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MOSNEWS / 08.08.2006
Russian Researchers Say Rains Boost Oil Reserves
Группа ученых из Института проблем нефти и газа РАН (ИПНГ РАН) под руководством доктора геолого-минералогических наук Азария Баренбаума выдвинула теорию антропогенного происхождения нефти и газа. Согласно теории, крупные скопления углеводородов могут возникать не за миллионы лет, как ранее считалось, а за несколько десятилетий.
A group of Russian scientists at the oil and gas research institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, led by Azary Barenbaum, have come up with a new explanation of the nature of oil and gas formation. They argue that huge reserves of hydrocarbons may take only decades to be formed, not millions of years, as earlier believed. The new theory was published this month in the leading Russian scientific magazine Nauka I Zhizn (Science and Life).
Researchers have registered an increase in oil reserves in oil-rich provinces where deposits were explored and have been developed for many years and where oil consumption is comparatively high. Those oil-rich areas include the Russian province of Tatarstan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Texas and Oklahoma in the U.S., and Mexico. Depletion of reserves is possible only in the oil and gas exploration areas where consumption levels are low, holds Professor Barenbaum. He insists that formation of oil and gas is not so geological as climatic by nature, related to the water cycle and circulation of carbon on our planet.
The decisive role in that process belongs to carbon infiltrating the earth's surface with rains in the course of their incessant circulation. Carbons entering the surface - chiefly in the form of hydrogen carbonate - along with rain waters transform into hydrocarbons, which create the basis for accumulation of oil and gas in geologic traps.
Conclusions drawn by the specialists of the oil and gas research institute have been confirmed in the course of exploratory drilling in the Moscow Region. The researchers have concluded that up to 90 percent of all oil and gas reserves on the planet are formed at the depth of 1 to 10 km and only 10 percent are formed out of organic waste. Hence, the entire process of formation takes decades, not millions of years, Russian scientists say.
This is not the first time the scientists have challenged the traditional theory of oil and gas formation, which says that oil and gas deposits are the remains of plant and animal life that died millions of years ago and were compressed by heat and pressure over millions of years.
Back in the 1950s Russian and Ukrainian geologists came up with a theory that formation of oil deposits requires the high pressures only found in the deep mantle and that the hydrocarbon contents in sediments do not exhibit sufficient organic material to supply the enormous amounts of petroleum found in supergiant oil fields.
According to their theory oil is not a fossil fuel at all, but was formed deep in the Earth's crust from inorganic materials. Based on the theory, successful exploratory drilling has been undertaken in the Caspian Sea region, Western Siberia, and the Dneiper-Donets Basin.
The abyssal, abiotic theory of oil formation has received more attention in the West recently because of the work of retired Cornell astronomy professor Thomas Gold, who is known for the development of several theories that were initially dismissed, but eventually proven true, including the existence of neutron stars, the Environmental Literacy Council reported on its website. (The ELC is a U.S.-based independent, non-profit organization, that focuses on environmental literacy, helping young people to develop a fundamental understanding of the systems of the world, both living and non-living, along with the analytical skills needed to weigh scientific evidence and policy choices, according to the Council's website).
However, Gold has also been wrong. He was a proponent of the "steady state" theory of the universe, which has since been discarded for the "Big Bang" theory. Gold's theory of oil formation, which he expounded in a book entitled "The Deep Hot Biosphere", is that hydrogen and carbon, under high temperatures and pressures found in the mantle during the formation of the Earth, form hydrocarbon molecules which have gradually leaked up to the surface through cracks in rocks. The organic materials which are found in petroleum deposits are easily explained by the metabolism of bacteria which have been found in extreme environments similar to the Earth's mantle. These hyperthermophiles, or bacteria which thrive in extreme environments, have been found in hydrothermal vents, at the bottom of volcanoes, and in places where scientists formerly believed life was not possible. Gold argues that the mantle contains vast numbers of these bacteria.
The abiogenic origin of petroleum deposits would explain some phenomena that are not currently understood, such as why petroleum deposits almost always contain biologically inert helium. Based on his theory, Gold persuaded the Swedish State Power Board to drill for oil in a rock that had been fractured by an ancient meteorite. It was a good test of his theory because the rock was not sedimentary and would not contain remains of plant or marine life. The drilling was successful, although not enough oil was found to make the field commercially viable. The abiotic theory, if true, could affect estimates of how much oil remains in the Earth's crust.
The abiogenic origin theory of oil formation is rejected by most geologists who argue that the composition of hydrocarbons found in commercial oil fields have a low content of 13C isotopes, similar to that found in marine and terrestrial plants; whereas hydrocarbons from abiotic origins such as methane have a higher content of 13C isotopes. In an April 2002 letter published in the science journal Nature, Barbara Sherwood Lollar and her colleagues from the Stable Isotope Lab at the University of Toronto reported their analysis of the Kidd Creek mine in Ontario. An unusual ratio of 13C isotopes and the presence of helium provided evidence of hydrocarbons with abiotic origins, but they argued that commercial gas reservoirs do not contain large amounts of hydrocarbons with a similar signature. Gold and other geologists who argue that there are significant amounts of oil from abiotic origins maintain that as oil seeps up through the layers of Earth closer to the surface, it mixes with oil from biological origins, and takes on its characteristics.
Copyright © 2004 MOSNEWS.COM.
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Managing Information - UK / 10 August 2006
Elsevier Named Publishing Partner For Russian Geology And Geophysics Journal
Издательство Elsevier примет участие в выпуске и распространении журнала "Геология и геофизика", издаваемом Сибирским отделением РАН.
Published monthly, it is currently the only scientific journal covering the wide spectrum of earth sciences in Russia. The publication features more than 100 original theoretical and methodological papers and reviews in all fields of geology and geophysics on a yearly basis, including those specially addressed to geological problems of Siberia and Asia as a whole. Special issues are systematically devoted to specific topics and include articles from non-Russian sources.
Professor Nikolai Sobolev of the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy at the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences said, "the Siberian earth sciences community respects Elsevier as the leading publishing company and has collaborated with them for many years. This collaboration includes Guest Editorship of Siberian scientists in a number of Special Issues of leading Elsevier journals and the systematic publication of considerable sections of scientific results in a variety of Elsevier journals. The acceptance of a number of papers, mainly from Novosibirsk and Irkutsk institutions, and their subsequent citations, reflect the high scientific level of the results of investigations. Now with our partnership with Elsevier we hope to publish the scientific results across a wide spectrum of earth sciences within the framework of Elsevier journals".
Elsevier will distribute Russian Geology and Geophysics to an international audience via the market-leading, electronic platform ScienceDirect which currently has access to more than 10 million users worldwide.
Elsevier publisher Friso Veenstra commented that, "the journal will both complement and expand our portfolio in the area of solid-earth sciences. We greatly look forward to our partnership with the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and to achieving our shared goal of extending the global reach and visibility of Russian Geology and Geophysics."
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AlphaGalileo / 21 August 2006
Fire In The Forest Of Insects
Кому-то лесной пожар беда, а кому-то - спасение. Изучение роли пожаров в жизни членистоногих поддерживают РФФИ, The Swedish Institute и грант Президента РФ.
Forest fires often take place, but they are studied to a little extent. K.B. Gongalsky, specialist of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, spent several years to investigate the life of arthropoda inhabiting soil in burnt down sites. As it has turned out, forest fires destroy the majority of ground animals, however, the burnt down area does not remain empty for a long time: it is taken up by aboriginals remaining intact and those that are hunting about the forest in search of fresh fire-sites.
Forest fire kills all arthropoda inhabiting the forest litter and several upper centimeters of the soil. Only those arthropoda that ran away, flew away or buried themselves deep can survive (some of not very mobile Collembola, ticks and beetle larvae are protected from overheating by strong coverings). Some aboriginals manage to save themselves on unburnt sites miraculously remaining intact. After the fire, when the soil gets cold the unhurt insects crawl out of their refuges and look around the site of fire. It is difficult to recognize. The fire modifies physical and chemical properties of the soil, impacts the presence of nutrients in it and finally it completely destroys flora and forest litter. The site of fire turns into a flat surface without shelters, where forest litter inhabitants cannot exist. Even having survived the fire, they leave. Only those that inhabit relatively deep soil layers - larvae and Collembola - remain.
However, the fire-site desolation is seeming, as it is attractive for many living creatures. Within several hours, pyrophilic species (that need burnt forests for existence) fly together to the fire-site. Such are, for example, pyrophilic ground beetles or Phaenops cyanea, which develop exclusively on burnt wood. Researchers never determined where these insects hide themselves when there is no fire. Probably they are dispersed in the forest and gather in noticeable quantities only at sites of fire (these insects can feel smoke at the distance of 20 and more kilometers). At the fresh fire-site, pyrophilic ground beetles can make up to 80 percent of the arthropoda quantity, but they are soon forced out by other species, such as flies and leafhoppers. They are attracted by abundance of food (burnt wood and forest litter, and fungi and microbes growing upon them) as well as absence of predators. It is the lack of predators that allows them to colonize the fire-site quickly.
The scene of conflagration is gradually overgrown by mosses and other vegetation, and then phytophagans appear on it (i.e., plant-eaters): thrips (Thripidae), leafhoppers and plant-louses. The new site swarms with them, as even two years after the fire there are still no predators there. Predators are absent because the forest litter necessary for them has not been formed and the required grass has not grown up yet. Although, the game is in abundance at the site of fire, but predators have no place to live and hide themselves, so they are unable to hunt. According to K.B. Gongalsky, the initial biodiversity of the ground fauna is not restored even within 4 to 5 years after the fire.
For the former life (with flora, phytophagans and predators in place) to be in full swing again at the fire-site, the forest litter is to be restored. The restoration time depends not on the fire-site square, but on the fire intensity, that is, it depends on how much the flora has been burnt down, if wisps of grass remain intact at the site of fire, to what depth the soil got warmed up. The rate of biodiversity restoration also depends on fire-site surroundings: if there is an untouched forest around, forest insects wander into the site of fire, and inhabitants of open places arrive from motorways and fields. In other words, to restore the ground animal communities after the fire it is first of all necessary that the ecosystems should be restored.
© AlphaGalileo Foundation 2003
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The New York Times / August 23, 2006
Prestigious Award, "Nobel" of Mathematics, Fails to Lure Reclusive Russian Problem Solver
В Мадриде состоялось вручение "математической Нобелевской премии" - медали Филдса, учрежденной в 1936 году, которая присуждается каждые четыре года за выдающиеся достижения четырем ученым-математикам моложе 40 лет. В этом году лауреатами стали два россиянина - Андрей Окуньков (получивший премию за то, что объединил разные и, на первый взгляд, не связанные между собой области математики) и Григорий Перельман (доказательство гипотезы Пуанкаре). Принять медаль Перельман отказался, но официально продолжает считаться лауреатом. Другие лауреаты - Теренс Тао из Университета Калифорнии, Лос-Анджелес, и Венделин Вернер из Университета Орсей, Франция.
Grigory Perelman, a reclusive Russian mathematician who solved a key piece in a century-old puzzle known as the Poincare conjecture, was one of four mathematicians awarded the Fields Medal yesterday.
But as with previous honors, Dr. Perelman refused to accept this one, and he did not attend the ceremonies at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Madrid.
"I regret that Dr. Perelman has declined to accept the medal," Sir John M. Ball, president of the International Mathematical Union, said during the opening ceremonies.
The Fields Medal, often described as mathematics' equivalent to the Nobel Prize, is given every four years. The other Fields medalists this year are Andreï Okounkov, a professor of mathematics at Princeton; Terence Tao, a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Wendelin Werner, a professor of mathematics at the University of Paris-South in Orsay, France.
Dr. Perelman, 40, is known not only for his work on the Poincare conjecture, among the most heralded unsolved math problems, but also because he has declined previous mathematical prizes and has spurned offers from Princeton, Stanford and other universities. He has shown no interest in pursuing the $1 million that the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Mass., is offering for the first published proof of the conjecture.
In June, Sir John went to St. Petersburg, Russia, where Dr. Perelman lives, and spent two days trying to persuade him to travel to Madrid to accept the Fields. "He was very polite and cordial and open and direct," Sir John said in an interview.
And Dr. Perelman was resolute in saying no. "The reasons center around his feeling of isolation from the mathematical community," Sir John said, "and in consequence his not wanting to be a figurehead for it or wanting to represent it." He added: "I don't think he meant it as an insult. He's a very polite person. There was never a cross word."
Despite Dr. Perelman's refusal, he is still officially a Fields medalist. "He has a say whether he accepts it, but we have awarded it," Sir John said.
Beginning in 2002, Dr. Perelman, then at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, published a series of papers on the Internet and gave lectures at several American universities describing how he had overcome a roadblock in the proof of the Poincare conjecture.
The conjecture made by Henri Poincare in 1904 essentially says that any shape that does not have any holes and fits within a finite space can be stretched and deformed into a sphere. That is certainly true looking at two-dimensional surfaces in the everyday three-dimensional world, but the conjecture says the same is true for three-dimensional surfaces embedded in four or more dimensions.
Dr. Perelman solved a problem other mathematicians had encountered when trying to prove the conjecture using a technique called Ricci flow that smoothes out bumps in a surface and transforms the surfaces into simpler forms.
Dr. Okounkov, born in 1969 in Moscow, was recognized for work linking different fields of mathematics that had seemed unrelated. "This is the striking feature of Okounkov's work, finding unexpected links," said Enrico Arbarello, a geometry professor at the University of Rome.
Dr. Okounkov's work has found use in describing the changing surfaces of melting crystals. The boundary between melted and nonmelted is created randomly, but the random process inevitably produces a border in the shape of a heart.
Dr. Tao, a native of Australia and, at age 31, one of the youngest to win a Fields Medal, has worked in several fields, producing significant advances in the understanding of prime numbers, techniques that might lead to simplifying the equations of Einstein's theory of general relativity.
Dr. Werner, born in Germany in 1968, has also worked at the intersection of mathematics and physics, describing phenomena like percolation and shapes produced by minute particles jittering randomly in a process known as Brownian motion.
The medal, first awarded in 1936, was conceived by John Charles Fields, a Canadian mathematician, "in recognition of work already done and as an encouragement for further achievements on the part of the recipient." That stipulation has been interpreted to mean that the award should usually be limited to mathematicians 40 or younger.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company.
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Libération - Paris, France / Mercredi 23 août 2006
L'Académie des sciences russe relève la tête
Exsangue après l'effondrement de l'URSS en 1991, elle voit son budget croître.
После крушения СССР российские институты оказались без отопления, а ученые - без зарплаты, но экономический подъем последних лет начинает помогать российской науке.
"De toute façon, un homme qui s'intéresse à l'argent ne se serait jamais consacré à un tel travail." À l'Institut Steklov de Saint-Pétersbourg, l'un des plus prestigieux instituts russes de mathématiques, les anciens collègues de Grigory Perelman ne semblent ni surpris ni déçus que leur compatriote ait refusé son prix. "Un vrai scientifique est toujours plus ou moins indifférent à l'argent", confiait hier un chercheur de cet institut, sous couvert d'anonymat par égard pour les voeux de discrétion de Perelman. "Pour un mathématicien, il suffit d'un papier, d'un stylo et d'un ordinateur pour travailler. Les maths sont une des sciences qui exigent le moins d'argent", rappelle ce collègue, donnant là un début d'explication à ce nouveau triomphe des maths russes, malgré la profonde crise traversée dans les années 90.
"Les mathématiques russes n'ont jamais été en crise, ose aujourd'hui assurer le secrétaire du département mathématiques de l'Académie russe des sciences, Iouri Vichniakov. Nous avons eu des difficultés, comme tout le reste du pays en a eu, des scientifiques sont partis, mais les mathématiques ont beaucoup moins souffert que les sciences qui réclament de gros équipements, telles la physique, la chimie ou la biologie." La médaille Fields décernée hier aux deux Russes Grigory Perelman et Andreï Okounkov témoigne moins du renouveau des maths russes que du glorieux passé soviétique et de l'exode de ces dernières années, rappellent pourtant les moins optimistes. Perelman est encore un pur produit de l'ancien système soviétique de sélection des jeunes génies, repéré par le biais "d'olympiades", puis scolarisé dans une école spécialisée en mathématiques. Lui-même a dû quitter la Russie dans les années 90 pour poursuivre son travail aux États-Unis, avant de revenir à Saint-Pétersbourg. Andreï Okounkov, lui, a quitté la Russie et travaille aujourd'hui sur le campus de l'université de Berkeley, aux États-Unis.
À l'Institut Steklov, où travaillait Perelman jusqu'en janvier, on avoue que le salaire d'un chercheur en mathématiques "équivaut au salaire moyen", soit quelque 8 500 roubles par mois (250 euros). "C'est assez pour manger, pas pour se soigner les dents", grince un responsable de l'institut. "Mais on peut recevoir aussi des bourses de recherche, russes ou étrangères, reprend-il sur une note plus positive. La différence principale par rapport à l'époque soviétique est que les chercheurs faisaient alors partie de l'élite, ce qui stimulait l'afflux de jeunes. Aujourd'hui, les salaires des scientifiques ne sont plus comparables avec ce qu'on peut gagner en faisant du business en Russie. Seuls ceux qui ont vraiment l'esprit scientifique nous rejoignent."
Après l'effondrement de l'URSS en 1991, les instituts abandonnés sans chauffage et les chercheurs sans salaire, le redressement économique des dernières années commence à profiter aux sciences russes. L'Académie des sciences (qui emploie environ un tiers des chercheurs) se targue d'un budget en forte hausse, qui représentera 1,16 % du PIB cette année contre 0,27 % en 1996 et 0,96 % en 1991. Une réforme en cours prévoit de réduire les effectifs de l'Académie, qui sont de 55 500 scientifiques (contre 65 400 en 1991) mais d'augmenter leurs salaires jusqu'à 1 000 dollars en 2007 (contre 200 aujourd'hui).
Carrière plus lucrative.
Au total, le ministère des Sciences et de l'Éducation recense en 2006 quelque 800 000 scientifiques en Russie, contre près de 2 millions en 1990. Au moins 500 000 sont partis ces dernières années poursuivre une carrière plus lucrative à l'étranger.
"Les jeunes savants russes continuent à partir, mais ce n'est plus une fuite vers l'inconnu, assure l'académicien Iouri Vichniakov. Beaucoup partent car on leur offre de bonnes possibilités de travail à l'étranger, mais ils gardent le lien et reviennent aussi souvent. Ce n'est plus un drame et de toute façon, la science est internationale!"
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