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RSTV: SCIENCE MONITOR 19.12.2020

RSTV


New Ai-Based App For Farmers To Smartly Manage Crops & Farms:

  • India’s Assam based agritech startup AgSpert Technologies Pvt. Ltd along with students from IIT Guwahati, NIT Silchar and Dibrugarh University have jointly developed a multi-lingual smartphone application for farmers to smartly manage their farms and remotely monitor distress activities.
  • Developed with a goal of optimising the in-farm productivity through Artificial Intelligence (AI), the application called “AgSpeak” will help the farmers in making decisions and managing farm activities through their smartphone or computer.
  • India is a leading agricultural country with immense potential, yet 2 billion people globally did not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food in 2019 alone. To end this global starvation, we need to double agricultural productivity in the next 15 years. Unless we use technology appropriately in the agricultural sector, this would be impossible
  • The startup is leading this initiative in the northeastern India, which has untapped potential with diverse ecosystems having agriculture as the major economic activity.
  • The developed application is multi-lingual and has an option of Assamese as well. This feature is a first among all the agri-tech applications available in the market.
  • Driven by hyper local crop data coming from satellite and smart IOT devices, AgSpeak considers up to 20 local crop parameters which are key indicators of their health like rainfall, sunlight hours, soil health status, among others, to alert farmers about probable crop threats in advance and suggest best practices to tackle the incoming threat, hence optimising resources used and maximising productivity.
  • The app along with the internet of things hardware has been tested for the past three months with 500 farmers and two tea estates. Some of the major breakthroughs by the algorithm were precise prediction of blight in potato and tea mosquito bug, along with water stress in winter crops.
  • These are major reasons of woes to farmers and small tea growers of Assam and cause lakhs in crop damages if not controlled in time.
  • Nearly 250 farmers have already been provided hands on training in utilising the full potential of the app.
  • However, the user friendliness and multilingual features of the app make it extremely easy for farmers to use and seldom require training. The mobile app is completely free for general small farmers. There are in-app purchases like soil testing and agri-doctor consultation.
  • Besides this, the IOT devices can be rented on monthly or yearly purposes by commercial farms to further enhance precision farm management. It has been tested with many farmers and its practical utility established.

Triclosan:

  • Researchers of the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad have explained that triclosan even at amounts 500 times lower than the allowed limit can cause potent neurotoxic effects.
  • Neurodegenerative disorders of unknown origin appear to be on the rise and affect millions of people across the world. A suspected contributor to this is the complex interaction between genetic and environmental stressors. One such stressor could be triclosan.
  • To increase the shelf life of consumer products, companies add antimicrobial chemicals to stop the growth of unwanted microorganisms which may degrade the product and decrease its shelf life.
  • One such chemical is Triclosan is frequently added in consumer products available in India and worldwide such as soap, toothpaste, deodorants, etc.
  • Now one can find triclosan even in the kitchenware and clothes although its initial use in the 1960s was restricted to medical care products.
  • Generally, in very low amounts, Triclosan may be well tolerated by humans but the use of triclosan based products on a daily basis poses a big risk to humans in the long term.
  • Recently, the FDA reviewed the evidence against triclosan and imposed a partial ban on its use.
  • However, India lacks any such regulation so far on the use of triclosan based products.
  • The study reveals that triclosan in minute amounts cannot only affect the genes and enzymes involved in neurotransmission, but it can also damage the neurons. Overall this can affect the motor function of an organism.
  • The presence of triclosan in human tissues and fluids may lead to neuro-behavioral alterations in humans, which may be further linked to neurodegenerative diseases.
  • This study suggests caution in the use of triclosan based products and perhaps it is time that triclosan use in India is banned or restricted.

NASA shares images of black holes:

  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently shared images of two supermassive black holes in Galaxy NGC 6240 which are in the process of merging.
  • These merging black holes are approximately 3,000 light-years apart and are seen as the bright point-like sources in the middle of the image.
  • The supermassive black holes are in such proximity as they are spiraling toward each other — a process that began about 30 million years ago.
  • Seen as the bright dots near the center of this image, the black holes are just 3,000 light years apart. Eventually they will drift together, forming a larger black hole millions of years from now.
  • There has been an intense interest in follow-up observations of NGC 6240 by Chandra and other telescopes, since the year 2002.
  • The Chandra X-ray Observatory is a telescope specially designed to detect X-ray emissions from very hot regions of the universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes.
  • In 2020, based on the data provide by Chandra, the discovery of two merging black holes was announced.
  • NGC 6240 is a nearby ultraluminous infrared galaxy (ULIRG) in the constellation Ophiuchus. The galaxy is the remnant of a merger between three smaller galaxies.
  • According to the scientists, the merging process might have begun about 30 million years ago. It is estimated that the two black holes will eventually drift together and merge into a larger black hole some tens or hundreds of millions of years from now.