|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
New Scientist / 09 January 2014
Hunting wormholes in a Soviet-era science city
Пущинская радиоастрономическая обсерватория была основана в 1956 году. Какими проектами занимаются в ней сейчас?
THIS isn't what you would expect a "science city" to look like. They hunt for mysterious cosmic oddities like wormholes and white holes here, but as I step out of the car I see grey concrete-slab buildings that take me back to the drab days of my Soviet childhood.
The tiny science city of Pushchino, on the outskirts of Moscow, was founded in 1956 to house the Soviet Union's first radio astronomy research facility. Back then, Soviet space science was riding high, with Sputnik about to start circling Earth and Yuri Gagarin's space flight still a top-secret mission.
In the early 1980s, the Soviet government lined up Pushchino for one more scientific feat: to be the heart of the biggest radio telescope ever built. Project RadioAstron would sync up the signals from many telescopes to produce one highly detailed picture. A radio dish in orbit around Earth, dubbed Spektr-R, was supposed to be launched and linked up with radio antennas around the world, creating an uber-telescope whose "dish" had an effective span 30 times Earth's diameter.
But just as the project neared completion, the Soviet Union collapsed, and with it most of the state funding for space science. "The country had other problems at the time," recalls physicist Rustam Dagkesamanskii, director of the Pushchino Radio Astronomy Observatory.
Now, as 75-year-old Dagkesamanskii shows me around the city, this long-mothballed Soviet project is finally having its day in the sun. Spektr-R launched in July 2011, more than 30 years after the mission got under way - and it is now helping scientists get their sharpest look ever at black holes and other curious objects.
The telescopes on the ground appear decidedly old, but still do amazing science. The veteran of the place, RT-22 (pictured), was built in 1959. Despite its weathered looks, until recently it was the main receiver for signals from Spektr-R.
For several months now, Spektr-R has been zooming in on objects such as supermassive black holes, gravitational beasts millions of times more massive than the sun and thought to reside at the centre of every galaxy. RadioAstron is also peering ever closer to the event horizon of our galaxy's black hole, the boundary at which nothing can escape the black hole's gravity. The team hopes to study the material just outside the event horizon, says 81-year-old Nikolai Kardashev, the deputy director of the Russian Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Kardashev, another old-timer here, says RadioAstron's first batch of data is the start of something that could potentially change our whole understanding of black holes. It might even show whether certain black-hole-like objects are actually something much more exotic: wormholes. These tunnels through space-time would have a unique signature, Kardashev says.
"Wormholes are thought to have their own structure, different from a black hole," says Kardashev. "The core of a black hole is indeed black, and it's the surrounding gas that emits radiation. But if it's a wormhole, the radiation should be emitted from the wormhole itself."
RadioAstron has already managed to get a clearer look at the event horizon of a supermassive black hole than any other ground telescope, measuring the temperature of the black hole at the core of quasar 3C273. "We got a higher temperature than we had before, but that's not all," says Kardashev. "We know there is a black hole inside, but the quasar also has some weird qualities. Ground observations have shown in the past that it has a strange magnetic field, so theoretical physicists have suggested that this is not just a black hole but a wormhole. We'd like to verify that."
These are lofty goals, but RadioAstron also has more mundane quarry, such as newly forming stars and planets, and neutron stars - objects that cram the mass of the sun into an area smaller than Moscow.
They are also hunting hypothetical objects called white holes. These are time-reversed versions of black holes - whereas everything falls into a black hole, everything falls out of a white hole. If RadioAstron finds one, its existence could prove that time can flow in more than one direction. In this city pulled from another era, it's easy to imagine that to be true.
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Bloomberg / Jan 14, 2014
Putin Overhaul of Science Risks Final Blow to Soviet-Era Machine
- By Oliver Staley, Henry Meyer and Stepan Kravchenko
Реформа РАН может окончательно развалить научную систему и способствовать отъезду за рубеж молодых ученых.
Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) - Yulia Nelyubina is an internationally recognized chemist at the Russian Academy of Sciences. An overhaul of the academy pushed through by President Vladimir Putin may leave her homeless and further damage the country's already bruised science establishment.
The changes mean the academy will lose control of billions of dollars worth of real estate, which may cost Nelyubina her one-bedroom, rent-free apartment in a Moscow suburb. The perk, a vestige of the Soviet era, allows her and her scientist husband to get by even on the academy's average salary of 38,000 rubles ($1,150) a month, the same as Russia's prison guards.
"I'm worried that they could just cancel my housing contract and I'd end up on the street," said Nelyubina, 27, who studies molecular interactions in crystals and last year won a L'Oreal-UNESCO "Women in Science" fellowship. "With our salaries, we can't take a mortgage or buy an apartment. Young scientists may be forced to choose between leaving science and staying in Russia or leaving Russia and keep being scientists."
While top scientists in the Soviet Union were respected and given city-center housing and even a dacha in the countryside, Russian researchers today are poorly paid and leaving for jobs in the West.
The departure of young talent that started as the country opened up two decades ago may worsen with Putin's overhaul, which took effect Jan. 1. It imposes new oversight, dilutes the academy's membership and seizes its property. Critics say the decline of the academy, a scientific powerhouse during the Soviet era, will now accelerate, stifling innovation and increasing the country's dependence on raw materials.
"I would expect a much bigger exodus of young scientists from Russia," said Roald Sagdeev, a physicist at the University of Maryland who headed the Soviet Union's space agency and served as the science adviser to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. "This new reform will put research institutes in an even more difficult position. It would put them under a bureaucracy of cronies and dilettantes."
In the Soviet era, science thrived because the state gave it top priority, said Sagdeev, 81, who emigrated more than 20 years ago.
"The social ranking of scientists within that regime was quite high," he said. Now "the social status is much lower than a taxi driver in Moscow, or even a janitor, in terms of salary. It's particularly true for young scientists."
Overhauling the academy is necessary to improve the quality of science in Russia, said Andrey Fursenko, a former education and science minister and now an adviser to Putin.
"We have a lot of unrealized potential," he said. "This is going to be a consistent, serious and strategic reform."
In 1997, Russian scholars published about 32,000 journal articles - comparable with their Chinese peers - according to Scopus, a citation database owned by Reed Elsevier Plc. (REL) By 2012, China had increased its output to 386,152 articles, making it second in the world behind the U.S., with 527,549, while Russia published only 38,102.
The Russian Academy of Sciences has 511 full members, who are elected for life based on the strength of their research, and an additional 750 correspondent members. The academy, which receives about $2 billion from the government annually, oversees the work of 450 research institutes across the country. They employ 50,000 scientists, among them Nelyubina. Those institutes will now be among 1,007 units under the newly formed Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations.
Putin's overhaul merges the academy of sciences with the medical and agricultural academies. It also transfers control of its real estate, including prime properties in downtown Moscow, to the new state agency headed by a former deputy finance minister.
The plan follows the academy's spurning of Mikhail Kovalchuk, a physicist and Putin associate, said Mikhail Gelfand, a biologist in Moscow and deputy director of the Institute for Information Transmission Problems at the academy.
Kovalchuk runs the Kurchatov Institute, a nuclear-science center, and according to the academy's bylaws, membership is reserved for scientists who have made groundbreaking discoveries, rather than administrators. Kovalchuk's brother Yury is a billionaire businessman who is close to Putin.
In 2008, Kovalchuk's bid to be elected a full member of the academy was rejected. In May, he failed to win re-election as head of the academy's Institute of Crystallography. Soon after, the lower house of parliament approved Putin's shakeup.
Kovalchuk's office didn't respond to e-mailed and phone requests for comment. A Putin spokesman declined to comment.
Vladimir Fortov, the academy's director, said that "the situation is a lot more complicated" than just retaliation for the Kovalchuk rebuffs.
Science in Russia has stagnated, partly because its economy is dominated by state-run oil and gas companies, which don't need to innovate to succeed, according to Sergei Guriev, an economist and critic of Putin.
"The economy isn't providing demand for the new generation of scientists," Guriev said. "Real innovation and real scientific research only prosper when there is competition, especially international competition."
State-controlled companies such as OAO Rosneft (ROSN), the world's largest publicly traded oil producer by output, account for more than 50 percent of the Russian economy, up from 38 percent in 2006, according to BNP Paribas SA (BNP)'s Moscow unit.
Russia, the world's biggest energy exporter, is becoming increasingly dependent on commodities and isn't prepared when oil output beings to fall in 20 years, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said in December 2012. Oil and natural gas account for almost 70 percent of exports compared with less than half in the mid-1990s, according to the EBRD.
Russia, which put the first man, Yuri Gagarin, into orbit in 1961, has also stumbled in space exploration. It fired the head of its space agency in October for the second time in two-and-a-half years after a series of botched launches. In 2011, it failed to launch a $163-million probe to Mars and lost its most powerful telecommunications satellite and a cargo-supply ship destined for the International Space Station.
Efforts to boost scientific innovation and wean Russia's economy from fossil fuels have been plagued by political infighting and charges of corruption. In 2009, then-President Dmitry Medvedev founded the 85 billion-ruble Skolkovo Innovation Center, a research campus outside Moscow.
After replacing Medvedev as president in 2012, Putin vetoed legislation that would have granted Skolkovo exemptions from red tape and overturned a Medvedev order that state-owned companies contribute to the endowment of a new university at the center.
Police raided the Moscow offices of the Skolkovo Foundation in April as part of a corruption probe. Two criminal cases against Skolkovo executives have been opened.
The government has also awarded grants to foreign scientists, expecting them to work at Russian institutions four months a year. Nobel Prize-winning Yale University biologist Sidney Altman received a grant worth about 90 million rubles over three years at the Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine, an academy institute in Novosibirsk.
Altman said he has yet to visit Novosibirsk, in Siberia, and doesn't intend to spend much time there. He applied for the grant at the request of Russian colleagues, who prepared his submission and are leveraging his name to attract badly needed resources, he said.
Sofya Kasatkaya, a master's student in immunology at Moscow State University, said she'll leave for Germany or elsewhere in Europe after earning her Ph.D. While she's pleased with the quality of instruction at the Moscow institute where she plans to pursue her doctorate, her pay and working conditions will be better abroad, she said.
"Russia doesn't give people any other choice," Kasatkaya, 21, said.
The Russian Academy of Sciences was founded in 1724 by Tsar Peter the Great. Russians affiliated with the academy include Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a pioneer in rocketry and space science; Alexander Prokhorov, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work with lasers in 1964; and Andrei Sakharov, a physicist and dissident who later won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Fortov, the academy's director, said the changes will reduce the effectiveness of the academy's research.
"I see my role at this time to do everything I can to limit the damage to science in Russia," he said. "We have to salvage what can be salvaged."
The academy needs to adapt to reflect the changing priorities of Russia, from the study of physics that dominated in the Soviet era, to life sciences and food engineering, said Fursenko, Putin's science adviser. Imposing the overhaul became necessary after the academy refused to change itself, he said.
"All attempts to engage the Academy of Science in a process of reorganization failed," Fursenko said. "During all my time as minister, I didn't once manage to get concrete proposals for reform from the academy."
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the academy missed an opportunity to remake itself into a modern institution, said Harley Balzer, who studies Russian education and social history at Georgetown University in Washington.
Instead, bright young researchers left the country, leaving behind older scientists with few incentives to innovate, Balzer said. Advancement historically was based on publication in academy journals instead of international, peer-reviewed publications and grants aren't awarded competitively, he said.
"The academy brought this on themselves," Balzer said. "I can't imagine any modern academic society employing tens of thousands of people without any serious accountability for what they do."
Anna Kropivnitskaya, 33, typifies Russia's brain drain. A post-doctorate researcher at the University of Florida, she works at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva. When she worked at the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics in Moscow, she earned between 300 and 400 euros ($400 and $550) a month. Now she makes 10 times that.
"If I stayed in Russia, I couldn't work in physics," she said. "I had to emigrate."
© 2014 Bloomberg L.P. All Rights Reserved.
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UPI.com / Jan. 21, 2014
Russian science head urges going ahead on particle accelerator
В Институте ядерной физики имени Г.И. Будкера СО РАН создается электрон-позитронный коллайдер, в котором планируется сталкивать электроны и позитроны с энергией от 2 до 5 гигаэлектронвольт.
MOSCOW, Jan. 21 (UPI) - Russia should move ahead with the building of a particle accelerator in Siberia to study exotic particles, the head of the country's Academy of Sciences says.
The study of particles that could unlock deep secrets of physics "is a priority project that must be pushed through," Vladimir Fortov told an assembly of scientists at a meeting of the academy's governing body Tuesday.
The proposed facility, dubbed the Super Tau Charm Factory, would be built by the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics in the Siberian science city Akademgorodok, RIA Novosti reported.
The facility would cost about $500 million, Yevgeny Levichev, one of the scientists who proposed the project, said earlier.
Fortov said funding for the project could come from the recently established Russian Science Fund, which offers greater financial capacity than was previously available.
The accelerator would slam high-speed electrons and their complimentary anti-particles into one another in an explosion of energy intended to produce a record number of tauon and charm quark exotic particles - hence the facility's name.
© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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UPI.com / Jan. 29, 2014
Russian space official described plans for moon, Mars missions
В ближайшие годы Россия планирует отправить несколько аппаратов к Луне и Марсу. Рассматривается также возможность строительства зонда для отправки к Венере.
MOSCOW, Jan. 29 (UPI) - Russia plans to launch several moon and Mars missions in the next few years, the head of a Russian aerospace company said Tuesday.
"In 2015, we plan the Luna-Glob mission," Victor Khartov, head of the Lavochkin firm, told a scientific gathering in Moscow.
Russia will then launch the Luna-Resurs-1 moon orbiter in 2016, he said, which will be followed by the Luna-Resurs-2 vehicle, which will land near the moon's south pole to drill the soil and bring it back to Earth.
A 2-ton probe with a 660-pound martian rover built by the European Space Agency will launch on a Russian rocket in 2018, RIA Novosti reported Khartov as saying.
Russia would launch its own rover mission dubbed Boomerang to the martian moon Phobos by 2020, Kharkov said, and his company is also considering construction of a probe for explorations on Venus.
Last December Lev Zelyony, director of the Russian Academy of Science's Space Research Institute, said Russia has set ambitious goals to be the leading space power by 2023.
© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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bulletins-electroniques.com / 31/01/2014
Mégagrant français 2013
Минобрнауки объявило имена победителей четвертого конкурса мегагрантов.
Le Ministère de l'Education et de la Science russe (MON) vient de publier les résultats de l'appel 2013 du programme dit "Megagrant", créé en 2010 pour favoriser l'ouverture à l'international du système de recherche russe. Megagrant s'adresse aux chercheurs de haut niveau, russes comme étrangers. Il s'adresse en particulier à la diaspora scientifique russe, omniprésente dans les pays à fort potentiel scientifique.
Megagrant finance une quarantaine de nouveaux projets de laboratoires par an dans des universités ou des institutions de recherche du pays. Les lauréats s'engagent à passer 4 mois par an en Russie ; ils peuvent conserver leur affiliation à l'étranger. Le laboratoire est doté de 90 millions de roubles (environ 2 millions d'euros) sur 3 ans.
Les projets sont renouvelables une fois pour 2 années supplémentaires. Tous les champs scientifiques sont concernés. Les évaluations sont conduites par des experts russes ou étrangers. Les 3 premières vagues ont conduit à la sélection de 119 projets (39 en 2010, 38 en 2011, 42 en 2012). En 2012, 23 des 39 laboratoires de la première vague avaient été renouvelés.
Parmi les lauréats des trois premières vagues, on comptait 11 chercheurs appartenant à des institutions françaises. Parmi ceux de la quatrième vague (2013), 4 travaillent en France :
1) Julien Fuchs, professeur à l'Ecole Polytechnique, pour un projet à l'Institut de Physique Appliquée de Nijni Novgorod un laboratoire sur les phénomènes de plasma dans les objets astrophysiques extrêmes ;
2) Yves Gallet, chercheur CNRS à l'Institut de physique du globe, pour un projet à l'Institut Schmidt de physique de la terre un laboratoire sur l'évolution du champ magnétique terrestre ;
3) Romeo Ortega, directeur de recherches CNRS à Supelec, pour un projet à l'université ITMO de Saint-Pétersbourg un laboratoire sur les systèmes de contrôle robustes et adaptatifs ;
4) Anatoly Snigirev, collaborateur de l'ESRF à Grenoble, pour un projet à l'Université fédérale de la Baltique (Kaliningrad) un laboratoire de nanotechnologies et rayons X.
Les autres lauréats sont pour la moitié de nationalité russe, parmi lesquels 11 ont une double nationalité. Il est également intéressant de noter que parmi les lauréats russes seuls 4 exercent dans un laboratoire situé en Russie. De plus, les disciplines de ces lauréats couvrent un grand nombre de disciplines :
- Physique et chimie : (19 projets)
- Mathématiques, mécanique, informatique (9 projets),
- Sciences du vivant et biotechnologies (8 projets),
- Sciences de la terre (3 projets),
- Sciences humaines (3 projets).
Les villes de Moscou et de Saint-Pétersbourg accueilleront chacune 8 de ces projets confirmant ainsi la place de choix qu'elles occupent dans le paysage scientifique russe.
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