2011 December Science & Technology




India successfully test-fired its nuclear capable Agni-I strategic ballistic missile on 1 December 2011 from the test range at Wheeler Island off Odisha coast, as part of the Indian Army's user trial. It was test-fired from a mobile launcher, from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR). 

The Strategic Force Command (SFC) of the Army, as part of their training exercise, executed the trial with logistic support provided by Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) at the ITR. The trajectory of the missile, which had an operational strike range of 700 km, was tracked by sophisticated radars and electro-optic telemetry stations located along the sea coast and ships positioned near the impact point in the downrange area. 

• Agni-I strategic ballistic missile is an indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile

• It is a single-stage missile

• It is powered by solid propellants

• Agni-I can carry payloads up to 1000 kg

• It Weighed 12 tonnes

• It was 15-metre-long.





A team at Aalto University in Finland claimed to have designed a network proxy, which can cut the power consumption of 3G smart phones up to 74%.

The device improves performance and significantly reduces power usage by serving as a middleman for mobile devices to connect to the internet and managing the most of the data transfer for the smart phone. This new device is valuable in developing countries like India because it provides more effective internet access to a much larger number of people.





Scientists identified genes that can increase a person’s risk of developing multiple myeloma by 30 percent. Multiple myeloma is an aggressive form of bone marrow. A team at the Institute of Cancer Research used a technique known as genome wide association study to scan the DNA of 1675 patients with multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma is also known as plasma cell myeloma or Kahler's disease. It is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell responsible for the production of antibodies.





A researcher from Australia National University discovered a new type of cell, which boosts the ability of human body to fight off infections and life threatening diseases. The cell is called Natural killer T follicular helper (NKTfh). It generates antibody responses in B cells, which are the body’s natural defence against invasion by bacteria and viruses. These Natural Killer T Cells recognize molecules known as lipids instead of just recognizing proteins expressed by infectious bacteria.

NKTfh cells also produce specialised structures called germinal centres, similar to those, which generated high affinity antibody responses to protein antigens.





A team of the Scientists at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich identified the gene, called ABCC9 that can reduce the length of time people sleep. The same gene was linked to heart disease and diabetes.

The scientists based their findings on a Europe-wide survey. Survey participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire assessing their sleep habits.





A team of researchers from NASA’s Kepler Mission discovered a habitable earth-like planet, called Kepler-22b. This newly discovered planet orbits around a sun-like star 600 light years away from the planet earth. The star is loacted near the constellations of Lyra and Cygnus. 

The team of researchers used photometric data from the NASA Kepler space telescope. The telescope monitors the brightness of 155000 stars. When earth size planet periodically passes in front of their stars, it results in tiny dimming of their host star’s dimming, which is measured by a space telescope like Kepler. The planet is very much similar to earth in key aspects. It has a surface temperature of about 72 degrees Fahrenheit and it is likely to have water and land. The research team was led by William Borucki of the NASA Arms research centre.





An international team of scientists led by Prof Richard Harvey of the University of New South Wales and colleagues at Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute discovered a new population of adult stem cells in the heart. 

The findings were piblished following recent reports that stem cells harvested from human hearts during surgery show promise for reversing heart attack damage.





NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) built a prototype capable of launching test harpoon tips across a distance of a mile (1.6km). It would be safer to collect comet material using the space harpoon before landing on the celestial bodies.

The samples thus collected will help reveal the origins of the planets and how life was created on Earth. NASA’s Stardust mission had recovered particle samples in 2002. These samples included an amino acid, glycine, which is used by living organisms to create proteins. It endorsed the fact that some of life’s ingredients had formed in space and were delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts.

A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma and sometimes a tail.





Scientists developed a hydrogel that regenerated healthy and scar-free tissue on skin damaged by severe burns. The hydrogel helps in formatting of new blood vessels and skin including hair follicles. The injured soldiers, fire victims and people with third degree burns can avail of the gel. Third-degree burns typically destroy the top layers of skin down to the muscle.

The treatment involves, dressing up the wound, which includes hydrogel and 3D framework of polymers.





Scientists made a key discovery about the mechanism controlling the fat in human body. It sheds new light on how proteins regulate appetite control and insulin secretion.This is the first time such a mechanism was described and it's unique, showing the importance of this protein to cellular function.


CPT1 is the protein responsible for regulating fatty acid oxidation in the liver and is critical for metabolism. Its activity determines whether a person suffers from fatty liver in one case or ketosis in the other.





Scientists claimed that now a simple test could diagnose breast cancer in women in eight seconds. They claim to have developed it from a technology that is used to detect land mines.

The new screening tool, called MARIA, is safer and more comfortable than traditional mammogram X-rays. It can be used on women of any age, unlike current technology.

MARIA stands for Multistatic Array processing for Radio wave Image Acquisition, is made from 60 antennas, which create a complete scan of the breast in eight seconds.





Scientists recently developed a genetic test to detect breast cancer. It will help those women who are in the early stages of breast cancer. It will save them the trouble of undergoing chemotherapy.

Scientists invented the Oncotype DX test, which can help doctors determine the likelihood of breast cancer returning and if further intervention is needed. The test uses a small sample of breast tumour tissue and focuses on groups of genes, which can influence how a cancer is likely to grow and respond to treatment.

At present, the test is available in the US and American Society for Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network include it in their treatment guidelines for the early stage of breast cancer.





China on 23 December 2011 launched a high-speed bullet train in Quingdao, Shandong province. Its speed can reach up to 500 kilometre per hour. The train was launched by China’s largest rail vehicle maker, CSR Corp. Ltd. The six-car train has a maximum tractive power of 22800 kilowatts, compared with 9600 kilowatts for the CRH380 trains.The train is made from plastic materials reinforced with carbon fibre. It is designed to resemble an ancient Chinese sword.

CRH 380 trains are currently in service on the Beijing-Shanghai High-speed Railway. It holds the world speed record of 300 kilometres per hour.China has the largest network of bullet-train track in the world, with 8000 miles of track.





A team of neuro scientists found a gene that turns on when memories are stored in the brain. This discovery could help trace the exact locations of memories in the brain. It could help in creating and altering memory. The gene is called Npas4 , which is very active in the hippocampus. The animal is known to have a brain structure critical in forming long-term memories.

During mice studies Scientists found that by taking out Npas4 from test subjects, neuroscientists were able to prevent new memories from forming.





Scientists discovered a way to transform ordinary tissue into beating heart muscle cells. It could pave the way for new therapeutic approaches for making a damaged heart to repair itself. Scientists used a zebrafish system to develop a small and robust molecule, which can transform stem cells into beating heart muscle cells.

The scientists in their experiment found that cardionogen treatment enlarged the zebrafish heart by stimulating production of new cardiac muscle cells from stem cells.

The scientists discovered three structurally related molecules (Cardiongen-1, 2 and3) after screening 4000 compounds. It could promote or inhibit heart formation depending on when they were administered during development.





British scientists recently developed a technology, which could be used to produce pocket TV. Scinetists developed a new form of light-emitting crystals, known as quantum dots. These dots can be used to produce ultra-thin televisions.

The tiny crystals are 100000 times smaller than the width of human hair. This can be printed onto flexible plastic sheets (which can be rolled up) to produce a paper-thin display.





NASA's Kepler mission on 20 December 2011 discovered the first Earth-size planets orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system. The planets, called Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are too close to their star to be in the so-called habitable zone where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface, but they are the smallest exoplanets ever confirmed around a star like our sun.

The discovery marks the next important milestone in the ultimate search for planets like Earth. The new planets are thought to be rocky. Kepler-20e is slightly smaller than Venus, measuring 0.87 times the radius of Earth. Kepler-20f is a bit larger than Earth, measuring 1.03 times its radius. Both planets reside in a five-planet system called Kepler-20, approximately 1000 light-years away in the constellation Lyra.

The Kepler space telescope detects planets and planet candidates by measuring dips in the brightness of more than 150000 stars to search for planets crossing in front, or transiting, their stars. The Kepler science team requires at least three transits to verify a signal as a planet.



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