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How mega science projects could help India become a $5 trillion economy



Research assistants at work in a lab in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur | Representational image | Photo: Sumit Dayal | Bloomberg

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Geneva: Prime Minister Modi has set a goal of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25. In addition to infrastructure, banking and agriculture, certain sectors have been prioritised to achieve the goal and drive employment opportunities.

Industries based on physics and mega science projects generate over 16 per cent of the total turnover in Europe, topping contributions from financial services and retail sectors, according to a report.

Among all physics areas, high energy physics (HEP), given the gigantic scale, complex technology and large-scale facilities, is naturally a significant contributor.

India has an opportunity to combine its existing expertise in different areas of mega science projects with intellectual property (IP) that rests in premier labs around the world to intensify the contributions of each field to the country’s economic dream.

Also Read: Gaganyaan astronauts to get ISRO’s module-specific training in India after Russia session

Technology for society

Relevant state-of-the-art technologies were initially developed for fundamental research at institutions like CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

These are fine-tuned to meet exacting research specifications, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which was built to run experiments on particle collisions. These are based on sensors exploiting silicon wafers, specialised crystals and gaseous mixtures for detection of radiation.

Often they are improved versions of techniques used in the past, with remarkable augmentation across technology and techniques. This ranges from component size and count, and power reduction, to data storage and bandwidth advances, demonstrating that technology is a great enabler.

A plethora of technologies is already available, for example, at CERN, in majorly three sectors — accelerator, detectors and computing. They have been successfully used for various societal applications, as shown here (Page 9).

LHC Grid Computing involves algorithms that have numerous applications in banking, finance and weather forecasts. Data quenching technology built in high-energy physics can be used in developing teaching aids as well as in safety monitoring.

High performance embedded computing (HPEC) systems can be used for several applications like the US’ Department of Homeland Security does in aerospace and communications industry.

Sensors from High Energy Physics (HEP) have been used for 3D imaging of the body in medical diagnostics.

Radiotherapy devices deliver cancer treatment by means of particle accelerators, also using positron emission tomography (PET) scanners that contain photon detectors based on crystals.

India can seize an opportunity in moving technology from the desktop in a laboratory to the industry by strengthening the link between industries and technological spin-offs. Developing, investing and commercialising technologies based on mega science IP can create the impetus needed for the Indian ecosystem by a commensurate choice towards domestic demands and environment.

Such technologies, if incubated by the Indian industry, can not only contribute to the economy, but also help society.

For example, the healthcare sector can be equipped to offer affordable care through domestic manufacture of expensive machines based on mega science technologies.

Also Read: Scientists at LIGO detect heaviest binary neutron star merger ever known

Going commercial

Commercialisation of particle physics is at an embryonic stage. The changes brought about by India’s $5 trillion dreams provide a fertile seeding ground for scaling this up. A strong platform with interconnection, creating a mutually beneficial particle physics ecosystem in India, can provide an overarching strategy.

This will need the involvement of the four major players who can enable it: Academic institutions, scientists, government and industry. A major impact factor can be established through partnerships across the board, internationally as well as within the country.

A key part of the strategy should include leveraging the IP already available in particle physics and taking advantage of India’s strength in frugal innovation.

The initiative will capitalise on incentives and facilitation that are being planned by the government for research and development in science, medical-value travel and IT sectors.

In order to drive innovation, partnerships are required that bridge the gap between research & development (R&D) and its applications. This requires effective dialogue with all relevant players, policies that benefit IP, industrial partners, and other knowledge-transfer strategies.

India is participating and is heavily committed in several mega science projects at international laboratories and institutions that are at the leading edge of R&D. Examples include LIGO-India for furthering gravitational-wave research, the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR), which will have an accelerator for particle physics, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), and, of course, CERN.

The technologies exploited in these large collaborations also offer significant commercial potential, forming the base to involve Indian industry for product development initiatives. These span a wide range of sectors, from medical, healthcare and nuclear power, to radioactive waste management and homeland security.

International success stories

The medical sector has seen the most widespread adoption of developments in particle physics technologies.

The more we can peer into how tiny particles zip around, the more we can utilise the same tech to peer into tiny processes in our bodies.

Over 1,500 positron emission tomography scanners have been built using crystal technology from HEP by GE healthcare at a cost of $250,000-$600,000 each, with which around 1.5 million PET scans are performed per year in the US.

The Medipix chip was developed as a side project for a tracking application in particle physics. Its potential quickly realised, the second generation of chip was licensed by the company PANalytical and is at the core of the PIXcel system, of which over 500 systems are currently being deployed worldwide.

Low-dose high-precision 3D imaging applications for diagnosis using sensors developed in particle physics are in use.

Proton and particle therapies are used in a large number of cancer treatment centres in the world, exploiting the IP from HEP.

Given the increasing incidence of cancer in India and the region, there is massive societal impact that can be delivered. This also forms the basis for a viable commercial model. A net benefit of approximately 1.6 billion has been projected in an equivalent European cancer treatment (accelerator-based) facility, over 10 years.

For commercialisation to take effect, a multi-disciplinary setting is needed where particle physics engages with other disciplines involving both academia and industry, and this must be enhanced and strengthened.

There is a need for international collaborations and networks, and help to young people from our field, many of whom go into industry, to develop as entrepreneurs creating spin offs and start-ups.

Industry is looking for talent from our community — let’s help them find it. Medical, industrial and research applications of particle physics technologies are located at the nucleus for the spiral of development of a strong ecosystem that will deliver a benefit to India for decades to come, creating a vibrant particle physics community that will continue to grow, innovate and contribute to the economy.

Archana Sharma is a senior physicist at CERN and a project manager at the CMS experiment that made the Higgs Boson discovery.

Also Read: How augmented reality can help create sustainable, environment-friendly smart cities


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MSU researchers invent significant advancement in Hopkinson bar technology




Mississippi State and REL personnel hold the MSU-developed serpentine bar technology, a significant advancement in Hopkinson bar systems. Pictured, from left, is MSU Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Associate Director Hongjoo Rhee, REL Co-owner Adam Loukus, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Haitham El Kadiri, REL Engineer Luke Luskin, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Wilburn Whittington, REL President Josh Loukus, mechanical engineering doctoral student Trey Leonard of Madison, Alabama, and mechanical engineering undergraduate student Billy Zhang of Starkville. (Submitted photo)

Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University researchers have patented and licensed a major advancement in split Hopkinson pressure bar technology, significantly reducing the amount of space needed for intermediate and high-strain rate testing.

While conducting research on infant head trauma, researchers at MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems needed a way to conduct impact testing with biological materials. While a traditional Hopkinson bar system, an apparatus commonly used for testing impact and strain on materials, would have worked, it would have taken up hundreds of feet in length—space that was not available at the bustling research center. However, CAVS engineer Wilburn Whittington, with the support of colleagues Haitham El Kadiri and Hongjoo Rhee, was able to prototype a serpentine bar that can accomplish the same task in only 20 feet of space.

Whittington is an assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. El Kadiri is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and holds the Coleman-Whiteside Professorship. Rhee is an associate professor at the same department and is an associate director at CAVS.

“We’ve already used this product in our work for the military, national labs, and automotive companies,” said Whittington. “This has tremendous potential for universities and laboratories, as well as any company making materials or looking at crash testing and other tests like that.”

After the research team patented the new technology, it gained interest from the scientific community and REL, a Michigan-based manufacturer that makes and sells Hopkinson bar systems. Working with MSU’s Office of Technology Management, El Kadiri, Rhee and Whittington were able to license the serpentine bar technology to REL, which began marketing the product this week at The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society annual conference in San Diego, California.

Whittington said the serpentine bar can be used as a new product and also used to enhance old products, making shorter Hopkinson bar systems capable of conducting tests that previously required significantly more space. He noted that in labs that conduct high-speed tests with radioactive materials, these materials must be handled in specialized rooms, which puts space at a premium.

“People test things like explosives and armor on these systems,” Whittington said. “Like with biological materials, these labs have to be specialized, so a serpentine bar gives them more testing abilities.”

El Kadiri, Rhee, and Whittington were able to commercialize their invention through a Mississippi University Research Agreement, which allowed them to form a private company to market the technology, Standard Dynamics, LLC. In addition to showcasing the technology in San Diego this week, MSU and REL personnel will highlight the serpentine bar at the Society of Experimental Mechanics annual conference this summer in Orlando, Florida.

For more on CAVS, visit

For more on the Office of Technology Management, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at


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Coronavirus Live Updates: Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Tests Positive




Iran’s deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, who has spearheaded the country’s efforts to contain the coronavirus, has contracted the illness, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, renewing concerns about the spread of the virus in the country.

In an interview with the state-run news outlet IRNA, a spokesman for the ministry said that Mr. Harirchi had been experiencing weakness and flulike symptoms on Monday before holding a news briefing, and tested positive for the virus later in the day. It is unclear how he contracted the virus, but health officials said he had been dealing with some patients suspected of having the coronavirus.

During the briefing, Mr. Harirchi could be seen repeatedly wiping sweat from his brow and shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. On Tuesday, he posted a video from home detailing his diagnosis and self-quarantine.

The number of coronavirus cases and deaths continued to rise in Iran on Tuesday, according to health officials, days after the country emerged as another focal point of the outbreak.

Health officials quoted in Iranian state news media confirmed three more deaths in the country, bringing the total to 15. At least 95 people nationwide have tested positive for the coronavirus, most of them in the northern city of Qom, health officials said.

With an economy choked by economic sanctions, a restive population that distrusts its government and a secretive leadership, Iran is something of a wild card in the region.

While the numbers of the infected do not look too daunting so far, experts fear that the government may be concealing the true scale of the problem, and may not have the capacity to respond effectively if things begin to spiral out of control.

A hotel on the Spanish resort island of Tenerife was placed under a police cordon on Tuesday after an Italian guest tested positive for the new coronavirus, the authorities said.

According to local news reports, around 1,000 guests are booked at the hotel, the H10 Costa Adeje Palace, at a resort that is popular with British tourists. It remained unclear whether an official quarantine was in place.

Officials at the Canary Emergency Services Department are working to determine the severity of the outbreak in the building. In recent cases, including the quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the authorities demanded quarantine periods of at least 14 days.

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, a Spanish territory off the coast of West Africa.

The Italian patient is being kept in isolation at a hospital on the island, pending the results of a second test to be conducted in Madrid by Spain’s National Center of Microbiology.

The hotel guests have been told to remain in their rooms, according to Antena 3, a Spanish television channel, while health inspectors are checking people inside who could have come into contact with the Italian.

Guests were given a note by the hotel management asking them to stay in their rooms and telling them that for health reasons, the hotel had been temporarily closed.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

Police enlarged the security cordon around the hotel to block access to nearby streets and a parking lot on Tuesday morning.

According to the local news media, the man who tested positive is a doctor who was visiting from Lombardy, a region of Italy that has been hit particularly hard by the virus. He reportedly took himself to a hospital with a fever about a week after arriving in Tenerife.

Spain previously confirmed two cases of the virus, both foreigners who were hospitalized on Spanish islands: a German citizen on La Gomera and a Briton on Majorca.

The authorities in Italy, the center of the worst outbreak of the coronavirus outside Asia, reported new infections on Tuesday, with a total of 283 cases, up from 229 a day earlier, and reports of new cases in Tuscany and Sicily.

Calling the coronavirus “a plague,” an Iraqi lawmaker demanded on Tuesday that the government seal its borders with Iran “until the disease is completely controlled,” the same day that Iraq’s Health Ministry announced four more cases of the virus.

The demand, by Qutayba al-Jubori, chairman of the Iraqi Parliament’s Health and Environment Committee, came as governments across the region sought to limit the entry of Iranian travelers following an outbreak in that country that has killed at least 15 people.

The Iraqi government said it would suspend all flights from Iran beginning Monday afternoon, but by Tuesday morning, flights were still scheduled to and from Najaf, a central Iraqi city that is home to Shiite shrines popular with Iranian pilgrims.

Iraq reported its first case of the virus on Monday, a 22-year old religion student in Najaf, who has been quarantined at a location outside the city. On Tuesday, the Health Ministry confirmed that a family of four from Kirkuk who had just returned from Iran had contracted the coronavirus and were being quarantined.

The government told citizens to avoid crowded places including shrines, universities and schools, shopping malls and stores, sports activities and entertainment parks. They also recommended avoiding kissing or shaking hands with others and urged people to use disposable napkins.

The firebrand cleric Moktada al-Sadr said he would suspend vast protests against his political opponents.

“I had called for million man protests and sit-ins against sectarian power-sharing and today I forbid you from them for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else,” he said in a statement.

Other nations in the region issued travel restrictions on Tuesday. The United Arab Emirates, home to Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, has suspended all flights to Iran.

Bahrain, which confirmed two cases in travelers who had flown from Iran via Dubai, said that it had suspended all its flights from Dubai International Airport and from Sharjah International Airport, also in the United Arab Emirates, for two days.

Global stocks stabilized on Tuesday, a day after fears of the spread of the new coronavirus outside China spooked investors into a worldwide sell-off.

Shares fell in most markets in Asia, led by Japan, which had closed for a holiday on Monday and missed that day’s drop. The Nikkei 225 index dropped more than 3.3 percent. Most other Asian markets fell at a much slower pace.

But shares in Europe opened higher, suggesting investors’ nerves had steadied. Futures trading indicated that American markets would rise when they opened on Tuesday.

The signs of stabilization followed a difficult Monday, when investors began to more fully comprehend the extent of the outbreak. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 index fell 3.4 percent on Monday, its worst single-day performance since February 2018. European markets recorded their worst session since 2016.

In China, the Shanghai stock market fell 0.6 percent, while the market in the city of Shenzhen rose by about half a percent. The Hong Kong market was little changed.

In South Korea, shaken by the world’s second-largest outbreak of the virus outside China, share prices rebounded on Tuesday morning after enduring one of the sharpest drops of any large market around the world the day before. They ended up 1.2 percent.

In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.3 percent early, while German’s DAX rose 0.1 percent.

China appears to be getting the new coronavirus under control, but infections are spreading rapidly in South Korea, Iran and Italy. And the world is not prepared for a major outbreak, World Health Organization officials said on Monday.

A W.H.O. mission to China has said that the daily tally of new cases there peaked and then plateaued between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2, and has steadily declined since.

Chinese officials reported 508 new cases and 71 deaths as of Monday, a slower pace than in previous days.

By Tuesday, South Korea had reported a total of 893 cases, the second most in the world. Of the 60 new cases reported by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49 came from Daegu, the center of the outbreak in that country.

In Iran, a spike in coronavirus infections has prompted fears of a contagion throughout the Middle East. In Italy, one of Europe’s largest economies, officials are struggling to prevent the epidemic from paralyzing the commercial center of Milan. And in New York, London, and Tokyo, financial markets plummeted on fears that the virus will cripple the global economy.

The emergence of Italy, Iran, and South Korea as new hubs of the outbreak underscored the lack of a coordinated global strategy to combat the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 80,000 people in 37 countries, causing at least 2,600 deaths.

The judge said she would reconsider the issue after state and federal authorities provide more details about how they plan to protect the health of the community, as well as the people with coronavirus. “The state has shown great empathy for the patients,” Judge Josephine L. Staton said in a ruling that drew applause, adding that she wanted to see “the same empathy for the residents of Costa Mesa.”

Costa Mesa had asked the judge to prevent California from moving people infected with the new coronavirus into a former residential home for developmentally disabled people, where the patients would remain in isolation while recovering. The area, which is in Orange County, is too heavily populated to host people infected with such a dangerous virus, the local officials argued.

Federal officials had planned to move the patients to a facility in Alabama operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, court documents said, but officials in California thought that moving the group out of the state would be detrimental to their health and well-being.

The standoff over where to send the patients underscored the unwieldy, decentralized nature of the U.S. health system, even as federal authorities were warning of serious risks from the coronavirus outbreak.

Beijing officials announced on Tuesday that they had ordered local governments to streamline the many new requirements they have imposed before companies can reopen after weeks of stalled production as a result of the outbreak

Worried that further infections might be blamed on them, local officials all over China have been demanding that companies pass extensive reviews and even on-site inspections before they can restart production. Rules include making sure that companies provide employees with face masks, keep track of employees’ temperatures and set up hand-washing stations.

Manufacturers of medical protection equipment can bypass the new rules almost entirely, so as to produce more face masks and other gear as quickly as possible.

But while Beijing is trying to restart the private sector, it does not want companies to mark up prices steeply for scarce products. Tang Jun, the deputy director of the State Administration of Market Regulation, said at a news briefing on Tuesday morning in Beijing that the Chinese government had investigated 4,500 companies for price gouging and was filing more than 11,000 legal cases.

The cases involved, “medical protective supplies and important commodities related to the people’s livelihood,” he said. More than 36,000 online vendors have already been identified as trying to overcharge specifically for face masks, he added, and electronic commerce companies have removed their overpriced listings.

Reporting and research was contributed by Raphael Minder, Matt Phillips, Russell Goldman, Megan Specia, Keith Bradsher, Gerry Mullany, Aimee Ortiz, Alissa Rubin, Elaine Yu, Mark Landler, Steven Lee Myers, Sui-Lee Wee, Farah Stockman, Louis Keene, Noah Weiland, Emily Cochrane and Maggie Haberman.


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Oregon Republicans Disappear for Another Climate Vote




SEATTLE — Less than a year after Oregon’s Senate Republicans fled the state with passports in hand and hid out in Idaho cabins to avoid voting on a climate change bill, they have disappeared again.

With Democrats seeking to advance a new proposal to cap the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, most Republicans refused to attend a floor session on Monday morning, and a search by the Senate chamber’s sergeant-at-arms failed to find them.

That left the Senate with just 19 members on the floor — one short of a quorum needed to vote — and threatened to derail a range of bills in the final two weeks of the state’s legislative session.

Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, called on senators to return to work, saying the climate bill had sufficient votes to pass in a chamber with a large Democratic majority.

“I implore my fellow senators to please return to this chamber,” Mr. Courtney said. After he announced that there were not enough members to continue work, some people in the gallery clapped; Mr. Courtney rebuked them, underscoring the rising tensions in a state struggling to figure out a path forward amid the threats of a changing climate.

The Senate’s Republican leader, Herman Baertschiger Jr., said in a statement that Democrats had refused to work with Republicans and had voted down all their proposed amendments. “Senator Courtney’s actions leave no other option for Senate Republicans but to boycott and deny quorum,” Mr. Baertschiger said.

The state’s Constitution requires two-thirds of senators to be present before voting can take place. Democrats hold 18 of the chamber’s 30 seats, meaning they need two Republicans to join them to reach a quorum.

While the cap-and-trade proposal has changed over time, the dispute mirrors what occurred last year, when a similar proposal led Republicans to leave the state to avoid potential roundup by state troopers sent by Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat. That showdown ended after Democratic leaders acknowledged that they did not have enough support to pass the measure.

At the time, Ms. Brown bemoaned the walkout as an indicator that the divisiveness of federal politics had spilled down to the state level. On Monday, she said the Republicans’ “boycott” was undemocratic, calling on them to show up to “make their voices heard rather than shut down state government.”

The current cap-and-trade plan would place a limit on emissions that would grow more stringent over time. It focuses on the sectors the state has identified as primary contributors to greenhouse gas emissions: fossil fuel companies, electric utilities and industrial manufacturers.

Economists and scientists have promoted the idea of placing a price on carbon emissions as a key strategy to combat climate change, pressuring industries that harm the planet to make a shift and giving them a financial incentive to do so. But the potential costs of the plan have angered some businesses and voters, in particular those from rural areas.

Mr. Baertschiger, the Republican leader, has characterized the measure as a “gas tax disguised as an environmental bill.”

Republicans in Oregon have called for voters to decide the issue, instead of the Legislature. Voters in Washington State rejected ballot measures with some similarities in 2016 and 2018.

The Senate majority leader, Ginny Burdick, said in a statement on Monday that the Republicans’ attempt to avoid voting on the legislation was a dereliction of duty.

“Serving in the Legislature is a great honor,” she said. “Walking out on the job is dishonorable and disrespectful.”


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