Researchers behind COVID-19 vaccine recognized with the Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2023 was jointly awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman “for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19”.  While working together at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), they discovered a chemical tweak to messenger RNA. The mRNA jabs have been administered billions of times globally in the last three years.

Despite realising the potential of mRNA in the early 90s, their road to global recognition was anything but rosy.  The discipline was considered a scientific backwater by the community.  In 1995, Karikó was even demoted by UPenn as she could not get financial grants to continue her research. In 2013, she was forced to resign and kicked out of the university. Kariko had been battling cancer during her ordeal. Meanwhile, their 2005 paper was summarily rejected by journals like Nature and Science and was accepted by a niche publication called Immunity.

As of October 2023, Karikó is a professor at the University of Szeged in her native Hungary while Weissman is a professor in vaccine research at UPenn.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded by the Nobel Assembly of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and comes with 11 million Swedish crowns (about $1 million) to share between the recipients.

>The prizes will be presented by the King of Sweden at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the death anniversary of Alfred Nobel, followed by a banquet at the city hall.

>The daughter of a butcher, Katalin Karikó grew up in a village in Hungary, in a house without running water or a refrigerator. She and her husband sold their Soviet-era Lada car, sewed some cash and her research materials into their daughter’s teddy bear and went to the U.S. on a one-way ticket.

>Katalin Karikó met Drew Weissman over a copy machine at UPenn. They initially teamed up to develop a more effective HIV vaccine which Weissman was desperately searching for.

This ICC ODI World Cup, enjoy the matches vertically

In a first-of-its-kind coverage for the sport across all 48 World Cup matches, ICC will provide vertical feed for fans with an easier and more intuitive viewing experience on mobile phones, allowing them to consume content on the go in the most convenient handheld position.

KnowALLedge Plus

> ICC TV will produce an additional vertical video feed.

> The vertical feed will provide a special experience with the addition of split screens in its coverage.

> The production will also feature match graphics and bespoke production enhancements to enhance the vertically oriented coverage.

> Key features like ball tracking, player tracking and field plot will be tailored to fit the vertical format.

Presenting the world’s heaviest onion, an eye-watering 8.97-kg!

A man from Guernsey, Gareth Griffin, recently broke the world record for growing the largest onion in the world. And no, it is not one or three kg heavy, but it weighs 8.97 kg.

The world’s largest onion is around 53 times the weight of a typical brown onion and even heavier than a large bowling ball.

KnowALLedge Plus

> Gareth Griffin proudly displayed his produce at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show in North Yorkshire. This surpassed the previous record of 8.5 kg set back in 2014.

> His father grew giant onions for many years right up till the year he died, but his biggest was 7 lb 12 oz.

> Gareth’s onion, about 21 inches high, is believed to have broken the world record for size.

> He had tried for 12 years to break the record by growing onions at his home in Guernsey.

Sir Michael Gambon, Dumbledore actor in ‘Harry Potter,’ dies age 82

Veteran actor Michael Gambon, best known for playing Albus Dumbledore in most of the “Harry Potter” movies, has died at 82 following a “bout of pneumonia,” according to a statement issued on behalf of his family.

He was known for his extensive catalogue of work across TV, film and radio, with one of his biggest roles as the psoriasis-ridden sleuth Philip Marlow in the 1980s hit BBC series “The Singing Detective.” He won the BAFTA for best actor for the role.

KnowALLedge Plus

> Gambon was cast as Dumbledore for six of the eight “Harry Potter” films following the death of Richard Harris in 2002.

> He was born in Cabra, Dublin, but moved to London as a child.

> He grew up in an Irish immigrant community in Camden and his first job was as an apprentice toolmaker.

> He was knighted for services to drama in 1998.

> He developed a passion for antique guns, clocks and classic cars that lasted a lifetime.

Gujarat bans plantation of exotic Conocarpus trees

Widely visible across the state – from the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad to the Ram Van “urban forest” in Rajkot, rows of Conocarpus trees, an exotic mangrove species, had been a popular choice for increasing the green cover in Gujarat in recent years.

But, the state government has now banned its “plantation in forest or non-forest area”, underlining its “adverse impacts on environment and human health”.

Earlier, Telangana too had banned the same plant species.

KnowALLedge Plus

> Trees of this species flower in winter and spread pollen in nearby areas. This is causing diseases like cold, cough, asthma, allergy.

> Their roots go deep inside the soil and develop extensively, damaging telecommunication lines, drainage lines and freshwater systems

> In 2018 Delhi decided to clear the Vilayati Kikar – a tree not native to Delhi (was brought to the city in the 1930s by the British). As it grew fast even in arid conditions, it kills off native trees like acacia, dhak, kadamb, amaltas, flame-of-the-forest, etc. which in turn is depleting the fauna — birds, butterflies, leopards, porcupines and jackals. In 2016, the Madras High Court too passed an interim order for the removal of these trees as they were depleting the water table.

> In Kerala’s Munnar, another British introduced tree, Eucalyptus, was stopped from being cultivated in forest tracts in 2018 after a study found that foreign invasive plants had reduced the availability of fodder in forests, forcing animals to foray into settlements and farmlands.

Einstein’s 108-year-old prediction on antimatter finally observed by scientists

Europe’s physics lab CERN announced that for the first time, scientists have observed antimatter particles falling downwards due to the effect of gravity.

The experiment was hailed as “huge milestone”, though most physicists anticipated the result, and it had been predicted by Einstein’s 1915 theory of relativity.

KnowALLedge Plus

> Around 13.8 billion years ago, the Big Bang is believed to have produced an equal amount of matter (what everything you can see is made out of) and antimatter (the equal yet opposite counterpart of matter).

> However, there is virtually no antimatter in the universe, which prompted one of the greatest mysteries of physics: what happened to all the antimatter?

> Physicists believe that matter and antimatter did meet and almost entirely destroyed each other after the Big Bang. Yet matter now makes up nearly five percent of the universe — the rest is even less understood dark matter and dark energy — while antimatter vanished.

India’s first green hydrogen fuel cell bus flagged off in New Delhi

The initiative is part of a pilot project by Indian Oil which will see the fleet cover more than three million kilometres. It will hold operation trials in Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

The two buses have been purchased from Tata Motors. The buses will initially run in Delhi-NCR sans passengers.

15 more such buses are expected to ply on the roads of Delhi-NCR by the end of this year.

KnowALLedge Plus

> The buses each have four cylinders that can hold 30 kilos of hydrogen. The tanks can be refuelled in 10-12 minutes.

> These buses will also be more fuel efficient – covering 12 kilometres per kilo of hydrogen as against 2.5 to 3 kilometres per litre for diesel buses.

> Hydrogen will be India’s transition fuel for moving away from fossil fuels.
It is Environment-friendly: Only water vapour is emitted as a by-product when hydrogen is burnt, which means, no emission of polluting gases.
It is Energy efficient: Green hydrogen fuel has three times the energy density thereby making it not only a cleaner alternative but also more energy efficient.

Father of Green Revolution in India passes away at 98

Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, the man who made India a food-surplus nation is no more. The renowned geneticist and administrator who transformed the nation’s food production and security, passed away on September 28, 2023 in Chennai.

In the 1960s, he was working as a plant geneticist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, when he learned about the high-yielding varieties of wheat being tested in Mexico by the American food scientist Norman E. Borlaug. When the latter arrived in India in 1963, Dr. Swaminathan accompanied him on a tour of Punjab and Haryana.

The results were astounding. India’s wheat production grew five times between 1960 and 1970. Rice production too doubled in the same period. India not only became self-sufficient in food grains, but also started exporting to other countries.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>The Bengal famine of 1943 pushed M.S. Swaminathan to study agriculture, instead of medicine. He joined the Agriculture College at Coimbatore, did his postgraduate studies in plant genetics in the Netherlands and earned his Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Cambridge in 1952. His subsequent specialization in potato breeding prompted the University of Wisconsin in the USA to invite him to spend time as a postdoctoral fellow.

>Some of the posts he was ushered in his storied career include: Independent Chairman of the Food and Agricultural Organisation Council (1981-85), President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1984-90), President of the World Wide Fund for Nature (India) from 1989-96 and the Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), among others.

>In 1987, when the World Food Prize ( often referred to as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture”) was started by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, Swaminathan became its inaugural recipient. He used the prize money (a hefty sum of $200,000) to start the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, in Chennai.  He was also awarded with Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1971 and the Albert Einstein World Science Award in 1986.

>  MS Swaminathan was named one of the 20 most influential Asians of the 20th century by Time magazine. The only other Indians on this list include Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, who greatly inspired him in the first place.

Marco Bezzecchi wins the inaugural Indian Grand Prix

Italian rider Marco Bezzecchi created history by winning India’s 1st MotoGP race at the Buddh International Circuit. The MotoGP Bharat title trophy was presented to him by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The main race was reduced from 24 to 21 laps due to hot and humid conditions.

Representing Mooney VR46 Racing Team, Bezzecchi had to face stiff competition from Jorge Martin and Francesco Bagnaia, the championship leader, before standing on the podium.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>The Buddh International Circuit held a world championship-level event for the first time in a decade. Between 2011 and 2013, the track hosted three Formula One races.

>Chennai-based Kadai Yaseen Ahamed was the only Indian rider at MotoGP Bharat. He was given a surprise wildcard for the Petronas MIE Racing team in the Moto3 class.

New fish species has been found in the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of West Bengal

It comes in vibrant orange, has a distinct pectoral-fin with black membranes on the inner surface, white posterior margin and three small white spots basally in fin.

This new deep water marine fish was discovered by the scientists of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), making it the fourth species of pterygotrigla discovered in India so far out of the total 178 of the triglidae family across the world.

After thorough examinations, the specimens of this fish were found to be very distinct from other gurnad species in various aspects such as snout length, shape of the internuchal space and size of the cleithral spine.

KnowALLedge Plus

> Was found 90km from the coast of the West Bengal beach town of Digha.

> The new species commonly known as gurnards or sea-robins, belongs to the family Triglidae. Named Pterygotrigla intermedica, it has characters quite similar to species like Pterygotrigla hemisticta.

> The species was caught by a local fisher on October 20, 2018, along with other fishes. The researchers collected a total of 24 specimens – 23 of which are preserved at the ZSI’s Estuarine Biology Regional Center, Gopalpur and one specimen in the Marine Fish Section, Kolkata for further study.