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ISN, Switzerland / November 3, 2004
Russian scientist hands over plutonium cache
Ядерный физик из Сибири сдал в милицию восемь контейнеров с плутонием. Леонид Григоров сообщил правоохранительным органам, что нашел их в лаборатории завода, где работал, и который был закрыт в 1992 году. Ученый хранил радиоактивные материалы в своем гараже в течение шести лет.
По словам Григорова, он пытался связаться со своими бывшими начальниками и различными государственными структурами для того, чтобы сообщить им о находке. Но все проявили безразличие к его находке, поэтому Григоров положил цилиндры в свинцовый контейнер и стал хранить их в своем гараже. Он сдал контейнеры с плутонием в милицию после того, как прочитал объявление в местной газете, предлагающее населению сдавать оружие за вознаграждение. Но вместо этого ему предъявлено обвинение в незаконном хранении радиоактивных материалов.
MOSCOW - A Russian atomic scientist surrendered to police yesterday eight containers filled with arms-grade nuclear material that he had kept in his garage for eight years, Russian media reported.
But an Atomic Ministry official denied that the 14 ounces of plutonium-238 found by Leonid Grigorov in a heap of rubbish at his laboratory was weapons-grade.
The Interfax news agency said the lab near Russia's border with Kazakhstan, looted after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, eventually was closed and deserted. Grigorov decided to hide the material, which theoretically could be used to make a "dirty bomb", in boxes and handed them in to local police only after a newspaper offered a reward to anyone who surrendered weapons.
"As an expert, I knew that I had to [hide it] to avoid tragic consequences," Grigorov was quoted as saying.
The Itar-Tass news agency quoted Nikolai Shingarev, a representative of the Russian Atomic Ministry, as saying the material was not arms-grade.
"It is not weapons-grade material, but an isotope which is widely used in different devices,"Shingarev said. "Any enterprise which has a license can freely obtain plutonium-238."
Russia, with its huge nuclear arsenal, is under pressure to prevent dangerous atomic material from falling into the hands of extremists after the Soviet collapse left many nuclear facilities under-protected. There is also speculation that nuclear scientists, underpaid since the Soviet collapse, may be secretly selling sensitive technology to what Washington calls "rogue" states. Russia denies such activity is occurring.
In a separate incident, 97 pounds of radioactive scrap metal was discovered in Chelaybinsk, Tass reported yesterday.
The region is heavily polluted with radioactive material from its nuclear reactor and plants producing plutonium for atomic bombs. The local Mayak nuclear complex dumped 2.68 billion cubic feet of highly radioactive waste into a river between 1949 and 1956, and an explosion there in 1957 showered radiation over the southern Ural Mountains.
© 1994-2004 ISN
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ITAR-TASS / 03.11.2004
RAN to honour national non-govt Demidov Prize laureates
Названы имена лауреатов научной негосударственной Демидовской премии, которая вручается в шести номинациях — физика, математика, химия, биология, гуманитарные науки и науки о Земле. Премия, учрежденная в 1832 году, просуществовала до 1865 года, и стала вновь вручаться с 1993 года, после основания Демидовского фонда.
MOSCOW, November 3 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) on Wednesday will announce the names of laureates of the national non-government Demidov Prize 2004, RAN sources told Itar-Tass.
"The prize committee of the Scientific Demidov Fund has already determined the laureates, but their names are not disclosed until the traditional autumn tea drinking party with journalists," the RAN official said.
This prize is especially valued by Russian scientists "as the decision on its awarding is taken not by bureaucrats, but by colleagues scientists who can competently evaluate our scientific achievements," RAN Vice President Gennady Mesyats stressed.
"The Demidov Prize comes always unexpectedly to its winner, as he should not submit any applications or present his works," the vice president pointed out. RAN sources said the Demidov Fund marked its 10-year anniversary last year and the prize amount was increased by one-third and now is 470,000 roubles.
This year the prize laureates for the first time will be presented with malachite boxes with name silver medals with the image of the prize founder Pavel Demidov imprinted on it. Demidov made a will to award the prize 32 years after his death. Among the prize laureates between 1832 and 1865 were the famous surgeon Nikolai Pirogov and the founder of the periodic system Mendeleyev.
The prize was revived in 1993. It is annually awarded in three out of six nominations – physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, Earth science and humanities. This year the laureates will be a physicist, a biologist and a humanist. In accordance with tradition, the handing in of the award will be held at a celebratory ball in Yekaterinburg timed to coincide with Russian Science Day.
© ITAR-TASS. All rights reserved.
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Deutsche Welle / 05/11/2004
Putin Signs up Russia for Kyoto Pact
Владимир Путин подписал федеральный закон "О ратификации Киотского протокола к Рамочной конвенции Организации Объединенных Наций об изменении климата". Теперь закон считается вступившим в действие.
Russian President Vladimir Putin put his signature to the UN's Kyoto climate change treaty on Friday, just over a week after his country's parliament voted to ratify the document, the Kremlin said.
Having signed the treaty, which had previously been blocked due to the need for either Russia or the United States to ratify it, Putin is now due to notify the United Nations of his country's approval of the pact, aimed at cutting the pollution emission that cause global warming of the world's atmosphere.
According to Kremlin officials, Russia's ratification of the treaty will become effective three months after Putin has notified the UN of the move.
Backed by 126 countries, the climate pact is aimed at curbing global warming and can now come into force early next year, 90 days after the Russian ratification documents are filed with the UN.
US not on board
The treaty was adopted at a UN conference on climate change in 1997, but the US, which accounts for 36 percent of emissions and is the world's number-one emitter of greenhouse gases, pulled out in 2001, making the treaty dependent on Russian ratification.
The pact commits the developed nations to cut overall emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12, by curbing use of coal, oil and natural gas and introducing cleaner energies like solar and wind power.
To come into force, it needed to be ratified by countries accounting for at least 55 percent of developed nations' greenhouse gas emissions. Russia accounts for 17 percent of world emissions.
As he begins his second presidential term, George W. Bush has signalled no intention of changing Washington's bullish stance on Kyoto.
Russia signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1999 but has been dragging its feet in recent years over ratification. Leading Russian scientists claimed there was no evidence linking greenhouse gas emissions to climate change, while the Kremlin was also anxious about economic cost and sceptical of the Protocol's impact. It finally agreed to ratify in exchange for EU agreement on terms for Moscow's admission to the World Trade Organization.
© Deutsche Welle 2004
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The New York Times / November 6, 2004
2nd Russian Jury Convicts a Physicist Who Was Acquitted of Spy Charges
Суд присяжных признал виновным Валентина Данилова в шпионаже в пользу Китая, отменив решение предыдущего суда. Данилов, ученый-исследователь из Красноярского государственного университета, впервые был обвинен в 2001 году. Слушание по его делу было первым в ряду участившихся в последнее время дел о шпионаже, в котором обвиняют ученых и исследователей. Данилов признал, что продавал китайской компании информацию о спутниковых технологиях, но настаивает, что она была получена из открытых источников. В декабре прошлого года ему вынесли оправдательный приговор, но прокуратура подала апелляцию, ссылаясь на процессуальные нарушения.
MOSCOW, Nov. 5 - A jury in Siberia convicted a physicist on Friday of spying for China, overturning a previous jury's acquittal after a closed trial that highlighted flaws in Russia's judicial system.
The jury rendered its verdict on the central espionage charge against the physicist, Valentin V. Danilov, even though the court's judges have yet to hold a hearing to decide whether the information he is accused of passing along is even secret, his lawyer said. That hearing is now scheduled for Wednesday.
"This has no legal or logical justification," the lawyer, Yelena V. Yevlinova, said in a telephone interview from Krasnoyarsk, the regional capital in central Siberia, where the trial was held.
Mr. Danilov, a researcher at Krasnoyarsk State University who was first charged in 2001, has acknowledged selling information about satellite technology to a Chinese company but argued that all of it was readily available from public sources.
Mr. Danilov was initially acquitted last December. His trial was the first of a recent flurry of espionage cases against scientists and researchers to be decided by a jury. Jury trials are still a relative novelty in Russia, having become an option for defendants in some serious cases only in 2002.
Although a new criminal code adopted that year was supposed to end double jeopardy except in extreme cases of judicial misconduct, prosecutors appealed Mr. Danilov's acquittal, citing "significant procedural violations" during his first trial. Among them was the fact that his lawyers discussed material in front of jurors that had not been accepted as evidence.
In June the Supreme Court ordered a new trial, which began in September and was closed to the public. Ms. Yevlinova said the court's chief judge refused to let her present evidence showing that the information Mr. Danilov showed was not secret. She said that in effect, the jury's 12 members found that he signed a contract with the Chinese company, the Export and Import Company of Precise Machine Building. "It is not clear what crime he was convicted of," she said.
Mr. Danilov, in a telephone interview, questioned the selection of the jury and the fact that a list of the jurors was never published. He said he suspected they had acted under pressure. "Not one of the jurors looked me in the face when the verdict was read," he said. "When someone does not look you in the eyes, it means that they have problems with their conscience."
Mr. Danilov's case - like the more prominent trial of Russia's richest man, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky - has eroded hopes that the legal reforms adopted in 2002 would give the judiciary greater independence. In practice, courts remain subject to the powerful influence of prosecutors and agencies like the Federal Security Service, the successor to the K.G.B.
In April, a jury convicted an arms control researcher, Igor Sutyagin, on charges similar to those against Mr. Danilov. Human rights organizations have criticized such prosecutions, saying they reflect a wariness of contacts between scientists and foreigners under President Vladimir V. Putin, especially those involving sensitive matters of the military.
Mr. Sutyagin, who worked for the U.S.A. and Canada Institute, a research group in Moscow, was accused of passing secrets to a British company that prosecutors said was a front for the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Sutyagin, who argued that he had no access to state secrets, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
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Innovations report / 08.11.2004
Why Mollusca Do Not Die On Land
Российские ученые подробно изучили механизмы адаптации водных моллюсков, которые приспособились к обитанию в совершенно неподходящих местах. Моллюски постоянно оказываются на суше – их выбрасывает волнами на берег, водоемы, в которых они обитают, пересыхают. Моллюски к этому привыкли и выработали множество способов, позволяющих выжить. Еще одно доказательство, что безвыходных положений не бывает.
Way out exists even from the most desperate situations. Water mollusca prove that statement. At first sight, they are absolutely unable to live without water, as they consist almost totally from water. However, this is only at first sight. Russian scientists have analyzed their data and the data from their colleagues who observed mollusca on the banks of various water bodies and have discovered the adaptation mechanisms these animals employ to live without water.
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Water mollusca are used to being constantly thrown out by sea-waves on the shore, or the imminent high tide "forgets" to take mollusca along with it, or the native lake can dry up. Mollusca got accustomed to that and elaborated a lot of accommodation mechanisms that allow to survive on land for a long time – for up to a year. However, the term depends on atmospheric temperature: the higher the temperature is, the less chances the animal has to survive. Mollusca's adaptation mechanisms were investigated by researchers of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences.
The water mollusc that remained on land has to solve two major problems: to retain moisture and to breathe in unusual conditions. While the mollusc is only starting to dry off, it is actively crawling and collecting food in reserve if it is available (it should be noted that even the mollusca that normally can only swim are crawling in these conditions). But moisture should be preserved for respiratory surface, otherwise the mollusc will be unable to breathe, therefore, some time later it passes to the second phase of its self-rescue. Special viscous liquid is excreted, the origin of the liquid is still unknown to researchers. The liquid serves as lubricant and does not allow the animal to dry up. To intensify the effect of water-retaining lubricant, some mollusca bunch into packs of 3 to 6 individuals and hide under stones, in the rock cracks – i.e., in the shadow.
The case is easier for the mollusca that have big shells and special folds or covers to close up the shell with. Then they turn out to be in a waterproof "house" and lose less moisture. However, it will soon be nothing to breathe in the "house", and then chemical changes take place in the mollusc's organism, these changes allowing to live without oxygen or interaction with the environment. The hemolymph (i.e. mollusc's blood) protects the mollusc from being poisoned by products of such airless metabolism, calcium from the internal surface of the shell assisting the hemolymph. Approximately the same role is played by the so-called crystalline pedicel – the organ that can be apparently considered a strategic stock of food and oxygen.
The unlucky mollusca that are deprived of shells or whose shells are small have to bury oneselves into the soil – it is cooler there. Mollusca bury themselves so skilfully, as if they had spent all their life in the soil – sometimes deeper than 35 centimeters. If a small shell is still in place, then, having buried itself, the mollusc draws the body in the shell and excretes a protective film to close up the "entry". It is interesting to note that mollusca are apparently great individualists: even representatives of the same species living in the same water body bury themselves at different depth, excrete different protective films, and some do not bury themselves at all. Nevertheless, whatever the mollusc does, whatever the shell it has to protect itself, it would lose moisture all the same: within a long drought the mollusc can "grow thin" by 40 to 80 percent.
The respiration problem is also solved by water mollusca in different ways. When in water, some breathe with gills, some – with lung, and when on land they have to "absorb" oxygen by the entire body – that is possible due to the blood vessel network located close to the surface. Besides, combined respiration is common among mollusca, i.e. they can breath both by the atmospheric air and by the oxygen dissolved in water. This skill is inherent to, for example, freshwater mollusca that inhabit constantly drying up water bodies.
USA TODAY / 11/2/2004
Boom or bust for Siberian software companies
Две сибирские компании по производству программного обеспечения, "Новософт" и ЦФТ (Центр финансовых технологий), созданные бывшими учеными, начали свой жизненный путь в Академгородке. Одна пережила взлет и падение, связанные с бумом интернет-технологий в США. Вторая идет от успеха к успеху, делая бизнес в России и поддерживая надежду городка стать центром передовых технологий.
NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia - This is a tale of two Siberian software companies and how one got rich and the other lost its way. Both firms - Novosoft and CFT - were set up by former academics, starting life in the "Akadem Gorodok" (Academic Town), a university and scientific research centre on a leafy campus outside Novosibirsk.
One rose and fell with the U.S.-driven Internet boom at the turn of the millennium. The other is going from strength to strength doing business in Russia and keeping alive this city's dreams of becoming a centre for cutting-edge technology. Novosibirsk, Russia's third largest city with more than one million inhabitants, lies in the heart of West Siberia and is a thriving transport and service centre for a vast region renowned for harsh winters and mosquito-infested summers.
Like many who started careers as researchers in the Akadem Gorodok in the twilight of the Soviet era, the bottom fell out of their world when the planned economy crumbled in the early 1990s and state funds were abruptly cut off.
"I was working in the Mathematics Institute. When the Soviet Union collapsed we had no money to support our lives," said Vladimir Vashenko, who founded Novosoft with an American partner. In its heyday in the late 1990s, Novosoft was ranked as one of Russia's top five software houses. Novosoft prospered during the Internet boom working almost exclusively for top United States companies like IBM and Microsoft. But the company came unstuck as the U.S. Internet bubble burst in 2001, although it managed to survive.
Sticking to Russia
A short drive away CFT, which stands for the Centre for Financial Technologies, has thrived by sticking to Russia — selling software programmes and payment systems to fast-growing banks across the country.
The contrast in corporate styles between the two could hardly be greater. Novosoft's offices are housed in rented accommodation in a modernised wing of the Mathematics Institute. After walking through the Institute's long dusty passages, their walls peeling, visitors to Novosoft are ushered through a security door and into a waiting room which would not look out of place in California. A Zen garden takes up a corner of the room, which is lined with low sofas. Spot lamps stud a blue ceiling like stars in a night sky and pictures inspired by Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali adorn the walls. One painting depicts a large rock hovering motionless above the clouds, a fitting symbol of the Internet industry's efforts to defy the laws of financial gravity.
Humbled by his company's roller-coaster ride, Vashenko says Novosoft is trying to find a new niche after demand from the United States for its services as an "offshore programmer" vanished almost overnight.
"We have had to downsize. We understand we have to find a new business model. Before we were developing software for our clients and we are now thinking of developing our own software," said Vashenko ruefully.
Many of Novosoft's best staff left to set up their own businesses. "It was a very impressive company in its day and everyone wanted to work for them," said Ivan Komarov, who left just as the crisis hit and works as a lecturer and consultant.
He said Novosoft failed to realise quickly enough that the tide was turning against it before disaster struck.
Brimming with confidence
Novosoft, which employs just 50 people, down from 500 at its peak, is now starting to do work for Russia biggest companies, like metals producer Norilsk Nickel and oil major Lukoil. It is also selling shareware over the Internet, charging $30 for programs which allow users to protect computer data against loss and to store different passwords.
By contrast the mood at CFT, housed in a former nursery school on the outskirts of the Akadem Gorodok campus, is brimming with confidence.
"Our market is growing very fast and so are we," said Alexander Pagydin, CFT's managing director, adding he expects to employ 700 people by the end of the year. Annual sales have doubled in two years to $15 million.
One of CFT's biggest money spinners is a credit card payment system, operated by some 200 banks, with two million users across Russia. It also has developed a program allowing mobile phone users to access bank accounts and manage their money.
The company has opened offices in Russia's biggest cities but has no plans to work abroad. "It does not make sense for us to go to the west. We feel very happy operating in the Russian market," said Pagydin.
He said he can attract talented people by offering them fast promotion and giving them challenging projects to work on.
For Komarov, who has worked for CFT as well as Novosoft, says the success of CFT is down to the company's stronger and more focused management.
He also believes it is proof positive that high-tech companies can flourish even in Siberia — four hours flight from Moscow. "It really takes a lot of managerial talent to do what they achieved. CFT shows you can build a successful business here," said Komarov.
"We do not feel we are a Siberian company. We feel we are a Russian company," said Viktor Loik, chief operating officer of CFT which has offices as far east as St. Petersburg, on Europe's doorstep, and as far east as Vladivostok, on the Pacific coast.
©Copyright 2004 USA TODAY
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Gateway to Russia / 11 November 2004
Russian researchers build prototype of "perpetual" propulsion unit
В подмосковном НИИ космических систем (НИИ КС) разрабатывают "вечный" двигатель, который может быть использован как в космосе, так и на Земле. По словам научного руководителя НИИ КС Валерия Меньшикова, в институте уже несколько лет идет работа над так называемым двигателем без выброса реактивной массы, и уже создан опытный образец.
The Space Systems Scientific Research Institute outside Moscow is developing a "perpetual" engine for use in space and on Earth.
Valeriy Menshikov, the director and chief scientist at the institute, told ITAR-TASS news agency today that "the institute has been working on a so-called reactive mass emission-free engine for some years". He said "scientists have already developed an original prototype engine".
"The prototype is propelled by the movement within it of a liquid or solid propellant on a fixed trajectory reminiscent of a tornado," Menshikov explained. "Moreover, it is possible that we may observe in this motion some as-yet unknown interaction between the propellant and little-studied fields such as, for example, the gravitational field," he said.
"We have managed to record thrust of up to 28g with this prototype, but only for a few minutes so far," a department head at the institute, Yuriy Danshov, told the agency. "Thrust of this magnitude may appear extremely small, but were it to be applied for 20 minutes to a 100-kg satellite, the satellite's orbit would increase by 2 km," the scientist said.
The developers say this kind of propulsion unit would have a service life of at least 15 years, with a maximum of some 300,000 activations. It would be powered by solar batteries.
Experts believe the device needs to be tested in space or dropped down a deep silo to replicate the effects of weightlessness to maintain the integrity of the experiment in measuring the thrust of the prototype. "Formally, science draws parallels between this research and attempts to build a perpetual motion machine, but big firms in the West are working very seriously and investing heavily in this," Menshikov said.
The Moscow researchers believe the engine would not just be for use in controlling and adjusting space craft orbits and orbital stations. "This environmentally clean engine will have applications in air and land transport in future, too," Menshikov said.
©Copyright Gateway to Russia 2003
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