Current Affairs Questions & Answers - Oct 19, 2017

1)   The collision of neutron stars yields which of the following?

a. Birth of planet killing gamma rays
b. Rate at which universe is expanding
c. Creation of heavy elements like platinum and gold
d. Only a and c
e. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: All of the above

Scientists examined long-ago collision of two neutron stars.

Measurements of the light and other energy emanating from the crash have helped scientists explain how planet-killing gamma ray bursts are born, how fast the universe is expanding, and where heavy elements like platinum and gold come from.

It started in a galaxy called NGC 4993, seen from Earth in the Hydra constellation.

Two neutron stars, collapsed cores of stars so dense that a teaspoon of their matter would weigh 1 billion tons, danced ever faster and closer together until they collided.

The crash, called a kilonova, generated a fierce burst of gamma rays and a gravitational wave, a faint ripple in the fabric of space and time, first theorized by Albert Einstein.

Scientists finally now know what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object and it’s a kilonova.

The crash happened 130 million years ago, while dinosaurs still roamed on Earth, but the signal didn’t arrive on Earth until Aug. 17 after traveling 130 million light-years. A light-year is 5.88 trillion miles.

Signals were picked up within 1.7 seconds of each other, by Nasa’s Fermi telescope, which detects gamma rays, and gravity wave detectors in Louisiana and Washington state that are a part of the LIGO Laboratory, whose founders won a Nobel Prize earlier this month.

A worldwide alert went out to focus telescopes on what became the most well-observed astronomical event in history.

Before August, the only other gravity waves detected by LIGO were generated by colliding black holes. But black holes let no light escape, so astronomers could see nothing.

This time there was plenty to see, measure and analyse: matter, light, and other radiation.

The Hubble Space Telescope even got a snapshot of the afterglow.

Finding where the crash happened wasn’t easy.

Eventually scientists narrowed the location down to 100 galaxies, began a closer search of those, and found it in the ninth galaxy they looked at.

The colliding stars spewed bright blue, super-hot debris that was dense and unstable.

Some of it coalesced into heavy elements, like gold, platinum and uranium.

Scientists had suspected neutron star collisions had enough power to create heavier elements, but weren’t certain until they witnessed it.

Calculations from a telescope measuring ultraviolet light showed that the combined mass of the heavy elements from this explosion is 1,300 times the mass of Earth.

And all that stuff - including lighter elements - was thrown out in all different directions and is now speeding across the universe.

Perhaps one day the material will clump together into planets the way ours was formed, maybe ones with rich veins of precious metals.

The crash also helped explain the origins of one of the most dangerous forces of the cosmos - short gamma ray bursts, focused beams of radiation that could erase life on any planet that happened to get in the way.

These bursts shoot out in two different directions perpendicular to where the two neutron stars first crash.

Scientists knew that the universe has been expanding since the Big Bang. By using LIGO to measure gravitational waves while watching this event unfold, researchers came up with a new estimate for how fast that is happening, the so-called Hubble Constant.

Before this, scientists came up with two slightly different answers using different techniques. The rough figure that came out of this event is between the original two.

The first optical images showed a bright blue dot that was very hot, which was likely the start of the heavy element creation process amid the neutron star debris.

After a day or two that blue faded, becoming much fainter and redder. And after three weeks it was completely gone.

Scientists involved with the search for gravitational waves said this was the event they had prepared for over more than 20 years.

2)   Scientists have found a way to develop camouflaging skin inspired by which species?

a. Octopus
b. Cuttlefish
c. Chameleon
d. Only a and b
e. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Only a and b

Scientists have found a way to develop a synthetic "camouflaging skin" inspired by studying and modelling the real thing in octopus and cuttlefish.

For the octopus and cuttlefish, instantaneously changing their skin colour and pattern to disappear into the environment is just part of their camouflage prowess.

These animals can also swiftly and reversibly morph their skin into a textured, 3D surface, giving the animal a ragged outline that mimics seaweed, coral, or other objects it detects and uses for camouflage.

In a study published in the journal Science, the researchers reported development of synthetic tissue groupings that allow programmable, 2D stretchable materials to both extend and retract a range of target 3D shapes.

The team’s pneumatically-activated material takes a cue from the 3D bumps, or papillae, that cephalopods such as such as octopus and cuttlefish can express in one-fifth of a second for dynamic camouflage, and then retract to swim away.

Papillae are examples of a muscular hydrostat, biological structures that consist of muscle with no skeletal support (such as the human tongue).

This is a classic example of bio-inspired engineering.

For example, the material could be controllably morphed to reflect light in its 2D spaces and absorb light in its 3D shapes.

3)   What is the botanical name of the common durian?

a. Durio acutifolious
b. Durio carinatas
c. Durio griffithi
d. Durio zibethinus
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Durio zibethinus

Scientists from Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia published the DNA blueprint of the common durian, Durio zibethinus-laying bare the genes responsible for its unique traits.

Such data is vital to better understanding of durian biodiversity.

Knowing more about the plant’s DNA may help protect it.

There are 30 known species in the Durio family, with D. zibethinus the most widely consumed.

The thorn-covered fruit, yellow-green in colour, can grow to the size of a rugby ball.

More than 250,000 hectares of land, an area about the size of Luxembourg, was devoted to durian cultivation in 2008, according to the study authors.

In 2016, durian imports to China accounted for about $600 million (511 million euros) compared to about $200 million for oranges, another key commodity.

There are about 200 specially-bred durian cultivars, with a range of textures, flavours and aromas to please a variety of palates-with pungent and bitter fruit prized in Malaysia and Singapore, and sweeter ones in Thailand.

Yet despite the durian’s importance as a tropical fruit crop, genetic research has been almost nonexistent

Genomic data could also be useful for "rapid quality control", they said, verifying the authenticity of fruit sold as desirable cultivars which may fetch high prices among aficionados.

Further studies will help to elucidate the ecological roles of these important and fascinating tropical plants.

4)   Which of the following is the world’s deepest lake?

a. Dal Lake
b. Lake Baikal
c. Lake Vostok
d. Lake Malawi
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal is undergoing its gravest crisis in recent history, experts say, as the government bans the catching of a signature fish that has lived in the world’s deepest lake for centuries but is now under threat.

Holding one-fifth of the world’s unfrozen fresh water, Baikal in Russia’s Siberia is a natural wonder of exceptional value to evolutionary science meriting its listing as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Baikal’s high biodiversity includes over 3,600 plant and animal species, most of which are endemic to the lake.

Over the past several years, however, the lake, a major international tourist attraction, has been crippled by a series of detrimental phenomena, some of which remain a mystery to scientists.

They include the disappearance of the omul fish, rapid growth of putrid algae and the death of endemic species of sponges across its vast 3.2 million-hectare (7.9 million-acre) area.

The total biomass of omul in Baikal has more than halved since 15 years ago from 25 million tonnes to just 10 million.

The decrease is likely caused by uncontrollable fish poaching, with extra pressure coming from the climate.

Baikal water stock is tied to climate.

Now there is a drought, rivers grow shallow, there are less nutrients. Baikal’s surface heats up and omul does not like warm water.

The Baikal omul, a well-known speciality, was for centuries the main local source of food, eaten salted or smoked, and especially important given the region has no farming.

Another peril to the lake’s ecosystem is the explosion of algal blooms unnatural to Baikal with thick mats of rotting Spirogyra algae blanketing pristine sandy beaches, which some scientists say indicates that the lake can no longer absorb human pollution without consequence.

The lake, which is 1,700 metres (5,580 feet) deep, and its tourism now provide a livelihood for many residents to replace fishing.

Foreign visitors often spend time at Baikal while doing a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway and in recent years more Chinese have been coming as Russia eased visa requirements.

170 types of sponges throughout Baikal’s coast were tested and only 11 percent looked healthy.

A special 1999 law in Russia spells out protection measures for Lake Baikal.

The government is also putting 26 billion rubles (about $452 million, 385 million euros) into a cleanup programme, which started in 2012, to fund treatment facilities.

5)   Which species of geckos or house lizards have been found in Chhattisgarh in Oct 2017?

a. Hemidactylus kangerensis
b. Eublepharis macularius
c. Hemitheconyx caudicinctus
d. Rhacodactylus ciliatus
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Hemidactylus kangerensis

Geckos or house lizards usually evoke in us varying degrees of disdain. But a team of scientists’ fascination for these reptiles led them to discover a new species from the Eastern Ghats.

The Kanger valley rock gecko Hemidactylus kangerensis is the newest addition to India’s lizard species.

According to a paper published in the taxonomic journal Comptes Rendus Biologies on Wednesday, researchers, led by Zeeshan Mirza of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, discovered the gecko from Chhattisgarh’s Kanger Ghati National Park.

Though named after this park, the species is also found in Jagdalpur and Sukma in Chhattisgarh and in Khamman in the adjoining State of Telangana, which are part of the Eastern Ghats.

Growing to over eight inches long, the adult Kanger valley rock gecko is fairly large.

The researchers found them in abandoned houses in the national park and juveniles on termite mounds and tree trunks.

Though several researchers and reptile buffs had spotted the species before, they had mistaken it for the commonly-found rock gecko which it resembles.

The distinct black-bordered beige bands that the new species sports right from its neck to its tail tip and specific scales on its thighs (which are visible only on closer inspection) set the Kanger valley rock gecko apart from the commonly-found rock gecko.

According to the researchers, the discovery highlights the need for dedicated surveys across the Eastern Ghats, where biodiversity has not been quantified too well.

Most areas here also need protection from various anthropogenic pressures.

6)   What technology does the gene therapy for cancer use?

a. CAR-R
b. CAR-N
c. CAR-T
d. CAR-P
Answer  Explanation 


US regulators approved a second gene therapy for a blood cancer, a one-time, custom-made treatment for aggressive lymphoma in adults.

The Food and Drug Administration allowed sales of the treatment from Kite Pharma.

It uses the same technology, called CAR-T, as the first gene therapy approved in the U.S. in August, a treatment for childhood leukemia from Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

The treatment, called Yescarta, will cost $373,000 per patient, according to drugmaker Gilead Sciences.

Kite became a subsidiary of Foster City, California-based Gilead this month.

CAR-T treatment uses gene therapy techniques not to fix disease-causing genes but to turbocharge T cells, immune system soldiers that cancer can often evade.

The T cells are filtered from a patient’s blood, reprogrammed to target and kill cancer cells, and then hundreds of millions of copies are grown.

Returned to the patient, all the revved-up cells can continue multiplying to fight disease for months or years. That’s why these immunotherapy treatments are called "living drugs."

Kite’s therapy is for patients with three types of aggressive, or fast-growing, large B-cell lymphoma. The most common one accounts for about a third of the estimated 72,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed each year.

Yescarta, also known as axicabtagene ciloleucel, was approved for patients who have already been treated with at least two cancer drugs that either didn’t work for them or eventually stopped working.

At that point, patients are generally out of options and only have about a 10% chance of even temporary remission of their cancer.

Yescarta is not a benign treatment, though - three people died after getting the treatment, which can cause serious side effects.

The FDA is requiring Kite to do a long-term safety study and train hospitals to quickly spot and handle those reactions.

A different type of gene therapy is waiting in the wings at the FDA.

Spark Therapeutics’ treatment for a rare form of blindness could be approved within months. It aims to improve vision by replacing a defective gene needed to process light.

Other gene therapies for blood cancers are being tested and scientists think they may work for solid tumours within several years.

7)   Which country is set to get its first youngest woman PM in more than 150 years in Oct 2017?

a. New Zealand
b. Zimbabwe
c. Madagascar
d. Australia
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: New Zealand

New Zealand will get its youngest Prime Minister in more than 150 years after the small, nationalist New Zealand First Party agreed to form a new government with Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern, ending the National Party’s decade in power.

The outcome caps a remarkable rise for Ms. Ardern, 37, who only took over the party’s top job in August, and marks another victory for a youthful global leader promising change.

It is replete with big implications for the world’s 11th most traded currency, the central bank, immigration and foreign investment.

Labour had an even chance as National to form a government after inconclusive elections on Sept. 23 gave neither party enough seats to form a majority in parliament.

The announcement of the new government drove the New Zealand dollar down around 1.7% to its lowest levels in four and half months, as markets worried about more protectionist policies to come.

Labour said it would stick to its campaign promise to change the central bank’s mandate, seek to renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and prioritize an effort to ban foreign ownership of certain types of housing.

It has said it wants to add employment to the central bank’s mandate, which would mark a big change for the Reserve Bank of New Zealand which was the pioneer of the inflation-targeting regime adopted across the world.

Record net migration of more than 70,000 annually has fuelled demand for housing in New Zealand, far outstripping supply and pushing house prices prohibitively higher, pricing ordinary New Zealanders out of the housing market

Labour made a last minute-gamble when it appointed Ms. Ardern as a leader not long before the vote, hoping to ride the global sea of change that drove Britain to vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump to become US president.

Her popularity and message of hope have drawn comparisons with the similarly youthful leaders such as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau.

Markets are concerned about uncertainty.

They worry that curbs to migration and trade could hurt two key sources of New Zealand’s robust growth in recent years.

More restrictive trade and foreign ownership could also hurt New Zealand’s reputation as an open economy and antagonize the likes of China, a key trading partner. Trade between the two countries has grown to more than NZ$20 billion ($14.4 billion) a year.

8)   Which of the following countries were elected member state of UNHCR Council?

a. Australia
b. Congo
c. Pakistan
d. Both a and b
e. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: All of the above

Pakistan was elected as a member state of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council by the body’s General Assembly in Oct 2017, securing more than two-thirds of the vote.

Other countries elected by the UN General Assembly include Australia, Afghanistan, Nepal, Qatar, Congo, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, Chile, Mexico and Peru.

They will serve on the 47-member council from January 2018 through the end of 2020.

The Democratic Republic of Congo was elected to the UN Human Rights Council despite opposition from the United States and a leading rights group.

Kinshasa now finds itself in the rare position of sitting on the Geneva-based council while the body investigates allegations of killings, torture, rape and the use of child soldiers in the Kasai region of the DR Congo.

Australia and Human Rights

Australia will push for tougher scrutiny of countries with appalling human rights records after securing a coveted seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Australia was among 15 countries elected to the council for a three-year term despite the UN previously criticising the government for its record on the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in detention and Indigenous people.

The UNHCR has previously critiqued Australia for it’s treatments of asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island.

Britain and the United States criticised the appointment of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was elected uncontested to the 47-member council.

The DRC-beset by renewed political and militia violence since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down in December-won 151 votes from the 193-member General Assembly in New York.

9)   17 October 2017 marked which of the following?

a. Inauguration of first Ayurveda institute of India
b. International Ayurveda Day
c. National Ayurveda Day
d. Only a and b
e. Only a and c
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Only a and c

This October 17, marked as National Ayurveda Day, the country celebrated the historic roots of the alternative medicinal practice in the Indian subcontinent with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the first of its kind, All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) in New Delhi.

An apex institute under the Ministry of AYUSH (Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopath), the idea is to facilitate synergy between the traditional wisdom of Ayurveda and modern diagnostic tools and technology.

Facts About AIIA

  • The total area the institute accounts up to 10.015 acres, built with a budget of Rs 157 crore and is set up along the lines of the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the country’s capital.
  • The institute will focus on fundamental research in Ayurveda, developing drugs, monitoring, standardization, quality control, safety evaluation and scientific validation of Ayurvedic medicine.
  • The institute is deemed the first medical institute under the AYUSH ministry and will offer postgraduate and doctoral courses in various Ayurvedic disciplines.
  • While AIIA started the post-graduate programme (MD/MS) in Ayurveda from the academic year 2016-17, the PhD courses have already begun for academic year 2017-18.
  • The institute has 200-bed referral hospital to conduct clinical research. Its hospital block at present, provides outpatient services and medicines free of cost.
  • Currently, the clinical specialities of the hospital block not only include neurological and degenerative disease care unit, rheumatology and musculoskeletal care unit, diabetes and metabolic/allergic disorders care unit but also, Yoga, Panchakarma clinic, Kriya Kalpa, diabetic retinopathy clinic and infertility clinic.
  • The institute also has set up pathology, biochemistry, microbiology and Radiology laboratories or diagnostic facilities.
  • Once fully developed the institute is stipulated to have 25 Specialty Departments and 12 clinics with 8 inter-disciplinary research laboratories.
  • The nationally and internationally lauded institute will provide Ayurvedic treatments that foreign diplomats, delegates, other visitors or different nationalities, and common public can observe and avail through the medium of classical Ayurveda therapies, education and scientific research.
  • The institute will also facilitate medical tourism in India by encouraging patients of other nationalities to avail Ayurvedic treatment for chronic health problems, that have been unsuccessfully treated by other medical methods.

10)   Who was the country’s first swimmer to participate in an Olympics game?

a. Shamsher Khan
b. Saloni Dalal
c. Sajjan Prakash
d. Richa Mishra
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Shamsher Khan

Shamsher Khan, the country’s first swimmer who had participated in the 1956 Summer Olympics, died at his native village Repalle on 15th Oct 2017.

Mr. Khan, 92, died of heart attack.

Mr. Khan had enrolled himself in the Indian Army in 1949.

He had taken part in various national swimming competitions.

He won a place in the Indian Olympics contingent that had visited Australia in 1956.

He, however, secured fourth place in the competition.

He continued to serve in the Army till he retired in 1973. After retirement, he settled at Repalle.

He lived a life of penury till his death. In July 2016, the Andhra Pradesh Government awarded him INR 25 lakh.

Shamsher Khan: Know More

  • Shamsher Khan was an Indian swimmer who represented India in the 1956 Summer Olympics.
  • In 1954, he made a national record in the 200-meter butterfly event.
  • He broke the existing national record at the national meet in Bangalore in 1955.
  • Born: 1931, Guntur
  • Died: 15 October 2017