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Daily Current Affairs

20-January-2024

1. Scientists Uncover Largest Deep Coral Reef off US Atlantic Coast, Hidden for Decades

Topic: GS3 – Environment- Conservations 
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding and preserving marine biodiversity 
Context:
  • The largest deep coral reef, which is situated off the Atlantic coast of the United States, was recently discovered by scientists.
  • Even though there has been coral present since the 1960s, its enormous magnitude was unknown until sophisticated underwater mapping technology made it possible to create three-dimensional images of the ocean floor.
Mapping the Hidden Marvel:
  • Experts from nonprofit Ocean Exploration Trust stated that the reef had been “right under our noses, waiting to be discovered,” spanning about 310 miles from Florida to South Carolina and reaching widths of 68 miles at certain points.
  • Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organisations participated in the mapping project, and the journal Geomatics published their findings.
Scale and Significance of the Deep Coral Reef:
  • This deep coral reef is astonishingly large—nearly three times larger than Yellowstone National Park.
  • There is a subterranean ecosystem that sunlight doesn’t reach, located between 655 and 3,280 feet below the surface.
  • Deep coral reefs are different in their ecological dynamics from their tropical counterparts because they rely on filtering food particles out of the water to obtain energy.
  • Numerous marine creatures, including sharks, swordfish, sea stars, octopuses, prawns, and different fish species, call these deep-sea habitats home.
Challenges and Comparisons
  • The discovery is significant, according to experts of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who call it “eye-opening” and “breathtaking in scale.”
  • Despite their significance, deep coral reefs are just as vulnerable to threats as tropical reefs, including possible disruptions from activities like oil and gas drilling and climate change.
  • Only roughly 75% of the ocean floor has been surveyed, according to experts from Temple University.
  • This means that there is still a chance to find even larger deep-sea reefs down the road.
  • Currently, high-resolution sonar equipment carried on ships has only been used to scan 50% of the offshore waters in the United States.
Conclusion: The discovery of this massive deep coral reef emphasises the value of technological advancements in revealing hidden ecosystems and the necessity of ongoing research and conservation efforts in the world’s oceans.
PYQ: Assess the impact of global warming on coral life system with examples.  (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2019)
Practice Question: How does the discovery of the largest deep coral reef off the US Atlantic coast contribute to our understanding of marine biodiversity, and what challenges and opportunities does it present for sustainable development and ecosystem preservation? (200 words/12.5 m)

2. Union Health Ministry Takes Action Against Antibiotic Overprescription Amidst Rising Global Resistance Threat

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice- Health, GS2- Governance
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of a comprehensive understanding of healthcare challenges and governance.
Context:
  • In a directive that emphasises the necessity for pharmacists to administer legitimate prescriptions, the Union Health Ministry has instructed doctors to carefully record the reasons for prescribing antibiotics.
  • The move is in reaction to the growing worry over antibiotic resistance on a global scale, since drug-resistant illnesses were responsible for 4.95 million fatalities globally in 2019.
Concerns Raised by the Health Ministry:
  • The concerning trend of antibiotic resistance is highlighted in a letter from the Union Director General of Health Services, which also cites a recent National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) survey.
  • According to the report, 71.9% of patients in tertiary care institutions received an antibiotic prescription on average; more than half of these prescriptions were written as preventative measures prior to medical procedures.
Consequences of Overprescribing Antibiotics:
  • Medical experts cautioned against the overuse of antibiotics like azithromycin and amoxycillin, since it may lead to the formation of drug-resistant “superbugs.”
  • Resistant diseases can spread via waterways, endangering the general public’s health in addition to personal health.
  • The result is multi-drug resistance even in diseases like tuberculosis, as common infections become less curable.
Challenges in Hospitals and Misuse of Antibiotics:
  • Infections in hospitals are leading to longer treatment durations and the use of more costly and hazardous drugs.
  • Antibiotic abuse is particularly common when doctors are unable to make a solid diagnosis of viral or bacterial illnesses.
  • Antibiotic resistance is a result of the widespread use of antibiotics as a preventative measure or to stop secondary infections.
Significance of DGHS Directive:
  • In order to support a rigorous evaluation of the need for antimicrobials, the Union Health Ministry has issued a guideline encouraging doctors to record specific reasons for prescription antibiotics.
  • This method seeks to assist doctors in reducing suspicions by clinical observations or testing, resulting in a more focused and prudent use of antibiotics.
Proposed Solutions and Recommendations:
  • Antibiotic misuse can be prevented, according to experts, by following accepted treatment protocols, enacting clear antibiotic policies, and encouraging the use of antibiotics only when absolutely necessary.
  • Prior to operations, the NCDC advises against using more than one antibiotic and to limit usage to a single dose or one day’s worth.
  • Healthcare professionals emphasise how urgently the public needs to be made aware of the dangers of overusing antibiotics and how training programmes can help.
Conclusion:
  • The Union Health Ministry’s initiative emphasises how urgently antibiotic resistance needs to be addressed.
  • It may be possible to lessen the growing threat of drug-resistant diseases and protect public health by encouraging responsible antibiotic use, following recommendations, and increasing knowledge.
PYQ: Can overuse and the availability of antibiotics without doctor’s prescription, the contributors to the emergence of drug-resistant diseases in India? What are the available mechanisms for monitoring and control? Critically discuss the various issues involved. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2014)

3. Japan becomes 5th country to land on Moon

Topic: Important topic for Prelims  
Context:
  • Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) accomplished a noteworthy milestone with the successful landing of its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) on the moon’s surface.
  • Japan is now the fifth nation to have successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon.
  • The main goal of the mission was to show “precision” landing technology, which was an important step towards reviving Japan’s space programme after recent disappointments.
Solar Power Challenge:
  • JAXA reported that although the landing was successful, SLIM’s solar panels were not producing any electricity, probably because they were angled incorrectly.
  • The spacecraft is running exclusively on battery power even though it has established contact with Earth.
  • Prioritising critical functions, JAXA stated that attempts are being made to deliver the data to Earth.
Challenges and Solutions:
  • JAXA is expecting for a change in the position of the sun to help with the solar power problem, which could let the panels work again.
  • On the moon, though, this procedure is anticipated to take about 30 days.
  • Despite the limited battery life of SLIM, JAXA is prudent and chooses to maintain the status quo rather than take dangerous measures to protect critical functions.
Future Lunar Exploration Plans:
  • Japan’s successful lunar landing is consistent with its overarching goal to become more involved in space exploration, particularly in cooperation with the US to thwart China’s advances.
  • As part of NASA’s Artemis programme, JAXA hopes to send a human to the moon, demonstrating Japan’s dedication to developing its space capabilities.
Conclusion:
  • Despite the difficulty with solar power, Japan’s successful lunar landing mission demonstrates its dedication to developing space technology and taking part in international space exploration projects, further establishing its status as a major participant in the changing field of space exploration.
PYQ: Selene-1, the lunar orbiter mission belongs to which one of the following? (2008) (a) China (b) European Union (c) Japan (d) USA Ans: (c)

4. NATO's Steadfast Defender 2024 Signals Collective Defense Preparedness Amid Geopolitical Tensions

Topic: Important facts for Prelims
Context:
  • NATO is launching Steadfast Defender 2024, the largest military drill it has conducted since the end of the Cold War.
  • The drills are expected to involve about 90,000 soldiers and last until May. In the event of a conflict with a “near-peer” adversary, the exercise aims to replicate situations in which U.S. soldiers may reinforce European partners in nations bordering Russia and along NATO’s eastern flank.
Comprehensive Military Engagement:
  • There will be a significant military deployment for Steadfast Defender 2024, including more than 50 ships, including destroyers and aircraft carriers.
  • At least 1,100 military vehicles, including 133 tanks and 533 infantry fighting vehicles, will also be involved, in addition to more than 80 fighter jets, helicopters, and drones.
  • The goal of the exercise is to evaluate NATO’s response plans and collective defence capabilities in a demanding geopolitical scenario.
Simulated Conflict Scenario:
  • The exercise will take place in the framework of a “simulated emerging conflict scenario with a near-peer adversary,” as stated by the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
  • Although Russia was not specifically mentioned in the statement, the level of focus paid to NATO’s eastern flank raises questions about the region’s ongoing geopolitical challenges.
Historical Context and Scale:
  • Notably, Steadfast Defender 2024 is the largest NATO exercise since the conclusion of the Cold War.
  • The previous exercises that were comparable were Trident Juncture (2018), which involved 50,000 participants, and Reforger (1988), which involved 125,000 participants.
  • The alliance’s dedication to preserving military readiness and preparation in the face of changing security concerns is demonstrated by the enormity of Steadfast Defender.
Strategic Implications and NATO’s Stance:
  • Steadfast Defender 2024 is being launched against a backdrop of increased geopolitical unrest, especially in Eastern Europe.
  • Although Russia was not specifically mentioned in NATO’s announcement, the exercise illustrates the alliance’s strategic emphasis on fortifying its eastern frontiers and addressing possible dangers from adversaries that are close to home.
  • Steadfast Defender is an important example of NATO’s collective defence capabilities as it adjusts to modern security dynamics.
Conclusion:
  • An important turning point in NATO’s post-Cold War military operations is represented by Steadfast Defender 2024, which underscores the alliance’s resolve to confronting new security threats and guaranteeing the preparedness of its armed forces in a constantly changing international security environment.

5. Ayodhya's Ram Temple: Architectural Marvel Unveils Nagara style Grandeur and Historical Significance

Topic: GS1 – History- Indian Culture- Architecture 
This topic relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of Ayodhya’s Ram Temple and the Nagara style architectural features
Context:
  • The Nagara style of temple architecture will be introduced with the imminent opening of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, which was designed by Chandrakant Sompura and his son Ashish.
  • The Dravida style, which is more common in Southern India, is distinct from this style, which emerged in Northern India in the fifth century CE.
  • One of the “two great classical languages” of Indian temple architecture, nagara style emphasises a distinct architectural grammar and vocabulary.
Distinctive Elements of Nagarastyle:
  • Temples built in the nagara style are elevated on a plinth and are distinguished by its shikhara, or mountain summit, which is tall.
  • The image of the deity is kept in the sanctum sanctorum, often referred to as garbhagriha, and has sacred importance.
  • The most distinguishing feature, the shikhara, rises above the garbhagriha. A mandapas (halls) on one or more axes and a circumambulatory passage around the garbhagriha are features of a typical Nagarastyle temple.
  • Temple walls are frequently decorated with elaborate paintings and reliefs.
Five Modes of Nagarastyle:
  • Five types of Nagara-style temple architecture are recognised by architectural experts: Valabhi, Phamsana, Latina, Shekhari, and Bhumija.
  • The shikhara’s look and design vary depending on the mode. Beginning in the early seventh century, the Latina form dominated Nagaratemple construction for three centuries.
  • It was typified by a single, slightly curved tower with four equal sides.
Evolution of Shikhara Modes:
  • The advent of the Shekhari and Bhumija styles in the tenth century is part of the progression of Nagara style.
  • In contrast to the previous types, these include ‘composite’ Latinas, which are miniature spires linked to the main shikhara or on top of it.
  • There is a great deal of variance within each mode because temple architects did not intentionally follow these styles, instead they relied on pre-existing design traditions.
Comparison with Dravida Style:
  • The Dravida style of Southern India has vimanas, which are usually smaller than the extravagant gatehouses or gopurams, in contrast to the Nagara style.
  • While in Dravida style the dome-shaped crowning cap atop the vimana is referred to as a shikhara in Nagarastyle, the later style is distinguished by its boundary walls and gopurams.
  • A ‘hybrid’ element is present in the Ram temple in Ayodhya, which is a 732-meter-long wall surrounding the temple enclosure that resembles a boundary wall found in Dravida style complexes.
Conclusion:
  • The inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya highlights the complexity and depth of Nagara style temple architecture, highlighting its distinctive features, historical development, and hybrid components that add to the building’s cultural and religious value.
PYQ: How will you explain that medieval Indian temple sculptures represent the social life of those days? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2022) (150 words/10m)
Practice Question: Discuss the architectural significance of the Nagara style as showcased in Ayodhya’s Ram Temple. Elaborate on the distinctive features of Nagara style temples, their historical evolution, and the hybrid elements incorporated in the design of the Ram Temple. (250 words/15 m)

6. Police Think Tank Warns of WhatsApp Scams: Highlights Vulnerabilities and Urges Vigilance

Topic: GS3 – Internal Security- Challenges to internal security through communication networks 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of challenges posed by cyber threats and the measures taken by government agencies to address them.
Context:
  • A warning concerning WhatsApp scams has been released by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), which highlights a number of shortcomings and offers advice on preventative measures.
  • The Union Home Ministry-affiliated police research tank warned about the dangers of “screen share” frauds, in which con artists pose as representatives of banks, governments, or other financial organisations.
  • By using this trick, scammers install dangerous software or apps and obtain private data, including passwords and bank account information.
Concerns over Screen Share Feature:
  • The “screen share” feature that WhatsApp recently added has been identified by the BPRD as a possible target for exploitation.
  • It was observed that scammers take advantage of the chance to covertly install dangerous software after persuading victims to share their screens. Information that is sensitive may be compromised as a result, including access to banking services.
  • The warning emphasises the importance of exercising caution when utilising these kinds of features on chat apps.
Magnitude of Cyber Fraud in India:
  • To put things in perspective, the BPRD stated that, according to the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), cyber thefts in India had cost the country ₹10,319 crore between April 1, 2021, and December 31, 2023.
  • With over 400 million users, India is among the biggest markets for WhatsApp, therefore a sizable user base that could be targeted by scams is covered by the alert.
Active Scammers and Fraud Techniques:
  • The message made clear how active scammers are on WhatsApp, participating in a range of fraudulent activities such missed calls, job offers, business opportunities, video conversations, and web links.
  • The goal is to threaten and coerce victims into circumstances where they might suffer large financial losses.
  • The BPRD also noted how hackers target active users with different cyber risks by using code-scripted bots to identify them. 
Preventive Measures and User Awareness:
  • The goal of the BPRD advisory is to improve cybersecurity and user awareness by warning against answering calls or messages that are not solicited.
  • It underlined the value of being watchful and detailed cases in which users were contacted by purported trading professionals who promised them money.
  • Users were cautioned in the message, particularly with regard to untrusted programmes and financial transactions made through unknown contacts on the platform. 
PYQ: What are the different elements of cyber security? Keeping in view the challenges in cyber security, examine the extent to which India has successfully developed a comprehensive National Cyber Security Strategy. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Practice Question: Assess the broader implications of cyber frauds in the context of national security and suggest policy measures to mitigate these challenges. (200 words/12.5 m)

7. NASA Successfully Pings Chandrayaan-3 Lander on Moon Using Laser Technology, Opening New Avenues for Lunar Exploration

Topic: GS3 – Science and tech- Developing new technology- Space
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of India’s Space endeavours. 
Context:
  • By successfully pinging India’s Chandrayaan-3 lander on the moon, NASA has accomplished a noteworthy milestone.
  • The first successful experiment of its kind on the lunar surface was conducted using a laser beam that was transmitted and reflected between NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Vikram lander.
  • The potential of this accomplishment was emphasised by the US space agency, who also emphasised how crucial it is for accurately pinpointing objects on the moon.
Details of the Laser Experiment:
  • At 3 p.m. EST on December 12, 2023, NASA’s LRO pointed its laser altimeter sensor in the direction of the 62-mile (100-kilometer) Vikram lander.
  • Scientists verified the experiment’s success when laser pulses were sent from the orbiter towards Vikram and registered light rebounded back from a NASA retroreflector on Vikram.
  • Satellites orbiting Earth are frequently tracked using this technique, which involves delivering laser pulses and timing how long it takes for the light to bounce back.
Implications and Future Steps:
  • According to NASA, this accomplishment shows that it is possible to find lunar surface retroreflectors from orbit.
  • The next stage entails perfecting the method so that using retroreflectors on future missions will become standard practice.
ISRO’s Response:
  • The Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) Instrument on the Chandrayaan-3 lander is currently acting as a location marker close to the lunar south pole, according to an announcement made by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) in response to this occurrence.
  • This highlights India’s ongoing involvement in lunar exploration and demonstrates a joint venture with NASA to develop space technology.
Conclusion:
  • This successful laser experiment highlights improvements in precision targeting on the moon’s surface and paves the way for future initiatives, creating new opportunities for lunar missions.
PYQ: What is India’s plan to have its own space station and how will it benefit our space programme? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2019)
Practice Question: Discuss the significance of NASA’s recent laser experiment with India’s Chandrayaan-3 lander on the moon. Evaluate the implications of this successful mission for future lunar exploration and collaboration between space agencies. (200 words/12.5 m)

8. Nobel Laureate David Julius Unravels Mysteries of Pain Sensation

Topic: GS3 – Science and Tech- Development & their applications 
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of human physiology, health, and medical science
Context:
  • A fascinating presentation titled “How we sense pain” was given by renowned biochemist and 2021 Physiology Nobel Prize laureate David Julius as part of the TNQ Distinguished Lectures in the Life Sciences.
  • He discussed his scientific background and the significance of understanding pain perception from a biological perspective.
  • Dr. Julius stressed the need of understanding the body’s pain processing mechanisms in order to shed light on the complex structure of pain pathways.
The TRPV1 Pain Receptor Discovery:
  • Dr. Julius revealed his ground-breaking identification of the TRPV1 pain receptor, which is activated by capsaicin, the substance that gives chilli peppers their spicy flavour.
  • This receptor, which is triggered by temperatures deemed to be “painful,” is essential to comprehending the process underlying pain perception.
  • Dr. Julius successfully addressed the unsolved puzzle of how capsaicin causes pain feelings through his studies.
Significance of Pain Research:
  • Dr. Julius emphasised the dual role that pain pathways play as both a warning mechanism for protection and a possible cause of chronic pain, underscoring the significance of further research in this area.
  • He clarified that in order to establish successful therapeutic choices, a comprehensive awareness of the differences in pain experiences such as lower back pain vs migraine pain is necessary.
Spicy Foods and Body Temperature Regulation:
  • Dr. Julius talked about the interesting relationship between controlling body temperature and eating spicy foods like chilli peppers.
  • He clarified that eating spicy food can effectively aid in controlling body temperature at the core.
  • For example, on a hot day, biting into a chilli pepper causes the body to initiate reactions that reduce body temperature.
  • This realisation was connected to cultural preferences for spicy cuisine and behavioural adaptations.
Practice Question: Examine the significance of Nobel Laureate David Julius’s insights into pain perception, focusing on the discovery of the TRPV1 pain receptor and its implications for understanding pain pathways. (150 words/10 m)

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