|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
CBS News / October 8, 2012
U.S., Russia to launch first year-long space station flight
В 2015 году на Международную космическую станцию отправятся российский и американский космонавты, которые впервые проработают в космосе в течение целого года (сейчас экспедиции проводят на МКС шесть месяцев). Состав экипажа будет определен до конца месяца.
An American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut will spend a full year aboard the International Space Station in 2015-16, twice as long as current crews, to collect medical data on long-duration spaceflight that will help pave the way for eventual flights to deep space destinations, NASA said Friday.
Assigning two lab crew members to a yearlong flight also is expected to free up seats aboard Russian Soyuz ferry craft for two additional space tourists or representatives of other nations that might not otherwise fit into the normal space station crew rotation.
In their latest contract with NASA, the Russians charge more than $60 million a seat for Soyuz flights to and from the space station. While a space tourist presumably would pay less, the money would give the cash-strapped Russian program a welcome boost.
The Russians launched eight "spaceflight participants" to the station between 2001 and 2008, including one who flew twice. They paid between $20 million and $50 million per flight.
It is not yet known who will be assigned to the yearlong station flight, when they will be announced or who might fill the additional Soyuz seats. But Space Adventures, a company that has brokered past tourist visits to the space station, has scheduled a news conference Oct. 10 in Moscow with singer Sarah Brightman.
However that plays out, the astronaut and cosmonaut who will stay up for a year likely will launch in March 2015 aboard the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft, sources said, accompanied by a Russian spacecraft commander who would stay aboard the lab for a normal six-month tour.
Under that scenario, the next Soyuz in the rotation, TMA-17M, would launch with a normal three-person station crew the following May. The Soyuz after that, TMA-18M, would take off that Fall with a Russian commander and two paying customers, sources said, either tourists, researchers representing nations not normally in the rotation or a combination of the two.
The spaceflight participants would spend about two weeks aboard the lab complex and return to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft with the same commander that ferried the long-duration crew to orbit the previous March. The long-duration crew members would return to Earth in March 2016 aboard the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft with the commander who ferried the commercial fliers to orbit.
Other scenarios are possible. The NASA statement provided no details on how the crew rotation might play out and there was no immediate word from the Russians. However it plays out, senior NASA managers believe the flight is crucial for plans to eventually send astronauts on missions to deep space targets ranging from nearby asteroids to Mars.
"In order for us to eventually move beyond low Earth orbit, we need to better understand how humans adapt to long-term spaceflight," Mike Suffredini, the space station program manager at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said in a statement late Friday.
"The space station serves as a vital scientific resource for teaching us those lessons, and this yearlong expedition aboard the complex will help us move closer to those journeys."
While the yet-to-be-named long-duration crew members will set a new record for space station crew, it will fall well short of the world record held by cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who spent 438 days aboard the Russian Mir space station in 1994 and 1995.
The U.S. record for the longest single spaceflight is held by astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who spent 215 days in space aboard the International Space Station in 2006-07.
"We have gained new knowledge about the effects of spaceflight on the human body from the scientific research conducted on the space station, and it is the perfect time to test a one-year expedition aboard the orbital laboratory," Julie Robinson, space station program scientist, said in the NASA statement. "What we will gain from this expedition will influence the way we structure our human research plans in the future."
But not everyone is in favor of such missions. Gennady Padalka, one of the most experienced cosmonauts in the world with 711 days in space over flight flights, just returned from the International Space Station.
During a post-flight news conference Padalka was asked how he felt about a yearlong stay aboard the lab complex.
"Today I'm in the negative," he said in translated remarks, "because to do so, you first need to create comfortable living conditions for the crew, especially in the Russian segment."
Veteran cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, now a senior Russian space manager, said he favored longer stays to "give us new data in science."
"With the advent of sophisticated scientific equipment, we can assess what happens to a person who is in space, and what medications to help combat the negative factors of the flight," he said. "This is very important in planning for future long-duration missions."
But he agreed with Padalka that living conditions in the Russian segment of the station should be improved.
Current space station commander Sunita Williams said in a recent interview with CBS News that she would happily stay a year in space if offered the chance.
"I love every minute that I have up here and I think that's the attitude people have to come into it with, that you only have a limited amount of time in space and although a year seems long, it's just one year," she said. "I think people could definitely do it."
Longer missions will "give us a little bit more knowledge about what happens to people and if it's feasible for people to go farther and farther, take the trip to Mars and back," she said. "I think living in space for a year is feasible and the ISS is a great place to do it. There are always things to do up here, so I don't think people would get bored. I can't imagine getting bored up here."
Asked if she would go if asked, Williams said "absolutely. It's a small amount of your life and if there are science benefits that could come out of that, for sure." "I think it would be great, I think it would be a lot of fun," she told CBS Radio. "You'd probably see a bunch of different crews coming through, too, and that's always interesting to get a new perspective, new people coming up and see how they're adapting. So that would make it a little exciting as well."
Joseph Acaba was a member of Padalka's crew, returning to Earth Sept. 16. He agreed with Williams, saying a one-year stay on the space station was more than feasible in the U.S. segment of the lab complex.
"It really is very comfortable living up there, the food is good, you have your personal sleep station, you can talk to your family once a week through a video conference, you have a telephone, you have email," he said in another interview with CBS News. "So it's almost like any other expedition we would do here on Earth.
"I only did it four months and I would have been happy to stay a little bit longer. I'm sure that with the resources we have up there those astronauts, if they do a yearlong mission, would have no problems with that."
© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Science AAAS / 1 October 2012
Russia's Skolkovo Tech Picks First Research Centers, Nabs Ex-NSF Research Head
Сколковский институт науки и технологий ведет переговоры с мировыми университетами о создании трех центров образования, где будут готовить специалистов международного уровня. Специализация - стволовые клетки, инфекционные заболевания и электрохимическая энергетика.
This week, 1 year after being created by the Russian government, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology took two significant steps toward its long-term goal of becoming an academic powerhouse and an engine of economic development. The generously funded, graduate-only university welcomed the arrival of a prominent U.S. science administrator to oversee its research and innovation efforts and also announced the winning global teams for its first three research centers.
Infectious Disease and RNA Therapeutics: proposed by leading partners from MIT, and Lomonosov Moscow State University, (MSU), with participation from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Stem Cell Research: proposed by leading partners from University Medical Centre Groningen in the Netherlands, and Vavilov Institute of General Genetics in Russia.
Electro-Chemical Energy Storage: proposed by leading partners from MIT and Lomonosov MSU.
Located in a Moscow suburb that former President Dmitry Medvedev envisions as the country's Silicon Valley, Skolkovo Tech represents the sort of academic green field that Edward Seidel was seeking as he wound down his 4-year stint at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). "I've thought about what it takes to build a new university, and this place has all the elements," says Seidel, who came to NSF in 2008 to head its Office of Cyberinfrastructure. The next year, he was promoted to run NSF's largest directorate, which oversees the mathematical and physical sciences.
He says Skolkovo's assets include "an interdisciplinary structure that preserves excellence in each field and an emphasis on innovation as well as basic research." Seidel, who created and led a center for computation and technology at Louisiana State University before joining NSF, says he also likes how "computing is deeply infused in all aspects of the curriculum."
Seidel isn't scared off by a different culture and an unfamiliar language. An astrophysicist who works on numerical relativity, he spent 6 years at a Max Planck institute in Berlin before returning to the United States in 2003.
"Moscow reminds me of Berlin," he says. The Russian capital is certainly less foreign to him than Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, home of another academic start-up he has visited, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).
He says friends have asked him if "I'm doing a David Keyes to Russia," referring to the prominent computer scientist who left Columbia University for a senior position at KAUST. Unlike KAUST, Seidel points out, Skolkovo can tap a long tradition of national excellence in the mathematical and physical sciences.
Seidel says his biggest challenge will be to staff up to a target of 200 faculty members by 2020. "A university is nothing without a strong faculty." The university won't officially open until the fall of 2014, but its first group of 20 students began a master's program last month at four institutions with which Skolkovo has partnered - the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, ETH Zurich in Switzerland, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Imperial College London.
Yesterday, Skolkovo announced the three international teams picked to create the first of an anticipated 15 research centers. It chose the winners from an original pool of 129 applications, later winnowed to 13 semifinalists, that proposed centers across five areas. Pending completion of negotiations, each team will receive roughly $10 million a year for up to 5 years to pursue research in the following areas:
© 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.
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SpaceDaily / Oct 10, 2012
Russian space science: microsatellites, distant planets, space plasma and cosmic ray studies
В последующие десять лет Роскосмос планирует отправить на Луну несколько космических аппаратов и развивать программу малых спутников.
The Russian Space Agency's head, Vladimir Popovkin, has announced Russia's plans for space in the coming decade. Among the priorities, to be implemented before 2020, is sending a spacecraft to the Moon. A fleet of small spacecraft to be deployed for near-Earth missions is also proposed to expand Russia's microsatellite program.
Vladimir Popovkin has just opened the third International Moscow Solar System Symposium at the Space Research Institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Russia's Federal Space Agency chief outlined several basic planetary and space plasma missions to be implemented in the coming years.
It seems that Russia's space science revival will begin with small steps and international collaboration. Two microsatellite launches will take place next year, namely RELEK and Lomonosov (built by the Lomonosov Moscow State University) for space plasma and cosmic ray studies. Working on the projects alongside Russian organizations, will be representatives from Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, South Korea, Mexico and the USA.
The RELEK experiment continues the microsatellite series that was started this year with the launch of Zond-PP. Both spacecraft utilize the specially designed MKA-FKI microsatellite platform, recently developed by the Lavochkin design bureau.
The same platform will also be used for further missions to be launched in 2014 and 2015. The project will consist of two spacecraft; RESONANCE will study what happens in the Earth's magnetic fields, followed by the "Strannik" solar wind project. The latter will be launched at approximately the same time as NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, and, according to Popovkin, attempts will be made to synchronize them.
Microsatellites are relatively cheap to develop and deliver into orbit, despite their small size they collect valuable data and provide an orbital system for constant monitoring of Earth, the near-Earth environment and other phenomena. A longer-term objective is to prolong the lifetime of such missions, it is hoped that RESONANCE will last no less than 5 years.
Mars looming beyond
Outlining the Russian planetary program, Vladimir Popovkin said three separate missions to the Moon would take place before 2020. Two of them continue on from the former Luna-Glob mission, now split into separate landing and orbital projects.
In addition to their scientific objectives, to study the lunar South Pole and its surrounding plasma, the missions will also be used as test-beds for future planetary projects. New thrusting systems will be used to adjust the spacecraft's orbit altitude from around 100 km to 50 km and then as far as 500 km. A new data transmission system will be also necessary, the lunar missions are expected to generate around 2 gigabytes of data every day.
Breaking the Luna Glob project into two missions carried into space by two separate rockets also brings advantages for space science; there will be more room available for scientific experiments aboard each of the spacecraft. The first Luna-Glob landing missions are being planned for the end of 2015 or early 2016.
Two or three years later, in 2017/18 the Luna-Resurs project will be launched to further the study of lunar polar soil. As Vladimir Popovkin pointed out, the mission also provides opportunities for wider international cooperation, with the European Space Agency in the first instance.
It is also intended for the lunar program to be interwoven with manned spaceflight, although no specific details were given about possible human involvement in the projects.
Then comes Mars. Popovkin confirmed that an agreement for the ExoMars project will be signed between the ESA and Roscosmos in November. As far as Russian missions are concerned, namely, the second Fobos-Grunt, no final decisions have yet been made. Although it is highly likely that Fobos-Grunt 2 will feature in the next Federal Space Program (2015/16), its future still depends strongly on the outcome of the lunar missions.
Even more undefined are the prospects for a mission to land a spacecraft on the surface of Venus; this project may form part of longer-term plans in 2020-25. Much more distinct is the future for the mission to Jupiter's moon, Ganymede, as it is closely connected with the European JUICE mission to orbit Jupiter's icy moons. Popovkin also speculated that these two missions might even merge, which would make their launch and operation easier.
In a nutshell, outline plans for the coming decade have been formulated, though inevitably they will change according to how the actual situation plays out. Then, there are also solar projects and expeditions to explore some of the smaller bodies in the Solar System. But the core of Russia's future space program seems now to be more or less settled.
© Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network.
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Washington Post / October 5, 2012
Well-preserved mammoth carcass found in the Siberian permafrost, Russian scientist says
На Таймыре, в нескольких километрах от полярной метеостанции Сопкарга обнаружены почти идеально сохранившиеся останки мамонта возрастом примерно 30 тыс. лет. По словам ученых, столь крупных находок, к тому же в хорошей сохранности, не было с 1901 года.
MOSCOW - A teenage mammoth who once roamed the Siberian tundra in search of fodder and females might have been killed by an Ice Age man on a summer day tens of thousands of years ago, a Russian scientist said Friday.
Prof. Alexei Tikhonov of the Zoology Institute in St. Petersburg announced the finding of the mammoth, which was excavated from the Siberian permafrost in late September near the Sopochnaya Karga cape, 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.
The 16-year-old mammoth has been named Jenya, after the 11-year-old Russian boy who found the animal's limbs sticking out of the frozen mud. The mammoth was 2 meters (6 feet 6 inches) tall and weighed 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds).
"He was pretty small for his age," Tikhonov told The Associated Press.
But what killed Jenya was not his size but a missing left tusk that made him unfit for fights with other mammoths or human hunters who were settling the Siberian marshes and swamps some 20,000-30,000 years ago, Tikhonov said.
The splits on Jenya's remaining tusk show a "possible human touch," he added.
The examination of Jenya's body has already proved that the massive humps on mammoths seen on Ice Age cave paintings in Spain and France were not extended bones but huge chunks of fat that helped them regulate their body temperatures and survive the long, cold winters, Tikhonov said.
Jenya's hump was relatively big, which means that he died during a short Arctic summer, he said.
Up to 4 meters (13 feet) in height and 10 tons in weight, mammoths migrated across huge areas between Great Britain and North America and were driven to extinction by humans and the changing climate.
Wooly mammoths are thought to have died out around 10,000 years ago, although scientists think small groups of them lived longer in Alaska and on Russia's Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast.
Their bodies have mostly been found in the Siberian permafrost. Siberian cultural myths paint them as primordial creatures who moved underground and helped to create the Earth.
Most of the well-preserved mammoths are calves. Jenya's carcass is the best-preserved one since the 1901 discovery of a giant mammoth near the Beryozovka river in Russia's northeastern Yakutia region, Tikhonov said. Unfortunately, its DNA has been damaged by low temperatures and is "hardly" suitable for possible cloning, he said.
However, an earlier mammoth discovery might be able to help recreate the Ice Age elephant.
Russia's North-Eastern Federal University said in early September that an international team of researchers had discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow some 328 feet (100 meters) underground during a summer expedition in Yakutia.
Scientists already have deciphered much of the genetic code of the woolly mammoth from balls of mammoth hair found frozen in the Siberian permafrost. Some believe it's possible to recreate the prehistoric animal if they find living cells in the permafrost. Those who succeed in recreating an extinct animal could claim a "Jurassic Park prize," a concept being developed by the X Prize Foundation that awarded a 2004 prize for the first private spacecraft.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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© 1996-2012 The Washington Post.
UNESCO.org / 09.10.2012
Six UNESCO Medals awarded to nanotechnology and nanoscience specialists
11 октября в штаб-квартире ЮНЕСКО состоялась церемония награждения - медаль ЮНЕСКО «За вклад в развитие нанонауки и нанотехнологий» была вручена шести известным специалистам в этой области. Четверо из шести лауреатов представляют Российскую Федерацию.
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova will present the UNESCO Medal "For the Development of Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies" to six laureates during a ceremony organized at UNESCO Headquarters on 11 October.
The scientific laureates are:
Dieter Bimberg (Germany), Chair, Federal Centre of Competence on Nano-Optoelectronics and Federal Nanotechnology Centres of Competence of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research.
Petr Luskinovich (Russian Federation), Director General of the Technosystem N Joint-Stock Company and member of the Russian Academy of Technological Sciences.
Vadim Shakhnov (Russian Federation), Member of the Russian Academy of Science and Head of Department at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University.
Vladimir Shalaev (USA), Researcher in the field of meta-materials optics and nano-optics, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University (USA).
Evgeny Velikhov (Russian Federation), Academician, President of the National Research Centre "Kurchatov Insitute", member of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Alexander Chesnokov (Russian Federation), Member of the International Informatization Academy and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, will also receive the medal in recognition of his efforts to promote nanotechnology research and implementation.
This medal was established at the initiative of the International Commission in charge of the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology for the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), with the support of the Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO.
© UNESCO 1995-2012.
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Fox News / October 12, 2012
Mysterious "Nazca lines" in Russia are thousands of years old
Несколько лет назад с помощью спутниковых карт на Южном Урале (юго-восточный склон хребта Зюраткуль) был обнаружен гигантский геоглиф площадью около 60 тыс. кв.м. Археологи провели полевые работы, установив способ и время появления фигуры. Рисунок, изображающий какое-то копытное животное, скорее всего, лося или оленя, сопоставим по своим масштабам со знаменитыми изображениями на перуанском плато Наска, но предположительно старше их на несколько тысячелетий. Большинство ученых, тем не менее, предлагают дождаться завершения исследований перед тем, как делать выводы.
A huge geoglyph in the shape of an elk or deer discovered in Russia may predate Peru's famous Nazca Lines by thousands of years.
The animal-shaped stone structure, located near Lake Zjuratkul in the Ural Mountains, north of Kazakhstan, has an elongated muzzle, four legs and two antlers. A historical Google Earth satellite image from 2007 shows what may be a tail, but this is less clear in more recent imagery.
Excluding the possible tail, the animal stretches for about 900 feet (275 meters) at its farthest points (northwest to southeast), the researchers estimate, equivalent to two American football fields. The figure faces north and would have been visible from a nearby ridge.
"The figure would initially have looked white and slightly shiny against the green grass background," write Stanislav Grigoriev, of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of History & Archaeology, and Nikolai Menshenin, of the State Centre for Monument Protection, in an article first detailing the discovery published last spring in the journal Antiquity. They note that it is now covered by a layer of soil.
Fieldwork carried out this past summer has shed more light on the glyph's composition and date, suggesting it may be the product of a "megalithic culture," researchers say. They note that hundreds of megalithic sites have been discovered in the Urals, with the most elaborate structures located on a freshwater island about 35 miles (60 km) northeast of the geoglyph.
Discovery & excavation
A man named Alexander Shestakov first discovered the glyphs using satellite images. He alerted researchers, who sent out a hydroplane and paraglider to survey the giant structure.
This has since progressed to an on-the-ground excavation by a team led by Grigoriev. They've found that the stone architecture of the geoglyph is quite elaborate. When they excavated part of a hind leg the largest stones were on the edges, the smaller ones inside. This past summer they also found the remains of passageways and what appear to be small walls on the hoof and muzzle of the animal.
"The hoof is made of small crushed stones and clay. It seems to me there were very low walls and narrow passages among them. The same situation in the area of a muzzle: crushed stones and clay, four small broad walls and three passages," Grigoriev wrote in an email to LiveScience. He cautioned that his team didn't excavate all the way down to the bottom of the walls, not wishing to damage the geoglyph.
Dating the geoglyph
Among the finds from the excavations are about 40 stone tools, made of quartzite, found on the structure's surface. Most of them are pickaxe-like tools called mattocks, useful for digging and chopping. "Perhaps they were used to extract clay," he writes in the email.
The style of stone-working called lithic chipping used on one artifact dates it to the Neolithic and Eneolithic (sixth to third millennia B.C.), though Grigoriev says the technology is more typical of the Eneolithic, between the fourth and third millennia B.C.
If that date is correct, it would make the geoglyph far older than Peru's Nazca Lines, the very earliest of which were created around 500 B.C. Grigorievadded that current studies of ancient pollen at the site will help to narrow down the age.
In the Antiquity journal article, Grigoriev and Menshenin point out that palaeozoological studies show that the landscape in the southern Urals supported fewer trees in the Eneolithic, with forest growth not appearing until about 2,500 years ago. "This means that there were open landscapes in the Eneolithic and Bronze Age, which allowed the hill figure to be created," they write.
A megalithic culture
Researchers say this geoglyph may have been built by a "megalithic culture" in the region that created stone monuments in prehistoric times.
"[M]any megalithic sites with features in common with European megaliths have been located: Some 300 are known but have not yet been studied in detail," write Grigoriev and Menshenin in the Antiquity article. Among these megaliths are numerous "menhirs," large upright standing stones.
The most spectacular megalithic complexes are on the relatively small Vera Island, located on Turgoyak Lake, about 35 miles (60 km) northeast of the geoglyph.
Grigoriev and Julia Vasina of the South-Ural State University described the Vera Island megaliths in a 2010 article, noting the surviving portion of one monument, megalith two, as being covered by a mound and supporting a gallery and square chamber. Another monument, megalith one, is cut into the bedrock and covered by a mound consisting of stones, brown sand and lots of grass. It is more than 60 feet (19 meters) long and 20 feet (6 meters) wide. It contains three chambers one of which has "bas relief sculptures" in the shape of animals, probably a bull and wolf.
Stone tools and ceramics found at the megalithic sites date them to between the Eneolithic period and the early Iron Age, around 3,000 years ago. Researchers emphasize more dating work needs to be done to verify; however, if the evidence holds, the giant geoglyph, along with the megaliths, were constructed millennia before Peru's Nazca Lines, a testament to the building prowess of an ancient prehistoric culture in the Ural Mountains.
© Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved.
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© 2012 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Vancouver Sun / October 11, 2012
No polar bears within few decades, Russian expert predicts
- By Matthew Fisher, Postmedia News
Заместитель директора заповедника белых медведей на острове Врангеля в Чукотском море Никита Овсянников считает, что если таяние арктических льдов, достигшее рекордных показателей этим летом, продолжится такими же темпами, то через 20-25 лет белых медведей в природе не останется. Прежде всего, под угрозой находится российская популяция, и без того сильно сократившаяся за последние годы.
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - While Arctic sea ice reached a record low this summer, it is not widely known that almost all the ice that melted or drifted away was on the Russian, not the Canadian and Greenlandic side of the great northern sea.
One immediate consequence has been further grief and peril for Russia's already seriously distressed polar bear population.
"It is worse for Russian polar bears than the bears in Canada or Greenland because the pack ice is retreating much faster in our waters," said Nikita Ovsyannikov, deputy director of Russia's polar bear reserve on Wrangel Island in the Chukchi Sea to the northwest of Alaska. "The best habitat is quickly disappearing. It is extreme.
"What we are seeing right now is very late freezing. Our polar bear population is obviously declining. It used to be that new ice was thick enough for them to walk on in late October. It now will happen much later."
Figuring out how many bears still survived on and near the Chukchi Sea - home to the largest of Russia's four polar bear populations - was difficult because they were spread across such a vast area, said the zoologist, who has spent his life studying bears in the High Arctic. He guessed that the number of bears around the Chukchi Sea, which also sometimes migrate in small numbers to western Alaska, had dropped over the past three decades from "about 4,000 to no more than 1,700 at best."
The retreating ice that has placed many Russian bears in a catastrophic situation has turned out to be a boon to the country's Arctic mariners. Taking advantage of the unprecedented sea conditions, dozens of freighters, including several mammoth 170,000-deadweight-ton tankers, have used the Northeast Passage during the summer and fall of 2011 and again this year to bring as much as 120,000 tons of liquefied natural gas at a time from western Russia through the Bering Strait to China.
With no ice yet present near the Russian coast, there has even been talk that it might be possible to keep what is called the "Northern Sea Road" open until January.
The situation was so grave this year that sea ice that had already melted by July is not expected to return until as late as next January in the waters above the continental shelf where Russian polar bears traditionally spend a good part of their lives hunting from drifting ice for ring seals.
The explanation for the sudden, further decline in sea ice this summer was unusually low pressure in the Eurasian coastal seas and in the Beaufort Sea and East Siberian Sea, combined with unusually high pressure centered over Greenland and the North Atlantic, according to the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center. Air temperatures across the Arctic rose by as much as three degrees Celsius this summer.
With no drifting pack ice near the shore to hunt from, Russia's polar bears have faced a stark choice. They either must go far out to sea on pack ice that has been drifting away from the coast in the late spring, or forage for food as best they can on Russia's few Arctic islands or along the coast. However, venturing far from land presents special problems for female bears who traditionally build their hibernation and birthing dens on land.
"Making a den on drifting ice is much more difficult," Ovsyannikov said. "One reason is that there is a greater chance that other bears will disturb them there.
"But some females are denning on the drifting ice because the ice is freezing up again so late in the fall that they cannot get back to land. We have evidence of this."
There will be no polar bears anywhere in the wild within 20 to 25 years, Ovsyannikov predicted.
However, it is wrong to think that their "extermination" is only happening because of global warming, he said. Another key factor is that warmer air and sea temperatures have forced polar bears to spend more time on land where "too many of them were being shot and poached."
Other species under threat include seals, walrus, Arctic fox and snowy owls, he said.
The big cargo ships transiting to Asia using the Northeast Passage pose another potential danger. Any spill will cause great harm across the north because oil dissolves slowly in cold water and is notoriously difficult to clean up if it comes into contact with drifting ice or ice that is attached to land.
"It is inevitable that economic development will continue," Ovsyannikov said. "So it is up to us to take as many precautions as possible because a shipping accident in the Arctic would be an absolute disaster for the entire eco-system."
© 2010 - 2012 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.
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Voix de la Russie / 13.10.2012
Un géochimiste russe veut recréer le berceau de la vie
Геохимики из Института комплексного анализа региональных проблем ДВО РАН экспериментально проверяют гипотезу о том, что при определенном сочетании температуры и давления в неживой материи может возникнуть жизнь. В эксперименте на органическое вещество в растворе воздействуют высокие температуры и давление, имитируя среду термальных источников Камчатки.
Un groupe de géochimistes russes originaires d'Extrême-Orient tente de donner vie à la matière inanimée. Les scientifiques veulent recréer dans leur laboratoire un environnement des sources thermales de la péninsule du Kamtchatka, qui, selon eux, serait le milieu idéal pour la création de la vie.
Les scientifiques de l'Institut d'analyse complexe des problèmes régionaux de la filiale extrême-orientale de l'Académie des sciences de Russie sont en train d'expérimenter avec la matière organique qui se trouve sous l'influence des fortes températures et pression. L'évolution chimique ne peut pas se transformer en biologique sans un certain stress, a souligné dans une interview aux médias Vladimir Kompanitchenko, l'auteur de ce programme. En d'autres termes, sous une certaine combinaison de température et de pression, la vie dans la matière non-vivante pourrait apparaître.
Telle est la conclusion du chercheur après l'étude des bactéries thermophiles au Kamtchatka. La mission c'est donc recréer le berceau géothermal de la vie dans des conditions de laboratoire.
Les experts considèrent que l'expérience des géochimistes extrême-orientaux est tout à fait intéressante, mais restent sceptiques quant aux résultats de cette expérience. Après tout, il s'agit d'une nouvelle tentative d'expliquer l'origine de la vie sur Terre. Ce procédé, s'il s'avère fiable, permettra de synthétiser la vie, explique l'académicien spécialisé en biophysique Valentin Sapounov.
« Tout d'abord, nous ne savons toujours pas ce qu'est la vie, nous n'avons pas de définitions claires et ne comprenons pas comment s'est vraiment créée la vie sur Terre. Avec de telles lacunes, cette expérience ne nous avance pas. Il est presque impossible de créer une telle structure par de simples combinaisons empiriques, comme pour l'ADN ».
De nombreux scientifiques sont enclins à croire que la vie a été apportée sur Terre depuis l'espace, rappelle Valentin Sapounov. Cette version était soutenue notamment par le scientifique suédois et lauréat du prix Nobel de chimie Svante August Arrhenius et le fondateur de la biogéochimie russe, l'auteur de la doctrine de la noosphère Vladimir Vernadsky.
Cependant, de nombreux scientifiques soutiennent une autre théorie sur les origines de la vie - la théorie volcanique. Le volcanologue Evgueni Markhinine a été le premier à la proposer il y a 40 ans, et actuellement elle est développée par l'équipe de recherche américaine dirigée par le Russe Evgeny Kounine de l'Institut National de la Santé (Etats-Unis). Ces chercheurs estiment que les premiers organismes vivants sont apparus dans les eaux des lacs, qui fournissaient la chaleur et des micronutriments aux sources thermales des volcans.
L'équipe de scientifiques dirigée par Vladimir Kompanitchenko, se fonde apparemment sur l'hypothèse du biologiste soviétique Alexandre Oparine. Selon cette théorie datant de 1924, l'évolution biologique était précédée de l'évolution chimique. Elle s'est formée sous l'influence des charges électriques, existant dans les eaux de la Terre il y a 4 milliards d'années. Le milieu dans lequel s'est produit l'évolution biologique était composé d'acides aminés et des polypeptides. Les geysers de Kamtchatka ressemblent effectivement beaucoup à ce milieu.
Selon le professeur de la faculté de la géologie à l'Université d'Etat de Moscou Andreï Bytchkov, cette théorie a tout de même un grain de vérité. Selon lui, les processus géologiques qui sont liés avec l'énergie de la Terre, peuvent stimuler l'émergence de la vie. Toutefois, il est difficile de le prouver par expérience.
« Du point de vue de la géochimie, nous savons que la vie est apparue très tôt sur Terre. Son apparition doit être liée avec des processus endogènes - le volcanisme et hydrothermie. Nous ne pouvons pas être certains que dans une solution de roche ou un liquide quelconque, il n'y a rien qui soit hérité de la vie présente. C'est pourquoi, la question de l'origine de la vie, est une question très complexe, je pense ».
D'ailleurs, les expériences avec l'imitation du milieu aquatique et l'atmosphère de la Terre au cours des premières années de son existence ont déjà été réalisées. Les chercheurs ont fait passer des décharges électriques par le méthane et d'autres gaz qui existaient dans l'atmosphère terrestre. Quelques mois après le début des expériences, plusieurs molécules organiques y sont effectivement apparues. Mais aucune cellule n'a été obtenue, ce qui veut dire que la vie ne provient pas de ce milieu.
© 2005-2012 La Voix de la Russie.
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Nature / 17 October 2012
Research policy: How to build science capacity
Eight leaders propose ways to boost research in their countries in the next decade
- By Matthew Fisher, Postmedia News
Восемь руководителей крупных научных учреждений Европы и Азии ответили на вопрос журнала Nature: каким образом можно стимулировать научные исследования в их странах в ближайшее десятилетие? Директор по науке и технологиям IT-кластера Фонда «Сколково» Николай Суетин считает, что следует развивать науку в регионах и усиливать сотрудничество между университетами и органами местного самоуправления. Также следует повысить мобильность исследователей и международное сотрудничество, предварительно определившись с приоритетными областями исследований.
Russia: Seed regional science
Director of Science and Technology, IT Cluster, Skolkovo Foundation, Russia
Half of Russia's scientists left after the political crisis of the 1990s. Since then, the country has had no scientific plan. Research resources have been misdirected and productivity has dropped, from about 3% of the total papers published globally in 1995 to less than 2% in 2010.
Changes in the past decade have been more positive. The Russian government has increased the funding of scientific research from 77 billion rubles in 2006 to 323 billion rubles (US$10.4 billion) in 2012. More is needed to overcome the prolonged deterioration of research in Russia and to move to an innovation-led economy.
Russia's share of high-technology products is now only 0.8% of the world market. A gap between pure and applied research is holding innovation back. Entrepreneurs, who turn intellectual property into products, are almost absent in Russia.
The Skolkovo Foundation - a government project that aims to build a Silicon Valley environment in Russia (see go.nature.com/tjzgdi) - bridges the divide between science and industry by supporting the creation of innovative companies.
One of Skolkovo's first success stories is Rock Flow Dynamics (RFD; www.rfdyn.com), a company that develops software for the petroleum industry. Founded in 2005 by three Moscow mathematics and physics graduates, in 2010 RFD attracted an investment of $2 million from technology fund Intel Capital. Today, RFD sells product licences to oil and gas companies around the world.
Regional growth in science is badly needed. Most research is concentrated in the large cities of Moscow, St Petersburg, Tomsk and Novosibirsk. Cooperation between universities and local governments can benefit both, as at the South Ural State University in Chelyabinsk, where a powerful supercomputer centre has been created. Steps to improve researcher mobility, perhaps through competitive programmes such as the 2010 'mega-grant' effort to set up a series of elite labs, would boost science across the nation.
With limited money, the Russian Federation must pick priority research areas. Information technology is one. The mathematical sciences have been strong historically, and as local IT companies such as Yandex, Kaspersky Lab and Parallels show, Russia could become a global leader. In the past ten years, international giants IBM, Boeing and Siemens have created research centres in Russia.
Bureaucratic barriers that raise the cost of research, such as customs tax for imported scientific materials, must also be removed. With these steps, Russia can regain the position in global science that it deserves.
© 2012 Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.
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Fox News / October 19, 2012
No life in found Antarctica's buried Lake Vostok - yet
В первых пробах воды, взятых в феврале этого года в подледном реликтовом озере Восток, не обнаружено никаких микроорганизмов, если не считать тех, которые попали в воду во время бурения. Поэтому можно предположить, что верхние слои воды в озере, скорее всего, стерильны.
A first analysis of ice pulled from the largest body of water buried beneath Antarctica has yielded nothing but pristine water, untouched in tens of millions of years. But that doesn't mean the lake is lifeless.
Sergey Bulat of Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Russia presented preliminary results from a study of ice pulled from the 6,000-square-mile subglacial lake in February. He and his colleagues told the 12th European Workshop on Astrobiology that they found fewer than 10 microbes per milliliter, according to a report at Nature.
That's equivalent to the background in their clean room, Nature said.
But the results came not from the lake water that rushed up their borehole from the lake and froze it shut again; instead the first results came from ice that froze onto the drill bit itself - and they did find elements that likely came from the drilling oil and lubricants used to poke a hole through 13,000 feet of ice to the lake.
Bulat hopes to get clean samples from the ice frozen in the hole soon, and the lower depths of the lake itself, which scientists believe may hold microbial life that has been sealed off and isolated for as much as 20 million years.
Such unusual forms of life might give indications of what life elsewhere in the universe looks like. But Lake Vostok is an interesting spot for other reasons.
Beyond the fantastic science, Russian news agency Ria Novosti recently noted a number of rumors about the lake, including talk of a secret Nazi sub base and a rumor that the bodies of Hitler and his mistress were delivered there for cloning.
The Lake Vostok project has been years in the making, with initial drilling at the massive lake - 6,060 square miles - starting in 1998. The scientists were quickly able to reach 11,800 feet, but had to stop due to concerns of possible contamination of the never-before-touched lake water.
The Russian scientists came up with a clever way to make sure the water would not be contaminated: They agreed to drill until a sensor warned them of free water. At that point they took out the kerosene lubricating their drill bit and adjusted the pressure so that none of the liquids would fall into the lake, but rather lake water would rise through the hole due to pressure from below.
The Russians are not alone in such a mission: Scientists from around the world are literally racing to explore the mysteries of Antarctica. There are two other Antarctic digs underway.
A team from the British Antarctic Survey is on a competing mission, set to plumb the depths of Lake Ellsworth, one of a string of more than 370 lakes beneath Antarctica that may soon see light for the first time. And a third Antarctic expedition - a study of the subglacial Whillans Ice Stream - mainly features U.S. scientists.
© 2012 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Slate Magazine / Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012
The Russian Anarchist Prince Who Challenged Evolution
Are we cooperative or competitive?
О выдающемся русском ученом П.А.Кропоткине (1842-1921) и его теории о том, что движущей силой эволюции является не конкуренция, а взаимопомощь.
Darwin's publication of On the Origin of Species sparked major battles. The most famous may have been between science and religion, but there were disputes within science as well. One of the most heated was whether natural selection favored cooperative or competitive behaviors, a battle that still rages today. For almost 100 years, no single person did more to promote the study of the evolution of cooperation than Peter Kropotkin.
Kropotkin traveled the world talking about the evolution of cooperation, which he called "mutual aid," in both animals and humans. Sometime the travel was voluntary, but often it wasn't: He was jailed, banned, or expelled from many of the most respectable countries of his day. For he was not only the face of the science of cooperation, he was also the face of the anarchist movement. He came to believe that his politics and science were united by the law of mutual aid: that cooperation was the predominant evolutionary force driving all social life, from microbes to humans.
Kropotkin was also a Russian prince. A private tutor named Poulain taught him about the French revolution and smuggled anarchist ideas into the Kropotkin household, where Peter's father put on airs about the family's royal ancestry. Poulain also took the boy to visit political agitators in Moscow. In 1854, at age 12, Kropotkin renounced his title, but he was still a child of privilege. He once had a strange encounter with Czar Nicholas I at a Royal Ball, and years later Peter ended up enrolled in the Corps of Pages.
Kropotkin's father couldn't have been happier about his son's prospects at this elite breeding ground for Russia's next generation of leaders. Peter, however, was bored out of his mind. "Day after day passes," he wrote his beloved brother, Sasha, "almost the best days of life and you can't make use of them, you simply vegetate, you don't live." He quickly rose to become the top student in the Corps, which also made him chief page to the Czar Alexander II (who had succeeded Nicholas I). When he wasn't tending to the czar's needs or taking classes, Peter spent his time doing what he loved to do most: soaking in nature's beauty, reading about the burgeoning anarchist movement in Russia, and learning radical new ideas on evolution and natural selection propagated by an Englishman named Charles Darwin.
One of the perks of being the top student at the Corps was that when he completed his studies in 1862, he had first choice of any government appointment. To the utter amazement of his friends and the bewilderment of his father, he requested an appointment in the newly annexed Amur region of Siberia. The odd choice caught the attention of Czar Alexander II, who inquired, "So you go to Siberia? Are you not afraid to go so far?"
"No," Peter replied, "I want to work." "Well, go," the Czar told him. "One can be useful everywhere." And so, on July 27, 1862, he went.
Kropotkin's adventures during his five years in Siberia were the stuff of movies. He crisscrossed 50,000 miles of the region, often "lying full length in the sled … wrapped in fur blankets, fur inside and fur outside … when the temperature is 40 or 60 degrees below zero …" His job was to inspect the dreaded prisons of Siberia, full of not just criminals but political agitators. He did so dutifully, but with disgust. The border of Siberia, he wrote, should have a sign like that from Dante's Inferno: "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here." The rest of his time was devoted to learning more about anarchist philosophy (often from anarchist leaders who had been banished to Siberia) and, most importantly, studying the natural history of animals and humans there.
Kropotkin expected to see the brutal dog-eat-dog world of Darwinian competition. He searched high and low - but nothing. "I failed to find, although I was eagerly looking for it," Kropotkin wrote, "that bitter struggle for the means of existence, among animals belonging to the same species, which was considered by most Darwinists (though not always by Darwin himself) as the dominant characteristic of the struggle for life, and the main factor of evolution."
Instead he saw mutual aid - everywhere. "In all these scenes of animal life which passed before my eyes," Kropotkin wrote, "I saw Mutual Aid and Mutual Support carried on to an extent which made me suspect in it a feature of the greatest importance for the maintenance of life, the preservation of each species and its further evolution." And it wasn't just in animals. The peasants in the villages he visited were constantly helping one another in their fight against the brutal environment of Siberia. What's more, he noted a correlation between the extent of mutual aid displayed in a peasant village and the distance of that village from the hand of government. It was just as the anarchists had suggested. "I lost in Siberia," he wrote, "whatever faith in state discipline I had cherished before. I was prepared to become an anarchist."
He was also prepared to challenge the biological orthodoxy that natural selection led only to competition. He was still a Darwinist, and an adamant one, but he thought the process of natural selection, especially in brutal climates like Siberia, could lead to mutual aid, not only competition. His nascent ideas on anarchism and biological evolution were beginning to merge into one.
After five years in Siberia, Kropotkin moved on to study at the University of St. Petersburg, where on paper his focus was mathematics, but in reality his major was studying to be an anarchist. He was good enough at it that the czar had him arrested and thrown in the Peter and Paul Prison in St. Petersburg. Kropotkin described its history: "Here Peter I tortured his son Alexis and killed him with his own hand … here the Princess Tarakбnova was kept in a cell which filled with water during an inundation, the rats climbing upon her to save themselves from drowning … here were annals of murder and torture, of men buried alive, condemned to a slow death, or driven to insanity in the loneliness of the dark and damp dungeons." Eventually Peter escaped. It was an incredible, front-page news jailbreak, involving months of preparation, spies, shills outside the prison pretending to be drunk to distract the guards, and a co-conspirator playing a mazurka on the violin as a signal to make a break for it.
Soon after, Kropotkin made his way to England. He challenged Darwin's followers, most notably Thomas Henry Huxley, and their claims that natural selection almost always led to competition. Yes, Kropotkin admitted, sometimes that happens, especially in the tropics, but mutual aid was just as common, if not more so. It was a biological reality and a political one. "The ant, the bird, the marmot … have read neither Kant nor the fathers of the Church nor even Moses," Kropotkin wrote. "The idea of good and evil has thus nothing to do with religion or a mystic conscience. It is a natural need of animal races. And when founders of religions, philosophers, and moralists tell us of divine or metaphysical entities, they are only recasting what each ant, each sparrow practices in its little society."
Kropotkin published a series of books and long pamphlets, including Mutual Aid, The Great French Revolution, Modern Science and Anarchism, and Ethics. He lectured across Europe - in the places that hadn't banned or expelled him for being a troublemaker - and in two long speaking tours in the United States. He probably would have returned for a third tour, but after President McKinley was assassinated, anarchists were personae non grata in America. Rumors were even floated in the United States with the preposterous notion that Kropotkin was somehow linked to the assassination.
By the first decade of the 20th century, two things still troubled Kropotkin about his theory of the evolution of cooperation. He had been arguing that when environmental conditions changed and mutual aid was especially useful, it seemed to take hold in a population quickly. Really quickly. So quickly that it just couldn't be accounted for by the slow, gradual changes that Darwinian theory of the day proposed. An evolutionist through and through, Kropotkin turned to the ideas of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who had proposed his own ideas decades before Darwin about how evolution operates. Lamarck suggested that habits acquired during the lifetime of an organism could be transmitted to the next generation. For example, if shore birds stretched their muscles as far as possible to raise themselves up on wet sandy beaches, their offspring would have longer legs as a result. With Lamarckian inheritance, massive change can happen in a single generation. That gave Kropotkin the speed he needed to explain how mutual aid increased so quickly. Problem 1 solved. Or so he argued.
Problem 2 was this: In real time, as it was happening, what prompted an animal to dispense mutual aid? Kropotkin turned to economist Adam Smith for insight. Though Kropotkin despised the capitalist system Smith had devised in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, he was enamored with an earlier book of Smith's called The Theory of Moral Sentiments. In it, Smith made the case that humans dispense mutual aid because we mentally put ourselves in the position of those needing aid, and to "minimize our own vicarious pain" we help - we are empathetic. But Adam Smith restricted his discussion of empathy and mutual aid to humans. When Kropotkin lifted that restriction, he found what he needed. "Adam Smith's only mistake," Kropotkin wrote, "was not to have understood that this same feeling of sympathy [what today we call empathy] in its habitual stage exists among animals as well as among men." Problem 2 solved. Or so he thought.
Almost 100 years after Kropotkin's death, what can we say about his theory of mutual aid? Well, with 20/20 hindsight, he certainly made a mistake aligning himself to Lamarck, but it was a mistake that many, including Darwin, made. And it's still a matter of heated debate whether nonhumans show empathy. My guess is that some do, but the data are scant. But Kropotkin's primary legacy in the sciences is that he was in the forefront of challenging the prevailing Darwinian principle that evolution was strictly about competition and survival of the nastiest.
Today, hundreds of papers come out annually on animal cooperation in nonhumans, and many of these papers show Kropotkin to be something of a prophet. But what Kropotkin cared about more than anything was that understanding mutual aid in animals might shed light on human cooperation and perhaps help save humanity from destroying itself. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
© 2012 The Slate Group, LLC. All rights reserved.
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