Category Archives: Technology

Two new Sub-atomic Particles discovered


Experiments at the world’s biggest particle smasher (the European Organization for Nuclear Research or CERN) have confirmed the existence of two new subatomic particles. The discoveries, known as Xi_b’- and Xi_b*-, are part of the baryon family of particles.

Baryons are composite particles comprising three quarks bound together by strong force. Protons and neutrons are types of baryons. Xi_b’- and Xi_b*- had been predicted in theories, but it took experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva to find them.


Scientists believed that the smallest part of matter was the atom; the indivisible, indestructible, fundamental unit of every things. But soon it was proved that atoms are composed of even smaller ‘Subatomic Particles’.

Subatomic particles are particles that are smaller than an atom. Protons, neutrons, electrons, neutrinos, and positrons are the five most important sub-atomic particles. The first three particles were known to be the building blocks of atoms. Neutrinos and positrons were discovered outside Earth’s atmosphere and of uncertain origin or significance.


There are two categories of subatomic particles, Elementary Particles and Composite Particles. Elementary particles are not made up of other particles, they are absolute and discreet units, such as electrons, whereas the composite particles are made up of two or more elementary particles, such as protons and atom nuclei.


There are twelve elementary subatomic particles divided into two categories, known as Leptons and Quarks. There are six different kinds, or “flavors”, of quarks. These include up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom quark, each of which possesses variable charge & variable masses.

There are also six different types of Leptons, which include Electrons, Muons, Taus, Electron Neutrinos, Muon Neutrinos, and Tau Neutrinos. Whereas electrons and Muons both have a negative charge of -1 (Muons having greater mass), Neutrinos have no charge and are extremely difficult to detect.


Composite particles are bound states of two or more elementary particles. For example, a proton is made of two Up quarks and one Down quark, while the atomic nucleus of helium (or alpha) is composed of two protons and two neutrons.


In addition, there are also the subatomic particles that fall under the heading of Gauge Bosons. These are classified as “force carriers”, i.e. particles that act as carriers for the fundamental forces of nature. These include photons that are associated with electromagnetism, gravitons that are associated with gravity, the bosons of weak nuclear forces, and the eight gluons of strong nuclear forces.

Scientists also predict the existence of several more, what they refer to as “hypothetical” particles, so the list is expected to grow. Today, there are literally hundreds of known subatomic particles, most of which were either the result of cosmic rays interacting with matter or particle accelerator experiments.


The LHC shot to global fame in 2012 when it unearthed the Higgs boson, the particle that is believed to confer mass. It was a major piece in the ‘Standard Model’ of physics, a theory that describes the basic particles of matter, how they interact and the forces between them. The facility is going through an upgrade to operate at higher energies from early 2015.

Rosetta – Philae : First ever Landing on Comet


Rosetta is a robotic space probe built and launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) which is performing a detailed study of comet 67P. Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004 on an Ariane 5 rocket and reached the comet on 6 August 2014, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet. On 12 November 2014, Rosetta mission soft-landed its Philae probe on the camet. It is part of the ESA Horizon 2000 cornerstone missions.


The spacecraft consists of two main elements: the Rosetta space probe orbiter and the Philae robotic lander. The Rosetta mission will orbit 67P for 17 months and is designed to complete the most detailed study of a comet ever attempted. The mission is controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Germany.


The probe is named after the Rosetta Stone, a stele of Egyptian origin featuring a decree in three scripts. The lander is named after the Philae obelisk bearing a bilingual Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription. A comparison of its hieroglyphs with those on the Rosetta Stone catalysed the deciphering of the Egyptian writing system. Similarly, it is hoped that these spacecraft will result in better understanding of comets and the early Solar System. In a more direct analogy to its namesake, the Rosetta spacecraft also carries a micro-etched nickel alloy Rosetta disc donated inscribed with 13,000 pages of text in 1200 languages.


On 12 November 2014, ESA’s Rosetta mission soft-landed its Philae probe on comet 67P, the first time in history that such an extraordinary feat has been achieved. During the next phase of the mission, Rosetta will accompany the comet through perihelion (August 2015) until the end of the mission. On its 10 year journey towards comet 67P, the spacecraft has passed by two asteroids: 2867 Steins (in 2008) and 21 Lutetia (in 2010).


Scientists confirmed that the European comet lander Philae had ‘sniffed’ organic molecules on 67P containing carbon elements by its Cometary Sampling and Composition (COSAC) gas analysing instrument. The lander also drilled into the comet’s surface in its hunt for organic molecules, although it is unclear as yet whether Philae managed to deliver a sample to COSAC for analysis.


The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space. ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities. Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

SC orders status quo on INS Vikrant

ins vikrant old

The Supreme Court ordered maintenance of status quo on India’s first aircraft carrier ‘INS Vikrant’ which is on the verge of being converted into scrap. The ship was due at the scrap yard on May 17 after it was sold for Rs.60 crore through an e-auction to the Mumbai-based IB Commercials Pvt Ltd.

A bench comprising justices K S Radhakrishnan and Vikramjit Sen issued notices to Ministry of Defence and other authorities concerned on the petition challenging the Bombay High Court decision rejecting the plea to preserve ‘INS Vikrant’ by converting it into a maritime museum.

Through the ‘Save Vikrant Committee’, Mr. Paigankar and other activists last month moved the apex court in a bid to save the vessel which saw action in the 1971 India-Pakistan war. The imposing vessel, commissioned in the Indian Navy in 1961, was decommissioned in 1997 and has been kept anchored at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai.

The 70-year-old vessel, purchased as HMS Hercules from Britain in 1957 and rechristened as ‘INS Vikrant’, helped enforce a naval blockade of East Pakistan — now Bangladesh — during the 1971 war.

Bacteria Killing Fabric


An antibacterial fabric with an ability to kill off two of the most infectious and lethal pathogens, E.coli and Staphylococcus aureus has been developed by researchers in Australia. Both the pathogens were shown to die off within 10 minutes of contact with this newly created fabric, which utilises the antibacterial properties of silver.

The study was conducted by the Australia based university RMIT in collaboration with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and a paper on the new material was recently published in the prestigious journal Advanced Functional Materials.

It has been known for the last hundred years that silver is anti-bacterial. Silver metal, when it comes into contact with body fluids, releases silver ions and these ions are actually toxic and have anti-microbial and antibacterial properties. Instead of using silver metals, they developed a new material called Silver-TCNQ nano-structure (Silver-tetra-cyano-quinodimethane) which releases these silver ions quite slowly so the antibacterial effect is long term. Ordinary fabric is dipped into a special solution to give it the desired antibacterial properties.

Potential applications of this fabric include band-aids and wound dressings, surgical gowns and bed sheets as means to reduce hospital-acquired infections.

Astra successfully test-fired

Astra BVR

India on May 4, 2014 successfully test-fired its first indigenously developed beyond visual range (BVR) Astra missile from a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet, joining a select group of countries such as the US, France, Russia and Israel that developed this capability. The term beyond-visual-range missile (BVR) usually refers to an air-to-air missile that is capable of engaging at ranges of 20 nmi (37 km) or beyond.

Astra has been designed and developed indigenously by the DRDO. The 60-km plus range missile possesses high Single Shot Kill Probability (SSKP) making it highly reliable. Astra’s project director, S. Venugopal said the missile was comparable with the best in the world. He said the Mk-II variant of Astra with a range of 100 km is planned to be tested by this year end.

In its maiden flight test, Astra was not fired against any target, which would be tested subsequently. It can arm all four of India’s current generation fighters – the Su-30MKI, MiG-29, Mirage 2000 and the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.

Astra is an all-weather missile with active radar terminal guidance, excellent ECM (electronic counter-measure) features, rocket/ramjet propulsion and improved effectiveness in a multi-target scenario making it a highly advanced, state-of the-art missile capable of destroying highly-agile supersonic fighters.

At 15 km from the target, the Astra’s on-board seeker picks up the target and homes in on it. Reaching near the target, a radio proximity fuse detonates the Astra warhead metres from the target, shooting it down. However the key component of the Astra missile – the seeker head – remain imported. A seeker is being developed, but will take a decade to be usable.

The project was first sanctioned in March 2004 at an initial cost of Rs 955 crore. After decade long of development saga, DRDO is now confident it will be able to meet the revised project completion date of December 2016.

GSLV Mark III ready for mission


India took the first step on Friday, 28th March 2014 towards the experimental mission of its gigantic GSLV-Mk III (Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III) when the rocket’s core stage, weighing more than 110 tonnes, was flagged off from the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu, to Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

The GSLV-Mk III in this flight will carry a crew capsule without astronauts. The rocket will reach an altitude of less than 100 km. The capsule will return to earth with the help of parachutes. Its upper cryogenic stage will not fire. Instead of cryogenic propellants, the cryogenic stage would carry liquid nitrogen, which would be inert. The mission will take place in June or first week of July.

GSLV-Mk III is powered by an indigenous cryogenic engine. It can put a communication satellite weighing four tonnes into geo-synchronous transfer orbit or a 10-tonne satellite into low-earth orbit.  It will also serve as vehicle to carry astronauts to space after initial experiments.

Lasers to distroy Space Junk


An Australian team is working on a project to zap orbital debris with lasers from Earth to reduce the growing amount of space junk that threatens to knock out satellites with a “cascade of collisions”.

Scientists believe there are more than 300,000 pieces of debris in space, made up of everything from tiny screws and bolts to large parts of rockets, mostly moving in low orbits around Earth at tremendous speed. Australia now has a contract with Nasa, the US space agency, to track and map space junk with a telescope equipped with an infra-red laser at Mount Stromlo Observatory.

$20 million from the Australian government and $40 million in private investment will help the team set up as the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to develop better lasers to track tiny pieces of debris, importing techniques from astronomy used to remove the blurring of the atmosphere.

The ultimate aim is to increase the power of the lasers to illuminate and zap pieces of junk so they burn up harmlessly as they fall through the upper atmosphere.

[Credit – TOI]

NASA Tests Robotic Refueling Technologies

manned space mission

NASA has successfully concluded a remotely controlled test of new technologies to empower future space robots to repair and refuel future satellites in space. The Remote Robotic Oxidiser Transfer Test (RROxiTT) has been created by the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.

According to NASA experts, the robotic refuelling technologies would be of great use for space technology. This technology will equip robots and humans with the tools and capabilities needed for spacecraft maintenance and repair.

By developing robotic capabilities to repair and refuel geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites, NASA hopes to add precious years of functional life to satellites and expand options for operators who face unexpected emergencies, tougher economic demands and ageing fleets. NASA also hopes that these new technologies will help boost the commercial satellite-servicing industry that is rapidly gaining momentum.

Besides aiding the GEO satellite community, a capability to fix and relocate “ailing” satellites also could help mitigate the growing orbital debris problem that threatens continued space operations, ultimately making space greener and more sustainable.

[Credit – NASA]

NASA’s Europa Mission in 2025


NASA is planning to send a robotic mission by 2025 to Jupiter’s watery moon Europa, one of the most likely place for alien life beyond Earth in our solar system. Europa is one of the solar system’s most mysterious moons. There may be a vast ocean beneath Europa’s icy crust, with more water in it than exists on all of Earth.

A little bit of that water may be erupting from geysers near the Europa’s south pole, sending plumes 200 kilometers into the air, a recent study has found. Scientists can send a spacecraft flying through these jets in order to sample their composition.

The American space agency has set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning a mission to Europa. NASA will look at many competing ideas for a Europa mission, so the agency does not yet know how big or how much it will cost.

INS Sumedha for Indian Navy


INS ‘Sumedha’, an Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) indigenously designed and built by Goa Shipyard Ltd. (GSL), for the Indian Navy, will be formally commissioned by Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Flag Officer, Commander-In-Chief, East on Friday 7 March 2014 at GSL in South Goa.

This warship is the culmination of many years of in-house design development and ship build techniques. The commissioning of this ship marks a significant milestone in GSL’s and country’s march towards indigenization and self reliance.

Sumedha is 200th ship indigenously built by GSL. GSL is the only yard which has delivered four classes of OPVs to both Navy and Coast Guard. INS ‘Sumedha’ is the third of the new 105 meter class of NOPV and the largest ship constructed by GSL for the Indian Navy. This state-of-the- art ship will help meet the increasing requirement of the Indian Navy for undertaking ocean surveillance and surface warfare operations in order to prevent infiltration and transgression of maritime sovereignty, said the spokesperson.

[Credit – The Hindu]

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