Science Technology Summary: Dec 2018 – March 2019
India successfully shot down a live satellite in lower-earth orbit (LEO) by test-firing an anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile. The project was code named as Mission Shakti was led by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). With this, India became the fourth country after the U.S., Russia and China to have the A-SAT technology.
India is Signatory to 1967 Outer Space Treaty which prohibits weapons of mass destruction in outer space. However, mission Shakti did not violate its terms as it was only ordinary weapon and the test was done in the lower atmosphere, hence, whatever debris that were generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks.
NCFL and CyPAD launched
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a national cyber forensic lab and Cyber Prevention, Awareness & Detection Centre (CyPAD). The National Cyber Forensic Lab (NCFL) is part of the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) initiative and CyPAD is the Delhi Police’s cybercrime unit.
Facebook launches tool to promote Lok Sabha elections
Facebook recently launched two new India-specific tools to boost civic engagement on its plaform in coming Lok Sabha Elections. The tools are Candidate Connect and Share You Voted.
Facebook to set up an Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence
Facebook grants $7.5 million to set up an Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in collaboration with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany.
Infosys has launched the app InfyTQ app to offer learning and engagement experiences for engineering students. The online free platform InfyTQ is open to all engineering students in their third and fourth year. InfyTQ encourages holistic development by imparting technical as well as professional skills and helps them become industry ready.
Google has unveiled a new app Bolo; that aims to help children in primary school learn to read in Hindi and English. The app uses Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology and encourages children to read stories aloud through an animated character Diya.
Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG)
Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has unveiled the Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG) at the Aero India 2019. The new product aims to provide an innovative solution to meet the ever-increasing need for drinking water worldwide. AWG is being manufactured by BEL in collaboration with CSIR-IICT and MAITHRI, a start-up company based in Hyderabad.
Bank of Baroda is developing an agri-digital platform called Baroda Kisan to provide solutions for all major agricultural requirements including reliable and customised information, inputs for use, the convenience of renting farm equipment and market linkage for sale of agri-produces.
Baroda Kisan initiative is part of the Bank of Baroda’s initiative to keep up with the use of technology in the field of agriculture. Baroda Kisan aims to provide a dedicated platform for farmers to ease their requirements.
IT Centre of Excellence (ITCoE) of Bank of Baroda in partnership with IBM India will execute the agri-digital platform. Bank of Baroda has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Six companies viz. Skymet Weather Services, Weather Risk Management Services, BigHaat, Agrostar India, EM3 Agri Services and Poorti Agri Services for the project.
106th Session of Indian Science Congress
The 106th Indian Science Congress was held at Lovely Professional University (LPU) campus in Phagwara, Jalandhar, Punjab. The theme of the 106th science congress was ‘Future India: Science and Technology’. PM Modi the nation a new slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan and Jai Anusandhan.
NIC Command and Control Centre Inaugurated
The Minister for Electronics and IT (MeitY) Ravi Shankar Prasad inaugurated the National Informatics Centre (NIC)’s Command and Control Centre (CCC) and its Centre for Excellence in Artificial Intelligence.
NIC hosts over 10,000 e-Governance applications and offers Data Centre and Cloud services to the Government. The Command and Control Centre is set up as a specialized facility with a nationwide view of ICT infrastructure for effective monitoring and management of the performance & availability of all these critical services. The Command and Control Centre will increase the agility of NIC’s nationwide ICT infrastructure.
The Centre of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence aims to provide a platform to provide innovative new solutions and to test and develop solutions for projects undertaken by NIC at central and state level.
It has been established with a motto ‘Inclusive AI’ for responsive governance, to work towards improving Govt. service delivery to citizens. The centre of excellence will also provide Capacity Building & Institutionalizing AI in Ministries / Departments / Organizations.
DD Science and India Science launched
The Minister of Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan launched the initiatives DD Science and India Science to popularise science in India. The initiatives aim to develop the scientific temper in Indian society. DD Science is a one-hour slot on Doordarshan National channel which will be telecast Monday to Saturday from 5 pm to 6 pm. DD Science may be scaled up to a full-fledged channel in the future.
India Science is an Internet-based channel which will be available on any internet-enabled device and will offer live, scheduled play and video-on-demand services. India Science will have a 24*7 presence through www.indiascience.in
BSNL to provide data through SMS
BSNL has signed a partnership agreement with the French company Be-Bound to offer data connectivity through SMS in areas where there is no Internet connectivity or signal breaks. This technology was first introduced in France and it is also being tested in some of the African countries.
The SMS based data connectivity will work with the help of a technology embedded in a mobile App.
The app will detect if the user’s area has poor network connectivity. Then the app will send commands to the Be-Bound server.
Lithium-ion cell technology Transfer by ISRO
ISRO has selected 10 companies for the Lithium-ion cell technology Transfer after the examination of Request for Qualification (RFQ), which contained a brief description of the qualification aspects, technology transfer process, timelines and other relevant details.
Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) has developed the Lithium-ion cell technology. The technology will not be transferred to the industries to establish production facilities for producing lithium-ion cells to cover the entire spectrum of power storage requirements of the country
The progress in Li-ion battery technology research has made it the preferred power source for electric and hybrid electric vehicles owing to its high voltage, high energy density, long life cycle and high storage characteristics. Li-ion batteries find wide application in electronic gadgets, telecommunication and industrial applications as well as in aerospace.
MoU between IIT KGP and C-DAC
IIT Kharagpur has signed an MoU with Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) to set up a 1.3 Petaflop high-performance computing facility and data centre funded under the National Supercomputing Mission. The new supercomputing system would be used for specific challenge domains like cryptography, chemistry, molecular dynamics, drug discovery, artificial intelligence and data sciences where the new system would be utilized.
PetaFlop: A unit of computing speed equal to one thousand million million (1015) floating-point operations per second (FLOPS).
PARAM Shivay, the first super computer designed & built under the National Supercomputing Mission by C-DAC (Center for Development of Advanced Computing) at IIT-BHU was launched.
BullSequana – Supercomputer
France-based company Atos signed agreement with Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) for designing, building and installing BullSequana – the supercomputer in India under the National Supercomputing Mission (NSM).
Atos will supply BullSequana XH200 super computer to India to create a network of over 70 high-performance supercomputing facilities with a cumulative computing power of more than 10 petaflops, for various academic and research institutions across India.
Smart Garbage Bins
Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) has launched smart garbage bins made of stainless steel which integrates technology for smart waste management. The Smart Garbage Bins will send signals to the garbage collection vehicle about the ‘fill-up’ position of the bin. This provides for better cleaning and lower human intervention.
West Nile Virus
A seven-year-old in Kerala has been detected with the West Nile Virus. The central government has sent the team to the state and is monitoring the case closely. West Nile Virus is a viral infection which typically spread by mosquitoes and results in neurological disease as well as death in people. The Virus is the member of the flavivirus genus and belongs to the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex of the family Flaviviridae. It was first detected in a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937 and was later identified in birds (crows and Columbiformes) in the Nile delta region in 1953.
PSLV-C43 / HysIS Mission
PSLV-C43 lifted off at 0957 hrs (IST) on November 29, 2018 from the First Launch Pad (FLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota and successfully launched India’s Hyper spectral Imaging Satellite (HysIS) and 30 international co-passenger satellites.
Weighing about 380 kg HysIS, is an earth observation satellite configured around ISRO’s Mini Satellite-2 (IMS-2) bus. The primary goal of HysIS is to study the earth’s surface in the visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Hyperspectral imaging or hyspex imaging (imaging spectroscopy) combines power of digital imaging and spectroscopy. It collects and processes information from across electromagnetic spectrum. Hyspex’ imaging enables distinct identification of objects, materials or processes on Earth by reading spectrum for each pixel of scene from space.
GSAT-11 was successfully launched on December 05, 2018 from Kourou launch base, French Guiana by Ariane-5 VA-246. Weighing about 5854 kg, GSAT-11 is the heaviest satellite built by ISRO.
GSAT-11 is the fore-runner in the series of advanced communication satellites with multi-spot beam antenna coverage over Indian mainland and Islands. GSAT-11 will play a vital role in providing broadband services across the country. It will also provide a platform to demonstrate new generation applications.
GSLV-F11 / GSAT-7A Mission
GSLV-F11 successfully launched GSAT-7A, ISRO’s 39th communication satellite, on December 19, 2018 at 1610 hrs (IST) from the Second Launch Pad (SLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota.
GSLV-F11 is the 13th flight of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and its 7th flight with indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS).
GSLV – F11 is ISRO’s fourth generation launch vehicle with three stages. The four liquid strap-ons and a solid rocket motor at the core form the first stage. The second stage of the vehicle is equipped with high thrust engine using liquid fuel. The Cryogenic Upper Stage forms the third and final stage of the vehicle.
GSAT-7A with a lift-off mass of 2250 kg, is a geostationary satellite carrying communication transponders in Ku-band. The Satellite is built to provide communication capability to the users over the Indian region.
The Union Cabinet has approved a budget of Rs 10,000 crore for the Gaganyaan project. The Mission aims to carry three human beings for a maximum period of seven days in space. India will launch two unmanned missions before the final mission. The first unmanned test-flight will be launched in December 2020. The second unmanned test will be conducted in July 2021 and the human space flight will be launched in December 2021. The crew-members will be jointly selected by the IAF and ISRO. The crew members would be trained for two-three years.
Kalamsat V2 named after former president and Indian scientist Dr Abdul Kalam, was launched from Sriharikota space centre. It is the lightest satellite to be ever built and launched into orbit and also ISRO’s first launch of a satellite built by a private firm. Students belonging to Space Kidz India, a Chennai-based space education firm, built the satellite. It is a communications satellite for ham radio transmission, a form of wireless communication used by amateurs for non-commercial activities.
Microsat-R, an imaging satellite was successfully injected into intended orbit of 274 km by PSLV-C44 on January 24, 2019
The Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC), which would be the core of ISRO’s future manned missions was inaugurated at the ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru. HSFC will implement the first development flight of Gaganyaan with the support of existing ISRO Centres.
Astronomers from Thiruvananthapuram and Mumbai have identified a new population of ultraviolet stars in the globular cluster NGC 2808 using the Indian multi-wavelength space observatory AstroSat, launched in September 2015.
NEWS From NASA:
- NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft has found water locked inside asteroid Bennu.
- InSight, NASA’s new Mars lander, has set up its first instrument on planet Mars. The instrument placed by InSight, which landed on Mars on 26th November, is a quake monitor (seismometer) that will listen for quakes and wobbles. Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) of NASA has discovered a third new planet – HD21749b. The other two discoveries made by the TESS probe are Pi Mensae b and LHS 3844b.
- NASA has launched Visualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral Atom Sensing-2 (VISIONS-2). It is a sounding rocket mission to get a closer look at the how the Earth’s atmosphere is slowly leaking into space.
Soyuz Spacecraft reaches ISS
Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA Astronaut Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and Cosmonaut (Russian Crew members are called as a cosmonaut) Alexey Ovchinin successfully docked International Space Station.
ISS programm is a joint project of five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). It artificial satellite in low Earth orbit and circles the Earth in about 92 minutes.
China’s Chang’e 4 probe spacecraft has become the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon. Jaipur’s Manish Sharma contributed in this project.
AGNI-IV test fired successfully
India has successfully test-fired nuclear-capable long-range ballistic missile Agni-IV from the Dr Abdul Kalam Island in Odhisa. The strategic surface-to-surface missile has a strike range of 4,000 km. The indigenously developed Agni IV is a two-stage missile and is 20 meters long with a weight of 17 tonnes.
Helina Flight Tested
The Helicopter-launched anti-tank missile Helina was successfully test fired from the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur in Balasore district of Odisha. Helina is the air-launched variant of the Nag and range is estimated at between 7 to 8 kilometres.
Helina is guided by an infrared imaging seeker (IIR) operating in the lock-on before-launch mode and can be launched from twin-tube stub wing-mounted launchers on board HAL’s Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH).
World thinnest material
Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar have developed a material that is 100,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper. Scientists have developed a two-dimensional material of just one-nanometer thickness using Magnesium diboride. It is said to be the world’s thinnest material and it can find applications in a number of applications from next-generation batteries to ultraviolet absorbing films.
Scientists from the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Bangalore have developed a protective gel called Poly-Oxime, which can be applied on the skin and can break down toxic chemicals into safe substances, preventing them from going deep into the skin and organs like the brain and the lungs. This would be a boon for Indian farmers since most Indian farmers do not wear any protective gear while spraying chemicals in fields, which often leads to pesticide exposure and toxicity.
Tackling Zika, dengue, JE and chikungunya
Scientists from the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) at Manesar have figured out cellular and molecular mechanisms which show how the Zika virus causes microcephaly or small head size in babies.
Another study from the scientists of the Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Faridabad have identified a key protein which helps dengue as well as Japanese Encephalitis viruses replication inside the human body by inhibiting anti-viral cytokines. This research could pave way for the development of targeted drugs for dengue and JE.
A group of researchers from Amity University, Noida, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi and Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak, have developed a biosensor using molybdenum disulphide nanosheets for detecting Chikungunya.
Early flowering mustard
TERI School of Advanced Studies has developed an early flowering transgenic variety of mustard.
Gene Editing of Banana Genome
Researchers from the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute, Mohali have edited the banana genome using the gene editing technique of CRISPR/Cas9. This was first such attempt on any fruit in India. Gene editing can now be deployed for improving nutritional quality, agronomically important traits as well as pathogen resistance in banana.
Faster diagnostic tests for tuberculosis
Scientists from the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Faridabad and All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi have jointly developed a highly sensitive and rapid test for detection of tuberculosis infection in lungs and surrounding membranes. These new tests use Aptamer Linked Immobilized Sorbent Assay (ALISA) and Electrochemical Sensor (ECS) for detection of a bacterial protein in the sputum, unlike current tests that use antibodies for detection of bacterial proteins in sputum samples.
Detection of Arsenic in floodplains of Punjab
A study by the New Delhi-based TERI School of Advanced Studies has found that that Punjab’s floodplains are severely affected by arsenic contamination. This discovery was significant because till now arsenic was a major problem in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Chhattisgarh. Even though Arsenic was detected in ground waters, the detection of Arsenic in floodplains of Punjab is something new.
Hope for Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s
Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, have figured out how the way memory deficit develops in early stages and results in Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have found that early breaking down of a protein, fibrillar actin or F-actin, in the brain leads to disruption in communication among nerve cells and consequently memory deficits. This discovery can be used to develop early diagnosis test in future.
Another study by the Researchers from the Department of Genetics at Delhi University South Campus has found that it is possible to restrict the progression of Huntington’s disease by increasing insulin signalling in the brain neuronal cells.
Space weather warning model rules out ‘mini ice age’
Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata have dismissed the speculation that the upcoming sunspot cycle is going to be stronger using a model. The model developed by the scientists makes it possible to make predictions almost a decade before the next sunspot cycle activity peaks in strength.
Green technique to address Plaster of Paris pollution
Scientists from the Pune-based National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL) have developed a technique which helps recycle Plaster of Paris waste from hospitals in an eco-friendly and economical way. This new technique disinfects waste and converts it into useful products like ammonium sulphate and calcium bicarbonate. This technique can also be used to disintegrate PoP waste from idols immersed in water bodies.
New tool for autism screening
Scientists from the Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh, have developed an Indian tool for screening children for autism. The tool is designed to help community health workers to carry out initial screening for autism.
Discovery of Stone Age tools
The discovery of the Stone Age tools from a village near Chennai suggest that a Middle Palaeolithic culture was present in India around 385,000 years ago which is roughly the same time the Middle Palaeolithic culture is known to have developed in Africa and in Europe. This discovery pushes back the period when populations with a Middle Palaeolithic culture may have inhabited India. It challenges the popular theory that the Middle Palaeolithic was brought to India by modern humans dispersing from Africa only around 125,000 years ago or later.
Similarly a population genetic study from the North has revealed that the Rors who inhabit modern Haryana came to the Indus Valley when it was flourishing during the Bronze Age and inducted West Eurasian genetic ancestry.
Artificial vertebral disc using silk polymer
Scientists at Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati have developed a silk-based bioartificial disc that may find use in disc replacement therapy in future.
Computing capacity for weather forecasting upgraded
The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) has upgraded its computing capacity for weather forecasting and climate monitoring. This takes its total high-performance computing (HPC) power to as high as 6.8 Petaflop. India is now at the fourth position, next only to the United Kingdom, Japan and USA in terms of dedicated capacity for HPC resources for weather and climate proposes.
Transgenic rice with reduced arsenic accumulation
Researchers at Lucknow- based CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute have developed transgenic rice by inserting a novel fungal gene which results in reduced arsenic accumulation in rice grain.
Sikkim gets a real-time landslide warning system
Researchers of Kerala-based Amrita University and Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority have deployed a real-time landslide warning system consisting of over 200 sensors that can measure geophysical and hydrological parameters like rainfall, pore pressure and seismic activities has been set up in the Sikkim-Darjeeling belt of the north-eastern Himalayas.
Paper Sensor to detect freshness of Milk
Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, have developed a paper kit to test the freshness of milk and determine how well the milk has been pasteurized. The kit can also aid in ensuring that milk is consumed before it turns too sour with the help of a smartphone app.
New Indicator for Diabetes
A study by the scientists from National Chemical Laboratory, Pune indicates levels of free albumin and albumin attached to glucose molecules in the blood can be a better diagnostic test for diabetes.
International Year of the Period Table of Chemical Elements
UNESCO has declared 2019 as the International Year of the Period Table of Chemical Elements to commemorate the 150th birthday of the periodic table of chemical elements. Russian scientist Dmitry Mendeleev first published the Periodic table of the Chemical elements in the year 1869.
The periodic Table contains 118 Elements. The first 98 elements listed in the periodic table occur naturally, while, elements from 99 to 118 (oganesson) have only been synthesized in laboratories or nuclear reactors.
On 28 November 2016, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) approved the name and symbols for four elements: nihonium (Nh), moscovium (Mc), tennessine (Ts), and oganesson (Og), respectively for element 113, 115, 117, and 118.
GSI launches 22 permanent GPS Stations
The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has launched 22 permanent global positioning system (GPS) stations across India to identify seismically hazardous zones and encourage mapping activities. These 22 stations are part of the 35 stations planned by GSI to establish and maintain a network of continuously operating 35 permanent GPS stations.
National Action Plan for Viral Hepatitis
Recently, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched National Action Plan for Viral Hepatitis.
- The Plan provides a strategic framework, based on which National Viral Hepatitis Control Program was launched in 2018 under National Health Mission.
- National Viral Hepatitis Control Program goal is ending viral hepatitis as a public health threat in the country by 2030. It aims to reduce morbidity and mortality due to viral hepatitis.
Eat Right India movement
- It is multi-sectoral effort with primary focus on daily intake of salt, sugar, fat, phasing-out trans-fats from diets and promoting healthier food options.
- It is built on two broad pillars of Eat Healthy and Eat Safe.
- It brings together three ongoing initiatives of FSSAI that target citizens:
- The Safe and Nutritious Food (SNF) Initiative, focused on social and behavioral change around food safety and nutrition at home, school, workplace and on-the-go.
- The Eat Healthy Campaign focused on daily intake of salt, sugar, fat, phasing-out trans-fats.
- Food fortification, focused on promoting five staple foods- wheat flour, rice, oil, milk and salt, with key vitamins and minerals added to improve their nutritional content.
- It has seven broad areas of action—
- to increase demand for healthier food by influencing each other as role models, caregivers and peers,
- set standards in schools, promote healthy eating habits and use food as a pedagogical tool,
- have appropriate consumer friendly nutrition labelling and restriction on marketing to children through a suitable regulation,
- have higher taxation for unhealthy food through differential GST rates,
- ensure availability of healthier food options and guide consumers through appropriate menu labelling,
- redesign choices available at points of sale with increased availability and prominent display of healthier options,
- encourage food processing industry to formulate their food products by reducing unhealthy ingredients.
- Under the movement, “Aaj se thoda kam campign” was launched to encourage citizens to adopt healthy food habits through social media and mass media.
Tele-robotic Coronary Intervention
India became the world’s first to successfully perform a tele-robotic coronary intervention. It is a robotic method of performing heart surgery. With the help of the Internet and a robotic tower, a surgeon is able to treat patients from a distance.
Young Scientist Program
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has recently launched Young Scientist Program for school students.
About the Young Scientist Program:
- It aims to inculcate and nurture space research fervor in young minds
- Under this 1-month program, students from each of the 29 States and 7 UTs will be selected.
- Students mostly from class VIII will be given lectures and access to R&D labs and practical experience of building a small satellite.
- It is conceptualized after the similar Program run by the American Space Agency NASA.
- All the expenses of travelling and boarding will be funded entirely by ISRO.
- Under this, six incubation centres will be established in various parts of the country – North, South, East, West, Centre and North-East, and the first such centre has been established in Agartala in Tripura.
Nobel Prizes 2018:
|Physiology or Medicine||
James P. Allison(USA),
|For their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation|
|For their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses in the field of laser physics|
George Smith (USA),
Frances Arnold (USA),
Greg Winter (UK)
|For control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind.|
Denis Mukwege (Democratic Republic of the Congo),
Nadia Murad (Germany)
|For their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.|
William Nordhaus (US)
|For work on climate change, and the endogenous growth theory|
- The Nobel Prize in Literature has been postponedfor the year 2018.