UPSC Prelims News of 6 February 2023
Chinese Spy Balloon
More on the News:
- The balloon was spotted floating over sensitive areas of Montana in the US. It is the size of three buses and is carrying a “large” payload.
- The incident forced the imposition ‘ground stop’ on regional airports, forcing the disruption of commercial air traffic.
- China’s response: China has refuted the claims and said that the object is a civilian airship used for meteorological research.
- Due to the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship moved off course from its planned path.
Use of Spy Balloons:
- Balloons were already being used for military purposes. Their use allowed tracking enemy positions and movements which were impossible to be achieved from ground.
- During World War II, Japanese military tried to move bombs into US territory using balloons designed to float in jet stream air currents.
- The US military tried to use high-altitude spy balloons to spy Soviet bloc territory, which led to a large-scale series of missions called Project Genet.
- Despite satellites and improved aeroplane and drone technologies reducing their importance, high altitude balloons are cheaper, easy to launch and control, and require less sophisticated technology.
- They have an advantage of being able to hover around at lower heights, thus providing better quality images as well as more time to gather intelligence.
Context: A WHO committee has found that the risk of circulating vaccine-derived polio is high.
About Vaccine-Derived Polio
- A vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) is a strain related to the weakened live poliovirus contained in oral polio vaccine (OPV).
- Emergence: VDPVs emerge when not enough people are vaccinated against polio, and the weakened strain of the poliovirus from OPV spreads among under-immunised populations.
- Vulnerability: Countries with weak vaccination systems are more likely to experience outbreaks of vaccine-derived poliovirus.
- Threat: If allowed to circulate in under-immunised populations for long enough, or replicate in an immunodeficient individual, the weakened virus can revert to a form that causes illness and paralysis.
- Vaccination: WHO reiterates to all Member States the importance of reaching and maintaining polio vaccination coverage of more than 95% in each district or municipality.
- Sanitary conditions: In addition, access to clean water, good hand hygiene habits, modern sewage systems and wastewater management further prevent poliovirus, from spreading.
Context: The Indian Army has launched Operation Sadbhavana with the aim of supporting children in remote areas of Ladakh.
- The operation is a goodwill initiative of the Indian Army in the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, which has been implemented since 1998.
- The Indian Army is presently running 7 Army Goodwill Schools under ‘Operation Sadbhavana’ in Ladakh Region.
- Objective: The focus of Operation is to improve the overall core social indices of the region by improving Education, Women & Youth Empowerment, and Health care through implementation of community/infrastructure development projects.
- Women in remote areas of Ladakh are also being inducted in Vocational Training Centres, Women Empowerment Centres and Computer Centres organised and funded through Sadbhavana.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
Context: Pakistan inaugurated a USD 2.7 billion nuclear reactor under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), providing some relief as the nation grapples with an energy crisis.
About the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
- CPEC is a strategic economic partnership between China and Pakistan, aimed at enhancing economic cooperation and connectivity between the two countries.
- The project was launched in 2013 and involves the construction of various infrastructure projects, such as highways, ports, and power plants.
- It is a part of the larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) initiative, China’s ambitious plan to build a network of trade and infrastructure across Asia, Europe, and Africa.
- The main objective of CPEC is to connect Gwadar Port in south-western Pakistan to China’s north-western region of Xinjiang, through a network of highways, railways, and pipelines.
- Significance: This would provide China with a shorter and more secure route to the Arabian Sea, bypassing the Strait of Malacca.
- CPEC is expected to bring several benefits to both countries, including increased trade and investment, job creation, and economic growth.
- However, it also faces several challenges, including security concerns, environmental degradation, and local opposition to some projects.
Context: The Vice President recently said that the Parliament is the “North Star” of democracy and that everyone is required to work in accordance with the rules of the body.
About North Star:
- Polaris, also known as the North Star or the Pole Star, is a very bright star (around 2500 times more luminous than the sun) placed less than 1° away from the north celestial pole.
- Its position and brightness have made humans use it for navigation since late antiquity (more predominantly during the ‘Age of Exploration’).
- It is a part of the constellation Ursa Minor and is around 323 light-years away from Earth.
- Since Polaris lies nearly in a direct line with the Earth’s rotational axis “above” the North Pole, it stands almost motionless in the night sky, with all the stars of the northern sky appearing to rotate around it.
- This makes it an excellent fixed point from which to draw measurements for celestial navigation.
- The elevation of the star above the horizon gives the approximate latitude of the observer and in the northern hemisphere, if one can see Polaris he/she can always tell which way is north (and, by extension, which ways are south, east and west).
- Upon crossing the equator to the South, the North Star is lost over the horizon and hence stops being a useful navigational aid.
- Polaris seems to have been first charted by the Roman mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy (85 to 165 B.C).
- Christopher Columbus, on his first trans-Atlantic voyage of 1492, “had to correct (his ship’s bearings) for the circle described by the pole star about the pole”.
- As European colonisers set sail for exotic locations across the world, the North Star became an important feature of the night sky that allowed for remarkably accurate navigation.
North Star- Metaphor
- It was quoted that Parliament is the essence of democracy and that it is a place of discussion and deliberation to realise the aspirations and dreams of the people and not a place of disturbance.
- This comes after the statement of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud who called the basic structure doctrine a “North Star” that gives “certain direction to the interpreters and implementers of the Constitution when the path ahead is convoluted”.
Context: Researchers are examining the fortress wall of Xi’an, an ancient city in China using tiny particles called Muons.
- Researchers will deploy a technique called muon tomography or muography, which uses muons to generate three-dimensional images of such large structures.
- Muons are subatomic particles raining from space.
- They are created when the particles in Earth’s atmosphere collide with cosmic rays — clusters of high-energy particles that move through space at just below the speed of light.
- Studies suggest that about 10,000 muons reach every square metre of the Earth’s surface a minute.
- These particles resemble electrons but are 207 times as massive. Therefore, they are sometimes called “fat electrons”.
- Because muons are so heavy, they can travel through hundreds of metres of rock or other matter before getting absorbed or decaying into electrons and neutrinos.
- In comparison, electrons can penetrate through only a few centimetres. Muons are highly unstable and exist for just 2.2 microseconds.
- Apart from archaeology, muography has found use in customs security, internal imaging of volcanoes and others.
- Around 2015, scientists used the technique to look inside the Fukushima nuclear reactors after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
- Muography is also being used to analyse Mount Vesuvius, a volcano in Italy.
Context: Scientists have recently created a new type of ice that matches the density and structure of water.
- The ice is called medium-density amorphous ice.
- It was created by shaking regular ice in a small container with centimetre-wide stainless-steel balls at temperatures of (–) 200 °C to produce the variant, which has never been seen before.
- The ice appeared as a white granular powder that stuck to the metal balls.
- Normally, when water freezes, it crystallizes and its molecules are arranged into the familiar hexagonal, solid structure that we call ice.
- Ice is less dense than its liquid form -an unusual property for a crystal.
- Depending on conditions such as pressure and the speed of freezing, water can also solidify in any of two dozen other regular arrangements.
- Amorphous ice is different: it has no such order.
PM KUSUM Scheme
Context: The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has extended the deadline to install 30,000 MW solar power capacity in rural India to March 2026 under the PM-KUSUM Scheme.
About the PM-KUSUM (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Uttham Mahabhiyan)
- Launch: The scheme was launched in 2019 by the MNRE to provide clean energy to more than 3.5 million farmers by solarising their agriculture pumps.
- Key objectives of the scheme:
- Promoting Decentralized Distributed Solar Power Generation.
- Providing financial assistance to farmers for solar pumps to reduce their dependence on grid-based electricity.
- Solarizing Agricultural Feeders.
- Promoting off-grid solar applications, such as solar lighting and refrigeration, in rural areas.
- Goal: The scheme aims to add solar capacity of 30,800 MW by 2022 with total central financial support of Rs. 34,422 Crore including service charges to the implementing agencies.
- Components: The Scheme consists of three components:
- Component A: 10,000 MW of solar capacity through installation of small Solar Power Plants of individual plants of capacity upto 2 MW.
- Component B: Installation of 20 lakh standalone Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
- Component C: Solarization of 15 Lakh Grid-connected Agriculture Pumps.
- Current progress: As of December 31, 2022, only 88.46 MW of solar capacity had been added; 181,058 solar pumps had been installed and 1,174 grid-connected pumps converted.