Insights Daily Current Affairs, 20 February 2017

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 20 February 2017


 

Paper 1 Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

 

Zealandia

 

Zealandia has recently been given the status of a continent by several geologists who say that the long lost continent is submerged under water. While there is no formal recognition of the same by the New Zealand government, which is the major habitable administration on Zealandia; there is, however, wide interest in the media about the continent.

 

Where is it located?

It is located on the southwest Pacific Ocean mostly surrounding, in what is the current land mass of New Zealand and its adjoining islands.

 

How big is it?

The total area is estimated to be approximately 4,920,000 square km of which 93% remains submerged below the Pacific Ocean. In terms of size, it is the world’s largest current micro-continent, about half the size of the Australian continent.

 

Which habitable areas currently fall under Zealandia?

  • New Zealand.
  • New Caledonia.
  • Norfolk Island.
  • Lord Howe Island Group.
zealandia

Zealandia

Geography:

  • The continent is largely made up of two parallel ridges, separated by a failed rift. The ridges rise above the sea floor with infrequent rocky islands rising above sea level.
  • Scientists identify two main portions of the continent, North Zealandia (or Western Province) and South Zealandia (or Eastern Province).
  • Compared to other continents it has much wider and deeper continental shelves.
  • The highest point of Zealandia is Aoraki–Mount Cook at 3724 m.
  • The region has elevated bathymetry relative to surrounding oceanic crust, diverse and silica-rich rocks, and relatively thick and low-velocity crustal structure.
  • Volcanism is widespread across Zealandia but generally of low volume.

Sources: the hindu and other sources.


 

Paper 1 Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

 

Why Earth’s inner core doesn’t melt

 

Scientists have discovered why the crystallised iron core of the Earth remains solid, despite being hotter than the surface of the Sun.

 

Why earth’s core doesn’t melt?

Spinning within Earth’s molten core is a crystal ball — actually a mass formation of almost pure crystallised iron — nearly the size of the moon. Scientists found that on the edge of the inner core, pieces of crystals’ structure continuously melt and diffuse only to be reinserted due to high pressure like “shuffling deck of cards.” This energy distribution cycle keeps the crystal stable and the core solid.

 

Here, changing atomic structure of iron crystals is mainly responsible for the solid core:

  • The core is likely composed of 96% pure iron, with the remaining four percent made up of nickel and some light elements.
  • As with all metals, the atomic-scale crystal structures of iron change depending on the temperature and pressure the metal is exposed to.
  • Atoms are packed into variations of cubic, as well as hexagonal formations. At room temperatures and normal atmospheric pressure, iron is in what is known as a body-centred cubic (BCC) phase, which is a crystal architecture with eight corner points and a centre point.
  • However at extremely high pressure, the crystalline structures transform into 12-point hexagonal forms, or a close packed (HCP) phase.
  • At Earth’s core, where pressure is 3.5 million times higher than surface pressure — and temperatures are some 6,000 degrees higher — scientists have proposed that the atomic architecture of iron must be hexagonal.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

 

Scientists develop high-quality graphene from soybean

 

In a breakthrough, scientists have used the humble soybean to make the world’s strongest material graphene commercially more viable.

 

How was it developed?

Previously, graphene was grown in a highly-controlled environment with explosive compressed gases, requiring long hours of operation at high temperatures and extensive vacuum processing.

  • Scientists at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia have developed a novel “GraphAir” technology which eliminates the need for such a highly-controlled environment.
  • The technology grows graphene film in ambient air with a natural precursor, making its production faster and simpler. With heat, soybean oil breaks down into a range of carbon building units that are essential for the synthesis of graphene.
  • This technology is expected to reduce the cost of graphene production and improve the uptake in new applications.

 

About Graphene:

Graphene is a carbon material that is one atom thick. Its thin composition and high conductivity means it is used in applications ranging from miniaturised electronics to biomedical devices.

  • These properties also enable thinner wire connections; providing extensive benefits for computers, solar panels, batteries, sensors and other devices.
  • The potential applications of graphene include water filtration and purification, renewable energy, sensors, personalised healthcare and medicine, to name a few.
  • Graphene has excellent electronic, mechanical, thermal and optical properties as well. Its uses range from improving battery performance in energy devices, to cheaper solar panels.

Sources: toi.

For Latest in Graphene:


 

Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Government announces expansion of rotavirus vaccine

 

The government has announced the expansion of rotavirus vaccine in five additional states under its Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). Now, the vaccine will be expanded to Assam, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

  • The announcement came after 38 lakh children were vaccinated in four states – Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha when the vaccine was first introduced.
  • The vaccine will prevent Rotavirus diarrhoea in children which accounts for approximately 40% of hospitalizations from diarrhoea in India.

 

Background:

Diarrhoea is one of the biggest killers in children and rotavirus is one of the most common causes of severe diarrhoea in children less than 2 years of age. Rotavirus diarrhoea is responsible for nearly 78,000 deaths, 32 lakh out-patient visits and nearly 9 lakh hospitalizations every year.

 

Rotavirus-Signs and Symptoms:

  • Kids with a rotavirus infection have fever, nausea, and vomiting, often followed by abdominal cramps and frequent, watery diarrhea.
  • Kids may also have a cough and runny nose.
  • Sometimes the diarrhea that accompanies a rotavirus infection is so severe that it can quickly lead to dehydration.
  • As with all viruses, though, some rotavirus infections cause few or no symptoms, especially in adults.

 

Transmission:

Rotavirus is transmitted by the faecal-oral route, via contact with contaminated hands, surfaces and objects, and possibly by the respiratory route. Viral diarrhea is highly contagious.

 

About UIP:

Universal Immunization Programme is a vaccination program launched by the Government of India in 1985. It became a part of Child Survival and Safe Motherhood Programme in 1992 and is currently one of the key areas under National Rural Health Mission(NRHM) since 2005.

  • The program consists of vaccination for ten diseases- tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles, Hepatitis B, Diarrhoea, Japanese Encephalitis and Pneumonia.
  • Hepatitis B was added to the UIP in 2007.
  • In 2014 it was announced that four vaccines will be added to the program, namely rotavirus, rubella and Japanese encephalitis, as well as the injectable polio vaccine.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Facts for Prelims

 

Mexican caves, a home to life dating back 50,000 years

  • Biologists have unearthed bizarre microbes trapped in crystals that survived on minerals under extremely punishing conditions in Mexican caves.
  • Scientists believe life trapped in crystals could be 50,000 years old.
  • The bizarre and ancient microbes were found dormant in caves in Naica, Mexico, and were able to exist by living on minerals such as iron and manganese.
  • The Naica caves, an abandoned lead and zinc mine, are half a mile (800 meters) deep.

 

Kashmir to observe 2017 as the ‘Year of Apple’:

  • J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has declared 2017 as ‘Year of Apple’ in a major bid to promote the famed Kashmiri apples in domestic and foreign markets.
  • As part of this, the Chief Minister launched the High Density Apple Plantation Scheme in Srinagar. These high-density plants will be routed through J&K Bank along with the subsidy.
  • Jammu and Kashmir is the largest apple producing State in India at 11.2 metric tonnes, which accounts for 71% of national production, according to official figures.

 

India’s only volcano active again:   

  • India’s only live volcano in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has started spewing smoke and lava again.
  • After lying dormant for 150 years, Barren Island volcano erupted in 1991 and has been showing sporadic activity since then.Barren Island
  • The Andaman basin is an active back-arc spreading basin known for strong seismicity, submarine volcanoes and hydrothermal activity.
  • Scientists from CSIR-NIO have been surveying the basin and have identified several small submerged volcanoes in a linear chain called a volcanic arc.

 

Archives of Confucius’ scions to be published:  

  • Over 2,000 copies of archived records of Chinese philosopher Confucius’s direct descendants will be published over the next four years.
  • The archived records of ‘Yanshenggong’, a hereditary title bestowed upon the eldest child of all direct descendants of Confucius, are published for the purpose of protection.
  • The Yanshenggong was a hereditary official who coordinated commemoration ceremonies for Confucius and managed the family’s internal affairs.
  • The archives, in more than 9,000 volumes spanning 2,000 years, contain content covering politics, economics, culture and thought.
  • Confucius (551-479 BC), an educator and philosopher, influenced generations of Chinese society. He was the first Chinese person to set up private schools that enrolled students from all walks of life. Confucius is reported to have Six lakh descendants in China.