Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 08 December 2022

BioSentinel science experiment start

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

Yeast cells on NASA’s BioSentinel science experiment launched on Artemis 1 are now getting warmed up and rehydrated for what the space agency claims is the first long-duration biology experiment in space.

What is the BioSentinel experiment?

  1. During future long-term crewed space missions, astronauts will venture further deeper into space, where they will be venturing in dangerous radiation environments that they will need to be protected.
  2. The small satellite called BioSentinel developed by scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center is designed as an early step in understanding what is needed to protect these astronauts.
  3. In a bid to understand what happens to living beings in space, researchers are sending a “model organism” that they understand very well—yeast—to space.
  4. High radiation in space can damage both our cells and yeast cells, causing breaks in the intertwined strands of DNA that carry genetic information. According to NASA, the cellular process to repair DNA damage is very similar in humans and yeast.
  5. The BioSentinel Satellite is equipped with two sensors—a biosensor designed to measure how living yeast cells respond to long-term space radiation and a radiation detection instrument that will characterise and measure the radiation. This satellite will send back data to Earth via NASA’s Deep Space Network.
  6. NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley has an identical set of specimens and instruments. The data from the BioSentinel in space will be compared to that from the specimens on Earth to measure the yeast’s response to space’s radiation and gravity.

 

Largest telescope in world

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

One of the biggest scientific projects of the century will commence. The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is slated for completion in 2028, when it will become the largest radio telescope on the planet. The facility has its headquarters in the UK and is split across Australia and South Africa. The telescope will search for extraterrestrials and also precisely test Einstein's theories.

Opening Ceremonies

  1. The opening ceremonies are being held in the Karoo in South Africa's Northern Cape and in the remote Murchison Shire in Western Australia.
  2. Delegations from the eight countries that are leading the project attended the ceremonies.
  3. Prof. Phil Diamond, the director general of the Square Kilometre Array Organization, said it had been a 30-year-long journey.
  4. The countries now involved are the UK, South Africa, Australia, Italy, China, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Portugal. Germany, France, and Spain have ratified the treaty, and Sweden, Canada, India, South Korea, and Japan have indicated that they will join at a later date.

Operating Frequency

  1. The system's operating frequency range will be from about 50 megahertz to 25 gigahertz.
  2. This range will allow the telescope to catch very faint radio signals from cosmic sources that are billions of light-years from Earth. This includes the signals caused during the initial few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

How many antennas will the finished telescope have?

  1. According to the initial architecture, it will have almost 200 parabolic antennas (dishes) and 131,000 dipole antennas.

How much will the telescope cost?

  1. The total budget for construction is €2 billion, and the amount spent to date will be just under €500 million (£430 million) as soon as the contracts are finalized.

 

Fisher folk protest in Vizhinjam port

GS Paper -2 (Governance)

Vizhinjam has been on the boil for the past four months with protesters mainly fisherfolk and their families laying siege to the under-construction Vizhinjam port. The protestors have been demanding the halting of the construction work of the port by Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Limited.

What lies at the heart of the protests?

  1. According to protesters, the port work has aggravated the coastal erosion along the coast of Thiruvananthapuram.

Demand from protestors

  1. To carry a scientific study to assess the impact of the port work on the shoreline after stopping the construction of the port.
  2. To demand a comprehensive rehabilitation package for the fisherfolk in the region, an assured minimum wage when the sea turns rough due to inclement weather and subsidised kerosene for boats.

Aggravate coastal erosion

  1. Construction work along a coast, aggravate sea erosion (loss of beach) and accretion (gain of beach).
  2. study conducted by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, Society of Integrated Coastal Management, and the Ministry of Environment and Forest had noted that the erosion is minimum at Thrissur (1.5 %) and maximum at Thiruvananthapuram (23%), even before the port construction.
  3. The latest report of the expert committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal and Shoreline Monitoring Cell observed that erosion in spots such as Valiyathura, Shanghumugham, and Punthura remained the same as before and after the commencement of the port construction (December 2015).
  4. The report noted that the relatively high number of cyclones formed over the Arabian Sea after cyclone Ockhi in 2017 was the main reason for the recent erosion and accretion and that the impact of the port activity on either side of the coast had less significance.

Government’s stance:

  1. The Kerala Government made it clear that since the coastal erosion is due to climate change as reported by various agencies, the demand for stopping the port construction cannot be conceded.
  2. Officials argue that the Vizhinjam seaport is being constructed inside a natural sediment cell which is a pocket-like area in which interruptions to the movement of sand along the coast do not significantly affect the adjacent coastline.

Importance of Vizhinjam project:

  1. It is located on the southern tip of the Indian Peninsula, just 10 nautical miles from the major international sea route, east-west shipping axis, and with a natural water depth of more than 20m within a nautical mile from the coast.
  2. It is likely to play a pivotal role in the maritime development of the country and Kerala.
  3. The port is expected to leverage the growth of minor ports in Kerala and other regional ports, creating thousands of employment opportunities.

 

United Nations biodiversity summit

GS Paper - 3 (Environment and Ecology)

Scientists around the world are warning governments who will be gathering in Montreal for the United Nations biodiversity summit to not repeat past mistakes and are urging officials to “avoid trade-offs” between people and conservation needs. There has been an increase in investment in conservation over the last three decades governments “have not succeeded in bending the curve on biodiversity decline.”

COP15

  1. The conference known as COP15, hopes to set the goals for the world for the next decade to help conserve the planet’s biodiversity and stem the loss of nature.

Areas of Biodiversity Network

  1. The scientists proposed six areas for action for delegates working toward what’s known as the global biodiversity framework.
  2. They include greater involvement of local communities and addressing both direct causes of nature decline such as the destruction of land and habitats as well as indirect causes such as climate change.
  3. Nature and people positive” in their approach, needed for solutions that are realistic and have support from local communities in order to best protect nature
  4. Instead of conserving areas by making them inaccessible to local people, the scientists said greater inclusion of communities and particularly indigenous groups will be vital in curbing even more biodiversity loss.

Threat

  1. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions which fuel climate change that leads to the loss of land and species also needs to be addressed.
  2. No amount of conservation or restoration actions may be effective in stopping biodiversity loss if the accelerating drivers of decline continue and intensify.
  3. The growing demands of rich nations, in particular “excess consumption and unsustainable trade and investments” also need to be halted.
  4. Consumption footprints in richer countries consistently drive biodiversity losin poorer countries.

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