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By Harshmeet Singh
The brutal 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Nepal has caused unprecedented loss of life and physical damage. While the official death figure, at the time of writing this, is over 2,500 in Nepal and 51 in India, it would surely rise exponentially as the rescue efforts intensify in the following days. As the world rallies behind the Nepalese people and help pours in from all quarters, there is only thought in everyone’s mind – ‘Is there nothing we can do against the nature’s fury?’
Despite galloping scientific achievements that the mankind has witnessed, we have never been able to question the invincibility of Nature. While the textbooks are filled with lessons on kinds of earthquake, there is still no breakthrough on any earthquake prediction mechanism. In such a scenario, the best bet for any country, to deal with such a horrendous event is to be prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best. With the Himalayas making India an active seismic zone, it would be worth taking a look at India’s preparedness to handle strong earthquakes.
Unlike some other natural disasters, there is a fair demarcation of the territories around the world which are prone to earthquakes due to their location over major fault lines and highly seismic zones. According to Geographical statistics, close to 54% of India’s total land is earthquake prone. A number of major Indian cities come under seismic activity zones IV and V, implying that they are highly susceptible to devastating earthquakes.
Northern India, in particular, has multiple cities coming under these zones. Add to that the vertical growth that our cities are witnessing over the past decade or so, and you would be able to picture how a major earthquake can leave us in tatters.
Earthquake resistant structures
India’s national capital, Delhi, falls into seismic zone IV, thus making it highly prone to major earthquakes. In 2007, under the ‘Indo-US capacity building exercise for disaster management’, five buildings in the capital were retrofitted in order to ensure that they sustain future earthquakes with minimal damage. Retrofitting is a mechanism through which an existing building is modified, using certain strategies, to conform to the present day standards for earthquake resistance.
Soon after, the National disaster management authority issued specific guidelines for ‘Seismic Retrofitting of Deficient Buildings and Structures’. But unfortunately, most builders turned a blind eye towards such guidelines.
In 2011, NDMA said that close to 4,000 multi-storied buildings in Ahmedabad won’t survive a high magnitude earthquake due to a faulty design. The situation was even worse in Delhi in 2013. Talking about Delhi, a senior official from the NDMA said, “It is hard to imagine the damage caused by an earthquake with high intensity. The city has over 25 lakh buildings; a majority of them do not adhere to the safety code, nor have they been constructed under proper technical supervision,”
National Retrofit Program
In 2014, the NDMA, with assistance from experts from IITs and ministries, came out with guidelines on ‘seismic retrofitting’. Launched under the Home Ministry, it was called the ‘National Retrofit Program’. The short term aim of the program was to retrofit critical structures and buildings such as hospitals and schools on an immediate basis.
According to these norms issued under the program, “A special class of buildings has emerged in a big way across the country, called open ground storey buildings (or buildings on stilts). This is a solution being provided by architects to solve the parking crisis in urban India, but it does not address earthquake safety of these buildings. These do not conform to prevalent Indian standards for earthquake safety. These buildings are flexible and weak in the open ground storey compared to the storeys above,”
According to the NDMA, the devastating Bhuj earthquake in 2001 saw a number of weak RC (reinforced concrete) buildings bite the dust, whereas many government owned buildings, which had an open ground storey, stood the test since they were in accordance with the ‘Indian Seismic Code’.
Other Steps taken
In 2007, the NDMA also made it mandatory for all the new constructions in Mumbai and New Delhi to abide by the earthquake resistant designs. The RBI had also issued orders to all the banks, asking them to deny infrastructure loans to any building which is not abiding by the earthquake resistant structures’ guidelines. But unfortunately, these norms are flouted more often than not. In most cases, there is no formal scrutiny of the building’s design before the loan is approved by the Banks.
Although it is mandatory to approve the structural design from the civic authorities before construction, the process has taken the shape of a mere formality. The structural engineers, who are supposed to ensure that the buildings’ designs are earthquake resistant, seldom care to go into such details.
Although a number of surveys, to earmark ‘dangerous’ buildings, have been conducted by the civic authorities over the past few years, it is hard to see any concrete outcome. Building audits do not find a place in the priority list of the Governments. And with high-rise buildings making their way into tier 1 and tier 2 cities, the risk of a huge life loss is imminent.
In December 2014, the Supreme Court directed the central Government to ensure that all the upcoming infrastructures in the country display their ‘earthquake resistant category’ and define the implications of their category, as per the Government’s definitions. Even after the apex court’s judgement, majority of the new buildings have been overlooking these norms.
Are we ready to face an Earthquake?
The one word answer to this question is ‘No’! There is a high chance that the building where you are currently residing isn’t earthquake resistant because the structural engineer passed the structure plan without giving it a second thought. Considering that more than half of India’s territory comes under an active seismic zone, this imagination could very well turn into a reality. Till then, we can only hope that our builder chose to follow the norms rather than bypassing them for an easy passage.
As robots evolve to do more work around us, the UK-based humanoid robot manufacturer Engineered Arts has infused more human-like facial expressions into one of its robots, which may leave you with an eerie feeling.
In a video posted on YouTube, the robot called 'Ameca' displays various human expressions, like appearing to "wake up" from sleep, as its face shows confusion and frustration when it opens its eyes.
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Once awake, 'Ameca' starts looking at its hands and arms, opens its mouth and raises its eyebrows, just like a human does.
At the end of the video, Ameca smiles and holds a welcoming hand out towards the viewer.
According to Engineered Arts, the humanoid bot is currently unable to walk and it is working towards giving it the ability in the near future.
"Designed specifically as a platform for development into future robotics technologies, 'Ameca' is the perfect humanoid robot platform for human-robot interaction," says the company.
The 'Ameca' hardware is a development based on its own research into humanoid robotics and built on its advanced 'Mesmer' technology.
Ameca' on display at the CES 2022 conference in Las Vegas in the US in January.Unsplash
Also read: NASA humanoid robot dances to technology
Engineered Arts is slated to put 'Ameca' on display at the CES 2022 conference in Las Vegas in the US in January.
"Human-like Artificial Intelligence needs a human-like artificial body. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning systems can be tested and developed on Ameca alongside our powerful 'Tritium' robot operating system," the company posted on its website. (IANS/PR)
(Keywords: Humanoid Robot, Ameca, Technology)
Microsoft has disrupted the activities of a China-based hacking group, gaining control of the malicious websites the group used to attack organisations in the US and 28 other countries around the world.
The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) said in a statement that a federal court in Virginia granted its request to seize websites of the hacking group called 'Nickel', enabling the company to cut off Nickel's access to its victims and prevent the websites from being used to execute attacks.
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"We believe these attacks were largely being used for intelligence gathering from government agencies, think tanks and human rights organisations," said Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft.
Obtaining control of the malicious websites and redirecting traffic from those sites to Microsoft's secure servers will help the company protect existing and future victims while learning more about Nickel's activities.
Also Read : Fortnite : A Gold Mine for Hackers
"Our disruption will not prevent Nickel from continuing other hacking activities, but we do believe we have removed a key piece of the infrastructure the group has been relying on for this latest wave of attacks," Burt said late on Monday.
To date, in 24 lawsuits - five against nation-state actors -- Microsoft has taken down more than 10,000 malicious websites used by cybercriminals and nearly 600 sites used by nation-state actors.
"We have also successfully blocked the registration of 600,000 sites to get ahead of criminal actors that planned to use them maliciously in the future," the tech giant informed.
"We believe these attacks were largely being used for intelligence gathering from government agencies, think tanks and human rights organisations."Unsplash
In some observed activity, Nickel malware used exploits targeting unpatched on-premises Exchange Server and SharePoint systems.
"However, we have not observed any new vulnerabilities in Microsoft products as part of these attacks. Microsoft has created unique signatures to detect and protect from known Nickel activity through our security products, like Microsoft 365 Defender," the company noted.
Nickel has targeted organisations in both the private and public sectors, including diplomatic organisations and ministries of foreign affairs in North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : hacking, China, Microsoft, website, victim, intelligence, attack, malicious, traffic, server, company, disruption, lawsuits, cybercriminals, vulnerability.)
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Chip manufacturer MediaTek on Monday announced that it is focused on making 2022 a year aimed at rapid growth, business success, substantial expansion in Research and Development capabilities.
MediaTek's plans to boost technology democratisation and enable access to disruptive connectivity with its range of mainstream to flagship 5G chips.
"We at MediaTek are focused on making 2022 a year aimed at rapid growth, business success, and substantial expansion in our R&D capabilities. For 2022, we are focused on further strengthening our presence in India, offering incredible experiences to customers, and supporting the country's technology initiatives with our expertise and collaboration with leading OEMs," Anku Jain, Managing Director, MediaTek India said in a statement.
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In the flagship segment, MediaTek recently announced the Dimensity 9000 chip, which is a milestone of innovation and a rise to the incredible, built-to-power flagship 5G smartphones in the world, the company claims.
MediaTek Dimensity 9000 features a single Cortex-X2 performance core clocked at 3.05GHz, three Cortex-A710 cores at 2.85GHz and four Cortex-A510 efficiency cores at 1.8GHz.
It packs a 10-core Arm Mali-G710 that takes care of graphics processing, the report said.
The chipset also comes packed with MediaTek's fifth-generation APU with six total cores for AI processing.Unsplash
Also read: Realme Unveils First 5G Smartphone
The chipset also comes packed with MediaTek's fifth-generation APU with six total cores for AI processing.
The chipset can handle screens with up to a 180Hz refresh rate at Full HD+ resolutions. It is also the first chipset to have an 18-bit image signal processor, offering the ability to capture 4K HDR video using up to three cameras at the same time, or still photos using up to a massive 320MP sensor. (IANS/PR)
(Keywords: 5G, smartphones, Mediatek)