Contents:

  1. Bats harbor many Viruses
  2. Cheer for science as key departments get a raise
  3. More Men than Women in STEM
  4. NASA decommissions Spitzer space telescope after 16 years of operation
  5. Private players allowed to set up data parks
  6. Govt. to launch campaign to eliminate TB by 2025
  7. Rail, flight services to transport farm produce
  8. Nilgiris: Pesticide levels in Potato, Carrot
  9. Kasturi Manjal (wild turmeric)
  10. Shaheen falcon spotted in Thiruvananthapuram
  11. Why cheetah got extinct in India
  12. Prolonged monsoon revives waterholes in Bandipur

BATS HARBOR MANY VIRUSES

Focus: Prelims, GS-3

Why in news?

Bats are being considered as a vector for Novel Coronavirus

Details:

  • Bats serves as natural hosts for numerous viruses including Ebola virus, Nipah virus, coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and the 2019 novel coronavirus that has infected nearly 10,000 people and killed over 350 others.
  • Still they don’t get infected because bats can avoid excessive virus-induced inflammation, which often causes severe diseases in animals and people infected with viruses
  • According to journal Nature Microbiology
    • The inflammatory response is dampened in bats immaterial of the variety of viruses that are present and the viral load.
    • Significantly reduced inflammation in bats was because activation of an important protein — NLRP3.
    • Reduced activation of the NLRP3 protein was in turn due to impaired production of mRNA (transcript). Since mRNA production is impaired the NLRP3 protein production gets compromised leading to less amount of the protein being produced.
    • Further analysis comparing 10 bat and 17 non-bat mammalian NLRP3 gene sequences confirmed that these adaptations appear to be bat-specific.

CHEER FOR SCIENCE AS KEY DEPARTMENTS GET A RAISE

Focus: GS-3

Why in news?

Key departments get 13% more than what was spent last year.

Details:

  • The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) posted the largest increase, with an outlay of ₹2,786 crore, a 17% increase from the ₹2,381 crore it spent last year
  • The Department of Science and Technology got a 14% hike, at ₹6,301 crore, over its expenditure last year, the Earth Sciences Ministry posted a 14% hike at ₹2,070 crore and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research got a 10% hike at ₹5,385 crore.

MORE MEN THAN WOMEN IN  STEM

Focus: GS-3

Why in news?

Masculine culture, insufficient early exposure to science play a role

Details:

  • Across the world, there are more men who are active in science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) than women
  • In the labour market, or in places where high level qualifications are demanded, men candidates engage in self-promotion, and are boastful while equally qualified women are more ‘modest’ and ‘undersell’ themselves.
  • Even in groups and situations where men and women are present as colleagues, the views of women are either ignored or listened to less seriously than those of men.
  • As a result, women tend to underestimate their ability relative to men, especially in public settings, and negotiate less successfully.
  • Three socio-psychological reasons, namely (1) masculine culture, (2) lack of sufficient early exposure to computers, physics and related areas compared to boys in early childhood and (3) gender gap in self-efficacy.
  •  Stereotyping that men are fitter for certain jobs and skills than women, and that women are more ‘delicate’, ‘tender’ and thus unfit for ‘hard’ jobs.

NASA DECOMMISSIONS SPITZER SPACE TELESCOPE AFTER 16 YEARS OF OPERATION

Focus: GS-3, Prelims

Why in news?

Spitzer, which was launched in 2003, studied some of the most distant galaxies ever detected with the light from some of the cosmic bodies travelling for billions of years to reach the telescope, NASA said.

Details:

  • Spitzer  showed the importance of infrared light in understanding our universe, both in our own cosmic neighborhood, and as far away as the most distant galaxies
  • By detecting infrared light, with wavelengths ranging from about 700 nanometers — too small to see with the naked eye — to about a millimeter, Spitzer could help astronomers unveil the presence of cosmic entities which are too cold to emit much visible light, including planets outside our solar system, and cold matter found in the space between stars
  • Found a previously undetected ring around Saturn, composed of sparse dust particles that visible-light observatories cannot see

PRIVATE  PLAYERS ALLOWED TO SET UP DATA PARKS

Why in news?

Union Budget for 2020-21 has made a provision for private players to get into data center  market

Details

  • All ‘public institutions’ at the gram panchayat level, such as anganwadis, health and wellness centres, government schools, PDS (public distribution system) outlets, post offices and police stations will be provided with digital connectivity
  • Fiber to the Home (FTTH) connections through BharatNet will link 100,000 gram panchayats this year
  • New technologies such as analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) found a lot of emphasis in Budget 2020
  • Government will bring out a policy to enable the private sector to build Data Centre parks throughout the country
  • Data must have strong credibility. The proposed new National Policy on Official Statistics would use latest technology, including AI
  • AI, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, drones, DNA data storage, quantum computing, etc., were re-writing the world economic order

GOVT. TO LAUNCH CAMPAIGN TO ELIMINATE TB BY 2025

Details and Context:

  • Presenting the Budget for 2020-21,The finance minister has proposed to expand Jan Aushadhi Kendras to all districts of the country to provide medicines at affordable rates
  • Proceeds from taxes on medical devices would be used to support setting up of hospitals
  • Viability gap funding will be provided for setting up hospitals in districts with no empaneled hospitals under Ayushman Bharat and also to set up warehouses for Agri products
  • The government also plans to expand coverage of artificial insemination to 70% from 30% to increase livestock productivity

RAIL, FLIGHT SERVICES TO TRANSPORT FARM PRODUCE

Why in news?

FM has announced ‘Kisan Rail’ Programme

Details

  • The Centre has raised the target for agricultural credit by 11% to ₹15 lakh crore in 2020-21 and proposed to begin special rail and flight services to transport farm produce as part of a 16-point action plan for the agriculture sector announced in the Union Budget
  • Kisan rail Programme should be taken through public-private partnership to build a seamless national cold supply chain for perishables, including milk, meat and fish. Refrigerated coaches would be built in express and freight trains
  • Krishi Udaan scheme would be launched by the Civil Aviation Ministry on international and national routes, in a move that would help improve value realisation especially in the northeast and tribal districts

NILGIRIS: PESTICIDE LEVELS IN POTATO, CARROT

Why in news?

A study of fruits and vegetables grown in the Nilgiris has found that some of the produce might be harbouring high levels of pesticide, beyond what is considered advisable

Details:

  • Organophosphate use was high in carrot and potato cultivation
  • Using liquid chromatography in tandem with mass spectrometry, the research team developed a sensitive method to estimate the levels of organophosphates in the fruits and vegetables
  • Organophosphate pesticides such as acephate, malathion, profenofos, chlorpyrifos and quinalphos are used in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables

KASTURI MANJAL (WILD TURMERIC)

Why in news?

The spice is becoming extinct and is also facing threats from a counterfeit variety

Details:

  • Kasturi Manjal with milk cream or rose water has been “grandma’s potion” for glowing skin.
  • Turmeric, an essential ingredient in all Indian kitchens, has gained fame and acceptance for its cosmetic and healing properties and has been a core ingredient of many beauty products and medicines.
  • The turmeric can be cultivated in open fields, in flower pots or grow bags.
  • The farming methods are easy and it can be harvested in seven to eight months.

SHAHEEN FALCON SPOTTED IN THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Why in news?

  • It was the first reported sighting of the fastest bird in the world in the capital city
  • Also Known as Indian Peregrine Falcon, it is the fastest bird in the world
  • Peregrine falcons are usually found along mountain ranges and river valleys, but it is not unusual to find them in cities, especially in high rises where they are able to find prey like pigeons and other small birds very easily.
  • They usually build their nest in the mountain cliffs, which also serve as ambush points for them to wait for the prey and launch the aerial assault after spotting the same.
  • The distinguishing mark that separates Shaheen Falcons from Peregrine is the white color around their throats.
  • The bird is usually spotted alone and Peregrine falcons are known to mate for life — like hornbills.

WHY IS THE CHEETAH EXTINCT IN INDIA?

Details:

  • At the recent meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 14), a researcher from the Indian delegation pronounced desertification as the primary cause of the extinction of the cheetah (and also the still-extant great Indian bustard) in India.
  • Two idiosyncratic traits of the animal undeniably led to its end:
  • One, the cat was very easy to tame: it was often trained to race down and hunt animals, almost like a hound — a ‘sport’ called coursing — and so was caught in large numbers for use in such hunts. Second, cheetahs were nearly impossible to breed in captivity.
  • Breeding captive cheetahs was such an incredible rarity that in 1613, Emperor Jahangir formally recorded the first and only instance, up to the 20th century, of a cheetah bred in captivity anywhere in the world in the book Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri.
  • The earliest reference to their domestication for the sport of coursing is from Manasollasa, the 12th century chronicle of the court activities of King Someshvara III of Kalyani
  • Such was the scale of cheetahs being taken out from the wild that Emperor Akbar is said to have acquired a staggering 9,000 cheetahs for his royal menagerie during his 49-year reign in the 16th century
  • There is just a single record of a human fatality from a cheetah attack that we know of — the death of O.B. Irvine, Agent of Governor in Visakhapatnam, who died after being mauled by a captive cheetah that belonged to the Raja of Vizianagaram, during a coursing hunt in 1880
  • In fact, the term ‘Asiatic cheetah’ gained currency only after the species’ extinction in India; before this, it was known as the Indian cheetah.
  • The earliest visual evidence of the Asiatic cheetah, dating back to 2500 to 2300 BCE, is found in cave paintings in Kharvai and Khairabad, and in the upper Chambal valley, in Madhya Pradesh.

PROLONGED MONSOON  REVIVES WATERHOLES IN BANDIPUR

Why in news?

Of the 370 big and small waterholes, 85% are full while a few smaller ones have witnessed depletion

Details:

  • Expected to help wild animals beat water stress and tide over the greater part of the scorching summer that has already set in and will last till pre-monsoon showers lash the national park normally in mid-May
  • There are 37 solar-powered borewells that will function to replenish the waterholes periodically so that the water stress is minimised
  • In The M.M. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, there are around 100 waterholes apart from two rivers — Cauvery and Palar — of which the Cauvery is perennial while the flow in Palar is expected to last till the end of March
  • Three ranges — Hugyam, M.M. Hills and Palar — in M.M. Hills division, which received rains recently and so the onset of water distress will be delayed and shorten the days of scarcity
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