Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- India – Rupee Trade Settlement Mechanism
- Quantum computing
- RNA Vaccine and Cancer
- Global Water Survey from Space
- Tal Chahpar Sanctuary and Raptor Conservation Programme
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Rupee Trade Settlement Mechanism
Context: India’s rupee trade settlement mechanism, a means of using rupees instead of dollars and other big currencies for international transactions, is attracting interest from more countries.
About the News
- Tajikistan, Cuba, Luxembourg and Sudan have begun talking to India about using the mechanism.
- It has already been used by Russia following the imposition of sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine war.
- India’s central bank has given approval to banks to open 12 vostro for trade in rupees with Russia.
- Mauritius and Sri Lanka have also shown interest, and have seen their special vostro accounts approved by the RBI.
- India continues to discuss denomination of trade in rupees with larger trading partners, including key oil suppliers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
About Rupee Payment Mechanism-
- Authorised Dealer Banks in India had been permitted to open Rupee Vostro Accounts (an account that a correspondent bank holds on behalf of another bank).
- Indian importers undertaking imports via this mechanism will make payment in INR which will be credited into the Special Vostro account of the correspondent bank of the partner country, against the invoices for the supply of goods or services from the overseas seller.
- Indian exporters using the mechanism will be paid the export proceeds in INR from the balances in the designated Special Vostro account of the correspondent bank of the partner country.
- Indian exporters may receive advance payment against exports from overseas importers in Indian rupees through the above Rupee Payment Mechanism.
- Balance in Special Vostro Accounts can be used for: payments for projects and investments, export/ import advance flow management, and investment in Government Treasury Bills, Government securities, etc.
Benefits of this Mechanism
- It will promote growth of global trade and will support the increasing interest of the global trading community in INR.
- Trade with sanctioned countries like Russia and Iran will be facilitated.
- The move would also reduce the risk of forex fluctuation, especially looking at the Euro-Rupee parity.
- Amid ongoing rupee weakness, this mechanism aims at reducing demand for foreign exchange, by promoting rupee settlement of trade flows.
2 . Quantum Computing
Context: Several institutes, companies and governments have invested in developing quantum-computing systems, from software to solve various problems to the electromagnetic and materials science that goes into expanding their hardware capabilities.
About Quantum Physics-
- Quantum physics describes reality at the subatomic scale, where the objects are particles like electrons.
- Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time. Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.
- There are many interpretations of the laws of quantum physics.
- One is the ‘Copenhagen interpretation’, which Erwin Schrödinger popularised using a thought-experiment he devised in 1935.
- There is a cat in a closed box with a bowl of poison. There is no way to know whether the cat is alive or dead without opening the box. In this time, the cat is said to exist in a superposition of two states: alive and dead. When you open the box, you force the superposition to collapse to a single state. The state to which it collapses depends on the probability of each state.
- The other ‘experience’ relevant to quantum-computing is entanglement.
- When two particles are entangled and then separated by an arbitrary distance (even more than 1,000 km), making an observation on one particle, and thus causing its superposition to collapse, will instantaneously cause the superposition of the other particle to collapse as well.
- This phenomenon seems to violate the notion that the speed of light is the universe’s ultimate speed limit.
- That is, the second particle’s superposition will collapse to a single state in less than three hundredths of a second, which is the time light takes to travel 1,000 km.
How would a computer use superposition?
- The bit is the fundamental unit of a classical computer. Its value is 1 if a corresponding transistor is on and 0 if the transistor is off. The transistor can be in one of two states at a time – on or off – so a bit can have one of two values at a time, 0 or 1.
- The qubit is the fundamental unit of a QC. It’s typically a particle like an electron.
- Some information is directly encoded on the qubit: if the spin of an electron is pointing up, it means 1; when the spin is pointing down, it means 0.
- But instead of being either 1 or 0, the information is encoded in a superposition: say, 45% 0 plus 55% 1. This is entirely unlike the two separate states of 0 and 1 and is a third kind of state.
- The qubits are entangled to ensure they work together. If one qubit is probed to reveal its state, so will some of or all the other qubits, depending on the calculation being performed.
- The computer’s final output is the state to which all the qubits have collapsed.
- One qubit can encode two states. Five qubits can encode 32 states. A computer with N qubits can encode 2N states – whereas a computer with N transistors can only encode 2 × N states.
- So a qubit-based computer can access more states than a transistor-based computer, and thus access more computational pathways and solutions to more complex problems.
Challenges in use of Quantum Computing-
- Number of Qubits- A practical QC needs at least 1,000 qubits. The current biggest quantum processor has 433 qubits. There are no theoretical limits on larger processors; the barrier is engineering-related.
- Disturbance in system- Qubits exist in superposition in specific conditions, including very low temperature (~0.01 K), with radiation-shielding and protection against physical shock.
- Even tapping finger on the table results into the states of the qubit sitting on it to collapse.
- Material or electromagnetic defects in the circuitry between qubits could also ‘corrupt’ their states and bias the eventual result.
- Researchers are yet to build QCs that completely eliminate these disturbances in systems with a few dozen qubits.
- Error Correction- Error-correction is also tricky.
- The no-cloning theorem states that it’s impossible to perfectly clone the states of a qubit, which means engineers can’t create a copy of a qubit’s states in a classical system to sidestep the problem.
- One way out is to entangle each qubit with a group of physical qubits that correct errors. A physical qubit is a system that mimics a qubit.
- But reliable error-correction requires each qubit to be attached to thousands of physical qubits.
- Unless the rate of errors is kept under a certain threshold, more qubits will only increase the informational noise.
- Quantum supremacy itself – a QC doing something a classical computer can’t – is thus at least decades away.
3 . Cancer Prevention using mRNA vaccine
Context: The results of a trial of an experimental cancer vaccine built on the mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) platform, made by Moderna and MSD (Merck&Co.), have shown promising results, media announcements claimed. Patients taking an immunotherapy drug Keytruda for advanced melanoma (a kind of skin cancer) were less likely to die or have the cancer recur, if they took the vaccine (mRNA-4157/V940) also, the companies said.
- The personalised cancer vaccine uses the same messenger-RNA technology that was used to produce the COVID vaccine.
- It allows the body’s immune system to seek and destroy cancerous cells, in this case melanoma, but with the hope that it could lead to new ways to fight other types of cancers too.
About the trials-
- It was a small study, involving 157 patients. The vaccine showed a 44% reduction in the risk of dying of cancer or having the cancer progress.
- It’s the first randomised-trial testing of an mRNA therapeutic in cancer patients.
- the combination was generally safe and demonstrated the benefit compared with Keytruda alone after a year of treatment.
- As a personalised cancer vaccine, it is tailor-made for every patient. As a consequence, it is expected to be very expensive to make.
About mRNA Vaccines-
- mRNA vaccines use mRNA to teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
- As far as the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was concerned, the mRNA included in the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines instructs cells to produce a version of the “spike” protein that studs the surface of SARS-CoV-2.
- The immune system sees this spike protein as foreign and mobilises immune cells to produce antibodies to fight off the infection.
- In this case, the personalised cancer vaccine works in concert with Merck’s Keytruda, to disable a protein called programmed death 1, or PD-1, that helps tumours to evade the immune system.
- To build the vaccine, researchers took samples of patients’ tumours and healthy tissue. After analysing the samples to decode their genetic sequence and isolate mutant proteins associated only with the cancer, that information was used to design a tailor-made cancer vaccine.
- When injected into a patient, the patient’s cells act as a manufacturing plant, producing perfect copies of the mutations for the immune system to recognise and destroy.
- Having been exposed to the mutations without the virus, the body learns to fight off the infection.
- The possibility of using mRNA vaccine technology to fight cancer just got a boost. The idea of cancer vaccines has been around for a long time. But mRNA vaccine technology and personalisation of the vaccine that it allows provides a lot of optimism.
Other Newer Cancer Therapies-
- CAR-T cells and bi specific antibodies are among newer cancer therapies.
- In CAR-T treatment, scientists take the immune systems cells out, engineer them to target a specific cancer and then put them back in the body to kill cancer cells.
- In bi-specific, antibodies attach to immune system cells with one arm and cancer cells with the other, thereby bringing powerful immune system killer cells right next to the cancer cells.
4 . Global Water Survey from Space
Context: A NASA-led international satellite was launched from Southern California, on a major Earth science project to conduct a comprehensive survey of the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers for the first time.
About Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT)
- SWOT is an advanced radar satellite jointly developed and operated by NASA and CNES, the French space agency in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and UK Space Agency (UKSA).
- The advanced radar satellite is designed to give an unprecedented view of the life-giving fluid covering 70% of the planet, shedding new light on the mechanics and consequences of climate change.
- One major thrust of the mission is to explore how oceans absorb atmospheric heat and carbon dioxide in a natural process that moderates global temperatures and climate change.
- The satellite incorporates advanced microwave radar technology to collect high-definition measurements of oceans, lakes, reservoirs and rivers over 90% of the globe.
- Its objectives-
- 1) To make the first global survey of the Earth’s surface water
- 2) To observe the fine details of the ocean surface topography and
- 3) To measure how terrestrial surface water bodies change over time.
Importance of the mission
- Enhanced models- The data, compiled from radar sweeps of the planet at least twice every 21 days, will enhance ocean-circulation models, bolster weather and climate forecasts and aid in managing scarce freshwater supplies in drought-stricken regions, according to researchers.
- It is the first mission to observe nearly all water on the planet’s surface.
- The SWOT’s ability to discern smaller surface features will help study the impact of rising ocean levels on coastlines. More precise data along tidal zones would help predict how far storm-surge flooding may penetrate inland.
- Freshwater bodies are another key focus of the SWOT, equipped to observe the entire length of nearly all rivers wider than 330 feet and more than 1 million lakes and reservoirs larger than 15 acres.
5 . Raptor Conservation Programme
Context: The famous Tal Chhapar blackbuck sanctuary in Rajasthan’s Churu district has received a protective cover against a proposed move of the State government to reduce the size of its eco-sensitive zone. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has also taken up a major project for the conservation of raptors in the sanctuary, spread in an area measuring 7.19 sq. Km.
More about the news-
- The Rajasthan High Court has intervened through a suo motu public interest litigation to protect the sanctuary, taking cognisance of reports that its area was going to be reduced to three sq. km. under pressure from mine owners and stone crusher operators.
- The court struck down order renotifying a 2.7-km-long road, forming part of the Nokha-Sikar highway, passing through the sanctuary, and ordered its denotification keeping in view the presence of an alternative road existing adjacent to the protected forest area.
- The court ordered a “complete prohibition” on any action to reduce the wildlife sanctuary’s area.
- The court directed the authorities concerned to complete the formalities for declaration of the eco-sensitive zone surrounding Tal Chhapar at the earliest.
About the sanctuary
- Tal Chhapar Sanctuary is a sanctuary located in the Churu district of Northwestern Rajasthan.
- It is known for blackbucks and is also home to a variety of birds.
- It is a flat saline depression locally known as a “tal” that has a unique ecosystem in the heart of the Thar Desert.
- Tal Chhaper Sanctuary, with almost flat tract and interspersed shallow low-lying areas, has open grassland with scattered Acacia and Prosopis trees which give it an appearance of a typical savanna.
- The forest of this region falls under major group “Tropical Forest” as per classifications of Indian forests by Champion & Seth.
- The sanctuary area is mostly covered by grasses with a very few trees.
- It lies on the passageway of many migratory birds such as harriers. These birds pass through this area during September.
- The sanctuary is host to about 4,000 blackbucks and other wild animals, over 40 species of raptors and more than 300 species of resident and migratory birds.
- The sanctuary earlier had a large population of desert foxes and similar burrowing animals, while the large colonies of the only herbivorous lizard, the spiny-tailed lizard, exist as the prey base for raptors.
- The issues confronting the sanctuary include hyper-aridity, grazing pressure, the invasive weed Prosopis juliflora, and salt mines in the vicinity. The sanctuary’s area is insufficient for its large blackbuck population.
- As Tal Chhapar attracts a large number of raptor species for their habitation, the WWF has started monitoring them to understand their status and distribution in the sanctuary.
Raptor Conservation Programme
- A raptor is a bird of prey. A bird of prey is a carnivore (meat eater) that kills and eats mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, rodents as well as other birds.
- All raptors have a hooked beak, strong feet with sharp talons, keen eyesight, and a carnivorous diet.
- Raptors prey on a wide range of vertebrates and thus, facilitate long-distance seed dispersal. This indirectly increases seed production and pest control.
- Indonesia has the most raptor species, followed by Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
- The raptors are on top of the food chain and control the populations of small mammals, birds and reptiles as well as insects.
- As a conservation effort, the Union Cabinet has given its approval to signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia, also called the ‘Raptor MOU’ with the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS).
- With the signing of this MOU, India will become the 54th signatory to the MOU.
- It is an international, legally non-binding, agreement which seeks willingness of the signatory Range States for working for conservation of the raptor species and their habitats.
- Raptor MOU was concluded on 22nd October 2008′
6 . Facts for Prelims
- He was a Sanskrit philologist, grammarian, and revered scholar in ancient India.
- Panini probably lived in the 4th century BC, the age of the conquests of Alexander and the founding of the Mauryan Empire, even though he has also been dated to the 6th century BC, the age of The Buddha and Mahavira.
- He likely lived in Salatura (Gandhara), which today would lie in north-west Pakistan, and was probably associated with the great university at Taksasila.
- Since the discovery and publication of his work by European scholars in the nineteenth century, Panini has been considered the “first descriptive linguist” and even labelled as “the father of linguistics”.
- Panini’s grammar, which built on the work of many earlier grammarians, effectively stabilised the Sanskrit language.
- Panini is known for his texts- Astadhyayi, a sutra-style treatise on Sanskrit grammar, verses or rules on linguistics, syntax and semantics in eight chapters which is the foundational text of the Vyakarna branch of the Vedanga.
- The ‘Ashtadhyayi’ is a linguistics text that set the standard for how Sanskrit was meant to be written and spoken.
- It also offers a ‘language machine’, where you can feed in the root and suffix of any Sanskrit word, and get grammatically correct words and sentences in return.
- To ensure this ‘machine’ was accurate, Panini wrote a set of 4,000 rules dictating its logic.
- Later Indian grammars such as the Mahabhasya of Patanjali (2nd century BC) and the Kasika Vritti of Jayaditya and Vamana (7th century AD), were mostly commentaries on Panini.
- China is expanding its chain of model villages or Xiaokang (moderately prosperous) villages close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), opposite Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, including in the Chumbi valley which faces the strategically crucial Siliguri corridor, according to defence sources.
- Moderately prosperous society or Xiaokang society is a Chinese term, originally of Confucianism, used to describe a society composed of a functional middle-class.
- It has been loosely translated as a “basically well-off” society in which the people are able to live relatively comfortably, albeit ordinarily.
- In December 1979, Deng Xiaoping, then paramount leader of China, first proposed the idea of “Xiaokang” based on the “Four Modernizations”.
- The term is best known in recent years through its use by the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party between 2002 and 2012, when referring to economic policies intended to realise a more equal distribution of wealth.
- A Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court is a special bench constituted by the Chief Justice of India.
- The court takes two long vacations each year, the summer and winter breaks, but is technically not fully closed during these periods.
- Litigants can still approach the Supreme Court and, if the court decides that the plea is an “urgent matter”, the Vacation Bench hears the case on its merits.
- While there is no specific definition as to what is an “urgent matter”, during vacations the court generally admits writs related to habeas corpus, certiorari, prohibition and quo warranto matters for enforcement of any fundamental right.
- According to Rule 6 of Order II of The Supreme Court rules, 2013: The Chief Justice may appoint one or more Judges to hear during summer vacation or winter holidays all matters of an urgent nature which under these rules may be heard by a Judge sitting singly, and, whenever necessary, he may likewise appoint a Division Court for the hearing of urgent cases during the vacation which require to be heard by a Bench of Judges.
- The High Courts and trial courts too have Vacation Benches to hear urgent matters under their jurisdiction.
- Ficus, (genus Ficus), genus of about 900 species of trees, shrubs, and vines in the family Moraceae, many of which are commonly known as figs.
- Native primarily to tropical areas of East Asia, they are distributed throughout the world’s tropics.
- Most Ficus species are evergreen; there are a few deciduous members in nontropical areas.
- The leaves are usually simple and waxy, and most exude white or yellow latex when broken.
- Many species have aerial roots, and a number are epiphytic.
- The unusual fruit structure, known as a syconium, is hollow, enclosing an inflorescence with tiny male and female flowers lining the inside.
- The fruit of most other species are also edible though they are usually of only local economic importance or eaten as bushfood. However, they are extremely important food resources for wildlife.
- Figs are also of considerable cultural importance throughout the tropics, both as objects of worship and for their many practical uses.
Kerala’s five agricultural products get GI Tag-
- Five agricultural products of Kerala have been granted Geographical Indication (GI) status.
- Attappady Attukombu Avara (beans), Attappady Thuvara (red gram), Onattukara Ellu (sesame), Kanthalloor-Vattavada Veluthulli (garlic), and Kodungalloor Pottuvellari (snap melon) are the latest Geographical Indications that have been registered.
- Attappady Attukombu Avara-
- Cultivated in the Attappady region of Palakkad, it is curved like a goat’s horn as its name indicates.
- Its higher anthocyanin content compared to other dolichos beans imparts violet colour in the stem and fruits.
- Anthocyanin is helpful against cardiovascular diseases along with its antidiabetic properties.
- Other than this, calcium, protein, and fibre content are also high.
- The higher phenolic content of Attappady Attukombu Avara imparts resistance against pest and diseases, making the crop suitable for organic cultivation.
- Attappady Thuvara
- It is having seeds with white coat.
- Compared to other red grams, Attappady Thuvara seeds are bigger and have higher seed weight.
- This delicious red gram, which is used as vegetable and dal, is rich in protein, carbohydrate, fibre, calcium and magnesium.
- Kanthalloor-Vattavada Veluthulli
- Compared to the garlic produced in other areas, the garlic from the Kanthalloor-Vattavada area of Devikulam block panchayat in Idukki contains higher amount of sulphides, flavonoids, and proteins.
- It is rich in allicin, which is effective against microbial infections, blood sugar, cancer, cholesterol, heart diseases, and damages to blood vessels.
- The garlic cultivated in this area is also rich in essential oil.
- Onattukara Ellu (sesame)
- Onattukara Ellu and its oil are famous for its unique health benefits.
- Relatively higher antioxidant content in Onattukara Ellu helps in fighting the free radicals, which destroy the body cells.
- Also, the high content of unsaturated fat makes it beneficial for heart patients.
- Kodungalloor Pottuvellari
- It is cultivated in Kodungalloor and parts of Ernakulam is consumed as juice and in other forms.
- This snap melon, which is harvested in summer, is an excellent for quenching thirst.
- It contains high amount of Vitamin C. Compared to other cucurbits, nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, fibre and fat content are also high in Kodungalloor Pottuvellari.
Wayanad rice festival-
- A Kerala-based organisation named Thanal has embarked on a unique conservation experiment, planting 300 climate-resilient varieties of traditional rice on 1.5 acres of land at its agroecology centre in Panavally in the Wayanad district.
- The initiative aims to sensitise people to the significance of conserving traditional crops that have the ability to withstand harsh climatic conditions.
- Thanal has been organising annual “rice field weeks” since 2012.
- The festival also sets the stage for knowledge sharing and co-creation of knowledge between tribal farmers and experts.
- Thanal also launched the Rice Diversity Block (RDB) at Panavally under the Save Our Rice campaign in 2009, with a collection of 30 varieties of rice.
- Most of the varieties were collected from Kerala, Karnataka, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
- Many varieties are drought-resistant and flood-tolerant, while others have aromatic and medicinal properties.
- The Thondy variety, a traditional and popular rice among the people in Wayanad a few decades ago, could compete with any hybrid rice in terms of productivity.
- It is among the most invasive type of breast cancer and comprises the bulk of these cases.
- Luminal A breast cancer, the most common type of breast cancer, reacts to hormones and uses them to grow, but doesn’t have a HER2 gene.
- HER2 genes cause cells to have too much protein that makes cancer grow quickly.
- Luminal A breast cancer grows very slowly and doesn’t often spread to other cells. Women with luminal A breast cancer have the best chance for a cure and least chance of cancer coming back than any other type of breast cancer.
- The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in a report said that 100.5 per 1,00,000 women were being diagnosed with breast cancer. From the approximately 1,82,000 cases of breast cancer at present, the report has projected cases to rise to 250,000 by 2030.
- There was no break-up of how many of these were Luminal A cancer.