Facts in News

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    Facts in News

    Enceladus

    A recently published paper has concluded that there may be unknown methane-producing processes on Enceladus (6th largest moon of Saturn).

    • NASA’s Cassini spacecraft detected an unusually high concentration of methane, along with carbon dioxide and dihydrogen, in Saturn’s moons by flying through their plumes.
    • New statistical methods are being used to understand if methanogenesis (methane production by microbes) could explain the molecular hydrogen and methane on Enceladus.
      • The models combined geochemistry and microbial ecology to decode what possible processes could explain these observations.
      • Microorganisms called methanogens are capable of generating methane as a metabolic byproduct and do not require oxygen to live.
        • They are known to survive in high temperatures (even on Mars too).
        • They have been widely studied to understand if they can be a contributor to global warming.
    • Other Methane Producing Processes on Enceladus
      • It could be formed by the chemical breakdown of organic matter present in Enceladus’ core. 
      • Hydrothermal processes could help the formation of carbon dioxide and methane.
    • Methane Production on Earth
      • Most of the methane on Earth has a biological origin by methanogens, which are found in swamps, dead organic matter and even in the human gut.
      • On Earth, hydrothermal vents on seafloors are known to release methane, but this happens at a very slow rate.
    • Significance
      • The results of statistical methods suggest that methane production from hydrothermal vents is not sufficient to explain the high methane concentration detected by Cassini in the plumes.
      • An additional amount of methane produced via biological methanogenesis could match Cassini’s observations.
      • Scientists want to understand how likely it would be that Enceladus’ hydrothermal vents could be habitable to Earth-like microorganisms and looking for them would require extremely challenging deep-dive missions that are not in sight for several decades.

    (Image Courtesy: NASA)

    Zika Virus

    Recently, Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram has reported Zika virus cases and the collected samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

    • The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection.
      • It is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus).
      • Aedes mosquitoes are the same that transmit dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
    • It was first identified in 1947 in Zika Forest, Uganda from where it derives its name.
    • Symptoms
      • Mild symptoms with fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. 
      • The incubation period of Zika virus disease is estimated to be 3–14 days and the symptoms typically last for 2–7 days.
      • Most people with Zika virus infection do not develop symptoms, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
    • Treatment
      • There is no specific medicine or vaccine for it.
    • Concerns
      • It can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus and can cause infants to be born with microcephaly and other congenital malformations.
        • Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age.
      • It is also associated with other complications of pregnancy including preterm birth and miscarriage.
      • Infected individuals can also transmit it to their sex partners.
      • It can also lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a form of temporary paralysis in adults, that has links to other neurological complications.

    Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

    Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has held that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should not allow itself to be “subverted” by Pakistan, trying to prompt it to interfere in India’s internal affairs.

    • It is the world’s second largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations.
    • Objective: To safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.
    • 57 nations enjoy the membership which is reserved for Muslim-majority countries.
      • Russia, Thailand, and a couple of other small countries have Observer status.
      • In 2019, India made its maiden appearance at the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting, as a “guest of honour”.
    • It was established upon a decision of the historical summit which took place in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco on 12th Rajab 1389 Hijra (25th September 1969) following the criminal arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.
    • The new programme OIC-2025 is anchored in the provisions of the OIC Charter and focuses on 18 priority areas with 107 goals like peace and security, poverty alleviation, climate change and sustainability, etc.

    (Image Courtesy: MOW)

    Council of Ministers

    Recently, the Union Council of Ministers has been reconstituted, guided by both political and administrative considerations.

    • Article 74 of the Indian Constitution deals with the status of the Council of Ministers (CoM).
      • The Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as head provides aid and advice to the President in the exercise of his functions.
      • The President may ask the CoM to reconsider such advice, but he/she has to act in accordance with the advice tendered after such consideration.
      • The advice tendered by ministers to the President cannot be inquired into any Court.
    • Article 75 of the Constitution deals with the appointment, tenure, responsibility, qualification, oath and salaries and allowances of the Ministers.
      • It states that the total number of ministers including the Prime Minister in the Council of Ministers should not exceed 15 per cent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha.
      • This provision was added by the 91st Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003.
      • The ministers hold office during the pleasure of the President.
      • The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.

    Emvolio

    Recently, the startup Blackfrog Technologies has developed Emvolio, a refrigeration device.

    • Emvolio is a portable, battery-powered medical-grade refrigeration device.
    • It has a 2-litre capacity, enabling it to carry 30-50 vials.
    • Features: Continuous temperature monitoring, location tracking, state-of-charge indication, communication with headquarters via live-tracking and vital statistics for improved coverage.
    • Significance
      • Can store vials sufficient for a daylong immunisation campaign.
      • Improves the efficiency of the immunization by strictly maintaining preset temperature for up to 12 hours.
      • Enables the safe and efficient transportation of vaccines to the last mile.
    • Blackfrog Technologies Startup
      • It is an ISO-13485 certified manufacturer of medical devices.
      • It is supported by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT)-Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).
      • Grants:
        • BIRAC under SEED fund.
        • BIG for development of proof-of-concept.
        • BIPP for developing end-to-end vaccine traceability systems.
        • Supported through BioNEST incubators.
    • Department of Biotechnology
      • It comes under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
      • Aim: To boost and augment the development of the biotechnology ecosystem in India.
      • It works in and around the fields of agriculture, healthcare, animal sciences, environment and industry.
    • Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council
      • It is a not-for-profit Section 8, Schedule B, Public Sector Enterprise, set up by the DBT.
      • It acts as an Interface Agency to improve and encourage the evolving biotechnology industry to execute strategic research and development activities in context to Nation’s product development needs.