What was the Bhopal gas tragedy?

The Bhopal gas tragedy took place on the night of 3rd December, 1984 and is among the world’s worst industrial disasters. On this fateful night a runaway reaction in a tank containing poisonous methyl isocyanate caused a pressure build up which finally led to a gas leak. The plant was operated by Union Carbide India Limited.

Close to 16,000 people were killed instantly and 6, 00,000 people affected in the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. Furthermore, around 20,000 premature deaths were reported in Bhopal in the next two decades.

The effects of this tragedy continue till today and may be seen in succeeding generations. Children of victims are born with severe congenital defects even into the second and third generations.

This year marks 39 years since ‘Bhopal died a million deaths’.

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Who performed the first human heart transplant surgery?

Christiaan Barnard, a South African cardiac surgeon performed the first human heart transplant on December 3, 1967. He transplanted the heart of 25-year-old accident victim Denise Darvall into a 54-year-old grocer named Louis Washkansky.

The operation took place at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa and was technically a success. Washkansky’s body did not reject the heart and he regained consciousness post-operation. However, the immunosuppressive (anti-rejection) drugs he was forced to take, weakened his immune system and he contracted pneumonia. He passed away 18 days later.

Barnard went on to become an international celebrity as a result of the transplant. The high risk of organ rejection by the recipient prevented other surgeons from trying their hand at this form of surgery. It was only when the drug cyclosporine began to be used (to suppress the immune system from rejecting a transplanted organ) that the risks involved in this sort of surgery reduced.

The Groote Schuur Hospital set up the ‘Heart of Cape Town Museum’ in honour of those involved in the first surgery. This year marks 55 years since this medical leap.

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Why is ‘On the Origin of Species’ a ground-breaking book?


On November 24, 1859, Charles Darwin’s famous work ‘On the Origin of Species’ was published.

Darwin was an English naturalist born on February 12, 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. In 1831, at the age of 22, Darwin sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on a British royal navy ship called the HMS Beagle, as a naturalist. During his time at sea, he collected samples of plants, animals, and fossils from many regions. The data helped him come to the conclusion that the diversity of life arose by common descent. He wrote ‘The Voyage of the Beagle’ upon his return in 1836.

His second book ‘On the Origin of Species’ was published in November, 1859 and proposed the theory that species evolve over the course of time through a process of natural selection. Darwin contends that all species descend from common ancestors and that the preservation of species takes place by means of natural selection in the struggle for life.

Even today the schools of creationism and evolution are locked in an ongoing debate over which theory is more accurate.

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Why is Mangalyaan called the ‘Pride of Asia’?

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan is a space probe which was launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on November 5, 2013. It was India’s first interplanetary mission and made India the fourth space agency in the world to send a probe into Martian orbit after Roscosmos, NASA and the European Space Agency. The then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the project on August 3, 2012.

Mangalyaan was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh with the help of a PSLV rocket. A network of ground stations continuously tracked the launch vehicle till the probe was separated from it. The Spacecraft Control Centre in Bangalore controlled its operations post separation. Two ships equipped with Ship Borne Terminals (SBT) were also deployed in the South Pacific Ocean to track the mission.

After a 298-day transit period, it was put into Martian orbit on September 24, 2014, making India the first Asian country and the first country ever to succeed on its maiden attempt. Mangalyaan is also remarkable for being the cheapest mission to Mars till date. The success of Mangalyaan firmly placed India in an elite global space club.  Interestingly China refers to Mangalyaan as the ‘Pride of Asia’!

The scheduled span of the mission was 6 months but the orbiter is still orbiting Mars. This year marks 9 years since Mangalyaan was put into Martian orbit.

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When do we celebrate Gandhi Jayanti and why?

October 2, 2022 marks the 154th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. One of India’s three national holidays, it celebrates the life of this greatest of all Indians, who employed non-violent resistance to lead India to freedom from British rule.

Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat. He studied law for three years in London, after which he spent his early years as an advocate in South Africa. During this time he became aware of the stark inequalities prevalent in South African society, prompting him to protest against the government’s treatment of natives and Indians. He did this by organizing nonviolent resistance.

When he returned to British-controlled India in January 1915, Gandhiji had acquired the skills both of an accomplished lawyer and a community organizer dedicated to peaceful protest. Between March 12 and April 6, 1930 he led the Dandi March, also known as the Salt Satyagraha, as a nonviolent protest against the British salt tax in India.

On August 9, 1942 Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement, which demanded the end of British rule in India. This movement played a crucial role in uniting India against the British. Gandhiji was assassinated by Nathuram Godse on 30 January 1948.

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