|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Российские и американские ученые пришли к выводу, что причиной вымирания шерстистых мамонтов на территории Берингии (северо-восточная Сибирь и Аляска) стали исключительно природные процессы. Древний человек существенного влияния на популяции этих животных не оказал - доказательств охоты на мамонтов обнаружено очень мало.
Статья "Pattern of extinction of the woolly mammoth in Beringia" опубликована в журнале Nature Communications.
ScienceDaily (June 12, 2012) - Although humans and woolly mammoths co-existed for millennia, the shaggy giants disappeared from the globe between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago, and scientists couldn't explain until recently exactly how the Flintstonian behemoths went extinct.
In a paper published June 12 in the journal Nature Communications, UCLA researchers and colleagues reveal that not long after the last ice age, the last woolly mammoths succumbed to a lethal combination of climate warming, encroaching humans and habitat change - the same threats facing many species today.
"We were interested to know what happened to this species during the climate warming at the end of the last ice age because we were looking for insights into what might happen today due to human-induced climate change," said Glen MacDonald, director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES). "The answer to why woolly mammoths died off sounds a lot like what we expect with future climate warming."
MacDonald, a professor of geography and of ecology and evolutionary biology, worked with UCLA IoES scientists Robert Wayne and Blaire Van Valkenburgh, UCLA geographer Konstantine Kremenetski, and researchers from UC Santa Cruz, the Russian Academy of Science and the University of Hawaii Manoa.
Their work shows that although hunting by people may have contributed to the demise of woolly mammoths, contact with humans isn't the only reason this furry branch of the Elephantidae family went extinct. By creating the most complete maps to date of all the changes happening thousands of years ago, the researchers showed that the extinction didn't line up with any single change but with the combination of several new pressures on woolly mammoths.
When the last ice age ended about 15,000 years ago, woolly mammoths were on the rise. Warming melted glaciers, but the still-chilly temperatures were downright comfy for such furry animals and kept plant life in just the right balance. It was good weather for growing mammoths' preferred foods, while still too cold for the development of thick forests to block their paths or for marshy peatlands to slow their stride.
But the research explains that the end was coming for the last of the woolly mammoths, who inhabited Beringia, a chilly region linked by the Bering Strait that included wide swaths of Alaska, the Yukon and Siberia.
Though humans had hunted woolly mammoths in Siberia for millennia, it wasn't until the last ice age that people crossed the Bering Strait and began hunting them in Alaska and the Yukon for the first time. After a harsh, 1,500-year cold snap called the Younger Dryas about 13,000 years ago, the climate began to get even warmer. The rising temperatures led to a decline in woolly mammoths' favored foods, like grasses and willows, and encouraged the growth of low-nutrient conifers and potentially toxic birch. Marshy peatlands developed, forcing the mammoths to struggle through difficult and nutritionally poor terrain, and forests became more abundant, squeezing mammoths out of their former territory.
"It's not just the climate change that killed them off," MacDonald said. "It's the habitat change and human pressure. Hunting expanded at the same time that the habitat became less amenable."
Most of the woolly mammoths died about 10,000 years ago, with the final small populations, which were living on islands, lingering until about 4,000 years ago.
Many previous theories about the mammoths' extinction tended to blame only one thing: hunting, climate changes, disease or even an ice-melting, climate-changing meteor, MacDonald said. The new research marks the first time scientists mapped out and dated so many different aspects of the era at once. Using radiocarbon dating of fossils, the researchers were able to trace the changing locations of peatlands, forests, plant species, mammoth populations and human settlements over time, and they cross-referenced this information with climate-change data.
The research used 1,323 mammoth radiocarbon dates, 658 peatland dates, 447 tree dates, and 576 dates from Paleolithic archaeological sites. Scientists from IoES and other UCLA departments obtained samples and worked on radiocarbon dating of the peatlands and the forests, and they created a database uniting information on hundreds of previously dated mammoth samples, developing the final map from thousands of dates and latitude and longitude records.
That's what drew Van Valkenburgh, a paleontologist and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, to the project.
"Glen's project combined paleobotanical, paleontological, genetic, archaeological and paleoclimate data and did it in a bigger way, with many more data points, than has been done before," said Van Valkenburgh, who interpreted the archaeological record. "I was excited to be able to contribute to such an ambitious and exciting study."
She and Wayne, a UCLA molecular geneticist and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who studies ancient DNA, used different methods of examining the mammoth fossils to reconstruct the ancient population size.
"It's a dramatic advance in the amount of data," said Wayne, who reconstructed mitochondrial DNA from radiocarbon-dated woolly mammoth remains. "Essentially, larger populations should have greater genetic diversity. However, in this case, the extent of fossil remains provided a more high-resolution picture of how the population size changed through time than genetic diversity."
Mapping the size and location of both mammoth and human populations alongside temperature changes and plant locations through time gave the researches a uniquely complete view of what happened, MacDonald said.
"We are, in a sense, time-traveling with our maps to look at the mammoths," he said.
It's something MacDonald has dreamed of for a long time, he said. He was working in Siberia several years ago when a colleague found a woolly mammoth tooth.
"We looked at it and held it, and just the thought that those immense creatures had been there not that long ago in geologic time and yet completely disappeared was really amazing," MacDonald said. "How warming in the past has been involved in extinction might help us prevent extinctions in the future."
G.M. MacDonald, D.W. Beilman, Y.V. Kuzmin, L.A. Orlova, K.V. Kremenetski, B. Shapiro, R.K. Wayne & B. Van Valkenburgh. Pattern of extinction of the woolly mammoth in Beringia. Nature Communications, 2012 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1881
Copyright © 1995-2011 ScienceDaily LLC - All rights reserved.
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17 мая российско-итальянский аппарат PAMELA (запущен в 2006 г., предназначен для обнаружения космических лучей высокой энергии) зафиксировал такое явление как GLE (Ground Level Enhancement) - кратковременное увеличение основного уровня потока солнечных космических лучей на поверхности Земли. Причиной довольно редкого явления (за последние 70 лет отмечено менее 100 случаев) стала вспышка на Солнце класса М5. Теперь ученые пытаются понять, как могла умеренная вспышка вызвать такой мощный поток частиц.
(Phys.org) - On May 17, 2012 an M-class flare exploded from the sun. The eruption also shot out a burst of solar particles traveling at nearly the speed of light that reached Earth about 20 minutes after the light from the flare. An M-class flare is considered a "moderate" flare, at least ten times less powerful than the largest X-class flares, but the particles sent out on May 17 were so fast and energetic that when they collided with atoms in Earth's atmosphere, they caused a shower of particles to cascade down toward Earth's surface. The shower created what's called a ground level enhancement (GLE).
GLEs are quite rare - fewer than 100 events have been observed in the last 70 years, since instruments were first able to detect them. Moreover, this was the first GLE of the current solar cycle - a sure sign that the sun's regular 11-year cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum.
This GLE has scientists excited for another reason, too. The joint Russian/Italian mission PAMELA, short for Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics, simultaneously measured the particles from the sun that caused the GLE. Solar particles have been measured before, but PAMELA is sensitive to the very high-energy particles that reach ground level at Earth. The data may help scientists understand the details of what causes this space weather phenomenon, and help them tease out why a relatively small flare was capable of producing the high-speed particles needed to cause a GLE.
"Usually we would expect this kind of ground level enhancement from a giant coronal mass ejection or a big X-class flare," says Georgia de Nolfo, a space scientist who studies high speed solar particles at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "So not only are we really excited that we were able to observe these particularly high energy particles from space, but we also have a scientific puzzle to solve."
The path to this observation began on Saturday, May 5, when a large sunspot rotated into view on the left side of the sun. The sunspot was as big as about 15 Earths, a fairly sizable active region, though by no means as big as some of the largest sunspots that have been observed on the sun. Dubbed Active Region 1476, the sunspots had already shown activity on the back side of the sun - as seen by a NASA mission called the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) - so scientists were on alert for more. Scientists who study high-energy particles from the sun had been keeping their eye out for just such an active region because they had seen no GLEs since December of 2006.
In addition, they had high hopes that the PAMELA mission, which had focused on cosmic rays from outside our galaxy could now be used to observe solar particles. Such "solar cosmic rays" are the most energetic particles that can be accelerated at or near the sun.
But there was a hitch: the satellite carrying the PAMELA instruments were not currently usable since they were in calibration mode. Scientists including de Nolfo and another Goddard researcher, Eric Christian, let the PAMELA collaboration know that this might be the chance they had been waiting for and they convinced the Russian team in charge of the mission to turn the instruments back on to science mode.
"And then the active region pretty much did nothing for two weeks," says Christian. "But just before it disappeared over the right side of the sun, it finally erupted with an M-class flare."
Bingo. Neutron monitors all over the world detected the shower of neutrons that represent a GLE. Most of the time the showers are not the solar energetic particles themselves, but the resultant debris of super-fast particles slamming into atoms in Earth's atmosphere. The elevated levels of neutrons lasted for an hour.
Simultaneously, PAMELA recorded the incoming solar particles up in space, providing one of the first in-situ measurements of the stream of particles that initiated a GLE. Only the early data has been seen so far, but scientists have high hopes that as more observations are relayed down to Earth, they will be able to learn more about the May 17 onslaught of solar protons, and figure out why this event triggered a GLE when earlier bursts of solar protons in January and March, 2012 didn't.
PAMELA is a space-borne experiment of the WiZard collaboration, which is an international collaboration between Italian (I.N.F.N. - Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare), Russian, German and Swedish institutes, realized with the main support of the Italian (ASI) and Russian (Roscosmos) Space Agencies.
© Phys.Org™ 2003-2012.
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Russia & India Report / May 30, 2012
Natural resources development strategy looking East
Russia will be moving a vector in the development of natural resources to East Siberia and the Far East until 2030
В период до 2030 г. вектор освоения природных ресурсов сместится в сторону Восточной Сибири и Дальнего Востока. По прогнозам ученых, в первую очередь, сотрудников Института экономики и промышленного производства СО РАН, общий объем добычи сырой нефти и газового конденсата к 2025-2030 гг. может достигнуть 580-585 млн тонн, газа - 1075 мрд кубометров. В восточном направлении сместится и добыча угля.
Russia will augment its natural riches thanks to the development of natural resources in Siberia, primarily East Siberia, soon. Russia will be moving a vector in the development of natural resources to East Siberia and the Far East until 2030. The conclusion was made in the scientific paper of the Far Eastern Federal University titled "Russia in the Asia-Pacific Region: Prospects of Integration", secretary of the Branch of Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences Academician Andrei Kokoshin said in an exclusive interview with Itar-Tass.
"According to the forecasts of Russian scientists and specialists, primarily the Institute of Economy and Industrial Production of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the output of oil crude and condensate in Russia may reach 580-585 million tonnes by 2025-2030 in case of favourable external and internal conditions combined," he said. "According to the authors of this scientific survey, the gas production in Russia may reach 1,075 billion cubic metres by 2030. Meanwhile, the regions in East Siberia and the Far East will take a growing share in the Russian gas production," he noted.
The oil production will be developed in such centres as Yuzhno-Evenkiisky, Vankorsko-Suzunsky (the Krasnoyarsk Territory), Nensko-Botuobinsky (the northern part of the Irkutsk Region and western Yakutia), the authors of the scientific survey said. In the Far East a major oil production growth is expected in Sakhalin. The gas production can grow in Yakutia, the Irkutsk Region and the Krasnoyarsk Territory. It is very important that these deposits are characterized with a high percentage of helium in the natural gas that requires the development of the helium industry in these regions, Kokoshin said. In the Far East the gas production will be developed on the shelf fields on the Sakhalin Island and the gas projects in the Zapadno-Kamchatsky sector of the Pacific.
"As for the coal production, according to the authors of the scientific paper, its vector will shift in the eastern direction; the share of East Siberia will grow from 23.6% to 35.7%, the Far East - from 9.7% to 17.1%," he said. This tendency will result in "a higher competiveness of export supplies," the scientist noted, explaining that "the share of the Asia-Pacific Region has made 38% of all power consumed in the world in 2010, its share may reach 44-45% by 2030. Meanwhile, the region will be the largest consumer of initial energy."
Therefore, the scientific paper focuses on a survey of banking and financial activities in the countries in the Asia-Pacific Region, because "the development of Russian economy needs very massive investments in relevant regions," Kokoshin said. However, for massive investments and credits "a strong infrastructure should be created and the entities enjoying the authority of stock and credit markets should be formed," he said.
Therefore, this complex scientific survey devoted its important part to the analysis of the socio-economic situation in the regions of the Far East and the Trans-Baikal Territory.
A separate chapter is devoted to the mechanisms of development in the Far East and the Trans-Baikal Territory. The chapter dwells on the transport and energy potential of the Far East and the Trans-Baikal Territory, the belts of territorial development of these regions, supporting areas of their development, the development of the city of Vladivostok "as a geostrategic Russian centre in the Asia-Pacific Region; the construction of the Vostochny spaceport and a selective policy of the Far East and the Trans-Baikal Territory."
"The scientific paper "Russia in the Asia-Pacific Region: Prospects of Integration" makes a serious scientific contribution in the understanding of the processes, which have been going on in this huge region already for several decades, and in a profound idea on the Russian interests in the Asia-Pacific Region, and the possibilities, which our country has over this factor," Kokoshin pointed out.
Academician Kokoshin heads the scientific advisory council of the Branch of Social Sciences in the Russian Academy of Sciences and the world politics faculty at the Lomonosov Moscow State University over the development of Siberia and the Far East in view of political and economic dynamics in the Asia-Pacific Region.
© 2007-2012 Russia Beyond The Headlines.
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России следует уделять больше внимания развитию возобновляемых источников энергии. К такому выводу пришли участники круглого стола российских и датских ученых, которой прошел 18 июня в Российском центре науки и культуры в Копенгагене. Для участия в нем собрались специалисты из Москвы, Новосибирска, Красноярска, Владивостока, а также ряд российских ученых, которые живут и работают в Дании.
Russia has to pay more attention to the development of renewable sources of energy, say participants in a roundtable meeting that brought together Russian and Danish researchers at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Copenhagen.
"Denmark is one of the first countries in the world that started to explore the "green energy" potential," Professor of Technical University of Denmark, Valery Okulov, told Itar-Tass on Monday.
"Therefore some reports were devoted to the country's achievements in this sphere."
"A representative of Denmark's leading energy company DONG Energy told about cooperation with Gazprom, in particular, about their joint plans to build gas power stations in Europe," he said. "Professor Soren Larsen made a report on wind resources of Russia's coastal regions. Other reports focused on Russia's readiness to use renewable sources of energy."
"Participants came to conclusion that Russia has no enough specialists who would study wind power as a wind industry and therefore a proposal was made to organize three-month courses for Russia's academicians on the basis of the Technical University of Denmark," Okulov said.
"Denmark shows good practices how energy production and consumption can be optimized and not only from the economical point of view, but also from the point of view of environment and human health friendly technologies," Professor of University of Copenhagen, Alexander Baklanov, said. "Denmark's experience can be rather useful for Russia that has to gradually switch from the exploration of energy carriers to renewable sources of energy - to develop a comprehensive program in this sphere, train specialists with a new vision of energy and integrate into international programs of cooperation."
"Denmark also demonstrates interest in Russia's research, for instance as concerns aerodynamics of wind turbines," he said.
Specialists from Moscow, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Vladivostok and Russian scientists who live and work in Denmark agreed to hold the Russian-Danish annual energy dialogues with participation of Russia's Ministry of Science and Education and other interested departments.
Copyright 2012 ITAR-TASS News Agency. All Rights Reserved.
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Первый спутник, первый человек на орбите, первый выход в открытый космос, первая космическая станция, надежные и безопасные корабли "Союз", наконец, полтора десятка космических аппаратов, успешно достигших поверхности Венеры (NASA этого так и не удалось). Почему же с таким завидным постоянством, начиная с 1960-х гг., проваливаются российские миссии на Марс?
You are looking at an actual photograph from the surface of the planet Venus. Though obtained from a NASA web page, this is not a NASA photo. It is a Soviet era photo. Try as you may, you cannot find such a photo made by a NASA spacecraft. Why? Because NASA has never made a successful landing on Venus with a craft capable of taking photos and transmitting them back to Earth. They did make an accidental landing of a probe (Pioneer Venus 1). It was accidental because the Pioneer Venus 1 dropped off 4 probes that were not designed to survive all the way down to the surface - but one did. The others were destroyed by the immense heat and pressure of the atmosphere. So, NASA accidentally dropped something on Venus, but the Russians actually landed there.
Not only did the Russians successfully land on Venus, they did it 10 times! And that, my friends, is a gigantic mystery.
The Russian space scientists and engineers are among the best in history. They were the first to put anything at all into orbit around Earth. They were the first to put a man in space, and he was the first man to orbit the Earth. They were the first to send spacecraft to the moon. They were the first to build a space station and to fly it successfully. By the way, it was not a Mir space station. It was the Salyut-1 (1971) a prototype for the Almaz spy space station (1973). Alamaz was the code name for the spy station run using a Salyut-1 space craft.
So, with all that massive success in space, why do I say it is a mystery that they have landed successfully on Venus ten times?
Well, here is the mystery.
Leaving Earth, Venus is the next planet toward the sun. Let's say it is our next door neighbor on the left. Mars is the next planet away from the sun. Let's say it is our next door neighbor to the right.
When leaving the driveway and headed to the left (to Venus), Russia has tremendous success, success NASA has not had, and accomplished what NASA has not even tried. When Russia leaves the driveway and heads to the right (to Mars), they have an almost 90% failure rate. How can that even be possible?
America is hitchhiking aboard Russian spacecraft in order to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The Russians are still flying in space and NASA is not. Russia is flying the Soyuz (Soviet era) spacecraft which is renowned as one of the safest and most reliable spacecraft ever flown. Their science and engineering is virtually peerless. Yet, there is a disturbing and mysterious fact that is inexplicable: they can successfully send spacecraft anywhere they want - except to Mars.
This fact is so glaringly obvious that is impossible to overlook. It is so out of step that it rises to the level of extremely suspicious.
Vladimir Putin has grumbled that he thinks this strange fact is due to sabotage. He has not stated publically whom he believes the suspect(s) to be, but he has raised the possibility that the Russian space missions to Mars are being purposely sabotaged.
Is such a thing really possible? We are talking about decades of Russian attempts to send spacecraft to Mars. If the Russian missions to Mars are being sabotaged, we are talking about a decades long operation that has remained unexposed against all odds. Whether the ostensible saboteurs are Russian space program insiders, or agents of a foreign government, it is rather a stretch to think such an operation could remain undiscovered over such a long period of time. Anything is possible, of course, but everything is not likely.
So what else could account for this strange disparity between the Russian space program to Venus and their program to Mars? They can land on Venus just about anytime they want while they can't even get to Mars. What's up with that?
I have no answers or solutions to this mystery, but it is a mystery that certainly has my attention. It is a mystery that genuinely merits investigation.
© 2012 by Kevin W. Smith. All rights reserved.
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Copyright © 2012 Exopolitics Institute News Service. All Rights Reserved.
Профессор Колумбийского университета Арлин Кроттс опубликовал в журнале Astronomical Review серию статей по истории поиска следов воды на Луне. Ученый утверждает, что убедительные доказательства наличия воды были получены еще в 1976 году советским аппаратом "Луна-24", но мировое научное сообщество не восприняло эти данные всерьез.
Technology Review публикует краткое изложение статей, полные тексты доступны на сайте arXiv.org.
The last Soviet mission to the moon, Luna-24, returned to Earth with water-rich rocks from beneath the lunar surface. But the West ignored the result.
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The possibility of water on the moon has excited scientists and science fiction fans for decades. If we ever decide to maintain a human presence on the moon, clear evidence of water will be an important factor in the decision.
In recent years, that evidence has begun to mount. The data comes from several sources. First there was the pioneering Clementine mission in 1994, America's first return to the moon in twenty years.
Clementine looked for water by bouncing radio waves off the surface - the returns giving a strong indication that water ice must lie beneath the surface.
Then there was the Lunar Prospector which found a signature for water by measuring the amount of neutrons emitted from the surface and which water ought to absorb).
Then there was Galileo's flyby of the moon on its way to Jupiter, which also found evidence and more recently, the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-I in 2009 which used an infrared camera to spot evidence of water in lunar rocks.
All this has dramatically overturned the previous view that the moon was dry as a bone.
But an interesting question is how this view came to be. After all, there is no shortage of moon rocks on Earth--the Apollo missions brought back some 300 kilograms of the stuff, so much that NASA has lost track of much of it.
Today, Arlin Crotts at Columbia University in New York city throws some fascinating light on this question in a series of three articles about water on the moon and how it got there.
He points out that scientists believed that the Apollo samples were contaminated after their return to Earth.Apparently, the containers used to carry them could not be tightly closed because lunar dust clogged their seals. So any water found in these rocks was thought to have originated here.
What's more, the Apollo missions confirmed beyond doubt that the river-like channels that earlier spacecraft had seen on the lunar surface were made by flowing lava rather than water. So the prevailing view was that there was that the moon was dry.
However, the Soviets had other ideas. Crotts has unearthed evidence that the Soviets found good evidence of water in moon rocks in the 1970s.
One of the least known missions is the Soviet Luna-24 sample-return mission which landed on the lunar surface in August 1976. This drilled some 2 metres into the lunar surface, extracted 300 grammes of rock and then returned to Earth. An impressive feat by any standards but one that has been largely forgotten in the west.
A Soviet team analysed the sample and found unambiguous signs of water in the rock--they reported that water made up 0.1 per cent of the sample's mass. In 1978, they published the result in the Russian journal Geokhimiia. This journal also has an in English language version but it was not widely read in the West.
Crott says that today the work has been almost entirely forgotten. "No other author has ever cited the Luna 24 work," he says.
Curiously, various scientists including the Nobel prize winning chemist Harold Urey, had predicted since the 1950s that water ice and other volatiles ought to be found in craters at the lunar poles, which are permanently in shadow.
Crott goes on to detail a number of other fascinating efforts to find water on the moon, including the famous impact experiment in which NASA slammed an empty rocket stage into one of these shadowy craters to see what the ejecta plume would look like. Sure enough, it contained plenty of water but lots of other stuff too including almost as much carbon monoxide as water.
Today, the idea of a dry moon has been completely overturned. "As recently as 2006 the settled value for the lunar bulk water content was below 1 part per billion. Most values now discussed well exceed 1 part per million," says Crotts
That's a remarkable turnaround but one that might have come a little sooner had the Soviet result been taken a little more seriously.
MarketWatch / June 11, 2012
Glori Energy Announces Collaboration with the Winogradsky Institute of Microbiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Один из лидеров в области внедрения экологически чистых технологий повышения нефтеотдачи, компания Glori Energy объявила о подписании стратегического соглашения о научном сотрудничестве с Институтом микробиологии им. С.Н.Виноградского РАН. Основное направление работы - микробиологические исследования карбонатных нефтяных пластов. Полученные результаты будут использоваться для разработки эффективных методов повышения нефтеотдачи карбонатных коллекторов, а также для дополнения и модификации системы AERO, поставляемой компанией Glori Energy.
HOUSTON, Jun 11, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) - Glori Energy, a leader in sustainable, enhanced oil recovery and provider of the AERO(TM)(Activated Environment for Recovery of Oil) System, today announced the signing of a strategic research collaboration with the Winogradsky Institute of Microbiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The collaboration will focus on the microbiology of carbonate oil reservoirs. Shared knowledge and research will be used to develop effective enhanced oil recovery methods to be used in carbonate reservoirs and complement Glori's AERO System.
The collaboration builds on Glori's strategy of identifying leaders in the field of enhanced oil recovery research around the world and engaging in collaborative ventures to advance Glori's product offerings. Glori has already successfully employed this strategy with Norway's Statoil and India's TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi). The Winogradsky Institute collaboration represents another important step in advancing Glori's mission of sustainably and efficiently recovering billions of barrels of unrecovered oil.
"The Winogradsky Institute is pleased to be working in collaboration with Glori Energy to study the microbiology of carbonate oil reservoirs," said Academician Mikhail V. Ivanov of Moscow's Winogradsky Institute. "Scientists at the Institute have a long history of studying microbes for use in enhanced oil recovery and then applying this knowledge to field programs throughout the world. We are confident that the collaboration with Glori will lead to further successes in extracting more oil from carbonate reservoirs around the world."
"Glori Energy is excited to be working in collaboration with the Winogradsky Institute," said Thomas Ishoey, Chief Technology Officer of Glori Energy. "We identified their groundbreaking work in enhanced oil recovery from carbonate reservoirs several years ago as they completed numerous successful field deployments in Russia and China. We expect to drive their success to the next level to complement our AERO System, broadening its applicability to encompass nearly 90% of the world's reservoirs."
About Glori Energy
Glori Energy's mission is to sustainably and efficiently recover billions of barrels of oil trapped in reservoirs using existing oil wells. Glori partners with oil producers to significantly increase their oil production through the deployment of its AERO(TM) (Activated Environment for Recovery of Oil) System. The system makes use of existing non-potable water sources, optimizing the water quality to activate and sustain the indigenous reservoir microbial life with the desired metabolic activities. The AERO(TM) System provides a new, viable option to recover previously trapped oil with minimal new footprint or investment. For more information visit: www.GloriEnergy.com .
About the Winogradsky Institute
Since its foundation, the Institute of Microbiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences has been the leading scientific institution in Russia in the field of general and petroleum microbiology, microbial ecology, and biotechnology of microorganisms. The Institute's researchers are internationally known for their work on microbiological methods for leaching metals from base ores, enhancement of oil recovery, purification of solid waste and sewage, reduction of methane concentrations in coal mines, and production medical products from fungi. The Institute has nearly 120 scientists on staff.
Copyright © 2012 MarketWatch, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Новый министр образования намерен провести масштабные реформы науки и высшего образования. Однако далеко не все его предложения встретили одобрение со стороны университетов и студенческих сообществ.
Russian science and higher education is on the verge of wholesale reform, thanks to the appointment of Dmitry Livanov as the new education minister. Just days after taking up the post, Livanov announced his intentions to shake-up graduate training, conduct a comprehensive audit of the country's research and slash financial support for students. But his plans have already been strongly criticised by the academic community.
Under Livanov's plans, particular attention is expected to be paid to engineering and efforts to improve the quality of graduate training at technical universities and colleges. It is hoped that this will help to solve the country's acute shortage of skilled engineers. As part of this initiative, the government plans to continue the process of consolidating universities through the establishment of regional university centres. In addition, there are also plans to increase the funding going to the existing national and federal universities. In the latter case, the majority of funds are expected to be invested in further improving universities' infrastructure.
Livanov, a former head of the Moscow National University of Science and Technology, one of Russia's leading technical universities, succeeds Andrei Fursenko, who was unpopular with students and the larger education community. Fursenko was the frequent target of criticism of Russia's leading universities and students, who blamed him for failed higher education reforms. Among these was the introduction of a single state test to replace entry exams for Russian universities, according to the Russian Student Union.
"We need to create an innovative educational model that will be adequate for the current development of the Russian economy," Livanov said. "The current structure of the Russian system of higher education has Soviet origins, when the system of professions in the Soviet Union were created under the traditional, planned economy that existed between the 1940s and 1960s."
Livanov is also proposing that wages for teaching staff and student scholarships be significantly increased. The average monthly student scholarship in Russia stands at RUB2000 (£39), with plans to increase it to RUB10,000.
Some of the new education minister's proposals have already drawn sharp criticism from Russian universities and student communities. They charge that his plans will see state-funded university places cut in half. In addition, the government wants to completely eliminate free higher education, although it won't be following the recommendations of some Russian officials to implement a mass closure of colleges and universities that offer poor quality education.
Daria Mitina, a Russian politician and former head of the legal department of the Ministry of Education, said that Livanov's initiative to reduce the number of state-funded places at domestic universities is curtailing opportunities for students from poorer families.
Another controversial initiative is to further increase financial support to federal, state and national research universities, which have already receive generous funding at the expense of other colleges. According to Mitina, there is no need for super universities. "The establishment of such universities in the current economic situation in Russia will make higher education a privilege for wealthy people," she says.
Russian analysts say that, in addition to the reform of higher education, one of the main goals of the new minister will be to settle a long running conflict between the education ministry and the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) over modernisation of the academy. Many members of the Russian government believe that the RAS is inefficient, but the RAS has fought reform. "At present the Russian Academy of Sciences is a bad copy of the Academy of Sciences, which existed during the Soviet times," Livanov said. "The role of this research institute in the development of domestic science is steadily declining and at present RAS is no longer able to examine large scientific projects."
© Royal Society of Chemistry 2012.
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Специалисты из Объединенного института ядерных исследований (Дубна) повторно синтезировали 117-й элемент таблицы Менделеева. Впервые сверхтяжелый элемент под неофициальным названием унунсептий был синтезирован в 2010 г. Теперь, после повторных экспериментов, элемент может быть признан Международным союзом теоретической и прикладной химии (ИЮПАК).
Russian scientists say they've successfully repeated their synthesis of the 117th chemical element, paving the way for formal addition to the periodic table.
The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna outside Moscow first synthesized the 117th element in 2010, but the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry requires such experiments to be reproduced before registering a new element.
The researchers have already filed an application to register the new element, Andrei Popeko, an official at the Dubna institute, told RIA Novosti Monday.
However, obtaining a proper name and formally adding it to the periodic table could take up to a year, Popeko said.
Elements beyond uranium, No. 92 in the periodic table, do not occur in nature and have to be artificially created in reactors or laboratories.
The Dubna Institute said it has already synthesized element 118, while a German research center is working to synthesize elements 119 and 120, RIA Novosti reported.
Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network.
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Прошлое, настоящее и возможное будущее новосибирского Академгородка, "научного аванпоста Сибири".
Elle a connu la gloire à l'époque soviétique, puis a été délaissée dans les années 1990. Mais aujourd'hui, Akademgorodok, cité pionnière de scientifiques bâtie dans les années 1950 au beau milieu de la Sibérie, veut croire à un nouvel avenir.
Signe de ce renouveau, un gigantesque bâtiment orange à l'allure futuriste récemment construit surplombe la petite ville située à une trentaine de kilomètres du centre de Novossibirsk, et à quatre d'heures d'avion de Moscou.
L'édifice, qui tranche avec les bâtiments défraîchis de l'époque soviétique, abrite plusieurs entreprises innovantes, spécialisées notamment dans les biotechnologies ou les nanotechnologies.
Une sorte de couveuse qui inspire notamment les créateurs de l'ambitieux projet de "Silicon Valley" russe lancé il y a deux ans à Skolkovo, dans la banlieue de Moscou.
Mais Akademgorodok est surtout connue à l'étranger depuis l'époque soviétique pour des instituts tels que celui de physique nucléaire, qui travaille notamment en coopération avec le Cern à Genève sur son accélérateur de particules.
"Un avant-poste scientifique en Sibérie"
"Akademgorodok est un avant-poste scientifique en Sibérie", déclare Vassili Fomine, vice-président du département sibérien de l'Académie des Sciences et directeur de l'institut de mécanique.
Créée en 1957 sur ordre de Nikita Khrouchtchev, surgie de terre en une dizaine d'années en pleine taïga, Akademgorodok participa à la gloire de l'Union soviétique, et reçut les visites de chefs d'Etat tels que le général de Gaulle ou Churchill.
A l'époque, la Sibérie était un immense territoire inexploré et les chercheurs de la cité avaient pour but d'étudier son sous-sol et ses ressources. "Ce sont les scientifiques qui y ont trouvé le pétrole et le gaz", souligne M. Fomine.
Mais la perestroïka à partir de 1985, puis la chute de l'URSS la frappèrent de plein fouet. La diminution drastique des budgets alloués à la science dans les années 1990 provoqua une fuite massive des cerveaux vers l'Occident.
"Nous avons survécu grâce à l'aide des chercheurs occidentaux", raconte le scientifique. "Ils nous ont donné des bourses, ont signé des contrats avec nous, nous ont associés à divers programmes", explique-t-il.
"Nous avons appris à bien travailler, à avoir des responsabilités, à rédiger et présenter correctement les résultats de nos recherches et à lutter pour avoir des bourses", poursuit-il.
Et depuis quelques années, avec le développement économique de la Russie, est apparue de nouveau "une demande pour les recherches scientifiques", dit-il.
Les autorités russes, pressées par l'impératif de moderniser le pays, ont recommencé à financer ce secteur, promesse d'un second souffle pour Akademgorodok.
"Nous nous en sommes sortis, nous sommes là et nous continuons à travailler", se félicite M. Fomine.
"Ces dernières années, on observe un certain retour à la science", témoigne de son côté Pavel Kostrikov, un ancien chercheur qui travaille désormais au centre d'exposition d'Akademgorodok.
"Avant, les étudiants faisaient leurs études et une fois diplômés partaient en Occident, maintenant beaucoup restent ici, car les salaires dans les instituts sont corrects et on leur accorde des logements", explique-t-il.
Pour preuve, plusieurs immeubles sont en cours de construction dans la ville.
Fin 2010, de jeunes chercheurs russes avertissaient pourtant que la fuite des cerveaux s'élevait toujours à 20% des diplômés dans certains domaines comme la biologie.
Mais "ici, la situation est nettement meilleure qu'ailleurs en Russie", remarque M. Kostrikov. "Le plus important, c'est que la dynamique soit positive", conclut-il.
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Об отношениях ученых и правительства и о том, к чему ведет смешивание науки и политики. Интервью с доктором философских наук, специалистом в области философии естествознания и истории биологии, директором Санкт-Петербургского филиала Института истории естествознания и техники им. С.И.Вавилова РАН Эдуардом Израилевичем Колчинским.
Science is social, but when political ideology takes precedence over experimental evidence the results can be fatal.
The United States is in the midst of a partisan political battle over science. Whether the issue is evolution, global warming, stem cell research, or HPV vaccines, conservative politicians either disregard the evidence that would undermine their position or remain proudly ignorant of scientific reality. For example, in the lead up to the mid-term elections, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA-7) singled out the National Science Foundation as part of his YouCut Citizen Review that asked conservative voters to sift through a list of already approved federal science grants and contact their Congressperson about "wasteful spending that should be cut." This, in addition to the ongoing battles to stop the teaching of evolution, and prevent the evidence of global warming from informing energy policy, has made science the subject of political attacks today more than during any other period in U.S. history.
The goal, as Republican strategist Frank Luntz famously wrote in a leaked memo, is entirely ideological. "There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science," he wrote, referring to global warming.
"A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth." This is the backdrop to the so-called "Climategate" scandal in which hacked e-mails written by climate scientists became the justification for right-wing attacks upon, not only the science they rejected, but also the integrity of the scientists themselves.
History offers compelling examples of what can go wrong when science is sidelined in favor of political ambition. Perhaps the most extreme case would be that of the Soviet Union where biologists, in particular, were censored, arrested, or even executed because their evidence contradicted the official Party line. Under the influence of the charismatic agronomist Trofim Lysenko, who claimed that genetics was a fraud and that environment alone influenced heredity, Russian biology became stunted for a generation. His promise of unprecedented agricultural yields coincided with a Soviet ideology that believed human nature could be moulded to support the interests of the state. Those scientists who challenged the results of his highly flawed experiments, particularly after the August, 1948 session of VASKhNIL (the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences), were singled out as critics not only of Lysenkoism but of Soviet ideology itself.
Eduard Izrailevich Kolchinsky grew up in the generation after Lysenko's downfall and has worked for more than forty years to bring the previously censored history of evolutionary biology to light in his native Russia. Born on September 16, 1944, at the same time that Allied forces were entering Germany in World War II, Kolchinsky has been fascinated with the intersection between biology and politics throughout his career. Receiving his PhDs in Philosophy of Biology and the History of Science, his first book, The Evolution of Evolution (1977) co-written with Kirill Zavadsky, became highly influential and continues to be cited to this day. Among Kolchinsky's many international honors he was recently invited to be a Fellow in the Linnaean Society of London. He is currently the director of the St. Petersburg branch of the Institute for the History of Science and Technology (IHST) in the Russian Academy of Sciences as well as a professor of Philsophy at St. Petersburg State University.
I recently arrived in Russia to begin my fellowship with the Institute and to present my research at an international conference being held later this week. I had the opportunity earlier to sit down with Professor Kolchinsky - along with Marina Loskutova, IHST senior researcher, who assisted with translation - to ask him about the dangers of mixing science with politics and what lessons can be learned by exploring this previously unknown history of the Soviet Union.
Eric Michael Johnson: Readers of Scientific American are certain to have an idea of what it was like to live in the Soviet Union. Some of these ideas may be accurate, others not. But few will have any idea about what it was like to be an evolutionary scientist during the Soviet period. What were the major issues that scientists had to deal with then and what, in your opinion, are the greatest misconceptions about this time?
Eduard Kolchinsky: In 1972 the great American evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr came to the Soviet Union to visit our Institute and spoke with me as well as many of the people who used to work here. He was very interested in the fact that there was a group in St. Petersburg who was studying evolutionary science. The head of the department at the time was Kirill Zavadsky - he was also my PhD advisor - and Mayr specifically requested to meet with the junior scholars alone without Zavadsky present. He wanted us to talk freely without any possible influence.
After Mayr left he sent a letter to the Russian Academy of Sciences thanking them for organizing the reception and in it he wrote, "I'm particularly stunned and I marvel at the courage of Zavadsky and many others in the Soviet Union who manage to remain faithful to evolutionary theory." When we learned about this remark we laughed a lot. In 1972 you did not need any special courage to be an evolutionist in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was a very long period in history and the relationship between the Communist Party apparatus and scientific research was very different in the latter half of the 20th century than it was during the first half. The Party attitude towards Darwinism also changed dramatically. It was our teachers who bore the burden of fighting for Darwinism.
Johnson: What were some of the major changes that you witnessed?
Kolchinsky: I knew a researcher who spent several years of his life in the gulag concentration camps after the August, 1948 session of VASKhNIL because he challenged Lysenko's views on heredity. That never applied to me. The biggest problem for me was that I had to learn biology using textbooks written by Lysenkoists that described genetics as a whore of imperialism. But after Khrushchev was dismissed as the First Secretary of the Communist Party in 1964 there was a flood of information about biology, genetics, and Darwinism, all of which quickly became the cutting edge of science. So, for me, the main problem was changing my own mental perception and reading widely about previously censored topics in philosophy and biology.
Johnson: In my own scientific training I learned that the doctrine of science is to be highly critical and to interrogate your own assumptions. Was that encouraged even under Soviet science?
Kolchinksy: Zavadsky was the founder of a field called Historical Critical Studies in Biology, though he was more of a biologist than a historian. He certainly encouraged critical thinking and, as for myself, I've been naturally critical of everything. There was a period of about 30 years, from the 1930s to the 1960s, where very few people in the Soviet Union knew what evolutionary theory meant and regarded it as a bourgeois misconception. Afterwards, for historians of science in my generation, it was very important to immediately introduce this forgotten history to biologists and explain what had already been done so that it could be made relevant for current research.
Johnson: Did you ever feel pressure to present the history of biology in a certain direction?
Kolchinksy: There was some pressure. You have to understand that, even after the downfall of Lysenko, most of his supporters retained their positions. Additionally, many of his students and the people who were taught using his textbooks were now the heads of departments. So, for example, when I was trying to publish a paper that summarized my doctoral dissertation for the journal Istoriko-biologicheskie issledovaniya [Studies in the History of Biology], these were the people evaluating it. You can't say they refused to publish it, but they did everything they could to create delays. They kept it at the editorial board where it was passed back and forth multiple times, but they never agreed to publish it. This went on for six years. Finally, when my dissertation was published as a book, they couldn't justify holding it back any longer and immediately published it.
But I think the most serious case of pressure I ever received came later when I was preparing an edited volume under the title The Development of Evolutionary Theory in the U.S.S.R.  that covered the period from 1917 through the 1970s. I was told I was not supposed to mention Nikolay Timofeev-Ressovsky because he had emigrated to Germany, and I could not write about Raisa Berg because she had emigrated to the United States. I was also told there should be a more dialectical materialist perspective. This was the sort of pressure I received.
Johnson: How did you maintain your independence as a scholar under these conditions?
Kolchinksy: I always find that if someone puts pressure on you, you can find ways to put pressure on them. In this case I used the academic community to get support for my own position. All of the people in the publishing houses and the State service who were objecting to my position were primarily looking out for their own careers. But they were also afraid of being perceived as ridiculous or old fashioned. At one point near the end of this process the head of the publishing house requested to see me. By this time there had been five or six proofs and they'd already invested a great deal of time and money into the project.
"We have to publish your book," he told me. "If we don't publish we'll have to explain why we accepted it in the first place. This will look very bad for us and we could lose our salaries, so it's not an option. But we need some big name that will support you. Please bring me a favorable review of the book signed by the Vice-President of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., Yuri Ovchinnikov."
This was an outrageous request. I boldly replied that, to my knowledge, Ovchinnikov was not in the country at the moment so I could not arrange a meeting. But I could get a statement of support from the head of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Orest Scarlato. I saw that the man was feverishly thinking about this.
"Scarlato?" he said. "I'm not so sure."
I looked him in the eye and said that Scarlato had to be approved by the Central Committee of the Communist Party in order to become head of the Institute. Did he not trust the Party's decision? The man's attitude changed immediately.
"Oh, yeah, Scarlato, sure," he said. "That's fine."
carlato was a decent man. He had done very little research on evolutionary theory, but he agreed to sign the letter that we prepared. After that, the book was published.
Johnson: In your most recent book, Biology in Germany and the U.S.S.R., you do a comparison of evolutionary biology in these two countries during periods of social and political crisis: the concurrent rise of Nazism and Sovietism. In what ways did ruling elites see evolutionary biology as a political issue that they had to control?
Kolchinsky: The political elites were evolving. Early leaders in the Soviet Union, like Trotsky, Bukharin, and Lenin believed that dialectical materialism had to be grounded with Darwinism as its foundation. But in Darwinism they were only looking for statements that would bring credibility to their political ideas. Later on the idea emerged in the Soviet Union that there should be a proletarian science with its own theory of biology. They felt that science, intrinsically, always has a class background and that it therefore cannot be classless. They thought there should be a proletarian science in the Soviet Union and bourgeois science elsewhere. And, because they thought science had a class basis, they believed that all science had to be controlled by the State, not just biology.
Johnson: This is the background that led to the rejection of Mendelian genetics in favor of Lysenko's flawed ideas about the inheritance of acquired characteristics. But it also ultimately led to his downfall, did it not?
Kolchinsky: Yes, at a certain point Stalin felt he was losing control over biology and that Lysenko was overshadowing him. At this point he stated very clearly that, "We should teach Comrade Lysenko how to appreciate criticism." This statement immediately opened the doors to allow criticism of Lysenko. Once this started scientists were not only criticizing Lysenko, but also the entire Communist Party approach to the supervision of science.
However, in general, the issue was not so much about control. Each individual Party bureaucrat, whether they were on editorial boards or in various scientific agencies, were scared that they might miss something that their superiors would object to and it could hurt their careers. You have to realize that Khrushchev was probably the last leader of the U.S.S.R who sincerely believed it was a realistic task to build communism in this country. After that they were interested in the stability of the system but were not interested in communism as such. It was more about petty bureaucrats trying to hold on to their positions.
Johnson: The Japanese have a phrase, "death by a thousand cuts." In many ways it sounds like the institutional barriers put in place by the Soviet bureaucrats were doing this to science in Russia.
Kolchinsky: Yes. It was a kind of decomposition, a gradual decomposition of the system. We used to have a joke: communism is like a horizon. But what is a horizon? It's a line you're trying to reach but that is always somewhere far ahead of you. People wanted to live their daily lives right now.
Johnson: Is science ideologically pure? Why did biologists collaborate with this regime?
Kolchinsky: Everyone collaborated. It was not only about biologists. Chemists as well as physicists participated in the creation of chemical and nuclear weapons.
Johnson: Let me change that to, why did scientists collaborate more generally?
Kolchinsky: Because the regime provided funding. It was all about funding for science. Right now we are working on a book, the collected works of Mikhail Lomonosov. In the eighteenth century naturalists in Russia looked for patronage in the Royal courts and in the twentieth century they were looking for support from the radical regimes that existed. Essentially, it's all very simple. Scientists want to satisfy their own curiosity. They need money for their research so they look for funding. How they get it depends on the government and the ways that public money is channeled. So this issue about collaboration with a regime, it's ultimately not about scientists. It's about the way public money functions and the interests of government in a particular historical circumstance.
Scientists are remarkably cunning. For example, in the United States during the Cold War era, money went into defense research and scientists were very skillful in using this language to receive grants. Everyone wanted to get something from the huge allocation of resources that was going towards defense. Scientists are cynicists and science is a deeply cynical enterprise. The ultimate thing that scientists want is to satisfy their own curiosity. Of course, later on they will use nice words to explain that it serves the public interest or that it will solve problems that plague all of humankind.
Johnson: Prior to the Bolshevik Revolution Russia was a world leader in biology. There were two Russian scientists, Ivan Pavlov and Ilya Mechnikov, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine but no Russian biologists have won since (even though they have in chemistry and physics). Why do you think this is?
Kolchinsky: You have to realize first of all that, for example in the Unites States, science was largely a private enterprise. The federal and state governments did not invest much into science. Science advanced through various associations or by researchers at private universities. Benjamin Franklin was a statesman who was primarily interested in public affairs and journalism, but as a kind of fireside entertainment he conducted research on electricity. It was only in the late 19th century in the United States that you could talk about certain grants from the federal government that promoted science.
However, from its inception - starting with Peter the Great - science in Russia has always been a state affair. In the 18th century we had no secondary schools and no universities, but we already had the Academy of Sciences and it was one of the leading academies in Europe. Of course, the clerics never liked it. They would insist that a certain scientific book be burned but Peter would respond by saying, "We'll publish a second edition." Therefore, in Russia, science developed as the result of government.
In 1908 Ilya Mechnikov received the Nobel Prize for his research that was done here in St. Petersburg, but he got it after he was already working in Paris. In order to get the Nobel Prize you need to be known internationally. You need to have friends internationally, if not among the Nobel committee at least among the nominees. For example, I will occasionally get a request from some journal of which I'm on the editorial board to nominate someone for an award. Immediately I will start thinking of people that I know and who are friends of mine. Of course, there are always many other people involved in these decisions so that, overall, there is a kind of statistical leveling. But it's always about who knows who.
But in the 1920s the Iron Curtain really descended on Russia and by the following decade scientists had no opportunity to go abroad. Of course they had access to books and publications, but that's not enough. You need to have personal contacts. I would say that it was ultimately the government of the Soviet Union who was most responsible for the fact that we were not awarded any Nobel prizes in biology after 1917.
Johnson: American scientists often say that science is a social activity. From what I'm hearing it sounds like St. Petersburg's proximity to Europe early on and the free flow of ideas allowed for a thriving scientific culture. But with the advance of the Soviet period international communication was closed off and ultimately science was sacrificed. Would you agree with that interpretation?
Kolchinsky: To a great extent, yes. You have to realize that from 1929 onwards any connection with foreigners was looked on with suspicion. By 1937 anyone that had some kind of international connections seriously risked being executed or sent to the camps. Even when I was defending my candidate dissertation I heard as a kind of criticism that I had far too many foreign books cited in my work. I received questions like, do you really read German and English and what for?
Johnson: What would you consider to be the greatest overlooked discoveries in the history of Russian biology?
Kolchinsky: It is very difficult to answer because our real strength is not the discoveries per se, but the ideas that have been developed here. The lack of money for equipment means that people have to think carefully before carrying out an experiment. Very often we are only allowed two hours for something that would require two months in the West. I think the greatest achievement of Russian biology is Sergei Winogradsky's discovery of chemoautotrophy. This is one of the most important biological discoveries of the twentieth century, other than the deciphering of DNA. Other than that, I would perhaps add Aleksandr Ugolev's discovery of membrane digestion. I used to be a friend of Ugolev during his final years, so I know the history of how he was nominated for a Nobel Prize. I would say that the Soviet authorities did everything that they possibly could to prevent Russian scientists from receiving this honor.
Hitler directly forbade scientists from receiving a Nobel Prize during the Nazi period but the Soviet Union was only different in form, not in substance. They refused to accept the idea that Soviet scientists could be awarded an important prize by some external authority, not by them. They felt that only the Soviet state had the authority to decide who was a great scientist and who wasn't.
Johnson: From your vantage as a historian, what do you see as the major obstacles to be overcome for Russian biology today?
Kolchinsky: I think the first obstacle is that people don't think they need science in Russia nowadays. That's the main obstacle. Our political elites think that they have enough oil and gas for the next few decades, so they're not interested in science. In their view it's easier to just buy the results of research already available in the West rather than work to reorganize the research units destroyed in the 1990s.
Another problem is that, after the end of the Soviet period in the 90s, many young researchers emigrated to the West looking for the opportunity to pursue their research. This left a large generation gap in Russian science. Young students need to be taught by young scientists so there are points in common between a student and their mentor. Of course, I think the gap between the academic community here and in the West is increasing. In the Soviet days we certainly had problems, but we could still get access to all of the current literature published in the West. It was no problem. But now libraries have no money for buying books or subscribing to journals. Even electronic subscriptions are prohibitively expensive. For many researchers the only option is to actually go there and make copies, or ask your friends to send them to you. But it's difficult to ask your friends all the time.
But of all the things I've mentioned, I think the critical one is that no one thinks they need science. I would like to say that we are the most educated society in the world, but I have to admit that the Russian people - and the Russian intelligentsia, in particular - are very keen on believing whatever stupidity you can concoct. Personally, I'm tired of arguing with idiots about the influence of astrology and its influence over their life.
Johnson: This is an ongoing problem where I'm from as well. Perhaps the differences between Russia and the United States are not as large as people think.
Johnson: Professor Kolchinsky, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.
Kolchinsky: I enjoyed our conversation. If it helps to improve the understanding between our two countries, I would be delighted.
Johnson: It certainly improved my understanding.
© 2012 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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