Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Rakhigarhi Excavation
- Standard model of elementary particles of Physics
- Election of President
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Rakhigarhi excavation
Context : DNA samples collected from two human skeletons unearthed at a necropolis of a Harappan-era city site in Haryana have been sent for scientific examination, the outcome of which might tell about the ancestry and food habits of people who lived in the Rakhigarhi region thousands of years ago.
Key Findings from Excavation Site
- Skeletal Remains : The skeletons of two women were found at Mound No. 7, believed to be nearly 5,000 years old. Pots and other artefacts were found buried next to the remains, part of funerary rituals back. DNA samples have been sent for tests, whose outcome might provide clues about the ancestry and food habits of people who lived in the region thousands of years ago. The mound had yielded around 60 burials in previous excavations.
- Signs of Settlement : This is the first time excavations have been done on Mound No. 3, which has revealed what appears to be “an aristocratic settlement”; ASI officials said more rounds of excavation will be needed to ascertain its structure and nature. In all Harappan sites excavated so far, there have been similar signs of three tiers of habitation — ‘common settlements’ with mud brick walls, ‘elite settlement’ with burnt brick walls alongside mud brick walls, and possible ‘middle-rung settlements’. Researchers are yet to determine whether these three levels were based on community or occupation. Clues may surface when excavations resume at Mound No. 3 in September.
- Artefacts : Other noteworthy finds include steatite seals, terracotta bangles, terracotta unbaked sealing with relief of elephants, and the Harappan script. Team also recovered some Harappan sealings (impression of a seal on a surface), indicating that seals were used to mark objects belonging to a set of people or community, as they are today.
- 1,000-odd objects recovered this season come from the mature-Harappan period. Archaeologically, the span of the Harappan Civilisation is subdivided into three periods — early (3300 BC to 2600 BC), mature (2600 BC to 1900 BC), and late (1900 BC to 1700 BC). Five urban sites — Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Ganweriwala (now in Pakistan), and Rakhigarhi and Dholavira (India) — have been identified as centres of the Civilisation.
- Jewelry unit: A large number of steatite beads, beads of semi-precious stones, shells, and objects made of agate and carnelian have been recovered. The excavation, which has been going on at three of the seven mounds, has also unearthed pieces of copper and gold jewellery.
- Possible remains of a 5,000-year-old jewellery making unit have been traced, which signifies that trading was also done from the city. Since there was no quarry of stones like lapis lazuli or shells in the region, the discovery shows extensive trade from areas as far away as Afghanistan, where lapis was found.
2 . Standard model of elementary particles of Physics
Context : On April 7, researchers from Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) Collaboration, in the U.S., announced, through a paper in Science, that they have made a precise measurement of the mass of the so-called W boson. They stated that this precisely determined value did not match with what was expected from estimates using the standard model of particle physics. This result is highly significant because this implies the incompleteness of the standard model description. This is a major claim, since the standard model has been extraordinarily successful in the past decades. Hence, physicists are looking for corroboration from other, independent, future experiments.
What is the standard model of elementary particle physics?
- The standard model of elementary particles is a theoretical construct in physics that describes particles of matter and their interaction.
- It is a description that views the elementary particles of the world as being connected by mathematical symmetries, just as an object and its mirror image are connected by a bilateral (left–right) symmetry. These are mathematical groups generated by continuous transformations from, say, one particle to another.
- According to this model there are a finite number of fundamental particles which are represented by the characteristic “eigen” states of these groups.
- The particles predicted by the model, such as the Z boson, have been seen in experiments and the last to be discovered, in 2012, was the Higgs boson which gives mass to the heavy particles.
Why is the standard model believed to be incomplete?
- The standard model is thought to be incomplete because it gives a unified picture of only three of the four fundamental forces of nature — electromagnetic, weak nuclear, strong nuclear and gravitational interactions — it totally omits gravity.
- So, in the grand plan of unifying all forces so that a single equation would describe all the interactions of matter, the standard model was found to be lacking.
- The other gap in the standard model is that it does not include a description of dark matter particles. So far these have been detected only through their gravitational pull on surrounding matter.
How are the symmetries related to particles?
- The symmetries of the standard model are known as gauge symmetries, as they are generated by “gauge transformations” which are a set of continuous transformations (like rotation is a continuous transformation). Each symmetry is associated with a gauge boson.
- For example, the gauge boson associated with electromagnetic interactions is the photon. The gauge bosons associated with weak interactions are the W and Z bosons. There are two W bosons — W+ and W-.
- Inspired by the success of quantum electrodynamics, in the sixties, Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam and Steven Weinberg developed the similar but more general, ‘electroweak’, theory in which they predicted these three particles and how they mediated the weak interactions. They were given the Nobel prize for their efforts in 1979. The W boson was first seen in 1983 at CERN, located in the Franco-Swiss border. Unlike the photon, which is massless, the W bosons are quite massive, which results in the force they mediate — the weak force — being very short ranged.
- Unlike the photon, which is electrically neutral, the W-plus and W-minus are both massive and charged. By exchanging such W bosons, a neutron can change into a proton, for example. This is what happens in beta decay, a radioactive interaction that takes place in the sun. Thus, the W boson facilitates the interactions that make the sun burn and produce energy.
What is the main result of the recent experiment? What is the discrepancy they obtained?
- The recent experiment at CDF, which measured the mass of the W boson as 80,433.5 +/- 9.4 Mev/c2, which is approximately 80 times the mass of a hydrogen nucleus, showed this to be more than what is expected from the standard model. The expected value using the standard model is 80,357 +/- 8 MeV/c2 . This is estimated from a combination of analytical calculations and high-precision experimental observation of a few parameters that go into the calculation like the W boson mass, strength of the electromagnetic interaction, Fermi constant, Higgs boson mass and Top quark mass. Thus, the W boson mass itself is a prediction of the standard model. Therefore, any discrepancy in its mass means a lack of self-consistency in the standard model.
- However, this is not the last word, as the mass discrepancy of the W boson needs to be checked and confirmed to the same accuracy by other facilities, for example, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
Where do we stand now in terms of new physics?
- New physics is in the air, and experiments have been gearing up for some years now to detect new particles. The Large Hadron Collider itself has been revamped for “Run3” that will carry out special experiments to look for physics beyond the standard model.
- A Perspective article by Claudio Campagnari and Martijn Mulders in Science points out several high-precision experiments which are in the pipeline such as the International Linear Collider in Japan, the Compact Linear Collider and the Future Circular Collider in CERN, the Circular Electron-Positron Collider in China etc. With its high-precision determination of the W boson mass, the CDF has struck at the heart of the standard model, so it is a significant finding and if this is confirmed by the LHC and other experiments, it will throw open the field for ideas and experiment.
3 . MPLADS
Context : At a time when MPs have been asking for an increase in the MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) fund, the Union Finance Ministry has ordered revised rules, under which the interest that the fund accrues will be deposited in the Consolidated Fund of India.
- Each MP is allocated ₹5 crore annually under the scheme.
- The MPLADS fund is released to the district authority and the MPs only have power to recommend development work.
- The payment is also released by the designated district authority on completion of the work.
- So far, the interest accrued on the fund used to be added to the MPLADS account and could be used for the development projects.
4 . Presidential Election
Context : The value of the vote of an MP in the presidential polls to be held in July is likely to go down to 700 from 708 due to the absence of a Legislative Assembly in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said on Saturday.
How is the President elected?
- The Indian President is elected through an electoral college system, wherein the votes are cast by national and State-level lawmakers. The elections are conducted and overseen by the Election Commission (EC) of India.
- The electoral college is made up of all the elected members of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs), and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of States and Union Territories (MLAs).
- Before the voting, comes the nomination stage, where the candidate intending to stand in the election, files the nomination along with a signed list of 50 proposers and 50 seconders. These proposers and seconders can be anyone from the total members of the electoral college from the State and national level. The rule for securing 50 proposers and seconders was implemented when the EC noticed, in 1974, that several candidates, many without even a bleak chance of winning, would file their nominations to contest the polls.
- An elector cannot propose or second the nomination of more than one candidate.
What is the value of each vote and how is it calculated?
- A vote cast by each MP or MLA is not calculated as one vote. There is a larger vote value attached to it.
- The value of the vote of an MP in a presidential election is based on the number of elected members in Legislative Assemblies of Sta- tes and Union Territories, including Delhi, Puducherry, and Jammu and Kashmir.
- The Electoral College for the presidential election comprises the members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and those of the Legislative Assemblies of the States and Union Territories.
- Before it was bifurcated into the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir in August 2019, the erstwhile State of J&K had 83 Assembly seats. According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, the Union Territory of J&K will have an Assembly, while Ladakh will be governed directly by the Centre. The government had announced that election to the Assembly would be held after the completion of the delimitation of Assembly constituencies.
- The fixed value of each vote by an MP of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha is 700. Meanwhile, the vote value of each MLA differs from State to State based on a calculation that factors in its population vis-a-vis the number of members in its legislative Assembly.
- The value of each MLA’s vote is determined by dividing the population of the State by the number of MLAs in its legislative Assembly, and the quotient achieved is further divided by 1000. Uttar Pradesh for instance, has the highest vote value for each of its MLAs, at 208. The value of one MLA’s vote in Maharashtra is 175, while that in Arunachal Pradesh is just 8. The total votes of each Legislative Assembly are calculated by multiplying the vote value of each MLA by the number of MLAs.
- The value of an MP’s vote has been 708 since the 1997 presidential election.
What is required to secure a victory?
- A nominated candidate does not secure victory based on a simple majority but through a system of bagging a specific quota of votes. While counting, the EC totals up all the valid votes cast by the electoral college through paper ballots and to win, the candidate must secure 50% of the total votes cast + 1.
- Unlike general elections, where electors vote for a single party’s candidate, the voters of the electoral college write the names of candidates on the ballot paper in the order of preference.
5 . Facts for Prelims
- Conducted on May 3, 1991, Operation Dudhi was undertaken by a column comprising of junior commissioned officers (JCOs) and 14 other ranks under the command of Subedar Padam Bahadur Chetri.
- The column moved from battalion headquarters, Chowkibal, for a routine patrol to check the winter vacated post of Dudhi, with the staging camp established at Bari Baihk. Located about 13km away from the battalion’s headquarters, the camp was covered with five to six feet of snow.
- The staging camp was established on May 4, 1991 and the track towards Dudhi was cleared the same day. T
- he next day, the column began moving towards Dudhi post. When they were just 1km from the post, things took a deadly turn as militants had infiltrated into Indian territory after crossing the 14,000 feet high Eagle Pass. They fired at the column, which then retaliated and discovered more than 100 militants camping in the area on the western part of the Dudhi post.
- Equipped with only 7.62 mm self-loading rifles and light machine guns, the brave soldiers used tactics to surround enemies who were armed with sophisticated weapons. They then brought down heavy fire at the militants. The battle lasted for more than six hours until reinforcement arrived. The entire river belt in the locality turned red with blood of the militants.
- Interestingly, many years later, today also few hundreds of Assam Rifles have been present in Kashmir to fight the militants. What clicked that time was the jungle warfare expertise of Assam Rifles. The next 96 hours were used to carry out search operations and sanitise the area. A huge cache of weapons and ammunition including 70 AK-47 rifles were seized.
- The monkeypox virus is an orthopoxvirus, which is a genus of viruses that also includes the variola virus, which causes smallpox, and vaccinia virus, which was used in the smallpox vaccine. Monkeypox causes symptoms similar to smallpox, although they are less severe.
- While vaccination eradicated smallpox worldwide in 1980, monkeypox continues to occur in a swathe of countries in Central and West Africa, and has on occasion showed up elsewhere. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), two distinct clade are identified: the West African clade and the Congo Basin clade, also known as the Central African clade.
- Monkeypox is a zoonosis, that is, a disease that is transmitted from infected animals to humans. According to the WHO, cases occur close to tropical rainforests inhabited by animals that carry the virus.
- Monkeypox virus infection has been detected in squirrels, Gambian poached rats, dormice, and some species of monkeys.
- Human-to-human transmission is, however, limited — the longest documented chain of transmission is six generations, meaning the last person to be infected in this chain was six links away from the original sick person, the WHO says.
- Transmission, when it occurs, can be through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on the skin or on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth or throat, respiratory droplets and contaminated objects, the WHO says. While vaccination eradicated smallpox worldwide in 1980, monkeypox continues to occur in a swathe of countries in Central and West Africa, and has on occasion showed up elsewhere. Photo credit: WHO
- According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox begins with a fever, headache, muscle aches, back ache, and exhaustion. It also causes the lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy), which smallpox does not. The WHO underlines that it is important to not confuse monkeypox with chickenpox, measles, bacterial skin infections, scabies, syphilis and medication-associated allergies.
- The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox.