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August 2017 Science and Technology

  • ISRO, NASA to put sensors in the sky to keep an eye on Earth
    ISRO and the US space agency NASA, are joining hands to develop advance space-based sensors that can help sharpen earth observation applications, according to Tapan Misra, Director of the Ahmedabad-based, Space Application Centre (SAC). 

    The joint venture, called NISAR, will focus on making sensors in the L&S-band. 

    They can help in observations such as deformations on land surface, details of coastline and depths of ocean to aid in disaster response, he said, while delivering a lecture organised by the Aeronautical Society of India (ASI) and Sensors Research Society of India here. 

    The SAC will take the lead in developing C-band radar imaging as well as in making microwave and optical sensors which have a big role in the future. ISRO is gearing itself to meet the growing demands for observational studies with multiple applications. 

    Air-borne sensors
    At present, there are 13 operational Earth Observation (EO) satellites. SAC has built specific air-borne electro-optical sensors to meet the exclusive requirements of high resolution and hyper-spectral imaging from aerial platform as well

    In his address at the technical meet, G Satheesh Reddy, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, said there is lot of excitement in sensor technology. The world is moving towards wearable and miniaturised wireless sensors. In India too, there is need for focussed work on design and development of futuristic sensors with applications in the aerospace and defence sectors. 

    Futuristic defence and Aerospace systems and sub-systems will need cutting-edge sensor technologies and need to meet the huge requirements, and should should produce the same in numbers to export them in a big way, Reddy who is also the Chairman of the ASI, said. 

  • UK Scientists Create World's Smallest Surgical Robot
    British scientists have developed the world’s smallest surgical robot which could transform daily operations for tens of thousands of patients. A team of 100 scientists and engineers have used low-cost technology originally developed for mobile phones and space industry. The robot, called Versius, mimics the human arm can be used to carry out a wide range of laparoscopic procedures. The robot is set to be launched next year. 

  • India’s first calf born to surrogate cow in Pune
    India’s first calf delivered by a surrogate or recipient cow through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) technology carried out in a mobile laboratory in Pune. This is for first time IVF procedure was successfully implemented at the farm level with the help of mobile laboratory. The purpose of producing surrogate calf was to protect indigenous cow breeds in its original form which have been destroyed due to cross-breeding. 

  • Mexican scientists discovered ancient species of giant sloth 
    Mexican scientists have discovered the fossilized remains of a previously unknown species of giant sloth that lived 10,000 years ago and died at the bottom of a sinkhole. 

    The Pleistocene-era remains were found in 2010, but were so deep inside the water-filled sinkhole that researchers were only gradually able to piece together what they were, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said. 

    Scientists have so far hauled up the skull, jawbone, and a mixed bag of vertebrae, ribs, claws and other bones, but the rest of the skeleton remains some 50 metres under water, the INAH said. 

    Researchers are planning to bring up the rest by next year to continue studying the find — including to estimate how big the animal was. 

    The skeleton is nearly complete, leading scientists to believe the sloth “fell into the sinkhole when it was dry or had only a little water at the bottom,” the researchers said. 

    They have named the new species Xibalbaonyx oviceps . An initial analysis suggests the sloth lived between 10,647 and 10,305 years ago, an era when giant creatures of all kinds roamed the earth. 

  • Scientists recreate the nuclear fusion reactions found inside stars
    Scientists have, for the first time, recreated the extreme stellar plasma conditions of nuclear reactions found inside the hearts of stars. Almost all of the heavier elements in the universe, including oxygen, are formed in nuclear reactions inside stars. These reactions take place under incredibly high temperatures and pressures, making it nearly impossible for scientists to perform nuclear measurements in similar conditions - until now. 

    Experts in the fields of plasma physics, nuclear astrophysics and laser fusion have managed to perform experiments under just those conditions using incredibly powerful lasers. 

    Their experiments are the first thermonuclear measurements of nuclear reaction cross-sections, which help scientists measure the probability that a nuclear reaction will occur. 

    The cross-disciplinary collaborators were finding out how likely it was that the material inside of stars will undergo a fusion reaction to create heavier elements. 

    They used lasers to create high-energy-density plasma conditions equivalent to cores of stars up to 40 times more massive than the sun. 

    In the cores of these stars there are such extreme plasma conditions that temperatures can exceed 50 million Kelvin and such high pressure that isotopes of the lightest element in the universe, hydrogen, can be compressed by a factor of a thousand to near that of solid lead. 

    The work was conducted at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF), which is the only experimental tool in the world capable of creating these extreme conditions. 

    The NIF was used to drive an implosion in a gas-filled capsule, heating it to extraordinary temperatures and compressing it to a high density so that a fusion reaction could occur. 

  • Indian scientists produce clove oil from tulsi
    Tulsi may be able to replace expensive clove and cinnamon as a cheaper source of eugenol, a natural substance found to be effective in fighting everything from tooth ache and food spoilage to stomach ache. Popularly known as clove oil, eugenol, which gives clove its distinct flavour, has a host of medicinal and industrial applications. It is widely used in perfumery, aromatherapy as well as in the processed food industry, as flavouring agent and preservative. Anti-microbial and antiseptic, it is an inevitable part of a dentist’s cabinet. Currently, eugenol is highly priced in the global market (the purest quality of eugenol costs around $40 for 100 ml). 

    Now, a team of researchers at Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s (ICAR) Directorate of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Research (DMAPR) at Anand in Gujarat may have found a better and cheaper way of producing eugenol. 

    DMAPR researchers, led by Parmeshwar Lal Saran, who tested 10 different accessions of tulsi collected from different parts of the country for two seasons, have been to able to identify a particular variety of tulsi (Holy Basil), codenamed DOS-1, that has very high eugenol content. 

  • ISRO to launch two moon missions by early 2018
    India is all set to make advancement in lunar study with two new missions early next year as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch its Chandrayaan-2 mission, which is an upgraded version of its previous 2018 mission that will aim towards deeper understanding of lunar surface

    Another mission will be launched by a group of young engineers, called Team Indus which will be headed by IIT-Delhi alumnus Rahul Narayan. The mission is seen as part of a global contest that will help them win $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE. The competition demands movement of 500 meters on the moon’s surface by each team and also be able to fetch high-definition images back to Earth. 

    Team Indus is leaving no stone unturned to achieve its goal as it has managed to rope in investors like Infosys co-founder and former UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani and space experts such as former ISRO chairman K Kasturirangan and many experienced old hands from the Indian space agency. 

  • Sun’s core rotates 4 times faster than solar surface
    According to a new study, the sun’s core is spinning four times as fast as the solar surface. The most likely explanation is that this core rotation is left over from the period when the sun formed, some 4.6 billion years ago 

    Most scientists assumed the sun’s core and surface were rotating at the same speed. While the idea that the core might feature a faster rotational speed had been proffered, scientists couldn’t figure out how to measure such a phenomenon. 

    Scientists were finally able to estimate the rotation of the sun’s core by analyzing acoustic waves in the sun’s atmosphere. For the last 15 years, a team of researchers with NASA and the European Space Agency have been measuring how long it takes for acoustic waves to travel to the sun’s core and back. 

    The observations were made possible by Global Oscillations at Low Frequency instrument, or GOLF, attached to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, the SoHO spacecraft. 

    An acoustic wave’s path to the core and back is influenced by the sloshing motion of gravity waves deep inside the solar interior. 

    In analyzing 15 years worth of GOLF data, researchers were able to use the influence of gravity waves on acoustic waves to estimate how fast the core is spinning. 

    As detailed this week in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, researchers found the sun’s core spinning four times faster than its surface. They also confirmed that the core is much hotter, some 29 million degrees Fahrenheit, or 15.7 million Kelvin. The sun’s surface is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 5,800 Kelvin. 

    The discrepancy between the sun’s core and surface rotational speeds may explain how the star was born and evolved, and it also may explain the behavior or sun spots.
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