Current General Knowledge: September 2009
CCTNS: Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System
NCTC: National Counter Terrorism Centre.
National Film Awards, 55th
The annual film awards in India, 55th National Awards (for year 2007-2008) were announced on September 7, 2009. The winners are:
Best Actor: Prakash Raj (Kanchivaram)
Best Actress: Uma Shree (Kannada film Gulabi Talkies)
Best Film Award: Kanchivaram
Best Child Actor: Sharad Goyekar (Marathi film Tingya)
Best Screenplay: Gandhi My Father
Best Supporting Actor: Darshan Zariwala (Gandhi My Father)
Best Supporting Actress: Shefali Shah (The Last Lear).
Special Jury mention: Gandhi My Father
Best Wholesome Entertainment: Chake De India
Best Music Director: Ouseppachan for the movie Ore Kadal (Malayalam).
Best Family Welfare Film: Taare Zameen Par
Best Playback Singer (Male): Shankar Mahadevan for Meri Maa (Taare Zameen Par).
Best Playback Singer (Female): Shreya Ghoshal (Jab We Met).
Best Lyrics: Prasoon Joshi (Taare Zameen Par)
Indira Gandhi Award for Best First Film of a Director: Frozen (Hindi), directed by Shivajee Chandrabhushan.
Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration: Dharm (Hindi), directed by Bhavna Talwar.
Best Film on Social Issues such as Prohibition, Women and Child Welfare, Anti-dowry, Drug Abuse, Welfare of the handicapped etc.: Antardwandwa (Hindi), Directed by Sushil Rajpal.
Best Children’s Film: Foto (Hindi), Directed by Virendra Saini.
Best Animation Film: Inimey Naangathaan (Tamil), Directed by S. Venky Baboo.
Best Feature Film in Bengali: Ballygunge Court, Directed by Pinaki Chaudhuri
Best Feature Film in Hindi: 1971, Directed by Amrit Sagar
Best Feature Film in Kannada: Gulabi Talkies, Directed by Girish Kasaravalli.
Best Feature Film in Malayalam: Ore Kadal, Directed by Shyama Prasad
Best Feature Film in Marathi: Nirop, Directed by Sachin Kundalkar
Best Feature Film in Tamil: Periyar, Directed by Gnana Rajasekaran.
Best Feature Film in English: The Last Lear, Directed by Rituparno Ghosh.
Best Book on Cinema: From Raj to Swaraj: The Non-fiction Film in India (English), By B.D. Garga
Best Film Critic: V.K. Joseph (Malayalam).
Saraswati Samman, 2008
Dr Lakshminandan Bora has been honoured with the award for his Assamese novel “Kayakalpa”. The awards consists of a citation and prize money of Rs 5 lakh.
Vyas Samman, 2008
Mannu Bhandari has been honoured for her novel “Ek Kahani Yah Bhi”. The award consists of a citation and prize money of Rs 2.55 lakh.
Dada Saheb Phalke Award, 2007
Renowned playback singer Manna Dey has been nominated for the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke award for the year 2007. The 90-year-old singer is one of the greatest playback singers in Indian cinema. He ruled the playback music scene from the 1950s to the 1970s.
CSIR Award, 2009
Charusita Chakravarti of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, Santosh G. Honavar of L.V. Prasad Eye Institute and S.K. Satheesh of the Indian Institute of Science are among the 11 scientists named for India’s top science award, which carries a cash prize of Rs 500,000, a citation and a plaque. Since its inception, 443 scientists, among them 10 women, have bagged this most prestigious award in the field of science.
While Chakravarti was selected for her work in chemical science, Honavar has made contribution in the field of medicine. Satheesh got the award for his contribution to the earth science.
The other winners are Amitabh Joshi and Bhaskar Shah (biological science), Giridhar Madras and Jayant Ramaswamy Harsita (engineering science), R. Gopakumar and A. Dhar (physical science), Narayanswamy Jayraman (chemical science), and Verapally Suresh (mathematical science).
India in Turmoil
Written by former Delhi police chief Ved Marwah, who also served as Governor in Manipur, Mizoram and Jharkhand, “India in Turmoil” has come out with damning revelations about political leaders from both NDA and UPA. The author also comes out with a first-hand account of the “mess-up” of the Rubaiya Sayeed kidnapping case in 1989.
Navy inducts stealth destroyer INS Kochi
On September 18, 2009, INS Kochi, the Project 15-A Kolkata Class stealth destroyer built by the Mazgaon Docks Ltd was formally inducted into the Indian Navy at Mumbai, by Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma’s wife Madulika Verma. It will formally join the naval fleet in 2011.
INS Kolkata, the first vessel, will be inducted in 2010. The third vessel of its class is likely to be launched in 2012. All three vessels will have land attack capabilities as well. Each of the Project 15-A Kolkata Class destroyer is expected to cost about Rs 3,800 crore. These ships will be fitted with the state-of-the-art weapon systems, including the Brahmos missile and the Barak-2 surface-to-air missiles with a range of 70 km.
Made-in-India ‘stealth’ frigate to add fire-power
Very soon India will add another lethal punch to its growing ‘‘blue-water’’ warfare capabilities by inducting an indigenously-designed and manufactured ‘‘stealth’’ frigate, INS Shivalik, which is armed with a deadly mix of foreign and indigenous weapon and sensor systems and is currently undergoing ‘‘advanced’’ pre-commissioning sea trials.
Apart from Russian Shtil surface-to-air missile systems, Klub anti-ship cruise missiles and other weapons, the multi-role frigate will also be armed with the Israeli ‘Barak-I’ anti-missile defence system.
INS Shivalik is the first stealth frigate to be designed and built in India. It is part of Project-17, to construct three stealth frigates, the other two being INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, at a cost of Rs 8,101 crore, at Mazagon. The defence ministry has now approved Project-17A to construct seven more frigates, with even more stealth features, for around Rs 45,000 crore.
The stealth features incorporated in the Shivalik-class frigates, including inclined surfaces, will considerably reduce their radar cross-section. To reduce the noise signature, the designers have gone in for low-noise propellers, propulsion devices and machinery, as also ‘‘vibration damping’’.
Navy’s first dose of stealth tech came with three Talwar-class frigates from Russia in 2003-2004.
India’s Jurassic nest dug up in Tamil Nadu
Geologists in Tamil Nadu have stumbled upon a Jurassic treasure trove buried in the sands of a river bed. Sheer luck led them to hundreds of fossilized dinosaur eggs, perhaps 65 million years old, underneath a stream in a tiny village in Ariyalur district.
That dinosaurs once roamed the area was known from the fossils found there on earlier expeditions. But this is the first time that hundreds of nests embedded with hundreds of clusters of dinosaur eggs have been unearthed in the district. Located on the highway between Chennai and Tiruchi, the Ariyalur and neighbouring Perambalur geological sites nestle in the northern plains of the Cauvery river.
The Ariyalur-Perambalur region is a veritable museum of ancient organisms, dating back to 140 million years. Ever since a British couple—the Wines—collected 32 boxes of ‘‘strange stone objects’’ in 1843, the Ariyalur region has drawn geologists from across the world for its rich fossil presence and diversity. Scientists have found the tiniest marine algae or the nano fossils besides the rare shell-like bivalve, gastropoda, telecypoda and brachiopoda in the geological sites spread across 950 sq km in Ariyalur and Perambalur districts.
3,300-year-old site found in Sri Lanka
In a landmark discovery, an archaeological site believed to be over 3,330-years-old, has been found in southern Sri Lanka's Embilipitiya region by a group of local archaeologists. The discovery, perhaps the first of over three century old site ever found in Sri Lanka, has been uncovered by Professor Raj Somadeva and his team while excavating an area belonging to the Sri Jayabodharama temple in Udaranchamadama. Grinding stones, painted pots, granite tools and other items were among the findings of the excavations.
Class X boards to go from 2011
There will be no Class X board examination in CBSE schools in 2011. While there will be a board exam for Class X in 2010, grading system, based on continuous and comprehensive evaluation by schools, will kick in in 2009-10 itself.
Students in schools with classes only till X will have to take an “online/offline/on demand” assessment test for seeking admission in Class XI in another school. Students of schools with classes till XII need not take such an assessment test. It will be optional for students of these schools to take the on-demand test.
According to new CBSE guidelines, on-demand assessment tests will be held more than once a year and students can repeat it to improve their grades. Also, for students interested in being evaluated on marks, schools will provide for these separately but not on the certificate.
There will be nine grades. The highest will be A1 (exceptional) with a grade point of 10 and a marks range of 91-100%. Second grade will be A2 (excellent) with a grade point of 9 and marks in the range of 81-90%. Third grade will be B1 (very good) with grade point of 8 and a marks range of 71-80%.
The fourth grade will be B2 (good) with a grade point of 7 and marks range of 61-70%. Fifth grade will be C1 (fair) with grade point of 6 and marks range of 51-60%. C2 (average) will be the sixth grade with grade point of 5 and marks range of 41-50%. D (below average) will be the seventh grade with 4 grade points and marks range of 33-40%. E1 (needs improvement) and E2 (unsatisfactory) are the last two grades.
Grading system based on continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) will be done in two terms (April-September, October-March). In a year, the school will conduct four formative and two summative assessments. In the first term, there will be two formative assessments of 10% each and single summative assessment of 20%. In the second term also a similar format will be adopted. Formative assessment will carry 40% marks and summative assessment 60% marks.
CBSE also plans to offer an aptitude test that will be available by February 2010. By the time a student reaches Class XI, he/she would have undertaken the aptitude test twice, once at the end of Class IX and then at the end of Class X.
Deadlier form of El Nino to wreak more havoc on Asia
El Nino disrupts weather patterns around the world, causing drought in Indonesia, Australia, India and eastern Brazil, and unusually heavy rainfall in the US Gulf Coast and parts of South America. It also lowers sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean and Atlantic, which helps prevent the formation and intensity of hurricanes in that region.
But climate change has apparently given rise to an alternate form of El Nino that is likely to become more frequent over the coming decades, according to the new research, published in Nature. “There are two El Ninos,” said Ben Kirtman, a professor at the University of Miami and a co-author of the study. “In addition to the eastern Pacific El Nino, a second El Nino in the central Pacific is on the increase,” he said.
The two do not occur at the same time, he added. This could be bad news on at least two fronts. In Asia, it could intensify droughts that have already wreaked havoc in recent decades. And in the Atlantic, it could weaken the positive effect it has had up to now in mitigating the intensity of hurricanes that strike the Caribbean and the US east coast.
Borlaug, Dr Norman
American agronomist, humanitarian, and Nobel laureate who has been deemed the father of the Green Revolution, he died on September 12, 2009, at the age of 95. His high-yield crop innovations were responsible for bumper harvests in States like Punjab in the 1970s.
Borlaug was one of only six people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He was also a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian honour. His discoveries have been estimated to have saved over one billion lives worldwide.
Borlaug was the great-grandchild of Norwegian immigrants to the United States. The eldest of four children, Borlaug was born to Henry Oliver and Clara (Vaala) Borlaug on his grandparents' farm in Saude in 1914. He attended the one-teacher, one-room New Oregon rural school in Howard County up through eighth grade. Today, the school building, built in 1865, is owned by the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation as part of “Project Borlaug Legacy”.
He attributed his decision to leave the farm and pursue further education to his grandfather, Nels Olson Borlaug, who strongly encouraged Borlaug’s learning, once saying, “You’re wiser to fill your head now if you want to fill your belly later on.”
Noted singer, he has been honoured with the Dada Saheb Phalke award, 2008. Born Prabodh Chandra Dey on May 1, 1919, Manna Dey, as he came to be known, began taking music lessons during college days. In 1942, he accompanied his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey, a musician, to Mumbai and began to work as his assistant. Followed by a stint with S.D. Burman, Dey’s playback career began in 1943 with a duet with Suraiya in ‘Tamanna’. The song became an instant hit, opening avenues in Hindi and language films.
He turned music director but kept his music lessons going, including Hindustani classical. From classical to pop to Rabindra Sangeet, Dey recorded over 3,500 songs in his career, including a rare duet with Bhimsen Joshi, “Ketki Gulab Juhi” (Basant Bahar, 1956).
Manna Dey’s top five songs have been: “Ae mere pyare watan” (Kabuliwala, 1961) “Ae meri zohra jabeen” (Waqt, 1965) “Ek chatur naar” (Padosan, 1968) “Zindagi kaisi yeh paheli hai” (Anand, 1971) “Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge” (Sholay, 1975).
In 1969 he won the National award for best male playback for “Mere Huzur”. Again in 1971, he won the National award for best male playback for Bengali film “Nishi Padma”.
Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, died on September 3, 2009 in a helicopter crash. He was born on July 8, 1949 in Pulivendula, Rayalaseema. He completed his course in medical science from M.R. Medical College, Gulbarga, Karnataka and was elected president of students union during his college days. After completing his MBBS he took up his first job as medical officer at Jammalamadugu Mission Hospital.
He entered politics in 1978 when he contested for an Assembly seat from Pulivendula at the age of 28. He contested and won election four times to enter the Assembly from Pulivendula and four times from Kadapa to enter Lok Sabha. From 1999 to 2004, he was leader of opposition in the 11th Andhra Assembly. He was opposition leader five times.
He was sworn-in as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister for the first time on May 14, 2004. He swept 2009 polls and retained the Chief Minister’s post.
This is the third such airstrip that has been activated along the LAC in Ladakh. On September 18, 2009, an AN-32 aircraft landed at Nyoma, where an advanced landing ground (ALG) has been readied for faster deployment of troops and moving supplies to troops based at forward posts. The landing strip is 23-km inside Indian Territory and is at an altitude of 13,300 feet. An ALG means: where the landing strip comprises hard compacted earth but is not paved with concrete. Earlier, in May 2008, the IAF had activated Daulat-Beg-Oldie (DBO), the highest airfield in the world situated at an altitude of 16,200 feet.
This town in USA hosted the G-20 Summit in September 2009-end. Formerly America’s much derided City of Steel, hosted the G-20 summit. There was a time when steel mills used to be the biggest employer in Pittsburgh. Today, it’s the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which employs 50,000 people—half the city’s 100,000 healthcare jobs. Over the years, Pittsburgh has transformed itself from the city of steel to a centre for high-tech innovation, including green technology, education and training, and research and development.
The main venue of the G-20 summit, the David Lawrence Convention Centre, which sits on what was once a red-light district, is itself the world’s largest green building. Delegates had dinner at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which were designed to use almost no outside energy or water.
Indians a genetic mixture of two populations
The modern-day Indians are a genetic mixture of two distinct ancient populations, a new research has revealed. All diverse groups seen in the present day India came from two major ancient populations that are genetically divergent—Ancestral North Indians (ANI) and the Ancestral South Indians (ASI).
While the ANI group is genetically close to Middle Easterners, Central Asians, and Europeans, the ASI are not related to any group outside India, the study has said.
Claimed to be the largest-ever genome-scale analysis of diverse Indian groups, the research was jointly conducted by scientists from Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, USA.
“The implication of this study is that India is not one population and we are a nation of multiple populations,” Lalji Singh, a research team member and former CCMB Director, said. The study paper was published online in the journal Nature.
The study also looked for genetic variations based on caste—upper and lower caste—from two the states of Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Contrary to popular perception by historians that the caste system seen today is an invention of colonialism, the study found scientific evidence to show that “many current distinctions among groups are ancient.”
There were 4,635 well-defined populations in India, including 532 tribes and 72 primitive tribes. Researchers studied the genomes of 132 Indians from 25 population groups that represented all six-language families across 15 States and included traditionally “upper” and “lower” castes and tribal groups.
Analysis of 500,000 genetic markers, random mutations that serve as milestones-using extensive statistical tools, shows that diversity within India is three-four times higher than that seen within Europe. The research result indicates that many modern Indian groups have descended from a small number of “founding individuals”, whose descendants interbred among themselves to create genetically isolated populations.
This insight has important medical implications for people of Indian origin, because groups that are descended from small founding populations often have a high incidence of inherited diseases.
India launches OceanSat-2
On September 23, 2009, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched seven satellites in 1,200 seconds with the help of its most trusted Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, from the Sriharikota spaceport on Andhra Pradesh coast.
India placed its second Ocean observation satellite Oceansat-2, along with six other nano satellites, including two German Rubinsat—Rubin 9.1 and Rubin 9.2—and four Cubesats—the Beesat (assembled by Technical University, Berlin), UWE-2 (University of Wuerzburg, Germany, ITU-pSat (Istanbul Technical University, Turkey) and SwissCube-1 (Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne, Switzerland.
Earlier, in April 2008, ISRO had launched 10 satellites in one go.
Oceansat-2 is carrying an Ocean Colour Monitor and a Ku-band pencil beam Scatterometer, besides a Radio Occultation Sounder for Atmospheric Studies, developed by the Italian Space Agency. The Ku-band pencil beam Scatterometer with a ground resolution cell of 50 km x 50 km is expected to provide the wind vector range of four to 24 metres per second with better than 20% accuracy in speed and 20 degree in wind direction.
The on-board Scatterometer is a very good instrument for getting surface wind on the sea. It is required for sea state forecasting. And for maritime navigation, the wave height and disturbance is also important.
The eight-band OCM is similar to the one in Oceansat-1 with appropriate spectral bandwidth modifications based on the previous experience. The OCM, with 360 metres spatial resolution and a swath of 1,420 kilometres would provide extensive communication links.
Since Oceansat-2 is a continuity mission to Oceansat-1, the same polar sun synchronous orbit of 720 kilometres has been retained. However, unlike the Oceansat-1 that could essentially look at only the colour of the ocean, the Oceansat-2 is a comprehensive system and would look at surface winds and temperature, among other things.
The satellite is intended for identification of potential fishing zones, weather forecasting and other trends of the sea, coastal zone studies and providing inputs for general meteorological observations.
NASA probe on Chandrayaan finds water on Moon’s surface
It is a giant leap for India’s space programme and the biggest scientific discovery of the 21st Century. India’s maiden moon mission, Chandrayaan-1 has found water, a discovery that scientists say will upend thinking about space and boost research. And, of course, it has helped shake off the failure tag from the Rs 386-crore Chandrayaan-I project that was aborted in August 2009.
The historic development took place just prior to the termination of the mission on August 30, 2009. Although water was spotted by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), a NASA probe and one of the 11 payloads on the spacecraft, glory shone on ISRO for the discovery that was made after nearly five decades of lunar exploration by western nations.
Water molecules and hydroxyl—a charged molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom—were discovered across the Moon’s surface. The M3 had covered 97% of the Moon before Chandrayaan-1 was terminated. Brown University scientists say while the abundance is not exactly known, ‘‘as much as 1,000 water molecule parts per million could be in the lunar soil: harvesting one tonne of the top layer of the Moon’s surface would yield 32 ounces of water’’.
NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper on board Chandrayaan detected water from electromagnetic radiation emanating from different minerals on and just below lunar surface
This discovery enhances the chances of humans to live on moon, They could split water into oxygen (for breathing) and hydrogen (for rocket fuel). The US, Russia and China are exploring the possibility of building human habitats on the Moon after 2020.
The M3 team found water molecules and hydroxyl at diverse areas of the sunlit region of the Moon’s surface as well as at the Moon’s higher latitudes where it seemed more definitive in presence. The M3 discovery has been confirmed by data from two NASA spacecrafts—the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on the Cassini spacecraft and High-Resolution Infrared Imaging Spectrometer on the EPOXI spacecraft.
Water exists on many bodies in our solar system, both planets and their numerous moons. But finding it on our own moon is breathtaking, both, from a practical and theoretical point of view. It adds to our knowledge of how cosmic processes work. The mere existence of water does not lead to any strong possibility of life existing on Moon, although more study will be needed to see if in the past, some simple life-like forms could have evolved. With almost no atmosphere, constant exposure to high energy solar winds, extreme temperatures, and repeatedly a victim of cosmic hit-and-run, the likelihood is remote.
There are two theories on presence of water on moon. One is that comets and meteorites brought it there. About 3.9 billion years ago, the Earth and Moon both suffered a long period of heavy bombardment from meteorites and comets, giving the Moon its characteristic pock-marked features. The comets might have left water on the surface. The bulk would have been lost by now but some still remains.
The other theory is that it is created on the surface by the impact of solar winds. The sun sends out a stream of hydrogen ions or protons, which hit the moon’s surface at a speed of about 100,000 kilometres per second. The surface is made of rocks and dust roughly containing 40% oxygen. The high-speed collisions free up the oxygen, some of which joins up with hydrogen. This oxygen-hydrogen pair can attract another hydrogen ion to form water.
Images from Chandrayaan show that although the water is present mostly at the poles, it is also thinly spread over the surface till about 10 degrees south and north, using earth-like parameters. It appears that the water evaporates as the sun heats up the Moon’s surface in the day-time (one moon-day is about three weeks) and condenses back in the night. In some of the polar craters, where sunlight has not reached for the past 2-3 billion years, the water will exist as ice, since the temperatures are approximately minus 240 degrees Celsius.
India foils patent bid for Vitiligo cure
India has for the first time ever managed to foil a bio-piracy bid in a record three weeks time. Thanks to the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), which has till now completed documenting over two lakh medical formulations of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani to save them from piracy, European Patent Office (EPO) has cancelled its earlier “intent to grant patent” order to a Spanish company on use of melon extract to cure vitiligo (leucoderma)—a disease that causes skin de-pigmentation to almost 65 million people globally.
Under India’s ancient Unani system of medicine, hakeems have for hundreds of years been using melon extract to cure this disease. Michael Jackson was world’s most famous vitiligo patient.
Earlier patent related challenges made by India lasted years. Among the famous were: patent application over neem’s anti-fungal properties which took India 10 years to revoke; the patent application on the wound healing properties of turmeric which took three years; and that of Basmati rice against an US-based company which took well over a year.
Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes in the skin are destroyed. As a result, white patches appear on the skin. There is evidence that people with vitiligo inherit a group of three genes that make them susceptible to de-pigmentation. Some say vitiligo is a disease in which a person’s immune system reacts against the body’s own organs or tissues. So proteins called cytokines, which are produced within the body, alter their pigment producing cells and cause these cells to die.