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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 08 April 2023 

Contents:

  1. Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO)
  2. Declining productivity of the Parliament

Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO)


Context:

Recently, the Union cabinet has approved a project to set up a gravitational wave detection facility in Maharashtra.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO)
  2. Significance of the project
  3. Issues that such projects face in India
  4. What is LIGO?
  5. LIGO detectors
  6. LIGO Project at a global level
  7. What are Gravitational Waves?
  8. Conclusion

Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO):

  • The Union cabinet has approved setting up of Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Maharashtra.
  • Cost: It is a 2,600 crore project.
  • It is one that will consist of a detector called the Laser Interferometer Gravitationalwave Observatory (LIGO), to be built in the image of the twin LIGO instruments already operational in the U.S.
  • A third detector is being built in India as part of the LIGOIndia collaboration.
    • It improves the detectors’ collective ability to pinpoint sources of gravitational waves in the sky.

Significance of the project:

  • India could become a global site of gravitational physics research. Apart from this, it has the following significance:
    • Aiding training
    • Handling of precision technologies
    • Sophisticated control systems
    • Cementing a reputation for successfully running an experimental Big Science project.
    • LIGOIndia can demonstrate an ability to reckon intelligently with Indian society’s relationship with science, using the opportunities that Big Science affords.
  • To locate gravitational waves: Observations from a new detector in a far-off position will help locate the source of the gravitational waves more accurately.
  • Identification of new sources: Nnew detector will increase the expected event rates, and will boost the detection confidence of new sources (by increasing the sensitivity, sky coverage and duty cycle of the network).
  • Impact on industry: The high-end engineering requirements of the project (such as the world’s largest ultra-high vacuum facility) will provide unprecedented opportunities for Indian industries in collaboration with academic research institutions.
  • Education and public outreach: A cutting edge project in India can serve as a local focus to interest and inspire students and young scientists. The project involves high technology instrumentation and its dramatic scale will spur interest and provide motivation to young students for choosing experimental physics and engineering physics as career options.

Issues that such projects face in India:

  • India has had a contested relationship with such projects, including, recently, the Challakere Science City and the stalled India based Neutrino Observatory (INO).
    • Need large land tracts
    • Contests over land rights
    • Sustainable use of natural resources
    • Carbon sequestration targets
    • Just transitions, and
    • Human rights issues
  • Science seen as an agent of Colonization:
    • Recalling the interplay between the history of science and settler colonialism, Hawaii’s Thirty Meter Telescope that was built on land the locals is an example.
    • One contention there was that the land had been rendered physically inaccessible.
    • Such Scientific undertakings still have a responsibility to define their public value, beyond benefits to national industry and research.

What is LIGO?

  • It is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory and a wonder of precision engineering.
  • It comprises of two enormous laser interferometers located thousands of kilometres apart, each having two arms which are 4 km long.
  • It exploits the physical properties of light and of space itself to detect and understand the origins of Gravitational Waves (GW).

LIGO detectors

  • Two LIGO detectors work as one unit to ensure a remarkable precision, which is needed to detect a signal as weak as a gravitational wave.
  • Its detector components are completely isolated and sheltered from the outside world.
  • Unlike optical or radio telescopes, it does not see electromagnetic radiation (e.g., visible light, radio waves and microwaves) because gravitational waves are not part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • It doesn’t need to collect light from stars; it doesn’t need to be round or dish-shaped like optical telescope mirrors or radio telescope dishes, both of which focus EM radiation to produce images.

LIGO Project at a global level

  • Two LIGO detectors are already operational in the U.S., at Livingston and Hanford.
  • The Japanese detector, KAGRA, or Kamioka Gravitational-wave Detector, is expected to join the international network soon.

What are Gravitational Waves?

  • These waves are ‘ripples’ in space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe.
  • The strongest gravitational waves are produced by catastrophic events such as colliding black holes, the collapse of stellar cores (supernovae), coalescing neutron stars or white dwarf stars, the slightly wobbly rotation of neutron stars that are not perfect spheres, and possibly even the remnants of gravitational radiation created by the birth of the Universe itself.

Black Holes– A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.

Supernova- A supernova is the explosion of a star. It is the largest explosion that takes place in space. A supernova happens where there is a change in the core, or center, of a star. A change can occur in two different ways, with both resulting in a supernova.

Neutron stars–

  • Neutron stars comprise one of the possible evolutionary end-points of high mass stars.
  • Once the core of the star has completely burned to iron, energy production stops and the core rapidly collapses, squeezing electrons and protons together to form neutrons and neutrinos.
  • A star supported by neutron degeneracy pressure is known as a ‘neutron star’, which may be seen as a pulsar if its magnetic field is favourably aligned with its spin axis.

Conclusion:

LIGOIndia certainly offers an opportunity to build a facility that contributes to the communities from which it requires sustenance and knowledge, engage in good faith on concerns about access to land and other resources, and conduct public outreach on a par with the international LIGO Scientific Collaboration.


Declining Productivity of the Parliament


Context:

The Budget session of the Parliament ended recently. Frequent disruption has hampered parliamentary proceedings during the past three-four weeks.

Relevance:

GS Paper2: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Impact on Parliamentary proceedings
  2. Reasons for decreased parliamentary productivity include
  3. What has Parliament done to address these issues?
  4. Way forward
  5. Conclusion

Impact on Parliamentary proceedings:

  • The parliament’s Budget session ended as scheduled on April 6.
  • Key figures indicating poor productivity:
    • The Lok Sabha functioned for only around 34 per cent of the scheduled hours.
    • The Rajya Sabha fared even worse, at 24.4 per cent.
    • The Lok Sabha’s productivity, a decent 83.8 per cent in the first half of the session (January 31 to February 13), plummeted to 5.29 per cent in the second
    • The Upper House’s productivity fell from 56.3 per cent to 6.4 per cent.
  • Reasons:
    • The disruptions between the government and the Opposition hampered parliamentary proceedings during the past three-four weeks of the Budget session.
    • The business of the House was hit hard as the two sides traded accusations and adamantly refused to rise above their differences.

Reasons for decreased parliamentary productivity include:

  • Lost fervour (passion): If a parliamentarian arrives prepared to the House and disruption occurs too frequently, their enthusiasm fades, resulting in popular rather than substantive intervention.
  • For example, humour, poetry, emotional appeal, and a few philosophical quotations, all of which have a negative impact on the quality of debates.
  • Faux (insincere) efforts: Many opposition members argue vehemently that the bill be referred to the relevant standing committee for further review.
  • However, the percentage of members attending these committee meetings—their duration, quality of deliberations, and outcomes—do not appear to be a genuine effort.
    • Less emphasis on quality debate: Although disruptions have become more common, they continue to be widely reported, and disruptors frequently bask in the media spotlight. In contrast, those who deliver a reasonably good speech—well-argued and supported by statistics, examples, or case studies—rarely receive adequate attention, further undermining parliamentarians’ interest.
    • The role of the media: Due to dwindling reader interest, the space allotted for parliamentary proceedings in both print and electronic media is rapidly shrinking.
  • Inadequate coverage of Question Hour or Zero Hour, for example, in comparison to previous years.
  • Bill debates are also subject to brief and hazy reporting.

What has Parliament done to address these issues?

  • The government and not Parliament decides the parliamentary calendar.
  • Therefore, the decision about the time available with Parliament for discussions rests with the government.
  • Parliamentary procedure also prioritises government business over other debates that take place in the legislature.
  • In this regard, Parliament has not updated its rules over the last 70 years to give Opposition parties a say in deciding the agenda for discussion.
  • The stance of political parties on uninterrupted parliamentary functioning depends on whether they belong to the ruling party/coalition or are in the Opposition.
  • And in 2001, Lok Sabha amended its rules to give the Speaker more powers to discipline MPs who disrupt House proceedings.

Way forward

  • Presiding officers imitating (emulating) courts of law: Presiding officers can conduct in-camera proceedings in their chambers to protect at least the Zero Hour and Question Hour from disruption.
  • While the House is forced to adjourn, presiding officers can order in-camera hearings of MPs’ questions and ministers’ replies.
    • Fixed Schedule: The parliamentary schedule can be changed as follows:
  • For limited flexibility, a calendar of sittings could be announced at the start of each year.
  • The rules should be changed so that the House is summoned if a significant minority of members (say, 25% or 33%) provide written notice.
    • Incorporate best practises (UK Model): The British Parliament allots 20 days per year for the opposition to decide the agenda. A constitutional convention requires the Prime Minister to respond to questions directly posed to him by MPs.
  • Creating a new Index: A parliamentary disruption index should be developed as a means of monitoring disruptions in legislatures and preventing indiscipline. It would also make more time available for debate and discussion of issues before the House.

Conclusion:

Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar has rightly observed that ‘weaponising of politics’ by stalling Parliament’s functioning is pregnant with serious consequences for our polity.

The Parliamentarians must move away from unaccommodating attitude towards each other and focus on meaningful dialogue.


 

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