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Instantanés Techniques / 03 août 2012
Première mesure de la taille du noyau d'une galaxie par " Radioastron "
Получены первые результаты научной программы российской орбитальной астрофизической обсерватории "Радиоастрон" ("Спектр-Р"), запущенной с Байконура летом 2011 г. В частности, астрофизикам удалось определить размеры ядра одной из галактик.
Le service de presse de l'Institut de Physique Lebedev de l'Académie russe des sciences (FIAN) a annoncé que des astrophysiciens ont reçu les premiers résultats du programme de recherche "Radioastron" ("Spektr-R"), l'observatoire orbital d'astrophysique, grâce auxquels ils ont réussi à trouver la taille du noyau compact de la galaxie 714 0716.
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"Malgré le fait que l'objet (la galaxie 0716 714 -. Ed) était à une phase de minimum d'activité, la détection réussie de réponses d'interférence a permis d'obtenir un résultat. Une analyse préliminaire de ces données montre que la taille du noyau est proche ou inférieure à 40 microsecondes d'arc (0,2 parsecs), "- peut-on lire dans le communiqué de presse.
Le système russe de télescopes "Quasar-KVO" et les télescopes Evpatoria (Ukraine) et Usuda (Japon) ont également participé à cette expérience visant à cartographier 0716 714. L'expérience se poursuit avec un aperçu de la masse des noyaux de galaxies actives sur toute la gamme du "Radioastron". Un examen des galaxies actives permettra de comprendre la nature des jets relativistes dans ces objets à une distance de plusieurs milliards d'années lumière de la Terre" - a déclaré le chef du Laboratoire d'astrophysique de l'Institut de Physique Lebedev, Yuri Kovalev.
Le service de presse de "Radioastron" a également rapporté que l'observatoire orbital astrophysique a mené une série d'observations avec succès à une longueur d'onde de 1,3 centimètres, après avoir étudié le quasar compact 2013 370, dans la constellation du Cygne.
United Press International / Aug. 6, 2012
Russian detector to help Curiosity mission
Российский нейтронный детектор ДАН, установленный на марсоходе НАСА Curiosity, поможет определить, как менялся уровень содержания воды в грунте Марса в различные геологические эпохи.
MOSCOW, Aug. 6 (UPI) - Russia's contribution to the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars can search for water in shallow underground minerals along the rover's path, scientists say.
The DAN neutron detector, developed under an agreement between NASA and Russia's Roscosmos Federal Space Agency, will be activated within three to four days, project director Igor Mitrofanov said.
The detector is designed to search as deep as 20 inches for any water that might be bound into shallow underground mineral layers, he said.
"If we conclude that there is something unusual in the subsurface at a particular spot, we could suggest more analysis of the spot using the capabilities of other instruments," he said.
By measuring the energies of neutrons leaking from the ground, DAN can detect the presence of hydrogen, a possible sign of water, RIA Novosti reported.
The detector will help Curiosity determine whether Mars was ever a habitable planet and whether it has any suitable places for habitation now, scientists said.
© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Phys.Org / August 10, 2012
Team develops new method for sequencing dark matter of life from a single cell
Ученые из Санкт-Петербургского Академического университета (при содействии коллег из Школы инженерии Джейкобса при Калифорнийском университете и Университета Южной Каролины) разработали алгоритм расшифровки (секвенирования) геномов бактерий, известных как "темная материя жизни". Так называют бактерии, играющие важную роль в здоровье человека, а также используемые в производстве топлива и антибиотиков и не поддающиеся существующим методам расшифровки геномов. Руководитель проекта - Павел Певзнер, профессор Калифорнийского университета, один из победителей конкурса мегагрантов.
(Phys.org) - An international team of researchers led by computer scientist Pavel Pevzner, from the University of California, San Diego, have developed a new algorithm to sequence organisms' genomes from a single cell faster and more accurately. The new algorithm, called SPAdes, can be used to sequence bacteria that can't be submitted to standard cloning techniques - what researchers refer to as the dark matter of life, from pathogens found in hospitals, to bacteria living deep in ocean or in the human gut.
Ultimately, the researchers hope to apply this algorithm to cancer cells to monitor early stages of the disease when normal cells first turn into malignant ones. Pevzner and colleagues published their findings in the May issue of the Journal of Computational Biology. They released SPAdes Aug. 8. Last fall, Pevzner's group, in collaboration with single-cell sequencing pioneer Roger Lasken at the J. Craig Venter Institute and researchers at Illumina Inc., developed the first software capable of handling single-cell sequencing. Researchers published those findings in Nature Biotechnology in September 2011. The fact that a new sequencing algorithm was developed in just months reflects the frenetic pace of progress in single-cell sequencing, one of the fastest-growing, and most important, areas in modern genomics. Pevzner's group, which includes scientists from the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and the Russian Academy of Sciences, along with Lasken's team, are now using SPAdes to sequence the bacterial dark matter of life and human pathogens. The international collaboration is part of an ambitious "megagrant" initiative launched by then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, including an invitation to 40 world-class scientists to help jumpstart Russian science, which has been faltering since the fall of the Soviet Union. Megagrants brought to Russia experts in various fields, including some Nobel Prize and Fields Medal winners. Pevzner was the only researcher at the intersection of modern biology and computer science in the group. He agreed to start DNA and protein sequencing projects in Russia at the Saint Petersburg Academic University, an elite graduate school headed by Nobel Prize Laureate Zhores Alferov. This was no easy task. There wasn't a single computer science expert in the area of DNA and protein sequencing in the entire country. The only experts that were on hand in large numbers for this project were mathematicians, thanks to Russia's strong tradition of educational excellence in the exact sciences.
But Pevzner still took a gamble and started a Laboratory for Algorithmic Biology (LAB) with a dozen of 20-something mathematicians and computer scientists, some of them undergraduate students, who knew nothing about DNA sequencing. They went through a series of grueling bioinformatics boot camps and just two months later started working on the SPAdes genomes assembler. Sergey Nurk was one of them. "As an undergraduate student, I had been working as a programmer for some time and was almost ready to sell my soul to industry," Nurk said. "Now, as a graduate student on Pavel's team, I learned that looking for simpler, more elegant solutions is important. I also was reminded of the value of time - and the need to use it wisely." Six months later, working closely with Pevzner's students and colleagues at the Jacobs School of Engineering and Professor Max Alekseyev at the University of South Carolina, the Russian team developed their new, extremely accurate assembler. "Fragment assembly is not unlike assembling a puzzle from a billion pieces and it is often viewed as one of the most sophisticated problems in bioinformatics. A new assembler may take years to develop even by seasoned bioinformatics experts. The fact that young Russian researchers without prior bioinformatics experience developed SPAdes so quickly and improved on state-of-the-art assemblers in just half a year is remarkable," Pevzner said. The research was partially supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Russian Megagrant Initiative.
© Phys.Org™ 2003-2012.
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Barents Observer / August 06, 2012
In Russian Arctic, a new major sea port
The Sabetta port will become one of the biggest in the Russian Arctic. Located in the Yamal Peninsula, it will boost shipping in the icy waters of the Ob Bay and the Northern Sea Route
На Ямале начинается постройка нового арктического порта. Планируется, что функционирующий круглогодично порт Сабетта станет крупнейшим в российской Арктике и будет способствовать разработке месторождений полуострова Ямал и Обской губы.
The new port, a joint initiative of the Novatek company and Russian federal authorities, will be a key component in the development of the gas-rich Yamal Penisula. Linked with the South Tambey field and a major projected LNG plant, the port will be built to handle more than 30 million tons of goods per year.
The new port is planned to be operational all-year-round, despite the highly complex ice conditions of the Ob Bay.
In a first phase, the port will by summer 2014 be developed to handle the deliveries of modules to the LNG plant. In the second phase, the port will be developed as a terminal handing LNG tankers, Novatek informs.
The construction of the port was officially marked in a ceremony attended by Novatek Board Chairman Leonid Mikhelson, Russian Minister of Transport Maksim Sokolov and other prominent guests. In his speech, Minister Sokolov maintained that the construction of the Sabetta port marks the start of a new period in Russian Arctic shipping, one which "by year 2030 could lead to the boost of hydrocarbon shipments to 50 million tons per year from the Ob Bay alone", a press release from the ministry reads.
The Russian government is investing 47.2 billion RUB in the port and adjacent infrastructure, while private investments in the infrastructure facilities amount to 25.9 billion RUB. The construction includes the development of a 50 km long sea channel stretching into the peninsula, the ministry informs.
Key stakeholders in the port development are the Yamal LNG company, a joint venture of Novatek (80%) and Total (20%), as well as the Federal Agency of Sea and River Transport and the Rosmorport state enterprise. More companies might soon be included in the project. The three Indian companies ONGC, Indian Oil Corp и Petronet LNG have jointly expressed an interest in a 15 percent project stake, Gazeta.ru reports.
Important parts of the Yamal LNG project is managed from Se-Yakha, a village located about 160 km south of the Sabetta port. Here, Novatek is currently unfolding a massive construction of houses for project personnel.
According to RIA Novosti, a total of seven thousand square meters of housing will be erected by the end of 2012.
© 2012 BarentsObserver.
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The Atlantic / Aug 6 2012
America Still Lags Behind the Soviet Union by Number of Planets Visited
The Soviets might have landed on two planets to America's one, but the extent of the ultimate U.S. space victory is a sort of metaphor for the Cold War and its resolution
История межпланетной гонки СССР и США в 1970-е гг.
In the end, when the nuclear warheads were taken off alert and the borders of Europe and Asia redrawn, history recorded the Cold War as a great American victory.
It won the arms race and it won Europe; its economic and political models both triumphed; and it won the war of ideology, with democracy displacing communism and totalitarianism across most of the globe. But there's one arena where the Cold War looked a bit closer to a tie: space.
The Soviet Union was the first to put a satellite in space, the first to put a person in space, the first to land a spacecraft on the moon, and the first - and only - to land on Venus. The U.S. was the first to put a person the moon, the first to do flybys of Mars, Venus, and Jupiter, and the first - but not only - to land on Mars, most recently with today's Curiosity. (The European Space Agency later got into the game by landing a probe on Titan, a moon orbiting Saturn, in 2005 with assistance from a U.S. spacecraft.).
I don't know whether or how you can declare a winner from those two records, but one thing is clear: 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and all it stood for, the U.S. has not met the Soviet record on number of planet surfaces visited.
Of course, space exploration isn't about beating the Soviets anymore, so the U.S. would have little to gain by visiting another planet just to say we did. And, when it comes to actual scientific knowledge gained and height of technological achievement, the Soviet edge is as broken and gone as the Berlin Wall. Still, this old, unchanged record is a reminder of the Soviet Union's deep mark on history, and that it wasn't so long ago that space, an area of global American leadership today, was closely contested, another front in the all-consuming Cold War.
The first manmade object to ever soft-land on another planet was the Soviet-made Venera 7. It launched from an Earth-orbit satellite on August 17, 1970, just over a year after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and entered the Venusian atmosphere on December 15. The Soviet command received 23 minutes of faint signals, the first data beamed from the surface of another world. In 1975, it landed the more successful Venera 9 and Venera 10, which sent back the first photos. The Venera program returned soil samples and color, panoramic views in 1981 and again in 1985. The U.S. never attempted to land on Venus, but it has sent orbiters, including 1978's Pioneer Venus 1, which dropped three small probes into the atmosphere.
The Soviet Union might have won the race to Venus, but Mars was more contested. In May 1971, as a proxy war in Vietnam raged, the U.S. and Soviet Union hurled five satellites toward the red planet. Mariner 8 and Kosmos 419 fizzled, but on November 13 the American Mariner 9 became the first vessel to enter another planet's orbit. Two weeks later, the Soviet Union's Mars 2 followed into orbit, with the Mars 3 a few days behind. The U.S. satellite took over 100 times as many photos as the two Soviet ships, but Mars 2 and Mars 3 both carried landers. The first crashed; the second achieved the first-ever landing on Mars. But it lasted only 20 seconds, after which its instruments shut down, possibly due to a dust storm.
Both the U.S. and Soviet Union tried a number of Mars landers after that, but the Americans had far more success. In 1974, the Soviet Union had another disappointment with the Mars 6, which landed successfully but sent back bad data due to a computer chip problem, and the Mars 7, which simply missed. The U.S. landed the Viking in 1976, and later upgraded to rovers with the 1997 Sojourner, 2004 Spirit and Opportunity, and 2012 Curiosity. A Soviet vessel never again successfully touched down, despite two 1988 attempts.
In a way, the planetary race can be seen as a metaphor for the Cold War itself. The competition might have been nail-bitingly close at the time, with the Soviet Union taking some historic leaps ahead of the Americans, a few of which are still with us. In the end, though, not only did the U.S. win, but the extent of is victory has surely surpassed even the wildest dreams of either Nixon or Khrushchev.
Copyright © 2012 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.
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Le Figaro / le 07/08/2012
Échecs en série pour les fusées russes
Le lanceur russe n'a pas réussi à placer en orbite géostationnaire deux satellites de télécommunications. Ils sont considérés comme perdus
- Par Véronique Guillermard
Ракете "Протон" не удалось вывести на орбиту два спутника связи из-за технических неполадок. Российский спутник "Экспресс-МД2" и индонезийский Telkom 3 считаются потерянными. Российское агентство начало расследование причин произошедшего, программа запуска "Протонов" пока приостановлена.
Dans la nuit de lundi à mardi 7 août, le lanceur spatial russe Proton a échoué à placer en orbite deux satellites de télécommunications en raison d'une défaillance technique, a annoncé Roscosmos, l'agence spatiale russe. Le satellite russe Express MD-2 et indonésien Telkom 3 sont considérés comme perdus. Le décollage, peu après minuit depuis le pas de tir de Baïkonour au Kazakhstan, s'est bien passé. Le problème est survenu plus tard, au moment de donner l'impulsion finale aux satellites: le moteur du lanceur a cessé de fonctionner sept secondes après le démarrage de cette étape au lieu des 18 minutes et 5 secondes programmées, a précisé Roscosmos.
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Cet échec donne encore plus de relief et de valeur aux succès d'Ariane 5. Le lanceur européen a réussi son 50e tir consécutif dans la nuit du 2 au 3 août et battu tous les records de capacité d'emport (10,2 tonnes), en plaçant en orbite géostationnaire deux satellites de télécoms à 36.000 km de la Terre. L'échec russe intervient aussi après l'exploit américain qui a réussi à faire atterrir le robot Curiosity sur la surface de Mars après un voyage de 566 millions de km, qui a duré huit mois.
Suspension du programme de lancements de Proton
Une enquête a été ouverte et le programme de lancements de Proton, dont les tirs sont commercialisés par l'américain ILS, suspendu. "Cet échec montre que nous faisons un métier difficile", réagit Jean-Yves Le Gall, PDG d'Arianespace, le leader mondial du transport spatial. Chaque tir est en effet un vol d'essai. Dans cette industrie si complexe, Ariane 5 "est un très bon lanceur qui a atteint un niveau de qualité que personne aujourd'hui ne peut égaler", poursuit-il en notant que Proton connaît en moyenne un échec par an. "Il y a certainement un problème de qualité dans la fabrication du lanceur et dans sa mise en œuvre", souligne le PDG.
Autre rivale d'Ariane 5, la fusée russo-ukrainienne Zenith, qui décolle depuis sa plate-forme semi-submersible Odyssey, placée en plein Pacifique, connaît aussi des échecs. Lors de sa dernière mission, le 3 juin dernier, le lanceur a mis en orbite un satellite pour Intelsat qui a été abîmé (un panneau solaire cassé). "Le lanceur a eu un problème", note Jean-Yves Le Gall, qui attend de voir comment se déroulera le prochain tir d'ici à une quinzaine de jours.
6 contrats signés en 2012 pour Ariane 5
Depuis plusieurs années, l'industrie spatiale russe est confrontée à une série d'échecs. Fin juillet, Soyouz n'a pas réussi à mener à bien une nouvelle procédure d'arrimage à la Station spatiale internationale (ISS). La Russie a perdu plusieurs satellites: trois de navigation en décembre 2010, un militaire en février 2011 et un de télécoms en août 2011.
Le verdict de certains observateurs est sévère: l'industrie spatiale russe n'est plus à la pointe. Elle s'appuie sur des équipements et effectifs vieillissants ainsi que des standards de production anciens.
Ce qui fait les affaires d'Arianespace, qui a signé 6 nouveaux contrats cette année, contre 2 pour Proton. À court terme, les clients de Proton ne peuvent se reporter sur le lanceur européen dont le calendrier est archi-plein. Mais à moyen terme, Ariane devrait en profiter. "Il est clair qu'avant de signer de nouveaux contrats, les clients y regarderont à deux fois avant de s'embarquer sur Proton", conclut Jean-Yves Le Gall.
Scientific American / August 14, 2012
Sergei Kapitza, Editor of Scientific American's Russian Edition, Dead at 84
Российский физик, действительный член Российской Академии наук, главный редактор журнала "В мире науки" Сергей Петрович Капица скончался в Москве на 85-м году жизни.
С.П.Капица работал в Центральном аэрогидродинамическом институте, Институте геофизики, а также в Институте физических проблем РАН, в течение 35-ти лет заведовал кафедрой физики в Московском физико-техническом институте. Получил также широкую известность как популяризатор науки, в течение 40 лет вел телепрограмму "Очевидное - невероятное".
Scientific American lost a good friend today with the death of physicist and demographer Sergei Petrovich Kapitza, 84, the founding editor of V mire nauki, our Russian edition. Kapitza was at the helm of V mire nauki when it launched in 1982 in the Soviet Union, and he worked tirelessly to popularize science in his home country and abroad. Kapitza was perhaps best known as host of the long-running science TV show Ochevidnoye-Neveroyatnoye (Evident, but Incredible, launched in 1973), awarded UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science in 1979.
Kapitza played an active role among Scientific American's 14 foreign editions. "I had the good fortune to work with professor Kapitza as the head of the Scientific American edition in Russia for the past 11 years that I've been at the magazine," says Scientific American Editor-in-Chief Mariette DiChristina. "He was a gracious man and a thoughtful colleague. Last year, he was our genial host when the entire Scientific American family met in Moscow for the first time in many years. He was warm and enthusiastic toward all of us."
After graduating from the Moscow Aviation Institute in 1949, Kapitza contributed significantly to our understanding of physics in supersonic aerodynamics, applied electrodynamics and accelerator physics. Kapitza is also known for his work developing the microtron, a type of particle accelerator.
Kapitza was active in issues of science and society through his participation in the Pugwash conferences and the Club of Rome. Among his other accolades, Kapitza served as vice president of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Russia, president of the Eurasian Physical Society, senior research associate at the Lebedev Physics Institute, the Russian Academy of Sciences and professor of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
Born on February 14, 1928, in Cambridge, England, Kapitza came from a strong scientific pedigree. His father, Soviet physicist and 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics laureate Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitza, that same year discovered the linear dependence of resistivity on magnetic field for various metals in very strong magnetic fields. His mother was Anna Alekseevna Krylova, daughter of applied mathematician A.N. Krylov.
Kapitza married Tatiana Damir in 1949, with whom he had three children.
© 2012 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc.
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The Voice of Russia / Aug 18, 2012
Mystery of Russian Atlantis
Подводники Фанагорийской комплексной археологической экспедиции Института археологии РАН нашли у берегов Таманского полуострова хорошо сохранившиеся остатки древнего торгового судна возрастом 1300 лет. Причиной затопления одномачтового парусника длиной около 15 м являлся, скорее всего, пожар на борту.
Фанагория - греческая колония, основанная на берегу Керченского пролива, на Таманском полуострове, в 6 в. до н.э. В настоящее время треть города находится под водой. Раскопки ведутся ежегодно с 1936 г.
An ancient merchant ship has been discovered under Taman Bay near the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. About 13 centuries ago, the vessel left Byzantium and then sank off Phanagoria, the largest Greek colony on the Taman peninsula. At the time, Phanagoria was said to be the biggest economic and cultural center in the Mediterranean.
Russian archaeologists will have tougher times ahead trying to shed light on the sinking of the vessel. It is still unclear why there only one amphora was on board and what happened to the cargo. Scientists are yet to found out the name of the ship which has already been called the most valuable artifact in 12 years. As for Phanagoria, it was the center of the Bosporan Kingdom in the 5th century B.C. Phanagoria had been an essential part of Byzantium for several centuries and then it became the first capital of Bulgaria and subsequently one of the largest cities of the Khazarian Empire. Right now, one third of this ancient city is submerged by the sea, which is why many refer to Phanagoria as "Russian Atlantis."
Vladimir Kuznetsov, head of the Phanagorian archaeological expedition, says that it is under the Black Sea that the relevant artifacts are being searched for.
"We are exploring the sea bed with the help of special equipment, Kuznetsov says, citing the 15-meter-long merchant ship that was found under Taman Bay earlier this year. Right now, we are in the process of cleaning the vessel that was hidden by a 1.5-meter layer of sand. We were really lucky to find such an ancient ship, something that was preceded by our discovering other artifacts under the Black Sea, including parts of marble statues," Kuznetsov concludes.
Upon being cleared, the ship will be brought to the surface, scientists said, adding that the reconstructed vessel is expected to be on display at the yet-to-be-unveiled Phanagoria museum.
Meanwhile, hundreds of tourists from neighboring resorts daily come to the Taman peninsula to see Phanagoria's ancient buildings which were well preserved under a 7-meter layer of soil. All those looking to walk down the Phanagoria streets will soon be able to do so, says Georgy Kokunko, head of the Volnoye Delo project pertaining to Kuban's historical and cultural heritage. All the more so that nothing prevents archaeologists from dealing with excavations on the Taman peninsula.
"The peninsula's geographic situation makes it possible to implement a wide array of historical and cultural projects there, Kokunko says, referring to the future Phanagoria museum which will, in particular, include the city's reconstructed infrastructure facilities. With one third of the city being submerged, we should seize a unique opportunity to put a spate of underwater artifacts on display."
Scientists started to explore Phanagoria back in the 18th century, when it became an essential part of the Russian Empire. The exploration's active phase, however, began just several years ago, something that means that archaeologists and historians are almost certain to find more artifacts and facts related to Phanagoria which had been something of a bridge between the East and the West for 1,500 years.
© 2005-2012 Voice of Russia.
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NBCNews.com / 8/27/2012
Ancient termite-digger added to mammal family tree
Dog-size, strong-shouldered digger called Ernanodon lived about 57 million years ago
Сотрудник Палеонтологического института РАН имени А.А.Борисяка Александр Агаджанян и Петр Кондрашов из Кирксвилльского колледжа остеопатической медицины (США) впервые описали полный скелет эрнанодона (Ernanodon antelios) - млекопитающего с копательными конечностями возрастом около 57 млн лет. Части скелета были найдены советскими учеными в палеоценовых отложениях Монголии еще в 1980-х, и всё это время пролежали в коллекциях Палеонтологического музея.
Первоначально эрнанодона отнесли к отряду неполнозубых (броненосцы, муравьеды и ленивцы), но авторы статьи пришли к выводу, что он скорее относится к примитивным панголинам.
Статья "A nearly complete skeleton of Ernanodon (Mammalia, Palaeanodonta) from Mongolia: morphofunctional analysis" опубликована в журнале Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
A new look at a fossil mammal with powerful front legs for digging is clearing up questions about the origin of a group of strange and scaly modern-day creatures called pangolins.
First excavated in Mongolia in the 1970s, the fossil sat in storage for decades until researchers for the Russian Academy of Sciences rediscovered and analyzed it, reporting their results Monday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
What they found was a dog-size, strong-shouldered digger called Ernanodon. This mammal lived about 57 million years ago, after dinosaurs had died out and our furry ancestors had taken over. Ernanodon was known from one other fossil found in China, but that specimen is warped, and some archaeologists even thought it might be a fake.
The new discovery puts those accusations to rest, said study researcher Peter Kondrashov, an anatomist at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri.
"It's the real deal," Kondrashov told LiveScience.
The find also helps put the mysterious Ernanodon into the mammal family tree. Archaeologists had suspected that the animal might be related to modern-day sloths and armadillos. Instead, Kondrashov said, it is more closely tied to pangolins, which live in the tropics of Asia and Africa. Pangolins are bizarre mammals covered in scales. Like anteaters, they have a long, sticky tongue for catching termites and other insects.
Ernanodon probably did the same, Kondrashov said. Little is known about the Paleocene environment in Asia that Ernanodon called home, but similar latitudes in North America were a mixture of forest and open landscape.
Ernanodon lacked adaptations for climbing and had only minimal teeth, suggesting that it was a ground-dweller that ate soft food like insects. Its strong claws and powerful shoulders would have helped it dig into anthills and termite mounds.
"It was definitely a terrestrial mammal. It doesn't have any adaptations for climbing trees," Kondrashov said. "It was just designed to walk on fairly flat surfaces."
The new Ernanodon is an extremely complete skeleton, Kondrashov said, rare for Paleocene Asia.
"This is the time when all the main groups of mammals were established on the planet. This history is really well-deciphered in North America, and there's very little known about Asia," he said. "This helps us to understand how these early steps in the evolution of major groups of mammals occurred in Asia."
© 2012 NBCNews.com.
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United Press International / Aug. 28, 2012
Russia to reform cosmonaut recruitment
Центр подготовки космонавтов (ЦПК) имени Гагарина продолжит практику проведения открытых конкурсов по отбору претендентов в отряд космонавтов, но условия отбора будут совершенствоваться с учетом полученного опыта.
MOSCOW, Aug. 28 (UPI) - Russia says it is making changes in the way it conducts its effort to recruit cosmonauts, with one official saying the current procedure is "impractical."
After the first open cosmonaut selection drive in the history of the Russian space industry was held between Jan. 27 and March 15, the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center announced it would change the terms of future such drives, RIA Novosti reported Tuesday.
"This was the first precedent for an open selection. It was a first step, and further recruitment drives will be improved," the center's deputy chief Igor Sokhin said.
"Reality showed that the time frame of the selection drive - several months - is impractical," he said, noting a typical NASA astronaut recruitment drive lasts 18 months.
Cosmonaut applicants can be no older than 33, must have a college degree and have at least five years of work experience, and must meet specific physical requirements such as height.
While people with a non-technical humanities background can apply, Sokhin said, it was harder for such people to qualify for cosmonaut training.
"We have no spacecraft with high passenger capacity to let a specialist in one domain fly into space. A person who flies has to acquire great amounts of knowledge and information, just like other crew members," he said. "It's probably harder for a person with a background in humanities to do that."
© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Financial Times / August 30, 2012
Scientists decode extinct humans' genome
Ученые из Института эволюционной антропологии имени Макса Планка (Лейпциг) опубликовали полный геном "денисовского человека", сосуществовавшего в Евразии с неандертальцами и предками современного человека.
In an astonishing feat of DNA analysis, a German team has published the full genome of an extinct human group, the Denisovans, known only from a bone fragment and two teeth found in a Siberian cave.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig had just a 10 milligram (0.00035oz) sample from a girl's broken finger bone which Russian archaeologists had discovered in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains. She lived between 30,000 and 80,000 years ago - the dating remains uncertain.
Using new techniques for amplifying and analysing tiny amounts of DNA, they were able to provide a picture of the Denisovan genome almost as sharp and complete as the best modern human genome. The DNA was so well preserved because of the site's exceptionally cold conditions.
"No one thought we would have an archaic human genome of such quality," said Matthias Meyer, co-author of the findings. "Everyone was shocked... That includes me."
However, the genome analysis, published in the journal Science, leaves many questions about the Denisovans unanswered. The researchers know little about the physical appearance of the girl, beyond the fact that her genes would have given her dark skin, eyes and hair.
"The truth is, of course, that one can say little about how people look from just studying their DNA sequences," said Svante Pääbo, the project leader.
The analysis confirms that Denisovans were a separate species or sub-species, distinct from the Neanderthals and ancestral modern humans with whom they shared the Eurasian continent for tens of thousands of years. They were more closely related to Neanderthals than modern humans.
Both Neanderthals and Denisovans contributed a little to the genome of some modern Europeans and Asians but not to Africans, suggesting that modern humans interbred to a limited extent with the Neanderthals and Denisovans they would have encountered after moving out of Africa into Eurasia about 70,000 years ago.
Comparison of the ancient genome with modern humans around the world shows that the highest proportion of Denisovan DNA, about 3 per cent, occurs among today's inhabitants of Papua New Guinea.
Although the researchers have only one Denisovan genome, they could distinguish the contributions of the girl's two parents - and from these they concluded that Denisovans had very low levels of genetic diversity, though there was no evidence of inbreeding.
A big uncertainty is how long ago Denisovans and Neanderthals split from ancestral modern humans. It could have been at any point between 170,000 and 700,000 years, the researchers say.
"Since the split from modern humans the population [of Denisovans] seems to have been pretty small for a long period of time, hundreds of thousands of years," said David Reich of Harvard Medical School, who worked with the German group on the analysis.
© The Financial Times Ltd 2012.
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