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January 2017 Science and Technology

  • World’s first stable semi-synthetic organism created
    In a breakthrough, scientists have created the first stable semi-synthetic organism, a single-celled bacterium that may play important roles in drug discovery and other applications. 

    Researchers said the work could be used to create new functions for single-celled organisms, they had earlier showed that E coli bacteria could hold a synthetic base pair in their genetic code. However, they could not keep the base pair in their code indefinitely as they divided. 

    The X and Y base pair was dropped over time, limiting the ways the organism could use the additional information possessed in their DNA. They optimized a tool called a nucleotide transporter, which brings the materials necessary for the unnatural base pair to be copied across the cell membrane. The researchers discovered a modification to the transporter that that made it much easier for the organism to grow and divide while holding on to X and Y. 

    Their semi-synthetic organism was thus able to keep X and Y in its genome after dividing 60 times, leading the researchers to believe it can hold on to the base pair indefinitely. The research was published in the journal PNAS. 

  • ET-like’ insect species discovered
    Scientists have discovered a 100-million-year-old insect species with a triangular head and ‘ET-like’ appearance preserved in amber in Myanmar. 

    Its features are so unusual that it has been placed in a new scientific order — an incredibly rare event. There are about one million described species of insects, but every species of insect on Earth has been placed in only 31 existing orders. 

    The small, wingless female insect probably lived in fissures in the bark of trees, looking for mites or fungi to feed on while dinosaurs lumbered nearby. It was tiny, but scary looking. Perhaps most unusual was a triangular head with bulging eyes, with the vertex of the right triangle located at the base of the neck, said Poinar. 

    The insect has been assigned to the newly created order Aethiocarenodea, and the species has been named Aethiocarenus burmanicus, in reference to the Hukawng Valley mines of Myanmar where it was found. Only one other specimen of this insect has been located, also preserved in Burmese amber, Poinar said. Those two specimens, which clearly belong to the same species, now comprise the totality of the order Aethiocarenodea. 

  • ISRO successfully ground-tests Cryogenic Upper Stage engine meant for rocket GSLV-Mark-III
    Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully ground tested the Cryogenic Upper Stage engine meant for the rocket GSLV-Mark-III. In a release, the space agency has said the indigenously developed engine, designated as C25, was tested for duration of 50 seconds in its Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri in southern Tamil Nadu, demonstrating all the stage operations. 

    The performance of the Cryogenic Upper Stage during the test was as predicted. This is the first in a series of two tests. The next one is planned for flight duration of 640 seconds. 

    The national space agency has termed the 50 second test as a significant milestone in the development of indigenous cryogenic propulsion technology. The GSLV-Mark-III rocket fitted with the cryogenic upper stage is expected to lift off in the first quarter of this year, carrying a 4-tonne class communication satellite. 

  • World's lightest watch created using grapheme
    Scientists have developed the world's lightest high-performance mechanical watch made using the 'wonder material' graphene and weighing just 40 grammes. The RM 50-03 watch was made using a unique composite incorporating graphene to manufacture a strong but lightweight new case to house the delicate watch mechanism. 

    The graphene composite known as Graph TPT weighs less than previous similar materials used in watchmaking. Graphene is the world's first two-dimensional material at just one-atom thick. It was first isolated in 2004 and has the potential to revolutionise a large number of applications including high-performance composites for the automotive and aerospace industries, as well as flexible, bendable mobile phones and tablets and next-generation energy storage. 

    The strap of the new watch, developed by the University of Manchester in the UK in collaboration with watchmaking brand Richard Mille and McLaren F1, has also been improved by the addition of graphene material. 

  • ISRO realigns orbit of Mangalyaan
    Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation have successfully realigned the orbit of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Mangalyaan on 17th January so that the satellite is not affected by long-duration eclipse, according to ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar. 

  • India's Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope plays key role in rare discovery
    India's Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope, GMRT based at Khodad near Pune and NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope have played an important role in making a rare discovery about the universe.

    For the first time, it has been shown that the central dense cores of certain kinds of special galaxies are the source that high energy particles like electrons need to create relic radio emissions that are seen in clusters of galaxies. This has been an outstanding problem in understanding the physics of galaxy clusters that make up the large-scale structure of the universe.

    Galaxies are often found in large clusters. Many such clusters also contain large sources of radio emission called 'relics', which can be observed easily with telescopes like the GMRT. However, the source that the high energy electrons needed to produce these relics has not been understood so far.

  • China Building World’s Highest Gravitational Wave Telescopes
    China started working to prove the existence of gravitational waves, for this it started work on the world’s highest altitude telescope that can detect them.

    Located 5,250 meters (over 17,200 feet) above sea level in Tibet, the Chinese telescope will be very well-placed to study the primordial phenomenon. The region has clear skies and minimal human activity, making it ideal for observing faint echoes from the earliest days of the universe, soon after the Big Bang.

    The first telescope, code-named, Ngari No. 1, is already under construction, according to Xinhua, which cited Yao Yongqiang, chief researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who added it will be operational by 2021.

    The second phase of construction, called Ngari No. 2, will involve a series of telescopes that will be constructed even higher, at an altitude of about 6,000 meters. No time frame has been given yet for completion of the second phase.

  • ISRO, CNES ink pact on satellite launch
    Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, and French Space agency (CNES) on 9th January signed a partnership agreement in satellite launch technology. The agreement was signed between ISRO Chairman Kiran Kumar and CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall in the presence of visiting French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Marc Ayrault in Bengaluru on 9th January. 

    ISRO is the second partner of CNES, in terms of volume, after NASA. Strengthening the CNES-ISRO partnership will enable France to benefit from the Indian model of streamlining the costs of space programmes.

  • Guided Pinaka successfully test-fired at Chandipur in Odisha
    The Pinaka Rocket converted to a Guided Pinaka was successfully test-fired from Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Odisha, on 11th January. The Pinaka Rocket Mark-II, which evolved from Pinaka Mark-I was equipped with a navigation, guidance and control kit and have been transformed to a Guided Pinaka.

    This conversion has considerably enhanced the range and accuracy of Pinaka. The test-firing has met all mission objectives. The radars, electro-optical and telemetry systems at Chandipur tracked and monitored the vehicle all through the flight-path. The Guided Pinaka is developed jointly by the ARDE Pune, RCI Hyderabad and DRDL Hyderabad. 

  • India successfully test-fires intercontinental ballistic missile Agni-IV
    India on 2nd January successfully test-fired its home-grown long range intercontinental surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-IV from the Abdul Kalam Wheeler Island off Odisha coast at 11:50 hrs on 2nd January. Agni-IV test is aimed at revalidating new technologies incorporated in Agni-IV system and checking the readiness of armed forces to launch the missile on its own. 

    Agni-IV is a two-stage, surface-to-surface missile that is 20 metres long and weighs 17 tonnes. It can carry a one-tonne nuclear warhead over a distance of 4,000 kilometre. 

  • New web tool to makes CRISPR-methodology easier
    Scientists, including those of Indian origin, have created web-based software which can facilitate use of CRISPR methodology, allowing researchers to gain insights in to the cause of diseases and give suggestions on how they can be treated. 

    CRISPR (Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is a research method that can be used to rapidly study how different portions of the DNA directly affect cells. The new software called Green Listed, developed by researchers including Sudeepta Kumar Panda and Sanjay V Boddul from Karolinska Institute simplifies work with the CRISPR-methodology. 

  • Science must meet rising aspirations of people: PM Modi
    Inaugurating the 104th Indian Science Congress at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, P.M. Modi said, his government is committed to supporting different streams of scientific knowledge. He said, India will be among the top three countries in science and technology by 2030. 

    He said, science must meet the rising aspirations of the people, and infrastructure and social welfare ministries must make use of it. The Prime Minister said, India's best scientific institutions should strengthen basic research in line with global practices. 

    The Prime Minister said, seeding the power of ideas and innovation in school children will broaden the base of innovation pyramid and secure the future of the nation. Mr. Modi paid rich tributes to the distinguished scientist Dr. MGK Menon who passed away recent times for his yeomen services to the nation. 

    He said, some of the important challenges to mankind are in having clean water and environment which are going to pose several challenges in the days to come. The theme of the event is, 'Science and Technology for National Development'. 

  • Scientists in Ireland discover a new human organ in digestive system
    Scientists have discovered what they are calling a new human organ that exists in the digestive system. Named the mesentery, the organ was previously thought to consist of fragmented and disparate structures. 

    Researchers found that it is one continuous organ and outlined evidence to classify it as such in a review published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology. J. Calvin Coffey, a researcher Ireland, made the discovery. Researchers hope that the reclassification will aid better understanding and treatment of abdominal and digestive diseases. 

  • Earth-like snow, ice features found on Pluto
    Scientists have found evidence of Earth-like snow and ice features on Pluto, using a model similar to what meteorologists use to forecast weather on our planet and a computer simulation of the physics of evaporating ices. 

    “Penitentes” which are formed by erosion, are bowl-shaped depressions with spires around the edge, and are several metres high. 

    The research done in collaboration with researchers at NASA and Johns Hopkins University indicates that these icy features may exist on other planets where environmental conditions are similar. 

  • China successfully launched new-generation telecommunications satellite
    China has successfully launched a new-generation telecommunications satellite, the country’s Defense Ministry has announced. The launch was carried out on 5th January from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center using the Chang Zheng 3B carrier rocket. The second Tongxin Jishu Shiyan satellite will help test multi-frequency high-speed data transmission. China plans to carry out about 30 space launches in 2017. 

  • India successfully test fires Agni-V
    India test-fired its longest range indigenously developed surface-to-surface nuclear ballistic missile 'Agni-5' from the Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha on 26th December. The missile is capable of striking a target more than 5,000 km away. It is about 17-metres long, 2-metres wide and has a launch weight of around 50 tonnes. The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne. 

  • Telangana and CCMB sign MoU on age validation of bones
    Telangana government has begun its quest to validate the age-old history of the State by handing over small samples of bone fragments from various historical sites. 

    Officials of Department of Archaeology and Museums on 29th December signed a memorandum of understanding with city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Pune-based Deccan College to give scientific traction to historical research. 

    The research would help the State detect the health of people, their diet, and even their links to modern human beings. The college would train people about how to carry out site research and use the findings, said Vasant Shinde of Deccan College. The college is expected to lend anthropological help for the research.

  • Guided Pinaka Rocket Successfully Test Fired From Odishas Chandipur 
The guided Pinaka rocket was successfully test-fired on 24th January for the second time from launch complex-III of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) launch pad at Chandipu. The test was conducted at 12:45 pm and Pinaka rocket mark-II, equipped with navigation, guidance and control kit, was transformed into a "guided Pinaka". The conversion facilitated range enhancement and improvement in Pinaka's accuracy. 

The guided version of Pinaka has been developed jointly by Armament Research and Development Establishment, Pune, and Hyderabad-based Research Centre Imarat and Defence Research and Development Laboratory. Chandipur ITR provided the range and launch support. 


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