Breaking News:

Trump appoints Indian-American to key White House position

WASHINGTON, Jan 5:  US President-elect Donald Trump today tapped Raj Shah, a young Indian-American who played a leading role in the Republican party’s anti-Clinton campaign during polls, as his deputy assistant and communication and research director.

Shah, whose parents immigrated to the US from Gujarat, has been appointed as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communication Director and Research Director, as per an announcement made by the Presidential Transition Team.

Shah, who is in his early 30s, is currently head of Opposition Research in the Republican National Committee.

In this position, he led a team of experts to carry out research against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate. Shah was behind all the anti-Clinton campaign during the presidential elections.

The announcement of Shah’s appointment to this key White House position was made by incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus along with other appointments.

“These individuals will be key leaders in helping to implement the President elect’s agenda and bring real change to Washington,” Priebus said.

A second generation Indian American, Shah’s parents are from Mumbai having origins from Gujarat. First his father came to the US for studies in 1970s then moved back to India. But after marriage his father and mother moved back to the US in late 70s.

They lived in Chicago and then moved to Connecticut, where he was born and raised. (AGENCIES)

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RESEARCH-FAT

Majority of world

population ‘overfat’: study

MELBOURNE, Jan 5:

An astonishing 5.5 billion people – up to 76 per cent of the world’s population – are ‘overfat’, warn researchers who say the new pandemic has quietly overtaken the planet and argue for a change in global health efforts against chronic and metabolic diseases.

The researchers, including those from Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, put forth a specific notion of overfat, a condition of having sufficient excess body fat to impair health.

Based on a new look into current data, they argue how, in addition to those who are overweight and obese, others falling into the overfat category include normal-weight people.

“The overfat pandemic has not spared those who exercise or even compete in sports,” said lead author of the study Philip Maffetone, CEO of MAFF Fitness Pty Ltd in Australia.

“The overfat category includes normal-weight people with increased risk factors for chronic disease, such as high abdominal fat, and those with characteristics of a condition called normal-weight metabolic obesity,” said Maffetone.

While the obesity epidemic has grown considerably over the last three to four decades, this work casts light on the much higher numbers of people who may have unhealthy levels of body fat.

“We want to bring awareness of the rise in these risk factors, where the terms ‘overfat’ and ‘underfat’ describe new body composition states. We hope the terms will enter into common usage, to help create substantive improvements in world health,” said Maffetone.

The work, involving Ivan Rivera-Dominguez, research assistant at MAFF and Paul B Laursen, adjunct professor at the Auckland University of Technology also indicates that 9 to 10 per cent of the world population may be underfat.

“While we think of the condition of underfat as being due to starvation, those worldwide numbers are dropping rapidly. However, an ageing population, an increase in chronic disease and a rising number of excessive exercisers or those with anorexia athletica, are adding to the number of non-starving underfat individuals,” Maffetone said.

This leaves as little as 14 per cent of the world’s population with normal body-fat percentage, researchers said.

“This is a global concern because of its strong association with rising chronic disease and climbing healthcare costs, affecting people of all ages and incomes,” said Maffetone.

While it is estimated that up to 49 per cent of the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people, are obese or overweight, the well-documented obesity epidemic may merely be the tip of the overfat iceberg, researchers said.

The term overfat, as opposed to obesity and overweight, may be more helpful moving forward in addressing this global health problem, they said.

This is the first effort to globally quantify those who are overfat versus overweight or obese. The traditional body-mass index (BMI) measures weight and height, but is not a direct measure of body fat, researchers said.

The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. (AGENCIES)

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SCIENCE-NASA

NASA to launch two robotic probes

to study early solar system

WASHINGTON, Jan 5:

NASA has announced two robotic missions to asteroids that will open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system – a time less than 10 million years after the birth of the Sun.

The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

“Lucy will visit a target-rich environment of Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids, while Psyche will study a unique metal asteroid that’s never been visited before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Lucy, a robotic spacecraft, is scheduled to launch in October 2021. It is slated to arrive at its first destination, a main belt asteroid, in 2025.

From 2027 to 2033, Lucy will explore six Jupiter Trojan asteroids. These asteroids are trapped by Jupiter’s gravity in two swarms that share the planet’s orbit, one leading and one trailing Jupiter in its 12-year circuit around the Sun.

The Trojans are thought to be relics of a much earlier era in the history of the solar system, and may have formed far beyond Jupiter’s current orbit.

“Because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system,” said Harold F Levison, principal investigator of the Lucy mission from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

“Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionise the understanding of our origins,” said Levison.

The Psyche mission, targeted to launch in October of 2023, will explore one of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt – a giant metal asteroid, known as 16 Psyche, about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth.

This asteroid measures about 210 kilometres in diameter and, unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, is thought to be comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth’s core.

Scientists wonder whether Psyche could be an exposed core of an early planet that could have been as large as Mars, but which lost its rocky outer layers due to a number of violent collisions billions of years ago.

The mission will help scientists understand how planets and other bodies separated into their layers – including cores, mantles and crusts – early in their histories.

“This is an opportunity to explore a new type of world – not one of rock or ice, but of metal,” said Psyche Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University.

“16 Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the solar system, and this is the only way humans will ever visit a core. We learn about inner space by visiting outer space,” said Elkins-Tanton.

Psyche, also a robotic mission, will be arriving at the asteroid in 2030, following an Earth gravity assist spacecraft manoeuvre in 2024 and a Mars flyby in 2025. (AGENCIES)

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SCIENCE-GALAXY

Mysterious alien signals came

from distant dwarf galaxy: study

WASHINGTON, Jan 5:

Rare, short bursts of ‘alien’ cosmic radio waves that puzzled astronomers since there detection nearly 10 years ago may have originated from a dwarf galaxy more than three billion light years from Earth, scientists including one of Indian origin have found.

Fast radio bursts, which flash for just a few milliseconds, created a stir among astronomers because they seemed to be coming from outside our galaxy, which means they would have to be very powerful to be seen from Earth, and because none of those first observed were ever seen again.

A repeating burst was discovered in 2012, providing an opportunity for researchers to repeatedly monitor its area of the sky with the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico and the Arecibo radio dish in Puerto Rico.

The VLA last year detected a total of nine bursts over a period of a month, sufficient to locate it within a tenth of an arcsecond.

Larger European and American radio interferometer arrays pinpointed it to within one-hundredth of an arcsecond, within a region about 100 light years in diameter.

Deep imaging of that region by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii turned up an optically faint dwarf galaxy that the VLA subsequently discovered also continuously emits low-level radio waves, typical of a galaxy with an active nucleus perhaps indicative of a central supermassive black hole.

The galaxy has a low abundance of elements other than hydrogen and helium, suggestive of a galaxy that formed during the universe’s middle age.

The origin of a fast radio burst in this type of dwarf galaxy suggests a connection to other energetic events that occur in similar dwarf galaxies, said Casey Law, an astronomer University of California, Berkeley in the US.

Extremely bright exploding stars, called superluminous supernovae and long gamma ray bursts also occur in this type of galaxy, he said.

Both are hypothesised to be associated with massive, highly magnetic and rapidly rotating neutron stars called magnetars.

Neutron stars are dense, compact objects created in supernova explosions, seen mostly as pulsars, because they emit periodic radio pulses as they spin.

“All these threads point to the idea that in this environment, something generates these magnetars,” Law said.

“It could be created by a superluminous supernova or a long gamma ray burst, and then later on, as it evolves and its rotation slows down a bit, it produces these fast radio bursts as well as continuous radio emission powered by that spindown,” he said.

“Finding the host galaxy of this FRB, and its distance, is a big step forward, but we still have much more to do before we fully understand what these things are,” said team leader Shami Chatterjee of Cornell University.

The research was published in the journal Nature and the Astrophysical Journal Letters. (AGENCIES)

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