Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Август 2017 г.
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Российская наука и мир
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    EurekAlert / 1-Aug-2017
    Black holes are formed as a result of the most powerful explosions in the universe
    Global MASTER Robotic Telescopes Net has discovered polarization of intrinsic optical radiation of gamma-ray bursts.
    С помощью российской глобальной сети телескопов-роботов МАСТЕР астрономы из МГУ, совместно с российскими и зарубежными коллегами, впервые зарегистрировали и исследовали поляризацию оптического излучения, сопровождающего гамма-всплеск при возникновении черной дыры - процесс длительностью всего в несколько десятков секунд с колоссальным выбросом энергии. Результаты исследования опубликованы в журнале Nature.

On the 25th of June 2016 at 22:40:16 p.m. GMT NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (USA) registered a gamma-ray burst, which thereafter turned out to be just a giant burst precursor. In 31 seconds the Russian robotic telescope from the Global MASTER net of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, located in the Canary Islands (the Observatory of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Tenerife, Spain), got Fermi's message and in another 26 seconds started scanning square errors with the help of optical cameras.
Despite great mistakes in initial coordinates of the gamma-ray burst, the whole square errors was covered by the extra-wide field cameras of MASTER-SHOCK - the terrestrial counterpart of SHOCK cameras, set up at the Lomonosov Space Observatory. Due to this fact, MASTER already targeted at the place of interest when in 131 second after the first message NASA's Space Observatory registered the very disaster with high coordinate accuracy. Now a new Global Net Center - the Crimean Taurida - MASTER of the Lomonosov Moscow State University - has joined the Canaries' MASTER. At that moment this center was operating in test mode. Taurida- MASTER got first frames at 22:44:30 p.m. - in 12 seconds after the receipt of refined coordinates.
The main task was to detect polarization of intrinsic optical radiation of gamma-ray bursts. Intrinsic radiation is optical radiation, emerging in synchrony with gamma ray radiation. Intrinsic optical radiation observation refers to the most complicated tasks of modern experimental astrophysics since it requires complete robotization of the observation process along with original design of the telescope itself.
As a result, MASTER not only did the whole movie about the burst with the best time resolution but also registered for the first time ever polarization of optical radiation of a gamma-ray burst at that moment when the burst was still lasting.
GRB160625B gamma-ray burst turned out to be one of the most powerful space bursts, emerged in a narrow stream of relativistic particles, accelerated by electromagnetic field of a rapidly rotating black hole, developing right before our very eyes at the other end of the Universe.
Vladimir Lipunov, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, Professor at the Astronomy Division of the Faculty of Physics, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Head of Space Monitoring Laboratory at the Sternberg Astronomical Institute and MASTER project supervisor says: "Detected polarization of intrinsic optical radiation has revealed that the vent of the most powerful space cannon is developed by ordered powerful magnetic field, formed by the emerging black hole."
15 years ago, in spring 2002 a scientific team from the Lomonosov Moscow State University under the leadership of Professor Vladimir Lipunov and funded by Optika Moscow Association started elaborating a first Russian completely robotic telescope, called MASTER. The target was to make it capable of observing the most powerful and very short bursts in the Universe - namely, gamma-ray bursts, which generally last for several tens of seconds. First observations were made already in autumn 2002. During six subsequent years the team of enthusiasts registered only two gamma-ray bursts.
This large-scale astrophysical experiment became successful due to cooperation between scientists from several countries. They elaborated unique robotic equipment in gamma rays, infrared radiation and in the world's only Global MASTER optical robotic telescopes search Net, established within the framework of the development program of the Lomonosov Moscow State University with support from Optika Moscow Association. The majority of the article authors (namely, 8 people) are comprised of Russian scientists. The project has been done in collaboration with researchers from Spain, RSA, USA, Mexico, Great Britain, Italy, Israel and Australia.
By this time 8 MASTER robotic observatories, located in four continents both in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, are launched. Global MASTER Net has become a leader in early optical observations of gamma-ray bursts in the world. Besides that, MASTER has discovered more than a thousand burst events in the Universe. It has also made a decisive contribution to optical search for the source of the first gravitational wave burst, detected by LIGO (USA). Moreover, it cooperates with large neutrino facilities like ICECube (USA) and ANTARES (France). Simultaneously Global MASTER Net has discovered eight potentially dangerous asteroids.
Registration of optical radiation polarization, synchronous with gamma ray radiation, turns to be a great scientific achievement, which has been a dream for the MASTER team for long 15 years from the project start. Moreover, it's also an evidence of high quality of Russian innovation technologies, elaborated with the participation of the Lomonosov Moscow State University scientists and private sector, presented by OAO Optika Moscow Association.
Unique mathematical support, designed by Russian scientists, could be used for solving both fundamental and application research problems. Among them one could distinguish struggle with space threats, near space monitoring, space debris observation.
The following organizations take part in the Lomonosov Moscow State University project: the Blagoveschensk State Educational University, Irkutsk State University, Crimean Astronomical Station of the Lomonosov Moscow State University and Kislovodsk Solar Station of the Pulkovo Observatory, South African Astronomical Observatory (RSA), Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Spain), Astronomical Observatory of the National University of San Juan (Argentina).

Copyright © 2017 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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    The New York Times / Aug. 7, 2017
    Lenin's Eco-Warriors
    • Fred Strebeigh
    История природоохранной деятельности в СССР и современные проблемы российских заповедников.

NEW HAVEN - Atop a granite cliff in Siberia this past winter, I stood gazing at what became, 100 years ago, the first in the world's largest system of most protected nature reserves. To my west glistened mile-deep Lake Baikal. To the east rose snowy mountains, including one that reminded me of sharp-cut Half Dome, an icon of America's Yosemite National Park. I was looking across Barguzinsky Zapovednik, a conservation area protecting more than 600,000 acres so free from human impact that visitors may not enter.
Barguzinsky began a chain of 103 zapovedniks, or nature reserves, that protect 68 million acres of Russia. Most zapovedniks date from the Soviet era and provide the world's highest level of protection to the most land within any nation, under the International Union for Conservation of Nature's designation of "strict nature reserves."
How did Russia - hardly considered a cradle of environmentalism, given Joseph Stalin's crash program of industrialization - become a global pioneer in conservation?
Much of the answer begins with Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. In 1919, a young agronomist named Nikolai Podyapolski traveled north from the Volga River delta, where hunting had almost eliminated many species, to Moscow, where he met Lenin. Arriving at the Bolshevik leader's office to seek approval for a new zapovednik, Podyapolski felt "worried," he said, "as before an exam in high school." But Lenin, a longtime enthusiast for hiking and camping, agreed that protecting nature had "urgent value."
Two years later, Lenin signed legislation ordering that "significant areas of nature" across the continent be protected. Within three decades, some 30 million acres (equal in area to about 40 states of Rhode Island) from the European peaks of the Caucasus to the Pacific volcanoes of Kamchatka were set aside in a system of 128 reserves.
The roots of the zapovedniks were holy. Priests for years had sanctified forests by proclaiming a zapoved, or commandment: Thou shalt not cut. By the early 20th century, the sacred was resonating with the scientific: Mankind was exterminating "primordial nature," a Moscow biology professor, Grigorii Kozhevnikov, told a conference in 1908. He argued that anthropogenic dominance would soon leave humanity unable to see nature except through man-made imitation, "obscuring the image of the vanished past."
He proposed that Russia preserve vast lands where "nature must be left alone." Each would serve not as a "pleasuring-ground" for people (the words of the law that created the first of America's national parks, about which Russians were aware) but as a baseline established by observation of natural systems untrampled by people.
In the early 1920s, the Moscow Zoo began training a "circle of young biologists," many of whom became leaders in the Communist conservation movement, establishing zapovedniks as far-flung as the Pacific coastal reserve created in 1935 to save the Siberian tiger.
Joseph Stalin, however, was not one for obeying anyone else's commandment. In the 1940s, he initiated a "great transformation of nature" in the U.S.S.R. To open the country for a huge expansion of farming, logging, mining and hunting, he slashed the zapovednik system by 89 percent in 1951, leaving just 40 reserves comprising about 3.5 million acres.
After Stalin died in 1953, brave scientists fought back in defense of the reserves. By 1961, the system had rebounded to 93 zapovedniks on 15.7 million acres, with some additions and many restorations.
Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, was no friend of conservation, but the defenders were organizing. The reserves owe their survival, in part, to a 1960 law inviting the "participation of non-governmental organizations in the protection of nature." Within days, a group of biology students at Moscow State University took up the challenge. They called their movement Druzhina, after the medieval warriors who defended their homeland against invaders seeking to destroy Russia's Christian faith, and began to fight poachers and create nature reserves.
The students' motto resounded with ironic romanticism: "For the success of a hopeless cause!" By the 1980s, about 140 brigades of Druzhina had sprung up across the country. As the years passed, Druzhina activists became leaders on university faculties, and in environmental organizations and Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources.
On my hike up the bluff that lies just outside the protected vastness of Barguzinsky Zapovednik, the researcher leading me was a Druzhina named Irina Kurkina. This reserve was Russia's first, created in January 1917, before the Bolsheviks seized power (the Volga delta zapovednik proposed to Lenin by the young agronomist was the second to begin). Ms. Kurkina came here in 1986, fleeing a poultry farm to which the Soviet system had sent her to work, straight from college. She lives in this remote part of southern Russia far beyond the reach of any road.
"I would not do this job, be this kind of person," she told me, if not for the inspiration of fellow students in the Moscow Druzhina, whose names she recited as we climbed.
Their activism carried risks. To combat poaching, Druzhina teams gained legal authority to make citizens' arrests. At least three Druzhina were shot dead by poachers in different regions - near the Black Sea, the Ural Mountains and Lake Baikal - between the early 1970s and mid-1980s.
When the threat wasn't physical, it could be political. One leader of the anti-poaching teams, Vsevolod Stepanitskiy, told me some years ago about a time when he and his university colleagues, on patrol near Moscow, caught some illegal duck hunters. One, they learned, was a "deputy minister of finance." Worried at how their report would be received, the students presented their evidence to the Communist Party.
The minister got away with a reprimand, Mr. Stepanitskiy recalled. But the students went unpunished, and felt victorious. Druzhina became, in the words of another warrior who later joined the biology faculty at Moscow State, "a prototype of civil initiatives" and, as she put it, "a sign of democratization in conditions of totalitarianism."
Like many Druzhina, after graduating Mr. Stepanitskiy became a zapovednik researcher, starting in 1982 on Russia's Pacific coast. In late 1991, when the U.S.S.R. dissolved, Mr. Stepanitskiy found himself heading the Zapovedniks Administration for the new Russian Federation. Despite economic hard times, he and his colleagues seized the initiative and created 18 new reserves in four years, including the spectacular Commander Islands, Russia's Aleutians in the Pacific.
Nature conservation in Russia remains challenging. Three times in the first two decades of his post-Soviet leadership, Mr. Stepanitskiy resigned to express his opposition to management problems, including efforts to turn protected resources into financial resources. His second resignation came in 2002, when an official in the Ministry of Natural Resources ordered zapovednik directors to start making money by cutting down forests in their reserves. "Going to work," Mr. Stepanitskiy announced, had become "like going behind enemy lines."
Each time, Mr. Stepanitskiy went to work outside the government, helping environmental organizations and providing support to conservationists. But each time, apparently in tacit acknowledgment of Mr. Stepanitskiy's judgment and leadership, the Russian government invited him to return to directing the zapovednik system.
In 2015, President Vladimir Putin, who famously enjoys photo opportunities in nature with tigers, bears and whales, announced that the centennial year for Russia's zapodneviks, 2017, would be the "Year of Protected Areas." His government pledged to increase Russia's protected acreage by 18 percent over the next eight years.
But storm clouds have gathered. Ranger salaries, which Mr. Stepanitskiy has fought to raise, are only about $4,300 a year. New ski resorts, supported by wealthy corporations that Russian conservation groups believe have lobbied the government, seem likely to threaten Caucasus Zapovednik. While Mr. Stepanitskiy has encouraged educational tourism in small sections of the nature reserves, he has criticized ski construction as "not eco-tourism" and as likely to jeopardize a leopard reintroduction project that has had Mr. Putin's backing.
Russia's first zapovednik in the Arctic, Wrangell Island, is threatened by a new military base. After polar bears had been fed illegally, a construction worker tossed toward a bear an explosive device that detonated in its mouth, a horror shown by Russian TV. Proposed legislation would authorize Russia's president to strip protection from zapovedniks for any reason, including "to ensure the security of the state."
In April, Mr. Stepanitskiy resigned for a fourth time. Conservationists across Russia are following his now unbridled commentaries, including that the ministry views Russia's nature reserves as "a resource that can be used for personal recreation and entertainment." He has attacked the government for failing to uphold the system's century-long "sacred idea."
For now, at least, Lenin's legacy is preserved and Russia remains the world leader, ahead of Brazil and Australia, in protecting the most land at the highest level. Russian naturalists continue to advance their not-yet-hopeless cause of keeping free a few vast landscapes on this planet where humans do not tread.

© 2017 The New York Times Company.

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    The New York Times / Aug. 9, 2017
    Russia Wants Innovation, but It's Arresting Its Innovators
    • By Andrew Higgins
    О сложившейся в Технопарке новосибирского Академгородка ситуации и вызвавшем общественный резонанс деле одного из резидентов Технопарка, основателя компании "Тион" Дмитрия Трубицына.

AKADEMGORODOK, Russia - Dmitri Trubitsyn is a young physicist-entrepreneur with a patriotic reputation, seen in this part of Siberia as an exemplar of the talents, dedication and enterprise that President Vladimir V. Putin has hailed as vital for Russia's future economic health.
Yet Mr. Trubitsyn faces up to eight years in jail after a recent raid on his home and office here in
Akademgorodok, a Soviet-era sanctuary of scientific research that was supposed to showcase how Mr. Putin's Russia can harness its abundance of talent to create a modern economy.
A court last Thursday extended Mr. Trubitsyn's house arrest until at least October, which bars him from leaving his apartment or communicating with anyone other than his immediate family. Mr. Trubitsyn, 36, whose company, Tion, manufactures high-tech air-purification systems for homes and hospitals, is accused of risking the lives of hospital patients, and trying to lift profits, by upgrading the purifiers so they would consume less electricity.
Most important, he is accused of doing this without state regulators certifying the changes.
It is a case that highlights the tensions between Mr. Putin's aspirations for a dynamic private sector and his determination to enhance the powers of Russia's security apparatus. Using a 2014 law meant to protect Russians from counterfeit medicine, investigators from the Federal Security Service, the post-Soviet KGB, and other agencies have accused Mr. Trubitsyn of leading a criminal conspiracy to, essentially, innovate too fast and too freely.
The situation has outraged fellow scientists, would-be entrepreneurs and others in Akademgorodok, a freethinking settlement of broad avenues, forested pathways and 35 Soviet-era research institutes near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. They see it as the Russian government undermining its own stated economic goal - to nurture enterprises that harness Russian brain power instead of sucking oil, gas and minerals out of the ground.
More than 5,000 people have signed a petition appealing to Mr. Putin to stop "this shameful example of forceful pressure on a law-abiding business." Mr. Trubitsyn and his company "are, without exaggeration, the pride of Akademgorodok," it said. "They are a strong symbol of a prospering Russia in which real technological business can develop to world standards."
Aleksei Okunev of Novosibirsk State University in Akademgorodok, who has worked closely with Mr. Trubitsyn's company, called the situation "incomprehensible." He added, "We have very few success stories in Russia, and this explains why."
Mr. Putin did not respond, but in a statement, his business ombudsman, Boris Titov, called Mr. Trubitsyn "a young, energetic representative of the innovation sector, the development of which is most needed for a modern Russia."
But Mr. Titov has made similar statements before, to little effect. Despite official state support for innovation under Mr. Putin, the growing power of Russia's security services and rampant official corruption frequently push in the opposite direction.
The first sign of the storm approaching Akademgorodok came early in 2016, when Mr. Trubitsyn and his colleagues began hearing that their competitors were telling hospitals that Tion's air purifiers were dangerous and were being investigated by Roszdravnadzor, a state agency that regulates medical equipment.
State television then broadcast a report accusing the company of jeopardizing the health of hospital patients. State hospitals began removing Tion devices.
"For years we were praised as a success story and then all these strange things suddenly started happening," said Mikhail Amelkin, Tion's chief technical officer.
Mr. Amelkin said the company was approached by the regulatory agency and said that it had changed its design and removed a supplementary filtering device that laboratory tests had shown was redundant and wasted electricity. The company then amended its registration documents and thought the matter was over, Mr. Amelkin said. But armed police officers showed up in June to arrest Mr. Trubitsyn and search for evidence of what later court documents described as a "conspiracy" to produce counterfeit medical supplies. (No co-conspirators have been named, but a conspiracy charge allows prosecutors to seek more jail time.)
Natalia Pinus, Akademgorodok's elected representative to the regional council, is one of many local residents who see Mr. Trubitsyn's troubles as the fault of unscrupulous operators able to manipulate law-enforcement agencies to wipe out competitors.
"This is not just about a single company," she said, but "whether you can conduct honest business in Russia or whether that is impossible."
Police raids and arrests figure prominently in many Russian business struggles, particularly those involving assets like oil, over which the state has steadily reasserted control under Mr. Putin. Private companies that clash with Rosneft, Russia's state-owned energy giant, for example, often face criminal investigation.
The decline in global oil prices has, however, also meant less money is available for siphoning by venal officials. That has turned even relatively small companies into attractive targets by the police and the courts operating in partnership with business.
Anton Latkin, a computer programmer who has known Mr. Trubitsyn since boyhood science clubs, said Tion had fallen prey to attack by government officials who "don't understand anything about physics, don't understand anything about chemistry and don't understand anything about biology."
Mr. Amelkin, Tion's chief technical officer, said he and his staff had been unable to figure out who or what was behind the investigation. "If you try to find out who is responsible for anything in this system, you will only find an echo in the cave," he said, adding that the Russian state "is not a single organism with one brain" but a sprawling mass of separate and often competing fiefs.
Mr. Putin has been a forceful advocate of ending Russia's long record as an economic also-ran in all spheres other than oil and gas, repeatedly hailing Russia's technical and scientific prowess as an asset on which it can build a vibrant and diversified economy.
Last month, at a meeting of his Council for Strategic Development, Mr. Putin again lectured officials on the need to move Russia's faltering economy - now smaller than that of Italy and 11 other countries - beyond its reliance on natural resources. "We need a breakthrough, and we must ensure it," he said.
Mr. Trubitsyn's troubles, though, may help explain why such a breakthrough has proved so elusive: The Russian state, which is Mr. Putin's main vehicle for his plans for the nation's resurgence, often stifles growth.
A bureaucracy empowered by a steady erosion of democratic checks and balances can often smother new ideas. Grand state-directed projects to promote innovation - like Skolkovo, a Moscow-area technology park set up by Kremlin fiat as Russia's answer to Silicon Valley - have mostly fallen flat.
Mr. Trubitsyn's company began in such a state-funded park, one of a dozen such zones set up across Russia after Mr. Putin visited India's tech hub in Bangalore in 2005. Mr. Putin so enthusiastic about what he saw in Bangalore that he stopped in Akademgorodok on his way back to Moscow to talk with scientists and officials about how Russia could copy India's example.
Dmitri Verkhovod, a mathematician who was appointed to run the operation, said Tion was "one of our first start-ups," opening in 2006, and had proved that innovative Russian companies can compete on the global market.
The objective, he added, was "to show that you can do business and make money here in Russia and don't need to go abroad." One of the few Russian companies outside the energy sector that export to China, Tion grew steadily to employ 250 people in Akademgorodok, Moscow, China and Kazakhstan by 2017. It has tributes from government-linked bodies, including being named Innovation Company of the Year by a Siberian forum in 2012. (Mr. Verkhovod is entangled in a separate dispute and was fired in January as director of the Akademgorodok technopark.)
Irina Travina, the founder of a software start-up and head of the local technology-business association, said Akademgorodok was "the best place in Russia," with "outstanding schools, low crime and a high concentration of very smart people."
But she said Mr. Trubitsyn's arrest had delivered a grave blow to the community's sense of security.
"In principle, anyone can fall into this situation," Ms. Travina said, praising Mr. Trubitsyn as a patriot because he had not moved abroad and had invested time and money in science education for local children. "It can happen to anybody," she added. "Everyone has some sort of skeleton in their closet. Maybe nothing big, but they can always find something to throw you in jail for."

© 2017 The New York Times Company.

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    EurekAlert / 17-Aug-2017
    Reed warblers have a sense for magnetic declination
    Ученые из СПбГУ, Бангорского университета и университета Ольденбурга выяснили, как птицы определяют долготу во время перелета, т.е. различают восток и запад. Во время эксперимента с тростниковыми камышовками (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) оказалось, что перелетные птицы способны улавливать и измерять деклинацию (смещение) магнитного меридиана относительно географического.

Researchers recently showed that migratory reed warblers depend on an internal geomagnetic map to guide them on their long-distance journeys. But it wasn't clear how the birds were solving the relatively difficult "longitude problem," determining where they were along the east-west axis and which way to go. Now, the team's latest report published in Current Biology on August 17 has an answer. The birds rely on changes from east to west in magnetic declination, the angular difference between geographic north and magnetic north.
"We've shown for the first time that magnetic declination may be a component of the magnetic navigational map, at least in some long-distance migratory birds," says Nikita Chernetsov at the Biological Station Rybachy and St. Petersburg University in Russia.
Earlier studies had shown that animals including birds and sea turtles could rely on other aspects of the earth's magnetic field as well as celestial cues to navigate. But those features aren't very informative when it comes to measuring longitude in many parts of the world, including North America and Western Europe. The researchers knew that magnetic declination could help, but it wasn't clear whether reed warblers had a way to measure it.
To find out in the new study, the researchers captured 15 experienced adult Eurasian reed warblers during their autumn migration in Rybachy. They housed the birds in outdoor cages equipped with a special contraption that allowed researchers to precisely adjust the magnetic field.
When the researchers tested the reed warblers under starry skies in the natural magnetic field of Rybachy, the birds oriented as expected in a seasonally appropriate direction. But, when the researchers rotated the magnetic field 8.5° counter-clockwise to adjust the magnetic declination while keeping all else constant, something remarkable happened. Although still in Rybachy, the birds behaved as though they'd been magically transported to Southern Scotland, about 1,450 kilometers away.
After constant exposure to the 8.5° shifted declination, the reed warblers responded with a dramatic 151° change in their mean orientation from WSW to ESE. The findings show that "a small change in magnetic declination is sufficient to elicit a dramatic re-orientation response," the researchers write.
The findings confirm that Eurasian reed warblers use magnetic declination to determine their approximate east-west position within Europe. Importantly, naive birds under the same conditions didn't re-orient themselves correctly. They instead became confused, evidence that the reed warblers learn to follow the magnetic gradients from experience.
"Reed warblers seem to learn the large-scale spatial pattern of the declination gradient during their annual movements, just like they learn other gradients, inclination, and total intensity," Chernetsov says. "As magnetic declination mainly varies along the east-west axis, it provides the possibility to measure longitude."
Many questions remain about how the reed warblers' learning process takes place and how the birds extrapolate beyond gradients they've experienced directly. The researchers say it will also be important to find out if other migratory bird species have the same ability.
Either way, the findings are an important step forward in understanding how birds and other animals navigate over hundreds or even thousands of kilometers. People might consider taking note.
"We humans do not use the magnetic map for our navigation, but we might want to look into this option," Chernetsov says.

Copyright © 2017 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

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    Phys.Org / August 24, 2017
    Russian archaeological find solves 13th-century mystery
    При раскопках в Ярославле археологи обнаружили свинцовую печать начала XIII века, принадлежавшую матери первого удельного князя Ярославля Всеволода Константиновича. Благодаря этой находке выяснилось, наконец, имя княгини, до сих пор неизвестное - Мария.

Rescue archaeology work conducted in the city centre of Yaroslavl prior to installing a new sewer system has turned up an ancient leaden seal from the turn of the 13th century. It once belonged to the spouse of Vladimir Grand-Prince Constantine Vsevolovodich and the mother of the first Grand-Prince of Yaroslavl. Thanks to this find, we finally know the name of the Grand-Duchess - her name was Maria.
"In Ancient Rus, everyone in a position of authority - Grand-Princes and Princesses, and the upper ranks of the clergy - had their own seal, which was affixed to all official documents and decrees. We have several thousand such seals from the pre-Mongolian era - but to find one with a female owner is very remarkable indeed. Scientists are only aware of a few dozen examples," said Dr. Pyotr Gaidukov, Deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology.
Dr. Gaidukov is a leading authority on stamps and seals of Ancient Rus, and is responsible for the attribution of the latest find.
The seal was found in Yaroslavl during preliminary work for putting through a new sewerage system to the Metropolitan bishop Chambers (Mitropolichy Palaty) - the oldest structure in the city. Yaroslavl's city centre has only recently marked its thousandth anniversary - it is a Federal-level Heritage Site that also falls under UNESCO Heritage Protection.
This special status means that any building work in the centre of the city must first undergo archaeological inspection.
This find is of major significance. The team of archaeologists led by Dr. Asya Engovatova has not only uncovered the seal itself, but many fragments of imported glassware vessels, and even the remains of a wooden building that would have been exceptionally large for the 12th and 13th centuries.
The finds give archaeologists grounds to believe that near the Metropolitan Chambers - themselves dating from the 17th century - there must have stood the famous Prince's Court of Vsevolod Constantinovich, first Prince of Yaroslavl, who was slain in battle in 1238 in the legendary battle against Mongolian warlord Batu-Khan at the River Sit.
The leaden seal was found in good condition, close to the foundations of this wooden building - and bearing the images of Saints Constantine and Maria. It was found in a cultural layer reliably datable to the turn of the 13th century.
Dr. Gaidukov explained that royal seals in 12th and 13th-century Russia usually bore the images of their owner's patron saints, from which the rulers took their own forenames. The fact that this seal shows both a male and female saint means that it had belonged to a royal princess, since the other saint's image referred to her husband. "The exact dating of this seal, along with its place of discovery, gives us near-certain grounds for saying it belonged to the wife of Vladimir Grand-Prince Constantine Vsevolodovich (1186-1218)," Dr. Gaidukov said.
Constantine Vsevolodovich was the eldest son of Vladimir Grand-Prince Vsevolod Yurievich the Big-Nest. He ruled throughout Rostov and Novgorod, and by the end of his life had become Grand-Prince of Vladimir. His son, Vsevolod Constantinovich, became the first appointed Prince of Yaroslavl - where he ruled from 1210 to 1238. His own royal seal was found close to the Metropolitan Chambers in 2010.
The name of his mother - the wife of Prince Constantine Vsevolodovich - and daughter of Smolensk Prince Mstislav Romanovich, remained a mystery until now. All that was known of her was that after her husband's death, she had taken the veil under the new name of Agafya (Agatha).
"However, the image of St. Maria (St. Mary) on her seal proves that her baptismal name was Maria. At long last, the mystery princess has got her name back," Dr. Gaidukov said. "This type of leaden seal was essential for a ruler - it gave authority to all legal documents, such as those which confirmed the ownership of land. A Duchess who had her own such seal automatically had the right to grant property rights in her own name."
Dr. Gaidukov concluded by stressing that the find of such an important seal sheds light on the legal status of woman in pre-Mongolian Russia.

© Phys.org 2003-2017, Science X network.

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    EurekAlert / 29-Aug-2017
    Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level
    Space flight cause significant changes in all the major types of human cells, tissues, and organs.
    Невесомость влияет на здоровье космонавтов на молекулярном уровне. К такому выводу пришли российские и канадские ученые, проанализировав воздействие космических условий на концентрацию и состав белка в образцах крови 18 российских космонавтов. Изменения происходят во всех основных типах клеток, тканей и органов человека и призваны помочь организму адаптироваться.

A team of scientists from Russia and Canada has analyzed the effect of space conditions on the protein composition in blood samples of 18 Russian cosmonauts. The results indicated many significant changes in the human body caused by space flight. These changes are intended to help the body adapt and take place in all the major types of human cells, tissues, and organs. The results of the research have been published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Scientific Reports. Skoltech and MIPT Professor Evgeny Nikolaev initiated this research, and he is a corresponding author of the study.
The effects of spaceflight on the human body have been studied actively since the mid-20th century. It is widely known that space conditions influence metabolism, thermoregulation, heart biorhythms, muscle tonus, the respiration system and other physiological aspects of the human body function. However, the molecular mechanisms which drive the physiological changes caused by space flights remain unknown.
Proteins are key players in the adaptive processes in an organism, so the scientists decided to focus on them. To gain a deeper understanding of the changes in human physiology during space travel, the research team quantified concentrations of 125 proteins in the blood plasma of 18 Russian cosmonauts who had been on long-duration missions to the International Space Station. The blood was initially taken from them 30 days prior to their flights, and again immediately after their return to Earth and finally seven days after that. This timing was chosen as it helped the scientists to identify trends in protein concentration changes and see how fast the protein concentrations returned to their normal levels prior to the flight.
Protein concentrations were measured using a mass spectrometer. This technology makes it possible to identify a particular molecule and perform a quantitative analysis of a mixture of substances (count the exact number of molecules).
As a result of the study, the scientists found proteins whose concentrations remained unchanged, as well as those whose concentrations did change, but recovered rapidly to their pre-flight levels and those whose levels recovered very slowly after the cosmonaut's return to Earth.
"For the research, we took a set of proteins - non-infectious diseases biomarkers. The results showed that in weightlessness, the immune system acts like it does when the body is infected because the human body doesn't know what to do and tries to turn on all possible defense systems. For this study, we began by using quantitative proteomics to study the cosmonauts' blood indicators, so we detected not only the presence of a protein but its amount as well. We plan to use a targeted approach in the future to detect more specific proteins responsible for the human response to space conditions. To do this, the cosmonauts will have to take blood tests while in orbit," said Professor Nikolaev.
The factors that affect the human body during spaceflight are very interesting because they are different to those that influenced human evolution on Earth. It is not known if the human body has mechanisms responsible for rapidly adapting to such major changes. The results of the study indicate that such mechanisms probably do not exist because, during space flight, these adaptations take place in all the major types of human cells, tissues, and organs. This indicates that the human body does not know what to do and is trying to do everything in its power.

Copyright © 2017 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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