Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from June 7, 2017

Prelims 2016 Marks released check yours

Have scientists stumbled upon the brain of a plant? (downtoearth)

Scientists at the University of Birmingham have shown groups of cells in plant embryos that function in ways similar to the human ‘brain’, allowing it to assess environmental conditions and determine when seeds will germinate.

A plant’s decision on when it will germinate is critical. If it happens early, then it could be subjected to harsh environmental conditions. If it is too late, then it could be outcompeted by other plants.

In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on June 6, scientists have shown that this ‘decision making centre’ of a plant called Arabidopsis contains two types of cells. One type prefers seed dormancy or inactivity while the other promotes germination. These two groups of cells communicate with each other by moving hormones, which is a mechanism comparable to that used by our own brains when we decide whether or not to move.

Mathematical modeling was used to show that communication between the separated groups of cells cont…

Have scientists stumbled upon the brain of a plant?

Scientists at the University of Birmingham have shown groups of cells in plant embryos that function in ways similar to the human ‘brain’, allowing it to assess environmental conditions and determine when seeds will germinate.

A plant’s decision on when it will germinate is critical. If it happens early, then it could be subjected to harsh environmental conditions. If it is too late, then it could be outcompeted by other plants.

In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on June 6, scientists have shown that this ‘decision making centre’ of a plant called Arabidopsis contains two types of cells. One type prefers seed dormancy or inactivity while the other promotes germination. These two groups of cells communicate with each other by moving hormones, which is a mechanism comparable to that used by our own brains when we decide whether or not to move.

Mathematical modeling was used to show that communication between the separated groups of cells cont…

Gujarat police crack down on Narmada Bachao Andolan rally; Medha Patkar detained ( downtoearth)

In a crackdown on Narmada Bachao Andolan’s 'Rally for the Valley', the Gujarat police has taken social activist Medha Patkar, Prafulla Samantara, Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava, Madhuresh Kumar and Himshi Singh in custody along with 60 others. The crackdown happened in Chhota Udaipur district in Gujarat today (June 7).

Today was the last day of the three-day-long rally to protest against the government for not carrying out proper rehabilitation and resettlement work for the project affected people of Sardar Sarovar Dam.

The rally had travelled through different villages of Dhar, Kukshi, Badwani and Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh, Nandurbar district of Maharashtra and was going to visit the Jeevanshala (a school run by Narmada Navnirmaan Abhiyan) of Chimalkhedi in Maharashtra. However, the protestors were detained at Kavta checkpost in Kavta village of Chhota Udaipur district.

“We had reached the Chhota Udaipur district today morning around 10 AM. The Gujarat police stopped us s…

Desertification has increased in 90 per cent of states in India (downtoearth)

State of India’s agriculture is back in news. The recent shooting of farmers during a protest in Madhya Pradesh that led to six deaths, and the ongoing protests in Maharashtra for agricultural debt waiver, are two big developments within a week’s time. But these are symptoms of a bigger crisis afflicting agriculture in India.

Increasing desertification of India’s soil, is a fundamental threat to agriculture, according to the recently released State of India’s Environment 2017: In Figures book published by the Centre for Science and Environment and Down To Earth magazine.



According to this report, nearly 30 per cent of India is degraded or facing desertification. Of India's total geographical area of 328.72 million hectares (MHA), 96.4 MHA is under desertification. In eight states—Rajasthan, Delhi, Goa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh—around 40 to 70 per cent of land has undergone desertification. More to it, 26 of 29 Indian states have reported an i…

Uncertain times: on the security situation in Afghanistan (hindu )

The major terror strike in Kabul underlines a rapidly deteriorating security situation

Afghanistan is no stranger to terror attacks. Even so, the repeated strikes in the most fortified areas with mounting casualties demonstrate a steadily deteriorating security situation. In April, the Taliban had targeted an army base in Mazar-e-Sharif, killing over 100 soldiers. Now, at least 90 people, mostly civilians, have been massacred in a suspected truck bomb blast in Kabul. The Wazir Akbar Khan area where the blast occurred is one of the most secured places in the city, given its proximity to the presidential palace and embassies, including India’s. Still, a terrorist managed to drive in with a vehicle full of explosives and detonate it. It is not immediately clear who is behind the attack. The Taliban have denied any role, saying they don’t kill civilians. Afghanistan’s jihadist landscape has been diversified. There are multiple Taliban splinter groups that do not accept the current leader…

Back to basics: on the dip in GDP growth (hindu)

The dip in GDP growth in the January-March quarter points to the need for a policy reboot

India’s economy, measured by the gross domestic product, grew at 7.1% in 2016-17, the slowest pace since the National Democratic Alliance government came to office in 2014, and significantly lower than the 8% growth clocked in 2015-16 (revised data). On the face of it, this is in line with the estimates put out by the Central Statistics Office in early January and at the end of February. A top government economist has lashed out at ‘messiahs of doom’ who had predicted a 2% decline in growth due to the Centre’s decision to demonetise ₹500 and ₹1,000 currency notes last November. But scratch deeper, and those naysayers don’t appear to be too far off the mark. Growth in the final quarter of 2016-17 was just 6.1%, all of 1.8 percentage points lower than the 7.9% recorded in its first (which decelerated to 7.5% and 7% in the second and third quarters, respectively). In fact, the only reason the 7.1% …

Nuclear power: Expensive, hazardous and inequitable (hindu)

The government’s recent approval to ten new nuclear reactors deserves to be carefully appraised.

By all accounts, nuclear power has had a bad year. In March, Westinghouse, the largest historic builder of nuclear power plants in the world, declared bankruptcy, creating a major financial crisis for its parent company, Toshiba. The French nuclear supplier, Areva, went bankrupt a few months earlier and is now in the midst of a restructuring that will cost French taxpayers about €10 billion. Its reactor business is being taken over by a clutch of companies, including the public sector Électricité de France, which is itself in poor financial health. In May, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced that it expects the share of nuclear electricity in the U.S. to decline from about 20% in 2016 to 11% by 2050. The newly elected Presidents of Korea and France have both promised to cut the share of nuclear energy in their countries. And the Swiss just voted to phase out nuclear power…

What greater crisis do you want in our agriculture?, asks Deepak Pental (hindu)

The geneticist and former Delhi University V-C explains why India must shed its knee-jerk opposition to GM crops

Deepak Pental is Professor of Genetics at the University of Delhi. A former vice-chancellor, he’s at the centre of a scientific storm over transgenic mustard, the first such food crop that’s been cleared by the Environment Ministry’s technical committee for release into the fields. Dr. Pental’s group has used two genes from soil bacterium (Bacillus amyloliquefaciens), called barnase and barstar, that make mustard, a self-pollinating plant, amenable to hybridisation. Hybrid plants are generally considered higher yielding than pure, native parental cultivars. Activists opposed to GM technology, however, allege that Dr. Pental’s claims on yield are inflated, and that along with barnase and barstar he employs another gene, called bar, that make the mustard herbicide-tolerant, locking farmers into certain brands of weedicides. In a wide-ranging conversation, Dr. Pental explaine…

In a new orbit: On the launch of GSLV Mark-III, India’s heaviest rocket (hindu)

ISRO lifts India into the elite group capable of putting heavier satellites into a precise orbit

The Indian Space Research Organisation has crossed a significant milestone with the successful developmental flight of the country’s heaviest Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, the GSLV Mark-III. This is the first time a satellite weighing over 3.1 tonnes has been launched from India to reach the geostationary orbit about 36,000 km from Earth. The Mk-III can launch satellites weighing up to four tonnes, which almost doubles India’s current launch capacity. With communication satellites becoming heavier (up to six tonnes), the capability for larger payloads is vital. This can be done by switching over to electric propulsion for orbit rising and to keep the satellite in the right position and orientation in the orbit through its lifetime (that is, station keeping). The switch-over would reduce the weight of the vehicle as it can do away with nearly two tonnes of propellants and carry …