Dadasaheb Phalke Award
Topic: GS-I: Indian Heritage and Culture
It was announced that superstar Amitabh Bachchan will be awarded the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Indian cinema’s highest honour. The announcement was made by the Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar.
- The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is part of the National Film Awards, themselves a highly coveted collection of honours in the film industry. The Award is named after Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, the pioneering filmmaker who gave India its first film– ‘Raja Harishchandra’, in 1913.
The Dadasaheb Phalke Award
- Presented annually by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the award is considered the highest honour in the Indian film fraternity. It is awarded for “outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema”.
- According to the website of the Directorate of Film Festivals, the award was instituted by the government in 1969, and consists of a ‘Swarna Kamal’, a cash prize of INR 10 lakh, a certificate, a silk roll, and a shawl.
- The award is presented by the President of India in the presence of the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, the Chairpersons of the juries, the representatives of the Film Federation of India, and the Confederation of All India Cine Employees amid senior officials, the website says.
- Amitabh Bachchan is the 50th recipient of the award. Last year, it was given posthumously to the legendary late actor Vinod Khanna.
- The first recipient of the award was Devika Rani Roerich in 1969. Subsequent awardees include music director Naushad, filmmaker Satyajit Ray, filmmaker Raj Kapoor, singer Lata Mangeshkar, actor Dilip Kumar, actor Dev Anand, filmmaker Yash Chopra, writer Gulzar, actor Shashi Kapoor, and actor Manoj Kumar among others.
Dhundiraj Govind ‘Dadasaheb’ Phalke
- Born in 1870 at Trimbak in Maharashtra, Phalke was drawn towards creative arts since childhood. He studied engineering and sculpture and developed an interest in motion pictures after watching the 1906 silent film The Life of Christ.
- Before venturing into films, Phalke worked as a photographer, owned a printing press, and had even worked with the famed painter Raja Ravi Varma.
- In 1913, Phalke wrote, produced, and directed India’s first feature film, the silent Raja Harishchandra. A commercial success, it propelled Phalke to make 95 more films and 26 short films in the next 19 years.
- Phalke’s fortunes dwindled with the arrival of sound in cinema, and he died in 1944 at Nashik after retiring from films.
Topic: GS-I: Geography
A new, curious mineral has been discovered inside a diamond unearthed from a mine in South Africa. The mineral has been named goldschmidtite, after Victor Moritz Goldschmidt, the Norwegian scientist acknowledged as the founder of modern geochemistry. It has been described in the journal American Mineralogist.
More in news:
- Goldschmidtite has an unusual chemical signature for a mineral from Earth’s mantle. While the mantle is dominated by elements such as magnesium and iron, goldschmidtite has high concentrations of niobium, potassium and the rare earth elements lanthanum and cerium.
- Though the mantle makes up about 80 per cent of the Earth’s volume, very little is known about it. Reaching the mantle is not easy; it is about 2,900 km thick and no attempt to drill into it has been successful.
- Diamonds hold clues as they are found up to 160 km beneath the surface, in the upper mantle. Diamonds that are unearthed were brought up closer to the surface, probably as a result of violent volcanic eruptions when the Earth was hotter, according to the Smithsonian Magazine.
Topic: GS–II: Health
- India’s drug regulator began looking into concerns of potential cancer-causing substances contaminating popular acidity drug ranitidine. The move came over a week after the US Food and Drug Administration flagged the issue to American patients, some companies have suspended sales of the product worldwide, and some other countries have ordered recalls of the product:
- Ranitidine, popularly known through brand names like Aciloc, Zinetac, Rantac and Rantac-OD, R-Loc and Ranitin, is an over-the-counter, prescription antacid used in the treatment of acid reflux and peptic ulcer diseases. It is commonly used to relieve acid-related indigestion and heartburn by decreasing stomach acid production.
- While other medicines like pantoprazole and omeprazole too treat these symptoms and are more commonly prescribed today, ranitidine is still widely used in India.
- In the 12 months ended August 2019, the ranitidine molecule alone (excluding combinations it was part of) made nearly Rs 690 crore in sales, according to pharmaceutical market research firm AIOCD Awacs PharmaTrac.
What is the problem?
- On September 13, the US FDA stated in a release that it had learned that some ranitidine medicines contained “low levels” of a substance called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). An environmental contaminant found in water and foods, NDMA has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as probably carcinogenic to humans, which means it has the potential to cause cancer.
- This is the same impurity that the US FDA had investigated in blood pressure drugs valsartan and losartan over the last year.
How have other countries responded?
- While India and the US are still looking into the issue, regulators of around 15 countries are learnt to have called for recalls of ranitidine sold in their markets. These include Singapore, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and Pakistan.
- Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority has said the potential risk of nitrosamines like NDMA is associated with “long term exposure” and patients prescribed the drug for short term use “may continue with their medicine”.
Soot found in placenta
Topic: GS–II: Health
IN A recent study that raises concerns about the effects of air pollution on babies even before they are born, scientists have reported that particles of black carbon — commonly known as soot — have been found in the placenta of women, who had breathed these in during their pregnancies.
- The study, conducted by a team of Belgian researchers, has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
- The placenta is an organ attached to the wall of the uterus. It allows life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients to pass from the mother to the foetus. It lies on either end of the umbilical cord and has two sides, the maternal and foetal side. The study found tiny particles of black carbon accumulating on the side of the placenta that faces the foetus.
- The particles were embedded in the placentas, implying that this had happened before the babies were born.
- Black carbon particles are a key part of particulate matter. It is one of the byproducts from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, petrol and wood. Because of their small size, particulate matter, including black carbon particles, can be easily inhaled and can pass through the throat and into the rest of the body.
- Previous studies have established a connection between prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution and impaired birth outcomes. None of the previous studies, however, had established that nanoparticles could cross the placental barrier as a result of inhalation in real-life settings.
Why it is a concern
- The placenta is the sole point of contact between the mother and the foetus, carrying oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s blood supply to the foetus. Essentially, it is a temporary organ that keeps separate the mother’s and the baby’s blood supply, while also being a link between the two. The finding is a signal of the health effects that air pollution could have even before birth.
- Soot particles may cause DNA damage and air pollution in general can impact cellular ageing, cognitive development and can lead to lower birth weight.
- Lower exposure to air pollution is the only way that the foetus can be protected.
Topic: GS-III: Environment
A new report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released, has given further strength to growing demands for more aggressive climate action from world leaders.
Findings of reports
- The IPCC special report on the 1.5°C goal, said it was possible to keep the rise in temperature to within 1.5°C, but for that the world would need to bring down its greenhouse gas emissions to half of its 2010 levels by 2030, and to net zero by 2050. Net-zero is achieved when the total emissions is balanced by the amount of absorption of carbon dioxide through natural sinks like forests, or removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through technological interventions.
- Following this report, pressure has been building up on countries to commit to a net-zero target by 2050. Some countries have already announced their intention to achieve this target, but the most prominent emitters — China, US, India — have so far not done so.
- The land report released in August said the various kinds of uses that land was being put to — forestry, agriculture, industries, urbanisation — had contributed about 5.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year between 2007 and 2016.
- During the same time, trees and forests absorbed almost 11.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year from the atmosphere. The sum total of these two processes meant that land, and the vegetation on it, was removing about 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually.
- It also pointed out that the global food system, which would include activities such as agriculture, cattle-rearing, food processing industry, energy consumed in these processes, and transportation of food items, could account for as much as a third of all greenhouse gases. It said nearly 25 per cent of all food produced globally was either lost or wasted. And even the decomposition of waste food released emissions.
- The new ocean report noted that the global mean sea level had risen by 16 cm between 1902 and 2015, and that the rate of increase had doubled in the last one decade. The sea levels were rising because of thermal expansion of ocean waters due to rising temperatures as well as due to melting of glaciers and polar ice.
- Between 2006 and 2015, the Greenland ice sheet lost ice-mass at an average rate of 278 billion tonnes every year, while the Antarctic ice sheet lost a mass of 155 billion tonnes on an average every year. Snow over areas outside of these two regions, like the glaciers in the Himalayas, together lost an average of 220 billion tonnes of ice every year.
|Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
· The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations,dedicated to providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change, its natural, political and economic impacts and risks, and possible response options.
· The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and was later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly.
· Membership is open to all members of the WMO and UN.
· The IPCC produces reports that contribute to the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the main international treaty on climate change.
· The objective of the UNFCCC is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system”. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report was a critical scientific input into the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement in 2015.
· IPCC reports cover the “scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”
· The IPCC does not carry out original research, nor does it monitor climate or related phenomena itself. Rather, it assesses published literature including peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed sources. However, the IPCC can be said to stimulate research in climate science. Chapters of IPCC reports often close with sections on limitations and knowledge or research gaps, and the announcement of an IPCC special report can catalyse research activity in that area.
· Thousands of scientists and other experts contribute on a voluntary basis to writing and reviewing reports, which are then reviewed by governments. IPCC reports contain a “Summary for Policymakers”, which is subject to line-by-line approval by delegates from all participating governments. Typically, this involves the governments of more than 120 countries
· The IPCC provides an internationally accepted authority on climate change, producing reports that have the agreement of leading climate scientists and consensus from participating governments. The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was shared, between the IPCC and Al Gore.
How gravity distorts our view of a black hole
Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology
A new visualization of a black hole, released by NASA, illustrates how its gravity distorts our view by warping its surroundings.
More in news:
- The visualisation simulates the appearance of a black hole where infalling matter has collected into a thin, hot structure called an accretion disc (see illustration). The black hole’s extreme gravity skews light emitted by different regions of the disc, producing the misshapen appearance.
- As magnetic fields twist through the churning gas, bright knots form and dissipate in the disc. In the area closest to the black hole, the gas orbits at close to the speed of light. The outer portions spin a bit more slowly. This difference stretches and shears the bright knots, producing light and dark lanes in the disk.
- The black hole’s extreme gravity alters the paths of light coming from different parts of the disc, producing the warped image. Exactly what we see depends on our viewing angle; the greatest distortion occurs when viewing the system nearly edgewise.
India, Nepal, Bhutan to count tigers in high altitudes
Topic: GS -III: Bio-diversity
With studies earlier this year reporting the presence of tigers in high altitude regions in India, experts from India, Nepal and Bhutan — under the aegis of their governments — will next year begin a detailed assessment on how entrenched tigers are, in these regions.
More in news:
- A study jointly conducted by experts from three countries had, in a report this month, established that there were potentially 52,671 square kilometres of tiger habitat in high altitudes — or Himalayan habitats — of India, Nepal and Bhutan. 38,915 square kilometres of this habitat lay in India.
- While India is home to the most number of tigers in the world, most of them are focussed in Central India and the Western Ghats. The latest tiger survey, made public earlier this year estimated 2,967 tigers all over India.
- Camera traps laid in select districts of Uttarakhand, Sikkim, North Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh to detect the presence of tigers in higher altitudes found only three — two in Sikkim and one in Uttarakhand.
- In previous years, tigers have been reported in Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal at elevations of 1765m, 3274 m and 2400 m respectively. Bhutan had recorded the presence of a tiger at 4,210 m.
- Recording the presence of tigers in high altitudes is important to judge the health of the species, as poaching and fragmented habitat are serious challenges to their population growth.
- As part of a “high altitude tiger master plan”, gathering background information on land attributes, ascertaining status of protection and engaging local communities in tiger conservation is critical. Potential high altitude tiger landscapes include the Valmiki-Chitwan-Annapurna (India-Nepal), Manas-Royal Manas-Jigme Dorji (India-Bhutan); Neora Valley-Torsa-Buxa-Phibsu (India-Bhutan); Askot-Pithoragarh-Nandhaur-Suklaphanta (India-Nepal); and Arunachal-Sikkim-bordering Bhutan (India-Bhutan).
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