India on path to cleaner tech: 50 GW of renewable energy capacity installed


The G.O.I on Thursday earlier this week reported that a total of 47.86 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity has been installed in the nation, in the past six years from March 2014 to October 2019. Power and New & Renewable Energy Minister R K Singh verified the same in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.

Crux of the Matter
  • As per government data, India added 98 gigawatts of power generation capacity. 52% of this was based on renewable energy technologies dominated by solar power, which saw the addition of 30 gigawatts of new projects.
  • Over the last five years, solar power capacity in India has increased 10 times to 33.7 gigawatts as of 31 December 2019.
  • In 12 of the 18 quarters ending December 2019, capacity added through renewable energy technologies exceeded that based on fossil fuels (coal, diesel, and gas) witnessed the addition of 42 gigawatts of new capacity.
  • Diesel-fired capacity declined from 1,200 megawatts to 510 megawatts during the aforementioned period. Power generation capacity based on biomass and biofuel cogeneration doubled from 4.4 gigawatts to 9.8 gigawatts during the same time.
  • This has come out as a major achievement for the country which otherwise used non-renewable energy sources for two-thirds of its electricity generation capacity.

Renewable energy in India : India is one of the countries with the largest production of energy from renewable sources. As of 2019, 35% of India’s installed electricity generation capacity is from renewable sources, generating 17% of total electricity in the country. In the Paris, Agreement India has committed to an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions target of achieving 40% of its total electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. The country is aiming for even more ambitious target of 57% of the total electricity capacity from renewable sources by 2027 in the Central Electricity Authority’s strategy blueprint. According to 2027 blueprint, India aims to have 275 GW from renewable energy, 72 GW of hydroelectricity, 15 GW of nuclear energy and nearly 100 GW from “other zero emission” sources. In the quarter ending September 2019, India’s total renewable electricity capacity (including large hydro) was 130.68 GW. This represents 35.7% of the total installed electricity generation capacity in the country, which is around 366 GW. More Info

Icy research reveals primitive viruses in Tibetan glacier


Scientists recently revealed the existence of 28 never-before-seen virus groups at two ice cores from a Tibetan glacier. For the past 15,000 years, this glacier on the northwestern Tibetan Plateau of China played hosts to unusual guests: an ensemble of frozen viruses, many of them unknown to modern science. The findings have been posted in a paper of the bioRxiv database, an open-access preprint repository for the biological sciences.

Crux of the Matter
  • In 2015, when researchers embarked on an expedition to retrieve the oldest ice on the planet, they were doing it to look for clues about past climate and stumbled upon the Guliya ice cap in China’s Tibet.
  • The scientists retrieved the ancient viruses by drilling 50 meters deep into the glacier ice. To rule out any contamination, they developed an original method to study the microbes in the lab.
  • Out of the 33 groups of virus genuses or genera, 28 were previously undisclosed to science. The researchers reportedly wrote in the study how the microbes differed significantly across the two ice cores.
  • The critters they found represent the microbes that were present in the atmosphere at the time they were trapped in the ice, giving scientists a window to understanding the past climate and microbial evolution.
  • Chantal Abergel, a researcher in environmental virology at the French National Centre for Scientific Research said “We are very far from sampling the entire diversity of viruses on Earth.” As human-made climate change melts glaciers the world over, these viral archives could be lost.

Virus is a small infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of an organism. Viruses can infect all types of life forms, from animals and plants to microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea. Since Dmitri Ivanovsky’s 1892 article describing a non-bacterial pathogen infecting tobacco plants, and the discovery of the tobacco mosaic virus by Martinus Beijerinck in 1898 about 5,000 virus species have been described in detail, although there are millions of types. Viruses are found in almost every ecosystem on Earth and are the most numerous type of biological entity. The study of viruses is known as virology, a sub-speciality of microbiology. The shapes of these virus particles range from simple helical and icosahedral forms for some species to more complex structures for others. More Info

Hail Vyommitra! First Indian half-humanoid ready for space ride


ISRO presented its first ‘womanastronaut to an international gathering here on Wednesday. Seated at a desk in a uniform and sporting her name on a custom-made ISRO identity badge, Vyommitra, introduced herself to ISRO Chairman K. Sivan and Principal Scientific Adviser K. Vijay Raghavan at the symposium on human space flight in Bangalore.

Crux of the Matter
  • Most international space missions send mannequins or humanoids in test flights before actually launching a human being into a mission. The most famous of these is Ivan Ivanovich, who flew in the USSR’s Vostok spacecraft in 1961 before Yuri Gagarin.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had mentioned about India’s human spaceflight mission in his Independence Day address in 2018.
  • Vyommitra gets her name from two Sanskrit words : Vyom which means space and Mitra, meaning friend. She will fly onboard the first two flights of the mission. Only the third Gaganyaan flight will have a ‘human’ crew.
  • Designed at ISRO’s Inertial Systems Unit in Thiruvananthapuram, Vyommitra is a half humanoid, which means she does not have legs. However, she is interactive enough and will be able to help check the systems in the crew module including temperature, pressure levels and oxygen availability.
  • The model on display is only a prototype of the robot lady who will fly out by the end of December 2020. She will have some level of autonomy to communicate with the ground station.

Human spaceflight or manned spaceflight is space travel with a crew or passengers aboard the spacecraft. Spacecraft carrying people may be operated directly, by human crew, or it may be either remotely operated from ground stations on Earth or be autonomous, able to carry out a specific mission with no human involvement. The first human in space was Yuri Gagarin, who flew the Vostok 1 spacecraft, launched by the Soviet Union on 12 April 1961 as part of the Vostok program. Humans have flown to the Moon nine times from 1968 to 1972 in the United States Apollo program, and have been continuously present in space for 19 years and 84 days on the International Space Station. All human spaceflight has so far been human-piloted, with the first autonomous human-carrying spacecraft under design starting in 2015. Russia and China have human spaceflight capability with the Soyuz program and the Shenzhou program. In the United States, SpaceShipTwo reached the edge of space in 2018; this was the first crewed spaceflight from the US since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011. More Info

Future of AI: Can Morals and Scientific Advancement Go Hand in Hand?

Deep researches have been going on in Artificial Intelligence (AI), its use in facial recognition and AI chatbots, etc. But this has also posed a threat to societal elements. Thus tech leaders have urged to set global standards on how to use Advanced Technology.

Crux of the Matter
  • Leading Tech giants like Microsoft, Tesla, IMB and Google had made a call on past Monday for change in the regulation policies related to Artificial Intelligence.
  • Taking into account the dark side of AI, Elon Musk CEO of SpaceX said that “If not regulated or controlled soon, AI could become an “immortal dictator” and there will be no escape for humans.”
  • Understanding the responsibility on his shoulder, Sunder Pichai CEO of Google and Alphabet, said, “There is no question that we need regulation and laws regarding AI at global level but how to approach it is bigger deal.”
  • He further added “Companies such as ours cannot just build promising new technology and let market forces decide how it will be used. It is equally incumbent on us to make sure that technology is harnessed for good and available to everyone”.
  • IMB chief Ginni Rometty said, “artificial intelligence regulations must be crafted with precise regulations and technology can’t flourish at the cost of social security.”
  • She further points out that technology is not an issue but the way it can be used is a potential threat for us.

Machine ethics (or machine morality) is the field of research concerned with designing Artificial Moral Agents (AMAs), robots or artificially intelligent computers that behave morally or as though moral. To account for the nature of these agents, it has been suggested to consider certain philosophical ideas, like the standard characterizations of agency, rational agency, moral agency, and artificial agency, which are related to the concept of AMAs. More Info

Ethical Tech – There is one technology in particular that could truly bring the possibility of robots with moral competence to reality. In a paper on the acquisition of moral values by robots, Nayef Al-Rodhan mentions the case of neuromorphic chips, which aim to process information similarly to humans, nonlinearly and with millions of interconnected artificial neurons. Robots embedded with neuromorphic technology could learn and develop knowledge in a uniquely humanlike way. Inevitably, this raises the question of the environment in which such robots would learn about the world and whose morality they would inherit – or if they end up developing human ‘weaknesses’ as well: selfishness, a pro-survival attitude, hesitation, etc. More Info

GSAT-30: ISRO's 1st satellite launch of 2020


GSAT-30, providing high-quality television, telecommunications and broadcasting services, was launched early Friday morning by ISRO’s longtime collaborator Arianespace, from Kourou launch base in French Guiana. It is speculated to have a mission life of over 15 years and shall replace an ageing spacecraft INSAT-4A, that was launched in 2005.

Crux of the Matter
  • The Indian communication satellite uses two satellite frequencies, while giving the Indian mainland and islands coverage in the Ku band, and extended coverage in a wider area stretching from Australia to Europe in the lower-frequency C-band.
  • The Ku and C bands are part of a spectrum of frequencies, ranging from 1 to 40 gigahertz, that are used in satellite communications.
  • According to Isro chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan, “GSAT-30 will provide DTH (direct-to-home) television Services, connectivity to VSATs [Very Small Aperture Terminals] for ATM, stock exchange, television uplinking and teleport services, Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) and e-governance applications“.
  • The 3,357 kg satellite is planned to be used for bulk data transfer for a host of emerging telecommunication applications and would be joining 19 other communicational satellites that are currently operational.
  • In times ahead, ISRO gives a promising outlook of using space to bridge the digital divide on the Indian subcontinent, as part of its ambitious space program.

GSAT-30 is a telecommunication satellite developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is based on ISRO’s I-3K bus. It was assembled by a consortium of mid-sized industries led by Alpha Design Technologies Ltd. at ISRO Satellite Integration and Test Establishment at Bengaluru. The satellite’s main communication payload is 12 Ku band transponders for covering Indian mainland and islands and 12 C-band transponders for extended coverage over Asia and Australia. The satellite will act as a replacement for the defunct INSAT-4A. The satellite will provide advanced telecommunication services to the Indian subcontinent. It will be used for VSAT networks, television uplinks, digital satellite news gathering, DTH services and other communication systems. This is the 41st communication satellite launched by ISRO and the 24th launch of ISRO satellite by Arianespace. More Info