Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Декабрь 2012 г.

Навигация
Дайджест за другие годы
Декабрь
2012 г.
Российская наука и мир
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)

январь февраль март апрель май июнь июль август сентябрь октябрь ноябрь декабрь
    Le Monde / 30.11.2012
    La route du Nord-Est : l'autre canal de Suez?
    • Par Olivier Truc
    В 2010 году Россия открыла Северный морской путь для международного судоходства и теперь твердо намерена извлечь из него прибыль. Глобальное потепление способствует продлению навигации, поэтому путь, соединяющий Азию с Европой через российские арктические воды, может стать реальной альтернативой Суэцкому каналу. Во всяком случае, сомалийских пиратов здесь можно не опасаться.

Vyacheslav Roukcha, le très costaud et truculent patron de Rosatomflot, la flotte russe de brise-glaces à propulsion nucléaire basée à Mourmansk, a un grand projet : faire de la mythique route du Nord-Est (RNE), qui relie l'Asie à l'Europe par le nord de la Russie, une véritable alternative économique au non moins légendaire canal de Suez. Une bagarre de titans à l'échelle de la planète, livrée pour le moment à armes inégales : 18 000 navires (et 1 000 millions de tonnes de produits transportés) transitent par le canal de Suez tout au long de l'année, contre une quarantaine le long de la RNE (1,2 million de tonnes), durant les cinq ou six mois où la navigation est devenue possible en raison du réchauffement climatique."Bien sûr, nous n'allons pas détrôner le canal de Suez, admet M. Roukcha, mais pour tout le transport maritime d'Europe du Nord et de la Baltique jusqu'à la partie nord de la Chine, la RNE constitue dorénavant une véritable alternative."
Ouverte à la navigation internationale depuis 2010 seulement, la route va connaître une grande affluence dans les années à venir avec le mégaprojet de Gazprom, le géant russe du gaz, dans la péninsule Yamal, en Sibérie occidentale. "Nous allons passer de 1 million de tonnes par an actuellement à 20 millions de tonnes dans les six ans grâce au projet Yamal", assure Mikhaïl Belkin, adjoint du directeur général de Rosatomflot.
La donne a changé à la faveur du réchauffement climatique : la période de navigation s'allonge. Elle s'est étendue cette année - et pour la première fois - de juin à la mi-novembre, alors qu'elle ne courait que de juillet à septembre durant la décennie 2000. Le dernier navire marchand qui ait emprunté la RNE cette saison l'a quittée le 18 novembre. Battant pavillon des îles Marshall, il a transporté du gaz liquide du port norvégien de Hammerfest jusqu'à celui de Tobata au Japon.
Cet allongement s'est produit au fur et à mesure que la banquise rétrécissait, tandis que le coût du carburant s'envolait, ce qui fait le jeu de la RNE. Seuls quatre navires étrangers l'avaient empruntée en 2010 ; ils étaient 34 l'année suivante, et 46 cette année. Ils convoient essentiellement des produits pétroliers, du gaz et, plus rarement, des minerais ou du poisson congelé.
La RNE reste certes un nain par rapport au canal de Suez, emprunté par une cinquantaine de navires... chaque jour. Mais le fait est là : cette route du Nord russe intéresse de plus en plus la marine marchande.
Sime Radman évoque sa première épopée le long de la route du Nord-Est avec émotion. A 47 ans, ce Croate commandant de bord depuis six mois chez Marinvest, une compagnie suédoise basée à Göteborg, a emprunté la RNE pour aller de Yosu, en Corée du Sud, port qu'il a quitté le 11 août, à Porvoo, en Finlande, qu'il a rallié à la mi-septembre afin d'y livrer une cargaison de kérosène. Il a passé dix jours sur la route du Nord-Est proprement dite, à une moyenne de 10 noeuds.
Sur la passerelle du Marika, le supertanker à la coque renforcée dont il avait la responsabilité, le commandant Radman a scrupuleusement noté les variations de la météo et de la glace. "Jusqu'au Japon, les conditions étaient bonnes, indique-t-il. Dans le nord de l'océan Pacifique, nous avons eu beaucoup de brouillard. A l'approche du détroit de Béring aussi, avec un vent de force 4 à 6, mais c'était bien. Mais après le détroit de Béring, nous avons eu beaucoup de glace flottante pendant plusieurs jours. Il n'aurait pas dû y en avoir à ce moment de l'année, mais de forts vents du nord ont poussé les glaces vers nous et vers la côte russe." Bien plus que le froid, ces vents du nord demeurent le principal danger de la RNE. "Heureusement, c'est là que nous avons opéré la jonction avec le brise-glace Russia", ajoute le commandant.
Tous les navires qui empruntent cette fameuse route doivent être certifiés "anti-glace" - coque renforcée, équipements spéciaux, équipage formé, protection spéciale du gouvernail et des hélices - en accord avec les autorités russes. Et on ne peut naviguer dans ces eaux que derrière l'un des six brise-glaces russes, eux-mêmes équipés d'un hôpital flottant et de matériel destiné aux premières opérations en cas de marée noire. Si le bateau arrive d'Asie, le brise-glace attend, comme dans le cas du Marika, juste après le détroit de Béring. Et il vous lâche après la Nouvelle-Zemble, cette grande île qui sépare la mer de Kara de la mer de Barents, à quelques jours de navigation de Mourmansk. Le temps passé sur la RNE varie de sept à quinze jours sans escale suivant les conditions de glace, à une vitesse moyenne de 5 à 13 noeuds.
C'est la deuxième année consécutive que la compagnie suédoise Marinvest navigue ainsi le long de la RNE. Durant le très rude hiver 2002-2003, près d'une centaine de navires étaient restés bloqués en mer Baltique pendant plusieurs semaines. "Nous avons alors compris l'importance d'acquérir la capacité matérielle d'affronter la banquise, en discutant avec les compagnies pétrolières intéressées", raconte Patrick Mossberg, l'un des responsables de Marinvest. Entre 2006 et 2008, cette compagnie, décidée à investir, s'est fait livrer six navires ultramodernes de classe arctique. Des monstres de 75 000 tonnes d'un coût de plus de 40 millions de dollars (31 millions d'euros) chacun.
Pourtant, durant l'été 2010, lorsque les Russes eurent ouvert la route au traffic international, Marinvest renonça à s'y engouffrer, se contentant de faire naviguer ses nouveaux mastodontes en mer Baltique. Les Suédois ne savaient tout simplement pas à quoi s'attendre "là-haut". Les Russes étaient-ils sérieux? Que valait leur équipement? Et les dangers? Et la banquise? Sans parler des tarifs imposés à l'époque, 30 dollars la tonne, un coût quasi prohibitif. En juin 2011, Patrick Mossberg et son père, fondateur de la compagnie, décident de se rendre à Mourmansk. Les Suédois découvrent les réglementations, s'assurent des mesures prises par les Russes, visitent les brise-glaces. Entre-temps, une nouvelle tarification pour la navigation le long de la RNE était entrée en vigueur, remplaçant l'ancienne, qui remontait à 1996, et bien trop chère.
L'Etat russe avait décidé d'investir commercialement sur cette ligne, et d'en tirer profit. Il avait commandé de nouveaux super-brise-glaces à propulsion nucléaire capables d'opérer dans différentes profondeurs, aussi bien dans les mers arctiques que dans les rivières sibériennes, afin d'attirer de nouveaux clients. Moscou a créé une compagnie publique pour gérer toutes les activités nucléaires, Rosatom, avec une filiale, Rosatomflot, regroupant les six brise-glaces actuels. A Mourmansk, on comprend bien que, pour entrer dans la compétition, il faut s'aligner sur le concurrent, en l'occurrence le canal de Suez.
Désormais, le tarif de 30 dollars la tonne n'est plus qu'un maximum. "Aujourd'hui, le tarif moyen est plutôt de l'ordre de 5 dollars la tonne", assure M. Roukcha, le patron de Rosatomflot, même si le tarif peut varier suivant le volume transporté et les conditions de navigation, parmi d'autres facteurs.
Yakov Antonov ne doute pas de l'intérêt économique de la RNE. Pour ce directeur commercial de la Murmansk Shipping Company, qui gérait jusqu'en 2008 les brise-glaces atomiques, une calculette suffit à le prouver : "Pour aller d'Europe en Chine, mettons qu'il faille vingt-cinq jours et 625 tonnes de fioul par la RNE, contre trente-cinq jours et 875 tonnes de fioul par le canal de Suez. Entre 2004 et 2011, la tonne de fioul est passée de 200 à 700 dollars." Avec dix jours de navigation gagnés, l'économie sur le fioul est de 175 000 dollars, sans parler des salaires. "Dès lors, la location d'un brise-glace russe n'est plus un problème, estime M. Antonov. La traversée du canal de Suez coûte 140 000 dollars. Si vous avez un navire de 25 000 tonnes, le coût revient à 5,60 dollars la tonne. D'où le tarif mis en place par Rosatomflot d'environ 5 dollars la tonne pour la location du brise-glace."
Les calculs de Patrick Mossberg, le Suédois de Marinvest, vont dans le même sens. "La location d'un brise-glace russe coûte entre 300 000 et 400 000 dollars, auxquels il faut ajouter une assurance spéciale et les cartes de navigation à acheter aux Russes, indique-t-il. Mais si je gagne vingt jours de transport, j'économise 15 000 à 20 000 dollars de carburant par jour. Et je n'ai pas à payer d'assurance en cas d'attaque par des pirates au large de la Somalie, ni à engager des gardes armés sur mon navire, ni à payer la traversée du canal de Suez."
L'Organisation maritime internationale (OMI) pourrait venir jouer les trouble-fêtes, avec le code polaire qu'elle est en train d'élaborer. Les Russes craignent en effet que ce texte interdise le fioul lourd, largement utilisé dans le transport maritime, comme c'est déjà le cas dans l'Antarctique. Une telle mesure serait un coup dur pour les Russes, qui rêvent d'allonger de nouveau la période de navigation sur la RNE. Car même durant les hivers rudes, Rosatomflot n'a observé sur cette route que de la glace âgée d'un an. Son épaisseur atteint au maximum 2 mètres au large de la Sibérie orientale. Rien qui soit de nature à ralentir la marche de ses brise-glaces modernes capables de naviguer à 4 noeuds à vitesse constante dans de la glace de 2,30 mètres d'épaisseur, assure M. Roukcha. D'ores et déjà, Rosatomflot se dit prête à garantir la circulation tout au long de l'année sur la route du Nord-Est...

© Le Monde.fr.
* * *
    Daily Mail / 3 December 2012
    Can't boil an egg? Russian scientists create a CARTON that'll help you make the perfect one in two minutes without water
    It contains layers of chemicals that produce heat when activated
    The egg sits inside and is ready to eat in half the time it takes in water
    • By Sean Poulter
    Российское агентство KIAN, занимающееся разработкой брендов, придумало упаковку, позволяющую приготовить яйцо всмятку прямо в ней. Одноразовый контейнер, рассчитанный на одно яйцо, сделан из картона, под которым находятся еще несколько слоев, в том числе специальное вещество-катализатор. Если оторвать защитную ленту, начнется химическая реакция и яйцо нагреется до нужной температуры всего за две минуты.

If you've ever tried to peel a hard-boiled egg only to find it's definitely more suited to soldiers, help is at hand. Designers have invented a clever cardboard box that cooks the egg inside perfectly - without a saucepan in sight. The packaging contains a chemical layer which, when triggered, generates heat and cooks the raw egg in just two minutes. It means even the busiest of workers - and the most amateur of cooks - will once again be able to "go to work on an egg".
The "Gogol Mogol", named after a Russian egg dish, was created by a Russian team of inventors known as KIAN, and designed by Evgeny Morgalev. The outer layer is made from the sort of paperboard traditionally used to make egg boxes. Beneath this there are three more layers. One is infused with calcium hydroxide and other chemicals, and the other is a "smart layer" containing water. Between these two inner layers is a membrane which is removed by pulling a cardboard tab. Once this is taken out, the calcium hydroxide reacts with the water in the smart layer to generate enough heat to cook the egg inside.
The technology has been used in the past to create self-heating cans of sausages and beans, which are popular with campers. But this is the first time that designers have been able to apply the chemical heat generation, known as an exothermic reaction, to an egg. Although the egg is cooked after just two minutes, the heating process inside the packaging will continue for up to three minutes.
Depending on when they decide to twist off the cardboard cap, users can go for a runny or hard-boiled yolk. Either way, it's a fraction of the time it takes to boil a pan of water then wait four minutes for it to cook. The Gogol Mogol cannot be reused and must be thrown away after a single use, but has been created out of recycled materials to reduce waste.
It won its designers an award from the European Packaging Design Association. A spokesman for KIAN said: "The product is just a usual egg in an unusual package, possessing unique product properties. The time for preparing eggs should be a couple of minutes and after cooking eggs the package should be thrown away, it's impossible to use it more than one time. It uses calcium hydroxide and water, so when the components come together a large amount of heat appears. Under the cardboard layer is a catalyst and a membrane, which separates the catalyst from a smart material. When you pull out the membrane by stretching a tag, the chemical reaction between the catalyst and a smart material begins, and the egg begins to heat up."
The technology has worked during trials, but no food company has yet come forward to make it available to shoppers.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.
* * *
    The New York Times / December 4, 2012
    Russian Oil Industry at a Crossroads as Infrastructure Ages
    • By Thane Gustafson
    До сих пор Россия использовала преимущественно нефтяные месторождения, унаследованные от СССР. Теперь возникла необходимость осваивать более сложные месторождения в труднодоступных местах (например, шельфовые месторождения Арктики, битуминозные пески, горючие сланцы), тем более что современные технологии это позволяют. Кроме того, для дальнейшего развития нефтяной отрасли необходимо развивать разнообразные инновационные компании и подходы.

MOSCOW - The Russian oil industry is at a crossroads. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian oil output plummeted from an all-time high of 11.4 million barrels a day in 1987 to a low of 6 million barrels a day in 1996. But with the start of the new century, a stunning rebound began. And in the past few years, output has returned to a level close to its Soviet-era peak.
But there are signs of trouble. The industry's traditional core, the giant West Siberian fields inherited from the Soviet Union, has been in decline since 2007. And while overall Russian production continues to inch upward (about 1.6 percent so far this year), that is thanks only to a strong burst of drilling in the older fields, plus the development of a handful of new fields at the periphery of the country.
Russia vies with Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer. But there is one crucial difference: Saudi Arabia has spare capacity and could increase output substantially. Russia, in contrast, is producing flat-out, close to the limit of its current capacity. Indeed, Russian oil production could well slip in the next few years.
This would be yet a new phase in the tumultuous history of Russian oil. The Russian government's own experts have warned President Vladimir V. Putin that unless urgent measures are taken soon, production could sink as low as eight million barrels a day by 2020.
This matters for Russia and also for the world. For not only is Russia one of the two largest oil producers in the world, it is also one of the largest exporters, at nearly five million barrels a day. It accounts for 12 percent of world oil output.
At home, oil provides more than half of Russia's export income and about 40 percent of the government's budget revenue. But behind these numbers lies an inexorable fact: For the past twenty years Russia has largely been coasting on the oil fields inherited from the Soviet Union. Now the Soviet-era legacy is running down. Challenges lie ahead.
There is no such thing as "easy oil," and the Russian oil industry works in some of the toughest environments on earth. But in the past thirty years the global oil industry has experienced a revolution in technology that has enabled it to find and produce oil in previously unreachable places.
The Russian oil industry, though it is now connected to global technology and has modernized extensively over the past twenty years, has participated only up to a point. In particular, it has not yet ventured into offshore Arctic fields or into unconventional sources like oil sands or shale.
The reason is straightforward: It has not needed to. But the next generation of Russian oil will have to come from places that are colder, deeper, more remote, geologically more complex and technologically far more demanding than anything Russian companies have tackled to date.
If it is to avert a decline, the country must follow the same path as the rest of the global industry. A series of major deals indicates that this is the direction Russia is beginning to go, but the turn has just begun.
Against this backdrop, the rise of Rosneft, Russia's largest state-owned oil company, whose acquisition of TNK-BP is pending, is a highly significant event. When the deal is completed next year, Rosneft will become the largest publicly traded oil company in the world by output.
What does this mean for the future of Russian oil?
Remarkably, Rosneft's present success, and indeed its very survival, are to some extent an accident. As late as 1998, Rosneft was a minor company, seemingly without a future. Its assets were the last remains of the Soviet Ministry of Oil, the second-rate bits that the emerging private companies did not want.
Privatization was the doctrine of the day in Moscow, and Russian leaders, in the era of Boris N. Yeltsin and the market changers then in power, did not want a state-owned oil company at all. In 1998, Rosneft's low point, it was offered for sale by the Russian government, not once but three times, and if it was not privatized then, it was because no one wanted it.
The high point of privatization came in 2002, when the share of the private oil companies - integrated giants newly formed in the mid-1990s - reached 80 percent of total output.
With the election of Mr. Putin as president in 2000 the wind shifted back toward state control of strategic resources. Oil and natural gas were at the top of the list. In 2003 came the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and in 2004 and 2005 the break-up of Yukos.
Most of the pieces were captured by Rosneft, which tripled in size as a result. Suddenly, state oil was back. Today, the Russian energy sector is dominated by two large state-owned champions, Gazprom for natural gas, Rosneft for oil.
Between them, Gazprom and Rosneft have a virtual monopoly on all significant new oil and natural gas licenses, especially those in Russia's Arctic offshore.
State ownership by itself is neither good nor bad. It depends on whether a company is run well or badly, and that in turn depends largely on its leadership and its relationship with the state. Which sort will Rosneft turn out to be?
In Igor I. Sechin, Rosneft has a chief executive of proven energy, who as Mr. Putin's closest aide for two decades enjoys the president's strong backing. As the de facto head of Rosneft since 2008, Mr. Sechin has already taken the company in major new directions. He has personally negotiated a series of new strategic agreements with ExxonMobil, Statoil, Eni, and now BP.
He has led Rosneft's expansion into Venezuela and has overseen Rosneft's successful drive into new territories inside Russia, in the far north of West Siberia and East Siberia.
At the core of Mr. Sechin's vision for Rosneft is the Arctic offshore. Russia's continental shelf extends across 11 time zones along Russia's northern shoreline and is thought to contain vast reserves of both oil and natural gas. The actual size of the prize is still highly uncertain because less than 10 percent of the region has been explored.
But Russia - and Rosneft - have until now virtually no experience in working the Arctic offshore. They have not yet trained the people or mastered the necessary skills, and Russia's considerable engineering industry, also largely inherited from Soviet times, is not yet prepared to produce the specialized equipment needed for Arctic offshore operations.
The challenge of moving to the Arctic offshore, as Mr. Sechin declared recently, "is more ambitious than man's first walk in space or sending man to the moon." And in his view and that of the Russian leadership, the ideal vehicle for such a venture is a large state-owned corporation like Rosneft.
But now, from a completely unexpected quarter, comes a new development. New production, coming from dozens of plays for what is known as tight oil - deposits accessible with new horizontal technologies - all across the North American continent, has suddenly made United States the fastest-growing oil producer in the world, with Canada close behind.
The tight oil story has been closely watched in Moscow, where Russian oilmen and politicians have quickly realized its enormous potential promise for themselves. At the time when Russia's legacy fields are running down, tight oil - at least in theory - could lead to a renaissance. Some in the Russian oil community are even starting to say that Russia's top oil priority now should not be the Arctic offshore but tight oil.
Yet tight oil, as the Russian proverb has it, "is not like just walking across a field." Tight oil typically requires approaches carefully tailored to each oil field, an artful combination of technologies, much trial and error, and strict cost control. The "tight oil revolution" in the United States has been mostly the work of small and medium-size companies.
Consequently, it remains to be seen how quickly tight oil production can spread to the rest of the world. The question is especially acute in Russia, where independent companies account for barely 5 percent of total oil production, and state regulations frequently stand in the way of new techniques.
Thus the crossroads before Russian decision-makers is not simply a matter of moving to new regions and new technologies. The scale of the Arctic off-shore requires big companies. But having spent a decade rebuilding a large state-owned oil champion, Russian decision-makers must also focus on encouraging the widest possible variety of innovative companies and approaches. Diversity of approach will help Russia assure its oil future.
Thane Gustafson is a professor of government at Georgetown University and a senior director at IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. His latest book is "Wheel of Fortune: The Battle for Oil and Power in Russia."

© 2012 The New York Times Company.
* * *
    Digital Journal / Dec 1, 2012
    In 1936 Soviet scientist Lukyanov built an analog water computer
    • By Ken Hanly
    В 1936 году советский инженер Владимир Сергеевич Лукьянов построил первую в мире вычислительную машину для решения дифференциальных уравнений в частных производных - одномерный гидравлический интегратор ИГ-1. Впоследствии гидроинтеграторы широко использовались в шахтостроении, геологии, металлургии, ракетостроении и других областях.

Moscow - In 1936 Vladimir Lukyanov built a water computer that was the world's first computer for solving (partial) differential equations. The operator solved the equations by "playing around" with a series of interconnected tubes filled with water.
According to an article in Wikipedia this type of analog computer called a Water Integrator was built in the Soviet Union as far back as 1928. According to that article the water levels in the various chambers represented stored numbers. The rate of flow between tubes represented mathematical operations. These water computers were used in the USSR for large scale modeling right up into the 1980's when digital computers became more sophisticated.
An article published in the Russian magazine Science and Life in 2000 called the Lukyanov computer one of the monuments of science and technology and claimed that it brought the Soviet Union to the forefront of the development of the analog computer.
Lukyanov's computer was built for the particular purpose of solving the practical problem of cracking in concrete. To solve the cracking problem involved calculating the complex relationships between the material properties of the concrete, the curing process, and environmental conditions. Whereas existing calculation methods did not give quick or accurate solutions, the Lukyanov water computer did. An article here describes the process:
You could think of it as a hydraulic computer. Water flows through a series of clear pipes, mimicking the production line of concrete blocks. It lets you see (literally) what would happen if you change the type of cement used or increase the load capacity of the concrete or whatever; just open a valve here or pull a lever there and the machine sloshes away, showing in real time how the water levels rise and fall in various tanks representing material properties, curing time, temperature, and so on.
Changes to levels were plotted on graph paper.
These water computers were used successfully in other areas such as geology, metallurgy, thermal physics, and rocket engineering. In the 1970's these computers were still used in 115 manufacturing, research, and educational institutions in the USSR. It was not until the 1980s that digital computers came to surpass the functionality of the "hydraulic integrator" or water computer.

Copyright © 2012 digitaljournal.com.
* * *
    BBC Nature News / 6 December 2012
    Prehistoric rhino reveals secrets
    • By Matt Walker
    Анализ хорошо сохранившихся останков шерстистого носорога, обнаруженного в 2007 году в нижнем течении реки Колымы, раскрыл некоторые подробности существования этого вида, вымершего около 8 тысяч лет назад. Исследование, проведенное известным палеонтологом Геннадием Боескоровым из Института геологии алмаза и благородных металлов СО РАН (Якутск), позволяет узнать, чем питались носороги, как размножались, а также выдвинуть предположение о причинах их гибели.
    Статья "Some specific morphological and ecological features of the fossil woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis Blumenbach 1799)" опубликована в журнале Biology Bulletin (2012, Volume 39, Issue 8, pp 692-707).

The preserved body of a woolly rhinoceros has revealed new insights into how this now extinct giant animal once lived.
The woolly rhino was once one of the most abundant large mammals living in Eurasia, but only a handful of preserved carcasses have been found. Now an analysis of a female woolly rhino found preserved in Siberia reveals that the animal was a herbivore that grazed mainly on cereals, and was similar in size to today's Javan rhino.
However, it was slow to reproduce, had a short stubby tail and ears, and was likely driven to extinction in part due to its inability to wade through deeper blankets of snow, which became more common as the climate changed, say scientists. Details of the discovery are published in the journal Biology Bulletin.
Woolly rhino (Coelodonta antiquitatis) remains have been found spanning Eurasia, from the UK in the west to Chukotka and Kamchatka in the Russian far east. But few whole skeletons have been discovered and only four whole carcasses, including the animal's soft tissues as well as the bones, have survived. These remains allowed scientists to determine that the woolly rhino had a long body and short legs, a flattened front horn and thick skin covered by a coat of thick fur.
Those insights have now been added to, following a study by Gennady Boeskorov from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Yakutsk. He analysed a woolly rhino carcass first discovered in 2007, in the lower reaches of the Kolyma River. The animal was found buried at a depth of five to nine metres from the surface of the opening of a gold mine. The female rhino lived 39,000 years ago. Her head, with two horns, remains together with much of her trunk and all four legs. Most internal organs have been lost, but her stomach and its contents are intact.
Dr Boeskorov studied the woolly rhino's features, comparing it to those of modern rhinos. His study confirms that the woolly rhino had thick brown skin and fur, and was a heavy lumbering animal, weighing around 1.5 tons, with dimensions similar to that of a modern Javan rhino. Its feet would have placed a pressure on the ground of 1.8kg per square centimetre, more than three times that of a modern moose. The female rhino had an udder with two nipples, making it likely that woolly rhinos gave birth to one, or occasionally two calves. It also had a short, fur-covered tail compared to modern rhinos and short, lancet-shaped ears - much narrower than those of its living relatives. The ears match the shape of those drawn in artwork by Palaeolithic humans on cave walls. These shortened extremities are likely to have been adaptations to a cold climate. But the snow in which the woolly rhino lived ultimately proved its undoing.
The rhino's thick skin and long fur made it initially well adapted to the cold, dry climate of the late Pleistocene. However, its considerable body weight, short legs and the huge pressures imposed by its feet would have made tackling deep snow difficult. Modern ungulates such as the saiga and musk ox find it difficult to move in snow layers thicker than 30cm. If the snow reaches their bellies, these animals become almost helpless.
As the late Pleistocene gave way to the early Holocene, climate warming and moistening created deeper layers of snow in winter, and a similar fate is likely to have befallen the woolly rhino, said Dr Boeskorov. "It is quite likely [this] factor played an important role in the extinction of the woolly rhinoceros," writes Dr Boeskorov in the journal.
As this ice and snow melted, the landscape of the time would also have become increasingly pitted with hollows and boggy banks, forming natural traps that woolly rhinos might have found impassable. "In addition, the natural traps presented certain danger for such a short-legged and heavy creature. Presumably, this rhinoceros slumped, bogged down and drowned in such a trap."

BBC © 2012.
* * *
    La Tribune / 11/12/2012
    Les oléoducs russes sont des passoires : 20 000 fuites par an
    Greenpeace accuse la Russie de polluer de manière disproportionnée à cause d'installations hors d'âge
    • Emmanuel Grynszpan, à Moscou
    «Гринпис» утверждает, что из-за ветхости нефтепроводов на территории России случается до 20 000 случаев утечки нефти в год.

La Russie produit légèrement plus de pétrole que l'Arabie Saoudite. En revanche, elle distance très largement tous ses concurrents dans un registre moins glorieux. Avec 20 000 fuites de pétrole chaque année sur son territoire, la Russie fait figurer le Nigeria et ses 3 à 4000 fuites annuelles comme un aimable amateur. Ces chiffres sont rapportés par Ivan Blokov, un des directeurs de Greenpeace en Russie. Il précise également que les incidents pétroliers au Nigeria sont principalement le résultat d'actes de vandalisme, tandis qu'en Russie, c'est la vétusté et l'âge des oléoducs qui est en cause. Il faut dire qu'ils ont en moyenne 32 ans et demi. Greenpeace voit d'autres causes au problème : l'indifférence complète des autorités, la corruption, l'absence de surveillance et l'immunité dont bénéficient les compagnies pétrolières russes.
« Chaque année, le volume des fuites pétrolières «collectées» par les grands fleuves sibériens (Petchora, Ob, Taz, Pour) et aboutissant dans l'Océan Arctique augmente », affirme Vladimir Tchouprov, qui suit l'industrie pétrolière chez Greenpeace Russie. L'ONG a comptabilisé près de 300 000 tonnes déversées dans l'Actique rien que pour l'année 2011. Son étude montre que la pollution augmente de 50 000 tonnes chaque année. « Nous allons bientôt atteindre l'équivalent de ce qui a été déversé par BP dans le Golfe du Mexique [580 000 tonnes en 2010] » dénonce Vladimir Tchouprov. « Tout cela démontre que la Russie ne doit surtout pas laisser les compagnies pétrolières commencer à exploiter dans la zone Arctique ». Or, c'est précisément l'objectif prioritaire que se sont fixés les deux géants hydrocarbures Rosneft et Gazprom, avec la bénédiction du Kremlin.
L'Arctique n'est pas le seul menacé. En tout (terre ferme et cours d'eau) les fuites de pétrole sur le territoire russe sont très supérieures, mais difficiles à quantifier en raison de la politique très laxiste des autorités. « La fourchette est très vaste », reconnaît Vladimir Tchouprov. « Elle va de 20 000 tonnes à 20 millions de tonnes, mais nous soutenons les experts dont les estimations sont à 5 millions de tonnes, soit 1% de la production totale de brut en Russie ». L'agence pour la protection de l'environnement russe n'a pas été en mesure de fournir des statistiques officielles avant la parution de cet article. « Des lois existent aujourd'hui pour remédier à ce problème, mais elles ne sont pas appliquées » s'indigne Vladimir Tchouprov. « Dans les faits, il est plus avantageux pour un groupe pétrolier de payer une amende que de mettre fin à la pollution. Le pouvoir ne remplit pas son rôle de surveillance et préfère cacher le problème ».

Copyright © 2012 - LaTribune.fr - Tous droits réservés.
* * *
    Nature / 17 December 2012
    Russia shakes up its universities
    Government plans to close struggling institutions and increase funding to the best
    • Quirin Schiermeier
    По результатам проверки деятельности российским вузам в 2013 году грозят широкомасштабные сокращения и закрытия. Предположительно, это должно поднять науку и инновации на новый уровень.

The New Year is unlikely to be a happy one for thousands of Russian university teachers and students whose institutes are facing massive cuts and closures in 2013, following a controversial performance review. But some researchers are optimistic that despite the hardships, the most significant overhaul of Russia's university system in living memory will help to improve science and innovation in the country.
The move reflects the determination of Russian authorities to end support for hundreds of under-achieving institutions and to concentrate funding in a smaller number of high-performing universities. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, demand for academic degrees has soared, and the number of public and private universities has doubled, to around 1,100. But Russia's science output has not increased accordingly, and higher-education experts and employers have long voiced concerns over the poor quality of many university programmes. Insiders suggest that no more than 50 Russian institutions are up to international standards.
After his election as president in March, Vladimir Putin decreed an overhaul of higher education while promising to increase university funding gradually over the next decade (see Nature 483, 253-254; 2012). To identify weak universities, the Ministry of Science and Education commissioned an external audit of almost 600 public higher-education institutions. The results, leaked last month, made for depressing reading. Almost 500 of the institutions - 102 universities and 374 local branches - were found wanting, on the basis of criteria such as the quality of students, research intensity and productivity, and the amount of teaching space. About 40 of Russia's top universities, already classed as elite institutions by the government, were not included in the review.
Twenty institutions, including the Moscow State University for the Humanities (MSUH) and the Moscow State Evening Metallurgical Institute, were found to be so severely below par that the auditors recommended that they should be either closed or merged with more proficient institutions. Around 100 other universities are to be maintained but need to "optimize" their teaching and research performance, the auditors said. The ministry has already asked these institutions to submit development plans outlining how they intend to improve their performance, and a decision will be made about their future in April.
The audit has created a stir among Russian academics. Critics say that niche universities such as the MSUH - which the reviewers have labelled 'ineffective' - concentrate on teaching rather than scientific research, so it was unfair to judge them on research performance. "One should have been more thoughtful in designing the criteria," says Isak Froumin, a senior education specialist with the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow, and former leader of the World Bank education programme in Russia.
But several analysts and researchers contacted by Nature agree that science and innovation are likely to benefit as the reforms free up money to strengthen programmes in the surviving universities. "Russia needs better-trained university graduates and it needs more and stronger university research," says Leonid Gokhberg, first vice-rector of the HSE and head of its Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge. "I think the proposed overhaul will be helpful in both respects."
An educational bill likely to come into effect early next year should cement the reforms: it aims to reduce the number of universities even further. Meanwhile, Putin has promised a marked increase in academic salaries, as well as bonuses for special achievements in teaching and research. The Russian government also plans to carry out an audit in 2013 of the academic performance of private universities.
"Despite its shortcomings, this was an overdue exercise," says Froumin. "The outcome may be painful for some universities but what counts more is that Russian students have a right to receive a decent education."

© 2012 Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.
* * *
    LiveScience / 11 December 2012
    Is Russia's Robotic Space Program Headed for a Renaissance?
    • Leonard David
    В ближайшем будущем в России может начаться возобновление программ по запуску автоматических аппаратов за пределы низких околоземных орбит. Уже ведется работа по проектам «Луна-Глоб» и «Луна-Ресурс», которые могут стать платформой для последующей отправки космического корабля и создания лунной базы. Но насколько осуществимы эти планы, учитывая многочисленные неудачи последних лет?

Russian space officials are rekindling their plans for moon exploration, and some say a rebirth of that country's robotic space endeavors beyond low-Earth orbit is on the horizon.
Work is already underway on the Luna-Glob and Luna-Resource missions, to be launched in the coming years. These orbiters and landers are preludes to future spacecraft that would haul lunar samples back to Earth, ostensibly setting the stage for even grander plans, such as a Russian moon base.
Also on the Russian space books is an aggressive Venus mission, as well as an attempt at the first Mercury landing.
Grand plans these, but are they on solid footing given Russia's ruinous track record over many years in pushing payloads to other worlds? For example, a mix of technological snafus and poor management botched the Phobos-Grunt Mars mission earlier this year, and the failed probe to fell back to Earth without reaching the Red Planet.
Nevertheless, any visit to the astronautical archives shows that the Cold War-fueled former Soviet Union chalked up numerous successes at the moon, Venus and elsewhere. But that was then, and this is now.
A Lunarenaissance
Indeed, the Russians "have been engaged for some time in a renaissance of their extremely successful Luna program," said James Head, a noted space scientist within the Department of Geological Sciences at Brown University.
Head observed the program's past track record, in which the former Soviet Union successfully completed three robotic sample-return missions at the moon (Luna 16, 20, and 24), also succeeding with two very well-instrumented robotic lunar rovers - Lunokhod 1 (Luna 17) and Lunokhod 2 (Luna 21) - and several orbiters, all undertaken more than 35 years ago.
"These basic accomplishments represent an amazing robotic capability not duplicated by anyone, including the United States," Head told SPACE.com.
The Russians are building on the original clever and novel engineering designs for these missions and thinking ahead, with a focus on polar landers and a search for volatiles in the polar and near-polar regions, Head said.
"Sample-return missions are very likely to focus on the discoveries of the early polar Luna lander and rover missions," Head continued, "and involve the return of volatile-containing samples using special devices for preservation and return."
Candidate landing sites
At Brown University, Head and his team have collaborated for years with their Russian colleagues from the Institute for Space Research and the Vernadsky Institute. Working together, these teams have scoped out candidate landing sites for lunar spacecraft, and also possible destinations for future Lunokhod rovers and sample-return missions to the moon.
"The Russian lunar strategy is clearly working toward a set of larger Russian national goals," Head said. For example, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin recently stated that Russia should build a large lunar base for scientific advancement and that this "super goal" could be used to achieve "leaps" in science and to give a new sense of purpose to Russia's space program.
Rogozin has stated that the moon base, which would include cosmonauts, should be a jumping-off point for future deep-space projects, Head said.
"While the United States seems to be abandoning human and robotic lunar surface exploration for the near future, the Russians clearly see it as a major international and national leadership opportunity and technology driver," Head concluded. "And [they] are proceeding vigorously."
Tragic loss of vision
Last October, Wesley Huntress, Jr., director emeritus of the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington teamed up with Mikhail Marov, a professor and academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, to detail the history and future of Russia's robotic lunar and planetary exploration program.
Speaking at a symposium on the 50th anniversary of planetary exploration in Arlington, Va., Huntress underscored the "tragic loss of vision, enterprise and expertise" of the former Soviet Union's (now Russia's) robotic planetary effort.
They had become handicapped by poor electronics technology, poor system engineering management, insufficient ground systems testing, and a complex, entangled, heavy-handed national system of control and supply, Huntress noted.
According to Marov, the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, followed by social-economical turmoil dramatically affected the Russian space program, specifically solar system exploration.
Marov emphasized in his talk that Russia's space budget has shrunk many times, with the lion's share of its funding going for orbital station operations and support for the Mir program, Mir-space shuttle dockings and then-involvement in the International Space Station.
"Space facilities were partially destroyed, cooperative links broken, many skilled personnel in space science and technology lost," Marov reported.
Lessons learned
In reviewing last year's launch, subsequent breakdown and fiery Earth re-entry of the Mars-bound Phobos-Grunt mission, Marov said that, basically, the failure was caused by factors rooted in the destructive 1990s, whose consequences "have not been yet overcome … though lessons were learned."
Despite these observations, Marov said that the Russian robotic space program still has life in it. "The situation right now is much more optimistic," he said.
Indeed, Russia has an enviable record of exploration on Venus, the moon and Halley's Comet, explained Marcia Smith, editor of the SpacePolicyOnline.com website.
"Despite setbacks, Russia today has an ambitious planetary exploration plan that may well be achievable technically," Smith said, "but is subject to funding constraints that may lead to schedule delays and increased interest in international cooperation."
Exploring other options
Asif Siddiqi, an associate professor in the history department of Fordham University in New York, shared that view. He is a scholarly specialist in Soviet Union and Russian space endeavors.
"The Russians have never lacked in terms of ambitious plans, but the record of accomplishments in the past 20 years has obviously been poor," Siddiqi told SPACE.com. "I don't see any fundamental shift that's happened to change the paradigm. Although there are some small signs, such as cooperation with both the European Space Agency and India, that suggest that they are exploring other options.
"The Phobos-Grunt disaster was a huge letdown," Siddiqi said, "because they prepared that mission over a long period of time." Overall, he views the Russian space industry as being beset by several issues: quality control problems, some degree of corruption and brain drain, as well as financing problems - money is tight.
"Put all this together, and it creates a very risky situation," Siddiqi said.
Wait and see
One Russian development to watch, Siddiqi explained, is the Skolkovo high-tech project, a plan to mimic Silicon Valley in terms of innovative research and production that may well find a home within Russian space development circles.
Siddiqi also senses that there's a wait-and-see attitude about whether or not the next set of robotic lunar missions will work.
"My guess is that if they are successful, you are going to start seeing more missions in the 2020s … but, of course, that also depends on their economy," Siddiqi said. "I would guess we'll see what happens in the next five years … and that will tell us a lot."

Copyright © 2012 TechMediaNetwork.com. All rights reserved.
* * *

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

предыдущий месяц
1998-2012
следующий месяц

[О библиотеке | Академгородок | Новости | Выставки | Ресурсы | Библиография | Партнеры | ИнфоЛоция | Поиск | English]
  Пожелания и письма: www@prometeus.nsc.ru
© 1997-2019 Отделение ГПНТБ СО РАН (Новосибирск)
Статистика доступов: архив | текущая статистика
 

Документ изменен: Wed Feb 27 14:56:52 2019. Размер: 59,863 bytes.
Посещение N 1738 с 25.12.2012