News: Scientists in the United Kingdom said they have achieved a new milestone in producing nuclear fusion energy, or imitating the way energy is produced in the sun.
Energy by nuclear fusion is one of mankind’s long-standing quests as it promises to be low carbon, safer than how nuclear energy is now produced and, with an efficiency that can technically exceed a 100%.
A team at the Joint European Torus (JET) facility near Oxford in central England generated 59 megajoules of sustained energy during an experiment in December, more than doubling a 1997 record
A kilogram of fusion fuel contains about 10 million times as much energy as a kilogram of coal, oil or gas.
The energy was produced in a machine called a tokamak, a doughnut-shaped apparatus. The JET site is the largest operational one of its kind in the world.
Deuterium and tritium, which are isotopes of hydrogen, are heated to temperatures 10 times hotter than the centre of the sun to create plasma. This is held in place using superconductor electromagnets as it spins around, fuses and releases tremendous energy as heat.
The record and scientific data from these crucial experiments are a major boost for the ITER, the larger and more advanced version of the JET.
The ITER is a fusion research mega-project supported by seven members — China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the U.S. — and based in the south of France.
About Nuclear Fusion:
Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons).
The difference in mass between the reactants and products is manifested as either the release or the absorption of energy.
This difference in mass arises due to the difference in atomic binding energy between the nuclei before and after the reaction.
Fusion is the process that powers active or main sequence stars and other high-magnitude stars, where large amounts of energy are released.
A nuclear fusion process that produces nuclei lighter than iron-56 or nickel-62 will generally release energy. These elements have a relatively small mass per nucleon and large binding energy per nucleon.
Fusion of nuclei lighter than these releases energy (an exothermic process), while the fusion of heavier nuclei results in energy retained by the product nucleons, and the resulting reaction is endothermic.
Nuclear fusion uses lighter elements, such as hydrogen and helium, which are in general more fusible; while the heavier elements, such as uranium, thorium and plutonium, are more fissionable.
2. SUN SYNCHRONOUS ORBIT
News: ISRO plans to place the 1,170 kg EOS-04 in a sun synchronous polar orbit of 529 km. EOS-04 is a radar-imaging satellite, designed to provide high-quality images under all weather conditions for applications such as agriculture, forestry & plantations, soil moisture and hydrology, and flood mapping.
About Sun Synchronous Orbit:
A Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), also called a heliosynchronous orbit, is a nearly polar orbit around a planet, in which the satellite passes over any given point of the planet’s surface at the same local mean solar time.
More technically, it is an orbit arranged so that it precesses through one complete revolution each year, so it always maintains the same relationship with the Sun.
A Sun-synchronous orbit is useful for imaging, reconnaissance satellite, and weather satellites, because every time that the satellite is overhead, the surface illumination angle on the planet underneath it will be the same.
A Sun-synchronous orbit is useful for imaging, reconnaissance satellite, and weather satellites, because every time that the satellite is overhead, the surface illumination angle on the planet underneath it will be nearly the same.
This consistent lighting is a useful characteristic for satellites that image the Earth’s surface in visible or infrared wavelengths, such as weather and spy satellites; and for other remote-sensing satellites, such as those carrying ocean and atmospheric remote-sensing instruments that require sunlight.
3. QUESTION HOUR
News: Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that this was the first time in 70 years that no Cabinet Minister had replied to questions posed by members during the Question Hour.
About Question Hour:
Question Hour is the liveliest hour in Parliament.
It is during this one hour that Members of Parliament ask questions of ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
The questions that MPs ask are designed to elicit information and trigger suitable action by ministries.
Over the last 70 years, MPs have successfully used this parliamentary device to shine a light on government functioning.
Their questions have exposed financial irregularities and brought data and information regarding government functioning to the public domain.
With the broadcasting of Question Hour since 1991, Question Hour has become one the most visible aspects of parliamentary functioning.
Asking questions of the government has a long history in our legislative bodies. Prior to Independence, the first question asked of government was in 1893.
It was on the burden cast on village shopkeepers who had to provide supplies to touring government officers.
Parliamentary rules provide guidelines on the kind of questions that can be asked by MPs. Questions have to be limited to 150 words. They have to be precise and not too general.
The question should also be related to an area of responsibility of the Government of India.
Questions should not seek information about matters that are secret or are under adjudication before courts.
It is the presiding officers of the two Houses who finally decide whether a question raised by an MP will be admitted for answering by the government.
The process of asking and answering questions starts with identifying the days on which Question Hour will be held. At the beginning of Parliament in 1952, Lok Sabha rules provided for Question Hour to be held every day. Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, had a provision for Question Hour for two days a week. A few months later, this was changed to four days a week. Then from 1964, Question Hour was taking place in Rajya Sabha on every day of the session.
Now, Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session. But there are two days when an exception is made. There is no Question Hour on the day the President addresses MPs from both Houses in the Central Hall. The President’s speech takes place at the beginning of a new Lok Sabha and on the first day of a new Parliament year. Question Hour is not scheduled either on the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget. Since the beginning of the current Lok Sabha, approximately 15,000 questions have been asked in the Lower House.
To streamline the answering of questions raised by MPs, the ministries are put into five groups. Each group answers questions on the day allocated to it
This grouping of ministries is different for the two Houses so that ministers can be present in one house to answer questions.
MPs can specify whether they want an oral or written response to their questions. They can put an asterisk against their question signifying that they want the minister to answer that question on the floor. These are referred to as starred questions.
After the minister’s response, the MP who asked the question and other MPs can also ask a follow-up question. This is the visible part of Question Hour, where you see MPs trying to corner ministers on the functioning of their ministries on live television. Seasoned parliamentarians choose to ask an oral question when the answer to the question will put the government in an uncomfortable position.
Ministries receive the questions 15 days in advance so that they can prepare their ministers for Question Hour. They also have to prepare for sharp follow-up questions they can expect to be asked in the House. Governments officers are close at hand in a gallery so that they can pass notes or relevant documents to support the minister in answering a question.
When MPs are trying to gather data and information about government functioning, they prefer the responses to such queries in writing. These questions are referred to as unstarred questions. The responses to these questions are placed on the table of Parliament.
Rules on the number of questions that can be asked in a day have changed over the years. In Lok Sabha, until the late 1960s, there was no limit on the number of unstarred questions that could be asked in a day. Now, Parliament rules limit the number of starred and unstarred questions an MP can ask in a day. The total number of questions asked by MPs in the starred and unstarred categories are then put in a random ballot. From the ballot in Lok Sabha, 20 starred questions are picked for answering during Question Hour and 230 are picked for written answers. Last year, a record was set when on a single day, after a gap of 47 years, all 20 starred questions were answered in Lok Sabha.
Parliamentary records show that during the Chinese aggression in 1962, the Winter Session was advanced. The sitting of the House started at 12 pm and there was no Question Hour held. Before the session, changes were made limiting the number of questions. Thereafter, following an agreement between the ruling and the Opposition parties, it was decided to suspend Question Hour.
News: India is in discussion with the 10-nation bloc ASEAN for initiating the review of the FTA (free-trade agreement) in goods between the two regions to seek more market access for domestic products, Parliament was informed.
ASEAN officially the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a political and economic union of 10 member states in Southeast Asia, which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration between its members and other countries in Asia.
ASEAN’s primary objective was to accelerate economic growth and through that social progress and cultural development.
A secondary objective was to promote regional peace and stability based on the rule of law and the principle of United Nations charter.
With some of the fastest growing economies in the world, ASEAN has broadened its objective beyond the economic and social spheres.
In 2003, ASEAN moved along the path of the European Union by agreeing to establish an ASEAN community comprising three pillars: the ASEAN security community, the ASEAN economic community, and the ASEAN socio-cultural community.
The ten stalks of rice in the ASEAN flag and insignia represent the ten southeast Asian countries bound together in solidarity.
ASEAN was preceded by an organisation formed on 31 July 1961 called the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA), a group consisting of Thailand, the Philippines, and the Federation of Malaya.
ASEAN itself was created on 8 August 1967, when the foreign ministers of five countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, signed the ASEAN Declaration.