Science & Technology - 2018 AUGUST

August 2

Made in India interceptor missile shoots down one from multiple simulated targets
In a major breakthrough for Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), made in India interceptor missile capable of killing incoming enemy missiles in endo atmospheric region at low altitude shot down a target from multiple simulated targets.
For the first time the missile was fired against multiple targets simulated electronically by the mission team comprising officials from the Indian Army. The missile attacked one after choosing it from a bunch of targets.
The supersonic ballistic interceptor missile dubbed as Advance Air Defence (AAD) was fight tested from Abdul Kalam Island, a part of Integrated Test Range (ITR) off Odisha coast.
Long range radar and multi-function fire control radar located far away successfully detected the missile from take-off and tracked it through its entire path. The total trajectory of the incoming missile was continuously estimated by the guidance computer and subsequently the AAD missile was launched at an appropriate time to counter and kill the target missile.
The Fibre Optic Gyro (FOG) based INS in interceptor, on-board computers, guidance systems, actuation systems and the critical Radio Frequency (RF) seekers used for the terminal phase have also performed excellently.

Ranchi man develops humanoid robot Rashmi, Indian version of ‘Sophia’
Ranchi man Ranjit Srivastava 38, has developed Indian version of ‘Sophia,’ a social humanoid robot developed by a Hong Kong based company, named Rashmi which can speak Hindi, Bhojpuri and Marathi along with English.
The developer claimed it as world’s first Hindi speaking realistic humanoid robot and India’s first lip-synching robot. Rashmi uses linguistic interpretation (LI), artificial intelligence (AI), visual data and facial recognition systems.
A master of business administration (MBA), Srivastava, who has expertise in software development of more than 15 years, has developed the speaking robot in two years at a meager cost of Rs 50,000.

August 4

NASA names Sunita Williams, 8 others, for first space flights on commercial spacecraft
Indian-origin U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA who will fly the first missions into space on commercially provided rockets and capsules, starting next year.
After years of vehicle development and building anticipation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has now put the crew in commercial crew spacecraft.
The space agency announced that the nine astronauts will launch on the first crewed test flights and missions of new commercial spacecraft built and operated by The Boeing Company and SpaceX.
The eight active NASA astronauts and one former astronaut-turned-corporate crew member will launch on Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragoncapsules to the International Space Station beginning in 2019.

August 5

Chinese scientists have created the first single-chromosome yeast
Chinese scientists claimed to have created the first single-chromosome yeast while not affecting the majority of its functions, a breakthrough that could help in furthering research related to aging and diseases in humans.
Brewer's yeast, one-third of whose genome is said to share ancestry with humans, has 16 chromosomes. However, Chinese scientists have managed to fit nearly all its genetic material into just one chromosome while not affecting the majority of its functions, according to a paper released yesterday on the website of the journal Nature.
Qin Zhongjun, a molecular biologist at the Centre for Excellence in Molecular Plant Sciences of the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his team used CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing to create a single-chromosome yeast strain. Yeast is a type of eukaryote, which also includes humans, plants, and animals. Humans have 46 chromosomes, whereas male jack jumper ants have just one. It seems that the number of chromosomes of a eukaryote has no correlation with the amount of genetic information they possess.

August 6

ISRO to launch its heaviest satellite GSAT-11 on November 30
Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) heaviest satellite so far - the GSAT-11 (weighing over 5.7 tonnes i.e., 5,700 kg) - which the space agency had cleared for launch in June, will take off a spaceport in French Guiana.
GSAT-11 carries 40 transponders in the Ku-band and the Ka-band frequencies, and is capable of providing high bandwidth connectivity with up to 14 GB per second data transfer speed.

August 12

World’s first mission to touch the Sun lifts off: NASA
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, mankind’s first mission to ‘touch’ the Sun, has been launched on a seven-year long journey to unlock the mysteries of our star’s fiery outer atmosphere and its effects on space weather.
Liftoff took place from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the US early.
The launch of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the spacecraft was scrubbed yesterday due to a violation of a launch limit, resulting in a hold.
The car-sized spacecraft will travel directly into the Sun’s atmosphere, about four million miles from its surface - and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before, thanks to its innovative Thermal Protection System. The USD 1.5 billion mission will perform the closest-ever observations of a star when it travels through the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona.
It will make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission. The mission will rely on measurements and imaging to revolutionise our understanding of the corona and how processes there ultimately affect near-Earth space.

India’s second lunar mission to land on moon with lander, rover: ISRO
India will launch its second lunar mission on January 3 next year which will land on the moon with a lander and rover.
The Rs 800-crore lunar mission named ''Chandrayaan-2'' comes over a decade after India went up to the lunar orbit on November 8, 2008 after the ''Chandrayaan-1'' launch on October 22 onboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket from the spaceport in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
The 3,890-kg Chandrayaan-2, which will be launched onboard the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-3, will orbit around the moon and study its lunar conditions to collect data on its topography, mineralogy and exosphere.
A lander with rover which will separate from the spacecraft will orbit the moon, and then gradually descend on the lunar surface at a designated spot. The rover’s instruments will observe and study the lunar surface.
The lander has been named “Vikram” as a tribute to the pioneer of India’s space programme and former ISRO chairman (1963-71), Vikram Sarabhai.
This is the first time India will have a rover landing on the moon nearly 50 years after American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the eerie lunar surface in 1969.
The Indian space agency, which was eyeing at the second lunar mission this year, has had to make design and functional changes to Chandrayaan-2, causing the delay and pushing the mission to January next year. For its Chandrayaan-1, ISRO had carried a moon impact probe vehicle to crash land on the surface from the lunar orbit.

August 13

Iran unveils next generation missile
Iran's defence minister unveiled the next generation of Tehran's Fateh Mobin short-range ballistic missile.
Iran's missile programme is a major bone of contention with world powers, particularly the United States, but is seen as vital by Iran to its defensive posture in a troubled region.
President Donald Trump, who pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and world powers, has called for a new agreement that restricts Iran's missile capabilities and regional interventions.

August 16

India-Israel missile defence system to be procured by Israeli Navy
The multi-purpose Barak 8 missile defence system, jointly developed by India and Israel, will be procured by the Israeli Navy to protect its economic zones and strategic facilities from diversified threats and the sales for it have exceeded$5 billion.
The missile system has been jointly developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), India's DRDO, Israel's Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, Elta Systems, Rafael and some other Indian defence companies.
Barak-8 is an operational air and missile defense system used by the Israeli Navy as well as by the Indian Navy and air forces.
Israeli Navy's Sa'ar-6 corvettes will be using the system to protect Israel's exclusive economic zone and strategic facilities which are faced with diversified threats in the marine arena.

August 17

Aditya-L1 is India's first mission to study the Sun
NASA launched its Parker Solar probe in space, in order to study the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona. The $1.5 billion probe will be the closest man-made device to ever reach the Sun in the history of space exploration. Its mission is to mostly study and track solar winds emitted by Corona, which is an aura of plasma that surrounds the Sun. Now, India’s ambitious space agency ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) is also getting ready to launch its very own probe to study the Sun called the Aditya-L1.
The satellite is being targeted to launch sometime between 2019 – 2020. Initially the mission was dubbed as the Aditya-1 and was only said to carry a payload of 400kg, which consisted of the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph. The satellite was planned to be launched in an 800 km low earth orbit. However, the agency then realized that a satellite placed in the halo orbit around the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) of the Sun-Earth system has an advantage of continuously observing the Sun without being affected by any occultation or eclipse.

August 18

International team of scientists including 18 Indian scientists decode complex wheat genome
In a major scientific breakthrough, a team of international researchers, including 18 from India decoded the wheat genome, considered insurmountable so far. The information generated will help to identify genes controlling complex agronomic traits such as yield, grain quality, resistance to diseases and pests, as well as tolerance to drought, heat, water logging and salinity.
The DNA sequence has been ordered and it represents the highest quality genome sequence generated to date for the bread wheat. The reference genome covers 94% (14.5 Gb) of the entire wheat genome. The bread wheat has a complex hexaploid genome which is 40 times larger than that of the rice genome and 5 times larger than the human genome.
The research article– authored by more than 200 scientists from 73 research institutions in 20 countries. A team of 18 Indian scientists co-authoring this paper, led by Dr. Kuldeep Singh at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) Ludhiana, Professor J.P. Khurana at the University of Delhi South Campus, and Professor Nagendra Singh at ICAR-National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, New Delhi, contributed to the decoding of Chromosome 2A of the wheat genome. This project was financially supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.

August 19

New platinum-gold alloy is world's most wear-resistant metal
The world's most wear-resistant metal alloy has been created by US scientists by combining gold and platinum. Till now, nature's most wear-resistant materials had been diamond and sapphire, but the platinum-gold alloy now created is in the same class as these super hard materials.
The platinum-gold alloy is so wear-resistant that if you made tyres out of this material, they would have to skid around Earth's equator 500 times before wearing out the tread.
The platinum-gold alloy is 100 times more durable than high-strength steel.

Guided bombs, anti-tank missile successfully test fired in Rajasthan
Indigenously-developed guided bombs - Smart Anti-Airfield Weapons - and anti-tank guided missile Helina were successfully flight tested at separate firing ranges in Rajasthan.
The Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW) was successfully flight tested from an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft at Chandan range, while the Helina was test fired at Pokhran.
The indigenously-developed helicopter-launched Helina missile has been successfully flight tested from an army chopper in Pokhran firing ranges.

August 20

Researchers develop world's first-ever 4D printing for ceramics
While the world is still trying to digest the concept of 3D printing, researchers have developed the world's first-ever 4D printing for ceramics, which are mechanically robust and can have complex shapes. Ceramic has a high melting point, so it is difficult to use conventional laser printing to make ceramics. The existing 3D-printed ceramic precursors, which are usually difficult to deform, also hinder the production of ceramics with complex shapes.
To overcome these challenges, scientists developed a novel 'ceramic ink', which is a mixture of polymers and ceramic nanoparticles. These flexible and stretchable ceramic precursors allow complex shapes, such as origami folding, to made using proper heat treatment.
4D printing is conventional 3D printing combined with the additional element of time as the fourth dimension, where the printed object can re-shape or self-assemble itself over time with external stimuli, such as mechanical force, temperature, or a magnetic field.

August 21

Chandrayaan-I data confirms presence of ice on Moon
Scientists have found frozen water deposits in the darkest and coldest parts of the Moon’s Polar Regions using data from the Chandrayaan-I spacecraft that was launched by India ten years ago.
With enough ice sitting at the surface - within the top few millimetres - water would possibly be accessible as a resource for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the Moon, and potentially easier to access than the water detected beneath the Moon’s surface.
The ice deposits are patchily distributed and could possibly be ancient, according to the study published in the journal PNAS. At the southern pole, most of the ice is concentrated at lunar craters, while the northern pole’s ice is more widely, but sparsely spread.
Scientists used data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument to identify three specific signatures that definitively prove there is water ice at the surface of the Moon. M3, aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was uniquely equipped to confirm the presence of solid ice on the Moon.

IIT-Hyderabad launches Fabless Chip Design Incubator
Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad announced the launch of Fabless Chip Design Incubator (FabCI), dedicated exclusively to help startups in this sector.
FabCI, said to be the first-of-its-kind in India that focuses on creating an ecosystem for grooming startups in chip design, provides a bouquet of offerings, including free software tools with leading technology partners in Electronic Design Automation (EDA), among other facilities.

New wireless, 'in-body GPS' system can track tumours
Scientists have developed a wireless 'in-body GPS' system that can pinpoint the location of ingestible implants and track tumours inside the body.
In animal tests, the team demonstrated that the system dubbed ReMix can track the implants with centimetre-level accuracy. Similar implants could be used to deliver drugs to specific regions in the body.
To test ReMix, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US first implanted a small marker in animal tissues.

New antibiotic candidate identified in human body
Scientists have found compounds in the human body with potent antimicrobial effects that may lead to the development of new drugs and help leverage mankind's fight against superbugs.
The human body produces many antimicrobial peptides that help the immune system fend off infection. Scientists are hoping to harness these peptides as potential antibiotics.
Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and the University of Naples Federico II in Italy found that fragments of the protein pepsinogen, an enzyme used to digest food in the stomach, can kill bacteria such as Salmonella and E coli.

August 22

'NASA Selfies' and TRAPPIST-1 VR Apps Now Available
The universe is at your fingertips with two new digital products from NASA.
The NASA Selfies app and NASA's Exoplanet Excursions virtual reality app were created to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the launch of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer's incredible discoveries and amazing images are at the center of these new products.
The new NASA Selfies app lets you generate snapshots of yourself in a virtual spacesuit, posing in front of gorgeous cosmic locations, like the Orion Nebula or the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The simple interface means you just snap a photo of yourself, pick your background, and share on social media.
The app also provides information about the science behind these stunning images. There are currently 30 eye-catching images to choose from, all taken by Spitzer. More images from the agency's other science and human spaceflight missions will be added in the future.

Indian-American scientist finds simple way to predict IBD
An Indian-American scientist has identified as many as 50 protein biomarkers that can non-invasively detect inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) - a gut disorder that leads to diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, and weight loss.
Chander Mohan, a professor at University of Houston in the US, received a USD 347,490 grant from the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America.
Along with IBD expert Subra Kugathasan, a gastroenterologist at Emory University in the US, Mohan is examining stool protein biomarkers that indicate the disease.
IBD occurs when the body's immune system fights its intestinal cells. Two of the most common types are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which cause inflammation in the digestive tract.

August 23

European wind survey satellite launched from French Guyana
Europe launched a rocket from French Guyana, to put a satellite into orbit which will track global winds, allowing for improved weather forecasting.
The "Aeolus" satellite - named after the guardian of wind in Greek mythology - will be placed at an altitude of 320 kilometres (200 miles) above the Earth.
It is part of the Copernicus project, a joint initiative of the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA) to track environmental damage and aid disaster relief operations.
Aeolus is equipped with a single instrument: a Doppler wind lidar - an advanced laser system designed to accurately measure global wind patterns from space.

August 24

Lithium-ion batteries that will not catch fire has been developed
Scientists have developed novel lithium-ion batteries with components that harden on impact, preventing them from catching fire and causing injuries to users. Lithium-ion batteries commonly used in consumer electronics are notorious for bursting into flame when damaged or improperly packaged. These incidents occasionally have grave consequences, including burns, house fires and at least one plane crash. Inspired by the property of some liquids that solidify on impact, researchers have developed a practical and inexpensive way to help prevent these fires.
To make these batteries safer, some researchers instead use a nonflammable, solid electrolyte. However, these solid-state batteries require significant retooling of the current production process.

August 26

DBS named world's best bank in nod to its digital innovation
DBS Bank has been named the world's best bank by Global Finance magazine, in a reflection of its ability to invest in digital innovation while still maintaining stable operations for its customers.
DBS is the first Asian bank to receive the accolade from the New York-based publication, which last year gave the title to ING Bank.
Among the more recent innovations that DBS has launched is POSB Smart Buddy, a savings and payments programme where children use smartwatches issued by the bank. Parents can allocate pocket money for their children and track their spending with a mobile app paired with the watch.
While the bank's digital transformation is more visible in customer-facing roles, Mr Gupta noted that its support functions, such as marketing and communications, human resource and audit, are also being innovated.

New technique developed to detect early-stage cancer tumour cells in blood, researchers claim
Researchers at an Australian university have claimed that a "new technique" to detect early-stage cancer tumour cells in the blood using a malaria protein has been developed.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney and the University of Copenhagen jointly worked on the research led by the Australian varsity.
The findings of Heeschen and his team were published recently in the journal 'Nature Communications'.
According to the research, the new method can be used "more broadly to diagnose cancer" as it is not limited by cancer type. It also means all that is needed for a cancer diagnosis is a blood sample.
Heeschen thinks the new technique could be available in the market within two years if a bio-diagnostic company were to take it on.

August 28

Coast Guard offshore patrol vessel launched at L&T Shipyard in Chennai
An indigenously designed Coast Guard offshore patrol vessel (OPV) was launched at L&T Shipyard in Kattupalli.
The OPV is the third of series of the seven offshore patrol vessels under construction by L&T Shipbuilding Ltd against a contract signed between the defence ministry and L&T shipyard.
It is likely to be inducted into Indian Coast Guard completion of extensive trials on fitted equipment and machinery.
The length of the OPVs is 98 metre and breadth is 14.8 metre with gross tonnage of 2100 tonne. The endurance of the vessel is 5000 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 12-14 knots. The cruising speed can be raised to a maximum of 26 knots with 100% propulsion.

Google Tez rebranded as Google Pay; ties up with banks to offer instant loans
Vying for a bigger share in the emerging market of online payments industry, Google during its annual event, Google for India, rebranded its payments app for India Google Tez as Google Pay, and also launched its new features.
The company has announced that users will now be able to avail instant loans using Google Pay app. It has tied up with private lenders like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Federal Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank to offer customised loans, which will involve minimum paperwork. The Google Pay will work with all banks that support BHIM UPI (Unified Payments Interface). To make it a seamless experience, the banks will offer loan services in minimum time and the amount will be disbursed to the account linked with Google Pay.
In addition to this, Google has also decided to revamp the product as a global offering by launching the service in other countries as well.

August 29

Navlekha: Google unveils new platform for Indian publishers
Search engine giant Google has unveiled Project Navlekha to make online content relevant for more Indian users especially in local languages. It was unveiled along with host of upgrades of Google’s other products at fourth ‘Google for India’ event held in New Delhi. India is important market for Google as it is second largest population of internet users in the world. At present, amount of online content in Indian languages is only 1% of what is available in English.
Project Navlekha
Navlekha is word derived from Sanskrit meaning ''a new way to write''. This project aims to bring 135,000 local language publishers online by making web hosting smooth and simple. It will allow local publishers who do not have websites to make their offline content fit for online publishing in less than a minute. It also comprises tool that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to allow publishers to simply scan documents or PDFs and create instant web pages on the platform. No expert digital knowledge is required in the process. Under Navlekha project, Google will help these publishers to receive training and support and a branded page domain for the first three years.

August 30

NASA set to launch Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) to track Earth’s melting ice
NASA is set to launch the most advanced laser instrument of its kind in to the space next month, to measure the changes in the heights of Earth’s polar ice in unprecedented detail.
The Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will measure the average annual elevation change of land ice covering Greenland and Antarctica to within the width of a pencil, capturing 60,000 measurements every second.
The new observational technologies of ICESat-2 - a top recommendation of the scientific community in NASA’s first Earth science decadal survey - will advance our knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise.
ICESat-2 - which is scheduled to be launched represents a major technological leap in our ability to measure changes in ice height. Its Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) measures height by timing how long it takes individual light photons to travel from the spacecraft to Earth and back.
ATLAS will fire 10,000 times each second, sending hundreds of trillions of photons to the ground in six beams of green light. The roundtrip of individual laser photons from ICESat-2 to Earth’s surface and back is timed to the billionth of a second to precisely measure elevation.

India's first manned space mission, Gaganyaan, to send three persons for 5-7 days
India’s first manned space flight - Gaganyaan - will send three humans into space for five to seven days and the spacecraft will be placed in a low earth orbit of 300-400 k m from the earth’s surface.
India’s first human space flight to be launched before its 75th Independence Day could be led by a man or even a woman.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot reveals signs of water: NASA
NASA scientists peering deep inside Jupiter’s Great Red Spot - a storm that has been raging on the planet for over 350 years - have detected signs of water above the planet’s deepest clouds.

The pressure of the water combined with their measurements of another oxygen-bearing gas, carbon monoxide, imply that Jupiter has two to nine times more oxygen than the Sun. The findings, published in the Astronomical Journal, support theoretical and computer-simulation models that have predicted abundant water on Jupiter.
The Great Red Spot is full of dense clouds, which makes it hard for electromagnetic energy to escape and teach astronomers anything about the chemistry within.

New tech can predict fatal heart attacks: Study
A new technology that can flag patients at the risk of deadly heart attacks years in advance has been developed by scientists, including one of Indian origin.
Created by researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK and colleagues, the technology analyses computed tomography (CT) images of the fat surrounding the arteries to detect the inflamed plaques that can cause heart attacks.
It uses a new biomarker, called the Fat Attenuation Index (FAI), which has been tested for the first time in a large study published in The Lancet journal.
Heart attacks are usually caused by inflamed plaques in the coronary artery causing an abrupt blockage of blood getting to the heart.