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August 13, 2018 (Hyderabad)
Indian scientist-academician, N Raghuram, has been elected Chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI), a global policy making initiative.
A professor at the GGS Indraprastha University, New Delhi, Raghuram is the first Indian and Asian to be elected to the Chair. He will succeed Mark Sutton of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh.
The Vice-Chair elect is David Kanter of the New York University, an expert in the role of nitrous oxide and nitrogen policy evaluation. He recently led the nitrogen side event at the 2018 meeting of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The position has been created recently.
Raghuram specialises in the biological determinants of nitrogen use efficiency in crops. He has been the President of the Indian Nitrogen Group and a Steering Committee member of the UNEP Global Partnership on Nutrient Management.
The new chairs will formally take up their roles on January 1, 2019, allowing for a smooth transition during the Autumn of 2018, according to a statement.
Their combined effort will enable INI to strengthen its contribution to global science-policy processes, including supporting the International Nitrogen Management System (INMS) and providing regular input to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA).
Their responsibility will be to steer the network of six regional centres, each under an INI Regional Director (Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America). Other INI projects under their purview include the "N-print" activity on nitrogen foot-printing and cooperation with the Global Carbon Project on establishment of a global nitrous oxide budget.
August 07, 2018 (Bhubaneswar)
Ever since the advent of the Anthropocene era, the most recent geologic period, climate change and global warming are two severe catastrophes facing humanity. A distinct and immediate effect of global warming is the increase in temperature - both on land and in the oceans. According to the NASA Earth Observatory, global temperatures have increased by 0.85° C since 1880. The IPCC's (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) 5th assessment reports that the last three decades in India were successively warmer. The changes in the climate patterns often lead to extreme temperatures and precipitation, drought, and other calamities. So, what implications does this have on an agricultural country like India?
In a recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from the Florida State University, the Indian Institute of Technology Bhubaneswar, and the India Meteorological Department investigated the trends in temperature change in India by assessing the decadal temperature changes - changes in the average temperature levels every ten years - over a 70-year span. The study also points to the role played by different geographical features in the climate patterns.
The researchers collected temperature data during 1951-2013 from 395 weather stations across India, and calculated the daily maximum, minimum and mean temperatures. The dataset was into three seasons - summer or the pre-monsoon period from April 1-May 31, monsoon from July 1- September 30, and winter or the post-monsoon period from Jan 1 - March 31. Mean temperature levels were calculated for the same.
The study used a Community Climate Model (CCM) to forecast the trends in temperature variations. "A Community Climate Model is a numerical model that attempts to simulate temperature and precipitation patterns over a given region for periods longer than is typical for a daily weather forecast. Such a model is called a community model when it is developed and maintained at a research centre, freeing the various users from having to develop the model at their research site", details Prof Ross.
It was found that the mean daily maximum temperature, over decades, had extreme values of 40°C - 42°C, in most parts of India. A notable increase in warming was observed in the north-west region and southern India from 1970 with a striking rise in 2000 and 2010. On the other hand, there was a cooling observed in the north-east extending into the south-west region over central India. In addition to these, a rapid rise in the surface temperature of India was noted partially since 1980.
The researchers were intrigued by one question - what caused the patterns of warming accompanied by consistent patterns of cooling in the 60-year span? Previous studies have attributed this cooling to emissions that create a layer of brownish haze in the atmosphere predominant over the North Indian Ocean and South Asia. In the current study, it was observed that the haze region extends from northeastern India southwestward across central India. In this region, the incoming solar radiation is absorbed around 3 km above the ground, producing warming at that level. Due to the absorption at that level, the radiation reaching the ground beneath the haze is reduced resulting in cooling at earth's surface. Consequently, the haze region lying across central India experiences cooling at the surface. At 3 km the heated air rises and then sinks over northwestern and southern India leading to the surface warming observed in those two regions.
August 05, 2018 (New Delhi)
There will be a further delay in the launch of India's second mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-2, and it may be no sooner than January, according to a top official.
The postponement of the ambitious mission from October comes in the wake of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) facing two setbacks in less than a year. The launch of the mission was first planned in April.
Earlier this year, ISRO had launched GSAT-6A, a military communication satellite, but lost communication with it. Following this, ISRO also recalled the launch of GSAT-11 from Kourou, French Guiana, for additional technical checks.
Last September, the PSLV- C39 mission, carrying the IRNSS-1H navigation satellite, failed after the heat shield refused to open and release the satellite.
ISRO is treading a cautious path after these two setbacks as Chandrayaan-2 is one of the crucial launches for the space agency, particularly after Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission). It is also ISRO's first mission to land on any celestial body. ?We don?t want to take any risk,? said the official, requesting anonymity.
The official added that there are certain windows during which the mission could be launched. The next launch window is likely to be in January.
Repeated attempts to solicit a response from ISRO Chairman K Sivan were not successful. In April, Sivan informed the government about the postponement of the launch to October-November. A national-level committee to review Chandrayaan-2 recommended some additional tests before the mission could take off.
Chandrayaan-2 will be ISRO's first time attempt to land a rover on the Moon. The rover of India's second lunar mission, costing nearly Rs 800 crore, will be made to land near the yet-unexplored south pole.
July 27, 2018 (New Delhi)
Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and citizen engagement platform MyGov have launched the online portal 'Innovate India Platform'.
Through the portal, users can view, comment, share, and rate the innovations crowdsourced on the #InnovateIndia platform, according to an official statement.
They can view the leaderboard which is calculated based on the votes on each innovation. Citizens can also share their or other organisations' innovation on the platform by logging into the MyGov website. These innovations can also be shared on various social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter.
R Ramanan, Mission Director, AIM under NITI Aayog that promotes innovation, said in the statement that the #InnovateIndia MyGov-AIM portal creates the much-needed innovations platform for registering both grassroots and deep-tech innovators at a national level.
"Those searching for a critical innovation can leverage the portal for the benefit of the economy as well as national social needs," he added.
"The current government initiative to capture and support innovation from ground up, is aimed at creating a structured ecosystem to encourage, enhance and develop India?s innovative character", Arvind Gupta, CEO, MyGov, said in the statement.
July 26, 2018 (Thiruvananthapuram)
Get ready for the century's longest total lunar eclipse on Friday night! The Kerala State Science and Technology Museum (KSSTM) in the state capital is making arrangements for viewing the eclipse using telescopes. The eclipse will be visible in full from Thiruvananthapuram during the final hours of Friday and the early hours of Saturday. "You don't really need telescopes to view a lunar eclipse, but we will be arranging a six-inch and 11-inch Celestron telescopes for better viewing,? KSSTM director Arul Jerald Prakash said.
The total eclipse will start by 1 am the wee hours of Saturday. But a partial eclipse will begin by 11.55 pm on Friday when the moon starts entering the earth's shadow. The total eclipse will end by 2.45 am on Saturday. The partial eclipse at the fag end of the celestial show will be visible till 3.45 am. The total duration of the eclipse is six hours and 14 minutes of which the full eclipse will account for one hour and 43 minutes, officials said.
KSSTM telescopes will be available for viewing from 11.30 pm to 3 am. So what is so special about Friday's eclipse. For one, it is the longest one in this century. The moon will be visible in a reddish, scarlet hue for over one hour and 43 minutes of the eclipse, which is 40 per cent longer than that of any other eclipse measured in recent times.
So why would the moon appear blood-red during the eclipse? The moon will appear reddish and not black because some of the sun's light gets bent around earth's edge and falls on the moon. Colours at the blue end of the spectrum - like violet, blue and green, get scattered by earth's atmosphere while the longer wavelength, red end of the spectrum gets directed on to the surface of the moon.
An eclipse of the moon occurs when the satellite passes through the earth's shadow or 'Umbra'. There are certain conditions for a lunar eclipse: first, it should be on a full moon night. An eclipse does not occur on every full moon because the moon's plane is tilted at an angle to that of the earth's. But there are occasions when they align with the earth in between the sun and the moon.
July 24, 2018 (Mumbai)
Fuel to power its refrigerated supply trucks in city
Taking a step towards a sustainable future, McDonald's has become the first company in the food industry in India to recycle used cooking oil into biodiesel for powering the company?s refrigerated supply delivery trucks.
Biodiesel made from used cooking oil is a cleaner fuel with 75% lower carbon emissions than diesel, over its entire life cycle. It is an eco-friendly fuel that helps limit global warming, said a company statement adding that Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt Ltd, the master franchisee for McDonald's in west and south India, is now powering all its delivery trucks in Mumbai with biodiesel made from its used cooking oil.
The company started this as a pilot last year and has scaled it up to cover all 85 restaurants in Mumbai. Today, the company is converting more than 35,000 litres of used cooking oil every month into biodiesel, amounting to a saving over 420,000 litres of crude oil annually, the statement added.
The process of conversion begins at the restaurant where the team from the distribution centre collects used cooking oil. The oil is then taken to the converting facility, where it is converted into bio-diesel and sent back to the distribution centre. It is then used in dedicated refrigerated trucks for McDonald?s supply logistics in Mumbai.
"We strongly believe in protecting our environment and that makes sustainability and conservation an important part of our operations in India,? said Amit Jatia, Vice Chairman, Westlife Development Ltd.
Over the next four years, HRPL is looking at expanding its restaurant footprint to 450-500, which means using about 15 lakh litres of used oil to make biodiesel for running its refrigerated delivery trucks. That is a reduction of over 4,000 MT of carbon emissions equal to planting about two lakh trees, the statement said.
Speaking on the initiative, President of the Biodiesel Association Of India, Sandeep Chaturvedi, said, "We are delighted to know that that HRPL has become the first restaurant chain in the country to implement sustainable biodiesel by successfully recycling its used cooking oil. HRPL and Unicon Biofuels have been working for the past one year to convert used cooking oil to biodiesel as per the Bureau of Indian Standards. The Biodiesel Association of India encourages all food companies to learn from this initiative and apply it in their own business model."
July 21, 2018 (New Delhi)
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee launched a Technology Innovation and Development of Entrepreneurship Support (TIDES) business incubator at Greater Noida on Friday.
The Noida campus is an extension of the existing TIDES incubator at Roorkee, and will ensure that start-ups incubated in the Roorkee campus benefit from the start-up ecosystem of the National Capital Region (NCR) which would offer them more opportunities to grow and connect with mentors, investors and established companies in their technology sector, according to a press release.
The Greater Noida Extension Centre (GNEC) will initially offer incubation to three start-ups, with 15 incubatee team members working and staying in GNEC. The incubator plans to increase the capacity to spawn more entrepreneurs at IIT Roorkee.
The incubator is supported by the Startup India programme and was granted funding of Rs 12 crore through the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) and the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB).
TIDES was established by the Technology Incubation and Entrepreneurship Development Society (TIEDS) and IIT Roorkee to support innovation and entrepreneurship.
Since its inception three years ago, it has interacted with close to 100 start-ups and over 20 start-ups have been offered incubation support, with a cumulative seed funding of Rs 1.2 crore, creating over 100 job opportunities. A total of 10 patents have been filed and three technologies have been commercialised, the release stated.
Current students incubated in IIT Roorkee, on completion of their courses, will have the option to work in the Greater Noida Campus to scale up their operations and explore market possibilities. They can also work from the Greater Noida Campus during their vacations and conduct customer meetings and interactions with potential investors. Moreover, TIDES will also receive proposals from start-ups founded by IIT Roorkee alumni, who are keen to work from the Delhi-NCR region.
July 20, 2018 (New Delhi)
The Indian Space Research Organisation's (Isro's) satellite centre, the Isro Satellite Centre (ISAC), has signed an agreement with a consortium led by Alpha Design Technologies Pvt Ltd, Bharat Electronics Limited and the Tatas to assemble satellites.
This will be the first set of agreements signed by Isro, which is trying to rope in private partners to overcome its own constraints. The space agency is encouraging private players to form a small consortium to undertake satellite and rocket manufacturing work so that it can remain focused on research and development.
After signing the agreement, Alpha Design Technologies chairman and managing director H S Shankar said that his company is the only organisation that has, under guidance from Isro, already assembled, integrated and tested the high-end 1.65 tonne IRNSS-1i successfully. The satellite was launched on April 12, 2018, and is functioning excellently in outer space.
The Alpha Design-led consortium consists of six small and medium-sized enterprises, including Newtech, Aidin, Aniera, DCX, Vinyas, and Exseed Speed.
Sources in the Isro said that the Alpha-led consortium, Tata, and BEL will work independently.
They are expected to build at least 7-9 satellites - divided equally between Alpha, BEL and Tata - per year. The agreement is for three years and is extendable for 2 more years.
The value of the satellites to be built was not shared by Isro or its new partners.
The satellites that are going to be built are between 1.5-3 tonnes and are meant for imaging, communication, and weather forecasting.
Sources said that all these satellites will be assembled at ISITE facilities - separate enclosures for all the companies under ISAC/ISRO.
Earlier, Alpha Design had said that it had plans to build its own facilities in the next 3-5 years. It is also scouting for investors and planning for an initial public offering to mobilise funds to back the plan.
Industry representatives have said that for medium and big satellites, the present requirements projected by Isro are that 7-9 per year might be sufficient for the next 3 years.
However, this requirement is expected to increase to 12 per year. To address this, each of these organisations would require around 500 engineers/diploma holders/skilled technicians during the 3 years.
July 20, 2018 (New Delhi)
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) - diseases related to the heart and blood vessels are the number one cause of death in the world. In India, CVDs account for close to 25% of the total deaths - higher than tuberculosis and respiratory diseases combined, which are second and the third cause of death. Health officials predict that the risk of CVDs is only going to increase with changing lifestyle, higher levels of obesity, unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity, and overuse of tobacco and alcohol. So, who is at a higher risk of having a cardiovascular disease in their lifetime?
A recent study by researchers at the Harvard University and Harvard Medical School (USA), University of Goettingen (Germany) and the Indian Institute of Public Health (India) have examined the risk of CVDs across India based on the geographical and sociodemographic information. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, has analysed data of over 7,97,540 adults between the ages of 30 and 47, from 27 states and five union territories in India.
The researchers used data from the Annual Health Survey and District-level Household Survey from 2010-2014 to collect information about a person's health and sociodemographic information. Factors like body-mass index (BMI), high blood glucose level, blood pressure and smoking habits, which contribute to the risk of CVDs were collected along with their residence location. The risk factors helped the researchers calculate the risk of an individual developing a fatal or nonfatal cardiovascular disease in the next ten years.
The study found that at a national level, the prevalence of a high CVD risk of greater than 30% in the next ten years, was twice as higher in men as compared to women. Based on the geography, it varied from 10.2% among females in Assam to 24.2% among males in Nagaland and Himachal Pradesh. The average 10-year risk of a fatal or nonfatal CVD event varied widely among states in India, ranging from 13.2% in Jharkhand to 19.5% in Kerala. The risk of CVD was highest in North India, Northeast, and South India.
The study also found that adults living in urban areas, as well as those with a higher household wealth or education, tended to have a higher CVD risk. It found that smoking was more prevalent in poorer households and rural areas, whereas body mass index, high blood glucose, and systolic blood pressure - risk factors for CVD - were higher among wealthier families in urban areas. In fact, men had a substantially higher smoking prevalence (26.2%) compared to women (1.8%) and also higher systolic blood pressure than women.
With India's rapid economic growth leading to higher standards of living, and with it, increasing prevalence unhealthy lifestyles, there could be many more who are 'urbanised' and have a high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.