Daily Prelims Notes 16 May 2023
- May 16, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN
Daily Prelims Notes
16 May 2023
Table Of Contents
- Gaps in the AePS transaction model
- Transformer; the ML model that powers ChatGPT
- MoD signs 250th contract under IDEX
- Manoj Soni to take oath as UPSC chairman
- Climate change may wipe out Marula and Knobthorn, two tree species in Eswatini
- To protect India’s bees, we need to understand their impact on agricultural practices
- Thawing permafrost in the Arctic
- As sea levels rise, is land reclamation still a good idea?
- The new Alzheimer’s drug
1. Gaps in the AePS transaction model
Subject: Science and Technology
Section: Awareness in IT
Aadhaar-enabled Payment Services
- Aadhaar-enabled Payment Services (AePS) is a bank-led model which allows online financial transactions at Point-of-Sale (PoS) and Micro ATMs through the business correspondent of any bank using Aadhaar authentication.
- There is no need for OTPs, bank account details, and other financial details for AePS.
- It allows fund transfers using only the bank name, Aadhaar number, and fingerprint captured during Aadhaar enrolment.
Are AePS transactions enabled by default?
- Neither Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) nor NPCI mentions clearly whether AePS is enabled by default.
- According to UIDAI, users who wish to receive any benefit or subsidy under schemes notified under section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, have to mandatorily submit their Aadhaar number to the banking service provider.
- Aadhaar is also the preferred method of KYC for banking institutions, thus enabling AePS by default for most bank account holders.
How is biometric information leaked?
- While data breaches in Aadhaar have been reported in 2018, 2019, and 2022, according to UIDAI the Aadhaar data, including biometric information, is fully safe and secure.
- However, UIDAI’s database alone is not the only location where data can be leaked.
- Aadhaar numbers are readily available in the form of photocopies, and soft copies, and criminals are using Aadhaar-enabled payment systems to breach user information.
How the Aadhaar biometric information could be secured?
- Aadhaar (Sharing of Information) Regulations, 2016: The UIDAI is proposing an amendment to the regulations, which will require entities in possession of an Aadhaar number to not share details unless the Aadhaar numbers have been redacted or blacked out through appropriate means, both in print and electronic form.
- Authentication:The UIDAI has also implemented a new two-factor authentication mechanism that uses a machine-learning-based security system, combining finger minutiae and finger image capture to check the liveness of a fingerprint.
- Locking Aadhaar:Additionally, users are also advised to ensure that they lock their Aadhaar information to ensure that their biometric information, even if compromised, cannot be used to initiate financial transactions.
- Aadhaar can be unlocked when the need for biometric authentication arises, such as for property registration and passport renewals, after which it can again be locked..
2. Transformer; the ML model that powers ChatGPT
Subject : Science and technology
Section :Awareness of IT
Machine Learning (ML)
- Machine learning (ML), a subset of artificial intelligence, trains computers to perform tasks using structured data, language, audio, or images by presenting examples of inputs and their corresponding desired outputs.
- Unlike traditional computer programming that relies on explicit instructions, ML models learn to generate desired outputs by adjusting numerous parameters, often in the millions.
- This enables the model to generalize its knowledge and make predictions or generate responses based on new inputs.
- ML’s ability to learn from data and adapt its behavior makes it a powerful tool for solving complex problems and handling diverse types of information.
What is ‘attention’?
- Attention is a fundamental concept in machine learning that enables a model to determine the importance of different inputs.
- For example, in translation tasks, attention allows the model to select and weigh words from its memory bank, aiding in the decision of the next word to generate. Similarly, when describing an image, attention helps the model focus on relevant parts of the image while generating subsequent words.
- A similar observation applies to image captioning.
- For an image of a “bird flying above water”, the model is never told which region of the image corresponds to “bird” and which “water”.
- Instead, by training on several image-caption pairs with the word “bird”, it discovers common patterns in the image to associate the flying thing with “bird”.
- One captivating aspect of attention-based models is their ability to discover meaningful patterns and relationships through extensive data analysis. By parsing large volumes of data, these models uncover valuable insights and learn intricate dependencies.
- Transformers are attention models on steroids. They employ multiple attention layers within both the encoder and decoder components.
- This architecture enables transformers to establish significant contextual understanding across input sentences or images in the encoder, and facilitate effective communication from the decoder to the encoder during tasks such as generating translated sentences or describing images.
- Transformers take attention to new heights, allowing for enhanced performance and comprehensive learning in a wide range of machine learning applications.
3. MoD signs 250th contract under IDEX
Subject :Science and Technology
- Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) recently reached a milestone with the signing of the 250th contract, the first one under the Mission DefSpace.
About iDEX (Innovations for Defence Excellence):
- It is the flagship initiative of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), launched in April 2018.
- Aim: To achieve self-reliance and foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia.
- iDEX has partnered with leading incubators in the country to provide handholding, technical support and guidance to the winners of iDEX challenges.
- iDEX will be funded and managed by a ‘Defence Innovation Organization (DIO)’ which has been formed as a ‘not for profit company as per Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013 by the two founder members, i.e.Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) – HAL & BEL.
- iDEX will function as the executive arm of DIO, carrying out all the required activities, while DIO will provide high-level policy guidance to iDEX.
- Under iDEX, financial support is provided to Start-ups/MSMEs/individual innovators and Partner Incubators through DIO.
- It was launched by the Prime Minister during DefExpo in October 2022.
- The goal of Mission DefSpace is to make India Atmanirbhar in defence technologies in the space domain.
- It will encourage technology development in space for defence applications by startups and young entrepreneurs through 75 Defence Space Challenges launched across various Department for Defence Production (DDP) initiatives viz iDEX, ‘Make 1’, and ‘Make 2’.
- The challenges are classified into five buckets, viz. Launch System, Satellite System, Communication & Payload System, Ground System and Software System provide a holistic 3600 overview of space.
4. Manoj Soni to take oath as UPSC chairman
Section: National Body
- Educationist Manoj Soni will take oath as the chairman of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Soni, who joined the Commission as the member on June 28, 2017, has been performing the duties of the UPSC chairman since April 5, 2022.
About Union Public Service Commission
- The UPSC was established on 1 October 1926 by the Government of India under the Government of India Act, 1919.
- The Commission is headquartered in New Delhi and has regional offices in Allahabad, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Chennai, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, and Patna.
- It is an independent constitutional body.
- The provisions regarding the composition of UPSC, appointment and removal of its members and the powers and functions of UPSC are provided in Part XIV of the Indian Constitution under Article 315 to Article 323.
Composition of Union Public Service Commission
- Appointment of Members: The Chairman and other members of the UPSC are appointed by the President of India.
- Term of Office: Any member of the UPSC shall hold office for a term of six years or till the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- Reappointment: Any person who has once held the office as a member of a Public Service Commission is ineligible for reappointment to that office.
- Resignation: A member of the Union Public Service Commission may resign from his/her office by submitting the written resignation to the President of India.
- Removal/Suspension of Members: The Chairman or any other member of UPSC shall only be removed from his/her office by order of the President of India.
- The President can remove the Chairman or any other member from his/her office( on grounds of Misbehaviour) in respect of whom a reference has been made to the Supreme Court.
- Advice of Supreme Court is binding.
- Conditions for Removal: The Chairman or any other member of UPSC may be removed if he/she:
- is adjudged an insolvent.
- engages during his/her term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his/her office.
- is, in the opinion of the President, unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body.
- Regulating the Conditions of Service: In the case of the UPSC, the President of India shall:
- Determine the number of members of the Commission and their conditions of service.
- Make provisions with respect to the number of members of the staff of the Commission and their conditions of service.
- Restriction of Power: The conditions of service of a member of UPSC shall not be amended after his/her appointment that may lead to his/her disadvantage.
- Power to Extend Functions: The Legislature of a State may provide for the exercise of additional functions by the UPSC or the SPSC as respects the services of the Union or the State and also as respects the services of any local authority or other body corporate constituted by law or of any public institution.
- Expenses of UPSC: The expenses of the UPSC including salaries, allowances and pensions of the members or staff of the Commission are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
- Submission of Reports: The UPSC shall present an annual report to the President of India containing the work done by the Commission.
- The President shall provide a memorandum explaining the cases where the advice of the Commission was not accepted.
- The reasons for such non-acceptance are presented before each House of Parliament.
5. Climate change may wipe out Marula and Knobthorn, two tree species in Eswatini
Section: Climate Change
Context: Climate change may wipe out Eswatini’s 2 major savanna tree species: Study
More on the News:
- Climate change may wipe out Marula and Knobthorn — two tree species in Eswatini — from their current ranges, according to a new study. These widely occurring and dominant southern African species are critical to the functioning of lowland savannas.
- Compared with other terrestrial biomes, tropical savannas face heightened risks from a rapidly changing climate, noted the study.
- A westward shift in the distributions of marula and knobthorntowards central Eswatini is anticipated based on projected climate scenarios from 2041 to 2070, the research added. Responses of these two keystone species to climate change may decouple them in future. Such changes in the habitat of keystone species are likely to have considerable cascading effects.
- Marula and knobthornshowed idiosyncratic responses across a range of climate conditions, with marula expanding beyond current ranges to make up for lost distributions, while knobthorn patches receded towards the core of their ranges, the study noted.
- This suggested that these trees may be losing suitable climates within current ranges. Marula showed evidence of tracking climate change by emerging in previously cooler and uncolonised areas. On the other hand, knobthorn is unlikely to do so. In addition, knobthorn’spatchy distributions were limited to a smaller geographic area — thus, any range loss can cause a local wipeout.
- Knobthorn was unable to establish outside of its core range and faced limitations like land use, terrain and soil properties and herbivory to occupying broader climatic ranges, the study found.
- Marula would unlikely persist in some of the region’s hottest areas, with regional temperature increases for Eswatini projected to be 4°C between 2041-2070 and 2071-2100. However, the species’ ability to disperse and recruit in newly suitable climates beyond current range distributions could counter these effects, the study added.
- Africa showed an average increase in warming of approximately 0.3°C per decade between 1991 and 2021, according to State of the Climate in Africa 2021. This was faster than the warming of 0.2°C per decade, which occurred between 1961 and 1990.
- Marula tree (Sclerocaryabirrea) is a native tree species of Africa
- The Marula tree is found across various regions of Africa, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and parts of West Africa. It is well-adapted to a range of habitats, from woodlands and savannahs to semi-arid areas.
- The Marula tree plays a vital role in the ecosystem. Its deep roots help stabilize soil and prevent erosion, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. The tree provides shade and shelter to various animal species, including birds, insects, and mammals. It also serves as a food source for several wildlife species, such as elephants, giraffes, baboons, and antelopes.
- One of the significant features of the Marula tree is its fruit, known as Marula fruit. The fruit is small, yellowish, and rich in vitaminC. The fruits are used to produce various products, including Marula oil, jams, juices, and alcoholic beverages such as Amarula.
- Knobthorn tree (Senegalianigrescens, formerly known as Acacia nigrescens) is a prominent tree species native to Africa.
- The Knobthorn tree is found in various regions of Africa, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and parts of East Africa. It thrives in diverse habitats such as savannahs, woodlands, and dry scrublands.
- The Knobthorn tree is a medium-sized deciduous tree that can reach heights of up to 10-15 meters.
- It has a characteristic appearance with a dark, rough bark and large, swollen thorns or knobs along its branches. The tree also features feathery, compound leaves that provide a dense canopy
- Knobthorn tree has a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in its root nodules. This allows it to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form, enriching the soil with nitrogen and benefiting other plants in the vicinity.
6. To protect India’s bees, we need to understand their impact on agricultural practices
Subject : Science and Technology
Section: Biotech Technology
Context: Farmers worry about effect of genetically modified crops on honey bees.
More on the News:
- The increasing production of genetically modified (GM) crops has raised concerns about their potential negative impact, especially on pollinators such as bees.
- As honeybee populations decline, beekeepers in India have united against GM crops, including the recently approved GM mustard.
- The decline of honeybees can be an agricultural catastrophe for India, as crops in 50 million ha across the country depend on pollination by bees.
- Supreme Court of India is hearing a batch of petitions seeking a ban on commercially cultivating indigenously developed GM mustard. The central government has, however, stated GM crops are safe for cultivation and not harmful to honeybees.
- GM crops could have direct and indirect impacts on bees. Direct impacts can be from the toxicity of the product of genetic modification.
- Despite conclusive evidence from studies conducted in other countries that Bt cotton, the sole genetically modified crop cultivated in India, does not harm bees directly, farmers in India remain apprehensive.
- The farmers and beekeepers are more concerned about the indirect effects of GM crops. The timing and length of flowering in GM crops may pose a significant threat to bees. Some GM crops flower earlier or later than conventional crops, which can cause a mismatch in when bees need nectar and pollen and when it is available.
- This mismatch could ultimately lead to a drop in honey production, which can lead to starvation in bee colonies.
More about Pollination:https://optimizeias.com/decline-in-pollinators/
More about GM Mustard:https://optimizeias.com/gm-mustard-is-irreversible/
7. Thawing permafrost in the Arctic
Section: Climate Change
Context: Thawing permafrost in the Arctic could unlock toxic waste buried for decades: New study highlights risks.
More on the News:
- With rising global temperatures, thawing permafrost is likely to destabilise thousands of industrial sites and linked contaminated areas in the Arctic, which could result in the spread of toxic substances across the region, according to a new study. Nearly 2,100 industrial sites and between 5,600 and 10,000 contaminated sites are under threat of destabilisation by the end of this century.
- The study, ‘Thawing permafrost poses environmental threat to thousands of sites with legacy industrial contamination’, was published in the journal Nature Communications earlier this year.
- Contrary to common perception, the Arctic is far from an uninhabited and untouched region. It’s dotted with countless industrial facilities such as oilfields and pipelines, mines and military bases. All this infrastructure is built on permafrost, which was once believed to be perennially stable and reliable. The toxic waste from these industrial facilities has been buried in the permafrost, on the assumption that it would stay locked away permanently. But danger looms as the planet continues to heat up.
What is permafrost?
- Permafrost is essentially any ground that stays frozen — 0 degree Celsius or lower — for at least two years straight. These permanently frozen grounds are often found in Arctic regions such as Greenland, Alaska (the United States), Canada, Russia and Eastern Europe.
- According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), permafrost is composed of “a combination of soil, rocks and sand that are held together by ice. The soil and ice in permafrost stay frozen all year long.” However, although the ground remains perennially frozen, permafrost regions aren’t always covered with snow.
What are the findings of the study?
- It was because of these characteristics that countries and corporations began building infrastructure on the Arctic’s permafrost. The region witnessed a further expansion of industrial and economic development during the Cold War — it became a centre for resource extraction and military activities. This led to the accumulation of industrial and toxic waste on or in permafrost which was never removed.
- But as the Arctic is getting warmer nearly four times as fast as the rest of the planet due to climate change, permafrost is thawing rapidly, which could destabilise not only the industrial sites but also the contaminated areas. And once the destabilisation takes place, toxic substances would be unleashed across the region, threatening numerous species living there and the health of people who depend on them.
- Using the data, team extrapolated where industrial contamination and permafrost might coexist across the entirety of the Arctic and found that the 4,500 industrial facilities in the permafrost regions have most likely produced between 13,000 and 20,000 contaminated sites. The team then used computer simulations to find out the impact of climate change on these sites.
- According to the study, as of now, around 1,000 of the known industrial sites and 2,200 to 4,800 of the known contaminated sites are already at risk of destabilising due to thawing permafrost.
- These numbers will jump to more than 2,100 industrial sites and 5,600 to 10,000 contaminated sites by the end of the century under the low emissions scenario consistent with the 2-degree Celsius global warming target. And if the world continues to get warmer at present levels, almost all of the known industrial and contaminated sites would be affected.
What are the other consequences of thawing permafrost?
- According to experts, thawing permafrost can severely impact the planet. One of its most dangerous consequences is the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. A 2022 report by NASA said, “Arctic permafrost alone holds an estimated 1,700 billion metric tons of carbon, including methane and carbon dioxide. That’s roughly 51 times the amount of carbon the world released as fossil fuel emissions in 2019.”
- Moreover, “Plant matter frozen in permafrost doesn’t decay, but when permafrost thaws, microbes within the dead plant material start to break the matter down, releasing carbon into the atmosphere,” it added.
8. As sea levels rise, is land reclamation still a good idea?
Section: Climate Change
Context: With coastal areas around the world threatened by rising sea levels and increasingly destructive storms, should we still be creating new land in our oceans?
What is Land Reclamation?
- Land reclamation is the process of creating new land from the sea.
- The simplest method of land reclamation involves simply filling the area with large amounts of heavy rock and/or cement, then filling with clay and soil until the desired height is reached.
- Draining of submerged wetlands is often used to reclaim land for agricultural use.
- The first major land reclamations were carried out in the 1970s, when the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands was extended.
Need for Land Reclamation:
- As climate change contributes to rising sea levels, and the population continues to increase, it looks likely that land reclamation will be used more often as a way to get the land people need to live
- Demand for land has increased massively of rising populations, globalization, and climate change
- Landscape reclamation is being employed in various regions of the world to remedy contaminated and ruined areas like the deserted coal mining, crude oil exploration, conversion of wasteland, controlling gully and soil erosion and abandoned aquaculture etc
- Nearly 90% of that land was created in East Asia, most often to make way for industry and port facilities catering to the globalized economy
Impact of land reclamation
- Reclamation could cause permanent damage to maritime organisms and wildlife and their migration to uninfluenced areas lead to economic and medicinal habitat losses and other plant species.
- Changes in the river channel through channeling or dredging impact the water system by extending river length and river width that influences river flow dynamics and hydrology
- Significant resources are needed for maintaining the drainage system. This makes it not just ecologically but also economically impossible to sustain certain drained areas
- Vegetation clearance loosens the earth and makes it susceptible to erosion.
Subject: Science and Technology
New clinical trial data released by Eli Lilly on Wednesday has provided the most promising results of any potential Alzheimer’s disease treatment yet.
- Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.
- The disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer
- It symptoms included memory loss, language problems, and unpredictable behavior.
- In brain found many abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary, or tau, tangles).
- These plaques and tangles in the brain are still considered some of the main features of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Another feature is the loss of connections between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.
- This damage initially takes place in parts of the brain involved in memory, including the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus. It later affects areas in the cerebral cortex, such as those responsible for language, reasoning, and social behavior.
New Alzheimer’s drug:
- Donanemab is a biological drug in trial to treat early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Donanemab was developed by the company Eli Lilly
- Donanemab, also known as N3pG, is an antibody produced in mice that targets an abnormal protein, amyloid beta (Aβ).
- Whilst the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown, great advances in amyloid pathology have led to a relation between the quantity of Aβ peptides and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Aβ peptides are deposited in the brain and when in excess will bind together to create a protein plaque. Donanemab targets this protein plaque, clearing the excess protein which causes a burden in the brain.
Two new drugs that got approval from US FDA:
- Two drugs that have received a lot of attention in recent weeks areaducanumab (marketed as Aduhelm) and
- The drug Lecanemab, marketed as Leqembi,is the second such monoclonal antibody to receive approval from the regulator. (First one is Aducanemab.)
- Both drugs showed a substantial reduction in amyloid in the brain.But whether this reduction in amyloid resulted in a meaningful benefit in memory and thinking is less clear.
- Lecanemabresulted in a 27 per cent slower decline in memory and thinking ability.
Like lecanemab, donanemab carries a high risk of side effects — particularly a set of conditions called amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA) that can lead to seizures and bleeding in the brain.
Researchers think that by attacking amyloid plaques, the antibodies inadvertently weaken blood vessels in the brain.