(Current Affairs For SSC Exams) Sci & Tech, : Feb. 2013

Science & Technology

February 2013

CHAMP Missile tested successfully

Boeing, the US aircraft manufacturer claimed that a new missile codenamed CHAMP has been tested successfully which makes use of the electromagnetic pulses in order to target the buildings can permanently blackout the electronics of the country without causing any harm to people. Boeing claimed that it has successfully tested this weapon on their one-hour flight. During the flight, the missile made all the computers of the military in Utah dead. It is also thought that this missile could possibly break through the caves as well as bunkers which allegedly are hiding the nuclear facilities of Iran. However, it was also warned that in case the missile is acquired by the wrong people, it would knock down the Western cities as well. In the experiment of Boeing, the missile went flying over Utah Test and Training Range, and it discharged electromagnetic pulses on seven targets. Eventually, it shut down all the electronics of the area permanently. Boeing claimed that this test remained highly successful so much that it also disabled the camera recording. CHAMP or Counter - Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project is the first of its kind missile test with the capability of electromagnetic pulse. Boeing Report mentioned that the stealth aircraft deployed the missile which emitted radio waves from the undercarriage and knocked down the computers in the building below the missile. Experts believed that this missile was equipped with the electromagnetic pulse cannon that make use of the powerful microwave oven for generation of concentrated beam of energy, resulting in voltage fluctuations in the electronic equipment, rendering them absolutely futile before the fluctuation protectors can react. The programme manager of CHAMP for Boeing’s prototype arm Phantom Works opined that this technology would mark an era in the modern welfare.

NASA to send New Rover to Mars in 2020

The US space agency NASA, on 4 December 2012 announced plans to send a new robotic explorer to the the Red Planet, Mars in 2020. The announcement came a day after NASA released the results of the first soil tested by the Curiosity rover, which found traces of compounds like water and oxygen that are necessary for life. Some basic guidelines for the mission are already planned. The 2020 rover is going to help NASA in preparing for its eventual goal of bringing samples from Mars back to Earth — an effort most scientists regard as the best way to look for signs of life on the Red Planet. The unmanned rover’s chassis and landing system will be based heavily on NASA’s 2.5 billion dollar Curiosity rover, which was send on Mars in August 2012. The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars 5 August 2012 and dropped onto the surface by a rocket-powered sky crane. It’s now four months into a two-year prime mission to determine if the Red Planet can, or ever could, support microbial life. The 1-ton rover carries 10 different science instruments to aid this quest. The 2020 Curiosity Rover launch would allow NASA to keep contributing to two European-led Mars missions — the Trace Gas Orbiter and the ExoMars rover which is scheduled to lift off in 2016 and 2018, respectively. NASA also plans to send a craft dubbed InSight to dig the planet’s depths in 2016 to determine whether the planet’s core is solid or liquid like Earth’s. The 2020 mission is just another step toward being responsive to high-priority science goals and challenge of sending humans to Mars orbit in the 2030s.

Mini Nile River on Saturn’s Moon Titan Discovered

Scientists from NASA spotted the longest extra-terrestrial river system ever on Saturn’s moon Titan which appears to be a miniature version of Earth’s Nile River. As per NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the river valley on Titan stretches more than 400 kilometres from its headwaters to a large sea comparing it with the Nile River on Earth which stretches about 6700 kilometres. The finding came into in light after NASA’s Cassini mission sent images which revealed for the first time a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth. Titan is the only body in the solar system apart from earth which is known to have vast seas and possess a cycle of liquids on its surface.

However, the other evident fact is that the thick Titan atmosphere is a frigid where water could not possibly flow. The liquids on Titan are therefore composed of hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane. Images from Cassini’s visible-light cameras in late 2010 in Titan’s equatorial regions revealed the regions to be darkened due to recent rainfall. Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer confirmed liquid ethane at a lake in Titan’s southern hemisphere known as Ontario Lacus in 2008. The radar image taken on 26 September 2012 shows Titan’s north polar region, where the river valley flows into Kraken Mare, a sea that is, in terms of size, between the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea on Earth.


Anti-Ageing Gene Might Suppress Tumours

Researchers of the University of Michigan Health System and Harvard Medical School in the second week of December 2012 showed that anti-ageing genes might be helpful in curtailing the multiplication of cancer. It was shown that the loss of anti-ageing gene can promote the occurrence of tumours in the human beings.

The researchers had shown that the decrease in SIRT6 protein in rats increased the size, aggressiveness as well as number of tumours apart from promotion of tumour growth in the human colon as well as pancreatic cancers. The researchers however admitted that it was difficult to know about the range of genes which can suppress the development of tumours.

In the meanwhile, the research suggested that the SIRT6 might play an important role in stopping cancer as well as controlling the cellular metabolism. Researchers decided to work further in this regard in order to understand how the protein could be helpful in suppressing the development of tumours. In the new research the role of SIRT6 in diminishing the growth of cancer by repressing aerobic glycolysis was highlighted.

Aerobic glycolysis is said to be the primary feature of the cancer cells which involve conversion of the glucose to lactate. SIRT6 is also responsible for inhibiting the activity of major cancer gene called Myc. The research basically indicates the conservation of the biological mechanisms that occur between humans and the lower organisms.

Anti Collision Device for Railways

Hyderabad Based Company, Hyderabad Batteries Limited (HBL) developed a new anti collision safety device which is path breaking technology in ensuring safe travelling and fewer accidents. The device is based on a combination of railway signalling data with radio communications, global position, radio frequency identification devices, software and logic. It was HBL Power Systems which reacted first to the expression of interest floated by the Research, Design and Standards Organisation of the Indian Railways to develop an anti-collision device in August 2008. The system is designed to automatically bring trains to a halt when collision-like situations arise or when the red signal is violated, for whatever reason. In the Month of September 2012, a train collision avoidance system (TCAS), tested in real time on a track near Tandur, in the South Central Railway demonstrated the viability of the system. During the trials, the effectiveness was demonstrated for prevention of head-on collisions, rear-end collisions, over-speeding of trains and disregard for red signal. The new anti collision device had essential features of both automatic train protection and collision prevention in one solution. HBL Power Systems had also developed electronic interlocking system, audio frequency track circuits and train management systems.

Most complex and realistic artificial brain

Software engineers as well as neuroscientists at University of Waterloo, Canada claimed that they have developed a closest model of the functioning human brain, known as Spaun which is advanced enough for passing the basic IQ tests. This is the virtual brain which functions on the supercomputer and comprises of a digital eye, which can be used for visual input. It also has the robotic arm which can be used for drawing the response. The engineers as well as neuroscientists claimed that this was the most complex model of the world of human brain. Spaun or Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network comprises of 2.5 million simulated neurons which enables this brain to perform multiple tasks. The tasks which this artificial brain can perform range from answering the questions to copy drawing as well as fluid reasoning. The tests were conducted in which the engineers and neuroscientists showed various letters as well as numbers, which were read in the memory by Spaun. Later, the other symbol or letter behaved like the command which tells Spaun what needs to be done with the memory.

Quake risk at Japan atomic recycling plant

Japan’s only reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel could sit on an active seismic fault vulnerable to a massive earthquake, experts warned Wednesday (December 19). If regulators agree they will have to order its closure and Japan would be without any recycling capacity of its own, a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity. This would leave it dependent on other countries and with no way to deal with waste from the Fukushima plant crippled by last year’s earthquake and tsunami. Yasutaka Ikeda, assistant professor of geomorphology at Tokyo University, said a nearly 100-kilometre fault runs under the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Japan. “Even though experts’ opinions are divided on whether this fault is active or not, I think the possibility of it being an active fault is extremely high, given the evidence,” Ikeda told AFP. “This fault could cause an 8-magnitude earthquake, so any nuclear-related facilities in the region are in danger,” he said, referring to the Shimokita Peninsula where the Rokkasho plant is located. Mitsuhisa Watanabe, professor of geomorphology at Toyo University, separately told Wednesday’sTokyo Shimbun that part of an active fault runs directly under the Rokkasho plant, warning it is likely to move when the bigger fault moves. Active faults are those that, amongst other things, have moved within the past 120,000-130,000 years. Under government guidelines atomic installations cannot be sited on a fault if it is still classed as active. The comment came days after government-appointed experts found that a nuclear power plant in the same region may sit atop an active seismic fault. A panel appointed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority said fractures in the earth beneath the Higashidori plant’s compound on the peninsula may be active faults, meaning it may be scrapped. An unfinished nuclear fuel storage facility is also on the peninsula, in addition to the recycling plant and the Higashidori power plant. It is also home to another part-built atomic power plant. Operator Japan Nuclear Fuel said last month it would conduct more research on the fault, but a spokesman said the purpose is to back up its claim that the seismic fault is not active.

Spaceplane Successfully Completed Flight Test

The spaceplane constructed by Richard Branson’s spaceflight company called Virgin Galactic successfully completed the important flight test which would be able to carry the people to space. SpaceShipTwo, the spaceplane was piloted to soft runway touchdown after high-altitude release from White Knight Two mothership, which eventually enabled it to score successful test drop. It additionally also checked off various milestones at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. George Whitesides, CEO and president of Virgin Galactic declared that the test flight made them closer to first powered flight. The spaceplane called SpaceShipTwo is the hybrid motor-powered plane which is designed for carrying six passengers as well as two pilots. The spaceplane would carry these passengers to edge of the space without completing the full orbit of Earth. The price of spaceplane per seat is 200000 dollar. Commercial operations would be carried out in America at New Mexico’s Spaceport.

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