Daily Current Affairs : 9th and 10th April 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. LIGO- India  
  2. Tiger Census  
  3. Finance Commission
  4. New isotope of Uranium
  5. Facts for Prelims


Context: The government has given the final go-ahead to India’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, project, clearing the way for the construction of the country’s biggest scientific facility that will join the ongoing global project to probe the universe by detecting and studying gravitational waves.

What is LIGO?

  • The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is an international network of laboratories that detect the ripples in spacetime produced by the movement of large celestial objects like stars and planets. These ripples were first postulated in Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity that encapsulates our current understanding of how gravitation works.

Newton’s law of gravitation

  • The English mathematician Sir Issac Newton (1643-1727) had postulated that the force that makes any object fall to the ground was also the one that makes heavenly bodies go around in their orbits.
  • Newton proposed that this was due to the fact that every celestial body exerted an attractive force on every other body in the universe.
  • He worked out a mathematical formulation to calculate the strength of this attractive force which, he found, was directly proportional to the masses of the two bodies and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.
  • It could explain the motion of all celestial objects, and the mathematical framework was able to produce results that matched precisely with the observations.
  • Newton’s law of gravitation is an integral part of elementary science education even today, and its mathematics continues to be applied in a wide variety of modern-day scientific investigations with a remarkable degree of accuracy.

Deficiencies in Newton’s law

  • The theory suffered from a couple of major deficiencies, one of which was evident even during Newton’s time.
  • Newton himself acknowledged it while describing the gravitational force in his landmark publication, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy in 1687, and his contemporaries were aware of it.
    • The theory did not explain the reason for the existence of the attractive force between any two bodies.
  • The second problem became apparent much later, at the start of the 20th century, as a consequence of Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.
  • Special Relativity, published in 1905, established that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light. But the gravitational force seemed to be propagating instantaneously, over any large distance, without any delay at all. Time does not even figure in Newton’s gravitational equation.

General Theory of Relativity

  • In Special Relativity Einstein already explained that space and time were not independent entities but had to be woven together as spacetime.
  • With General Relativity, which was essentially a new theory of gravitation, Einstein took a huge leap of thought.
  • He proposed that spacetime was not just a passive backdrop to the events happening in the universe. It was not a mere transparent, inert, and static stage. Instead, spacetime interacted with matter, was influenced by it, and in turn, itself influenced events. It was like a soft fabric that responds to a heavy object placed on it, and curls around it.
  • The curvature in spacetime so produced was the reason other smaller bodies in the vicinity felt the gravitational pull. In fact, there is no force at all. Gravitation is just the curvature in spacetime. Since the spacetime itself is curved around the heavier mass, other nearby objects, moving normally in straight lines in their spacetime, find themselves going around the central mass.
  • The heavier the mass in the centre, the steeper and bigger is the curvature in spacetime, and stronger and more extended is the gravitational field.
  • This model explains the origin of the gravitational force, and also the reason for perpetual, near-circular, motion of all heavenly bodies. Also, this model of gravity does not involve instantaneous propagation of force. The experience of a pull towards the central mass happens at the speed of light.
  • Because gravity is the weakest of all natural forces, the deforming effect of gravitational waves is extremely tiny.

How LIGO works?

  • It is to measure these tiny effects of gravitational waves that scientists have set up the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), one of the most complex pieces of scientific equipment ever built. The observatory comprises two 4-km-long vacuum chambers, built perpendicular to each other. Highly reflective mirrors are placed at the end of the vacuum chambers.
  • Light rays are released simultaneously in both the vacuum chambers. They hit the mirrors, get reflected, and are captured back. In normal circumstances, the light rays in both the chambers would return simultaneously. But when a gravitational wave arrives, one of the chambers gets a little elongated, while the other one gets squished a bit. In this case, light rays do not return simultaneously, and there is a phase difference. The presence of a phase difference marks the detection of a gravitational wave.
  • The precision of the measurements required to detect gravitational waves- At a 4-km scale, the changes in distance that light has to travel because of the gravitational wave are 10,000 times smaller than the width of the proton, and LIGO instruments are designed to pick this up.
    • According to the LIGO website, this is similar to measuring the distance to a neighbouring star 4.2 light years away with an accuracy smaller than the width of human hair.
  • The first ever detection of a gravitational wave happened on September 14, 2015, by the two US-based LIGO detectors
    • These gravitational waves were produced by the merger of two black holes, which were about 29 and 36 times the mass of the Sun, 1.3 billion years ago. Black hole mergers are the source of some of the strongest gravitational waves. But even these are extremely feeble to detect.
  • This achievement was promptly rewarded with the Nobel Prize in 2017.

About LIGO-India

  • The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) – India is a planned advanced gravitational-wave observatory to be located in India as part of the worldwide network.
    • LIGO-India will be located in Hingoli district of Maharashtra, about 450 km east of Mumbai, and is scheduled to begin scientific runs from 2030.
  • LIGO-India will be built by the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Science and Technology, with a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. National Science Foundation and several national and international research institutions. The U.S. will provide key components for the lab worth around Rs 560 crore
  • LIGO- will be part of the international network of Gravitational Wave observatories. The network includes the two LIGO detectors in the US (in Hanford and Livingston), the Virgo and GEO600 detectors in Europe, and the KAGRA detector in Japan. By simultaneous detection of the same event on these multiple detectors, a precise location in the sky can be pinpointed for the source of the detected waves.
  • The Indian government had approved the project in principle in February 2016.

Significance of LIGO- India Project

  • LIGO India would be the fifth node of this international network of gravitational wave observatories, and possibly the last.
  • The chances of two observatories, located in different geographies, producing the exact same false reading are negligible. But two detectors are the bare minimum. More are needed to tap all possible sources of gravitational waves, and to improve the quality and accuracy of information. The LIGO website indicates that the India detector, the fifth node in the international network, could be all that is required for the time being.
  • For India, LIGO is a momentous milestone. India has been an active collaborator in a number of international science projects. These include the Large Hadron Collider experiments, and ITER, the effort to create a thermonuclear reactor that would enable controlled nuclear fusion reactions.
  • India is also expected to be a partner country in setting up the next space station after the current International Space Station comes to the end of its life later this decade.

2 . Tiger Census

Context: India has at least 3,167 tigers, according to estimates from the latest tiger census. While this is ostensibly an increase since the last census of 2018, the numbers are not strictly comparable, as a key calculation to compute the maximum and minimum range of the tiger population is yet to be done.

Tiger census 2022

  • The 5th cycle of India’s Tiger Census was released by Prime Minister of India. The census report reveals that tiger numbers have once again increased in the country and now stands at 3,167 in the wild as of 2022.
  • The 2018 Tiger Census, released in July 2019, had established the presence of 2,967 tigers in India. The animal’s population in the country has increased by 200 or 6.7 per cent in the past four years.
  • While the tiger numbers in the country stood at 1,411 in 2006, it increased to 1,706 in 2010 and 2,226 in the 2014 cycle of evaluations.
  • The tiger population has grown the most in the Shivalik hills and Gangetic flood plains, followed by central India, the north – eastern hills, the Brahmaputra flood plains, and the Sundarbans.
  • There was a decline in the Western Ghats numbers, though “major populations” were said to be stable.

About Tiger census

  • Tigers are a conservation-dependent species. Major threats to tigers are poaching which is driven by an illegal international demand for tiger parts and products, depletion of tiger prey, and habitat loss due to the ever-increasing demand for forested lands.
  • To gauge the success of conservation efforts as well as to have a finger on the pulse of tiger populations and their ecosystems, the National Tiger Conservation Authority in collaboration with the State Forest Departments, the Wildlife Institute of India and conservation partners conducts a National assessment for the “Status of Tigers, Co-predators, Prey and their Habitat” once in every four years.  
  • The first assessment based on this scientific methodology was done in 2006 and subsequently in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Reason for Tiger Counting

  • The Indian government conducts the All-India Tiger Estimation every four years to determine the number of tigers roaming its forests. These surveys are critical for tracking tiger population trends, documenting encouraging stories of success and highlighting areas of concern where populations are declining.
  • India, like all other tiger range countries, are counting their tigers to provide an updated population estimate and reveal whether the global goal to double wild tiger numbers has been met.  

What are the methods to count Tigers?

Tiger tracking method involve pug marks and scratch marks, usinghi-tech cameras, DNA analysis and satellite telemetry.

  • Camera Trapping- The cameras are set up in pairs to capture both sides of the tiger so their stripes can be seen. A tiger’s stripe pattern is like a human fingerprint – it’s unique to the individual tiger which helps to identify and count the tigers in an area
  • Pugmark Tracking- ‘Pugmark Tracking’ involves collection of pugmark (footprint) tracings and plaster casts from the field and analysis of these separately for individual male, female, and cub of tiger and their diagnostic track dimensions and spatial distribution.
  • DNA fingerprints: The concept is to identify individual tigers with unique DNA fingerprints and estimate the population in the protected areas. In this method, first samples of faeces of tigers are collected and stored in alcohol or silica. This is followed by DNA isolation extraction from the samples. This DNA is screened with existing tiger DNA samples to determine whether the sample indeed belongs to a tiger. This method is useful for estimating the tiger populations in remote or hard-to-reach areas
  • Satellite telemetry: Satellite telemetry allows researchers to track the movement of an animal by using orbiting satellites that detect signals emitted from a transmitter attached to the animal.

What are the challenges to the tiger population?

  • The current estimate also does not give numbers on the proportion of tigers outside protected areas, which are a growing number and a key marker of the environmental threats as well as man-animal conflicts. However, the authors of the census report warn that nearly all of the five major tiger-zones face challenges to the growth of the tiger population due to the increasing demands from infrastructure development.
  • Tigers are facing a range of threats, including habitat encroachment, illegal hunting of both tigers and their prey, conflicts between humans and wildlife, unregulated and illicit cattle grazing, excessive harvesting of non-timber forest produce, human induced forest fires, mining, and ever-expanding linear infrastructure.
  • Need for new tiger reserves– Since 1973, when Project Tiger was established, the number of dedicated tiger reserves has grown from nine reserves covering 18,278 square km to 53 reserves spanning 75,796 square km, which is roughly 2.3% of India’s land area.
  • India hosts close to 75% of the world’s tiger population, and its conservation success — evidenced by increasing tiger numbers from 1,411 in 2006 to at least 3,167 presently — without relying on fenced reserves is seen as a global model worth emulating. However, experts have said that most of the country’s tigers are focused within a handful of reserves that are fast approaching their peak carrying capacity. Unless new regions are developed as reserves, it may be a challenge to ensure further growth in numbers.
  • Translocation of tigers-Following the translocation of cheetahs from Africa, India is now looking at international initiatives to translocate tigers into other locations. It is in talks with Cambodia, where the tiger has gone extinct due to poaching, to create a suitable habitat there and ship a few tigers from India to revive the big cat’s population in that country.

3 . Finance Commission

Context: The Union government is gearing up to constitute the Sixteenth Finance Commission in November this year to recommend the formula for sharing revenues between the Centre and the States for the five-year period beginning 2026-27.

Finance Commission

  • The president of India constitutes a Finance Commission once in every five years under the article 280 of the Constitution which describes the composition of the Finance Commission. It will have one Chairman and four other members.
  • The First Commission was established in 1951 under The Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1951. Fifteen Finance Commissions have been constituted since the promulgation of Indian Constitution in 1950.
  • Individual commissions operate under the terms of reference which are different for every commission, and the parliament of India define the terms of qualification, appointment and disqualification, the term, eligibility and powers of the Finance Commission.
  • The most recent Finance Commission was constituted in 2017 and is chaired by N. K. Singh, a former member of the Planning Commission

Article 280 of the Indian Constitution:

  • The President will constitute a finance commission within two years from the commencement of the Constitution and thereafter at the end of every fifth year or earlier, as the deemed necessary by him/her, which shall include a chairman and four other members.
  • Parliament may by law determine the requisite qualifications for appointment as members of the commission and the procedure of selection.
  • The commission is constituted to make recommendations to the president about the distribution of the net proceeds of taxes between the Union and States and also the allocation of the same among the States themselves. It is also under the ambit of the finance commission to define the financial relations between the Union and the States. They also deal with the devolution of unplanned revenue resources.

Functions of the commission

  • Finance Commission will provide recommendations in the following manner: 1. For the distribution of net proceeds of taxes between the Centre and States 2. Principles governing grants-in-aid
  • 3. Measures needed to increase the Consolidated Fund of India or States to supplement the resources of the Panchayat Bodies
  • 4. Measures needed to increase the Consolidated Fund of India or States to supplement the resources of the Urban Local Bodies.
  • 5. Any other matter referred by the president

Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1951

  • The Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1951 was passed to give a structured format to the finance commission and to bring it to par with world standards, by laying down rules for the qualification and disqualification of members of the commission, and for their appointment, term, eligibility and powers.

Qualification of the members

  • The Chairman will be a person with experience in public affairs and the members will have experience in financial administration, special knowledge of economics, special knowledge of public accounts and government finances, and one member will have the qualification of a High Court judge.

Disqualification from being a member of the commission

A member may be disqualified if:

  • He is mentally unsound
  • He is an undischarged insolvent
  • He has been convicted of an immoral offence
  • His financial and other interests are such that it hinders the smooth functioning of the commission.

Terms of office of members and eligibility for reappointment

Every member will be in office for the time period as specified in the order of the President, but is eligible for reappointment provided he has, by means of a letter addressed to the president, resigned his office.

Salaries and allowances of the members

The members of the commission shall provide full-time or part-time service to the commission, as the President specifies in his order. The members shall be paid salaries and allowances as per the provisions made by the Central Government.

4 . New Isotope of Uranium

Context: While studying the atoms of heavy elements, physicists in Japan discovered a previously unknown isotope of uranium, with atomic number 92 and mass number 241, i.e. uranium-241.

What are Isotopes?

  • Atoms with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons are called isotopes. They share almost the same chemical properties, but differ in mass and therefore in physical properties.

About Uranium Isotopes

  • Uranium is a chemical element with the symbol U and the atomic number 92. There are three naturally occurring isotopes of uranium: uranium-238, the heaviest and most abundant, uranium-235 and uranium-234.
  • Uranium-235 is the only isotope that undergoes fission. This means that it can fragment under the effect of a neutron.
  • Uses– Uranium “enriched” into U-235 concentrations can be used as fuel for nuclear power plants and the nuclear reactors that run naval ships and submarines. It also can be used in nuclear weapons.
  • Depleted uranium (uranium containing mostly U-238) can be used for radiation shielding or as projectiles in armor-piercing weapons.
  • U-235 and U-238 occur naturally in nearly all rock, soil, and water. U-238 is the most abundant form in the environment. U-235 can be concentrated in a process called “enrichment,” making it suitable for use in nuclear reactors or weapons.

How was uranium-241 found?

  • A team of nuclear physicists affiliated with multiple institutions in Japan, working with a colleague from Korea, has discovered a previously unknown uranium isotope with atomic number 92 and mass 241
  • The researchers accelerated uranium-238 nuclei into plutonium-198 nuclei at the KEK Isotope Separation System (KISS). In a process called multinucleon transfer, the two isotopes exchanged protons and neutrons.
  • The resulting nuclear fragments contained different isotopes. This is how the researchers identified uranium-241 and measured the mass of its nucleus. Theoretical calculations suggest it could have a half-life of 40 minutes.
  • The team used time-of-flight mass spectrometry to estimate the mass of each nucleus depending on the time it took to reach a detector.
  • The technique used by the team represents a pathway to better understanding the shapes of large nuclei associated with the heavy elements, which could yield changes to models used to build nuclear power plants and weapons and to theories describing the behavior of exploding stars.

Significance of the discovery

  • The arrangement of protons and neutrons in an atomic nucleus follows some rules. These rules are based on the nuclei’s properties and structure. In general, an atom’s mass is slightly lower than the sum of the masses of protons, neutrons, and electrons.
  • Systematically measuring the mass of “uranium and its neighbourhood elements yields essential nuclear information to understand the synthesis of such heavy elements in explosive astronomical events.
  • The research team notes that that their method of discovery could be used to learn more about other heavy isotopes and also, perhaps, to discover new ones.

5 . Facts for Prelims

ICCR and The Language Friendship Bridge

  •  Language Friendship Bridge project- India is planning to create a pool of experts in languages spoken in countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan and Indonesia to facilitate better people-to-people exchanges.
  • The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has envisaged a special project called ‘The Language Friendship Bridge’, which plans to train five to 10 people in the official languages of each of these countries.
  • As of now, the ICCR has zeroed in on 10 languages: Kazakh, Uzbek, Bhutanese, Ghoti (spoken in Tibet), Burmese, Khmer (spoken in Cambodia), Thai, Sinhalese and Bahasa (spoken in both Indonesia and Malaysia).
  • In India, the language learning focus till now has been on European languages like Spanish, French and German, along with the languages of major Asian economies like China and Japan. Though a number of universities and institutes offer courses in these languages, only a handful teach any of the 10 languages on the ICCR list.
  • The cultural body is in discussion with universities and institutes as well as experts offering foreign language courses in the country on the modalities of implementing the project.
  • ICCR- The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), is an autonomous organisation of the Government of India, involved in India’s global cultural relations, through cultural exchange with other countries and their people.
    •  It was founded on 9 April 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first Education Minister of independent India.
    • The Council addresses its mandate of cultural diplomacy through a broad range of activities. In addition to organising cultural festivals in India and overseas, the ICCR financially supports a number of cultural institutions across India, and sponsors individual performers in dance, music, photography, theatre, and the visual arts.
    • It also administers the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, established by the Government of India in 1965, whose last award was in 2009

Article 371F

  • The state of Sikkim has been given a special constitutional status under article 371 F of the Constitution of India (laid by the 36th Amendment Act,1975) in order to preserve, protect, guarantee and safeguard the identity, interests and rights of the people of Sikkim.
  • Constitutional position of Sikkim under Article 371 F
    • The Constitutional status of Sikkim is clearly extended to protect the state of Sikkim under article 371 F of the Constitution of India. These are as follows:
      • the Legislative Assembly of the State of Sikkim is to consist of not less than thirty members
      • One seat is allocated to Sikkim in the Lok Sabha and Sikkim forms one parliamentary constituency
      • For the purposes of protecting the rights and interests of the different sections of the Sikkim population, the parliament is empowered to provide for the:
        • Number of seats in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly which may be filled by candidates belonging to such elections; and
        • Delimitation of the Assembly constituencies from which candidates belonging to such sections alone may stand for election to the Assembly
      • The Governor shall have special responsibility for peace and for an equitable arrangement for ensuring the social and economic advancement of the different sections of the Sikkim population. In the discharge of this responsibility, the governor shall act in his discretion, subject to the directions issued by the president.
      • The President can extend (with restrictions for modifications) to Sikkim any law which is in force in a state of the Indian Union.

International Prize in Statistics

  • The International Prize in Statistics is awarded every two years to an individual or team “for major achievements using statistics to advance science, technology and human welfare”. The International Prize in Statistics, along with the COPSS Presidents’ Award, are the two highest honours in the field of Statistics.
  • The prize is modelled after the Nobel prizes, Abel Prize, Fields Medal and Turing Award and comes with a monetary award of $80,000. The award ceremony takes place during the World Statistics Congress. The prize is awarded by the International Prize in Statistics Foundation
  • The ultimate goal of the International Prize in Statistics is to enhance public understanding of the depth and scope of statistics.
  • Rules- The prize recognizes a single work or body of work, representing a powerful and original idea that had an impact in other disciplines or a practical effect on the world. The recipient must be alive when the prize is awarded.
  • Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, a prominent Indian-American mathematician and statistician, will receive the 2023 International Prize in Statistics, the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the field, for his monumental work 75 years ago that revolutionised statistical thinking.

Pulicat Lake

  • Pulicat Lake, saltwater lagoon is located on the Coromandel Coast of Andhra Pradesh state, southern India.
  • It is the second-largest brackish water lake in the country.
  • Also called Pazhaverkadu, the lake is popular as a flamingo-watching site and for water activities.
  • The lake is also known for the Pulicat Bird Sanctuary.
  • The Pulicat Lake is situated about 60 km from Chennai in the Tiruvallur District.
  • Spanning an area of  159 sq km, it is surrounded by colonial buildings from the Dutch-era.
  • The lake yields salt and prawns. The long and narrow Sriharikota Island, which separates Pulicat Lake from the Bay of Bengal, is the site of Satish Dhawan Space Centre, India’s satellite-launching facility.
  • The only sea entrance into the lake is around the south end of the island, north of the town of Pulicat on the mainland.

Examples of Rare Earth Elements

  • Rare earth elements are a group of seventeen chemical elements that occur together in the periodic table. Despite their name, most are abundant in nature but are hazardous to extract
  • The rare earth elements are all metals, and the group is often referred to as the “rare earth metals.” These metals have many similar properties, and that often causes them to be found together in geologic deposits.
  • Examples of Rare Earth Elements- The group of rare earth elements consists of yttrium and the 15 lanthanide elements (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium ).Scandium is found in most rare earth element deposits and is sometimes classified as a rare earth element.
  • Uses- Rare earth metals and alloys that contain them are used in many devices that people use every day such as computer memory, DVDs, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, catalytic converters, magnets, fluorescent lighting and much more.
  • Some examples of Rare Earth Elements
  • Neodymium
    • This is used to make powerful magnets used in loudspeakers and computer hard drives to enable them to be smaller and more efficient. Magnets containing neodymium are also used in green technologies such as the manufacture of wind turbines and hybrid cars.
  • Lanthanum : This element is used in camera and telescope lenses. Compounds containing lanthanum are used extensively in carbon lighting applications, such as studio lighting and cinema projection.
  • Cerium : Used in catalytic converters in cars, enabling them to run at high temperatures and playing a crucial role in the chemical reactions in the converter. Lanthanum and cerium are also used in the process of refining crude oil.
  • Praseodymium : Used to create strong metals for use in aircraft engines. Praseodymium is also a component of a special sort of glass, used to make visors to protect welders and glassmakers.
  • Gadolinium : Used in X-ray and MRI scanning systems, and also in television screens. Research is also being done into its possible use in developing more efficient refrigeration systems.
  • Yttrium, terbium, europium : Important in making televisions and computer screens and other devices that have visual displays as they are used in making materials that give off different colours. Europium is also used in making control rods in nuclear reactors.

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