South Korea to launch world’s first national 5G networks

South Korea launches the world’s first fully-fledged 5G mobile networks on March 29. This is a breakthrough in the use of a frontier and transformational technology. Thus South Korea has claimed to put first claim on control of an innovation that could potentially change the day-to-day lives of billions of people. The superfast communications heralded by fifth-generation wireless technology will ultimately underpin everything from toasters to telephones; from electric cars to power grids.  Although South has claimed first advantage in launching 5G Mobile, there are other competitors trying hard to take the lead including the United States and China (especially its telecom giants including Huawei).

The system will bring smartphones near-instantaneous connectivity — 20 times faster than the existing 4G — allowing users to download entire movies in less than a second. In much of the world – including the US and UK – we will see 5G networks launch in 2019. They’ll be faster than 4G, but you won’t be able to utilize the new speeds with your current handset. You’ll need a 5G phone. However, the majority of phoneslaunching in the near future won’t support the fifth generation network.

What is 5G and its advantages?

Fifth-generation wireless (5G) is the latest iteration of cellular technology, engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. 5G will also enable a sharp increase in the amount of data transmitted over wireless systems due to more available bandwidth and advanced antenna technology. In the same way that 3G enabled widespread mobile web access and 4G made new applications work ranging from social media to Uber, 5G will herald a new level of connectivity, empowered by speed. Technically speaking, 5G is the next generation of broadband connection.  With any type of 5G connection, you’ll see faster network speeds, but the biggest changes will happen when carriers have all deployed high-frequency millimeter wave technology to tap radio wavelengths that have been unusable in the past. I n current development, 5G is reaching speeds that are twenty times faster than 4GLTE. 4G LTE has a peak speed of 1GB per second; 5G is able to achieve speeds of 20GB per second. … More likely, you’ll get 100MB per second of everyday speeds, whereas 4G currently only offers 10MB per second in everyday speeds. 5G will have Improved precision. 5G uses unique radio frequencies that are higher and more directional than those used by 4G. The directionality of 5G is important because 4G towers send data all over, which can waste power and energy and ultimately weaken access to the internet.

Science and Technology

Cyber security: Challenges and preparedness in India

Cyber security is the body of technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access. With the development of cyber technology and its overwhelming use for scientific research, delivery of services (financial and other services like e-commerce and payment to public utilities, education and e-medicine and communication among various departments and organs of government through a network, including defense has made it important to save the cyber space from attacks. Computer security is part of cyber security. Computer security, also known as cyber security or IT security is the protection of computer systems from the theft or damage to their hardware, software or information, as well as from disruption or misdirection of the services they provide.

Cyber technology is defined as a field of technology that deals with the development of artificial devices or machines that can be surgically implanted into a humanoid form to improve or otherwise augment their physical or mental abilities. Cybertechnological products are known as “Cyberware”. Cyber defense is a computer network defense mechanism which includes response to actions and critical infrastructure protection and information assurance for organizations, government entities and other possible networks.

Cyber terrorism

Cyber terrorism is the use of the Internet to conduct violent acts that result in, or threaten, loss of life or significant bodily harm, in order to achieve political gains through intimidation. It is also sometimes considered an act of Internet terrorism where terrorist activities, including acts of deliberate, large-scale disruption of computer networks, especially of personal computers attached to the Internet by means of tools such as computer viruses, computer worms or other malicious scripts are used.There is some difference between cyber crimes and cyber terrorism.

Terrorism online should be considered cyberterrorism when there has been fear inflicted on a group of people, whereas cybercrime is the act of committing a felony or crime online, typically without the use of fear, e.g. financial. By these narrow and broad definitions, it is difficult to distinguish which instances of online acclivities are cyberterrorism or cybercrime.

Cyber terrorism can be also defined as the intentional use of computers, networks, and public internet to cause destruction and harm for personal objectives. Experienced cyber terrorists, who are very skilled in terms of hacking can cause massive damage to government systems, hospital records, and national security programs, which might leave a country, community or organization in turmoil and in fear of further attacks. The objectives of such terrorists may be political or ideological since this can be considered a form of terror.

In recent years, with the massive growth of Muslim extremist activities, there has been a significant rise in exploitation of internet technologies for committing terror and cyber terror attacks against western targets. There have been several major and minor instances of cyber terrorism. Al-Qaeda utilized the internet to communicate with supporters and even to recruit new members. Estonia, a Baltic country which is constantly evolving in terms of technology, became a battleground for cyber terror in April, 2007 after disputes regarding the removal of a WWII soviet statue located in Estonia’s capital Tallinn.

Types and forms of Cyber Attacks

Social networking over the Internet has boomed in recent years because it allows networks of like-minded individuals to collaborate and connect, regardless of their respective geographies or physical location. Cyber terrorism as mentioned is a very serious issue and it covers vide range of attacks.

Some of the major tools of cyber crime may be- Botnets, Estonia, 2007, Malicious Code Hosted on Websites, Cyber Espionage etc. It is pertinent to mark here that there are other forms which could be covered under the heading of Cyber Crime & simultaneously is also an important tools for terrorist activities. Here I’m going to discuss these criminal activities one by one:

Attacks via Internet: Unauthorized access & Hacking:

one of the criminal activities is unauthorized access that would therefore mean any kind of access without the permission of either the rightful owner or the person in charge of a computer, computer system or computer network

Every act committed towards breaking into a computer and/or network is hacking. Hackers write or use ready-made computer programs to attack the target computer. They possess the desire to destruct and they get the kick out of such destruction.

Trojan Attack:

Trojan is a program that acts like something useful but do the things that are quiet damping. The programs of this kind are called as Trojans.

Trojans come in two parts, a Client part and a Server part. When the victim (unknowingly) runs the server on its machine, the attacker will then use the Client to connect to the Server and start using the trojan.

Virus and Worm attack:

A program that has capability to infect other programs and make copies of itself and spread into other programs is called virus.

Programs that multiply like viruses but spread from computer to computer are called as worms.

E-mail related crimes:

  1. Email spoofing: Email spoofing refers to email that appears to have been originated from one source when it was actually sent from another source.
  2. Email Spamming: Email “spamming” refers to sending email to thousands and thousands of users – similar to a chain letter.
  3. Sending malicious codes through email:E-mails are used to send viruses, Trojans etc through emails as an attachment or by sending a link of website which on visiting downloads malicious code.

Threat to large banks

One of the most popular forms of Cyber terrorism is to threaten a large bank. The terrorists hack into the system and then leave an encrypted message for senior directors, which threaten the bank. What adds to the difficulty to catch the criminals is that the criminals may be in another country. A second difficulty is that most banks would rather pay the money than have the public know how vulnerable they are.

Major components of cyber security

All the measures that lead to protect the data, data machine and the data systems and networks form cyber security framework. It is about both- hardware and software. It is also about regulations, laws and policies. The following are the major components of Cyber security:

  • Application Security
  • Information Security
  • Disaster recovery
  • Network Security

Application security– encompasses measures or counter-measures that are taken during the development life-cycle to protect applications from threats that can come through flaws in the application design, development, deployment, upgrade or maintenance. Some basic techniques used for application security are: a) Input parameter validation, b)User/Role Authentication & Authorization, c) Session management, parameter manipulation & exception management, and d) Auditing and logging.

Information security– protects information from unauthorized access to avoid identity theft and to protect privacy. Major techniques used to cover this are: a) Identification, authentication & authorization of user, b) Cryptography.

Disaster recovery– planning is a process that includes performing risk assessment, establishing priorities, developing recovery strategies in case of a disaster. Any business should have a concrete plan for disaster recovery to resume normal business operations as quickly as possible after a disaster.

Network security– includes activities to protect the usability, reliability, integrity and safety of the network. Effective network security targets a variety of threats and stops them from entering or spreading on the network. Network security components include: a) Anti-virus and anti-spyware, b)Firewall, to block unauthorized access to your network, c)Intrusion prevention systems (IPS), to identify fast-spreading threats, such as zero-day or zero-hour attacks, and d) Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), to provide secure remote access.

Cyber Security and India

According to , Julie Gommes, cybersecurity expert and member of the Computer Emergency Response Team, India may not be a major target like some of the European countries of Jihadi cyberterrorism, but the country remains as vulnerable to cyberterrorism as any other Jihadi-targeted country. Ms. Gommes, who led a technical session on cyberterrorism at the 9th edition of the International Cybersecurity and Policing Conference which concluded in August 2016 in Kollam, said India should be alert to such acts of terrorism. All countries remain technically vulnerable to cyberterrorism though socially India may appear to be less vulnerable. She said that websites at large continue to remain vulnerable to all kinds of cyberattacks. There is not much thrust on the security aspect of websites when they are launched. This aspect is given some thought only after an attack. But in most post-attack cases, the web page is simply cleaned and is back in minutes. Yet, no serious thought is given to cyberterrorism.

India’s vulnerability could be seen in the following threats:

  • Privacy violation
  • Data theft
  • Appropriation of government records
  • DOS/ Distributed denial of services attacks (DDOS)
  • Network damage and distruction
  • Provisions of cyber security

Laws and regulations in India against cyber crimes and terror

Information technology act

The Information Technology Act, 2000  is an Act of the Indian Parliament (No 21 of 2000) notified on 17 October 2000. Both cyber crimes and cyber terrorism are addressed by the same law.It is the primary law in India dealing with cyber crime and electronic commerce. It is based on the United Nations Model Law on Electronic Commerce 1996 (UNCITRAL Model) recommended by the General Assembly of United Nations by a resolution dated 30 January 1997. The bill was passed in the budget session of 2000 and signed by President K. R. Narayanan on 9 May 2000. The bill was finalised by group of officials headed by then Minister of Information Technology Pramod Mahajan. The original Act contained 94 sections, divided in 13 chapters and 4 schedules. The laws apply to the whole of India. Persons of other nationalities can also be indicted under the law, if the crime involves a computer or network located in India.

The Act provides legal framework for electronic governance by giving recognition to electronic records and digital signatures. The formations of Controller of Certifying Authorities was directed by the Act, to regulate issuing of digital signatures. It also defines cyber crimes and prescribed penalties for them. It also established a Cyber Appellate Tribunal to resolve disputes rising from this new law. The Act also amended various sections of Indian Penal Code, 1860, Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Banker’s Book Evidence Act, 1891, and Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 to make them compliant with new technologies. A major amendment was made in 2008. It introduced the Section 66A which penalized sending of “offensive messages”. It also introduced the Section 69, which gave authorities the power of “interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource”. It also introduced penalties for child porn, cyber terrorism and voyeurism. It was passed on 22 December 2008 without any debate in Lok Sabha. The next day it was passed by the Rajya Sabha. It was signed by the then President (Pratibha Patil) on 5 February 2009.

Offences under the IT Act

List of offences and the corresponding penalties:

  • Section 65– Tampering with computer source documents- If a person knowingly or intentionally conceals, destroys or alters or intentionally or knowingly causes another to conceal, destroy or alter any computer source code used for a computer, computer programme, computer system or computer network, when the computer source code is required to be kept or maintained by law for the time being in force—– Imprisonment up to three years, or/and with fine up to Rs. 200,000
  • Section 66– Hacking with computer system–If a person with the intent to cause or knowing that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person destroys or deletes or alters any information residing in a computer resource or diminishes its value or utility or affects it injuriously by any means, commits hack—— Imprisonment up to three years, or/and with fine up to Rs. 500,000
  • Section 66 B-– Receiving stolen computer or communication device—- A person receives or retains a computer resource or communication device which is known to be stolen or the person has reason to believe is stolen—- Imprisonment up to three years, or/and with fine up to Rs. 100,000
  • Section 66 C–Using password of another person— A person fradulently uses the password, digital signature or other unique identification of another person—- Imprisonment up to three years, or/and with fine up to Rs.100,000
  • Section 66 D— Cheating using computer resource—- If a person cheats someone using a computer resource or communication—– Imprisonment up to three years, or/and with fine up to Rs.100,000
  • Section 66 E— Publishing private images of others—- If a person captures, transmits or publishes images of a person’s private parts without his/her consent or knowledge—- Imprisonment up to three years, or/and with fine up to Rs.200,000
  • Section 66 F— Acts 66F of cyber terrorism—If a person denies access to an authorised personnel to a computer resource, accesses a protected system or introduces contaminant into a system, with the intention of threatening the unity, integrity, sovereignty or security of India, then he commits cyber terrorism—– Imprisonment up to life
  • Section 67— Publishing information which is obscene in electronic form—- Publishing information which is obscene in electronic form—- If a person publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it—– Imprisonment up to five years, or/and with fine up to Rs. 1,000,000
  • Section 67 A— Publishing images containing sexual acts—- Persons deemed as intermediatary (such as an ISP) must maintain required records for stipulated time. Failure is an offence— Imprisonment up to three years, or/and with fine
  • Section 67 B— Publishing child porn or predating children online— If a person captures, publishes or transmits images of a child in a sexually explicit act or conduct. If a person induces a child into a sexual act. A child is defined as anyone under 18—– Imprisonment up to five years, or/and with fine up to Rs.1,000,000 on first conviction. Imprisonment up to seven years, or/and with fine up to Rs. 1,000,000 on second conviction.
  • Section 67 C — Failure to maintain records— Persons deemed as intermediatary (such as an ISP) must maintain required records for stipulated time. Failure is an offence.—– Imprisonment up to three years, or/and with fine
  • Section 68— Failure/refusal to comply with orders—- The Controller may, by order, direct a Certifying Authority or any employee of such Authority to take such measures or cease carrying on such activities as specified in the order if those are necessary to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Act, rules or any regulations made thereunder. Any person who fails to comply with any such order shall be guilty of an offence—- Imprisonment up to three years, or/and with fine up to Rs. 200,000
  • Section 69— Failure/refusal to decrypt data—- If the Controller is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign Stales or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence, for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order, direct any agency of the Government to intercept any information transmitted through any computer resource. The subscriber or any person in charge of the computer resource shall, when called upon by any agency which has been directed, must extend all facilities and technical assistance to decrypt the information. The subscriber or any person who fails to assist the agency referred is deemed to have committed a crime.—- Imprisonment up to seven years and possible fine.
  • Section 70-— Securing access or attempting to secure access to a protected system—— The appropriate Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare that any computer, computer system or computer network to be a protected system. The appropriate Government may, by order in writing, authorise the persons who are authorised to access protected systems. If a person who secures access or attempts to secure access to a protected system, then he is committing an offence.—– Imprisonment up to ten years, or/and with fine
  • Section 71-—Misrepresentation—— If anyone makes any misrepresentation to, or suppresses any material fact from, the Controller or the Certifying Authority for obtaining any license or Digital Signature Certificate—–Imprisonment up to three years, or/and with fine up to Rs. 100,000

Application of the IT Act

Some of the section s of the IT Act of India were on and off applied in certain cases. For example Section 66 was applied in case in February 2001, in one of the first cases, the Delhi police arrested two men running a web-hosting company. The company had shut down a website over non-payment of dues. The owner of the site had claimed that he had already paid and complained to the police. But the most used and criticized for abusive use was section 66A. It was used in September 2012, in case of a freelance cartoonist Aseem Trivedi who was arrested under Section 66A of the IT Act, Section 2 of Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 and for sedition under the Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code. His cartoons depicting widespread corruption in India were considered offensive. Again on 12 April 2012, a Chemistry professor from Jadavpur University, Ambikesh Mahapatra, was arrested for sharing a cartoon of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and then Railway Minister Mukul Roy.

On 30 October 2012, a Puducherry businessman Ravi Srinivasan was arrested under Section 66A. He had sent tweet accusing Karti Chidambaram, son of then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, of corruption. Karti Chidambaram had complained to the police. On 19 November 2012, a 21-year-old girl was arrested from Palghar for posting a message on Facebook criticising the shutdown in Mumbai for the funeral of Bal Thackeray.  On 18 March 2015, a teenaged boy was arrested from Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, for making a post on Facebook insulting politician Azam Khan. The post allegedly contained hate speech against a community and was falsely attributed to Azam Khan by the boy.

Controversy on Section 66A

From the above examples we see how powerful people influenced police to use section 66 A of the IT Act to gaga people and snatch their freedom of speech and opinion. Therefore, in December 2012, P Rajeev, a Rajya Sabha member from Kerala, tried to pass a resolution seeking to amend the Section 66A. He was supported by D. Bandyopadhyay, Gyan Prakash Pilania, Basavaraj Patil Sedam, Narendra Kumar Kashyap, Rama Chandra Khuntia and Baishnab Charan Parida. P Rajeev pointed that cartoons and editorials allowed in traditional media, were being censored in the new media. He also said that law was barely debated before being passed in December 2008. In November 2012, IPS officer Amitabh Thakur and his wife social activist Nutan Thakur, filed a petition in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court claiming that the Section 66A violated the freedom of speech guaranteed in the Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. They said that the section was vague and frequently misused.

Also in November 2012, a Delhi-based law student, Shreya Singhal, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court of India. She argued that the Section 66A was vaguely phrased, as result it violated Article 14, 19 (1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution. The PIL was accepted on 29 November 2012. A similar petition was also filed by the founder of, Faisal Farooqui, and NGO Common Cause represented by Prashant Bhushan. In August 2014, the Supreme Court asked the central government to respond to petitions filed by and later petition filed by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) which claimed that the IT Act gave the government power to arbitrarily remove user-generated content

On 24 March 2015, the Supreme Court of India, gave the verdict that Section 66A is unconstitutional in entirety. The court said that Section 66A of IT Act 2000 is “arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech” provided under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India. But the Court turned down a plea to strike down sections 69A and 79 of the Act, which deal with the procedure and safeguards for blocking certain websites.

Threat to banks

Wanna Decryptor or WannaCry, a ransomeware attacked banks and individual high net worth people in the first half of 2017. The countries affected by a global cyber attack that took down, among others, health services in the UK, a telecom network in Spain and government computer systems in Russia in May 2017. In the same minth, as many as 102 computer systems of Andhra Pradesh police were hacked . The malware reportedly halted production at a Nissan-Renault Alliance plant on the outskirts of Chennai, but the company did not comment on the issue. National Cyber Security Adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office Gulshan Rai however halted the panic by saying that about 100 systems were attacked but after mid-may there were no more threats. The international cyber attack was carried out using a malware called Wanna Decryptor or WannaCry. This is a “ransomware“, a digital extortion system that locks down systems by encrypting the data on it, only to decrypt and release it back for a ransom amount. What was more worrying about the global cyber attack was the fact that the outdated Windows XP version that turned out to be the weak link, crippling information systems around the world, is used by 70% of Indian ATMs. According to a Microsoft spokesperson, Their complete control rests with vendors who provide banks with these systems. Microsoft stopped providing support -security patches and other tools -for Windows XP in 2014. However, on Saturday, Microsoft said it had released updates for older systems. “Given the potential impact to customers and their businesses, we have also released updates for Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003.

The threat of cybercrime on the global banking and financial services industry is apparent with a tectonic increase in cases over the past few years. The disruptive force of technology has proved to be a double-edged sword, with the quantum of cyber-attacks intensifying with time in the banking sector. For instance, ‘Zeus Trojan’, a type of malware wreaked havoc on the internet about a decade back, stealing the banking credentials of users. ‘Cryptolocker’, a type of ransomware was then discovered which could encrypt critical files on the system and demand a ransom (typically in Bitcoins) in exchange for the decryption key. More recently, a lethal ransomware known as ‘Mamba’ has caused panic across the world. This is because instead of the just encrypting critical files, ‘Mamba’ encrypts the entire hard disk drive, including the bootloader.

Phishing, another form of attack led by social engineering, is targeting consumers who may fall prey to a fake but ‘genuine-looking’ bank website, and eventually offer credentials to a hacker. The hacker would then use the credentials to log into the original bank account and transfer funds fraudulently. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks using devices connected to internet such as CCTV cameras and mobile phones have also enabled them to potentially deny internet access to an entire country.

Historically, telex (also known as TT or Telegraphic Transfer) has been the legacy electronic method used to send overseas payment instructions taking place between financial institutions. While it was a popular means, there were loopholes in the security systems. The need to have an easier as well as a secure system emerged, which would be simple and safe and maintain integrity of the data exchanged. Telex was eventually replaced by a newer and more reliable method, created by non-profit organizations known as Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) in 1977. SWIFT gained instant popularity and by 1979, it was already handling more than 1.2 lakh messages per day. Today, SWIFT’s messaging services are used extensively by more than 11,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries.

In recent times, cyber criminals have shifted their focus to targeting critical banking infrastructure. Created with the intent to provide security and reliability to banks, the repercussions of successfully breaching SWIFT systems could be hazardous. Unlike banking Trojans and ransomware, where each hack would yield thousands of dollars, each SWIFT hack could potentially cost banks millions of dollars. Media reports have suggested such cases in Asia as well as Europe. Keeping aside the reported cases, there is a fair probability that more attacks may have occurred but would have gone unreported due to possible reputational damage feared by the institutions. Typically, hackers would send fraudulent payment instructions impersonating the operator of a financial institution. They would then manipulate or wipe off some data to mask any trail so the hack becomes untraceable.

To proactively manage the vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers, patches and updates have been rolled out by SWIFT. However, as the compromise often involves internal systems, such steps may not necessarily solve all the problems for an organization.

Additionally, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has released a set of guidelines to manage the risks associated with such attacks. RBI’s circular last year covered several notable suggestions, ranging from arrangements for continuous surveillance, creation of a cyber security policy that is distinct from the broader IT policy and an immediate assessment of gaps in preparedness to be reported to the regulator. To diminish future risks and fortify safety mechanisms, institutions using global payment services should conduct a complete security review of their IT infrastructure. Lastly, a proactive forensic analysis of all the systems may be beneficial to ascertain if there has already been a breach or compromise.


Monsoon Forecast, floods and preparedness

In a forecast update in June 2017, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasted higher monsoon rainfall during the year than its forecast in April 2017 because of favourable developments in global conditions, particularly the lower prospects of rain-busting El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean. IMD’s optimistic forecast was corroborated by the widely respected Australian weather office, which said the El Nino phenomenon, associated with abnormal warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean, had stopped developing, although it has still not been ruled out.

 The updated forecast of 98% of normal rainfall was expected to bring cheer among farmers and policy makers. It is believed that if Monsoon would be better, it will help control food inflation, which is a key input in the Reserve Bank of India’s stance towards interest rates. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) also forecasted good monsoon activity in the crucial months of July and August, when rainfall casts the biggest influence on the growth of crops and output. But Monsoon also wrecks havoc by causing floods in some states of India.

Sixty persons have died due to the floods in Assam over the last couple of months. Nearly 10 lakh people in 21 districts of the State have been affected. The South Salwara district is the worst hit. The districts of Lakhimpur, Karimganj and Biswanath have also been severely affected by the flood. According to State officials, about 435 roads, seven bridges and 30 embankments have been damaged in the floods. Hundreds of houses were submerged as the Brahmaputra has been flowing above the danger level.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal directed July 17 all Deputy Commissioners to ensure that families affected by the floods were provided with relief materials, irrespective of whether they were staying in relief camps or not. He asked authorities in the five districts covered by Kaziranga National Park — Nagaon, Karbi Anglong, Golaghat, Biswanath Chariali and Sonitpur — to take steps to safeguard wild animals affected by the floods in close cooperation with the police and the forest department.

The Assam State Disaster Management Authority said 1,102 villages were underwater at present and nearly 41,000 hectares of crop areas were inundated.

In Odisha, the State government rushed relief materials to villagers in the Rayagada and Kalahandi districts, a day after flash floods wrought havoc. About 4,000 people were evacuated and lodged in 15 temporary shelters, where cooked food was being provided to them at free kitchen centres. Five bridges were washed away and four major roads were damaged in the floods. The twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar faced heavy waterlogging. In 18 major localities in Cuttack, residents had a tough time stepping out of their houses as the lanes and by-lanes were submerged in water. Cuttack received 154.5 mm of rainfall over the 24 hours till July 17 morning.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik  directed on July 17 all departments to work on a war-footing to restore road and power connectivity to the flood-hit villages. The flood-related death toll in Gujarat rose to 11 as two more persons died in the last 24 hours.

Other states are also facing the havoc of flood. Many parts of Gujarat are also facing difficulties due to flood. Rescue operations are on in Jamnagar district, where several people are still stranded. The Umergam and Kaprada taluks of Valsad district received the highest rainfall of 99 mm and 98 mm, respectively. West Bengal too received isolated heavy downpour. A man was swept away by flash floods triggered by a cloud burst in the Chama district of Himachal Pradesh, as rain lashed many parts of the State.

Understanding El Nino and La Nino

El Niño  is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (between approximately the International Date Line and 120°W), including off the Pacific coast of South America. El Niño Southern Oscillation refers to the cycle of warm and cold temperatures, as measured by sea surface temperature, SST, of the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean. El Niño is accompanied by high air pressure in the western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific. The cool phase of ENSO is called “La Niña” with SST in the eastern Pacific below average and air pressures high in the eastern and low in western Pacific. The ENSO cycle, both El Niño and La Niña, cause global changes of both temperatures and rainfall. The following picture depicts EL Nino.

Developing countries that are dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are usually most affected. In American Spanish, the capitalized term “El Niño” refers to “the little boy”, so named because the pool of warm water in the Pacific near South America is often at its warmest around Christmas. The original name, “El Niño de Navidad”, traces its origin centuries back to Peruvian fishermen, who named the weather phenomenon in reference to the newborn Christ. “La Niña”, chosen as the ‘opposite’ of El Niño, literally translates to “the little girl”.

India’s weather forecasting system

The India Meteorological Department (IMD), also referred to as the Met Department, is an agency of the Ministry of Earth Sciences of the Government of India. It is the principal agency responsible for meteorological observations, weather forecasting and seismology. IMD is headquartered in New Delhi and operates hundreds of observation stations across India and Antarctica. IMD is also one of the six Regional Specialised Meteorological Centres of the World Meteorological Organization. It has the responsibility for forecasting, naming and distribution of warnings for tropical cyclones in the Northern Indian Ocean region, including the Malacca Straits, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Causes of flood

Floods are caused by many factors (or a combination of any of these): heavy rainfall, highly accelerated snowmelt, severe winds over water, unusual high tides, tsunamis, or failure of dams, levees, retention ponds, or other structures that retained the water. Flooding can be exacerbated by increased amounts of impervious surface or by other natural hazards such as wildfires, which reduce the supply of vegetation that can absorb rainfall.

Periodic floods occur on many rivers, forming a surrounding region known as the flood plain. During times of rain, some of the water is retained in ponds or soil, some is absorbed by grass and vegetation, some evaporates, and the rest travels over the land as surface runoff. Floods occur when ponds, lakes, riverbeds, soil, and vegetation cannot absorb all the water. Water then runs off the land in quantities that cannot be carried within stream channels or retained in natural ponds, lakes, and man-made reservoirs.

About 30 percent of all precipitation becomes runoff and that amount might be increased by water from melting snow. River flooding is often caused by heavy rain, sometimes increased by melting snow. A flood that rises rapidly, with little or no warning, is called a flash flood. Flash floods usually result from intense rainfall over a relatively small area, or if the area was already saturated from previous precipitation.

Flood Management in India

Flood control as a subject is not included in any of the legislative lists of India be it the Union List, the State List or the Concurrent List. However, embankment and drainage are mentioned specifically in Entry 17 of List II or the State List. Thus, it can basically be said that it is the state’s responsibility to deal with the floods. In fact, several states have already created laws that have the necessary provisions to deal with these issues, while the national government, in these cases, mainly plays the roles of an advisor, promoter, and catalyst.

The flood management mechanisms that exist in India at the moment is operational at two levels – central level and state level. The state level mechanism is made up of the water resource department, the Flood Control Board, and State Technical Advisory Committee. The central level mechanism is made up of bodies such as the Central Water Commission (CWC), the Farakka Barrage Project Authority, the Ganga Flood Control Commission, the National Disaster Management Authority, and the Brahmaputra Board. Over the years, the Indian Government has also taken the following initiatives in order to deal with floods:

  • Policy Statement 1954
  • National Flood Commission (Rashtriya Barh Ayog) 1980
  • High Level Committee on Floods – 1957
  • Expert Committee to Review the Implementation of the Recommendations of National Flood Commission – 2003 (R Rangachari Committee)
  • Policy Statement of 1958
  • National Water Policy (1987/2002/2012)

In general, the flood management measures that are being used in India can be broadly classified into engineering or structural measures and administrative or non-structural measures. The engineering measures comprise the following:

  • Reservoirs
  • Drainage improvement
  • Embankments
  • Diversion of flood waters
  • Channelization of rivers
  • Watershed management
  • Channel improvement

The administrative measures can be broken up into flood plain zoning and flood proofing. The CWC also performs the responsibility of forecasting floods through the CWC National Flood Forecasting Network. The work of the various agencies, which are part of the central mechanism to manage floods in India, tends to differ from one another considering the unique challenges they face within their jurisdictions. The main responsibility of the Farakka Barrage Project Authority is to protect the river bank and make sure it is not eroded. Its area of jurisdiction is the area near the barrage.

On the other hand, the Central Water Commission, set up in 1945 by the national government, works toward developing more and better flood control measures, using, and conserving water resources, and promoting them as well. It also caters to areas like using water beneficially, in irrigation, and generating hydropower, apart from river conservation and flood management.

Science and Technology

The importance of big data: Constraints and possibilities

We are living in an information age. Information is equally important for various stake holders in a society- from academics, business, commerce, science and research to measurement of socio-economic and climatic change and maintenance of law and order, big data has immense utility.  Today there is an increasing tendency of using big data for analysis. Such an analysis of big data sets can find new correlations to “spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on. Scientists, business executives, practitioners of medicine, advertising and governments alike regularly meet difficulties with large data-sets in areas including Internet search, finance, urban informatics, and business informatics. Scientists encounter limitations in e-Science work, including meteorology, genomics, connectomics, complex physics simulations, biology and environmental research.

What is big data?

Big data refers to extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions. Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. But it’s not the amount of data that’s important. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves. However, the traditional data processing application software is inadequate to deal with big data. There are umpteen challenges in handling, processing and analyzing the big data. They include capture, storage, analysis, data curation, search, sharing, transfer, visualization, querying, and updating and information privacy. The term “big data” often refers simply to the use of predictive analytics, user behavior analytics, or certain other advanced data analytics methods that extract value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set. “There is little doubt that the quantities of data now available are indeed large, but that’s not the most relevant characteristic of this new data ecosystem.

According to a 2011 McKinsey Global Institute report the main characteristics of big data are (1)  Techniques for analyzing data, such as A/B testing, machine learning and natural language processing, (2) Big data technologies, like business intelligence, cloud computing and databases and (3) Visualization, such as charts, graphs and other displays of the data

Application of big data

It is said that Big data analysis was in part responsible for the BJP to win the Indian General Election 2014 in India. There are many areas where today big data is used or has immense potential to be used. Developed economies increasingly use data-intensive technologies. There are 4.6 billion mobile-phone subscriptions worldwide, and between 1 billion and 2 billion people accessing the internet. Between 1990 and 2005, more than 1 billion people worldwide entered the middle class, which means more people became more literate, which in turn lead to information growth. The world’s effective capacity to exchange information through telecommunication networks was 281 petabytes in 1986, 471 petabytes in 1993, 2.2 exabytes in 2000, 65 exabytes in 2007 and predictions put the amount of internet traffic at 667 exabytes annually by 2014. According to one estimate, one third of the globally stored information is in the form of alphanumeric text and still image data, which is the format most useful for most big data applications. This also shows the potential of yet unused data (i.e. in the form of video and audio content).While many vendors offer off-the-shelf solutions for big data, experts recommend the development of in-house solutions custom-tailored to solve the company’s problem at hand if the company has sufficient technical capabilities.

The use and adoption of big data within governmental processes allows efficiencies in terms of cost, productivity, and innovation. Research on the effective usage of information and communication technologies for development (also known as ICT4D) suggests that big data technology can make important contributions but also present unique challenges to International development. Advancements in big data analysis offer cost-effective opportunities to improve decision-making in critical development areas such as health care, employment, economic productivity, crime, security, and natural disaster and resource management. Based on TCS 2013 Global Trend Study, improvements in supply planning and product quality provide the greatest benefit of big data for manufacturing. Big data provides an infrastructure for transparency in manufacturing industry, which is the ability to unravel uncertainties such as inconsistent component performance and availability. Predictive manufacturing as an applicable approach toward near-zero downtime and transparency requires vast amount of data and advanced prediction tools for a systematic process of data into useful information. Big data analytics has helped healthcare improve by providing personalized medicine and prescriptive analytics, clinical risk intervention and predictive analytics, waste and care variability reduction, automated external and internal reporting of patient data, standardized medical terms and patient registries and fragmented point solutions. Big dtat can also be helpful in a great way in the field of education. A McKinsey Global Institute study found a shortage of 1.5 million highly trained data professionals and managers and a number of universities including University of Tennessee and UC Berkeley, have created masters programs to meet this demand. Private bootcamps have also developed programs to meet that demand, including free programs like The Data Incubator or paid programs like General Assembly. Big data is a boon even for media. To understand how the media utilises big data, it is first necessary to provide some context into the mechanism used for media process. It has been suggested by Nick Couldry and Joseph Turow that practitioners in Media and Advertising approach big data as many actionable points of information about millions of individuals. The industry appears to be moving away from the traditional approach of using specific media environments such as newspapers, magazines, or television shows and instead taps into consumers with technologies that reach targeted people at optimal times in optimal locations. The ultimate aim is to serve, or convey, a message or content that is (statistically speaking) in line with the consumer’s mindset. For example, publishing environments are increasingly tailoring messages (advertisements) and content (articles) to appeal to consumers that have been exclusively gleaned through various data-mining activities. Big data can be used to improve training and understanding competitors, using sport sensors. It is also possible to predict winners in a match using big data analytics. Future performance of players could be predicted as well.

Flow of big data and its management

Due to cheap availability and advent of many new tools to access Data sets, data has grown in the last two decades with an unprecedented speed and volume. Data are today increasingly gathered by cheap and numerous information-sensing mobile devices, aerial (remote sensing), software logs, cameras, microphones, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers and wireless sensor networks. The world’s technological per-capita capacity to store information has roughly doubled every 40 months since the 1980s as of 2012, every day 2.5 exabytes (2.5×1018) of data are generated.

Architecture and new technology to support big data analysis

Since the beginning of the new millennium there are ongoing efforts to develop methods for managing the big data. In 2000, Seisint Inc. (now LexisNexis Group) developed a C++-based distributed file-sharing framework for data storage and query. The system stores and distributes structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data across multiple servers. Users can build queries in a C++ dialect called ECL. ECL uses an “apply schema on read” method to infer the structure of stored data when it is queried, instead of when it is stored. In 2004, LexisNexis acquired Seisint Inc.[35] and in 2008 acquired ChoicePoint, Inc. and their high-speed parallel processing platform. The two platforms were merged into HPCC (or High-Performance Computing Cluster) Systems and in 2011, HPCC was open-sourced under the Apache v2.0 License. Quantcast File System was available about the same time.

In 2004, Google published a paper on a process called MapReduce that uses a similar architecture. The MapReduce concept provides a parallel processing model, and an associated implementation was released to process huge amounts of data. With MapReduce, queries are split and distributed across parallel nodes and processed in parallel (the Map step). The results are then gathered and delivered (the Reduce step). The framework was very successful, so others wanted to replicate the algorithm. Therefore, an implementation of the MapReduce framework was adopted by an Apache open-source project named Hadoop.

MIKE2.0 is an open approach to information management that acknowledges the need for revisions due to big data implications identified in an article titled “Big Data Solution Offering”. The methodology addresses handling big data in terms of useful permutations of data sources, complexity in interrelationships, and difficulty in deleting (or modifying) individual records.

Recent Developments in big data management

2012 studies showed that multiple-layer architecture is one option to address the issues that big data presents. A distributed parallel architecture distributes data across multiple servers; these parallel execution environments can dramatically improve data processing speeds. This type of architecture inserts data into a parallel DBMS, which implements the use of MapReduce and Hadoop frameworks. This type of framework looks to make the processing power transparent to the end user by using a front-end application server. Big data analytics for manufacturing applications is marketed as a 5C architecture (connection, conversion, cyber, cognition, and configuration). The data lake allows an organization to shift its focus from centralized control to a shared model to respond to the changing dynamics of information management. This enables quick segregation of data into the data lake, thereby reducing the overhead time.

Multidimensional big data can also be represented as tensors, which can be more efficiently handled by tensor-based computation, such as multilinear subspace learning. Additional technologies being applied to big data include massively parallel-processing (MPP) databases, search-based applications, data mining, distributed file systems, distributed databases, cloud-based infrastructure (applications, storage and computing resources) and the Internet. Some but not all MPP relational databases have the ability to store and manage petabytes of data. Implicit is the ability to load, monitor, back up, and optimize the use of the large data tables in the RDBMS.

Issues in real time Sharing of big data

The practitioners of big data analytics processes are generally hostile to slower shared storage, preferring direct-attached storage (DAS) in its various forms from solid state drive (Ssd) to high capacity SATA disk buried inside parallel processing nodes. The perception of shared storage architectures—Storage area network (SAN) and Network-attached storage (NAS) —is that they are relatively slow, complex, and expensive. These qualities are not consistent with big data analytics systems that thrive on system performance, commodity infrastructure, and low cost.

Real or near-real time information delivery is one of the defining characteristics of big data analytics. Latency is therefore avoided whenever and wherever possible. Data in memory is good—data on spinning disk at the other end of a FC SAN connection is not. The cost of a SAN at the scale needed for analytics applications is very much higher than other storage techniques. There are advantages as well as disadvantages to shared storage in big data analytics, but big data analytics practitioners as of 2011 did not favour it.

Big data, Internet of Things (IoT) and Technology

Big data and the IoT work in conjunction. Data extracted from IoT devices provides a mapping of device inter-connectivity. Such mappings have been used by the media industry, companies and governments to more accurately target their audience and increase media efficiency. IoT is also increasingly adopted as a means of gathering sensory data, and this sensory data has been used in medical  and manufacturing  contexts. There are many ecommerce and social media platforms which are using big data with their own system of management of big data. . uses two data warehouses at 7.5 petabytes and 40PB as well as a 40PB Hadoop cluster for search, consumer recommendations, and merchandising. handles millions of back-end operations every day, as well as queries from more than half a million third-party sellers. The core technology that keeps Amazon running is Linux-based and as of 2005 they had the world’s three largest Linux databases, with capacities of 7.8 TB, 18.5 TB, and 24.7 TB. Facebook handles 50 billion photos from its user base. Google was handling roughly 100 billion searches per month as of August 2012. Oracle NoSQL Database has been tested to past the 1M ops/sec mark with 8 shards and proceeded to hit 1.2M ops/sec with 10 shards.

Difficulties in handling big data

There are many problems in the handling of big data. There are technical issues already discussed above. Apart from technical issues there are other issues pertaining to accuracy of predictions and analysis because of behavioral issues. Relational database management systems and desktop statistics- and visualization-packages often have difficulty handling big data. The work may require “massively parallel software running on tens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers”. What counts as “big data” varies depending on the capabilities of the users and their tools, and expanding capabilities make big data a moving target. “For some organizations, facing hundreds of gigabytes of data for the first time may trigger a need to reconsider data management options. For others, it may take tens or hundreds of terabytes before data size becomes a significant consideration. One question for large enterprises is determining who should own big-data initiatives that affect the entire organization.

 Snijders, Matzat, and Reips point out that often very strong assumptions are made about mathematical properties of the big data in analysis that may not at all reflect what is really going on at the level of micro-processes.  Mark Graham has leveled broad critiques at Chris Anderson’s assertion that big data will spell the end of theory: focusing in particular on the notion that big data must always be contextualized in their social, economic, and political contexts. Even as companies invest eight- and nine-figure sums to derive insight from information streaming in from suppliers and customers, less than 40% of employees have sufficiently mature processes and skills to do so. To overcome this insight deficit, big data, no matter how comprehensive or well analysed, must be complemented by “big judgment,” according to an article in the Harvard Business Review. Much in the same line, it has been pointed out that the decisions based on the analysis of big data are inevitably “informed by the world as it was in the past, or, at best, as it currently is”. Privacy advocates are concerned about the threat to privacy represented by increasing storage and integration of personally identifiable information; expert panels have released various policy recommendations to conform practice to expectations of privacy. Nayef Al-Rodhan argues that a new kind of social contract will be needed to protect individual liberties in a context of Big Data and giant corporations that own vast amounts of information. The use of Big Data should be monitored and better regulated at the national and international levels. Ulf-Dietrich Reips and Uwe Matzat wrote in 2014 that big data had become a “fad” in scientific research. Researcher Danah Boyd has raised concerns about the use of big data in science neglecting principles such as choosing a representative sample by being too concerned about actually handling the huge amounts of data. This approach may lead to results bias in one way or another. Nonetheless, the use of big data in the information age is indispensable. It will depend on technology and methods of handling the big data as well as motives behind the analysis which would determine the end results. The issue of privacy and liberty would remain to be big questions and also what would happen if a cyber warfare leads to collapse of the big data.

Science and Technology

ISRO launches 104 satellites in one go: Establishes its credentials as low cost and efficient commercial launcher

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) set a new record in space mission achievements after it successfully launched 104 satellites in desired orbits one go from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on February 2017morning. This was ISRO’s first space mission for the year 2017, and the most complicated mission it has ever carried out. The feat was performed on the old reliable launch vehicle, the PSLV, numbered C-37, which took off from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, at 9.28 a.m. C-37 was a largely commercial flight as all but three passenger satellites, small nanosats, belonged to six other countries. PSLV Project Director B. Jayakumar at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) said “It is confirmed that all 104 satellites have been successfully deployed in the orbit.” ISRO said that after separation, the two solar arrays of Cartosat-2 series satellite were deployed automatically and ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bengaluru took over the control of the satellite. In the coming days, the satellite will be brought to its final operational configuration.

According to ISRO the 29-minute mega-payload launch went off precisely as planned; it took just 11 minutes from the release of the primary Cartosat-2 series spacecraft to the last launch of a client satellite. The PSLV, in the category of launch vehicles that can lift relatively light loads to space, now marks 38 successful missions in a row out of a total of 39 flights. This time, it took to space a total of 1,378 kg, of which the primary satellite was 714 kg.

The latest Cartosat is the fifth in the series of six Cartosat-2 spacecraft, starting from Cartosat 2 in 2007 and followed by what were earlier marked A, B, C, D and E. The last one is due. An official communique said, “After a flight of 16 minutes and 48 seconds, the satellites achieved a polar Sun synchronous orbit of 506 km inclined at an angle of 97.46 degrees to the equator — very close to the intended orbit. In the next 12 minutes, all 104 satellites successfully separated from the PSLV fourth stage in a predetermined sequence, beginning with the Cartosat-2 series, INS-1 and INS-2.” After a flight of 16 minutes and 48 seconds, the satellites achieved a polar Sun synchronous orbit of 506 km inclined at an angle of 97.46 degrees to the equator — very close to the intended orbit. In the next 12 minutes, all 104 satellites successfully separated from the PSLV fourth stage in a predetermined sequence, beginning with the Cartosat-2 series, INS-1 and INS-2.

The PSLV, which created launch history by placing a record 104 spacecraft in their desired orbits, has totally launched 46 Indian spacecraft, most of them Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites. As many as 180 small satellites of foreign customers contracted by ISRO’s commercial company Antrix Corporation have also reached space on this vehicle. This time, it took to space a total of 1,378 kg, of which the primary satellite was 714 kg. The latest Cartosat is the fifth in the series of six Cartosat-2 spacecraft, starting from Cartosat 2 in 2007 and followed by what were earlier marked A, B, C, D and E. The last one is due. The PSLV, 39 flights old since 1993, also launched the Indian Moon mission Chandrayaan-1 in 2008; and is set to launch a private lunar mission for Bengaluru start-up Team Indus in late December this year.

PSLV first launched the 714 kg Cartosat-2 Series satellite for earth observation, followed by the INS-1A and INS-1B, after it reached the polar Sun Synchronous Orbit. It then went on to inject 103 co-passenger satellites, together weighing about 664 kg, in pairs.ISRO scientists used the XL Variant – the most powerful rocket – earlier used in the ambitious Chandrayaan and during the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).

Till 2016, Isro had launched 75 foreign satellites, out of a total of 121. Forex revenues of Isro’s commercial arm, Antrix Corporation, rose 204.9% in 2015  on the strength of foreign satellite launches. In 2015-16, commercial launches brought in Rs230 crore, which was 4% of Isro’s average spending over the previous three years. Isro’s low prices are drawing foreign clients. Private space programmes such as Arianespace and SpaceX are yet to equal its cost-effectiveness. Besides, Isro has a 100% success rate in foreign satellite launches. While a satellite launch on Arianespace’s rocket will cost about $100 million after subsidies, SpaceX will charge $60 million. In contrast, Isro charged an average $3 million per satellite between 2013 and 2015.

Science and Technology

NASA discovered 7 Earth-like planets

Scientists of NASA announced discovery of an entire system of Earth-sized planets. In these seven planets, six innermost are rocky like earth.

Three of the planets lie in the star’s habitable zone. The habitable zone or goldilocks zone is the region surrounding a star in which liquid water could theoretically exist. This means that all three of these planets may have presence of water. This indication dramatically increased the possibility of life. This is the largest number of Earth-sized planets yet found which could support liquid water.

As per Scientists, the star in this system-TRAPPIST-1 is an “ultra cool dwarf”. The energy output from dwarf stars like TRAPPIST-1 is much weaker than that of our Sun. Planets would need to be in far closer orbits than we see in the Solar System if there is to be surface water. Fortunately, it seems that this kind of compact configuration is just what we see around TRAPPIST-1.”

Michael Gillon leads the TRAPPIST collaboration, which hunts for planets using two 60-centimetre telescopes of Chile and Morocco. Gillon said that the team initially reported three planets around the star, known as TRAPPIST-1, last May. Further research revealed that it was not a single planet but four that orbit Trappist-1 roughly every 4, 6, 9 and 12 days. Those four joined the two innermost planets, which whirl around the star once every 1.5 days and 2.4 days. The team also find a seventh, more distant planet.

The six inner planets probably formed farther away from their star and then migrated inward. Now, they are so close to each other that their gravitational fields interact that enabled the team to estimate each planet’s mass, which they range from around 0.4 to 1.4 times the mass of the Earth.

Distance from Our Earth

The system is just 40 light-years away. Although, it would take us millions of years to get there with today’s technology, but these findings are important milestone in search of life beyond Earth.


The Hubble Space Telescope is already being used to search for atmospheres around the planets. Emmanuel Jehin, a scientist who also worked on the research, asserts that “With the upcoming generation of telescopes, such as ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, we will soon be able to search for water and perhaps even evidence of life on these worlds.”

This revelation is also important for researchers who are working to compare how worlds evolve. The TRAPPIST-1 system probably has a similar variety of worlds. “If one of these planets hosts life and the adjacent one doesn’t, why not?” asks Sarah Ballard, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge.

Although at least some fraction of each planet could harbour liquid water, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are habitable. TRAPPIST-1 emits about the same amount of X-ray and ultraviolet radiation as the Sun does, which would make it much more challenging for life to thrive.