|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Popular Mechanics / Jul 5, 2016
Russia's Workhorse Soyuz Space Taxi Gets a Makeover
This ship that ferries astronauts and cosmonauts to the ISS is getting some new bells and whistles.
Космический корабль "Союз", много лет доставляющий космонавтов на МКС, модернизирован. Большая часть усовершенствований касается замены устаревшего электронного оборудования и повышения безопасности экипажа.
When a fresh Russian-American-Japanese crew blasts off toward the International Space Station on Wednesday evening, the team's first task will be to try out a new version of the legendary Soyuz spacecraft. Russian pilot Anatoly Ivanishin, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, and Japanese flight engineer Takuya Onishi will take a two-day test drive aboard the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft before docking at the space station on Friday. There, the new Soyuz will be serving as a lifeboat for its passengers for four months before leaving and landing via parachute in the steppes of Kazakhstan this coming November.
Because the Soyuz has been a reliable workhorse for decades (that is, the ship ain't broke), Russian engineers introduce changes in small and incremental steps. So don't look for obvious body shape changes or major systemic redesigns. Still, careful observers will notice a few new exterior details.
Most of the upgrades replace obsolete electronic accessories, improve crew safety, and give pilots and mission control more flexibility in flying the ship. Before getting certification to get onboard Soyuz-MS, most new systems were already flight-proven on unmanned Progress cargo ships. Here is what's under the hood of the new Soyuz MS flavor, which replaces the Soyuz TMA-M variant after its 20 missions:
Surprisingly, only now does the Soyuz get true satellite navigation. Although sat nav is a common sight in cars on Earth, Soyuz until now relied on six ground stations for precise measurements of its orbital path. With Soyuz-MS, engineers will do away with a bulky system in favor of a new "Apparatus for Satellite Navigation" or ASN-K, which can talk to GPS satellites and their Russian counterparts known as GLONASS. The satellite navigation will locate the Soyuz descent capsule on the ground after landing, too.
Perhaps, the most important change pertains to the ship's famous automated rendez-vous system known as Kurs ("course"), which has guided Soyuz to its destinations in space since the mid-1980s. Though the Kurs proved exceedingly reliable over the years, many of its electronic components are now out of date. They're also produced in Kiev, Ukraine, with whom Russia has been at a virtual state of war for two and a half years. Not surprisingly, Soyuz-MS will introduce the domestically developed Kurs-NA system. In addition to resolving the obvious political problem, the new rendez-vous hardware brings a higher level of computerization while being smaller, lighter, and less power-hungry.
That last bit is especially important because many new systems on Soyuz come with an increased appetite for power, pushing the overall electricity consumption on the spacecraft to its limit. To address the deficit, engineers squeezed an extra battery alongside four existing ones in the ship's aft section. They also fitted more cells on the existing solar panels.
Soyuz-MS will now sport a powerful communications system, dubbed EKTS, which can connect the crew to mission control in Korolev near Moscow via satellite. Previously, cosmonauts and astronauts on Soyuz could talk to their peers on the ground only when in direct view of ground stations on the Russian territory. The large antenna array of the EKTS system "on the roof" of the Soyuz-MS is the most prominent new feature on the ship's exterior. Thanks to three available Russian Luch-5 satellites, the crew will be able to stay in touch with mission control around 83 percent of the time each day. The Soyuz will be also able to communicate via American TDRS and European DRS satellites.
In response to long-standing concerns from NASA, the habitation module of the Soyuz-MS spacecraft - which is essentially a thin aluminum bubble - is now reinforced with an extra layer designed to protect the crew from meteors and from ever-growing menace of space junk. Lastly, Soyuz-MS gets new digital TV, which promises to give viewers better quality live pictures from orbit, and the new SZI-M "black box" to record voice and data during the mission. Because it is installed under the pilot's seat in the descent module inside a shock-absorbent case, SZI-M should withstand impacts with a speed of up to 150 meters per second and should be available for reuse on as many as 10 flights.
Following this upgrade, the nearly-50-year-old Soyuz is expected to remain in its role until mid-2020s, when a next-generation Russian spacecraft will be ready at last, and it'll probably use some of these new Soyuz-MS features.
© 2016 Hearst Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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EurekAlert / 6-Jul-2016
Scientists use mass spectrometry to "look inside" an ancient Greek amphora
Mass spectrometry unveiled secrets of how time influences oil found in ancient amphora.
С помощью масс-спектрометрии сверхвысокого разрешения российские химики "заглянули" внутрь древнегреческой амфоры с остатками битума, определив точный состав, место происхождения и возраст этого образца древнейшего нефтепродукта в человеческой истории.
Russian scientists have identified the components of the oldest bitumen sample to be found in an ancient vase and made an accurate estimate of its age. In their article in the Journal of Mass Spectrometry, the researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), the Institute for the History of Material Culture, the Talrose Institute for Energy Problems of Chemical Physics, and the Emanuel Institute of Biochemical Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IBCP RAS) propose a new and more effective approach to organic compound analysis and introduce specially designed software.
Bitumen is a form of petroleum found in natural deposits. Its use dates back to the Stone Age. The word "mummy", for example, derives from the Persian "mūm", or "bitumen", because this substance was used in embalming. The Greeks used bitumen in construction, medicine, and warfare - it is possible that the legendary "Greek fire" was based on bitumen. The oldest amphora filled with bitumen (5th century BC) was discovered by Russian archaeologists on the Taman Peninsula, a highly volcanically active region (numerous petroleum seeps are located there) and a possible source of the bitumen imported by the Greeks.
More oxygen as time goes by
The analysis of ancient bitumen samples can reveal their age and origin. US researchers have used a mummy to demonstrate that ancient Egyptian bitumen did not come exclusively from the Dead Sea. If the age of the bitumen sample from the amphora is indeed close to 2,500 years, this implies a prolonged period of biodegradation due to the activity of bacteria, causing oxidation of the organic molecules in bitumen, i.e. the gradual introduction of additional oxygen into the sample. This means that older samples contain more oxygen atoms.
Elemental analysis of the Taman sample indicated an oxygen (O) content of 11%, as opposed to 1% or less in fresh petroleum samples, with the other elements - carbon (C), hydrogen (H), nitrogen (N), and sulfur (S) - present in the normal amounts. This indicates that the sample had been degrading for a long time within the amphora; apparently it had been there for 2,500 years. However, elemental analysis does not identify the kinds of molecules present in the sample. To do this, the researchers used ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry.
Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique that sorts charged particles in an electric and/or magnetic field based on their mass-to-charge ratio (m/z). Molecules with an initial z value of 0 are charged (ionised). A magnetic/electric field enables ions to be separated, in this case spatially. The detector determines a particle's mass-to-charge ratio by its "landing" point. A mass spectrum is a graph of detector signal intensity (on the vertical axis) versus mass-to-charge ratio (on the horizontal axis). A mass spectrum is a pattern of peaks, each corresponding to an ion with a specific mass-to-charge ratio. It enables the identification of the constituent substances in the sample.
Mass spectra of bitumen from the amphora (A), petroleum from Siberia that was exposed to ozone (B), and petroleum from Siberia before exposure to ozone (C).
A closer look
Distinguishing the numerous peaks in the mass spectra of bitumen from one another is a challenge. To do this, the researchers utilised the advanced ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry techniques developed at the laboratory, which allowed them to distinguish molecules whose masses differ only by a fraction of that of an electron. This meant that not one of the individual components in the bitumen sample - and there are tens of thousands of them - escaped their attention. They also determined the elemental composition of the constituents. The analysis revealed that among substances in the Taman bitumen sample that contain oxygen, most have four to nine oxygen (O) atoms. Samples of ordinary petroleum, however, contain numerous compounds with two oxygen atoms and very few of those with three or four oxygen atoms. Exposing petroleum to ozone (O) leads to oxidation and lends substances with an oxygen content similar to that of the bitumen from the amphora, which supports the theory that the Taman sample bears the effect of prolonged oxidation.
Oxygen can actually be present in different "segments" of a molecule. Those "segments" that determine the chemical properties of the substance are referred to as functional groups. To identify the functional groups of the substances in the sample, the scientists used the hydrogen/deuterium exchange reaction. The principle behind this technique is that deuterium (D), also known as heavy hydrogen, will only replace those hydrogen (H) atoms that are part of a functional group. Substitution of a deuterium atom for a hydrogen atom in a molecule causes its peak on the mass spectrum chart to be shifted. It turned out that there was an additional hydrogen/deuterium exchange in the case of the ancient bitumen, when compared to the fresh sample. This lead the authors of the paper to conclude that the sample from the amphora contained molecules not only with one OH group but also with two OH groups that are products of the degradation process.
The research supervisor of this work is Professor Evgeny Nikolaev, scientific heads MIPT's Laboratory of Ion and Molecular Physics, the same name lab at the Institute of Energy Problems of Chemical Physics (of the Russian Academy of Sciences) and the Laboratory of Mass Spectrometry at Skoltech Space Centre. He and Yuri Kostyukevich postdoctoral researcher at Skoltech, who performed main experiments in this project, shared his perspective on the discovery - "Ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry is an immensely powerful technique in analytical chemistry. Applied to petrochemistry, archaeology, and medicine it provides a valuable insight into the molecular composition of a substance. The analysis of ancient bitumen has already revealed much about the transformations that petroleum undergoes over the course of millennia. Thanks to mass spectrometry, we might be able to obtain new information about the goods traffic and trade routes in the ancient world."
Copyright © 2016 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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India Education Diary / Friday, July 08, 2016
Russian scientists are developing unique software for future nuclear power plants
В Нижегородском государственном университете им. Н.И.Лобачевского идет разработка математического аппарата для проектирования крупногабаритных гибких роторов на магнитных подвесах, которые будут использоваться на ветроэнергетических станциях и в ядерных установках.
New Delhi: Lobachevsky University researchers are implementing a research project aimed to develop theoretical foundations for the study of the dynamics of the electromagnetic suspension of a vertical rotor intended for new-generation nuclear power plants and renewable energy sources. Based on these studies, appropriate technologies will be developed. The project is supervised by Academician Fyodor Mitenkov, Chief Scientific Officer at the UNN Institute of Mechanics.
The project will contribute to solving fundamental problems in the fields of energy efficiency, nuclear energy, renewable energy sources. The object of research is a complex flexible rotor on electromagnetic bearings. This type of rotor is the main element of a turbomachine of the new-generation nuclear power plant with a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. Such nuclear power plants will be used for producing high-temperature heat, electricity, hydrogen, and for utilization of weapons-grade plutonium.
The use of such rotors is also possible in vertical-axis wind turbines enabling efficient conversion of wind energy into electrical energy. The main expected outcomes of the project will be in the form of methodological and algorithmic support and software for the study of dynamic modes of the complex flexible rotor.
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Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News / Jul 11, 2016
Immunotherapy Slashes Rheumatoid-Associated Heart Disease Risk
На прошедшем в Италии 8-10 июля ежегодном конгрессе по сердечно-сосудистой биологии (2016 Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology) ученые из Волгоградского государственного медицинского университета представили результаты исследований, показывающие, что применение иммунотерапии наряду с традиционными методами лечения способно снизить риск развития сердечно-сосудистых заболеваний у людей, страдающих ревматоидным артритом.
Russian scientists have presented data that shows immunotherapy can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The investigators found that the combination of two extra-low-dose anti-cytokine drugs decreased rheumatoid arthritis disease activity and cardiovascular, cardiac disease activity. The findings from this study were presented over the weekend at the 2016 Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology (FCVB) conference under the title "Cardiovascular Risk Modifying with Extra-Low Dose Anti-Cytokine Drugs in Rheumatoid Arthritis."
"Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interferon (IFN), which normally protect the body, attack healthy cells," explained Aida Babaeva, M.D., head of the department of internal medicine at Volgograd State Medical University, Russia. "Patients have painful and inflamed joints. They are also at increased cardiovascular risk, particularly if their rheumatoid arthritis is not controlled."
The research team observed the impact of combination drugs on cardiovascular events. The study included 68 patients who had suffered from active rheumatoid arthritis for at least 5 years. Patients were randomized to receive the combination of anti-TNF-α and anti-IFN-γ, plus standard disease-modifying therapy (38 patients) or placebo plus standard therapy (30 patients). During the 3-year follow-up period, the investigators monitored rheumatoid arthritis disease activity and cardiovascular events.
The investigators found that patients taking the combination of anti-cytokines had a lower rheumatoid arthritis disease activity score and more dramatic decreases in cytokines IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-α than the group on standard therapy alone. Moreover, the incidence of cardiovascular events (unstable angina, severe hypertensive crisis, and deterioration of chronic heart failure) was more than double in the group on conventional disease-modifying drugs alone (37%) compared to those also taking the combination of anti-cytokines (13%).
"Our findings suggest that the decreased rheumatoid arthritis disease activity with the combination of anti-cytokines translates into decreased cardiovascular risk," Dr. Babaeva noted. "Rheumatoid arthritis promotes the development of cardiovascular disease in a number of ways. Therefore, decreasing disease activity may also reduce cardiovascular risk by slowing down or halting these processes."
For instance, rheumatoid arthritis is associated with dysfunction of the endothelium, which leads to lipid accumulation in the artery wall, plaque formation, and atherosclerosis. Increased disease activity has also been linked with a procoagulant state in which patients are more prone to blood clots and thrombosis. Patients with active disease have an increase in molecules that promote inflammation, which has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Interestingly, the Russian scientists found that in patients with hypertension, target blood pressure was reached in 71% of those taking the combination of anti-cytokines compared to just 32% of patients on standard therapy alone.
"This doesn't mean that the two drugs directly impact on blood pressure," Dr. Babaeva remarked. "But the combination can improve endothelial function, and it could be that blood pressure is more stable when disease activity is low. We found that the combination of two anti-cytokines containing extra-low doses of antibodies against TNF-α and IFN-γ could improve the efficacy of standard rheumatoid arthritis therapy and decrease cardiovascular risk."
Dr. Babaeva went on to conclude that "we do not think that all patients with rheumatoid arthritis should be treated with this combination, yet in patients with highly active disease, the standard biologics are better at preventing severe complications such as progressive joint destruction and/or systemic manifestations (vasculitis, uveitis, involvement of internal organs). We recommend this new approach for preventing cardiovascular events in patients with moderate disease activity who are not receiving the standard biologics and who do not have severe complications."
© 2016 Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. All Rights Reserved.
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Next Big Future / July 12, 2016
Russia's railgun program still testing fundamental science
Ученые из Объединенного института высоких температур РАН впервые в России испытали рельсотрон - электромагнитную пушку, способную разгонять снаряд до первой и второй космических скоростей.
A railgun is an electromagnetic cannon using rails to accelerate a projectile through the electromagnetic effects. The pressure in the railgun is comparable with the pressure at the bottom of the Mariana Trench and amounts to over a thousand atmospheres.
Russian railgun developed by scientists of the United Institute of High Temperatures at the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) will help study matter at extremely high temperatures and pressure and understand how the Universe is organized.
According to RAS President Vladimir Fortov, "frequently, when something goes differently from what is expected, screws are torn apart."
This is what happened on Tuesday during the demonstrative trials of a railgun at the practice range when two fastening pins broke away from the device's bandage after a projectile weighing 2 grams was launched with a velocity of 3.2 km/s.
Russian scientists are currently working on reaching the hypersonic mode of speeds. Thus, similar railguns have helped reach a speed of 11 km/s with a projectile weighing about 1.5 grams.
Russian scientists feel they are "on the right track" and the equipment was working at its maximum capacity, adding that the device would have been fully repaired by the evening.
The efforts to develop an electromagnetic cannon have been under way throughout the world in the past 45-50 years. Today China is actively working on this technology. In particular, about 150 articles on this issue were published in China last year, Fortov said.
Intensive work in this area is also being conducted in the United States where a railgun weapon was mounted on a ship about a year ago. The United States said at the time that this technology could accelerate a projectile weighing 10-20 kg to 2.5-3 km/s, Fortov said.
As the RAS president said, the Russian Academy of Sciences is dealing only "with the physical issues," studying the destruction mechanics, which has relation to fundamental science.
Copyright © 2014 New Big Future Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Inside Higher Ed / July 12, 2016
Are Excellence Initiatives Working?
В последние годы пять стран, среди которых и Россия, запустили проекты по продвижению своих университетов в ведущих международных рейтингах. В России это проект "5-100". А 30 июня - 2 июля в Санкт-Петербурге прошла Международная конференция по инициативам академического превосходства, собравшая организации, участвующие в реализации и координации национальных программ повышения конкурентоспособности.
In order to accelerate the transformation process towards building "world-class" universities, a few governments - China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and Spain, for example - have launched so-called "excellence initiatives", consisting of large injections of additional funding to boost the performance of their university sector. While many of these programs are fairly young, having started in the past decade or even more recently, they have begun to impact the participating universities in a significant way. This makes it imperative to assess how effective these excellence initiatives have been and draw lessons from recent and ongoing experiences. For that purpose, the Russian Academic Excellence Project 5-100 convened an International Conference on Excellence Initiatives in St-Petersburg at the end of June 2016, in collaboration with IREG Observatory on Academic Rankings and Excellence.
One of the most innovative features of this International Conference on Excellence Initiatives, was that it brought together government representatives (Ministry officials and managers of Excellence Initiatives implementation offices), university leaders - the "victims" or beneficiaries of these excellence initiatives - and higher education researchers focusing on rankings and other measures of academic excellence.
While the first excellence initiatives, especially in East Asia and the Nordic countries, reflected a long-term national commitment to strengthen the contribution of tertiary education to economic development, the most recent wave seems to be stimulated by the perception of a competitive disadvantage relative to the stellar performance of foreign universities, as measured by the global rankings. This was definitely the case with the 2012 French initiative that has encouraged mergers and alliances to give more visibility to the top universities in the country, or the 2013 Academic Excellence Project in Russia, which explicitly aims to place 5 universities among the top 100 in the rankings by 2020. As a result, most of the Excellence Initiatives promote internationalization as a key strategy for attracting top academic talent, thus strengthening the research capacity of leading universities and reducing the limitations that result from "in-breeding".
Conference discussions noted that most excellence initiatives put more emphasis on research than teaching. Spain is an exception, where careful consideration is being given to the balanced development of a strong research capacity, modern teaching and learning practices, and active collaboration with the economic environment.
Many excellence initiatives mark a significant philosophical shift in the funding policies of the participating countries, notably in Europe. In France, Germany, Russia and Spain, where all public universities had traditionally been considered to be equally good in terms of performance, the excellence initiatives have brought a move away from the principle of uniform budget entitlements towards a substantial element of competitive, performance-based funding.
Indeed, the selection process to choose the beneficiary universities and/or centers of excellence is perhaps the most noteworthy element of excellence initiatives. In the majority of cases, the governments approach has involved a competition among eligible universities with a thorough peer review process to select the best proposals. The peer review process usually relies on the work of expert evaluation teams including a mix of national and international experts.
As competition for funding among universities gets fiercer, the importance of cooperation should not be overlooked. Evidence shows that researchers are most effective when they participate in collaborative projects, nationally or internationally. During the Conference, participants explained how the international collaborative research promoted by excellence initiatives tends to be of higher quality with greater influence than traditional research. The Canadian program of chairs of excellence, for example, has brought about unexpected synergies resulting from increased collaborations across universities.
One of the other positive outcomes of excellence initiatives is that they have allowed a new generation of university leaders to emerge. The successful transformation and upgrading of universities, which is what excellence initiatives pursue, requires a bold vision and the capacity to change the mindset of the academic community in the pursuit of academic excellence.
Conference participants devoted time to the need to set up proper monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess the results of excellence initiatives. Are the global rankings adequate measures to provide a good sense of the effectiveness of the programs? Would benchmarking be a more appropriate approach to evaluate the impact of excellence initiatives?
Measuring the effectiveness and impact of excellence initiatives on the beneficiary universities is not an easy task for at least two reasons: time and attribution. First, upgrading a university takes many years, eight to ten at the very minimum. Since many excellence initiatives are fairly recent, attempts at measuring success could be premature. It is indeed unlikely that the scientific production of beneficiary universities would increase significantly within the first few years of an excellence initiative. A thorough analysis would therefore require looking at a reasonably large sample of institutions for comparison purposes, either within a given country or across countries, over many years. The second challenge is related to attribution. Even if a correlation could be established from a large sample of institutions, it would be difficult to demonstrate that the excellence initiatives actually caused the observed change.
In the absence of impact analyses of the recent excellence initiatives, comparing the results of the top universities in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai Ranking) over the past decade (2004-2014) offers a few insights. The four countries that have made considerable progress are China (24 additional universities in the top 500), Australia (5 additional universities), Saudi Arabia and Taiwan (4 additional universities each). All four countries have had one or more excellence initiatives, that have provided increased and sustained investment in top universities.
At the bottom of the list, the main "losers" are Japan and the United States, which place, respectively, 15 and 24 universities fewer among the top 500 in 2014 compared to ten years earlier. In the case of the United States, it is interesting to note the relatively higher proportion of public universities that dropped out of the ranking, which tends to confirm the adverse impact of the significant reduction in public subsidies since the 2007 financial crisis (or even before in some States).
At the institutional level, the five universities that have climbed most significantly in the ranking over the past decade - Shanghai Jiao Tao University and Fudan University in China, King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, the University of Aix-Marseille in France, and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology - have all received additional funding from their respective national excellence initiatives.
Besides supporting entire universities in their improvement efforts, many excellence initiatives have offered funding to build critical mass by establishing new centers of excellence or strengthening existing ones, oftentimes with a focus on multi-disciplinary approaches. A recent OECD review of excellence initiatives found that one of their major benefits has been to provide funding for high-impact / high-risk basic research as well as for interdisciplinary and cooperative research endeavors.
Finally, Conference participants warned that excellence initiatives may engender negative behaviors and carry adverse consequences. Policy makers and university leaders must keep in mind the risk of harmful effects on teaching and learning quality because of the research emphasis of most excellence initiatives, reduced equality of opportunities for students from underprivileged groups as universities become more selective, and diminished institutional diversity as all institutions aspire to become world-class universities. Another challenge faced by several excellence initiatives is the absence of corresponding governance reforms to free institutions from the constraints of civil service regulations; beneficiary universities tend to create parallel tracks to provide a positive environment for their star researchers, with state-of-the-art laboratories and US-style doctoral programs, operating in isolation from the rest of the university, that may remain untouched and unimproved by the excellence initiative.
Copyright © 2016.
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Ученые из Национального исследовательского ядерного университета МИФИ (Россия) и из Пхоханского университета науки и технологии (Республика Корея) заканчивают разработку уникальной системы для ранней диагностики онкологических заболеваний. Система "диагностический нанозонд" состоит из флуоресцирующей полупроводниковой частицы размером в несколько нанометров и соединенных с ней специальных молекул, который способны распознавать раковые клетки определенного типа и соединяться с ними, делая их видимыми в инфракрасной области спектра.
Scientists from the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI in cooperation with colleagues from Pohang University of Science and Technology of the Republic of Korea are at the final stage of the development of a unique nanosystem for early diagnosis of oncological diseases.
The nanosystem, a Korean-designed diagnostic nanoprobe, consists of a brightly fluorescent semiconductor particle several nanometres in size that shines in the infra-red spectral band, with special molecules - single-domain antibodies - which Russian researchers connected to its surface. These are capable of detecting certain cancer cells and connecting with them, making them visible to scientists. The current nanosystem uses antibodies from lamas, camels and sharks, because compared to antibodies from other animals, these have a simpler structure and a smaller size.
The result is the highest-efficiency system for the detection of cancer cells that has ever been reached in animal experiments.
"The main advantage of the new nanoprobe is its small size - the diameter of the resulting diagnostic labels is 13 times smaller than existing analogues. It is also highly stable - the nanoprobe doesn't decompose at high temperatures - and it is very specific in the detection of cancer cells," said Igor Nabiev, the leading scientist of MEPhI interdepartmental Laboratory of Nano-Bioengineering.
He added that "the fluorescence of the nanoparticles in the infra-red band allows researchers to use the transparent region of biological tissues, which, together with nanoprobe's high light intensity allows depth of penetration, detecting cancer cells in practically in every part of the body."
According to the scientist's words, the new diagnostic system uses molecules that detect cells of breast and prostate cancer. However, the application of other detecting molecules will allow diagnosis of other oncological, infectious, inflammatory and immune diseases. Apart from diagnostics, the probes can be applied for the D2D of medicines.
Scientists are currently in the final stage of development, and have made applications for two patents. The incorporation of the new diagnostic system into medical practice is expected to be occur in two to three years after the end of the project and the completion of pre-clinical and clinical trials.
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3ders.org / Jul 13, 2016
Rosatom unveils Russia's first domestic metal 3D printing system
Корпорация "Росатом" представила первый отечественный 3D-принтер для металлических материалов на международной промышленной выставке, проходившей в Екатеринбурге 11-14 июля.
Russian State Corporation Rosatom has just unveiled the nation's first domestic metal 3D printing system. The additive manufacturing machine, which is capable of producing heavy-duty industrial parts from titanium, copper, aluminum, or iron metal powder, was presented at International Industrial Trade Fair Innoprom 2016, which is being hosted in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
According to a team of Russian scientists, both the hardware and software for the metal 3D printing system are being developed domestically, which will help the Russian additive manufacturing industry move into a new end-to-end stage for digital production. The development of the metal 3D printer is credited to experts from the State Scientific Center of the Russian Federation JSC in partnership with the Scientific Division of Rosatom.
As presented at Innoprom 2016, the Russian metal 3D printer is made up of nearly 75% domestically produced parts, including a unique laser system from the Moscow region. Parts that have had to be imported include the optics and pneumatics of the machine, but the 3D printer's developers are confident that they will be able to eventually manufacture the 3D printer from 90% domestically produced parts. In terms of specs, the printer is reportedly equipped with 1000W laser power, a three-axis scanning optical system, and a print speed of 15 to 70 cubic cm/hour (comparable to other existing metal 3D printing systems).
The software for the 3D printer, also developed domestically, is designed to deal with and even solve such issues as information security, industrial espionage, and unauthorized data transfers. No details have been divulged as to how exactly the software accounts for these issues, however. Once market ready, the metal 3D printer is expected to retail for about 30 million rubles (approx. $469,483), reportedly about half the cost of imported systems.
Andrew Nikipelov, the General Director of JSC, explains the significance of the project saying: "Working on this project allows maximum use of the scientific potential of the division and provides a solid basis for the further development of not only our company, but also the entire engineering sector. In the future development direction of 3D-printing of metal products should significantly reduce the cost, time and production as a whole will increase the competitiveness of Russian companies on the global market."
Indeed, as manufacturing sectors, especially within the automotive, aerospace, and biomedical fields, begin to adopt 3D printing technologies at a growing rate, countries from all over the world are innovating and developing their own systems to remain competitive with foreign industries. While there is no word on when the new Russian metal 3D printing system will be available on the market, its development seems to be advancing steadily.
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SpaceNews / July 14, 2016
ESA plans Euro-Russian lunar exploration to go beyond Apollo "gift shop visit"
Европейское космическое агентство и компания Leonardo-Finmeccanica подписали контракт по созданию бурильной установки для российского лунного посадочного аппарата "Луна-Ресурс", запуск которого планируется на 2021 год. Вклад Европейского космического агентства заключается в предоставлении российской стороне систем отбора и обработки образцов реголита, систем навигации, научных приборов.
FARNBOROUGH, England - The European Space Agency's penchant for a major lunar exploration program that would precede a full-scale exploration of Mars was fully in evidence on July 12 with the signing of a contract to put an ESA drill on Russia's Luna-Resurs lunar lander. It remains unclear whether ESA's principal member states, notably France, share the 22-nation agency's emerging "Moon First, Mars Later" opinion.
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France may need convincing
On July 8, the president of the French space agency, Jean-Yves Le Gall, reiterated his view that what's going on at NASA and in the U.S. private sector, notably with SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, make it more likely that human missions to Mars will occur sooner than the 2030s. French scientists have long preferred Mars to the Moon as an exploration destination and CNES has participated on nearly all the NASA-led Mars missions in recent years. But during the Farnborough Air Show here, ESA and European industry officials laid out a lunar exploration program that could give long-missing teeth to ESA Director-General Johann-Dietrich Woerner's Moon Village concept.
To those - particularly in the United States - who view the Moon in "Been There, Done That" terms, ESA's Human and Robotic Exploration Director David Parker had this too say: "Apollo only visited the equatorial regions when we knew nothing about water being in the deep, shadowed crevasses of the lunar south pole," Parker said. "The Moon is like a museum of 4.5 billion years of solar system history. So far, we've basically only been to the gift shop in the entrance hall. We've not really explored the exciting places."
Europe counting on Russia's schedule commitment
Parker and Norman Bone, managing director of airborne and space systems at Italy's Leonardo-Finmeccanica, signed a contract valued at slightly more than 8 million euros ($9 million) to develop a prototype for ESA's Prospect drill and laboratory. Prospect is scheduled to fly aboard Russia's Luna-Resurs mission, formerly in 2020 and now scheduled to launch in 2021.
A full construction contract for the Prospect drill, which Leonardo is developing with Britain's Open University, is expected in 2018. The hardware is designed to penetrate more than 1 meter below the lunar surface to look for water. ESA will be asking its member states in December to a full-blown exploration program that encompasses ESA's participation in the International Space Station and both the lunar and Mars exploration initiatives.
ESA's ExoMars orbiter is scheduled to enter Mars orbit in the autumn and to deploy a lander to the Mars surface in October. An ExoMars rover, partially built and scheduled for launch in 2020, awaits additional financing at the December conference of ESA government ministers. ExoMars is also a Euro-Russian program. Going from a prototype to integration aboard a Russian lander in time for a launch in 2021 is a tight schedule, but Parker said the Prospect drill borrows heavily from the ExoMars rover's drill and Europe's Philae lander, which set down on Comet 67P in 2014 after separating from ESA's Rosetta comet-chaser satellite.
ESA's science program - separate from the exploration effort - receives three-year budgets. Science program committees select missions to fit within the overall budget. More recently, ESA has adopted a similar procedure for its Earth observation missions. An Earth Observation Envelop Program budget is approved every few years, after which expert teams debate which missions to approve.
Parker's goal is to extend this model to exploration. ESA governments in December are likely to signal their approval of continued International Space Station participation alongside NASA, Russia, Japan and Canada until 2024. The station likely will take most of whatever the total exploration budget is. Other than the lunar program, ExoMars 2020 is the only firmly decided ESA exploration mission. Parker said ESA would ask its governments for 65 million euros for the lunar missions.
The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has suffered sharp budget cutbacks, raising questions about whether the Russian side will be able to meet its schedule commitments. Parker said he was confident. "Our Russian colleagues are pressuring us to finalize all the agreements to go ahead with the project," Parker said. "They seem to be pretty confident on their side."
SSTL and Goonhilly Earth station propose commercial service
An example of how far the thinking has gone about targeting the Moon came July 12 with the announcement by small-satellite specialist Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) of England and England's Goonhilly Earth station Ltd. of a partnership to provide commercial navigation and data-relay services for lunar missions. SSTL Executive Chairman Sir Martin Sweeting, said his company is proposing a public-private partnership in which SSTL would transport commercial payloads, mainly very small satellites, to lunar orbit aboard a 600-kilogram Lunar Pathfinder vehicle.
The small satellites would be deployed to provide communications for lunar missions, with the Lunar Pathfinder providing data transfer to Earth and the Goonhilly ground station, which is upgrading an existing antenna in Cornwall to serve as a piece of a future deep space communications network. SSTL and Goonhilly are working under ESA contract to study commercial partnerships in exploration.
"You remember what they say about the California Gold Rush, that the only people who made money were those selling shovels?" Sir Martin said. "We are content to play that kind of role in lunar exploration - not the glory stuff, but the communications infrastructure."
Chris Saunders, an SSTL mission concepts engineer, said communications would be done in X- and UFH frequencies and that the Pathfinder mother ship could carry several satellites on a commercial basis for any nation or institution interested in lunar exploration.
SSTL has started talks with the Indian Space Research Organization about a launch of the Pathfinder aboard India's PSLV rocket.
Археологи из Иркутского национального исследовательского технического университета обнаружили на байкальском побережье парное захоронение возрастом примерно 5000 лет, принадлежащее к глазковской культуре бронзового века.
Remains of a couple believed to date back to the Bronze Age have been found in a remote Siberian region. Buried near Lake Baikal, the skeletons of the elderly man and his wife - or concubine - are resting in a final affectionate embrace, holding hands.
To determine when this couple lived, the bones have been sent to Canada for radiocarbon analysis, The Siberian Times reports. However, the Russian team from Irkutsk National Research Technical University which led the expedition, believes the remains date back to between 4,500 and 5,000 years ago.
This suggests they would have been that of individuals from the Bronze Age Glazkov culture - the group of ancient Mongoloid tribes inhabiting the surroundings of Lake Baikal and the headwaters of Angara River around the 2nd millennium BC.
Final resting place on the lake
The researchers said the couple was found in an ancient and sacred burial place overlooking the waters of Lake Baikal, but they have not disclosed the exact location by fear of attracting amateur archaeologists. The scientists indeed believe that more similar burials could soon be excavated and worry that a presence of many people on the site would ruin their efforts.
"It was was obviously a sacred place for ancient people. It was not a settlement but used for religious rites and as a graveyard from ancient times", lead archaeologist Dr Dmitry Kichigin said.
The male skeleton is complete but rodents destroyed the upper part of the female. But the find remains very exciting as the two skeletons were laid to rest with a range of precious objects, which enrich our knowledge of the Glazkov culture and their burial rites.
Pendants of red deer and musk deer teeth were found on the male skull, and around his feet. But the most interesting artefact is a large knife made of jade found near the woman. It measures an impressive 13cm in length and 7cm in width, and the experts still do not understand what it was used for nor why it ended up in the grave.
"We were lucky to find at least one skeleton in excellent condition, with implements and decorations - it is the dream of many archaeologists", said Kichigin. "It would be very interesting to find out the purposes the massive jade knife, which we found near the woman, was used for".
More excavations will take place at the site in the coming months. One of the interrogation that remains to be solved is whether the man and woman were really a couple, although the fact they are holding hands does suggest tenderness between the two. DNA analysis could establish with certainty how closely they were related.
© Copyright 2016 IBTimes Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
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24heures.ch / 18.07.2016
Climat: les grandes nuances des scientifiques russes
La perception du réchauffement de l'Arctique diverge selon les enseignes.
О взглядах российских специалистов по проблемам Арктики и Антарктики на глобальное потепление климата и его последствия.
La haute porte ouvre sur une vaste salle de conférences lambrissée de bois. A au moins trois mètres de hauteur, deux têtes d'animaux sculptés, un taureau et un renne, toisent un parterre de vieux fauteuils de cuir. L'Institut pour l'histoire de la culture matérielle (ethno-archéologie) de Saint-Pétersbourg fait partie de l'Académie des sciences de Russie, une entité aujourd'hui en cours de réforme.
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Dans ce décor d'un autre temps, l'archéologue Vladimir Pitulko reconstitue peu à peu l'univers des premiers hommes qui vécurent aux abords de l'Arctique. Assis sous les grandes fenêtres qui donnent sur la Neva, l'homme de terrain porte un gilet à poches et des pantalons souples. Il ne va pas s'étendre longuement car il prépare une nouvelle expédition vers le site de Yana, sur la rive gauche de la rivière du même nom, en Sibérie, à 500 kilomètres au nord du cercle polaire (latitude 71°N). Depuis quinze ans, Pitulko creuse et collecte sous la glace. Son équipe a découvert des milliers d'objets témoins de la présence humaine il y a 27 000 ans, au paléolithique supérieur.
Les hautes latitudes, il les connaît bien. Il a travaillé aussi sur l'île Zhokhov, encore plus au nord, à 76°: l'un des sites les plus septentrionaux du monde. Un archéologue de l'Arctique voit-il son travail changer au gré du réchauffement? Le sourire sarcastique de Vladimir Pitulko vient nous surprendre: "A vrai dire, je ne crois pas au réchauffement global, dit-il. Je ne suis pas la bonne personne pour parler de cela. Dans le temps géologique, il y a déjà eu des périodes où la glace fondait."
"La Russie a d'autres urgences"
Dans les soupentes du Musée de l'Arctique et de l'Antarctique où se situe l'institut de recherche du même nom, toujours à Saint-Pétersbourg, le climatologue Vladimir Radionov se demande au contraire s'il y aura encore de la glace dans l'Arctique en 2035. Le patron du laboratoire expérimental de mesures du rayonnement solaire travaille sur l'interaction entre l'océan et l'atmosphère. Quand bien même, explique-t-il, l'effet de serre est dû d'abord aux masses de vapeur, l'augmentation du CO2 est très claire et contribue largement au réchauffement.
Penché sur son portable qui projette des fiches à l'écran, le scientifique énumère les différentes composantes du phénomène. L'hiver arctique a pris 3°C ces dernières années. Pour lui, le remède n'est pas près de voir le jour: "Il ne faut pas oublier que dans certaines parties éloignées de la Russie il est tout simplement impossible de se mettre à chauffer au gaz. Et le pays a d'autres urgences avant de s'occuper du climat."
Cette prédiction peu riante n'est pourtant pas partagée par tout le monde dans le Nord. A l'Université de l'Arctique (NArFU), dans la ville portuaire d'Arkhangelsk (64°N), la conseillère du recteur sur la coopération internationale, Marina Kalinina, nous décrit le vaste travail en cours à la fois de coordination et de mise en concurrence des entités scientifiques de toute l'aire arctique. Née en 2010 à partir de l'Université technique d'Arkhangelsk, la NArFU semble être à l'Académie des sciences de Russie ce que le libéralisme est au communisme: une opposition.
Récemment, le gouvernement a placé sous la responsabilité d'une agence fédérale les académiciens russes, remodelant l'organisation des entités scientifiques dans l'objectif de les rendre plus performantes et plus fertiles en publications. Ce processus occasionne de la "résistance", selon le terme de Marina Kalinina. Qu'importe, soupire-t-elle, il s'agit d'aller de l'avant. Les défis sont nombreux, comme le développement du transport d'est en ouest, dans la zone de la mer de Barents, de la Russie à la Scandinavie.
Enfin, la menace climatique est ici centrale: "Dès 2050, nous aurons de l'eau à la place de la glace en été comme en hiver, poursuit la professeure. Il s'agit de faire connaître les résultats de la recherche, d'apporter de l'expertise et de conscientiser les gens, même si tout le monde n'est pas du même avis dans ce pays. Vous savez, la Russie est tellement diversifiée…"
Popular Mechanics / Jul 19, 2016
U.S. and Russian Scientists Are Making Plans to Go Back to the Moon Together
What U.S.-Russian cooperation in space might look like in ten years: a moon base.
Пока НАСА и Роскосмос пытаются лавировать на политическом минном поле, российские и американские инженеры из космической отрасли создают собственные альянсы, рассматривая дело исключительно с технической точки зрения. Результатом этого лет через десять вполне может стать многонациональная станция в лунном пространстве. Сотрудничество будет выгодно для обеих сторон: русские хорошо освоили разработку и эксплуатацию космических модулей, а американцы могут изрядно облегчить путь до Луны с помощью своей сверхтяжёлой ракеты-носителя Space Launch System.
American and Russian engineers are getting closer to a new plan for cooperating in space, one that would go beyond low Earth orbit and preserve the multinational alliance forged at the dawn of the International Space Station program in 1993. Organizations on both sides are quietly toying with the idea of going back to the moon together. That is, if politics don't get in the way.
With the ISS scheduled to make a controlled plunge into the ocean in 2024, the partners have been preparing to go their own ways. NASA, while funding companies like SpaceX to go to orbit, is developing the Orion spacecraft and the super-heavy rocket called Space Launch System (SLS) for manned missions into deep space and potentially as far as Mars. The European Space Agency (ESA) jumped on NASA's bandwagon few years ago, agreeing to contribute the service and propulsion module for the Orion. But the second-largest ISS contributor, Russia, has so far remained uncommitted to any joint venture beyond the station.
A recent economic crisis in Russia has put a dumper on the nation's space activities. But a bigger problem for cooperation in space may be the souring relationship between Moscow and Washington back on Earth. While NASA and the Russian space agency Roskosmos try to navigate the political minefield, industry engineers on both sides formed their own alliances to look into the matter from the technical prospective.
American aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, as well as Russia's key manned space contractors RKK Energia and GKNPTs Khrunichev, pitched in on a new plan to work together. Several mission strategies have recently surfaced that focus on a multinational habitat in the vicinity of the Moon, known as cislunar space. It could serve as a platform for the exploration of our natural satellite and a springboard for missions to asteroids and even to Mars.
The two sides seem to understand why they need each other, and how the pieces fit together. For their part, the Russians have mastered the development and operation of space modules that can house crews and provide propulsion for years at a time. Turns out, that's exactly what the U.S. could use. Such a habitat would expand the livable volume for the Orion crews beyond the cramped one-room compartment of the ship's command module, extending the possibilities for missions.
In consultations with their American colleagues, Russians offered a selection of off-the-shelf or soon-to-be-available hardware for constructing the joint deep-space habitat. For example, a small docking compartment built by RKK Energia for the ISS could be easily replicated and converted into a 10-ton add-on for the hypothetical near-lunar habitat, with its own life-support system, sleeping quarters and cargo space. Each piece of an ever-growing base could be launched over a period of several years as cargo that piggybacks on SLS rocket launches. Russian engineers drafted a mini-train of such modules, which would be lined up one by one behind an unmanned space locomotive, providing propulsion and 150 kilowatts of electric power.
Alternatively, Russia could supply an all-in-one module for the new base that would have power, propulsion, and large living quarters for the crew. It is based on the most advanced Russian module, which is being developed as a potential cornerstone of the future Russian space station in the Earth's orbit. The drawback? A nearly 24-ton spacecraft will require a dedicated SLS rocket to boost it toward the Moon, leaving no room for the Orion or its crew on that launch.
Russia would get plenty out of the deal, too. Without American cooperation, has no chance of getting a rocket comparable to SLS until 2030, even under the best circumstances. Just to get to the moon, Russia devised a cumbersome scheme involving four launches of the yet-to-be-built Angara-5V rockets. If SLS works as planned, then the Americans could provide Roskosmos an easy ride to the vicinity of the Moon a decade earlier.
Why build a new base near the moon? Joint US-Russian teams could use remote control to drive robotic geology rovers on the surface of the Moon. The habitat could be used to study an asteroid brought into the vicinity of the Moon. Potentially, a piloted lander could be added to the mix, opening door to the human lunar landing. According to one proposal, astronauts and cosmonauts together could attempt a nearly 400-day mission on the surface of the Moon in the late 2020s to simulate a Martian expedition.
Yet these are only big ideas for now. The newest proposals for American and Russian cooperation were just presented at an ISS research and development conference in San Diego last week (July 12-14). Exactly where the base would go and who would take what responsibility is still up for grabs. In the aftermath of the event, William Gerstenmaier, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, told Popular Mechanics that the agency welcomes the industry efforts, but warned that they had not been commissioned or endorsed at NASA.
"Until we look at them, I can't pass judgment whether they are viable or not," Gerstenmaier said. But, "it is encouraging that the industry is doing it on its own… and it is consistent with what we are thinking about, including going to cis-lunar space. … So when we, the government, decide something to do, the industry has (already) done its homework." Gerstenmaier also emphasized the potential provided by near-lunar missions for venturing much further into space, rather than exploring the Moon itself: "Don't think of it as a space station around the Moon. Think of it as the beginning of the Mars transit system."
When beefed up to a right level of power, life-support and propulsion, the international vehicle could leave the lunar vicinity and head to asteroids or Mars. "These modules are fairly versatile: you put power, you put right thermal system on them and you can use them in a wide variety of applications," Gerstenmaier explained. (According to the current US policy, NASA sees no need to return to the surface of the Moon, however the agency is open to cooperation if its partners, such as Roskosmos or ESA, take a lead in the lunar landing.)
NASA will have to make a decision on the possible architecture and design of the future deep-space habitat within a year or two, in order to build all the necessary hardware by the time the Orion spacecraft comes out of flight testing in the first half of the 2020s.
© 2016 Hearst Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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В МФТИ разработали компактный и мощный лазер на керамической основе. Керамика проще и дешевле в производстве, а ее химический состав легко менять, тем самым меняя и свойства лазера.
Russian scientists have created a ceramic-based laser that's twice as effective as other solid state lasers to be used in surgery and the composite materials industry.
A team from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) developed a novel compact and powerful ceramic-based laser that will be employed as a minimally traumatic and inexpensive laser scalpel for surgery.
Lasers are used in many areas of our lives, including consumer electronics, medical applications, and meteorology. Laser beams are created when there's a stimulated emission in an active medium - anything from gas, liquid, crystal or glass. The wavelength of a laser and the efficiency of converting energy into radiation both depend on the parameters of the active medium.
Researcher Ivan Obronov and his colleagues from the Institute of Applied Physics of the RAS and the company IRE-Polus used a ceramic obtained from compounds of rare-earth elements - lutetium oxide with added thulium ions (Tm3+:Lu2O3), to create a laser. It was the thulium ions that enabled the ceramic to generate laser radiation.
"Ceramics are a promising type of medium for lasers because they are produced by sintering powders into a polycrystalline mass," said Obronov. "They are cheaper and easier to manufacture than single crystals, which is extremely important for mass adoption. In addition, it is easy to alter the chemical composition of ceramics, which in turn alters the laser properties."
The laser they developed can convert energy into radiation with an efficiency of more than 50%, while other types of solid state lasers have an average efficiency of approximately 20%. It also generates infrared radiation with a wavelength of about 2 microns. This wavelength is what makes this laser so useful for medical purposes.
"Radiation from the most common infrared lasers, with a wavelength of about 1 micron, has very little absorption and penetrates deep into biological tissue, which causes coagulation and large areas of 'dead' tissue. A surgical scalpel needs to "operate" at a very specific depth, which is why 2-micron lasers are used, as they do not damage underlying tissue," said Obronov.
According to the scientist, doctors usually use 2-micron flashlamp-pumped holmium lasers, but these devices are very expensive, relatively bulky, and are not very reliable.
Ceramics, on the other hand, are less expensive to manufacture, as well as simpler and more reliable. They are also four times more compact than holmium lasers, which make them ideal for surgical use.
Another potential application of the new ceramic lasers is the composite industry. A ceramic laser could be used to effectively cut and engrave plastics like composite materials.
"Composites are increasingly being used to produce technological equipment such as aircraft," said Obronov. "The wing of the new Russian MS-21 airplane is almost entirely made of composites. A ceramic laser could also be a useful tool for production industries."
© Copyright 2016 IEEE Globalspec - All rights reserved.
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В издательстве Bathtub Row Press вышла книга "Обреченные на сотрудничество" - о более чем двадцатилетнем (1992-2015) сотрудничестве российских и американских физиков-ядерщиков по уменьшению ядерной опасности. Автор-составитель, бывший директор Лос-Аламосской национальной лаборатории Зигфрид Хекер включил в двухтомник очерки, интервью и личные воспоминания российских и американских участников, видных ученых и представителей власти.
Doomed to Cooperate: How American and Russian Scientists Joined Forces to Avert Some of the Greatest Post-Cold War Nuclear Dangers / Siegfried S. Hecker ed. (Author). - Los Alamos, New Mexico : Bathtub Row Press, 2016.
Today, when Russian and U.S. forces face each other across increasingly tense borders in Europe, it may be hard to imagine that the two countries once engaged in am extraordinary program of scientific cooperation to reduce the nuclear danger.
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They did so, however, in a joint effort lasting more than two decades, securing Russian nuclear materials and weapons against theft and diversion in the chaos that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Hundreds of scientists and engineers from the U.S. weapons laboratories, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, made long trips, often under difficult conditions, to work in some of the most sensitive sites associated with a vast Russian nuclear weapons program.
The effort became known informally as the Lab-to-Lab program because of the steady stream of visitors from U.S. laboratories to counterpart institutions in Russia.
Along the way, technical experts developed mutual respect and a camaraderie that enabled them to overcome cultural barriers, as well as the institutional suspicions that often accompanied the presence of Americans inside Russian defense facilities.
As a result, between 1992 and 2005, when the program wound down, Russian and American scientists and engineers took thousands of concrete actions that dramatically reduced the chance of theft of nuclear materials and weapons from research labs, production sites and even military depots.
The extraordinary effort has been documented in a remarkable history compiled by a former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sigfried Hecker.
The two-volume book, "Doomed to Cooperate," consists of essays, personal recollections and round-table discussions including both Russian and American participants - prominent scientists as well as senior government officials.
The book's title comes from a comment by Lev Ryabev, Russia's First Deputy Minister of Atomic Energy, explaining why the weapons labs in his country were so willing to collaborate with their counterparts in the U.S.
"We arrived in the nuclear century all in one boat - a movement by anyone will affect everyone," Ryabev said. Problems posed by nuclear energy and weapons are global and interconnected, "dooming" Russian and American nuclear scientists to work on them together.
Hecker now teaches at Stanford. His essays on the background, conduct and purpose of the program provide extensive insights into a perilous time when two mutually suspicious governments responded constructively to a common problem.
The importance of the program is suggested by a comment by Sam Nunn, the former U.S. senator who initiated and continues to support efforts to reduce worldwide nuclear dangers. "We can only guess how many catastrophes were avoided by the remarkable cooperation between dedicated scientists, military and other government officials in the U.S. and Russia," he wrote.
Nunn credits Hecker with doing "more than any other American" to contribute to the scientific effort. Hecker downplays his own role and is less inclined to high flying rhetoric about the success of the program, calling improved security for nuclear facilities as "a journey, not a destination. You can never feel comfortable that you are doing it well enough".
Still, in an interview, he said he was proud of the Lab-to-Lab program's effectiveness, particularly in convincing the Russians to set up a system that could track the roughly 1,500 tons of fissile materials that were scattered in "hundreds of buildings at dozens of sites" around the huge country and in some of the Soviet republics that had suddenly become independent states.
As an example, he cited the challenge of sending teams to secure plutonium that the Russians had left behind at the nuclear testing site at Semipaltinsk, in Kazakhstan. "It was we scientists who scouted it out," he said. They then had to convince the Russians to approve the project, the U.S. government to fund it and the Kazakhs to permit it.
They did so, and the material was successfully secured.
Interviews with some of the LLNL participants in the program reveal a wide range of experiences and attitudes, many of which are captured in Hecker's book.
The Lab-to-Lab program was not the first cooperative nuclear effort between the U.S. and Russia.
In 1988, each country conducted an underground nuclear test - one in Nevada, one in Semipalatinsk in Soviet Kazakhstan - that the other could send experts to in order to verify that the host country was predicting and reporting explosive yield accurately.
These Joint Verification Experiments built confidence that the two sides were being honest about keeping within the 150 kiloton limit of the still unratified 1974 Threshold Test Ban Treaty.
Fears of "brain drain", nuclear theft
The collapse of the Soviet Union dramatically changed the concern of the U.S. government to fears that chaos and loss of control could allow nuclear weapons, materials and knowledge to be sold or stolen and that starving nuclear weapons designers might be willing to take jobs abroad.
As Hecker tells the story, the Russian nuclear weapons program employed some 1 million workers and had produced about 39,000 nuclear weapons as well as 1,500 tons of fissile materials that could be used to make weapons.
The Lab-to-Lab program was part of the U.S. and Russian response, as far-sighted government officials in both countries were willing to go to bat to allow access by American technical experts to Russia's closed cities and other sites that might be at risk for theft or terrorism.
The program started with visits exchanged in 1992, between the directors of the nuclear design labs at Livermore and Los Alamos in the U.S. and Snezhinsk and Sarov in Russia.
John Nuckolls, the LLNL director who joined Hecker in the visits, recalls feeling during the meetings that the Russians were competitors more than opponents. As a pioneer in the effort to use lasers to generate and harness thermonuclear fusion, he was accustomed to interacting with leading Russian scientists.
"We saw an opportunity to make a competitive collaboration with the Russians for purposes of making a better world," he said in an interview. "So I viewed (these visits) as an enormous opportunity."
The program grew rapidly. Bill Dunlop, who headed LLNL's Treaty Verification Program, said, "I don't think anyone had any idea how big it would become." In time, billions of dollars were committed by the Departments of Energy and Defense for collaborative projects.
People were amazed to learn the scope of the U.S. effort, he said. "It involved almost all facets of their nuclear weapons program, improved security of materials used in submarines, icebreakers.
"They would say, 'You're really working with the Russians on that kind of thing!?'"
He personally traveled to Russia some 70 times through 2002 and estimates that up to 100 LLNL staff made the trip at least once.
As a spin-off from his trips, he and others were also able to encourage the development of a sister city relationship between Livermore and Snezinsk, the Russian city whose nuclear weapons facility most closely corresponds to LLNL.
As the Lab-to-Lab program developed, many were struck by the strangeness of working closely with a country that for decades had been an adversary. Their views often changed dramatically after being welcomed warmly and finding their hosts to be highly professional and competent. George Miller, later to become director of LLNL, traveled to Russia as part of the program in 1992. He recalls feeling "nervous" and in a "parallel universe" as he landed in Moscow, "not knowing what I was going to find."
He had heard "lots of stories, some real, some apocryphal, about what it's like to visit Russia." His hosts, however, turned out to be "exceptionally gracious throughout the visits…interactions felt very normal" despite working with "adversaries and former adversaries."
The question soon became, "Can we work together collaboratively for the good of strengthening the relations of both countries?" Miller said.
In 1994, Mike O'Brien was working in the LLNL security department when he was asked to support the Lab-to-Lab effort. He would spend the next 20 years on what became known as the Materials Protection, Control and Accounting program, helping Russian colleagues develop and document procedures for keeping track of nuclear materials and weapons.
In an email, O'Brien said that a typical trip lasted two weeks, starting with 24 straight hours of travel from home to Russia and then on to a remote site. The trips were typically intense and exhausting, removing him from home as much as half-time.
In 1996, he joined colleagues from Sandia and Oak Ridge National Laboratories in supporting efforts by the Russian Navy and the civilian icebreaker program to develop more secure systems for protecting nuclear fuel and other fissile materials against loss and theft.
He recalled the camaraderie that developed. "The joint Russian-U.S. team became quite a close group," he wrote. "We were working so much together full time. The success of the work would not have been possible without the chemistry that we built."
Cooked and uncooked carrots
That chemistry included both humor and the development of shorthand communications that outsiders typically did not understand. CBC was a land-based weapon site, PBZ a naval site. "Cooked carrots" and "uncooked carrots" were spent and fresh nuclear fuel, respectively.
When the U.S. visitors asked questions about areas that could be discussed, their Russian hosts would answer forthrightly. When they inquired into more sensitive topics, the answer often came back, "Thank you for your question."
"The phrase became an inside joke to the team and was used frequently by both sides," O'Brien wrote.
Eventually, the Russians modernized their inventory and control systems so that American collaboration was not needed. According to accounts in Hecker's book, the Russians began looking askance at the constant influx of Americans as something akin to scientific tourism.
The program started to wind down soon after 2000. Tensions grew over Russia's annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine, making it difficult to imagine rekindling the program anytime soon.
In the meantime, Hecker sees the history detailed in the book as proof to other nuclear powers that the U.S. is willing to help reduce a common danger by working with them to increase the security of their nuclear weapons and materials.
As the U.S. showed in Russia, he said, "We were never there to try to get them out of the nuclear weapons business. We were never there to try to promote disarmament. We were never there to have them close all their nuclear facilities.
"We were there to make sure that whatever assets they had were safe and secure, and that their (nuclear experts) would stay out of the export business.
"That's exactly what China needs, what India needs, what Pakistan needs."
The book, Doomed to Cooperate is published by Bathtub Row Press. It can be ordered from the Los Alamos Historical Society, found online at http://losalamoshistory.org/.
На конференции по когнитивным архитектурам BICA 2016 (Нью-Йорк, 16-19 июля), профессор НИЯУ МИФИ Алексей Самсонович заявил, что область искусственного интеллекта находится на пороге большого прорыва. В течение следующих нескольких лет возможно создание машин, способных испытывать человеческие эмоции и проявлять социальный и эмоциональный интеллект на уровне, сопоставимом с человеческим.
At an artificial intelligence conference in New York City last week, Professor Alexei Samsonovich from the Moscow-based National Research Nuclear University (MEPhI) Cybernetics Department told Sputnik News, "We are on the verge of a major breakthrough" in AI.
In the past six months, we've seen AI master the board game Go, write a short film script, and infiltrate Snapchat filters. Each of these achievements is impressive in its own right. Together, they show just how quickly AI is advancing. But what was this breakthrough Samsonovich hinted at in NYC? Digital Trends reached out to him to find out.
In the last half-century, since the notion of AI was officially coined, the term has created some buzz but has not fulfilled the hype, according to Samsonovich. "A major breakthrough was expected to happen from year to year, but it did not," he told Digital Trends. "As a result, the idea was discredited. There are reasons to think that now we are really close to the breakthrough, as never before. And as an indirect evidence, the last few years showed rapid exponential progress in AI research, in terms of the number of publications as well as the money invested by governments and companies."
With this increased interest and investment comes significant progress, including an advance that Samsonovich thinks will allow machines to feel. "Primarily this entails demonstrating that a machine [is] capable of feeling human emotions and exhibiting human-level socially emotional intelligence in a variety of settings," he said.
Samsonovich is quick to insist that this doesn't necessarily involve consciousness. In fact, he thinks consciousness is impossible to ever validate in another subject other than oneself, and thus it's too vague to be a reliable marker.
"What I am talking about here is limited to behavior, internal organization of the system and its internal dynamics, like neurophysiology or running software," he said. "Today we can build a machine that behaves as if it had human-like feelings. When you will see this kind of behavior exhibited consistently over time in many circumstances and without occasional 'presence breaks' … you will believe that this entity is alive and is in a social contact with you, and you will interact with it accordingly."
These emotionally intelligent machines are emerging right now and will be a reality within the next few years, according to Samsonovich, who presented his idea for a kind of Turing test for emotional intelligence at the conference last week. Over the next 18 months, Samsonovich and his team hope to develop Virtual Actor, an AI capable of creating goals, making plans, and building social relationships with people.
But before that happens, we'll need to change the way we - as humans - think.
"Today's obstacles are mainly limited to psychological barriers," he said. "We already have the necessary hardware and most of the necessary theoretical foundations. Still, people tend to think within the limits of popular paradigms, or not to think at all - just do what everybody else does or says.
"People also hesitate to take risks," Samsonovich continued. "Given that nearly all research in AI today is motivated financially, it is hard for most of us to take seriously an idea of a bold commitment leading outside of the road, based on a long-term expectation. Fortunately, now we do not need to wait for too long."
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Ученые из Томского государственного университета занимаются созданием материала, сочетающего свойства природного цеолита и его синтетического аналога. Из этого материала планируется сделать композитное сито - главную часть будущего портативного устройства для проведения гемодиализа (в настоящее время существуют лишь стационарные устройства). Цеолит используется в гемодиализе, поскольку хорошо отдает и поглощает влагу, цель ученых - еще больше увеличить эту способность.
Scientists of Tomsk State University are working on changing physicochemical properties of zeolites using thermal and mechanical treatment. Based on the results of this research the scientists will be able to create a new material for a portable device for hemodialysis.
The scientists examined synthetic zeolite powder manufactured by SAPO-34 and natural zeolite of Tokay deposits (Hungary).
Synthetic powder was processed in a ball mill. Spin rate was 150 rotations per minute, processing time varied between 1 and 96 hours. Prior and after the processing the powder underwent thermal treatment. As a result material's specific surface area shrank from 506 m2/g to 102 m2/g (after 96-hour-long mechanical activation and a 1000Co annealing).
Natural zeolite of Tokay deposits underwent mechanical activation in a ball mill during 1-600 minutes. As a result of the activation mineral composition of zeolite changed: smectite, clinoptilolite, calcite, and cristobalite contents decreased several times while quartz and orthoclase contents increased. Specific surface area increased.
"Natural zeolites are hard alumosilicates, that is why finding the most appropriate chopping technology is important to increase specific surface area", - says Alexander Buzimov, M.A. student in the faculty of Physics and Engineering. - "Changing the specific surface area using mechanical treatment is aimed at changing properties of zeolites".
When they will have learnt to control zeolite's properties, the scientists plan to combine the mineral with nanoceramics which is manufactured by the scientists of the Institute of Strength Physics and Materials Science Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences and Tomsk State University, and thus produce a new gradient material. Thus, manufactured composite sieve will become the main part of the portable device for hemodialysis.
High-porous ceramics with desired pore size ranging from nano to macro is already produced by the scientists of Tomsk State University, Institute of Strength Physics and Materials Science Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Fraunhofer ICT (Germany), and University of Miskolc (Hungary). With these universities TSU has long-term agreements. The team includes both experienced scientists and students, - says Sergey Kulkov, professor of TSU.
Zeolite with high specific surface area provides effective moisture absorption. The device will be connected to a shunt, which is implanted under the skin of the patient. The blood will circulate through the composite sieve and will be cleaned.
The scientists hope to get the new material in a year, whereas the first device will be created in two years.
"Main advantage of this device is its portability. Nowadays, some analogs of traditional devices for hemodialysis are available, but all of them require the procedure to be performed in a hospital, so people are bound to their place of residence. With the new device, patients will be able to go even on a long journey. Hemodialysis can be then done at home and in an emergency situation," said Alexander Buzimov.
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