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Insights Daily Current Events, 23 March 2016

Insights Daily Current Events, 23 March 2016



Paper 3 Topic: space.

Detailed gravity map gives best view yet of Mars

Scientists have created the most detailed map of Mars’ gravity to date using data from three NASA spacecraft.

  • The map was derived using data collected by NASA’s Deep Space Network from three spacecraft in orbit around Mars: Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), Mars Odyssey (ODY), and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

What has been found out?

Using this data, scientists have found out that Mars has a liquid outer core of molten rock.

Benefits of Gravity Map:

  • Provides a glimpse into the hidden interior of the red planet.
  • It will be helpful for future Mars exploration because better knowledge of the planet’s gravity anomalies helps mission controllers insert spacecraft more precisely into orbit.
  • The improved resolution of the gravity map suggests a new explanation for how some features formed across the boundary that divides the relatively smooth northern lowlands from heavily cratered southern highlands.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

British troops test ‘invisibility cloak’

British troops recently tested a Harry Potter-style “invisibility cloak”. This cloak allows them to hide from the enemy.

  • The cloak is known as “Vatec” and allows soldiers to hide even from infrared and heat-searching devices.


This cloak attempts to replicate the special ability of cephalopods such as the octopus and squid to blend in with the environment to evade their predators. These creatures’ skin has pigment-rich cells called chromatophores that change colour in response to external factors such as the presence of a predator. Researchers have developed a process that mimics this ability with a technology known as visual appearance modulation.

How it operates?

Using a technology known as visual appearance modulation, the material they developed has one side that contains tiny light-sensitive cells that are sensitive to the colours of the environment. Once colours are detected, electrical signals trigger the top layer to imitate those colours using heat-sensitive dyes, a process that takes place in as fast as two to three seconds.

The cloak has few advantages:

  • The flexible fabric has a crinkly texture so that even when it is laid out flat it has some depth, i.e. a multi-level aspect.
  • The material can be formed into many different complex shapes, and keep those shapes – mimicking all types of man-made or natural terrains.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

India to host BRICS summit in October

India will host the eighth annual Summit of BRICS from October 15-16 in Goa in its capacity as chair of the influential bloc.

  • India assumed chairmanship of BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India- China-South Africa) from Russia on February 15 and it will last till December 31.
  • India’s core-theme during BRICS chairmanship will be building responsive, inclusive and collective solutions for the grouping.
  • India’s emphasis, during its tenure, would be on institution building, implementation of previous commitments flowing from the past Summits, and exploring synergies among the existing mechanisms.

2016 BRICS Logo:

India recently unveiled a logo for the upcoming 2016 BRICS summit. The logo for the summit is a lotus with colours from all the five member-countries and a traditional ‘namaste’ in the centre.

BRICS comprises five countries with 42% of the world population and combined GDP of over USD 16 trillion.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States.

Health Ministry launches Longitudinal Ageing Study in India

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare recently launched the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI).

  • This is the largest survey of its kind. It will survey more than 60,000elderly over 25 years plan.

About LASI:

LASI is the largest study on older population in the country. The International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai in collaboration with Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and University of Southern California (USC), USA is undertaking this study under the aegis of the Ministry of Union Health and Family Welfare.

  • LASI is jointly funded by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the United States’ National Institute on Ageing, and the United Nations Population Fund-India.

Significance of this study:

  • The importance of the study derives from the increasing portion of elderly population in the country. The study will provide valuable data on their health needs, and issues faced by them given the changing social structures, and helps policymakers to draw policy tools to address their issues.
  • This study will help design policies to mainstream the elderly, to reduce their vulnerabilities and enhance access to various services.
  • The study will be important as it will investigate various health structures, and impact of social determinants on health of the elderly. It will also help in framing evidence-based policy.


Population ageing is taking place in nearly all the countries of the world. The global share of older people aged 60 years or over increased from 9.2% in 1990 to 11.7% in 2013 and will continue to grow as a proportion of the world population, reaching 21.1% by 2050.

  • Presently, about two thirds of the world’s older persons live in developing countries. By 2050, nearly 8 in 10 of the world’s older population will live in the less developed regions.
  • While global ageing can be seen as a symbol of medical, social, and economic advances and also has major health, social and economic consequences over the past half century, it also represents a significant policy challenge.
  • Population ageing threatens to topple existing insurance and pension systems and create health system overload; therefore calls for review of existing models of healthcare, familial and social support.
  • The phenomenon of global population ageing has the potential to fundamentally alter disease burdens, economies and trade, and human migration.

Indian scenario:

According to the 2011 census, the 60+ population accounted for 8.6% of India’s total population or 103.84 million elderly. With currently 1.3 billion people, India is projected to become the world’s most populous country within a decade.

  • There are several forces driving India’s population growth and changing age structure, including an upward trend in life expectancy. An Indian born in 1950 could expect to live for 37 years, whereas today India’s life expectancy at birth nearly doubled to 68 years, by 2050, it is projected to increase to 76 years.
  • As a result, India’s population will rise from 1.3 billion today to an estimated 1.7 billion by 2050, with a much larger elderly share of around 340 million. Including the pre-retirement phase (i.e., population age 45+), the proportion will rise to over 30%, or almost 600 million persons. Between 2011 and 2050, the number of oldest old people of age 75 and above is expected to increase by 340%.
  • As no sufficiently broad nationally representative dataset on older population is currently available in India, comprehensive new scientific data are needed to conduct analyses of health, economic and social challenges based on population ageing and to formulate mid- and long-term policies and programmes to address these and other challenges presented by population ageing.

Sources: pib.


Paper 3 Topic: pollution.

New standards for gensets

The Centre has notified stringent environment standards to make cities and towns shift to less polluting and quieter gensets.

Key facts:

  • This the first time such mandated certifications have been notified for gensets running on LPG or natural gas or in combination with diesel and petrol.
  • The primary aim is to control air and noise pollution emanating from the gensets.
  • These standards will be revisited in 4-5 years once air and noise emission quality data and technological details pertaining to the gensets are available.

New standards:

  • Under the new standards, manufacturers across the country are required to obtain certification for engine products by empanelled agencies which will help in regulating the unorganised sector. It will also help in curbing illegal import of gensets, which have been observed to have higher air and noise pollution levels.
  • These standards will be implemented in all states by their respective state pollution control boards with the help of local civic authorities.
  • These standards have mandated certification for gensets in terms of `type approval’ and `conformity of production’ for air emission as well as noise emission.


These standards were recommended by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) after consultations with industries and other stakeholders.

Recently, the ministry had also notified improved environmental standards for thermal power plants, common effluent treatment plants and cement and sugar industries. New stringent environmental standards for all these industries will go a long way in reducing air pollution.

Sources: pib.

Paper 3 Topic: conservation.

UNESCO adds India’s Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve to its list of perfect biospheres

Home to more than 2000 species of plants, three wildlife sanctuaries and a tiger reserve, the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve has been included in UNESCO’s list of World Biosphere Reserve Network. There are 669 biosphere reserves in as many as 120 countries.

Key facts:

  • Out of 18 biosphere reserves in India, Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve is the tenth one to be included in the prestigious UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Network. The others are Nilgiri, Gulf of Mannar, Sunderban, Nanda Devi, Nokrek, Pachmarh, Similipal, Achanakmar-Amarkantak and Great Nicobar.
  • The area falls in the Malabar rainforests and is one of the noted hotspot areas because of its position in the Western Ghats. It covers about 3500 square kilometres, and is part of Tirunalveli and Kankyakumari in Tamil Nadu, and Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Patanamthitta in Kerala.
  • Agastya Mala, the peak after which the reserve is named, rises up to almost 1868 metres above sea level, in Thiruvananthapuram.
  • It is estimated that more than 2,250 species of dicotyledonous plants are in the area and 29 are endemic to the region. Many plants are considered endangered too. Researchers have noted that about 400 Red Listed Plants have been recorded from this region. About 125 species of orchids and rare, endemic and threatened plants have been recorded from the reserve.
  • There are three wildlife sanctuaries within the reserve, Shendurney, Peppara, and Neyyar.
  • The Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve was recently included as part of the biosphere reserve. Being Tamil Nadu’s first tiger reserve, it is also one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country. It rains here for almost eight months out of a year. Besides the eponymous tigers, the reserve is also home to Asiatic elephants, Indian bisons, leopards, various species of bats, and over 200 species of birds.

Biosphere reserves:

The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves are exemplary of biospheres where people and nature have a harmonious relationship.

  • Biosphere reserves in India protect larger areas of natural habitat and often include one or more National Parks and/or preserves, along with buffer zones that are open to some economic uses.
  • The first of India’s reserves to make it to UNESCO’s list was Tamil Nadu’s Niligiri Biosphere Reserve in 2000.
  • Protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.

Sources: the hindu.