Today’s Current Affairs: 18th Nov 2023 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc
Table of Contents
GHG bulletin : World Meteorological Organisation
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) reported that greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere reached record levels in 2022, primarily driven by the use of fossil fuels.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, the most significant GHG, reached 9 parts per million, 50% higher than pre-industrial levels.
- The last time CO2 levels were at this point was 3-5 million years ago.
- Methane and nitrous oxide concentrations also rose in 2022, with nitrous oxide experiencing the highest year-on-year increase.
- The WMO emphasized the urgent need to reduce fossil fuel consumption and highlighted the importance of improving GHG monitoring to better understand and address environmental challenges.
- Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases in the Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat. They contribute to the greenhouse effect, which is essential for maintaining the planet’s temperature within a range suitable for life.
- However, human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, have significantly increased the concentrations of these gases, leading to an enhanced greenhouse effect and global warming.
- The major greenhouse gases include:
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Water Vapor, Ozone (O3), Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Kill Switch : Triggers The Death Of Cancer Cells
Scientists from the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in, California, have made a significant breakthrough by discovering a ‘kill switch’ that triggers the death of cancer cells.
- The researchers identified a protein on a receptor, known as CD95 receptors or Fas, which can be designed to induce self-destruction in cancer cells when activated.
- The discovery is part of CAR T-cell therapy, involving the collection of T cells from the patient’s blood, genetic modification in a lab to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), and then injecting the modified cells back into the patient’s body.
- The therapy has shown promising efficacy against liquid cancers like leukaemia but has demonstrated limited success against solid tumours such as breast, lung, and bowel cancer.
- Despite this limitation, the research team is hopeful that the therapy can evolve to target solid cancers in the future.
- The identified epitope on CD95 receptors offers a potential therapeutic path to target Fas in tumours.
Innovation Handshake : India And US
India and the United States have officially launched the “Innovation Handshake” agenda, a collaborative effort aimed at deepening bilateral ties in technology.
- The “Innovation Handshake” signals a commitment to strengthen the start-up ecosystem and promote cooperation in Critical and Emerging Technologies.
- The concept, developed under the US-India Commercial Dialogue, aims to connect dynamic start-up ecosystems, address regulatory hurdles, and promote innovation and job growth, especially in emerging technologies.
- The initiative focuses on priority sectors identified under the US-India Initiative for Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET).
- The goal is to foster a tech partnership and open up opportunities for collaboration while addressing challenges in these sectors.
National Epilepsy Day 2023:
National Epilepsy Day is celebrated every year in India on 17th November to raise awareness about the brain disorder and bust myths surrounding the disease.
- Epilepsy is a brain disorder that can cause seizures due to abnormal brain activity or temporary changes in the brain’s electrical functioning.
- The brain produces orderly electrical impulses along nerve cell networks, but in epilepsy, this balance is disrupted thus it impacts consciousness, movements, or sensations.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 50 million people worldwide are affected by epilepsy and India accounts for nearly 10-20% of the global burden of epilepsy.
- Epileptic seizures are broadly categorized into focal and generalized seizures based on the location of abnormal brain activity.
- Focal seizures may cause brief emotional changes, involuntary movements, and symptoms like dizziness.
- Generalized seizures present varied symptoms including staring, muscle jerking, loss of control, twitches, and sudden loss of consciousness.
- Every year the second Monday of February is observed as International Epilepsy Day.
Euclid Mission For Dark Matter And Dark Energy:
The Euclid mission by the European Space Agency (ESA) launched in July 2023, to study dark matter and dark energy has shared its initial five science images which include pictures of expansive galaxy clusters, detailed shots of two nearby galaxies, a nebula, and a gravitationally connected group of stars known as a globular cluster. ESA’s Euclid mission is a space telescope designed to explore the composition and evolution of the dark Universe.
- Euclid will explore how the Universe has expanded and how structure has formed over cosmic history, revealing more about the role of gravity and the nature of dark energy and dark matter.
- Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
- Destination: Sun-Earth Lagrange point 2
Findings by Euclid’s Mission:
- Euclid’s lens focused on the Perseus Cluster, capturing 1,000 galaxies and over 100,000 more in the background, some situated 10 billion light-years away.
- The mapping of special attributes and characteristics of these galaxies will help unravel the role of dark matter in shaping the universe.
- Euclid’s infrared capabilities provided valuable insights into the stars of IC 342, a spiral galaxy akin to the Milky Way useful for understanding galaxies with structures similar to our own.
- Irregularly-shaped and small galaxies like NGC 6822 play a crucial role as the building blocks for larger galaxies.
- Studying them sheds light on the formation of galactic structures.
- NGC 6397 is a nearly globe-shaped globular cluster about 7,800 LYs away.
- The mission showcased the Horsehead Nebula, aiming to uncover unseen Jupiter-mass planets in their early stages of development.
- Dark matter, though never detected, is believed to be present in the entire universe, its existence presumed because a number of observable celestial phenomena could not be possible if the universe did not have much more matter in it than is seen.
- It is believed to make up more than 95% of all the universe.
Crowdfunding For Terrorism Financing: FATF
FATF (Financial Action Task Force) has released a report titled-”Crowdfunding for Terrorism Financing”, highlighting that violent extremist organizations have employed well-structured networks for fundraising purposes.
- The report makes a reference to the Popular Front of India (PFI) as having resorted to solicitation for funds at mosques and public places, which were ultimately used to procure arms and ammunition and for training the cadres.
- Crowdfunding is a dynamic fundraising method that leverages online platforms to gather small contributions from a large pool of individuals for various purposes such as supporting charitable causes, funding startup ventures, or financing creative projects.
- While crowdfunding is predominantly used for legitimate purposes, recent events have exposed its potential exploitation for illegal activities, notably by terrorists and terrorist groups.
- These entities utilize fundraising platforms and social media to solicit financial support globally for their extremist causes.
Highlights of the Report:
- The PFI collected funds through solicitation at religious places, such as mosques, and public spaces.
- Additionally, the group used modern digital methods, including the circulation of QR codes and bank account details to encourage donations.
- Funds collected by the organization involved both domestic and foreign transactions, making the investigation challenging due to the multi-dimensional nature of the financial flows.
- Funds raised through crowdfunding were not limited to a single purpose. A portion of the collected funds was invested in businesses and real estate projects, aiming to generate a regular income for the organization’s terrorist activities.
- The report places the issue of crowdfunding for terrorism financing in a global context.
- It highlights that while most crowdfunding activities are legitimate, terrorist organizations like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and Al-Qaeda have exploited these platforms to raise money for their activities.
World’s First Gene Therapy Treatment For Sickle Cell Disease:
The United Kingdom’s drug regulator recently approved the world’s first gene therapy treatment for sickle cell disease and thalassemia.
- Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited blood disorder.
- It is marked by flawed haemoglobin.
- Haemoglobin is the molecule in red blood cells (RBCs) that carries oxygen to the tissues of the body.
- People with this disease have atypical haemoglobin molecules called haemoglobin S, which can distort RBCs into a sickle, or crescent, shape.
- Sickle cell disease interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the tissues.
- Normally, RBCs are disc-shaped and flexible enough to move easily through the blood vessels.
- In sickle cell disease, RBCs become crescent- or “sickle”-shaped due to a genetic mutation.
- These sickled RBCs do not bend or move easily and can block blood flow to the rest of the body.
- The cause of Sickle cell disease is a defective gene called a sickle cell gene.
- A person will be born with sickle cell disease only if two genes are inherited—one from the mother and one from the father.
- Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder caused when the body doesn’t make enough haemoglobin. When there isn’t enough haemoglobin, the body’s RBCs don’t function properly, and they last shorter periods of time, so there are fewer healthy RBCs travelling in the bloodstream.
- Early stage: Extreme tiredness or fussiness from anaemia, painfully swollen hands and feet, and jaundice.
- Later stage: Severe pain, anaemia, organ damage, and infections.
- A bone marrow transplant (stem cell transplant) can cure sickle cell disease.
- However, there are treatments that can help relieve symptoms, lessen complications, and prolong life.
- Gene therapy is also being explored as another potential cure. The UK recently became the first country to approve gene therapy treatment for sickle cell disease
Avangard : Hypersonic Glide Vehicle
Russia’s rocket forces loaded an intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with the nuclear-capable “Avangard” hypersonic glide vehicle into a launch silo in southern Russia recently.
- The Avangard is a nuclear-capable, hypersonic boost-glide vehicle (HGV) developed by the Russian Federation.
- It was developed as part of the top-secret Project 4202 and given the codename Yu-71.
- It was one of six “next generation” weapons described by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a speech in March 2018.
- It has a range of over 6,000 km, weighs approximately 2,000 kg, and can carry a nuclear or conventional payload.
- It is carried on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
- It has “a short wedge-shaped design” which does not contain a separate propulsion system, relying on gravity and its aerodynamic features to maintain velocity after an initial boost.
- The HGV is carried to a sub-orbital altitude of around 100 kilometres (62 miles) by the carrier missile before being released.
- It then enters into a “cruise mode” before re-entering the atmosphere and accelerating to claimed hypersonic speeds of up to Mach 27 (about 32,000 kilometres per hour).
Leonid Meteor Shower:
Many skywatchers in India and around the globe are poised for a cosmic treat—the Leonid Meteor Shower, which has already been underway since November 6, is set to reach its peak in the pre-dawn hours of November 17–18, 2023.
- Leonid meteor shower is brought about by the dust and debris abandoned by the comet Tempel-Tuttle.
- It is commonly peaking in mid-November.
- The shower is called after the Leo constellation, from which the meteors appear to radiate.
- This Tempel-Tuttle comet circles the sun at regular intervals of 33 years.
- When the comet passes near the sun, it warms up and delivers a tonne of material, shaping a dense cloud of dust and gas around it.
- This cloud follows the comet’s circle and fans out over the long run.
- Every year, the Earth crosses the orbit of Tempel-Tuttle in mid-November and, in some cases, experiences the comet’s dust cloud.
- When this occurs, the dust particles enter the earth’s atmosphere at high speed (around 70 km/s) and catch fire, creating bright streaks of light in the sky.
- These are what we see as the meteors, the Leonid meteor shower.
- The Leonids are noted for sometimes causing meteor storms, as described by a higher influx of meteors.
Hello Naariyal : Coconut Development Board
The Coconut Development Board (CDB) launched the ‘Hello Naariyal’ Friends of Coconut Trees (FoCT) call centre facility to help farmers with coconut harvesting and plant management operations.
- Hello Naariyal is a call centre in Kerala that functions from the headquarters of the Board in Kochi.
- The initiative will benefit coconut growers and extend its services to traditional coconut-growing States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka through the respective unit offices of the Board.
- The services will be available at block and gram panchayat levels in respective districts for carrying out activities related to coconut cultivation, including coconut tree climbing, plant protection, harvesting, seed nut procurement, and nursery management.
Coconut Development Board:
- It is a statutory body established by the Government of India.
- It was established for the integrated development of coconut production and utilisation in the country, with a focus on productivity increases and product diversification.
- The board came into existence on January 12, 1981.
- It functions under the administrative control of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
- Headquarters: Kochi in Kerala
- It has regional offices in Bangalore in Karnataka, Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Guwahati in Assam, and Patna in Bihar.
- Adopting measures for the development of the coconut industry.
- Imparting technical advice to those engaged in coconut cultivation and industry.
- Providing financial and other assistance for the expansion of the area under coconut.