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Important Current Affairs 8th December 2018

National News

State of Maharashtra’s Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) Project
Over 49 companies including the Tata Group, Amazon, ITC, and Patanjali, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government’s ‘State of Maharashtra’s Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART)’ project, assisted by World Bank, to revamp the agricultural value chain and improve the price realisation for the farmer.
Project SMART entails an investment of Rs. 2,000 crore, of which World Bank contributed Rs. 1,500 crore while the State government contributed Rs. 430 crore. The balance Rs. 70 crore was raised by Village Social Transformation Foundation (VSTF) through its partners.
Significance
•    The project is giant step towards transformation of rural economy and empowerment of farmers and also sustainable agriculture through public-private partnership (PPP) model. 
•    It seeks to ensure higher production of crops and create robust market mechanism to enable farmers to reap higher remunerations for the yield. 

Appointments


It unites agriculture-oriented corporates and farmers by providing them common platform.
Ex-Diplomat Elected To UN's Socio-Economic, Cultural Panel 
Former senior Indian diplomat Preeti Saran has been elected unopposed to an Asia Pacific seat on the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) of the UN. Ms Saran will begin her four-year term on January 1, after another former Indian diplomat, Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, completes his third term on the CESCR at the end of this year.
About Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR):
•    The CESCR was set up in 1985 by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.
•    It was constituted with an aim to monitor on its behalf the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), which has been ratified by 169 countries.
•    The countries that are parties to the covenant are required to submit reports to the CESCR every five years on how they protect the economic, social and cultural rights.

Science and Technology


China Launches 1st Mission to Land on the Far Side of the Moon
China has launched the first mission to land a robotic craft on the far side of the Moon. The Chang'e-4 mission will see a static lander and rover touch down in Von Kármán crater, located on the side of the Moon which never faces Earth. The payload blasted off atop a Long March 3B rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The mission will pave the way for the country to deliver samples of Moon rock and soil to Earth.
Von Kármán crater is of interest to scientists because it is located within the oldest and largest impact feature on the Moon - the South Pole-Aitken Basin. This was probably formed by a giant asteroid impact billions of years ago.The landers will characterise the region's geology and the composition of rock and soil.
The mission is part of a larger Chinese programme of lunar exploration. The first and second Chang'e missions were designed to gather data from orbit, while the third and fourth were built for surface operations.

International News

UN launches new framework to strengthen fight against terrorism
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has launched a new framework to combat the scourge of international terrorism and coordinate efforts across the peace and security, humanitarian, human rights and sustainable development sectors. 
Termed the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact, the framework is an agreement between the UN chief, 36 organizational entities, the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) and the World Customs Organisation, to better serve the needs of Member States when it comes to tackling the scourge of international terrorism.

2023 is international year of millets: FAO 
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has decided to observe 2023 as the International Year of Millets, upon the request from the Indian government. 
This decision was taken at the 160th session of FAO Council, currently underway in Rome, which also approved India’s membership to the Executive Board of the World Food Program (WFP) for 2020 and 2021, it said.

Awards

Ministry of New and Renewable Energy conferred Skoch Award for National Significance

Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India has been conferred the Skoch Award for National Significance at an event held recently in New Delhi. The award was received by Secretary, Ministry of New Renewable Energy Shri Anand Kumar.
The award has been conferred on the Ministry considering its purpose and critical role played in installing about 73 GW renewable energy capacity in the country. With 21 per cent of total installed capacity, within the year renewable energy grossed a magic figure of providing one billion units of electricity in the country.
Today, India ranks 4 in the world in wind energy capacity and 5th in solar & total renewable energy capacity installed in the world. India has played a critical role in setting up of international solar alliance. Further, India moved a resolution during the first meeting for making it a global initiative.



 

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Important Current Affairs 4th December 2018 English

(National news)

Train 18 Crosses 180 kmph Speed Limit 
India’s first locomotive-less train, known as Train 18, breached the 180 kmph speed limit during a test run in the Kota-Sawai Madhopur section.
When this 100-crore indigenously designed train is made operational, it will become the country’s fastest train.
On October 29, the high-tech, energy-efficient, self-propelled (engine-less) train was flagged off here by Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani.With 16 coaches, the train will have the same passenger carrying capacity as that of the Shatabdi Express.

(International news)

Soyuz 
A Soyuz rocket carrying Russian, American and Canadian astronauts took off from Kazakhstan and reached orbit on Monday, in the first manned mission since a failed launch in October.
Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency blasted off for a six-and-a-half month mission on the International Space Station at 1131 GMT.
The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the ISS since the U.S. retired the space shuttle in 2011.
About ISS    
The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. Its first component launched into orbit in 1998, with the first long-term residents arriving in November 2000. It has been inhabited continuously since that date.

(Science news)

NASA’s Osiris-Rex Spacecraft
After a two-year chase, a NASA spacecraft arrived on December 3 at the ancient asteroid Bennu, its first visitor in billions of years.
It is the first U.S. attempt to gather asteroid samples for return to Earth, something only Japan has accomplished so far.
Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission , also named Hayabusa.
Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission , also named Hayabusa.


GSAT-11 Ready For The Launch
A team of top officials and engineers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (IISRO), now stationed in the Guiana Space Centre, South America, is going over the last steps before it sees off the heaviest Indian communication satellite, GSAT-11, to its space orbit. The liftoff is slated for the wee hours of Wednesday, December 5, India time.
GSAT-11 is part of ISRO’s new family of high-throughput communication satellite (HTS) fleet that will drive the country's Internet broadband from space to untouched areas.
Already up in space are two HTSs — GSAT-29 (November 14) and GSAT-19 (June 2017) — while one more is due to join them in the near future. They are all to provide high-speed Internet data services at the rate of 100 Gbps (Gigabits per second) to Indian users.
Its co-passenger is South Korea’s GEO-KOMPSAT-2A, a meteorology satellite.
 


 

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Mesentery, a new Human organ discovered

Researchers have recently discovered a new organ that was hidden in plain sight inside our digestive system this whole time.
●    The existence of the human body’s 79th organ, known as the ‘mesentery’, has been known for hundreds of years. However, until recently, it was thought to be a fragmented structure comprising separate parts.
●    It was Dr. J Calvin Coffey, Professor of Survey at the University of Limerick in Ireland, who discovered that it was one continuous organ.
●    Although the structure of the organ is known, its functions are not very well understood.
●    Studying the organ more closely could be the key to better treatment of various abdominal and digestive diseases. 
●    The evidence of the organ’s new found status has been now published in the Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology journal. 
●    The organ has been listed in the journal as one that had not been acknowledged up until now.
●    The anatomic description of the organ that had been laid down in research books in the past 100 years has been completely incorrect. 

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Indian timekeepers add leap second to sync with Earth's spin

NASA missions, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) which watches the Sun, will join timekeepers around the world to add a leap second to its clocks, just before midnight on New Year’s Eve.
●    Clocks will add the extra second to keep in sync with Earth’s rotation, which gradually slows down over time.
●    When the dinosaurs roamed Earth our globe took only 23 hours to make a complete rotation. In space, millisecond accuracy is crucial to understanding how satellites orbit.
●    The leap second is also key to making sure that SDO is in sync with the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) used to label each of its images.
●    SDO has a clock that counts the number of seconds since the beginning of the mission. 
●    To convert that count to UTC requires knowing just how many leap seconds have been added to Earth-bound clocks since the mission started.
●    When the spacecraft wants to provide a time in UTC, it calls a software module that takes into consideration both the mission’s second count and the number of leap seconds – and then returns a time in UTC.

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First Biological Pacemaker using Human Stem Cells developed

A group of scientists from the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine developed the first functional pacemaker cells from human stem cells.
●    The invention will help in paving the way for alternate, biological pacemaker therapy.
●    The study was published in December 2016 the journal Nature Biotechnology.
●    The scientists used a developmental-biology approach to ascertain a specific protocol for generating the pacemaker cells.
●    The study stated that sinoatrial node cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent cells function as a biological pacemaker.
●    It goes on to explain that human pluripotent stem cells can be manoeuvred in 21 days to develop into pacemaker cells, which regulate heart beats with electrical impulses.
●    The human pacemaker cells were tested in rat hearts. 
●    Pluripotent stem cells hold the potential to differentiate into more than 200 different cell types that make up every tissue and organ in the body.
●    Sinoatrial node pacemaker cells are the heart's chief pacemaker. It controls the heartbeat throughout life.
 

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Scientists find material that can withstand 4000 degrees Celsius

Scientists have identified materials that can withstand temperatures of nearly 4,000 degrees Celsius.
●    It may pave the way for improved heat resistant shielding for the faster-than-ever hypersonic space vehicles. 
●    Researchers from Imperial College London in the UK discovered that the melting point of hafnium carbide is the highest ever recorded for a material.
●    Tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC) are refractory ceramics, meaning they are extraordinarily resistant to heat. 
●    Their ability to withstand extremely harsh environments means that refractory ceramics could be used in thermal protection systems on high-speed vehicles and as fuel cladding in the super-heated environments of nuclear reactors.
●    However, there has not been the technology available to test the melting point of TaC and HfC in the lab to determine how truly extreme an environment they could function in.

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Australia, France to build world's largest diesel-electric submarine

Australia and France signed an agreement on Tuesday to build the world's largest diesel-electric submarines in the Australian industrial town of Adelaide.
●    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the agreement in Adelaide, where they officially opened the Australian headquarters of DCNS, a French state majority-owned company that will design the Shortfin Barracuda subs.
●    Mr Turnbull described the 56 billion Australian dollar ($41 billion) contract to build 12 subs as the largest capital project in Australia's history. 
●    The contract is also DCNS's largest outside France.
●    France offered the Australians a diesel-electric version of the Barracuda-class nuclear submarine under construction for the French navy. 
●    Japan proposed a longer version of its Soryu-class diesel-powered propulsion system with advanced stealth capabilities.

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Scientists discover new material for gen-next data storage devices

Scientists have developed a new material - the first ever magnetic photoconductor - that may lead to next generation of memory-storage systems, featuring higher capacities with low energy demands.
●    Scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland have now developed ferromagnetic photovoltaic material whose magnetic order can be rapidly changed without disrupting it due to heating.
●    Perovskite photovoltaics are gradually becoming a cheaper alternative to current silicon systems, drawing much interest from energy scientists.
●    Magnetism in material arises from the interactions of localised and moving electrons of the material; in a way, it is the result of competition between different movements of electrons.
●    This means that the resulting magnetic state is wired in the material and it cannot be reversed without changing the structure of electrons in the material's chemistry or crystal structure.
●    This new crystal structure combines the advantages of both ferromagnets, whose magnetic moments are aligned in a well-defined order, and photoconductors, where light illumination generates high density free conduction electrons.

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UK Scientists develop revolutionary technique to simplify trapped ions

Physicists from the University of Sussex have developed a groundbreaking new technique that makes it much simpler to build large-scale trapped ion quantum computers, bringing us one big step closer to making quantum computers a reality in the near future.
●    Quantum computers are merely a concept, numerous computer science researchers around the world and billions of dollars have been invested to create them.
●    And it is believed that these new super-powerful computers will be available within the next 50 years.
●    Currently researchers around the world are building quantum computer systems either using trapped ions and atoms; particles of light; or superconducting circuits that act as qubits (a technique being researched by IBM).
●    To develop a quantum computer that makes use of trapped ions, the current method involves using laser beams to build quantum gates.
●    The research, entitled "Trapped-Ion Quantum Logic with Global Radiation Fields" is published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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India joins CERN as an Associate Member

India on 21 November 2016 became an Associate Member State of European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) by signing an agreement with the organisation. 
●    The participation of Indian scientists in CERN dates back to early 1960s and it became stronger with the support of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science and Technology (DST). 
●    In 1991, DAE signed a formal agreement with CERN which exists till today. 
●    In 2003, India was awarded the Observer status of CERN and was subsequently invited to join CERN as an Associate Member
●    India made significant contributions to the construction of Large Hadron Collider (LHC), in the areas of design, development and supply of hardware accelerator systems and its commissioning. 
●    India is also one of the leading partners in the ALICE experiment which is about to unearth the physics of quark-gluon plasma (QGP).
●    Indian scientists played a very important role in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiments, which is one of the two large experiments that have led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson. 

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