Daily Current Affairs

TODAY’S MOST POWERFUL DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS CONCEPTS- 18 OCT,2020

UPSC  PRELIMS+MAINS 

A) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

1. Any stay on proceedings is valid only for 6 months: Supreme Court (TH)

  • Context: Any stay on civil or criminal proceedings granted by any court, including the High Court is valid for a period of six months, beyond which the trial will resume, the Supreme Court held in a recent order.

Analysis

  • An extension of the stay has to be granted only for a “good reason” like where “the speaking order must show that the case was of such exceptional nature that continuing the stay was more important than having the trial finalised.”
  • The Bench was reiterating a 2013 judgment which was concerned with the case of refusal of a magistrate court in Pune to resume trial as the Bombay High Court had previously stayed the proceedings.
  • Under the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court is at the apex, and the High Courts, though not subordinate administratively, are certainly subordinate judicially.

B) Science and Technology/Defence/Space

2. Mystery behind declining star formation activity in the Milky Way and Radio Telescopes (IE)

Context: New research sheds light on declining star formation in Milky Way Astronomers use upgraded Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope to glean vital clues

Key tool: The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope was used to search for a spectral line in atomic hydrogen.

Analysis

  • In a vital discovery which may help understand the mystery behind declining star formation activity in the Milky Way, a team of astronomers have used the upgraded Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) to measure the atomic hydrogen content of galaxies seen as they were eight billion years ago when the universe was young.
  • Galaxies are made up mostly of gas and stars, with gas being converted into stars during the life of a galaxy.
  • Astronomers have long known that galaxies formed stars at a higher rate when the universe was young than they do today and has been declining steadily till today.
  • The cause of this decline was unknown as there had been no information regarding the amount of atomic hydrogen gas — the primary fuel for star formation — in galaxies in these early times.
  • Scientists, for the first time, measured the atomic hydrogen gas content of star forming galaxies about 8 billion years ago, using the upgraded GMRT and found that the observed decline in star formation activity could be explained by the exhaustion of the atomic hydrogen.
  • The measurement of the atomic hydrogen mass of distant galaxies was done by using the upgraded GMRT to search for a spectral line in atomic hydrogen.
  • Unlike stars which emit light strongly at optical wavelengths, the atomic hydrogen signal lies in the radio wavelengths, at a wavelength of 21 cm, and can only be detected with radio telescopes.
  • Unfortunately, this 21 cm signal is intrinsically very weak, and difficult to detect from distant individual galaxies even with powerful telescopes like the upgraded GMRT.
  • To overcome this limitation, the team used a technique called “stacking” to combine the 21 cm signals of nearly 8,000 galaxies to measures the average gas content of these galaxies.”
  • Studying the distant universe through the 21 cm signal has remained an important research area in astronomy, and one of the key science goals of the GMRT when it was designed and built by a team led by the late pioneering astrophysicist Govind Swarup in the 1980s and 1990s.

Govind Swarup, the pioneer of radio astronomy in India

  • Earlier in September 2020, Govind Swarup, the man who pioneered radio astronomy in India, died.
  • Swarup is credited with conceptualising and leading the team that set up the Ooty Radio Telescope (ORT) and Giant Meterwave Radio Telescope (GMRT).
  • Setting up the ORT was no easy task but Swarup was aware of the geographical advantage India enjoyed owing to its proximity to the equator.
  • By locating a parabolic cylindrical antenna at a site close to the Equator such that its axis lies parallel to earth’s axis, it is possible to construct a large collecting area economically.
  • With the experience of ORT, Swarup decided to set up Pune’s GMRT, an array of 30 dish antennas spread across a distance of 25 km, arranged in a ‘Y’ shape at a pristine yet suitable location at Khodad in Junnar taluka.
  • Since 2002, GMRT has facilitated some novel discoveries in the field of astronomy.
  • Because cosmic radio sources are extremely weak, radio telescopes are usually very large—up to hundreds of metres across—and use the most sensitive radio receivers available.
  • Moreover, weak cosmic signals can be easily masked by terrestrial radio interference, and great effort is taken to protect radio telescopes from man-made emissions.

All about Radio Telescopes

What is a radio wave?

  • Light is made up of tiny particles called photons, which travel in waves.
  • Photons in visible light have a medium amount of energy.
  • When photons have a little bit more energy, they become ultraviolet radiation, which you cannot see but which can give you a sunburn.
  • With more energy than that, photons become X-rays, which travel right through you.
  • If photons possess even more energy, they become gamma rays, which come out of stars when they explode.
  • But when photons have a little less energy than visible-light photons, they are known as infrared radiation. You can feel them as heat.
  • Finally, we call the photons with the least energy “radio waves”; (radio waves have the least energy).

Wavelength and Frequency

  • Photons travel in waves. The size of a photon’s wave – its wavelength.
  • If the wave is long, it does not have much energy; if it is short, it has a lot of energy.
  • Radio waves do not have much energy, and that means they travel in big waves with long wavelengths.
  • Astronomers also talk about how many of these waves pass a spot every second – the radio wave’s “frequency
  • Radio waves have long wavelengths and small frequencies.

Radio Telescopes

  • Since radio waves are longer than optical waves, radio telescopes must be physically larger than optical telescopes in order to make images of comparable resolution.
  • But they can be made lighter with millions of small holes cut through the dish since the long radio waves are too big to “see” them.
  • The Parkes radio telescope, which has a dish 64 meters wide, cannot yield an image any clearer than a small backyard optical telescope!

A very large telescope

  • In order to make a clearer, or higher resolution, radio image, radio astronomers often combine several smaller telescopes, or receiving dishes, into an array.
  • This innovation won a Nobel Prize in physics.
  • Together, these dishes can act as one large telescope whose resolution is set by the maximum size of the area.
  • The National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico is one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories.
  • The VLA consists of 27 antennas arranged in a huge “Y” pattern up to 36 km across
  • In order to detect the faintest signals, the telescope remains staring at its radio source for hours, similar to keeping the shutter of a camera open.
  • We use radio telescopes to study naturally occurring radio light from stars, galaxies, black holes, and other astronomical objects.

Radio Vision

  • Places that seem dark to our eyes, or to regular telescopes, burn bright in radio waves.
  • Places where stars form, for example, are full of dust. That dust blocks the light from getting to us, so the whole area looks like a black blob.
  • Radio astronomy has the advantage that sunlight, clouds, and rain do not affect observations.
  • If we send radio waves toward Mercury, and then catch the radio waves that bounce back using a radio telescope, we can make a map almost as good as Google Earth.
  • Galaxies that have supermassive black holes at their centers can shoot out jets of material and radiation, that are taller than the galaxy is wide. Radio telescopes can show these jets in action.
  • Massive objects like these black holes warp the fabric of space, called space-time.
  • Imagine setting a bowling ball, which weighs a lot, on a trampoline. The trampoline sags down. Weighty stuff in space makes space-time sag just like the trampoline.
  • When radio waves coming from distant galaxies travel over that sag to get to Earth, the shape acts just like the shape of a magnifying glass on Earth: telescopes then see a bigger, brighter picture of the distant galaxy.
  • Radio telescopes also help solve one of the biggest mysteries in the universe: dark energy.
  • The universe is getting larger every second. And it gets larger faster and faster every second because “dark energy” is the opposite of gravity: Instead of pulling everything together, it pushes everything farther apart.
  • But how strong is dark energy? Radio telescopes can help scientists to answer this question by looking at “megamasers.
  • A megamaser is like a natural laser in space that sends out radio waves.
  • If scientists can figure out how far away those megamasers are, they can tell how far away different galaxies are, and then they can figure out how fast those galaxies are speeding away from us.
  • Astronomical objects that have a changing magnetic field can produce radio waves.
  • Radio telescopes look toward the heavens to view planets, comets, giant clouds of gas and dust, stars, and galaxies.
  • By studying the radio waves originating from these sources, astronomers can learn about their composition, structure, and motion.
  • Radio telescopes can also detect quasars.
  • The term quasar is short for quasi-stellar radio source.
  • Quasars are very energetic, with some emitting 1,000 times as much energy as the entire Milky Way.
  • However, most quasars are blocked from view in visible light by dust in their surrounding galaxies.

C) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

3. Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2020 (PIB)

Context: The Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2020 will convene virtually from 19th-21st October.

Analysis

  • Grand Challenges India was set up as a partnership of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012.
  • Grand Challenges India works across a range of health and developmental priorities ranging from agriculture, nutrition, sanitation, maternal and child health to infectious diseases.
  • Grand Challenges India (GCI) is the Indian arm of the Global Grand Challenges program launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • The Foundation launched Grand Challenges, as Grand Challenges in Global health in 2003, to focus on 14 major scientific challenges that if solved, could lead to improving the health of people in the developing world.
  • The scope of the program has also expanded over the last decade to include challenges to global development along with global health.

D)Indices/Committees/Reports/Organisations

4. Justice Lokur Committee (TH)

  • Former Supreme Court judge Madan B. Lokur, helped by student volunteer forces deployed from the National Cadet Corps, the National Service Scheme and the Bharat Scouts and Guides, will protect Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region) from pollution caused by stubble burning in the neighbouring States of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh this winter.
  • Student forces will patrol highways and fields in the three States and ensure that no fires are started in the fields.

Analysis

National Cadet Corps (NCC)

  • National Cadet Corps (NCC), the largest uniformed youth organisation in the world, celebrates its Raising Day on the fourth Sunday of November.
  • The National Cadets Corps came into existence under the National Cadet Corps Act XXXI of 1948.
  • The nature of the NCC Programme is voluntary and the NCC Programme is a part of the educational activity and not of military activity.
  • The motto of NCC is: UNITY AND DISCIPLINE
  • A student enrolled into NCC is referred to as a “Cadet”.

The Aim(s) of NCC are:

  • To develop character, commandership, discipline, leadership, secular outlook, spirit of adventure and the ideals of selfless service amongst the youth of the country.
  • To create a human resource of organized, trained and motivate youth to provide leadership in all walks of life and always available for the service of the nation.
  • To provide a suitable environment to motivate the youth to take up a career in the Armed Forces.
  • The Finances/Funds for NCC are shared by the Central and State Govts.
  • NCC Song‘Hum Sab Bhartiya Hain’

NCC symbol/insignia?

  • It is the NCC Crest in gold in the middle, with the letters “NCC”; encircled by a wreath of seventeen lotus with a background in Red, Blue and Light blue.
  • The colour Red depicts in the NCC Crest depicts the Army. The colours Dark Blue and Light blue in the NCC Crest depict the Navy and the Air Force respectively.
  • The Lotus flowers depicts in NCC Crest represent the 17 State Directorates.
  • The Ministry of Defence at the National level deals with NCC and Education Ministry deals with NCC in all States.

National Service Scheme (NSS)

  • National Service Scheme (NSS) is a Central Sector Scheme of Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
  • NSS aim is to provide hands on experience to young students in delivering community service.
  • An NSS volunteer who takes part in the community service programme would either be a college level or a senior secondary level student.

Major Activities

Adventure Program

  • The camps are held every year which are attended NSS volunteers with at least 50% of the volunteers being girl students.
  • These camps are conducted in Himalayan Region in the North and Arunachal Pradesh in North East region.
  • The adventure activities undertaken in these camps includes trekking of mountains, water rafting, Para-sailing and basic skiing.
  • Overall Objective is to infuse the sense of love towards the various regions of India

National Youth Festivals (NYFs)

  • National Youth Festivals are organized every year from 12th to 16th January by the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports in collaboration with the State Governments in different parts of the country.
  • This is done in order to:
  • Make the volunteers aware of the various festivals celebrated in the country &
  • Provide a chance to the NSS volunteers to interact with the resource person/speaker/youth icons

Nehru Yuva Kendras

  • Nehru Yuva Kendras were established in the year 1972 with the objective of providing rural youth avenues to take part in the process of nation building as well providing opportunities for the development of their personality and skills.
  • In the year 1987-88, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) was set up as an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, to oversee working of these Kendras.
  • NYKS is the largest grassroots level youth organization; one of its kind in the world.
  • It channelizes the power of youth on the principles of voluntarism, self-help and community participation.
  • Over the years, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan has established a network of youth clubs in villages, where Nehru Yuva Kendras have been set up.
  • Youth Clubs are village-based organizations working for community development and youth
    empowerment.

Objectives of NYKS are two-fold:

  • To involve the rural youth in nation building activities.

To develop such skills and values in them with which they become responsible and productive citizens of a modern, secular and technological nation.

5. UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) (TH)

Context: Recently, elections were held for the cohort of member nations who will serve for the next three years (2021-23) in the UN Human Rights Council.

  • UNHRC replaced the UN Human Rights Commission in 2006 after a vast majority of the UN members endorsed a proposal to create a new institution to promote and protect rights.
  • The Geneva-based council has 47 members serving at any time with elections held to fill up seats every year, based on allocations to regions.
  • It passes non-binding resolutions on human rights issues, besides overseeing expert investigation of violations in specific countries.

Analysis

United Nations Human Rights Council

  • The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.
  • It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year.
  • The Human Rights Council was established in 2006 by a Resolution as a subsidiary body to the UN General Assembly.
  • It replaced the former Commission on Human Rights, which operated from 1946 to 2006.

Membership of the Human Rights Council

  • The Council is made of 47 Member States, which are elected by the majority of members of the General Assembly of the United Nations through direct and secret ballot.
  • The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.
  • The Council’s Membership is based on equitable geographical distribution. Seats are distributed as follows:
1. African States: 13 seats
2. Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
3. Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
4. Western European and other States: 7 seats
5. Eastern European States: 6 seats
  • Members of the Council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
  • At present India is also its member.
  • Iceland was elected in July 2018 to serve as a member from 13 July 2018 to 31 December 2019 to replace the vacancy left by the United States following its decision to withdraw its membership.

Functions

  • The Human Rights Council has created or renewed the mandates of various “special procedures.”
  • The special procedures are experts appointed to monitor human rights around priority themes or in specific countries with serious human rights problems.
  • The special procedures may be individual experts (“special rapporteurs” or “independent experts”) or working groups.
  • The Council also manages the Universal Periodic Review, a process through which each UN Member State’s overall human rights record is reviewed.

Sessions

  • The Council conducts its substantive work primarily in Regular Sessions and Special Sessions.
  • Regular Sessions are held no fewer than three times a year, usually in March, June, and September.

Presidency and Bureau

  • The Bureau of the Council consists of five people – one President and four Vice-presidents – representing the five regional groups.
  • They serve for a year, in accordance with the Council’s annual cycle.

E) Miscellaneous

6. Buldhana Pattern (PIB)

  • Maharashtra’s ‘Buldhana Pattern’ of water conservation has won national recognition and the NITI Aayog is in the process of formulating National Policy on water conversation.
  • Synchronisation of national highway construction and water conservation was achieved for the first time in Buldhana district, by using soil from the water bodies, nallas and rivers.
  • This consequently led to the increase in capacity of water storage across the water-bodies in Buldana district and it came to be known as ‘Buldhana Pattern’.

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