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Current Affairs 21st September -2021

Sarat Chandra IAS Academy -UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 21st September -2021

Current Affairs 21st September -2021

 

Topics

  • The orbit of Planet Nine.
  • Woolly Mammoths
  • Sea Cucumber
  • World Bamboo Day
  • Isothermal Forging Technology

 

 

1) The orbit of Planet Nine.

#GS3- Space

 

Context

  • Two astronomers at the California Institute of Technology in the United States recently plotted the probability distribution function of Planet Nine’s orbit.

In particulars

  • Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union in August 2006.
  • The decision was made due to Pluto’s size and the fact that it is located in a zone with other objects of similar size. Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea are the current dwarf planets.
  • Scientists have continued to look for new planets, and in 2016, Konstantin Batygin and Michael E. Brown of the California Institute of Technology published a paper in The Astronomical Journal stating that they had evidence for a distant giant planet, which they dubbed Planet Nine.
  • The new study reveals evidence of a giant planet in the outer solar system tracing an unusual, elongated orbit.
  • The prediction is made using detailed mathematical modelling and computer simulations rather than direct observation.
  • Another study published in The Astronomical Journal in 2018 cited new evidence for the existence of Planet Nine.
  • It noted that a trans-Neptunian object called 2015 BP519 had an unusual trajectory because it was affected by Planet Nine’s strong gravity.

What are the requirements for a planet?

  • The criteria are set by the INTERNATIONAL ASTRANAUMICAL UNION, which votes on the decisions.
  • There are three requirements for a celestial object to be designated as a planet.
  1. It must revolve around the Sun.
  2. It should be large enough to form a roughly spherical shape.
  3. It needs to get out of its orbit (being the object that exerts maximum gravitational pull within its orbit).
  • If it satisfies any two of these criteria, it is referred to as a dwarf planet.
  • Ceres (in the asteroid belt), Xena (in Kuiper belt)

Dwarf Planet: A dwarf planet is a celestial body that orbits the sun, has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape, has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and is not a moon, according to the International Astronomical Union.

About Planet Nine

  • Caltech researchers have discovered mathematical evidence pointing to the existence of a “Planet X” deep within the solar system.
  • This fictitious Neptune-sized planet orbits the Sun in an extremely long orbit far beyond Pluto.
  • On average, the predicted orbit is about 20 times farther from the Sun than Neptune’s (which orbits the Sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). It could have a mass ten times that of the Earth.
  • It would take between 10,000 and 20,000 years for this new planet to complete one full orbit around the Sun (where Neptune completes an orbit roughly every 165 years).

Current Situation

  • Planet X has yet to be discovered, and its existence is being debated in the scientific community. The prediction, which will appear in the January 2020 issue of the Astronomical Journal, is based on mathematical modelling.
  • The announcement does not imply that a new planet has been discovered in our solar system.
  • At this point, the existence of this distant world is only theoretical, and no direct observations of the object dubbed “Planet 9” have been made.
  • Astronomers will begin searching for the object in its predicted orbit using the world’s most powerful telescopes.
  • Any object far from the Sun will be very faint and difficult to detect, but astronomers believe it should be visible using existing telescopes.
  • The team is continuing their research, and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, which is currently under construction in Chile, will aid in the search for Planet Nine.
  • The observatory will scan the skies night after night in the hopes of discovering many things, including Planet Nine.”

 

2) Woolly Mammoths

#GS3-Biotechnology

 

Context:

  • Colossal Biosciences, a startup based in the United States, has announced plans to bring woolly mammoths, or animals similar to them, back from extinction and into the frosty landscape of the Siberian tundra (treeless polar desert).

In particulars

  • Colossal proposes using CRISPR gene editing technology to modify Asian elephant embryos (the mammoth’s closest living relative) to have genomes similar to woolly mammoths. These embryos could theoretically develop into elephant-mammoth hybrids (mammophants), resembling extinct mammoths in appearance and behaviour.
  • Any member of an extinct group of elephants found as fossils in Pleistocene deposits on every continent except Australia and South America, as well as in early Holocene deposits in North America, is referred to as a mammoth (genus Mammuthus).
  • The Pleistocene Epoch lasted from 2.6 million to 11,700 years.
  • The Holocene Epoch began 11,700 years ago and is still ongoing.)

Mammoths (Woolly Mammoths):

 

 

  • The most well-known mammoth is the woolly, Northern, or Siberian mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius).
  • The relative abundance and, at times, excellent preservation of this species’ carcasses discovered in the permanently frozen ground of Siberia has provided a wealth of information about the structure and haemorrhage of mammoths.

Cause of Extinction:

  • It is thought that mammoths went extinct due to a change in climate, disease, human hunting, or a combination of these factors.

Woolly Mammoth Resurrection:

Need:

  • Ecosystem Restoration:
  • When mammoths vanished from the Arctic 4,000 years ago, shrubs took over what was once grassland.
  • Mammoth-like creatures could aid in the restoration of this ecosystem by compacting shrubs, knocking over trees, and fertilising grasses with their faeces.
  • Reduce Global Warming:
  • If the current Siberian permafrost melts, it will emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases.
  • The permafrost will not melt as a result of de-extinction. Grassland may reflect more light and keep the ground cooler than tundra.

Concerns expressed:

  • Disturbance of the Ecosystem:
  • Bringing back extinct species will disrupt existing ecosystems because their ecological niches may no longer exist.
  • Opportunity Cost:
  • The extinction may divert attention away from more cost-effective efforts to protect biodiversity or mitigate climate change.
  • The potential moral ramifications of people believing that extinction is not permanent.
  • Even if de-extinction programmes are successful, they will almost certainly cost more than saving existing species.
  • When de-extinction becomes a possibility, the need to save species from extinction will seem less pressing.
  • No Guarantee of Mammoth Behavior Adoption:
  • Even if newly engineered mammophants contain mammoth DNA, there is no guarantee that these hybrids will adopt ancient mammoth behaviours.
  • For example, we inherit more than just our parents’ DNA sequences. We inherit epigenetic changes, and our surroundings can influence how those genes are regulated.
  • We also inherit our parents’ microbiome (colonies of gut bacteria), which influences our behaviour.
  • Animals learn behaviours by observing other members of their species. There will be no such counterparts for the first mammophants to learn from.

Tundra

  • The tundra climate region is found between 60° and 75° latitude, primarily along the Arctic coasts of North America and Eurasia, as well as on Greenland’s coastal margins.
  • Winters in the tundra are long, dark, and cold, with average temperatures falling below 0°C for 6 to 10 months of the year. Permafrost is a layer of permanently frozen ground beneath the surface.
  • Structurally, the Tundra is a treeless expanse that supports communities of sedges and heaths as well as dwarf shrubs.

What is the next step?

  • We shouldn’t dismiss de-extinction technologies entirely. The prices will eventually fall. Meanwhile, some extremely expensive projects may be worth considering.
  • De-extinction is not the only conservation strategy aimed at reversing otherwise irreversible losses. Rewilding, for example, entails reintroducing locally extinct species into an ecosystem they once inhabited. If we applaud these efforts, we should also applaud novel approaches to restoring lost species and damaged ecosystems.
  • Furthermore, climate change is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time. Melting Siberian permafrost is expected to hasten climate change and exacerbate ecological disaster. Because this is such a serious issue, even ambitious projects with a low chance of success can be ethically justified.

 

3) Sea Cucumber

#GS 3-Conservation

 

Context:

  • The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) recently seized two tonnes of sea cucumber, a prohibited marine species, in the Tamil Nadu areas of the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay.

In details:

  • According to WWF, sea cucumbers, also known as “cleaners of the sea,” play an important role in maintaining ecosystem health. Regulating international sea cucumber trade will benefit the ecosystems in which they live, particularly coral reefs. Calcium carbonate is a byproduct of sea cucumber digestion of sand and is an essential component of coral reefs. Coral reefs must accumulate calcium carbonate in order to survive, so sea cucumbers play an important role in coral reef preservation.
  • Sea cucumbers, like starfish and sea urchins, are echinoderms. There are approximately 1,250 known species, with many of these animals resembling soft-bodied cucumbers. Sea cucumbers are all ocean dwellers, though some live in the shallows and others in the deep. They live on or near the ocean floor, and are occasionally partially buried beneath it.
  • Sea cucumbers, particularly their eggs and young larvae, are a source of food for fish and other marine animals. They are a delicacy in China, Japan, South East Asia, and East Asia.
  • Typically, sea cucumbers are sold dried, canned, frozen, or as powders and extracts. Due to an increase in demand and prices in recent years, a kilogramme of dried sea cucumber can now be purchased in international markets for as much as Rs 65,000-68,000 per kg.
  • Sea cucumbers feed on tiny particles such as algae, small aquatic animals, or waste materials, which they collect with 8 to 30 tentacle-like tube feet surrounding their mouths. It is an essential component of the marine food web and the marine food chain. Sea cucumbers can reproduce both sexually and asexually.

Significance:

  • They are an important part of the coral ecosystem as one of the main byproducts of sea cucumbers. Sand digestion produces calcium carbonate, which is critical for the survival of coral reefs.
  • They act as garbage collectors for the ocean world, recycling nutrients and thus playing an important role in the preservation of coral reefs.

Threats:

  • Threats include illegal trading and smuggling because the species is in high demand in south-east Asia, particularly China, for food and traditional medicine.

Protection:

  • Brown Sea Cucumber (Endangered), Blackspotted Sea Cucumber (Least Concern), Blue Sea Cucumber (Data Deficient), and other species are listed on the IUCN Red List.
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I.

Conservation Efforts:

India establishes the world’s first conservation area for sea cucumbers:

  • In response to recurring large-scale smuggling attempts targeting endangered sea cucumbers, the Lakshadweep administration established the world’s first sea cucumber conservation area. It will be known as the Dr. KK Mohammed Koya Sea Cucumber Conservation Reserve, and will extend over a 239 square km radius of Cheriyapani reef, an uninhabited, independent, and solitary atoll.
  • Sea cucumbers can also be found in the sea around the Lakshadweep and Andaman Nicobar islands, as well as the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu, which is located at the confluence of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.

 

 

4) World Bamboo Day

Tags: GS 3 Conservation

 

Context

  • Every year on September 18, the world celebrates World Bamboo Day.

In particulars

History

  • The World Bamboo Organization (WBO) officially declared the day on September 18, 2009, at the 8th World Bamboo Congress in Bangkok.
  • The WBO’s goal is to raise awareness of the potential of bamboo, to encourage new bamboo cultivation for new industries in regions around the world, and to promote traditional uses locally for community economic development, among other things.

Aim:

  • To raise global awareness about the conservation and promotion of the bamboo industry and plantation.
  • “#PlantBamboo, It’s Time To Plant Bamboo,” is the theme.

Bamboo Applications

  • Food, biofuel, furniture, fabrics, and other applications.
  • The most amazing aspect of bamboos is that they rarely need to be replanted.
  • Have the ability to be versatile.
  • Bamboo is commonly used in the manufacture of incense sticks, mats, and paper.

Bamboo Promotional Initiatives

  • India accounts for only 2% of the world’s bamboo supply.
  • By amending the Forest Act of 1927, the Central Government allowed private growers to cultivate bamboo without restrictions.
  • Import policy has also been altered to ensure the growth of the country’s bamboo industry.
  • National Bamboo Mission (NBM) supports local artisans by using locally grown bamboo species, which will help farmers increase their income and reduce their reliance on raw material imports.

The Importance of Bamboo Cultivation

  • It absorbs CO2 and produces 35% more oxygen than trees.
  • It grows without the use of chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers, or water.
  • It enhances soil quality.
  • Bamboo, known as the Chinese symbol of strength, represents growth and resilience.
  • The hardwood takes 30-80 years to mature for cultivation, whereas the softwood takes 4-5 years.
  • Promoting bamboo plantation can help export products around the world, benefiting the country’s overall economy.

Some information about bamboos

  • This grass family tree is also known as a poor man’s timber and green gold.
  • It grows quickly and requires little care.
  • In North East India, there are 110 different species of bamboo.
  • Bamboo has environmental benefits in addition to its uses. It can be used to reclaim degraded areas and wastelands.
  • This tree is essential for water and soil conservation.

National Bamboo Initiative

  • The National Bamboo Mission, which was launched in 2018-19, is part of the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture, which is a 100% centrally sponsored scheme.
  • Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) are those that are implemented by the state government but sponsored by the central government.
  • Objectives:
  • To promote the growth of the bamboo sector through a regionally differentiated area-based strategy; to increase the coverage of bamboo in potential areas; and to promote the marketing of bamboo and bamboo-based handicrafts.
  • Newer technologies must be promoted, developed, and disseminated.
  • To generate job opportunities.

The Way Forward

  • Bamboo Shoots should be promoted as a superfood in India. It will aid in the reduction of malnutrition and hunger.
  • Bamboo shoot value-addition, which improves storage, and diversification in new-age food products such as vegetable protein concentrates can boost market potential and consumer acceptability.
  • States need to take forward the objectives of the National Bamboo Mission which would contribute to the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan through Aatmanirbhar Krishi (self-reliant farming).

 

5) Isothermal Forging Technology

#GS3- Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

 

Context:

DRDO has developed Critical near Isothermal Forging Technology for aero engines.

What exactly is isothermal forging?

  • Isothermal forging is a closed-die process in which the dies and workpieces are heated to the same temperature, allowing for forming without temperature loss in the workpiece.
  • It is a preferred method for forming engineered parts such as jet engines and other aerospace components out of high-density lightweight alloys.
  • The workpiece is formed to shape at a slow rate and at a temperature close to that of the heated die in this process.
  • The long forging time, combined with the forces exerted by the die, contribute to the formation of an almost “ready to use” component that requires minimal supplementary machining.

Concerning the Crucial Near Isothermal Forging Technology

  • This technological breakthrough was achieved by the DRDO’s premier metallurgical laboratory, the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory in Hyderabad (DMRL).
  • It entailed creating complex titanium and nickel-based alloys capable of withstanding temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius.
  • With this advancement, India has joined a select group of global engine developers who have the ability to manufacture such critical aero engine components.
  • To meet the bulk production requirements, DMRL transferred the technology to M/s MIDHANI via a licencing agreement for technology transfer (LAToT).
  • It will be jointly produced and successfully supplied to HAL, Bengaluru, for installation into the Adour engine, which powers the Jaguar and Hawk aircrafts.
  • Aside from DMRL and HAL (E), other agencies such as MIDHANI, CEMILAC, and DGAQA collaborated to establish this critical technology.

 

Significance

  • The high-value HPC drum assembly, like any other aero engine, must be replaced after a certain number of operations or in the event of significant and costly damage.
  • A HPC drum is a highly stressed sub-assembly that is also prone to low cycle fatigue and creep at high temperatures.
  • The raw materials and forgings used in the HPC drum must be of the highest quality and capable of meeting the specified combination of static and dynamic mechanical properties.
  • DMRL’s methodology is generic in nature and can be tweaked to develop other similar aero-engine components.

 

DRDO

?       The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is the Ministry of Defence’s research and development arm.

?       It aims to provide cutting-edge defence technologies to India, with the goal of achieving self-reliance in critical defence technologies and systems.

?       The DRDO was formed in 1958 by the merger of the Indian Army’s already operational Technical Development Establishments (TDEs) and the Directorate of Technical Development & Production (DTDP) with the Defence Science Organisation (DSO).

Current Affairs 21st September -2021

 

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