54-year-old elephant opens Thrissur Pooram festival in Kerala.
Topic: GS-I: Indian Heritage and Culture
Thousands of people gathered to witness the grand opening of the famed Thrissur Pooram, considered as the mother of all temple festivals.
More in news:
- ‘Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran’, the controversial elephant which was earlier denied permission to take part in the festivities by the authorities on health grounds, ‘opened’ the annual festival at the ancient Vadakkumnathan temple here.
- Marking the ritual heralding of Pooram, Ramachandran, the tallest elephant of the state, pushed open the southern entrance of the shrine.
- The Thrissur Pooram falls on May 13 this year.
- The main event of the annual ‘pooram’ begins with the 10.5 foot tall elephant pushing open the gate of the temple, with the idol of ‘neithilakkavilamma’ atop it.
· It is an annual Hindu temple festival held in Kerala, India.
· It is held at the Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur every year on the Pooram day – the day when the moon rises with the Pooram star in the Malayalam Calendar month of Medam.
· It is the largest and most famous of all poorams.
Assam produces an orchid link to the Orient
Topic: GS -III: Bio-diversity
An Assam forest officer’s chance discovery has given India one of its smallest orchids in terms of size and duration of bloom to be recorded botanically.
News in details:
Lecanorchis taiwaniana, which the Japanese Journal of Botany has published as a “new record for the flora in India” in its latest issue, is a mycoheterotroph, one of two types of parasitic plants that have abandoned photosynthesis.
- Lecanorchis taiwaniana adds to the orchid wealth of northeast India, which has 800 of some 1,300 species in the country.About 300 species are found in the Western Ghats and 200 in the northwestern Himalayas.
- The orchid, discovered earlier in Japan, Taiwan, and Laos, was found to have a maximum height of 40 cm and a blossoming period of five-six days.
- Herbal value of this orchid is yet to be ascertained. But as it derives its energy and nutrients from fungus, it may be of herbal importance.
- The forest officer has a few other botanical discoveries to his credit. These include the rare, ginger-like Amomum pratisthana named after his daughter, and the Smilax sailenii named after Prof. Sailen Borah, one of Assam’s best known botanists.
300 yaks starve to death in Sikkim
Topic: GS -III: Bio-diversity
At least 300 yaks starved to death in a remote Himalayan valley after a bout of unusually harsh winter weather.
More in news:
- Officials in Sikkim said they received the first distress call from around 50 people cut off in the remote Mukuthang Valley in December.
- Following very heavy snowfall, the residents asked for help to provide feed for their herd of around 1,500 yaks, a source of local milk, milk products, transportation and wool.
Why this happen?
- The local families say that 500 yaks have died because of starvation. Around 50 yaks are also receiving urgent medical attention.
- It appears that these dead yaks had got nothing to eat during the prolonged period of snowfall since December last year.
- Yaks are one of the mainstays of the region’s tourism-dependent economy.
- A few yaks die because of extreme conditions in the region each year, but the authorities say that this year’s toll is unprecedented.
Atlas of human body
Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) launched ‘MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative’, a project for mapping every tissue of the human body to help understand better the roles of tissues and cells linked to various diseases.
What is MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative?
- It is a project funded by DBT, which aims at creating a database network of all tissues in the human body from the available scientific literature.
- The student community, who will be the backbone on assimilating the information, will be trained and imparted with skills to perform annotation and curation of information that will ultimately form the online network.
- DBT has invested Rs 13 crore shared between two institutions in Pune – National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) and Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Pune.
- Besides, Persistent Systems Limited has co-funded the project and is developing the platform, and has contributed Rs 7 crore.
- It is a project that involves scientific skill development for annotation, science outreach along with handling big data. The programme will involve gaining better biological insights through physiological and molecular mapping, develop disease models through predictive computing and have a wholistic analysis and finally drug discovery.
Who can participate in this project?
- The project can be signed up by students who are in their final year graduation and above. Students from the fields of biochemistry, biotechnology, microbiology, botany, zoology, bioinformatics, health sciences, systems biologists, pharmacologists and data sciences can associate with this project. Even participants having a science background but not necessarily involved in active scientific research can be part of this network.
- The MANAV team has encouraged colleges and universities to register as teams and work in this project. Initially, DBT will accommodate colleges that operate the DBT Star College scheme to register for this Human Atlas programme. There is no restriction on the time period set for student participation.
Why is MANAV important?
- So far, researchers and students have had little or no expertise in reading scientific literature and develop or build further information on the same.
- This platform will impart key skills to the student community to read classified scientific literature, in this case, on individual tissue-basis, and perform annotation and curation. Since all the information generated will pass through multiple levels of reviews, it will be an Atlas or a reliable collection on human body tissues.
- This collated data can be useful for both future researchers and parallelly, to the clinicians and drug developers, who finally handle human bodies in disease conditions.
What are the applications of information generated through MANAV?
- The aim of the project remains to understand and capture the human physiology in two stages – in a normal stage and while in a disease stage.
- Such a database on individual tissues, once ready, can come handy in tracing the causes of a disease, understanding specific pathways and ultimately decode the body’s disease stage linked to tissues and cells.
- The teams will also study any potent elements or molecules that have never been used in the form of drugs, to target the specific cells or tissues.
Apache attack helicopter
Topic: GS -III: Security
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has formally received the first AH-64E (I)-Apache Guardian helicopter at the Boeing production facility in Mesa, Arizona, USA. Better known as an ‘attack helicopter’.
How many Apache helicopters are being acquired by India?
- The Indian government has signed a contract for 22 Apache helicopters with the US government and Boeing.
- This contract was signed in September 2015 for $3 Billion at current rates and was for the supply of helicopters to the IAF. A follow-up order for six Apache helicopters was placed for the Army at an estimated cost of $930 Million.
When will the helicopters arrive in India?
- The first of these helicopters is scheduled to be shipped to India in July this year and are likely to be inducted in the IAF at a special ceremony in Pathankot air base. Selected aircrew and ground crew have been trained at the US Army base Fort Rucker in Alabama. This nucleus of trained personnel will lead the induction of the helicopters in the IAF.
How does the Apache augment capabilities of the IAF?
- The introduction of Apache will lead to the modernisation of the IAF’s attack helicopter fleet which at present is equipped with Russian origin MI-35 helicopters. The Russian attack helicopters, stationed in Pathankot in Punjab and Suratgarh in Rajasthan, are now on the verge of retirement and, thus, IAF needed an urgent augmentation of capabilities.
- The Apache has been customised to suit the requirements of the Indian military and will have significant capability in mountainous terrain. Apache has the capability of carrying out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from the ground. The helicopter also has the unique capacity to transmit and receive battlefield picture through data uplinking and networking.
What are the weapon systems that the AH64E (I) Guardian comes equipped with?
- The Apache comes with Hellfire precision strike missiles, 70 mm rockets and a 30mm chin-mounted automatic cannon which is cued by the pilot’s helmet system. It will also come with Stinger missiles and Longbow fire control radar system. The latter gives the helicopter the capability to make precision attacks from a distance.
- The helicopter is powered by two high-performance turboshaft engines with a maximum cruise speed of 284 km per hour or 152 knots.
What operational role is envisaged for Apache?
- There was considerable debate prior to the contract being signed for Apaches on whether the helicopter is better suited to the Army’s needs or the IAFs. The Army’s contention was that since the helicopter is the highly effective platform for destruction of tanks and armoured vehicles it made sense for the Army to raise Apache squadrons.
- It was eventually decided that the IAF will raise two squadrons of Apaches, while the Army also received the nod for six helicopters, significantly less than its requirement. However, the Army is eventually readying itself to be equipped with 30 Apache helicopters to equip three squadrons for each of its three strike Corps.
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