GK Snippets



Recession is a slowdown or a massive contraction in economic activities. A significant fall in spending generally leads to a recession. Such a slowdown in economic activities may last for some quarters thereby completely hampering the growth of an economy. In such a situation, economic indicators such as GDP, corporate profits, employments, etc., fall. This creates a mess in the entire economy. To tackle the menace, economies generally react by loosening their monetary policies by infusing more money into the system, i.e., by increasing the money supply. This is done by reducing the interest rates. Increased spending by the government and decreased taxation are also considered good answers for this problem.


What is an ecosystem?

An ecosystem is a natural environment and includes the flora (plants) and fauna (animals) that live and interact within that environment. Flora, fauna and bacteria are the biotic or living components of the ecosystem. Ecosystems are dependent on the following abiotic or non-living components:

  • climate – the temperature and amount of rainfall are very important in determining which species can survive in the ecosystem
  • soil – the soil type is important as this provides nutrients that will support different plants
  • water – the amount of water available in an ecosystem will determine what plants and animals can be supported


Osmosis is the diffusion of water molecules from a dilute solution (high concentration of water) to a more concentrated solution (low concentration of water) across a selectively permeable membrane. By doing this, water moves down the concentration gradient. A selectively permeable membrane allows some small substances to pass through but prevents larger substances doing the same. The cell wall is totally permeable and has no role in controlling what enters and leaves a cell. It is a rigid structure that provides a plant cell with support and keeps non-woody plants upright.

Interpol’s Red Notice

A red notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition. It is published by Interpol at the request of a member country, and must comply with Interpol’s constitution and rules. A red notice is not an international arrest warrant and does not lead to automatic arrest in the UK. However, it can severely inhibit a person’s liberty, and have drastic consequences for a person’s reputation. A red notice contains two main types of information:

  1. Information to identify the wanted person, such as their name, date of birth, nationality, hair and eye colour, photographs and fingerprints if available.
  2. Information related to the crime they are wanted for, which can typically be murder, rape, child abuse or armed robbery.



It is an international police cooperation organization based in Lyon, France. The organisation has 194 member states and 100 years of experience of international cooperation in policing. It also has 90-million records spread across 17 databases with which it assist law enforcement agencies of its member countries. Interpol is equipped with- incident response teams, a worldwide network of NCBs (Narcotics Control Bureau), command and control centre and secure global data communication channel I-24/7 (Interpol’s secure global police communications system through which databases are accessed).

Interpol General Assembly

The general assembly of Interpol is an annual exercise hosted by its member countries. At the general assembly the representatives discusses and deliberates upon all major decisions affecting general policy, working methods, the resources needed for international cooperation and finances.


The Non-Alignment Movement was founded in 1961. It was based on Bandung principles that was adopted at the Belgrade Summit (an Afro-Asian Conference) in 1955. It was founded during the collapse of colonial system and independence struggles of Asia, Africa and Latin American countries. The movement worked towards the attainment of independence for many countries. India is a founding member of the NAM summit.

Indus Waters Treaty

The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-sharing arrangement signed in Karachi by the then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then president of Pakistan Ayub Khan on September 19, 1960. It covers the water distribution and sharing rights of six rivers – Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. The agreement was brokered by the World Bank. A Permanent Indus Commission provides a bilateral mechanism for consultation and conflict-resolution. The treaty gave the three “eastern rivers” of Beas, Ravi and Sutlej to India for use of water without restriction. The three “western rivers” of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum were allocated to Pakistan. India can construct storage facilities on “western rivers” of up to 3.6 million acre feet, which it has not done so far. India is also allowed agriculture use of seven lakh acres above the irrigated cropped area as on April 1, 1960. As for its background, it must be remembered that the partition split an established irrigation system between the two countries without specifying how the waters were to be divided. India was left with control of the waters supplying Pakistan’s irrigation canals, and in 1948 it diverted some of those waters away from Pakistan. On 1st April 1948, India turned off the tap to Pakistan, blocking the flow of water to key canals across the Radcliffe line. India shut off water supplies from the Ferozepur headworks to the Depalpur Canal and Lahore. On 24 April, 1948 Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan asked for the “immediate restoration of the water supply”. In May 1948, Pakistan signed the Delhi Agreement, which restored the water supply.

Most-Favoured Nation Status

In international economic relations and international politics, “most-favoured nation” (MFN) is a status or level of treatment accorded by one state to another in international trade. The term means the country which is the recipient of this treatment must, nominally, receive equal trade advantages as the “MFN” by the country granting such treatment. Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agree to accord MFN status to each other. Exceptions allow for preferential treatment of developing countries, regional free trade areas and customs unions. Together with the principle of national treatment, MFN is one of the cornerstones of WTO trade law. MFN relationships extend reciprocal bilateral relationships following both GATT and WTO norms of reciprocity and non-discrimination. In bilateral reciprocal relationships a particular privilege granted by one party only extends to other parties who reciprocate that privilege, while in a multilateral reciprocal relationship the same privilege would be extended to the group that negotiated a particular privilege. The non-discriminatory component of the GATT/WTO applies a reciprocally negotiated privilege to all members of the GATT/WTO without respect to their status in negotiating the privilege. Trade experts consider MFN clauses having many benefits: Increases trade creation and decreases trade diversion. A country that grants MFN on imports will have its imports provided by the most efficient supplier if the most efficient supplier is within the group of MFN. It allows smaller countries, in particular, to participate in the advantages that larger countries often grant to each other, whereas on their own, smaller countries would often not be powerful enough to negotiate such advantages by themselves. On the domestic front, MFN ensures has domestic benefits: having one set of tariffs for all countries simplifies the rules and makes them more transparent.

What is climate change?

Climate change, also called global warming, refers to the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth. It is the change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other Green house Gases (GHG) produced by the human use of fossil fuels. The primary cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, which emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—primarily carbon dioxide. Other human activities, such as agriculture and deforestation, also contribute to the proliferation of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. While some quantities of these gases are a naturally occurring and critical part of Earth’s temperature control system, the atmospheric concentration of CO2did not rise above 300 parts per million between the advent of human civilization roughly 10,000 years ago and 1900.

The Kyoto Protocol

COP3 – In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was concluded and established legally binding obligations for developed countries (Annex-I&II countries) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the period 2008-2012. The Protocol is based on the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) which puts the obligation to reduce current emissions on developed countries on the basis that they are historically responsible for the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There was no binding target given to developing and underdeveloped countries (Non-Annex). The Kyoto Protocol had two commitment periods, the first of which lasted from 2008-2012 and the second one runs from 2013-2020, which has not entered into force.

Why do athletes use erythropoietin? What are the risks?

Athletes have been found to use erythropoietin, synthetic oxygen carriers and blood transfusions for blood doping. Each of the three substances or methods is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). While the use of erythropoietin in people who are anaemic due to chronic kidney disease helps in increasing the oxygen level in the blood, the use of the hormone by normal, healthy people can lead to serious health risks. In the case of healthy people who have a normal red blood cell count, the use of external erythropoietin is highly likely to make the blood thick (increase viscosity) leading to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and cerebral or pulmonary embolism (clot that blocks the flow of blood).

What are exoplanets? Since when have people been looking for them?

The word planet is a general term that describes any celestial body that moves around a star. Well, there are also “rogue” planets that do not orbit stars. An exoplanet is a planet outside our solar system. It is an extrasolar planet.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543) was the first to put the Sun at the centre, with planets like earth moving around it. This was literally an earth-shaking theory, because before that, people imagined the earth to be at the centre of the universe. The Copernican revolution was followed by the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno in the sixteenth century and later Sir Isaac Newton shattering the uniqueness of the Sun’s position by predicting that many stars could have planets orbiting them. But were they all like our world? How far were they? No one knew. But that was when people started searching for and imagining worlds other than our own.

What are quantum computers?

Quantum computers work differently from the classical computers we work on today. Exploiting the principles of quantum mechanics, they can easily tackle computational problems that may be tough for the classical computer as the size of the numbers and number of inputs involved grows bigger. Quantum computers do not look like desktops or laptops that we associate the word ‘computer’ with. Instead (and there are only a handful of them) they resemble the air-conditioned server rooms of many offices or the stacks of central processing units from desktops of yore that are connected by ungainly tangled wires and heaped in freezing rooms. Conventional computers process information in ‘bits’ or 1s and 0s, following classical physics under which our computers can process a ‘1’ or a ‘0’ at a time. The world’s most powerful super computer today can juggle 148,000 trillion operations in a second and requires about 9000 IBM CPUs connected in a particular combination to achieve this feat. Quantum computers compute in ‘qubits’ (or quantum bits). They exploit the properties of quantum mechanics, the science that governs how matter behaves on the atomic scale. In this scheme of things, processors can be a 1 and a 0 simultaneously, a state called quantum superposition. While this accelerates the speed of computation, a machine with less than a 100 qubits can solve problems with a lot of data that are even theoretically beyond the capabilities of the most powerful supercomputers. Because of quantum superposition, a quantum computer — if it works to plan — can mimic several classical computers working in parallel. The ideas governing quantum computers have been around since the 1990s but actual machines have been around since 2011, most notably built by Canadian company D-Wave Systems.

European Court of Justice (ECJ)

Formally known as the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the ECJ is the judicial authority of the EU, ruling on member states’ compliance with EU treaties, interpreting EU law and deciding on the legality of EU institutions’ actions. It sits in Luxembourg and is composed of 28 judges, one judge from each member state. In addition to the 28 judges at the ECJ, there are 8 Advocate Generals who deliver reasoned opinions on cases to assist the ECJ in making its decisions. Judges and Advocate Generals of the ECJ must have the qualifications to be appointed to the highest national courts in their member states or they may be jurisconsults (academic lawyers). The CJEU is divided into 2 courts:

Court of Justice – deals with requests for preliminary rulings from national courts, certain actions for annulment and appeals.

General Court – rules on actions for annulment brought by individuals, companies and, in some cases, EU governments. In practice, this means that this court deals mainly with competition law, State aid, trade, agriculture, trade marks.

Each judge and advocate general is appointed for a renewable 6-year term, jointly by national governments. In each Court, the judges select a President who serves a renewable term of 3 years.


What is the Danakil Depression?

The Danakil Depression in northeastern Ethiopia is one of the world’s hottest places, as well as one of its lowest, at 100 metres below sea level. At the northern end of the Great Rift Valley, and separated by live volcanoes from the Red Sea, the plain was formed by the evaporation of an inland water body. All the water entering Danakil evaporates, and no streams flow out from its extreme environment. It is covered with more than 10 lakh tonnes of salt. In 2016, scientists ventured here to find out if anything could survive in such harsh conditions. At the time, expedition leader Felipe Gómez from Spain’s Centro de Astrobiologia said, “Any microorganisms living here will be extremophilic microbes of a major interest to astrobiologists.”

Now, a new study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution on October 28, says that active and naturally occurring life cannot be sustained at Danakil. It identifies two barriers: magnesium-dominated brines that cause cells to break down; and an environment having simultaneously very low pH and high salt, a combination that makes adaptation highly difficult.

What is trade deficit?

Simply put, the trade “balance” of a country shows the difference between what it earns from its exports and what it pays for its imports. If this number is in negative – that is, the total value of goods imported by a country is more than the total value of goods exported by that country – then it is referred to as a “trade deficit”. If India has a trade deficit with China then China would necessarily have a “trade surplus” with India.

A trade deficit means broadly can mean two things. One, that the demand in the domestic economy is not being met by the domestic producers. For instance, India may be producing a lot of milk but still not enough for the total milk demand in the country. As such, India may choose to import milk. Two, many a time a deficit signifies the lack of competitiveness of the domestic industry. For instance, Indian car manufacturers could import steel from China instead of procuring it from the domestic producers if the Chinese steel was decidedly cheaper, for the same quality. More often than not, the trade deficit of a country is due to a combination of both these main factors.

The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was erected in the early hours of August 13, 1961, and breached on November 9, 1989.

Faced with growing numbers of its citizens and skilled workers leaving the repressive state, East Germany’s leaders feared a threat to their existence. Between the end of World War Two in 1945 and 1961, some three million people moved to the West from Soviet-occupied East Germany and East Berlin. The 1,378-km (856-mile) frontier between East and West Germany, from the Baltic to Bavaria, had been sealed for a decade. That left Berlin a unique valve between them because of its special status under the four occupying powers – the United States, France and Britain as well as the Soviet Union. Hardline East German leader Walter Ulbricht gave the order to build after winning backing from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The government entrusted the top-secret “Operation Rose” building project to Erich Honecker, who was to succeed Ulbricht as head of state 10 years later. Shortly after midnight on August 13, the government ordered more than 40,000 East German soldiers and police to seal off all but 13 crossing points to West Berlin with barbed wire. The operation surrounded the 155-km (96-mile) perimeter of West Berlin, using more than 10,000 km (6,000 miles) of barbed wire. The first concrete elements and large square blocks were used first on August 15, 1961. Within the next months the first generation of the Berlin Wall was build up. A second wall was built in June 1962 to prevent people escaping to the West. A concrete wall was added in 1965, which served until 1975 when the Grenzmauer 75 (Border Wall ‘75) was constructed, the final and most sophisticated version of the Wall.

The Grenzmauer was reinforced by mesh fencing, signal fencing, anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire and over thirty bunkers. By 1989, the wall included 45,000 concrete blocks, 259 dog runs and 302 watchtowers.

What was the death strip?

The “death strip” was a no man’s land between the inner and outer segments of the Wall in East Berlin patrolled by soldiers ordered to use all means available to prevent people escaping. Border troops around Berlin opened fire 1,693 times between 1961 and 1989.

International Criminal Court


The founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly at a conference in Rome in July 1998. After being ratified by more than sixty countries, the Rome Statute entered into force on July 1, 2002. There are, at present, 122 countries party to the Rome Statute. The ICC is based in The Hague, a city in the Netherlands that hosts many international institutions, and has field offices in several countries. The court carries out its investigative work through the office of the prosecutor, led since 2012 by Fatou Bensouda, a lawyer from Gambia. The court has eighteen judges, each from a different member country and elected by the member states. It requires its members to seek a gender-balanced bench, and the judiciary must include representatives of each of the United Nations’ five regions. Judges and prosecutors are elected to nonrenewable nine-year terms. The president and two vice presidents of the court are elected from among the judges; they, along with the registry, handle the administration of the court.

The court has jurisdiction over four categories of crimes under international law:

  1. genocide, or the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group;
  2. war crimes, or grave breaches of the laws of war, which include the Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions on torture and attacks on civilian targets, such as hospitals or schools;
  3. crimes against humanity, or violations committed as part of large-scale attacks against civilian populations, including murder, rape, imprisonment, slavery, and torture; and
  4. crimes of aggression, or the use or threat of armed force by a state against the territorial integrity, sovereignty, or political independence of another state, or violations of the UN Charter.

How do wildfires start?

Wildfires are growing deadlier and more destructive each year. Most wildfires are actually man-made — 84%, according to a NASA study. It doesn’t take much: a campfire, a tossed cigarette or even a firework can spark a massive blaze. Those Amazon fires a few months ago? Many believe they were lit by cattle ranchers and loggers who wanted to clear the land for use. But human carelessness isn’t the only thing causing wildfires; climate change also is a contributing factor as it creates drier air and drier vegetation. So even though it doesn’t directly cause fires, it does help create conditions conducive to feeding them, and that contributes to more extreme fire events.

Why are lithium-ion batteries important?


By the 1960s petrol-driven cars had proliferated around the world. However, realisation dawned that the burning of this fossil fuel was harmful to the environment and, along with coal, responsible for the smog enveloping major cities. Also, fossil fuel was limited and research was launched to develop alternate fuel sources. Since the early 19th century, chemical batteries have been around. They consist of two electrodes between which electrons flow and generate a current. The challenge of such batteries is to choose appropriate electrodes and electrolyte, which mediates the current, and generate sufficient current safely at room temperature without occupying too much space.

Lead acid batteries — still used in cars to start engines and power headlights and power windows — are too bulky to practically function as car engines. Exxon, which was worried about depleting oil stocks, commissioned top researchers to find alternatives to fossil fuels.

One of them, Whittingham, studied solid materials whose atoms had spaces between them. Fitting positively charged ions in them — a process called intercalation — changed their properties and Whittingham found that potassium ions when intercalated in titanium made for an extremely energy-dense material. Lithium is also a light element and useful as an electrode, he found. In a battery, electrons should flow from the negative electrode — the anode — to the positive one — the cathode. Therefore, the anode should contain a material that easily gives up its electrons and lithium releases electrons willingly. This made for an ideal battery.

What Is Green Screen and Chroma Keying?

In movies and on television, actors walk — and sometimes fly — through elaborate and fantastic landscapes that simply don’t exist in the real world. They ride on dragons’ backs, grow crops on distant planets or visit magical realms with towering citadels inhabited by bizarre creatures. All of this high-tech fakery happens with the help of backdrops of brightly colored fabric or paint, and a process called “chroma key,” also referred to as “green screen” due to the backdrops’ color, which is typically a vivid green.

Keying is the process of isolating a single color or brightness value in an electronic image and using software to make that value transparent, allowing another image to show through the affected areas. Luminance keying, or lumakeying, is the process of keying out a brightness value or range, like black or white. Luminance keys are often used for applying mattes. Color keying, or chromakeying, identifies a specific color to remove.

Many people use the terms chromakeying and greenscreening interchangeably, but the principle that powers chrominance keying is not limited to the green parts of the spectrum. In the visual effects world of Hollywood, blue screens are far more common than green. In fact, you can key out any color; red, yellow, purple or pink, blue and yes, green. So why is that odd and ugly shade of green the hue of choice for television and video? The biggest factor is contrast.


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