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.

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.

World’s largest and smelliest flower may be extinct soon

According to new research, most species of the famously large Rafflesia flower, which has long captured the imagination with its enormous speckled red petals, are now at risk of extinction.

Thriving in rainforests, it is in danger of extinction due to habitat loss as well as poaching — its buds are harvested and sold for medicinal properties.

KnowALLedge Plus

> This largest known individual flower of the Earth is found only in Malaysia, Sumatra, Java & Kalimantan of Indonesia, southern Thailand, and southern Philippines.

> It has a smell like rotten meat making it known locally as “corpse flower”

> Rafflesia is actually a parasite, and lives on tropical vines across parts of Southeast Asia, producing blooms that are among the largest in the world.

> The plant cannot grow in captivity, and, as most occurrences of Rafflesia contain only male or female flowers, pollinations is rare. A fly must land first on a male flower, avoid being eaten, and then transport the pollen to a female flower.

> The flower was first discovered by French naturalist and adventure, Louis Dechamps in then Java (present day Indonesia) between 1791-1794. It was named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, an adventurer and founder of British colony of Singapore.

Rare metal Vanadium found in Gujarat

Vanadium, a chemical element with the symbol V and atomic number 23 is a hard, silvery-grey, malleable transition metal was recently found in sediment samples collected from the Gulf of Khambhat, near Alang in Gujarat.

Found rarely in nature, but once isolated artificially, the formation of an oxide layer somewhat stabilizes the free metal against further oxidation. It is alloyed with steel and iron for high-speed tool steel, high-strength low-alloy steel, and wear-resistant cast iron.

KnowALLedge Plus

> Vanadium was discovered in 1801 by the Spanish mineralogist Andrés Manuel del Río, who named it erythronium but eventually came to believe it was merely impure chromium.

> The element was rediscovered in 1830 by the Swedish chemist Nils Gabriel Sefström, who named it after Vanadis, the Scandinavian goddess of beauty and youth, a name suggested by the beautiful colours of vanadium’s compounds in solution.

> Considering the country’s long efforts to boost EV production, this revelation comes as a boon for the industry as vanadium is used as a crucial raw material in making batteries.

> Vanadium holds significant importance as a crucial raw material in strategic domains like defence and aerospace.

> Small amounts of vanadium have been previously discovered in regions such as Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, and Maharashtra.

ChatGPT diagnoses rare medical condition that 17 doctors could not

The impact of AI reached new heights when a concerned mother turned to ChatGPT to seek a diagnosis of her four-year-old son, Alex.

It all started with a chronic toothache, but as soon as the growth rate slowed, it raised further concerns. A doctor suggested that it could be a lingering effect of COVID-19, but the situation remained unresolved. Frustrated after visiting 17 doctors over three years without a final diagnosis, the mother turned to an unlikely source: ChatGPT.

She shared the child’s symptoms with the AI tool, hoping for some solution. ChatGPT suggested a rare neurological condition known as tethered cord syndrome.

A neurosurgeon later confirmed the diagnosis.

KnowALLedge Plus

This remarkable instance isn’t the first time ChatGPT has aided in diagnosing medical conditions. Earlier this year, a Twitter user shared how the AI tool correctly helped discover a diagnosis for their pet dog when conventional doctors had failed to do so.

New planet much bigger than earth is possibly covered with oceans

Newly found Planet K2-18 b, located 120 light-years from Earth in the constellation Leo, is 8.6 times the size of Earth. In a ground breaking discovery by Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope this seems to be a Hycean exoplanet, a type of planet with a hydrogen-rich atmosphere and a water ocean-covered surface.

The discovery of carbon-bearing molecules including methane and carbon dioxide on K2-18 b has sparked interest among astronomers, as it supports the hypothesis of a water ocean underneath a hydrogen-rich atmosphere.

KnowALLedge Plus

The planet orbits the cool dwarf star K2-18 in the habitable zone.

These ‘sub-Neptunes’, which have sizes between those of Earth and Neptune, are unlike anything in our solar system and are poorly understood due to their unique nature.

According to NASA, “Traditionally, the search for life on exoplanets has focused primarily on smaller rocky planets, but the larger Hycean worlds are significantly more conducive to atmospheric observations.”

:: Picture :: Shows (an artist’s concept) what exoplanet K2-18 b could look like based on science data (as per

NASA’s MOXIE produces oxygen in Mars

For the first time ever, breathable oxygen has been produced in Mars. NASA’s Perseverance rover generated 4.3 ounces of breathable oxygen while on the Red Planet — enough to sustain an adult human for three hours.

MOXIE’s success marks a significant step toward enabling astronauts to “live off the land” on Mars by producing their own oxygen and rocket propellant, supporting long-term exploration and sustainability on the Red Planet.

KnowALLedge Plus

NASA’s Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), a device roughly the size of a microwave oven, has demonstrated its ability to convert Martian carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen.

MOXIE produces molecular oxygen by separating one oxygen atom from each molecule of carbon dioxide pumped in from Mars’ thin atmosphere. Mars’ atmosphere provides the source of carbon dioxide.