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Science & Tech

Speculoos-3b: A New Earth-Sized Exoplanet Discovered

  • Astronomers have discovered a new Earth-sized exoplanet, Speculoos-3b, circling an ultracool red dwarf star.

About Speculoos-3b

  • Speculoos-3b is a recently found Earth-sized exoplanet circling an ultracool dwarf star.
  • It was found by a group of astronomers led by Michael Gillon of the University of Liege in Belgium.
  • It is located around 55 light-years from Earth.
  • Because of its short orbital period, Speculoos-3b receives about 10 times more energy per second from the Sun than Earth. 

Astrophysical Significance of the Discovery

  • The prevalence of ultracool dwarfs: Ultracool dwarf stars, such as the host of Speculoos-3b, account for around 70% of all stars in our galaxy and are noted for their extended life, lasting up to 100 billion years.
  • Importance of Life’s Potential: These stars’ long lifespans create a stable environment that may permit the formation of life on orbiting planets. 
Source: https://www.euronews.com/next/2024/05/20/speculoos-3-b-astronomers-find-new-earth-sized-exoplanet-about-55-light-years-away
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Science & Tech

Sangam: Digital Twin Initiative Enters Stage I

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has announced the selected participants for Stage I of the ‘Sangam: Digital Twin with AI-Driven Insights Initiative’. 

About Sangam: Digital Twin Initiative.

  • Launched in February 2024, it coincides with the preceding decade’s technical developments in communication, processing, and sensing, as well as the vision for 2047.
  • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will kick off this campaign by engaging prospective participants, including industry professionals, academics, and other key stakeholders, in order to raise awareness and interest.
  • It is a two-stage initiative. It will be dispersed in two stages and held in one of India’s largest cities.
    1. First Stage: An exploratory phase that focuses on defining perspectives and creative inquiry in order to unlock potential.
    2. Second Stage: A practical demonstration of particular use cases, which will serve as a model for future cooperation and expanding successful tactics in infrastructure projects.
  • Objectives:
    1. To illustrate the actual use of novel infrastructure planning solutions.
    2. Create a Model Framework to enable faster and more productive cooperation.
    3. To provide a roadmap for expanding and duplicating successful tactics in future infrastructure projects.

It reflects a collective effort to reshape infrastructure planning and design

  • It combines 5G, IoT, AI, AR/VR, AI native 6G, Digital Twin, and next-generation computational technologies to encourage collaboration among governmental organisations, infrastructure planners, tech giants, startups, and academics.
  • Sangam brings together all stakeholders with the goal of transforming creative ideas into actual solutions, bridging the gap between concept and reality, and paving the road for ground-breaking infrastructure improvements. 
Source: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=2020674
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Science & Tech

AI Content Detectors to Combat Deep Fakes

  • During the 2024 General Elections, the emergence of AI-generated content (AIGC), notably deepfake films starring celebrities like as Aamir Khan and Ranveer Singh, sparked worries about misrepresentation.

What is Deepfake technology?

  • It is a sort of artificial intelligence that generates convincing pictures, audio, and video hoaxes. Deepfakes frequently change existing source content by swapping one person for another.
  • Such material is created using a technology known as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), which consists of Artificial Neural Networks. 

Significance of Deepfake Technology:

  • Deepfake technology promotes the right to expression by amplifying marginalised voices and sharing essential ideas. Recently, a film was prepared to relay the dying message of a journalist assassinated by the Saudi government, urging justice.
  • Can help the education system: Online educators employ deepfakes to bring historical personalities to life in interesting courses. For example, a video of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
  • Deepfakes give people control over their digital identities and allow them to experiment with new ways of expressing themselves. For example, consider the Reface app.
  • Provides a realistic experience: Artists employ deepfakes for creative expression and cooperation, as demonstrated in Salvador Dali’s interactive museum advertising. Deepfake technology offers accurate lip-syncing for performers speaking several languages, increasing worldwide accessibility and immersion in films.
  • Deepfakes help to restore outdated images, improve low-quality film, and create realistic training materials for public safety. 

What are the limitations of deepfake technology?

  • Spreading False Information: Deepfakes might actively distribute disinformation in order to influence public opinion or elections, much as films of politicians or celebrities can sway viewers and cause misunderstanding about key matters.
  • Fraud: Deepfake technology facilitates financial fraud by impersonating people and deceiving them into disclosing critical information. They can also promote harassment, particularly against women, and cause psychological suffering.
  • Accuracy: While no AI detector promises 100% accuracy, technologies like Originality.ai have a 99% true positive rate. Detection models provide probability ratings, allowing for more sophisticated evaluations despite underlying uncertainty. 

Future Scope: 

  • Adversarial AI: Keeping up with increasing generative AI models is a key problem for content detectors.
  • Accessibility and Cost: As detection tools become more widely used and advanced, they are likely to become more accessible and affordable. 
Source: https://www.techtarget.com/searchsecurity/tip/How-to-detect-deepfakes-manually-and-using-AI#:~:text=But%20AI%20can%20also%20be,deepfake%20images%2C%20video%20and%20audio.
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Science & Tech

GPT-4o is a free AI model with vision, text, and voice

  • OpenAI has introduced GPT-4o, a variant of the GPT-4 model that drives ChatGPT.
  • It improves speed, intelligence, and efficiency in text, vision, and audio, revolutionising human-machine interaction and creating new opportunities for users globally.

About GPT-4o:

  • GPT-4o improves the speed and efficiency of GPT-4 level intelligence, facilitating natural and seamless human-machine interactions.(focuses on the emotional elements)
  • It smoothly blends transcription, intelligence, and text-to-speech operations, reducing latency and improving voice mode capabilities.

GPT-4o provides 

  • Free access for anyone. Previously only available to premium customers, GPT-4o now offers sophisticated tools to all users, unlocking over a million GPTs from the GPT shop and extending developer options. 
  • Multilingual and Vision features: GPT-4o supports over 50 languages and has vision features that allow users to upload photographs, documents, and get real-time information during discussions.
  • Real-time Conversations: It understands user emotions and offers emotive discussion styles in real time.
  • Vision and code Support: GPT-4o can answer hard math problems, help with code requests, understand complex charts, and analyse facial expressions live.
  • GPT-4o has live real-time translation capabilities, is two times quicker, 50% cheaper, and has five times larger rate limitations than GPT-4 Turbo. 
Source: https://www.artificialintelligence-news.com/2024/05/14/gpt-4o-human-like-ai-interaction-text-audio-vision-integration/#:~:text=OpenAI%20has%20launched%20its%20new,of%20input%20and%20output%20modalities.
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Science & Tech

An Overview of the Smart Cities Mission, Explained

The Smart Cities Mission (SCM), a prominent programme of the previous NDA-1 administration, has gotten less attention in this year’s list of election promises and successes. 

How does the government define “smart cities”?

  • Since 2009, following the massive financial collapse, the phrase ‘Smart City’ has become widely used.
  • Smart cities, as defined by urban practitioners, are innovative urban hubs akin to new Silicon Valleys, characterised by robust integration of transportation networks such as airports, highways, and various communication infrastructures, fostering intellectual environments enhanced by advanced information and communication technologies (ICT).
  • The Smart Cities Mission is a crucial urban revitalization and retrofitting programme announced by the Indian government in 2015 to transform 100 cities throughout the country into citizen-friendly and sustainable communities.

The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) comprises two primary components:

  1. Area-Based Development:

This aspect focuses on three components:

  • Redevelopment (city renewal) is the revitalization of existing urban districts with the goal of improving infrastructure, amenities, and quality of life.
  • Retrofitting (city improvement) is the process of upgrading existing infrastructure and services to match current urban demands and standards.
  • Greenfield developments (city extensions): Creating new urban areas or extending existing ones with sustainable and modern infrastructure. 
  1. Pan-City Solutions based on ICT:

This aspect entails creating integrated solutions across several industries utilising Information and Communication Technology (ICT). These solutions often fall into six categories: 

  • E-governance is the use of digital platforms to make governance procedures more efficient and transparent.
  • garbage management entails putting in place mechanisms to collect, segregate, and dispose of garbage effectively.
  • Water management involves improving water supply infrastructure and encouraging conservation methods.
  • Energy management entails using energy-efficient technology and developing renewable energy sources.
  • Urban mobility: Improving transport networks to increase connectivity and alleviate congestion.
  • Skill development: Promoting programmes that improve the skills and employability of the urban workforce. 

Why is the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) perceived as exclusive by many?

  • Limited Geographical Scope: Only a small section of a city’s size, generally less than 1%, was chosen for development under the SCM. For example, in Chandigarh, money were concentrated in sector 43, which prioritised initiatives such as smart water metres and Wi-Fi zones while leaving other regions unaffected. 
  • Mismatch with Urban Realities: The competitive selection procedure failed to account for India’s diversified and rapid urbanisation. The technique was more suited to static metropolitan environments in the West, rather than the dynamic urban landscapes of Indian cities.
  • relocation and Disruption: The implementation of smart city initiatives has resulted in the relocation of individuals living in impoverished neighbourhoods and street sellers.
  • Inadequate cash: The overall cash allotted for the SCM was much less than the anticipated amount needed to make Indian cities habitable. According to reports, $1.2 trillion in capital expenditures are required by 2030, while the SCM’s budget is less than $20 billion over nine years.

Did the SCM overturn the 74th constitutional amendment?

  • Reduced Role of Elected Councils: The SCM’s governance system restricted the role of elected municipal councils.This was interpreted as going against the decentralised, participatory government style envisioned by the 74th Constitutional Amendment, which sought to strengthen local municipal organisations.
  • Top-Down method: Critics said that the SCM’s design was excessively top-down, contrary to the bottom-up method encouraged by the 74th Constitutional Amendment.

Way forward:

  • Contextual Planning: Rather than using a one-size-fits-all paradigm, create flexible and adaptive plans that take into account India’s unique and dynamic urbanisation.
  • Community Involvement: Include local communities in the planning process to ensure that projects meet the requirements and reality of various metropolitan regions.
Source: http://The Smart Cities Mission (SCM), a prominent programme of the previous NDA-1 administration, has gotten less attention in this year's list of election promises and successes.    How does the government define "smart cities"? Since 2009, following the massive financial collapse, the phrase 'Smart City' has become widely used. Smart cities, as defined by urban practitioners, are innovative urban hubs akin to new Silicon Valleys, characterised by robust integration of transportation networks such as airports, highways, and various communication infrastructures, fostering intellectual environments enhanced by advanced information and communication technologies (ICT). The Smart Cities Mission is a crucial urban revitalization and retrofitting programme announced by the Indian government in 2015 to transform 100 cities throughout the country into citizen-friendly and sustainable communities. The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) comprises two primary components: Area-Based Development: This aspect focuses on three components: Redevelopment (city renewal) is the revitalization of existing urban districts with the goal of improving infrastructure, amenities, and quality of life. Retrofitting (city improvement) is the process of upgrading existing infrastructure and services to match current urban demands and standards. Greenfield developments (city extensions): Creating new urban areas or extending existing ones with sustainable and modern infrastructure.    Pan-City Solutions based on ICT: This aspect entails creating integrated solutions across several industries utilising Information and Communication Technology (ICT). These solutions often fall into six categories:  E-governance is the use of digital platforms to make governance procedures more efficient and transparent. garbage management entails putting in place mechanisms to collect, segregate, and dispose of garbage effectively. Water management involves improving water supply infrastructure and encouraging conservation methods. Energy management entails using energy-efficient technology and developing renewable energy sources. Urban mobility: Improving transport networks to increase connectivity and alleviate congestion. Skill development: Promoting programmes that improve the skills and employability of the urban workforce.    Why is the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) perceived as exclusive by many? Limited Geographical Scope: Only a small section of a city's size, generally less than 1%, was chosen for development under the SCM. For example, in Chandigarh, money were concentrated in sector 43, which prioritised initiatives such as smart water metres and Wi-Fi zones while leaving other regions unaffected.  Mismatch with Urban Realities: The competitive selection procedure failed to account for India's diversified and rapid urbanisation. The technique was more suited to static metropolitan environments in the West, rather than the dynamic urban landscapes of Indian cities. relocation and Disruption: The implementation of smart city initiatives has resulted in the relocation of individuals living in impoverished neighbourhoods and street sellers. Inadequate cash: The overall cash allotted for the SCM was much less than the anticipated amount needed to make Indian cities habitable. According to reports, $1.2 trillion in capital expenditures are required by 2030, while the SCM's budget is less than $20 billion over nine years.   Did the SCM overturn the 74th constitutional amendment? Reduced Role of Elected Councils: The SCM's governance system restricted the role of elected municipal councils.This was interpreted as going against the decentralised, participatory government style envisioned by the 74th Constitutional Amendment, which sought to strengthen local municipal organisations. Top-Down method: Critics said that the SCM's design was excessively top-down, contrary to the bottom-up method encouraged by the 74th Constitutional Amendment.   Way forward: Contextual Planning: Rather than using a one-size-fits-all paradigm, create flexible and adaptive plans that take into account India's unique and dynamic urbanisation. Community Involvement: Include local communities in the planning process to ensure that projects meet the requirements and reality of various metropolitan regions.
Categories
Science & Tech

FLiRT Variants: Latest Twist in the COVID-19 Saga

  • The advent of novel variations KP.2 and KP1.1, dubbed the FLiRT variants, has sparked global worry.
  • Despite immunisation efforts, these variations provide problems, raising worries about a possible increase in COVID-19 infections.

What are the FLiRT Variants of COVID-19?

  • KP.2 and KP1.1, sometimes known as ‘FLiRT’ variations, are progeny of the Omicron JN.1, which expanded extensively over the winter of last year.

Features and Differences with Other Variants

  • New Spike Mutations: The FLiRT group has two unique mutations thought to improve the virus’s capacity to infect human cells.
  • Transmission and Evasion: Preliminary research suggests that KP.2, the more common of the two, may have greater ability to avoid immune responses triggered by vaccinations and past infections.

Are FLiRT Variants Riskier Than JN.1?

  • Increased Immune Evasion: According to research, KP.2 has a substantial ability to evade immunity from both the most recent immunisations and earlier infections.
  • Reproduction Number: KP.2 may have a larger reproduction number than JN.1, indicating a possibility for wider spread.
  • While there is no conclusive evidence that FLiRT mutations cause more severe disease, their capacity to overcome immune defences can lead to more infections and, as a result, perhaps higher hospitalisations. 
Source: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/all-about-flirt-the-new-covid-19-variants-explained/article68144878.ece
Categories
Environment & Biodiversity Science & Tech

West Nile Fever Outbreak in Kerala

  • The Kerala government reported the resurgence of West Nile disease cases in Thrissur, Malappuram, and Kozhikode districts.
  • West Nile fever was initially identified in Kerala in 2011, with a fatal case reported in 2019 involving a six-year-old from Malappuram.

What is West Nile Fever?

  • West Nile fever is caused by the West Nile Virus (WNV), which spreads by bites from infected Culex mosquitos.
  • WNV is a mosquito-borne, single-stranded RNA virus.
  • According to the World Health Organisation, it is a flavivirus from the Japanese Encephalitis antigenic complex in the Flaviviridae family.

How is it spread?

  • Infected mosquitoes transmit the virus between humans and animals, particularly birds, which serve as the virus’s reservoir host.
  • Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on infected birds, which carry the virus in their bloodstream for a few days.
  • The virus finally enters the mosquito’s salivary glands.
  • During subsequent blood feasts (when mosquitos bite), the virus may be transferred into people and animals, where it can grow and potentially cause sickness.
  • WNV can also spread by blood transfusions, transmission from an infected mother to her child, or laboratory contact to the virus.
  • It is not known to spread through contact with sick people or animals. 

Symptoms of WNV infection:

  • WNV infection causes no symptoms in 80% of cases.
  • The rest get West Nile fever, sometimes known as severe West Nile illness.
  • In 20% of instances, symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, body pains, nausea, rash, and swollen glands.
Source: https://www.indiatvnews.com/health/west-nile-fever-cases-in-kerala-know-causes-symptoms-and-prevention-tips-of-this-mosquito-borne-disease-2024-05-08-930190#:~:text=The%20fever%20was%20first%20detected,the%20fever%20in%20Thrissur%20district.
Categories
Science & Tech

Studies Suggest More Water Ice on the Moon: ISRO

According to ISRO, a research found evidence for an increased probability of subsurface water ice formation in the Moon’s polar craters. 

Water Ice on the Moon: ISRO’s Findings

  • According to the research, the amount of subsurface ice within the first few metres is around 5-8 times more than that observed on the lunar surface.
  • Furthermore, the study showed that the Northern Polar zone has double the amount of water ice as the Southern Polar region.
  • It emphasises the need of digging to reach this ice for future missions and long-term human presence on the Moon.

Origin of Water Ice:

  • The work supports the notion that subsurface water ice in the lunar poles formed as a result of outgassing during volcanic activity in the Imbrian epoch.
  • It appears that Lunar Mare Volcanism and preferential impact cratering control the distribution of water ice on the Moon. 

Methodology

  • The study team used seven equipment on the NASA spacecraft Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO): radar, laser, optical, neutron spectrometer, ultraviolet spectrometer, and thermal radiometer. LRO glides above the lunar south pole.
  • These devices gave critical data for determining the origin and distribution of water ice on the lunar surface.

The significance of the findings

  • Accurate information of water ice distribution and depth is critical for selecting appropriate landing and sample locations for future lunar missions.
  • The study supports ISRO’s future plans for in-situ volatile exploration on the Moon, which are consistent with the agency’s overall lunar exploration goals. 
Source: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/studies-suggest-more-ice-on-moon-within-exploitable-depths-isro-5568544#:~:text=The%20recent%20study%20suggests%20that,poles%2C%20an%20ISRO%20statement%20said.&text=The%20study%20also%20suggests%20that,in%20the%20northern%20polar%20region.
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Science & Tech

 Launch of LSAM 20 (Yard 130)

  • The Indian Navy has added the ‘Ammunition Cum Torpedo Cum Missile Barge, LSAM 20’ (Yard 130) to its fleet.

What is LSAM 20?

  • The Indian Navy has inducted LSAM 20 (Yard 130), an Ammunition, Torpedo, and Missile Barge (Storage). (constructed by MSME Shipyard, M/s Suryadipta Projects Pvt Ltd, Thane).
  • LSAM 20 permits the transfer, embarkation, and disembarkation of articles/munitions onto IN ships.
  • These barges are developed and manufactured in-house in accordance with the Indian Register of Shipping’s Naval Rules and Regulations. 

Objective

  • A Torpedo Cum Missile Barge is a specially designed watercraft used by the Indian Navy to transfer various types of ammunition, torpedoes, and missiles to active zones.
  • These barges serve an important role in providing logistical support to naval warships by assuring the continuous transit of vital military supplies.  
Source: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=2019109
Categories
Science & Tech

Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) Project

  • NASA has launched the Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) spacecraft from New Zealand into orbit, using sunlight as propulsion.

About the Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) Project

  • The spacecraft is scheduled to circle 1,000 kilometres above Earth and unfurl an 80-square-meter solar sail around 25 minutes after launch.
  • It uses sunlight as a renewable propulsion source, which represents a significant improvement in space travel.
  • It employs a small CubeSat, similar in size to an oven, that enables propulsion by collecting solar particle energy.
  • The initial flying phase lasts two months and includes subsystem checkout and solar sail deployment.
  • A sequence of pointing manoeuvres will demonstrate orbit increasing and lowering, proving the effect of solar pressure on the sail. 

The Technology Behind Solar Sailing

  • Solar sailing, also known as solar sailing propulsion, is a type of spacecraft propulsion that uses the radiation pressure produced by sunlight to push a spacecraft forward.
  • Unlike typical rocket propulsion, which generates thrust by expelling mass (such as fuel), solar sailing uses momentum transfer from photons (light particles) generated by the Sun.
  • The notion of solar sailing is based on momentum exchange. 
  • Photons from the Sun strike a big, reflecting sail connected to a spaceship, transferring momentum and causing it to accelerate.
  • This acceleration progressively accumulates over time, allowing the spaceship to reach high speeds without the need of onboard fuel.
  • Solar sails are primarily made of lightweight, reflective fabrics like Mylar or aluminized Kapton and are deployed in space to collect sunlight.
  • The sail is frequently designed as a broad, thin membrane with a big surface area to maximise the quantity of sunlight it can capture. 

Solar sailing offers several advantages over traditional propulsion methods, including:

  1. Solar sailing does not require onboard fuel, making it a highly efficient and environmentally friendly propulsion technique for long-duration missions.
  2. Continuous thrust: Unlike chemical rockets, which produce short bursts of acceleration, solar sails may deliver continuous propulsion for as long as they are exposed to sunlight.
  3. Manoeuvrability: Solar sails may alter their trajectory by shifting their orientation in relation to the direction of incoming sunlight. This enables precise navigation and manoeuvring in space.
  4. Interstellar travel: Solar sailing has the potential to permit interstellar expeditions by gradually accelerating spacecraft to extremely high speeds over time, allowing them to investigate distant star systems. 
Source: https://www.nasa.gov/smallspacecraft/what-is-acs3/
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