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Current Affairs 14 March 2023

CONTENTS

  1. SIPRI Report on Arms
  2. Space Debris
  3. Lightning
  4. Fluorescence Microscopy

SIPRI Report on Arms


Context:

India remained the world’s largest arms importer for the five-year period between 2018 and 2022 even though its arms imports dropped by 11% between 2013-2017 and 2018-2022, according to the Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. SIPRI’ s report on Arms Import and Export: Trends and Key Players
  2. About SIPRI

SIPRI’ s report on Arms Imports and Exports: Trends and Key Players

India’s position as the world’s largest importer of major arms remained unchanged from 2018 to 2022, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Here are some key trends and players in India’s arms trade during this period:

  • Russia: Despite a decline in its share of India’s arms imports from 64% to 45%, Russia remained the largest supplier of arms to India from 2013 to 2022. However, its position is under pressure due to increased competition from other suppliers, Indian arms production, and the impact of the war in Ukraine.
  • France: France emerged as the second largest supplier of arms to India, with its share of India’s imports increasing from 3% to 29% between 2013 and 2022. France’s exports to India included 62 combat aircraft and four submarines.
  • Israel: Israel was among the top three exporters of arms to India from 2018 to 2022, along with Russia and France.
  • South Korea: India was the second largest export market for South Korea’s arms during this period.
  • Saudi Arabia: India was the largest importer of major arms, followed by Saudi Arabia.
  • Myanmar: India was the third largest arms supplier to Myanmar, accounting for 14% of its imports, after Russia and China.
  • Factors driving India’s demand for arms imports: India’s tensions with Pakistan and China are the key drivers of its demand for arms imports, according to SIPRI.
  • Factors behind the decrease in India’s arms imports: The decrease in India’s arms imports between 2013 to 2017 and 2018 to 2022 can be attributed to several factors, including India’s slow and complex arms procurement process, efforts to diversify its arms suppliers, and attempts to replace imports with domestically-produced arms.

Just under two thirds of Russian exports went to three states from 2018 to 2022 — India (31%), China (23%) and Egypt (9.3%). India was also the largest recipient of Russian arms from 2013 to 2017, but exports decreased by 37% between the two periods.

About SIPRI

  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an independent international think-tank institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • It was established in 1966 at Stockholm (Sweden).
  • It provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

-Source: The Hindu


Space Debris


Context:

Since, United Nations agreed on a treaty to conserve and sustainably use the high seas beyond national boundaries, scientists are calling for a legally-binding agreement to protect the Earth’s orbit from space debris.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Space Debris?
  2. Effective Strategies to Address the Challenge of Space Debris

What are Space Debris?

  • There is no universally acknowledged legal definition of the term “space debris.” It’s a term that refers to a collection of undesired objects in Earth’s orbit, whether man-made or natural.
  • Natural Debris is made up of natural bodies that orbit the sun, such as meteors and asteroids.
  • Artificial Debris is made up of man-made (generally non-functional) objects that orbit the Earth. (As a result, it is usually referred to as Orbital Debris.)
  • Dead satellites, spent rocket motors, nuts and bolts, and other space debris are described in the Report of the Second United Nations Conference on Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, published in 1982.

Effective Strategies to Address the Challenge of Space Debris

Space debris has become a growing concern for space agencies and governments worldwide. Here are some strategies to tackle the problem:

Space Treaty with Extended Producer Responsibility:

  • A legally binding agreement is necessary to protect the Earth’s orbit from space debris.
  • The treaty should ensure that producers and users take responsibility for their satellites and debris and enforce collective international legislation with fines and other incentives to make countries and companies accountable for their actions.

Incentivization:

  • Countries using the Earth’s orbit should commit to global cooperation, and companies should be incentivized to clean up orbits and include de-orbiting functions in satellites.
  • This can be achieved by offering tax breaks, grants, and other benefits to companies that demonstrate a proactive approach towards managing space debris.

Reusable Launch Vehicles:

  • Using reusable launch vehicles instead of single-use rockets can help reduce the number of new debris generated from launches.
  • Reusable launch vehicles can significantly reduce the cost and frequency of launches, thereby reducing the amount of space debris generated.

Active Debris Removal:

  • Active debris removal (ADR) refers to the use of specialized spacecraft to capture, retrieve, and dispose of space debris. The ADR technique can help remove large and dangerous debris from the Earth’s orbit.

Improved Satellite Design:

  • Improved satellite design can also help reduce the generation of space debris.
  • Satellites should be designed with de-orbiting functions, which can help remove satellites from orbit at the end of their operational life.
  • Satellites should also be designed with robust shielding to protect against collisions with debris.

-Source: Indian Express


Lightning


Context:

Recently few States have demanded that “lightning” be declared as a “natural disaster” because deaths caused by it surpass any other disaster in India.

  • According to present norms, cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves are considered as disasters that are covered under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), 75% of which is funded by the Centre.

Relevance:

GS I- Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Lightning?
  2. More about Clouds that generate lightning and how they are formed
  3. What happens when lightning strikes Earth’s Surface?
  4. Which areas are lightning-prone?
  5. How can the effects of lightning strikes be mitigated?

What is Lightning?

  • Lightning is a natural ‘electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud’, accompanied by a bright flash and sound, and sometimes thunderstorms.
  • In simple words, it is a very rapid and massive discharge of electricity in the atmosphere.
  • It happens as a result of the difference in electrical charge between the top and bottom of a cloud, or between 2 clouds or between clouds and the ground.
  • Inter cloud or intra cloud (IC) lightning are visible and harmless.
  • Cloud to ground (CG) lightning is harmful as the ‘high electric voltage and electric current’ leads to electrocution.

More about Clouds that generate lightning and how they are formed

  • The lightning-generating clouds are typically about 10-12 km in height, with their base about 1-2 km from the Earth’s surface. The temperatures at the top range from -35°C to -45°C.
  • As water vapour moves upwards in the cloud, it condenses into water due to decreasing temperatures. A huge amount of heat is generated in the process, pushing the water molecules further up.
  • As they move to temperatures below zero, droplets change into small ice crystals. As they continue upwards, they gather mass, until they become so heavy that they start descending.
  • It leads to a system where smaller ice crystals move upwards while larger ones come down. The resulting collisions trigger release of electrons, in a process very similar to the generation of electric sparks. The moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons leading to a chain reaction.
  • The process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged while the middle layer is negatively charged.
  • In little time, a huge current, of the order of lakhs to millions of amperes, starts to flow between the layers.

What happens when lightning strikes Earth’s Surface?

  • The Earth is a good conductor of electricity. While electrically neutral, it is relatively positively charged compared to the middle layer of the cloud. As a result, an estimated 20-25% of the current flow is directed towards the Earth. It is this current flow that results in damage to life and property.
  • Lightning has a greater probability of striking raised objects on the ground, such as trees or buildings.
  • Lightning Conductor is a device used to protect buildings from the effect of lightning. A metallic rod, taller than the building, is installed in the walls of the building during its construction.
  • The most lightning activity on Earth is seen on the shore of Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela.

Which areas are lightning-prone?

  • A recently released annual report on lightning by the Climate Resilient Observing Systems Promotion Council (CROPC), which works closely with government agencies like the India Meteorological Department, includes a lightning atlas which maps vulnerability at the district level.
  • According to the report, Madhya Pradesh has reported the largest number of cloud to ground lighting strikes, followed by Chhatisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal.
  • Other states with high strike rate include Bihar, UP, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
  • Lightning is fairly common, though it is not often realised in the urban centres.
  • In India, well over one crore lightning strikes have been recorded in recent years. It is only over the last few years that lightning records have begun to be maintained, thanks to the efforts of CROPC and India Meteorological Department.

How can the effects of lightning strikes be mitigated?

  • Lightning is not classified as a natural disaster in India.
  • But recent efforts have resulted in the setting up of an early warning system, that is already saving many lives. More than 96% of lightning deaths happen in rural areas.
  • As such, most of the mitigation and public awareness programmes need to focus on these communities.
  • Lightning protection devices are fairly unsophisticated and low-cost. Yet, their deployment in the rural areas, as of now, is extremely low.
  • States are being encouraged to prepare and implement lightning action plans, on the lines of heat action plans.
  • An international centre for excellence on lightning research to boost detection and early warning systems is also in the process of being set up.

-Source: Indian Express


Fluorescence Microscopy


Context:

Researchers at the Winona State University, Minnesota, have created a design for a ‘glowscope’, a device that could democratize access to fluorescence microscopy.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Fluorescence Microscopy
  2. How it works?
  3. Applications

About Fluorescence Microscopy:

  • Fluorescence microscopy is a technique that uses the principles of fluorescence to study an object. This involves viewing how the object re-emits light that it has absorbed, i.e., how it fluoresces.
How it works?
  • The way fluorescence microscopy works is by illuminating the object with a specific wavelength of light.
  • Particles within the object, called fluorophores, absorb the light and re-emit it at a higher wavelength or different color.
  • Before being viewed through the microscope, the object is infused with fluorophores to make it fluorescent.
  • As the fluorophores fluoresce, the microscope can track them as they move within the object, allowing visualization of its internal structure and characteristics.
  • Different fluorophores have been developed by scientists to study various entities such as specific parts of DNA and protein complexes.
Applications:
  • Fluorescence microscopy is useful for imaging specific features of small specimens, such as microbes.
  • It can enhance the visualization of 3-D features at small scales.
  • The technique allows for multicolor staining and labeling of structures within cells, as well as measuring the physiological state of a cell.
  • The most popular application of fluorescence microscopy is for studying dynamic behavior in live-cell imaging.
  • Multiple types of molecules can now be stained with different colors, enabling simultaneous tracking and observation of various molecules.

-Source: The Hindu


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