May 2015

AWARDS
Whitley Award (Green Oscar)
Pune-based ornithologist Pramod Patil has won with the prestigious Whitley Award, popularly known as the ‘Green Oscar’ for his work on the conservation of the Great Indian Bustard. He bagged the prize along with Dr Ananda Kumar, a wildlife scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), for his project on ‘Elephant messengers: using innovative communication systems to enable human-elephant coexistence in Southern India’.

Man Booker International Prize, 2015
Innovative Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai is the winner of the sixth Man Booker International Prize.

The Man Booker International Prize, worth £60,000, is awarded for an achievement in fiction on the world stage.  It is presented once every two years to a living author for a body of work published either originally in English or available in translation in the English language. It has previously been awarded to Ismail Kadaré in 2005, Chinua Achebe in 2007, Alice Munro in 2009, Philip Roth in 2011, and Lydia Davis in 2013.

Born in 1954, László Krasznahorkai gained considerable recognition in 1985 with his first novel “Satantango”, which he later adapted for the cinema in collaboration with the filmmaker Bela Tarr. It is a bleakly comic story of a dismal Hungarian town whose drunken inhabitants are taken in by a visitor who may be the devil.

Krasznahorkai followed it with 1989’s “The Melancholy of Resistance”—published in English in 1998—in which violent hysteria follows the arrival of a circus with a dead whale in a small Hungarian town.

TOISA Awards 2015
The winners of the first Times of India Sports Awards are:
Sportsperson of the Year: Jitu Rai
Youth Icon: Saina Nehwal
Lifetime Achievement Award: Milkha Singh
Cricket: Harmanpreet Kaur (women)
Football: Sunil Chhetri
Badminton: P.V. Sindhu
Billiards: Pankaj Advani
Table Tennis: Achanta Sharath Kamal
Shooting: Jitu Rai
Athletics: Vikas Gowda
Wrestling: Yogeshwar Dutt
Squash: Dipika Pallikal
Golf: Anirban Lahiri
Chess: Viswanathan Anand
Hockey: Rani Rampal (women) and P.R. Sreejesh (men)
Boxing: L. Sarita Devi and M.C. Mary Kom
Tennis: Sania Mirza
Weightlifting: Satish Sivalingam
Emerging Player Awards: Malaika Goel, Khushbir Kaur, Amit Kumar Dahiya, A Chikkarangappa, Sanjita Chanu and Vinesh Phogat.

DEFENCE
INS Sardar Patel—India’s new naval base commissioned
On 9 May 2015, a strategically important new Naval base—INS Sardar Patel—was commissioned by Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in Porbandar. This naval base will help boost security of Gujarat’s 1600-km coastline.

Gujarat has 43 private and public ports which contribute 50 per cent to country’s maritime industries. Around 120 million tonnes crude reaches various refineries in Gujarat from the Gulf of Kutch.

INS Sardar Patel will ensure coordination requirements of Indian Navy’s ships, submarines and aircraft that will be deployed in coastal regions of Gujarat. Their operational and administrative support and logistic support will be given by the new base.

This Forward Operating Base (FOB) of Indian Navy and the Headquarters of the Naval Officer-in-Charge (Gujarat, Diu & Daman) would also enhance the logistic support being provided to the Indian Navy units deployed in the Northern Arabian Sea, including along the International Maritime Boundary Line with Pakistan.

PLACES
Palmyra
UNESCO world heritage site, Palmyra, was an ancient Semitic city, located in Homs Governorate, Syria. Dating back to the Neolithic, Palmyra was first attested in the early second millennium BC, as a caravan stop for travelers crossing the Syrian Desert. It was in news in themonth of May 2015 when ISIS militants seized the city, putting this heritage site on the verge of destruction. The ancient ruins are situated in a strategically important area on the road between the capital, Damascus, and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour. Dating back to the 1st and 2nd Century, when the region was under Roman rule, Palmyra is dominated by a grand, colonnaded street.

PROJECTS
Kishau multipurpose project
660 MW Kishau multipurpose project is a joint venture between Himachal and Uttarakhand governments. It will be located on Tons river.

The project envisages construction of a 680-m long and 236-m high concrete gravity dam, 45 km upstream of Dak Pathar at the fringe of the Ichari reservoir. The reservoir will extend upstream 44.5 km and the total area submerged in the two States will be of 2,950 hectares.

Nine villages in Uttarakhand and eight villages of Sirmour in Himachal will be totally or partially submerged. The dam will have a total storage capacity of 1,824 million cubic metres and the live storage will be 1,324 million cubic metres.

The project will generate 1,851 million units of power annually and the release of water from the dam during the lean season will augment generation in the downstream power projects.

The ₹10,500 crore project has been cleared with 90 per cent funding by the Centre while the remaining 10 per cent is to be shared by the Himachal and Uttarakhand governments. As per terms of the MOU, the partner States will share profit in 50:50 ratio. The same principle will be applied while generating power from the dam in the future.

RESEARCH
New state of matter found
Scientists have discovered a new state of matter, dubbed as “Jahn-Teller metal”, that appears to be an insulator, superconductor, metal and magnet all rolled into one. The research could help develop new molecular materials that are superconductors at even higher temperatures, researchers said.

An international team of researchers made the discovery by studying a superconductor made from carbon-60 molecules or “buckyballs”. The team found the new state after changing the distance between neighbouring buckyballs by doping the material with rubidium.

The study, led by Kosmas Prassides of Tohoku University in Japan, provides important clues about how the interplay between the electronic structure of the molecules and their spacing within the lattice can strengthen interactions between electrons that cause superconductivity.

World’s largest particle smasher at CERN breaks the record for energy levels
The world’s largest particle smasher at CERN broke the record for energy levels in a test run after a two-year upgrade, CERN announced today.

Protons collided in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the record-breaking energy of 13 TeV (teraelectronvolts) for the first time, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) said in a statement. The LHC’s previous highest energy for collisions was eight TeV, reached in 2012.

In April, it started up again after a two-year overhaul designed to pave the way to experiments at 13 TeV. It has the potential to be cranked up to 14 TeV.

One teraelectronvolt is roughly equivalent to the energy of motion of a flying mosquito. But within the LHC, the energy is squeezed into an extremely small space—about a million, million times smaller than a mosquito—this intensity causes the particles to be smashed apart.

Experiments at the collider are aimed at unlocking clues as to how the universe came into existence by studying fundamental particles, the building blocks of all matter, and the forces that control them.

Before the upgrade, the LHC was used to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson, also known as the God particle, which confers mass. That discovery earned the 2013 Nobel physics prize for two of the scientists who had theorised the existence of the Higgs back in 1964.

The LHC allows beams containing billions of protons travelling at 99.9 per cent the speed of light to shoot through the massive collider in opposite directions. Powerful magnets bend the beams so that they collide at points around the track where four laboratories have batteries of sensors to monitor the smashups. The sub-atomic rubble is then scrutinised for novel particles and the forces that hold them together.

BRETT, robot that learns by trial and error like humans
In a new finding, researchers claim that they have developed a robot that doesn’t need explicit instructions to do a task like other robots require and can learn and complete a task by trial and error method like humans do. The newly designed robot can learn simple tasks like opening a cap of bottle and remember how it is done for the next time.

Researchers at the University of Berkeley named the robot as Berkeley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks (BRETT). The BRETT uses neural-based deep learning algorithms to learn tasks like humans do. This enables BRETT to better adapt to surrounding situations and complete a task with less prior knowledge when compared to other robots. Also, once learned it remembers the technique to complete the task so it takes less time to complete the same task in future.

To make BRETT complete the task researchers at Berkeley added a reward function to its learning process. Every time robot succeeded or came closer to complete the task it was given a higher reward point. This way robot learns from trial and error method.

Scientists at Berkely are optimistic that the BRETT is just a start and it will take another 10 years to make robots learn several complex tasks autonomously, without human intervention. Also, they believe that one-day robots will become the robots depicted in movies like “iRobot”.

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