General Awareness : Science & Technology - April, 2015

(General Awareness For Bank's Exams) Science & Technology

APRIL 2015

Microsoft unveils low-cost Surface 3 tablet

  • Microsoft unveiled a low-cost version of its Surface tablet computer, cutting the screen size of the device which starts at $499. The new Surface 3 will cost less than the $799 starting price for the Surface Pro 3 introduced last year, but will also have a less powerful processor and lack some other features.
  • The new device comes with a screen of 10.8 inches, making it smaller than the earlier 12-inch screen versions of Surface, and gives Microsoft a new tablet that aims to compete with Apple's iPad Air.
  • "Surface 3 brings what customers love about Surface Pro 3 to more people, delivering the premium design and productivity of Surface in a more affordable device," said Panos Panay, who heads the Surface division.

Germanwings crash: second black box found

  • The Flight Data Recorder contains readings from hundreds of parameters of the Airbus A320 jetliner including any pilot commands.
  • The second 'black box' data recorder from the site of last week's Germanwings plane crash has been found, France's Gendarmerie police authority said.
  • France's BEA air crash investigation authority, which is expected to decode the information on the data recorder, was not immediately available for comment.
  • The Flight Data Recorder contains readings from hundreds of parameters of the Airbus A320 jetliner including any pilot commands.
  • The data from the black box is expected to provide crucial further evidence on the final moments of the flight in which the co-pilot is suspected of crashing the jet deliberately.

China to commission 3 nuclear submarines

  • China would soon commission three indigenously-built advance nuclear-powered attack submarines having a vertical launcher capable of delivering its latest supersonic anti-ship missiles, state media reported.
  • China Central Television (CCTV) showed a satellite picture earlier this week of three submarines anchored at an unidentified port, and reported that the vessels were China’s most advanced Type-093G nuclear-powered attack submarines, just completed by a Chinese shipyard and awaiting delivery.
  • With a teardrop hull, the submarine is longer than its predecessor, the Type-093, and has a vertical launching system, China Daily reported.
  • Another article carried by the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s website said the Type-093G’s wing-shaped cross-section is designed to improve speed and mobility as well as reduce noise, and that the vertical launcher is capable of delivering the country’s latest YJ-18 supersonic anti-ship missiles.
  • The Type-093G is reported to be an upgraded version of Type-093, China’s second-generation nuclear-powered attack submarine, which has entered active service.
  • The strategic force of the PLA Navy now has about four nuclear-powered Type-094 ballistic missile submarines, up to six Type-093 nuclear-powered attack submarines and about three old Type-091, CCTV quoted foreign media reports as saying.

Myntra to focus on 3D technology

  • In a move to enhance the customer experience on its mobile platform, fashion e-tailer Myntra is planning to focus more on 3D technology, print technology, image recognition and localisation.
  • The company is also looking at making three acquisitions in the field of 3D technology this year. According to a source, it is in the final stage of discussion and expects to close one deal by next month.
  • “Many of the technologies that were considered remote are becoming imminent. 3D visualisation, printing, image recognition, virtual reality and the like are getting closer. In the immediate future, they will become a big part of the shopping experience. We have to prepare for that, and are investing deeply in technologies like this,” said Myntra Chief Product and Technology Officer Shamik Sharma.
  • Apart from acquisition, Myntra has developed technologies related to 3D and imaging, and are conducting internal demos on the technology. The company is also planning to shut its desktop and mobile websites to focus more on the mobile app version.
  • “A major portion of our revenue today comes from mobile devices. The mobile transaction was 15 per cent last year, and has grown to 70 per cent in 12 months. We expect the same to touch around 90 per cent soon,” added Mr. Sharma.
  • “We are directing our users to download mobile application, and as the user base from mobile reaches close to 100 per cent, we will shut the desktop and mobile website. The time period for the same has not yet decided,” he added.

Ambitious DNA research logs in to Facebook

  • As part of a large project aimed at discovering new links between certain genetic variants, health and disease, scientists have turned towards an unusual partner — Facebook.
  • The researchers, with an aim to screen the genes of at least 20,000 people, have developed a Facebook app to recruit people for the study, BuzzFeed News reported.
  • The scientists behind the project titled “Genes for Good” hope that Facebook users will send a tube of their spit to a laboratory at the University of Michigan and use a free Facebook app to fill out periodic surveys about their health, habits and moods.
  • The scientists will screen the volunteers’ DNA to try to discover new links between certain genetic variants, health and disease. To rigorously establish these links, the researchers will need to enlist tens of thousands of volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds.
  • “We’re really hoping that the main reason people will join is to say, ‘Hey, my health and genetic information is valuable. I would like to share it and put it to good use,’” said project leader Gonalo Abecasis.

Indian-origin schoolboy wins physics prize

  • Pratap Singh, 15, an Indian-origin schoolboy in the U.K has been awarded the Institute of Physics Prize for conducting an experiment that verified an effect of Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity.
  • More than 200 UK students aged 11-18 competed in the finals, demonstrating their projects to thousands of visitors.

Upgraded interceptor missile test fails

  • The trial of a newly configured interceptor missile ended in failure. Within seconds of its lift-off at 11.45 a.m. from Wheeler island off the Odisha coast, the missile plunged into the Bay of Bengal without following its designated trajectory and interception of an electronic target missile.
  • The missile took off after the Mission Control Centre (MCC) gave command for its launch following detection of a simulated target missile by the radar but fell into the sea within three to four seconds, Defence Research and Defence Organisation (DRDO) scientists told.
  • They attributed the failure to malfunction in one of the sub-systems.

IIIT Delhi opens incubation centre

  •  Aiming to support start-ups and promote innovation in IT, State university Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi (IIITD), opened its incubation centre.
  •  The centre will provide budding entrepreneurs essential services for a new start-up along with mentorship from academia, industry, venture capitalists and angel investors.
  •  Pankaj Jalote, Director, IIITD, said, “The incubator will be sector agnostic and students will be free to come up with unique ideas that address technology-based solutions in IT, research and entrepreneurship.”
  •  IIITD is in the process of setting up an evaluation process to select the right incubatee that will be a part of the 1-year programme.
  •  The centre, which is on the university campus, was inaugurated by R. Chandrashekhar, president of NASSCOM, the industry association of software and service companies in India.

Can BTM Layout be ‘most polluted place’?

  •  National Air Quality Index, which was launched with much pomp in Delhi, seems to have hit a hiccup . As the numbers popped up for public consumption, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board officials expressed scepticism.
  •  While BTM Layout had the dubious distinction of the “most polluted place” in India, Peenya showed serene pollution levels. “There is no chance BTM Layout could be so high…or that Peenya could be so low. We really don’t know how they (Central Pollution Control Board) have come up with these numbers,” said an official, adding that CPCB had yet to conduct a workshop on the index for the environment officers.
  •  While the NAQI showed BTM Layout having “very poor” air quality index (AQI) of 361, the numbers fluctuated drastically between 43 (good air quality) and 183.
  •  “I was shocked to see the numbers,” said K. Karunakaran, Senior Technical Supervisor at CPCB, Bengaluru. It was found that the configurations at the measuring station were jumbled. “The numbers for CO (carbon monoxide) were being calculated as PM2.5 (Particulate Matter). So ‘normal’ CO levels suddenly became abnormally high PM2.5 levels,” he said, adding that it would take time for the index to stabilize.

After 12 days, IRNSS-1D reaches its space home

  •  Navigation satellite IRNSS-1D reached its space home, 12 days after it was launched from Sriharikota.
  •  After tests and validations, it is expected to be put to work and beam signals from early May, joining its three siblings — IRNSS-1A, 1B and 1C — that are already in orbit, according to senior officials of Indian Space Research Organisation.
  •  IRNSS-1D is the fourth of the seven-satellite Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System; the constellation was conceived to give location-related information across the country and is loosely called the Indian version of the popular GPS which the U.S. military owns and operates.
  •  The satellite reached its home after four orbit manoeuvres were conducted since its launch on March 28. It is now slotted at about 36,000 km from Earth at 111 degrees East longitude.
  •  It is expected to be put to work and beam signals from early May,

Dhanush successfully test-fired

  •  Three days after the failure of an interceptor missile trial, India successfully test-fired the nuclear-weapons capable Dhanush missile for its full range of 350 km off the Odisha coast.
  •  Personnel of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) picked up the missile randomly from a production lot and launched it at 11.02 a.m. from Dhanush Platform, an offshore patrolling vessel, about 150 km from the shore, according to missile scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
  •  After a flight of 500 seconds, the missile splashed down near the target point in the sea with an accuracy of less than 30 metres, the scientists said, describing it as a “perfect mission.”

India to buy 36 Rafale jets in ready condition

  •  Marking a breakthrough in the protracted talks for striking the French Rafale jet deal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would buy 36 of the fighter planes in flyaway condition, citing critical operational requirements of the Indian Air Force.
  •  Mr. Modi made the announcement at a joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande after their summit talks at Elysee Palace.
  •  “Keeping in mind the critical operational necessity of fighter jets in India, I have talked to him [Hollande] and requested for 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition as quickly as possible under a government-to-government deal,” he said.
  •  An agreement on proceeding forward on the stalled nuclear project in Jaitapur in Maharashtra was among the 17 pacts signed after the talks between Modi and Hollande.
  •  The Jaitapur project, where French company Areva is to set up six nuclear reactors with a total power generation capacity of about 10,000 MW, has been stuck for long because of differences over the cost of the power generated.
  •  The agreement between India’s Larsen and Toubro and France’s Areva is aimed at cost reduction by increasing localisation and to improve the financial viability of the Jaitapur project.
  •  The original deal was for 126 fighter aircraft under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft contest, which began in 2007.
  •  Dassault Rafale was shortlisted in 2012 after rigorous evaluation but negotiations have been stuck over pricing and delivery guarantees for the aircraft manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) in India.
  •  A direct purchase will drive down the costs as there is no technology transfer involved and the delivery of aircraft will be faster.

‘New drugs soon for malaria, osteoporosis, diabetes’

  •  The Indian pharmaceutical sector would soon be showcasing ‘candidate drugs’ for malaria, osteoporosis and diabetes, Union Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Harsh Vardhan said.
  •  With further R&D, important breakthroughs could be on the horizon for these diseases, he said following a visit to the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow, a wing of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
  •  Addressing scientists, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was committed to making India one of the world’s leading destinations for end-to-end drug discovery and innovation by 2020.
  •  “I am confident that the drug laboratories under the CSIR are capable of backing up the Swasth Swachh Bharat Mission. Our scientists are focussing on both infectious and lifestyle diseases. We are developing next generation drugs, biologics, biosimilars, gene therapeutics, stem cell therapeutics, personalised medicine and multifunctional nanomedicine,” said Dr. Vardhan.
  •  Indian R&D efforts in government laboratories like CSIR-CDRI, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT, Hyderabad) and CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (CSIR-IICB, Kolkata) have a track record in making drugs for kala azar, filaria, leprosy and tuberculosis available at affordable rates to the common man, he said.
  •  The “candidate drugs” for malaria, osteoporosis and diabetes were currently undergoing clinical trials, he said, adding that the CSIR-CDRI were simultaneously carrying out Investigational New Drug (IND) studies on lead molecules for fracture-healing, cancers, thrombosis, malaria and hyperglycemia.
  •  “Strengthening of the R&D ecosystem is the priority,” he added.
  •  He also said people were expecting CSIR laboratories to produce therapeutic and preventive measures for re-emerged infectious diseases.

‘Green’ sub station to power Faridabad metro corridor

  •  The upcoming Badarpur-Faridabad corridor of Delhi Metro would be powered by a Green Sub-station as the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has constructed a host of eco-friendly features at Faridabad including its first ever ‘green’ electrical Receiving Sub Station (RSS).
  •  The RSS, constructed at Sector 46, Faridabad will provide power to the 13.875 km long Badarpur – Escorts Mujesar (Faridabad) elevated corridor, the trial runs of which is likely to start later this month. Officials said the DMRC has already applied for its “Green Building” certification to the Indian Green Building Council.
  •  The sub station has a series of eco-friendly features, which makes it the first ever ‘green’ RSS of the Delhi Metro network. Solar power panels with capacity of 50 KWp have been installed at the RSS. The power generated will cater to the requirements of the RSS building and the remaining power will be used for the stations electrical load.

Mars might have transient liquid water

  •  After finding strong evidence supporting the presence of lake, river and glacier once upon a time on Mars, scientists have now found indirect evidence to support the presence of transient liquid water brine (very salty water) on Mars.
  •  The brine is likely to be present in the uppermost 5 cm of the Mars soil from sunset to sunrise during winter and for shorter windows of time during other seasons.
  •  At night, some of the water vapour in the atmosphere condenses as frost. Calcium perchlorate salt, which is globally present on Mars, absorbs the frost and forms brine by reducing the freezing temperature of water.
  •  The inference of transient liquid water on the red planet was based on the analysis of relative humidity, air temperature, and ground temperature data collected by Curiosity from the Gale Crater over one full Martian year. The results were published on April 13, 2015 in the journal Nature Geoscience .
  •  The authors state that the water activity and temperature are “probably low” to support any form of terrestrial life. Also, the transient nature of water is not conducive for the replication and metabolism of terrestrial micro-organisms.
  •  Since the data collected by Curiosity is from the equator, the driest and warmest region of the red planet, the possibility of abundant brines in other regions of the planet is high due to greater atmospheric water content in the form of humidity and lower temperature. The presence of brine also affects the solubility of other salts in the uppermost 15 cm of soil.

Vividh Bharati now available on FM

  •  The popular Vividh Bharati service of the All India Radio will now be available in the FM format, providing listeners within the National Capital Region with clear, high quality reception.
  •  On Tuesday, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley launched the service, hitherto available on Medium Wave. The service would enable listeners to access rich content across the AIR range from their mobile phones, car stereos and the Internet, Mr. Jaitley said.
  •  A dedicated 10-KW transmitter installed for the service would cover 60 km around Delhi. Vividh Bharati on FM will be available in Delhi on 100.1 Mhz, besides on 1368 kHz MW. Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore, Information and Broadcasting Secretary Bimal Julka and Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar and AIR DG Fayyaz Sheheryar were also present.

Invisible dark matter mapped at cosmic scale

  •  In a first, cosmologists have generated an enormous map of the distribution of dark matter in our universe, tracing the invisible substance by monitoring its gravitational effects on light.
  •  The picture maps clumps and voids of dark matter in a patch of sky covering around two million galaxies and showing features hundreds of millions of light years across, Nature reported.
  •  “The observations fit the standard picture of cosmology strikingly well, as dark matter is thought to be the main driver in the formation of large-scale cosmic structures,” said lead developer Chihway Chang.
  •  Using a 570-megapixel camera at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, the researchers photographed about two million galaxies.

Net neutrality: nuts and bolts

  •  Here is an explainer about a buzzword in India these days, Net neutrality:

What’s Net neutrality?

  • It is the principle that all traffic on the Internet must be treated equally by Internet service providers. Those advocating Net neutrality believe all bits of data are equal, and, therefore, should not be discriminated on the basis of content, site or user. This has largely been the default mode since Internet started.

Why has there been so much of noise about Net neutrality in recent months?

  •  First, India’s top telecom company Bharti Airtel, towards the end of last year, decided to charge subscribers extra for use of apps such as Skype and Viber. These apps compete with the voice and messaging services of telecom providers, and are even cheaper. There was uproar, after which Airtel stayed its decision, saying it would wait for regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services.
  •  Then, Facebook brought to India, a pre-selected bouquet of Web sites offered free to subscribers of Reliance Communications. There was not much controversy then.
  •  The buzz became really big after TRAI put out a 118-page consultation paper asking the public for its opinion on 20 questions, most of them about how the Internet can be regulated. Views were also sought on Net neutrality.
  •  By evening of Tuesday, over 4.2 lakh mails had been sent in support of Net neutrality through the Web site. Political parties such as the Congress, political leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal and celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan joined the bandwagon, as has the comedy group All India Bakchod through a video. All of them argue why the Internet should not be touched. TRAI will be open to taking comments till April 24, and counter comments by May 8. In between all this, Airtel last week launched Airtel Zero, which is a free offering of a slew of apps that sign up with the telecom provider. On Tuesday, Flipkart pulled out of the platform after initially agreeing to be on it, saying it was committed to Net neutrality.

Who benefits from Net neutrality? How?

  •  Every Internet user. Think through how you would like to browse the Internet. Wouldn’t you like to access the Web without worrying about how differently videos will be charged compared to other forms of content? Wouldn’t you like to access the Web without the telecom service provider getting to serve some sites faster than others? If yes for both, you are pro-Net neutrality.
  •  New ventures benefit too. In fact, one of the key reasons for start-ups to have come up in a big way in recent decades is the openness of the Internet. The Internet has reduced transaction costs and levelled the playing field.
  •  A start-up can come up with an app today, and can immediately attract a global audience. The likes of Googles and Facebooks could have struggled to grow if the Internet had not been open.

Then, why do we need to think about regulating the Internet?

  •  Essentially because the telecom companies do not like the way the apps are riding on their networks for free. The companies complain that voice-calling and messaging apps are cannibalising on their business. On top of all this, it is they who have to invest billions in getting access to spectrum and build networks as also adhere to regulations.

So, absence of Net neutrality will benefit telecom companies?

  •  It could make them a gatekeeper to a valuable resource, a role that supporters of Net neutrality feel will be misused to create winners and losers. They could charge companies a premium for access to users.
  •  It would not be a telecom companies versus internet players issue, as could be mistakenly perceived. For, the absence of Net neutrality could also benefit established Internet companies who are flush with money. They could nip challengers in the bud with vastly higher payoffs to telecom companies.

Is this an issue in India alone?

  •  No. The Federal Communications Commission just recently voted for what is seen as strong Net neutrality rules. This is to ensure Internet service providers neither block, throttle traffic nor give access priority for money. Europe is trying to correct a 2013 proposal for Net neutrality, in which privileged access was allowed to ‘specialised services.’ This was vague and threatened Net neutrality. Chile last year banned zero-rated schemes, those where access to social media is given free to telecom subscribers.

Flipkart & flipside

  •  Even as it pulled out of talks on joining Airtel Zero, native e-commerce major Flipkart asserted that “it has always believed in the concept of Net Neutrality.” Net Neutrality provides equal treatment for all traffic on the Net by Internet service providers. Airtel Zero, a platform launched by Airtel last week, allows subscribers free browsing of websites of companies that join the platform for a fee. That Flipkart junked its plan to join Airtel Zero is a shot in the arm for advocates of Net Neutrality.
  •  Nevertheless, the Flipkart pull-out has raised many questions.
  •  Are Flipkart bosses so naive not to know the implications of a platform such as Airtel Zero for the overall Internet ecosystem?
  •  How come they suddenly wake up to reiterate their support to Net Neutrality?
  •  Flipkart is an iconic brand in the burgeoning Indian e-commerce space. Perhaps, this has emboldened its bosses to ignore the unwritten rules in their pursuit for faster growth.
  •  The pull out from talks with Airtel appears to be have been necessitated by the strong adverse reaction from netizens across the country. A combination of rising tide of support for Net Neutrality and down-rating of its apps by customers has indeed forced Flipkart to quit talks. But for its iconic status, Flipkart’s actions — its initial talks with Airtel and the subsequent pull out — would have gone unnoticed. Again, its iconic status has ensured national headlines for whatever Flipkart does.
  •  Looking from this angle, Flipkart’s ‘righting’ action has given a huge fillip to the protagonists of Net Neutrality. It is a wake up call for Airtel and telcos to rework their strategies. The telcos need to look at innovative ways of offering value added services to boost their revenues within the overall framework of Net Neutrality.
  •  In the evolving dynamics of the world, however, disruptions are going to be the order of the day. We have seen how many old economy players were consigned to the pages of history due to technological changes that could not be really termed disruptive in that period and context.
  •  Technological changes are happening at a rapid pace now. Instead of raising new walls of protectionism, the world will be better served if companies across the value chain — be it telcos or e-commerce players or content providers — reconfigure their businesses so as to remain flexible and cost-effective all the time in an environment that is prone to quicker pace of technological disruptions.

Solar power picks up steam in more States

  •  Though Gujarat and Rajasthan are at the forefront of solar power development in the country, other states are also making rapid progress in harnessing energy from sun.
  •  Presently, Gujarat and Rajasthan account for over 50 per cent of India’s grid-connected solar energy capacity additions. However, states such as Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are also catching up fast, supported by their solar programmes.
  •  As of February this year, total installed capacity of solar power was 3,383 MW, constituting 10 per cent of total installed renewable power capacity in the country.
  •  Gujarat contributed 949 MW and Rajasthan’s installed capacity was 902 MW. Madhya Pradesh has added 500 MW, while Maharashtra’s commissioned solar power capacity was 334 MW. Other states, that have added more than 100 MW in solar, include Andhra Pradesh (237 MW), Punjab (120) and Tamil Nadu (112 MW).
  •  The country has achieved more than its targets in grid solar and off-grid solar under the Phase-1 (2010-2013) of Solar Mission. Against the target of 1100 MW of grid solar power, 1686 MW of projects (including large plants, rooftops and distribution grid plants) were commissioned.
  •  The Indian government has set an ambitious target of adding 100,000 MW by 2022.
  •  The plan would include large scale deployment of rooftop projects under both net metering and feed in metering to achieve 40,000 MW of capacity till 2022.
  •  Secondly, the Government would lay emphasis on grid connected projects to achieve 40,000 MW by 2022. For this, Solar parks have been set up in Gujarat and Rajasthan, and others have been planned in over 15 states.
  •  Thirdly, the Centre would focus on large scale projects (100 MW minimum.) to generate the remaining 20,000 MW capacity.

NASA probe captures colour image of Pluto

  •  NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent back its first colour image of the dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon Charon, after more than nine years of travelling through the solar system.
  •  The new photo, taken on April 9 from a distance of about 115 million kilometres, is already providing insights about Pluto and Charon, as well as suggestions of the science to come when New Horizons flies by the Pluto system on July 14, NASA said.
  •  The image shows “tantalising glimpses of this system,” Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said. “You can immediately see a number of differences between Pluto and Charon,” he added.
  •  Charon is dimmer than Pluto. The contrast may be due to a difference in composition of the two bodies, or it could even be caused by a previously unseen atmosphere on Charon, Mr. Green said.
  •  The uncertainty should clear up this summer, when New Horizons gets history’s first good look at the two frigid, faraway objects.

MIT develops sensor to detect spoiled meat

  •  MIT researchers have developed an inexpensive, portable sensor that can detect gases emitted by rotting meat, allowing you to determine whether the meat in the grocery store or refrigerator is safe to eat.
  •  The sensor, which consists of chemically modified carbon nanotubes, could be deployed in “smart packaging” that would offer much more accurate safety information than the expiration date on the package, said Timothy Swager, the John D MacArthur Professor of Chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
  •  The sensor is similar to other carbon nanotube devices that Swager’s lab has developed in recent years, including one that detects the ripeness of fruit.
  •  All of these devices work on the same principle: Carbon nanotubes can be chemically modified so that their ability to carry an electric current change in the presence of a particular gas.
  •  In this case, the researchers modified the carbon nanotubes with metal-containing compounds called metalloporphyrins, which contain a central metal atom bound to several nitrogen-containing rings.
  •  For this sensor, the researchers used a metalloporphyrin with cobalt at its centre. Metalloporphyrins are very good at binding to nitrogen-containing compounds called amines.
  •  Of particular interest to the researchers were the so-called biogenic amines, such as putrescine and cadaverine, which are roduced by decaying meat.

Agni-III test-fired for a shorter range

  •  Strategic Forces Command (SFC) personnel successfully test-fired nuclear weapons capable-Agni-III ballistic missile for a lesser range with a lofted trajectory from the Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast.
  •  The two-stage, solid propelled, surface-to-surface missile has a strike range of plus 3,000 km, but was tested for about 1,500 km by the SFC personnel.
  •  The mission was carried out as part of regular user training with logistics support provided by missile technologists of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  •  The 17-metre tall missile blasted off at 9.52 a.m. from a rail mobile launcher after the auto-launch command was given. The first stage of the missile got decoupled after 85 seconds, while the second stage was separated after another 120 seconds.
  •  Following the pre-ordained path, it began descending rapidly and re-entered the earth’s atmosphere withstanding scorching temperatures of more than 3,000 deg C and impacted near the pre-designated target point in the Bay of Bengal with a high degree of accuracy after a flight time of 20 minutes, DRDO missile scientists told .
  •  “All the mission objectives were met and every system functioned very well,” said one of them.

77% citizens want govt. to protect net users: survey

  •  Amid a raging debate over the issue of net neutrality in the country, a new survey has said a whopping 77 per cent citizens want the government to ensure that consumer interest is protected and telecom operators are not allowed to charge more based on the sites/services accessed on the Internet.
  •  Interestingly, a similar percentage of respondents (77 per cent) said the Central government and the sectoral regulator TRAI have “not done enough” to address issues faced by consumers such as call drop and poor data services.
  •  The community survey, with focus on telecom services offered in India, was conducted by social media network Local Circles. In all, six questions were put out for the poll, each receiving 20,000-37,700 votes.
  •  “Five questions that we put out received over 37,000 votes. The question of net neutrality which was put up recently received about 20,000 votes. However, after 10,000-15,000 votes, trends generally stay the same,” Sachin Taparia, Founder and CEO of Local Circles said.
  •  Fifty-three per cent of the surveyed people said they did not trust the charges levied by operators for the use of data service or value-added services, while 32 per cent said they trust their telecom provider on charges.

New Google app to help you write freely

  •  Google has designed a new app to test your on-screen penmanship. Called Google Handwriting Input, the app allows users to ‘write’ on a smartphone or tablet screen.
  •  It automatically interprets letters from 82 languages and transforms them into standard digital text.
  •  Users can use their fingers as well to write.

SpaceX cargo ship reaches ISS

  •  SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon cargo ship arrived on Friday at the International Space Station.
  •  European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti grappled the capsule with the space station’s robotic arm at 6:55 am local time as the space station flew to the east of Japan, NASA said. “Houston, capture is complete,” said NASA astronaut Terry Virts, after high—fiving Cristoforetti in the cupola.
  •  The cargo ship will move closer to the space station and complete its latch-on later.
  •  Its contents include an espresso machine, ready-made food packets, and a host of science experiments.

Connectivity, neutrality can coexist: Zuckerberg

  •  Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that universal connectivity and net neutrality could coexist.
  •  “But net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles — universal connectivity and net neutrality — can and must coexist. To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some service for free. If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
  •  Arguments about net neutrality should not be used to prevent the “most disadvantaged people in society” from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity, he said.
  •  Eliminating programmes that brought more people online would not increase social inclusion or close the digital divide, Mr. Zuckerberg said.
  •  “Net neutrality is an essential part of the open internet, and we are fully committed to it.”
  •  Net neutrality is a concept that all websites are treated equally.
  •  There are no norms for it now in India.

Moon formed 4.47 billion years ago, says study

  •  The moon may have been created about 4.47 billion years ago, according to a new study of meteorites that provides clues to the giant collision which formed Earth and the lunar body.
  •  A giant impact between a large protoplanet and the proto-Earth formed the Moon. The timing of this giant impact, however, is uncertain, with the ages of the most ancient lunar samples returned by the Apollo astronauts still being debated.
  •  Research indicates numerous kilometre-sized fragments from the giant impact struck main belt asteroids at much higher velocities than typical main belt collisions, heating the surface and leaving behind a permanent record of the impact event.
  •  Collisions on these asteroids in more recent times delivered these shocked remnants to Earth, which scientists have now used to date the age of the moon.
  •  By modelling the evolution of giant impact debris over time and fitting the results to ancient impact heat signatures in stony meteorites, the team was able to infer that the moon formed about 4.47 billion years ago, in agreement with many previous estimates.
  •  The most ancient solar system materials found in meteorites are about 100 million years older than this age. The impact signatures provide insights into the last stages of planet formation.
  •  They can also help researchers deduce the earliest bombardment history of ancient bodies like Vesta, one of the targets of NASA’s Dawn mission.

TRAI chief says ‘shrill voices’ won’t win Net neutrality debate

  •  Telecom watchdog TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar said “shrill voices” will not win the Net neutrality debate and the concept is not “practiced strictly” even in countries like the U.S. and the U.K.
  •  The principle of Net Neutrality calls for equal treatment to be accorded to all Internet traffic, without discrimination or priority for any person, entity or company.
  •  While Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has floated a discussion paper on this topic, a raging debate has broken out in the country following the launch of platforms like Airtel Zero and
  •  “There has to be democratic debate. It’s a debate that is waiting to happen. Shrill voices do not win debate. Cool-headed reasoned arguments on both sides are need of the hour,” Mr. Khullar said.
  •  “There are different practices in different jurisdictions. U.K. and parts of Europe do not practice strict Net neutrality. Even in U.S. zero rating plans are permissible,” he said.
  •  In response to its paper, for which public comments have been sought till April 24, Trai has already been flooded with over 8 lakh petitions against any attempt to throttle Net neutrality concept.
  •  “Both sides have their argument. We have consultation process running. Let everybody’s comment come in place, then we will decide further course of action,” Mr. Khullar said.
  •  The debate had begun after Airtel decided to charge separately for Internet-based phone calls in December, which it had to later withdraw.

Net neutrality

  •  Net neutrality is a principle that says Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all traffic and content on their networks equally.

How does net neutrality affect you?

  •  The internet is now a level-playing field. Anybody can start up a website, stream music or use social media with the same amount of data that they have purchased with a particular ISP. But in the absence of neutrality, your ISP might favour certain websites over others for which you might have to pay extra. Website A might load at a faster speed than Website B because your ISP has a deal with Website A that Website B cannot afford. It’s like your electricity company charging you extra for using the washing machine, television and microwave oven above and beyond what you are already paying.

Why now?

  •  Late last month, Trai released a draft consultation paper seeking views from the industry and the general public on the need for regulations for over-the-top (OTT) players such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber etc, security concerns and net neutrality. The objective of this consultation paper, the regulator said, was to analyse the implications of the growth of OTTs and consider whether or not changes were required in the current regulatory framework.

What is an OTT?

  •  OTT or over-the-top refers to applications and services which are accessible over the internet and ride on operators' networks offering internet access services. The best known examples of OTT are Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, e-commerce sites, Ola, Facebook messenger. The OTTs are not bound by any regulations. The Trai is of the view that the lack of regulations poses a threat to security and there’s a need for government’s intervention to ensure a level playing field in terms of regulatory compliance.

COAI calls for a debate on Net neutrality

  •  The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), whose members have been at the receiving end of the Net neutrality campaign, called for a debate on the issue from an Indian perspective.
  •  “The association urges all stakeholders to have a comprehensive and informed debate on the subject of Net neutrality keeping in mind the requirements of India and its citizens,” a statement said. A subject as important and complex as Net neutrality should “not be left to the opinion of a few.”
  •  Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should treat all data on the Internet equally, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, site, platform or application.
  •  “We support open Internet and believe that consumers should decide what to do online. Our job is to enable consumers to benefit from that freedom. We offer choice and do not block or provide any preferential access to any website or app,” the statement said.
  •  The association has said while its members are committed to investing in the government’s Digital India vision, there is a need to create an enabling and equal environment that promotes the growth of the entire Internet ecosystem.
  •  “Without infrastructure and investment, there will be no Internet access. The operators have invested billions of dollars in licence fees, spectrum fees and network roll-outs. Yet the industry still makes negative return on the capital employed,” it argued.
  •  The industry estimates that the country will need an additional capital outlay of Rs. 3,00,000 crore to 5,00,000 crore over the next 10 years in spectrum, new technology, equipment, towers and optical fibre backbone. “The need of the hour is to have a sustainable industry that has the ability to invest in growth of data services and connectivity to all,” the statement said. It also called for same rules for same services, including mobile and VoIP services.

Mobile number portability not possible by May 3: COAI

  •  Telecom subscribers may have to wait till July to avail nation-wide mobile number portability service as the DoT (Department of Telecommunications) has asked operators to make some technical changes which could take about eight weeks, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said .
  •  “In a nutshell, it seems very difficult to roll-out full MNP by May 3. We are planning to write to the DoT on this,” Mr. Mathews said.
  •  Under NNP, each telecom circle and mobile operators are allocated mobile numbers. The first few digits of a mobile number indicate the telecom circle.
  •  The Government has set a deadline of May 3 to start full MNP service, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has amended the MNP regulation on February 25.
  •  The full MNP will allow subscribers to retain their mobile number in any part of the country even when they change their operator or State.
  •  At present, MNP allows subscribers to change mobile network while retaining their number in the same telecom circle. In an order dated April 13, the DoT has amended NNP asking telecom operators to allow their subscribers to dial on to mobile numbers within the same circle as well as inter-circle without any prefix. Calls can also be made using the prefix ‘0’ and/or ‘+91’.
  •  This means customers will be able to make calls to any other telecom circle or state without using any prefix.
  •  He added that Indian telecom network had one of the largest mobile switches which needed to be reconfigured across all 22 telecom circles by all telecom operators.

NASA seeks ideas to safeguard Mars journey

  •  NASA is offering an award of up to $30,000 for innovative designsto protect a spacecraft’s crew on the journey to Mars.
  •  The US space agency, which recently awarded $12,000 to five winners of a challenge to mitigate radiation exposure on deep space missions, is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s.
  •  “We are very impressed with the enthusiasm and sheer number of people from the public, who showed interest in solving this very difficult problem for human space exploration,” said Steve Rader, deputy manager of the NASA-supported Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation.
  •  “We look forward to seeing what people will come up with in this next challenge to find the optimal configuration for these different protection approaches,” Mr Rader noted.
  •  Galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), high-energy radiation that originates outside the solar system, are a major issue facing future space travellers venturing beyond low-Earth orbit.
  •  These charged particles permeate the universe and exposure to them is inevitable during space exploration.
  •  Anyone can participate in the challenge, which will be open from April 29 to June 29, 2015.

Navy’s stealth destroyer launched

  •  Women would be seen in combat role in the defence forces when the time is ripe, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral R. K. Dhowan said. He was interacting with the media after the launch of Visakhapatnam, India’s first destroyer of Project 15B class, at Mazgaon Docks Limited .
  •  He said the Indian Navy was closely monitoring any threat perception including the increased collaboration between the Pakistani and Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean region.
  •  Visakhapatnam was launched by Minu Dhowan, wife of Admiral R. K. Dhowan. It is to be commissioned in 2018, and has indigenous component of over 70 per cent. It has been made of Indian Steel manufactured by the Steel Authority of India Limited. The warship’s propulsion system will be from Russia.
  •  Admiral Dhowan said the aim was to increase the indigenous component in the coming years.
  •  “At present, there are 48 ships and submarines under construction in various public and private shipyards in India,” he said.
  •  On the increased collaboration between the Pakistani and Chinese Navies, he said that the Indian Navy closely monitored the Indian Ocean region, and looked at all aspects of threat perception.
  •  Rear Admiral R.K. Shrawat, Chairperson and Managing Director of Mazgaon Docks, said the dock’s Value of Production (VoP) is a whopping Rs. 3,500 crore, which is 22 per cent higher than last year.

Green tribunal’s thumbs up for waste-to-energy projects

  •  In what could be seen as a setback to those opposing burning of municipal solid wastes (MSW), the National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi, has permitted the States, including Karnataka, to use incinerator technology for producing Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), commonly known as waste-to-energy.
  •  However, the Tribunal said no waste could be directly put into the incinerators or for power generation, except the specifically permitted.
  •  Only those wastes that are found unrecyclable after segregation should be put into the incinerators.
  •  Also, the tribunal emphasised that it was “not putting any absolute restriction on RDF being used as power generation fuel, but first effort should be made for composting of wet waste”.
  •  The States are free to use RDF for generating fuel with due care and caution by framing necessary guidelines.
  •  Meanwhile, the Central Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment and Forests were directed to prescribe specific guidelines for emissions from incinerators.
  •  The directions were issued on a case between city-based MSW expert Almitra H. Patel vs. Union of India that was referred to the NGT by the Supreme Court, which since 1996 had issued several directions on management of MSW across the country.
  •  Based on this case, the Centre had formulated the MSW (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. The NGT also directed dividing the State into clusters for locating sufficient number of incinerator plants.
  •  Authorities were also asked to provide maximum space for plants to have large storage and processing area for wastes; ensure green belt of higher density around plants, and adopt new technologies.

Chennai to host Global Mobile App Summit

  •  The first edition of Global Mobile App Summit & Awards (GMASA) to be held here on May 28 and 29.
  •  Coinciding with the summit, GMASA will also hold the ‘Make-in-India Student App Fest’ to enable students showcase their talents so that they can get connected with the angel investors, private equity funds and venture capitalists, said Summit Advisory Member L. Hemachandran.
  •  Dubbed as the first-of-its-kind summit, it would not only present endless opportunities for networking, but also serve as a platform to these mobile app developers to showcase and learn from the industry’s leaders, said GMASA president C.R. Venkatesh.
  •  “Currently, 30 per cent of our investments are mobile-centric, and it is targeted towards B2B. There is a huge opportunity in B2C segment, and we have to make use of it,” said Sameer Mehta of The Chennai Angels.
  •  In the last one year, 350 students had developed over 90 mobile apps, of which 42 were uploaded in Google play. Mobile App such as Find My Car and I Am Safe were some of them.
  •  To train industry-ready students and to ignite their passion, the college conducted 24-hours Hackathon, which was a huge success, said P. Shankar, Principal Saveetha School of Engineering.
  •  GMASA will play host to Entrepreneur Pitch Zone to connect app creators with investors.

India ranks second in cyber attacks through social media

  •  Cyber criminals are now using social networking sites to target users in India.
  •  According to a report from Symantec, a security solutions provider, India ranked second among nations that were most targeted for cyber crimes through the social media in 2014, after the US.
  •  “While email remains a significant attack vector for cybercriminals, they continue to experiment with new methods across mobile devices and social networks to reach more people with less effort. India’s growing social media population proved to be a ready base for them,” said Tarun Kaura, Director, Technology Sales (India), Symantec.
  •  He said that in 2014, India had the second highest number of social media scams globally and the highest in the Asia Pacific region. Over 80 per cent of these scams were shared manually as attackers took advantage of people’s willingness to trust content shared by friends.

Smart maps for smart cities

  •  The use of smart maps in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious smart cities project will lead to $8 billion in savings and value in a year, according to a study by Dalberg Global Development Advisors, a strategy and policy consulting firm.
  •  This also needs a strong policy and regulatory framework, it said.
  •  The firm’s report, “Smart maps for smart cities: India’s $8 Billion+ opportunity”, said India was expected to see the greatest migration to cities of any country in the world in the next three decades, with over 400 million new inhabitants moving into urban areas. “The expansion of India’s urban population will also have to be met with an expansion of infrastructure that is 20 times the capacity that has been added to India’s cities over the last decade,” it added.
  •  The report points out nine high potential uses of smart maps including traffic and commuting, local retail, tourism, women’s safety, city planning, civic engagement, emergency services, logistics and delivery and disaster response.
  •  Pritha Venkatachalam, principal at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, pointed out the benefits in terms of emergency services and local retail.
  •  “Surveys show that emergency vehicles in India spend about 25 per cent of their response time or one fourth of their time to reach their patient or beneficiary. And that time is spent in looking at the exact location from where the call originated. A use of smart maps can reduce that time to 2-3 minutes, which is our conservative estimate and save 13,000 lives,” she added.
  •  The report also pointed out that local retailers could increase revenue by $2 billion. “There are 116 million smartphone users and 78 per cent of smartphone users use maps to search for local business or services at least once a week. In the U.S., 73 per cent of such searches result in purchases, while in India it is only 20 per cent,” Ms. Venkatachalam said. “This is because 80 per cent of kirana shops are not listed,” she added.

Social media democratising govt.: U.S. expert

  •  Social media in India is having a “democratising effect on government and institutions,” said Macon Phillips, coordinator in the Bureau of International Information Programs, who earlier served as special assistant to U.S. President Barack Obama and as director of digital strategy in the White House.
  •  Amid the high-octane debate on Net neutrality, Mr. Phillips said here on Wednesday that the use of social media platforms by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama was lending maturity to the medium.
  • “The PM [Mr. Modi] is making use of Twitter for more than just sharing pictures of food. Oftentimes, social media is trivialised, it is the genuine embrace of this medium by leaders who are defining our world that legitimises it, and it is not just good for those leaders but everyone who is using it to talk about serious issues. As someone who has been in the White House, I can tell you people are not afraid to show opinion and they take to social media to do that,” he told.
  •  Mr. Philips, who is in India to meet business leaders and digital influencers to discuss issues of climate change, sustainability efforts, and entrepreneurship, said the U.S. was looking at deepening ties with India on a host of issues, including cyber security and climate change.
  •  While he described the Indian government’s use of social media as being in its “adolescent phase,” he said, institutions around the world have to learn to adapt and be prepared for an audience that seeks answers in real time.
  •  “The use of social media is in an adolescent phase; sometimes awkward, sometimes energetic, sometimes incorrect, but it is learning and growing into its own idea. We are on the cusp of a mature space and that is being driven by Mr. Modi and his personal embrace of this medium as well as by Mr. Obama,” he said.
  •  Referring to a “rapidly changing media landscape,” he said it was imperative that institutions adapt to make sure that they were accessible in policy positions and information.
  •  “Social media has increased the pace of public engagement and news and that is creating stress on the system of large institutions like government departments to adapt. As we see in world events things happen in minutes, so we have to be prepared all the more and make sure we are aware of what the conversations are and are ready to address the problems,” he explained.
  •  On Mr. Modi’s much-publicised social media campaign before the general elections in 2014, he said the campaign had been an inspiring one to Americans in terms of not just his personal story, but how he had used technology.
  •  “As someone who was part of the Obama campaign, it is easy to see the similarities. One similarity to underscore is that both these men have an ethic about community engagement that was developed long before the Internet. In case of President Obama, he was a community organiser, when he could have a number of other jobs, he chose to walk around neighbourhoods and knock on doors and help people to organise and change and address problems. Social media helped him do that at much greater scale.”

Google gives boost to mobile-friendly sites

  •  Google’s latest Internet revolution this week saw the web giant modify its search algorithm to favour mobile-friendly sites, in a bid to upstage Apple that U.S. media branded a “mobilegeddon.”
  •  U.S. technology website WIRED described algorithm switch as “likely the biggest change of the past three years.”
  •  “And it’s reminder of the wonderfully magnanimous yet deeply selfish way that Google uses its market power to accelerate changes across the rest of the Internet,” it added.
  •  The change comes in the same week as a Google announcement it will launch its own US mobile wireless service, with considerable potential savings for customers using their devices at home and for international travel. Google argues its algorithm revolution is good for users. “We want to make sure they can find content that's not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens,” Google said in a statement to WIRED.
  •  More than half of Internet searches worldwide are made on mobile phones, a trend driven by figures out of developing countries where smartphone penetration is higher than computers.
  •  In 2011, a change to Google’s search algorithm affected 10 per cent of English-language websites, while the 2012 change impacted some four percent, according to WIRED. But the recent change, the extent of whose impact cannot yet be fully measured, has also sent shockwaves among brand owners and marketers, for whom online visibility is hugely important.
  •  “Google has the power of life or death over some websites. A drop in Google ranking can mean a 60 to 80 percent loss in turn over,” e-marketing firm JVWEB’s president Jonathan Vidor said.
  •  Even if mobile phones bring in only a small proportion of revenues, “everyone is scared Google might do something drastic,” Vidor added.
  •  While it threatens to throw websites that have not been adapted to smartphone technology to the bottom of search rankings, the change introduced on Tuesday has yet to cause the major impact experts had predicted. “I observed absolutely no impact,” said Benoit Sillard, director of leading French publisher CCM Benchmark, 40 per cent of whose finance, women’s and news magazines online visits are via mobile.
  •  “It will take at least a week before we see an initial impact, as the algorithm is going through a learning phase,” said Paul Amsellem, who heads a marketing, technology and mobile phone advertising firm, the Mobile Network Group.
  •  Amsellem believes “Google has just lost its mobile search bet” by placing unrealistic — and ultimately unfulfilled — hopes in websites shifting over to mobile platforms en masse.
  •  Mobile phone applications pioneered by Apple are still coming out on top in the race for the Internet throne. Apple had placed its bets very early in the game on mobile phone downloads, Amsellem said, giving the technology icon the lead by taking control of applications, content and graphics, making users’ experience “the best it can be.”

Magnitude-6.7 aftershock hits Nepal, tremors felt across India

  •  Massive rescue and relief efforts were mounted by India and other neighbours in Nepal, as two powerful aftershocks rattled the country, adding to the devastation in which the casualties soared to 2,200 people dead and over 5,600 others injured.
  •  The 7.9-magnitude temblor on Saturday left a trail of devastation and suffering, with people spending the cold night in the open because of a series of aftershocks that scared several of the survivors from returning to their homes.
  •  According to the latest figures available with the Home Ministry, over 2,200 people have been killed and 5,654 are injured. 
    1,053 people are reported killed in the Kathmandu Valley alone. Officials fear the death toll could rise as desperate search for survivors continued.
  •  A strong 6.7-magnitude aftershock followed by another measuring 6.5 on the Richter Scale today sent people running for open spaces.
  •  International teams, including from India, have touched down here as Nepal declared a state of emergency in the wake of the disaster, the worst in over 80 years of the country’s recorded history.
  •  Rescuers have been hunting for survivors under heaps of debris with bare hands as well as heavy equipment though the efforts have been hampered due to fresh tremors, thunderstorms and snowfall in the mountain ranges.
  •  Locals and tourists sifted through mounds of debris for survivors. Cheers rose when people were found alive, though mostly bodies were pulled out.
  •  Climbers said the aftershocks caused more avalanches at the Mount Everest, where at least 22 people have been killed.
  •  MI-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) have carried out five casualty evacuation sorties and the injured have been moved to military hospitals.

Uttar Pradesh

  •  Fresh tremors were felt in parts of Uttar Pradesh even as the toll mounted to 13 with one more person succumbing to injuries in Kushinagar, which was among the badly affected district of the state.
  •  Fresh aftershocks were felt for a few seconds in different parts of the state, but there was no immediate report of causality or damage to property in the latest temblor.
  •  In Khusinagar district bordering Nepal, one person died during tremors in in Nauka Chappara village in Kushinagar district, a police spokesman said in Lucknow.
  •  Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday sent relief material to Nepal and areas affected by earthquake on Saturday.
  •  The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had announced a financial assistance of Rs. 5 lakh to the kin of those killed in the earthquake, Rs. 50,000 to grievously injured and Rs. 20,000 to those having minor injuries, an official spokesman said.
  •  The Chief Minister had also talked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him of the situation in the state, the official said.
  •  “The CM called the Prime Minister and apprised him with the measures being taken by the state government,” the spokesman said.
  •  Mr. Yadav had asked state Chief Secretary and DGP along with the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police to assess loss of life and property caused by the earthquake.


  •  A minor girl was killed and seven children were injured when a hut collapsed on them at Roniza village in Bharatpur district as fresh tremors which hit parts of Rajasthan.
  •  The tremors were felt in Jaipur and adjoining towns scaring people to come out of their houses, a MeT official said.
  •  The deceased eight year old girl was yet to be identified, while injured kids were rushed to the nearby hospitals in Nadbai by their parents, the SP Bharatpur Rahul Prakash told.
  •  The thatched roof was supported by stone slabs and the kids were playing when the mishap occurred around 12:56 pm, the SP said, adding it was to be ascertained by the seismology experts whether it was collapsed due to tremors or any other reason.
  •  A rescue team of policemen went from Nadbai to take stock of the situation, he said.
  •  Meanwhile, Rajasthan Police has started a Helpline for people whose relatives live in Nepal.
  •  The tremors, which had a magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter Scale and epicentred in Nepal, were experienced in Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Delhi for over 30 seconds at 12:42 PM.


  •  Fresh tremors jolted several parts of Odisha, triggering panic among people as the aftershocks came a day after a powerful earthquake rocked Nepal and several parts of India.
  •  The MeT office here said that an earthquake of moderate intensity having its magnitude 6.9 on the Richter scale occurred at 12.39 hours IST with its epicentre at latitude 27.60 North and longitude 85.90 East in Nepal.
  •  The epicentre of the earthquake is about 810 km from Bhubaneswar in the direction of North. The earthquake is felt in some parts of Odisha, it said.
  •  Apart from the state capital Bhubaneswar, the tremors were felt in Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Khurda and other areas which had also been jolted by Saturday’s earthquake.
  •  Shaken by the fresh tremors, panic-stricken people moved out of buildings, particularly multi-storeyed and high-rise structures to open areas.
  •  However, there was no immediate report of damage to property or anyone getting hurt, officials said.

West Bengal

  •  Fresh tremors were felt in several parts of West Bengal at around 12.40 p.m. causing panic among the people who ran out of their homes and assembled on the streets.
  •  “The tremor had its epicentre further east of the region in Nepal that witnessed an earthquake yesterday. The magnitude of the earthquake on the Richter Scale is 6.9 and the tremors were felt here in the city and the surrounding areas. We are still waiting for more details,” a senior official of Kolkata Meteorological department told .
  • The tremor was felt in different parts of the city especially in Behala, Garia, Kidderpore, Lake Town, Salt Lake, Dalhousie and Park street areas.
  •  Metro services in the city were temporarily stopped following the tremor, a senior official of Kolkata Metro said.
  • “Mainly because of safety reasons, we have stopped the services. We are running a check whether there is any damage of the tracks or elsewhere. Once that’s complete we will resume the services,” he said.
  •  A police official said that they had not received report of any casualty in the city.
  •  Tremors were also experienced in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Bankura and East Midnapur districts of the state, reports reaching here said.
  •  In West Bengal, three persons were killed and 69, including 43 school children, were injured after a 7.9—magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal and several parts of the country.
  •  West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to visit North Bengal this afternoon which was most affected in yesterday’s quake.
  •  The Nepal government has sought assistance from the West Bengal government following Saturday's devastating earthquake.


  •  Two fresh tremors shook Assam though there was no immediate report of any casualty or damage to property.
  •  The first tremor, which lasted for a second, was felt around 1242 hrs and the second one was felt after a few seconds in almost all districts of the state, officials said.
  •  The quake shook buildings, rattled windows in houses and swayed electric poles.
  •  Quake was 6.9 on the Richter Scale in Nepal at a depth of 10 km with epicentre at Latitude 27.6 degree North and Longitude 85.9 degree East, Met office said.
  •  Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has directed Chief Secretary Jitesh Khosla to take stock of the situation, alert the Assam State Disaster Management Authority and other line departments.
  •  The Chief Minister has further asked Khosla to take required steps to see if any individual from the state was stranded in Nepal and ensure his/her safe return, officials said.
  •  Meanwhile, the state government has opened a toll free number 1070 for relatives of people from the state who are stuck in Nepal following Saturday’s earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale.
  •  Assam Police has also opened two helpline numbers for people from the state affected by the earthquake in Nepal with IGP Special Branch Hiren Nath to act as the Nodal officer.


  •  Tremors were felt in several parts of Jharkhand. Mild tremors shook Ranchi, Dumka, Sahibganj, Lohardaga and other parts of the state around 12.42 pm, officials said. There was no report of any casualty or damage to property, they added.
  •  Ambassador-designate of Nepal Deep Kumar Upadhyay expressed gratitude to India for its quick response in helping its quake-hit neighbour. All relief operations headed to Kathmandu have been kept on hold till 4 p.m. due to fresh tremors in Nepal, according to the Defence Ministry.
  •  The Weather Forecasting Center of the India Meteorological Department has predicted fairly widespread rain or thundershower activity over Nepal during the next 24 hours, an official release informed.
  •  In a statement, the U.S. embassy said that the US expresses its “deepest condolences” to all those affected by Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal, including the families of those killed or injured. U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Peter Bodde has issued a disaster declaration in order to immediately release an initial $1 million for emergency assistance.

Instant self-test HIV kit goes on sale online in Britain

  •  Britain’s first legally-approved HIV self-testing kit went on sale online, promising a result in just 15 minutes with a 99.7 per cent accuracy rate.
  •  Developers hope the BioSure HIV Self Test will help identify the estimated 26,000 people in Britain who have HIV but do not yet know.
  •  “Knowing your HIV status is critical and the launch of this product will empower people to discreetly test themselves when it is convenient to them and in a place where they feel comfortable,” explained BioSure founder Brigette Bard.
  •  Early diagnosis reduces the risk of passing the disease on to other people and also raises the success rate of modern treatments, which now make the disease manageable.
  •  “Over 40 per cent of people living with HIV are diagnosed late, meaning they have been living with HIV for at least four years,” said Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National Aids Trust (NAT). “People diagnosed late are 11 times more likely to die in the first year after diagnosis,” she added.
  •  The kit reacts to antibodies — proteins made in response to the virus — in a drop of the person’s blood, producing two purple lines in the event of a positive diagnosis. The self-test, which is only available via the Internet, can only detect antibodies three months after the patient has become infected, and is not effective during this initial period, and all positive results must be confirmed by professional health workers, experts said.
  •  Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive at HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said it was “great to see the first self-test kits being approved.”
  •  Currently, those who fear they may have been infected have to collect a blood sample at home and send it to a laboratory, waiting five days for the result.
  •  There are almost 110,000 people in Britain living with HIV, which can lead to AIDS if the sufferer’s immune system becomes badly damaged.
  •  A similar test in the U.S. has been available since 2012, giving a result in around 30 minutes from a sample of the person’s saliva or blood.

Netizens slam TRAI for publishing email addresses

  •  In a major gaffe that some pejoratively termed “height of transparency,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Monday published the names and email addresses of over a million users, compromising their online privacy in the process.
  •  Netizens had written to TRAI expressing concerns on the Net neutrality debate last month, in response to a consultation paper on regulatory framework for over-the-top services or apps that offer instant messaging and VOIP.
  •  However, users did not expect the regulator to make their names and emails public, leaving them exposed to online marketeers and spammers.
  •  TRAI released a PDF file titled “comments received from the stakeholders towards the Consultation paper on ‘Regulatory Framework for OTT services’.”
  •  “Because of the large number of comments received and for easy viewership, the comments are divided into three blocks — comments from the Service Providers; Comments from the Service Providers’ Association and Comments from other Stakeholders,” TRAI said.
  •  Soon, Netizens started expressing outrage over the regulator’s move and TRAI began trending on social networking websites like Twitter.
  •  In response to the release of the emails, hacktivist group Anonymous India claimed to have launched a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attack on the TRAI website, rendering it inaccessible.
  •  “When we were DDoS’ing this is what it was like in #TRAI office ;),” the group tweeted from their handle AnonOpsIndia @opindia_revenge, with a picture of a dog in front of a computer with a caption saying “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
    However, the website was up by 6 p.m.
  •  “Guys is back online and they still haven’t done anything about those email Ids. You guys told us to stop. We did,” the group tweeted.
  •  On social media, users slammed TRAI for violating their online privacy and “exposing our email IDs to spammers.”

Operation Maitri to continue

  •  Operation Maitri, India’s Army-led rescue and relief mission in quake-hit Nepal, would continue till normalcy returned to the Himalayan country, the Army said.
  •  The Indian rescue mission succeeded in evacuating 170 foreign nationals belonging to the U.S., the U.K., Russia and Germany, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said.
  •  So far, over 5,000 Indians have been brought back from Nepal by Air Force and civilian planes
  •  “There is no set time frame. We will continue our efforts till normalcy returns to Nepal,” Major General Ranbir Singh, ADG (Military Operations), told journalists. Chief of Army Staff Dalbir Singh, he said, was in regular touch with his Nepalese counterpart Gaurav Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana.
  •  Stepping up efforts to help rebuild Nepal, India had sent a cumulative relief material of 24 tonnes to the interior areas, Defence Secretary R.K. Mathur said. Kathmandu and Pokhra would be used as bases for helicopters to fly to the affected areas.
  •  The Army, the ADG said, had sent 18 medical teams (comprising 20 people each), and 12 engineer teams of about 60 to the neighbouring country. While the engineers were helping to clear the rubble from blocked roads, the power assessment team had managed to restore electricity in major areas. The medical teams had performed 65 surgeries and treated 540 trauma cases, the ADG said.
  •  “In order to provide a healing touch, we have sent several Gurkha soldiers employed in the Indian Army to their respective areas in Nepal.”
  •  Earlier in the day, spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup tweeted: “Friends in need. India assisted in evacuation from Nepal of 170 nationals from 15 countries via commercial & IAF aircraft.”
  •  Minister of State Dharmendra Pradhan also arrived at the Patna airport and instructed officials to ensure that there was no impediment to the supply of petroleum products to Nepal.

Chikungunya vaccine shows promise

  •  An experimental chikungunya vaccine to induce neutralising immune responses to kill the viruses once they enter the body has shown promise in mice.
  •  Mice vaccinated with the vaccine were “partially protected” even when they were infected with a high dose of chikungunya virus. In nature, the viral load will be much lower when it is transmitted by a mosquito. In all probability, the protective effect of the vaccine may be “sufficient to protect against a mosquito derived infection.”
  •  The prophylactic ability of the vaccine can be enhanced if it is used with an appropriate adjuvant (a compound that can increase the immune response).
  •  Currently, no vaccine is commercially available against chikungunya. The results were published a few days ago in the journal PLOS Neglected Diseases . The chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes and causes an infection in humans known as chikungunya fever. The disease causes fever and severe joint pain; the joint pain can last for a few months and in some cases for up to several years. India is one of the worst affected countries.
  •  The chikungunya virus has two surface proteins — E1 and E2. While E1 is a fusion protein, E2 very likely plays a role in binding the virus with receptors seen on human cells. The E2 has three domains — A, B, and C. Of the three, the domain C is not accessible to antibodies and of little use in vaccine development. To produce a protein vaccine, researchers at Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, Langen, Germany, selected different areas in domain A and B and stitched them together.
  •  After producing them in E. coli and purifying them, mice were immunised with these protein fragments. Their ability to produce neutralising antibodies in mice was studied post injection. Of the many protein fragments studied, the sAB+ proved to be the most efficient in producing neutralising antibodies. The researchers also generated a recombinant Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) using the sAB+ construct.
  •  The MVA is a vector that is used to carry the molecule of interest (which in this case is a protein) into the body of mice/humans. The MVA vectors were used in the AIDS vaccine trail carried out at the Chennai-based National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis.
  •  Besides the recombinant protein sAB+ vaccine, two different vaccine combinations were tested — MVA-CHIKV-sAB+ and/or recombinant protein sAB+. The mice were then infected with the wild-type chikungunya virus two weeks after the final dose of the vaccine.
  •  The recombinant protein vaccine showed greater reactivation compared with the recombinant MVA vaccine. Not surprisingly, vaccination using the recombinant protein vaccine “markedly reduced” the viral load after the mice were infected with chikungunya virus.
  •  The recombinant MVA vaccine did not show any significant protection when used alone or in combination with the recombinant protein.
  •  The researchers say that since the mice were infected with a very high dose of chikungunya virus, the protective effect of the recombinant protein vaccine may be “sufficient to protect against a mosquito derived infection.”

Making buildings earthquake-safe

  •  As science stands now, predicting the precise location, time and magnitude of earthquakes is not possible. However, the regions that are more vulnerable to quakes are well known. Much like the subduction zone off Sumatra, the Himalayan belt, in particular, is a seismically active region. As recently witnessed in Nepal and parts of India, the 7.8 magnitude earthquake ended up killing thousands of people. The culprit was unsafe buildings. After all, earthquakes do not kill, unsafe buildings do.
  •  The extent of damage to buildings depends not only on the magnitude of the earthquake, but also on the type of construction practice followed in a particular region or country. For example, an earthquake in Tokyo or Los Angeles may result in damage of only a few buildings because strict construction regulations are adopted. But a similar earthquake may be catastrophic in Mumbai or Delhi, in terms of buildings damaged and lives lost, because the building design and construction practices are not adequately regulated.
  •  There is much we can do to protect our buildings and thus save lives. It is possible today to assess the vulnerability of any building to earthquake, and, wherever possible, to undertake retrofit measures to make it safe.
  •  When an earthquake strikes, the ground shakes violently, depending on several factors like the magnitude, the depth of the focus and the nature of soil. In some rare cases involving sandy soils in the presence of ground water, the soil can suddenly behave like quicksand causing buildings to sink or tilt and collapse. In such regions, buildings should be either supported on pile foundations resting on hard strata or should be constructed after suitable ground improvement measures are undertaken.
  •  In hilly terrains (as in the Himalayan regions), landslides are likely to be triggered, bringing down buildings located on the unstable slopes. Slope stabilising measures can help to some extent to arrest the damage.
  •  Even if the soil and foundations in a structure are safe, collapse of a building can occur if it does not have adequate strength to resist the horizontal forces that are generated during an earthquake. Also, there should be adequate ductility, which is the ability of the structure to deform without collapsing during the earthquake. For this, it is important to ensure that the connections at the various interfaces of building components remain intact during the shaking.
  •  The seismic forces generated increase with the mass and the height of the building. Therefore, it is desirable to adopt light-weight materials and low-rise structures in highly earthquake-prone regions, unless they are properly designed, detailed and constructed, based on the prevailing standards.
  •  Most of the construction in India are ‘non-engineered’ and built in masonry. Often, the connections between the roof and the walls, and between cross-walls, are weak, rendering such buildings vulnerable to collapse.
  •  There are recommendations available in our national codes on providing seismic-resistant features in such buildings — such as providing small reinforced concrete bands in the walls at the plinth, lintel (above the windows and doors) and roof levels, and various other measures to ‘tie’ the components of the building together. These measures ensure that integrity is preserved during ground shaking. The concrete bands should be horizontally continuous throughout the walls to help in tying the components of the building together. It is also important to ensure that the materials used (such as brick and mortar) as well as construction practices, should be of good quality.
  •  Retrofitting old buildings that do not have such concrete bands is also possible. Ferrocement bands and embedded metal strips that run across the walls (horizontally and vertically) can preserve the integrity of the buildings to a large extent.
  •  In the case of modern buildings, which are ‘framed’ (comprising a skeleton of columns and beams, typically made of reinforced concrete) or having shear walls, it is possible to ensure safety against collapse through proper structural design and detailing, to achieve the desired strength and ductility. There should be adequate number of frames in the two perpendicular directions in plan. The frames should be more-or-less symmetrically distributed to minimise twisting of the building.
  •  Unlike buildings that have a basement, those built on stilts — with no walls in the ground storey — are more likely to collapse, as evidenced during the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. The structural instability is triggered by yielding in the ground storey columns, causing the upper storeys to come crashing down. In this case, the vertical walls of the building do not reach the ground; they suddenly end at the first floor of the building.
  •  As a result, a sudden discontinuity in mass and stiffness of the walls arises leading to a concentration of stresses in the ground floor columns. The embedded steel in the column yields at the beam-column junction in the ground storey causing the whole building to collapse — technically called a pancake collapse.
  •  Buildings on stilts need to be specially designed. Columns in the stilts should be stronger and stiffer than those in the rest of the building to take the additional stress introduced by the stilt construction.
  •  Thus, we can safeguard the lives of our people by adopting proper building design and construction practices.

Himalayas: next major quake may be west of the recent one

  •  “In future, if any earthquake were to happen along the Himalayas, it may happen further west of the focus of the main April 25 quake,” said Dr. R.K. Chadha, Chief Scientist at the Hyderabad-based National Geophysical Research Institute.
  •  That is because the 7.8 magnitude April 25 quake was caused by a unidirectional fracture. From the focus of the earthquake, the fault propagated in a nearly west to east direction thereby releasing the energy that was stored for many decades.
  •  While stress unloading has taken place from nearly west to east of the focus of the main quake, stress loading could have occurred further west of the focus of the main quake.
  •  The December 24, 2004 Sumatra earthquake that caused the killer tsunami waves was also caused by a unidirectional fracture that propagated in a south to north direction. As a result of the unidirectional fault propagation, stress was unloaded in the northern direction and stress loading occurred south of the focus of the main Sumatra earthquake. “This caused the March 28, 2005 earthquake of 8.7 magnitude in the Nias Island, some 300 km south of Sumatra,” he said.
  •  The April 25, 2015 quake was caused by thrust faulting “on or near the main frontal thrust” where the Indian plate is pushed under the Eurasian plate. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, from the epicentre of the earthquake, nearly 80 km to the northwest of the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, the India plate is converging with the Eurasian plate at a rate of 4.5-5 cm per year.
  •  About 3 cm of the Indian plate movement is accommodated in the Himalayan collision zone and the remaining is accommodated along the east-west strike-slip faults in the Tibet region. As a result, earthquakes caused by thrust fault in the Himalayan region occur along the strike-slip fault in an east-west direction.
  •  Any quake will cause displacement either in a vertical or horizontal direction. “We don’t know for sure the amount of displacement caused by this earthquake,” said Dr. Chadha, “but for an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude [revised value], the displacement can be 1 to 2 metres along the fault. The quake was on a thrust fault and so most of the displacement will be in a vertical direction.”
  •  According to Colin Stark at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia, 1-10 feet of India had slipped northward underneath Nepal.
  •  The U.S. Geological Survey has revised the depth of the focus to around 15 km. Explaining why the focus of the earthquake cannot be a couple of kilometres deep as initially put out, he said the magnitude of an earthquake has a relationship with the volume of crust. Hence, the focus of the quake has to be 10-15 km deep as a large volume of crust is needed for a 7.8 magnitude quake.
  •  Nepal is situated on an ancient lakebed and hence the soil at Kathmandu valley is soft and “liquefies easily.” Unlike a rocky terrain where the seismic waves travelling with great velocity can have very good transmission, a terrain with sediments can amplify the seismic waves, thereby amplifying the ground motion.
  •  A continental-continental plate collision will necessarily produce shallow-focus earthquakes (less than 70 km) as continental plates are less dense than oceanic plates and both the plates have the same density. However, when two ocean plates collide, both the plates will go down to form a trench, like in the case of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.
  •  “Both the ocean plates will go down because of the role of gravity,” Dr. Chadha said. In the case of two colliding continental plates, gravity is not that intense.
  •  In the case of a continental plate colliding with an oceanic plate, the oceanic plate subducts under the continental plate as it is heavier than the continental plate. In general, the focus of most of the earthquakes in subduction zones is intermediate (70-300 km) to deep (300-600 km).

Click Here to Buy General Awareness Magazine for IBPS, Bank Exams

<<Go Back To Main Page