SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
5.1. ISSUE OF PATENTS AND INDIAN GENERIC MEDICINE
USA and European Union have time and again raised issues over Indian Patent Laws.
2 provision have been sighted as problematic by western drug manufacturers -
Section 3(D) of the Indian Patents Act, which checks “ever greening” of Patents on frivolous grounds.
Compulsory Licensing (CL): allowing someone else to produce the patented product or process without the consent of the patent owner.
SC of India has ruled against ever-greening of a drug- Glivec by Novartis and India has also issued CL for cancer drug Nexavar to issue generic medicines.
So, the Office of United States Trade Representative has put India into “Priority Watch list”(PWL) in its Annual Special 301 report.
What do WTO rules say?
Indian patent laws are compliant with TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).
It allows flexibilities to governments to issue compulsory licensing in case the original manufacturer reverts to anti-competition policy or in the interest of public health.
India is in the process of formulating its maiden IPR policy and it is alleged that U.S. industry lobby groups such as the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce received verbal, private assurances from Indian officials that India will not use ‘compulsory licensing’.
USIBC also revealed that it had conducted “trainings” for India’s patent examiners which might affect independence of patent examination system.
Concerns for India
Affects India’s status of “pharmacy of the world”
Threaten people’s accessibility to medicines.
Affect India’s fight against Drug Resistant TB, HIV, Cancer etc.
Erode our Soft power especially with African countries for which India is the source of low cost generic lifesaving medicines.
Resist pressure from the lobbyist group and ensuring that new IPR Policy is TRIPS compliant.
Utilize flexibilities in international rules to cater to health needs of least developed and developing countries.
To take like-minded countries on board on international forums over the issue.
5.2. UNIFIED PAYMENT SYSTEM
What is UPI?
It is a mobile interface which will use a virtual ID to transfer funds instantaneously across various banks with transaction limit of 1 lakh.
It is expected to make e-commerce transactions easier.
It will also facilitate micropayments and person-to-person payments.
It will allow customers to instantaneously transfer funds across different banks.
With the help of UPI transactions will occur without sharing sensitive information like account number as virtual ID will be used for transactions.
Payments have been one of the biggest hurdles for mass adoption of online shopping in India. UPI has the potential of transforming the entire payments ecosystem in the country.
Current Status: 19 banks have partnered with NPCI, an umbrella organization for all retail payments systems, to offer services based on UPI.
5.3. SRSAM (SHORT RANGE SURFACE-TO-AIR) MISSILE SYSTEM
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and French firm MBDA will jointly develop and build SRSAM systems in India.
It will replace ageing Israeli Barack-1 air defence systems and Russian weapon systems.
However the project is still waiting for government’s final approval.
SRSAM is a Mach 3-class missile, weighing around 100 kilograms. It has a range of 40 kilometers & can be launched vertically to provide 360-degree defense coverage.
Unlike Akash (medium-range-surface-to-air) missile, the new missiles will be a cannister based and vertically-launched system suitable for naval ships.
Can be placed hidden in the ship's dock and escape enemy surveillance radars.
Can be used by the Army and Air Force too.
5.4. K-4 MISSILE – INTERMEDIATE-RANGE SUBMARINE-LAUNCHED BALLISTIC MISSILE (SLBM)
It is nuclear capable missile.
It is under development by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India.
It will arm the Arihant-class submarines.
It can carry a warhead weighing up to 2.2 tons.
Why in news:
The DRDO has test-fired the nuclear capable K-4 missile from the indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, INS Arihant.
The K-4 was developed to overcome the difficulty of fitting in AGNI-III in equipping INS Arihant.
5.5. SYNTHETIC ORGANISM
What is Synthetic biology and Synthetic Organisms?
Synthetic biology is the design and construction of new biological entities such as enzymes, genetic circuits and cells or redesign of existing biological systems. New organisms hence conceived are called Synthetic Organisms.
Scientists created synthetic organisms with fewest genes needed to survive and multiply.
New organism contains only 473 genes.
Provide hints about origin of life forms on earth.
Enable researches in developing new medicines, biochemical, biofuels, and in agriculture.
Design and build synthetic organisms where specific functions can be added on demand.
Ethical issues regarding Synthetic Biology
Threat to public health, environmental contamination.
Possible misuse by creating deadly biological weapons.
May lead to concept of “Designer babies”.
Issues related to equal access to technology, benefit sharing etc.
5.6. INDIA’S LARGEST OPTICAL TELESCOPE
Why in news?
India’s largest ground-based optical telescope, in Devasthal in Uttarakhand, was switched on by the prime ministers of India and Belgium from Brussels recently.
The telescope is the product of an Indo-Belgian collaborative effort, assisted by the Russian Academy of Sciences that was started in 2007.
ARIES telescope has been built with collaboration with Belgian company, AMOS assisted by Russian Academy of Science.
It would be Asia’s largest ground based Optical Telescope.
It uses a mirror of diameter 3.6 m.
It is located at a height of 2500m at a site suitable to get a clear view
It will be used to study star structures and magnetic field structures of stars.
5.7. OCEAN STATE FORECAST SERVICES
Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) of the Ministry of Earth Sciences was recently presented with the National Geoscience Award for developing the Ocean Forecast and Information System.
About Ocean State Forecast Services
It provides information on the following parameters:
Height, direction and period (of both wind waves and swell waves). Sea surface currents. Sea surface temperature.
Mixed Layer Depth (the well mixed upper layer of the sea). Depth of the 20 degree isotherm (measure of the depth of the thermocline).
Wind speed and direction.
Forecast is available accurately based on a real time data for Indian Ocean & also separately for the following regions: Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, Northern Indian Ocean, Southern Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf and South China Sea
The forecast services have also been extended to Maldives, Sri Lanka and Seychelles in collaboration with the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia.
The users can take appropriate informed decisions based on the forecast sea state conditions, saving life and property.
Help traditional fishermen & those operating in high seas.
Help high tech oil exploration for executing operations on seas.
Help port activities like entry and exit of vessels.
Boost recreational tourism at the sea side, including the operations of sea planes
Better management during contingencies like search and rescue operations, oil spills, cyclones etc.
5.8. IRNSS IS NOW NAVIC(NAVIGATION WITH INDIAN CONSTELLATION)
Why NAVIC: Navic means sailor or navigator in Hindi.
With the successful launch of IRNSS 1G, India has successfully put into all the seven navigation satellites into orbit. This positioning system of India is called NAVIC.
Launched by PSLV-C33 rocket from Sriharikota. Life span is 12 years.
Accuracy better than GPS.
This will provide position information service to users across the country and the region, extending up to an area of 1,500 km.
The NAVIC will provide two types of services - standard positioning service and restricted service.
Why in news?
A pig's heart has been kept healthy and beating inside a baboon's abdomen for over two years, setting a new world record, and suggesting that cross-species transplants are closer than ever.
Scientists say that the research can be extended to human's heart as the Pig heart is most similar to human heart.
Xenotransplantation is when living cells, tissues or organs are transplanted between species.
Uses of xenotransplantation
Organ transplants – replacing diseased organs, such as hearts, lungs, livers, pancreases and kidneys.
Cell transplants – replacing damaged or destroyed cells in diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Tissue transplants – skin grafts, cornea transplants or bone transplants.
Bridging transplants – providing organ function externally to patients with organ failure.
Even if experiment works for humans, transplant recipients would need to stay on immunosuppressants for the rest of their life.
Risk of infectious disease spreading from animals to humans
5.10. QUANTUM SPIN LIQUID
Scientists have discovered a new state of matter called “Quantam Spin Liquid” which causes electrons to break down into smaller quasiparticles.
It was predicted 40 years ago but its existence is proved recently.
What is quantum spin liquid?
The 'spin' doesn't actually mean that anything is physically spinning in the matter, but instead describes a type of intrinsic angular momentum in quantum mechanics.
“Liquid” isn’t in the traditional sense but refers to the fact that the quantum spins of the electrons in the material suddenly start interacting to create a disordered state (much in the way liquid water is in a disordered state compared to crystalline ice).
It can be used in quantum computers - which would be exponentially faster than regular computers.
5.11. BEAM (BIGELOW EXPANDABLE ACTIVITY MODULE)
It is carried along with the cargo component of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which was sent to International Space Station to deliver supplies and inflatable habitat to its crewmembers.
BEAM will allow investigators to gauge how well the module protects against Solar radiation, space debris, contamination, etc.
Thus paving way for future larger expandable habitats.
5.12. NEW ECO-FRIENDLY TECHNOLOGY FOR WATER PURIFICATION
Indian scientists at Institute of Advance Study in Science & Technology (IASST) in Assam's Guwahati have developed an eco-friendly nanotechnology for water-softening applications that could be used in civic water treatment plants for generating potable water.
How it works?
The team made a biopolymer using a naturally occurring substance, called chitosan (obtained from the hard outer skeleton of shellfish, including crab, lobster, and shrimp).
On this polymer Nano particles are attached.
In the biopolymer, nanoparticles are the functional parts of the technology. They remove calcium and magnesium components of water through ion exchange, the same process that is used by common water purifiers
This material is the first of its kind with potential to act as a biodegradable and green material for water-softening applications.
While convention water-softening techniques use synthetic resins, this novel technology is biodegradable as well.
5.13. GRAPHENE TO BOOST SOLAR ENERGY TECHNOLOGY
According to recent research, Graphene-coated solar panels can produce electricity from rain drops. This will increase efficiency of solar panels.
Rain water contains salts which in turn contains positive and negative ions. These positive and negative ions are used to generate electricity.
Properties of Graphene
Stronger than the steel.
Good conductor of heat and electricity.
Applications: Paints and coatings, lubricants, oils and functional fluids, capacitors and batteries, thermal management applications, display materials and packaging, solar cells, inks and 3D-printers’ materials and films
Structure: Honey-Comb lattice of carbon atoms.
Petrification is the process by which organic material is converted into a fossil through the replacement of the original material and the filling of the original pore spaces with minerals.
It requires a minimum of about 10,000 years to take place.
Why in news: A 20-million-year-old fossilized tree, discovered in Himachal Pradesh.