscillate.
  • Neutrinos are mysterious particles, produced copiously in nuclear reactions in the Sun, stars, and elsewhere. They also “oscillate”– meaning that different types of neutrinos change into one another – as has been found in many experiments.
  • Probing of oscillations of neutrinos and their relations with mass are crucial in studying the origin of the universe.


  • Neutrinos interact very weakly with everything else – trillions of them pass through every human being every second without anyone noticing; a neutrino’s spin always points in the opposite direction of its motion, and until a few years ago, neutrinos were believed to be massless.
  • It is now generally believed that the phenomenon of neutrino oscillations require neutrinos to have tiny masses.
  • Professor Amitabha Lahiri of S N Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences (SNBNCBS) shows that the geometry of space-time can cause neutrino oscillations through quantum effects even if neutrinos are massless.
  • Einstein’s theory of general relativity says that gravitation is the manifestation of space-time curvature.
  • According to the SNBNCBS team, neutrinos, electrons, protons and other particles which are in the category of fermions show a certain peculiarity when they move in presence of gravity.
  • Space-time induces a quantum force in addition to gravity between every two fermions.
  • This force can depend on the spin of the particles, and causes massless neutrinos to appear massive when they pass through matter, like the Sun’s corona or the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Something similar happens for electroweak interactions, and together with the geometrically induced mass it is enough to cause oscillation of neutrinos.




Non-toxic, Gentler, Long Lasting Hand Sanitiser

Why in News?

  • An environment friendly hand sanitizer that is gentle on the hands and does not dry them, will soon be available in the market.
  • The alcohol free, aqueous, non-inflammable and non-toxic hand sanitizer has been developed from Silver Nanoparticles by a Pune based start-up.
  • Recurrent drying up of hands due to repeated application of hand sanitizers is a challenge which people have faced during the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • The hand sanitizer developed by Weinnovate Biosolutions prolongs antimicrobial activity thus obviating the need for repeated applications.
  • Silver nanoparticles give slow and sustained release of silver ions to kill microorganisms that come in contact. Besides, it can be stored in ambient conditions.

About Silver nanoparticles

  • Silver nanoparticles have been found to be an effective antiviral which act against many deadly viruses like HIV, Hepatitis B, Herpes simplex virus, Influenza virus, and so on.
  • Recent reports have suggested the role of Glutathione capped-Ag2S NCs (Silver nanoclusters) in inhibiting the proliferation of Coronavirus by preventing the synthesis of viral negative-strand RNA and viral budding.
  • The colloidal silver on which the technology of the sanitizers of Weinnovate Biosolutions is based can help arrest Covid -19 spread by blocking the RNA replication and infectivity by blocking the surface glycoproteins.




Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change called for generating awareness towards preventing and restoring land degradation for healthier and sustainable ecosystems.
  • The Desertification and Drought day was commemorated by the Ministry, with an aim to generate large scale awareness towards understanding the key role of land in all environmental and economic concerns, that world, as well as India is facing now-a days.
  • Released the latest version of “Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India. It has been published by Space Application Centre, ISRO, Ahmedabad.
  • The Atlas provides state wise area of degraded lands for the time frame 2018-19. It also provides the change analysis for the duration of 15 years, from 2003-05 to 2018-19.
  • India hosted the 14th session of Conference of Parties (COP 14) of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September 2019.
  • India is striving towards achieving the national commitments of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and restoration of 26 Million ha of degraded land by 2030 which focus on sustainable and optimum utilisation of land resources.




World Day to combat desertification and drought 2021

  • The desertification and drought day 2021 is observed on 17 June every year. The day’s focus is to turn the degraded land that has lost its natural productivity due to human activity into healthy land.
  • The need to restore the degraded land is to bring economic resilience, create jobs, raise income and food security.


  • The United Nations General Assembly in the early 90s decided on a resolution to observe June 17 as World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.


  • This year’s theme is “Restoration.Land.Recovery. We build back better with healthy land”.




Include hydrogen in mineral oil

Why in News?

  • The Petroleum Ministry has proposed amendments to existing law to include cleaner sources of energy like hydrogen within the definition of ‘mineral oils’ for which the government gives out licence to explore and produce.
  • The ministry said the Oilfields (Regulation and Development) Amendment Bill 2021 proposes to amend the present Act to “create opportunities for exploration, development and production of next-generation cleaner fuels and mitigate regulatory challenges and risks.”
  • It also proposes a new definition of ‘mineral oils’ by including within its ambit modern and cleaner sources of energy like hydrogen.
  • Conventionally, mineral oil is understood to mean hydrocarbons in various forms including natural gas and petroleum oil.
  • Presently, the Oilfields (Regulation & Development) Act, 1948 deals with ‘mineral oils’ as understood in the conventional sense.
  • In order to facilitate the development and production of alternative/derivative clean energy sources that are being or may be developed in future, this Bill seeks to redefine ‘mineral oil'”.

About Bill and what all it seeks

  • The term as defined in the Bill includes not merely hydrocarbons but also the next-gen fuels viz. ‘other gases which are capable of being used as fuels occurring in association with mineral oils or can be produced from mineral oils such as hydrogen’.
  • To foster investment in the exploration and production of oil and gas by offering a lease on stable terms and enabling the government to prescribe a compensation mechanism to protect the investment.
  • The compensation shall be payable in case of suspension, revocation or cancellation of the lease or in case of restriction of access to the leased area.
  • To explicitly enumerate the power of the government to prescribe rules for the extension of the period of the lease, the maximum or minimum area of the lease, a mechanism for determination of the economic life of the oilfield, terms for merger or combination of leases and resolution of disputes.
  • It provides for the imposition of fines of up to ₹1 crore for the first contravention of provisions of any rules. Subsequent contraventions will attract a fine of up to ₹10 lakh per day.
  • To empower the government to recover royalty, cess, lease or licence fee, penalty payment under the law.





Why in News?

  • Exposure to the rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of the common cold, can protect against infection by the virus which causes Covid-19.
  • Researchers found that the common respiratory virus jump-starts the activity of interferon-stimulated genes.
  • These are molecules in the immune system whose early response can halt replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus within airway tissues infected with the cold.
  • Triggering these defences early in the course of Covid-19 infection holds promise to prevent or treat the infection.
  • One way to trigger these defences is by treating patients with interferons, an immune system protein which is also available as a drug.
  • Researchers infected lab-grown human airway tissue with SARS-CoV-2 and found that for the first three days, viral load in the tissue doubled about every six hours.
  • However, replication of the COVID-19 virus was completely stopped in tissue that had been exposed to rhinovirus. If antiviral defences were blocked, the SARS-CoV-2 could replicate in airway tissue previously exposed to rhinovirus.




Role of animal serum in making of vaccines

Why in News?

  • The government issued a clarification stating that Covaxin, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, did not contain the serum of a newborn calf.
  • This was in response to discussions on the social media about the presence of calf serum in Covaxin.

How viruses are cultured

  • Vaccines like the one made by Bharat Biotech uses the disease-causing virus itself to trigger an immune response in human beings. The virus is killed, or inactivated, before being used in the vaccine, and injected into the human body, but it is still able to trigger an immune response.
  • To be used in the vaccine, the virus needs to be grown, or cultured, in the laboratory.
  • Scientists try to create conditions conducive for the growth of these viruses by recreating the kind of environment that exists in an infected person’s tissues.
  • Therefore, solutions containing ‘nutrients’ act as the growth medium for the virus. These nutrients, like specific sugar and salt molecules, are extracted from tissues of suitable animals like horses, cow, goat or sheep.
  • The virus grows in these nutrient-rich solutions. After that, it goes through several stages of purification that make it suitable to be used in a vaccine. There is no trace of the growth medium after the entire process is over.

Why calf serum

  • Cow components are used mainly because cows are large animals, easily available, and rich in some of the useful chemicals and enzymes.
  • Cow milk is a source of amino acids, and sugars such as galactose. Cow tallow derivatives used in vaccine manufacture include glycerol.
  • Gelatin and some amino acids come from cow bones. Cow skeletal muscle is used to prepare broths used in certain complex media.
  • Many difficult to grow micro-organisms and the cells that are used to propagate viruses require the addition of serum from blood to the growth media.
  • Synthetic serum, and other nutrients, have also been developed.
  • Serum from newborn calf, which has been used in vaccine production for over 50 years, has “proven itself as an extremely effective growth supplement”.

Animal serum in vaccines

  • Historically, animal serum has been used in the development of vaccines in other ways as well.
  • The use of horse serum as an antibody supplement in diphtheria vaccine is more than 100 years old. Horses used to be injected with small doses of bacteria that caused diphtheria so that they could develop antibodies.
  • Later, the blood of the infected animal was used to extract the antibodies and used in the vaccine.




Earth is trapping ‘unprecedented’ amount of heat

  • The Earth is trapping nearly twice as much heat as it did in 2005, according to new research, described as an “unprecedented” increase amid the climate crisis.
  • Scientists from Nasa, the US space agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), reported in a new study that Earth’s “energy imbalance approximately doubled” from 2005 to 2019. The increase was described as “alarming”.
  • “Energy imbalance” refers to the difference between how much of the Sun’s “radiative energy” is absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere and surface, compared to how much “thermal infrared radiation” bounces back into space.
  • “A positive energy imbalance means the Earth system is gaining energy, causing the planet to heat up”.
  • Scientists determined there was an energy imbalance by comparing data from satellite sensors – which track how much energy enters and exits Earth’s system – and data from ocean floats.
  • This system of data-gathering floats, which stretches across the globe, allows for “an accurate estimate of the rate at which the world’s oceans are heating up”.
  • Because about 90% of excess energy from an imbalance winds up in the ocean, the satellite sensors’ data should correspond with temperature changes in oceans.
  • The study found that this doubling is the result, in part, by an increase in greenhouse gases and water vapor, as well as decreases in clouds and ice.
  • A “naturally occurring” shift in the Pacific ocean from a cool phase to a warm one probably had a significant role in amplifying this energy imbalance.




Anti-aging protein in red blood cells

  • Researchers has discovered a link between a protein in red blood cells and age-related decline in cognitive performance.
  • The study shows that depleting mouse blood of the protein ADORA2B leads to faster declines in memory, delays in auditory processing, and increased inflammation in the brain.
  • As life expectancies around the world increase, so are the number of people who will experience age-related cognitive decline.
  • Because the amount of oxygen in the blood also declines with age, the team hypothesized that aging in the brain might be naturally held at bay by adenosine receptor A2B (ADORA2B), a protein on the membrane of red blood cells which is known to help release oxygen from the blood cells so it can be used by the body.
  • The team found that as the mice got older, the hallmarks of cognitive decline—poor memory, hearing deficits, and inflammatory responses in the brain—were all greater in the mice lacking ADORA2B than in the control mice.
  • Additionally, after experiencing a period of oxygen deprivation, the behavioral and physiological effects on young mice without ADORA2B were much greater than those on normal young mice.
  • Thus, aging in the brain is naturally reduced by ADORA2B, which helps get oxygen to the brain when needed.


Excess nitrogen puts butterflies at risk

  • Nitrogen from agriculture, vehicle emissions and industry is endangering butterflies in Switzerland. The element is deposited in the soil via the air and has an impact on vegetation—to the detriment of the butterflies.
  • More than half of butterfly species in Switzerland are considered to be at risk or potentially at risk. Usually, the search for causes focuses on intensive agriculture, pesticide use and climate change.
  • It was already known from previous studies that too much nitrogen leads to denser vegetation, but with a smaller selection of plant species.
  • Nitrogen stimulates the growth of less demanding plants in particular, with more specialized species being displaced.
  • Over-fertilization results in open, warm and dry places becoming cooler, shadier and damper due to stronger plant growth.



Half of Earth’s rivers and streams stop flowing

  • More than half of Earth’s rivers and streams stop flowing periodically or run dry for part of the year, according to a new study.
  • They can be found in all climates and continents and range from Himalayan snow-fed creeks and Saharan wadis to half-a-mile-wide rivers on the Indian sub-continent.
  • Even the longest river in the world, the Nile, has parts that stop flowing from time to time.
  • Climate change was partially to blame, along with the withdrawal of water for human and agricultural use.
  • It had affected many former perennial streams and rivers, including the Nile, the Indus and the Colorado River.
  • About 51 to 60 per cent of the 39million miles of rivers and streams on Earth stop flowing periodically, or run dry for part of the year.
  • They found that non-perennial rivers — which run partially or fully dry for part of the year — are most common in arid areas where there is more evaporation than rainfall.
  • However, they are also in tropical climates and even in the Arctic, where rivers freeze for parts of the year.
  • ‘Non-perennial rivers and streams are very valuable ecosystems as they are home to many distinct species that are adapted to cycles of water presence and absence’.
  • These rivers can provide critical water and food sources for people and they play an important role in controlling water quality.
  • Given continued global climate and land use change, an increasingly large proportion of the global river network is expected to cease to flow seasonally over the coming decades.

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