Competitive Exams: Science Current Affairs 2009 (Part 2 of 4)


Discovery Crew Returns Home From ISS

The Discovery space shuttle crew returned home to the Johnson Space Center in Houston on Sunday (29/3/09) after completing a 12-day mission.

Discovery landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3: 14 p. m. Saturday (28/3/09), after traveling more than 5.3 million miles. Its crew delivered solar arrays to help power the International Space Station and science experiments taking place there. The astronauts completed three space walks, lasting more than six hours each, to install, repair, and maintain equipment for the station.

The STS-119 flight marked the first trip to space and the first spacewalks for former science teachers Joseph Acaba and Richard Arnold. Both are now NASA astronauts. The flight was Discovery's 36th trip to space. It marked the 125th space shuttle mission and the 28th shuttle trip to the space station.

Internet Crime Up 33 Percent, FBI Reports

Internet-based crime increased by 33 percent last year, making 2008 the biggest year ever for reported cybercrime incidents, according to an Internet Crime Complaint Center annual report.

The ICCC, a nonprofit organization run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center dedicated to monitoring online fraud, issued a report Monday showing that fraud losses incurred from cybercrime reached a total of $264.6 million in 2008, compared to $239.1 million the previous year, Reuters reports. Losses in recent years pose a sharp contrast to cybercrime losses of $18 million in 2001.

2009 is shaping up to be a very busy year in terms of cybercrime, said John Kane, director of the National White Collar Crime Center based in Richmond, Va. and the report's author, to Reuters.

Adobe, Facebook partner to create Flash developer tools

Adobe has partnered with one of the most popular social networking Web sites, Facebook, to give developers a new set of tools to create applications.

The applications will use Adobe's Flash platform and the new ActionScript 3 Client Library for Facebook the two companies developed together. The client library is a free open source programming language that supports Facebook application programming interfaces (APIs) including Facebook Connect.

Microsoft to discontinue Encarta

Microsoft Corp (MSFT. O). is to exit its Encarta encyclopedia business later this year after losing ground over the years to freely available reference material on the Internet on web sites like Wikipedia.

People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past, the software maker said in a notice posted on its MSN website.

Microsoft, which axed 5, 000 jobs earlier this year to cut costs and warned profit and revenue would fall over the next two quarters, said it would stop selling Encarta software products by June. Encarta websites worldwide, except Encarta Japan, would be discontinued on October 31 and Encarta Japan will cease after December 31, the company said.

Obama to restore stem cell research funding

US President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order reversing Bush administration restrictions on Federal funding for stem cell research. He said that he would ensure that all research on stem cells would be conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight.

This move would be in line with Mr Obama's campaign vow to restore funding to embryonic stem cell research. This development impressed scientists who have long campaigned for the Bush policy to be overturned, but will likely be condemned by conservative right-to-life groups.

Mr Bush barred Federal funding from supporting work on new lines of stem cells derived from human embryos in 2001, allowing research only on a small number of embryonic stem-cell lines which existed at that time. He argued that using human embryos for scientific research-which often involves their destruction-crossed a moral barrier and urged scientists to consider other alternatives. Embryonic stem cells are primitive cells from early-stage embryos capable of developing into almost every tissue of the body.

India To Send Sun Mission Aditya In 2012

After the successful launch of the moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now gearing up for a mission to the sun. The proposed sun mission christened as Mission Aditya, is aimed at unraveling the secrets of the sun. G Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO, announced that, the agency is ready with its new space programme to explore the corona of the Sun in 2012.

Mission Aditya will find out answers for how and why solar flares and solar winds disturb the communication network and play havoc with electronics on the earth. It will also uncover the mysteries surrounding the sun's corona that create geomagnetic field disturbances on the earth and often damage man-made satellites and spacecraft moving in the sky under intense sunlight.

Though the sun mission of ISRO has been on the cards for quite some time now, it got a boost after the successful launch of Chandrayaan-1. The success of the Aditya Mission will provide vital clues to ISRO to protect its satellites and spaceware from being damaged by hot winds and flares ejected out of the sun's corona.

Indian-American Scientist Vivek Pai Creates Top Web Technology

The researchers'team led by Indian American scientist Vivek Pai has developed a revolutionary way to expand internet access around the world. The team of Princeton University computer science researchers created a new efficient data storage system called HashCache which got listed as one of the top emerging technologies of the year in scientific magazine, Technology Review. The scientific magazine is being published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

HashCache claims to store information more efficiently than current methods. The newly created data-caching system is expected to expand web use in developing regions around the world by making internet access more affordable. The new data storage system increases the possibilities of expanding internet facility across the poorer regions as it is very affordable. Compared to RAM, HashCache is capable of storing more information from frequently visited web sites on a local hard drive thereby enabling direct data access. Vivek Pai explained that by increasing the efficiency of internet data transfer, HashCache can reduce the cost of maintaining a hard drive.


Indian Scientists To Clone Pashmina Goat

A team of scientists from Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana is working on a project to clone the famous pashmina goat. A success in this direction is expected to give boost to the dwindling trade in pashmina wool. The project is under a World Bank aided project known as National Agriculture Innovation Project.

The project ‘Value Chain on Zone Free Cloned Embryos Production and Development of Elite Germ Plasma Pashmina’ hopes to change the pashmina production scenario in the state. A six-member team will use somatic cells of the goat to clone the cell to produce new pashmina goat. Scientists will use a hand-guided cloning technique and the four-phased project will run for next three years.

NASA's Kepler Mission To Begin Quest To Find Planets Hosting Life

NASA's Kepler spacecraft is all set to begin its maiden journey in search for worlds that could potentially host life. The spacecraft is scheduled to blast-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida aboard a Delta II rocket on March 5, 2009. Kepler is the first mission with the ability to find planets like Earth. The mission will study rocky planets that orbit sun-like stars in a warm zone where liquid water could be maintained on the surface that is believed to be essential for the formation of life.

The mission will spend three-and-a-half years in the space. It will survey more than 100, 000 sun-like stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of our Milky Way galaxy. It is expected to find hundreds of planets of the size of earth and larger, at various distances from their stars.

ISRO To Use Home-Grown Cryogenic Engine For GSLV Launch

The India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will use an indigenously developed cryogenic engine to launch the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). Reports say that IRSO will undertake the launch operation in July this year. The use of home-grown cryogenic engine to put GSAT-4 into orbit will end India's dependency on Russia. India has been importing the cryogenic engines from Russia since 1991. So far, India has launched five GSLV rockets. But now ISRO has developed its own cryogenic engines and all the tests have been completed successfully, the source added.

The launch of GSAT-4 communication satellite using an indigenously developed cryogenic engine will provide internet connectivity in remote villages. The ISRO is also considering to use the GSLV for the Chandrayaan-II mission scheduled for 2012. Earlier, ISRO used PSLV to launch Chandrayaan-I.