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September 04, 2012

Current Affairs - Science and Techonology - August

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Scientists at the Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS) in Pilani have developed a new bio-sensor device to detect arsenic content in drinking water. The device can be operated by a layman and is based on a rare combination of bio-engineering and electronics. The hand-held device, the size of a mobile phone and presently undergoing field testing, promises to be immensely useful for millions of people inhabiting the river basins of the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna in India and Bangladesh reported to be affected by arsenic contamination. Nearly 50 crore people are estimated to be at risk across Utttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Bangladesh due to high arsenic content in drinking water. High intake of arsenic along with malnourishment and lack of medical care worsens the life of people, especially children, in the arsenic-affected regions.

Russian Ecologists said, Heavy forest fires spurred by hot and dry weather have vanished vast areas of Siberia, and ruined the region’s ecosystem. Fires have destroyed 100,000 sq km of forests across Russia , an area bigger than Bihar since the start of the summer season this year, The situation is worst in central Siberia, where fires have ravaged 50,000 sq km of forests. More than 6,000 fire-fighters; a dozen aircraft; and hundreds of volunteers are fighting the fires in Siberia, but have so far failed to contain the calamity.

A group of researchers in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh has claimed to have found traces of a paleo-river near Narmada. A paleo-channel or paleo-river is an inactive river or water stream buried under sediment. Vishal Verma of the Mangal Panchayatam Parishad said, due to geological activities, the nearly 65 million year-old river might have been covered under basaltic lava. The current course of the Narmada is about 10 km from the site of the paleo-river, parallel to it.

The Union Cabinet on 3 August, cleared the Indian Space Research Organisation’s mission to Mars next year. The project, which comes on the heels of the Chandrayaan mission to the moon, envisages putting a spacecraft in the red planet’s orbit to study its atmosphere, with the help of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).India joins the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and China in undertaking such an effort. The launch is slated for November next year from Sriharikota. The Space Commission gave its clearance in December last. The spacecraft will have a scientific payload of 25 kg and is proposed to be placed in an orbit of 500x80,000 km around the planet. Sources in the ISRO said November was chosen, as the planet would be closest to the earth that time. The next such opportunity will come only in the summer of 2018. NASA is also said to be working on a Mars mission for November next year. The mission is estimated to cost about Rs.450 crore.

Scientists for the first time found evidence of another oxidant named X, which plays an important role in the formation of gaseous sulphuric acid in the atmosphere. Until now there was a misconception that the combination of OH(hydroxyl radical) oxidant with sulphur dioxide was the reason behind the formation of gaseous sulphuric acid is formed in the atmosphere. The results are published on 9 August 2012 in Nature. The new oxidant is capable of oxidizing suphur dioxide. Experiments done by Scientists showed that the concentration of ‘X’ also does not remain constant during the day.

A newly discovered Australian spider measuring little more than a millimeter in length has been named after celebrated British scientist and broadcaster David Attenborough. The minuscule arachnid, which is found only on Horn Island, in Australia's Torres Strait, was named prethopalpus attenboroughi by its discoverers. Sources said, Prethopalpus is commonly known as a goblin spider, making this species Attenborough's goblin spider. Attenborough was presented with the honour at a ceremony in Perth where he was given a framed picture of the spider. Attenborough, 86, was chosen for his love of nature and renowned ability to make science accessible over a career spanning six decades. It is not the first time the naturalist has received such an honour -- a 380-million-year-old fossil found in Western Australia in 2008 of a prehistoric mother fish giving birth was named materpiscis attenboroughi.

India on 9 August 2012 successfully test-fired domestically built nuclear capable surface- to-surface two stage Agni-II ballistic missile. The missile was launched from a test range at Wheeler Island off Odisha coast. It has a strike range of 2000 km and the missile was inducted in the Army on 17 May 2010.The missile was launched by the strategic force command of Indian Army as a routine users’ trial. Agni-II is 20 metres long and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead weighing one ton. Agni-II was developed under the joint work of advanced systems laboratory, the missile development laboratory of the DRDO, Defence Research Development Laboratory and Research Centre Imarat, while it was integrated by Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad. The Agni-II missile belongs to the genre of medium range ballistic missiles developed by India under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.

The US space agency NASA landed Curiosity, a huge new robot rover on Mars on 5 August 2012. The one-tonne vehicle touched the surface of Mars after a 345-million-mile expedition. The robot rover will now conduct a study to find out whether the planet was ever hospitable to life. The robot rover is set to spend nearly two years for the mission. NASA undertook the mission with an objective to determine whether Mars has ever had the conditions to support life. The ambitious project costed the US overnment about 2.5 billion dollar. The 900 kg rover has the top speed of about 4cm/s. Plutonium generators installed on the rover will deliver heat and electricity for at least 14 years. It is equipped with tools to brush and drill into rocks, to scoop up, sort and sieve samples. Rover is equipped with 17 cameras, which will identify particular targets, and a laser will zap those rocks to probe their chemistry.The findings of the mission will be delivered to Earth through antennas on the rover deck.

The Indian Institute of Soil Science developed a web-based system for advising farmers the right quantity of fertilizers that they should use in their soils for a particular type of crop. The software takes into account the soil type in different districts of the country and available nutrient in the soil. It takes into consideration the crop and cropping season in calculating the nutrient requirement. This system is presently available for all the districts in 11 states- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

India on 17 august, made a major breakthrough in mounting an electronic eye in the sky,taking delivery in Sao Jose dos Campos in Brazil, of the first Embraer 145 Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft, built with Indian technology. The first of the three AEW&C aircraft comes equipped with India’s first-ever airborne Active Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar, giving it the capability to detect missiles and hostile fighters at all angles.The aircraft was delivered at an official ceremony held at Embraer’s headquarters in Sao Jose dos Campos in Brazil in the presence of top Indian and Brazilian defence officials. The new aircraft would give the Indian Air Force capability of operating both the longer range Israeli-made IL-76 Phalcon AWACS as well as the shorter range Brazilian EMB 145. India already has acquired three Israeli AWACS and is in the process of getting two more.India and Brazil signed a deal reportedly worth $ 210 million for the supply of three aircraft by 2014. This includes a comprehensive logistic package that entails training, technical support, supply of spare parts and ground support equipment. Embraer is the world’s third largest commercial aircraft manufacturer, behind American Boeing and Europe’s Airbus. The Indian Air Force already operates four Embraer Legacy 600 jets to transport government officials and foreign dignitaries. A fifth one is operated by India’s Border Security Force. 

India’s indigenously developed, micro-light pilot-less target aircraft ‘Lakshya-1’ was successfully test flown from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur,Odisha on 23 August. The test was carried out to check the validity of its engine and duration enhancement. The aircraft is remote-controlled from the ground and designed to provide training to both airborne and air defence pilots. Lakshya-1, fitted with an advanced digitally controlled engine and is a sub-sonic, re-usable aerial target system. 

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