26th General Conference on Weights & Measures in a historic decision unanimously redefine World’s standard definition of kilogram, Second&Metre

The 26th meeting of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) was held during November 13-16 2018 at Palais des Congrés, Versailles, France. CGPM is the highest international body of the world for accurate and precise measurements. The 26th CGPM meeting was very special and historic as the members have voted for the redefinition of 130 years old “Le grand K – the SI unit of kg” in terms of the fundamental Planck’s constant(h). The new definitions will come into force on 20 May 2019.

Currently, it is defined by the weight of a platinum-based ingot called “Le Grand K” which is locked away in a safe in Paris.

Le Grand K has been at the forefront of the international system of measuring weights since 1889. Several close replicas were made and distributed around the globe. But the master kilogram and its copies were seen to change – ever so slightly – as they deteriorated.

In a world where accurate measurement is now critical in many areas, such as in drug development, nanotechnology, and precision engineering – those responsible for maintaining the international system had no option but to move beyond Le Grand K to a more robust definition.

How wrong is Le Grand K?

The fluctuation is about 50 parts in a billion, less than the weight of a single eyelash. But although it is tiny, the change can have important consequences.

Electromagnets generate a force. Scrap-yards use them on cranes to lift and move large metal objects, such as old cars. The pull of the electromagnet, the force it exerts, is directly related to the amount of electrical current going through its coils. There is, therefore, a direct relationship between electricity and weight.

So, in principle, scientists can define a kilogram, or any other weight, in terms of the amount of electricity needed to counteract the weight (gravitational force acting on a mass).

There is a quantity that relates weight to electrical current, called Planck’s constant – named after the German physicist Max Planck and denoted by the symbol h.

But h is an incredibly small number and to measure it, the research scientist Dr. Bryan Kibble built a super-accurate set of scales. The Kibble balance, as it has become known, has an electromagnet that pulls down on one side of the scales and a weight – say, a kilogram – on the other. The electrical current going through the electromagnet is increased until the two sides are perfectly balanced.

By measuring the current running through the electromagnet to incredible precision, the researchers are able to calculate h to an accuracy of 0.000001%. This breakthrough has paved the way for Le Grand K to be deposed by “die kleine h”.

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Centre for Science and Environment wins Indira Gandhi peace prize

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has won this year’s Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development, an award conferred by Indira Gandhi Trust each year on the late Prime Minister’s birth anniversary.

The international jury for the awards was headed by former President Pranab Mukherjee.

The CSE was established in 1980 under the leadership of the late Anil Agarwal and is presently headed by Sunita Narain.

It has over the years worked on various burning issues from air and water pollution, food safety, wastewater management, climate change and so on.

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12 November: Public Service Broadcasting Day

The Public Service Broadcasting Day was observed across India on November 12, 2018. The day is observed every year to commemorate the first and last visit of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi to the studio of All India Radio, Delhi in 1947.

Mahatma Gandhi had on November 12, 1947, visited the studio of All India Radio to address the displaced people from Pakistan who were temporarily settled in Kurukshetra, Haryana after the partition of the Indian subcontinent.

About the Day

On November 12, 2018, 70 years ago Mahatma Gandhi visited the AIR office for his first and last live broadcast.

Gandhi had decided to convey his message through radio, as he couldn’t visit the refugees of Partition stationed at Kurukshetra in Haryana.

“I see ‘shakti’, the miraculous power of God,” Gandhiji had reportedly said about the medium of radio as he entered the studio.

Gandhi began his speech around 3:30 pm. He began by saying, “My brothers and sisters who are suffering, I do not know if only you or some other people are also listening to it….”

The words, which were spoken by Gandhi on that day, became a treasure and a snippet of the speech is played on November 12 every year.

Mahatma Gandhi was neither the Prime Minister nor the President, he didn’t hold any post. Like a common citizen, he spoke from the AIR studio.

He used to run several newspapers and understood the power of media and hence, was completely against commercial ads and believed that only those non-commercial ads should be accepted that serve some public purpose. For him, the aim of media was service.

The day was declared as the Jan Prasaran Diwas (Public Service Broadcasting Day) in 2000, after it was conceptualized by Suhas Borker, Convenor, Jan Prasar.

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Ladakh restoration project wins UNESCO award, two Mumbai projects find honourable mention

Restoration of an aristocratic house from a state of partial ruin in Ladakh has won a UNESCO Asia-Pacific award for conservation, the world body announced Friday.

While the Ladakh project won in the category of Award of Distinction under UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation, rejuvenation of a university clock tower and a fountain in Mumbai have jointly received Honourable Mention, along with a project in China.

The LAMO Center in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region was chosen for its systematic restoration project that used salvaged and local building materials, and indigenous construction techniques while adroitly introducing modern amenities to assure its ongoing use, UNESCO Bangkok said in a statement.

From Mumbai, the restoration projects of the iconic Rajabai Clock Tower of Mumbai University and Ruttonsee Muljee Jetha Fountain, both belonging to the colonial-era have received Honourable Mention.

Noted conservation architect Vikas Dilawari, whose earlier restoration projects in the city have also UNESCO heritage conservation awards, was ecstatic after the announcement.

The challenge was to restore its water engineering too, apart from the architectural conservation, he said.

Funded and now looked after by the KGA it took about a year for restoration, the Mumbai-based architect said.

The project sets a model for its seamless approach to safeguarding built heritage intertwined with intangible cultural heritage in a mutually enriching way, the UNESCO statement said.

On the renewal of the Rajabai Clock Tower and Library, the citation said, it opens up a new chapter for one of the city’s significant neo-Gothic landmarks.

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India wins Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management Award, 2018

The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions is an institutional member of Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) which is a non-profit association representing an international network of over 1100 senior public servants, Heads of Government, leading academics and researchers located in over 50 different countries across the Commonwealth.

About CAPAM:

Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) is a non-profit association representing an international network of over 1100 senior public servants, Heads of Government, leading academics and researchers located in over 50 different countries across the Commonwealth.

The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions is an institutional member of Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM).

CAPAM has been announcing its International Innovations Awards (IIA) Programme bi-annually, since 1998. The CAPAM Awards celebrate the spirit of innovation in the public service by recognizing organizations that have made significant contributions to improve governance and services in the public sector.

Unnayan Banka:

The initiative entitled “Unnayan Banka- Reinventing Education Using Technology of Banka District, State of Bihar has been awarded under the Category “Innovation Incubation”.

“Unnayan Banka” is an initiative which envisages “Quality education for all’ especially for those at the bottom of the Pyramid, using latest technologies. It’s a holistic model of overall development of youths from Education to Employability.

Unified Agriculture Markets:

“Unified Agriculture Markets” of Co-operation Department of Government of Karnataka has also been selected under the Category ‘Innovation in Public Service Management’.  This initiative has also been awarded the overall Gold Award for CAPAM Awards, 2018

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Tagore Awards for Cultural Harmony: Manipuri dancer, Bangladeshi sculptor among recipients

The Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 were announced on and awarded to a distinguished Manipuri dancer, a Bangladesh-based cultural organisation and an eminent sculptor, respectively.

The award jury was headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and included Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi, former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami and national vice president of the BJP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe.

The award was instituted by the government during the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore in 2011. It was conferred first on sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. It carries an award prize of Rs 1 crore, a citation in a scroll and a plaque.

For 2014, the award was given to Rajkumar Singhajit Singh, a doyen of Manipuri dance who is also a teacher, performer and choreographer.

Chhayanaut, established in 1961, which has played a leading role in promoting Tagore’s works in Bengali culture, won the award for 2015.

For 2016, the award was given to sculptor Ram Vanji Sutar, whose first notable work was the 45-feet Chambal monument at the Gandhi Sagar Dam in Madhya Pradesh.

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Maryse Conde: Guadeloupe author wins alternative Nobel Literature Prize

Maryse Conde, one of the Caribbean’s most renowned authors, has won an award created to replace this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature.

The prestigious literature prize was suspended this year after a scandal at the Swedish Academy, which awards it.

The Guadeloupian author, 81, said she was “very happy and proud” to win the alternative version.

The Nobel Prize for Literature was suspended after a crisis over its handling of allegations against Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of one of the academy’s members.

He has been jailed for two years for rape. He has appealed against his conviction, according to Swedish media.

Several members of the academy, including its head Professor Sara Danius, quit over the scandal in April.

The alternative prize was set up by an organization calling itself the New Academy, comprising more than 100 Swedish writers, artists, and journalists. It will be dissolved in December.

The four shortlisted writers were among a list of 47 authors nominated by Sweden’s librarians before voting was opened worldwide.


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Reasons why Paul Romer, William Nordhaus won 2018 Nobel Prize in economics

William Nordhaus and Paul Romer have been awarded the 2018 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences (colloquially known as the economics Nobel). Both are macroeconomists dealing with long-run dynamics – big questions of what spurs economic growth, the importance of sustainable growth and how to tackle climate change.

The mainstream economic analysis of the 1970s, when Romer was a graduate student and Nordhaus was an assistant professor, was mostly dedicated to what’s known as general equilibrium analysis: if consumers were to maximize their utilities, and producers were to maximize their profits, what would happen? Both Romer and Nordhaus provided key insights into thinking about what happens over time. That is, how our individual decisions today shape the outcomes for society as a whole in the future. They both framed their ideas in the then-nascent field of economic growth, and both changed it completely.

The concept of economic growth was jump-started by Robert Solow (who won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in 1987) with a model that connected the decision to save with the amount of capital available in the economy. It was mostly used as a device to connect the past and the future by obtaining constant growth rates that made sure the economy scaled with time.

But economists failed to address the underlying reasons for technological progress – it was just assumed to happen – and they took the fact that it had risen enormously since the industrial revolution for granted. There was little interest in why some countries grow faster than others: after all, it was assumed, everyone in the world was using similar technologies.

Romer’s contribution

Romer, it has been suggested, was inspired by a graph showing how economic growth has skyrocketed since the industrial revolution and decided he wanted to get to the bottom of it.

In doing so, Romer changed the old approach to economic growth completely. Instead of technological growth simply happening – as if falling upon the economy from the sky – his doctoral thesis assumed that economic agents, such as people or businesses, can actively affect the speed of economic growth. The nice thing about ideas, Romer put forward, is that if I use your idea, you are not one idea short. This is different from capital, labor, and other classical factors of production. If we all produce more ideas, we all benefit from these new ideas, not just the people who produce them.

The rate of growth of GDP per person began to meaningfully depend upon the proportion of the labor force dedicated to developing new ideas.

Obviously, more people producing ideas means fewer people producing goods in the short run. But you’d get a higher rate of growth in the long run due to more ideas leading to better productivity. Other economists followed this line of thinking (Robert Barro, Daron Acemoglu, Philippe Aghion – all prize candidates for a few years now), and the Journal of Economic Growth that covers these topics is now one of the most prestigious and most cited in economics.

Nordhaus’ work

William Nordhaus is known to many who studied economics 20 years ago. The Economics textbook he wrote with Paul Samuelson was translated into 17 languages for undergraduate introductory courses; I myself used a Russian translation in the 1990s. Nordhaus, at the same time, had a different take on economic growth as a fundamental virtue.

Growth in the 1980s was very mechanical, aimed mostly at obtaining a certain growth rate and ignoring the fact that many economic goods, such as natural resources and clean air, are hard to reproduce. Climate change and its effect on everyone’s well-being, he pointed out, is not a part of national accounts, while profits and GDP are. Under his guidance, the Dynamic Integrated and Regional Integrated climate models (known as DICE and RICE) were developed to take climate change explicitly into account when analyzing global changes such as the Kyoto protocol.

Nordhaus’ work was not only to be included in academic syllabi: the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency used it to analyze the social cost of carbon dioxide emissions. Other economists, such as Martin Weitzman or Partha Dasgupta, were also instrumental in this field and could have shared this prize.

Fundamentally, both Romer and Nordhaus have contributed to the economics profession in the same way. They recognized that economic growth should not be driven solely by putting more stuff into factories and getting more out of them. They recognized that people can influence growth by their choices – whether that’s the speed of growth through exchanging ideas (Romer) or what that growth looks like and how sustainable it is (Nordhaus). And, most importantly, they drove many other economists toward these issues.

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ESIC wins ‘ISSA GOOD Practice Award, Asia & the Pacific 2018’

The Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) has won the ‘ISSA Good Practice Award’ for Administrative Solution for Coverage Extension at the “Regional Social Security Forum for Asia and the Pacific” held at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia recently.

The award recognizes the measures taken by ESIC for extension of coverage-SPREE (Scheme for Promoting Registration of Employers and Employees), reduced rate of contribution rates for 24 months in newly implemented areas and raising the wage limit for coverage under the ESI Act, etc.

About the International Social Security Association:

  • The ISSA is the principal international organization for Social Security Organizations, Govts. and Departments of Social Security.
  • The ISSA was founded in 1927 under the auspices of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Geneva.
  • It promotes excellence in social security administration through professional guidelines, expert knowledge, services, and support to enable its Members to develop dynamic social security systems.
  • The ESI Corporation hosts ISSA Liaison Office for South Asia at New Delhi. The Liasion Office coordinates with the Member countries and Social Security Institutions in Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran on activities of ISSA related to social security.
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Denis Mukwege & Nadia Murad jointly awarded 2018 Nobel Peace Prize

Murad and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege were jointly awarded the prize for their “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war,” Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said in unveiling the winners in Oslo.

The 25-year-old Murad, her thin, pale face framed by her long brown hair, once lived a quiet life in her village near the mountainous Yazidi stronghold of Sinjar in northern Iraq, close to the border with Syria.

But when the so-called Islamic State jihadist group stormed across swathes of the two countries in 2014, her fate changed forever and her nightmare began.

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