Science & Technology - Current Affairs Questions and Answers

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1)   What are qubits?
- Published on 22 Sep 17

a. how information is stored in quantum computers
b. information storage according to principles of quantum mechanics
c. Both a and b
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation  Related Ques

ANSWER: Both a and b

Explanation:
Keen to tap into the next big advance in computing technology, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is planning to fund a project to develop quantum computers.

A quantum computer, still largely a theoretical entity, employs the principles of quantum mechanics to store information in ‘qubits’ instead of the typical ‘bits’ of 1 and 0.

Qubits work faster because of the way such circuits are designed, and their promise is that they can do intensive number-crunching tasks much more efficiently than the fastest comparable computers.

For instance, to sort a billion numbers, a quantum computer would require 3.5 million fewer steps than a traditional machine, and would find the solution in only 31,623 steps, says a Morgan Stanley analysis.

Solving other problems, many having to do with computing physics, becomes possible on quantum machines, the authors say, whereas they might never be possible on traditional computers.

Experts from across the country are expected to gather this month in Allahabad for a workshop to develop such a computer.

Internationally, Canada’s D-Wave Systems, is a pioneer in developing quantum computers and has sold machines to Lockheed Martin and Google.

Experts, however, say that ‘true quantum computers’ are still years away, and existing systems use principles of quantum computing to solve very limited problems.


2)   What is a coma?
- Published on 22 Sep 17

a. Bright halo of material on the comet
b. Long tail of dust
c. Two asteroids orbiting each other
d. Two planets orbiting each other
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Bright halo of material on the comet

Explanation:
An unusual object, discovered in the solar system’s asteroid belt, is actually two asteroids orbiting each other, scientists including one of Indian origin have found using the Hubble Space Telescope.

The object has comet-like features including a bright halo of material, called a coma, and a long tail of dust.

Hubble was used to image the asteroid, designated 300163 (2006 VW139), in September 2016 just before the asteroid made its closest approach to the Sun.

The images revealed that it was actually not one, but two asteroids of almost the same mass and size, orbiting each other at a distance of 96 kilometres.

Asteroid 300163 (2006 VW139) was discovered by Spacewatch in November 2006 and then the possible cometary activity was seen in November 2011 by Pan - STARRS.

Both Spacewatch and Pan-STARRS are asteroid survey projects of NASA’s Near Earth Object Observations Program.

After the Pan-STARRS observations it was also given a comet designation of 288P.

This makes the object the first known binary asteroid that is also classified as a main-belt comet.

The more recent Hubble observations revealed ongoing activity in the binary system.

The combined features of the binary asteroid - wide separation, near-equal component size, high eccentricity orbit, and comet - like activity- also make it unique among the few known binary asteroids that have a wide separation.

Understanding its origin and evolution may provide new insights into the early days of the solar system.

Main-belt comets may help to answer how water came to a bone-dry Earth billions of years ago.

Binary Asteroid System: Know More

  • The team estimates that 2006 VW139/288P has existed as a binary system only for about 5,000 years. The most probable formation scenario is a breakup due to fast rotation.
  • After that, the two fragments may have been moved further apart by the effects of ice sublimation, which would give a tiny push to an asteroid in one direction as water molecules are ejected in the other direction.
  • The fact that 2006 VW139/288P is so different from all other known binary asteroids raises some questions about how common such systems are in the asteroid belt.
  • We need more theoretical and observational work, as well as more objects similar to this object, to find an answer to this question.


3)   What is LC3 technology?
- Published on 22 Sep 17

a. New cement material technology that reduces CO2 emissions in manufacturing process
b. Limestone calcined clay cement technology
c. Combination of clinker limestone and clinker calcined clay
d. All of the above
Answer  Explanation  Related Ques

ANSWER: All of the above

Explanation:
A research collaboration between India and Switzerland on a new cement material that can reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the manufacturing process is set to take off into implementation.

The construction sector is a major contributor to global carbon dioxide emissions.

Though this is known, it appears difficult to reduce the scale of construction, especially as it is a route to establishing more equitable conditions in developing countries like India.

One way of mitigating the emissions factor is the use of Limestone Calcined Clay Cement or the LC3 technology.

Traditional processes that manufacture cement from clinker-limestone or clinker-calcined clay combinations are well known.

LC3 effects a synergy between these processes. The combination of the new method and the material properties effectively reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 30% as compared to the traditional way of manufacturing cement.

How It Works

  • In manufacturing Portland cement, limestone and materials like clay are heated together in huge kilns to high temperatures (approximately 1,450 degrees C), so that they fuse without melting to give clinker.
  • This is the most CO2-intensive part of the whole process.
  • The carbon dioxide comes both from the burning of the fuel needed to create that temperature and due to the breakdown of limestone into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide.
    The latter part accounts for 60% of the CO2 emissions in manufacture of cement.
  • The best thing to do would be to substitute CO2-intensive clinker with a different material.
    In India, fly ash - a waste produced in the burning of coal for producing energy - is used in the manufacture of blended cement.
  • However this is used in a lower proportions and only where available; therefore, for effectively reducing emissions, more clinker is to be substituted with calcined clay and limestone.
  • This reduces emissions by 30% with respect to Portland cement.
  • There is an added advantage to the new material when used in coastal areas where reinforced concrete can be damaged by chloride diffusing through the material.
  • The new cement has less porosity and it is more difficult for the chloride to get in and damage the steel rods.
  • This gives the new cement a longer service life.


4)   What is the name of the two-tiered barge that is a boat lab for River Brahmaputra?
- Published on 21 Sep 17

a. Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat
b. B3
c. B4
d. Both a and c
e. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Both a and c

Explanation:
Soon, it will be possible to cruise along the Brahmaputra along while doing some serious science.

The Department of Biotechnology will commission a two-tiered barge that will roughly be the size of two large conference rooms and host scientists and a full-fledged lab.

This will allow those on board to collect samples from various stretches of the river, perform tests on water quality and biodiversity of the wider ecosystem.

The proposed vessel, now only known as the Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat (B4), would also be linked to smaller boats and research labs.

The first experiments will likely begin this December and will have the boat - a re-purposed one - trawl Pasighat, Dibrigarh, Neemati, Tejpur and Guwahati in Assam and managed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati.

The “B4” will also have a teaching laboratory for school and college children.

Specifying that this wouldn’t be just a show boat, officials indicated there would also be ‘mobile labs’ that would run along the tributaries of the Brahmaputra to feed in data to the B4.

For a river of the size and diversity of the Brahmaputra, there is very little research done to understand its hydrology, water quality and biodiversity.

A boat of this nature would be one of its kind in the world though there were a few precedents in China and mobile laboratories that studied the Amazon river.

Government aimed to spend ₹200 crore across a range of programmes.


5)   Which region of Mars has a densely packed river deposit indicating this planet had water 3.5 billion years ago?
- Published on 20 Sep 17

a. Aeolis Dorsa
b. Tharsis
c. Olympus Mons
d. Hellas
Answer  Explanation  Related Ques

ANSWER: Aeolis Dorsa

Explanation:
Mars had a surface environment that supported liquid water about 3.5 billion years ago, according to a study of river deposits spread across the red planet.

A region of Mars named Aeolis Dorsa contains some of the most spectacular and densely packed river deposits seen on the planet, researchers said.

These deposits are observable with satellite images because they have undergone a process called “topographic inversion,” where the deposits filling once topographically low river channels have been exhumed in such a way that they now exist as ridges at the surface of the planet, they said.

With the use of high-resolution images and topographic data from cameras on orbiting satellites, researchers identified fluvial deposit stacking patterns and changes in sedimentation styles controlled by a migratory coastline.

They also developed a method to measure river paleo-transport direction for a subset of these ridges.

Together, these measurements demonstrate that the studied river deposits once filled incised valleys. On Earth, incised valleys are commonly cut and filled during falling and rising eustatic sea level, respectively.

Cardenas and colleagues conclude that similar falling and rising water levels in a large water body forced the formation of the paleo-valleys in their study area.

Cross-cutting relationships are observed at the valley-scale, indicating multiple episodes of water level fall and rise, each well over 50 metres, a similar scale to eustatic sea level changes on Earth, researchers said.

The conclusion that such large water level fluctuations and coastline movements were recorded by these river deposits suggests some long-term stability in the controlling, downstream water body, which would not be expected from catastrophic hydrologic events.


6)   Which Indian astrophysicist and Nobel laureate predicted rapidly rotating stars emit polarised light?
- Published on 20 Sep 17

a. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
b. CV Raman
c. Ramanujan
d. Amartya Sen
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

Explanation:
Over 70 years after Indian astrophysicist and Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar predicted that rapidly rotating stars would emit polarised light, scientists in Australia have observed the phenomenon for the first time.

Researchers used a highly sensitive piece of equipment to detect the polarised light from Regulus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

The equipment provided unprecedented insights into the star, which is in the constellation Leo, allowing the scientists to determine its rate of spinning and the orientation in space of the star’s spin axis.

Regulus is rotating so quickly it is close to flying apart, with a spin rate of 96.5 per cent of the angular velocity for break-up.

It is spinning at approximately 320 kilometres per second - equivalent to travelling from Sydney to Canberra in less than a second.

Chandrashekar's Prediction: Know More

  • In 1946, Chandrasekhar had predicted the emission of polarised light from the edges of stars, prompting the development of sensitive instruments called stellar polarimeters to try to detect this effect.
  • Optical polarisation is a measure of the orientation of the oscillations of a light beam to its direction of travel.
  • In 1968, other researchers built on Chandrasekhar’s work to predict that the distorted, or squashed, shape of a rapidly rotating star would lead to the emission of polarised light, but its detection has eluded astronomers until now.
  • The instrument built, the High Precision Polarimetric Instrument (HIPPI) is the world’s most sensitive astronomical polarimeter.
  • Its high precision has allowed scientists to detect polarised light from a rapidly spinning star for the first time
  • It has previously been extremely difficult to measure these properties of rapidly rotating stars, researchers said.
  • Yet the information is crucial for understanding the life cycles of most of the hottest and largest stars in the galaxies, which are the ones that produce the heaviest elements, such as iron and nickel, in interstellar space.
Regulus: Know More
  • Regulus is about 79 light years away.
  • Regulus, also designated Alpha Leonis, is the brightest star in the constellation of Leo and one of the brightest stars in the night sky, lying approximately 79 light years from the Sun.
  • Constellation: Leo
  • B - V color index: –0.11/+0.86
  • U - B color index: –0.36/+0.51
  • Apparent magnitude (V): 1.40/8.13/13.50
  • Absolute magnitude (MV): –0.52/6.3/11.6
  • Age: ≳ Polarised light emitted by 1 Gyr
  • During the total solar eclipse in the US in August, Regulus was just one degree away from the Sun.
  • It was, to many people, the only star visible during the eclipse.


7)   Which Google payment app was launched on 18th Sept 2017?
- Published on 19 Sep 17

a. Zet
b. Ezt
c. Tez
d. Tze
Answer  Explanation  Related Ques

ANSWER: Tez

Explanation:
On 18th Sept 2017, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched Google’s payment app - ‘Tez’.

Tez by Google is perhaps the simplest form of monetary transactions.

Tez by Google and other ecosystems will make a major change in the digital payments landscape in India.

The tech giant claimed that Tez will enable money transfer directly from the bank accounts of customers, without them having to share their ‘personal information’.

The app will function on both Android and iOS platforms.

Google also said that the app will ‘understand’ eight Indian languages and will work with 55 banks

Tez (which means “Fast” in Hindi is Google’s play to replace cash transactions and become a more central part of how people pay for things, using their mobile to do so.

But it’s also a chance for the company to push out some new technologies - like audio QR (AQR), which lets users transfer money by letting their phones speak to each other with sounds - to see how it can make that process more frictionless, and therefore more attractive to use than cash itself.

Tez will see Google linking up with several major banks in the country by way of UPI (Unified Payments Interface) - a payment standard and system backed by the government in its push to bring more integrated banking services into a very fragmented market.

There will also be phones coming to the market from Lava, Micromax, Nokia and Panasonic with Tez preloaded, the company said.

Google has confirmed to me that payments made and taken using UPI are free for consumers and small merchants

To be clear, Tez is not a mobile “wallet” in the same way as PayTM offers a mobile wallet, where money is stored in the app and needs to be topped up to be used;

It’s more like Apple’s Wallet or other mobile wallets in the west: a place that links up your phone with your bank accounts to let you use your phone as a way to deduct payments from those accounts.

Supported banks include Axis, HDFC Bank, ICICI and State Bank of India and others that support UPI.

Online payment partners include large food chains like Dominos, transport services like RedBus, and Jet Airways

The app has support for English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu.

For money transfers, there is a limit of ₹1,00,000 in one day across all UPI apps, and 20 transfers in one day.

AQR and Tez: Know More

  • Google says that AQR - the sound-based format for transferring money securely between devices - is its own proprietary technology.
  • This appears to be the first time that Google has used it for payments, although it has used ultrasonic sound for transferring information between devices before
  • For example, the tech has been used in Chromecast to connect devices since 2014. Other startups that have used audio-based “codes” to transfer payments and other data before include Lisnr, and Chirp.
  • While AQR might seem like a neat technical twist, there are some practical reasons behind why Google might opt for this in Tez.
  • For starters, it obviates the need for NFC in the device, and in the payment devices of merchants or whoever else a person is planning to transact with.
  • The other thing is that it makes any kind of contactless transaction with the device fairly flexible and easy.
  • Services like Airdrop on iPhones require Bluetooth and if you’ve used it before isn’t that seamless and foolproof to turn on (even though it works like a charm when it does). QR codes, meanwhile, require you to turn on the camera on your device and physically align it with a code on another screen, a potentially fiddly and difficult process.
  • Using audio taps into some of the most basic features on even the most basic phones, a speaker and a microphone.
  • Google has also trademarked the name in other Asian countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, so there seems to be a wider strategy to expand this to other regions.
  • India, the second-most populated country in Asia after China, is a ripe market for mobile payment services, with a rapidly expanding middle class with more disposable income and a wider population that is very tech-focussed, with an estimated 300 million smartphones in use today.
  • Digital payments are expected to reach a volume of $500 billion annually by 2020, according to a report from BCG and Google.


8)   Which snail is set to be used to save the Great Barrier reef because it eats starfish?
- Published on 19 Sep 17

a. Giant triton
b. Pacific triton sea snail
c. Both a and b
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Both a and b

Explanation:
A giant starfish-eating snail could be unleashed to help save the Great Barrier Reef, officials said with a trial under way to breed thousands of the rare species.

Predatory crown-of-thorns starfish, which munch coral, are naturally-occurring but have proliferated due to pollution and run-off at the struggling World Heritage-listed ecosystem.

Their impact has been profound with a major study of the 2,300-km long reef’s health in 2012 showing coral cover halved over the past 27 years, with 42% of the damage attributed to the pest.

Now, Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) research has shown they avoid areas where the Pacific triton sea snail - also known as the giant triton - is present.

The snails, which can grow to half a metre, have a well developed sense of smell and can hunt their prey by scent alone.

Research showed they were particularly fond of crown-of-thorns, but only eat a few each week, and with the snail almost hunted to extinction for their shells, there are not many left.

This led the government to announce funding to research breeding them.

The possibilities the triton breeding project opens up are exciting.

If successful, this research will allow scientists to closely look at the impact of giant tritons on crown-of-thorns behaviour and test their potential as a management tool to help reduce coral lost to outbreaks.

Giant tritons held at AIMS have laid numerous egg capsules. But they are so rare, almost nothing is known about their life cycle.


9)   Which planet was downgraded to dwarf planet status?
- Published on 18 Sep 17

a. Pluto
b. Mars
c. Earth
d. Venus
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Pluto

Explanation:
'Planet 9' - an unseen planet on the edge of our solar system - probably formed closer to home around the Sun than previously thought, astronomers say.

Researchers in the UK found that Planet 9 is unlikely to have been captured from another planetary system, as has previously been suggested.

The outskirts of the solar system have always been something of an enigma, with astronomers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries searching for a giant planet that was not there, and the subsequent discovery of Pluto in 1930.

Pluto was downgraded in status to a 'dwarf planet' because astronomers discovered many other small objects so-called Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt objects at similar distances from the Sun.

Last year, astronomers working in the US postulated the presence of 'Planet 9' to explain the strange orbital properties of some Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt objects.

However, while it is not possible to directly observe Planet 9, it has not stopped theorists from trying to work out how it got there.

Planet 9: Know More

  • Planet 9 is at least ten times bigger than Earth, making it unlikely that it formed at such a large distance from the Sun.
  • Instead, it has been suggested it either moved there from the inner regions of the Solar System, or it could have been captured when the Sun was still in its birth star cluster.
  • Researchers simulated the Sun's stellar nursery where interactions are common and found that even in conditions optimised to capture free-floating planets, only five-to-10 out of 10,000 planets are captured onto an orbit like Planet 9's.


10)   Which phenomenon has Venusian winds rotating 60 times faster than the planet below on the dark side?
- Published on 18 Sep 17

a. Super rotation
b. Mono rotation
c. Dual rotation
d. Macro rotation
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Super rotation

Explanation:
Scientists have characterised wind and cloud patterns of the night side of planet Venus for the first time, and found that it behaves very differently from the part facing the Sun.

The night side exhibits unexpected and previously-unseen cloud types, morphologies, and dynamics - some of which appear to be connected to features on the planet's surface.

This is the first time humans have been able to characterise how the atmosphere circulates on the night side of Venus on a global scale.

Scientists found that the cloud patterns there are different to those on the dayside, and influenced by Venus' topography on the dark side.

Venus' atmosphere is dominated by strong winds that whirl around the planet far faster than Venus itself rotates.

This phenomenon, known as 'super-rotation', sees Venusian winds rotating up to 60 times faster than the planet below, pushing and dragging along clouds within the atmosphere as they go.

These clouds travel fastest at the upper cloud level, some 65 to 72 kilometres above the surface.

The team used the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) on European Space Agency (ESA)'s Venus Express spacecraft to observe the clouds in the infrared.

VIRTIS enabled scientists to see these clouds properly for the first time, allowing them to explore what previous teams could not and we discovered unexpected and surprising results.

Rather than capturing single images, VIRTIS gathered a 'cube' of hundreds of images of Venus acquired simultaneously at different wavelengths.

This allowed the team to combine numerous images to improve the visibility of the clouds, and see them at unprecedented quality.

The VIRTIS images thus reveal phenomena on Venus' night side that have never before been seen on the dayside.


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