Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Апрель 2004 г.
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Апрель
2004 г.
Российская наука и мир
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)

январь февраль март апрель май июнь июль август сентябрь октябрь ноябрь декабрь


    Исследователи из Института кораблестроения им. А. Н. Крылова создали устройство для обнаружения взрывчатых веществ даже в самых малых количествах. Если большинство используемых датчиков предназначено для больших объектов и не способно обнаружить взрывчатку в количестве менее одного килограмма, то новый прибор может найти 40 граммов взрывчатого материала, герметично запечатанного в мобильном телефоне.

Worried that someone might slip a bomb into your building? St. Petersburg scientists may have the answer. They have produced a device that offers new hope to those wanting to defend themselves against terrorists who mingle with the public in society and enter buildings undetected by hiding their weapons in suitcases or sealed plastic bags.
Scientists at the city's Krylov Shipbuilding Scientific Institute say their device is one of the best in the world at detecting explosives hidden in luggage or in people's personal belongings.
Combined Detection System or CDS-1, the Russian acronym for which is SOVA, or owl, is intended to be used to check bags, radios and photographic equipment in government buildings, offices, and other specially guarded institutions.
"Our device can detect explosives within a period of 10 to 100 seconds depending on how much explosive there is - even when it's well hidden or hermetically sealed," said scientist Andrei Laikin, who developed the device.
Detecting 100 grams of explosive would take to device about 100 seconds, but if there was 250 grams it would take 20 seconds to detect. If explosive material weighing just 40 grams was hidden in a mobile phone, CDS would find it in 120 seconds, he said.
CDS operates by analyzing the neutrons in a chemical compound.
"It is well known that any industrial explosive contains above average amounts of nitrogen," Laikin said. "So, our device works by defining the level of nitrogen concentration."
Neutron analysis is not a new approach in explosives. The first such systems appeared in the United States in the 1970s and '80s, when the U.S. was developing defense programs.
Later the U.S. produced practical detectors that were installed in airports, but these devices were meant for big objects and could not find explosives in quantities weighing less than a kilogram.
When terrorists blew up a PanAm plane over the town of Lockerbie in Scotland in 1989, only half a kilo of explosives was used. U.S. scientists were able to adapt their detector so that it could detect amounts as small as 600 grams, but this led to their devices giving a lot of false alarms, and this type of detector was withdrawn from service. That leaves the St. Petersburg device the only one able to detect small amounts of explosives. It is also automatic, and not subject to human error. The Krylov Institute has already started mass producing its device. The first machine offered for sale is ready and is waiting for a buyer. Laikin declined to say how much such a device would cost. Just what the commercial potential could be is clear from a Reuters report last week that said General Electric Co. has agreed to buy InVision Technologies Inc., a maker of bomb-detection equipment, for about $900 million to expand its security business.
"InVision designs equipment to detect explosives in luggage. Its shares have almost doubled in price in the past year as demand for its airport security products has soared." Reuters reported.
InVision said it had won a $108 million order from an arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for bomb-detection systems for U.S. airports, the report said.
Asked if the device could have helped prevent the recent bombings in Madrid that killed more than 200 people, Laikin said CDS is not meant to detect explosives in airports or railway stations.
"The device is very effective at detecting explosives, but it is still a bit too slow for checking the massive flow of people in those places," Laikin said. However, he said another St. Petersburg scientific center Ratek has already introduced a system capable of checking for explosives at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo airport.
Laikin said that when the Krylov institute started developing the system based on neutron system, it worked together with Ratek. Later the two organizations' research developed in different directions. Ratek's developments were more oriented to function in airports. Most airport security services use X-ray and television devices to check the luggage. The work of such detectors is based on comparing the density of substances. The density of leather, plastic or fabric, which is what most people's luggage consists of, differs from the density of explosive substances.
However, the new systems offered by St. Petersburg scientists are more effective than traditional systems, Laikin said. Alolf Mishuyev, head of the Explosive Resistance Technical Center in Moscow, said the St. Petersburg scientists have made "a big step in developing explosive detectors".
"Their device is more modern and effective," he said.
"Today, the whole world is concerned about finding the best methods to detect explosives."
"In fact, the most important task is to invent the quickest device, which would be, for example, be capable of checking all passengers in the metro as soon as they enter it," Mishuyev said.

© Copyright The St. Petersburg Times 1993-2004

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    Уникальное научное наследие советских времен может принести огромную пользу, если государственные учреждения и коммерческие предприятия сумеют воспользоваться им должным образом.

Last year, one of the most conservative and important organizations in science and technology, the Russian Academy of Sciences, founded its own innovation agency, which testified to a significant rally in Russian innovation. The equally sluggish Industry, Science and Technology Ministry held the first federal innovation project competition. Eleven subject areas have been chosen, and the Finance Ministry has allocated $40 million to the endeavor. The Industry, Science and Technology Ministry itself is undergoing structural reform, and a Department of Innovation Development, headed by well-known specialist Boris Simonov, has finally been created within the ministry.
Though the plan to develop the venture industry the ministry came up with more than a year ago has never been approved, setting up venture capital funds has come into fashion in Russia. While not a single fund existed in 2002, three appeared on the Russian market just last year. In June, Alfa Group announced it was setting up a venture fund, Russian Technology, with $20 million in capital, a significant amount for Russia. The Tekhsnabexport Concern, the largest supplier of enriched uranium on the world market with close ties to the Nuclear Power Ministry, created the $10 million Venture Investment Fund on a share basis with the Industry, Science and Technology Ministry.  Western investors also became more active last year. Last May, Intel Capital, the venture division of the major IT manufacturer, opened an office in Moscow. Delegations from numerous investment funds came to Russia. Three forums on promoting Russian high-tech were held in the United States in six months.
Russian big business is trying to work with science and technology directly, bypassing the venture approach. Late last year, the Russian Academy of Sciences and Norilsk Nickel, one of Russia's largest producers of nonferrous metals, signed the Program for Research and Development of Hydrogen Fuel Cells, which will last 10 years and cost $40 million. Meanwhile, Yukos opened an industry institute that was the talk of the academic community due to its state-of-the-art equipment and salaries for star scientists comparable to those in the West.
As venture funds appear and corporate R&D increases across a variety of industries from oil to agriculture, finding a national model for managing technological progress becomes an increasingly important issue. There are models of every description out there, ranging from the ultraliberal Anglo-Saxon approach that favors venture funds to the "étatist" model that favors administration by state and big capital and huge breakthrough projects on a national scale.
A Failed Venture?
Despite the efforts of large Russian and Western investors, there are still no examples of successful venture capital projects in Russia. Vladimir Bernshteyn of Alfa Group told Expert that in the six months of its existence, Russian Technology has yet to find a single project worth funding. On the other hand, innovation companies are still wary of the venture system. Last year, 500,000 euros in prize money from a German innovation company went unclaimed, as Russian innovators refused to sell the controlling stake in their company at that price. This is a common occurrence. According to Pavel Osipov, general director at Amphora Laboratories, which won the Russian Innovations Competition held annually by Expert, venture capital in Russia tries to get involved in a project too late in the game. Venture investors see the higher risks and the difficulty of opting out of a project due to the lack of institutions such as IPOs. They therefore demand a controlling stake in a company that has already created a new product and need funds for marketing, not R&D. In the West, venture investors traditionally come onto the scene when inventors have just applied for a patent."No venture capitalists would come to you at that stage of development in Russia," Osipov told Expert. "They appear when you already have a working prototype, a team, and three or four patents. But then you have already created a product and simply don't need venture investment. You need strategic partners capable of conducting good marketing campaigns. Why do we need venture funds that operate like the investment department at a bank and then get certain powers, simply to increase risks? Bank departments don't demand a share in the company. It is much easier to deal with a passive collection of investors or to build alliances with manufacturers in the industry who have precise knowledge of the market. Not only, in our opinion, does venture financing not fit Russia, we have concluded that in general this model for investing in high-tech is fairly questionable. If you look at the history of companies supported by venture capitalists, you see that only one in 10 companies gets to a wider market. You have to ask why the other nine never saw the light of day. There are simply no statistics on this," Osipov said.
Yet another company that won Expert's Russian Innovation Competition, Fomos Technology, seems to be the exception that proves the rule. "We didn't want our decisions to be made outside of Russia, and secondly, there are already well-established companies in other countries," Vladimir Alenkov, president of the Fomos Technology Group, explained. "We tried to figure out if we could make some organizational innovations in order to keep foreign investors from getting a critical stake in the company. We were able to attract funds into a public joint-stock company in Russia, without selling our controlling stake. The bylaws and board were set up to encourage trust. We can open a line of credit for a large amount of money in only two to three days. It was good interpersonal relationships that led the Americans to set aside their usual approaches to investment and give us independence. For us, independence means more money."
Too Early to Say
The mismatch between standard venture investors and innovation companies is not happening because venture capitalists get involved too late and demand too much. When looking at Russia's most successful venture companies, it becomes obvious that they all grew out of the world-class scientific institutions of the Soviet era. That is why they have a unique competitive advantage in Russia's re-emerging market. Venture funds simply don't know how to deal with this phenomenon. Whether the Industry, Science and Technology Ministry, currently focused on selecting national mega-projects, knows what to do either, is also in question. When all is said and done, efficient intellectual production in basic science does not equal a strong lobby. The uniqueness of the directions Russian scientists are exploring is forcing Russian innovation companies to cover the cost of supporting the national innovation infrastructure. An average investor might show some interest in basic scientific research of course, but at best as a patron. The tiny Russian innovation industry is investing resources in post-Soviet research institutes and labs because otherwise it will cease to be innovative.
"We can't grow as quickly as the venture funds want, because we have to develop our staff, and that means supporting basic science," Konstantin Rudakov, head of the Forexis Company and corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences, told Expert. Forexis creates software that can easily determine which bank is reliable, which cellular customers will run to another company next month, which supermarket customers will like a new product, for whom a certain region will vote, and which trader on the exchange will sell short. The mathematical theory behind Forexis' programs was developed in the 1950s and published in scientific journals 15 to 20 years ago. It is so complicated, however, that only students of mathematician Yury Zhuravlev have mastered it. "We can afford to hire a programmer for $3,000," Rudakov argued, "but we will have to work with this person for five years before he will understand what we want, how we set our tasks and how we accomplish them. But then he will be able to synthesize algorithms better than anyone else on the planet."
From the point of view of an average investor, the thought of tiny companies supporting unique post-Soviet scientific research is utter nonsense. Yet for the emerging Russian national innovation system it's a fact. Perhaps at some later point, when the government starts providing serious support for the innovation infrastructure, we will be able to judge whether venture funds or mega-projects are more effective. Until then, it seems worthwhile to pay close attention to the odd but already popular business approaches that have evolved without state guidance or venture investment. Their main motivations: supporting basic science and keeping decision-making inside Russia.

© Copyright Gateway to Russia 2003
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    Таяние вечной мерзлоты в результате глобального потепления климата может угрожать некоторым северным территориям. Ученые Государственного гидрологического института рассмотрели несколько сценариев изменения климата, чтобы предсказать область распространения, температуру и глубину таяния вечной мерзлоты и определить зоны наибольшего риска.

Russian scientists have discovered territories in the North that will run the greatest risk in the course of permafrost thawing, they have also calculated degree of risk for towns, industrial facilities and main lines. Global climate warming makes attacks on permafrost. Accurate forecast is very important as the permafrost ground status would drive the future of all northern towns and industrial facilities.
Researchers of the State Hydrological Institute (St. Petersburg) have undertaken such a forecast. Their effort resulted in prognostic maps, where the higher risk zone was determined along the Arctic coast and degree of risk for towns, main lines, pipelines and other infrastructures of the North were calculated.
The researchers used several climate change scenarios based on five mathematical models to forecast the spread area, temperature and depth of seasonal permafrost thawing through. According to their estimates, reduction of the entire permafrost area in the northern hemisphere will make 10% to 18% by 2030, 15% to 25% by 2050 and 25% to 50% by 2080. The depth of seasonal thawing through will increase heterogeneously both in terms of timescale and space. In the next thirty years to come, the changes will be relatively insignificant but by mid-century the depth of thawing through will increase by 15% to 25% and more, and by 2080 - by 30% to 50%. Therefore, it can be expected by the end of the 21st century that the permafrost zone will reduce by half, and the depth of seasonal thawing through will double. It is not enough to calculate the extent the permafrost reduction, the most important is to determine the affect on its bearing strength. The "cryopedology risk index"serves this purpose, the index being computational by definite formula.
Having applied this formula to the northern territories of Russia, the scientists discovered that the high cryopedology risk zone covers all of the Arctic coast, where extensive coast erosion will take place. The high risk zone includes towns and settlements - Salekhard, Igarka, Dudinka, Tiksi in Russia, and Barrow and Inuvik in the USA, pipelines and installations of the gas production system Nadym-Pur-Taz in the North-West of Siberia. Yakutsk, Norilsk, Vorkuta, major part of Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur main lines run moderate risk. Natural and man-caused calamities can be prevented in these locations only through purposeful investments aimed to support infrastructures of the North.

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    Российские программисты считаются одними из лучших в мире. Они подтвердили свою репутацию, заняв первое место на престижном международном конкурсе, который состоялся в Праге на прошлой неделе.

Russian programmers have lived up to their reputation as being among the world's best, winning a prestigious international programming contest in Prague last week.
Three computer science majors from the St. Petersburg Institute of Fine Mechanics and Optics won first place at the 28th International Collegiate Programming Contest, while a team from Perm State University came in fourth -- ahead of U.S. teams from MIT, California Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
"Now those studying at Harvard should transfer to Perm," joked President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko on Monday. Putin said he would meet the winners in the Kremlin.
"I am not surprised by our good showing," said Vladimir Parfyonov, the head of the computer technology department at the winning institute from St. Petersburg. "Our teams have been consistently strong since we first participated in 1994." Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology came in second and Belarussian State University third. Another Russian contender -- Izhevsk State Technical University -- was ranked eighth.
In the five-hour contest, three-person teams representing 73 universities in 31 countries competed to solve the most problems.
"The excellent results of the Perm and Izhevsk teams were the biggest surprise for me," Parfyonov said. "Just a few years ago, who seriously would have thought they could run against Moscow or St. Petersburg universities?" MIT, Cal Tech and Harvard were ranked No. 5, No. 7 and No. 9, respectively. Last year's winner, Warsaw University, came in tenth.
Last year Moscow State University ranked second and St. Petersburg Institute of Fine Mechanics and Optics third. St. Petersburg University won the ICPC in 2000 and 2001.

© Copyright 2002, The Moscow Times. All Rights Reserved
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    Западные компании все чаще предпочитают работать в России и с российскими программистами. Причина – высокая квалификация и низкая стоимость труда последних. Средняя зарплата московского программиста в пять раз меньше, чем у его коллеги в США.

High qualifications and relatively low labor costs make Russian software programmers a lucrative investment for Western companies. Russian programmers have already become a hot export item. This does not mean, however, that the software specialists are leaving Russia in their droves. Quite the contrary, U.S. corporations prefer to outsource development of software in Russia.
In 2003 the volume of export of Russian software was $475 million, which is 60 percent more than in 2002 and nine times as much as five years ago, according to data provided by the Russian internet resource Worldeconomy. The figures of the Russian software outsourcing industry are still nowhere near the results posted by India, which is the leader in outsourcing production and annually exports $10 billion worth of software products. Nonetheless, such companies as Boeing, Dell, Intel and Motorola have already established new technology development centers in Moscow, while many other U.S. companies work with Russian programmers on a contract basis. The interest demonstrated by the U.S. companies is quite understandable, writes Newsru.Com. According to Alexis Sukharev, the president of the Russian software developing company Auriga, the average annual salary of a Moscow-based programmer is $12,000. This is somewhat higher than in India, but at least five times lower than the average salary of a U.S. programmer. Thanks to this, the client can save as much as 60 percent by developing his software product in Russia.
A relatively cheap workforce is not the only advantage of the Russian programmers, who also rightfully boast high qualifications and traditions dating back to the years of Soviet science. In India, meanwhile, the staff turnover is so big that it is quite difficult to create a valuable team of software developers.
But working in Russia is not without its problems. The majority of software developing companies have no more than 20 programmers on their staff, which makes them too small to successfully compete on the international outsourcing job market, notes the Business Week magazine. The marketing activities in such companies are no more than a maintenance of informal personal ties with the potential clients. The Russian high-tech industry is in real need of consolidation, but the majority of local managers have neither necessary knowledge nor experience to conduct mergers and takeovers.
Many representatives of the Russian high tech industry say that the authorities fail to pay enough attention to this sector of the economy. They cite India's example, where the government created special zones, where small developer companies can cooperate on projects, saving money and increasing their effectiveness. In Russia such cooperation between the state and the high-tech industry is a thing of the distant future.

Copyright © 2004 MOSNEWS.COM
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Продолжение дайджеста за АПРЕЛЬ 2004 года (часть 2)

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