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January 2018 Science and Technology

  • Germany scientists develops ultra thin electronic skin tattoosScientists in Germany have developed ultra thin electronic skin tattoos that can help control virtual and physical objects with mere hand gestures. The polymer foil having sensors is extremely thin and almost invisible. It sticks to the palm of the hand like a second skin. 

    These sensors will enable people to manipulate everyday objects. It will also help control appliances both in the physical world and in augmented or virtual reality with mere gestures similar to how we use a Smartphone now. 
  • Centre launches schemes for young scientistsThe government announced on 23rd January four schemes for bright young scientists, including one that allows them to spend up to one year in a research lab abroad to hone their skills. 

    Announcing the programmes, Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan said this was an attempt to reward talented young scientists so that they sustain their interest in science. Researchers aged up to 45 years are eligible. 

    The schemes, instituted by the Science Engineering Research Board (SERB) of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), are expected to come into force on February 1. 

    Among them is overseas doctoral fellowship programme which would help doctoral students registered in Indian universities to spend six to 12 months in foreign universities and other institutions of repute with whom there is research collaboration. Each selected doctoral student would be given a fellowship of $2,000 a month for the period spent in the foreign lab, apart from travel expenses. The maximum number of students supported under the scheme is 100 a year. 

    Another scheme, called Teacher Associateship for Research Excellence (TARE), is aimed at young faculty members working in a regular capacity in State universities and colleges and in private academic institutions, who have an orientation for research. 

    They will get a chance to carry out research in public-funded institutions such as IITs, IISERs, and other national research laboratories in their free time for a maximum period of three years. 

    The selected scholars will be given an annual research fellowship of Rs. 60,000. Besides, there is a research grant of Rs. 5 lakh a year, which will be shared equally by the host and parent institutions of the scholar. The plan is to offer 500 such fellowships every year. 

    The most prestigious one among the new schemes is a distinguished investigator award for a maximum of 35 brilliant young scientists who have excelled as principal investigators in research projects funded by SERB or DST. Those recognised under the scheme will get an additional sum of Rs. 15,000 as monthly fellowship and an optional research grant for a period of three years. 

    The fourth one is meant for augmenting writing skills of Indian research scholars. Ph D students and post-doctoral fellows will be encouraged to write at least one popular science article based on their research work and the best 100 entries by doctoral students and 20 by post-doctoral fellows will be rewarded with a cash prize of Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 20,000 respectively. The best three articles by doctoral students and one by a post-doctoral fellow will be given further cash prizes up to Rs. 1 lakh, the minister said. 
  • India successfully test-fires indigenously developed Agni-5 ballistic missileIndia successfully test-fired indigenously developed long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Agni-5, off the Odisha coast on 18th January. The state-of-the-art missile, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO, was test fired successfully from the Abdul Kalam Wheeler Island at 9:54 AM. 

    The three-stage solid propellant Agni-5 missile has a strike range of over 5,000 kilometres and can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne. The missile covered 4,900 kilometres in 20 minutes in launch. 

    The missile is about 17 metres long, 2 metres wide and has a launch weight of around 50 tonnes. The present test is the fifth developmental trial of the long-range missile, carried out by the Strategic Forces Command of Indian Army to check its operational readiness. Unlike other missiles of Agni series, the latest one ‘Agni-5’ is the most advanced having new technologies incorporated with it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine. 

    The missile can hit most northern parts of China and other parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. Defence sources said after some few more trials, Agni 5 will be inducted into the Services. Once this missile is inducted into Services, India will join the super exclusive club of countries with Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles alongside the US, Russia, China, France and the UK. The last test of the missile was conducted from the same test range on December 26, 2016. 
  • India unveils Pratyush, its fastest supercomputer 
    India on 8th January unveiled Pratyush, an array of computers that can deliver a peak power of 6.8 petaflops. One petaflop is a million billion floating point operations per second and is a reflection of the computing capacity of a system. 

    According to a statement by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pratyush is the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world dedicated to weather and climate research, and follows machines in Japan, USA and the United Kingdom. It will also move an Indian supercomputer from the 300s to the 30s in the Top500 list, a respected international tracker of the world’s fastest supercomputers. 

    The machines will be installed at two government institutes: 4.0 petaflops HPC facility at IITM, Pune; and 2.8 petaflops facility at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast, Noida. 

    Monsoon forecastThe government had sanctioned Rs. 400 crore last year to put in place a 10-petaflop machine. A key function of the machine’s computing power would be monsoon forecasting using a dynamical model. This requires simulating the weather for a given month — say March — and letting a custom-built model calculate how the actual weather will play out over June, July, August and September. 

    With the new system, it would be possible to map regions in India at a resolution of 3 km and the globe at 12 km. 
  • ISRO launches Cartosat 2 Series satellite along with 30 othersIndia on 12th January successfully launched weather observation satellite Cartosat 2 Series and 29 other spacecraft onboard its dependable Polar rocket from Sriharikota

    The Cartosat 2 Series satellite, the seventh in the series, a nano satellite and 28 commercial payloads were successfully injected into the orbit one by one by the PSLV C-40, in the space of about 17.33 minutes since lift-off. 

    ISRO's Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network took control of the Cartosat 2 Series satellite in space. International customer satellites are three micro and 25 nano-satellites from six countries -- Canada, Finland, France, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
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