Science and Technology Strategy
Science and Technology is an important part of Prelims syllabus. It covers not only the static portion but dynamic as well. In recent years, UPSC is emphasizing on dynamic cum analytical aspect of Science and Technology (S & T)
Weightage given since 2011:
The importance of Science and Technology can be seen from the number of questions asked in previous years. Last year there were more questions on environment, so less in Science. Considering the trend, in 2015, we can expect more number of questions from this section.
How to Prepare?
While analyzing the questions, it is clear that almost all questions are analytical and demands clarity of concepts rather than only facts. It is getting even tougher for an aspirant to prepare the analytical aspect because none of the static sources teaches about it, be it NCERT or NIOS etc. So, the question is “How to Prepare Science and Technology”?
In this article We will simplify this aspect and make it simpler for a beginner to understand that now UPSC is not about ‘Learn by Heart’ but ‘Learn by Art’.
All of you must be aware of ‘Art of Living’. Here we will learn ‘Art of Learning’. This strategy will not be in consonance with other strategy that you read on IASbaba. The reason is simple. S&T is abstract and unpredictable also. All of you are aware of study materials to be followed. We will be no exception in telling you the same resources.
After going through this article you will understand the choices we are going to create for you. If you want to mug up NCERTS/NIOS or any coaching stuff, you are free. Introspect about your preparation and ask yourself? Whether UPSC questions are solvable with the approach you have? If yes, proceed and stop wasting time on any website, even IASbaba.com. Here, we are trying to sharpen your thought process and smart learning skills. Smart learning is an ‘ART’
Art is not to go through all the texts available in the market and create a book store in your room and get tensed. It is a hard fact that people keep on piling resources in order to learn but what they earn? They earn tension, fatigue and most importantly a sense of satisfaction that they have at least read all the collections once.
S&T includes basic science like Physical, Chemical, Biological, Bio-Chemistry and Technology. Very basic way to prepare this section is to get acquainted with current developments with respect to all the domains, part of S&T. Here we classify the domains and let you understand the very diversified and analytical nature of questions asked. Ours will not be a bookish or coaching strategy. You may differ, you may have your own strategy, you may like any other strategy but this is what our experience has shown us. Let us proceed and start with Basic Science. Concentrate on following explanations
Physical Science and Current Events
There is no need of doing research in Physics to solve the questions. Questions from this section are basic and deal more with current happening or some phenomenon in news. There is no need to study physics as a core subject. We are dividing the aspects to be learnt and also the way to approach it.
Current aspects of Physics can be broadly understood under following headings which are directional that you will find while reading newspapers.
- Graphene– It was asked in UPSC because in 2010, Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded on the work of Graphene. The question was on its properties rather than other facts.
- Higg’s Boson– A buzz for quite a long time because of its groundbreaking research hence asked by UPSC. Always concentrate on properties and reasons on which the news is based on. Do not go in deep research.
- Big Bang Theory– Reason for continuous expansion of the Universe, the reasons behind it and the proof available.
- Dark Energy and Dark Matter– Quite often in news. Scientists are still trying to solve the mystery behind its existence.
Now see the question asked by UPSC
Graphene is frequently in news recently. What is its importance? (2011)
1. It is a two-dimensional material and has good electrical conductivity.
2. It is one of the thinnest but strongest materials tested so far.
3. It is entirely made of silicon and has high optical transparency.
4. It can be used as ‘conducting electrodes’ required for touch screens, LCDs and organic LEDs.
Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 and 4 only
(c) 1, 2 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4
Recently there was news related to ‘Indian Neutrino Observatory’ to be set in Tamil Nadu. There is no need to research on INO in detail. So what to Focus on? – Have a basic understanding of Neutrions, its sources and application
Let us illustrate this with a previous year question (2010 UPSC Prelims Paper)
India-based Neutrino Observatory is included by the Planning Commission as a mega science project under the 11th five-Year Plan. In this context, consider the following statements:
1. Neutrinos are chargeless elementary particles that travel close to the speed of light.
2. Neutrinos are created in nuclear reactions of beta decay.
3. Neutrinos have a negligible, but nonzero mass.
4. Trillions of Neutrinos pass through human body every second.
Which of the statements given above are correct ?
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 1, 2 and 3 only
(c) 2, 3 and 4
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4
A Question from current affairs
‘Neutrino’ has been quite frequent in news due to important scientific research. What are the possible sources of neutrinos?
(a) Big Bang
(b) Cosmic Rays
(d) Nuclear Bomb
(e) Geological Reactions
(f) Nuclear Reactors
Correct codes are-
(a) 1,2,4,6 and 7
(b) 1,2,3,5,and 7
(c) 2,3,4,5,6,and 7
(d) 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7
Note: Was it a shocker? This is how UPSC frames questions. Do they ask questions from heaven? Of course not, looking at the questions asked, can anyone tell the sources to prepare? So the purpose is to understand and know the trend on which your preparation has to be based.
Now, let us look into one more buzzing issue of recent times. Quite often you witness articles in ‘The Hindu’ about scientists discussing their experience and discoveries about Dark Energy and Dark Matter. Now, this is something UPSC may be interested in.
Keep asking yourself, if you need to learn everything about Dark Energy and Dark Matter? If you will read like this, we are sure it will take become another ‘5 year Plan’ for you to satisfy your preparation level. In a day, you have 24 hours and UPSC requires you to prepare hell of subjects and domains. How will you crack this exam in a year or so if your strategy is of a slow learner/crammer?
Consider the statements about ‘Dark Energy and Dark Matter’.
(1) Dark energy attracts while Dark matter repels.
(2) While dark energy shows itself only on the largest cosmic scale, dark matter exerts its influence on individual galaxies as well as the universe at large.
Correct statement(s) is/are
(a) Only 1
(b) Only 2
Answer: Only 2
Note: Are you able to focus now? Or still confused or stuck with bulging notes or books? If yes, then you need to introspect about your preparation strategy. If this article is making sense to you then proceed to next level and decide accordingly.
Concepts: Forces in Nature and Naturally Occurring Phenomenon
- Gravitational Force– Basic concept, its impact on earth and on other heavenly bodies. Its relation and reaction with other known forces etc. Try to simplify your learning process. There is lot to learn in less time.
- Electromagnetic Force and Energy– Same as above
- Rotation and Revolution of Earth-Its effects on other natural phenomenon, How they are responsible for any change on Earth? Whether they are inclusive or exclusive of other changes?
- Recent phenomenon in news– Solar Flares etc
Note: NCERT texts cover these basics. Hence the questions asked in the last 3 years could have been answered though some thought it was tricky.
Example (2013 Prelims Questions Paper):
Consider the following:
1. Electromagnetic radiation
2. Geothermal energy
5.Rotation of the earth
6. Revolution of the earth
Which of the above are responsible for bringing dynamic changes on the surface of the earth?
(a) 1, 2, 3 and 4 only
(b) 1, 3, 5 and 6 only
(c) 2, 4, 5 and 6 only
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
Note: Recent trend suggests that a question can be put in geography, environment as well as Science domain depending on various dimensions. For example, above question is evidently asking for physical forces that we learnt in Physics but then the scope of the question also covers geographical aspect as well. Do not get puzzled over such points whether the question is from Physics or Geography or anything. Basically, UPSC is framing questions on concepts and a single question can have one concept or five concepts at the same time. If you are weak in any of the given concept then it becomes quite difficult to solve the question, unless the ‘technique of elimination’ can come to your rescue
Now let us check any random issue from Current Affairs of this year. Recently Solar Flares were in news.
“A solar flare is a sudden flash of brightness observed over the Sun’s surface or the solar limb, which is interpreted as a large energy release”. Consider the statements with reference to it
(1) They are always followed by a colossal mass ejection.
(2) The flare ejects clouds of neutrons, ions, and atoms through the corona of the sun into space.
(3) They produce radiation across electromagnetic spectrum at all wavelength except visible
Correct code is/are
(a) 1 and 2
(b) 1,2 and 3
(c) Only 3
Natural Processes: Look around you and try to find out science involved in various natural processes.
- While going through NCERTS or any source, pay more attention on concepts explaining any natural phenomenon. For instance:
- What causes a Rainbow?
- Dispersion in nature, Spectrum, Total Internal Reflection, Refraction and
- Concepts like why the sky is blue in colour?
- Why does the sun appear Red during sunrise and sunset (the physics behind it needs to be known)
- Why do stars twinkle?
- What is a Pole Star? Where/which direction it is visible also needed.
- Surface tension and capillary actions
- Phenomenon related to heat and light
- Similarly you should know the reason behind what causes lightning, thunderstorms and the various types of clouds (also is given in Geography texts of NCERT)
- Search on the net for all such phenomenon and know the basic science behind them.
- Trust us; NCERTS are best source to prepare for these aspects. The only thing that matters is ‘How you prepare from NCERT’?
We will illustrate with an example
|During a thunderstorm, the thunder in the skies is produced by the (2013)
1. Meeting of cumulonimbus clouds in the sky
2. Lightning that separates the nimbus clouds
3. Violent upward movement of air and water particles
Select the correct answer using the codes given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3
(C) 1 and 3
(d) None of the above produces the thunder
|Consider the following phenomena: (2013)
1. Size of the sun at dusk
2. Colour of the sun at dawn
3. Moon being visible at dawn
4. Twinkle of stars in the sky
5. Polestar being visible in the sky
Which of the above are optical illusions?
(a) 1, 2 and 3
(b) 3, 4 and 5
(c) 1, 2 and 4
(d) 2, 3 and 5
Chemical Science: Chemistry and Current Events
- General phenomenon of chemistry or chemical change like anomalous expansion of water, density of water is also covered in NCERT.
- Elements in nature: radioactive (Ex: Thorium, Uranium) and non-radioactive, Carbon Dating, Lead- its harmful effects and uses (Ex: is it used in Petrol and pencils?)
- Nuclear Energy- Focus on Neutrons, use of Heavy Water, controlled and uncontrolled chain reaction and nuclear reactors. Locations of Nuclear reactors in India
- Properties of elements and compounds that you encounter in news like Ethanol, Methanol etc.
- Terms like Antioxidant, Isotopes and Artificial Rains etc.
Note: You will find lots of articles in newspapers dealing with chemistry. Stick to the basics and learn the relevant concept based on NCERTS only. Here at IASbaba, we will be updating you on everyday basis on How to pick the issue and solve questions.
|The surface of a lake is frozen in severe winter, but the water at its bottom is still liquid. What is the reason? (2011)
(a) Ice is a bad conductor of heat
(b) Since the surface of the lake is at the same temperature as the air, no heat is lost
(c) The density of water is maximum at 4°C
(d) None of the statements (a), (b) and (c) given above is correct
|The function of heavy water in a nuclear reactor is to (2011)
(a) Slow down the speed of neutrons
(b) Increase the speed of neutrons
(c) Cool down the reactor
(d) Stop the nuclear reaction
| Which of the following is/are the example/examples of chemical change? (2014)
(1) Crystallization of sodium chloride
(2) Melting of ice
(3) Souring of milk
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 1, 2 and 3
Note: See these questions from Current affairs and learn. Everyone has learnt or found news about sugar industries and issues related to it. Have you pondered upon chemistry aspect? Everyone knows that Ethanol is used as Fuel. It is also a by-product of Sugar making process. Now let us enhance the concept.
|‘Ethanol’ has widespread usages and application. Consider the statements with reference to it
(1) It cannot be used as rocket propellant
(2) It can be used in thermometer
(3) It can be used as an antiseptic
(4) It causes cancer
(5) It can cause birth defects
(6) It cannot be used in DNA extraction because it is highly toxic
(a) 1 ,2 ,3 and 5
(b) 1 ,2, 4 ,5 and 6
(c) 2 ,3,4 and 6
(d) 2,3,4 and 5
|Mercury and its compounds are toxic; despite it is used in variety of products. It is used in
Select the correct codes
(a) 1 and 2
(d) 1,2,3,4 and 5
Note: Do not get threatened as you will learn gradually. The process of concept building takes time. Once you learn this way, preparation becomes more enjoyable. Also, concept building cannot be taught. It has to come from within. Yes, you just need a way to build it. There is no guarantee in UPSC but there is way to understand its nerves. Questions from this section are random and analytical. No one can meditate and tell you that these are the sources to prepare from. And no single book will suffice the demand of it. No institute will let you know the requirement. They cannot because this exam is not about reading so much. It is about How, What and Why to study of any concept or topic?