03, October 2017

1.All cities and towns in five more States declared Open Defecation Free

Source: PIB

Five more States viz., Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Haryana have reached the milestone of making all cities and towns ‘Open Defecation Free’ as the Swacch Bharat Mission completed three years.

This was announced by the Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan Mission- 3rd anniversary of the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission

  • Priority to sanitation and cleanliness and had famously “Sanitation is more important than political freedom”
  • According to UNICEF, good sanitation can save Rs.50,000 per year per family. Over 1,00,000 children die every year in India due to diarrhea.
  • Lack of sanitation also contributes to physical and cognitive stunting in children. Besides, women and girls face a serious threat to their safety when they resort to open defecation. These are all serious issues and can no longer be ignored by adopting a status quoist mindset.
  • A World Bank report had said that lack of sanitation costs over six per cent of our GDP.
  • Every Indian should become part of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan – “Jan Andolan” with a missionary zeal so that the goal of a “Clean India” is achieved by 2nd October, 2019 – the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Ever Since Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi launched ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan” with a call to achieve ‘ Clean India’ by 2019, there no doubt has been tremendous response from different sections of the people as also various State Governments, local bodies, public representatives, NGOs and local communities.

2.Govt plan recognises effect of climate change on wildlife

Source: Indian Express

Environment Minister released the National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) 2017-2031

  • With India’s protected areas designed at a time when climate change was “hardly a criterion” for wildlife conservation, the National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) 2017-2031 states that it “recognises the concerns relating to climate change impacts on wildlife.”

Key facts:

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, however, only released basic points of the plan and specified that there are 103 conservation actions and 250 projects in the final plan, of which seven conservation actions and 11 projects relate to climate change.
  • The draft version of the plan, released in February 2016, had also highlighted 11 projects on climate change and indicated that “region-specific projections of future climate change impacts” will be the basis for redesigning India’s protected areas (PAs), and also take into account future species migration patterns.
  • Species are likely to migrate upwards on mountains with increased warming; thus in PAs located on mountainous areas, it would be prudent to consider extending PA boundaries to higher elevations even if these are presently barren or under snow cover,” the draft plan stated.
  • It recommended “assisted migration of wildlife” and “anticipatory planting along ecological gradients”, as climate change is expected to result in die-offs of certain tree species that are unable to adapt to newer environmental conditions.
  • There will be a process of adaptation to change where both plant and animal species will have to migrate due to climate change. This also requires moving from an individual approach of protected areas to a broader landscape approach

3.What is Total Return Index?

Source: The Hindu

How has equity mutual fund performance been measured so far in India?

  • Currently, a majority of fund houses benchmark their equity mutual fund schemes against simple price indices which capture only the change in price of the stocks that are components of the said index.
  • An index comprises a basket of securities taken at the prevalent market price. For instance, two of India’s popular indices Sensex and Nifty comprise shares of 30 companies and 50 companies respectively and the returns are measured based on price movements of the index components. So, an equity mutual fund’s performance was measured against the performance of their respective benchmarks.

What is The Total Return Index?

  • A Total Return Index takes into account not just the Price Returns of the stocks but also dividends paid out on the stocks.
  • According to investment research and investment management firm Morningstar, globally, Total Returns Indices are commonly used as the primary benchmarks for comparing fund performance, but in India this trend is only now taking off. Historically, Indian indices have always been tracked for the Price Return, but now you can find historical Total Returns data for most indices, although they are not widely tracked yet, the firm said.

What is the advantage in using the Total Return Index?

  • Total returns included interest, capital gains, dividends and distributions realised over a given period of time.
  • The TRI will help in giving the right picture of the real alpha (a metric which measures what the fund has earned over and above — or below — what was expected.
  • The alpha that is shown currently may look overstated as dividends are not added in benchmark returns calculation and the move towards TRI is a step towards “responsible and transparent communication with our advisors and investors and also sets high standards in investment management.
  • According to the firm, the Total Return of the benchmark S&P BSE 100 was 165 basis points higher than the price return.
  • The number of equity mutual funds beating the benchmark dropped to 58% from 85% after making a comparison on TRI rather than on Price Return Index basis.

What does TRI mean for stakeholders in a mutual fund?

  • From an investor stand point, TRI would give the actual picture of what exactly he or she earns from a mutual fund investment. From the standpoint of fund managers, it will make them work a little harder to make the right stock pick.
  • For instance, the typical dividend yield on benchmarks is in the ballpark of 1.5% per annum, which means that the TRI benchmark will be harder to beat by 150 basis points per annum.
  • One has to wait and see how the TRI changes the working style of fund managers and their performance in India.

4.2017 Medicine Nobel Prize for work on biological clocks

Source: The Hindu

Three Americans won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday for their discoveries about the body’s daily rhythms, opening up whole new fields of research and raising awareness about the importance of getting proper sleep.

  • Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young won the 9-million-kronor ($1.1 million) prize for isolating a gene that controls the body’s normal daily biological rhythm.

What is circadian rhythm?

  • Circadian rhythms adapt the workings of the body to different phases of the day, influencing sleep, behavior, hormone levels, body temperature and metabolism.
  • Circadian rhythm regulates the periods of tiredness and wakefulness during the 24-hour cycle. Derived from the Latin “circa diem” meaning “approximately a day,” the body clock is calibrated by the appearance and disappearance of natural light in a 24-hour period.
  • The body responds primarily to light and darkness and is found in all living things — plants, animals (including microbes) and human beings. Studies using fruit flies have been key to finding the molecular gears of biological clocks and the cells that control circadian rhythms.
  • According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), biological clocks are an organism’s innate timing device.
  • Very often the term biological clock is used interchangeably with circadian rhythms. Though related, they are not one and the same. Biological clocks produce circadian rhythms and regulate their timing.

How it works?

  • The biological clock is generated by about 20,000 neurons that form a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is found in the hypothalamus in the brain. These neurons receive signals from the eyes. Besides, light, exercise, hormones, and medications affect the SCN and the setting of the circadian clock.
  • Circadian rhythms are synchronized with the earth’s rotation by daily adjustments in the timing of SCN, following the exposure to light which indicates the time of the day.
  • When it’s dark at night, the eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired. The brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release melatonin hormone, which makes us feel drowsy. The onset of secretion of melatonin is about two hours before natural sleep time and peaks during the middle of the night. That’s why the circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of daytime and night-time.
  • Circadian rhythm works best when there is regular sleep habit such as going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same time on all days, weekends included.
  • Jet lag, daylight savings time, or staying awake can disrupt the circadian rhythm. Researchers are studying how shift work as well as exposure to light from mobile devices during the night may alter circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles.
  • Irregular rhythms have been linked to various chronic health conditions, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.
  • People with delayed sleep phase disorder are not able to fall asleep at a normal time at night. They may stay awake until 2 a.m. or later. On the other hand, older people often tend to suffer from advanced sleep phase disorder. In this, old people tend to get very sleepy in the early afternoon and go to bed earlier than normal. As a result, they wake up too early in the morning and are unable to go back to sleep. The third category is people with an irregular sleep-wake rhythm. No matter how they try and how hard they work on it, people with irregular sleep-wake rhythm are unable to set a sleep pattern.

5.Gravitational wave detectors win 2017 Physics Nobel

Source: The Hindu

The 2017 Nobel Physics Prize has been awarded to awarded “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves” to Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory.

Gravitational Waves: Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 in his general theory of relativity: Einstein’s mathematics showed that massive accelerating objects (such as neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other) would disrupt space-time in such a way that ‘waves’ of distorted space would radiate from the source (like the movement of waves away from a stone thrown into a pond).

The strongest gravitational waves are produced by catastrophic events such as colliding black holes, the collapse of stellar cores (supernovae), coalescing neutron stars or white dwarf stars, the slightly wobbly rotation of neutron stars that are not perfect spheres, and the remnants of gravitational radiation created by the birth of the Universe itself.

Why Detect Them?

The gravitational waves that are detectible by LIGO will be caused by some of the most energetic events in the Universe—colliding black holes, exploding stars, and even the birth of the Universe itself.

  • Detecting and analyzing the information carried by gravitational waves will allow us to observe the Universe in a way never before possible. It will open up a new window of study on the Universe, give us a deeper understanding of these cataclysmic events, and usher in cutting-edge research in physics, astronomy, and astrophysics.
  • Gravitational waves are not electromagnetic radiation. They are a completely different phenomenon, carrying information about cosmic objects and events that is not carried by electromagnetic radiation. Colliding black holes, for example, emit little or no electromagnetic radiation, but the gravitational waves they emit will cause them to “shine brightly” like beacons on an utterly dark cosmic sea.

Types of Gravitational Waves

1.Continuous Gravitational Waves: Continuous gravitational waves are produced by a single spinning massive object, like an extremely dense star called a neutron star. Any bumps or imperfections in the spherical shape of this star will generate gravitational waves as the star spins. If the spin rate of the star stays constant, so too do the properties of the gravitational waves it emits.

2.Compact Binary Inspiral Gravitational Waves: are produced by orbiting pairs of massive and dense (hence “compact”) objects like white dwarf stars, black holes, and neutron stars. There are three kinds of “compact binary” systems in this category of gravitational wave generators:

  1. Binary Neutron Star (neutron star-neutron star) or BNS
  2. Binary Black Hole (black hole-black hole) or BBH
  3. Neutron Star-Black Hole Binary (NSBH)

Each binary pair creates a characteristic series of gravitational waves, but the mechanism of wave-generation is the same across all three; it’s called, “inspiral”.

3.Stochastic Gravitational Waves: Small waves from every direction make up what we call a “Stochastic Signal”, so called because the word, ‘stochastic’ means, having a random pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely. These will be the smallest (i.e. quietest) and most difficult gravitational waves to detect, but it is possible that at least part of this stochastic signal may originate from the Big Bang.

4.Burst Gravitational Waves: Burst gravitational waves’ is truly a search for the unexpected—both because never have been detected them directly before, and because there are still so many unknowns that really don’t know what to expect or what to might find.

How are these waves detected?

  • Scientists have been trying to detect them using two large laser instruments in the United States, known together as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), as well as another in Italy.
  • The twin LIGO installations are located roughly 3,000 km apart in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. Having two detectors is a way to sift out terrestrial rumblings, such as traffic and earthquakes, from the faint ripples of space itself.
  • The LIGO work is funded by the National Science Foundation, an independent agency of the U.S. government.

What is LIGO?

  • The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory is a large-scale physics experiment aiming to directly detect gravitational waves.
  • LIGO operates two gravitational wave observatories in unison: the LIGO Livingston Observatory in Livingston, Louisiana, and the LIGO Hanford Observatory, on the DOE Hanford Site, located near Richland, Washington. These sites are separated by 3,002 kilometers. Since gravitational waves are expected to travel at the speed of light, this distance corresponds to a difference in gravitational wave arrival times of up to ten milliseconds.

The proposed LIGO-India project aims to move one Advanced LIGO detector from Hanford to India.

  • The LIGO India project is likely to be commissioned in 2024.
  • LIGO Laboratory (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory).
  • India is poised to set up world’s third advanced LIGO. The project operates three gravitational-wave (GW) detectors. Two are at Hanford in the state of Washington, north-western US, and one is at Livingston in Louisiana, south-eastern US.

LIGO india:

  • The LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) is a massive observatory for detecting cosmic gravitational waves and for carrying out experiments. The objective is to use gravitational-wave observations in astronomical studies.

How the Ligo system works

Detecting Gravity Waves


Source: Ligo Scientific Collaboration, Scientific American


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