Daily Current Affairs : 6th June 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Issue facing higher education in Indian & NIRF Ranking
  2. Monsoon & Impact of Cyclones
  3. Higgs Boson
  4. Facts for Prelims

1 . Issue facing higher education in Indian & NIRF Ranking 

Context: The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), under the Union Education Ministry, announced the India Rankings 2023 of higher education institutions. 

What are the issues and challenges in higher educational sector in India? 

The Key challenges faced by the higher educational sector in India are 

  • Enrolment: The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of India in higher education is only 15% which is quite low as compared to the developed as well as, other developing countries. With the increase of enrolments at school level, the supply of higher education institutes is insufficient to meet the growing demand in the country. 
  • Equity: There is no equity in GER among different sects of society. According to previous studies, the GER in higher education in India among males and females varies to a greater extent. There are regional variations too some states have high GER while as some is quite behind the national GER which reflect a significant imbalance within the higher education system. 
  • Quality: Quality in higher education is a multi-dimensional, multilevel, and a dynamic concept. Ensuring quality in higher education is amongst the foremost challenges being faced in India today. However, Government is continuously focusing on the quality education. Still Large number of colleges and universities in India are unable to meet the minimum requirements laid down by the UGC and our universities are not in a position to mark its place among the top universities of the world 
  • Infrastructure: Poor infrastructure is another challenge to the higher education system of India particularly the institutes run by the public sector suffer from poor physical facilities and infrastructure. 
  • Shortage of resources- Bulk of the enrolment in higher education is handled by state universities and their affiliated colleges.  However, these state universities receive very small amounts of grants in comparison.  Nearly 65% of the University Grants Commission (UGC) budget is utilised by the central universities and their colleges while state universities and their affiliated colleges get only the remaining 35%.    
  • Teacher vacancies:  According to UGC, the total number of sanctioned teaching posts in various Central Universities are 16,699 for professors, 4,731 for associate professors, and 9,585 for assistant professors.  Out of the total sanctioned teaching posts, 5,925 (35%) professor posts, 2,183 (46%) associate professor posts and 2,459 (26%) assistant professor posts are vacant. Reason for Teacher Vacancies are (i) young students don’t find the teaching profession attractive; or (ii) the recruitment process is long and involves too many procedural formalities.   
  • Accountability and performance of teachers:  At present, there is no mechanism for ensuring the accountability and performance of professors in universities and colleges.  This is unlike foreign universities where the performance of college faculty is evaluated by their peers and students. 
  • Lack of employable skills:  Lack of employable skills in students of technical education has been observed.    
  • Accreditation of institutions:  The Committee notes that accreditation of higher educational institutions needs to be at core of the regulatory arrangement in higher education.  Further, quality assurance agencies should guarantee basic minimum standards of technical education to meet the industry demand for quality manpower.   
  • Research and Innovation: There are very nominal scholars in India whose writing is cited by famous western authors. There is inadequate focus on research in higher education institutes. There are insufficient resources and facilities, as well as limited numbers of quality faculty to advice students. Most of the research scholars are without fellowships or not getting their fellowships on time which directly or indirectly affects their research. Moreover, Indian Higher education institutions are poorly connected to research centers. So, this is another area of challenge to the higher education in India.  
  • Structure of higher education: Management of the Indian education faces challenges of overcentralisation, bureaucratic structures and lack of accountability, transparency, and professionalism. As a result of increase in number of affiliated colleges and students, the burden of administrative functions of universities has significantly increased and the core focus on academics and research is diluted. 

Suggestions Improving the System of Higher Education:   

  • There is a need to implement innovative and transformational approach form primary to higher education level to make Indian educational system globally more relevant and competitive.   
  • Higher educational institutes need to improve quality and reputation.   
  • There should be a good infrastructure of colleges and universities which may attract the students.   
  • Government must promote collaboration between Indian higher education institutes and top International institutes and also generates linkage between national research laboratories and research centers of top institutions for better quality and collaborative research.   
  • There is a need to focus on the graduate students by providing them such courses in which they can achieve excellence, gain deeper knowledge of subject so that they will get jobs after recruitment in the companies which would reduce unnecessary rush to the higher education.   There should be a multidisciplinary approach in higher education so that students knowledge may not be restricted only upto his own subjects. 

What is NIRF Ranking? 

  • National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) is a ranking methodology adopted by the Ministry of Education, Government of India, to rank institutions of higher education in India. The framework was approved by the erstwhile Ministry of Human Resource Development (now, Ministry of Education) and launched by the Minister on 29 September 2015. 
  • Depending on their areas of operation, institutions have been ranked under 11 different categories – overall, university, colleges, engineering, management, pharmacy, law, medical, architecture, dental and research.  
  • The Framework uses several parameters for ranking purposes like resources, research, and stakeholder perception. These parameters have been grouped into five clusters and these clusters were assigned certain weightages. The weightages depend on the type of institution. About 3500 institutions voluntarily participated in the first round of rankings. 
  • The five broad categories of parameters identified in the NIRF are teaching, learning and resources, research and professional practice, graduation outcome, outreach and inclusivity, and perception.

Significance of NIRF Ranking 

  • NIRF (National Institute Ranking Framework) was rolled out to introduce a well-defined ranking system for higher education institutions, making it a key decision criterion for admissions. It helps students find the best universities and motivates colleges to strive hard to enhance their services. Also, it eliminates complacency in institutes as they make every effort to offer quality education to students. 

Benefits of NIRF Ranking are 

  • Sets Standards for Education Programmes 
    NIRF has laid down clear and accurate guidelines for education courses offered and HEIs have to meet the set standards. The ranking system scans every aspect of providing quality education, be it academic or non-academic, and the matrices for ranking are quantity-based. Thus, establishing clear and precise norms for all the key areas.   
  • Helps Students Make Informed Decisions 
    India preens itself with over 40000 higher education institutions. And each of them claims to be better than the others. This certainly puts students in a dilemma when they have to choose the right college for higher studies. They consider a lot of factors and aspects before applying for admission. This is where NIRF comes to the rescue with its comprehensive evaluation system that includes different parameters required to make an insightful decision 
  • Criteria for Institution of Eminence (IoE) Scheme 
    NIRF accreditation is one of the primary criteria to assess HEIs for the Institution of Eminence (IoE) scheme. IoE gives institutions and colleges the autonomy to carry out their academic and administrative activities independently. Moreover, they are free to collaborate with foreign education institutions without any restrictions or government approvals. If eligible for IoE, public institutes also get funding of ₹1,000 crores. 
  • Improves Global Ranking of Institutions 
    Although India has thousands of colleges and HEIs, most of them fail to attain a position in the global ranking. However, the NIRF ranking system motivates institutions to improve their quality of services and education according to the set standards. This further enhances their performance at the international level and offers better career opportunities to students. 
  • Provides Accurate Feedback 
    Colleges need regular feedback from an authorized committee to point out their weaknesses else they often get ignorant of their performances. NIRF ranking ensures constant feedback to HEIs to help them understand the areas they need to work on. Institutions can take necessary corrective measures to improve those weak points and achieve excellence. 

Current Rankings

  • The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras retained its position as the best educational institution in overall ranking for the fifth consecutive term, while Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru was rated the best university in the country for eight years in a row.
  • Miranda House, Delhi was ranked the best college and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahemdabad the top management institute. The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Hyderabad was named the best institute in the field.
  • The All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi was ranked the best medical college and Saveetha Institute of Medical and Technical Sciences, Chennai got the honour of top dental college. The National Law School of India University, Bengaluru was rated the best law college in the country. The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras also received the honour of best engineering college for the eighth consecutive year.

2 . Monsoon & Impact of Cyclones 

Context: The monsoon, having already missed its onset date over Kerala, faces an additional challenge from a ‘cyclonic circulation’ in the Arabian Sea. 

What is Monsoon? 

  • A monsoon is a seasonal change in the direction of the prevailing, or strongest, winds of a region. Monsoons cause wet and dry seasons throughout much of the tropics. 
  • Monsoons always blow from cold to warm regions. The summer monsoon and the winter monsoon determine the climate for most of India and Southeast Asia. 
  • Summer Monsoon- The summer monsoon is associated with heavy rainfall. It usually happens between April and September. As winter ends, warm, moist air from the southwest Indian Ocean blows toward countries like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. The summer monsoon brings a humid climate and torrential rainfall to these areas. 
  • Winter Monsoon- The Indian Oceans winter monsoon, which lasts from October to April, is less well-known than its rainy summer equivalent. The dry winter monsoon blows from the northeast. These winds start in the air above Mongolia and northwestern China. 
  • Winter monsoons are less powerful than summer monsoons in Southeast Asia, in part because the Himalaya Mountains prevent much of the wind and moisture of the monsoons from reaching the coast. The Himalayas also prevent much of the cool air from reaching places like southern India and Sri Lanka, keeping them warm all year. Winter monsoons are sometimes associated with droughts. 

What Causes the Southwest or Summer Monsoon?

  • In the ‘classical’ theory, Sir Edmund Halley in the 17th century reasoned that the differential heating of land and water caused the Indian summer monsoon. According to him, in summer, the Asian land mass heated up to form a low-pressure system, which attracted winds from the Arabian sea and Bay of Bengal, which were at lower temperatures and thus high-pressure systems.

What is the ‘Energetics’ Theory of the Monsoon?

  • The more modern ‘energetics’ theory replaces the classical theory by accounting for the availability of energy to the atmosphere in the development of the monsoon.
  • The tilt in the Earth’s axis causes different parts of the Earth to receive direct rays from the sun during different times of the year. During summer in the northern hemisphere, the Tropic of Cancer receives direct rays from the sun, and the continental land masses in this hemisphere heat up considerably more than the oceans, creating a low-pressure zone over India and Central Asia.
  • This causes the intertropical convergence zone (or ITCZ) – an area of low pressure that forms a band girdling the Earth – to shift northwards from the Equator towards the Tropic of Cancer.
  • This zone is formed at the meeting of the southeast and northeast trade winds, which are winds close to the Earth’s surface that blow from east to west just north and south of the Equator, due to the Earth’s rotation from west to east.
  • When this shift occurs, the ITCZ shifts northwards from below India to run directly through the Indian subcontinent and strengthens the low pressure forming over this area. At the same time, the southeast trade winds, which cross the Equator due to this movement, become deflected towards the east due to the Coriolis effect (a force that causes fluids like air and water to curve as they travel across the Earth’s surface).
  • These deflected trade winds now blow towards India from the southwest, picking up large amounts of moisture from the Arabian sea. As they hit the Indian peninsula, they cause the southwest or Indian summer monsoon.
  • The summer monsoon winds split into two arms with one traveling over the Arabian sea, while the other moves over the Bay of Bengal. The Arabian sea arm causes rainfall all along India’s western coast.
  • The Bay of Bengal arm skirts the eastern coast and moves over the Bay of Bengal to strike against the Bengal coast and brings rain to the southern slopes of the Shillong plateau. The Himalayas, which act as a barrier towards the further inland movement of this arm, herd it towards northern India. The two arms converge over Punjab and Himachal Pradesh by mid-July.
  • The seasonal migration of the ITCZ not only affects surface winds (the trade winds), but also sets in motion many events in the upper levels of the atmosphere.
  • These events involve jet streams, which are bands of narrow, meandering, and fast-moving winds (usually 100-200 Km/h but can go up to 400 Km/h) in the upper levels of the atmosphere (between 9 km and 16 km above sea-level). There are three jet streams that are thought to affect the Indian summer monsoon – the subtropical westerly, the tropical easterly, and the Somali or cross-equatorial jet stream.

Subtropical, Tropical Easterly, and Somali Jet Streams? How Do They Affect the Southwest Monsoon?

  • The subtropical jet stream is formed when warm air from the equator meets the cool air from the polar regions and flows from west to east. During summer in the northern hemisphere, as the Tropic of Cancer begins to receive the sun’s direct rays, two things happen.
  • One, in response to a northward shift in heating patterns during the Indian summer, the subtropical jet stream moves northwards, right over the Tibetan plateau from its position over central India. Due to this, the second event occurs – a seasonal jet stream, the tropical easterly, is set up.
  • As the Tibetan plateau begins to heat up, the air rises to meet the subtropical westerly jet stream; the intermingling of these two currents is affected by the Coriolis force, which deflects the newly formed tropical jet stream towards the west.
  • The tropical jet stream flows from east-to-west (10-12 km above the Gangetic plains) across India, and subsides above the Indian Ocean, where it then lends extra energy to and ‘pushes’ the southwest monsoon towards India.
  • The Somali jet stream is set up due to the intense heating of the air over northern Bay of Bengal from moist convection , which attracts winds from the equatorial Indian Ocean toward the Indian subcontinent forming the low-level westerlies (prevailing winds from the west toward the east in the middle latitudes) over the Arabian Sea. These westerly winds bring moisture over Indian land, thus further enhancing the convection.

Other Factors Influencing Indian Monsoon

  • Monsoon Trough – Monsoon Trough is an elongated low-pressure area which extends from heat low over Pakistan to Head Bay of Bengal. This is one of semi-permanent feature of monsoon circulation. Monsoon trough may be a characteristic of east west orientation of Himalayan ranges and north south orientation of Khasi-Jaintia Hills. Generally eastern side of monsoon trough oscillates, sometimes southwards and sometimes northwards. Southward migration results in active/vigorous monsoon over major part of India. In contrast, the northward migration of this trough leads to break monsoon condition over major part of India and heavy rains along foothills of Himalayas and sometimes floods in Brahmaputra river.
  • Heat Low – During the northward march of sun in northern hemisphere, the continent surrounding the Arabian Sea begin to receive large amounts of heat; not only in the form of radiation from sun, but also flux of heat from the earth’s surface into atmosphere (160 Watts/m2 for month of June over the arid zones of northwest India, Pakistan and middle eastern countries). As a result of this large input of power, trough of low pressure forms over this region. It is a semi-permanent feature of monsoon over India. The heat low is very shallow (extending up to 850 hPa (1.5 KM) level and there exist a well-marked ridge above heat low. In spite of occurrence of cloudiness, the precipitation is very small. Intense heat low (pressure departure is below normal) acts as suction devise for moist air along the monsoon trough and to some extend related to good monsoon over India. During weak heat low (pressure departure is above normal) monsoon rainfall over India is greatly affected and results in deficient or scanty rainfall over vast area of country (eg. In 1987, central pressure over heat low area was mostly above normal, which proved to be drought year). Satellite measured estimates of longwave radiation indicates that tropical /subtropical deserts are heat sinks.
  • Monsoon Low – An area with pressure at the centre lowest one, closed in shape with winds blowing around in anti-clockwise direction in Northern Hemisphere is Low Pressure Area (LPA). The LPA is associated with a whirling motion of air, convergence and upward motion of air. In the low usually clouds and rainfall are present. LPA which seen during monsoon is monsoon low. The monsoon lows may be intensified into monsoon depressions. The monsoon lows and depressions are the principal rain bearing systems of the south west monsoon period over India. Substantial amounts of rainfall are generated by the westward passage of monsoon depressions forming in the Bay of Bengal. These are low pressure areas having wind speeds between 17 and 33 knots in their circulation. On the average, 2 depressions form in each of the monsoon months (June September). However, year to year variation in their number is quite large. Those that form in early June are responsible for the advance of the southwest monsoon, and are not strictly monsoon depressions. In July and August they usually form north of 18°N in the northwest Bay, and the site of genesis shifts in September southward in the Central Bay.
  • Tibetan High – Tibetan High is a warm anticyclone (in this wind are changing in a clock-wise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and it will have always outflow of winds) located over Tibetan Plateau (centre latitude at 28ºN, longitude 98ºE) in the middle/upper troposphere during monsoon period. It is marked at 300 hPa level with centre 30ºN, 90ºE and extends 70ºE-110ºE.The outflow of winds from Tibetan High as the easterly flow concentrates into jet stream centred near about the latitude of Chennai at 150 hPa in July. The jet stream runs from the east coast of Vietnam to the west coast of Africa. Thus the location of the Easterly Jetstream seems to influence the pattern of monsoon rainfall. Shifting its position east or west causes variation of monsoon activity over India. The Tibetan ‘High’ may sometimes shift much to the west of its usual position. In such a situation, the monsoon may extend further westward into Pakistan and in extreme cases into north Iran, though such a westward position of the Tibetan ‘High’ would be against its having origin in the heating effect of the Tibetan Plateau
  • Mascarene High – Mascarene High is a high-pressure area that is found around Mascarene Islands (in south Indian Ocean) during monsoon period. This is responsible for cross equatorial flow through south Arabian Sea and it acts as southern hemispheric linkage. The variation in the intensity of High Pressure causes monsoon surges across equatorial flow. These surges are responsible for heavy rains along the west coast.
  • Shore trough – During monsoon season a shallow trough of low pressure is observed (on sea level surface chart) along west coast of India. This is known as off-shore trough. This type of system quite frequently develops off the west coast of India, anywhere from north Kerala to south Gujarat, during the period of southwest monsoon, and is responsible for the strengthening of the monsoon in terms of rainfall, in the adjacent parts of the coastal belt.
  • Shore vortex – West coast of India has an orographic barrier in the form of Western Ghats. These mountains are oriented in north south direction and approximately 1000 km in length and 200 km in breadth. When monsoon winds strikes the mountains, on many occasions they do not have enough energy to climb over Western Ghats. On such occasions they tend to be deflected round the mountains and return current forms the off-shore vortex. These vortices are responsible for the occurrence of heavy to very heavy rainfall over west coast during monsoon season.

Madden Julian Oscillation

  • The Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) is one of the most important atmosphere ocean coupled phenomena in the tropics, which has profound influence on Indian Summer Monsoon. The MJO is the leading mode of tropical intra-seasonal climate variability and is characterized by organization on a global spatial scale with a period typically ranging from 30-60 days, which was discovered by Madden and Julian in 1971 in a published paper. It has the following characteristics: –
    • MJO is a massive weather event consisting of deep convection coupled with atmospheric circulation, moving slowly eastward over the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
    • MJO is an equatorial traveling pattern of anomalous rainfall that is planetary in scale.
    • Each cycle lasts approximately 30–60 days. Also known as the 30-60 day oscillation, 30-60 day wave, or intra-seasonal oscillation (ISO)
    • The MJO involves variations in wind, sea surface temperature (SST), cloudiness, and rainfall.
  • Based on the place of convective activity the period of MJO is divided into 1-8 phases with each phase roughly last for 7 to 8 days. Since the MJO is the most important mode of tropical intra-seasonal variability with potentially important influences on monsoon activity in the Asian regions on extended range time scale (beyond 7 days to on1 month), the capability of statistical or numerical models in capturing MJO signal is very crucial in capturing the active/break cycle of monsoon.

Main factors governing interannual variation of south west monsoon

  • Interannual variations are the variations on the annual cycle of the monsoon producing anomalously wet or dry years. The major factors governing interannual variation of south west monsoon are :
    • El nino Southern oscillation (ENSO) and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD).
    • Other contributing factors are North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillations (PDO)

What is monsoon withdrawal?

  • The monsoon is a sea-breeze that has consistently landed in the Indian sub-continent for thousands of years.
  • It enters mainland India between the last week of May and the first week of June — though June 1 is its official onset date over Kerala.
  • The IMD only counts the rainfall between June 1 and September 30 as monsoon rainfall.
  • This doesn’t mean that the monsoon system ceases to pour rain over India from October 1.
  • In fact, monsoon-related rain can continue well into the first fortnight of October and only really retreats from India by late October.
  • It is then replaced by the retreating, or northeast monsoon in November which is the key source of rainfall for several parts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and north interior Karnataka.

When does the monsoon withdraw?

  • The monsoon begins its withdrawal from the last State it reaches, which is Rajasthan. Around September 15, cyclonic systems from the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal that fuel the monsoon from June-September are replaced by an ‘anti-cyclone’ circulation which means dry, windless conditions start to prevail over western and northern India.
  • More technically, withdrawal is a cessation of rainfall activity over northwest India for five straight days, an anticyclone establishing itself in the lower troposphere and a marked reduction in moisture content.
  • A day after the IMD announced the withdrawal, torrential rains began in several parts of north India.

What is Monsoon Mission?

  • Monsoon Mission is a national programme launched by Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) with a vision to develop state-of-the-art dynamical prediction system for the monsoon rainfall in different time scales. The mission supports focused research by national and international research groups with definitive objectives and deliverables to improve models in the short, medium, extended and seasonal range scales through setting up of a framework for generating dynamical forecasts and improving skill of forecasts. It also supports observational programs which will helps the better understanding of the atmospheric processes related to monsoon.
  • The main objectives of this mission are
    • To improve Seasonal and Intra-seasonal Monsoon Forecast
    • To improve Medium Range Forecast.
  • Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, India Meteorological Department (IMD), Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (NCMRWF), Noida are the major participating institutions in Monsoon Mission.

How Climate Change does influences heavy rainfall activity?

  • Temperature of the earth is increasing rapidly due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Thermodynamically, warm air holds more moisture as compare the dry air. According to Clausius-Clapeyron equation, the capacity of air to hold moisture increases by 7% for each degree of warming. Studies indicate that, in a changing climate, heavy rainfall events are expected to rise due to abundance of the moisture due to warming.

Impact of Cyclone on Monsoon 

  • Cyclonic storms have been disrupting the Indian summer monsoon for some years now with an increase in the number of cyclones in the Arabian Sea. These are disrupting the onset of the monsoon in and also its further advancement in the country.  
  • The jet streams associated with the monsoon, namely the low level jet stream (LLJ) and tropical easterly jet stream (TEJ) have been altered by the cyclones formed within eight days before or just after the monsoon onset over Kerala.  
  • The onset of the summer monsoon over Kerala is considered as a period of unique and imminent transition in the weather pattern over Indian subcontinent and is marked as the start of the rainy season.  
  • It is also associated with abrupt or gradual changes in the large-scale atmospheric and ocean circulation as well as an abundance of atmospheric moisture content over the Arabian Sea (ARB) and the Bay of Bengal (BOB)  
  • Tropical cyclones (TC), can alter the large-scale circulation pattern and fluxes between the atmosphere and ocean in the tropical region. 
  • The North Indian Ocean (NIO), consisting of the BOB and the ARB, has two cyclonic seasons, namely pre-monsoon (April-mid June) and postmonsoon  
  • The premonsson cyclonic activities generally occurs before the onset of the monsoon. It has been seen that the frequency of tropical cyclones prior to the monsoon onset has increased in the Arabian Sea while that over the Bay of Bengal has decreased in the recent decades. 
  • In the 40 year period, there were 10 years in which cyclones formed in the Arabian Sea close to the onset phase of monsoon.  
  • Arabian Sea cyclones pull the moisture towards the centre of the cyclone, which results in the reduction of rainfall along the west coast.  
  • Weaker than normal LLJs is found to affect sea surface temperatures (SST). As a result, the Sea surface temperature over the south Arabian Sea is higher in a cyclone year than in a non-cyclone year. This showed that the Arabian Sea cyclones which form close to monsoon onset over Keala can change the thermodynamic structure of the south Indian region thus adversely affecting the Indian Summer Monsoon during its onset phase. 

 3 . Higgs Boson 

Context: Physicists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle-smasher at CERN, in Europe, reported that they had detected a Higgs boson decaying into a Z boson particle and a photon. This is a very rare decay process that tells us important things about the Higgs boson as well as about our universe. 

What is Higgs Boson? 

  • The Higgs boson is a type of boson, a force-carrying subatomic particle. It carries the force that a particle experiences when it moves through an energy field, called the Higgs field, that is believed to be present throughout the universe.  It is an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics produced by the quantum excitation of the Higgs field. 
  • For example, when an electron interacts with the Higgs field, the effects it experiences are said to be due to its interaction with Higgs bosons. 

How did a Higgs boson decay to a Z boson and a photon?   

  • Quantum Field theory– According to quantum field theory, which is the theory physicists use to study these interactions, space at the subatomic level is not empty. It is filled with virtual particles, which are particles that quickly pop in and out of existence. They can’t be detected directly, but according to physicists their effects sometimes linger. 
  • The LHC creates a Higgs boson by accelerating billions of highly energetic protons into a head-on collision, releasing a tremendous amount of energy that condenses into different particles. As it is a heavy particle, the Higgs boson is unstable and decays into lighter particles. 
  • The theory that describes the properties of fundamental particles has clearly predicted the probability that it will take a given path. For example, this theory, called the Standard Model, says that a Higgs boson will decay to a Z boson and a photon 0.1% of the time. This means the LHC needed to have created at least 1,000 Higgs bosons to have been able to spot one of them decaying to a Z boson and a photon. 
  • As it happens, the Z boson is also unstable. And Z bosons decay to two muons some 3% of the time. If the detectors at the LHC were looking for a pair of muons plus a photon created at the same time, it is estimated that the LHC would have had to create at least 30,000 Higgs bosons to observe the decay just once. 
  • Though the Higgs boson was discovered more than a decade ago at the LHC, it is only now that physicists are confirming this decay pathway. 

What are its implications? 

  • The two detectors that announced the new measurement, called ATLAS and CMS, had in fact looked for and found the decay before as well (in 2018 and 2020).  On this occasion, the two teams combined their data, collected “between 2015 and 2018”, and as a result “significantly increased the statistical precision and reach of their searches. 
  • This significance is to claim that a Higgs boson decayed to a Z boson and a photon with 100% certainty, reflecting the rarity of the decay pathway. 

Why do physicists go to such lengths to spot the decay in the first place?  

  • This is because the Standard Model predicts that the Higgs boson will take this path 0.1% of the time if its mass is 125 billion eV/c2 (a unit of mass used for subatomic particles). 
  • The Standard Model has made many accurate predictions but it can’t explain what dark matter is or, in fact, why the Higgs boson is so heavy. Testing its predictions as precisely as possible is a way for physicists to find whether there are any cracks in the Model — cracks through which they can validate new theories of physics. 

4 . Facts for Prelims 

Paleo Diet 

  • A paleo diet is an eating plan based on foods humans might have eaten during the Paleolithic Era. The Paleolithic Era dates from around 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. 
  • A modern paleo diet includes fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. These are foods that in the past people could get by hunting and gathering.  
  • It doesn’t include foods that became more common when small-scale farming began about 10,000 years ago. These foods include grains, legumes and dairy products. 
  • The roots of the paleo diet can be traced to the 1950s, but it owes its current popularity to a book by Loren Cordain called The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat, the first edition of which was released in 2001. 
  • The purpose of a paleo diet is to eat foods likely eaten by early humans. The diet is based on the idea that genes are not well adjusted for modern diets that grew out of farming 
  • While the paleo diet has many adherents, clinical research has yet to substantiate its purported health benefits. 

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC

  • Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is an Indian public sector undertaking that provides ticketing, catering, and tourism services for the Indian Railways.  
  • It was initially wholly owned by the Government of India and operated under the administrative control of the Ministry of Railways but has been listed on the National Stock Exchange and Bombay Stock Exchange since 2019, with the Government continuing to hold majority ownership 
  • It is the only entity that is authorised to provide certain services to the Indian Railways, including online ticketing, catering, and selling drinking water on trains and at railway stations. In May 2008, it was classed as a Miniratna public corporation, which allowed it a certain degree of financial autonomy. 

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