Daily Current Affairs

10TH JANUARY,2021 : MOST POWERFUL DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS CONCEPTS

UPSC PRELIMS+MAINS 

Index

  1. A) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
  2. Ken-Betwa link soon (TH)
  3. B) Art, Culture and History
  4. Kalaripayattu (TH)
  5. C) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
  6. National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications (TH)
  7. Identical twins aren’t perfect clones, study shows (TH)
  8. Why haven’t crocodiles evolved since the age of the dinosaurs? (TH)
  9. Bacterial haute couture (TH)
  10. How old is the universe? (TH)
  11. D) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations
  12. World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and Avian influenza (TH)
  13. E) Miscellaneous
  14. Chameli Devi Jain Award 2020 (TH)
  15. Mukundpura CM2 (TH)

 

A) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

  1. Ken-Betwa link soon (TH)

  • Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Saturday said people would soon get good news regarding the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project as the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh were close to an agreement on it.
  • He said discussions on the project were underway and now “some minor issues are left for which there is need for clarifications”.

Analysis

Interlinking of Rivers, National Water Development Agency (NWDA) and National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA)

  • The National Water Development Agency (NWDA) is a Registered Society under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • It has been set up to:
  • carry out detailed studies, surveys and investigations in respect of Himalayan and Peninsular Components of National Perspective for Water Resources Development;
  • explore the feasibility of linking sub-basins of rivers in States like Bihar;
  • take up the work for the preparation of Detailed Project Report (DPR) of Ken-Betwa link, which is one of the priority links under Peninsular Component of National Perspective Plan;
  • to undertake the work of preparation of DPRs of intra-State links;
  • undertake the completion of water resources projects under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY); and
  • act as a repository of borrowed fund or loan from Banks / other institutions for the execution of projects.

Inter-Linking of Rivers 

  • The National Perspective Plan (NPP) was prepared by the then Ministry of Irrigation, now Ministry of Water Resources, RD & GR (now the Ministry of Jal Shakti) for water resources development through inter basin transfer of water, for transferring water from water surplus basins to water-deficit basins.
  • Under the NPP, the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) has identified 30 links (16 under Peninsular Component & 14 under Himalayan Component) for preparation of Feasibility Reports.
  • No State except Kerala is opposing the Interlinking of Rivers (ILR) Programme.
  • Further Kerala Government is opposing only Pamba-Achankovil-Vaippar link which concerns the State.

Ken-Betwa link project

  • The Ken-Betwa link project, country’s first river interlinking project, envisages diversion of surplus waters of Ken basin in Madhya Pradesh to water deficit Betwa basin in Uttar Pradesh to help irrigate the drought-prone Bundelkhand region and the adjoining areas.
  • Both the rivers originate in Madhya Pradesh but empties themselves into Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The ₹18,000-crore project has been mired in several hurdles. The most recent one is a disagreement between the States on the share of water and difficulty in acquiring non-forest land.
  • Other than differences between the States, there are outstanding environmental obstructions
  • The project involves deforestation a portion of the Panna Tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh.
  • A new proposed irrigation project will submerge more than three lakh trees in the Palamau Tiger Reserve (Jharkhand).
  • The project involves building a 77-metre tall and a 2-km wide Dhaudhan dam and a 230-km canal for both irrigation and drinking water supply.
  • It had been cleared by the apex wildlife-regulator, The National Board for Wildlife, in 2016.
  • Ken Betwa Link Project Phase-I (Madhya Pradesh & Uttar Pradesh) is one of the 16 National Projects in India.

National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA)

  • The Central government is working on the establishment of an exclusive body to implement projects for linking rivers.
  • To be called the National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA), the proposed body is expected to take up both inter-State and intra-State projects.
  • It will also make arrangements for generating up funds, internally and externally.
  • An official of the National Water Development Agency (NWDA), which is responsible for the formulation of proposals of the linking of rivers, said an updated draft Cabinet note has been circulated to other Ministries in the Central government.
  • The subject of the establishment of the Authority was discussed at the last meeting of the Special Committee on Inter-Linking of Rivers (ILR) headed by Union Minister of Jal Shakti.
  • Once approved, the projects will be pursued as national projects, wherein the Centre will absorb 90% of the cost and the States concerned the rest.
  • As of now, six ILR projects — the Ken-Betwa, Damanganga- Pinjal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Manas-Sankosh-Teesta-Ganga, Mahanadi-Godavari and Godavari-Cauvery (Grand Anicut) — have been under examination of the authorities.
  • With regard to the peninsular rivers, the Centre has chosen to focus on the Godavari-Cauvery link than the earlier proposal to link the Mahanadi-Godavari-Krishna-Pennar-Cauvery rivers.
  • The latter has eluded consensus given reservations from Odisha, officials said.

 B) Art, Culture and History

2.Kalaripayattu (TH)

  • Context: Kalaripayattu, considered the oldest surviving martial art of the country, with a legacy of more than 3,000 years, is set to see a surge in popularity with the establishment of an academy in the Kerala capital.

Analysis

Indian Martial Arts

  • India has a long history of martial arts.
  • Shaolin Kung Fu, a term that includes a large variety of Chinese martial arts, traces its lineage to Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who, according to popular legend, introduced Buddhism to China during the 6th century AD.
  • Sadly, while Chinese and Japanese fighting forms such as kung fu and ju-jitsu have become national institutions, many of India’s ancient fighting techniques languish as forgotten art forms.

Kalaripayattu

  • Often known as the ‘Mother of All Martial Arts’, this 3000-year old art form originating from Kerala, draws inspiration from the raw power, swift movements and sinuous strength of majestic animals – the lion, tiger, elephant, wild boar, snake and crocodile.
  • The term ‘kalari’ refers to the place where this combat style is taught while ‘payattu’ means to practise.
  • This combat style has different levels through which one learns how to fight, with and without, hand-held weapons.
  • This legendary warrior art form most was recently popularised by 76-year-old Meenakshiamma’s heroic exhibition of swordplay against a man half her age.

 C) Science and Technology, Defence, Space

3.National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications (TH)

National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications

  • Context: The government in its budget 2020 has announced a National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications (NM-QTA) with a total budget outlay of Rs 8000 Crore for a period of five years to be implemented by the Department of Science & Technology (DST).

Analysis

  • Quantum mechanics was developed in the early 20th century to describe nature in the small — at the scale of atoms and elementary particles.
  • For over a century it has led to ubiquitous inventions such as lasers and semiconductor transistors.
  • More than two years ago, the department of science and technology launched the Quantum-Enabled Science and Technology (QuEST) programme with an aim to develop technical capacity within the country to build quantum computers and communications systems comparable with the best in the world.
  • The first phase of the project was to build the infrastructure and acquire human resources to develop physical and computation structures for improving precision in quantum measurement.
  • The eventual goal is to build quantum computers domestically.
  • Google’s recently announced that it had achieved “quantum supremacy”—the ability to perform a calculation on a quantum computer that is impossible on a conventional computer.
  • Ordinary computers function using binary logic gates that can be either off or on.
  • This is why classical computers store information in bits—either as a 0 or 1.
  • On the other hand, quantum computers can store information as both a 0 and a 1 at the same time using a quantum property called superposition.
  • This means that with two quantum bits (or qubits), information can be stored in four possible states of superposition, and as more qubits are added, the computational power grows exponentially.
  • While this gives us more computing power, quantum computers are error-prone.
  • The quantum state is delicate. It lasts for a fraction of a second and is easily disrupted by tiniest of vibrations or variations in temperature.
  • This “noise” in calculations causes mistakes to occur, and unless we can make them sufficiently error-free, quantum computing will not be commercially viable.
  • Google’s breakthrough was to achieve sufficient control over the process to allow its experimental computer to outperform a traditional computer. As a result, its computer could solve in 200 seconds what would take the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years.
  • Google’s Sycamore processor harnessed 53 qubits in its latest experiment.
  • Take encryption, for example. Almost all digital security today is based on the RSA algorithm that encrypts messages by relying on the factorization of two large prime numbers. While it is easy to multiply two prime numbers, it is very difficult to factorize them. RSA encryption exploits this feature, making it impossible for even governments and private actors with near-infinite computational resources to decrypt messages.
  • Quantum field has not yet matured for commercialization, due to the extreme scientific challenges involved.
  • Quantum computers store and process information using quantum two level systems (quantum bits or qubits) which unlike classical bits, can be prepared in superposition states.
  • This key ability makes quantum computers extremely powerful compared to conventional computers when solving certain kinds of problems like finding prime factors of large numbers and searching large databases.
  • The prime factorization quantum algorithm has important implications for security as it can be used to break RSA encryption, a popular method for secure communication.

Promising future

  • Besides computing, exploring the quantum world promises other dramatic applications including the creation of novel materials, enhanced metrology, secure communication, to name just a few.
  • For example, China recently demonstrated secure quantum communication links between terrestrial stations and satellites.
  • And computer scientists are working towards deploying schemes for post-quantum cryptography clever schemes by which existing computers can keep communication secure even against quantum computers of the future.
  • Quantum field has not yet matured for commercialization, due to the extreme scientific challenges involved.
  • Quantum computers store and process information using quantum two level systems (quantum bits or qubits) which unlike classical bits, can be prepared in superposition states.
  • This key ability makes quantum computers extremely powerful compared to conventional computers when solving certain kinds of problems like finding prime factors of large numbers and searching large databases.
  • The prime factorization quantum algorithm has important implications for security as it can be used to break RSA encryption, a popular method for secure communication.

Quantum Supremacy

  • Recently, Google claimed to have achieved ‘quantum supremacy’ (the term ‘quantum supremacy’ coined by theoretical physicist John Preskill), which means that researchers at Google had solved a really difficult problem in seconds with the help of quantum computers which a supercomputer could not.
  • Google’s quantum computer, named Sycamore, claimed ‘supremacy’ because it reportedly did the task in 200 seconds that would have apparently taken a supercomputer 10,000 years to complete.

What are quantum computers?

  • Quantum computers do not look like desktops or laptops that we associate the word ‘computer’ with. Instead (and there are only a handful of them) they resemble the air-conditioned server rooms of many offices or the stacks of central processing units from desktops of yore that are connected by ungainly tangled wires and heaped in freezing rooms.
  • Conventional computers process information in ‘bits’ or 1s and 0s, following classical physics under which our computers can process a ‘1’ or a ‘0’ at a time.
  • Quantum computers compute in ‘qubits’ (or quantum bits). They exploit the properties of quantum mechanics, the science that governs how matter behaves on the atomic scale. In this scheme of things, processors can be a 1 and a 0 simultaneously, a state called quantum superposition.
  • In a quantum computer, a number of elemental particles such as electrons or photons can be used (in practice, success has also been achieved with ions), with either their charge or polarization acting as a representation of 0 and/or 1. Each of these particles is known as a qubit.
  • While this accelerates the speed of computation, a machine with less than a 100 qubits can solve problems with a lot of data that are even theoretically beyond the capabilities of the most powerful supercomputers. Because of quantum superposition, a quantum computer — if it works to plan — can mimic several classical computers working in parallel.
  • The ideas governing quantum computers have been around since the 1990s but actual machines have been around since 2011, most notably built by Canadian company D-Wave Systems.

How will it help us?

  • The speed and capability of classical supercomputers are limited by energy requirements. Along with these they also need more physical space.
  • Several encryption systems used in banking and security applications are premised on computers being unable to handle mathematical problems that are computationally demanding beyond a limit. Quantum computers, in theory, can surpass those limits.
  • A question critics raise is how the use of quantum computing and its ability to break encryption codes will impact online banking.
  • However, if technological breakthroughs were to pose a real threat to banking or financial operations, it is likely that banks will harness quantum computers themselves.

Limitations

  • This does not imply that the quantum computer can solve every challenging problem thrown at it.
  • A common ailment that many quantum computers share is that they have their own unique propensity to errors and are not as amenable to executing real-world problems as supercomputers.
  • However, the Google feat shows that quantum computers are capable of a real world task.
  • It gives confidence to private entrepreneurs and even academics to invest time and money to improving them and customise them to real-world problems.

Is India working on quantum computing?

  • There are no quantum computers in India yet.
  • In 2018, the Department of Science & Technology unveiled a programme called Quantum-Enabled Science & Technology (QuEST) and committed to investing ₹80 crore over the next three years to accelerate research.
  • The ostensible plan is to have a quantum computer built in India within the next decade.
  • Phase-1 of the problem involves hiring research experts and establishing teams with the know-how to physically build such systems.
  1. Identical twins aren’t perfect clones, study shows (TH)

  • Context: Identical twins are not exactly genetically the same, new research shows. 15% of identical twins showed up to 100 genetic differences.
  • Previously, many researchers believed that physical differences between identical twins were related mostly to environmental factors, such as nutrition or lifestyle and not because of mutations.
  • A mutation means an alteration in a sequence of DNA – a tiny change that is not inherently good or bad, but can influence physical features or susceptibility to certain diseases. They can occur when a cell divides and makes a slight error in replicating DNA.

Analysis

Cloning

  • Strictly speaking, cloning is the creation of a genetic copy of a sequence of DNA or of the entire genome of an organism.
  • The copied material is called a clone.
  • Geneticists have cloned cells, tissues, genes and entire animals.
  • In the latter sense, cloning occurs naturally in the birth of identical twins and other multiples.
  • But cloning can also be done artificially in the laboratory via embryo twinning or splitting: an early embryo is split in vitroso that both parts, when transferred to a uterus, can develop into individual organisms genetically identical to each other.
  • In the cloning debate, however, the term ‘cloning’ typically refers to a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
  • SCNT involves transferring the nucleus of a somatic cell into an oocyte from which the nucleus and thus most of the DNA has been removed. (The mitochondrial DNA in the cytoplasm is still present).
  • The manipulated oocyte is then treated with an electric current in order to stimulate cell division, resulting in the formation of an embryo.
  • The embryo is (virtually) genetically identical to, and thus a clone of the somatic cell donor.
  • Dolly was the first mammal to be brought into the world using SCNT.
  • Dolly, however, was not 100% genetically identical to the donor animal.
  • Genetic material comes from two sources: the nucleus and the mitochondria of a cell. Mitochondria are organelles that serve as power sources to the cell.
  • They contain short segments of DNA. In Dolly’s case, her nuclearDNA was the same as the donor animal; other of her genetic materials came from the mitochondria in the cytoplasm of the enucleated oocyte.
  • For the clone and the donor animal to be exact genetic copies, the oocyte too would have to come from the donor animal (or from the same maternal line – mitochondria are passed on by oocytes).
  • In biomedical research, cloning is broadly defined to mean the duplication of any kind of biological material for scientific study, such as a piece of DNA or an individual cell.
  • With the advent of recombinant DNA technology in the 1970s, it became possible for scientists to create transgenic clones—clones with genomes containing pieces of DNA from other organisms.
  • Cloning happens all the time in nature—for example, when a cell replicates itself asexually without any genetic alteration or recombination.
  • Prokaryotic organisms (organisms lacking a cell nucleus), such as bacteria and yeasts, create genetically identical duplicates of themselves using binary fission or budding.
  • In eukaryotic organisms (organisms possessing a cell nucleus) such as humans, all the cells that undergo mitosis, such as skin cells and cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, are clones; the only exceptions are gametes (eggs and sperm), which undergo meiosis and genetic recombination.
  • Mitosis is the division of a cell into two daughter cells that are genetically identical to the parent cell.
  • Meiosis is the division of a germ cell into four sex cells (e.g. egg or sperm), each with half the number of chromosomes of the parent cell.
  • Mitosis is a means of asexual reproduction, whereas meiosis is necessary for sexual reproduction.
  1. Why haven’t crocodiles evolved since the age of the dinosaurs? (TH)

  • The crocodiles of today look very similar to those that lived during the Jurassic period some 200 million years ago.
  • Though lizards and birds have evolved and diversified into many thousands of species, crocodiles have only a few species – just 25.
  • Now, scientists explain how a particular pattern of evolution known as the ‘stop–start’ pattern and certain environmental changes could explain why crocodiles haven’t changed much.
  • The findings show that the limited diversity of crocodiles and their apparent lack of evolution is a result of a slow evolutionary rate.
  • It seems the crocodiles arrived at a body plan that was very efficient and versatile enough that they didn’t need to change it in order to survive.
  • The climate during the age of dinosaurs was warmer than it is today, and that may explain why there were many more varieties of a crocodile than we see now.
  • Prehistory also saw types of crocodile we don’t see today, including giants as big as dinosaurs, plant-eaters, fast runners and serpentine forms that lived in the sea.
  • Being able to draw energy from the sun means they do not need to eat as much as a warm-blooded animal like a bird or a mammal.
  • This versatility could be one explanation of why crocodiles survived the meteor impact at the end of the Cretaceous period, in which the dinosaurs perished.
  • Crocodiles generally thrive better in warm conditions because they cannot control their body temperature and require warmth from the environment.
  • The next step for the team’s research is to find out why some types of prehistoric crocodile died out, while others didn’t.
  1. Bacterial haute couture (TH)

  • Cobalt, used in batteries, is toxic to living things. The metal seeps into the cells of most bacteria and kills them.
  • Researchers investigated what happened when Geobacter, a bacterium found in soil and sediment, encounters cobalt.
  • They found that the bacteria can extract the metal from rust and coat themselves with it.
  • The microbe’s ability can be used to extract cobalt from batteries and recycle it.
  1. How old is the universe? (TH)

  • A new study calculates that the cosmos is 13.77 billion years old, give or take 40 million years, which agrees with earlier estimates made using the Planck satellite. The astronomers used the Chilean Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT).
  • In 2019, others showed that the universe is hundreds of million years younger than this estimate, by measuring the movements of galaxies, sparking off a debate.

D) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

8.World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and Avian influenza (TH)

  • Context: The World Organization for Animal Health, which collaborates with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), says HPAI virus strains H5N1, H5N2, H5N8, H7N8 have been identified in outbreaks, indicating active circulation.

Analysis

  • Infection histories point to H5N1 and H7N9 viruses posing a threat to human health as well.
  • The two virus types identified so far in the outbreaks — H5N1 and H5N8 — come under the category of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), which is of major concern to those keeping birds, because it leads to disease and death of fowl and causes economic havoc. H5N1 is a known threat to humans as well.
  • The spread of the disease in a variety of birds in several geographical regions, and the seasonal movement of migratory birds, have prompted the Centre to issue an alert to States to adhere to the National Action Plan for Prevention, Control and Containment of Avian Influenza 2021.
  • Avian Influenza (AI) is a highly contagious viral disease, affecting a variety of birds, including those connected with human consumption — chickens, ducks, turkeys, quails — as well as pet birds and wild birds.
  • The FAO says wild birds act as a natural reservoir of AI viruses. Their migratory movement could bring these pathogens to poultry, waterfowl and other domestic birds through contact. The response to an outbreak is a containment strategy, which is primarily centred around removing the diseased birds through culling. Such mass destruction causes a severe impact on farmers.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) (Office International des Epizooties)

  • It is an intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide.
  • It has around 182 Member Countries including India.
  • It is headquartered in Paris, France.

Objectives

  • Each Member Country undertakes to report the animal diseases that it detects on its territory. The OIE then disseminates the information to other countries, which can take the necessary preventive action.
  • This objective applies to disease occurrences both naturally occurring and deliberately caused.
  • The OIE collects and analyses the latest scientific information on animal disease control.
  • The OIE provides technical support to Member Countries requesting assistance with animal disease control and eradication operations, including diseases transmissible to humans.
  • The OIE develops normative documents relating to rules that Member Countries can use to protect themselves from the introduction of diseases and pathogens, without setting up unjustified sanitary barriers.
  • OIE standards are recognized by the World Trade Organization as a reference to international sanitary rules.
  • The OIE Member Countries have decided to provide a better guarantee of the safety of food of animal origin by creating greater synergy between the activities of the OIE and those of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

How does the organisation function?

  • The organisation is placed under the authority and control of a World Assembly of Delegates consisting of Delegates designated by the Governments of all Member Countries.
  • The day-to-day operation of the OIE is managed at the Headquarters
  • The Headquarters implements the resolutions passed by the International Committee and developed with the support of Commissions elected by the Delegates
  • The main functions of the Assembly are:
  • To adopt international standards in the field of animal health, especially for international trade.
  • To adopt resolutions on the control of the major animal diseases.

E) Miscellaneous

9.Chameli Devi Jain Award 2020 (TH)

  • The Media Foundation has begun accepting nominations for the Chameli Devi Jain Award 2020 for outstanding woman media person.
  • Journalists in the print, digital, broadcast and current affairs documentary film media are eligible for the award, including photographers, cartoonists and newspaper designers.
  • It was first awarded in 1982 to an outstanding woman media person, who had made a difference through writing with “depth, dedication, courage and compassion”.
  1. Mukundpura CM2 (TH)

  • It is a meteorite that fell near Jaipur in 2017.
  • It was classified to be a carbonaceous chondrite.
  • This is a type of stony meteorite, considered the most primitive meteorite and a remnant of the first solid bodies to accrete in the solar system.
  • The composition of carbonaceous chondrites is also similar to the Sun.
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