Topic 1 : Betelgeuse
Why in news: Betelgeuse, one of the brightest stars in the sky, will be eclipsed by an asteroid named Leona.
- Betelgeuse is a red supergiant located in the Orion constellation.
- Leona, the asteroid is a slowly rotating, oblong space rock situated in the primary asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
- Betelgeuse, located approximately 700 light-years away, is observable with the naked eye.
- Betelgeuse is thousands of times brighter than our sun and around 700 times larger.
- Its colossal size is such that if it replaced our sun, it would extend beyond Jupiter.
- Despite being considerably younger at 10 million years old compared to our sun’s 4.6 billion years, Betelgeuse is expected to be short-lived due to its mass and the rapid rate at which it’s consuming its resources.
- In 2019, Betelgeuse experienced a significant dimming when a substantial amount of surface material was expelled into space.
- This resulted in a temporary blockage of starlight due to a dust cloud, and within six months, Betelgeuse had returned to its previous brightness.
- Scientists anticipate Betelgeuse to undergo a supernova explosion within the next 100,000 years.Topic 2 : 8th Century Hindu-Buddhist sculptures near Assam-Mizoram border
Why in news: A professor of Assam University have claimed that they have discovered some 1500-years-old (8th century) Hindu and Buddhist-influenced sculptures at a hill area near Assam-Mizoram border.
- The sculptures were found at Kolalian village at Mizoram’s Mamit district which is adjacent to Hailakandi district.
- These stone works have similarities with the sculptures found in Tripura’s Unakoti and Pilak, which are believed to be created between 7th and 9th century.
- Only one full-sized idol was found which looks like Lord Buddha (with the dress and style) but it seems like a female structure.
- As per The Rajmala (the history of the Manikya Kings of Tripura), Maharaja Dhanya Manikya sent his General, Rai Kachak to this part of the land to control some Reang rebels and he did a Durga Puja at this place.
- Dhanya Manikya was the Maharaja of Tripura between 1490 and 1515 CE and Rai Kachak was his general.
- Many temples with beautiful stone works including Tripura Sundari Temple in Udaypur were constructed during Dhanya Manikyas reign.
- Geographical history:
- In the early centuries, the civilization on this plain land was large and there was a triangle at Tripura, Srihatta (Sylhet) and Dimasa Kingdom’s connecting area.
- Kolalian stands near that triangle which was once part of Surma Valley.
- It is very much possible that the sculptures found in Kolalian, are more than 1000 years old.
Topic 3 : Advocates Amendment Bill
Why in news: The Advocates Amendment Bill, 2023, was passed in the Lok Sabha.
- It is aimed at weeding out ‘touts’ from the legal system.
- The Bill repeals the Legal Practitioners Act, 1879, and amends the Advocates Act, 1961, to reduce the number of superfluous enactments in the statute book and repeal all obsolete laws.
The 1879 Act:
- The Legal Practitioners Act came into force in 1880 to consolidate and amend the law relating to Legal Practitioners in certain provinces.
- The Act initially extended to areas in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Orissa, and Delhi.
- Any state government could, by notification in the Official Gazette, extend it to their states.
- Legal Practitioner:
- It defined the term “legal practitioner” to include advocates, vakils, or attorneys of any High Court.
- It also introduced a new definition of the term “tout”.
- A “Tout” was defined as someone who procures, in consideration of any remuneration from any legal practitioner, the employment of a legal practitioner in any legal business; or
- One who proposes to any legal practitioner or anyone interested in any legal business to procure, for remuneration, the employment of the legal practitioner in such business.
- Simply, a tout is someone who procures clients for a legal practitioner in exchange for payment.
- The definition also included people who frequented civil or criminal courts, revenue offices, railway stations, etc. for such procurement purposes.
- Legal Practitioner:
Advocates Act of 1961:
- The Advocates Act of 1961 was passed in independent India to create a single Act to regulate the legal profession.
- The Advocates Act, 1961, was enacted to amend and consolidate the law relating to legal practitioners and to provide for the constitution of Bar Councils and an All-India Bar.
- Before this, legal practitioners were governed by three Acts:
- the Legal Practitioners Act, 1879,
- the Bombay Pleaders Act, 1920, and
- the Indian Bar Councils Act, 1926.
The Advocates Amendment Bill, 2023:
- New provision:
- The new Bill amends the 1961 Act by inserting a new provision which prescribes six months of imprisonment for persons illegally practising in courts and before other authorities.
- The new provision, Section 45A, states that the Bill enables every HC and district judge to frame and publish lists of touts.
- However, no person’s name will be included in any such list until they have had an opportunity to show cause against such inclusion.
- Role of subordinate court:
- Any authority empowered to make lists of alleged or suspected touts can send them to any subordinate court, which, after holding an inquiry into the conduct of such persons, will allow them an opportunity to show cause.
- After this, the lower court will report back to the authority ordering the inquiry.
- Exclusion of touts from court:
- If proven to be a tout, the person’s name will be included in the list of touts that will be published by the authority and hung in every court.
- The court or judge may exclude any person whose name is included in any such list from the court’s vicinity.
- This provision punishes anyone acting as a tout while his name is included in any such list with imprisonment up to three months, a fine that may extend to five hundred rupees, or both.Topic 4 : The Dodo Bird
Why in news: An ambitious new project — a collaboration between genetic engineering company Colossal Biosciences and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation — promises to not just bring the dodo back to life, but also re-introduce it in its once-native habitat in Mauritius.
About the dodo:
- The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is an extinct flightless bird.
- It was endemic to the island of Mauritius.
- The dodo’s closest relative was the also-extinct and flightless Rodrigues solitaire.
- The two formed the subfamily Raphinae, a clade of extinct flightless birds that were a part of the family which includes pigeons and doves.
- The closest living relative of the dodo is the Nicobar pigeon.
- The first recorded mention of the dodo was by Dutch sailors in 1598.
- The last widely accepted sighting of a dodo was in 1662.
Why dodos went extinct
- Dutch settlement:
- Dutch colonists first landed in Mauritius in 1598.
- Dodos disappeared around 80 years later.
- The Dutch hunted the meaty bird.
- The animals they brought with them — dogs, cats, rats, etc.— wreaked havoc on the defenceless dodos and their eggs.
- Its extinction is seen as the inevitable outcome of human interaction with nature.
The plan to bring the Dodo back:
- To de-extinct a species, the first thing required is accurate and complete genetic information.
- This is known as a species’ genome wherein each genome contains all of the information needed to build that organism and allow it to grow and develop.
- A team of geneticist successfully sequenced the entire genome of the dodo using DNA extracted from a skull.
- This is now being compared to the genome of the Rodrigues solitaire, the dodo’s closest (also extinct) relative to identify just what makes a dodo, a dodo.
- Genome of the Nicobar pigeon, the dodo’s closest extant relative was also sequenced, and found its primordial germ cells (PGCs).
- PGCs are basically embryonic precursors of a species’ sperm and egg.
- The Nicobar pigeon’s PGCs will now be edited to express the physical traits of a dodo, with the help of the insight gathered from the comparison of the genomes of all three birds.
- These edited PGCs will then be inserted into the embryos of a sterile chicken and rooster, who will act as ‘interspecies surrogates’.
- In theory, when the chicken and rooster reproduce, they will give birth to a dodo offspring.Topic 5 : National Automated Fingerprint Identification System
Why in news: National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) has been established at 1022 locations across the country.
- It is conceptualized and managed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) at the Central Fingerprint Bureau (CFPB) in New Delhi.
- The National Automated Fingerprints Identification System (NAFIS) project is a country-wide searchable database of crime- and criminal-related fingerprints.
- The web-based application functions as a central information repository by consolidating fingerprint data from all states and Union Territories.
- NAFIS assigns a unique 10-digit National Fingerprint Number (NFN) to each person arrested for a crime.
- This unique ID will be used for the person’s lifetime, and different crimes registered under different FIRs will be linked to the same NFN.
- The ID’s first two digits will be that of the state code in which the person arrested for a crime is registered, followed by a sequence number.
Past automation projects:
- Upon the recommendations of the National Police Commission in 1986, the Central Fingerprint Bureau first began to automate the fingerprint database by digitizing the existing manual records through India’s first Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFI) in 1992, called Fingerprint Analysis & Criminal Tracing System (FACTS 1.0)\
- The latest iteration, FACTS 5.0, which was upgraded in 2007, was considered to have outlived its shelf life and thus needed to be replaced by NAFIS.About NCRB
- National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), is the agency responsible for collecting and analyzing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Special and Local Laws.
- Headquarters: New Delhi.
- Nodal Ministry: Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
- NCRB brings out the annual comprehensive statistics of crime across the country – ‘Crime in India’ report.
Topic 6 : Premchand Fellowship
Context: Bhutanese author Tshering Tashi was conferred the Premchand Fellowship of the Sahitya Akademi.
About Premchand Fellowship:
- The “Premchand Fellowship” is instituted in 2005 and is named after Hindi writer Premchand, who is popularly known as “Munshi Premchand“, during his 125th Birth Anniversary.
- It is given to a person of eminence in the field of culture and literature doing research on Indian literature or to creative writers from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries other than India.
- The first and sole recipient of the fellowship is a Pakistani national and Urdu writer Intizar Hussain.
About Sahitya Akademi:
- The Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters, is the country’s premier institution for literary discourse, publication, and promotion, and the only institution that engages in literary activity in 24 Indian languages, including English.
- It was formally inaugurated on March 12, 1954 by the Government of India.
- Despite being established by the government, the Akademi operates independently.
- In January 1956, it was incorporated as a society under the Societies Registration Act of 1860.
- The Sahitya Akademi award is the Government of India’s second highest literary honour, following the Jnanpith prize.
- The Sahitya Akademi Fellowship is a literary honour in India bestowed by the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters.
- It is the highest honour conferred by the Akademi on a living writer.Topic 7 : U.S. FDA approves pair of gene therapies for sickle cell disease
Why in news: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a pair of gene therapies for sickle cell disease, including the first treatment based on the breakthrough CRISPR gene editing technology.
- The agency approved Lyfgenia from bluebird bio, and a separate treatment called Casgevy by partners Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics for the illness.
- Both the therapies were approved for people aged 12 years and older.
- The Vertex/CRISPR gene therapy uses the breakthrough gene editing technology that won its inventors the Nobel Prize in 2020.
- Makers of both the therapies have pitched them as one-time treatments, but data on how long their effect lasts is limited.
- The only longer-term treatment for sickle cell disease is a bone marrow transplant.
Sickle cell disease:
- Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders.
- Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen.
- Healthy red blood cells are round, and they move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body.
- SCD, causes the red blood cells to become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a “sickle.”
- The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells.
- Also, when they travel through small blood vessels, they get stuck and clog the blood flow.
- This can cause pain and other serious complications (health problems) such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.
What is CRISPR?
- CRISPR is a powerful tool for editing genomes.
- It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.
- It has many potential applications, including:
- correcting genetic defects,
- treating and preventing the spread of diseases, and
- improving the growth and resilience of crops.
- “CRISPR” is shorthand for “CRISPR-Cas9.”
- CRISPRs are specialized stretches of DNA, and the protein Cas9 (where Cas stands for “CRISPR-associated“) is an enzyme that acts like a pair of molecular scissors, capable of cutting strands of DNA.
- CRISPR technology was adapted from the natural defense mechanisms of bacteria and archaea, a domain of relatively simple single-celled microorganisms.
- These organisms use CRISPR-derived RNA to foil attacks by viruses.
- When the components of CRISPR are transferred into more complex organisms those components can then manipulate genes, a process called “gene editing.” How CRISPR works as a genome-editing tool
- Casgevy is a gene therapy that utilises the gene-editing tool CRISPR.
- The process works by taking the patient’s bone marrowstem cells and editing them to express the fetal version of haemoglobin before transplanting these edited stem cells back into the patient.
- Fetal haemoglobin is the version expressed in utero, before birth.
- In most people, expression of the fetal version is turned down and the non-fetal version is turned on when they are a baby, although there is still usually a very small amount of fetal haemoglobin expressed.
- Casgevy edits this by turning up the expression of the fetal version.
- The functional haemoglobin produced from this version of the gene compensates for the non-functional haemoglobin that the non-fetal version of the gene is producing.
- The edited stem cells are the patient’s own cells, just slightly edited, and as such there is no risk of rejection.
- The results have the potential to be life-long.
- Lyfgenia is a cell-based gene therapy.
- Lyfgenia uses a lentiviral vector (gene delivery vehicle) for genetic modification and is approved for the treatment of patients 12 years of age and older with sickle cell disease and a history of vaso-occlusive events.
- With Lyfgenia, the patient’s blood stem cells are genetically modified to produce HbAT87Q, a gene-therapy derived hemoglobin that functions similarly to hemoglobin A, which is the normal adult hemoglobin produced in persons not affected by sickle cell disease.
- Red blood cells containing HbAT87Q have a lower risk of sickling and occluding blood flow.
- These modified stem cells are then delivered to the patient. Topic 8 : Agni-1 missile
Why in news: Training launch of Short-Range Ballistic Missile ‘Agni-1’ was carried out successfully from APJ Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha recently.
- Agni-I is a medium-range ballistic missile that was developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.
- It is a single-stage missile that was developed after the Kargil War to fill the gap between the 250 km (160-mile) range of the Prithvi-II missile and the 2,500 km (1,600-mile) range of the Agni-II.
- Agni-I was first tested in 1989 and is capable of carrying a conventional payload of 1,000 kg or a nuclear warhead.
- The Agni I has a range of 700–1,200 km.
- They are claimed to be a part of the “Minimum credible deterrence“.
- Agni-I is a single stage, solid fuel, road and rail mobile, Short-range ballistic missile (SRBM).
- It is propelled by solid fuel.
What is a ballistic missile?
- A ballistic missile uses projectile motion to deliver warheads on a target.
- These weapons are powered only during relatively brief periods—most of the flight is unpowered.
- Short-range ballistic missiles stay within the Earth’s atmosphere, while intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are launched on a sub-orbital flight.
The Agni Missile system:
- The Agni missile is a family of medium to intercontinental range ballistic missiles.
- Agni missiles are:
- long range,
- nuclear weapons capable,
- surface to surface ballistic missiles.
- The family comprises the following: