Science This Week | CSIR announces Bhatnagar prize winners, NASA names chief of UFO research and more

Find the latest news and updates from the world of science.

September 17, 2023 06:30 pm | Updated 06:31 pm IST

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research announced the winners of the Bhatnagar Prize 2022 after a year’s delay while Kerala reports another outbreak of Nipah virus. Find all the latest news, discoveries and findings that happened in the field of science this week.

NASA names chief of UFO research

NASA has named a new director of research into what the government calls "unidentified anomalous phenomenon," or UAP, while the U.S. space agency's chief said an expert panel that urged deeper fact-finding on the matter found no evidence of an extraterrestrial origin for these objects. Administrator Bill Nelson made the announcement about the new research chief - without disclosing the person's identity - after the independent panel of experts recommended in a new report that NASA increase its efforts to gather information on UAP and play a larger role in helping the Pentagon detect them. UAP are better known to the public as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

Centre announces winners of Bhatnagar Prize after a year’s delay

After nearly a year’s delay, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has publicised the list of awardees for the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) awards for 2022, considered among the prestigious prizes for science in India. While usually announced on September 26 – CSIR’s Foundation Day – the prizes weren’t announced last year, without any official reason being ascribed. Last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a committee to review all the national awards administered by various science and medical ministries and whittled down some of them. The SSB awards were however retained. This year’s awardees constitute 12 scientists below the age of 45.

Ian Wilmut, a British scientist who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep, dies at age 79

Ian Wilmut, the cloning pioneer whose work was critical to the creation of Dolly the Sheep in 1996, has died, the University of Edinburgh in Scotland said on September 11. He was 79. Wilmut set off a global discussion about the ethics of cloning when he announced that his team at the university's Roslin Institute for animal biosciences had cloned a lamb using the nucleus of a cell from an adult sheep. Initially referred to as “6LL3” in the academic paper describing the work, the lamb was later named Dolly, after the singer Dolly Parton.

One-third of TB patients received no payment for nutrition support

Undernutrition is the leading risk factor for TB disease. A 2022 study noted that 45% of people in India are undernourished, accounting for nearly 1.2 million TB cases each year. Yet, nutrition support became a part of the national TB programme only in April 2018 when Nikshay Poshan Yojana — a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme for nutritional support to TB patients — was launched. Under this programme, Rs.500 per month is credited into the account of a person with TB for the duration of treatment. As per the India TB report 2023, of the 2.4 million notified TB cases, only 1.6 million (66%) received at least one month’s payment in 2022 under the Ni-kshay Poshan Yojana programme. There has been very little increase in the number of beneficiaries in the last three years.

Over 95% chance of El Nino conditions from January-March 2024

There is a more than 95% chance that the El Niño weather pattern will continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter from January - March 2024, a U.S. government forecaster said, bringing more extreme conditions. El Nino is a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific and can provoke extreme weather phenomena from wildfires to tropical cyclones and prolonged droughts. The naturally occurring phenomenon is already spurring calamities across the globe, with the stakes seen higher for emerging markets more exposed to swings in food and energy prices. "As El Nino strengthens to strong status, there is a good likelihood it will have an impact on the upcoming growing season for the southern hemisphere crop production areas," said Chris Hyde, a meteorologist

Nipah virus breaks out again in Kerala

Nipah scare returned to Kerala, with two deaths reported from Kozhikode district. Four suspected cases are currently under surveillance and their samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune. A Central government team of four experts has also been sent to Kerala to assist the State government in surveillance and reduction in the response time. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nipah has a relatively high case fatality ratio, and is an emerging zoonotic disease of public health importance in the South East Asia and Western Pacific WHO Regions

Over 75% of European bumblebee species threatened in the next 40-60 years

More than 75% of European bumblebee species may be threatened in the next 40-60 years according to worst-case-scenario projections of bumblebee populations, according to a paper published in Nature. Degradation of habitats and alterations of climate due to human activity are identified as key drivers of these estimated population declines. The findings underscore the importance of climate change mitigation policies to protect bumblebees.

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