Science & Technology Current
January 2nd week 2015 current affairs
Category : Science & Technology Current
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2) ISRO tech for fire-resistant houses

  • Indian space agency (Isro) has developed a low-cost fire-resistant coating which can be used for protecting rail coaches and buildings. The agency has plans to tie up with a suitable industrial partner for the commercial use of the technology, which was developed to protect the PSLV fuel tanks.
  • It could be used to safeguard railway coaches as well as concrete buildings from fire accidents similar to the blaze that gutted an empty stationary coach at the Central Station
  • The new compound, CASPOL, is a water-based ready-to-coat and easy-to-use flame proof coating having excellent flame retardant, waterproofing and thermal control properties. It could be applied on walls, clothes, paper, thatched roofs, wood etc. to protect them from fire. It contains no toxic material and is very eco-friendly. The emulsion can be sprayed or spread using a brush on surfaces that need fire protection.
  • One liter of CASPOL can coat 1.5 sq meters with a thickness of 500 micron, which is practically adequate for fire protection and thermal insulation. It could also be used as a flame-retardant material in railways and automobiles, where the seat cushions can be made flameproof, without affecting the cushioning characteristics.

2) EU should curb mercury emissions from cremations

  • Environment campaigners are calling for curbs on mercury emissions from human cremations as part of pollution controls that EU authorities will debate this month. Increased cremation as shortage of land makes burial expensive has coincided with a rise in emissions of the toxic metal from fillings in teeth. An average cremation releases 2 to 4 grams of mercury, data compiled by U.S. researchers’ shows.
  • Mercury is associated with mental development problems. After entering the air and then falling in rain it becomes concentrated in fish that, if eaten during pregnancy, can cause harm to unborn children. Some 200,000 babies are born in the European Union annually with mercury levels harmful to their development, public health researchers have found.
  • The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), which is coordinating non-governmental organizations in Brussels in an increasingly polarized debate on air quality, says crematoria should be included in new standards on incinerating waste.
  • One option would be removing teeth from corpses before cremation, although the campaigners acknowledge that may raise ethical issues. Of the 28 EU states, so far only Germany has a mercury emissions limit, although the EU has regulated large coal power plants - the biggest source of mercury pollution. Sweden and Denmark have banned mercury in dental fillings.
  • Draft EU air quality legislation from 2013 included national ceilings for pollutants and emissions from medium-sized combustion plants (MCPs), theoretically including crematoria.
  • The new European Commission, the EU executive, last year proposed abandoning national targets and debate on MCPs, at the request of member states, excludes crematoria.
  • Keen to counter Euroscepticism, particularly in Britain, which has objected to national targets on several issues,the Commission says it is preventing over-regulation.
  • The EEB will take part in debate on the waste issue with representatives of the Commission, EU nations and industry between Jan. 19 and 22.
  • Separately, the European Parliament votes on 15th January on an objection to the Commission`s plan to scrap some environmental proposals, including on waste and air quality. Even before the Commission`s new plan, the NGOs say the national ceilings were inadequate and did not deal with mercury.
  • Data from the Cremation Society of Great Britain show that in Europe in 2012, the highest rate of cremations was in non-EU Switzerland, at 85 percent, followed by Denmark with 77 percent and Britain with 73 percent.


3) Forest owlet sighted in M.P.

  • A Pune-based conservation society has reported that the forest owlet ( Athene blewitti ), a ‘critically endangered species’, has been sighted in Madhya Pradesh’s Betul district.
  • According to the city-based Wildlife Research and Conservation Society (WRCS), a team carrying out extensive research in Khandwa, sighted a spotted owlet in the adjoining district of Betul during the course of their survey.
  • The owlet, endemic to Central Indian forests was said to be extinct in the wild when it was recently rediscovered in 1997.It was most recently seen for the first time in the Western Ghats in October last year by naturalist Sunil Laad of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

4) Climate change, extinctions signal Earth in danger zone - study

  • Climate change and high rates of extinctions of animals and plants are pushing the Earth into a danger zone for humanity, a scientific report card about mankind`s impact on nature said on 15th January. An international team of 18 experts, expanding on a 2009 report about "planetary boundaries" for safe human use, also sounded the alarm about clearance of forests and pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizers.
  • Of a total of nine boundaries assessed, freshwater use, ocean acidification and ozone depletion were judged to be within safe limits. Others, including levels of airborne pollution, were yet to be properly assessed. The report defined climate change and loss of species as two core areas of concern. Each "has the potential on its own to drive the Earth System into a new state should they be substantially and persistently transgressed
  • Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, are about 397 parts per million in the atmosphere, above 350 ppm that the study set as the boundary for safe use.
  • Almost 200 governments will meet in Paris in late 2015 to try to agree a deal to limit global warming to avert floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels blamed on rising emissions of greenhouse gases. The study said that rates of extinctions of animals and plants, caused by factors ranging from pollution to deforestation, were 10 to 100 times higher than safe levels. The report expanded definitions of the planetary boundaries set in 2009, making it hard to compare trends.