Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 08 February 2023

Bard, Google’s answer to ‘ChatGPT’

GS Paper -3 (Technology)

Google has finally decided to answer the challenge and threat posed by Microsoft-backed OpenAI and its AI chatbot, ChatGPT. The search giant confirmed it will soon start public testing for a new AI chatbot of its own called Bard, based on the company’s Language Model for Dialogue Application or LaMDA.

More about the news:

  1. Alphabet and Google CEO spoke about how AI-based features would be coming to Google Search as well.
  2. It should be noted that so far LaMDA was available in limited testing to select users of the company’s AI Test Kitchen app.

About Bard and its accessibility:

  1. Bard is based on LaMDA and Google’s own conversational AI chatbot.
  2. It is an “experimental conversational AI service,” and Google will be “opening it up to trusted testers ahead of making it more widely available to the public in the coming weeks. It’s not yet publicly available.
  3. Bard “draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses. It will give in-depth, conversational and essay-style answers just like ChatGPT does right now.


  1. Running these models also requires significant computing power. For instance, ChatGPT is powered by Microsoft’s Azure Cloud services.
  2. The service often runs into errors at times, because too many people are accessing it.

Comparison of Bard with ChatGPT:

  1. Bard looks like a limited rollout right now. Google is looking for a lot of feedback at the moment around Bard, so it is hard to say whether it can answer more questions than ChatGPT.
  2. Google has also not made clear the amount of knowledge that Bard possesses.
  3. ChatGPT knowledge is limited to events till 2021 and it is based on LaMDA.
  4. Bard is built on Transformer technology which is also the backbone of ChatGPT and other AI bots.

Transformer technology:

It was pioneered by Google and made open-source in 2017. It is a neural network architecture, which is capable of making predictions based on inputs and is primarily used in natural language processing and computer vision technology.

Why has Google announced Bard r0ight now?

  1. The timing of this announcement is critical. It comes as Microsoft is preparing to announce an integration of ChatGPT into its Bing Search engine.
  2. ChatGPT in many ways is being called the end of Google Search; given that conversational AI can give long, essay style and sometimes elegant answers to a user’s queries.
  3. Google has also announced it plans to bring AI features to search results.


NASA-ISRO partnership’s satellite NISAR

GS Paper -3 (Defence Technology)

Jointly developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), an Earth-observation satellite, called NISAR (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar), and got a send-off ceremony at the American space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California.

More about the news:

  1. The SUV-size satellite will be shipped to India in a special cargo container flight for a possible launch in 2024 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.
  2. It is one step closer to fulfilling the immense scientific potentialNASA and ISRO envisioned for NISAR when both joined forces more than eight years ago.
  3. This mission will be a powerful demonstration of the capability of radar as a science tool and help us study Earth’s dynamic land and ice surfaces in greater detail than ever before.

What is NISAR?

  1. It has been built by space agencies of the US and India under a partnership agreement signed in 2014.
  2. The 2,800 kilograms satellite consists of both L-band and S-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) instruments, which makes it a dual-frequency imaging radar satellite.
  3. NASA has provided the L-band radar, GPS, a high-capacity solid-state recorder to store data, and a payload data subsystem, ISRO has provided the S-band radar, the GSLV launch system and spacecraft.
  4. According to NASA, an important component of the satellite is its large 39-foot stationary antenna reflector, made of a gold-plated wire mesh, the reflector will be used to focus the radar signals emitted and received by the upward-facing feed on the instrument structure.

About the mission:

1.    It is expected to be launched in January 2024 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre into a near-polar orbit. The satellite will operate for a minimum of three years.

  1. NISAR will observe subtle changes in Earth’s surfaces, helping researchers better understand the causes and consequences of such phenomena.
  2. It will spot warning signs of natural disasters, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and landslides.
  3. The satellite will also measure groundwater levels, track flow rates of glaciers and ice sheets, and monitor the planet’s forest and agricultural regions, which can improve our understanding of carbon exchange.
  4. NISAR with the help of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) will produce high-resolution images. SAR is capable of penetrating clouds and can collect data day and night regardless of the weather conditions.
  5. According to NASA, “the instrument’s imaging swath, the width of the strip of data collected along the length of the orbit track, is greater than 150 miles (240 kilometres), which allows it to image the entire Earth in 12 days.

7.    NASA requires the L-band radar for its global science operations for at least three years. Meanwhile, ISRO will utilise the S-band radar for a minimum of five years.


The science behind earthquakes in Turkey

GS Paper -3 (Disaster)

Turkey has been getting hammered by a series of powerful earthquakes, with the first one, a quake of magnitude 7.8, being described as the strongest the country has experienced in over a century.

More about the news:

  1. Within a span of 12 hours, at least 41 more earthquakes of magnitude 4 or more have been recorded in the same area, south-eastern Turkey close to the borders with Syria.
  2. Both Turkey and Syria have been badly affected by the tremors, with huge devastation and death toll.
  3. As is expected in big earthquakes, aftershocks are likely to continue for the next few days, even weeks.

Turkey and Syria lie in a seismically active region:

  1. The region where the earthquake has struck lies along a well-known seismic fault line called the Anatolia tectonic block that runs through northern, central, and eastern Turkey.
  2. It is a seismically active zone, though not as active as, say, the Himalayan region which is one of the most dangerous regions in the world from the perspective of earthquakes.

USGS (United States Geological Survey) view:

  1. Large earthquakes, of magnitude 5 or higher, have not been very frequent in recent years. According to USGS, only three earthquakes of magnitude 6 or more have happened in the region since 1970. The last major quake in this area came in January 2020.
  2. The seismicity in this region is a result of interactions between the African, Eurasian, and Arabian plates.
  3. The Arabian plate is known to be pushing northward, which results in a slight westward movement for the Anatolian plate, where Turkey is located.
  4. It said earthquake happened around the near-vertical fault line on the eastern Anatolian block, close to the Syrian border.
  5. The mechanism and location of the earthquake are consistent with the earthquake having occurred on either the East Anatolia fault zone or the Dead Sea transform fault zone.
  6. The East Anatolia fault accommodates the westward extrusion of Turkey in the Aegean Sea, while the Dead Sea Transform accommodates the northward motion of the Arabian Peninsula relative to the Africa and Eurasia plates.

Do shallow earthquakes cause greater damage?

  1. Earthquakes in Turkey emerged from relatively shallow depths which made them devastating.
  2. The first earthquake, of magnitude 7.8, originated 17.9 km below the Earth’s surface. All the subsequent ones, including the one of 7.5 magnitudes, emerged from even closer to the surface.

Shallow earthquakes:

They are generally more devastating because they carry greater energy when they emerge on the surface.

Deeper earthquakes:

They lose much of their energy by the time they come to the surface. The deeper quakes spread farther though, the seismic waves move conically upwards to the surface, even as they lose energy while travelling greater distances, and hence cause less damage.

Magnitude of an earthquake:

  1. It is a measure of how big the waves are, while the strength refers to the energy it carries.
  2. Magnitude is measured on a logarithmic scale, which means the seismic waves produced by a magnitude 6 earthquake have 10 times higher amplitude than the ones produced by a magnitude 5 earthquake.
  3. The energy differential is even higher, 32 times for every change of 1 in magnitude.

Why do earthquakes remain unpredictable?

  1. They continue to remain the most common natural hazard that cannot be predicted. As such, no early warning systems can be developed.
  2. It is possible to offer a lead time of a few seconds between the time of the origin of the earthquake and the time it reaches the Earth’s surface.
  3. Seismic waves travel significantly slower than the speed of light — between 5 and 13 km per second. So if the earthquake is detected as soon as it is triggered, information about it can be related a few seconds ahead of it reaching the ground.
  4. Attempts to find reliable predictors to earthquakes have not been fruitful so far. Scientists have been able to map the areas that are earthquake prone, and are likely to generate earthquakes in future, but there is no way to predict when.
  5. For example, scientists say the Himalayan region has so much accumulated stress beneath the surface that it could result in multiple 7 or 8 magnitude earthquakes. But it cannot be predicted when that would happen.



It comprises Turkey, Syria and Jordan, tectonics are dominated by complex interactions between the African, Arabian, and Eurasian tectonic plates, and the Anatolian tectonic block.


  1. Red Sea Rift, the spreading centre between the African and Arabian plates;
  2. Dead Sea Transform, a major strike-slip fault that also accommodates Africa-Arabia relative motions;
  3. North Anatolia Fault, a right-lateral strike-slip structure in northern Turkey accommodating much of the translational motion of the Anatolia blocks westwards with respect to Eurasia and Africa;
  4. Cyprian Arc, a convergent boundary between the African plate and the Anatolia block.


India, Canada Discuss Indo-Pacific Strategy

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

Indo-Pacific cooperation and trade were at the top of the agenda as for the India-Canada Strategic Dialogue in Delhi. The visit is seen as an attempt by both sides to put bilateral ties back on track, after several turbulent years, and focused primarily on Canada’s newly released Indo-Pacific strategy that calls India an important partner.


  1. The MEA press release made no mention of recent tensions over vandalism by suspected pro-Khalistani groups in Canada.
  2. The Canadian strategy document released contains sharp words on China’s “coercive” challenge to the international rules-based order and on human rights, and in contrast says India and Canada have a “shared tradition of democracy and pluralism, a common commitment to a rules-based international system and multilateralismmutual interest in expanding our commercial relationship and extensive and growing people-to-people connections“.

India Response

  1. “India welcomed the announcement of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, given the shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.”
  2. Both discussed developments in India’s neighborhood, Ukraine and cooperation in the United Nations.

Issues between India and Canada

  1. India-Canada ties after a freeze between 2020-2022 over a number of issues including attacks on Indian-origin people and establishments by Khalistani groups in CanadaCanadian comments over India’s farmer protests and India’s cancellation of diplomatic talks in response.
  2. The incident of vandalism against a temple, this time the Gauri Shankar Temple in Brampton, which was defaced with anti-India slogans, which the Indian Mission in Toronto raised strongly with Canadian authorities.

Trade Agreement

  1. The “2023 could become the year of India-Canada reset, given the Indo-Pacific strategy convergencetrade talks which could culminate in an Early Progress Trade Agreement [EPTA].
  2. Apart from encouraging investment from Canadian fundsIndia is also negotiating the EPTA, ahead of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
  3. There is two-way Foreign Direct Investment between Canada and India is about $4.6 billion, with Canadian direct investment in India at $2.9 billion and market and institutional investment into India about $70 billion.
  4. “From Cleantech to critical minerals and education programs, there is a demand in India for what Canadians make, grow, and the services we provide.

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