Competitive Exams: Science Current Affairs 2009 (Part 3 of 4)

PET bottles potential health hazard (29th April 2009)

Wagner, a lead researcher stated, Drinking water from PET plastic bottles is harmful to human health. It has a higher probability of drinking estrogenic compounds (which affects reproductive hormones) through water. He analysed 20 samples of mineral water. Nine samples came out of glass bottles, nine were bottled in PET plastic and two were in cardboard. The specialised yeast, which change colour in the presence of estrogen like compounds, revealed estrogenic activity in seven of the nine plastic bottles (and both cardboard samples), and compared with just three of the nine glass ones. The levels of these compounds in the water were surprisingly high.

ISRO launches RISAT-2 (20th April 2009)

The Indian Space Research Organisation successfully launched a revolutionary spy satellite RISAT-2. It is designed by the Israeli Aerospace Industries. It can take images through the thickest cloud cover, rain and snow or fog conditions during night and day or even of the hundreds of winding mountain valleys. It will be used extensively for purposes like mapping, managing natural disasters and surveying the seas, it can also see through camouflage like cloth or foliage used to conceal camps or vehicles. It will enable India to keep a watch on terror camps, military installations across boundaries, missile sites and suchlike. It should also help keep track of ships at sea that could pose a threat. The RISAT will reduce India's dependence on foreign suppliers like Ikonos for satellite imagery.

March

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.

February

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.

January

World's First Internet Car Radio Unveiled

The Australian researchers have developed a new internet car radio for the first time which enables the users to access 30, 000 stations including online broadcasts and AM and FM stations from all round the globe. The internet car radio developed by Melbourne-based online radio aggregator miRoamer was launched in prototype form at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. MiRoamer has signed a deal with German-based Blaupunkt which is one of the largest producers of car radios in the world.

Under the new deal, Blaupunkt will produce internet radios which will be fitted in latest models by car manufacturers such as Ford, Holden, Mercedes, BMW and Audi. The internet radio will also be sold separately for those who want to install it in their cars. It is very imperative that radio lovers will prefer internet car radio to traditional broadcasters as it offers a huge number of stations from all over the world. The new product is expected to be launched in the US and Europe in the second half of 2009. In more ways than one, the internet car radio is going to revolutionise the way people listen to radio.

Motorola Unveils Cellphone Made From Recycled Water Bottles

Motorola has unveiled a new kind of mobile phone called MOTO W233 Renew which is made from recycled plastic water bottles. According to the handset manufacturing company, MOTO W233 Renew is also a carbon neutral phone. The company is said to have collaborated with Carbonfund. Org to manufacture the new mobile phone. Interestingly the container that holds the phone is also made from recycled material.

In order to uplift its recycling program for mobile phones and accessories, Motorola has also entrusted another postage-paid box with the MOTO W233 Renew which can be used by customers to mail their old phones back to the company for recycling. The postage-paid box is also made from recycled paper, claimed Motorola.

The new MOTO W233 Renew offers nine hours of talk time with ChrystalTalk technology and has messaging capabilities. The new mobile handset from Motorola is expected to be launched at the 2009 International CES in Las Vegas. The phone will be available in the market by the first quarter of 2009.

MOTO W233 Renew has been designed for eco-conscious consumers as well as for those who loves to make phone calls. The recycling program of Motorola is ready to accept any mobile phone or accessory for recycling which it feels will help to recover valuable materials for reuse that will reduce environmental impact.

UK Doctors Deliver Cancer-Proof Baby

The first British baby genetically selected to be free of a breast cancer gene has been born. She grew from an embryo screened to ensure it did not contain the faulty BRCA1 gene, which passes the risk of breast cancer down generations.

According to the sources of University College Hospital in London the mother, a 27-year-old Londoner, and her little girl were in very good condition. Women in three generations of the father's family have been diagnosed with the disease in their 20s, including his mother, grandmother, sister and cousin.

A girl born with the altered BRCA1 gene have a 50 − 80% chance of developing breast cancer-but screening can prevent this. The technique used is known as Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which involves taking a cell from an embryo at the eight-cell stage of development, when it is around three-days old, and testing it.

The treatment follows the green-signal given by Britain's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority in 2006, which said doctors could test for ‘susceptibility genes’ such as BRCA1. A properly functioning BRCA1 protein helps stop cancer before it starts but faulty genes greatly increase the risk of cancer.

BRCA1 and a related version of another gene, BRCA2, account for around 5% of breast cancer.

Sony To Launch World's Lightest 8-Inch Notebook PC

In a bid to capture the rapidly growing market for ultra-portable personal computers, Sony Corp of Japan decided to launch 8-inch notebook PC which is considered to be one of the lightest laptops in the world. The new Sony Vaio PC will have Microsoft Corp's Windows Vista operating system. Windows Vista operating system incorporated in Sony laptops will support all the software programs found in full-sized notebooks.

While revealing the plan, Sony said that the new notebook weighs only 1.4 pounds and it is as thin as a mobile phone. The notebooks will available for pre-orders and were released in the market in the first week of February 2009. The Sony notebook is priced at about $900, setting itself apart from Netbooks.

The Red Planet Of Mars May Have Life On It

NASA, the space agency of USA, may be ready to announce alien microbes living below the Martian soil are the cause of a methane haze surrounding the Red Planet of Mars.

Researchers from around the world have shown a greater interest in the Red Planet, as possible traces of water and ice dust have raised hopes of discovering signs of life on or underneath the planet's surface. Even though methane is created on Earth by volcanoes, scientists haven't found any active volcanoes on the Red Planet.

In addition, it seems NASA researchers found high levels of methane in the same regions as water vapor clouds, which are absolutely necessary for life. The study was conducted during a seven year examination of the planet.

Indian Scientists Conduct Anti-Warming Experiment In Antarctic Ocean

A group of scientists from India and Germany jointly conducted an anti-warming experiment in Antarctic Ocean. It is believed that the experiment may find out a possible solution to on-going global warming crisis. The scientists began their experiment by scattering iron powder on hundreds of square kilometres of the Antarctic Ocean. The iron powder will fertilize the growth of phytoplankton which will eventually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and take it deep under the ocean surface.

The technology of iron fertilization is likely to stop global warming at a very little cost. About six tonnes of iron are to be scattered on 300 sq km of sea. The group of scientists which left Cape Town on board the Polarstern on January 7 includes thirty Indian and 18 from other nations. The tiny organism called phytoplankton can eliminate carbon dioxide which is the main greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. The technology used by the Indian and German scientists can be path-breaking one in curbing global warming which stands out to be a major threat to mankind.