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1. Artificial Intelligence Task Force Report

Challenges with AI

  • Data collection, archiving and encouraging data availability with adequate safeguards, possibly via data marketplaces / exchanges.

  • Ensuring data security, protection, privacy, and ethical use via enabling frameworks, both regulatory and technological.

  • Digitization of systems and processes with Internet of Things (loT) systems while ensuring safety from cyber-attacks.

  • Socially disruptive impact of AI in areas such as Employment generation, Wealth generation, changing preference of an AI empowered middle class.

  • Rigorous auditing to ensure non-contamination by human biases & prejudices

  • Lack of consumer awareness

  • Channel impediments in technology delivery like poor Internet access

  • Absence of widespread expertise in Al technologies. This could lead to policy decisions being taken based on a narrow spectrum of opinions

  • Scenario planning for human/robot interaction

  • The task force on Artificial Intelligence (AI) constituted under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in August 2017 submitted its report recently.

1.1. Highlights of the report

  • According to the report, Artificial Intelligence "is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programmes." It involves variety of sub-fields such as computer vision, neural networks, machine learning, robotics etc.

  • It identifies 10 specific domains for rapid AI incorporation such as: manufacturing, fintech, healthcare, agriculture/food processing, education, retail/customer engagement, aid for differently abled/accessibility technology, environment, public utility services and national security.

  • Within these domains too, the report identifies four “grand challenges” for AI incorporation:

 

Key features of N-AIM

  • Fund establishment of a network of alliances among Academia Services Industry, Product Industry, Start-ups and Government Ministries;

  • Establishing & administering National AI Challenge funds;

  • Increasing awareness of AI through AI-yatras;

  • Coordination of projects of national importance: to accelerate development and commercialisation of AI based products and technology through PPP models and start-ups

  • Establishing Centres of Excellence for promoting interdisciplinary research

  • Setting up of a generic AI test bed for verification & validation of AI based products

  • Funding an inter-disciplinary & dedicated large data integration center

  • Improving manufacturing to increase profitability and increase manufacturing jobs, especially in the SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) sector

  • Improving healthcare quality, reach and cost;

  • Improving agriculture yields and profitability; and,

  • Improving delivery of public services

  • The report has argued that AI will in all likelihood create more jobs than it will Enablers for AI promotion • Positive social attitudes towards machines and trust in autonomous systems

  • Data literacy to create awareness about value of their own data

  • An ecosystem (digital data marketplaces, exchanges, infrastructure) which encourages free flow of data & information

  • Enabling policy & regulatory framework

  • Skill sets available with workforce

  • Establishment of standards for data exchange and safety

  • Synergy between government, civil society, industry, academia and R&D. destroy. It has potential to assist in various sectors which would in turn create new jobs.

  • National Artificial Intelligence Mission (N-AIM): An Inter-Ministerial N-AIM with funds allocated under Union Budget should be established with an allocation of Rs1,200 crore for a period of five years.

  • Digital data banks: Digital data banks, marketplaces and exchanges should be set up to ensure availability of data and information across industries, with requisite sharing regulations.

  • Ministry of Commerce & Industry need to create and functionalise a data-ombudsman to quickly address data-related issues & grievances

  • Standard setting: by the central government for the design, development and deployment of AI based systems. For example, data storage and privacy standards, and communication standards for autonomous systems such as cars.

  • Enabling policies: need to be developed by the central government. Two major recommendations in this regard are:

  • (i) developing a data policy including ownership, sharing rights, and usage policies, and

  • (ii) providing tax incentives for income generated due to the adoption of AI technologies and applications for socially relevant projects

  • Human Resource Development: through developing an AI Education strategy and recommending AI-based curriculums. This also includes reskilling via identification of skill sets required for AI as well as creating an AI Readiness Index for states.

  • International rule-making: Participate actively in shaping international policy discussions on governance of AI related technologies. This also includes enhanced bilateral cooperation.

2. E-Cigarettes

2.1 About E-Cigarettes

  • E-cigarettes are a type of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) which claims to emit nicotine without other harmful chemicals that are present in normal cigarettes.

  • They aim to provide a similar sensation to inhaling tobacco smoke, without the smoke and are sold as aids to reduce or quit smoking.

  • They produce an aerosol by heating a fluid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals which is then inhaled by users of e-cigarettes.

  • Smoking e-cigarettes is also called vaping.

  • However, some serious concerns regarding their use have been highlighted by WHO- o vaping can get teens addicted to nicotine and they can go on to use other tobacco products.

  • WHO Report on the Regulation on ENDS recommends to-

  • ban the use of ENDS indoors and in public places.

  • bring regulations to stop ENDS promotion to non-smokers and protect existing tobacco control efforts.

  • No convincing evidence proving that e-cigarettes help quit smoking.

  • Smoking e-cigarettes delivers cancer-causing chemicals into the body.

  • It may function as a “tumour promoter” and seems to be involved in the neuro-degeneration.

  • May also contribute to cardiovascular disease.

  • Foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure may have long-term consequences for brain development, potentially leading to learning and anxiety disorders.

  • It is because of above concerns that worldwide a need is being felt to regulate the e-cigarettes just as traditional tobacco products are regulated.

3. Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill

3.1. Need For the Bill

  • Lack of regulation in the ART industry: Approx. 50% of the IVF cycles performed in India is by unorganized clinics with lack of experience leading to a lot of unethical practices

  • Lack of ART penetration: Approx. 1% of the total infertile population comes forward for evaluation and less than 40% out of these are prescribed treatment.

  • ART refers to all techniques that attempt to obtain a pregnancy by handling the sperm or the egg outside the human body and transferring the gamete or the embryo into the reproductive tract of a woman. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is the most common form of ART

  • IVF process involves fertilization by combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish manually and then transferring the embryo to the uterus.

  • Surrogacy: Surrogacy is an ART process, where an intending couple commissions a surrogate mother to carry their child.

3.2. About the bill

  • Objective: The Bill seeks to prevent the misuse of ART services and promote its safe and ethical practice by regulating and supervising ART clinics and ART banks. Key features of the Draft Bill include:

  • Setting National and State Board for ART for:

  • Advising the government on policy matters relating to ART.

  • Reviewing and monitoring the implementation of the Bill.

  • Setting up a National Registry: It will be established under the National Board to act as registration authority, central data base of the ART clinics and banks in India

  • Child born will be entitled to all the rights and privileges available to a natural child only from the commissioning couple.

  • Sex selection: Bill strictly prohibited the pre-determination of childsex.

  • Other important provisions include – creation of Assisted Reproductive Technology of India General Fund, confidentiality of information etc.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

  • ALS is a neurodegenerative condition, that attacks the motor nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, hampering their ability to communicate with muscles and control voluntary movements, leading to eventual paralysis.

  • ALS is very rare, occurring on average among two new cases per 100,000 people every year, most typically among individuals aged between 55 and 65.

  • There is currently no cure or treatment that halts or reverses ALS

  • Singularities: Points where space time appeared to be infinitely curved.

  • Albert Einstein's in his Theory Of General Relativity 1915, suggested the existence of black holes — an object whose gravitational pull is so intense that once something passes a region known as the event horizon, there's no escape.

  • Quantum theory: It describes the behaviour of very small particles, those smaller than an atom, like protons or electrons, or the even smaller ones like quarks.

  • General relativity: It describes how gravity works around massive objects like planets, stars and Black Holes.

4. Stephen Hawking

Why in news

  • Recently, a known theoretical physicist of his time, Stephen Hawking passed away at the age of 76.

  • He suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

 

Contribution of Stephen Hawking

  • Hawking-Penrose theorem / Big Bang Theory

  • Sir Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking in 1970 proved in a theorem that Einstein's General Relativity must break down at a certain point in Space-time under certain generic physical conditions. This point is called 'Singularity' which inside a Black Hole indicate towards the beginning of the Universe. Big Bang is now the most widely accepted theory of the origin of the universe.

 

Information Paradox, or Hawking Paradox,

  • By using Quantum Mechanics in the General Relativistic realm, he showed that Black Holes can radiate and has temperature. Emission is similar to something escaping from Black Holes. He also showed that because of the emission of this thermal radiation or Hawking Radiation, the black hole would lose energy and eventually disappear or “evaporate”.

  • If the paradox is true, it would require some radical revision of physics as it left two pillars of modern physics quantum mechanics and Einstein’s general theory of relativity irreconcilable.

  • This could also open a path towards the final unified theory of Physics called 'Quantum Gravity' or more popularly 'The Theory of Everything'.

 

Hawking-Hurtle state

  • Hawking with colleague James Hurtle developed a Quantum Mechanical model of the Universe that says the Universe is self-contained (like Earth surface which has no starting point) but has No Boundary (We can’t fall from the edge of Earth). So Universe is finite but boundary-less (Like Earth surface having finite area but no edge).

 

Breakthrough Initiative

  • It was launched by Russian tech investor Yuri Milner and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, to explore the Universe, seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth. Various component of initiative are:

  • Breakthrough Listen Project: It’s a $100 million program of astronomical observations to survey one million stars, the galactic plane and 100 neighbouring galaxies in the search for intelligent life.

  • Breakthrough Message: It’s a $1 million competition to design a message representing Earth, life and humanity that could potentially be understood by another civilization.

  • Breakthrough Watch: It’s multi-million dollar astronomical progam to develop Earth- and space-based technologies that can find Earth-like planets in our cosmic neighborhood – and try to establish whether they host life.

  • Breakthrough Starshot: It’s a $100 million research and engineering program aiming to demonstrate proof of concept for a new technology, enabling ultra-light unmanned space flight at 20% of the speed of light and to lay the foundations for a flyby mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation.

5. GSAT-6A 

Highlight

  • Launch marked the 12th flight of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV-F08 and sixth flight with the indigenous Cryogenic upper stage.

  • GSAT-6A, similar to GSAT-6, is a high-powered S-band communication satellite which would help improve mobile communications to handheld devices, as well as network management techniques useful in satellite- based mobile communication applications.

  • However, ISRO lost contact with its communication satellite GSAT-6A.

6. Copernicus Programme

6.1. About the Arrangement 

  • Copernicus Programme is Earth observation programme headed by the European Commission (EC) in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA).

  • India will get free, full and open access to the data from the Copernicus Sentinel family of six satellites.

  • Reciprocally India will provide free, full and open access to the data from ISRO’s land, ocean and atmospheric series of civilian satellites (Oceansat-2, Megha-Tropiques, Scatsat-1, SARAL, INSAT-3D, INSAT-3DR) with the exception of commercial high-resolution satellites data.

  • The services address six thematic areas: land, marine, atmosphere, climate change, emergency management, and security.

7. Air-Breathing Electric Thruster

What is Air-Breathing Electric Thruster or Ion Thruster?

  • It is an ion thruster which uses Air Breathing Electric Propulsion (ABEP) or RAM electric propulsion method.

 

How does ABEP works?

  • ABEP sucks in air molecules from top of the atmosphere instead of using on-board propellant.

  • Then it gives these molecules an electric charge and accelerates them.

  • Finally, it ejects the ionized molecules back into space which causes thrust.

7.1. Significance of ABEP

  • The new system is very significant as it reduces the weight of the satellite, thus reducing the consumption of fuel.

  • It extends the stay of satellites in space to almost indefinite time and also opens the doors for deep space exploration.

8. Micro-Led: The Next-Gen

8.1. About MicroLED

  • It is an emerging flat panel display technology in which displays consist of arrays of microscopic LEDs forming the individual pixel elements.

  • These are simply traditional LEDs shrunk down and placed into an array. The LED technology is not new but manufacturing a panel array using such tiny components is very difficult and currently not commercially viable over OLED.

8.2. OLEDs and MicroLEDs

  • OLEDs are self-emissive, which means they requires no backlight; instead, it lights each individual pixel as needed. Like OLED, Micro LED too don't need backlight.

  • OLEDs are made of organic materials that age, resulting in a decrease in luminance over time, with the potential for uneven ageing. MicroLEDs being inorganic (gallium nitride) are not as susceptible to ageing.

  • This switch from organic to inorganic also reduces the need for a polarizing and encapsulation layer, making panels thinner.

  • The OLED manufacturing process also limits the possible screen shapes and sizes. The MicroLED technology are “modular” in nature which are flexible to configure any size.

  • MicroLEDs are more power-efficient than OLEDs.

9. Cold Fusion Reactor

9.1. Cold Fusion Reactor

  • Cold Fusion Reaction or Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) technology is nuclear fusion supposedly occurring at or close to room temperature and is still in research phase.

  • It is a form of energy generated when hydrogen interacts with various metals like nickel and palladium.

  • Cold fusion seeks to produce nuclear energy without harmful radiation, complex equipment and the application of very high temperatures and pressures.

9.2. Potential Benefits

  • LENR technology could be used to build vehicular and at-home nuclear reactors that provide both heat and electricity.

  • Radioactive materials can be transmuted to benign elements, promising a path to ridding the planet of thousands of tons of radioactive waste.

  • Ultra-clean and Energy Dense: Cold fusion energy generators will not need to be connected to an electrical grid. Small and portable power units will provide energy on-demand in any location.

10. Novel Material To Convert Waste Heat To Electricity

10.1. About Silver Copper Telluride (AgCuTe)

  • It is a thermoelectric material which can be used for converting waste heat into electricity as it exhibits poor conductivity in 25-425 degree C range but shows good electrical conductivity.

  • Silver, Copper and Tellurium in the material have different properties which have resulted in successful experiment.

 

Properties –

  • Tellurium: Its atoms are strongly bound and the lattice is very rigid which provides a conduction channel for holes thus rendering good electrical conductivity to the compound.

  • Silver and Copper: contribute to low thermal conductivity. Over 170-degree C, both silver and copper ions flow like liquid within the rigid tellurium sublattice, thereby reducing the thermal conductivity to the level of glass without affecting the hole (electrical carrier) transport.

 

Significance:

  • AgCuTe has the efficiency of 14% to convert heat into electricity which can be used to avoid loss of about 65% of the utilized energy which is wasted as heat.

  • The development of AgCuTe could be very helpful for automobile industry, chemical and thermal power plants, steel plants, waste to energy plants etc.

11. Vaterite - Rare Minerals In Plants

11.1. About Vaterite

  • Vaterite is a mineral, a polymorph (a solid chemical compound that exists in more than one crystalline form) of calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

  • Being unstable in Earth’s humid atmosphere, it often reverts to more common forms of calcium carbonate, such as calcite.

  • Vaterite is often associated with outer space and on earth it is found in some sea and freshwater crustaceans, bird eggs, the inner ears of salmon, meteorites and rocks.

  • Its special properties make it a potentially superior carrier for medications due to its high loading capacity, high uptake by cells and its solubility properties that enable it to deliver a sustained and targeted release of therapeutic medicines to patients.

12. Gallenene

12.1. More about news

  • Reducing a regular three-dimensional material in two dimensions can fundamentally change its electrical, magnetic, physical or chemical properties.

  • Apart from graphene scientists have created 2D versions of materials such as black phosphorus, molybdenum disulfide and chromium trichloride.

  • Gallenene is first metal to be created in 2D. Near 2D metals are difficult to extract, since these are mainly high-strength, uncoated and layered structures. So Gallenene is an exception that could save the need for metals in the 2D world.

  • As Gallenene binds semiconductors well and can now be created using a relatively simple technique, it could be used as an efficient nanoscale electronic metal contact, a field that currently does not have many 2D metal options for this type of applications.

13. RYDBERG POLARONS: A NEW STATE OF MATTER

How was the new polaron created?

  • It uses ideas from two different fields: Bose Einstein Condensation and Rydberg atoms.

  • A BEC (Bose Einstein Condensate) is a liquid-like state of matter that occurs at very low temperatures. A BEC can be perturbed to create excitations which are akin to ripples on a lake.

  • A ‘Rydberg atom’ is an atom in which an electron has been kicked out to a very large orbit.

  • In this work, Laser light on a BEC of strontium atoms is used. This excites an electron into a large orbit, forming a Rydberg atom. This orbit is large enough to encircle many other strontium atoms inside it.

  • As the electron moves around many strontium atoms, it generates ripples of the BEC. The Rydberg atom becomes inextricably mixed with these ripples and forms a new super-atom called a ‘Rydberg polaron’.

Use of Rydberg polarons

  • It will be helpful in cosmology. Some theories of dark matter postulate that it is a cosmic Bose Einstein Condensate. If we are indeed living in an invisible all-pervading Bose Einstein Condensate, this experiment can suggest ways to detect it.

  • This new, weakly bound state of matter is a new possibility of investigating the physics of ultracold atoms.

14. Scientists Found Rare 'Ice-Vii' On Earth

More about ice-Vll

  • The common ice is called ice-I, which has hexagonal crystal arrangement that causes it to have lower density than water. Compressing ice can change the shape of the crystals, turning ice-I into ice-II (rhombus-shaped crystals), ice-III (tetragonal crystals), and so on.

  • Ice-VII has cubic crystal arrangement with 1.5 times denser than ice-I.

  • It requires both low temperature and high pressure exceeding 30,000 atmospheres (3 gigapascals) for ice-Vll to form. The only place such pressure can be achieved is deep in the Earth’s mantle, but the temperature is very high for ice to form there.

  • Diamonds often pick up molecules during their formation deep in the Earth. The trapped water inside can become super-rare ice-VII in such high pressure.

15. Disease 'x'

15.1. More about the news

  • WHO in its 2018 annual review of the Blueprint priority diseases has listed this new and potentially dangerous pathogen along with eight better-known diseases such as MERS and Marburg Virus, that could possibly spark an international epidemic.

  • The Blueprint review lists diseases and pathogens to prioritise for research and development. These diseases pose major public health risks, and further research and development is needed, including surveillance and diagnostics.

What is Disease X?

  • “Disease X” is not a newly identified killer pathogen. It’s a so called “known unknown” — that could be created by different reasons like biological mutation such as Spanish Flu or HIV or it might be spawned by a terror attack, or simply an accident.

  • Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a currently unknown pathogen.

16. Interstitium

16.1. Details about Interstitium

  • They are fluid filled compartments found beneath the skin, as well as lining the gut, lungs, blood vessels and muscles, and join together to form a network supported by a mesh of strong, flexible proteins.

  • They were earlier considered as dense connective tissue.

  • They may act as “shock absorbers” that protect body tissues from damage.

  • This newly discovered organ may help in understanding of the spread of cancer in human body.

  • Interstitium is among one of the largest organs of human body.

 

Why the organ was not located earlier?

  • The traditional methods for examining body tissues had missed the interstitium because the “fixing” method for assembling medical microscope slides involves draining away fluid - therefore destroying the organ’s structure.

March Science and Technology

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