Gaganyaan Programme

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister has approved the Gaganyaan Programme with demonstration of Indian Human Spaceflight capability to low earth orbit for a mission duration ranging from one orbital period to a maximum of seven days.
A human rated GSLV Mk-lll will be used to carry the orbital module which will have necessary provisions for sustaining a 3-member crew for the duration of the mission. The necessary infrastructure for crew training, realization of flight systems and ground infrastructure will be established to support the Gaganyaan Programme. ISRO will collaborate extensively with National agencies, laboratories, academia and industry to accomplish the Gaganyaan Programme objectives.
Background:
  • ISRO has completed the development of launch vehicle GSLV Mk-lll which has the necessary payload capability to launch a 3-member crew module in low earth orbit.
  • ISRO has also tested the crew escape system which is an essential technology for human space flight.
  • The aerodynamic characterization of crew module has b3een completed as part of GSLV Mk-lll X mission flight.
  • Elements of life support system and Space suit also have been realized and tested.
  • In addition, the orbital & re-entry mission and recovery operations have been flight demonstrated in Space Capsule Re-entry experiment (SRE) mission.
  • ISRO has developed and demonstrated most of the baseline technologies essential for undertaking human spaceflight mission. Globally also, there is a renewed interest in undertaking manned exploration initiatives.
Expenditure:
  • The total fund requirement for the Gaganyaan Programme is within Rs.10,000 crore and includes cost of technology development, flight hardware realization and essential infrastructure elements. Two unmanned flights and one manned flight will be undertaken as part of Gaganyaan Programme.
Benefits:
  • Gaganyaan Programme will establish a broader framework for collaboration between ISRO, academia, industry, national agencies and other scientific organizations.
  • It This will allow pooling in of diverse technological and industrial capabilities and enable broader participation in research opportunities and technology development benefitting large number of students and researchers.
  • The flight system realization will be through Industry.
  • It is expected to generate employment and train human resources in advanced technologies.
  • It will inspire large number of young students to take up science and technology careers for national development.
  • Gaganyaan Programme is a national effort and will involve the participation of the Industry, Academia and National Agencies spread across the length and breadth of the country.
lmplementation Strategy and Targets:
  • Gaganyaan Programme will be a national effort in collaboration with Industry, Academia and other scientific agencies and laboratories as stake holders along with ISRO.
  • ISRO will be responsible for realizing the flight hardware through Industry. National agencies, laboratories and Academia will participate in crew training, human life science technology development initiatives as well as design reviews.
  • First human space flight demonstration is targeted to be completed within 40 months from the date of sanction.
  • Prior to this, two unmanned flights in full complement will be carried out to gain confidence on the technology and mission management aspects.
Impact:
  • The programme is expected to spur research and development within the country in niche science and technology domains.
  • Huge potential for technology spinoffs in areas such as medicine, agriculture, industrial safety, pollution, waste management, water and food resource management etc.
  • Human spaceflight programme will provide a unique micro-gravity platform in space for conducting experiments and test bed for future technologies.
  • The programme is expected to give impetus to economic activities within the country in terms of employment generation, human resource development and enhanced industrial capabilities.
  • Human Spaceflight capability will enable India to participate as a collaborating partner in future Global space exploration initiatives with long term national benefits.

Explained : Nipah Virus

  • In the news: Nipah virus infection outbreak in Kozhikode district Kerala.
  • Background : Nipah virus infection gets its name from the village in Malaysia where the person from whom the virus was first isolated succumbed to the disease.
  • It is an emerging infectious zoonosis, that is, a disease transmitted from animals to humans that broke out in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 and 1999. It first appeared in domestic pigs and has been found among several species of domestic animals including dogs, cats, goats, horses and sheep.
  • The organism which causes Nipah Virus encephalitis is an RNA or Ribonucleic acid virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus, and is closely related to Hendra virus.
  • The virus has been listed in the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code and must be reported to the OIE (OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code).
  • Transmission: The disease spreads through fruit bats or ‘flying foxes,’ of the genus Pteropus, who are natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra viruses. The virus is present in bat urine and potentially, bat faeces, saliva, and birthing fluids.  In Bangladesh in 2004, humans became infected with NiV as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats.
  • In Bangladesh and India, there have been reports of possible human-to-human transmission of the disease.
  • Precautions Therefore, precautions are necessary for hospital workers in charge of taking care of the infected patients.Precautions should also be taken when submitting and handling laboratory samples, as well as in slaughterhouses.
  • Symptoms: human infection presents as an encephalitic syndrome marked by fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation, mental confusion, coma, and potentially death. During the outbreak in Malaysia, up to 50 per cent of clinically apparent human cases died.
  • How do doctors diagnose Nipah ?  Serology- blood tests to see the antibodies, Histopathology- microscopic study of tissues, PCR- Polymerase Chain Reaction technique to look for viral DNA, Virus isolation Confirmatory tests include,Serum Neutralization Test, ELISA, RT-PCR.
  • The Nipah virus is classified as a biosecurity level (BSL) 4 agent and the tests should be carried out in special labs to prevent its spread.
  • Treatment: There is no specific treatment for Nipah Virus. The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care.According to WHO, ribavarin can reduce the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and convulsions associated with the disease. Individuals infected need to be hospitalised and isolated.

Prelims:

  1. Pteropus poliocephalus (Gray-headed Flying Fox, Grey-headed Flying-fox, Grey-headed Flying Fox) Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable
  2. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)  is a test that uses antibodies and color change to identify a substance. Link it to HIV anti-retroviral therapy (ART). There are two HIV tests: the ELISA detects infection, and viral load test, the HIV’s RNA in an infected person. Viral suppression (reducing viral load to an undetectable level) is the treatment goal.

How a Nuclear test is detected ?

During the Cold War, there were several attempts to ban nuclear tests and the concept of having a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) came into existence. The idea, however, could not get wide acceptance as most of the developing world saw it as an attempt to divide the world into nuclear haves and nuclear have-nots. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, negotiations started in 1994 and it was realised that even the nuclear powers at the time ­ the United States of America, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom ­ would not sign the treaty unless there was an international verification regime to monitor every nuclear explosion carried out anywhere in the world. The treaty is yet to become law as many countries, including India, Pakistan and North Korea, that have become nuclear powers now have not signed it. Perhaps the only visible role of the treaty in today’s world is the comprehensive verification regime that detects all nuclear explosions.

How does the verification regime work?

The verification regime of CTBT includes a global net work of stations designed to detect any nuclear explosion -underground, underwater or in the atmosphere. The main elements of this regime are the International Monitoring System (IMS), International Data Centre (IDC) and the global communication infrastructure.There are 321monitoring stations and 16 laboratories under the IMS to detect any sign of a nuclear explosion on the planet. The communication system includes a network of six satellites and several terrestrial links to send the data to the IDC.

What do these monitoring stations measure?

There are four monitoring methodologiesseismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide monitoring. Underground nuclear testing started in the 1950s and it was soon recognised that seismic observations could be used to verify the location as well as the strength of tests. Earthquakes as well as manmade events like nuclear explosions or the use of explosives in mines generate seismic waves. The seismic monitoring system consists of 170 seismic stations -50 primary and 120 auxiliary . Pri mary stations work continuously and relay data to the IDC. Auxiliary stations provide data only on request.These waves travel so fast that events causing them can be located by seismic stations over a period ranging from a few seconds to about 10 minutes after the event.

What is the hydroacoustic monitoring system?

A nuclear explosion done underwater or near the surface of the ocean gen erates sound waves that can be detected by the hydroacoustic monitoring system.The system uses technology that measures change in water pressure caused by the sound of the explosion. The network consists of 11 stations. Six of these hydro phone sensors are located in the oceans, while another five are located on steep sloped islands.

How does infrasound monitoring work?

Nuclear explosions carried out in the atmosphere or at a shallow depth underground generate infrasound waves. Infrasound is acoustic waves with very low frequencies below the frequency audible to human ears. The typical audible frequency that the human ear can hear ranges between 20 to 20,000 Hertz. Infrasound is produced by nuclear explosions, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, meteors and so on. The IMS infrasound network consists of 60 stations located in 35 countries.

What is radionuclide monitoring?

When a nuclear explosion takes place, nearly 90% of the energy is released within minutes of the blast in the form of shockwaves and heat generated by the explosive energy . The remaining 10% of the energy is released slowly in the form of residual radiation through the process of radioactive decay of the fission products of which most are highly unstable. Shallow underground and underwater explosions can also release radiation in the atmosphere, though wellcontained nuclear explosions in water or underground don’t cause atmospheric radiation. This radiation as well as radioactive particles can travel several kilometres borne by the wind. There are 80 stations across the world to measure this, supported by 16 laboratories to analyse the samples.

Via Times of India.

RSTV ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar Interview

In conversation with Dr. A S Kiran Kumar, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).Dr A S Kiran Kumar is a highly accomplished space scientist. An engineer with a distinguished career spanning over four decades in Indian Space Research Organisation, Dr Kumar was instrumental in evolving the successful strategy for steering the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft towards Mars as well as its Mars Orbit Insertion.

Four newest elements on periodic table get names

In December, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry officially recognized the discovery of elements 113, 115, 117 and 118, filling out the seventh row of the periodic table. As is traditional in chemistry, the naming rights go to the discoverers: Scientists at RIKEN in Wako, Japan, named element 113, and a Russian-U.S. collaboration named the others.

Element names have to follow certain rules — that means no Element McElementface. In line with convention, the proposed names for the four elements are derived from scientists’ names and geographical locations of research institutes. After a five-month public review period and approval by IUPAC, the names will become official.

How to name new chemical elements (IUPAC Recommendations 2016)

The guidelines for the naming the elements were recently revised and shared with the discoverers to assist in their proposals. Keeping with tradition, newly discovered elements can be named after:

  • (a) a mythological concept or character (including an astronomical object),
  • (b) a mineral or similar substance,
  • (c) a place, or geographical region,
  • (d) a property of the element, or
  • (e) a scientist.

The names of all new elements in general would have an ending that reflects and maintains historical and chemical consistency. This would be in general “-ium” for elements belonging to groups 1-16, “-ine” for elements of group 17 and “-on” for elements of group 18. Finally, the names for new chemical elements in English should allow proper translation into other major languages.

periodictable

  • Element 113 is dubbed “nihonium” and will sport the chemical symbol Nh. Its name comes from the Japanese word “Nihon,” or “Land of the Rising Sun,” a name for Japan.
  • Element 115 will receive the moniker “moscovium,” shortened to Mc, after the Moscow region, home to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, where the element was discovered in collaboration with researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
  • Tennessee also gets a periodic table shout-out. The proposed name for element 117 is “tennessine,” after the home state of Oak Ridge, Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee. It will bear the symbol Ts.
  • Element 118 will be named oganesson, or Og, after Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian, who contributed to the discovery of several superheavy elements.

Sources :

Explained gravitational waves

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the detection of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a pair of ground-based observatories. But…what are gravitational waves?

Imagine dropping a pebble in a pond. This creates ripples, which emerge from the point of impact and travel across the surface of the pond. Now replace the pebble with a slightly bigger object — a black hole or a massive star. Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which posits that gravity warps the fabric of cosmos, also tells us that violent events such as the collision of massive objects such as black holes and neutron stars create ripples in the curvature of space-time.

Suggested : Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity Simplified

“They’re waves, like light or any other kind of electromagnetic radiation, except here what’s ‘waving’ is space and time itself,” NASA astrophysicist Ira Thorpe explained. “You get radiation, basically light, when you move some sort of charged particle. When you’re moving masses, you get gravitational waves.”

But how can space ripple? According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, spacetime isn’t a void, but rather a four-dimensional “fabric,” which can be pushed or pulled as objects move through it. These distortions are the real cause of gravitational attraction. One famous way of visualizing this is to take a taut rubber sheet and place a heavy object on it. That object will cause the sheet to sag around it. If you place a smaller object near the first one, it will fall toward the larger object. A star exerts a pull on planets and other celestial bodies in the same manner.

Watch just the starting, 

Did you know Earth also gives off gravitational waves? Earth orbits the sun, which means its direction is always changing, so it does generate gravitational waves, although extremely weak and faint.

What do we learn from these waves?

Observing gravitational waves would be a huge step forward in our understanding of the evolution of the universe, and how large-scale structures, like galaxies and galaxy clusters, are formed.

Gravitational waves can travel across the universe without being impeded by intervening dust and gas. These waves could also provide information about massive objects, such as black holes, that do not themselves emit light and would be undetectable with traditional telescopes.

Just as we need both ground-based and space-based optical telescopes, we need both kinds of gravitational wave observatories to study different wavelengths. Each type compliments the other.

Ground-based: For optical telescopes, Earth’s atmosphere prevents some wavelengths from reaching the ground and distorts the light that does.

Space-based: Telescopes in space have a clear, steady view. That said, telescopes on the ground can be much larger than anything ever launched into space, so they can capture more light from faint objects.

How does this relate to Einstein’s theory of relativity?

The direct detection of gravitational waves is the last major prediction of Einstein’s theory to be proven. Direct detection of these waves will allow scientists to test specific predictions of the theory under conditions that have not been observed to date, such as in very strong gravitational fields.

In everyday language, “theory” means something different than it does to scientists. For scientists, the word refers to a system of ideas that explains observations and experimental results through independent general principles. Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity has limitations we can measure by, say, long-term observations of the motion of the planet Mercury. Einstein’s relativity theory explains these and other measurements. We recognize that Newton’s theory is incomplete when we make sufficiently sensitive measurements. This is likely also true for relativity, and gravitational waves may help us understand where it becomes incomplete.

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Source : PHD Comics

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Explained What is the Zika virus?

A relatively new mosquito-borne virus is prompting worldwide concern because of an alarming connection to a neurological birth disorder and the rapid spread of the virus across the globe.

The Zika virus is a flavivirus, part of the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya and dengue. But unlike some of those viruses, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika or medicine to treat the infection.

Flaviviruses are named from the yellow fever virus, the type virus for the family; the word flavus means “yellow” in Latin. The name yellow fever originated from its propensity to cause yellow jaundice in victims.)

Zika is commanding worldwide attention because of an alarming connection between the virus and microcephaly, a neurological disorder that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads. This causes severe developmental issues and sometimes death.

ZIKA
An X-ray comparing a normal baby skull to “Patient 1,” who was born to a mother infected with Zika virus during her pregnancy. (Latin American Science)

What is the Zika virus?

ZIKA virus was first isolated in 1947, in a rhesus monkey at Uganda’s Zika Forest.

The World Health Organisation says the symptoms are usually mild and normally last two to seven days. Symptoms are similar to dengue and chikungunya and include:

  • a mild fever,
  • skin rash,
  • aches and pains,
  • headache, and
  • conjunctivitis

About one in five people infected with the virus become ill. Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week.

How is it spreads?

Aedes aegypti
Aedes aegypti

Zika is spread by mosquitoes of the Aedes species, which can breed in a pool of water as small as a bottle cap and usually bite during the day. The aggressive yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, has spread most Zika cases,The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is also known to transmit the virus, but it is not clear how efficiently.

Although the virus is normally spread by mosquitoes, there has been one report of possible spread through blood transfusion and one of possible spread through sex. The virus was found on one occasion in semen.

What is microcephaly?

Babies with microcephaly have unusually small heads. In roughly 15 percent of cases, a small head is just a small head, and there is no effect on the infant, according to Dr. Constantine Stratakis, a pediatric geneticist and a scientific director at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

But in the remainder of cases, the infant’s brain may not have developed properly during pregnancy or may have stopped growing in the first years of life. These children may experience a range of problems, like developmental delays, intellectual deficits or hearing loss.

The consequences can vary widely from child to child. Pinpointing an underlying cause helps clinicians to advise parents about their newborn’s prognosis.

Genetic abnormalities are a common cause. Microcephaly can also be triggered by infections of the fetus, including German measles (also known as rubella), toxoplasmosis (a disease caused by a parasite, often in cat feces) and cytomegalovirus.

Microcephaly may also result if a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, is severely malnourished or has diabetes. If the defect occurs in a child’s first years, it may be a result of a brain injury during labor.

There is no treatment for an unusually small head.

“There is no way to fix the problem, just therapies to deal with the downstream consequences,” said Dr. Hannah M. Tully, a neurologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who specializes in brain malformations.

Via NYTVOXCNNWikipedia

SAARC Satellite Programme

SAARC Satellite is a proposed communication-cum-meteorology satellite by Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) for the SAARC region. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi mooted the idea of a satellite serving the needs of SAARC member nations. In his a visit to Nepal in August 2014, Narendra Modi announced developing a satellite to assist India’s neighbors.In March 2015, ISRO chairman A. S. Kiran Kumar said that configuration of the Saarc satellite will be finalised soon and it will be launched within 18 month.

In his address to the Sri Lankan Parliament in March 2015, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “Sri Lanka will take full benefit of India’s satellite for the SAARC Region. This should be in Space by December 2016”.

The satellite – which will be dedicated for helping the region in education, health and communication — is also Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet space project. All member countries have given their nod, including Pakistan.

India is bearing all costs of the communication satellite that will weigh approximately 2,000 kg, and is close to completion. It will have 12 KU band transponders and is expected to provide assistance in telemedicine, tele-education, village resource centre, crop productivity and disaster management.

According to ISRO , it will be launched using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from Sriharikota.

Isro plans to launch the satellite before Saarc Day on December 8, 2016.

What is disruptive technology? Give ample examples.

A disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry. Here are a few examples of disruptive technologies:

The personal computer (PC) displaced the typewriter and forever changed the way we work and communicate.

The Windows operating system’s combination of affordability and a user-friendly interface was instrumental in the rapid development of the personal computing industry in the 1990s.

Personal computing disrupted the television industry, as well as a great number of other activities.

Email transformed the way we communicating, largely displacing letter-writing and disrupting the postal and greeting card industries.
Cell phones made it possible for people to call us anywhere and disrupted the telecom industry.

The laptop computer and mobile computing made a mobile workforce possible and made it possible for people to connect to corporate networks and collaborate from anywhere. In many organizations, laptops replaced desktops.

Smartphones largely replaced cell phones and PDAs and, because of the available apps, also disrupted: pocket cameras, MP3 players, calculators and GPS devices, among many other possibilities. For some mobile users, smartphones often replace laptops. Others prefer a tablet.

Cloud computing has been a hugely disruptive technology in the business world, displacing many resources that would conventionally have been located in-house or provided as a traditionally hosted service.

Social networking has had a major impact on the way we communicate and — especially for personal use — disrupting telephone, email, instant messaging and event planning.

E-commerce is disrupting physical departmental stores and malls.

Thus, it is a technology that significantly alters the way that businesses operate. A disruptive technology may force companies to alter the way that they approach their business, risk losing market share or risk becoming irrelevant. Recent examples of disruptive technologies include smart phones and the e-commerce retailing. Clayton Christensen popularized the idea of disruptive technologies in the book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” in 1997.

Elaborate on MERS.Differentiate between MERS and SARS.

An outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) has claimed lives in South Korea.The World Heath Organization (WHO) says the new coronavirus appears to be passing between people in close contact.It is the biggest outbreak of Mers, which is similar to the Sars virus, outside the Middle East.

It is a type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which includes the common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars).The first Mers fatality was recorded in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 449 people have now died from the virus.

Mers is a virus that is transmitted from animals to humans. The WHO says that camels are likely to be a source of Mers infection but the exact route of transmission is not yet known.There have been cases where the virus has spread between two people but close contact seems to be needed.

Cases have been confirmed in 25 countries in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The majority of the cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia.In May 2015, two new countries joined the list: China and South Korea.

Coronaviruses cause respiratory infections in humans and animals. Symptoms are a fever, cough and breathing difficulties.It causes pneumonia and, sometimes, kidney failure.

It is possible the virus is spread in droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.The fact that close contacts appear to have been infected suggests that the virus does have a limited ability to pass from person to person.

Mers is not thought to be very contagious.Up to now, most human cases have been the result of human-to-human transmission in a healthcare setting, the WHO says.How that infection occurs is still not fully understood.

Experts believe the virus is not very contagious. If it were, we would have seen more cases.Coronaviruses are fairly fragile. Outside of the body they can only survive for a day and are easily destroyed by common detergents and cleaning agents.

The greatest global concern, however, is about the potential for this new virus to spread far and wide. So far, person-to-person transmission has remained limited to some small clusters. There is no evidence yet that the virus has the capacity to become pandemic.

Doctors do not yet know what the best treatment is, but people with severe symptoms will need intensive medical care to help them breath. There is no vaccine.As of June 2015, the WHO said about 36% of reported patients with Mers had died.

Experts do not yet know where the virus originated. It may have been the result of a new mutation of an existing virus.Or it may be an infection that has been circulating in animals and has now made the jump to humans.

Coronaviruses are common viruses that most people get some time in their life. Their name comes from the crown-like spikes that cover their surface.Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s.Other variants infect many different animals, producing symptoms similar to those in humans.

Sars is thought to have infected more than 8,000 people, mainly in China and South-East Asia.Most coronaviruses usually infect only one animal species or, at most, a small number of closely related species.Sars was different: being able to infect people and animals, including monkeys, cats, dogs, and rodents.

Sars is thought to have infected more than 8,000 people, mainly in China and South-East Asia, in an outbreak that started in early 2003. The illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the global outbreak was contained.Experts established that Sars could spread by close person-to-person contact.According to the WHO, 774 people died from the infection. Since 2004, there have not been any known cases of Sars reported anywhere in the world.

It’s not known exactly how people catch this virus. However, some general measures may help prevent its spread – avoid close contact, when possible, with anyone who shows symptoms of illness (coughing and sneezing) and maintain good hand hygiene.

Blue Crude and the future of fuel

 What is Blue Crude?It’s a kind of synthetic diesel, or e-diesel, developed by cleantech firm Sunfire and carmaker Audi at a lab in Dresden, Germany.

Will that be just another version of the dirty fuel?

Not exactly. In fact, this form of diesel is made out of air, water and green electric energy, and hence is much more eco-friendly than its namesake.

Air and water?

Believe me. The process by which the Audi team invented Blue Crude is fairly simple. First, they used renewable energy to split water molecules into oxygen and pure hydrogen. They then gathered CO2 from a biogas plant. The two are mixed under very hot and high-pressure conditions. Voila! Here cometh a liquid they could refine into bio-diesel.

Was it any good?

Pretty good, if one is to believe the researchers. The energy efficiency rate is suitably high, 70 per cent. Evidently, synthetic fuel has fewer contaminants that regular diesel has. Audi says e-diesel can mix with regular diesel or can function as a standalone fuel. The first batch of the fuel is already out.

Has anyone tested this fuel in an actual vehicle?

Johanna Wanka, Germany’s federal minister of education and research, test-drove Blue Crude and was reportedly impressed with its performance it. She called it “a crucial contribution to climate protection and the efficient use of resources”.

But is e-diesel cheaper than regular diesel?

As things stand now, the Dresden plant is producing only about 160 litres a day. So this is not going to create any ripples in the oil market. But Audi and Sunfire have plans to build a bigger factory; they think production costs will come down as they scale up and they can price the e-diesel between €1 and €1.5 a litre. But this is dependent on the cost of renewable power. Currently, a litre of diesel in Europe costs over €1.5 , so this means business, and the environmental benefits are obvious.

So, will my neighbourhood pump have it soon?

That’s a long way away. Audi says this is still purely a research project and its commercialisation will take years, but it has already introduced similar synthetic fuel in the form of compressed natural gas that is used in its Audi A3 g-tron cars.

Okay, but I thought electric cars were the future.

Yes they are, as things stand now. But some experts suggest that if e-diesel and similar inventions can become safer, cleaner and more efficient alternative to fossil fuels, they can give electric cars a run for their money.

Which means internal combustion is here to stay.

You can say so. Internal combustion engines have been powering cars and other vehicles for the past 150 years, and this is one of the most perfected and accepted technologies yet. Of course, it has contributed significantly to air pollution. In EU, where Audi is based, the transport sector has the second biggest greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, there have been many attempts to find efficient replacements to the fire pot that is the internal combustion engine. Many scientists said the arrival of the lithium ion (Li-ion) battery marked a tipping point against the combustion engine. But we are yet to see a great leap forward in this direction.

Now, e-diesel reportedly can reduce pollution puffing in combustion engines, if the technology goes mass and mainstream.

Still it’s combustion…

But look at the brighter side. As Wanka put it, if we can make widespread use of CO2 as a raw material, we will make a crucial contribution to climate protection and the efficient use of resources. Further, this will put the fundamentals of the “green economy” in place.

What is microzonation? Why is it necessary?

Many earthquakes in the past have left many lessons to be learned which are very essential to plan infrastructure and even to mitigate such calamities in future. The hazards associated with earthquakes arereferred to as seismic hazards. The practice of earthquake engineering involves the identification and mitigation of seismic hazards. Microzonation has generally been recognized as the most accepted tool in seismic hazard assessment and risk evaluation and it is defined as the zonation with respect to groundmotion characteristics taking into account source and site conditions. Makingimprovements on the conventional macrozonation maps and regional hazard maps, microzonation of ar egion generates detailed maps that predict the hazard at much smaller scales. Seismic microzonation is the generic name for subdividing a region into individual areas having different potentials hazardous earthquake effects, defining their specific seismic behavior for engineering design and land-use planning.

The basis of microzonation is to model the rupture mechanism at the source of anearthquake, evaluate the propagation of waves through the earth to the top of bed rock, determine the effect of local soil profile and thus develop a hazard map indicating the vulnerability of the area to potential seismic hazard. Seismic microzonation will also help in designing buried lifelines such as tunnels, water and sewage lines, gas and oil lines, and power and communication lines.

Seismic microzonation is defined as the process of subdividing a potential seismic or earthquake prone area into zones with respect to some geological and geophysical characteristics of the sites such as ground shaking,liquefaction susceptibility, landslide and rock fall hazard, earthquake-related flooding, so that seismic hazards at different locations within the area can correctly be identified. Microzonation provides the basis for site-specific risk analysis, which can assist in the mitigation of earthquake damage. In most general terms, seismic microzonation is the process of estimating the response of soil layers under earthquake excitations and thus the variation of earthquake characteristics on the ground surface.

Regional geology can have a large effect on the characteristics of ground motion. The site response of the ground motion may vary in different locations of the city according to the local geology. A seismic zonation map for a whole country may, therefore, be inadequate for detailed seismic hazard assessment of the cities. This necessitates the development of microzonation maps for big cities for detailed seismic hazard analysis. Microzonation maps can serve as a basis for evaluating site-specific risk analysis, which is essential for critical structures like nuclear power plants, subways, bridges, elevated highways, sky trains and dam sites. Seismic microzonation can be considered as the preliminary phase of earthquake risk mitigation studies. It requires multi-disciplinary contributions as well as comprehensive understanding of the effects of earthquake generated ground motions on man made structures. Many large cities around the world have put effort into developing microzonation maps for the better understanding of earthquake hazard within the cities

As part of the national level microzonation programme, Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India has initiated microzonation of 63 cities in India . Some of them arefinished and some of them are ongoing. As an initial experiment, seismic hazard analysis and microzonation was taken up for Jabalpur city in Madhaya Pradesh. Further, for many other cities such as Sikkim, Mumbai, Delhi, North East India, Gauwhati, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Dehradun and Chennai anattempt has been made to carryout microzonation considering geomorphological features and detailed
geotechnical studies.

What is PM2.5 and what are its sources?

Particulate matter, or PM, is the term for particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets. Particles can be suspended in the air for long periods of time. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen as soot or smoke. Others are so small that individually they can only be detected with an electron microscope.

Many manmade and natural sources emit PM directly or emit other pollutants that react in the atmosphere to form PM. These solid and liquid particles come in a wide range of sizes.Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) pose a health concern because they can be inhaled into and accumulate in the respiratory system. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) are referred to as “fine” particles and are believed to pose the greatest health risks. Because of their small size (approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair), fine particles can lodge deeply into the lungs.

Sources of fine particles include all types of combustion activities (motor vehicles, power plants, wood burning, etc.) and certain industrial processes. Particles with diameters between 2.5 and 10 micrometers are referred to as “coarse.” Sources of coarse particles include crushing or grinding operations, and dust from paved or unpaved roads. Other particles may be formed in the air from the chemical change of gases. They are indirectly formed when gases from burning fuels react with sunlight and water vapor. These can result from fuel combustion in motor vehicles, at power plants, and in other industrial processes.

One group at high risk is active children because they often spend a lot of time playing outdoors and their bodies are still developing. In addition, oftentimes the elderly population are at risk. People of all ages who are active outdoors are at increased risk because, during physical activity, PM2.5 penetrates deeper into the parts of the lungs that are more vulnerable to injury.

Government should take into account existing emission reduction programs (e.g. national emission standards for cars and trucks; and the pollution rules to reduce powerplant emissions; or local efforts such as diesel engine retrofit programs), plus any new programs or regulations that can be implemented within the state or local area.

Making people aware of the levels of pollution through color coded AQI announced by PM.Modi is the beginning of the onslaught on the problem.

How will climate change affect the spread of tropical diseases?

Many tropical diseases such as malaria, Chikungunya and dengue are transmitted to humans via mosquitoes and other carriers known as vectors. These vector-borne diseases continue to have a major impact on human health in the developing world: each year, more than a billion people become infected and around a million people die. In addition, around one in six cases of illness and disability worldwide arise from these diseases.
Malaria continues to attract the most attention of all the vector-borne diseases by virtue of causing the greatest global disease burden. However, others such as dengue are not only resurgent in some regions, but threaten a vast proportion of the world’s population.

Climate change remains a substantial threat to future human health and since the behaviour of disease carriers like mosquitoes is known to be extremely sensitive to temperature and rainfall, it seems unquestionable that climate change will affect many, if not all, of these diseases. What is less clear, however, is the extent to which climate increases the risk of becoming infected in certain regions compared to other factors such as poverty or fragile health systems.

In addition, although the number of new cases of diseases such as malaria appears to be declining worldwide, it is still increasing in many regions for a variety of reasons; the continued spread of insecticide resistance, changes in land use etc. Which of these factors will be most influential over the coming decades remains a moot question as of now.

What Is Net Neutrality And Why Should I Care?

The future of protecting an open Internet has been the subject of fierce debate, and potential changes to the Net Neutrality rules by the TRAI could affect your online experience.

Net neutrality (also network neutrality, Internet neutrality, or net equality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. The term was coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003 as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier- Wikipedia.

How Net Neutrality Works

Here is another video by CGP Grey explaining it

What You Should Do Before April 24th ?

In response to pressure from telcos and their lobby COAI, TRAI went ahead and brought up a consultation paper on:

  1. Should OTTS be licensed? If yes, under current rules or new ones?
  2. Should we leave net neutrality undecided and let the market decide its fate?

You can find the consultation paper of TRAI here is an abridged version 23 pages only.

How Consultatiuon Process Works

The public has been asked 20 questions based on above 2 points. You have to send mail to a TRAI email ID with answers to these questions. You can do this till April 24, 2015. Time will be provided for counter comments from April 24th to May 8th.

To make sure that anti net neutrality rules aren’t formed in India, we need your help.

You need to send a mail to TRAI mail id advqos@trai.gov.in in support of net neutrality and against differential pricing/speeds.

What are zoonoses ; how do they transmit; and what are the challenges in controlling them?

Zoonoses are infectious diseases of animals (usually vertebrates), that can naturally be transmitted to humans.
Major modern diseases such as Ebola virus disease and influenza are zoonoses. Zoonoses can be caused by a range of disease pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Most human diseases originated in animals, however, only diseases that routinely involve animal to human transmission, like rabies, are considered as zoonoses.

Ebola is suspected of being bat-borne, though that has yet to be proved beyond doubt. Bats also look like the origin of MERS, a viral illness that appeared in 2012 in the Middle East, and SARS, another virus, which burst upon the world from southern China at the end of 2002. HIV, meanwhile, came from other primates. The pandemic version, HIV1, was once a chimpanzee virus. HIV2, largely restricted to west Africa, came from a monkey

Zoonoses have different modes of transmission. In direct zoonosis the disease is directly transmitted from animals to humans through media such as air (influenza) or through bites and saliva (Rabies). In contrast, transmission can also occur via an intermediate species (referred to as a vector), which carry the disease pathogen without getting infected. When humans infect other animals; it is called reverse zoonosis or anthroponosis.

Zoonoses are particularly likely to develop when people and animals live in close proximity to each other. One reason southern China often spawns them (SARS was not unique; a lot of influenza begins there, too) is that the region has a plethora of small farms, in which many species of animal live in close quarters with each other and with human beings. The constant crossing of pathogens between the species involved makes it more likely that one will emerge that can thrive in people. Agriculture is not the only sort of proximity that can foster zoonotic disease. HIV1 is suspected to have started with a hunter who killed a chimpanzee in the forest. In this context, the extensive clearance of forests, at present a serious environmental issue in many poor countries, brings people into habitats they might previously not have visited. That, in turn, is suspected by some to be increasing the amount of zoonotic disease.

All this suggests that disease-surveillance, which currently concentrates on people, needs to be expanded to look at animals as well. It is necessary to develop a network of investigators in tropical countries who are watching for signs of crossover by monitoring both animals and people.* Inspiration from The Economist, latest copy.