15TH OCTOBER CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. Mars Opposition Effect

News: Due to the ‘opposition’ effect, Mars will look much brighter and bigger than usual in October 2020.

What is the Opposition Event?

  • ‘Opposition’ is the event when the sun, Earth and an outer planet (Mars in this case) are lined up, with the Earth in the middle.

Examples:

  • The Moon, when full, is said to be in opposition to the Sun; the Earth is then approximately between them. A superior planet (one with an orbit farther from the Sun than Earth’s) is in opposition when Earth passes between it and the Sun.
  • The opposition of a planet is a good time to observe it, because the planet is then typically at its nearest point to the Earth for a given year and because it is close, the planet appears brighter in the sky.
  • The planets Venus and Mercury, whose orbits are smaller than Earth’s, can never be in opposition to the Sun.
  • About Mars Opposition: Mars and the Sun are on directly opposite sides of Earth.

Timing:

  • About every 26 months, the Earth passes between the Sun and Mars, this is when the three are arranged in a straight line. In 2020, while Mars’ closest approach to Earth was on 6th October, the opposition happened on 13th Mars’s next close approach will happen on 8th December, 2022, when the planet will be 62.07 km away from the Earth. Significantly, the closest distance is relative and hence can vary.
  • As per NASA, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in 2003 in nearly 60,000 years and it won’t be that close to the planet until 2287. This is because the orbits of Earth and Mars are not perfectly circular and their shapes can change slightly because of gravitational tugging (pulling) by other planets. For instance, Jupiter influences the orbit of Mars.
  • An opposition can occur anywhere along Mars’ orbit, but when it happens when the planet is also closest to the sun, it is also particularly close to the Earth. It will outshine Jupiter, becoming the third brightest object (moon and Venus are first and second, respectively) in the night sky during the month of October.
  • During Opposition, Mars appears as a bright star to the unaided eye and when viewed from a telescope, it grows dramatically in size. Using a telescope shows more of the planet’s details such as dark and light regions, the solar ice caps and Mars’ surface.

2. Supercomputers

Recently, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) has signed 13 MoUs with the premier academic and research and development (R&D) institutions of India.

Aims behind the Move:

  • To establish supercomputing infrastructure with assembly and manufacturing in India and critical components of the National Supercomputing Mission.
  • Supercomputing has applications in so many areas like computational biology and chemistry, molecular dynamics, national security, big data analytics, government information systems, and so on.
  • It becomes a powerful tool, paired with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), enabling it to empower people and make India ready to tackle future challenges.
  • To develop India’s indigenous hardware encompassing exascale chip design, design and manufacture of exascale server boards, exascale interconnects and storage including silicon-photonics at C-DAC to achieve complete self-reliance envisioned under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat
  • Exascale computing refers to computing systems capable of calculating at least 1018 floating-point operations per second. Silicon photonics is an evolving technology in which data is transferred among computer chips by optical rays. Optical rays can carry far more data in less time than electrical conductors.

What is a Supercomputer?

  • A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of performance as compared to a general-purpose computer. The performance of a supercomputer is commonly measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions per second (MIPS).
  • Since 2017, there are supercomputers which can perform over a hundred quadrillion FLOPS (petaFLOPS).
  • Since November 2017, all of the world’s fastest 500 supercomputers run Linux-based operating systems.

Why do we need supercomputers?

  • Developed and almost-developed countries have begun ensuring high investments in supercomputers to boost their economies and tackle new social problems.
  • These high-performance computers can simulate the real world, by processing massive amounts of data, making cars and planes safer, and more fuel-efficient and environment-friendly.
  • They also aid in the extraction of new sources of oil and gas, development of alternative energy sources, and advancement in medical sciences.
  • Supercomputers have also helped weather forecasters to accurately predict severe storms, enable better mitigation planning and warning systems.
  • They are also used by financial services, manufacturing and internet companies and infrastructure systems like water-supply networks, energy grids, and transportation.
  • Future applications of artificial intelligence (AI) also depend on supercomputing.
  • Due to the potential of this technology, countries like the US, China, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia have created national-level supercomputing strategies and are investing substantially in these programmes.

When did India initiate its efforts to build supercomputers?

  • India’s supercomputer programme initiated in the late 1980s, when the United States ceased the export of a Cray Supercomputer due to technology embargos.
  • This resulted in India setting up C-DAC in 1988, which in 1991, unveiled the prototype of PARAM 800, benchmarked at 5 Gflops. This supercomputer was the second-fastest in the world at that time.
  • Since June 2018, the USA’s Summit is the fastest supercomputer in the world, taking away this position from China.
  • As of January 2018, Pratyush and Mihir are the fastest supercomputers in India with a maximum speed of Peta Flops.

National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

  • NSM is a proposed plan by GoI to create a cluster of seventy supercomputers connecting various academic and research institutions across India. In April 2015 the government approved the NSM with a total outlay of Rs.4500 crore for a period of 7 years.
  • The mission was set up to provide the country with supercomputing infrastructure to meet the increased computational demands of academia, researchers, MSMEs, and startups by creating the capability design, manufacturing, of supercomputers indigenously in India.
  • Currently, there are four supercomputers from India in the Top 500 list of supercomputers in the world.

Aims and objectives

  • The target of the mission was set to establish a network of supercomputers ranging from a few Tera Flops (TF) to Hundreds of Tera Flops (TF) and three systems with greater than or equal to 3 Peta Flops (PF) in academic and research institutions of National importance across the country by 2022.
  • This network of Supercomputers envisaging a total of 15-20 PF was approved in 2015 and was later revised to a total of 45 PF (45000 TFs), a jump of 6 times more compute power within the same cost and capable of solving large and complex computational problems.

3. Gujarat Disturbed Areas Act

News: The President has given his assent to a Bill passed by the Gujarat Assembly in 2019, which made some amendments to the ‘Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provisions of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act, 1991’ popularly known as the Disturbed Areas (DA) Act’.

Background:

  • The bill was brought last year to amend the ”The Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provision for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act”, 1991,commonly referred to as the Disturbed Areas Act.
  • The government had added some stringent provisions amid complaints from people that the current act was unable to curb the illegal sale or transfer of their properties in such notified disturbed areas.

What is the Disturbed Areas Act?

  • Under the Disturbed Areas Act, a district Collector can notify a particular area of a city or town as a “disturbed area”. This notification is generally done based on the history of communal riots in the area.
  • Following this notification, the transfer of immovable property in the disturbed area can take place only after the Collector expressly signs off on an application made by the buyer and the seller of the property.
  • In the application, the seller has to attach an affidavit stating that she/he has sold the property of her/his free volition, and that she/he has got a fair market price.

Amendments:

  • More Powers to the Collector: To ascertain if there is a likelihood of “polarisation” or “improper clustering” of persons belonging to a particular community, thus disturbing the demographic equilibrium in the area.
  • For probing these aspects, the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT)has also been envisaged.
  • Review Power to the State: The state government is authorised to review a decision taken by the Collector.
  • Advisory Committee: Enables the state government to form an advisory committee that will advise it on various aspects of the DA Act, including adding new areas to the ‘disturbed areas’ list.
  • Disturbed Area: The government can notify any area as a ‘disturbed area’ where it sees the possibility of a communal riot, or where it sees the possibility of a particular community’s polarisation.

Strict Provisions:

  • To check the registration of transfer of properties in disturbed areas without the Collector’s prior approval, the amended Act has a provision to enlarge the scope of the term ‘transfer’,and include transfer of right, title or interest in or over such property in disturbed areas by way of sale, gift, exchange, and lease.
  • The Act has amended the Registration Actunder which no property in disturbed areas can be registered without prior sanction of the Collector.
  • Redevelopment of the Property is allowed only if it is for the owner’s purpose. But if the owner is planning to bring new people on the redeveloped property, she/he has to take the permission of the Collector.
  • Non-Applicability: The provisions of the Act will not be applicable to the government’s rehabilitation schemes in a disturbed area, where it resettles displaced people.
  • Penal Provisions: The amendment has increased the punishment to imprisonment between three and five years. The fine has also been increased to Rs. 1 lakh, or 10% of the jantri rate (ready reckoner of property prices in different parts of the state) of the property, whichever is higher.
  • The punishment for the violation of the Act was earlier imprisonment for six months and fine up to Rs.10,000.

4. Electronic-Vaccine Intelligence Network (e-VIN)

News: The eVIN network, which can track the latest vaccine stock position; the temperature at storage facility; geo-tag health centres; and maintain facility-level dashboard, is being repurposed for the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine.

What is eVIN network?

  • The eVIN is an innovative technological solution aimed at strengthening immunization supply chain systems across the country. This is being implemented under the National Health Mission (NHM) by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • It aims to provide real-time information on vaccine stocks and flows, and storage temperatures across all cold chain points in the country.
  • This system has been used during the COVID pandemic for ensuring the continuation of the essential immunization services and protecting our children and pregnant mothers against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Components of eVIN

  • eVIN combines state-of-the-art technology, a strong IT infrastructure and trained human resource to enable real-time monitoring of stock and storage temperature of the vaccines kept in multiple locations across the country.
  • At present, 23,507 cold chain points across 585 districts of 22 States and 2 UTs routinely use the eVIN technology for efficient vaccine logistics management.

Benefits of eVIN:

  • It has helped create a big data architecture that generates actionable analytics encouraging data-driven decision-making and consumption-based planning.
  • It helps in maintaining optimum stocks of vaccines leading to cost savings. Vaccine availability at all times has increased to 99% in most health centres in India. While instances of stock-outs have reduced by 80%, the time taken to replenish stocks has also decreased by more than half, on an average.