Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Февраль 2012 г.
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Февраль
2012 г.
Российская наука и мир
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январь февраль март апрель май июнь июль август сентябрь октябрь ноябрь декабрь

    Libération / 6 février 2012
    Des chercheurs russes ont atteint le mystérieux lac Vostok, sous l'Antarctique
    5 февраля участники 57-й Российской антарктической экспедиции завершили бурение четырех километров льда над озером Восток в Антарктиде и достигли поверхности озера на глубине 3768 метров. Теперь специалисты вернутся лишь в декабре 2012 года, чтобы взять из скважины пробы озерной воды.

MOSCOU (AFP) - Une équipe de chercheurs russes a réussi à atteindre le mystérieux lac Vostok enfoui sous près de quatre kilomètres de glace dans l'Antarctique, après deux décennies de travaux de forage, a annoncé lundi une source proche des milieux scientifiques à l'agence Ria Novosti.
"Hier (dimanche), nos scientifiques ont achevé les travaux de forage et atteint la surface du lac à 3.768 mètres de profondeur" sous la calotte glaciaire du pôle Sud, a déclaré cette source, sans autres détails.
Contacté par l'AFP, un porte-parole de l'Institut russe de recherche scientifique pour l'Arctique et l'Antarctique a indiqué que seul le gouvernement russe pouvait confirmer cette information, ce qui n'a pas été fait jusqu'à présent.
L'achèvement de ces travaux entamés il y a plus de 20 ans va permettre de réaliser "une étude scientifique fondamentale" sur les changements climatiques, a ajouté le porte-parole de l'Institut, Sergueï Lessenkov.
Isolé de la surface depuis des centaines de milliers d'années, ce lac d'eau pure de 250 kilomètres de long et 50 km de large pourrait contenir des formes de vie inconnues à ce jour.
"Les travaux de forage ont commencé en 1989 avec pour objectif de faire des recherches sur la paléoclimatologie", a expliqué M. Lessenkov. C'est seulement par la suite qu'"on a découvert qu'il y avait un lac juste en dessous de l'endroit où on effectuait les travaux", a-t-il ajouté.
Interrompus au début des années 1990, les opérations ont repris en 1996 avant d'être à nouveau interrompues en 1998, à la suite d'appels de la communauté internationale inquiète d'une possible catastrophe écologique en raison de l'utilisation de technologies peu adaptées à ces travaux délicats.
"Finalement, de nouvelles technologies de forage ont été développées" et les travaux ont repris en 2006", a ajouté M. Lessenkov. Des scientifiques français et britannique ont manifesté lundi soir leur réserve sur l'intérêt de ce forage.
Selon Jean Jouzel, du CEA (Commissariat à l'énergie atomique), "l'intérêt climatique est quasi nul".
"Dire que ça va nous apprendre quelque chose sur le climat, c'est faux : on sait qu'à partir de 3300m on ne peut plus obtenir d'information climatique à Vostok".
Pour le professeur Martin Siegert, directeur de l'Ecole de géosciences de l'Université d'Edimbourg, qui doit conduire l'an prochain une mission dans un autre endroit de l'Antarctique, "le projet n'a délivré pour le moment aucune donnée scientifique, car le simple fait de pénétrer dans le lac ne permet d'obtenir ni mesures ni échantillons, et c'est justement ce dont on a besoin".
"Tous deux se sont inquiétés des risques de pollution, que les Russes pensent transitoire et pas importante mais ça reste à prouver", a dit M. Jouzel.
Jusqu'au début des années 2000 une équipe française était impliquée, mais elle s'est arrêtée pour ne pas polluer, alors que le comité russe a autorisé les scientifiques de son pays à continuer. "Il y a une question de prestige national qui est très claire, cela devient plus important que l'intérêt de la communauté qui est de préserver ce lac jusqu'à ce qu'on ait des techniques non polluantes", estime M. Jouzel. Il relève "un autre élément de contexte à prendre en considération", une "certaine compétition avec les Anglais", "donc les Russes ont peut-être accéléré".
Le professeur Siegert a relevé que les Russes utilisaient du kérosène autour de leur trou de forage pour l'empêcher de se refermer.
"Avec la technique qu'ils ont utilisée, c'est très difficile pour eux de nous convaincre que leur expérience est non polluante, mieux encore, ultra-stérile, quand vous avez en gros plus de trois kilomètres avec du kérosène à traverser avant d'arriver à la surface du lac", a-t-il indiqué.
Son équipe, qui doit forer dans un autre lac sub-glaciaire, utilisera une autre technique de forage à base d'eau chauffée à 90 degrés, pour empêcher le trou de se refermer.

© 2012 AFP; © Libération.
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    Space / 15 February 2012
    Are Russia's Recent Space Woes a Sign of Larger Problems?
    • By Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Assistant Managing Editor
    Чем объяснить череду неудач российской космической отрасли в последнее время - простым невезением или более глубокими системными проблемами?

A string of high-profile failures in Russia's space program recently has left NASA hoping its space partner can get back on track soon. But some in the space industry are wondering if the issues are simple bad luck, or represent a deeper problem.
Most recently, faulty test procedures damaged the next manned Russian Soyuz space capsule, rendering it unfit to fly, and forcing NASA and Russia to delay the next crew launch to the International Space Station until a new capsule is ready.
NASA announced Feb. 2 that the flight would be pushed back by more than a month, until no earlier than May 15, while engineers investigate the problem and process the next capsule in line.
"This particular event is very unfortunate, but you know this is a complicated business and things happen," NASA's International Space Station program manager Mike Suffredini told reporters when announcing the delay. "To me, this is not indicative of some overarching problem at the Energia corporation," which is Russia's main space contractor.
So far this year, Russia has successfully launched two different space missions, both of them unmanned flights. On Jan. 25, the country's space agency launched a Soyuz rocket carrying a cargo ship for the space station. That mission was followed by yesterday's (Feb. 15) launch of a Proton rocket carrying a new communications satellite into orbit.
Earlier space failures
Russia's recent Soyuz capsule issue came after the August 2011 crash of an unmanned Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress 44 cargo freighter to the space station. The vehicle and its payload were destroyed just after liftoff when they crashed into Siberia.
Because of the similarity between that spacecraft and the boosters used to loft crews to orbit, the incident temporarily grounded all Soyuz vehicles while Russian space officials investigated. The next crew did not launch until November.
Last fall also saw the failure of Russia's unmanned Phobos-Grunt mission, designed to collect rock samples from Mars' moon Phobos and return them to Earth. After the spacecraft's Nov. 8 launch, Phobos-Grunt did not leave Earth orbit and travel on to Mars as planned. Instead, the defunct probe crashed into the Pacific Ocean Jan. 15.
The year 2011 also saw a handful of other unmanned Russian rocket failures.
"Our Russian colleagues have had a number of challenges last year relative to launches and they're taking that very seriously and are trying to look for any consistent clues across the board," Suffredini said.
Bad timing
The unfortunate circumstances come at a particularly unfortunate time for NASA, which retired its space shuttles last year and now relies on Russia to transport its astronauts to the International Space Station. The U.S. space agency has been encouraging private companies to develop spacecraft capable of carrying people to orbit, but those aren't expected to come online until 2016 or so.
Since Russia remains the only International Space Station partner capable of launching people to space, any issues with its Soyuz vehicles are especially worrying.
"The big deal is whether there are some systemic weaknesses in the Russian space industry that are resulting in a series of seemingly unrelated failures, but the question is whether they are unrelated failures," John Logsdon, space policy expert and professor emeritus at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., told SPACE.com in an email.
Logsdon pointed to funding issues as a possible source of some of the issues.
"I think they've been in the process of recovering from a decade of very low funding and then have passed through a period where they've had moderate funding, but only in recent years have they had fully adequate funding, and so it appears they may have lost some of their technical edge and they're in the process of rebuilding it," Logsdon said.
Russia has been experiencing some of the same budget tightening that the United States' space program has in recent years. It may have led to a loss of engineering talent that could be difficult to recover from.
"In terms of Russia's recent failures, those involved in the Russian space program have pointed to several issues that need to be addressed - even in the Duma [Russian government] - especially the years of minimal funding, eroding skills and tools, reductions in the work force, and a dwindling knowledge base as many skilled people are retiring or going elsewhere for better opportunities," said Roger Launius, senior space history curator at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. "These, according to program officials have led to an erosion of capabilities."
Ultimately, NASA and Russian officials, as well as space experts, have said they are confident they can move past recent difficulties and continue to operate the space station through 2020 as planned.
"The Russian space program is one of the great successes of that nation and I would hope that the country's leaders would move to correct these problems," Launius wrote in an email. "I am confident that the international partners will be able to continue to support the ISS with crew and cargo."

Copyright © 2012. TechMediaNetwork.com. All rights reserved.
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    L'Usine Nouvelle / Le 02 février 2012
    Alstom vend ses turbines Arabelle à la Russie
    • Par Manuel Moragues
    "Альстом-Атомэнергомаш", совместное предприятие французской компании Alstom и Росатома, поставит оборудование для машинного зала двух энергоблоков будущей Балтийской атомной электростанции в Калининградской области. Это первый проект российской АЭС с участием иностранного предприятия.

Le français signe son premier succès dans le nucléaire russe. De bon augure alors que la Russie veut tripler la part de l'atome dans son mix énergétique.
Alstom et son partenaire russe Rosatom vont fournir l'îlot conventionnel (non nucléaire) de deux unités de la future centrale nucléaire russe Baltic, dans l'enclave de Kaliningrad. Annoncé jeudi 2 février, ce contrat d'environ 875 millions d'euros est une double première.
C'est, selon Rosatom, le premier projet de centrale nucléaire russe à impliquer un acteur étranger. C'est aussi le premier succès de la co-entreprise franco-russe Alstom-Atomenergomash (AAEM), créée en 2007 pour fournir des îlots conventionnels basés sur la technologie de turbine Arabelle d'Alstom aux réacteurs russes.
Si les partenaires ne restreignaient pas leurs ambitions à la Russie, c'est bien avant tout le marché russe qui était visé. Rosatom avait engagé un grand programme de modernisation du parc nucléaire russe mais la crise financière de 2008 avait interrompu ces projets. "La centrale Baltic marque le redémarrage de la modernisation du parc russe. La Russie veut tripler la part du nucléaire dans son mix énergétique", se réjouit-on chez Alstom.
Comme dans le transport ferroviaire, où Alstom a remporté près de 3,5 milliards d'euros en Russie avec son partenaire local TMH, l'accord avec Rosatom prévoit de transférer progressivement la fabrication des équipements en Russie. Selon le français, le site de Belfort reste cependant en charge de l'ingénierie et de la gestion du projet. Les deux turbines Arabelle et les générateurs associés y seront fabriqués.
De quoi occuper une centaine de personnes pendant quatre ans. La part du contrat revenant à Alstom s'élève à environ 380 millions d'euros.

© L'Usine Nouvelle.
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    New Scientist / 22 February 2012
    World's deepest land animal discovered
    • Andrew Purcell
    Совместная испано-португальско-российская экспедиция обнаружила в самой глубокой пещере мира (Крубера-Воронья, Абхазия, глубина 2191 м) представителей отряда членистоногих Entomobryomorpha. Пойманное на глубине 1980 м членистоногое, названное Plutomurus ortobalaganensis, является на данный момент самым глубоко обитающим подземным животным.
    Статья опубликована в журнале Terrestrial Arthropod Reviews (2012; V.5, № 1).

The deepest-dwelling land animal in the world has been found almost 2 kilometres underground. Fittingly, its home is Krubera-Voronja, the world's deepest cave, whose bottommost point is 2191 metres below its mouth. The cave is located near the Black Sea in Abkhazia, a breakaway republic of Georgia.
The arthropod, known as Plutomurus ortobalaganensis, was discovered 1980 metres below the surface, where it feeds off fungi and other decaying matter. Three other new species were also found lurking in the cave: Anurida stereoodorata, Deuteraphorura kruberaensis and Schaefferia profundissima. All four species have been classified as springtails, a type of small primitive wingless insect. Living in total darkness, the species all lack eyes. However, A. stereoodorata compensates for this with a highly specialised form of chemoreceptor.
The animals were discovered by Ana Sofia Reboleira from the University of Aveiro, Portugal, and Alberto Sendra of the Valencian Museum of Natural History, Spain. They were exploring the Krubera-Voronja cave as part of a 2010 expedition led by the Ibero-Russian CaveX team.
Before this discovery, springtails had been found just half a kilometre below ground. In 1986, Ongulonychiurus colpus was found living 550 metres down in Spanish caves, and last year, Tritomurus veles was found at 430 metres in caves in Croatia. The discovery of species living deep underground in total darkness gives new insights into the extreme conditions in which animals can survive.

© Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
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    New York Times / February 20, 2012
    Dead for 32,000 Years, an Arctic Plant Is Revived
    • By Nicholas Wade
    Российские биологи из Института физико-химических и биологических проблем почвоведения (Пущино) вырастили ископаемое растение из семян, пролежавших в вечной мерзлоте 30 тысяч лет. Доисторическая смолевка узколистная (Silene stenophylla) оказалась практически идентична современному растению, за исключением соцветий.
    Статья опубликована в журнале Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Living plants have been generated from the fruit of a little arctic flower, the narrow-leafed campion, that died 32,000 years ago, a team of Russian scientists reports. The fruit was stored by an arctic ground squirrel in its burrow on the tundra of northeastern Siberia and lay permanently frozen until excavated by scientists a few years ago.
This would be the oldest plant by far that has ever been grown from ancient tissue. The present record is held by a date palm grown from a seed some 2,000 years old that was recovered from the ancient fortress of Masada in Israel.
Seeds and certain cells can last a long term under the right conditions, but many claims of extreme longevity have failed on closer examination, and biologists are likely to greet this claim, too, with reserve until it can be independently confirmed. Tales of wheat grown from seeds in the tombs of the pharaohs have long been discredited. Lupines were germinated from seeds in a 10,000-year-old lemming burrow found by a gold miner in the Yukon. But the seeds, later dated by the radiocarbon method, turned out to be modern contaminants.
Despite this unpromising background, the new claim is supported by a firm radiocarbon date. A similar avenue of inquiry into the deep past, the field of ancient DNA, was at first discredited after claims of retrieving dinosaur DNA proved erroneous, but with improved methods has produced spectacular results like the reconstitution of the Neanderthal genome.
The new report is by a team led by Svetlana Yashina and David Gilichinsky of the Russian Academy of Sciences research center at Pushchino, near Moscow, and appears in Tuesday's issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
"This is an amazing breakthrough," said Grant Zazula of the Yukon Paleontology Program at Whitehorse in Yukon Territory, Canada. "I have no doubt in my mind that this is a legitimate claim." It was Dr. Zazula who showed that the apparently ancient lupine seeds found by the Yukon gold miner were in fact modern.
But the Russians' extraordinary report is likely to provoke calls for more proof. "It's beyond the bounds of what we'd expect," said Alastair Murdoch, an expert on seed viability at the University of Reading in England. When poppy seeds are kept at minus 7 degrees Celsius, the temperature the Russians reported for the campions, after only 160 years just 2 percent of the seeds will be able to germinate, Dr. Murdoch noted.
The Russian researchers excavated ancient squirrel burrows exposed on the bank of the lower Kolyma River, an area thronged with mammoth and woolly rhinoceroses during the last ice age. Soon after being dug, the burrows were sealed with windblown earth, buried under 125 feet of sediment and permanently frozen at minus 7 degrees Celsius.
Some of the storage chambers in the burrows contain more than 600,000 seeds and fruits. Many are from a species that most closely resembles a plant found today, the narrow-leafed campion (Silene stenophylla).
Working with a burrow from the site called Duvanny Yar, the Russian researchers tried to germinate the campion seeds, but failed. They then took cells from the placenta, the organ in the fruit that produces the seeds. They thawed out the cells and grew them in culture dishes into whole plants.
Many plants can be propagated from a single adult cell, and this cloning procedure worked with three of the placentas, the Russian researchers report. They grew 36 ancient plants, which appeared identical to the present day narrow-leafed campion until they flowered, when they produced narrower and more splayed-out petals. Seeds from the ancient plants germinated with 100 percent success, compared with 90 percent for seeds from living campions.
The Russian team says it obtained a radiocarbon date of 31,800 years from seeds attached to the same placenta from which the living plants were propagated.
The researchers suggest that special circumstances may have contributed to the remarkable longevity of the campion plant cells.
Squirrels construct their larders next to permafrost to keep seeds cool during the arctic summers, so the fruits would have been chilled from the start. The fruit's placenta contains high levels of sucrose and phenols, which are good antifreeze agents.
The Russians measured the ground radioactivity at the site, which can damage DNA, and say the amount of gamma radiation the campion fruit accumulated over 30,000 years is not much higher than that reported for a 1,300-year-old sacred lotus seed, from which a plant was successfully germinated.
The Russian article was edited by Buford Price of the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Price, a physicist, chose two reviewers to help him. But neither he nor they are plant biologists. "I know nothing about plants," he said. Ann Griswold, a spokeswoman for the National Academy of Sciences, said the paper had been seen by an editorial board member who is a plant biologist.
Tragedy has now struck the Russian team. Dr. Gilichinksy, its leader, was hospitalized with an asthma attack and unable to respond to questions, his daughter Yana said on Friday. On Saturday, Dr. Price reported that Dr. Gilichinsky had died of a heart attack.
Eske Willerslev, an expert on ancient DNA at the University of Copenhagen, said the finding was "plausible in principle," given the conditions in permafrost. But the claim depends on the radiocarbon date being correct: "It's all resting on that - if there's something wrong there it can all fall part."
If the ancient campions are the ancestors of the living plants, this family relationship should be evident in their DNA. Dr. Willerslev said that the Russian researchers should analyze the DNA of their specimens and prove that this is the case. However, this is not easy to do with plants whose genetics are not well studied, Dr. Willerslev said.
If the claim is true, then scientists should be able to study evolution in real time by comparing the ancient and living campions. Possibly other ancient species can be resurrected from the permafrost, including plants that have long been extinct.

© 2012. The New York Times Company.
* * *
    The Voice of Russia / Feb 20, 2012
    Russian engineers' hyperboloid
    • Olga Pshenitsina
    Принято решение о финансировании строительства сверхмощной лазерной установки для исследований в области термоядерного синтеза. Мощность устройства составит 2,8 Мегаджоулей. Строительство, рассчитанное на 10 лет, будет проходить рядом с технопарком "Саров" в Дивеевском районе Нижегородской области.

Plans of developing a powerful laser installation which could become the basis for the growth of thermonuclear power are being discussed in Russia. Experts estimate the project at 45bn roubles ($1.5bn).
A unique laser installation will be made by experts from the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre in Sarov (a city in Central Russia) where the first Russian nuclear and hydrogen bombs were created. The power of the laser pulse of the future installation will be around 2.8Megajoule. In the US counterpart, the most powerful in the world, the laser power does not exceed 2Megajoule. Such systems serve a double purpose: they are used to solve defence and power problems. Corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of the Institute of Laser Physics Sergey Garanin is speaking:
"The main thing is that in the context of a ban on nuclear weapons these installations enable our experts who supervise the nuclear ammunition to support the reliability and safety of the arsenal. Second, this installation is interesting to experts who deal with fundamental issues of physics of high energy density. It could become the basis for the future of thermonuclear power."
Scientists have been struggling with the problem of launching a guided thermonuclear synthesis since the middle of last century, but so far research has only been done on the experimental level. Experts are planning to open a multiple access centre on the basis of the laser installation in Sarov. It will be a research complex for carrying out experiments in thermonuclear power, available not only to Russian but also to foreign scientists. It will be especially interesting to join efforts with experts from countries which already have similar installations - with US, Japanese and Chinese engineers. This joint operation will be to everyone' benefit because oil and gas resources will run dry one day and the resources of fuel for nuclear power plants are not inexhaustible either, Sergey Garanin continues.
"People who carry out thermonuclear research understand that the power of the future is thermonuclear power. As soon as all issues of physics have been sorted out by scientists and engineers with the help of such installations, I think that the technologies will catch up and a demonstration thermonuclear reactor will be made."
The area of the building to house the laser installation will equal three football fields and its height will be that of a 10-storey block of flats. Experts will use the latest technologies in the construction process which will allow to considerably save time. It took Americans and the French 12 and 15 years respectively to make their installations and Russians hope to keep within 9 years.

© 2005-2012 Voice of Russia.
* * *
    PhysOrg.com / February 7, 2012
    Physicists "record" magnetic breakthrough
    Группа ученых из Швейцарии, Испании, России, Украины, Японии и Нидерландов разработала способ создания очень емких и "быстрых" жестких дисков - запись информации производится в сотню раз быстрее, чем это делают современные винчестеры. В основе технологии лежит нагрев намагниченной поверхности с помощью лазерного луча.
    Экспериментальные работы проводились в Физико-техническом институте им. А.Ф.Иоффе (РАН), Институте Пауля Шеррера (Швейцария) и Радбаудском университете (Неймеген, Нидерланды).

An international team of scientists has demonstrated a revolutionary new way of magnetic recording which will allow information to be processed hundreds of times faster than by current hard drive technology.
The researchers found they could record information using only heat - a previously unimaginable scenario. They believe this discovery will not only make future magnetic recording devices faster, but more energy-efficient too.
The results of the research, which was led by the University of York's Department of Physics, are reported in the February edition of Nature Communications.
York physicist Thomas Ostler said: "Instead of using a magnetic field to record information on a magnetic medium, we harnessed much stronger internal forces and recorded information using only heat. This revolutionary method allows the recording of Terabytes (thousands of Gigabytes) of information per second, hundreds of times faster than present hard drive technology. As there is no need for a magnetic field, there is also less energy consumption."
The multinational team of scientists included researchers from Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Japan and the Netherlands. Experimental work was carried out at the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland, the Ioffe Physical Technical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands.
Dr Alexey Kimel, from the Institute of Molecules and Materials, Radboud University Nijmegen, said: "For centuries it has been believed that heat can only destroy the magnetic order. Now we have successfully demonstrated that it can, in fact, be a sufficient stimulus for recording information on a magnetic medium."
Modern magnetic recording technology employs the principle that the North pole of a magnet is attracted to the South pole of another and two like poles repulse. Until now it has been believed that in order to record one bit of information - by inverting the poles of a magnet - there was a need to apply an external magnetic field. The stronger the applied field, the faster the recording of a magnetic bit of information.
However, the team of scientists has demonstrated that the positions of both the North and South poles of a magnet can be inverted by an ultrashort heat pulse, harnessing the power of much stronger internal forces of magnetic media.

© PhysOrg.com™2003-2012.
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