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Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Feb 16, 2021

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List of Today’s Factly Articles

  1. “Giant Leatherback Turtle” nesting sites threatened by Andamans development project
  2. DST announce liberalization of “Geospatial data and Mapping” Policy
  3. What is a “Placebo”, how is it used in Medical trials?
  4. Significance of “Nanophotonics”
  5. Scientists map detailed “genome of malaria vector mosquito”
  6. List of “Indian diaspora members” holding key positions globally
  7. What are “novel Open Reading Frames(nORFs)”?

Giant Leatherback Turtle” nesting sites threatened by Andamans development project

What is the News?
In the Andaman and Nicobar(A&N) Islands tourism and port development projects are under the proposal. However, it is threatening some of the most important nesting populations of the “Giant Leatherback turtle”.

Giant Leatherback turtle

  • Giant Leatherback turtles are named for their shell. Their shells are leather-like rather than hard, like other turtles.
  • They are the largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging.
  • Found in: They are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • India’s Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I

Characteristics:

  • Nesting: In the Indian Ocean, their nesting sites are only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
    • Further, the surveys conducted in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are of the view that it could be among the most important colonies of the Leatherback globally.
  • Uniqueness: Leatherbacks have been viewed as unique among extant reptiles. They are able to maintain high body temperatures using metabolically generated heat.
  • Swimming Pattern: A project was set up at West Bay in A&N islands to monitor the leatherback turtle. It has been found that the numbers of females turtle nesting here are significant. After that, they swim towards the western coast of Australia and southwest towards the eastern coast of Africa.

Concerns:

  • Nesting Beaches under Threat: At least three key nesting beaches are under threat due to mega-development plans. Two of these are on Little Andaman Island and one on Great Nicobar Island.
    • NITI Aayog has set an ambitious tourism vision for Little Andaman. It also proposed a mega-shipment port at Galathea Bay on Great Nicobar Island.
  • Tourism in Little Andaman: For the implementation of this plan, NITI Aayog has sought the de-reservation of over 200 sq km of pristine rainforest. And about 140 sq km of the Onge Tribal Reserve. These two sites are key nesting sites.

National Marine Turtle Action Plan:

  • Released by: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • The plan notes that India has identified all its important sea turtle nesting habitats as ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’ and included them in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – 1.
  • South Bay and West Bay on Little Andaman and Galathea on Great Nicobar find a specific mention as “Important Marine Turtle Habitats in India”.
  • The plan also identifies coastal development, including construction of ports, jetties, resorts and industries, as major threats to turtle populations. It also asks for assessments of the environmental impact of marine and coastal development that may affect marine turtle populations and their habitats.

Source: The Hindu


DST announce liberalization of “Geospatial data and Mapping” Policy

What is the News?

Department of Science and Technology(DST) announced liberalised guidelines for geo-spatial data. It deregulates access to its geospatial data and services including maps for all Indian entities.

What is Geo-Spatial data?

  • Geospatial data (also known as “spatial data”) represents data-linked to features or objects on the Earth’s surface. Objects can be man-made or natural on the globe.
  • The geospatial data can be static, like the location of a road, an earthquake event, malnutrition among children, or dynamic like a moving vehicle or pedestrian, the spread of an infectious disease.
  • The data combines location information, attribute information (the characteristics of the object, event, or phenomena concerned). Other than that, it also includes temporal information or the time of the location or attributes captured.
  • The application of Geospatial data in our daily lives is increasing. For example, food delivery apps like Swiggy or Zomato, e-commerce app like Amazon, Weather apps, etc., are dependent on Geospatial data.

What are the new Guidelines?

  • Geospatial data will now be freely available in India, specifically for Indian companies. They will no longer be subject to restrictions or prior approvals to collect, generate, prepare, store, publish, update digital geospatial data and maps within the territory of India.
  • Restrictions: The policy restricts the use of terrestrial mapping and surveys to only Indian entities—both public and private. The data generated also needs to be owned and stored in India. Further, high-resolution data—finer than 1 m horizontally and 3 m vertically—will still remain restricted.
  • With this policy, Indian companies will be able to set up location services like Google Map in India.

Present Policy on Geospatial Data:

  • There are strict restrictions on the collection, storage, use, dissemination of geo-spatial data and mapping. It is due to internal as well as external security concerns.
  • Individuals and private companies are required to seek approval, for use of mapping data under the Geospatial Information Regulation Act,2016.

Source: The Hindu


What is a “Placebo”, how is it used in Medical trials?

What is the News?

Indian drug regulator approved Serum Institute to conduct a phase-2/3 trial of CovoVax COVID-19 vaccine that was originally developed by Novavax Inc. In this case, the regulator allowed the vaccine manufacturer to use a placebo in the control group.

What is a Placebo?

  • It is a substance or treatment which is designed to have no therapeutic value. All placebos have one common feature, that they do not contain an active substance meant to affect health.
  • Common placebos include inert tablets (like sugar pills), inert injections (like saline), sham surgery, and other procedures.

How Are Placebos Used?

  • Researchers use placebos during research. It helps them understand the effect, a new drug or some other treatment might have on a person with a particular condition.
  • For instance, some people in a study might be given a new drug to lower cholesterol. Others would get a placebo. None of the people in the study will know if they got the real treatment or the placebo.
  • Researchers then compare the effects of the drug and the placebo on the people under the study. That way, they can determine the effectiveness of the new drug and check for its side effects.

What is the Placebo effect?

  • Sometimes a person can respond to a placebo. The response can be positive or negative. For instance, the person’s symptoms may improve. Or the person may have what appears to be side effects from the treatment. These responses are known as the “placebo effect”.

Source: The Hindu


Significance of “Nanophotonics”

What is the News?

Researchers from the University of Hyderabad have developed a technique named “mechanophotonics”. It has allowed them to move, slice, bend, and lift micron-sized wave guiding crystals using atomic force microscopy.

Significance of Research: This ability to manipulate micron-sized crystals with precision and control is very useful in the field of nanophotonics. It focuses on building circuits, driven entirely by photons (light).

What is Nanophotonics or nano-optics?

  • It is the study of the behavior of light on the nanometer scale and the interaction of nanometer-scale objects with light. It is a branch of optics, optical engineering, electrical engineering, and nanotechnology.
    • Nanometer: It is equal to one billionth of a meter. One nanometre can be expressed in scientific notation as 1×10−9 m.

Applications of Nanophotonics:

Solar cells:

  • Solar Cells often work best when the light is absorbed very close to the surface. It is because electrons near the surface have a better chance of being collected. Moreover, the device can be made thinner, which reduces cost. Researchers have investigated a variety of nanophotonic techniques to intensify light in the optimal locations within a solar cell.

Optical Technology

  • Nano-Photonics can help achieve an unprecedented level of miniaturization. It is useful for all-optical-based technologies such as pliable, wearable devices. These are operated by light entirely.

Integrated Circuits(IC)

  • Nanophotonics would make it possible to go beyond current electronics. It will build up integrated-circuits driven entirely by photons(light).

Spectroscopy

  • If a given amount of light energy is squeezed into a smaller and smaller volume (“hot-spot”), the intensity in the hot-spot gets larger and larger. This is especially helpful in nonlinear optics, an example is surface-enhanced Raman scattering.

Source: The Hindu


Scientists map detailed “genome of malaria vector mosquito”

What is the News?
Scientists have unveiled the detailed genome of the Asian malaria vector mosquito Anopheles stephensi.

Click Here to Read about Malaria

Who conducted the research?

  • The research was conducted by the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS) and Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology both in Bengaluru.

What was the need for the research?

  • There is a need for intricate knowledge of the genomes of vector mosquitoes. It will be helpful in order to find an advanced form of defence against malaria transmission including targeted CRISPR and gene drive-based strategies.
    • CRISPR technology: It is a gene-editing tool. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.

Key Finding of the research:

  • It unearthed more than 3,000 genes of the Anopheles stephensi genome that previously evaded scrutiny.
  • These newly discovered genes play key roles in the metabolism of ingested blood meal, reproduction, and immunity against microbial parasites.

Significance of this research:

  • This detailed genome of the malaria mosquito vector is vital for the development of genetic control strategies of disease transmission, It would help malaria biologists in India and the rest of the world towards the goal of malaria elimination.
  • The newly discovered genes can also help address the issue of growing insecticide-resistant mutations in Asian and African An. stephensi populations.

National Framework for Malaria Elimination(NFME) 2016-2030

  • The framework has been developed with a vision to eliminate malaria from the country. It will contribute to improved health and quality of life and alleviation of poverty by 2030.
  • Goals:
    • Eliminate malaria (zero indigenous cases) throughout the entire country by 2030; and
    • Maintain malaria–free status in areas where malaria transmission has been interrupted and prevent re-introduction of malaria.

Source: The Hindu


List of “Indian diaspora members” holding key positions globally

What is the News?

Indiaspora, a US-based organisation released the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List. The list includes Indian origin persons occupying the highest positions globally.

About the Indiaspora Government Leaders List:

  • The list recognizes more than 200 persons of Indian origin. It includes persons, occupied leadership positions in as many as 15 countries. More than 60 of these leaders are holding Cabinet positions.
  • It includes diplomats, legislators, senior civil servants from countries with significant histories of Indian diaspora migration. Countries include Australia, Canada, Singapore, South Africa, UAE, UK, and the US.
  • These persons were part of their country’s first wave of immigration. Other PIOs serving in their governments are part of subsequent waves of diaspora.
  • Significance: These leaders in the list collectively represent the population of more than 587 million. Their countries account for an estimated USD 28 trillion in GDP demonstrating the impact that these leaders are having globally.

Source: Indian Express


What are “novel Open Reading Frames(nORFs)”? 

What is the News?

The University of Cambridge has found out new genes emerging in the genome of living organisms. They have called them novel Open Reading Frames or as nORFs.

Human Genome Project:

  • Human Genome Project(HGP) was an international, collaborative research program conducted from 1990 to 2003. The main goal was to completely map and understand all the genes of human beings.
  • Apart from that it also strengthened the study of human diseases and aided new drug discovery.
  • But even after the research, the number of ‘known’ genes has remained constant for two decades.
  • Hence, a team from the University of Cambridge has set out to find whether new genes emerge in the genome of living organisms and if they do, how they do so.

About the research:

Novel Regions:

  • These novel regions were explored and cannot be defined by our current ‘definition’ of a gene. Hence, these novel regions are called novel Open Reading Frames or as nORFs.
  • These regions are also broadly involved in diseases. They were seen as dysregulated (poor ability to manage) in 22 cancer types.
    • Dysregulated means that they could either be mutated, upregulated, or downregulated or could be uniquely present.
  • Further, these regions can form structures. They can undergo biochemical regulation like known proteins. They can also be targeted by drugs in case they are disrupted in diseases.

Significance of the research:

  • This research shows that there is an urgent need to redesign our existing drugs. Because they currently target only the known proteins and not target the novel regions.

Source: The Hindu

 

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