|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Исследователи из Института неорганической химии им. А.В.Николаева СО РАН и Института биофизики СО РАН создали новый композиционный материал - конструкцию из нанотрубок, на поверхность которых нанесен слой наноалмазов. Материал светится в электрическом поле, что позволит использовать его разных сферах жизни - от новых типов дисплеев до диагностических аппаратов.
Des chercheurs de l'institut Nikolaev de chimie non-organique de Novossibirsk et de l'institut de biophysique de Krasnoïarsk, tous deux dépendant de la branche sibérienne de l'académie des sciences, ont mis au point un nouveau matériau hybride constitué de nanotubes de carbone et de nanodiamants.
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Cette nouvelle structure présente des propriétés particulières. Les nanodiamants émettent de la lumière lorsqu'on leur applique un champ magnétique fort. Les nanotubes de carbone permettent de renforcer le champ magnétique appliqué et donc l'intensité de la lumière émise. Ce nouveau matériau sera utile pour un large éventail de technologies, par exemple d'affichage ou de diagnostic médical.
Pour créer ce nouveau matériau, les chercheurs ont déposé sur des nanotubes de carbone alignés une couche de nanodiamants. Du fait des liaisons carbone des deux structures, il a été difficile de les lier de manière permanente. Cette découverte a fait l'objet d'une publication dans la revue scientifique Nature. Les images ci-dessous y ont été publiées. Sur les images du haut, on peut observer l'alignement des nanotubes de carbone avant d'y déposer une couche de nanodiamants. Ces photos ont été prises grâce à un microscope électronique à balayage. Sur les photos du bas, on peut observer la lumière émise par la structure hybride en fonction du champ électrique appliqué de 0 à 15 V/micro-m.
Science Business / 03 June 2015
EU will maintain scientific ties with Russia despite escalating tensions
Science diplomacy can light the way where other kinds of politics and diplomacy have failed, says Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas.
Комиссар ЕС по исследованиям, инновациям и науке Карлос Моэдас заявил, что сотрудничество Евросоюза и России в сфере науки и инноваций должно продолжаться и развиваться, несмотря на все политические разногласия.
While EU-Russian diplomacy gets more strained by the week, science communication lines will remain open, the EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas said on a visit to the US this week.
"The EU has imposed many sanctions on Russia, but one area where we have endeavoured to maintain our strong connection is in the area of research and innovation," Moedas said in a speech in Washington on Monday.
"Russia is a very active scientific partner of the EU. It is still a welcome partner in the Horizon 2020 [research programme]. We are working to maintain this important bridge to Russia, preserving a precious link through the common language and ideals of science," the Commissioner said.
Moedas used his visit to remind US and European governments of their obligations to not let science ties suffer during an icy spell in international relations. "My hope is for the United States and the EU to continue to lead by example in this regard," he said.
The current frigid relationship between Europe and Russia, which dates back to the latter's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine last year, deteriorated further last weekend with the disclosure of Moscow's blacklist of 89 European politicians and military leaders who are banned from entering the country.
But while some politicians in Brussels, like the European Parliament President Martin Schulz, reacted to the news with characteristic breast-beating, Moedas made a more measured response, saying there will be no reflex action to cut ties in science.
While European governments no longer sell hi-tech equipment to Russian defence and energy firms, and Moscow has blocked imports of Polish apples, tit-for-tat sanctions have exempted research, which Moedas says benefits from a depoliticised air.
Since tensions between the two blocs rose last year, Russian astronauts have continued to work with their European counterparts high up in the International Space Station (ISS). ExoMars, the mission to put a demonstration lander on the red planet in 2016, is being led by the European Space Agency, with Russians supplying the launcher and two of the four instruments of the scientific payload.
And while the Commissioner did not mention that Russia's participation in Horizon 2020 has gone down, compared with figures from the 2007-2013 programme cycle, the explanation for the slide might be changing funding rules, which say Russia has to bring cash of its own to any joint-research projects.
The constant threat of further political breakdown could force countries to pull out or cancel their funding at any time. However, "the history of science diplomacy tells us that…relationships between scientists of conflicting countries, although they may suffer, generally keep on going," said Pierre-Bruno Ruffini, professor of economics at University of Le Havre who previously worked as a science attaché in the French embassy in Russia.
The situation in Ukraine led the US government to scale back contact between NASA and Russian space agencies and government representatives, although there is still cooperation on the ISS. The NATO military alliance also shut the door on Russia's involvement in its Science for Peace and Security Programme, which includes cooperation on new technologies.
A G8 Summit of world leaders scheduled to be held in Sochi, Russia, early last year was cancelled and replaced by a G7 meeting in Brussels, minus the participation of Russia. But a "Global University Summit 2014", scheduled to run in the shadow of G8, still took place.
"According to my information, there was no idea of a boycott among participants from Western countries who had registered, although a few of them, maybe, decided not to go to Moscow, on an individual basis," said Ruffini. "It seems to me that a large majority of scientists and researchers, whatever they may think about [President] Putin's [dealings] in Crimea and East of Ukraine, are not comfortable with the idea of using Russia-EU or Russia-US scientific cooperation as a piece on the chess board."
Anyone looking for a historical parallel to underline the importance of science diplomacy between nations need not look far. Cooperation by US and Soviet scientists during the Cold War is hailed by many observers as vital for defusing the decades-long stand-off. Joint talks on nuclear disarmament and participation in the Apollo-Soyuz space exploration project helped to ease relations between the two nations in the 1970s.
An olive branch
Today, politicians are more than ever recognising the "elevated language of science" as a back channel for political dialogue and deals.
"Known in America for a long time, science diplomacy is an emerging term in the EU context, and a recent one at broader international level," Moedas said. "I believe [it] is the torch that can light the way, where other kinds of politics and diplomacy have failed."
It may be a fluid concept, but scientific diplomacy can act as an olive branch between neighbours at loggerheads. The Sesame particle accelerator project in Jordan, which brings together scientists from countries with fragile communication lines, including Israel, Iran, Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority, is an unlikely but encouraging example. "Projects like SESAME are as valuable for their contribution to stability…as they are to knowledge and science," Moedas noted.
Before Sesame, there was CERN, the Geneva-based particle physics lab, which was set up after the Second World War to unite scientists from former battling nations in Europe.
Audra J. Wolfe, author of "Competing With the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America", said the breakthrough on the US-Iran nuclear deal is another occasion where science prised open a sealed door. US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, both hail from governments which are highly suspicious of one another. But with their doctorates in theoretical physics and nuclear engineering, respectively gained from top US universities, Moniz and Salehi forged a way to talk directly with each other on the scientific details of the agreement.
In the UK and the US, observers see a greater push to kit governments out with the tools of science diplomacy.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science has created a Center for Science and Diplomacy, which is now offering training in science diplomacy, publishes an online journal, and recently held a science diplomacy conference.
Wolfe said, "The Obama administration's science envoy programme sends prominent scientists abroad as private citizens. This gives them more leeway in their discussions, and sometimes gives them access to sites that "official" government representatives can't go to - even though everyone understands they're travelling on behalf of the US government."
Annick Suzor-Weiner, today a professor at the University of Paris-Sud, met several such envoys during her time as science attaché in the French embassy in the US. "I was not very impressed, and had the impression, at least for some of them, that they were rather working to maintain the dominance of American science, than for an open science diplomacy," she said.
This is the other acknowledged form of science diplomacy: a convenient cloak to exercise a little "soft power". The US is not alone in evoking the concept for other means. The EU's foreign policy wing, the EU External Action Service, describes the concept as, "a mean[s] to raise awareness among elites in third countries on EU values, visions and priorities."
© Science Business Publishing Ltd.
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Международное научное издательство Emerald Group Publishing провело встречи с библиотеками и университетами Москвы, Санкт-Петербурга и Казани, чтобы оценить возможности инвестиций и сотрудничества в области издания литературы по социальным наукам.
The banks of the Volga in February are cold. Make no bones about it (and my bones were making plenty of complaints as the temperature dropped below -20c), off-season travelling in central Russia requires major determination.
Increasing international research collaboration, improving quality of output;
Elite universities will have more money to spend on subscriptions to international publications;
Russian authorship in international journals will increase; and
Government activity increases likelihood of national consortia deals.
I was in Russia on behalf of Emerald Group Publishing, travelling with colleagues to visit libraries in St Petersburg, Moscow and Kazan. If St Petersburg looks west and Moscow is the fabled heartland, Kazan is ancient eastern border country. Capital of the Republic of Tartarstan, the city lies 800 km east of Moscow, an anxious 12 hours drive along the frozen M7 motorway (although a relatively painless flight with Aeroflot). Our intention was to learn more about the Russian higher education market for social science publishers.
Russia has long been famed for its chemical, engineering and physical science output, and spending on R&D in these areas dwarfs all others. However, Emerald primarily publishes in the social sciences, and we wanted to know the potential for growth in an emerging economy. Plus we wanted to meet people; in Russia, the kommandirovka (business trip) still reigns supreme, and there is no substitute for what the Chinese call guanxi, and the Russians - slightly less elegantly, it must be said - call blat.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, universities in the newly-independent Russian Federation went through a difficult period of adjustment as an entire system of tertiary education adjusted to radical change. Russia finally co-signed the Bologna Declaration in 2003 - not without objections from several well-established universities - which began a gradual migration to a modernised higher education system.
In 2007, President Putin signed into law a declaration that introduced a two-tier education system: a bachelor degree followed by a masters, rather than the traditional single-degree course that lasted five years and was created in the 1940s at the height of the Soviet planned economy.
This transition was slow to take effect, and in the annual Times Higher Education (THE) university rankings, Russian universities were consistently poorly ranked. This weakness was attributed to poor global citations, since the Russian scholarly publication process - perhaps reflecting its social context - has historically rewarded productivity, not intellectual stimulus or theory development.
2012 saw the nadir of this process, when only one Russian university was ranked inside the THE top 400. The ensuing frustration and national embarrassment led President Putin to accelerate a dramatic and systematic overhaul of the higher education sector with the aim of identifying and weeding out weak universities. An external audit of 600 public HEIs was commissioned, and 102 universities and 374 local branches were found wanting, on the basis of student quality, research intensity and productivity, and teaching space.
Consequently, the Russian government has threatened widespread closures of poor-performing HEIs while offering significantly increased funding for fifteen leading universities. These top institutions will initially receive special grants totalling R9bn (£165m) in order to encourage English-language research. This is seen as the best way of improving citations, and thus the international rankings (and thereby the perceived status) of Russian universities.
National university rankings are also being developed in line with government targets. President Putin's ultimate aim is to have at least five of the country's universities in the THE top 100 by 2020. Despite drawing criticism that Russia's vast regions are being disadvantaged to the benefit of hyper-dominant Moscow, and that research is being left only in the hands of the privileged, the government is determined to press ahead.
Why this matters
These reforms are the most significant overhaul of Russia's university system in living memory. So what of the impact on Emerald and other social science publishers? We feel they are four-fold:
This was what brought us to Russia. We visited nine universities in three cities, dividing our time between running publishing workshops for faculty, and interviewing librarians and library directors. In our interviews, we asked about four issues:
Challenges and opportunities for overseas scholarly publishers;
Level of faculty/student demand for English publications;
Specific requirements or rewards for faculty to publish; and
Trust of intellectual property/copyright assignment/peer review.
Challenges and opportunities for overseas scholarly publishers
Government is overwhelmingly the driving force. Decades of central control and funding means that publishers must win friends and influence people at the centre before seeing success;
Language remains a barrier. Older faculty are limited in English, and Russian textbooks often have a limited print-run to achieve margin;
Culture vital to understand. On all theoretical models, Russian culture is profoundly different from that of Western Europe and the USA (hence the continued importance of the kommandirovka in increasing understanding on both sides);
University structures and systems are slow to change, since older faculty and administrative staff remain from the Soviet era; and
Corruption still runs deep. As one interviewee told us, larger companies have the wherewithal to bring issues to court, but smaller subsidiaries will struggle.
Demand for English publications
Language skills appeared to be driven by publication needs. Almost without exception, younger faculty were more globally aware and had more international exposure, and expected to find some (not necessarily all/core) publications in English. By contrast, older faculty felt they could achieve their goals by reading and publishing in Russian.
Faculty requirement and rewards
Journal indexing is crucial, and the approach is not particularly nuanced. Despite the regular objections to Journal Impact Factors thrown up by (among others) the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), many individual universities hold to an "ISI is best" approach, offering sliding scales of cash incentives for Web of Science/Scopus publications to enhance the institution's prominence. President Putin has targeted a 50 per cent increase in Russian output in SCI/SSCI journal within two years, a figure that appears all but impossible. Even if the quality of Russian research did consistently reach international publication standards - a debatable point, given the THE data - it will take longer than two years for this to filter through into journal publications.
Trust of IP and peer review
We heard many historical anecdotes about evasion of review processes, and tales of professors cutting and pasting entire articles from print-only journals. Despite the prevalence of digital publishing, improvement is still debatable. Although online programmes such as ScholarOne and Editorial Manager offer more transparency and consistency, many Russian journals do not use these and figures are therefore hard to come by. On the other side of the argument, Russian faculty had the same fears as those in other developing countries: a feeling of bias against them in favour of established, "Western" scholars. There were lots of call for editorial support in the guise of language editing, reviewer training and paper development workshops.
Russia has enormous untapped potential. However, it became abundantly obvious during our visits that the "Wild East" holds such risks that social science publishers must be very sure of their ground. Publishers, libraries and universities seeking exchange programmes should focus on relationships and long-term sustainability, not on quick wins, and outside the hard sciences, this requires greater effort and investment. With that in mind, it is hardly surprising, given the pressures on companies to maximise ROI in the shortest possible times, that so few are willing to take a chance on Russia.
Europa Science © 2003-2015.
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Продолжение истории с внесением в список «иностранных агентов» фонда «Династия». Полный текст статьи доступен по подписке.
Last week, Russia's justice ministry branded Russia's only private research funder, the Dynasty Foundation, a "foreign agent." The move threatens to strangle the foundation in red tape and ostracize future grantees. The designation infuriated Dynasty's founder, telecom tycoon Dmitry Zimin, who has vowed to stop financing the foundation, which spent $10 million last year on 20 projects supporting young researchers (mainly mathematicians and physicists), competitions for science teachers, science festivals, and public lectures by world-class researchers. Dynasty's imminent demise is sending shock waves through the scientific community. Prominent researchers have vowed to stage a rally in Moscow on 6 June to protest the government's "disrespect to science and education" and "consistent elimination of the seedlings of civil society."
© 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.
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В Москве состоялся семинар «Территориальные споры и право на мир в новую эпоху», посвященный проблемам Южно-Китайского моря и конфликтов в этом регионе, угрожающих остальному миру. В семинаре приняли участие эксперты и исследователи в области востоковедения и вьетнамоведения.
Un colloque intitulé "Les différends territoriaux et le droit international en cette nouvelle période" qui porte principalement sur les "points chauds" dans le monde vus du plan juridique par la Russie, un médiateur important.
Étaient présents à ce colloque de nombreux érudits russes et l'ambassadeur du Nicaragua en Russie, Joan Ernesto Vasquez Araya, le diplomate de la Chypre Sofoklis Sofokli, outre des étudiants d'universités russes.
Avec cinq interventions traitant de la question de la Mer Orientale, les participants ont discuté des différends territoriaux et en ont analysé les causes, des éléments historiques, de la situation actuelle en Mer Orientale, ainsi que des modalités de règlement de ce problème.
Dans son rapport, le professeur et docteur Dmitry V. Mosyakov, directeur adjoint de l'Institut d'Extrême-Orient de l'Académie russe des Sciences, a indiqué les méfaits et les visées de la Chine à travers les récents événements survenus dans cette zone maritime. Selon lui, la première solution pour régler ce problème est que la Chine doit changer sa ligne politique et coopérer avec ses voisins en tenant compte de leurs intérêts légitimes. Elle doit également chercher et parvenir à une convention conforme au droit international, notamment la convention des Nations Unies sur le droit de la mer de 1982 (CNUDM).
Dans son intervention de Grigori Lokshin, expert de l'Institut d'Extrême-Orient de l'Académie russe des Sciences, la Chine a publié en mai dernier son premier livre blanc sur la défense chinoise, lequel montre sa volonté de domination de la Mer Orientale. Ce qui explique les agressions directes de la Chine à l'encontre des pays dans la région comme le Vietnam, la Malaisie, les Philippines, le Brunei et Taiwan (Chine). Les actes de la Chine ont immédiatement rencontré la réaction énergique de la communauté internationale.
Tous les intervenants ont indiqué que le règlement des différends en Mer Orientale par la voie des négociations et en respectant le droit international - dont la CNUDM - et la Déclaration sur la conduite des parties en Mer Orientale (DOC), est la meilleure solution.
© Copyright, VietnamPlus, Agence vietnamienne d'information (AVI).
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Согласно последним данным Всемирного фонда дикой природы, количество краснокнижных амурских тигров, обитающих в основном на юго-востоке России, увеличивается, но медленно. Сейчас их примерно 480-540 особей.
The Siberian tiger population continues to rebound, according to the latest numbers from the subspecies' stronghold in Russia. Ten years ago, conservationists estimated 423-502 Amur tigers in Siberia. But last month, the Russian government and WWF said numbers had risen to 480-540 tigers, including an estimated 100 cubs.
"This success is due to the commitment of Russia's political leadership and the tireless dedication of rangers and conservationists in very difficult conditions," said Igor Chestin, the head of WWF-Russia.
Tiger conservation has been a rare environmental priority for Russia's current government as Vladimir Putin has consistently highlighted the importance of the world's biggest cats. It's thought that around 95 percent of the world's Siberian tigers are still found in Russia.
Siberian tigers (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as Amur tigers, were almost wiped off the face of the Earth. In the 1930s, the population dropped to just 20-30 individuals before being saved by conservationists over decades. The species remains endangered by deforestation and prey decline, but poaching for their body parts is still the biggest threat to the Siberian tiger.
Even as the population grows in Far East Russia, the subspecies may be returning permanently to China as well. Camera traps have caught individual tigers across the border in China over recent years. Then earlier this year, a camera trap video showed a family of tigers - a mom and two cubs - for the first time in China, showing that the subspecies was very likely breeding there. In all, scientists believe more than two dozen Siberian tigers live along the Russian-Chinese border.
China is currently mulling removing barbed wire and other impediments from the border crossing at Primorsky Krai to allow both tigers and Amur leopards easier crossing.
"In nature there are no borders and predators do not have passports, so it is not in our power to tell tigers when to go to China or come back," Sergei Aramilev, the director of the Primorsky branch of the Siberian Tiger Centre, told The Siberian Times. "The recovery of the tiger numbers in China will create a backup of the population, which may in the future be used to increase the genetic diversity that is important for populations with low numbers."
No one knows if North Korea still houses Siberian tigers, but there is still suitable habitat there.
Siberian tigers are the world's largest cats and one of the biggest land predators. They are easily distinguished from other tiger subspecies due to their considerably shaggier coats adapted to the long, rough winters of Siberia. Tigers, worldwide, are in crisis. Conservationists estimate only around 2,500 survive.
In 2010, the 13-tiger range countries pledged to double the world's tiger population by 2022 and raised over $300 million to achieve this goal. Tiger populations are currently growing in India, Nepal, and Russia. But the outlook is far more bleak in many other countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia. The last century saw three tiger subspecies go extinct. Today, six remain, though one - the South China tiger - is likely extinct in the wild.
Copyright mongabay 1999-2014.
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Аналитический доклад американской компании Stratfor (занимается сбором и анализом информации о событиях в мире) о ближайших перспективах российской науки и инноваций. Прогноз, мягко говоря, неблагоприятный.
Independent funding for scientific research and development in Russia will be limited now that the private funding agency, Dynasty Foundation, has been deemed a foreign agent and its head, Dmitry Zimin, has left the country.
With funding scarce and international scientific collaboration restricted, Russia's scientific sector is unlikely to recover.
As research and development declines, Russia's space program will deteriorate.
Russia will be reliant on foreign rather than indigenous technology to support and develop key sectors, including energy.
Russian innovation seems poised to continue its gradual decline into obsolescence through neglect. Even if Russia's economy were healthy, it would be an uphill struggle for Russian research and development because of the difficulty of attracting and maintaining talent. Globalization in science allows the best minds to travel to the best institutions, largely unfettered by borders. Struggles to maintain funding and attract brilliant researchers are not Russia's problems alone. Moscow likely will concentrate its resources on key areas such as the military, but it will be limited to such an extent that the Russian scientific community will not make the kinds of frequent breakthroughs that occurred in Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Russia's geographic constraints make a strong central power a necessity, and that central power will seek to control scientific research and investment, limiting innovation and the potential for future growth.
One recent event could very well be marked by history as the proverbial nail in the coffin of Russian research: Dmitry Zimin's Dynasty Foundation was deemed a foreign agent on May 26. Zimin left the country by June 5, and it is uncertain when he will return. The oligarch has long been a supporter, if not the banner carrier, of innovation within Russia. He developed telecommunications firm VimpelCom before the fall of the Soviet Union and brought modernity to Russia during and after the collapse. Zimin was seen as one of the last vestiges still capable of attracting thinkers to the country. Although he has typically held opposing views with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zimin previously had remained unscathed by Kremlin political upheaval.
The decision on whether to officially close the Dynasty Foundation has been delayed while ongoing projects are completed. The organization's funds were small compared to the government's but were far more focused on innovation for the sake of scientific advancement. The monetary loss will be painful; the support for basic science will be even more so.
The Importance of Sustained Scientific Support
Technology remains mankind's greatest weapon to combat the constraints foisted upon nations by geography, geology and demography. Blue-water navies allowed for the expansion of empires and the advent of global trade. The Panama Canal expanded on this more than 100 years ago, connecting two oceans and significantly shortening the length of voyages. More recently, the Internet has fundamentally altered communication and commerce around the globe.
But technological innovation cannot pause or cease with a singular invention or accomplishment. To remain powerful, scientific progress must always be pushing forward to further technological advancement in many areas. Isaac Newton once wrote, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Innovation in science-related technology builds on itself, as well as on greater understanding of basic scientific principles and previous technologies, and the system must be continually advancing. This cannot be done in a vacuum. It requires financial support, both public and private.
Russia's History of Innovation
Russia's defining characteristic is its geographic indefensibility. To maintain security, Moscow must rely on a strong, often authoritarian central government. Robust state control is also required for urbanization and industrialization within the country. Scientific research does not often escape the hands of the strong central authority.
Nonetheless, Russia has a storied history of scientific excellence. The country produced scientists such as Dmitri Mendeleev (creator of the periodic table) and Ivan Pavlov in the 19th century, plus a variety of Nobel Prize winners throughout the 20th century. Russian scientists were highly competitive and comparable with their European and American counterparts. State interest in scientific research began long before this, becoming woven into the fabric of the country itself.
For example, Peter the Great sought to establish a scientific center in St. Petersburg. Although the czar would not live to see the final product, the St. Petersburg Academy of Science would open in 1725. Originally modeled after Western systems, it attracted prominent European faculty such as great Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler. Until 1917, policies at the academy would often follow the policies of the czar or czarina. Unlike the Romanov dynasty, the center would survive the Russian revolution, although its name would change over the years to the USSR Academy of Sciences and, later, the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 2013, reforms to the institution brought it under direct federal control for both organization and financing.
State financial support for the sciences also meant that research had to be focused on areas deemed important by Moscow. During the Soviet era, military matters reigned supreme, as perhaps best exemplified by the space race with the United States. This prioritization led to a series of successes for Soviet physicists, chemists, engineers and mathematicians in areas such as the aerospace industry, munitions, civil engineering and, later on, cyber security. Areas that were not in line with the state's imperatives did not see similar advancements.
The Beginning of the End
The fall of the Soviet Union left the research community, like the rest of Russia, in a state of upheaval. Funding and direction from the state disappeared, and output dropped rapidly in the early 1990s. Despite some initial recovery, a gradual yet monumental decline in publications began in that decade and extended into the next. A major driving force of innovation - competition with the United States - was gone. Moreover, the pressure on the economy only increased with the financial crisis of 1998, leaving little room in the budget for public funding of research and development. Although there have been attempts to increase funding since 1998, Russia continues to lag behind the United States and many European nations, investing a paltry 1.1 percent of its gross domestic product toward research and development.
Without technical innovation, Russia has relied on its previous scientific exploits to maintain some sense of relevance in the aerospace and oil and natural gas industries. However, significant progress in these areas has essentially plateaued since 1990, and existing operations are deteriorating. This does not bode well for the future of the Russian economy, which depends heavily on the export of natural resources. Additionally, the recent failures of both the Proton and Soyuz rockets and the lack of an open, innovative system has allowed other launch providers, including SpaceX, to threaten Russia's leading share in the satellite launch market.
Furthermore, the Soviet Union's collapse lifted restrictions on the movement of people and contributed to something perhaps even more detrimental to Russian innovation than the decline in funding: brain drain. In 2013, the number of emigrants from Russia increased by roughly 50 percent over the previous year. The lack of prestige in and support for science in Russia has led many of the country's finer minds to leave to conduct research elsewhere, leaving Moscow with an ever-aging talent pool from which to draw. Even an increase in funding likely would yield lackluster results without the talent to use it.
Putin and other lawmakers recognize the problem, and their rhetoric often vilifies or mocks foreign grants that encourage Russian scientists and engineers to seek work outside the country. One lawmaker has proposed banning them entirely. The loss of access in May to thousands of international journal subscriptions as a result of the decline of the ruble portends a further deterioration in the quality of academic research in Russia, making the West look like a far more attractive place to work.
Attempts at Resuscitation
Moscow did not sit on its hands as its capacity for innovation declined. There have been attempts - the multibillion-dollar Skolkovo project launched by Dmitri Medvedev during his presidency being the largest - to bring innovative companies, investment and workers back to Russia. Although the project was successful initially, ultimately, a lack of finances and shifting political priorities and support will likely render the project a failure.
Russia was seen at the forefront of technology during the Soviet period because of both indigenous brain power and the theft of technology. One of Putin's roles as a Soviet intelligence officer involved stealing Western technology. Such espionage still takes place, and Russia also partnered with many Western firms in the 1990s and 2000s to gain access to new technologies, particularly in the energy sector. However, with tension rising between Russia and the West, Russia has become more protectionist. Its preference to guard itself from outside influence rather than make scientific and technological leaps for its future is exemplified in the decision to bring the Russian Academy of Sciences under federal control in 2013. This insular mindset and the tension with the West has also made collaboration and cooperation more difficult, even at the academic level. For example, in late 2014, several U.S. scientists pulled out of Russian conferences they initially had planned to attend.
As during the Soviet period, scientific research in Russia remains focused primarily on government interests. The motivation for research is often as important as the funding, and the emphasis on the final product rather than foundational support of basic scientific research has further contributed to the degradation of innovation in Russia. The political mindset - that national security is paramount and that research and development are expendable - will continue to threaten the future of Russian innovation.
Copyright © 2015. Stratfor.
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Известно, что потеря клеток мозга может привести к неврологическим заболеваниям, таким как болезни Паркинсона и Альцгеймера. В Институте цитологии и генетики СО РАН предположили, что гибель нейронов может быть также причиной повышенной агрессии - пока только у крыс.
Siberian geneticists have discovered a correlation between aggressive behavior in rats and neurodegeneration. The researchers hope their study could help cure neurological conditions in humans, although research in this area is just beginning.
It is a well-established fact that the loss of brain cells leads to various neurological diseases, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. But as a study recently published by the Institute of Cytology and Genetics (IC&G) of the Russian Academy of Sciences suggests, there could be much more to it than that.
According to the study, the loss of brain cells could also be the cause of aggressive behavior, which had been, until recently, considered a personality trait rather than a disorder. The Institute's geneticists claim that it is possible that people become aggressive not because of their environment or difficult circumstances, but due to biological factors. For now the scientists' conclusions mainly come from their studies on rats, although they hope to extend research to humans in the future.
"Good" rats vs "mean" rats
The experiment conducted by the researchers involved two strains of rats bred for 40 years in IC&G's evolutionary genetics laboratory in Novosibirsk. The strains were bred from common brown rats. For about 75 generations, they were selected based on one trait: how comfortable they were around humans. Some of the animals were friendly and calm, while others acted with hostility. Observing their offspring, the scientists remarked that aggressive behavior was hereditary.
"During the past few years our lab has been conducting comprehensive research on several proteins, including brain-derived neurotrophic factors, or BDNF (a protein encouraging the growth of new neurons, found mostly in the brain)," says Vladimir Naumenko, a doctor of biology and the head of Neural Genomics Laboratory at IC&G. "We suspected this protein was involved in the regulation of aggressive responses. So, we decided to test our theory using selected rats to find out what was going on in there."
It turned out one of the possible causes of aggressive behavior involves the loss of brain neurons, which happens at the early stages of central nervous system formation both in humans and in animals. After birth, some of these cells die and those that remain form the structure of the brain. If the number of lost neurons is too high or too low, it can lead to serious mental illness later in life.
The first step
The scientists studied three areas of rats' brains: the midbrain raphe nuclei (neuron clusters found in the brain stem), the hippocampus (a major component of the brain located in the medial temporal lobe) and the frontal cortex. The two test groups of rats exhibited some significant differences in the structure of these areas.
The aggressive rats had high levels of the proBDNF in the hippocampus and the mibrain raphe nuclei. Unlike BDNF, which is required to form new connections between neurons, its precursor proBDNF acts in reverse, being responsible for the death of unnecessary cells.
"To determine what actually happens in the brains of rats, we will need to carry out further studies, counting the cells and taking into account other factors of cell death," says Naumenko. But the data already gathered by the scientists suggests the death of cells happens more rapidly in "mean" rats.
Further studies needed
The research by these Siberian scientists sheds some light on the mechanism of brain cell death and its influence on behavior in rats. Additional studies are needed to show whether the same principle applies to human brains.
"Even now we can say that highly aggressive behavior could be referred to as a neurological disorder, and perhaps someday it could be treated like depression," Naumenko says.
"However, it is unlikely that would happen anytime soon. Our research is just a first step in proving this link. Besides, the neurotrophic factor we are studying is far from the only cause of brain cell death, there are numerous other factors. That's why we will need to conduct additional experiments on animals, before proceeding to tests on humans."
According to the biologist, once the exact mechanism behind this process is understood, people could find a way to modify the behavior of aggressive people. "That said, we are simply studying the genetic phenomena, and influencing them is outside our field," Naumenko adds.
© 2007-2015 Russia Beyond The Headlines.
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Призрачный свет в ночном лесу получил свое объяснение еще в начале XIX века - светится зараженная грибным мицелием гниющая древесина. А вот выделить компоненты, участвующие в грибной люминесценции и понять механизм этого процесса пока не удавалось.
До недавнего времени было известно семь природных люциферинов - биологических соединений, способных вырабатывать свет. Год назад специалисты Института биоорганической химии РАН и Института биофизики СО РАН добавили в список восьмой пункт - люциферин Fridericia heliota, а недавно - и девятый, расшифровав химический состав выделенного из светящихся грибов люциферина 3-гидросигиспидина.
Статья «The Chemical Basis of Fungal Bioluminescence» опубликована в журнале Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
Ghostly light of tree trunks, called foxfire, which is often seen in the forest thickets, has been attracting attention since the time forgotten. The earliest accounts of this phenomenon are described in the works of Aristotle and Pliny. At the beginning of 19th century it became clear that fungal mycelia infestation is the cause of luminescence in decaying wood. From then onward many different species of luminescent fungi, producing light at various stages of development, were discovered in nature. For over a hundred years researchers from many countries have tried to unravel the mystery of foxfire. However, all the attempts to extract the components of fungal bioluminescent system failed again and again. At the time of his visit to Krasnoyarsk Nobel Prize winner Osamu Shimomura said: "It is very hard to get results. It is a hard work that takes a long time. In Japan and in the US those who encounter such difficulties usually find easier ways. Several times I proposed to conduct research on fungi in Japan and was refused. It is a very interesting topic, but the mechanism is too complicated. In nature there are three types of bioluminescence: first - the luciferin-luciferase system, second - the photoproteins, and the third - fungal... as of yet unexplored. Fundamentally new topics are always hard-won. I was primarily interested in the studies of luminescent systems of fungi and worms by Russian scientists. I believe they, who investigate the glow of earthworms, will be able to determine the structure of its luciferin, and I hope that they will make great progress in understanding of the mechanisms of fungal bioluminescence".
Research team that has recently elucidated the structure of luciferin from earthworm Fridericia heliota - the eighth fully proven luciferin molecule known to man - has now taken up an exploration of luminous fungi. As a result of joint effort of several labs (Laboratories of Photobiology and Nanobiotechnology of Instuitute of Biophysics RAS (Krasnoyarsk) and Yampolsky Research Group of IBCh RAS (Moscow)) a breakthrough in fungal bioluminescence studies was finally achieved. In their new research the structure of a novel unique luciferin-3-hydroxyhispidin, and its biosynthetic pathway from a precursor were established, as well as the data confirming a single biochemical mechanism of fungal bioluminescence was obtained. The new results are published in Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed.
So how was this evasive luciferin finally extracted? The mechanism of fungal bioluminescence suggests the formation of luciferin from a certain precursor. In the course of this work it was established that luciferin precursor is also present in non-luminous forest fungi, more importantly it is about a hundred times more abundant than in the biomass of luminous species. Therefore, it made sense to extract the precursor from non-luminous fungi. The application of soaking the mycelium in distilled water overnight led to a dramatic increase in concentrations of preluciferin as well as the enzyme that converts the precursor into luciferin in the extracts.
Six compounds were obtained from the extract of non-luminous fungus Pholiota squarrosa using HPLC. Their structures were then determined by NMR and mass-spectrometry. Among these compounds hispidine turned out to be the most active in bioluminescence tests. Later experiments conducted by the research team of Yuichi Oba from Nagoya University (Japan) confirmed that hispidin is a universal luciferin precursor in other fungi.
It should be pointed out that in 1998 Hideshi Nakamura in a private message to Osamu Shimomura suggested that the structures of all possible luciferin precursors should contain one common fragment - caffeic acid, which means that he was one step away from discovery of the role of hispidin.
Further experiments showed that the NADPH-dependent enzyme converting hispidin into luciferin is not the anticipated reductase, but hydroxylase. The extraction of this enzyme allowed the acquisition and structure elucidation of luciferin itselt. Thus it could be concluded that fungal bioluminescent system involves two substrates: luciferin precursor (hispidin) and luciferin (3-hydroxyhispidin) and two enzymes: hydroxylase, that converts the precursor into luciferin, and luciferase that promotes oxidation of luciferin resulting in the emission of light.
In conclusion the trilling mystery of fungal bioluminescence was solved and the words of Osamu Shimomura proved to come true. Novel bioluminescent system was described and new substrate became the ninth of the known luciferins. We believe that this new luciferin will find its application in bioimaging as well as in other fields of applied bioluminescence.
© Phys.org 2003-2015, Science X network.
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Российские ученые из Института прикладной физики РАН (при участии польских, американских и британских коллег) разработали метод вычислений, который позволяет гораздо точнее интерпретировать полученные со спутников и наземных станций данные о концентрации углекислого газа в атмосфере. Новый метод будет очень полезен при расчете вероятностей потепления климата в ближайшее десятилетие.
Статья «High-Accuracy CO2 Line Intensities Determined from Theory and Experiment» опубликована в журнале Physical Review Letters.
How light of different colours is absorbed by carbon dioxide (CO2) can now be accurately predicted using new calculations developed by a UCL-led team of scientists. This will help climate scientists studying Earth's greenhouse gas emissions to better interpret data collected from satellites and ground stations measuring CO2. By improving the understanding of how much radiation CO2 absorbs, uncertainties in modelling climate change will be reduced and more accurate predictions can be made about how much Earth is likely to warm over the next few decades.
Previous methods were only accurate to about 5% at best across all wavelengths, whereas the new calculations give an accuracy of 0.3%. This improvement will enable missions to achieve their goals, which demand an accuracy of 0.3-0.5% say the team of scientists.
The study, published today in Physical Review Letters by researchers from UCL, the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia), National Institute of Standards and Technology (USA) and Nicolaus Copernicus University (Poland), shows how the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics can be used to predict precisely how light of different colours is absorbed by CO2. This will help climate scientists work out how CO2 evolves in the atmosphere and pinpoint where it is being produced.
Supervising author, Professor Jonathan Tennyson, UCL Physics & Astronomy, said: "Billions of dollars are currently being spent on satellites that monitor what seems to be the inexorable growth of CO2 in our atmospheres. To interpret their results, however, it is necessary to have a very precise answer the question "How much radiation does one molecule of CO2 absorb?" Up until now laboratory measurements have struggled to answer this question accurately enough to allow climate scientists to interpret their results with the detail their observations require."
The team used calculations based on quantum mechanical equations to predict the chances of a CO2 molecule absorbing different colours of light, which have defined energies. These predictions, made using powerful computers, were verified using highly precise measurements taken using an extremely sensitive technique called "cavity-ring down spectroscopy". This method simulates the distances in space across which absorption measurements are taken, but in a sample length of 75 cm.
Lead author, Dr Oleg Polyansky, UCL Physics & Astronomy, said: "We have long known the exact quantum mechanical equations obeyed by a molecule like CO2; however these equations are much too complicated to solve explicitly. But the combination of modern computers and novel treatments of the problem mean that we can now use quantum theory to calculate how strongly CO2 absorbs light at each wavelength".
Dr Joseph Hodges, from the National Institute of Science and Technology in Gaithersberg, USA who led the team measuring the spectrum of CO2 in the laboratory, said: "These measurements are very challenging so we could only make precise lab measurements at a few wavelengths. Where we were able to make measurements, the agreement with the calculations is excellent which enables us to have full confidence in Dr Polyansky's calculations."
The results will allow atmospheric scientists to monitor how CO2 evolves in Earth's atmosphere, where is produced and moves to, all of which are key to understanding the atmosphere, monitoring human behaviour and the future of our planet.
© 2015 (e) Science News.
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Российские генетики обнаружили, что у многих ленинградцев, переживших блокаду, в организме присутствуют одни и те же генетические маркеры. В данном случаи генные мутации помогали улучшить процесс терморегуляции и медленнее расходовать энергию.
Статья «Did good genes help people outlast brutal Leningrad siege?» опубликована в журнале Science.
Analysis of the genome structure of Leningrad siege survivors and their contemporaries has allowed Russian scientists to spot specific DNA mutations that helped people to live through one of the most tragic chapters of the WWII.
A team of researchers took blood samples from Leningrad siege survivors to analyze the structure of the genes involved in metabolism and cell activity when facing severe food shortages. They compared their findings with genetic samples of elderly Russians who didnt live through similar horrors.
Many siege survivors who suffered the worst turned out to have a completely different structure of two genes related to PPAR (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors) proteins, and one from the UCP (uncoupling proteins) gene family, which play major roles in development, metabolism and thermogenesis of higher organisms.
The inhabitants of the besieged city, now known as St. Petersburg, had these genes undergo a mutation that increased the efficiency of the cells' activities and reduced the loss of energy invested in keeping the body warm, according to an article, recently published in the journal Science.
Scientists hope their findings may be useful in developing ways to combat obesity, anorexia and other disorders related to the metabolism.
© 2015 The Genetic Literacy Project.
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Биологи из СПбГУ выяснили, что большинство гигантских и больших рыжих кенгуру - левши. До сих пор предпочтение одной доминантной передней конечности приписывалось только приматам, у четвероногих такого свойства не наблюдалось. Кенгуру же пользуются левой лапой, когда чистят шерсть и едят, независимо от того, стоят они в этот момент на двух или четырех лапах.
Статья «Parallel Emergence of True Handedness in the Evolution of Marsupials and Placentals» будет опубликована в журнале Current Biology.
A group of Russian scientists have been surprised to discover most kangaroos are left-handed, challenging existing understanding of marsupials.
Yegor Malashichev, an evolutionary biologist at Saint Petersburg State University, studied handedness in animals for more than a decade before travelling to Australia to study kangaroos in the wild. While previous studies have been examined on kangaroos in captivity, none has been able to produce conclusive evidence.
"The more we observed the more it became obvious that there was something really new and interesting in the wild," Dr Malashichev said. "We observed a remarkable consistency in responses across bipedal species in that they all prefer to use the left, not the right hand."
Dr Malashichev and his team discovered kangaroos routinely used their left paws to perform particular tasks such as grooming, picking leaves, or bending branches. His report, published in the Current Biology journal, found left-handedness was especially apparent in the larger eastern grey and red kangaroos.
"One reason true handedness wasn't expected in kangaroos - or other marsupials for that matter - is because unlike other mammals they lack the same neural circuit that bridges left and right hemispheres of the brain," Dr Malashichev said.
But the study found red-necked wallabies - commonly found in dense vegetation on the outskirts of Canberra - used different paws for different duties, unlike other larger kangaroos.
"The left forelimb is preferred by red-necked wallabies in tasks that involve fine manipulation, whereas the right forelimb is preferentially used in static tasks that require physical strength," the report said.
"The emergence of differential roles for left and right forelimbs may be associated with the need to perform distinct manual tasks during bimanual feeding."
The report comes as the ACT government carries out an annual cull of eastern grey kangaroos on eight Canberra reserves to prevent overgrazing and protect sensitive flora. After more than a decade of escalating protests, the government is halfway through killing about 2466 kangaroos by August. The annual cull, which was to begin in May, was delayed after animal rights activists mounted a legal challenge in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for the second successive year.
Copyright © 2015 Fairfax Media.
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На завершившемся 21 июня салоне в Ле Бурже на стенде НПО им. Лавочкина был представлен макет лунной базы для добычи полезных ископаемых, которую Россия намеревается разместить на Луне к 2037 году.
Les Russes prévoient d'installer, à l'horizon 2037, une base lunaire entièrement robotisée pour exploiter les minéraux, selon l'association russe Lavochkine, présente au salon du Bourget 2015.
La maquette d'une base lunaire futuriste, cernée d'une enceinte de panneaux solaires et peuplée de robots, trônait sur le stand de l'association russe Lavochkin, au salon du Bourget, qui s'est achevé le 21 juin 2015. « Ce projet n'existe pas que sur le papier, assure l'ingénieur russe présent à Paris, nous sommes actuellement en train d'en réaliser les premiers éléments pour les lancer à partir de 2020 ».
Explorer et exploiter
Alors que sous l'administration Obama les Américains ont abandonné leurs ambitions lunaires, les Russes joueraient de leur côté la carte des robots, celle qui avait assuré leur suprématie durant les premiers épisodes de la course à la Lune dans les années 1960. L'enjeu cette fois n'est plus seulement d'explorer mais aussi d'exploiter. Exploiter les ressources minérales de notre satellite et notamment l'hélium 3, un isotope particulier de l'hélium (deux protons et un neutron) apparu aux premiers instants de l'univers et dont la fusion nucléaire satisferait potentiellement les besoins énergétiques de l'humanité. L'ennui, c'est que cet élément gazeux est extrêmement rare sur Terre, alors qu'on en trouve en profusion dans le sol sélène, déposé là par les vents solaires.
En réalité, ce programme est dans les tuyaux depuis la fin des années 1990. Mais au début du millénaire, le spatial russe a vu ses ressources financières fondre et ses ambitions lunaires remisées, avant de ressurgir ces dernières années avec tout de même beaucoup d'incertitudes quant aux dates de lancement. Le premier élément qui doit être lancé vers la Lune, Luna-Glob, a été repoussé plusieurs fois depuis 2012 et l'on parle maintenant de 2018 voire 2020 pour le lancement de cet orbiteur de 120 kg chargé d'étudier l'environnement martien. Il est équipé de pénétrateurs japonais de 45 kg qui se ficheront dans le sol polaire de la Lune pour étudier sa sismicité à l'aide de capteurs.
ENCHAÎNEMENT. Se succéderont ensuite à un rythme quasi annuel, si tout se passe bien, un orbiteur (Luna-Glob orbiter), un atterrisseur (Luna-Resurs lander), un rover à six roues (Luna-Grunt rover mission Luna-Resurs rover) qui pendant un an arpentera et scrutera un cratère au pôle sud de la Lune et une mission de retour d'échantillons lunaires (Luna-Grunt sample return vehicle).
Le pôle Sud, un site privilégié
Ces missions d'exploration dans la région du pôle Sud sont le préalable à la création d'une base robotique ("Lunny Poligon" en russe) destinée à mettre au point les méthodes d'extraction des éléments du sol lunaire et mener par ailleurs des recherches scientifiques et technologiques. Le choix de l'installer au pôle Sud s'explique par la possibilité d'y trouver de la glace d'eau dans des cratères ombragés afin d'en extraire l'hydrogène nécessaire à la fabrication de carburant pour les vaisseaux de retour. C'est également une région constamment éclairée par le soleil, un critère important puisque les installations seront équipées de panneaux solaires. De plus, le pôle Sud a été désigné par les astronomes comme un site privilégié pour l'étude du centre de la Voie lactée.
A ce stade, qui nous mène à l'horizon 2037, et s'ils arrivent jamais à réaliser toutes ces étapes, les Russes - qui n'excluent pas une coopération internationale et des fonds privés - seraient fin prêts à se lancer dans l'exploitation à grande échelle des minerais lunaires. Enfin, cette première base lunaire pourrait servir de support logistique à une future base lunaire habitée. Mais cette dernière étape est encore à ce jour du domaine de la science fiction.
© Sciences et Avenir.
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USC News / June 25, 2015
How scientists track the genetic arms race between humans and mosquitoes
Researchers studying mosquito populations show that strong evolutionary pressure drives the pests to adapt quickly to human influences on their local environment.
Группа российских и американских исследователей, изучив несколько видов комаров, вывела некоторые особенности их генетической адаптации к человеческим методам борьбы с ними. Результаты исследования могут быть полезными при разработке методов контроля комариной популяции.
Статья «Evolutionary genomics of Culex pipiens: global and local adaptations associated with climate, life-history traits and anthropogenic factors» опубликована в журнале Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Every time you put on bug spray this summer, you're launching a strike in the ongoing war between humans and mosquitoes - one that is rapidly driving the evolution of the pests.
Scientists studying mosquitoes in various types of environments in the United States and in Russia found that between 5 and 20 percent of a mosquito population's genome is subject to evolutionary pressures at any given time - creating a strong signature of local adaptation to environment and humans.
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This means that individual populations are likely to have evolved resistance to whatever local selection pressures are typical in their area - and that understanding the genomes of those populations could one day help inform agencies about which pesticides are likely to be most effective against them.
"Mosquitoes adapt to heat, lifestyle, pesticides and so on - and we see traces of that in their genome," said Sergey Nuzhdin, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences professor and corresponding author of the study, which was published by Proceedings of the Royal Society B on June 17.
For the study, scientists in the U.S. and Russia teamed up to sequence the genomes of various populations of mosquitoes - looking at urban and suburban mosquitoes in their countries and also at two different but related species: Culex pipiens and Culex torrentium.
They then tracked which genes were evolving the fastest by noting which were preserved most accurately in each genome.
Genes are subject to various copying errors. If there are a lot of variations throughout a population of a specific gene, then it probably isn't crucial to their survival. If, however, all members of a population have a near perfect copy of a given gene, then there's a good chance that natural selection is acting on it.
Based on which genes are being driven by evolution, the researchers found the widest variation between geographically separated populations than they did between populations in different types of environments. That is - a suburban mosquito in the States has more in common with an urban mosquito in the States than it does with a suburban mosquito in Russia.
"In addition to the insights into the contemporary evolution of mosquitoes, the methods we used in this study can be applied to compare genes under natural selection across populations of any species, including humans," said Hosseinali Asgharian, lead author of the study and Ph.D. student at USC Dornsife.
The scientists hope that the knowledge will help inform strategies to control mosquito populations. C. pipiens, for example, carries West Nile Virus, a disease that has no medications to treat it nor vaccines to prevent it. Of the 2,205 West Nile Virus cases reported in the U.S. in 2014, 801 were in California, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of those 801 cases, 31 were fatal.
The research was a collaboration between USC, the University of California, Davis, and Moscow State University in Russia. It was funded by a National Institute of Health grant (GM098741) and the Russian Science Ministry.
28 июня в Москве состоялась первая конференция Вольного исторического общества. О создании ВИО было объявлено 1 марта 2014 г., как об альтернативном сообществе ученых, основанном на демократических началах и независимом от политической конъюнктуры. Также в манифесте общества говорится о борьбе с фальсификацией исторических фактов, содействии свободе научных исследований и рассекречивании архивных материалов.
Ce dimanche 28 juin se tient à Moscou la première conférence de L'Association des Historiens Indépendants. Ce groupe de chercheurs qui s'opposent à l'utilisation de la connaissance historique à des fins politiques existe depuis le printemps 2014 mais se réunit pour la première fois afin d'organiser son fonctionnement.
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Selon Nikita Sokolov, ancien rédacteur en chef du journal Otetshestvennie Zapiski (Mémoires Patriotiques) l'organisation de cette conférence a été retardée par « une masse de raisons techniques » concernant l'enregistrement officiel de l'association. « Il n'y avait aucun obstacle de principe » selon Sokolov. La première conférence sera essentiellement une réunion de travail. Les participants décideront des orientations principales du travail de l'association, éliront son bureau et donneront le feu vert pour le lancement du site officiel de l'organisation. Pour l'instant l'association publie ses travaux sur le site du Comité des Initiatives Civiques de l'ex-ministre des finances Alexeï Koudrine. « Cela ne veut pas dire que nous existons en tant que projet du Comité » souligne Sokolov. Sur le site du comité il est précisé que l'association est financée par la compagnie « Nickel de Norilsk ». La compagnie est effectivement le sponsor de l'association, précise Sokolov, mais seulement en ce qui concerne la création de son site.
L'association, dont la création a été annoncée le 1er mars 2014, se présente comme un groupe de chercheurs fondé sur des principes démocratiques et indépendant de la conjoncture politique. En particulier le manifeste de l'association lui fixe pour but de lutter contre la falsification des documents et des faits historiques, contre les tentatives de limiter la liberté de la recherche scientifiques et de l'enseignement universitaire, et de favoriser le libre accès aux archives. Les chercheurs justifient leur action en rappelant que le milieu professionnel de la recherche « qui avait déjà été ruiné à l'époque soviétique pour des raisons idéologiques », recommence à se dégrader, ce dont témoignent les multiples scandales autours des thèses bidons et « les tentatives de remplacer le jugement des experts par des décisions bureaucratiques ».
Les tendances observées dans la société et qui avaient poussé les historiens à créer cette nouvelle organisation se sont beaucoup aggravées l'année passée, ajoute Sokolov. Un des membres du bureau de l'association, enseignant de l'Université de Volgograd, Ivan Kourilla précise : « En Russie est apparue une nouvelle politique historique avec ses propres lois mémorielles (en Mai 2014 le Président Vladimir Poutine a signé la loi qui introduit la responsabilité pénale pour la diffusion d'informations notoirement fausses sur l'action de l'URSS lors de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale), il est devenu encore plus difficile de travailler pour les historiens, les archives sont toujours à moitié ouvertes, et les étagères des magasins croulent sous le poids d'ouvrages pseudo-historiques ».
C'est pour cette raison que, selon Sokolov, les idées de l'association ont gagné « des historiens et des académiciens respectés qui jusqu'à maintenant envisageaient avec scepticisme la nécessité de fonder une nouvelle association professionnelle ». Aujourd'hui 110 personnes participent aux travaux de l'association.
En une année d'existence l'association a pris plusieurs fois position contre des décisions des pouvoirs publics, en particulier en défendant le professeur du MGIMO Andreï Zubov, licencié pour avoir critiqué le cours pris par le pouvoir russe à l'égard de l'Ukraine, et le membre de l'Académie des Sciences Youri Pivovarov accusé de négligence à l'occasion de l'incendie de la bibliothèque de L'Institut des Sciences Sociales qu'il dirigeait.
Kourilla ne pense pas qu'on puisse tenir l'association pour un mouvement d'opposition : « Oui, bien sûr, nous considérons que les lois mémorielles sont nuisibles », mais je ferais une distinction entre les auteurs de la loi et les personnes qui persécutent Zoubov d'un côté, et les pouvoirs publics de l'autre. Défendre des normes professionnelles, des rapports honnêtes à l'histoire, l'accès aux archives et la liberté de la création scientifique, cela ne veut pas dire âtre dans l'opposition. Si quelqu'un voulait faire des valeurs professionnelles de l'association des valeurs de l'opposition, cela sonnerait plutôt bizarrement ».
rbc.ru, 22 juin 2015, article de la rédaction.
« Le scandale des thèses bidon » fait référence aux milliers de thèses constituées essentiellement de plagiats de thèses étrangères ou entièrement rédigées par des nègres et qui permettent aux hommes politiques russes de se targuer d'une formation universitaire imaginaire. C'est en particulier le cas de la thèse d'économie du président Poutine, constituée à 80% de la citation intégrale d'une thèse américaine… Les grades de docteurs sont attribués à tour de bras par des jurys universitaires complaisants ou corrompus.
Un des exemples marquants de la « tendance observée dans la société » est l'interdiction d'antenne de la chaîne d'opposition Dozhdj.TV : elle avait simplement lors d'un débat d'historiens à l'occasion des 70 ans de la fin du Blocus de Leningrad osé poser la question de savoir si la reddition de la ville n'aurait pas été moins coûteuse en vies humaines que sa défense opiniâtre. Aussitôt les partis proches du pouvoir avaient instrumentalisé l'indignation de quelques anciens combattants pour organiser une campagne extrêmement violente contre la chaîne et obtenir son interdiction. Elle n'est plus visible que sur le site tvrain.ru
Dans le même ordre d'idée un journaliste et ancien dissident, lui-même ancien combattant, avait regretté que parmi ces derniers soient aussi honorés d'anciens « gardiens de camp » : aussitôt les organisations de jeunesse poutiniennes avaient pendant plusieurs semaines fait le piquet en face de son appartement en l'invitant à faire sa valise pour Berlin ou Washington.
Enfin, à l'occasion des dernières commémorations des 70 ans de la victoire le président Poutine a changé de discours à l'égard du Pacte Ribbentrop-Molotov, vu désormais et à nouveau, comme par l'historiographie soviétique, comme une ruse géniale de Staline et sa réponse à la trahison des démocraties. Aussitôt la presse officielle et les intellectuels organiques ont repris à leur compte ce revirement de la conscience historique officielle.
В Думе предложили запретить деятельность иностранных некоммерческих организаций, предоставляющих российским школьникам и студентам гранты и стипендии на обучение за рубежом. Предполагается, что это поможет предотвратить будущую "утечку мозгов".
The Russian parliament is planning to ban overseas non-profit organisations from luring away the country's top students and skilled workers. These organisations, which often offer grants and support for promising students that want to study abroad and can arrange lucrative salaries at top western firms for workers with the right skills, will no longer be allowed to operate in Russia.
Members of the Duma blame these organisations for a shortage of highly skilled workers in the country and for denuding the country of its scientific talent. Given the current geopolitical situation they have said that this is unacceptable. Vadim Solovyov, a Communist party member of the Duma and one of the main backers of the ban said: "The activities of such organisations are contrary to Russia's national interests. We have introduced a bill to ban the activities of these funds, which, like the slave owners, specialise in the exporting of young, talented people from Russia to abroad."
According to Solovyov, after the ban is implemented the government will draw up its own programmes for Russian students that want to study abroad and will add conditions that will require them to return after graduating.
A spokesman for the Duma said that parliament is, perhaps, most concerned by the EF International Academy, which conducts competitions among Russian students, offering the winners its Bertil Hult scholarship to study abroad, mostly at US universities.
Other organisations that may be banned from operating in the country include the UK's Charities Aid Foundation, the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the German Goethe cultural center. The ban may also apply to the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD, Soros Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson Center.
High level backing
The initiative is supported by Russia's president Vladimir Putin, who has said the number of talented students and workers leaving the country has risen considerably in recent years. "The so-called foreign funds specialise in working in Russian secondary schools," he said. "Such funds, with the support of various network organizations, simply rummage in our schools for many years under the guise of supporting young talents. In fact, acting like a vacuum cleaner they are sucking students already from secondary schools, providing them grants and taking them away. We need to pay attention to this."
A spokesman for Dmitry Livanov, Russia's education minister, claimed that efforts to recruit talented workers and students have accelerated since 2010. He also claimed that these organisations are on the lookout for Russia's future public figures and politicians, who will have a loyal attitude to Western countries thanks to their education abroad.
Representatives of these western organisations have called the proposed ban on their work "crazy", "thoughtless" and "unreasonable", and have said that it would damage the country's science programme.
A spokesman from the Russian branch of the EF International Academy said that this initiative may hurt the country's international scientific standing. Olga Gozman, general director of the Begin Group, a higher education marketing group which cooperates with many western scientific foundations operating in Russia, agrees. She says that interest in overseas education is growing among Russian students, but, owing to financial issues, many prospective students cannot afford it. These western foundations provide financial lifelines for these students. Gozman says that, instead of instituting bans, the Duma should focus on encouraging students to return to Russia with their valuable experience once they graduate.
Some leading Russian scientists have already welcomed the proposed ban. Mikhail Kovalchuk, director of Kurchatov Institute, said that in recent years Russia has served foreign interests to its own detriment. Viktor Sadovnichy, head of Moscow State University, is also supportive and said that an estimated 16,000 Russians with science doctorates are currently working in the US. This compares with 28,000 in Russia. He added that, in addition to US funds, UK funds are also very active in Russia. Sadovnichy said that each year about 30,000 talented students leave Russia to study in the UK and about 30% of them have no plans to return.
However, other Russian science organisations do not support the initiative. The Russian-American Association of Scientists (RAAS) has already expressed concerns about the proposed ban and called on the government to reconsider. An RAAS spokesman said: "Despite the increased state support for Russian science, which has been observed in recent years, the activities of public funds, which offer grant programmes, are still very important for the country and its scientists. Obviously none of the world's countries develops its science solely on state funds. The activities of private philanthropists are very important for the support of educational programmes for young talent, as well as conducting research and other scientific work."
The bill is likely to be approved by parliament in August.
© Royal Society of Chemistry 2015.
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The Guardian / Monday 29 June 2015
Russian cosmonaut beats record for career time spent in space
Gennady Padalka moves past old record of 803 days, nine hours and 41 minutes, and aims to return to try for 1,000 days.
Российский космонавт Геннадий Падалка установил новый мировой рекорд по продолжительности пребывания человека на орбите - 804 суток (учитывается время за все совершенные полеты). К моменту возвращения в сентябре с МКС на Землю «стаж» достигнет 878 суток. Предыдущий рекорд принадлежал Сергею Крикалеву, который за шесть экспедиций провел в космосе 803 суток.
A Russian cosmonaut on board the International Space Station has broken the record for total time in space by spending more than two years in orbit during his career.
At 1.42am Moscow time on Monday, Gennady Padalka, the commander of the current space station mission, broke his countryman Sergei Krikalev's record of 803 days, nine hours and 41 minutes.
Padalka is due to return to earth on 11 September, by which time he will have spent 878 days in space - almost two and a half years. On 21 June he celebrated his 57th birthday in orbit. The commander said at a press conference before his flight in March that he would like to try for 1,000 days in space after his current record-breaking mission is over.
Padalka's fifth trip into space has not been without challenges. An unmanned Dragon rocket owned by the US company SpaceX exploded shortly after liftoff on Sunday on a mission to resupply the space station with two tons of food and equipment.
Nasa has said the space station has enough reserves to continue operating for several months, and the Russian Space Agency has made similar statements. A Russian Progress M-28M rocket will launch on 3 July with supplies.
Cosmonaut Yury Baturin, who travelled to the Mir space station with Padalka on board Soyuz TM-28 in 1998, said that as "one of the cosmonauts most experienced in dangerous situations", Padalka was well-equipped to deal with any challenge. Baturin has been corresponding with his former commander and congratulated him by email on Monday.
Padalka took off for the space station on 27 March from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with fellow Russian Mikhail Kornienko and American Scott Kelly. Kelly and Kornienko will remain on the space station for a year to study the effects of long-term spaceflight on the human body, a key factor in the quest to reach Mars.
Extended stays in space are hard on the human body, since in conditions of microgravity the spine stretches out, muscles tend to atrophy and bone density can decrease, among other problems. Lengthy space missions also present psychological challenges, Baturin said.
"It's not so much the hardships of working with other crew members, but rather that you're cut off from your family, from your home, and for a very long time," he said.
"Gennady is a real professional. He loves his work, and when a person loves his work, time doesn't drag on. He deals with [psychological challenges] through his work."
Krikalev and the director of the mission control centre told the state news agency Tass that they would congratulate Padalka, although the agency noted that the commander would not officially set a new record until he has spent at least 5% more time in space than the previous record holder, which will happen in early August.
Russia's space industry received a boost last week when its space agency signed the largest contract in the history of commercial space flight. In a deal estimated at $1bn-2bn (£630m-£1.26bn) with the French space launch provider Arianespace, the agency's rockets will deliver between 650 and 720 microsatellites built by the British company OneWeb into orbit, facilitating internet service in remote corners of the globe.
Russia's space and defence tsar, Dmitry Rogozin, tweeted on Monday, with a link to an article about the SpaceX explosion: "It's a great time for our US colleagues to think about the logic of their sanctions against the Russian Space Agency. There's no room for politicking in space." The two countries restricted their space cooperation in tit-for-tat measures after US sanctions were adopted against Russia last year, although they continue to cooperate on the International Space Station.
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
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EurekAlert / 30-Jun-2015
Graphene flexes its electronic muscles
Rice-led researchers calculate electrical properties of carbon cones, other shapes.
Физики-теоретики из Университета Райса (США), Московского физико-технического института, Национального исследовательского технологического университета "МИСиС" и Технологического института сверхтвердых и новых углеродных материалов пришли к выводу, что изменять электрические свойства свернутого листа графена можно, просто поворачивая его определенным образом.
Статья "Flexoelectricity in Carbon Nanostructures: Nanotubes, Fullerenes, and Nanocones" опубликована в журнале The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.
Flexing graphene may be the most basic way to control its electrical properties, according to calculations by theoretical physicists at Rice University and in Russia.
The Rice lab of Boris Yakobson in collaboration with researchers in Moscow found the effect is pronounced and predictable in nanocones and should apply equally to other forms of graphene.
The researchers discovered it may be possible to access what they call an electronic flexoelectric effect in which the electronic properties of a sheet of graphene can be manipulated simply by twisting it a certain way.
The work will be of interest to those considering graphene elements in flexible touchscreens or memories that store bits by controlling electric dipole moments of carbon atoms, the researchers said.
Perfect graphene - an atom-thick sheet of carbon - is a conductor, as its atoms' electrical charges balance each other out across the plane. But curvature in graphene compresses the electron clouds of the bonds on the concave side and stretches them on the convex side, thus altering their electric dipole moments, the characteristic that controls how polarized atoms interact with external electric fields.
The researchers who published their results this month in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters discovered they could calculate the flexoelectric effect of graphene rolled into a cone of any size and length.
The researchers used density functional theory to compute dipole moments for individual atoms in a graphene lattice and then figure out their cumulative effect. They suggested their technique could be used to calculate the effect for graphene in other more complex shapes, like wrinkled sheets or distorted fullerenes, several of which they also analyzed.
"While the dipole moment is zero for flat graphene or cylindrical nanotubes, in between there is a family of cones, actually produced in laboratories, whose dipole moments are significant and scale linearly with cone length," Yakobson said.
Carbon nanotubes, seamless cylinders of graphene, do not display a total dipole moment, he said. While not zero, the vector-induced moments cancel each other out.
That's not so with a cone, in which the balance of positive and negative charges differ from one atom to the next, due to slightly different stresses on the bonds as the diameter changes. The researchers noted atoms along the edge also contribute electrically, but analyzing two cones docked edge-to-edge allowed them to cancel out, simplifying the calculations.
Yakobson sees potential uses for the newly found characteristic. "One possibly far-reaching characteristic is in the voltage drop across a curved sheet," he said. "It can permit one to locally vary the work function and to engineer the band-structure stacking in bilayers or multiple layers by their bending. It may also allow the creation of partitions and cavities with varying electrochemical potential, more "acidic" or "basic," depending on the curvature in the 3-D carbon architecture."
Copyright © 2015 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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