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Slate Magazine / June 2 2017
How People Fought the USSR's Descent Into Pseudoscience
And how it started in the first place.
- By Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut
Фрагменты из книги американского биолога и публициста Ли Алана Дугаткина (Университет Луисвилла) и профессора Людмилы Трут (ИЦиГ СО РАН) "Как приручить лису (и сделать из нее собаку): Ученые-мечтатели и сибирская сказка о скачкообразной эволюции" (How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution, the University of Chicago Press, 2017). Книга рассказывает об уникальном эксперименте по доместикации лис, который в 1959 году начал в новосибирском Академгородке директор Института цитологии и генетики СО АН СССР Дмитрий Беляев. Это первая книга, посвященная непосредственно эксперименту.
For the last six decades, Lyudmila Trut and her colleagues have been running one of the most audacious experiments ever undertaken. The experiment, first conceived and led by Trut's mentor, Dmitry Belyaev, aimed to rerun the evolutionary process that led to the domestication of dogs but in real time, using the fox as a stand-in for the wolf. Each year for the last 58 years they have been testing hundreds of foxes in Siberia and selecting only the tamest of the tame to parent the subsequent generation. The results have been nothing short of remarkable. Their domesticated foxes will lick your faces and melt your hearts with their doglike devotion and love. What's more, even though the experimenters select the parents of each generation strictly based on how behaviorally tame foxes are, these domesticated foxes look eerily like dogs, with curly tails, muttlike fur, puppylike faces and even, on occasion, floppy ears.
Belyaev and Trut's experiment began in 1959 and it came within a hair's breadth of being shut down that very same year by none less than the premier of the Soviet Union. For, you see, any experiment on domestication is also an experiment in genetics, and a decade earlier, before the fox experiment began in Siberia, a pseudoscientist charlatan by the name of Trofim Lysenko had convinced the government of the USSR that Western genetics was bourgeois science, promoted by "wreckers," making genetics all but illegal in the Soviet Union.
This skepticism of genetics all started when, in the mid-1920s, the Communist Party leadership elevated a number of uneducated men from the proletariat into positions of authority in the scientific community, as part of a program to glorify the average citizen after centuries of monarchy had perpetuated wide class divisions between the wealthy and the workers and peasants. Lysenko fit the bill perfectly, having been raised by peasant farmer parents in the Ukraine. He hadn't learned to read until he was 13, and he had no university degree, having studied at what amounted to a gardening school, which awarded him a correspondence degree. The only training he had in crop-breeding was a brief course in cultivating sugar beets. In 1925, he landed a middle-level job at the Gandzha Plant Breeding Laboratory in Azerbaijan, where he worked on sowing peas. Lysenko convinced a Pravda reporter who was writing a puff piece about the wonders of peasant scientists that the yield from his pea crop was far above average and that his technique could help feed his starving country. In the glowing article the reporter claimed, "the barefoot professor Lysenko has followers ... and the luminaries of agronomy visit ... and gratefully shake his hand." The article was pure fiction. But it propelled Lysenko to national attention, including that of Josef Stalin.
With Stalin as his ally, Lysenko launched a crusade to discredit work in genetics, in part, because proof of the genetic theory of evolution would expose him as a fraud. He denounced geneticists, both in the West and in the Soviet Union, as subversives, to Stalin's great pleasure. At an agricultural conference held at the Kremlin in 1935, when Lysenko finished a speech in which he called geneticists "saboteurs," Stalin rose to his feet and yelled, "Bravo, Comrade Lysenko, bravo."
In July 1948, as part of Stalin's anti-intellectualism and anti-cosmopolitanism program, a grand plan to "transform nature" was put into place by the Soviet government, and Lysenko was placed in charge of all policy regarding the biological sciences. Shortly thereafter, at the August 1948 meeting of the All-Union Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Lysenko presented a talk that is widely regarded as the most disingenuous and dangerous speech in the history of Soviet science. Entitled "The Situation in the Science of Biology," in this speech Lysenko condemned "modern reactionary genetics," by which he meant modern Western genetics. At the end of his ranting, the audience stood and cheered wildly.
Geneticists at the meeting were forced to stand up and refute their scientific knowledge and practices. Those who refused were ejected from the Communist Party. In the aftermath of the speech, thousands of geneticists lost their jobs, dozens were jailed, and a few, including fox experiment leader Dmitry Belyaev's older brother, Nikolai, were murdered by Lysenko's thugs.
Lysenko's hold on Russian science had its peaks and valleys since his infamous 1948 speech, but in 1959, as the fox domestication experiment was just beginning, he was getting frustrated that his stranglehold on Soviet biology was showing signs of loosening.
The fox experiment had commenced shortly after Dmitry Belyaev had been appointed deputy director of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics outside of Novosibirsk, the largest city in Siberia. The Institute of Cytology and Genetics was part of a vast new scientific city called Akademgorodok. Decades earlier Maxim Gorky had written of a fictional "Town of Science … a series of temples in which every scientist is a priest …where scientists every day fearlessly probe deeply into the baffling mysteries surrounding our planet." Musing about such an oasis, Gorky envisioned "… foundries and workshops where people forge exact knowledge, facet the entire experience of the world, transforming it into hypotheses, into instruments for the further quest of the truth." Akademgorodok was just such a place. In short time, it housed thousands of scientists and was home to the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, the Institute of Mathematics, the Institute of Nuclear Physics, the Institute of Hydrodynamics, and half a dozen other institutes. Researchers, both senior and junior, from all over the USSR, were recruited to be part of an academic nirvana that was unavailable anywhere else in their country.
Lysenko and his allies were furious that although they were still officially in power, scientists on the ground were starting to simply ignore their prohibitions and were even openly putting genetics in their institute names. Lysenko launched a new rear-guard campaign against genetics, and as part of this battle, in January 1959, a Lysenko-created committee from Moscow visited Akademgorodok. This committee had the official authority to determine what work was done at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, and Belyaev and the whole research staff knew all too well that they were at risk of being forced out. "Khrushchev arrived here," Lyudmila recalled, "very discontented, with the intention to get everyone 'in trouble' because of the geneticists." She remembers committee members "snooping in the laboratories," questioning everyone and anyone, including secretaries. The word spread that the committee was clearly unhappy that genetic studies were being conducted. When the committee met with Mikhail Lavrentyev, chief of all the institutes at Akademgorodok, they informed him that "the direction of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics is methodologically wrong." Those were ominous words from a Lysenkoist group, and everyone knew it.
Nikita Khrushchev, who was by this time premier of the USSR, heard tale of the committee's report about Akademgorodok. Khrushchev had been a long-time supporter of Lysenko, and he decided to examine the situation personally. In September 1959, on a trip back from visiting Mao Tse-tung in China, he stopped off in Novosibirsk. Khrushchev's temper often got the best of him when things did not go exactly as he wished, and the visit to Chairman Mao had not gone well, cut short because of the cold reception he had received. What's more, the construction of Akademgorodok was ongoing, and it was a large enough project that things were over budget and behind schedule. In a fit of pique during his visit, Khrushchev threatened to disband the whole Soviet Academy of Sciences if the situation did not improve: "I'll let you all loose!" he railed. "I'll deprive you [of] extra pay and all privileges! Peter the Great needed an academy, what do we need it for?" Especially an academy with geneticists.
The staff of all the science institutes at Akademgorodok gathered in front of the Institute of Hydrodynamics for Khrushchev's visit, and Lyudmila recalls that the premier "walked by the assembled staff very fast, not paying any attention to them." The substance of the meeting between Khrushchev and administrators was not recorded, but accounts from the time make clear that Khrushchev intended to shut down the Institute of Cytology and Genetics. Immediately.
He never made good on his threat. Fortunately, Khrushchev's travel partner on his visit to Akademgorodok was his daughter, Rada. A well-known journalist, Rada, who was also a trained biologist, recognized Lysenko for the fraud he was and convinced her father to keep the Institute of Cytology and Genetics open. Still, the premier had to do something to show his discontent, so the day after his visit, he had the head of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics sacked. In an ironic twist of fate, as deputy director, Belyaev was now in charge of the Institute.
Without Rada Khrushchev taking a courageous stand for science, the Institute of Cytology and Genetics would have shut its doors, and with that, the fox domestication study - a six-decade long evolutionary treasure chest that continues to this day - would likely have been dead in the water.
Lee Alan Dugatkin is a professor and distinguished university scholar in the department of biology at the University of Louisville. His main area of research interest is the evolution of social behavior. He is also author of Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose and The Prince of Evolution: Peter Kropotkin's Adventures in Science and Politics.
Lyudmila Trut is professor of genetics at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, Russia. Since 1959 she has been the lead researcher on the fox domestication experiment in Novosibirsk.
© 2017 The Slate Group LLC. All rights reserved.
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Замминистра образования и науки РФ Людмила Огородова заявила, что с 2013 года число зарубежных ученых, работающих в ведущих российских вузах, возросло вчетверо.
Привлечение иностранных профессоров, преподавателей и исследователей проходит в рамках "Проекта 5-100" по продвижению университетов в международные рейтинги.
Russia claims it has more than quadrupled the number of overseas academics working at its leading universities since 2013, as part of the country's plans to push the institutions up international rankings.
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Lyudmila Ogorodova, deputy minister of education and science, said there had been a "significant increase in the number of foreign professors, teachers and researchers in the universities" that are part of Project 5-100, which seeks to get five Russian universities into the world top 100 by 2020.
"Their share in the number of university staff increased by 4.5 times," she said in an interview with the Russian outlet Sputnik, although she did not give absolute figures. Ms Lyudmila said that the country was "particularly" interested in strengthening scientific ties with the US. "From 2013 to 2016, Russian and American researchers and scientists jointly published more than 15,000 scientific papers works," she said, ahead of an education conference in Los Angeles. She added that in 2016, universities involved in the Project 5-100 scheme had introduced nearly 200 new programmes that had been created along with overseas universities and other scientific organisations.
Her comments reflect Russian's struggle to internationalise its universities, which have been criticised by observers for being inward looking. In particular, the publication of research findings in Russian has made it difficult for the country's academics to participate in global scientific conversations.
A recent analysis found that the number of papers published in Russia has fallen by about 1 per cent a year since 2000. The country did launch a plan to recruit one in 10 researchers from overseas in 2013, although some believe the funding available is not enough.
Bloomberg / 7 june 2017
A Vast Blockchain Experiment Could Change Russia
Putin has failed to spark a tech revolution, and not for a lack of trying.
Чтобы избавить Россию от нефтяной зависимости, необходим прорыв в какой-нибудь технологической области, еще не занятой западными, китайскими или японскими технологическими гигантами. "Роснано" и "Сколково" себя не оправдали. Теперь надежды связаны с платформой Ethereum на основе технологии блокчейн.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his economic team have long been under the impression that, to wean the country off its oil dependence, they needed a major leap in some specific area of technology that wasn't yet dominated by Western, Chinese or Japanese tech giants. Their latest hopes are being pegged to the Ethereum blockchain platform.
At last week's St. Petersburg Economic Forum, Putin talked to Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum. Buterin's family emigrated from Russia to Canada when he was six. There, the math whiz got interested in Bitcoin while still in his teens. A $100,000 fellowship from Peter Thiel's foundation launched him on the Ethereum project.
Though Buterin's platform does host the ether currency, which has risen in value to more than $260 from $8 so far this year, it's far more ambitious than that. Buterin thinks of his project as the safe medium for all sorts of transactions that can be validated through a distributed system, the way Bitcoin transactions are. This includes bets, option deals, insurance contracts, the government registration of property rights and copyright - pretty much any kind of deal that requires validation or that can be automatically executed when certain conditions become right. Ethereum provides a universal blockchain upon which various projects can be built.
Russia has brilliant engineering brains, and it could try to lure back talented Russians like Buterin and those who work in Silicon Valley. But it's not easy to find the "blue ocean" areas not infested with international sharks like Apple, Google and Alibaba. In the past decade, technological bets placed by Russian leaders have suffered from being overly audacious or too far behind the competition.
In 2007, Putin thought it would be nanotechnology. In typical style, he set up a giant state company to develop the tech and put former Kremlin chief of staff Anatoly Chubais, reputed to be one of the country's best managers, at its helm. It didn't work. Rosnano, as the company was called, struggled to find relevant projects to invest in, and the ones in which it did invest haven't delivered the kind of breakthrough that could have propelled the Russian economy forward. Last year, Rosnano posted a steep revenue drop and a loss of 17.4 billion rubles ($307 million).
During Dmitri Medvedev's interim presidency, the Kremlin attempted a different tack, diving in with the sharks. It made a feeble attempt to create a Silicon Valley clone near Moscow in partnership with global tech companies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Oligarchs and state companies were forced to invest. Though the Skolkovo project still exists, and so do its ambitious plans, but it hasn't delivered, either, because it attracted more attention from Russian law enforcement than from actual innovators and private investors.
The search for a promising moonshot resumed when Putin became president again. Last year, he hit on Elon Musk's hyperloop idea as something Russia could put into practice. Russia's expanse, after all, calls for a hyperloop-style solution. At the 2016 St. Petersburg Economic Forum, Putin promised support to a company called Hyperloop One, and indeed, Kremlin-linked investors soon arrived for the start-up. Then the project ran into trouble amid bitter recriminations between co-founder Shervin Pishevar and former chief technology officer Brogan BamBrogan. The company still exists and proposes projects in a number of countries - it opened a test track in Nevada earlier this year - but Russia doesn't appear to be a priority for the U.S. firm despite the Russian investment.
Lately, Ethereum has become the arena for a boom in capital-raising through the sale of digital tokens which can be used within a certain application, such as the Gnosis prediction market, which raised $12 million in 15 minutes in that way.
Though large global companies got there first - the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, formed to promote the technology in various business environments, includes UBS, JP Morgan, Microsoft, Intel and other giants - Russia has a chance to be ahead of others.
Like other central banks, the Russian one is testing blockchain technology: Last year, a consortium of large Russian banks it formed for the purpose processed the first transactions through the Etherium platform. With Putin's support, which means everything in today's Russia, the central bank, run by Putin favorite Elvira Nabiullina, can more aggressively move the country's financial sector to the blockchain.
Buterin has also offered his platform to Russia's vast government sector, stressing its anti-corruption potential: The system is inherently transparent. I'm not sure the Putin elite is excited about this aspect of the blockchain, but Putin himself might be interested in the potential for greater control that it creates. The brief meeting between Putin and Buterin last week might open exciting prospects for the latter. His vast country of birth is the most impressive field for controlled experiments any techie could dream of; in Putin's system, decisions can be made fast, and mistakes can be forgiven in the name of Russia's great leap forward.
I doubt Putin will ever have the courage to give 23-year-old Buterin a free hand to redesign Russia's financial system or massive bureaucracy. Powerful interests will lobby against it, too. But, stuck in the 20th century both politically and economically, Russia does need a leap to remain relevant. A giant blockchain experiment might be another wrong turn - but, more likely, it would give the country a powerful modernizing impulse.
Copyright 2016 Bloomberg Finance L.P. All rights reserved.
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В России наблюдаются все более серьезные последствия изменения климата - от ураганов и пожаров до наводнений, причем за последние 20 лет количество их возросло вдвое, а средняя температура в России в 2016 году повышалась в 2,5 раза быстрее, чем в среднем по миру. Эксперты предупреждают, что принимаемые меры адаптации к изменениям недостаточны. Необходима разработка новых климатических стратегий на федеральном и региональном уровнях, включая развитие систем раннего оповещения и модернизацию инфраструктуры.
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, June 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Russia is seeing stronger climate change impacts, from deadly storms in Moscow to river flooding in the country's south, but efforts to adapt to the growing problems remain limited, experts warn.
With around 10 million of the country's people facing immediate climate-related risks, according to Russian researchers, there is a need for federal and regional climate adaptation strategies, including better early warning systems and modernised infrastructure, the experts said.
Last week, a hurricane with winds up to 30 meters per second (67 miles per hour) hit Moscow at rush hour, leaving 16 people dead and more than 200 others injured, according to Russia's Emergency Ministry. At the other end of the country, in southeastern Siberia, forest fires have repeatedly destroyed settlements with thousands of local residents evacuated and relocated. In the south of Russia heavy rains and river flooding that threatened a dam in the Stavropol region led to the evacuation of a few thousand people in late May.
"These are all visible effects of climate change happening in Russia now. It is finally clear for everyone that the global climate crisis also has highly negative impacts for Russia, with more disasters to come," Alexey Kokorin, head of the climate and energy program at WWF-Russia, said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Nikolay Gudkov, the spokesman for Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources, said the government was increasingly aware of the problem.
"Yes, all these disasters come as a result of climate change, we do acknowledge that," he said. "For years there was a public image that climate change only meant rising temperatures, but now we see that it is much more about unexpected natural disasters happening in various parts of the country," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Russia's leaders - long skeptical about human-induced climate change - are now taking the issue more seriously, at least on paper, experts say.
Rising temperatures - and risks
According to state meteorological service Roshydromet, average temperature in Russia in 2016 grew 2.5 times quicker than the global average. The World Meteorological Organization has said that temperatures in parts of Artic Russia around the Ob River estuary and Novaya Zemlya are 6 to 7 degrees Celsius above the 1961-90 average, while worldwide temperatures are closer to 1 degree Celsius above that average. Both 2015 and 2016 were the warmest years in Russia since the beginning of meteorological observations, the agency said.
Most international climate risk indices put Russia at medium or low risk from climate change. The most recent World Risk Report, put together by United Nations University, for instance, puts Russia in 128th place worldwide in terms of risk. But researchers say assessments of overall country risk are not a good fit for Russia, where the population is distributed highly unevenly, with both sparsely populated areas and large concentrations of people in cities.
Sergey Donskoy, Russia's environment minister has said that the negative effects of climate change are already costing the country 30 to 60 billion rubles ($530 million to $1 billion) yearly.
Forecasts suggest that climate change-related losses may reach as much as 1 to 2 percent of the country's GDP by 2030, he said.
Over the last 15 to 20 years the number of dangerous meteorological events in Russia has doubled, with around 590 last year, ranging from strong winds and storms to heavy rain, Russian climatologists said last month, at the opening of Russian Climate Week in Moscow.
The country is also seeing - or expected to see - stronger heatwaves and cold snaps, droughts in southern agricultural areas, increasing numbers of forest fires and thawing of permafrost, which covers more than 60 percent of Russia's territory, the climatologists said.
"There will be more high waters, including floods, in the areas where we already have a lot of water, and there will be even less water in dry regions", Mikhail Georgievsky, a researcher from the State Hydrological Institute, said at a Russian-British seminar on climate risks in March in Moscow.
Stepan Zemtsov, a researcher with the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, noted that more than 10 million people are "highly exposed" to climate risks in Russia.
Researchers and environmentalists have called for both federal and regional strategies to adapt to the growing problems to be drafted soon.
"Russia is far too slow in its adaptation policy measures," said Kokorin, of WWF-Russia.
The country has plans to develop and approve a national adaptation plan by mid-2018, as part of its plan to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change. Russia is the only large carbon emitter that has not yet ratified the 2015 global climate accord, in part because of pressure from the country's coal and metal industries, which are worried about possible carbon regulation measures, experts said. So far just six of 85 regions in Russia - including Moscow and St. Petersburg - are working on regional climate adaptation strategies.
"New climate adaptation strategy should certainly modernise early warning systems, especially in the area of spreading of information," Zemtsov said.
According to polling of residents in Russia's most climate-vulnerable regions by Zemtsov and his team, 69 percent of people do not know evacuation routes, 55 percent have never taken part in any training activity and 14 percent openly say they will ignore any alarm raised, he said. Zemtsov said he believed all of those percentages could be higher in other parts of the country.
Researchers say Russia will need to modernise its infrastructure - including its drainage systems - to deal with problems such as increasingly heavy rain. Storm drains in St. Petersburg, for instance, are already at capacity while rainfall is predicted to become much heavier by the end of the century.
"Climate change should become an important factor in urban planning in Russia. We need to start thinking in terms of climate-resilient architecture and city planning," said Ksenia Mokrushina, a director of the Centre of Urban Studies at Skolkovo Moscow School of Management.
"Fighting with disasters and adapting to climate change is not a one-off action, it is a regular set of measures," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. For the moment, she said, government action is disproportionately focused on responding to disasters and recovering from them instead of preparing for them and trying to reduce risks. "The shift towards adaptation planning and risk management must happen at the local level rather than waiting for the federal Ministry for Emergency to come and rescue when it is already too late," she said.
Copyright © 2017 Thomson Reuters Foundation.
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Ученые из Института биоорганической химии РАН выяснили, как работает яд черных гадюк Никольского. Содержащийся в нем фермент фосфолипаза А2 блокирует работу нервных клеток жертвы, разрушая и склеивая между собой оболочки нейронов. Подобный фермент есть в ядах и других змей, но в случае с черными гадюками блокировка активной части нейротоксина не обезвреживает его полностью, поэтому обычные методы борьбы здесь не действуют.
Researchers in Russia have identified one of the complex biochemical mechanisms that give viper venom its deadly potency.
Most venoms use neurotoxins, chemicals that damage nerve tissues. The neurotoxins in viper venom include an enzyme called phospholipase A2, which is of much interest to scientists. As physicians know, phospholipase A2 is a marker for inflammation in the human body. As inflammation levels rise, phospholipase A2 levels in the blood spike.
For past few years, researchers at the Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry RAS have been trying to illuminate and track phospholipase A2 to better understand how the enzyme interacts with the lipid bilayer in cell membranes. In 2016, scientists invented a new fluorescence detection method to measure the energy transfer between two fluorescent dyes in the lipid bilayer.
"To test the new development on as many samples as possible, we turned to the Laboratory of Molecular Toxinology IBCh RAS," Ivan Boldyrev, a senior researcher at the Laboratory of Lipid Chemistry, said in a news release. "The head of the laboratory, Yuri Utkin, has collected a set of phospholipases A2 from poisons of various organisms, including two heterodimeric phospholipases A2 from Vipera nikolskii venom. Each of these enzymes consists of two heterofunctional subunits, polypeptide chains folded in a specific way. However, the toxic effect mechanism of these heterodimers is not clear."
When researchers used the phospholipases A2 from the forest-steppe adder, a viper endemic to Ukraine, eastern Romania, and southwestern Russia, fluorescence failed to occur. Instead, the fluorescent markers decayed.
The viper venom's heterodimeric phospholipases A2 triggered lipid membrane interactions only after scientists supplied the medium with a small negative charge.
"Uncharged membranes with no electric charge on the surface do not combine under the action of heterodimers," said Anna Alekseeva, a junior researcher at the Laboratory of Lipid Chemistry.
"We managed to establish the specificity of heterodimeric phospholipases A2 for negatively charged membranes and determined pH conditions of the medium at which the enzyme manifests itself," added Daria Tretyakova, a doctoral student at the Laboratory of Lipid Chemistry.
The new research offers insights into the ways multicomponent snake venoms disrupt biochemical processes in the human body. Scientists detailed their research in the journal Toxicon.
Copyright © 2017 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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В Санкт-Петербургском политехническом университете Петра Великого разработали простую и надежную систему помехоустойчивого кодирования для пятого поколения мобильной связи (5G).
Scientists of Peter the Great St.Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) proposed a new channel coding method for the fifth generation of wireless systems (5G).
Channel coding theory studies techniques for introducing redundancy into information, to protect it from errors that occur during transmission or storage. For example, human speech has some redundancy, so that not every combination of sounds or letters is a permissible word. This enables people to communicate even in a noisy environment. Storage and information transmission systems are integral parts of gadgets, smartphones and computers. Their developers must implement simple and reliable methods to protect data from corruption.
Currently, many universities in the world are working on improving polar codes. This is the method of noise-immune coding developed by Turkish scientist Erdal Arikan. Significant progress in this area was achieved by SPbPU.
"We were able to design codes, which surpass state-of-the-art competitors in performance and decoding simplicity," says Peter Trifonov, an associate professor of the Higher School of Software Engineering at SPbPU.
"We generalized the construction of polar codes proposed by Arikan and obtained polar subcodes. We excluded some codewords from Arikan's polar codes, which could be easily entangled by the receiver, and introduced additional restrictions on the symbols of their codewords in order to simplify the error correction task of the decoder, " added Trifonov.
In addition, the researchers of Polytechnic university proposed a computationally simple decoding algorithm for polar codes and subcodes. Decoding process can be interpreted as searching for the shortest path in a labyrinth. By predicting the average number of errors at different decoding phases (in the labyrinth corridors), it was possible to significantly reduce decoding complexity.
As a result, scientists of SPbPU obtained both improved performance compared to widely used low-density parity check (LDPC) codesand decreased decoding complexity.
Improved code performance enables communication system to operate in more challenging environment. This results in improved coverage and enables the system to support a larger number of users. And due to reduced complexity of decoding algorithms, mobile terminals will become more energy efficient.
Polar codes have not yet found an application in real devices, but now various generalizations of polar codes are considered by the leading international standardization bodies to be included as a part of 5G wireless standard.
Currently, theoretical foundations, including the principle of polar subcodes construction and decoding algorithms, are developed. Now researchers are working on adapting them for standardization and then they are going to start designing specific devices.
This research has been presented at the 11th International ITG Conference on Systems, Communications and Coding (Hamburg, February 2017), IEEE Wireless Communications and Networking Conference (San Francisco, March 2017), and is going to be presented at IEEE International Symposium on Information Theory (June 2017).
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Политехнический музей и виртуальный музей вещей Thngs запустили онлайн-версию выставки "Россия делает сама" - об изобретениях российских ученых за последние 200 лет. Реальные экспонаты находятся в коллекции Политехнического музея.
Thngs, the digital archive of things, has recently digitalised an exhibition of Russian scientific achievements over the last 200 years, drawing from the collection of the Moscow Polytechnic Museum.
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Following on from the success of the museum exhibition entitled "Russia Makes its Own", this new online archive provides easy access to appreciate the inventions of the last two centuries, described as the "golden age for Russian scientists".
The archive is separated into themes, including Plasma Energy, Nuclear Energy, Radio +, Illusions, Natural Analogues and Beyond the Space and is comprised of an invention timeline, short syntheses for each theme and an impressive collection of images.
Click here to explore more on how Russian science has helped to fundamentally shape the world we live in today, from the Babushka Lamp to the Kazbek and Sokol spacesuit, and from Slavyanov's Welding set to Obninsk, the world's first nuclear power station.
News Deeply / Jun. 21, 2017
An Uneasy Alliance: The Limits of the China-Russia Arctic Partnership
China isn't as eager to invest in the Russian Arctic as once hoped, and it only seems inclined to do so if it's able to drive a hard bargain, says Ekaterina Klimenko, a researcher with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Партнерство России и Китая в вопросе освоения Арктики и добычи ресурсов кажется на первый взгляд идеальным союзом. Одной стороне нужны инвестиции в экономическое развитие Арктики, второй - усилить свое влияние в Арктическом регионе. Однако первоначальные надежды, похоже, не оправдываются.
It makes a lot of sense that Russia and China would pair up as partners in extracting Arctic resources. The former is feeling the pain from low oil prices and Western sanctions imposed after its annexation of Crimea, and it needs cash to help finance its ambitious Arctic economic development aims. The latter, meanwhile, is a resource-hungry rising superpower looking to increase its clout in the Arctic region. At a glance, it looks like an ideal match.
Yet Ekaterina Klimenko, a researcher with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, concludes in a new paper on emerging Chinese-Russian cooperation in the Arctic that this relationship is not so simple.
The recently completed Yamal liquefied natural gas plant is often hailed as a success story for Chinese investment in the Russian Arctic, but Klimenko writes that China drove a hard bargain, insisting that most of the equipment for the plant be produced at Chinese shipyards. Other sought-after Chinese investments in the Russian Arctic have yet to materialize. Klimenko isn't holding her breath, for instance, for the planned Belkomur railway in Arkhangelsk region to be built soon.
Russia, meanwhile, notwithstanding its bluster that it doesn't need Western assistance to develop its Arctic, still appears to desire the technological know-how and managerial expertise that comes with Western involvement. That has led Chinese experts to suggest that the present window of opportunity to invest in Russia's Arctic projects shouldn't be mistaken for a stable, long-term relationship.
Arctic Deeply spoke to Klimenko recently about her research findings.
Arctic Deeply: Why is the relationship between Russia and China in the Arctic not as simple as some people might think?
Ekaterina Klimenko: Russian experts always say that the Chinese are very difficult negotiators. For instance, Russians think that if they allow China in the Arctic, or any other region of Russia, Chinese will be just jumping with happiness and just going for it. But no, they want not only to be part of it, they want to be having a say. They need to have a good deal out of it. Not only to be sort of a strategic partner for Russia, but they also want to make money there, to get resources there, so they want to have also managerial experience. They also want to have their equipment used in the Arctic developmental projects. For them it's not just to help out Russia, to develop its energy resources. It's also to do good business.
Arctic Deeply: You make the point that the Yamal liquefied natural gas project was a pretty good deal for China. Do you mind explaining that?
Klimenko: First of all, I would say Yamal LNG is the only Arctic project [with Russian-Chinese cooperation] where we can see real progress at this point in time, because there is a lot of talk, especially on the Russian side, that, "Oh, we're going to do everything with the Chinese now." China is now seen as the main strategic partner for the development of Arctic resources and shipping routes.
The Chinese are not so enthusiastic in general about Russia, and in the Arctic in particular, because they have to have their conditions. They have to have a share in the project, where they would have a voice and voting rights as well. They don't want to have a minor share in the project.
In the Yamal LNG particularly, if they invest money and find the investment capital, they want also to sell Chinese equipment, so the LNG plant itself will be built using Chinese equipment. Then they also want the Chinese shipping companies to transport this equipment. They want to maximize their profit.
Arctic Deeply: And that may come as a disappointment to Russia, which also hopes to leverage these projects to sell their own equipment and ships and so forth?
Klimenko: No, it's a bit different. Russia, in fact, always prefers to deal with European companies, with U.S. companies, and there are several reasons for that. First of all, they want technology and exchange of know-how, especially when it comes to working on the [continental] shelf, not on their land resources. Second, it's also how the resources and the project are being implemented. The managerial experience is also important for Russia.
When I talked to Russian experts, they think that Russia and China have relatively similar ways of managing a company, so for Russian and Chinese, there's nothing to learn from each other. They would all prefer to work with Europeans. But after the sanctions in 2014 after the Crimea [crisis], Russians wanted to show that they have an alternative to Western technology, to Western partnerships. That's why they are trying to boost up the Chinese presence in the region - to show that, first of all, they can either do it on their own, and second, that they have other partners in the region.
One of their strategies was also to sort of produce their own equipment, but, frankly, what we hear from the media at this point is that they are still very dependent on imports of the equipment. If they're going to do it eventually themselves, it will take them a very long time to do that.
Arctic Deeply: I believe you did say in your paper that there were signs of disappointment about how the relationship has worked out on Russia's side. Can you spell out the signs of disappointment?
Klimenko: [It] was mostly a general sense that I got from conversations with Russian experts is that they expected maybe the deals to be signed quickly. They expected the partnerships to be more detailed and developed. They expected more involvement of the Chinese on the construction of Northern Sea Route infrastructure, etc., but that did not happen. Also, they expected the Chinese will just pour the money on them, provide a lot of loans, etc., for the development of the Arctic resources and in general.
It's not only about the Arctic. It's, in general, disappointment on the economic side of it. They never managed to actually secure any loans from the private banks in China. They actually never really got access there. What they did get are loans from institutions that are still closely related to the Chinese government. But it's not like there are major investments from the big Chinese product companies or access to Asian markets for financial investments. They have had to lower their expectations of what they're getting from the Chinese.
Arctic Deeply: You have written that Chinese Arctic scholars see partnerships with Russia as a window of opportunity rather than an enduring long-term relationship. Why is that?
Klimenko: We're at a point in time that's after the sanctions and maybe before the relations between Russia and Western parties are normalized, when they will turn back to get into partnerships with European and Western and U.S. companies. This is the window of opportunity for Chinese, if they want to, to get as much as possible with the Russians - either in the Arctic or in general.
© 2017 News Deeply.
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Во многих странах мира ядерная энергетика теряет популярность, и на первый план выходят источники возобновляемой энергии. Россия же по-прежнему отдает предпочтение ядерной энергетике, более того - "Росатом" активно действует на международном рынке, заключая договоры на строительство АЭС и поставки ядерного топлива со странами Ближнего Востока, Африки, Азии и Латинской Америки. Но у экспертов вызывает опасение то, что в этих амбициозных проектах не предусмотрены адекватные планы по утилизации ядерных отходов.
In an age where sources of renewable energy are becoming an increasingly cost-efficient means of providing electricity, Russia is still going nuclear.
Nuclear energy is losing its luster in many parts of the world. In the United States, the drop in the cost of renewables production is making them a more attractive electricity-generation option than nuclear power. France, a country long associated with nuclear power, is also looking to reduce its reliance on reactors. And even China is now investing more in developing wind farms than it is in nuclear infrastructure.
Russia, though, is bucking the trend. Nuclear energy accounts for 11 percent of domestic power production, while the share of wind and solar power generation remains negligible, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Overall, more than 40 percent of Russian power is generated by natural gas. Meanwhile, hydropower is the main renewable source of power in Russia, responsible for a roughly 20-percent share of the overall mix.
Russia has taken steps in recent months to develop its wind power potential. But development efforts are hampered by legislation that requires at least 40 percent of all renewable-energy infrastructure to be locally produced. To meet the requirement, Russia needs to find a substantial amount of foreign investment.
In the realm of international trade, Russia is trying to turn its slow embrace of renewables into an advantage.
Rosatom, Russia's state-owned nuclear company is by far the most active player these days in the international market for nuclear power technologies. Rosatom currently has agreements to provide plants, fuel or expertise in 20 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America. With the notable exception of the Barakah Atomic Energy Station in the United Arab Emirates, which is being built by the Korea Electric Power Corporation, Russia is the most heavily involved of any nuclear-exporting countries in developing nuclear power facilities in the Middle East.
Rosatom's most recent move in the Middle East was a deal, sealed in late May, to construct Egypt's first nuclear power plant, pending final approval by the Egyptian government. The pact is the latest of four bilateral agreements signed by Egypt and Russia concerning the nuclear power station at El Dabaa, approximately 200 miles west of Cairo on Egypt's north coast. The first of these, signed in late 2015, covered the construction and maintenance of the plant for a 10-year period, and included a stipulation that Russia would provide fuel for the plant for 60 years.
The plant would consist of four VVER-1200 reactors, a new design based on the earlier VVER-1000 model developed in the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s. The first VVER-1200 was brought online earlier this year at Russia's Novovoronezh plant. It is projected to begin producing power in 2024.
Egypt is one of four countries in and around the Middle East where Rosatom has built, or plans to build, nuclear power facilities. Rosatom's subsidiary, Atomenergostroy, which handles the company's overseas construction projects, has contracts to build plants in Jordan and Turkey. In addition, it is building additional reactors at Iran's Bushehr facility. The company will provide financing, staff, and fuel, while retaining ownership of the plants and receiving revenue from the power they produce.
Russia has provided approximately 50 percent of the financing for Turkey's plant at Akkuyu, and will provide fuel for its operation once construction is complete. Upwards of 85 percent of the financing for the El Dabaa project in Egypt is to come in the form of loans from Russia, a country in the midst of an economic downturn brought on by the global fall in fossil fuel prices.
Egypt is also exploring options for a second nuclear power plant to be built on its coast.
During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union provided supplies, facilities, and training to Middle Eastern countries in an effort to promote nuclear power. The governments of Jordan and Egypt expressed interest at the time in developing nuclear power facilities in the mid-1950s, and the Soviet Union began construction on a research reactor in Egypt in 1961. Similar reactors were built in Iraq in 1967 and in Libya in 1981. In 1995, Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy signed a contract to take over construction of the Bushehr plant.
In 2010, Rosatom was granted the right to open offices in embassies abroad by a change in laws governing its operations. It did so in Dubai and Beijing in April of 2016, and the company's website now boasts over $133 billion USD in overseas orders for its products.
Rosatom has also partnered with the International Atomic Energy Agency to fund nuclear infrastructure development internationally, pledging $1.8 million as well as equipment and expertise to equip countries that hope to develop nuclear power capacities in the future.
Experts have expressed concern that these ambitious development plans are proceeding without adequate plans for disposal of nuclear waste. The Bellona Foundation, an organization that conducts independent research into international nuclear and environmental issues, has been critical of the lack of planning for nuclear waste processing and disposal, and has pointed out that dependency on Russia for nuclear fuel may leave countries particularly vulnerable in the event of a sour political climate.
© 2017 EurasiaNet.org.
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The Hindu / June 24, 2017
Innopolis: Destination next for technology firms in Russia
Newest Russian city eyes IT capital tag; dangles hi-tech university to attract firms.
Город Иннополис (Казанская агломерация) существует всего два года. Экономика города основана на высокотехнологичных индустриях, а сам он организован по образцу индийских парков технологий программного обеспечения (STPI), где фирмам, занимающимся программным обеспечением, предоставляются налоговые льготы. Помимо этого, в Иннополисе имеется университет, специализирующийся на образовании и научных исследованиях в области современных информационных технологий.
Innopolis is a city in a hurry. It has 2,000 citizens, one police officer and one electricity-powered bus to cover its 40-km stretch of roads. It wants to reach the milestone of 150,000 citizens and fast.
In an effort reminiscent of India's STPI scheme that allowed tax breaks to software firms, and the South Asian nation's intermittent efforts at developing Tier-II cities as software hubs, Russia's newest city is doing all of these and, importantly, has bundled into the package what was the missing link in the Indian IT landscape - an educational curriculum that delivers what companies want. It has set up a university dedicated to computer science, with an obligation on graduates to work with a company based in Innopolis for at least 18 months.
Located about 800 kms east of Moscow and all of two years old, Innopolis wants IT companies to set up shop there and is offering inexpensive housing to attract employees, and hence employers.
"We have about 56 companies, with a headcount ranging from 5 to 300," Ruslan Shagaleev, the 37-year-old mayor of Innopolis told The Hindu. It aims to touch a citizen base of 10,000 in three years. It houses office buildings, a university, schools, apartments and a gymnasium in 50 of the 1,200 hectares allotted to it.
"The city offers special tax rates and subsidised levels of rent on houses," he said, adding that salaries are typically lower than the current IT hub of Moscow, incentivising companies to set up shop at Innopolis. "Instead of social tax rates of 35% on salaries, employers pay only 17% here."
A fully-fitted out, single-bedroom apartment comes at 7,400 roubles, or at about one-hundredth the cost of a similar unit in Moscow. Asked what his current priorities are, Mr. Shagaleev said, "We need to build more apartments for employees, in order to bring in more companies."
"I moved into Innopolis to avoid a 1.5 hour commute in another city," said Dmitriy Chernyshov, a team lead heading a group of 40 people across 6 cities at the BARS Group under the National Centre for IT, a state-owned technology unit. "I walk to work, my children go to a quality school and nowhere else in the world would I have a view of the forests from my bedroom window," he said, beaming.
What makes Innopolis tick is the university that preceded the township by at least two years. "Without a university, Innopolis is just a set of buildings," said Alexander Tormasov, rector, Innopolis University.
It currently has 554 students. Last year's intake was 313 students for which there were 9,000 applications across nationalities. It offers a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, offered with 4 main streams of study - big data, artificial intelligence/robotics, software engineering and cybersecurity, with English being the medium of instruction. A master's degree is also on offer.
"Up to 30% of top physicists globally have traditionally come from Russia. But only 2.5 out of the top 400 computer scientists are Russian. We want to be right up there."
"We wish to have about 5,000 students at any given time, with 1,000 as the annual intake," he added. "Last year, two offers for admission were made to Indian students for the bachelor studies but were not taken for various reasons," he said, adding that this year, about 10 offers have been made.
Almost all of its bachelor studies students are covered by a grant, offering about 1.2-1.4 million roubles a year per student. This is greater than the median salary in Russia, said Prof Tormasov. The university also works with Rostec State Corporation, a government arm that focuses on 'furtherance of industrial policy', such as in the area of airplanes, nuclear reactors and helicopters.
An interesting area of work currently is unmanned vehicles. According to Prof Tormasov, "We are working on complete vehicle driving control and decision-making on board is executed by robotics and AI on speed, position, environment, engines and tyres." Further details of the company would be revealed as and when progress is made, he said.
Big data in X-rays
The university has also incubated a project along with Radio Company Vector on the use of big data analysis. This is currently being piloted with evaluation of X-rays for lung scans. "For every 1,000 lung X-rays, 2 or 3 typically need further examination. This new data analysis framework has shown that at least 300 out of 1,000 need intervention as they exhibit higher probability of leading to lung cancer." Data sizes can reach 100 peta bytes going up to exabytes. The same framework is being used for the control and security of Russian oil major Gazprom's pipelines, and in raising efficiencies in agriculture production.
The university is also working on an advanced cognitive robotics project, creating robots capable of facial recognition and reacting to emotions.
"This could eventually lead to better care of the elderly," said Prof. Tormasov, adding that in Europe, the ratio of working to retired people is 1:1, suggesting that a working generation of people alone may not be adequate to care for the elderly.
Combining the outcome of this research project with another of its robot projects focused on mimicking human movement of joints and balanced walking by robots, could lead to robots taking over the performance of dangerous tasks that humans currently do, said Prof. Tormasov.
Copyright © 2017, The Hindu.
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EurekAlert / 22-Jun-2017
Russian scientists designed unique energy absorbing container
Protective container, with world's best energy absorption characteristics, was designed and manufactured at Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University Computer-Aided Engineering Centre of Excellence (CompMechLab).
В Санкт-Петербургском политехническом университете Петра Великого создан не имеющий аналогов энергопоглощающий контейнер, способный обеспечить сохранность хрупкого содержимого при сбрасывании на жесткую поверхность с высоты более ста метров. Контейнер может использоваться, например, для доставки медицинского оборудования в труднодоступные места.
The protective container, with world's best energy absorption characteristics, was designed and manufactured at Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University Computer-Aided Engineering Centre of Excellence (CompMechLab®) in collaboration with LLC 'Special and Medical Equipment'.
A technology was developed to ensures the safety and efficiency of fragile equipment (for example, high-precision devices weighing up to 8 kg) when dropped from 125 meters height on hard surface (concrete, rocky base).
The container was developed in impressively short terms. From establishing the main objectives to prototype production and carrying out of full-scale tests (dropping from the helicopter on the concrete surface) were conducted within only 38 days.
"Full-scale tests confirmed the complete safety and efficiency of the protected equipment," says Prof., Dr. Alexey Borovkov, Vice-Rector for Advanced Projects of Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU).
He also added that the project was implemented within the Digital Factory (TechNet, National Technology Initiative) on the basis of Institute of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies SPbPU. It demonstrates the results of Simulation & Optimization-Driven Design and Manufacturing paradigm, which allows to create globally competitive customized products of new generation in the shortest terms.
Copyright © 2017 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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23 июня Госдума РФ приняла в первом чтении законопроект о новом порядке избрания президента Российской академии наук. Согласно одному из положений, кандидатуры на эту должность будут согласовываться с правительством, а самих кандидатов может быть не более трех. Остальные два положения - победителю будет достаточно набрать не две трети голосов, как раньше, а просто более 50%; новоизбранный глава РАН должен быть одобрен президентом России.
The Russian government has taken further steps to tighten its grip on the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) in Moscow. On 23 June, the State Duma - one of the two chambers of the Russian parliament - passed the first draft of a new law that would give President Vladimir Putin the final say in the elections for RAS's presidency.
The bill introduces three main changes. The list of candidates must from now on be approved by the government, and can have not more than three names; a candidate can be elected by winning more than 50% of the vote, instead of the two-thirds needed until now; and the newly elected academy president must be approved by the Russian president.
Elections for a new RAS president were supposed to take place last March but were postponed after all three candidates withdrew for reasons that have not been announced. RAS President Vladimir Fortov stepped down in March, and an acting president, Valery Kozlov, took over.
The change to the election procedure is another step in a series of reforms at RAS. In 2013, the government established the Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations to manage the property of RAS and other research institutions; it also forced a merger of RAS with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The government's professed motive is to make the academy's work more efficient.
Among the Duma members who introduced the legislation were members of the academy, says Mikhail Gelfand, deputy director of the RAS Kharkevich Institute for Information Transmission Problems. One of them was Gennady Onishchenko, who has become widely known for recommending bans on food products from countries that had offended the Russian leadership during his time as chief sanitary inspector. During the parliamentary debate, Onishchenko argued that in the Soviet era, RAS was always told which candidates the government preferred. "No one was annoyed by that," he said.
Before the debate in the Duma, Fortov and other academicians met twice with Putin behind closed doors to discuss the changes. Those meetings did not end in decisions, but were just "an exchange of opinions," Fortov told the TASS state news agency. Interfax quoted Kozlov as saying that Putin favored the proposal to have Russia's president approve a new RAS president.
The reform proposal has been strongly criticized by the 1st July Club, an informal union of regular and corresponding RAS members named after the day when they first protested in 2013. In a letter to President Putin and members of both chambers of the parliament earlier this month, the group calls the three-candidate limit "absolutely unacceptable." It notes that elections can go forward even if only one candidate has been approved, effectively making the process a "fiction" and replacing it with a presidential appointment.
RAS's "scientific level and reputation have been irreparably damaged by the merger with the medical and agronomy academies," Gelfand says. "It has no muscle for resistance."
Russia's parliament is expected to pass the final version of the bill in the coming weeks. If that happens, RAS will hold presidential elections according to the new procedures in the fall.
© 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights Reserved.
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