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Current Affairs 29 December 2023

  1. Balancing Act of the Universe’s Energy Composition: Dark Energy’s Dominance
  2. National Legal Services Authority
  3. Pantoea Tagorei
  4. INS Imphal
  5. Eurasian Otter
  6. Huntington’s Disease


Context:

The universe’s energy distribution involves a delicate equilibrium. Dark energy, comprising 68% of the total, emerges as the dominant force influencing the universe’s expansion.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Dark Energy in the Universe
  2. Possible Explanations of Dark Energy

Understanding Dark Energy in the Universe

Definition and Significance:
  • Dark energy is a mysterious and elusive form of energy constituting a substantial portion of the total energy content in the universe.
  • It is believed to drive the observed accelerated expansion of the cosmos.
Energy Distribution:
  • Approximately 68% of the universe is composed of dark energy, while dark matter makes up about 27%.
  • All observable normal matter on Earth, using various instruments, contributes to less than 5% of the universe.
Key Points on Dark Energy:
  • Acts as an unseen force responsible for the universe’s accelerated expansion, contrary to gravity, which pulls objects together.
  • Presents a new perspective on space, defining it as a dynamic and stretchable medium responsive to energy presence.
  • Different forms of energy, including matter, radiation, and dark energy, uniquely contribute to the non-uniform expansion of the universe.
  • Dominates the universe’s energy budget, determining the overall rate of space expansion and maintaining balance with other energy forms.
Implications of Dark Energy Amount:
  • The quantity of dark energy holds significant consequences for the observable universe.
  • Excessive positive energy could result in galaxies moving away faster than light, limiting visibility to nearby regions.
  • Excessive negative energy might lead to the universe collapsing to a tiny point.
Characteristics and Diluteness:
  • Despite dominance, dark energy is incredibly dilute across the vast universe, comparable to a single sugar crystal in a cubic kilometer.
  • The diluteness raises questions about the nature and distribution of this enigmatic force.

Possible Explanations of Dark Energy

Einstein’s Cosmological Constant:
  • Albert Einstein was the first to propose that empty space possesses its own energy.
  • The cosmological constant in Einstein’s gravity theory suggests that the energy of “empty space” remains constant, not diluted with the expansion of space.
  • This energy-of-space contributes to the accelerating expansion of the universe as more space is created.
Quantum Theory of Matter:
  • According to the quantum theory of matter, “empty space” is filled with temporary (“virtual”) particles that continuously form and disappear.
Fifth Force Hypothesis:
  • There are four fundamental forces in the universe, and some speculative theories propose the existence of a fifth force.
  • To explain this fifth force, various models for dark energy incorporate special mechanisms.
  • Some theorists refer to this hypothetical force as “quintessence,” drawing inspiration from the fifth element in Greek philosophy.
  • None of these theories have been conclusively proven, leading to the characterization of dark energy as “the most profound mystery in all of science.”

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The President recently nominated Justice Sanjiv Khanna, the second senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, as the Executive Chairperson of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)
  2. Legal Services Institutions at Various Levels
  3. Who is Eligible for Getting Free Legal Services?

About National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

  • National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) was formed on 9 November 1995 under the authority of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987.
  • Its purpose is to provide free legal services to eligible candidates (defined in Sec. 12 of the Act), and to organize Lok Adalats for speedy resolution of cases.
  • The Chief Justice of India is patron-in-chief of NALSA while second senior most judge of Supreme Court of India is the Executive-Chairman.
  • There is a provision for similar mechanism at state and district level also headed by Chief Justice of High Courts and Chief Judges of District courts respectively.
  • The prime objective of NALSA is speedy disposal of cases and reducing the burden of judiciary.
Basis for formation
  • Article 39A of the Indian Constitution contains provisions for free legal aid to the weaker and poor sections of the society in order to ensure justice for all.
  • Also, articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity to all.
  • Therefore, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) was constituted for the provision of free legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for speedy and amicable resolution of cases.
Objectives:
  • Provide free legal aid and advice.
  • Spread legal awareness.
  • Organise lok adalats.
  • Promote settlements of disputes through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Mechanisms. Various kinds of ADR mechanisms are Arbitration, Conciliation, Judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat, or Mediation.
  • Provide compensation to victims of crime.

Legal Services Institutions at Various Levels

  • National Level: NALSA was constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief.
  • State Level: State Legal Services Authority. It is headed by the Chief Justice of the State High Court who is its Patron-in-Chief.
  • District Level: District Legal Services Authority. The District Judge of the District is its ex-officio Chairman.
  • Taluka/Sub-Division Level: Taluka/ Sub-Divisional Legal Services Committee. It is headed by a senior Civil Judge.
  • High Court: High Court Legal Services Committee
  • Supreme Court: Supreme Court Legal Services Committee

Who is Eligible for Getting Free Legal Services?

  • Women and children
  • Members of SC/ST
  • Industrial workmen
  • Victims of mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster.
  • Disabled persons
  • Persons in custody
  • Those persons who have annual income of less than the amount prescribed by the respective State Government, if the case is before any court other than the Supreme Court, and less than Rs. 5 Lakhs, if the case is before the Supreme Court.
  • Victims of Trafficking in Human beings or begar.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Researchers at Visva-Bharati University have discovered a new species of bacteria that could transform agricultural practices. They named it Pantoea Tagorei after the famous Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

Relevance:

GS III: Species in News

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Facts About Pantoea Tagorei
  2. Biofertilizer

Key Facts About Pantoea Tagorei

Taxonomic Classification:

  • Pantoea Tagorei belongs to the genus Pantoea.
  • It is classified under the Enterobacteriaceae family.

Wide Environmental Presence:

  • Pantoea bacteria, including Pantoea Tagorei, can be found in various environments such as water, soil, humans, animals, and plants.

Plant Growth-Promoting Characteristics:

  • Described as a plant growth-promoting bacteria, Pantoea Tagorei has demonstrated significant capabilities in enhancing crop cultivation, particularly in crops like paddy, pea, and chilli.

Nutrient Extraction and Solubilization:

  • The bacteria efficiently extracts potassium from the soil, contributing to enhanced plant growth.
  • It facilitates the solubilization of both potassium and phosphorus, engages in nitrogen fixation, and increases overall nutrient availability for plants.

Impact on Crop Yield and Food Security:

  • Positive effects on plant growth suggest the potential for increased crop yield.
  • The bacteria’s abilities can contribute to addressing critical issues related to food security.

Sustainable Agriculture and Biofertilizer Potential:

  • Pantoea Tagorei enhances soil nutrient availability, potentially reducing the dependency on commercial fertilizers.
  • By minimizing reliance on traditional fertilizers, the bacteria offers a cost-effective approach to sustainable agriculture, positioning it as a potential biofertilizer.

Biofertilizer

Biofertilizer refers to biological products containing living microorganisms that, when applied to seeds, plant surfaces, or soil, promote growth through various mechanisms. These mechanisms include increasing nutrient supply, enhancing root biomass or area, and improving the nutrient uptake capacity of plants.

Composition:

  • Biofertilizers are composed of living organisms, including bacteria, blue-green algae, and mycorrhizal fungi.
Examples of Biofertilizers:
  • Bacterial Biofertilizers:
    • Rhizobium
    • Azospirilium
    • Azotobacter
    • Phosphobacteria
  • Fungal Biofertilizers:
    • Mycorrhiza
  • Algal Biofertilizers:
    • Blue Green Algae (BGA)
    • Azolla

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, INS (Indian Naval Ship) Imphal (Pennant D68) has been commissioned into the Indian Navy.

Relevance:

GS III: Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. INS Imphal: A Technologically Advanced Guided Missile Destroyer
  2. Project 15B: Advancing India’s Destroyer Capabilities

INS Imphal: A Technologically Advanced Guided Missile Destroyer

Introduction:
  • INS Imphal is the third vessel in the ‘Project 15 Bravo Vishakhapatnam class’ guided missile destroyers, showcasing advanced naval capabilities.
Launch and Naming:
  • Launched and christened as ‘Imphal’ on April 20, 2019, INS Imphal stands as a testament to India’s naval prowess.
Technical Specifications:
  • Length: 163m, Breadth: 17m, Displacement: 7,400 tonnes.
  • Propulsion: Powered by four Gas Turbines in a Combined Gas and Gas configuration, achieving speeds exceeding 30 knots.
  • Armament: Capable of launching the BrahMos cruise missile, world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile.
  • Warfare Capabilities: Equipped for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare conditions.
Weaponry and Sensors:
  • Sophisticated arsenal includes Surface-to-Surface Missiles, Surface-to-Air Missiles, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) rocket launchers, Torpedo launchers, ASW helicopters, radars, sonar, and Electronic Warfare systems.
Strategic Significance:
  • Strengthens India’s maritime influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Upholds the principle of “Jalmev Yasya, Balmev Tasya,” emphasizing the power derived from controlling the seas.
  • Critical in securing sea lanes, ensuring safe passage for trade vessels, and safeguarding India’s economic interests, particularly in the face of geographical barriers and regional challenges.

Project 15B: Advancing India’s Destroyer Capabilities

Overview:
  • Initiated as an indigenous Destroyer construction program in the late 1990s.
  • Followed by Delhi class (P-15) and Kolkata class (P-15A) destroyers, leading to the current Project 15B (Visakhapatnam Class).
Scope and Planning:
  • Project 15B involves the construction of four advanced destroyers: Visakhapatnam, Mormugao, Imphal, and Surat.
  • Success and technological advancements from Project 15A laid the foundation for Project 15B.
Objectives:
  • Aims to build advanced variants of the Kolkata class destroyers, now known as Visakhapatnam class.
  • Contract signed in January 2011 to enhance capabilities, incorporating technological advancements, and improving weaponry, electronics, and other systems.
Lead Ship:
  • INS Visakhapatnam (Pennant No D66) is the lead ship commissioned in November 2021, showcasing the project’s progress.
Successive Ships:
  • INS Mormugao (D67) commissioned in December 2022.
  • INS Surat (to be designated D69) launched in May 2023.
Design and Construction:
  • Designed by the Indian Navy’s Warship Design Bureau.
  • Constructed by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDSL) in Mumbai.
Technological Advancements:
  • Incorporates improvements in weaponry, electronics, and overall systems, building on the capabilities of earlier destroyer classes.
Strategic Significance:
  • Strengthens India’s naval capabilities and underscores the nation’s commitment to indigenous defense production.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

A team of researchers recently discovered a Eurasian otter in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Idukki, a first in Kerala.

Relevance:

GS III: Species in News

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Eurasian Otter: Exploring a Semi-Aquatic Carnivore
  2. Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS): Exploring Biodiversity in Kerala

Eurasian Otter: Exploring a Semi-Aquatic Carnivore

Overview:
  • The Eurasian Otter is a semi-aquatic carnivorous mammal native to Eurasia.
  • Scientific Name: Lutra lutra
Distribution:
  • Exhibits one of the broadest distributions among all Palearctic mammals.
  • Ranges from Ireland to China and extends to Southeast Asia.
  • Found throughout Europe, North Africa, and Asia.
  • In India, it inhabits northern, northeastern, and southern regions.
Habitat:
  • Thrives in diverse environments, including streams, rivers, lakes, freshwater and peat swamp forests, ocean shores, rice fields, fjords, caves, and terrestrial areas near waterways.
  • In the Indian subcontinent, specifically found in cold hills and mountain streams.
Conservation Status:
  • IUCN: Near threatened
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule II
  • CITES: Appendix I
Significance:
  • Plays a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of water ecosystems.
  • The near-threatened status highlights the need for conservation efforts to ensure the species’ survival.
  • Protected under national and international regulations, emphasizing its ecological importance and the need for conservation measures.

Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS): Exploring Biodiversity in Kerala

Location:
  • Situated in Idukki District, Kerala.
  • Falls within the rain shadow region of the Western Ghats, experiencing minimal annual rainfall.
  • Bounded by Eravikulam National Park to the south and Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary to the north.
Vegetation:
  • Diverse habitat types, including deciduous forests, dry thorn scrub, riparian forest, shoals, and grasslands.
  • Features an extensive sandalwood forest in close proximity.
Flora:
  • Boasts approximately 1000 species of flowering plants, including a rich variety of medicinal plants.
  • Prominent plant species: Acacia arabica, Acacia leucofolia, Acacia concinna, antallum album, Anogeissus latifolia, Rhododendron nilagiricum, Elaeocarpus, and more.
Fauna:
  • Home to the endangered Great Grizzled Squirrel of India.
  • Diverse mammalian species, including elephants, tigers, leopards, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, Nilgiri Tahr, and others.
Significance:
  • The sanctuary’s strategic location within the Western Ghats contributes to its unique ecological features.
  • Rich biodiversity, including endangered species, emphasizes the need for conservation efforts.
  • Offers a diverse range of habitats, making it an ecological hotspot in the region.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Researchers from the University of Szeged, in Hungary, have taken some important strides by studying fruit flies to understand more about Huntington’s disease.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Huntington’s Disease: A Rare Genetic Disorder

Huntington’s Disease: A Rare Genetic Disorder

  • Rare, inherited disease leading to progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain.
  • Impacts functional abilities, causing movement, cognitive, and psychiatric disorders.
Types of Huntington’s Disease:
  • Adult Onset:
    • Most common form, with symptoms typically starting after age 30.
  • Early Onset (Juvenile Huntington’s Disease):
    • Affects children and teenagers; extremely rare.
    • Manifests with different symptoms and may progress more rapidly.
Cause:
  • Caused by a genetic mutation in the HTT gene, responsible for producing the huntingtin protein crucial for nerve cell function.
  • Normal HTT gene has a DNA stretch specifying glutamine repeats (11 to 31).
  • In Huntington’s, this stretch is expanded to 35 or more repeats, leading to increased severity and earlier onset.
Symptoms:
  • Variety of signs and symptoms affecting movement, cognition, and mental health.
  • Mood swings, reasoning difficulties, uncontrollable movements, and challenges in speaking, swallowing, and walking.
Treatment:
  • Medications available to manage symptoms.
  • No cure; treatments focus on symptom relief but can’t prevent the overall decline associated with the condition.

-Source: The Hindu


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