World’s thinnest light bulb created

Researchers have created the world’s thinnest light bulb using graphene (an atomically thin and perfectly crystalline form of carbon) instead of tungsten as a filament.

  • Led by Young Duck Kim, a postdoctoral research scientist in James Hone’s group at Columbia University School of Engineering, a team of scientists from Columbia, Seoul National University, and Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science have made it possible.

About the Bulb:

  • The bulb uses Graphene as a filament. When an electric current runs through the filament, it heats up enough to emit light.
  • This graphene light is low cost with a relatively simple structure.
  • The visible light from atomically thin graphene is so intense that it is visible even to the naked eye, without any additional magnification.
  • It can be used as ‘broadband’ light emitter and can be integrated into chips. This will pave the way towards the realisation of atomically thin, flexible and transparent displays and graphene-based on chip optical communications.

Graphene is an allotrope of carbon and is famous for being stronger than steel and more conductive than copper.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

U.S. to curb trans fats by 2018

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it will seek to eliminate majority of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from the country’s food supply by 2018. The decision comes after years of lobbying by health advocates and scientists that artificial oils, commonly called “trans fats”, clog arteries and raise the risk of heart disease.

  • The FDA aims to revoke the current status of PHOs as a “generally recognised as safe” food product and reclassify it as a “food additive.” This implies that manufacturers would no longer be able to use the oils in other foods without prior regulator approval.
  • The new policy could prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year in the country.

Trans fats:

Trans fatty acids (TFAs) or Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats which can have much more adverse effects on our body than any other dietary constituent. These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally. Thus in our diet, these may be present as Artificial TFAs and/ or Natural TFAs.

  • Artificial TFAs are formed when hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats resembling pure ghee/butter.
  • In our diet the major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/ margarine while the natural TFAs are present in meats and dairy products, though in small amounts.
  • The most common dietary source of Trans fats is the partially hydrogenated vegetable fat commonly known as ‘Vanaspati Ghee’/Margarine.
  • Since partially hydrogenated vegetable fat (Vanaspati/Margarine) is rather high in TFA, all food items prepared, baked or fried by using Vanaspati/Margarine contain TFA. These include: Cakes and Pastries; Patty, Rusk; Fried Aloo Chaat , AlooTikki (prepared in ‘Vanaspati’), Sweets (Mithai) (prepared in ‘Vanaspati’), Cookies / biscuits, French fries, Potato chips, Bhatura, Samosa, Parantha, etc.

Harmful effects:

  • TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats. While saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels, TFAs not only raise total cholesterol levels but also reduce the good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to protect us against heart disease.
  • Trans fats consumption increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
  • It is also associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, certain types of cancers and can also lead to compromised fetal development causing harm to the yet to be born baby.

Why they are increasingly being used?

  • TFA containing oils can be preserved longer, they give the food the desired shape and texture and can easily substitute ‘Pure ghee’. F
  • These are comparatively far lower in cost and thus add to profit/saving.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.

‘Sakaar’ …for ISRO

Minister of State in the Department of Atomic Energy, Dr. Jitendra Singh recently launched an Augmented Reality application named ‘Sakaar’ to highlight the achievements of the Department of Space during one year in office of the present Government.

  • DECU-ISRO has developed this application for Android devices.
  • Sakaar consists of 3D models of MOM, RISAT, rockets (PSLV, GSLV Mk-III); videos of INSAT 3D-predicting cyclones, GSLV D5/Cryo, Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) orbit insertion, launch video of MOM, 360 degree animated view of MOM; Anaglyph of Mars surface.
  • The Multimedia content which is embedded in the Sakaar app is generated with the support of multimedia & editing facilities of DECU-ISRO.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

  • Augmented Reality is a live direct view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated 3D models, animations, videos etc. The technology enhances user’s current perception of reality.
  • Augmentation is in real time and the information is overlaid on the live view of the device’s camera.
  • Essentially, AR requires three elements: Android device with back camera, AR application, AR Markers.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

‘Mandatory warning won’t make alcohol unsafe’

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has come out with the draft norms amid safety concerns over Maggi recall.

Details of the proposals:

  • FSSAI has proposed that alcoholic beverages, pan masala and supari need not be treated as unsafe food for recall just because they carry the mandatory warning that their consumption is injurious to health. It said the mandatory warning ‘consumption of alcohol/pan masala/supari is injurious to health’ may not make them liable for recall, “unless the beverage or food is determined unsafe as per the classification of recall making it injurious to health or even causing death.”
  • FSSAI has proposed regulations for recall process with the objective to guide the food business operators on how to carry out a recall process. ‘Food under recall’ means the specific lot or batch or code number of food item, which has been determined by the food authority or food safety commissioners of States/UTs as unsafe food causing injury or liable to cause injury to health or even death.
  • FSSAI has said that the primary responsibility of recalling the unsafe food lies with the manufacturer, importer or company engaged in wholesale supply or the brand owner of the food product. A food business operator engaged in the manufacturing, importation and wholesale supply of food shall initiate a recall process at any time to fulfil its responsibility to protect public health from food that is unsafe for the consumer.
  • In case of a recall, the food business operator also need to submit the plan for that unsafe product. A recall plan must be available in writing and shall be made available to the Food Authority or the commissioner of Food Safety of the State/UT, as the case may be, on request.
  • The food business operator shall comply with the plan it has developed when it recalls food and the recall plan shall be integrated into his business. It shall also be part of the annual audit of the food business.

About FSSAI:

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.

  • It was created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.
  • The Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are appointed by Government of India.
  • The Chairperson is in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.

Important functions performed by the authority:

  • Framing of Regulations to lay down the Standards and guidelines in relation to articles of food and specifying appropriate system of enforcing various standards thus notified.
  • Laying down mechanisms and guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies engaged in certification of food safety management system for food businesses.
  • Laying down procedure and guidelines for accreditation of laboratories and notification of the accredited laboratories.
  • To provide scientific advice and technical support to Central Government and State Governments in the matters of framing the policy and rules in areas which have a direct or indirect bearing of food safety and nutrition .
  • Collect and collate data regarding food consumption, incidence and prevalence of biological risk, contaminants in food, residues of various, contaminants in foods products, identification of emerging risks and introduction of rapid alert system.
  • Creating an information network across the country so that the public, consumers, Panchayats etc receive rapid, reliable and objective information about food safety and issues of concern.
  • Provide training programmes for persons who are involved or intend to get involved in food businesses.

Sources: The Hindu, BS, FSSAI.

India’s only double coconut tree artificially pollinated

Recently, scientists at the Indian Botanical Garden in West Bengal’s Howrah district have carried out artificial pollination of the only double coconut tree in India.

  • It bears the largest seed known to science.
  • This artificial pollination is a result of decades of work by scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).

Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred from the anther (male part) to the stigma (female part) of the plant, thereby enabling fertilization and reproduction. This takes place in the angiosperms, the flower bearing plants.

About double coconut tree ( Lodoicea maldivica ):

  • It is one of the rare and globally threatened species of palm. The tree was planted at the botanical garden in 1894.
  • The tree took almost a hundred years to mature.
  • The Double Coconut tree not only bears the largest seed known to science — weighing around 25 kg — but this unique species is also the longest surviving palm which can live for as long as 1,000 years.
  • The tree also bears the largest leaf among palms and one leaf can thatch a small hut.
  • This species of palm is diecious (where male and female flowers are borne on different plants).
  • The palm tree is located in the large palm house of the Botanical Garden which has the largest collection of palms in South East Asia with around 110 palm species.
  • This rare tree can be found in only two of the 115 Seychelles islands and is also called Coco de Mer (coconut of the sea).

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

India richer by 349 new species

According to the list of new discoveries by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), 349 new species of flora and fauna were discovered in the past one year — 173 species and genera of plants and 176 species of animals.

  • Of the new plants, some of the significant findings include nine new taxa of wild Musa (bananas), four species of black plum (jamun), three species of wild gingibers and 10 species of orchids.

Details:

  • Western Ghats accounted for 22% of the new discoveries, while the Eastern Himalayas and the north-eastern States each accounted for 15% of the species found.
  • In Arunachal Pradesh alone, 25 species of seed plants were discovered.
  • 176 new species were added to the list of animals of India. These include 93 species of insects, seven species of collembolans, 12 species each of arachnidan and crustacean and one species of mollusca. Two species of reptiles have also been located for the first time in the country — one in Tamil Nadu and another in Madhya Pradesh.
  • As in the previous year, insects outnumbered other animal groups this year also.
  • A large number of amphibians and fish have made it to the list with 24 and 23 new species respectively. While most of the new species of amphibians were discovered from the Western Ghats, majority of fish species were from north-east India.
  • Apart from the new species, the BSI has also added 105 new records and ZSI 61 ‘new records.’ Animals and plants that are found elsewhere in the world but have been spotted in India for the first time are called ‘new records.’

Scientists of both BSI and ZSI agree that the Western Ghats and the northeast are biodiversity hotspots where most new species were found.

In India, 96,891 species of animals and 47,791 species of plants have been recorded so far.

Sources: The Hindu.

Nepal snow leopard gets a radio collar

Nepalese conservationists recently announced that they had successfully radio-collared a second snow leopard near Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain.

  • Data received from the satellite collar will enable conservationists to identify critical habitats for the elusive species, including trans boundary links across India and China.
  • The collaring expedition was led by the government of Nepal in partnership with the WWF, the National Trust for Nature Conservation, the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Project and citizen scientists from the local Snow Leopard Conservation Committee.
  • The radio collaring was especially vital in helping identify snow leopard hotspots and managing local logistics.
  • There is an estimated 350 to 590 snow leopards in Nepal as per 2009 population data on the species.

Snow Leopards – Quick Facts:

  • They are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • They inhabit alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft). In the northern range countries, they also occur at lower elevations.
  • The snow leopard is the National Heritage Animal of Pakistan.
  • Their habitat extends through twelve countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. China contains as much as 60% of all snow leopard habitat areas.
  • In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.
  • The snow leopard, like all big cats, is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which makes trading of animal body parts (i.e., fur, bones and meat) illegal in signatory countries. It is also protected by several national laws in its range countries.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, WWF.