|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Запущенная 2 июля с космодрома Байконур ракета-носитель "Протон" рухнула на первой минуте старта вместе с тремя навигационными космическими аппаратами "ГЛОНАСС-М", которые должна была вывести на орбиту.
Un grave échec pour le spatial russe ce matin. Sur le cosmodrome de Baïkonour, une fusée Proton, la plus puissante de la panoplie russe, devait mettre en orbite trois satellites de la constellation Glonass, le GPS russe. Elle a explosé peu après le décollage.
D'après un porte-parole de l'Agence fédérale spatiale russe (Roskosmos) "les propulseurs du lanceur russe Proton-M qui s'est écrasé au cosmodrome de Baïkonour, ont cessé de fonctionner à la 17ème seconde de vol, provoquant ainsi le crash de la fusée contre le sol, à une distance de près de 2,5 km du pas de tir". Selon lui, le crash n'a fait ni victimes ni dommages au sol. Sur les images, on voit la fusée commencer à tourner sur elle même, puis sa trajectoire s'incurve, et pique vers le sol, toute propulsion perdue.
Les détails du scénario de la destruction de la fusée ne seront connus qu'après l'enquête, mais cet échec risque de déclencher de forts remous dans l'organisation spatiale russe. Une partie du personnel de Baïkonour a été évacuée en raison de cette fuite, selon Interfax,un "nuage toxique" s'est formé au-dessus du lieu de la catastrophe.
Vladimir Poutine suit en effet de très près cette activité, au point de passer des coups de fils sur le portable du patron de l'agence spatiale russe Vladimir Popovkine quelque minutes avant le tir d'une fusée... déclenchant des "da, da, Vladimir Vladimirovitch" angoissés. Manifestement, le président russe était plutôt en train de lui faire comprendre que si la fusée ne fonctionne pas, il est sur un siège éjectable que de lui souhaiter bonne chance. Cette anectode rapportée par un dirigeant spatial français montre en tous cas l'implication étroite de Poutine dans les affaires spatiales, moyen de puissance militaire et diplomatique dans lequel l'Etat russe a repris de forts investissements. La construction, à grands frais, d'un nouveau cosmodrome en Sibérie, à Vostotchny, de manière à pouvoir s'affranchir à terme de la nécessité de maintenir celui de Baïkonour en territoire kazakh, démontre cette volonté forte.
Comme il s'agissait en outre de Glonass, donc du système de navigation et de géolocalisation utilisé par les armées russes, l'enjeu dépassait de loin la simple fiabilité d'une fusée qui est aussi utilisée pour la mise en orbite de satellites commerciaux ou gouvernementaux d'autres pays. Il ne serait donc pas étonnant que Poutine prenne une décision très "managériale à la russe" et coupe quelques tête du complexe militaro-spatial.
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Российской академии наук необходимы изменения, считает редакция журнала Nature, но предложенная скоропалительная реформа не поможет ей, а уничтожит окончательно. Требуется не менее года, чтобы довести план до ума, подробно обсудив его с научным сообществом.
The Russian Academy of Sciences has seen and survived its share of political turmoil in its nearly 300-year history. Yet recent decades have not been kind: the academy has been in a state of decline since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
When funding, generous in Soviet times, declined drastically in the 1990s, too many of the academy's ageing - and increasingly unproductive - members became preoccupied with securing personal privileges. Last year, an internal assessment of the academy's science managed to conclude that each of the academy's 400 institutes performs world-class research; typically, no external scientists were consulted. In fact, by all measures, only a small fraction of academy institutes can be considered internationally competitive. Many produce only poor science - and outsiders have criticized the organization again and again for refusing to accept the dire reality of its situation.
The problems have not gone unnoticed by the Russian government. Tensions between the science ministry and the academy have risen in recent years, as the government has become increasingly worried about Russian science's lack of competitiveness. The stand-off approached a dramatic climax last week, when a bill was hastily introduced to the Russian parliament that, if approved, would effectively liquidate the academy in its present form. The academy is ill, of that there is no doubt. But the proposed cure would kill it off. Worse, the bill is marked with the worrisome signs of autocracy that characterize Russian President Vladimir Putin's current regime.
The planned coup would merge the Academy of Sciences with Russia's minor medical and agricultural academies, and would provide all members of the united body with equal status as academicians. The present academy would lose the right to manage its property and, more importantly, would cease to operate research institutes of its own. Existing institutes would be evaluated, and those deemed competitive would in future be run by a new government agency on behalf of the academy. Putin hoped to turn the proposal into law without giving the academy time to respond, although the parliament's final vote has now been postponed to October.
"The academy is ill, of that there is no doubt. But the proposed cure would kill it off."
The proposal has caused an outcry from Russian scientists. Researchers have laid down flowers near the academy's headquarters on Leninski Prospect in Moscow in a symbolic funeral for the institution, which was founded in 1724 by Russian Emperor Peter the Great.
However, it is not the bill's aim and content that are most troubling, but the hasty and profoundly undemocratic manner in which it was conceived. Vladimir Fortov, the academy's newly elected president and a reformer who has announced a number of measures to rejuvenate and restructure the organization (see Nature 497, 420-421, 2013) was not consulted. Neither were the institution's scientific workforce and the trade unions.
Some Western-orientated Russian scientists acknowledge that a number of the proposed changes could be beneficial. In effect, the reform would create a flexible learned body similar to scientific academies in the United States and much of Europe, whose main duties are to provide the government with scientific advice on questions of societal relevance. The task of organizing and funding the research itself would be passed on to a new agency - similar to Germany's Max Planck Society - that, if properly run, could provide basic science in Russia with much-needed vision and impetus.
But such sweeping changes require more time and preparation than Putin seems willing to grant. An organization that employs more than 45,000 scientists cannot be successfully transformed overnight. Russian scientists have a right to be heard and consulted, and they should have been. For the sake of Russian science, members of the parliament should refrain from hastily passing an ill-prepared bill; they should wait until at least the basic technicalities of what is indeed a much-needed reform have been thoroughly worked out and made public. The government and the academy should set up an expert committee of respected scientists and give it at least 12 months to plan the transition. If the result is to be a system that rewards excellence and can give solid advice to those in power, then Russia can wait one more year.
© 2013 Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.
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Journal and Courier / Jul. 4, 2013
Down-to-earth scientist, 83, humbled by international recognition
Большая золотая медаль имени М.В.Ломоносова ежегодно присуждается одному российскому и одному иностранному ученому за выдающийся вклад в области гуманитарных и естественных наук. В этом году медали были присуждены Ричарду Уоррену Арнольду и Глебу Всеволодовичу Добровольскому - за выдающийся вклад в области почвоведения.
A knock on Dick Arnold's door at University Place is greeted by an affable voice inviting in whoever is calling on him.
His disarming mannerisms come naturally and likely helped him bridge cultural differences and political suspicions of officials in China and the former Soviet Union during the last 30 years of his domestic and international work teaching about soil formation, erosion and conservation. That work earned him the 2013 Lomonosov Gold Medal. Conferred by the Russian Academy of Sciences, it is that group's highest honor, given to two scientists each year - one Russian and one international honoree.
At the first of the year, the academy announced that 83-year-old Arnold and 97-year-old Gleb Vsevolodovich Dobrovolsky would receive the gold medals. Like Arnold, Dobrovolsky, who died a few month ago, was a soil scientist. The two were close friends and colleagues. Arnold called Dobrovolsky a dynamic leader who managed to forge international friendships back when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States were Cold War adversaries. Arnold's amicable ways likely made that an easy friendship.
"We knew that we had been awarded the medal in late January," Arnold said. "He had a reoccurrance of cancer, and he died April 7, and the award was to be (presented) May 28."
Arnold's award cites him "for his outstanding contribution to the development of theoretical and applied soil science, and modeling the behavior of soils in different landscapes of the world."
Arnold downplays his role in the award, choosing to pass credit to Dobrovolsky. Arnold said he's never had an original thought in his life. Instead, he's embraced others' ideas and theories and applied them, challenging others to broaden their ideas of how to conserve soil and reclaim contaminated soils. Dobrovolsky, Arnold insists, is the major winner of the award.
"I had the most precious letter from that man saying how happy he was that we were getting this award."
Arnold's international connections started after 1980 when he became director of the Soil Science Division of the USDA's National Resources Conservation Service, a position he held until 1996. He joined international societies in his area of study and began sharing soil conservation ideas with scientists from other counties. In doing so, he helped scientists in developing countries better understand and interpret their soil resources. Such knowledge is key to sustainable agriculture, that is, feeding populations now and in the future.
"The world needs as much help as it can get," he said. "We were fairly advanced in quite a few of these areas."
The U.S. effort took root during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, about the time Arnold was born. He was born in 1929 in Creston, Iowa, the son of an agronomist for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service.
"When we had the Dust Bowl, we finally found out … there must be something pretty important about soils," Arnold said. "We seem to be abusing them pretty badly.
"So they created the Soil Conservation Service. By that, they decided they'll make soil maps for the individual farmers that want to improve their land … and we won't have another Dust Bowl.
"That meant the attitude in this country was one of trying to help the individual landowner, not dictate to them … so that they could develop a plan to improve their own farm."
In the Soviet Union, soil maps were made with broad brushes. The goal was to find the best place to locate cities and ports. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, Arnold worked with underdeveloped countries to expand the knowledge of soils. In 1982, these efforts led him to his first visits to the Soviet Union and China, and his introduction to the Cold War.
"No matter what we did, we were being monitored," he said.
In his good-natured way, Arnold turned the monitoring into a mind game.
"It was kind of fun trying to figure out who my watchdog was out of this group," he said. "Eventually, I'd realize, this guy over here doesn't understand a damn thing about soil."
In retirement, Arnold moved six years ago from the Washington, D.C., area to West Lafayette. Currently he's staying at University Place as he recovers from a broken hip he received after his return from Russia, where he was presented the award named after Mikhail Lomonosov, an 18th-century Russian scientist.
Other recipients include American economist John Kenneth Galbraith, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Carl Pauling, also of the United States, and Russian dissident novelist Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn.
Arnold wishes that, with a little luck, years from now people will live better lives as a result of the time he spent passing along his knowledge of soils and soil conservation.
"People around the world, they want the world to be a better place. The Russians are just as much that way as anybody. What gets in your way is oftentimes government and politics."
Summing up his guiding philosophy, Arnold said: "Do the best you can. Try to make the world a little bit better. If you do the best you can, the people around you will do better than they were doing yesterday."
Copyright © 2013 www.jconline.com. All rights reserved.
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Интервью академика Владимира Фортова журналу Scientific American по поводу весьма спорного законопроекта о реформе Российской академии наук.
Russia's scientific community is in turmoil. This week has seen protests, tense Kremlin negotiations and even a police raid. President Vladimir Putin has warned scientists that they need to come up with "big, good, socially useful results" as part of a sweeping overhaul of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a centuries-old network including hundreds of research institutions, which many fear could spell the end of academic independence. Physicist Vladimir Fortov, acting head of the Academy as well as editor in chief of Scientific American's Russian-language edition V Mire Nauki, has been leading the charge to minimize the impact of a controversial reform bill. In in early versions, the bill mentioned the word "liquidation" about the academy; the current version would see three unrelated academies merged into one state organization and all of the Academy's assets (including 434 scholarly institutes) would be handed over to a newly created government agency headed by the academy.
Russia may have sent the first man to orbit, but two decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, when many researchers emigrated in a "brain drain," the scientific community is still struggling. As part of revitalization efforts, the government funded "mega-grants" to encourage researchers to return.
The Academy, founded by czar Peter the Great in 1724, is undoubtedly in need of reform. But many believe this bill is less about reform and more about what one academician called "corporate raiding." There have been rallies, and threats of a nationwide strike. But Fortov's negotiations with Putin, who has become personally involved in the controversial legislation, may be leading to a compromise. In amendments adopted Friday, several academies will merge without liquidating their governing bodies, and the Academy of Sciences - not bureaucrats - will continue to oversee their own scientific projects. But the budget and property, while overseen by the president of the Academy, would still be transferred to a new state agency, prompting fears of corruption. Speaking by phone from Moscow with Scientific American, Fortov discussed the tumultuous week.
It appears as if the Russian parliament on Friday is making some compromises to this controversial bill. Did your talks with Putin change the situation?
We had a very honest and very detailed discussion with President Putin about the proposed law. I conceded to his concerns, but told him that in our opinion this document would destroy the Russian Academy of Sciences. He listened and was highly concerned, and he's been speaking with many Russian scientists and academic leaders. The results were some shifts in his position and in the Duma [Russia's parliament] as well. There will be a third reading of the bill in September and over the next two and a half months we'll try to work toward an optimal solution, but the situation is shifting in a more positive direction now.
What is it about the current version of the bill that worries you most?
There are some details that are unclear to us and we'd like to analyze it carefully. This whole project was submitted in a great hurry and we can't understand why. But the most dangerous points of the bill - which would included killing the Academy of Sciences and other non-optimal outcomes are not included now.
During your meeting with Putin he said you and your scientists needed to come up with some "big" and "useful" results. Is that not happening now?
He should stimulate us - that's OK. We have well-recognized scientific schools and our younger generation is very talented, but things could change. We have already created good results and I'm optimistic we can do more, but the ideas of some of these so-called "reformers" can be very painful for actual science.
Some Russian lawmakers are saying scientists should just worry less about property and let the government handle your affairs.
You're right. But the main concern we have is that bureaucrats just want to control our property with no real argument as to why and how they would do this.
Do you think this turmoil will play a role in younger scientists heading West instead of staying in Russia, or in international collaboration?
This is a challenge. We must continue with international cooperation; it is essential for us. As for the brain drain, it will depend on how the situation develops. Young people now are very concerned about the future of science and our academy. Our goal is to stop this brain drain and develop real international collaboration.
Russian lawmakers have claimed that part of the problem is that your scientists are building elite homes on academy property, which is part of why they want to take it over. Is that true?
It's not true at all. I'll give you the numbers. The Russian Academy of Sciences has extra properties that we rent out; this is about 7 percent of all of our properties. As a result of this renting, we get about two billion extra rubles [about $59 million] a year for research. Our entire fund is more than 60 billion [about $1.8 billion]. This is a very low percentage and is not a real problem.
Our real problem is that the government bureaucracy is getting stronger and stronger and it can kill scientific development. We do not have enough equipment for research, and what we have is getting old. We have a similar problem with the average age of our scientists. For scientists, these problems are much more important. When our critics keep talking about real estate, it shows that what they are interested in is property, not science.
The Academy has been around for centuries. Is this idea of more government control something new in its history?
No, there have been two moments in history when we were under threat as we've been now. Just after the revolution [the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917], some party leaders decided they wanted to put a "Red Academy" in its place, getting rid of the historical model. Lenin stopped them. The second time was [during the Cold War] when Nikita Khrushchev tried to take away about half of the academies institutions but, again, this did not go through.
Are scientists feeling intimidated? I just saw on the Russian news that police raided the basement of your primary building in Moscow this morning, allegedly to root out illegal immigrants. What is going on here?
Yes, there was an "effort" this morning. But they didn't find anything. I don't know what to say about intimidation. This is very fresh information for me and I haven't had time to analyze it yet.
© 2013 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc.
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The New York Times / July 5, 2013
Titanium Fills Vital Role for Boeing and Russia
Уральский завод ВСМПО - АВИСМА производит 35% всех титановых деталей для самолетов компании Boeing. Использование титана позволяет уменьшить вес самолета, что делает его использование более экономичным. В целом, ВСМПО - АВИСМА производит 45% всего мирового титана, который используется в авиакосмической промышленности.
VERKHNAYA SALDA, Russia - Boeing needs to make its airliners lighter, and for that it needs titanium. And for that lightweight and strong metal, the American aircraft maker comes to this small city in the Ural Mountains.
At the Avisma titanium foundry, a once-secret factory that made nuclear missile parts during the cold war, titanium ribs for Boeing airplanes are stacked in piles like lumber. In an annex, a Boeing and Avisma joint venture called Ural Boeing Manufacturing grinds forged parts destined for America. A third of all Boeing jet landing gear assemblies are made with titanium beams from Russia.
The Russians make titanium parts that are unseen but no less important on planes like the new 787 Dreamliner and the workaday commuter airplane, the 737.
Boeing buys so much titanium from Russia - the airplane maker plans $18 billion in purchases over the coming decades - that it now researches new alloys with the Russians. In Moscow, a thousand miles to the west, a team of 1,400 aerospace engineers designs airframes and wings, in part using Russian titanium components.
That titanium is taking off is a bright spot for Russia's struggling aerospace industry. It is as welcome for Boeing. With the new Dreamliner airplane, Boeing took a leap into new technologies and a wider global network of suppliers. The strategy went spectacularly astray with a new lithium-ion battery made in Japan. The risk of battery fires forced Boeing to ground the entire fleet for months.
But the Russian titanium strategy is paying off. Reliance on Russian titanium, thought it comes with geopolitical risks given tensions between the United States and Russia, is making the lightweight metal more economical, so Boeing uses more. Reducing the weight of planes makes them more economical to operate and thus more attractive to the airlines. The Avisma factory, deep in a pine forest, makes 35 percent of all titanium for Boeing civilian airplanes.
"There are parts that only we make. Nobody else," Mikhail V. Voevodin, the factory director and a part owner, said.
Titanium parts are devilishly difficult to make. In the foundry's forge, gigantic circular furnaces rise along the walls of the main smelting hall, like the pipes of some volcanic organ in a cathedral from hell, six stories high. Electricity melts the metal in these vacuum tubes.
Gigantic struts, poles and sheets are heated until they glow red and are plunged into water baths, where they are banged with hydraulic hammers weighing five tons. They emerge amazingly strong.
"Russia is a critical partner for 787 titanium parts," Sergey Kravchenko, the director of Boeing's office in Russia, said in a written response to questions. The factory "has the largest in the world press for titanium forgings and Boeing takes full advantage of this unique capability," he wrote.
Russians began using titanium in Vostok, the space capsule Yuri Gagarin flew in 1961. By the 1970s, Soviet generals had taken a shine to the metal. A secret program began, requiring incredible resources. In addition to airplanes, the Soviets would make submarines from titanium.
A half-dozen Alfa, Mike and Papa class attack submarines came out with hulls that were 30 percent titanium by weight, according to a museum at the factory. Each required more than 2,000 tons of the metal. Light and strong, the subs, called "golden fish," could travel at 44 knots, or 50 miles per hour, underwater.
This history allowed Boeing to be assured of a stable Russian supply. Besides Russia and other former Soviet states, only four countries smelt it in industrial quantities: the United States, Germany, Japan and China.
That cold war experience gave Avisma knowledge and astounding capacity. It once produced 90,000 tons a year, more than the rest of the world combined in the 1970s. The factory now makes about 32,000 tons, though of a higher grade. Over all, Avisma produces 45 percent of the world's aerospace titanium.
Cooperation between Boeing and the Russians tightened after 2007, when Russian Technologies, a government conglomerate, took over the foundry. Russian Technologies sought to revive the Russian military industry by finding civilian buyers for dual-use products. It was eager to sell to Boeing as well as to Airbus, Boeing's main rival. The factory also supplies Embraer, Bombardier and engine makers.
For Boeing, the alliance with Russia's aerospace industry extends beyond titanium purchases. Supported by a United States government worried that unemployed Russian aerospace and rocket engineers were working for rogue states, Boeing opened a design center in Moscow in the 1990s. That center employs engineers on short-term leave from the Russian companies Ilyushin, Sukhoi and Khrunichev, a maker of the space capsules and satellites.
Much of the value is created in the smelting of alloys. Pure titanium costs about $7 a pound. Blended with zirconium, nickel and other alloys for aerospace parts, however, it can cost more than $150 a pound. The Moscow tech center has three patents for such alloys.
Avisma is the rare profitable Russian manufacturer. Russian Technologies sold a controlling stake to managers last year; Avisma's shares trade on Russia's Micex stock exchange. Its market capitalization hovers around $2 billion.
Avisma also still works for the Russian military. In a warehouse of rocket and airplane parts, huge titanium body rings for a Bulova rocket, Russia's latest intercontinental ballistic missile, are stacked in a big uneven heap, like a serving of onion rings for the end of the world. (Most consumer goods of titanium, like golf clubs and mountain-climbing ice axes, are made in China of cheaper, unalloyed metal.)
Three years ago, Avisma started a sideline in medical titanium for implants, which quickly grew to capture about a quarter of this specialty market worldwide.
It is all the same for the factory, Mr. Voevodin, the director, said. The same process creates stamped parts. The only difference is that once it comes out of this gigantic Russia forge in the mountains, "it goes into a person, not an airplane."
© 2013 The New York Times Company.
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Gulf Times / 6 July 2013
Behind mammoth finds, a shimmer of hope for clones
О обнаружении, хранении и изучении останков доисторических животных в России.
The mammoths trapped in Siberia's permafrost are a long way from the Palaeontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, but senior researcher Yevgeny Mashchenko keeps close to the Ice Age giants.
"Any time an entire animal is found, it's a big event," said Mashchenko while surrounded by skeletons and body parts of long-extinct creatures in the institute's museum. More and more mammoth carcasses are turning up in Yakutia, a huge, remote Russian republic roughly the size of India, six time zones east of Moscow and famous for its bitter winter cold.
Mashchenko, 51, has undertaken many search expeditions for mammoths in Yakutia, where frost reaches deep into the soil.
"I've experienced it myself, the smell of rot when the earth releases parts of the animal and oxygen decomposes the flesh," he said.
The smell attracts hungry bears and arctic foxes, which eat the carcasses, aged thousands of years. This, Mashchenko pointed out, is another reason that every mammoth discovery is special.
"If we find flesh and leave it exposed to air, it turns brown within an hour because the protein is denatured and the tissue decomposes rapidly."
Inhabitants of Yakutia usually find well-preserved mammoth remains during the region's short summers, just a month and a half long. Protruding from thawing ground, they consist mostly of bones or skeleton fragments.
"People's mobility is increasing. They keep exploring new regions and come across evidence of the past," Mashchenko said. Thanks to improved communications even in remote regions, they quickly report finds, having become "sensitised to how important it is for science."
Scientists cannot agree on why mammoths became extinct about 4,000 years ago. Mashchenko sees food shortages as a possible cause. More mammoth remains are found in Yakutia than anywhere else in the world, which has put a spotlight on North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) in Yakutsk, Yakutia's capital, and Professor Semyon Grigoryev. Grigoryev, who heads the university's Mammoth Museum, recently made the most sensational discovery of his life: well-preserved remains of a female woolly mammoth, about 2.5m tall, estimated to have died at an age between 50 and 60 years about 10,000 years ago. Found on Little Lyakhovsky Island, in the Laptev Sea in Russia's Far North, the remains were removed from the tundra on May 22. Russian state-run media cheered the discovery as the most significant of its kind in more than a century.
"Fragments of muscle tissue that we found on the corpse have the natural red colour of fresh meat," Grigoryev said in a television interview. More amazing, though, was that thick blood flowed out when he scraped the frozen flesh with a scalpel despite temperatures in the area around minus 10 degrees Celsius.
"Everything must be examined very carefully," Grigoryev remarked, adding that he wanted to determine whether mammoth blood had "cryo-protective properties" that kept it from freezing. Because the lower part of the body was trapped in pure ice, the stomach was well preserved. Delighted researchers now hope to gain insight into mammoths' diet. The mammoth finds are helping scientists to piece together the animals' genetic code. NEFU specialists, in particular, have spoken of plans to clone a mammoth.
While Grigoryev conceded that previous discoveries had not brought scientists closer to bringing the species back to life, "we don't rule out that the mammoth tissue we've just found will help to solve the cloning problem."
NEFU researchers are working on this with the South Korean Sooam Biotech Research Foundation. In March 2012, the partners said they aimed to inject DNA from mammoth cells into an egg taken from an elephant, its closest living relative, and insert the egg into the womb of an elephant meant to serve as a surrogate mother. However, top scientists back in Moscow say the plan is unrealistic.
"The material is of inestimable value to the joint project of our university and Sooam to resurrect the mammoth," Grigoryev said. "It could have disappeared had it thawed and been eaten by wild animals."
Only the head, upper back and lower left leg are skeletonised, he noted. Muscle tissue and blood are much more useful to scientists than dry, mummified or fossilised specimens. Grigoryev said that foreign experts would inspect the find in July.
According to Albert Protopopov, a palaeontologist at Yakutia's Academy of Sciences, hunters as well as collectors of mammoth teeth and tusks often find the remains of prehistoric animals in the tundra, including woolly rhinoceroses. A finder's reward is available to them.
The precious ivory tusks are coveted mainly in China, and there is a long tradition of ivory carving in Siberia. For scientists, though, tissue samples are of the most interest. Most mammoth remains are first placed in cold storage at Yakutia's Academy of Sciences. Each object is worked on for an average of about five years, Protopopov said. As for successfully cloning a mammoth, the majority of specialists in Moscow remain doubtful. "Definitely not in the next five to seven years, as the South Koreans intend. It's completely impossible," Mashchenko said.
Scientists in the Russian capital also reacted rather calmly to the discovery in Yakutia, in 2010, of the first well-preserved mammoth brain. "All of these discussions (on cloning) are nonsense in my view - freezing and thawing kills the cells," said Sergei Savelyev, a biologist at the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences in Moscow. He did a CAT scan on the brain aimed at learning its internal structure.
Among other things, mammoth researchers want to find out how similar their subjects are to present-day Indian and African elephants. But so long as they get no living cells, they see little chance of cloning a mammoth.
Mashchenko is loath to wholly exclude the possibility, though.
"Science feeds on dreams. During the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci practically foresaw the computer. It came hundreds of years later," he said.
Modern science is advancing rapidly, and experts think that genetic engineers may be able to replicate the mammoth genome in the future. They emphasise, however, that the costs will be immense
Mashchenko hopes the sensational finds in Yakutia will spur Russian leaders to allocate more funds for mammoth research.
© All Rights Reserved for Gulf-Times.com © 2011-2012.
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После завершения работы на озере Леман (Швейцария) сверхлегкие летательные аппараты Elemo-2 прибыли на Байкал. Международная швейцарско-российская научно-исследовательская экспедиция "ТрансЕвразийский перелет Леман-Байкал" - уникальный проект, во время которого с помощью дельталетов проводятся комплексные научные исследования. Малая авиация дает возможность поводить локальный мониторинг территорий более динамично и без больших затрат.
Lancé ce printemps sur les eaux du Léman, le projet Elemo 2 se poursuit au-dessus du lac Baïkal en Russie. Les ULM partis de Suisse analysent ces jours la couche supérieure des eaux de la "perle de Sibérie".
Les premiers résultats s'avèrent concluants, selon les scientifiques.
Partis de Genève le 1er juin, les cinq ULM (ultralégers motorisés) conduits par deux pilotes russes et trois français ont traversé l'Allemagne, la Pologne et les pays baltes. Sept jours leur ont été nécessaires pour gagner Pskov en Russie, où le projet a été présenté à la presse, a indiqué mercredi Michael Krasnoperov, chef de projets au Consulat honoraire de la Fédération de Russie à Lausanne.
Vol pas autorisé
"A Pskov, nous n'avons pas eu l'autorisation de continuer notre vol", a raconté François Bernard, pilote de l'un des ULM. Ils devaient à l'origine survoler la Russie sur 7500 km jusqu'au lac Baïkal et effectuer des analyses scientifiques au cours de leur périple.
Les appareils ont finalement été acheminés au sud de la Sibérie par camion. Ils ont été remontés à Istomino, au bord du Baïkal.
Après les problèmes bureaucratiques, l'équipe arrivée sur place le 26 juin a été confrontée à de très mauvaises conditions météorologiques pendant quelques jours. "Ensuite nous avons pu commencer nos observations", a relevé le pilote.
"Nous travaillons à 2000 mètres de haut pendant deux à trois heures avec des caméras thermique et hyperspectrale, comme sur le Léman en mai dernier. Des zones de 30 km sur dix sont définies et il s'agit de les cartographier avec précision".
"Nous faisons des allers et retours afin de couvrir sans trou l'immense delta, une zone très intéressante où se jettent de nombreuses rivières et où l'on trouve de nombreux sédiments", a-t-il expliqué. Durant les vols, le pilote est accompagné d'un scientifique de l'Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne qui contrôle les données et les calibrages.
Mercredi, le tandem avait réussi trois vols sur cinq. "Cela marche très bien; de nombreux résultats préliminaires ont déjà pu être envoyés à l'EPFL. Nous avons par exemple pu constater qu'entre le rivage et le bord du lac, la différence de température est de huit degrés", a relaté François Bernard.
Les participants au projet Elemo 2 ont par ailleurs pris part lundi et mardi à une conférence consacrée au "Baïkal ressource stratégique de la planète au 21e siècle", a souligné M. Krasnoperov. Les médias russes se sont montrés intéressés par le travail des ULM, a-t-il constaté.
A mi-juillet, le relais sera transmis aux pilotes russes et un des cinq ULM va revenir en Suisse. Il reprendra ses explorations fin septembre, en synchronisation avec les quatre qui restent au bord du Baïkal. L'idée est d'obtenir une cartographie du Léman à chaque saison, a relevé François Bernard.
Pollution sous la loupe
Ces vols d'observation de la couche supérieure du lac compléteront le programme scientifique d'exploration des eaux lémaniques (Elemo). Réalisé en été 2011 par des sous-marins russes MIR, son but était d'analyser en profondeur la pollution et les micro-organismes présents dans les eaux.
En comparant les résultats obtenus en Suisse et en Russie, les chercheurs comptent raffermir leurs connaissances et leurs méthodes de travail sur les milieux lacustres. Des collaborations entre les deux pays seront mises sur pied sous forme d'échanges d'experts et de doctorants.
Lancés à l'initiative du consul honoraire de Russie à Lausanne Frederik Paulsen, les programmes Elemo sont réalisés par l'EPFL en partenariat avec l'entreprise pharmaceutique Ferring, basée à St-Prex. Divers instituts scientifiques russes, dont l'Académie des sciences naturelles, participent également au projet.
©Tamedia Publications romandes SA.
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Huffington Post / 07/15/2013
Soviet Lunar Rover "Lunokhod 2" Holds Off-Planet Driving Record After All, NASA Orbiter Data Show
Советский аппарат "Луноход-2" - рекордсмен среди спускаемых космических аппаратов по пройденной за пределами Земли дистанции. В 1973 г. он прошел по поверхности Луны 37 км (по последним оценкам ученых из Московского государственного университета геодезии и картографии - 42 км). На втором месте - марсоход Opportunity, преодолевший по поверхности Марса 35,76 км.
A 1970s Soviet rover did indeed travel about 3 miles farther on the surface of the moon than originally thought, meaning that any robot hoping to break its off-world distance record will have to run a full marathon, researchers say.
The remote-controlled Lunokhod 2 moon rover was long thought to have traveled 23 miles (37 kilometers) on the lunar surface back in 1973. But a Russian team recently upped the estimate to 26 miles (42 kilometers), using images snapped by NASA's sharp-eyed Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The Russian researchers, led by Irina Karachevtseva of the Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography, have been presenting the new number at conferences for the past year or so. But the revision began attracting widespread attention only in the last month, as NASA's Opportunity Mars rover crept closer and closer to the old 23-mile mark.
Now a second group of scientists - who are affiliated with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instrument suite - has backed the Russian team's finding, also using LROC images of Lunokhod 2's tracks to come up with an independent estimate around 26 miles.
"I think it's 41.5 [kilometers] or something like that, but we're not done yet," LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson, of Arizona State University, told SPACE.com on Monday (July 8). "We'll actually have a featured image fairly soon on the LROC web page that gives that number."
The LROC team is conducting its analysis as a simple double-check, not because it doubts the number derived by Karachevtseva and her colleagues, Robinson said.
"There isn't really a controversy here," he said. "We can measure the exact distance traveled by the rover now that we've got these pictures."
The LROC images, which boast a resolution of 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) per pixel, were unavailable back in Lunokhod 2's day, of course. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launched in 2009, 36 years after the old Soviet rover rolled to its final stop on the moon.
The original estimate of 23 miles appears to be based on the distance between Lunokhod 2's start and end points, Robinson said. But LROC photos show that the robot backtracked several times and also occasionally traveled in circles in order to take panoramic photos, adding several miles to its total odometry.
So Opportunity has a ways to go before it can be crowned the off-world driving champ. As of Wednesday (July 10), the rover had traveled 23.35 miles (37.58 km) since touching down on Mars in January 2004 along with its twin, Spirit, to hunt for evidence of past water activity.
And Opportunity will soon be hunkering down in a location called Solander Point to wait out the harsh Red Planet winter, so Lunokhod 2's record is likely safe for a while yet.
But pitting the Opportunity rover against Lunokhod 2 doesn't make much sense to Robinson. After all, the two robots are very different beasts that explored different worlds decades apart. And Lunokhod 2 covered all that ground in less than five months, he noted, while Opportunity has been chugging along for more than nine years.
Robinson wishes people would stop fixating on the distance record and take a little time to appreciate what both rovers managed to achieve on their separate missions.
"They've both accomplished amazing things, so focusing on who drove the farthest is really not useful," Robinson said.
Copyright © 2013 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
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Российская делегация в Комиссии по сохранению морских живых ресурсов Антарктики (АНТКОМ), заседание которой состоялось в Германии, заблокировала создание крупнейшего в мире водного заповедника у берегов Антарктиды, подвергнув сомнению юридический мандат организации.
Russia has blocked the creation of the world's largest ocean reserves off the coast of Antarctica, in what campaigners called a "bad faith stalling tactic".
The Russian delegation to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), whose 25 members have been meeting in Germany, questioned the organisation's legal mandate to create two huge Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) off the coastline of Antarctica. If adopted, the proposals would more than double the current area of protected ocean on the planet.
Delegates to the meeting said that, while a Russian delaying tactic had been expected, the legal argument was "completely wrong".
Steve Campbell, campaign director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), said there was both procedure and precedent for the proposals: "It's a very odd objection, because CCAMLR clearly has the legal authority to establish MPAs".
Campbell said that Russia had previously agreed to the adoption of a measure establishing the commission's procedure for the designation of such reserves. "But not only does it have the procedure," said Campbell. "CCAMLR has already designated a large-scale MPA in the South Orkney Islands in 2009."
The commission requires unanimous agreement from all of its 25 member states to create reserves. The proposals, initially put forward by the US, New Zealand, France, Australia and the EU, would create non-fishing zones covering 3.2m sqkm of ocean in the Ross Sea and off the East Antarctic coastline. Many countries have Patagonian toothfish and krill fisheries in the region.
Pew Charitable Trust Southern Ocean sanctuaries director Andrea Kavanagh said Russia's actions called into question the country's commitment to Antarctic marine conservation.
"Russia now seems to have forgotten that the mandate of CCAMLR is actually the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources, not the over-exploitation of resources," said Kavanagh.
The proposals will be considered again at the annual meeting of the commission in Hobart, Australia in November. But a senior delegate said the move had cast doubt over the commission's ability to create marine reserves.
"There is a question as to whether it can successfully create MPAs in the short term. Until Russia have a change of heart, it's not going to happen."
Kavanagh said the legal objection had caught the meeting by surprise and that it amounted to "bad faith stalling tactics" on the part of the Russians. She speculated that it was Russia's intention to keep fishing grounds open for the next Antarctic summer (December-February). Russia would "continue to fish as much as they can, while they can," said Kavanagh.
The commission's annual meeting in November 2012, failed to arrive at a consensus over the two MPAs, with concerns being raised by China, Russia and Ukraine, among others, over the scientific basis for the proposals. This led delegations, including Russia, to arrange this week's extraordinary meeting in the German port city of Bremerhaven.
The scientific committee began meeting on Thursday, with discussions reportedly continuing until 5.30am on Sunday. A source at the meeting said that China, South Korea and Japan, all traditionally reticent over marine reserve proposals, had been notably more constructive during the course of the talks. The Russian delegation was unavailable for comment.
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
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EarthSky / Jul 17, 2013
This date in science: America and Russia meet in space
17 июля 1975 г. состоялась стыковка советского и американского космических кораблей "Союз-19" и "Аполлон". Программа первого совместного экспериментального пилотируемого полёта была утверждена после того, как 24 мая 1972 г. было подписано Соглашение между СССР и США о сотрудничестве в исследовании и использовании космического пространства в мирных целях.
July 17, 1975. On this date, Soviets and Americans accomplished the first joint space docking between two nations in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. It marked the cooling of a long era of tense relations between the two world superpowers. Russian Soyuz and American Apollo flights launched within seven-and-a-half hours of each other on July 15, and docked on July 17. Three hours later, the world watched on television as the two mission commanders, Tom Stafford and Alexey Leonov, exchanged the first international handshake in space through the open hatch of the Soyuz.
The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project worked, but it wasn't all smooth sailing. Engineers on the ground had to work hard to make the two spacecraft compatible. Meanwhile, the astronauts and cosmonauts from both countries learned about each other's language and procedures. Because of Stafford's pronounced drawl when speaking Russian, Leonov later joked that there were three languages spoken on the mission: Russian, English, and "Oklahomski."
The two craft spent 44 hours docked together, in a mission that brought about increased technical and scientific collaboration between the two formerly opposing nations. Later, several American space shuttles docked with the Soviet space station Mir, which remained in orbit after the Soviet Union fell.
Today, the two countries work together routinely on International Space Station research and maintenance.
© 2013 Earthsky Communications Inc.
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EE Times / 7/22/2013
Russia Pioneering Quantum Technologies
20-24 июля в Москве прошла Вторая международная конференция по квантовым технологиям, ставшая крупнейшим российским мероприятием в области квантовой физики за последние годы.
MOSCOW - This week's International Conference on Quantum Technologies (ICQT) features an all-star cast of quantum researchers, from Seth Lloyd, the self-proclaimed quantum mechanic who popularized quantum technology in his book Programming the Universe, to Nicholas Gisim, the founder of first successful quantum computing company, ID Quantique.
"The universe is nothing more than a giant quantum computer," Lloyd, who directs MIT's Center for Extreme Quantum Information Theory, told us. "And once we fully understand the physics necessary to build our own quantum computers, we will be able to create extremely accurate models of anything in the universe."
The Russian Federation's aim is nothing less than to catapult itself to the forefront of quantum technology through its Russian Quantum Center (RQC), a project of the government-sponsored Russian Innovation Hub (Skolkovo Foundation). To achieve its goal, it needs to attract international talent to the RQC, and it is trying to do this through incentives.
Serguei Kouzmine, president of the RQC, told us:
We have three levels of participation in the Russian Quantum Center. The highest level is coming to work for us at the Center here in Moscow. The second level is to become a principal investigator, who leads one of our research projects here but then goes back to their own lab when the project is finished. And the third level is to become an external member, who participates in our research but works in their own lab elsewhere.
The RQC is soliciting applications for its scientific director post and 8-10 principal investigators to lead theoretical and experimental quantum technology projects.
"We are very enthusiastic about trying to make Russia a part of the international scientific community," Eugene Polzik, the leader of the Quantum Optics Lab at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, a member of the RQC's executive committee, and the principal contact for RQC applicants, said during an ICQT panel discussion, "The Introduction of Quantum Technologies."
By hosting the conference, the RQC created a showcase for its researchers and international advisory board members, who are helping to define the future of quantum technologies. Wolfgang Ketterle, a Nobel physics laureate, MIT professor, and advisory board member, said during the panel that end-user applications usually take a back seat to basic science when technologies are being developed.
Fundamental scientists often do not know how long it will take to develop an applications - three years or 30 years - because progression from fundamentals to applications is unpredictable. For instance, it would have been impossible for the inventors of the laser to predict all the applications for it - from medical treatments to entertainment DVDs. Likewise with quantum technologies. The scientists themselves know the science is important but may only see one application for it, whereas there will be many more that they did not think of. For instance, the researchers who developed atomic clocks could never have predicted that the GPS would turn out to be one of its most widespread applications.
Mikhail Lukin, a Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology graduate, Harvard University professor, and director of Harvard's Quantum Optics Center, is now an RQC international advisory board member. He said during the panel that quantum technologies not only will enable new applications but also will enhance the functionality of many of the most common technologies available today.
"Many technologies today can be made more sensitive with quantum technologies," Lukin said. "Atomic clocks, for instance, can be made more sensitive by basing them on q-bits [quantum bits], and because q-bits are so sensitive to their environment, they can also sense changes in many other things. For instance, they could sense living cells for more accurate brain imaging or maybe detect cancer in its very early stages."
Copyright © 2013 UBM Tech, All rights reserved.
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EE Times / 7/23/2013
Russian Quantum Center Advances
На Международной конференции по квантовым технологиям созданный в 2011 г. Российский квантовый центр представил результаты своей научной деятельности.
MOSCOW - Russian scientists are beginning to produce quantum technology advances by attracting the best and brightest to the fledgling Russian Quantum Center (RQC). Only a few months past its second year of operation, the RQC is still in startup mode but has begun to produce results.
In the poster session at the International Conference on Quantum Technologies here, two presentations stood out. In one, a plug-and-play quantum key distribution system was demonstrated with superconducting single-photon detectors.
First proposed by Nicholas Gisim, founder of ID Quantique (the world's first successful quantum technology company), quantum key distribution systems enable uncrackable encryption techniques. Any attempt to eavesdrop on the transmission will collapse the wave function of the quantum bit (q-bit), thus destroying the information in it. RQC scientists say they have improved on the technique by creating a bidirectional tuning system that makes long-distance quantum key distribution systems plug-and-play tools.
"Our quantum key distribution system is not only plug and play but also has demonstrated the longest distance - over 100 kilometers - when compared to available commercial systems," said Yury Kurochkin, an RQC scientist. (ID Quantique has demonstrated longer distances in the lab using similar techniques.)
The new system works by encoding a q-bit on a single photon, which is sent down a 101.7km (63-mile) single-mode optical. Ordinarily, a tedious tuning step is required next to compensate for polarization distortion in the quantum channel, but the RQC scientists compensate automatically by reflecting the single photon with a Faraday mirror back to its source, where it is detected with a Mach-Zehnder interferometer. High-speed field programmable gate arrays at both ends handle the fine-tuning step automatically.
Also at the poster session, RQC scientists demonstrated a new technique for transferring the quantum information encoded on single photons (such as those sent down Kurochkin's plug-and-play quantum channel) to atoms, where they can processed in a quantum computer.
"Quantum information encoded on atoms is very sensitive to environmental interference," Elena Kuznetsova, another RQC scientist, said at the session. "We are proposing a new technique that traps the atoms in a nanoscale cavity inside a photonic crystal, where they can be more efficiently processed."
After her education in the US, Kuznetsova became a post-doctoral researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. She recently returned to Russia to join the RQC. Her atom-trapping technique for processing q-bits is still a theoretical design, but now that she has become an RQC scientist, she is improving its specifications and hopes to demonstrate the technique experimentally soon.
Copyright © 2013 UBM Tech, All rights reserved.
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Daily Mail / 23 July 2013
Dogs CAN see in colour: Scientists dispel the myth that canines can only see in black and white
В 2012 году американский учёный Джей Нейтц из университета Вашингтона выяснил, что зрение у собак вовсе не монохромное - они различают цвета, хотя и не в таком широком диапазоне, как люди, поскольку имеют только два типа фоторецепторных колбочек.
Учёные из Лаборатории обработки сенсорной информации Института проблем передачи информации РАН продолжили исследование Нейтца, экспериментально доказав, что для различения предметов при естественном освещении собаки больше ориентируются не на уровень яркости, как считалось ранее, а именно на цвет.
Статья "Colour cues proved to be more informative for dogs than brightness" опубликована в журнале Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
There's a common misconception that dogs can only see in monochrome and use varying brightness levels to identify the outlines of items.
Yet Russian scientists have now proved not only do dogs have a limited colour range, they use this visual spectrum to distinguish between objects and select certain items from a line-up. Previously, dog trainers would avoid using coloured objects when training pets to do certain tasks, but these findings could improve how animals are trained and what they are capable of learning. A team of researchers from the Laboratory of Sensory Processing at the Russian Academy of Sciences tested the sight of eight dogs of varying sizes and breeds.
They wanted to expand on the work from the University of Washington last year. Scientist Jay Neitz from the American university carried out experiments on dogs to test whether they could see in colour or not. He discovered that while human eyes have three "cones" that detect colour and can identify red, blue, green and yellow light; dogs only have two. This means dogs can distinguish blue and yellow, but not red and green.
The Russian scientists therefore printed four pieces of paper in different colours; dark yellow, dark blue, light yellow and light blue. The dark and light hues were used to test the theory that dogs use brightness levels to distinguish between items. In the first test, researchers took a dark yellow and light blue sheet of paper, as well as a dark blue and light yellow combination and put them in front of food bowls placed inside locked boxes.
They then unlocked one of the boxes and put the dark yellow piece of paper in front of the box containing a piece of raw meat in each trial. Each test involved the dogs being allowed to try to open one box before being taken away. It only took three trials for the dogs to learn which colour paper was sat in front of the box containing the raw meat.
Once the dogs could identify that a piece of dark yellow paper meant meat was nearby, the researchers wanted to check whether the animals were choosing this paper because of its brightness or its colour. To do this they put the dark blue paper in front of one box and light yellow in front of another. If the dogs chose the dark blue paper, the scientists could rule that the animals were making choices based on brightness. However, if they chose the light yellow paper, the choices were based on colour. Each dog chose the light yellow paper - meaning they were making choices based on colour - more than 70 per cent of the time. Six out of the eight dogs made the colour choice between 90 and 100 per cent of the time. In conclusion, the researchers said: "We show that for eight previously untrained dogs colour proved to be more informative than brightness when choosing between visual stimuli differing both in brightness and chromaticity. Although brightness could have been used by the dogs in our experiments, it was not. Our results demonstrate that under natural photopic lighting conditions colour information may be predominant even for animals that possess only two spectral types of cone photoreceptors."
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.
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United Press International / July 31, 2013
Genome of horse linked to extinct human species decoded in Russia
Ученые из Института молекулярной и клеточной биологии СО РАН расшифровали митохондриальную ДНК древней лошади, останки которой были найдены в Денисовой пещере. Оказалось, что геном лошади, жившей на Алтае 700 тыс. лет назад, на 30% совпадает с ДНК некоторых современных популяций этих животных.
NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia, July 31 (UPI) - Russian scientists say they've decoded the genome of a 50,000-year-old horse whose remains were found alongside those of an extinct subspecies of humans.
The study of the Denisova Cave horse was done by the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Novosibirsk, RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.
The cave has yielded remains of both the horse and those of Denisova hominin, a subspecies of early human that branched from Neanderthals around 640,000 years ago, the researchers said. The Denisova horse's genome was about a 30-percent match for certain populations of modern horses, an institute spokeswoman said. It was likely hunted by the Denisova humans for game although an early attempt at equine domestication cannot be ruled out, she said.
The Denisova cave, located in the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia, was inhabited by humans for hundreds of thousands of years and has been the site of archaeological activities since the 1980s.
© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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