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1. Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite (Hysis)

1.1. About the Hyperspectral Imaging

Spectral Imaging

  • It is imaging that uses multiple bands across the electromagnetic spectrum like using infrared, the visible spectrum, the ultraviolet, x-rays, or some combination of the above.

  • Hyperspectal imaging vs multi spectral imaging • The main difference between multispectral and hyperspectral is the number of bands and how narrow the bands are.

  • Hyperspectral imaging (HSI) uses continuous and contiguous ranges of wavelengths (e.g. 400 - 1100 nm in steps of 0.1 nm) whilst multispectral imaging (MSI) uses a subset of targeted wavelengths at chosen locations (e.g. 400 - 1100 nm in steps of 20 nm).

  • Hyperspectral imagery consists of much narrower bands (10-20 nm). A hyperspectral image could have hundreds or thousands of bands. In general, it comes from an imaging spectrometer.

 

Technology

  • It combines the power of digital imaging and spectroscopy to attain both spatial and spectral information from an object.

  • This result can be then used to identify, measure and locate different materials and their chemical and physical properties. Every pixel in the image contains a continuous spectrum (in radiance or reflectance) and can be used to characterize the objects in the scene with great precision and detail.

  • Hyperspectral images provide much more detailed information about the scene by dividing the spectrum into many more bands than a normal color camera, which only acquires three different spectral channels corresponding to the visual primary colors red, green and blue.

  • It was first tried by ISRO in an experimental satellite in May 2008 and later on Chandrayaan-1 mission for mapping lunar mineral resources, this is the first time a full-fledged hyperspectral imaging satellite has been launched.

 

Application

  • Hyperspectral remote sensing is used for a range of applications like agriculture, forestry, soil survey, geology, coastal zones, inland water studies, environmental studies, detection of pollution from industries and the military for surveillance or anti-terror operations.

  • Other utilities include online industrial monitoring/sorting/classification to laboratory measurements, clinical instruments for medical diagnostic and airborne and satellite based remote sensing tools.

  • Challenges: This technology is accompanied with high cost and complexity. There is a need for fast processing of data (fast computers), sensitive detectors and large data storage capacities for hyperspectal data.

2. GSLV-MK III D2

2.1. About the Launcher- GSLV-Mk III D2

  • It is the fifth generation, India’s heaviest launch vehicle designed to place satellites of up-to 4,000 kg into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) or satellites weighing about 10,000 kg to a Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

  • It is the second launch of GSLV-Mk III, which earlier in 2017 carried GSAT-19 satellite as the first development flight.

  • It is a three-stage heavy-lift rocket with two solid fuel strap-on engines in the first stage, a liquid propellant core as second stage and a cryogenic engine for the third stage.

  • The cryogenic propellant system in upper stage called the C25 engine, is an advanced version of cryogenic technology.

  • The indigenous cryogenic C25 engine provides an unprecedented thrust power to GSLV rockets which keeps fuel loads on the rocket relatively low.

2.2. Significance of GSLV-Mk III

  • Its successful launch will provide a thrust to future space missions such as Chandrayaan 2, ISRO’s moon and man missions etc.

  • India is among six nations — apart from the US, Russia, France, Japan and China — to possess cryogenic engine technology. This launch will further expand ISRO’s space programmes on several fronts such as commercial international space market.

2.3 Significance of GSAT 29

  • With a lift-off mass of 3423 kg, GSAT 29 is a multi-beam, multiband communication satellite of India and is the heaviest satellite launched from India.

  • It will bridge the digital divide of users including those in Jammu & Kashmir and North Eastern regions of India.

3. India-Based Neutrino Observatory

What is INO?

  • It is one of the biggest experimental particle physics projects undertaken in India.

  • The project includes: o construction of an underground laboratory and associated surface facilities at Pottipuram in Bodi West hills of Theni District of Tamil Nadu,

  • construction of an Iron Calorimeter (ICAL) detector for studying neutrinos, which will include the world's largest magnet, and

  • setting up of National Centre for High Energy Physics at Madurai, for the operation and maintenance of the underground laboratory, human resource development and detector R&D along with its applications.

 

Why delays in clearance?

What are Neutrinos?

  • The elusive neutrinos are second most abound particles in the universe, yet a lot more is to be understood about them.

  • They interact very little with anything and pass through everything that’s why it’s hard to detect them.

  • They carry no electrical charge and nearly massless.

  • It occurs in 3 different types/flavors, separated based on mass (electron-neutrino, muon-neutrino, tau-neutrino).

  • It is produced in the core of the sun & millions of them roam around in the solar system.

  • They are key to understanding the evolution of universe and energy production in the Sun and the stars.

 

Misconceptions related to neutrinos

  • Several misconceptions related to neutrino research led to common opposition to the project

  • Harmful to the human body: They are least harmful of elementary particles, as they hardly interact with matter. In fact, trillions of solar neutrinos pass through our body every second without doing any harm to us.

  • Effect of the associated radiation: No radiation is involved as INO only studies atmospheric neutrinos produced by cosmic rays in the atmosphere.

  • Potential uses in weaponization: They are often confused with neutrons, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

  • NGT had suspended environmental clearance (EC) granted to INO and demanded the project to make a fresh application.

  • MoEFCC categorized it as a Category B project for which Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is not necessary. However, Madhikettan Shola National Park in Idukki district of Kerala was just about 4.9 km from the proposed project site and the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border was just a km away, making it a Category "A" project

  • Being located within 5 km of a wildlife sanctuary, it requires specific approval by the National Board for Wild Life

  • Potential ecological concerns

  • Contamination of ground water due to leaching of chemicals

  • Negative impact on the aquifers and nearby dams due to the vibrations caused by blasting the rocks

  • Tectonic fracturing may make geological structure unstable, increasing vulnerability of already ecologically sensitive Western Ghats

  • If INO moves from studying atmospheric neutrino properties to probing accelerator-produced neutrinos, it would require precision underground facilities to contain radioactivity

3.1. Significance of INO

  • It will give a boost to scientific studies in India and encourage students to take up Science and Research as profession.

 

Other neutrino study projects

  • LAGUNA (Large Apparatus studying Grand Unification & Neutrino Astrophysics) in Europe

  • Hyper Kamiokande Detector at Kamioka Observatory in Hida (Japan)

  • DUNE (Deep Underground Neutrino) project in South Dakota (US)

  • It has been gaining urgency in the recent years with China announcing the construction of a similar neutrino observatory in Jiangmen province.

  • Nicknamed the ‘blueprint of nature’ by scientists, neutrinos are an important tool for mankind to learn how matter evolved from simple particles into more complex composites, creating everything around us.

 

How neutrino research is useful?

  • Messengers of cosmic information, as they travel large distances without much interaction. Can revolutionize the existing understanding of astrophysics, astronomy and communication

  • Basic building blocks of matter, along with quarks and electrons. Enhance understanding of basic physical laws

  • Role in nuclear non-proliferation through remote monitoring of nuclear reactors, where neutrinos are produced in abundance

  • As they change their direction and spin based on the medium, they can be used to map natural resources inside the earth

  • Helpful in understanding of dark matter (which constitute 95% of earth), as they are one of the few particles that can pass through it

  • Rapid analysis of geo-neutrinos (produced by radioactive decay of uranium, potassium and thorium in the earth's crust) by the monitoring systems, called Neutrino Tomography, could provide vital seismographic information & may help us detect early defect inside the earth

  • Neutrinos can pass right through the earth and thus, neutrino-based communication systems are better than round the earth communication through cables, towers and satellites. No data transmission loss as they rarely interact with other particles. If there is any extra-terrestrial life, most effective way to communicate with them.

4. Earth Biogenome Project

4.1. About Earth BioGenome Project

  • It aims to sequence, catalog and characterize the genomes of all of Earth’s eukaryotic biodiversity over a period of ten years.

  • It involves projects by various countries:

  • US-led project to sequence the genetic code of tens of thousands of vertebrates

  • Chinese project to sequence 10,000 plant genomes

  • The Global Ant Genomes Alliance, which aims to sequence around 200 ant genomes.

  • UK participants, led by the Wellcome Sanger Institute, will also sequence the genetic codes of all 66,000 species inhabiting Britain in a national effort called the Darwin Tree of Life.

  • Currently, fewer than 3,500, or about 0.2 per cent of all known eukaryotic species on Earth have had their genome sequenced.

  • Physical samples would be stored frozen in liquid nitrogen in four or more facilities located in different parts of the world, and repositories of digitised information would be created.

  • The completed project will generate at least 1 exabyte (that is, 1 billion gigabytes) of data, which is to be shared online for free.

  • The initiative would produce a database of biological information that provides a platform for scientific research and supports environmental and conservation initiatives.

4.2.  Human Genome Project (HGP)

  • It was the international, collaborative research program whose goal was the complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings. All our genes together are known as our "genome”.

  • It helped to develop modern sequencing techniques, which have vastly improved the efficiency while reducing the costs of genomic research.

  • It read the genetic code of just one species, Homo sapiens, between 1990 and 2003.

  • The participating institutions would raise their own funding as far as possible. However, the project has the backing of the World Economic Forum

  • The potential benefits of EGP are compared to those from Human Genome Project, which has transformed research into human health and disease.

4.3. Significance of Project

  • Saving Biodiversity: Given Climate Change and related worries such as loss of forest cover, about 50% of current biodiversity could be lost by the end of the 21st century in what is being referred to as the Sixth Great Extinction. This Project will help record the genomes of organisms at risk.

  • Discovery of Unknown Species: It is believed that there are somewhere between 2 million and 3 million eukaryotic species on the planet. Only about half have been identified so far.

  • New Resources: It should also lead to the discovery of new drugs, new biofuels, and boost agricultural technologies, with obvious commercial benefits.

  • Generate Revenues: It could help to boost scientific capacity and generate revenues for poor countries with rich biodiversity.

  • Better Understanding: It will revolutionize the understanding of biology and evolution and thus create new approaches for the conservation of rare and endangered species.

4.4. Challenges in Project

  • High Quality data: The most difficult part in EBP will be to acquire and process high-quality samples from species that are hard to reach.

  • Lack of Technologies: New technologies such as specimen-collecting drones may need to be developed.

  • IPR issue: There are complicated protocols involved in transferring physical samples and genetic data across borders, and there are bound to be disputes about the sharing of the benefits obtained.

  • Legal Frameworks: While the Nagoya Protocols of 2014 provide a framework for such transfers, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity will have to work out new protocols and, ideally, create a new, transparent and equitable legal framework.

5. Human Microbiome

What is Microbiome?

  • The collective genome of all micro-organisms contained within the human body, residing inside tissues & bio-fluids is called Human Microbiome. It includes bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists and viruses.

  • Most of them have either commensal (co-exist without harming humans) or mutualistic (each benefit from the other).

  • Different parts of human body including the skin, mammary glands, placenta, uterus, ovarian follicles, lungs, saliva, oral mucosa, conjunctiva, biliary and gastrointestinal tracts, are occupied by characterstic microbial populations.

  • The composition of microbiome is shaped by factors such as genetics, dietary habits, age, geographic location and ethnicity. Human microbiome makes up around 2% of the body mass of the adult.

5.1. Importance of the Human Microbiome

  • Microbial communities play a key role in many aspects of host physiology: o Metabolism of otherwise complex indigestible carbohydrates and fats

  • Production of essential vitamins

  • Maintaining immune systems

  • Acting as a first line of defense against pathogens

  • Influence the susceptibility to certain infectious diseases, as well as contribute to disorders such as obesity and diabetes

  • Determines how one responds to a particular drug treatment

  • The diversity of microbes that make up human microbiome could lead to novel therapies e.g. an infection caused by a ‘bad’ bacterial species can be treated by promoting the growth of ‘good’ bacteria.

5.2. About Human Microbiome Project (HMP)

  • Human Microbiome Project is a research initiative of US’s National Institute of Health with the mission to generate the resources and expertise needed to characterize the human microbiome and analyze its role in health and disease.

  • Launched in 2007, it is focused on identifying and characterizing human microbial fauna and elucidating their roles in health and diseases.

 

Metagenomics

  • It is a sequence-based approach that allows the genetic material from the complete collection of microbes to be analyzed in their natural environment without needing to cultivate the microorganisms.

  • Currently, only a small percentage of the bacteria that comprise the human microbiome have been identified and studied. Majority (>95%) of them are difficult to isolate and culture, because the required growth conditions cannot be reproduced in the laboratory.

  • However, recent technological advances in DNA sequencing and the development of meta-genomics have now made it feasible to analyze the entire human microbiome.

  • Some methodologies used in HMP are:

  • Metagenomics as a culture-independent method of broad microbial community characterization

  • Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) to provide a "deep" genetic perspective on aspects of a given microbial community, i.e. individual bacterial species

5.3. Human Microbiome Research in India

  • India doesn’t have a dedicated national human microbiome project. But, the proposed Indian Human Microbiome Initiative holds a lot of potential.

  • The project will include collection of saliva, stool and skin swabs of 20,000 Indians across various ethnic groups from different geographical regions. India provides for a wide range of research with more than 4,500 ethnic groups and presence of two global biodiversity hotspots (Himalayan range and Western Ghats).

  • Scientists have found that Indian population, particularly tribals, have distinct gut microbiota than individuals from other parts of the world. Such tribal populations largely unaffected by “modern” diet and have lower prevalence of lifestyle diseases and their study would shed some light on mutualism between gut microbiota and the host.

6. Overhaul Of Si Units

6.1. Impact of Change

  • It will result in uniform and worldwide accessible SI system for high- technology manufacturing, basic science, etc. For example earlier the scientific definition of the “second” had helped ease communication across the world via technologies like GPS and the Internet.

  • The units shall be stable in the long term, internally self-consistent and practically realisable being based on the present theoretical description of nature at the highest level.

  • It will not be bound by the limitations of objects in our measurement of the world, but have universality accessible units that can pave the way to even greater accuracy and accelerate scientific advancement.

 

General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM)

  • CGPM is the highest international body of the world for accurate and precise measurements.

  • India became a signatory in 1957.

  • The CGPM meets usually once every four years

  • The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the main executive body of CGPM has the responsibility of defining the International System of Units (SI).

 

International System of Units (SI Units)

  • The SI system was adopted in 1960.

  • There are seven fundamental units. Every other unit of measurement can be derived from one or more of these seven units: the unit for speed, for instance, factors in the units for distance and time.

  • It will not change measurements in our day to day life like in kitchen, trade & transport etc. Thus for most people, everyday life will carry on as normal despite the redefinitions.

7. Integrated Health Information Platform (Ihip)

Why in the News?

  • Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) was launched in 7 states.

 

What is IHIP?

  • It is real time, village wise, case based electronic health information system with GIS tagging which will help in prompt prevention and control of epidemic prone diseases.

  • It will provide near-real-time data to policy makers for detecting outbreaks, reducing the morbidity and mortality and lessening disease burden in the populations and better health systems.

  • The objective behind setting up IHIP was to enable creation of interoperable Electronic Health Records (EHRs) which can be made available and accessible throughout the country.

 

Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP)

  • IDSP is a disease surveillance scheme under National Health Mission, under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India, assisted by the World Bank.

  • The scheme seeks to set up a Central Disease Surveillance Unit and a State Surveillance Unit in each State where data is collected and analyzed.

  • The IDSP portal is a one stop portal which has facilities for data entry, view reports, outbreak reporting, data analysis, training modules and resources related to disease surveillance.

  • Information from other branches like tuberculosis control programme, maternal and child health programme and non-communicable disease programme also will be included in this platform.

 

Benefits from IHIP

  • Reducing Medical Errors – It provides a vehicle for improving quality and safety of patient care by reducing medication and medical errors.

  • Patient Involvement- It stimulates consumer education and patients' involvement in their own health care.

  • Increases efficiency – by eliminating unnecessary paperwork and provides caregivers with clinical decision support tools for more effective care and treatment

  • Improves public health reporting and monitoring – by creating a potential loop for feedback between health-related research and actual practice. Further, it provides a basic level of interoperability among electronic health records (EHRs) maintained by individual physicians and organizations.

  • Technology in Healthcare – It facilitates efficient deployment of emerging technology and health care services and provides the backbone of technical infrastructure for leverage by national and State level initiatives

 

Way forward

  • While digitization of health records is a welcome step, there is a need to enhance research facilities to deal with new and emerging viral threats like Zika Virus, Nipah Virus etc.

  • Further, utilizing such technical advancements would entail a need for well trained and committed workforce who would regularly monitor the cases.

November Science and Technology

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