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The Wall Street Journal / October 6, 2010
Ultrathin Carbon Earns Nobel
U.K.-Based Scientists Honored for Work on Graphene, Seen as Silicon Replacement
Британские ученые из Манчестерского университета, выходцы из России Андрей Гейм и Константин Новоселов получили Нобелевскую премию по физике за 2010 год за открытие графена - сверхтонкого углерода. Графен может стать эффективной заменой кремнию, поскольку идеально подходит для производства быстродействующих транзисторов.
LONDON - Two Russian-born scientists will share the Nobel Prize in physics for their work on a material that has the potential to one day replace silicon as the base material for modern electronics.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the $1.5 million physics prize to Andre Geim, 51 years old, and Konstantin Novoselov, 36, for "groundbreaking experiments" on a new form of carbon known as graphene.
The scientists began their careers as physicists in Russia, and now work at the University of Manchester in Britain. Dr. Novoselov is one of the youngest Nobelists ever.
Their road to the physics prize began humbly - with a bit of Scotch tape and the graphite found in everyday pencils.
Several years ago, while investigating the electrical properties of graphite, the Russian scientists needed thin pieces of the material.
When filing down a piece of graphite didn't do the trick, they tried peeling off extremely thin layers using Scotch tape. It worked, so they kept peeling until they got to a material that was just one atom thick.
"Six or seven years ago, we stumbled on this new class of materials," said Dr. Geim in a phone interview. "You can't imagine anything thinner than one atom. We found its properties to be amazing - very different from any other standard three-dimensional material."
Graphene is believed to be the thinnest and strongest material in the world, more than one hundred times as strong as the strongest steel.
It is virtually transparent, extremely dense, and impermeable to gases and liquids. "It's stiffer than a diamond. At the same time, you can stretch it like rubber," said Dr. Geim.
In describing the science behind graphene, the Nobel committee on its website noted that a one-square-meter graphene hammock would be nearly invisible and also able to bear the weight of a four-kilogram (8.8 pound) cat. The hammock itself would weigh less than a single cat whisker.
Graphene also happens to be the best known conductor of heat and electricity. Experiments have suggested that electrons travel about 100 times faster in graphene than they do in silicon at room temperature.
According to Dr. Geim, that could make it an ideal candidate as a material for high-speed transistors used in cellular phones, for electrodes used in DNA sequencing machines, and other electronic devices.
Scores of scientific teams are already trying to harness the properties of the new nano-material. In February, researchers at International Business Machines Corp. published a paper in the journal Science demonstrating a radio-frequency graphene transistor.
In June, Japanese and Korean scientists unveiled the first touch screen made from graphene. Vorbeck Materials Corp., of Jessup, Md., makes a conductive ink for printed electronics whose main ingredient is graphene.
Silicon transformed electronics and computing by allowing transistors to increase in speed while shrinking in size. But silicon and other existing transistor materials are believed to be approaching the smallest size at which they can be effective. Graphene has been tapped as the candidate that might replace silicon, though not any time soon.
"This won't happen in the next 20 years," said Dr. Geim. "Making integrated circuits from graphene is still far beyond the horizon."
Graphene was studied theoretically before 2004. But few researchers believed that it was possible to isolate stable sheets of the material.
Drs. Geim and Novoselov pulled off the trick and published their results in the journal Science in late 2004.
In its citation, the Swedish academy said the duo achieved their result "at a time when many believed it was impossible for such thin crystalline materials to be stable."
Dr. Geim has Dutch nationality, and Dr. Novoselov is a British and Russian national. The pair has worked together for years, sometimes on unusual experiments. Several years ago, Dr. Geim used magnetism to levitate a living frog. Along with Dr. Novoselov, he also invented super-sticky "gecko tape," based on the biological principle that allows a gecko to scale a vertical wall or rest upside down on a ceiling.
Dr. Geim said he had been working at home on Tuesday morning when a representative from the Swedish academy called with the news. He hopes to sidestep the Nobel Prize publicity as much as possible in order to keep his focus on the unusual properties of graphene.
"I plan to keep muddling through - as usual," said Dr. Geim.
Copyright © 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Vancouver Sun / October 8, 2010
Russia 50 years behind the times in science, Nobel laureate says
Co-winner of prize says he has no interest in returning to his homeland
Российской науке требуется не менее 50 лет (при условии серьезных инвестиций), чтобы достичь международного уровня, считает нобелевский лауреат по физике Андрей Гейм.
The sciences in Russia need at least 50 years of heavy investment to match international levels, Russian-born Nobel Laureate Andre Geim said Thursday, dismissing an invitation to return.
"If two to three per cent of the budget go to the sciences, it will reach adequate levels in 50 years' time," Geim, who won the Nobel Prize for physics with his research partner Konstantin Novoselov this week, told the Echo of Moscow radio.
"For things to change in the Russian sciences, the infrastructure needs to be changed, which cannot be done in five to 10 years," he said.
"You need a long investment program to create wonderful conditions for science."
Geim, a Dutch citizen who now works at Britain's University of Manchester, added that while nothing was stopping Russian science from again becoming competitive on the world stage, he had no interest in returning to Russia.
"I don't have a Russian passport, I am a citizen of Holland. Have people over there lost their minds?," he said of an offer to join the new project Skolkovo, promoted by President Dmitry Medvedev to develop Russian science and technology.
"Do they think that if they offer a bag of gold then they can invite anybody?" Geim said to another station, the Russian News Service radio.
A representative of the Kremlin-backed Skolkovo foundation had Wednesday invited Geim and Novoselov to participate in plans to create the cutting-edge centre for innovation in Russia.
But Geim slammed the invitation: "It is stupid to import big names, one needs to grow their own," he told the Echo of Moscow radio.
Geim and Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize on Wednesday for pioneering work on graphene, an ultrathin material that could become the future of electronics.
Both have worked in Manchester since 2001, though Geim left Russia for the Netherlands in the early 1990s.
Medvedev lamented on Wednesday that the scientists had left Russia before making their discovery, calling the government efforts to improve research facilities a "huge failure."
Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun.
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© 2008-2010 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.
Reuters / 08 October 2010
Russian "scallop garden" will monitor pollution
Большая плантация морских гребешков расположится возле нового российского нефтеналивного терминала Козьмино на тихоокеанском побережье. Дело в том, что этих двустворчатых моллюсков можно использовать в качестве индикатора качества воды. Гребешки способны отфильтровывать загрязнители, например, нефть или тяжелые металлы, но в данном случае основная цель разведения - контроль и поддержание качества воды в бухте.
KOZMINO, Russia (Reuters) - Some prefer them grilled or steamed, but Russian scientists will now use sea scallops to monitor pollution levels at a Pacific oil terminal.
An enormous sea scallop garden will be set up at the end of this month in Russia's Far East Kozmino Bay, eight time zones east of Moscow. It will be the first Russian port to use mollusks as a water-monitoring instrument.
"Scallops are a very good measure of water pollution because they are very sensitive to contaminants. They absorb and retain impurities" said Natalia Vykhodtseva, the organic chemist at the helm of Kozmino's ecological safety department.
She added that while sea scallops - which prefer to live at depths of 20-22 meters (64-70 feet) - are known for their ability to filter contaminants such as oil or heavy metals, the main purpose of the garden at present is to monitor the bay.
"If the monitoring is successful, we have an idea to create large permanent colonies for scallops, mussels and seaweed at the bottom of the bay and use them to filter the water and keep it clean," said Vykhodtseva.
The Kozmino port, launched at the beginning of this year by Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, sits at the bottom of a forested hill range in a bay on the Sea of Japan.
The only export terminal for crude tapped from new East Siberian deposits, it will ship out 200 million barrels next year, meaning the number of tankers calling into port will double, raising greater concern over pollution.
"If oil happens to leak into the water, the scallops will imbibe it, filtering back out the clean water," Vykhodtseva said.
In the same bay, a short distance from the oil terminal, rusting Soviet-era ships, pipelines and old navy infrastructure jut out from the water.
The port's General Director Boris Melnikov said the water-monitoring project begins later this month when marine biologists will lower 80 long tubular nets filled with 10,000 of the meaty sea scallops into the frigid Pacific Ocean waters.
Melnikov added that the scientists are contracted from the Pacific Ocean Institute of Bio-Organic Chemistry in Vladivostok, and that divers will study the bay and plot the scallop garden this week.
SANITARY SEA CREATURES
Since the mid 1990s, scientists at the Far East branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Bio-Organic Chemistry have studied scallops' chemical and medicinal properties, and their environmental and sanitary capabilities.
Once a month, they will draw up several hanging scallop gardens to analyze and document the mollusks' chemical composition, contamination levels, weight and mortality rates.
Organic sea bacteria helped break down the oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico following the rupture of BP's Macondo well, but experts say they do not have the same pollution-cleaning potential in Russia's cold waters.
"The colder the water, the less quickly and efficiently bacteria can work to break down the hydrocarbon. So in Russia, their use is very limited," said Vladimir Chuprov, head of Greenpeace's energy department in Russia.
© Reuters 2010. All rights reserved.
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The New York Times / October 11, 2010
Russia Is Seeking to Build Europe's Nuclear Plants
"Росатом" собирается участвовать в тендере на строительство двух энергоблоков Темелинской АЭС в Чехии (проект ЕС). Сейчас Россия контролирует 40% мирового рынка обогащения урана и 17% рынка по изготовлению атомного топлива, планируя выйти на рынок топлива для АЭС, спроектированных на Западе. "Росатом" стремится к тому, чтобы компенсировать дешевизну ядерного топлива в России, сочетая поставки урана по сходным ценам со строительством реакторов и другими услугами. Тендер в Чехии аналитики считают экзаменом: сработают ли в развитых странах стратегии, которые уже вывели "Росатом" на первое место в мире по строительству АЭС?
MOSCOW - The Russian nuclear industry has profited handsomely from building reactors in developing countries, including India, China and Iran. Now it is testing the prospect of becoming a major supplier to the European Union, too.
Shrugging off the legacy of Chernobyl, the Russian state nuclear company, Rosatom, is preparing a bid on its second new project in the European Union, at the Temelin station in the Czech Republic, potentially worth $8 billion. Rosatom is already building a smaller unit in Bulgaria.
And the Russians, already major suppliers of low-enriched uranium fuel to the European Union under a venture with Areva, the French nuclear group, are planning independently to enter the market of fuel for Western-designed plants. Rosatom now provides 100 percent of the fuel used in Switzerland, for example, and 30 percent of all reactor uranium used in France, the Continent's biggest consumer.
But industry analysts say Rosatom's Czech bid is a test: Can the strategies that propelled Rosatom to become the world's largest builder of nuclear plants through sales in emerging markets also succeed in the power-hungry developed world?
"Russia is a serious player," said Marina Alekseyenkova, an analyst at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank in Moscow. From now on, she said, "Russia will be a bidder on every tender, globally; Russia will go everywhere."
That includes the United States. A subsidiary of Rosatom supplies about 45 percent of the nuclear fuel used by American utilities, created from diluted bomb material under a post-cold-war treaty to discourage proliferation. About 10 percent of all electricity in the United States is generated from this former Russian bomb material.
As a legacy of the cold war, Russia possesses about 40 percent of the world's uranium enrichment capacity, much more than it needs to service its domestic reactors. Enrichment refers to raising the level of the isotope 235 from about 0.7 percent in natural uranium to 3 percent to 5 percent for civilian reactor fuel.
Rosatom says it intends to increase its share of the global fuel market to 25 percent by 2025, from 17 percent today. The strategy is to make money, but also to leverage the low fuel costs in Russia to win other business. This is done by bundling favorable deals on low-enriched uranium with other services, like reactor construction.
And Rosatom has been promoting another singular advantage, one that also shows the Russians' peculiarly high comfort level with all things nuclear, even after Chernobyl: a willingness to take nuclear waste off the hands of clients, particularly if they buy Russian reactors.
Russian officials say that, despite the nuclear reactor explosion at Chernobyl in 1986, their industry never went into hibernation because of public disillusionment with nuclear power, as happened in the United States. The Russians made no great leaps in technology in recent decades, but also lost no ground.
"We never stopped building, even after Chernobyl," said Sergei G. Novikov, the spokesman for Rosatom. "We moved very slowly but never stopped."
Of the 60 reactors under construction worldwide, Rosatom is building 15 - 10 in Russia and 5 abroad - according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group in Washington.
By comparison, Westinghouse, the largest American builder of nuclear power plants, has not completed a reactor as lead contractor in decades, even though it has built more power plants than any other company in the world, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s.
Outside specialists generally endorse the Russian plant designs, saying that they are now fully competitive with those of nuclear plant builders in the United States and Europe. Still, in a nod to the Chernobyl legacy, the subsidiary for overseas construction has said that it budgets for public relations activities in countries where it intends to work.
Rosatom, meanwhile, is striving to take advantage of its monopoly hold on the industry at home to aid in exports.
It is a vertically integrated company, with divisions mining uranium, enriching fuel, building reactors and even decommissioning old plants.
To better compete with Areva, the dominant nuclear company in Europe, Rosatom in 2009 formed a strategic alliance with Siemens of Germany, after Siemens sold a stake in Areva.
After signing a deal in China last month to build two sophisticated reactors that burn plutonium-based fuel, the chief executive of Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, a former prime minister, told reporters there that sales would triple by 2030, to $50 billion annually.
The company says it hopes to continue winning business by bundling construction contracts with deals for fuel or joint ventures to transfer technology to the customer country. It is expected to use this strategy for the Czech bid.
Under legislation that might have been more difficult to push through a freer political system, Russia allows the importation of spent nuclear fuel from reactors elsewhere.
Supported by Vladimir V. Putin, the president at that time, it is integral to the policies for global expansion of Russian nuclear sales, because waste disposal can be a major sticking point to approval of new nuclear power plants in other countries.
"I don't know other suppliers that can provide similar services," Ms. Alekseyenkova, the industry analyst in Moscow, said of Rosatom's service of importing waste.
Storing spent fuel is profitable today, and possessing it could become even more so as plutonium-based fuels become more widely used, Mr. Novikov, the Rosatom spokesman, said. In Russia, as in France, the industry is looking at spent fuel not as a long-term headache but as the raw material for a future business making mixed-oxide fuel.
Only Areva, the French nuclear group, offers a similar array of services over the entire nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear industry analysts said. Other manufacturers have to team up to offer an integrated fuel and reactor package.
For the Czech bid, Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom for reactor construction outside Russia, has joined the Czech industrial giant Skoda to bid against Westinghouse and Areva of France, for two new reactors at the Temelin plant. The CEZ Group, a Czech utility that is 70 percent owned by the government, is expected to pick a winner in early 2012.
© Copyright 2010. The New York Times Company.
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Compound Semiconductor / Oct 04, 2010
Creation of an MBE Academy in St. Petersburg
Nobel Prize laureate Academician Zhores Alferov visited RIBER's plant on September 30th, 2010.
Санкт-Петербургский академический университет (научно-образовательный центр нанотехнологий РАН) и крупнейший в мире производитель эпитаксиального оборудования фирма Riber (Франция) заключили соглашение о создании совместного учебно-научного центра "Совместная российско-французская академия молекулярно-пучковой эпитаксии". Соглашение было подписано в ходе визита ректора Академического университета Жореса Алферова на один из заводов RIBER.
In the context of this visit, the renowned physicist from the Russian Academy University participated in an agreement between St. Petersburg Academic University - nanotechnology research and education center of Russian Academy of Sciences and RIBER concerning the creation and management of the "Alferov-Riber MBE Academy" Center of Excellence.
Zhores Ivanovich Alferov is a Russian physicist and academic who has contributed significantly to the creation of modern heterostructure physics and electronics. Since 1962, he has been working on semiconductor heterostructures. His contributions to semiconductor heterostructure physics and technology, including investigations of injection properties, development of lasers, solar cells, LEDs and epitaxy processes, have led to the creation of modern heterostructure physics and electronics. He received the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed- and optoelectronics.
With a view to further promoting basic research in the field of semiconductor physics and the effective use of RIBER's MBE (Molecular Beam Epitaxy) systems, the Russian Academy of Sciences and RIBER have agreed to jointly create a Center of Excellence located on the premises of the Academic University in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Combining the Academic University's scientific and pedagogical capabilities and RIBER's experience in MBE system design and use, the Academic University and RIBER will:
- Design and implement a graduate course for Academic University students, aiming to teach the use of MBE technology for research and the manufacturing of new nanotechnology devices.
- Design and implement a basic training course aimed at technicians and engineers worldwide who will operate MBE systems.
- Following the Rusnanoprize awarded to RIBER by the Russian Nanotechnology Society in 2009, this initiative confirms RIBER's reputation in Russia and will enable the group to further develop its key technology.
© Copyright 2010 COMPOUNDSEMICONDUCTOR.
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New Scientist / 13 October 2010
Science and the Soviet Union
Интервью с автором вышедшей в августе книги "Красное изобилие" Фрэнсисом Спаффордом (Red Plenty by Francis Spufford). Книга посвящена науке и экономике СССР - прежде всего, периоду 1957-1964 гг., названному автором "моментом величия".
For a brief time in the 1950s and 1960s the Soviet Union had the highest rates of economic growth in the world and looked poised to out-compete the west. In his ambitious new novel, Red Plenty, Francis Spufford recreates the days when the planned economy, guided by brilliant mathematicians and scientists, looked set to gush forth a world of riches. Having read the novel and hardly been able to put it down, I decided to chat with Spufford to find out more
Red Plenty is an unusual book. How would you describe it?
It's about the last and cleverest attempt to make a centralised economy outperform a market economy. The key figure is a real and very impressive mathematician called [Leonid] Kantorovich, the only Soviet scientist to win the Nobel prize for economics. He came up with linear programming, which lets you be rational in a command economy in a way you usually can't. The book is about this piece of mathematical economics trying to win over a vast, cumbersome, authoritarian system - and failing, of course, but looking for a while as if it was going somewhere.
It sounds like a work of history, and yet it's a novel...
It's a novel and it isn't. It's a history book and it isn't. It's a mixture of the two. I didn't just want to write about a piece of mathematical economics or an interesting bit of the history of science, I wanted to write about what happens to ideas once they get out of scientist's heads and start affecting people's lives.
To what extent is it historically accurate?
I've been scrupulous about identifying every single place that I've played fast and loose with history, where I've contracted the chronology or moved people around - otherwise it's true. Every alteration and dramatic simplification is in the service of shining a light on something that really happened
The book contains a wealth of detail about the Soviet society, economics, science, technology and medicine in the Khrushchev era. How long did it take to research and write?
Six years. I don't speak Russian so I'm looking at it down the end of a telescope of western commentary and translations.
You paint the Khrushchev years as a period of intellectual creativity and openness. Is that historically accurate?
Yes it is, with some black spots. Soviet biology continued to be blighted by Lysenkoism, but there was a flowering in cybernetics, partly because Soviet physics and mathematics had stayed relatively uncorrupted. In the 60s, applied sciences like economics and computer science were recolonised by intellectually adventurous people from physics and mathematics who were not messed around by ideology.
Genetics aside, how advanced was Soviet science compared with the west?
Absolutely competitive in math and physics. Computer science needed a slight catch up because their Turing, [Sergey] Lebedev, who is also in the book, came along slightly later. But there were 20 great years where Soviet computer science was intellectually competitive with the west. And then it went horribly wrong.
Computer science was destroyed by an appalling decision at the end of the 60s. They decided that they would standardise all their computers, except a few military models, on imitations of the IBM 360 series, which was already five years in production by then, thus guaranteeing obsolescence. They never caught up again, they got further and further behind.
Kantorovich's economic ideas suffered a similar fate. Why was Soviet decision-making so dreadful?
I meant them to be intelligible decisions made by people who behave rationally in terms of the environment they find themselves in. The apparatchiks who mess things up for the scientists are not doing it for perverse reasons - they have an interest in stability and what they know will work.
What would have happened in the Soviet Union if the economic reformers had succeeded?
One of the nice things about writing this book is that I don't have to know the answer. But I have my suspicions. I don't think the "hardware" of the Soviet economy was compatible with the quick, intelligent software the scientists wished to run on it. It would probably have destroyed the economy. The conservatives were right in keeping it out.
Some of this stuff got tried under Gorbachev 20 years later, by some of the same people. But it wasn't a fair experiment because by the 1980s the Soviet system was far more corrupt and decayed than in the 1960s. A lot of this is perestroika coming in the distance. I mean that to be an irony out of sight at the edge of the book.
There are contemporary ironies too...
During the time of Sputnik, people in the west were full of awed anxiety about the strength of the Soviet Union and what kind of cool, calculating, steely society it might be - in rather the way that people now worry about China. That parallel was one reason for writing the book.
© Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
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CORDIS News / 2010-10-11
Researchers offer clues in demise of Neanderthals
Российские ученые считают, что причиной исчезновения неандертальцев в Европе могли стать массовые извержения вулканов около 40 тысяч лет назад, что привело к "вулканической зиме". Сотрудники Автономной некоммерческой организации (АНО) "Лаборатория доистории" (Санкт-Петербург) пришли к выводу, что залежи вулканической пыли, найденные в Мезмайской пещере на Кавказе, свидетельствуют об экологической катастрофе.
Статья опубликована в октябрьском номере журнала Current Anthropology.
Researchers in Russia believe that climate change triggered by early massive volcanic eruptions drove the Neanderthals to extinction and cleared the way for modern humans to thrive in Europe and Asia. Their theory is based on the findings of recent excavations in a cave in southern Russia, revealing layers of volcanic ash that coincide with large-scale volcanic events that occurred around 40,000 years ago. Their research is published in the October issue of the journal Current Anthropology.
The research was led by Liubov Vitalievna Golovanova and Vladimir Borisovich Doronichev from the ANO Laboratory of Prehistory in St Petersburg in Russia, who analysed the two layers of volcanic ash found in the Mezmaiskaya cave in the Caucasus Mountains, a site rich in Neanderthal bones and artefacts.
"We offer the hypothesis that the Neanderthal demise occurred abruptly (on a geological time-scale) ... after the most powerful volcanic activity in western Eurasia during the period of Neanderthal evolutionary history, " the researchers said. "This catastrophe not only drastically destroyed the ecological niches of Neanderthal populations but also caused their mass physical depopulation."
They claimed that geological layers containing the ashes held evidence of abrupt and potentially devastating climate change, while sediment samples from the two layers revealed greatly reduced pollen concentrations compared to surrounding layers. The researchers said this was an indication of a dramatic shift to a cooler and dryer climate, adding that they found no traces of Neanderthal life at Mezmaiskaya after the eruptions.
The ash layers correspond chronologically to what is known as the Campanian Ignimbrite super-eruption that occurred around 40,000 years ago in modern-day Italy, and a smaller eruption is thought to have occurred around the same time in the Caucasus Mountains. The researchers argued that these eruptions caused a "volcanic winter" as ash clouds obscured the Sun's rays, possibly for years. The climatic shift devastated the region's ecosystems, "possibly resulting in the mass death of hominins and prey animals and the severe alteration of foraging zones".
Questions over the disappearance of the Neanderthals and the apparent concurrent rise of modern humans left many anthropologists wondering what happened. Many theories have been put forward over the years, including the suggestion that their low population density may have made them vulnerable, that their lack of technological know-how may have left them unable to cope with the ice age, or they may have had too narrow a diet that made them less adaptable than other species to change.
Modern humans have been implicated in the demise of the Neanderthals, with some even being blamed for stoning the Neanderthals to death. However, this latest research suggests that the Neanderthal may have merely been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Early moderns initially occupied the more southern parts of western Eurasia and Africa and thus avoided much of the direct impact of the ... eruptions," said the researchers. And while advances in hunting techniques and social structure clearly aided the survival of modern humans as they moved north, they "may have further benefited from the Neanderthal population vacuum in Europe, allowing wider colonisation and the establishment of strong source populations in northern Eurasia".
Nonetheless, the researchers stressed that this study was far from the end of the road and clarified that more data from other areas in Eurasia is needed to fully test the volcanic hypothesis. The Mezmaiskaya cave offers "important supporting evidence" for the idea of a volcanic extinction, they concluded.
© European Union, 2005-2010.
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Le Figaro / 12/10/2010
Les géographes du monde ont planché sur la forêt et la Russie
Каждый год Международный географический фестиваль в Сен-Дье-де-Вож (Франция) посвящен одной стране и одной научной проблеме. В этом году почетным гостем фестиваля (проходившего 7-10 октября) стала Россия, темой - российские леса.
Chaque année, le Festival international de géographie (FIG) de Saint-Dié-des-Vosges est consacré à un thème scientifique et à un pays invité. Cette année, les deux ont tragiquement coïncidé en raison de l'actualité après les incendies de l'été : les forêts et la Russie.
Pendant trois jours, des milliers de Vosgiens et de géographes du monde ont pu compléter et équilibrer leurs points de vue sur la Russie et rappeler qu'elle abritait la plus grande forêt du monde, primordiale pour l'avenir de la planète, en participant à la fête annuelle de la géographie, qui s'est tenue du 7 au 10 octobre à Saint-Dié-des-Vosges.
C'est dans cette ville dite "marraine de l'Amérique" qu'en 1507 fut validée la première carte du monde établie d'après le récit des voyages du navigateur florentin Amerigo Vespucci, dont le nom a ainsi été donné au "Mundus Novus" qu'avait découvert Christophe Colomb quinze ans plus tôt.
Chaque année, le Festival international de géographie (FIG), qui se tient depuis 21 ans, est consacré à un thème scientifique et à un pays invité. Cette année, les deux ont tragiquement coïncidé en raison de l'actualité : les forêts et la Russie, en proie à des incendies dévastateurs l'été dernier.
La convergence a été illustrée par une conférence du vice-ministre des Situations d'urgence, Alexandre Tchoupriyan, qui a présenté un bilan des incendies et raconté les principaux épisodes de lutte contre le feu, qui a attaqué en trois vagues les régions occidentales de la Russie entre juillet et septembre. M. Tchoupriyan est lui-même pompier et il était sur le terrain. Ministre "technique", il avait peu de commentaires à faire sur les aspects politiques et économiques de la situation, notamment des conséquences de la réforme forestière et foncière intervenue depuis quelques années en Russie, en régionalisant la responsabilité de l'entretien et du maintien des forêts. Il a en revanche annoncé l'étude, menée par la Douma d'État (Chambre Basse), de la réorganisation des structures de lutte contre l'incendie en Russie et la refonte du statut de pompier volontaire.
Le commandant des pompiers de la région de St-Dié-des-Vosges, dans le département le plus boisé de France avec le Var, a parlé de l'organisation des pompiers volontaires et bénévoles en France. Balle saisie au bond par l'ambassadeur Alexandre Orlov, très présent tout au long du Festival, pour demander de lui transmettre des éléments sur le sujet pouvant intéresser la Douma...
Les interventions scientifiques sur la forêt ont abordé la question de tous les côtés : de l'exploitation forestière à la mythologie, en passant par l'influence sur le réchauffement climatique. Dans l'ensemble, il ressort qu'une rationalisation et une certaine retenue seraient nécessaires pour exploiter la forêt dans le monde. Des exemples d'exploitation plus raisonnée et rentable ont été donnés dans des conférences et différentes interventions qui se déroulaient dans toute la ville, en des lieux parfois inattendus.
C'est à la cathédrale, devant une nef comble, que l'académicienne Héléne Carrère d'Encausse a tenu une conférence sur la situation de la Russie d'aujourd'hui à la lumière de son passé récent, depuis la Perestroïka, et de son histoire plus ancienne. Elle a dénoncé quelques-uns des préjugés les plus répandus en France aujourd'hui, notamment sur des ambitions "impériales" supposées de la Russie ou un "retour" au stalinisme en raison de la pseudo-dictature de Vladimir Poutine, présenté souvent comme un épouvantail. Elle a rappelé que la Russie avait elle-même mis un terme à son empire, permis la réunification allemande et démocratisé sa société, et ceci presque sans effusion de sang. Les choses ne peuvent se faire intégralement en 20 ans seulement, a-t-elle dit en estimant que la Russie était aujourd'hui "une démocratie en construction", soucieuse de son propre développement et non de conquêtes.
Elle a souligné qu'une certaine déception par rapport aux Américains et aux Européens, au monde desquels la Russie appartient historiquement et culturellement mais qui n'ont pas vraiment répondu à ses avances et à ses énormes concessions du début des années 90, pouvait expliquer les orientations asiatiques actuelles de la politique russe.
Sans diminuer bien sûr la prise de conscience des dirigeants russes de la dynamique actuelle du monde dont le centre de gravité bascule vers l'Asie, où la Russie est territorialement un acteur majeur.
Une manifestation comme le FIG, où bien sûr la question démographique n'a pas été oubliée, contribue à faire prendre conscience aux Européens de l'Ouest de la dimension réelle de leur continent avec la Russie, ainsi que des problèmes mais aussi des chances qui leur sont ainsi offertes de garder une place dans le monde de demain.
L'an prochain, le FIG sera consacré à l'Afrique dans sa diversité, et les invités seront cette fois non des pays mais les territoires d'outre-mer français de l'océan Indien.
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