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Largest animal discovered, mesmerizing video

Larger than a Blue Whale, a giant siphonophore recorded on the Ningaloo Canyons expedition. It seems this specimen is the largest ever recorded.

Guwahati, April 10, 2020

Video credit: Twitter/Schmidt Ocean Institute

What could be the largest animal ever recorded, a giant siphonophore surfaced in the Indian Ocean, giving a breathtaking view. The scientists at the Schmidt Ocean Institute recorded the footage of this colossal Apolemia, a kind of siphonophore or string jelly fish like sea animal, during the Ningaloo Canyons expedition in Western Australia. According to the scientists involved with the expedition, this siphonophore’s outer ring measured in at 15 m (49ft) diameter, so just that ring alone seems to be approximately 47m (154ft).

The largest animal on earth, the Blue Whale, can grow up to 29.9m (98ft). So, one can imagine how gigantic this Apolemia is!

It may be noted that the Ningaloo Canyons expedition in the Indian Ocean is part of Schmidt Ocean Institute’s year long initiative in Australia and Pacific to conduct number of scientific expeditions to explore the deep sea world. Using underwater robot SuBastian and other sophisticated devices and methods, the scientists have already explored out many amazing facts from the deep inside the ocean. During month long scientific expedition exploring the sub marine canyons near Ningaloo, Western Australia, this beautiful giant siphonophore was recorded.

In an earlier Instagram post from the Schmidt Ocean Institute, details of siphonophore is described very well. There are over 180 species of siphonophores and some can grow over 130 feet. However, even the biggest siphonophore’s body isn’t much bigger than a broomstick. Actually, tiny individual siphonophores or zooids clone themselves thousands of times over into different types of specialized bodies. These bodies string together to work as one unit. In simple words, it’s a colony of genetically identical individual bodies. In marine biologist Stefan Siebert’s words, these specialized bodies function as different organs. Accordingly, some bodies move the colony, some feed for the colony while some take care of reproduction. “The whole thing looks like one animal, but it’s many thousands of individuals which form an entity on a higher level”, informed Siebert.

Video credit: Instagram/Schmidt Ocean Institute(file)

The video of the giant Apolemia siphonophore has created storm in social media. Never before such a huge creature was seen or recorded. Scientific community is now busy to find out more about this beautiful creation.

COVID-19 lockdown: Digital Learning sees big upsurge in India

50-65 percent of students in higher education institutions are participating in some form of e-learning in India. The various e-learning platforms of the HRD Ministry have seen an unprecedented combined access of over 1.4 crore.

Guwahati, April 10:

E-learning in the country has witnessed an appreciable upsurge during the past two weeks. As all forms of educational institutions are closed due to COVID-19 lockdown across the country, students and teachers are moving towards various e-learning platforms in a big way. Giving this insights, a Press Information Bureau release states that Union HRD Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank has been in regular touch with heads of institutions through video conferencing, giving necessary guidance and directions, and receiving feedback in this regard.

Booming time for telecommunication apps

Both schools and higher education institutions have started various modes of online classes and sharing of study material depending on the resources available with them and with the students. These range from structured online classes through platforms like Skype, Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Hangout, Piazza to teachers uploading lectures and class notes through YouTube, WhatsApp, sharing links of digital learning resources like SWAYAM, NPTEL, providing access to online journals.

50-65 percent upsurge in digital learning

According to the PIB communique, about 50-65 percent of students in higher education institutions like Central Universities, IITs, IIITs, NITs, IISERs are participating in some form of e-learning. Off course the lack of internet connectivity and other required digital infrastructure with students is proving to be an impediment to e-learning in many cases. To overcome this problem to some extent, teachers are also sharing slides or hand written notes apart from recorded lectures and live sessions so that students with uncertain network access can also get at least some material. Recorded lectures ensure that a short term problem with network access does not block out a student. Faculty members are doing online chat sessions with students to answer any queries that they may have.

1.4 crores hits since lockdown

The various e-learning platforms of the HRD Ministry have also seen an unprecedented combined access of over 1.4 crore since 23rd March 2020. The National Online Education Platform SWAYAM has been accessed nearly 2.5 lakh times till 8th April 2020, which is about a five time increase over the figure of 50,000 strikes in the last week of March. This is in addition to about 26 lakh learners already enrolled in the 574 courses available on the SWAYAM platform. Likewise, nearly 59000 people are viewing the videos of the SWAYAM Prabha DTH TV channels every day, and more than 6.8 lakh people have watched these since the lockdown began.

Similar is the case with the other digital initiatives of the Ministry and organizations under it.The National Digital Library was accessed about 1,60,804 times in just one day on Wednesday, and about 14,51,886 times during the lockdown period, as against about 22000 daily strikes earlier. The Education portals of NCERT like DIKSHA, e-pathasala, National Repository of Open Educational Resources, Senior Secondary Courses of NIOS, NPTEL, NEAT, AICTE Student-College helpline web portal, AICTE Training and Learning(ATAL), IGNOU Courses, UGC MOOCS courses and the other ICT initiatives like Robotics education (e-Yantra), Open Source Software for Education (FOSSEE), Virtual experiments (Virtual Labs) and Learning programming (Spoken tutorial) are also experiencing very large access rates.

Shri Pokhriyal said that for a large number of students who do not have access to computer and internet, the Ministry is promoting learning through the television. The Minister urged students to also make optimum use of this to supplement their learning.

It may be noted that besides government and autonomous institutions, private universities and institutions are also taking the digital path to keep the continuity of learning during lockdown period. As mentioned earlier, the various video conferencing platforms have seen increased access during the past two weeks.

(With PIB inputs)

Assam registers first COVID-19 death

One Faijul Hoque Barbhuyan, hailing from Hailakandi district of Assam, died due to the complications of COVID-19 infections, in the wee hours of Friday night. With the death of 65 years old Barbhuyan, Assam registered it’s first COVID-19 death. This was informed by the state Health Minister Dr. Himanata Biswa Sarma. The Minister tweeted at around 2.16 am, Friday night, to inform the death of Mr. Faijul Hoque Barbhuyan.

Dr. Sarma’s tweet

It may be mentioned here that yesterday afternoon Mr. Barbhuyan’s health conditioned deteriorate. Though his other health parameters were functioning normal, but his oxygen saturation was decreasing. He was immediately shifted to Silchar Medical College Hospital’s ICU. But, almost after 12 hours of shifting him to ICU, Minister Dr. Sarma informed about his death. He was the 28th case of COVID-19 in the state and also had Nizamuddin Markaj connection.

Assam’s COVID-19 count at 29, other NE states are stable

Guwahati, April 9:

Assam’s COVID-19 count is increasing. The total number of COVID-19 patients in the state now stands at 29. A tweet from state’s Health Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma has confirmed it. According to the Minister, the new case is from Dhubri district. The Minister also informed that the new case is the result of secondary infection as the victim came in contact with a positive patient, hailing from the same district. That previous patient had Markaj linkage, informed the Minister.

Health Minister Dr. Sarma’s tweet

Meanwhile, barring Assam, the novel coronavirus situation in other states of the North East is stable as of writing this report. No new case is reported elsewhere. Till today evening , Manipur had two confirmed cases, out of which, one person was already cured. Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura had one confirmed case each.

As there is no positive case in Meghalaya till now, the state government is contemplating to lift various lockdown restrictions from April 15. Off course final decision will be taken after Center’s directive on extension of lockdown, which seems to be inevitable seeing the spike in the cases of COVID-19 in the country.

COVID -19 and the streets are talking

Is the novel coronavirus, which is creating havoc all around the world, a man made one? Is it a bio weapon manufactured in a lab at Wuhan? What science has to say?

Time Snippet
by Nirmal Jyoti Kapil

At the time of crisis, conspiracy theories popp up. The pandemic crisis created by SARS-CoV-2 a.k.a. the novel coronavirus can’t be an exception. Streets are talking. And serious allegations are being levelled against Beijing. Either accidentally or purposefully, did a man made bio weapon in the form of a deadly virus escape from a laboratory and now threatening the humanity? Is China taking the world to a third world war?

These are some serious allegations coming up in the wake of the pandemic created by SARS-CoV-2. The social media as well as the traditional media are not letting any stone unturned to fuel such speculations. In one of the worst global crises like this, one can’t be sure hundred percent which way the water is flowing. But based on some latest scientific discoveries, an attempt is made in this article to know what circumstantial evidences tell about the origin of SARS-CoV-2. Is the novel coronavirus a man made bio weapon or a naturally evolved deadly parasite?

But why these allegations?

Beijing was never transparent on COVID-19 outbreak. First, it’s initial response was very sluggish. Second, it tried to cover up the outbreak from the world in its initial stages. Moreover, the stern actions taken against the whistleblowers also did considerable harm to Beijing’s image. Suspicion grew all around. Why Beijing tried to hush up the fact that a humanitarian crisis was about to explode in Wuhan city? Beijing’s non-transparent attitude arose many questions.

Is this virus really lab made?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world. Humanity is facing one of it’s worst crises in centuries. Emerging in Wuhan City, in the Hubei Province of China, the deadly virus has already travelled to more than 180 countries on this planet. Countries after countries are locked down to break the chain of infection and to bring the spread of the virus under control. Medical fraternity, the emergency service providers, the policy makers, all are battling to bring back normalcy in the world order. Scientific community is busy to find a cure to save the humanity. The scientists are also busy to find the root of origin of this deadly parasite. And one such research gave circumstantial evidences whether this virus was a man made or a naturally evolved one.

What is SARS-CoV-2?

• SARS-CoV-2 is the seventh coronavirus known to infect human.
• The other members of this family include SARS-CoV, which was responsible for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome disease in 2003, MERS-CoV, responsible for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome disease outbreak in 2012 besides the HKU1, NL63, OC43 and 229 E, those are associated with some mild symptoms.

What the latest research says?

A latest research published in prestigious Nature Medicine journal has categorically stated that novel coronavirus or the SARS-CoV-2 was not a man mad or a laboratory manufactured virus. It is a naturally evolved virus as like it’s other family members. Researchers Kristian Andersen from Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA and Robert Garry from Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans respectively used some sophisticated bioinformatics tools to infer that SARS-CoV-2 evolved naturally. They studied the genomic data of the new coronavirus and did a computational analysis. On the basis of these structural studies and bio chemical experiments the scientists had found that the molecular structure or the backbone of SARS-CoV-2 is significantly different from that of those known coronaviruses. This is a strong evidence to suggest that this new coronavirus is a naturally evolved one because if someone wish to create a new virus in a lab he will definitely use or engineer molecular structure of a known virus. But in this case, the molecular structure of SARS-CoV-2 significantly differs from other. Morever, studies found that the new coronavirus is almost 96 percent identical to SARS- CoV like coronaviruses found in Rhinolophus affinis bat, although, the bat coronavirus can’t bind to human on it’s own. Interestingly, some pangolin coronaviruses exhibit strong similarities to SARS-CoV-2 in this particular characteristics of binding to human. Thus from the sophisticated scientific studies it can be assumed that the SARS-CoV-2 might be the result of natural selection involving bat and pangolin as host and intermediate host respectively. This preliminary study leave aside the conspiracy theory that the deadly novel coronavirus is a man made one.