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The Science & Technology Weekly – 4 July – 10 July, 2016

science-and-technlogy

Starting 4th April, 2016 we have a started a new initiative to post Science and Technology Compilation of all articles coming in leading news daily on a weekly basis. We look forward to simplify the preparation of aspirants by easing out their task in one of the most vague topics in UPSC preparation. The compilation will make aspirants aware with day to day happenings in the field of science and technology as well list out basics in brief.
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  1. Cyber firm cautions mobile users against ‘rogue’ apps
  2. ‘Sin tax’ reduces intake of energy-dense food in Mexico
  3. India may soon get treatment for Hepatitis C
  4. More a tax topping than health initiative?
  5. NASA’s Juno successfully begins orbiting Jupiter
  6. The dipole factor in summer monsoon rainfall
  7. Drinking water after exercise
  8. Researchers build super-sensitive e-nose

 

[1] Cyber firm cautions mobile users against ‘rogue’ apps

Issue

  • Cyber criminals are now turning to application stores, traditionally considered a safe destination for downloading mobile apps, to plant malware in phones.

Analysis

  • Recently, cyber security solutions provider had detected an application on Google Play Store that masquerades as a score keeping app for a popular card game.
  • However in reality, once installed on the device, this application secretly starts searching media files related to Viber. Once it finds them, it sends them to a remote server.
  • While applications are mostly verified before being published on the official Android store, some manage to slip past the store’s upfront security checks.
  • The discovery of this app, it added, demonstrated that having photos stolen from devices is also a risk Android users needed to be aware of. Some time ago, private photographs of some celebrities were leaked online, with reports suggesting that the attackers gained access to their Apple iCloud accounts.

Protection

  • To stay protected from such mobile threats, it is recommended that users refrain from downloading apps from unfamiliar sites and install apps only from trusted sources. Besides, close attention should be paid to the permissions that apps request.
  • Users should avoid apps with a poor or non-existent reputation and any app that no one knows about should not be trusted. It is also important that mobile software, including anti-viruses are kept updated.

[2] ‘Sin tax’ reduces intake of energy-dense food in Mexico

Issue

  • Household purchases of nonessential energy-dense foods declined in Mexico in 2014 within a year of the government introducing 8 per cent tax on foods items with energy density of over 275 kcal/100 g.

Effect of tax

  • While there was no change in the mean volume of taxed food items purchased by households in ‘high socioeconomic status’ category, consumption of such food declined in low and medium socioeconomic households.
  • The reduction was 10.2 per cent in the case of low socioeconomic households, and 5.8 per cent in the case of medium socioeconomic ones.

Why Mexico introduced this tax

  • Mexico introduced the tax as it has one of the highest prevalence rates for obesity in the world. Over 33 per cent of Mexican children in the 2-18 years age group and around 70 per cent of its adults are obese.
  • The North American country is the fourth largest consumer of energy-dense, ultras-refined food and drinks.

[3] India may soon get treatment for Hepatitis C

Issue

  • A latest breakthrough treatment for the deadly Hepatitis C virus could soon be available in India as 11 Indian firms have been given licenses by its American manufacturer following an approval from US authorities.

Prevalence in India

  • The deadly Hepatitis C virus afflicts as many as 150 million people worldwide and possibly 12 million in India.

Analysis

  • This pan-genotypic treatment does not require gene-type testing, eliminating the need for costly gene–type diagnostics, allowing doctors and specialists to prescribe the medicine to anyone who tests positive for Hepatitis C, by taking one pill a day for 8-12 weeks they are cured.
  • As part of its effort to make it an affordable treatment, Gilead Sciences, together with its 11 partners in India, are pioneering a Voluntary Licensing model that transfers technology and Intellectual Property for latest treatments and cures for viral Hepatitis and HIV.
  • Because of India’s capabilities in generic manufacturing, where quality and low cost co-exist hand in hand, Gilead Sciences recognised that to expand patient access and to deploy these life-saving cures to low income countries around the world to the patients who need treatment most. It would be mutually beneficial to license the Intellectual Property for its new HCV medicines to companies in India which had already established supply chain linkages with countries across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Mongolia, and other hard to penetrate markets

[4] More a tax topping than health initiative?

Issue

  • Kerala is becoming the first State in the country to introduce a 14.5 per cent tax on burgers, pizzas, doughnuts, sandwiches and pasta sold through branded restaurants.

What is expected from it

  • It  is expected to have a positive impact on public health. But introducing additional tax on fat-rich food products is a move that has been tried out in other countries with varying degrees of success.

Doubts over this

  • Where Denmark has failed, will Kerala’s experimentation succeed?
  • The answer depends on what the objective is. Unfortunately, the rationale behind the move has not been spelt out other than it bringing in an additional Rs.10 crore of revenue to the government’s coffers.

Why this step is taken in Kerela

  • There is a strong case to initiate steps to tackle obesity among schoolchildren and adults in Kerala. For instance, a June 2012 study (Indian Pediatrics) of 1,634 children between 6-15 years from three urban schools in Kochi found the prevalence of obesity among boys to be 3 per cent and 5.3 per cent for girls.
  • The prevalence of being overweight was 10.2 per cent in boys and 12.1 per cent in girls.
  • In April 2014, a study of 1,098 schoolchildren in the rural areas of Kochi found 9 per cent of girls and nearly 6 per cent boys to be overweight and 2.8 per cent girls and 3.3 per cent boys to be obese.

Food tax abroad

  • Levying a tax on calorie-rich, unessential food items and beverages has been the preferred route to rein in the consumption of unhealthy products and as a means to change consumer behaviour in some developed countries.
  • Hungary taxes food high in fat and sugar, France, soft drinks, and Mexico, junk food and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • In the U.S., 34 States and the district of Columbia have food taxes that affect sugar-sweetened drinks.

Criticism of this

  • In Kerala focus has been on only a few calorie-rich, non-essential food items for additional taxation and is not based on any cut-off energy density or fat content. As a result, numerous energy-dense, fat-rich food products have been left out.
  • It is also surprising that sugar-sweetened beverages have been excluded.
  • In January 2016, the World Health Organisation had urged governments to levy additional taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages to end childhood obesity.
  • According to a study (Health Policy, June 2015), in Denmark, fat tax was considered as a “source of funds for the tax reform rather than a public health initiative”
  • On the other hand, Mexico has shown that a well-thought-out strategy to reduce unhealthy food consumption can yield rich dividends.

Socio-economic patterns

  • Results from Mexico also show that while no change in consumption patterns was seen in high socio-economic status households, a 10.2 per cent and 5.8 per cent reduction in the consumption levels was seen in low and medium socio-economic status households respectively.
  • This is not surprising as low-income populations are more sensitive to price changes. However, in the case of Kerala, the prime target is middle and high socio-economic status households.
  • In all probability, the exercise will bring about a change in the consumption pattern as the fat tax is much higher than even Mexico’s.
  • The outcome of Kerala’s exercise will be keenly watched by other States. The war on obesity and many chronic health diseases caused by fat-rich food intake can be won if Kerala can pull it off by undertaking certain mid-course corrections and not go the Denmark way.

[5] NASA’s Juno successfully begins orbiting Jupiter

Issue

  • NASA’s $1.1 billion Juno spacecraft successfully slipped into orbit around Jupiter on a mission to probe the origin of the solar system.

Background

  • Juno launched five years ago from Cape Canaveral, Florida and has travelled 2.7 billion kilometres since then.
  • The spacecraft was traveling at a speed of more than 209,200 kilometres per hour when it fired its engines to slow down enough to be captured into Jupiter’s orbit.

What Juno is expected to d0

  • Scientists hope to find out more about how much water Jupiter holds and the makeup of its core in order to figure out how the planet — and others in the neighborhood, including Earth — formed billions of years ago.
  • The solar system’s most massive planet is fifth from the sun.
  • With an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, it is known for its Great Red Spot, a storm bigger than Earth that has been raging for hundreds of years.
  • The first mission designed to see beneath Jupiter’s clouds, Juno is named after the Roman goddess who was the wife of Jupiter, the god of the sky in ancient mythology.
  • The NASA mission aims to orbit Jupiter from pole to pole, sampling its charged particles and magnetic fields for the first time and revealing more about the auroras in ultraviolet light that can be seen around the planet’s polar regions.
  • Juno should circle the planet 37 times before finally making a death plunge in 2018, to prevent the spacecraft from causing damage to any of Jupiter’s icy moons, which NASA hopes to explore one day for signs of life.
  • Although Juno will not be the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, NASA says its path will bring it closer than its predecessor, Galileo, which launched in 1989.
  • That spacecraft found evidence of subsurface saltwater on Jupiter’s moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto before making a final plunge into Jupiter in 2003.
  • NASA says Juno should be able to get closer than Galileo — this time within 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) above the cloud tops.

[6] The dipole factor in summer monsoon rainfall

Issue

  • The Indian summer monsoon rainfall is influenced by a system of oscillating sea surface temperatures known as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part of the ocean.
  • While the existence of three types of IOD is well known, a recent study published in the journal Natural Hazards attempts to determine the effects on monsoon rainfall of each of the three types.

Findings

  • A positive IOD occurs when the sea surface temperatures are greater than normal in the Arabian Sea and less than normal in the tropical eastern Indian Ocean. When the reverse is the case, a negative IOD is said to have developed.
  • A positive IOD leads to greater monsoon rainfall and more active (above normal rainfall) monsoon days while negative IOD leads to less rainfall and more monsoon break days (no rainfall).
  • The study aims to determine the role of the positive phase of the three IODs on summer monsoon rainfall. The three types are: normal IOD, early IOD and prolonged IOD. The study finds that an early IOD, which peaks in the mid-monsoon months (July and August), plays a significant role in enhancing monsoon rainfall even though its intensity is medium compared to other IODs.
  • During an early IOD, the combined effect of Arabian sea evaporation and stronger cross equatorial flow — winds blowing from the southern tropics to the north across the equator — play an important role in enhancing the monsoon activity over the Indian subcontinent. Also, there are fewer breaks in monsoon conditions during early IOD events.

El Nino

  • The study also took into account the combined effect of El Nino and positive IOD on monsoon rainfall. The effect of El Nino in general is to decrease the monsoon rainfall over the Indian subcontinent. This study shows that the IOD on the other hand increases the monsoon activity over India.
  • The co-occurrence of the different types of El Nino events over the tropical Pacific (weak to very strong) and the result of their interaction with the three types of IOD on monsoon rainfall were studied. It was found that during weak El Nino years (1994 and 2006) there were no break events in the peak monsoon months of July and August (early IOD), whereas in the case of moderate (1987), strong (1972) and very strong El Nino years (1982, 1997) more break events were observed during the mid-monsoon months.

[7] Drinking water after exercise

  • There is no scientific contemplation behind this belief that we should not drink water just after strenuous exercise.
  • During a workout, the body loses a lot of fluids through sweating and leads to dehydration. So, it is imperative that we consume an adequate amount of water to replenish the lost fluids in the body after the vigorous exercises.
  • In the case of those doing longer workouts of an hour or more, some carbohydrate containing drink may be more beneficial.
  • However, drinking ice-cold water right after exercising may cause the digestive system and the internal organs to receive a shock, causing chronic pain in the stomach. This is so because the warm temperature of our body after exercising cannot quickly absorb ice-cold water and causes the digestive system to have a hard time.

[8] Researchers build super-sensitive e-nose

Issue

  • Researchers from the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium have built a sensitive electronic nose with metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that can detect pesticides and nerve gas in very low concentrations.

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs)

  • MOFs are like microscopic sponges. They can absorb quite a lot of gas into their minuscule pores.
  • The chemical sensor can easily be integrated into existing electronic devices.
  • One can apply the MOF as a thin film over the surface of, for instance, an electric circuit. Therefore, it’s fairly easy to equip a smartphone with a gas sensor for pesticides and nerve gas.
  • The best-known electronic nose is the breathalyser. As drivers breathe into the device, a chemical sensor measures the amount of alcohol in their breath. This chemical reaction is then converted into an electronic signal, allowing a police officer to read the result.

Best gas sensor

  • The new MOF is the most sensitive gas sensor to date for dangerous substances.
  • MOFs can measure very low concentrations, so we could use them to screen someone’s breath for diseases such as lung cancer and multiple sclerosis (MS) in an early stage.
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  • Raj Deep Tiwari

    plz update

  • Surya Palani

    sir can u please update it.

  • Sushil4CSE

    Sir Please continue the post after 10 July 2016.