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Daily Category  (Technology)

India, US Ministerial Meeting

Context:

India and the US are preparing for the third 2+2 ministerial meeting between External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister, and US Secretary of State.

  • The meeting will mainly focus on the various agreements signed between the two countries. 

Agreements signed between the two nations:

The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA):

  • BECA largely pertain to geospatial intelligence and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defense.
  • The signing of BECA will allow India to use the US’s advanced geospatial intelligence and enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones.
  • The agreement will give access to topographical and aeronautical data and products that will aid navigation and targeting.
  • It will also provide Indian military systems with a high-quality GPS to navigate missiles with real-time intelligence to precisely target the adversary.

The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement  (LEMO):

  • LEMO was signed between India and the US in August 2016.
  • It allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases i.e. access supplies, spare parts, and services from the other country’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
  • It is extremely useful for Navy-to-Navy cooperation since the US and India are cooperating closely in the Indo-Pacific.
  • In military terms, one’s Naval ships are strategic assets and the use of another country’s base would expose one’s military asset to the host.

The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA):

  • The agreement was signed in September 2018, after the first 2+2 dialogue.
  • It allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, aircraft, and ships can communicate through secure networks in peace and war.
  • COMCASA paved the way for the transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India to facilitate “interoperability” between their forces and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.

Source: The Hindu

3rd generation Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) NAG

Context:

Final user trial of 3rd generation Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) NAG was carried out successfully from the Pokhran range in Thar desert (Rajasthan).

  • The missile was launched from NAG Missile Carrier NAMICA. The missile hit the target accurately defeating the armor. 

ATGM NAG:

  • It has been developed by DRDO to engage highly fortified enemy tanks in day and night conditions.
  • The missile has “Fire & Forget” “Top Attack” capabilities with passive homing guidance to defeat all MBTs equipped with composite and reactive armor.
  • The NAG missile carrier NAMICA is a BMP II-based system with amphibious capability.

Significance:

  • With this final user trial, Nag will enter the production phase.
  • The missile will be produced by Defence Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), whereas Ordnance Factory, Medak, will produce the NAMICA.
  • This means that the Indian Army will no longer have to import this weapon from either Israel or the USA for the range of four kilometers.
  • It was due to the unavailability of a credible anti-tank weapon, that India had to buy around 200 pieces of Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel as emergency purchases after the aggression by the People's Liberation Army (China) in Ladakh.

Integrated Guided Missile Development Program:

  • The program was conceived by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
  • In 1983 the program was approved by the Government and in 2012 it was completed.
  • Objective: To enable India to attain self-sufficiency in the field of missile technology.

Missiles:

  • Following 5 missiles have been developed under this program:
    • Prithvi: Short-range surface to surface ballistic missile.
    • Agni: Ballistic missiles with different ranges
    • Trishul: Short-range low-level surface to air missile.
    • Nag: 3rd generation anti-tank missile.
    • Akash: Medium range surface to air missile.

Source: PIB

Tubarial Salivary Glands

Context:

Scientists at the Netherlands Cancer Institute have identified a set of salivary glands deep in the upper part of the throat and have named them “tubarial salivary glands”.

Details:

  • The researchers confirmed the presence of the glands after examining at least 100 patients.
  • The discovery may be important for cancer treatment. So far, nasopharynx region (behind the nose) was not thought to host anything but microscopic, diffuse, salivary glands.
  • Doctors using radiotherapy for treating cancers in the head and neck try to avoid the main salivary glands as damaging them could make eating, speaking, or swallowing difficult for patients.
    • However, in this case, the newly discovered glands were getting hit by radiation as doctors were not aware of their existence in the human body.
    • Thus, the new discovery may result in fewer side effects for cancer patients.

Tubarial salivary glands:

  • These glands are about 1.5 inches in length on average and are located over a piece of cartilage called the torus tubarius.
  • The new organ was discovered while scientists were studying prostate cancer cells using PSMA PET-CT technology. 
  • The glands lubricate and moisten the upper throat behind the nose and mouth.
    • Until now, there were three known large salivary glands in humans: one under the tongue, one under the jaw, and one at the back of the jaw, behind the cheek.
  • Beyond those, perhaps a thousand microscopic salivary glands are scattered throughout the mucosal tissue of the throat and mouth. 

PSMA PET-CT technology:

  • It is a combination of CT scans and positron emission tomography (PET) which is good in detecting salivary gland tissues.
  • In this technique, a radioactive “tracer” is injected into the patient that binds to the protein PSMA, which is elevated in prostate cancer cells.

Salivary Glands:

  • The salivary glands in mammals are exocrine glands that produce saliva through a system of ducts.
  • Humans have three paired major salivary glands (parotid, submandibular, and sublingual) as well as hundreds of minor salivary glands.
  • Salivary glands can be classified as serous, mucous, or seromucous (mixed).
    • In serous secretions, the main type of protein secreted is alpha-amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starch into maltose and glucose,
    • In mucous secretions, the main protein secreted is mucin, which acts as a lubricant.

Source: Indian Express

Asteroid Bennu

Context:

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touched asteroid Bennu, from where it is meant to collect samples of dust and pebbles and deliver them back to Earth in 2023.

  • OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer.
  • The asteroid was named after an Egyptian deity by a nine-year-old boy from North Carolina in 2013. 

Asteroids:

  • These are rocky objects that orbit the Sun, much smaller than planets. They are also called minor planets. 
  • According to NASA, there are around 994,383 known asteroids, the remnants from the formation of the solar system over 4.6 billion years ago.
  • Asteroids are divided into three classes:
    1. Tose found in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which are estimated to contain somewhere between 1.1-1.9 million asteroids.
    2. Trojans: These are asteroids that share an orbit with a larger planet. NASA reports the presence of Jupiter, Neptune, and Mars trojans. In 2011, they reported an Earth trojan as well.
    3. Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA): These have orbits that pass close by the Earth. Those that cross the Earth’s orbit are called Earth-crossers. More than 10,000 such asteroids are known, out of which over 1,400 are classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs).

OSIRIS-REx mission:

  • This is NASA’s first mission meant to return a sample from the ancient asteroid. 
  • The mission was launched in 2016, it reached its target in 2018 and since then, the spacecraft has been trying to match the velocity of the asteroid using small rocket thrusters to rendezvous it. 
  • The mission is essentially a seven-year-long voyage and will conclude when at least 60 grams of samples are delivered back to the Earth.
  • The mission aims to bring the largest amount of extraterrestrial material back to our planet since the Apollo era.

Recent developments: 

  • Recently, the spacecraft’s robotic arm called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), made an attempt to “TAG” the asteroid at a sample site which was no bigger than a few parking spaces and collected a sample.
  • The spacecraft contains five instruments meant to explore Bennu including cameras, a spectrometer, and a laser altimeter.
    • The departure window for the mission will open up in 2021, after which it will take over two years to reach back to Earth.

Asteroid Bennu:

  • Bennu is an asteroid about as tall as the Empire State Building and located at a distance of about 200 million miles away from the Earth. 
  • Scientists study asteroids to look for information about the formation and history of planets and the sun since asteroids were formed at the same time as other objects in the solar system.
    • Another reason for tracking them is to look for asteroids that might be potentially hazardous.
  • Bennu hasn’t undergone drastic changes since its formation over billions of years ago and therefore it contains chemicals and rocks dating back to the birth of the solar system.
    • It is also relatively close to the Earth.

Source: Indian Express 

Extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

Context:

Russia has proposed to extend the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) by one year between the USA and Russia expiring in February 2021.

Details:

  • Russia has extended the proposal along with concerns of a lack of interest from the United States.
  • The USA in 2019 has also suspended the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty (INF Treaty) with Russia.
    • INF Treaty was a nuclear arms-control accord reached by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987 in which the two nations agreed to eliminate their stocks of intermediate-range and shorter-range land-based missiles.
  • The United States withdrew from the Treaty on 2nd August 2019.

USA’s Proposal:

  • The USA wanted any replacement treaty should include China.
  • The USA wanted to encompass all of Russia’s nuclear weapons not just the “strategic” weapons covered under New START but also Russia’s sizable stockpile of smaller, “tactical” nuclear weapons that fall outside the treaty.

New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START):

  • The treaty was signed in 2010 in Prague by the United States and Russia and entered into force in 2011.
  • It replaced the 1991 START I treaty, which expired in 2009, and superseded the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT).
  • The New START is the first verifiable U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty to take effect since START I in 1994.
  • Nuclear warhead limit: The New START limits went into effect that capped deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs at 1,550 which is down approximately 30 percent from the 2,200 limits set by SORT.

Missile, bomber, and launcher limits:

  • The deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions are limited to 700.
  • The New START does not limit the number of non-deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, but it does monitor them and provide for continuous information on their locations and on-site inspections to confirm that they are not added to the deployed force.
  • The Treaty does not place any constraints on the testing, development, or deployment of current or planned U.S. missile defense programs or U.S. long-range conventional strike capabilities.

Source: The Hindu

Frontier Technologies Cloud Innovation Center

Context:

NITI Aayog and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have announced the establishment of a Frontier Technologies Cloud Innovation Center (CIC).

Cloud Innovation Centers:

  • The Cloud Innovation Centers (CIC) Program provides an opportunity for non-profits, education institutions, and government agencies to collaborate with other public sector organizations.
  • Objective: To test new ideas with Amazon’s innovation process and access the technical expertise of AWS.
  • Eligibility: Any non-profit, education or government organization can apply to work on a challenge with a global network of public sector-led innovation centers.

Significance:

  • Frontier Technologies CIC will be a great enabler to budding innovators and start-ups.
  • It will help in piloting state-of-the-art, cloud-centric digital innovations by leveraging emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, robotics, blockchain, etc.
    • The internet of things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals, or people.
    • Blockchains are a new data structure that is secure, cryptography-based, and distributed across a network. The technology supports cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and the transfer of any data or digital asset.
  • It is also aligned to the Prime Minister’s vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, as well as that of NITI Aayog and Atal Innovation Mission.
  • Frontier Technologies Cloud Innovation Center will enable government stakeholders, start-ups, and local organizations in India to innovate and create new approaches to solving problems.
  • The center will identify and prioritize projects as well as collaborate with local leaders, including subject matter experts at the state and district levels, to solve critical challenges.

National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog):

  • The Government constituted the NITI Aayog to replace the Planning Commission instituted in 1950. 
  • It was formed in 2015 as a premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs.
  • NITI Aayog designs strategic and long term policies and programs for the Government and also provides relevant technical advice to the Centre and States.
  • Prime Minister of India is the Chairperson of NITI Aayog.
  • Chief Ministers of all the States and Lt. Governors of Union Territories are in the governing council.

Members:

  • Part-time: Maximum of 2 members from foremost universities, leading research organizations, and other innovative organizations in an ex-officio capacity. Part-time members will be on a rotational basis.
  • Ex Officio: Maximum of 4 members of the Council of Ministers which is to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
  • Chief Executive Officer: CEO will be appointed by the Prime Minister for a fixed tenure. He will be in the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.

Source: PIB

Vessel traffic services (VTS) and Vessels Traffic Monitoring Systems (VTMS)

Context:

The Union Ministry of Shipping launched the development of an Indigenous Software solution for Vessel traffic services (VTS) and Vessels Traffic Monitoring Systems (VTMS).

Details:

  • VTS and VTMS are Softwares that determine vessel positions, the position of other traffic or meteorological hazard warnings, and extensive management of traffic within a port or waterway.
  • The Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) contribute to the safety of life at sea, safety, and efficiency of navigation, and protection of the marine environment.
  • The VTS provides protection to adjacent shore areas, worksites, and offshore installations from possible adverse effects of maritime traffic.
  • The Vessels Traffic Management Systems are installed at the busiest waters in the world and are making valuable contributions to safer navigation, more efficient traffic flow, and protection of the environment.

Features:

  • VTMS is mandatory under the IMO Convention SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea).
  • The VTMS traffic image is compiled and collected by means of advanced sensors such as radar, AIS, direction finding, CCTV, and VHF.
  • Currently, India has approximately 15 VTS systems operational along the Indian Coast and there is no uniformity of VTS software as each system has its own VTS software.

Significance of VTS software:

  • VTS Software can be provided to Indian trade-friendly nations viz. Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Bangladesh, and Gulf countries.
  • Minimize the cost for future upgradations of software.
  • Easier to interconnect with MIS/ERP software of ports.
  • Saving of foreign exchange for various VTSs in India.
  • The availability of Indian VTS software shall make Indian companies be competitive commercially in global bids.

Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS):

  • It was born after the sinking of the 1914 RMS Titanic.
    • The third version of the Convention was adopted in 1960 and entered into force in 1965.
  • It is an international maritime treaty that requires signatory flag states to ensure that flagged vessels meet minimum safety standards for operation, equipment, and construction.
  • It contains various chapters dealing with ship-building, security, cargo transport, and International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.
  • It provides for international maritime safety for flag vessels to meet minimum safety standards with reference to the construction, equipment, and operation.

Source: PIB

Asafoetida Cultivation

Context:

The Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) took up the Asafoetida Cultivation in India to utilize vast expanses of wasteland in the cold desert conditions of the region.

Asafoetida:

  • Ferula asafoetida is a herbaceous plant of the Umbelliferae family.
  • It is a perennial plant whose oleo gum resin is extracted from its thick roots and rhizome.
  • Asafoetida is one of the top condiments and is a high-value spice crop in India.
  • India imports about 1200 tonnes of raw asafoetida annually from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan.
  • The raw asafoetida is extracted from the fleshy roots of Ferula assa-foetida as an oleo-gum resin.
  • There are about 130 species of Ferula found in the world, but only Ferula assa-foetidais the economically important species used for the production of asafoetida.
  • India does not have Ferula assa-foetida, but other species Ferula jaeschkeana is reported from the western Himalaya (Chamba, HP), and Ferula narthex from Kashmir and Ladakh, which are not the species that yield asafoetida.

Favourable conditions:

  • The first asafoetida sapling, grown at IHBT’s Centre for High Altitude Biology, was planted by in Kwaring village of Lahaul valley.
  • The agriculture ministry has identified four locations in the valley and has distributed heeng seeds to seven farmers in the region.
  • Asafoetida best grows in dry and cold conditions.
  • The plant can withstand a maximum temperature between 35 and 40 degrees, whereas, during winters, it can survive in temperatures up to minus 4 degrees.
  • The regions with sandy soil, very little moisture and an annual rainfall of not more than 200mm are considered conducive for heeng cultivation in India.

Benefits of Asafoetida:

  • The medicinal properties of heeng are a relief for digestive, spasmodic and stomach disorders, asthma and bronchitis.
  • The herb is commonly used to help with painful or excessive bleeding during menstruation and pre-mature labour.

Source: Indian Express

The Naval version of the BrahMos

Context:

A naval version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was successfully test-fired in the Arabian Sea.

  • The missile was fired from an indigenously developed stealth destroyer, INS Chennai.

Details:

  • BrahMos, as prime strike weapon, will ensure the warship’s invincibility by engaging naval surface targets at long ranges.
  • The BrahMos Aerospace, an India-Russia joint venture, produces the supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or from land platforms.

INS Chennai:

  • It is the third indigenously designed guided-missile destroyer in the Kolkata class.
  • It is armed with supersonic surface-to-surface BrahMos missiles and Barak-8 long-range surface-to-air missiles.
  • It is powered by a combined gas and gas (COGAG) propulsion system that includes four Zorya-Mashproekt DT-59 reversible gas turbines.

BrahMos  Missile:

  • Brahmos is named on the rivers Brahmaputra (India) and Moskva (Russia).
  • It is a joint venture between the Defence Research and Development Organisation of India (DRDO) and the NPOM of Russia.
  • It is the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile.
  • It travels at a speed of Mach 2.8 (nearly three times the speed of sound).
  • It is a multiplatform i.e it can be launched from land, air, and sea and multi capability missile with pinpoint accuracy that works in both day and night irrespective of the weather conditions.
    • It is, therefore, used by all three forces, the Army, Navy, and the Air Force.

Features:

  • The missile features an indigenous Booster and Airframe Section, along with many other indigenous sub-systems.
  • It operates on the "Fire and Forget" principle i.e it does not require further guidance after launch.
  • BrahMos is the heaviest weapon to be deployed on Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft, with a weight of 2.5 tonnes.
  • Its range has been recently enhanced from 300 Km to 450-600 Km,
  • Increasing the missile’s range became possible after India’s induction into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016.

Source: The Hindu

Science-Society-Setu for Aatmanirbhar Bharat (S34ANB)

Context:

The Ministry of Science & Technology has launched the Science-Society-Setu for Aatmanirbhar Bharat (S34ANB).

Science-Society-Setu:

  • It is a web-clinic series by Science for Equity Empowerment and Development SEED Division, Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • The initiative is being jointly organized by DST, in collaboration with the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA), Vigyan Prasar, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations (AGNIi), World Wide Fund for Nature India (WWF-India), and Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO).
  • It aims to reach the unreached through ‘vocal for local approach’ to strengthen the social infrastructure and technology-driven pillars of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’.
  • It aims to cover four broad sectors i.e. agriculture and allied sectors, MSME & economic sector, social infrastructure, and cross-sectoral areas.

The objectives:

  • To bridge the systematic gaps in the S&T absorption capacity of the community;
  • To enhance the knowledge capacity and livelihood systems for sustainable development at the local level by strengthening the S&T capacity of NGOs and communities.
  • It intends to align Technology, Knowledge, Skills, and Resources at local levels to strengthen the pillars of ‘Social Infrastructure’ and ‘Technology Driven System’.
  • It is being launched, implemented, and managed using the India Science, Technology, and Innovation (ISTI) Web Portal of Vigyan Prasar.

India Science, Technology and Innovation Web Portal:

  • It is a one-stop window for information about developments in India on science, technology, and innovation.
  • It focuses on bringing all stakeholders and Indian STI activities on a single online platform.
  • The portal brings on the table the storehouse of technologies developed in India, the organizations that have developed these technologies, those that have funded them, and the status of the technologies.

Source: PIB

Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojna

Context:

Union Ministery for Health and Family Welfare has launched the second phase of “Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojna” for the underprivileged Thalassemic patients.

  • Objective: To provide a one-time cure opportunity for Haemoglobinopathies like Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Disease for patients who have a matched family donor.
  • Eligibility: Only those patients are eligible whose monthly family income is below Rs 20,000.
  • The scheme has been extended to cover Aplastic Anaemia patients (lack of blood cell production in the body).

Hematopoietic Stem Cell:

  • It is an immature cell that can develop into all types of blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Hematopoietic stem cells are found in the peripheral blood and the bone marrow. 
  • The outcome of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) for thalassemia major depends on several factors other than the type of donor.
  • It was first explored in humans in the 1950s and was based on observational studies in mice models.

The Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) program:

  • It mainly refers to the transplantation of stem cells from various sources (bone marrow, growth factor-stimulated peripheral blood, and umbilical cord blood) for the treatment of various diseases like autoimmune, and genetic diseases.
  • The program was launched in 2017 and is funded by Coal India Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
  • The program will be extended for the next two years from 2020.

Thalassemia: