Frogs have a unique ability to see colour even when it is so dark that humans are not able to see anything at all, a new study has found.
Researchers from Lund University in Sweden found that the night vision of frogs and toads appear to be superior to that of all other animals.
Most vertebrates, including humans, have two types of visual cells located in the retina, namely cones and rods.
The cones enable us to see colour, but they usually require a lot of light and therefore stop working when it gets dark, in which case the rods take over so that we can at least find our way home.
It was previously known that toads and frogs are unique in having rods with two different sensitivities, leading researchers to hypothesise that frogs and toads might be able to see colour in low-light conditions.
The researchers studied the frogs in a situation that is as serious as it is common, namely, when frogs need to find their way out in case they are trapped in conditions of complete darkness.
💡 Arsenic in vein, a village atrophies
There is little to distinguish Tiwaritola from other hamlets in the backward region of eastern Uttar Pradesh. Awful roads, poor sanitation, unreliable power supply, river embankment woes, unbridled poverty and unemployment scar its infrastructure and social landscape.
The drinking water sources here are heavily contaminated with arsenic. The bodies of the residents of Tiwaritola, which is less than 300 metres from the Ganga along the U.P.-Bihar border, bear testimony to the toxicity in the water.
Nearly every person you encounter suffers from melanosis (skin lesions or white marks that develop on their chest, abdomen or thighs). Others suffer from more serious ailments.
According to a 2012 report by two Kanpur-based researchers, published in the Journal of Environmental Biology, arsenic was first reported in drinking water in Ballia in 2003.
While the World Health Organisation (WHO) has set the permissible limit for arsenic in drinking water at 5 ppm, in Ballia, over 300 villages have arsenic above that limit, with one third having concentration levels above 100 ppm.
In Ballia district, 30-40% net cultivable land is under irrigation and more than 60% of this irrigation is met from drinking water, thus the risk of arsenic-contaminated water being used is high.
Since groundwater sources, hand pumps and wells are contaminated with arsenic, residents rely on government installed water filters — arsenic removal units — for safe water.
However, this equipment is poorly maintained and the alumina required for it is not supplied on time, say locals.
💡 Ganga unlikely to be cleaned up by 2018
The government is unlikely to be able to clean the Ganga by 2018, a target set by Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti.
Key reasons, according to sources in the Water Ministry, include “unreasonable” directions by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) questioning the operating capacity of sewage treatment plants in Uttar Pradesh and a delay in clearances by State governments to execute projects.
According to a senior official, work at developing the sewage treatment plants (STPs) in Uttar Pradesh had stopped because different expert groups, tasked by the court to estimate the sewage in the drains, had conflicting figures.
Ever since the Supreme Court had transferred 30- year-old cases, which dealt with the tardiness in cleaning the Ganga, to the NGT, it has routinely pulled up officials in the Central Pollution Control Board and the Union Ministry of Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation, and the Uttar Pradesh State Water Board, for poorly executing projects.
The NGT has fined officials for inaccurate information on the 30 drains in the State and “wasting public money” on commissioning projects that didn’t properly account for the pollution load in the city.
It has also tasked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with probing how certain projects were cleared by the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam in Garhmukteshwar.
Out of a Rs. 20,000-crore clean-up programme, only Rs. 2,000 crore has been sanctioned to the National Mission for Clean Ganga, the executive authority tasked with commissioning treatment plants, cleaning and beautifying the ghats and setting up improved crematoria.
💡 Google Street View helps manage urban ecosystem
Scientists have used over 100,000 images extracted from Google Street View to map and quantify how street trees regulate urban ecosystems in megacities like Delhi and Shanghai.
While it was generally accepted that trees and plants helped in regulating urban ecosystems, until now researchers had very little data to to quantify its extent.
High spatial resolution Google Street View′s technology allowed researchers to tap into a standard dataset of panoramic photographs and streetscapes that use a global positioning system (GPS) to map images to specific locations.
The high spatial resolution of the images allowed researchers to estimate the amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth′s surface.
In addition to cooling urban micro climates, these trees, which are integrated within dense urban street networks, also reduce the risk of flash flooding and helps in cleaning the air.
Providing trees to help cool the environment is important in tropical cities, which suffers heavily from the urban heat island effect.
💡 ‘Free trade should be fair too’
In an indication that increased market access for American companies will be a key priority in his engagement with New Delhi, U.S. President Donald Trump mentioned the 100% duty that India imposes on high-end motorcycles as a case of unfair trade practice and vowed to change it, in his first address to Congress.
Trump did not take India′s name, but India is the only major country that has a 100% customs duty on motorcycles. American company Harley-Davidson has been seeking a duty reduction for several years now.
Trump said American companies were facing trade barriers across the world.
His statement sets the tone for Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar′s meetings with several U.S. interlocutors this week in Washington.
According to data for 2016 released recently, India is the ninth biggest trading partner of the U.S.
For India, that means that sectors with price controls, high customs duties, or compulsory local manufacturing rules may increasingly be on the radar screen. Pressing India to liberalise FDI caps, which could result in manufacturing relocation, will get less attention.
💡 Centre asks banks to provide m-banking to all by March 31
In a further push to promote a less-cash economy, the government has asked all the banks to provide mobile banking facility to all customers by March 31, a senior government official said.
The official said any customer who accesses UPI or BHIM app should automatically be enabled for mobile banking “because it means they want mobile banking.”
The Ministry for IT has recently been given the mandate of spearheading the NDA-government’s drive to push digital payments.
Prior to this, NITI Aayog was made responsible for promotion of digital transactions.
💡 Keeping over 10 old notes to attract fine
The government on 1 March 2017 notified the law making it a criminal offence to possess more than a certain number of the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes.
The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017, was passed by Parliament in February and received President Pranab Mukherjee’s approval on February 27.
Now, possessing more than 10 pieces of old notes by individuals and more than 25 pieces for study, research or numismatics purposes would attract a fine of Rs.10,000 or five times the value of the cash held, whichever is higher.
The law also has a provision for a fine of a minimum of Rs. 50,000 if people falsely declare they were outside the country during the demonetisation period of November 9, 2016 to December 30, 2016.
According to the rules, those actually outside the country within this window are allowed to deposit the old notes till March 31.
The Act also effectively puts to end the liability of the Reserve Bank of India and the government on the demonetised currency notes.
The decision to demonetise high value currency notes was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016, with the stated objective of hitting those with black money stashed away, as well as stopping the influx of counterfeit notes of these denominations.
💡 DRDO signs deal with firm to manufacture key alloy
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on 1 March 2017 signed a technology transfer agreement with Jindal Stainless (Hisar) Limited ( JSHL) for manufacturing High Nitrogen Steel (HNS).
The alloy has significant applications in the defence sector, but currently the country is largely dependent on imports.
Officials said HNS steel, which has a much higher ballistic strength than normal steel, will free the country of imports.
HNS is not only tough but also has good strength. In addition to being nonmagnetic and corrosion-resistant, the HNS cost is about 40% less compared to Rolled Homogenous Armour Steel (RHA).
HNS, by virtue of its strength and characteristics, has potential application in all armoured vehicles.
💡 Interceptor missile test successful
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on 1 March 2017 successfully carried out a test of an interceptor missile, further validating the reliability of the under-development, two-layered Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) in shooting down enemy missiles.
Defence sources said the endo-atmospheric missile, which can intercept missiles at ranges of 15-30 km, was launched from the Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast in response to an incoming ‘enemy’ missile which was launched from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Chandipur.
The missile intercepted the incoming missile at an altitude of 15 km scoring a direct hit, a source said.
Last month, the DRDO carried out a successful test of the exo-atmospheric interceptor missile destroying the target outside the earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of over 85 km.
Research Centre Imarat (RCI) of the DRDO which had played a role in the development of all strategic missiles has speared the design and development of the BMD programme.
The BMD consists of two interceptor missiles, the Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) for exo-atmospheric ranges and theAdvanced Area Defence (AAD) missile for endo-atmosphere or lower altitudes.
The BMD is critical to protect the country from the long-range ballistic missiles proliferating in the neighbourhood. DRDO expects to have shield ready for deployment by 2022.
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