science & emerging tech

  • ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE will be a hot trend in 2017,



Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines. In computer science, an ideal “intelligent” machine is a flexible rational agent that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goaL



Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an important development and consumers globally will see it playing a much more prominent role — both in society and at work — next year, a new report said on Tuesday.

Ericsson Consumer Lab, in its annual trend report titled “The 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2017 and beyond”, said that 35 per cent of advanced internet users want an AI advisor at work and one in four would like AI as their manager.

At the same time, almost half of the respondents were concerned that AI robots will soon make a lot of people lose their jobs.

With an increase in IOT adoption, two in five believed smart phones will learn their habits and perform activities on their behalf automatically. Also, one in four pedestrians would feel safer crossing a street if all cars were autonomous and 65 per cent of them would prefer to have an autonomous car.

“As autonomous cars become reality, car sickness issues will increase. Three in ten foresee needing sickness pills. One in three also wants motion sickness pills for use with virtual and augmented reality technology,” the report added.

While mentioning about the Virtual Reality (VR), the report pointed out that almost four out of five VR users believe it will be indistinguishable from reality in only three years.

“Beyond real time, I believe we should be talking about reality time. In fact, what we call reality becomes ever more personal and subjective,” said Michael Bjorn, Head of Research at Ericsson Consumer Lab.

“Consumers not only surround themselves with the like—minded on social networks but also are also starting to customise the way they experience the world with augmented and virtual reality technologies,” Bjorn added.

Over 50 per cent are already use emergency alarms, tracking or notifications on their smart phones. Of those who say their smart phone makes them feel safer, three in five say they take more risks because they rely on their phone.


In 1999, Kevin Ashton coined the term the “Internet of Things” (IoT) in the title of a presentation he gave while working at Proctor & Gamble. At that time, he was discussing how embedded RFID chips could help with P&G’s logistics and supply chain. Since then, the IoT has become pervasive. In fact, Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technology, which looks at more than 2,000 technologies, services, and trends, puts the IoT at the very top of the summit—at the “peak of inflated expectations




  • Crash landing feared as Europe’s Mars lander still silent

Thrusters intended to slow a European lander as it neared Mars on Wednesday fired for less time than expected before contact with the vehicle was lost, leaving scientists uncertain whether it touched down safely or broke apart.

The Schiaparelli probe, part of a broader mission to search for evidence of life on the Red Planet, was to test technologies during the descent and on the surface for a rover scientists hope to send to Mars in 2020.

Its descent marked only the second European attempt to land a craft on Mars, but it has shown no signs of life since it stopped transmitting around 50 seconds before Wednesday’s planned touchdown.

“We’ve had two over flights (by Mars orbiters) and there was no signal,” the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Spacecraft Operations Manager Andrea Accomazzo told journalists on Thursday.

The disc-shaped 577-kg (1,272 lb) Schiaparelli is part of the Russian-European ExoMars programme that is seeking signs of life.

The primary part of the mission this year, bringing the Schiaparelli lander’s mothership into orbit around Mars, was meanwhile a success.

That craft, called Trace Gas Orbiter, will use an atmospheric probe to sniff out methane and other gases around Mars linked to organic life. It will also act as a data relay station for the rover, which is due to follow in 2020.

Landing on Mars, Earth’s neighbour and at its closest some 35 million miles (56 million km) away, is a notoriously difficult task that has thwarted most Russian efforts and given NASA trouble as well.

The U.S. space agency had a setback of its own on Wednesday. Its Juno spacecraft lost its main computer and science instruments shortly before it was due to make an orbital pass near Jupiter, scuttling highly anticipated close-up observations of the largest planet in the solar system.


Schiaparelli is supposed to test new technologies for a rover that will be the first with the ability to both move across the surface of Mars and drill into the ground to collect and analyse samples.

Scientists said they had received data from the lender covering its entry into the Martian atmosphere and the deployment of its heat shield and parachute, which were designed to slow it from a speed of 21,000 km per hour.

But its thrusters appeared to have fired for only a few seconds, much shorter than expected, and scientists are not sure how far off the ground Schiaparelli was when they shut off.

“We need to understand what happened in the last few seconds before the planned landing,” said David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration.

Scientists will analyse all the data received so far, and also still hope to re-establish contact with the lander before its batteries run out in a few days.

Britain’s Beagle 2 never made contact after being sent down by the Mars Express spacecraft in 2003 and failing to deploy its solar panels on landing.

Mars’s hostile environment has not detracted from its allure, with U.S. President Barack Obama recently highlighting his pledge to send people to the surface by the 2030s.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX is developing a massive rocket and capsule to transport large numbers of people and cargo to Mars with the ultimate goal of colonising the planet.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, who is set to become the first German commander of the International Space Station in 2018, said the ExoMars mission would provide important clues on what conditions the first humans travelling to Mars would face.

·         Centre to wipe out rust with galvanised steel

The Centre is considering a proposal to mandate galvanisation of steel in sectors such as automobile, construction and infrastructure in a bid to build corrosion-resistant vehicles and buildings.

Inter-ministerial discussions on the issue are underway and a Cabinet note would be moved to stipulate the usage of zinc-coated steel which would last much longer than regular steel, especially in corrosion-prone areas along India’s long coastline, Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said on the sidelines of an international galvanising conference in the capital.

“India is the third largest producer of zinc but our consumption should also be higher and this will boost consumption of zinc as well as steel and curb losses of thousands of crore to the economy due to corrosion,” the minister said, adding that galvanised steel could also be deployed in the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for affordable housing.

“We have had talks on this issue with a few ministries, including the Railways and Petroleum ministries and will talk to other concerned departments such as road transport and defence soon. It will need a policy decision that we will take to the Cabinet,” Mr. Singh said in response to a query from The Hindu on whether the government could mandate galvanisation for certain steel products.

Zinc coating

Tata Steel chief technology officer Vinay Mahashabde said that zinc can arrest corrosion and cars in the rest of the world are galvanised to last 15 to 20 years, but in India, rust appears on car surfaces within three to four years.

Earlier, the minister compared a zinc coating’s effect on prolonging steel’s life to the capacity of an ant to kill an elephant and said that all efforts are being made to minimise corrosion losses as part of the large scale infrastructure expansion under way in sectors such as roads, airports, power, ports and railways.

“Steel usage would also be substantial in the smart cities program launched by the Prime Minister so there is an imperative need to adopt corrosion control methods in order to provide uninterrupted services to infrastructure users and prolong the life of such national assets,” Mr. Singh said. Developed nations use galvanised steel for infrastructure projects, but in India, it’s not yet mandatory, he pointed out.

“India loses around 4 per cent to 5 per cent of gross domestic product annually on account of corrosion losses, according to our internal analytics”, said Sunil Duggal, CEO of Hindustan Zinc Limited.

·         Myths about Israel’s security model

Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s veiled comparison of India’s strike against militants along the Line of Control with Israel’s military operations in its neighbourhood exposes the admiration India’s ruling elite have for the West Asian country’s aggressive foreign and security policy. Speaking at a public event in Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, Mr. Modi said, “Our Army’s valour is being discussed across the country these days. We used to hear earlier that Israel has done this. The nation has seen that the Indian Army is no less than anybody.” His comments raise once again the question whether the Israeli security model is desirable for India.

Feeble deterrence


In long run it becomes counterproductive—  In fact, such an aggressive, militarist policy is not a successful model even for Israel if we look at the broader picture. Decades of war have pushed Israel to a security dilemma — whatever its leadership does to minimise the security threats it faces actually deepens the crisis further. Take a quick look at Israel’s military operations against groups it calls terrorist. In 1982, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sent troops to Lebanon to defeat the Palestine Liberation Organisation which was targeting Israel from southern Lebanon. Begin then famously said Israel would win “forty years of peace” after the war. But the outcome was more complicated than the status quo. The PLO retreated from southern Lebanon, first to Tripoli and then to Tunis. But the Israeli intervention stirred up the Lebanese civil war, kicking off another protracted bloody phase of fighting between different sects. Instead of winning peace for 40 years, Israel continued the Lebanese occupation for 18 years. By that time, the PLO had moved to the West Bank, but Hezbollah, a Shia militia which was formed during the civil war, had established itself as a sizeable military force in southern Lebanon and as an influential socio-political movement among the country’s disadvantaged Shia community.

In 2006, six years after it pulled troops out of Lebanon, Israel had to return to the neighbouring country to stop Hezbollah’s cross-border attacks. Israel bombed the country for 34 days and also conducted a major ground offensive. But throughout the war, Hezbollah continued the rocket attacks into Israel (almost 4,000 rockets in a month). Israel claims the operation was a success as it destroyed much of Hezbollah’s military infrastructure. But in reality the war left Hezbollah more powerful in Lebanon’s fractious politics, while it amassed weapons and rebuilt its military might over the next several years. So the security threat Israel faces from southern Lebanon still very much remains.

Backfiring bombings

The story of Israel’s wars on Hamas is not substantially different. To be sure, Hamas is a violent group that has targeted both the Israeli military and civilian centres. But Israel has been unable to claim a moral anti-terror position against Hamas because of the continuing occupation and, to be more specific, its policy of collectively punishing the Palestinian people. Israel withdrew forces and settlers unilaterally from Gaza in 2005, but it never stopped punishing the people of Gaza, and Hamas never stopped firing rockets into Israel. Ever since the withdrawal, Israel tried everything its mighty military could do to weaken the Hamas in Gaza. In 2007, it imposed a brutal land, air and sea blockade on Gaza, and between 2005 and 2014, it bombed Gaza thrice. Both the blockade and the wars have triggered widespread international criticisms and even allegations of war crimes. The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the 2008-09 Gaza war, led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone, accused both Israel and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Another UN report, on the 2014 Gaza war, also reached similar conclusions. During the war, Israeli bombings killed 2,165 Palestinians, including 1,644 civilians, while militant attacks killed 66 Israeli soldiers and four civilians. But what has Israel achieved from this bloodshed? Hamas continues to rule Gaza and still possesses the capability to fire rockets into Israel. Even after all these military operations, if Israel is not feeling secure or doesn’t possess credible deterrence against militant groups, realists would suggest it should well rethink its strategy.

Low risk potential

Another argument why the Israeli model is not desirable for other countries is that Tel Aviv’s cross-border attacks were against relatively weaker powers. Israel is the only nuclear armed state in West Asia. By conducting cross-border strikes in Lebanon, Palestinian territories, or even in Syria, Israel doesn’t face an immediate escalation of a conventional war. Hezbollah and Hamas have the potential to file rockets into Israel, target its citizens and mount pressure on the country’s political leadership. They could also make any Israeli ground operation costly. But they are largely guerrilla forces who use asymmetric tactics rather than posing any existential threats. So the risk Israel takes with its cross-border attacks is the human cost of such operations and hostile international public opinion. Israel’s history shows that it is not very bothered about either of these things.

India, on the other side, has two nuclear armed powers in its neighbourhood. The source of overseas terrorist threat it faces is Pakistan, a nuclear power with considerable conventional military prowess. It doesn’t mean that India shouldn’t act, but it should play within a limited hostility doctrine. It can’t risk a nuclear war. Moreover, India is a country that cares about its international image and international laws. It can’t go about violating global norms and then hope to play a responsible role in international politics.


  • Generics vs big pharma, reloaded

In a scathing letter to the Government of India, the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) took issue with what it considered to be a backdoor extension for data exclusivity norms in the country. It pointed to the recent government proposal to change the four-year time limit for State-level drug regulatory approvals to 10 years, arguing that this effectively results in a long and damaging data exclusivity.

Data exclusivity is a kind of intellectual property protection wherein clinical trial and other data submitted by an originator drug company cannot be used or relied upon by a drug regulatory authority to approve a generic version of that drug for a certain period of time. The notion is that without such protection, the originator company lacks the necessary commercial incentive to conduct expensive trials and take a potential drug to the market. Blocking generic entry for some years will, the theory goes, help drug companies invest in clinical trials.

Skewing the pharma market?

India has long resisted U.S. and EU pressure to institute data exclusivity norms, seeing it as a barrier to generic entry and more affordable drug prices. However, a rather curious provision in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA) could arguably constitute a de facto kind of data exclusivity.

Under the Act as it stands now, a new drug continues to remain “new” even after it has been approved once by the Central regulator (Drugs Controller General of India, or DGCI) upon submission of local clinical trial data establishing safety and efficacy in India. However, it loses “newness” after four years, which means a drug manufacturer can short-circuit the process and go directly to a State regulatory authority and procure drug approval. It is this four-year period that is now sought to be enhanced to 10 years, an extension that the IPA argues constitutes an enhancement of data exclusivity norms in favour of large pharma companies, particularly MNCs. Others insist that there is no such data exclusivity norm in India.

Who is right? And who is wrong? This depends in large part on the kind of data that generic companies have to submit in order to gain approval for their follow-on drugs. If they are forced to submit the same kind of clinical trial data that originators have submitted to the regulatory authority, then this does amount to data exclusivity. For almost all generics will simply wait for the term (four years) to expire rather than undertake the expensive process of generating clinical trial data afresh, not to mention the sheer immorality of repeating animal studies and subjecting human volunteers to safety and efficacy tests in relation to the same drug molecule.

It is for this reason that world over, generic drugs are approved upon a simple showing of bio-equivalence: that the claimed molecule is the same as the one already approved. And therefore, there is no sense in having the generic applicant repeat all clinical trials afresh. However, bio-equivalence cannot be had for the asking but must be demonstrated through rigorous studies/data.

Unfortunately, our Act is not very clear on the kind of studies/data that a generic applicant is meant to submit, not least because it is one of the worst drafted pieces of legislation, leaving the bulk of substantive norms in the “rules” and various forms and schedules running to a good 500 pages!

Little wonder then that a number of state regulators do not insist on bio-equivalence studies or any other studies for that matter prior to approving a drug for manufacture in that State. Therefore, any substance held out as a drug (even a complex cancer drug) is likely to make the cut… be it a piece of chalk, cheese or china!

And this precisely is why in our rather complicated federal structure of drug regulation, comprising both a Central authority, namely the DCGI, and a vast array of State-level regulators, drug manufacturers opt to simply wait for four years and then approach State authorities rather than risking a more rigorous Central clearance.

However, this does not mean that all is well on the Central regulatory front. A damning parliamentary committee report some years ago found that in the vast majority of cases, the DCGI doesn’t even insist on separate local clinical trial data for new drugs. Rather they routinely dispense with the requirement of local clinical trials under a broad “public interest” exception.

Lax regulatory standards

In the end, one needs to ask: why have this four-year or 10-year time lag at all for generic drug approval? Shouldn’t generic drugs be approved on Day One, so long as they are able to demonstrate (through bio-equivalence studies and the like) that they are as robust as the new drug that has already been approved once? Why maintain this legal fiction that a drug will remain “new” even after it has been validly approved once (for up to four years or 10 years as the case may be)?

Unfortunately, our drug regulatory regime is callous at best, and murderous at worst, plagued with glaring gaps that are routinely exploited by drug majors — a fact amply demonstrated by a well-researched public interest petition (PIL) by whistle-blower Dinesh Thakur. Unfortunately, the apex court declined to admit his PIL and we lost out on an opportunity to compel a healthier drug regulatory regime.

Pollution is easy to understand. Drug regulatory standards not so. This may perhaps explain why courts routinely entertain PILs on the former, but shy away from the latter. Even when lax regulation on the latter count is far more dangerous than pollution. For, with each passing day, we’re suffering a regime that kills, albeit all too softly, through a laxity in the law. A laxity that the layman may not immediately grasp. But one which a responsible government (and even judges) should make it their business to study and understand, before it is too late.

  • Scientists identify gene mutation that ups risk of breast cancer in MEN

Researchers of the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) and the University of Calcutta, Department of Anthropology, have found that changes in a particular gene, called the BRCA2 gene, can increase the risk of breast cancer in men.

A two-year study, which ended earlier this year, identified certain ‘novel mutations’ in the BRCA2 gene (BRCA refers to breast cancer), which makes men more susceptible to the disease.

While there are a lot of studies on the BRCA1, BRCA2 and other inherited gene mutations resulting in female breast cancer, this is the first study on male breast cancer from this part of the country. Scientists collected samples of blood and tissue from several patients diagnosed with male breast cancer.

This was followed by DNA sequencing by which gene expression and novel mutations that could be responsible for the disease were identified.

“If these mutations, which we came across the during our study, are found among normal healthy males, the person is at risk of having the disease any time during his life,” Abhishikta Ghosh Roy, research scholar with AnSI told The Hindu. The mutations have been reported to the world gene bank database.

Smaller lumps

Since breast cancer primaries (lumps) in men tend to be smaller than in women, diagnostic delays are caused. Moreover, since the BRCA2 mutation carriers are found in lymph nodes, men do not feel the pain that would urge them to seek medical intervention, she added.

Along with Ms. Ghosh Roy, anthropologist B.N. Sarkar of AnSI and Professor A.R. Bandyopadhyay have been associated with the research, which has come out with significant revelations. Not only genetic factors, the study found, but lifestyle and reproductive factors trigger risks for the disease in men. This includes hormonal therapy and alcohol consumption.

While the study was conducted primarily among Bengali Hindu men, researchers are now keen to study other populations across the country.

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women. As per figures released by the National Cancer Registry Data till 2013, breast cancer amounts to 25.4 per cent of all the cancers across the country.

Compared to this, male breast cancer is relatively rare, accounting for less than one per cent of all breast cancers and one per cent of all cancers reported among men.

  • Three astronauts return from ISS

Three astronauts landed safely in Kazakhstan on Sunday following a 115-day mission aboard the International Space Station, including U.S. astronaut Kate Rubins, the first person to sequence DNA in space.

Russian mission control confirmed the touchdown of NASA’s Ms. Rubins, Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The trio landed southeast of the Kazakh steppe town of Zhezkazgan in clear but frosty conditions after a flight from the orbital lab.

“Landing has taken place!” Russian mission control stated, with commentators on NASA TV noting that the Soyuz craft had landed in an upright position. Ms. Rubins and Mr. Onishi were both returning from their first missions in space, while flight commander Ivanishin undertook a five-month mission at the ISS five years ago.

“Everybody is feeling wonderful,” said Mr. Ivanishin, who emerged first from the craft.

Their journey back to Earth marks the first complete mission to and from the orbital lab for a new generation of Soyuz spacecraft with upgraded features.

Ms. Rubins’ participation in the mission generated particular excitement after NASA announced plans for the career scientist to sequence DNA aboard the ISS in a world first. NASA said the biomolecule sequencer investigation could help to identify potentially dangerous microbes aboard the ISS and diagnose illnesses in space.

  • ‘300 million children breathe toxic air’


Points to kknow — Unicef, delhi, WHO, PM 2.5,  Anthony Lake

Two-hundred and twenty million children in South Asia region including India, among nearly 300 million globally, currently live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international guidelines by at least six times, according to a new report released by UNICEF on Monday.

The study — Clear the Air for Children — based on satellite imagery, in the first analysis of its kind, has categorised the affected areas based on the quantum of particulate matter, ranging from 10 to 60 µg/m3 (the amount of micrograms of ultra-=fine particulate matter per cubic metre of air that constitutes a long term hazard).

Around 300 million children currently live in areas where the air is toxic — exceeding international limits by at least six times. In total, around 2 billion children live in areas that exceed the World Health Organisation annual limit of 10 µg/m3,” the report says.

                                      Of the 300 million global figure for PM 2.5 annual mean exceeding 60 µg/m3, 220 million children belong to South Asia region, which includes India and neighbouring countries.

For the 2 billion figure which corresponds to the ultra-fine particulate matter exceeding 10 µg/m3, 620 million children are affected by it in South Asia, the report said.

450 million children breathing toxic air in East Asia and the Pacific region, 200 million in Eastern and Southern Africa and 240 million in West and Central Africa for the 10 µg/m3 category, it added.

“The sheer numbers of children affected are staggering… Many of these children are already disadvantaged by poverty and deprivation. Some are already at heightened risk from conflicts, crises and the intensifying effects of climate change,” UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake says in the report.

The findings come a week ahead of the COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, where UNICEF is calling on world leaders to take urgent action to cut air pollution in their countries.

“The impact is commensurately shocking. Every year, nearly 600,000 children under the age of five die from diseases caused or exacerbated by the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution.

“Millions more suffer from respiratory diseases that diminish their resilience and affect their physical and cognitive development,” Lake says.

Globally, air pollution affects children in low-income and middle-income countries more.

According to a recent WHO report, Delhi was ranked among the top 20 cities worst-affected by pollution globally.

“The effects of indoor air pollution kill more children globally than outdoor air pollution, especially in Africa and Asia. Eighteen of the nineteen countries where 95 per cent or more of the population use solid fuels for cooking are in sub-Saharan Africa.

“More than 60 per cent of the population in India continue to use solid fuels in household cooking — contributing to over 100,000 child deaths associated with indoor air pollution in 2012,” the reports says.


  • The perils of plastic

The data breach at 19 Indian banks that has led to more than 32 lakh debit cards being blocked or recalled is a wake-up call for the banking industry. While the actual number of complaints received so far, 641, and the sum of money that appears to have been fraudulently withdrawn, Rs.1.3 crore, are both small relative to the scale of the potential data theft, it is disconcerting that it has taken almost six months for the system to officially acknowledge the incidents and initiate steps to address them. It is all the more galling since the Reserve Bank of India and its top officials have been urging bankers for quite some time to accord urgent priority to cyber security. A private bank appears to have been a point of entry for the data criminals who, according to reports, may have infiltrated using malware at ATMs operated by a third-party payment services vendor. The National Payments Corporation of India has been coordinating investigations into the incident, and a forensic audit is expected to reveal preliminary findings soon. For the government and the banking regulator, much is at stake as the two have sought to move in concert to harness the digital revolution to advance socio-economic policy objectives. These include increasing financial inclusion, better targeting of subsidies through the direct benefit payments model, improving economic efficiency by lowering transaction costs, and moving toward a cashless economy so as to reduce the circulation of black money and curb tax evasion.

In this context, former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan’s comment at a recent banking technology conference is instructive: “Payment systems are the plumbing of the financial system; so long as there is no leakage or clogging, we are unaware of their functioning. But when they do back up, the situation becomes catastrophic quickly.” With banks in India having embraced technological change, the onus is on them to integrate inter-generational legacy systems across branches, ATMs and online banking networks into one seamless and secure whole. The Carbanak cyber gang’s coordinated and widespread attack, which is estimated to have cost about 100 financial institutions worldwide $1 billion, revealed that today’s criminals are using more and more sophisticated tools to access computer systems at banks. As these may gestate for several months before manifesting themselves, banks can ill-afford to be complacent and approach incidents such as the latest debit card data breach with band-aid solutions. Top managements at lenders should reappraise their cyber culture, heed warnings and alerts promptly, and address shortcomings.

  • TIFR discovery challenges theory of superconductivity

Researchers at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, have made a landmark discovery that challenges the conventional understanding of superconductivity.

A team, lead by Dr. S. Ramakrishnan of the Department of Condensed Matter Physics and Material Sciences at TIFR, has discovered bismuth semi-metal in bulk form becoming a superconductor when the temperature is lowered to 530 microKelvin (about -273 degree C), which is three orders of magnitude higher than the theoretical prediction. The results were published in the journal Science.

“The Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory [which explains superconductivity in most low Tc superconductors] cannot explain the superconductivity seen in bismuth,” said Dr. Ramakrishnan, the corresponding author of the paper. “The discovery demands a new theory and a new mechanism to understand superconductivity in bismuth. This discovery provides an alternative path for discovering new superconducting materials which are very different from the conventional superconductors.”

Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with no resistance whatsoever. To become superconductors, the element should have mobile electrons, and these electrons should come together to form pairs, known as Cooper pairs. Unlike other elements in the periodic table, bismuth has unusual phenomenon — while metallic superconductors have one mobile electron per atom, bismuth has only one mobile electron per 100,000 atoms. Since carrier density is so small, people did not believe that bismuth will super conduct.

Also, bismuth’s electronic energy (Fermi energy) is comparable to the lattice (phonon) energy. “So the conventional BCS theory and its extensions which assume that Fermi energy is two to three orders of magnitude higher than phonon energy is not valid in bismuth. We know that if we prove superconductivity in bismuth, it will be from a different mechanism,” Dr. Ramakrishnan said.

“Superconductivity in bismuth is puzzling. Even at 10 milliKelvin, people did not find superconductivity in bismuth. So they gave up nearly 20 years back,” said Om Prakash Shukla from TIFR and the first author of the paper.


NEED TO Develop cheaper satellite launch vehicles’




What is Antrix Corporation?

It is commercial arm to sell space launches and technologies.



India will have to re-engineer its launch vehicle systems to remain cost-effective in the face of emerging competition from space agencies in other countries, according to S. Rakesh, chairman and managing director, Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation.


affordable launch vehicles under development in countries such as the U.S., New Zealand, Russia, and China could pose a challenge to ISRO’s PSLV and other rockets in the near future.

‘Low-cost options’

“Today, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is much sought-after in the commercial satellite launch market and we would like to keep it that way. But low-cost options being developed in other countries could soon pose a threat. This would require design and engineering changes.”

Mr. Rakesh said the ISRO was already working on driving down the cost of satellite launches.

“Tests are under way to come up with cheaper, reliable options.”