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.

Chinese Surveillance Over India And The World

Chinese Surveillance Over India And The World

With recent reports claiming that China has been monitoring more than 10,000 people in India including PM Modi, China seems to have added another layer to its concept of “hybrid warfare”, including continuous Chinese surveillance.

Crux of the Matter

Dragon Watching Over
Recent investigations by The Indian Express, Professor Chris Balding, and others have revealed that Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co. Limited has been monitoring 10,000 Indians. The list of people being tracked includes PM Narendra Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, Cabinet Ministers, several Chief Ministers as well as current and former Army, Navy, and Airforce Chiefs.

The list also includes figures like The Indian Express Chief Editor Raj Kamal Jha, Sachin Tendulkar, film Director Shyam Benegal, Ratan Tata, etc. Over 250,000 records monitored by Zhenhua have been recovered – includes records of 52,000 Americans, 35,000 Australians, 10,000 Indians, 9,700 British, 5,000 Canadians, etc.

What Is Zhenhua Data And Hybrid Warfare?
Zhenhua Data is a self-labelled “hybrid warfare” company working with the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese military and intelligence. The Company registered in 2018, having 20 overseas data processing centres.

Hybrid warfare has been defined as the use of non-military weapons to damage opponents. Zhenhua has described its tools for hybrid warfare as “information pollution, perception management, and propaganda”.

How It Works?
Zhenhua contains an ‘Overseas Key Information Database (OKIDB)’, which collects information not only of the mentioned figures but also of their relatives and colleagues. It builds a database by gathering information from social media platforms, websites, articles, and research papers, etc, aiming to map networks of individuals and organisations as well as their functioning and leadership processes.

Its website was recently taken down on 9 September. An unnamed analyst has claimed that the Zhenhua database is “Cambridge Analytica on steroids”.

Chinese Hybrid Warfare

  • The blueprint for ‘Hybrid Warfare’ was developed around 1999 in China.
  • 2013: Cybersecurity firm Mandiant made revelations regarding Advanced Persistent Threat 1 (APT 1) of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In its report, the firm claimed that APT 1 has stolen “billions of terabytes of data” of 141 companies from over 20 significant industries.
  • 2014: US reported that Chinese hackers stole data of 22 million people – including military personnel, CIA and FBI agents.
  • 2017: China reportedly passed a law forcing all Chinese companies operating all over the world to aid the government in “intelligence gathering”.

China’s Internal Surveillance

  • China has even more intensive surveillance inside its territory.
  • China reportedly has 415 million CCTV cameras installed all over the country.
  • 2017: BBC journalist John Sudworth tested the surveillance system and its efficiency. Sudworth was found by the police using surveillance in just 7 minutes.

  • Edward Snowden is an American whistleblower who leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments. 
  • XKeyscore is a formerly secret computer system used by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) for searching and analyzing global Internet data, which it collects continually. In an official statement from July 30, 2013, the NSA said “XKeyscore is used as a part of NSA’s lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system. …” to legally obtain information
  • The Chinese Dream is a term promoted by Xi Jinping since 2013 within Chinese society that describes a set of personal and national ethos and ideals in China. Xi began promoting the phrase as a slogan in a high-profile visit to the National Museum of China in November 2012 after taking the office of general secretary.

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.