Science Monitor: 10 October 2020
Science Monitor: 10 October 2020
1. Nobel Prize 2020 Announcement
The names of Nobel Prize winners in the fields of medicine or physiology that is Physics and Chemistry were announced from 5th to the 7th of October in Sweden. This year the prizes have been awarded jointly to two or more scientists in each field of science for outstanding discoveries that have benefitted humankind in a remarkable way. This year the Nobel foundation has raised the prize money by one million Swedish chrono while the grand award ceremony is held every year on 10th of December in Stockholm and Oslo have been scaled down due to the pandemic.
About the winners:
- The announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize winners started with the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology. The prize was announced by the Nobel assembly at Karolinska Institute.
Medicine or Physiology:
- The prize was awarded jointly to Harvey J Alter of USA, Michael Houghton of Britain and Charles M Rice of the USA for the discovery of Hepatitis C Virus.
- Harvey J Alter studied the blood transfusion related Hepatitis and detected an unknown virus causing chronic Hepatitis. Michael Houghton used a new technique to clone the virus and developed a highly sensitive blood test for identifying the virus and Charles M Rice provided the final proof that the Hepatitis C Virus alone could cause the chronic condition. These discoveries led to the development of tests, drugs and treatment of the disease.
- The Nobel prize in Physics for the year 2020 was announced on the 6th of October by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The prize has been awarded to Roger Penrose of Britain, Reinhard Genzel of Germany, and Andrea Ghez of USA for their breakthroughs and understanding the mysteries of cosmic black holes.
- Roger Penrose is awarded for proving mathematically that Black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the process of their formation is a stable one while Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez have been awarded for discovering an invisible compact and supermassive object at the centre of our galaxy milky way which is most likely a black hole.
- Half of the prize money will be awarded to Roger Penrose and the other half jointly Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez. Interestingly, the work of these Nobel Laureates were built upon the work of Indian scientists like Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri and C. V. Vishveshwara.
- Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking proofs relied on Raychaudhuri equation given in 1950 which demonstrates that singularities are an inevitable consequence of general relativity, singularities are point of infinite density as found in the centre of black holes.
- On the other hand, Prof. C. V. Vishveshwara published three ground breaking papers on black holes research in the 1970s when he was just a graduate student at the University of Maryland. His critical calculation was also used in the discovery of gravitational waves produced by the merger of black holes that were detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in 2015.
- The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was announced on 7th of October by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The names of Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer Doudna of the U.S were announced for developing a genome editing tool.
- Both the scientists will share the prize for discovering CRISPR-Cas9, which is an easy, fast and highly precise method of genome editing. This announcement also made them the first pair of women scientists to win the award in any field of science without a male collaborator also on the award list.
- Recently, Indian scientists at CSIR Institute of Genomic and integrative Biology developed a covid-19 testing kit based on the CRISPR-Cas9 technology.
- Since 1901, the Nobel Prize are awarded according to the will of Swedish scientist Sir Alfred Nobel in the fields of Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine while a memorial prize in economic sciences was added in 1968.
2. Kodaikanal Solar Observatory
Indian researchers have recently developed a magnetic field map of the sun corresponding to the first half of the century that is for the period between 1915 to 196. The map has been developed using digitized films and photographs of the sun taken at multiple wavelengths by the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. The data from the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory is unique as it is the only observatory in the world to have made such direct observations of the Sun’s magnetic field before the 1960s. The map developed with this data can immensely improve our understanding of the sun’s behaviour.
About the Observatory:
- At a distance of about 4 kms from Tamil Nadu’s Kodaikanal, on the southern hills of the palani hills lies the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, autonomous Institute under the Department of Science and Technology. The Observatory was established here in 1899 by shifting all the activities of Madras Solar Observatory. Since then, this Observatory studying and observing the sun at different wavelengths.
- The Observatory has many telescopes like the 60 centimetre reflector telescope, twin telescope, white light active region monitor spectro heliograph which has been here since 1904, and each alpha telescope which was installed here in 2014.
- The observatory has a rich history of taking solar images and films at calcium k hydrogen alpha and white light on photographic plate and films over a century and these are the only uniform observations of the sun available in the world for the period of 1915 to 1965.
- These achieves are also an important tool to measure the magnetic activity of the sun, therefore they have been digitized at the Observatory.
- Using the digitized solar images from 1915 to 1965, a team of scientists has reconstructed the magnetic field map of the sun corresponding to the five decades of the last century. This effort will also help in understanding the polarity reversal of the sun which occurs at every 11 years and shows a distinct pattern that repeats over time.
- The map developed with the help of 15,000 digital images of the sun can predict the future of the sun by throwing light on its pat behaviour.
- Similar to climate studies where meteorologists need data regarding rain patterns, temperature, etc. astronomers need information on the behaviour of the sun in the past to predict how it will behave in the future, a critical parameter of this behaviour is the magnetic field which keeps varying and governs the long-time changes in the sun.
- Technology today has enabled direct observations of magnetic field but there are no direct observations of magnetic field recorded before 1960. Therefore, the recently digitized data of the 121 years old Kodaikanal Observatory is of immense value.
3. IIT Madras Researchers' International Team Wins' Waves to Water Prize '
An international team consisting of researchers from the IIT, Madras has entered the third phase of the waves to water price competition organised by the US department of Energy. More than 100 global teams of participating in this competition and the Team Nalu e Wai (Hawaiian for waves into fresh water) which also includes Indian researchers was among the 17 winners of the second round. The objective of the competition is to design a wave energy-based desalination system to provide post disaster drinking water supply to coastal areas.
About the competition:
- Researchers of IIT, Madras along with their International team members belonging to US and Sweden have won the first two phases of the waves to water competition organised by the US department of energy.
- The objective is to design a wave energy-based desalination system to provide post-disaster drinking water supply to coastal areas. More than 100 global teams participated in the concept stage of the competition and 20 were selected for the design stage.
- Under a collective effort of USA, India and Sweden, researchers from Uppsala University, Sweden and University of Hawaii in Honolulu, U.S formed an International team Nalu e Wai and entered the third stage of the competition after winning the concept and design stage. The team will now compete with 16 other teams.
- Nalu e Wai team is working on a wave energy-based desalination system, the researchers have developed a water purification system that will be powered by flap type energy converter. The flaps will gain energy from sea waves and the energy will power a piston to run an arrow in the system. This will desalinate the sea water to make it portable without the use of an external energy source.
4. Air Pollution Is Having Adverse Effects on Wild Honey Bees
A study conducted in Bengaluru and published in the proceedings of the National academy of the Sciences of USA has shown how air pollution is proving detrimental to the health of the giant Asian honeybees. According to researchers, the adverse effects on such pollinators can directly affect our food production besides disturbing the ecosystem.
About the Study:
- Pollinators play an important role in our ecosystem and environment conservation. Many insects help in pollination and lead to the multiplication of plant species both agricultural and wild. Insects like honeybee not only contribute in pollination but also produ