Is There Life on Venus?

Is There Life on Venus?

A team of scientists has done a press release recently, announcing the discovery of phosphine in the cloudtops of Venus. How is this chemical related to speculating life? What does this mean for future space missions on other planets in the galaxy?

Crux of the Matter

Have We Thought About Life On Venus Before?
In the 1960s, spacecrafts like NASA’s Mariner 2 and Soviet Union’s Venera 4 were sent to Venus. Then it was revealed that Venus had a dense atmosphere of CO2 lurking below thick clouds of sulphuric acid (H2SO4), which was hot enough to melt lead. Then organisms like extremophiles were discovered later on Earth.

BlueisKewl: The Mariner 2
Mariner 2 spacecraft, Source: blueiskewl

What Are Extremophiles?
They are carbon-based microbes that can survive in extreme conditions like nuclear waste, highly acidic waters, undersea vents with high pressure and temperature conditions, and even in the ISS (International Space Station).

Can They Survive On Venus Then?
Extremophiles may survive in the acidic upper parts of the planet’s atmosphere, which has surface temperatures going below than 462°C (864 F). In fact, phosphine (PH3) was found in that altitude itself, between 48 and 60 km.

What’s PH3 Got To Do With It?
It is a colorless, flammable gas, majorly used in the semiconductor industry to introduce phosphorus into silicon crystals. On Earth, it’s produced by anaerobic organisms, which survive without oxygen, via decaying organic matter. It can also be prepared in the laboratory via chemical reactions.

There should either be life on Venus as well, or there is a chemical process waiting to be discovered.

Janusz Petkowski, co-author and EAPS Research

Molecular Barcode?
PH3 was found using spectroscopy, the study of how light interacts with molecules. When sunlight passes through Venus’s atmosphere, each molecule absorbs specific colours of this light. Using telescopes on Earth, this light can be split into a rainbow and distinctive pattern of dark absorption lines are formed, like an identifying barcode.

But PH3 Can Also Be Found In Jupiter
On a gas giant like Jupiter, there’s enough energy for phosphine to form abiotically, without the presence of living beings. However, on a rocky planet like Venus, phosphine can’t be produced on its own. Earth was till now, the only terrestrial planet to have PH3.

So Is There Life On Other Planets?
Always a possibility. Scientists would continue to find biosignatures like PH3, which can be any elements or phenomenons that provides scientific evidence of past or present life in the galaxy. They will also try and map out PH3 to study the daily and seasonal cycles on Venus.

Gear Up Your Space Suits For VERITAS!
A proposed new mission by NASA, VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography & Spectroscopy) would study Venus’ geology, both below and on the surface. Its proposed launch date is 2026, with a mission duration of 3 years.

  • Venus is the Roman goddess of love and beauty. The second planet from the Sun, Venus, is named after her. Venus is sometimes called Earth’s “sister planet” because of their similar size, mass, proximity to the Sun, and bulk composition.
  • Biosphere 2 is an American Earth system science research facility located in Oracle, Arizona. It was originally constructed between 1987 and 1991 with the mission to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching, and lifelong learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe. It remains the largest closed system ever created.
  • A pancake dome is an unusual type of lava dome found on the planet Venus. They are widely scattered on that planet and often form groups or clusters, though with smaller numbers of pancake domes in each group than is typical for the more common shield volcanoes. Pancake domes are between 10 and 100 times larger than volcanic domes formed on Earth.

Feluda Covid-19 Test Approved, To Enter The Market Soon

Feluda Covid-19 Test Approved, To Enter The Market Soon

The launch of India’s first indigenous, paper-based, Covid-19 testing kit, Feluda has been approved for commercial launch by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). How does it work? What about its availability and cost? Will it be a gamechanger? Let’s find out.

Crux of the Matter

What Is Feluda?
Feluda, an acronym for FNCAS9 Editor-Limited Uniform Detection Assay, is a paper-based test strip to identify the presence of Coronavirus in a sample. The name gets its inspiration from the famous Bengali fictional detective character, Feluda penned by Satyajit Ray.

It was developed by the TATA group and the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), New Delhi by Dr. Souvik Maiti, and Dr. Debojyoti Chakraborty.

What Is The Test Based On?
This indigenous test is based on CRISPR or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, a gene editing technology. It is used in correcting genetic defects and preventing the spread of diseases, by detecting all the pathogens responsible for them.

This is because it can detect specific sequences of DNA within a gene and use an enzyme functioning as ‘molecular scissors‘ to snip it. The US had approved the emergency-use of the world’s first CRISPR-based test for Covid-19, developed by MIT and Harvard, earlier this year, in May.

What About FNCAS9?
It is a protein used by researchers to edit our DNA and is derived from a bacterium, Francisella novicida. In Feluda test, FNCAS9 has been coded to interact with SARS-COV-2, which makes detection and confirmation speedy.

So How Will Feluda Know?
Similar to a pregnancy detection test, Feluda paper kit will change colours, if a positive diagnosis is identified. It shall carry two lines on the kit – one control and a test line to interpret results.

What About Its Accuracy?
As per the Ministry of Science and Technology, Feluda has 96% sensitivity and 98% specificity for detecting Covid-19. Test sensitivity is the ability of the test to correctly identify those with the SARS-COV-2 virus (true positive rate), whereas test specificity is the ability of the test to correctly identify those without the virus (true negative rate).
To know more, check out this piece.

Positive Step For India
The commercialization of Feluda would be an important step for us as it would be a “Made in India” initiative, that would highlight the increasing R&D talent in the country.

Girish Krishnamurthy, CEO, TATA Medical and Diagnostics Ltd, said, “We can then collaborate and contribute to the global healthcare and scientific research world.”

  • Feludar Goendagiri is a short story written by Satyajit Ray featuring Feluda. It was the very first among the total 35 complete stories/novels of the Feluda series.
  • The Apu Trilogy comprises three Indian Bengali language films directed by Satyajit Ray. They are frequently listed among the greatest films of all time and are often cited as the greatest films in the history of Indian cinema.
  • Sandesh is a Bengali children’s magazine. It was first published by Upendrakishore Ray in 1913. In 1961, the magazine was revived under the editorialship of Satyajit Ray. Ray introduced Feluda in short stories he wrote for Sandesh.

Your Childhood Dream Of Flying Car, A Reality Soon

Japan-based SkyDrive has completed its first public manned flying car test with their model SD-03. They plan to launch it for public use by 2023. So what’s different about this aerial vehicle? How will it co-exist with traditional road transport?

Crux of the Matter

SkyDrive’s SD-03
The flying demonstration of model SD-03, developed by Japan-based firm Skydrive, took place last month at the Toyota Test Field. This test comes 2 years after SkyDrive was formally launched, and 7 years after the start of the car development under Cartivator, SkyDrive’s founding company, and joint developer.

What’s Special About This?
It is the first public manned flying car test that has been successful and it has already raised around $36.6 million in the Series B round of funding. It could cruise around the test field for 4 minutes with a pilot at a height of 10 ft, who was accompanying the computer-run controls while the on-site staff was monitoring for backup needs.

Designed To Co-Exist With Regular Road Vehicles?
SD-03 is also the world’s smallest electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle. It has two white lights at its front, and red light underneath, to help onlookers identify the direction that the car is flying in.

What Is eVTOL?
It is an aircraft that can hover, take off, and land vertically. This includes fixed-wing aircrafts, helicopters, cyclogyros/cyclocopters and tiltrotors. It has a flight control augmentation and situational awareness that accompanies vehicles designed for autonomous operation and avoid accidents caused by human error.

Top 30 Tiltrotor GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

Electric operations of eVTOL reduce carbon emissions at the point of operation. As per a paper published last year by the University of Michigan, it was found that a fully loaded flying car would be more efficient than an electric car at a distance of more than 60 miles and gasoline-burning cars for distances greater than 21 miles.

As electrification of aerial mobility will continue to grow in the next decade, they would be greener than even electric road cars, cutting emissions while reducing traffic on busy roads.

What’s SkyDrive’s Main Goal?
Its goal is to bring the flying cars to the market by 2023 and the planned car concept, the SD-XX, will have a capacity of 2 people.

The size of the batteries, air traffic control, and other infrastructure problems will be worked upon till then, to comply with the safety requirements of the Civil Aeronautics Act.

  • PAL-V is a Dutch company that is involved in the development of the first commercial flying car, the PAL-V Liberty. PAL-V stands for Personal Air and Land Vehicle.
  • Futurists are people whose specialty or interest is futurology or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on Earth in general. The term “futurist” most commonly refers to people who attempt to predict the future (sometimes called trend analysis) such as authors, consultants, thinkers and organizational leaders.
  • Toyota was the world’s first automobile manufacturer to produce more than 10 million vehicles per year. The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937, as a spinoff from his father’s company Toyota Industries, to manufacture automobiles.

Nvidia Buys Arm I: All About Arm, SOC, CPU, & More

Nvidia Buys Arm I: All About Arm, SOC, CPU, & More

Nvidia recently announced its plans of acquiring chipmaker Arm from SoftBank for $40 billion. Arm will operate as an Nvidia division and will continue to have its headquarters in the UK. So what’s Arm? What are Arm Processors? Let’s decode chip by chip.

Crux of the Matter

What Is Arm?
ARM Ltd is a semiconductor company founded in 1990 as a joint venture of Apple, Acorn Computers, and VLSI Technology. It designs components of electrical circuits that are used to manage the flow of current (semiconductors), Arm processors, and system-on-a-chip (SoC) infrastructure. It is currently UK’s largest tech company valued at $40bn.

Tell Me More
Its semiconductor chips are the building blocks of consumer favourite products like Apple‘s Phone and iPad, Gaming devices like Playstation Vita and Nintendo DS, and mobile phones like Sony Ericsson and Samsung Galaxy.

What Is SoC?
A System on a chip is a circuit that integrates most components of a computer like CPU, memory, input/output (I/O) ports, and secondary storage, in a single microchip, which is the size of a coin. It is used in mobile phones, wearable devices, streaming sticks, etc.

CPU, The Brain Of A Computer?
Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the computer component responsible for fetching, processing, and executing instructions. Generally, it is a part of the integrated chip. Most modern ICs contain integrated CPU as well as GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).

What About ARM Processors?
ARM or Advanced RISC Machine processor is one of the family of CPUs based on the RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) architecture and makes 32-bit and 64-bit RISC multi-core processors.


  • CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computing) is the CPU design where one instruction is so intricate that it requires several operations to be carried our like memory storage, loading from memory, arithmetic calculations, etc. Thus it takes several clock cycles (electronic pulses of a CPU) to execute. Eg: Intel hardware.
    It is generally used in PCs, servers, etc.
  • RISC can perform a smaller number of simple computer instructions in one clock cycle and thus operates at a higher speed than CISC i.e performing more Millions of Instructions Per Second (MIPS). Eg: Apple hardware.

    It is generally used in mobile devices like phones and tablets. In modern usage, RISC instructions also have similar complexity as CISC.

  • The “eye” in NVIDIA’s logo symbolizes a constant search for innovation and future. The company adopted its logo three years after it was founded in 1993.
  • GeForce is a brand of GPUs designed by Nvidia. The “GeForce” name originated from a contest held by Nvidia in early 1999 called “Name That Chip”.
  • Jensen Huang is the co-founder of Nvidia in 1993 and has been its president and chief executive officer (CEO) since inception. Forbes listed him as one of the highest-paid CEOs and one of the wealthiest Asian Americans.

Nvidia Buys Arm II: What Is Nvidia?

Nvidia Buys Arm II: What Is Nvidia?

Nvidia recently announced its plans of acquiring chipmaker Arm from SoftBank for $40 billion. Arm will operate as an Nvidia division and will continue to have its headquarters in the UK. So what’s Nvidia? How is its approach different from Intel? Let’s decode chip by chip.

Crux of the Matter

Before you deep dive into this piece, do read our previous story that talks about Arm and the basic tech terminologies related to processors i.e CISC, RISC, and MIPS.

What Is Nvidia?
It is a US-based tech giant valued at $338bn, headquartered in California, but incorporated in the high secrecy state of Delaware. Founded 3 years after Arm, the company invented the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), which powers interactive graphics on computers and mobile devices, for video gaming and for professional purposes.

Nvidia v/s Intel
Intel, the creator of the world’s first commercial microprocessor chip, has GPUs targeted for low-end computing to handle internet surfing whereas Nvidia’s target audience is high end computing like content creation, gaming, blockchain, etc.

Gtx 1080 GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY
One of the GPU’s at work, Source: Giphy

Intel bundles it GPU with the chipset on the motherboard. These GPUs share the memory with the system memory and hence have lower performance. Nvidia produces discrete GPUs, which have their own dedicated CPU and Memory modules designed primarily for Graphics processing. Thus, Nvidia better performance as it puts the load on other system resources like CPU and Memory.

AMD & Intel Look Out
Unlike Intel, ARM does not manufacture, sell and ship its own products, and just licenses its intellectual property in return for a fee. This allows them to work with any chip manufacturer as their customer, including NVIDIA’s rivals, AMD, Qualcomm, and Intel. So with the takeover, NVIDIA would benefit from this open-licensing business model.

ARM-NVIDIA also plan to accelerate R&D innovation by building AI supercomputers and self-driving cars in its research and education lab while acting as a startup incubator.

Rise Of Nvidia DLSS
Nvidia DLSS is a deep learning neural network that uses the power of AI to boost frame rates in games having graphically-intensive workloads. Frame rates are the speed with which consecutive images appear on a display.

How Does DLSS Work?
Nvidia’s supercomputer trains the DLSS model to recognize aliased inputs and generate high-quality anti-aliased images that match the “perfect frame” as closely as possible. . This has the effect of increasing the resolution of the input. Combining both techniques enables the GPU to render the full monitor resolution at higher frame rates.

  • The “eye” in NVIDIA’s logo symbolizes a constant search for innovation and future. The company adopted its logo three years after it was founded in 1993.
  • GeForce is a brand of GPUs designed by Nvidia. The “GeForce” name originated from a contest held by Nvidia in early 1999 called “Name That Chip”.
  • Jensen Huang is the co-founder of Nvidia in 1993 and has been its president and chief executive officer (CEO) since inception. Forbes listed him as one of the highest-paid CEOs and one of the wealthiest Asian Americans.