|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Cosmos / 02 May 2017
Physicists breed Schrödinger's cats to find boundaries of the quantum realms
Scientists hope to find the dividing line between quantum mechanics and common-sense reality.
Кот Шредингера - мысленный эксперимент, предложенный австрийским физиком Эрвином Шредингером в 1935 году. В нем гипотетический кот, сидящий в закрытом ящике, мог быть одновременно и жив, и мертв, т.е. находиться в квантовой суперпозиции, совокупности взаимоисключающих состояний. Это показывало, насколько абсурдно выглядят квантовые эффекты применительно к макросистемам.
С тех пор одним из фундаментальных вопросов физики является граница между квантовым и макроскопическим миром. Насколько большой может быть система, находящаяся в суперпозиции? Физики из Российского квантового центра и Университета Калгари нашли способ объединять несколько «котов Шредингера» в более крупное целое. Роль котов сыграли пары частиц света с противоположной фазой.
What is the limit to self-contradiction? The question arises in politics and quantum physics alike.
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A team of Russian and Canadian physicists have figured out how to push the limits of self-contradicting quantum states, by 'breeding' Schrödinger's cats.
Their experiment, which involves sending 'cat-state' photons through a hall of mirrors which multiplies their number, is described in Nature Photonics today.
Using the new method, the authors hope to help answer a fundamental question, namely: at what scale does the absurdity of quantum mechanics end and common-sense reality begin?
In the microscopic world of quantum mechanics, particles can do seemingly impossible things: such as being simultaneously in two contradictory states at once. For the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who helped put quantum mechanics on firm foundations in 1926 with his Nobel-winning equation, this idea was too crazy to be believed.
In 1935, to illustrate how absurd quantum ideas had become, Schrödinger came up with a scenario involving a cat which, according to quantum theory, is both alive and dead at the same time.
The way he did it was to link the fate of a cat to a specific quantum event.
With ingenuity more typical of a Bond villain than a physicist, Schrödinger imagined a cat trapped inside a steel box along with some radioactive material, a Geiger counter, a hammer and a vial of hydrogen cyanide. If one of the radioactive atoms decays - a chance quantum event - it would trigger the hammer to smash the vial of poisonous gas, and farewell Felix.
Before you open the box to check, says quantum theory, the radioactive atom is both decayed and not-decayed. By extension, said Schrödinger, the cat is both alive and dead - the distinction between them blurry and "smeared out".
But what seemed impossible to Schrödinger, is a commonplace for modern day physicists, who have worked out how to produce various analogues of Schrödinger's cat in real physical systems. They are used in many quantum technologies including quantum computation, teleportation, and cryptography.
In essence, a particle in a 'Schrödinger's cat state' is one that is holding two contradictory states at once. For example, an electron could be simultaneously spin 'up' and spin 'down'. Or, a photon of light could be simultaneously 'waving' in two opposite directions.
Until now, experimenters have only managed to muster small groups of 'Schrödinger's cat' photons with limited energies, but the new work creates any number by 'breeding' them.
The method works by taking two photons, already in 'cat' states, and firing them simultaneously through the same beam-splitter, which gets the two photons entangled. After some more beam-splitting the arrangement spits out more cat states than went in - a bit like if Felix hopped through a cat-flap and two cats appeared on the other side.
The snag is, the process only works about one fifth of the time. (The rest of the time, there's no entanglement, and no breeding of cats.)
And running the photons through the ring again would increase the amplitude even further. Using this iterative approach could potentially produce as many quantum cat states as you like.
"Thus, it is possible to push the boundaries of the quantum world step by step, and eventually to understand whether it has a limit," says Demid Sychev, of the Russian Quantum Center and the Moscow State Pedagogical University, and lead author of the study.
Meanwhile, the debate which originated with Schrödinger, Bohr and Einstein continues today: the question of whether the universe is innately fuzzy or whether it is just the way we see it. As Schrödinger eloquently put it in 1935: "There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks."
Producing quantum phenomena with more particles, and in larger scales, might just help us spot the difference between these two pictures, and finally get to grips with reality.
Even if our politicians still struggle with it.
Phys.Org / May 3, 2017
Researchers present first results of solar observations with the Siberian Radioheliograph
Российские ученые представили первые результаты наблюдений Солнца, проведенные при помощи нового радиогелиографа. С июля прошлого года инструмент, установленный на Сибирском солнечном радиотелескопе в Обсерватории радиоастрофизики (Восточные Саяны), непрерывно наблюдал Солнце в пяти различных частотах.
Статья "Siberian Radioheliograph: First Results" опубликована на сервере предварительных научных публикаций arxiv.org.
Russian scientists have presented the first results of solar observations made with the new radioheliograph of the Siberian Solar Radio Telescope (SSRT). The Siberian Radioheliograph (SRH) has recently commenced regular observations of active processes in the sun's atmosphere, which will allow better monitoring of solar activity. Results of the initial SRH observations were described in a paper published Apr. 25 on arXiv.org.
SRH is a 48-antenna array with a 4-8 GHz operating frequency range and a 10 MHz instantaneous receiving band. The instrument is installed on the SSRT telescope of the Radioastrophysical Observatory (RAO), located in the Eastern Sayan Mountains, about 220 kilometers away from Irkutsk.
While the adjustment of the SRH system is still in progress and the array is still incomplete, the first stage of this instrument has already provided promising preliminary results. SRH started single-frequency test observations in early 2016, and since July 2016, it has routinely observed the sun at five frequencies. During this period, solar activity was low, which offered a great opportunity to test the capabilities of this instrument.
"This allowed us to assess capabilities of the new instrument to study faint events, which cannot be detected by total-flux telescopes", the researchers wrote in the paper.
During preliminary observations, SRH recorded three negative bursts, which occurred on one day. These bursts are temporary depressions of radio flux below the quasistationary level, caused by screening of emission from compact radio sources or quiet solar regions in low-temperature plasma ejected into the solar corona. They are very rarely observed and provide essential information about eruptive events.
While conducting observations of the solar disk at different frequencies, SRH also recorded few powerful M-class solar flares. High sensitivity of the radioheliograph allowed the researchers to observe the microwave emission from these flares without attenuators.
In general, the first observations provided satisfactory and promising results, proving that SRH enables the implementation of fast and effective algorithms for solar imaging without the need of reference observations of other cosmic sources. The scientists pointed out several main advantages of this array.
"Advantages of SRH are as follows: the temporal resolution high enough to study many processes (up to 0.56 s for both circularly polarized components in the single-frequency mode), multi-frequency observations with a tunable frequency set depending on observational program, image synthesis with optimization of required parameters (for example, spatial resolution or sensitivity), and the absence of geometric distortions from which SSRT images suffered," the paper reads.
The SRH system will eventually be expanded to 96 antennas, which would improve its spatial resolution. This would enable the instrument to study processes of initiation of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and their propagation up to heights of one to two solar radii, thus filling the gap between observations in ultraviolet and optical ranges.
"Expansion of the antenna array up to 96 elements would be the next milestone in upgrading SRH. The spatial resolution of SRH-96 would be as high as 15," the authors noted.
© 2017 Phys.org.
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США, Россия и еще шесть стран, входящих в Арктический совет, подписали соглашение о научном сотрудничестве в области освоения Арктики. Соглашение призвано не только облегчить сотрудничество между учеными восьми арктических государств, но и расширить возможности для научных исследований в Арктике внерегиональным государствам.
The United States, Russia and the six other Arctic nations pledged to cooperate on science across the circumpolar north, signing a binding agreement Thursday to remove barriers and enhance exchanges between scientists working across borders in the far north.
The document was signed in Fairbanks at the Arctic Council's biennial ministerial meeting, the capstone event in the two-year U.S. chairmanship. It promises to break down barriers that have slowed cross-border research, made studies more costly and left research, at times, inconsistent in different jurisdictions.
It is the third binding agreement ever reached by the 20-year-old Arctic Council, though it will need a follow-up treaty to go into force. Previous council binding agreements established cooperative relationships on search and rescue and oil-spill response.
The agreement signed Thursday will ease "the movement of scientists, scientific equipment and, importantly, data sharing" across the Arctic, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at the ministerial meeting.
The Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation was led by the United States and Russia and is considered a bright spot in a relationship that has been sorely strained in recent years over Russia's actions in Ukraine, its Syria policies and human rights record. It was in the works for several years, but the timing is now awkward.
It comes as furor is mounting over Russian influence on the 2016 election of President Donald Trump and questions about the president's relationship to Russia prior to his election. Two days ago, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading an investigation into the connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. And, council events have been overshadowed by Trump's environmental policies.
Rapid climate warming has transformed the far north, creating some dire problems that permeate nearly all Arctic issues and the council's work. But Trump has dismissed climate change as a hoax and his administration is seeking to dismantle U.S. government efforts to address it, including federally funded climate science. Still, council members have been emphasizing the science agreement's positive aspects. It demonstrates how the Arctic is a region of peace and how the council works to promote the common good, despite disputes elsewhere in the world, including among its members, they said.
"It's good and it's important. It's another example of the Arctic Council fostering international agreements," said Margaret Williams, U.S. managing director of the Arctic program at the World Wildlife Fund, one of the designated council observers.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, a day after a controversial Oval Office meeting with Trump and Tillerson, referred to the council's role as a conflict-free zone. "Russia has been doing its best to ensure that the Arctic develops as a region of peace, stability and cooperation," he said in interpreted remarks to the ministerial meeting. But one well-known Russian-born Arctic scientist said he is skeptical about the real-world effects of the science agreement and "nice words" from the Russian government.
Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, one of the world's top permafrost scientists, said Russia has been the source of the problems for Arctic scientists. The Putin regime is increasingly repressive, and the science agreement is unlikely to counter that, he said.
"It may change some protocols, some requirements for paperwork. It may make it easier. But it will not make easier this whole underground movement," Romanovsky said.
"It could be very great on paper. But in reality …" he said, trailing off. "The greatest paper, the greatest thing on paper is the Russian constitution. It's great. But you see what they do - they just ignore it."
Romanovsky has had his own brush with Russian repression. In 1997, he and UAF colleague Larry Hinzman, in Yakutia to work on permafrost and hydrology work, were detained by authorities.
"We were not formally arrested. But we were kind of, how do you say, house detained. And we were interrogated by KGB," he said. "It was pretty scary."
Romanovsky, who holds both U.S. and Russian citizenship, travels at least once a year to work on his permafrost research. He is scheduled to travel again in the next couple of weeks. Some other scientists have been intimidated and are reluctant to work in Russia, he said. So far, that is not the case for him. "But it may change any time," he said.
Even within U.S. borders, meanwhile, climate scientists are facing new hostilities. The Trump administration has removed climate information from several government websites and sought to slash or eliminate federal spending on climate research, though Congress so far has not gone along with those plans.
Rafe Pomerance, a former State Department official who now chairs a network of climate science and advocacy groups, criticized the Trump administration as hostile to scientists. In a news conference Wednesday, Pomerance cited comments made in March by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as evidence. "He said climate science is a waste of money. Now think about it. That is not a serious comment," Pomerance said.
© 2017 Alaska Dispatch Publishing. All rights reserved.
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Ученые из Томского государственного университета и Санкт-Петербургского государственного университета нашли в Красноярском крае останки ранее неизвестного млекопитающего. Этот травоядный современник динозавров размером с хомяка принадлежал отряду многобугорчатых, появившихся в юрском периоде и вымерших в раннем олигоцене. Животное получило название байдабатыр (Baidabatyr clivosus).
Статья "An enigmatic multituberculate mammal from the Early Cretaceous of Siberia, Russia" опубликована в журнале Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
During an expedition to the Krasnoyarsk Territory, scientists from Tomsk State University and St. Petersburg State University (TSU and SPBU), discovered the remains of a previously unknown mammal - the baidabatyr.
The animal belonged to multituberculates, one of the ancient taxa of mammals known from the Middle Jurassic. Their name derives from the structure of their teeth. These animals appeared in the Jurassic period and survived the mass extinction of species at the end of the Cretaceous. Some species of multituberculates became extinct only in the Paleogene. Thus, this clade/group has existed for about 150 million years.
- Baidabatyr is a multituberculate mammal. We found only one tooth and immediately realized that the characteristic features of the structure - the number and location of the tubercles - indicate that this is a species previously unknown to science. This is an important find for Western Siberia. - said Stepan Ivantsov, a TSU paleontologist. He clarified that there are no present representatives of this order - they died out about 20 million years ago.
- Judging by the structure of the tooth, it was a herbivorous animal, probably it ate seeds. The size of the tooth is a couple of millimeters, which means that the animal was the size of a hamster or slightly larger. The name was composed of the words "bidarka" (kayak) because the type locality can be reached only by kayak and "batyr" as "hero" from the Turkish language. First representatives of this taxon were found in Mongolia, and the name of most species traditionally includes Mongolian word "baatar". We decided to name it in Turkish, because it is one of the local languages - added Stepan Ivantsov.
According to the scientist, the find was made on the Bolshoy Kemchug River in the remote taiga. The southeast of Western Siberia in the Early Cretaceous was a refugium: an area where some species of the Jurassic period (about 145 million years ago) were preserved in the Cretaceous - where, they existed for several million years longer than on the rest of the planet.
The remains of the animal were discovered in the summer of 2015. However, before the scientists officially announced their discovery, they had to describe the find and publish an article in a leading international journal.
Copyright © 2017 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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Глетчерный (ледниковый) лед с вмерзшими в него пузырьками воздуха - хранилище ценных сведений о климатических условиях и атмосфере Земли в различные периоды истории. Но из-за глобального потепления и таяния ледников эта информация может быть утеряна. В рамках международного проекта Ice Memory, направленного на сохранение спрятанных внутри исчезающих ледников данных, с 2016 года из высокогорных глетчеров по всему миру начали извлекать образцы, которые буду храниться в Антарктиде в специальном бункере. Очередная экспедиция пройдет с 22 мая по 18 июня - ученые из Франции, России, Боливии и Бразилии отправятся за образцами в Боливийские Анды.
Des scientifiques ont décidé de relever un défi : collecter des carottes de glace des glaciers les plus exposés au changement climatique et les stocker en Antarctique pour les scientifiques des générations futures. Tel est l'objectif d'ICE MEMORY, un programme international de sauvegarde de la mémoire des glaciers. Après le colloque organisé à l'UNESCO en mars, la deuxième expédition du projet se déroulera en Bolivie sur le glacier de l'Illimani (6 400 m) du 22 mai au 18 juin 2017 selon le communiqué de presse au Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique..
Les glaciers gardent en mémoire l'évolution de notre climat et de notre environnement. Ce sont les seuls enregistrements naturels directs que nous avons des variations de la composition atmosphérique, une contribution essentielle à la science de l'environnement et du climat. Cependant cette mémoire de l'histoire de notre planète disparaît au fur et à mesure du recul des nombreux glaciers dans le monde entier en raison du changement climatique. Le projet Ice Memory vise à constituer la première bibliothèque mondiale de glace archivée en Antarctique et à préserver ce précieux patrimoine scientifique pour les générations à venir afin qu'elles puissent obtenir encore plus de données à partir de ces échantillons lorsque les techniques futures auront évolué. Les scientifiques des décennies et siècles à venir disposeront ainsi encore de matière première de qualité pour explorer et aboutir aux découvertes du futur.
Ce projet géré par la Fondation de l'Université de Grenoble Alpes en collaboration avec de nombreux partenaires français et italiens tels que le CNRS ou l'Université de Venise bénéficie déjà d'une communauté internationale dynamique de scientifiques et plus particulièrement de glaciologues.
Prochaine expédition : le glacier de l'Illimani du 22 mai au 18 juin 2017
Après le Mont-Blanc en 2016, la deuxième expédition, déjà à pied d'œuvre, se prépare pour un mois physiquement difficile sur le glacier de l'Illimani, en Bolivie à 6 400 m d'altitude du 22 mai au 18 juin 2017. Selon un communiqué de l'IRD, « suite à un premier forage profond réalisé en 1999, il apparaît que ce site enregistre une multitude d'informations de sources différentes : évolution des précipitations, feux de végétation (côté amazonien), émissions de polluants d'origine humaine, pollution urbaine (côté "Altiplano"). Avec 140 mètres de profondeur et un écoulement réduit du glacier, le site préserve jusqu'à 18 000 ans d'archives climatiques et environnementales. Son étude permet ainsi de reconstituer le passé de cet environnement de la dernière glaciation à nos jours. »
Depuis fin avril, l'équipe internationale (France, Bolivie, Russie, Brésil) de 15 chercheurs est arrivée en Bolivie et s'acclimate. L'altitude élevée du glacier constitue la première difficulté de l'expédition et du forage : le transport du matériel (carottier, 75 caisses isothermes, matériel de campement…) par hélicoptère au sommet de l'Illimani étant impossible, il sera donc acheminé grâce à l'équipe de guides et porteurs boliviens.
Pour faire face aux difficultés physiologiques liées à l'altitude, deux groupes de chercheurs se relayeront pendant un mois entre le camp de base (4 500 mètres) et le sommet de l'Illimani. Leur objectif est de réaliser des forages sur le glacier jusqu'au socle rocheux afin d'extraire trois carottes de glace d'environ 150 mètres chacune. Ces « carottes patrimoine » seront ensuite transportées de nuit et à dos d'hommes jusqu'au camp de base puis par camion frigorifique jusqu'à La Paz et stockées au fur et à mesure dans un conteneur réfrigéré.
© Encelade Media Group.
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Фонд перспективных исследований и Центральное конструкторское бюро морской техники «Рубин» разрабатывают научно-исследовательскую подводную лодку впечатляющих размеров - длиной 134 метра и весом более 13 000 тонн. Предназначенная для исследований Арктики субмарина оснащена также многометровыми крылообразными выдвижными сенсорами, способными «просвечивать» грунт на несколько десятков метров и создавать трехмерную модель дна.
A gigantic new research submarine designed by Russia will travel underneath ice floes, mapping its underwater surroundings with a pair of huge plane-like wings. The sub will help Moscow exploit its Arctic frontier as it prepares to harvest previously untouchable natural resources.
The Arctic Research Submarine was designed by the famous Rubin Design Bureau, which was also responsible for the Typhoon-class missile submarines, the largest subs ever built. This vessel will weigh in at 13,280 tons, making easily the largest civilian research submersible ever built, and will be 442 feet long. The sub will have a maximum speed of 12.6 knots and a crew of 40.
The most striking detail is the presence of two sets of wing-like sonar receivers that give the sub a futuristic appearance. The "wings," which retract into the hull like the blade of a pocket knife, are meant to receive sonar signals broadcast from the ship's hull. This allows the Arctic Research Submarine to image its surroundings in all directions as it cruises along underwater at a leisurely 3 knots.
H.I. Sutton, the analyst behind the Covert Shores submarine web site and book of the same name, says about the sub: "From analysis of the model displayed by the design bureau, the wing structures are close to 165 feet (50 meters) long, so it will have a wingspan of about 330 feet (100 meters). This is much greater than any aircraft that has ever flown." A graphic made by Sutton (see above) shows the submarine will have an even greater "wingspan" than an Airbus A380 jumbo jet.
Sutton doesn't believe the wings have any hydrodynamic use, however. "It is unlikely that the wings will be used to generate lift like an aircraft. That would be less efficient because it would have to constantly use its control surfaces to maintain a precise depth. This would also generate noise which could make the sonar less effective."
Although built to operate under the arctic ice, the submarine's sheer size will make navigating tough at times. "There will be many places in the Arctic where the submarine cannot go because its wings will make to too wide to navigate the many ice columns which protrude downwards from the ice cap," Sutton explains. "These can extend downwards for hundreds of feet or even to the sea floor."
As a civilian survey submarine, the ship will be unarmed. It will incorporate the ability to deploy and fetch remotely operated vehicles (underwater drones) and be capable of operating at depths of up to 1,300 feet.
Russia is eager to secure mineral and energy mining rights in the Arctic, in areas becoming more accessible as global warming reduces the amount of pack ice. Moscow has made bold underwater territorial claims in the Arctic extending past the traditional 200 mile Economic Exclusion Zone claimed by all countries, including parts of the North Pole. In 2007, Sutton points out, Russia used mini-submarines to plant its flag on the sea bed 14,000 feet beneath the North Pole.
© 2017 Hearst Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Российские палеонтологи и геологи вместе с бельгийскими и американскими коллегами описали плиозавра - новый вид плезиозавра, обитавшего в морях в мезозойскую эру, найденного на берегу Волги несколько лет назад и получившего название Luskhan itilensis. Особенности его строения позволили сделать некоторые выводы о пищевых препочтениях плезиозавров, а также более детально исследовать их эволюцию.
Paleontologists stumbling on fossils that are millions of years old is not unusual; however, what is not-so-common is unearthing a fossil that belongs to a completely new species, which is unknown to mankind. This is what transpired in Russia.
The fossil belonging to a new pliosaur - a predatory reptile during dinosaur age - was discovered on the right bank of the Volga River, close to the Russian city of Ulyanovsk in 2002. The new species is named Luskhan itilensis, which means the "Master Spirit" from the Volga River.
Luskhan Itilensis: What Is Known?
The marine reptile fossil unearthed in Russia belonged to the pliosaur family, which are part of the plesiosaur creatures. Their four large flippers, varying neck length, and unusual body shape and dimensions make them stand apart. Pliosaurs had a 6.5 feet long skull, enormous teeth, and immense jaw power. These features made the pliosaurs the greatest marine predators in the dinosaur age.
The scientists described the Luskhan itilensis specimen as well preserved. Studies revealed that the fossil belonged to an animal which lived roughly 130 million years ago, which is the known as the Russian Cretaceous age.
The fossil revealed a particular pliosaur species whose head measured around 4.9 feet. However, scientists were surprised to find its beak-like structure was rather small compared to its overall head size. In fact, the size of the beak was compared to those found in some gharials and river dolphins.
"This is the most striking feature, as it suggests that pliosaurs colonized a much wider range of ecological niches than previously assumed," the study's lead author Valentin Fischer, who is also a lecturer at Universite de Liege, remarked.
Bus-Sized Fossil Offers Clues About Marine Reptiles' Extinction
This unique pliosaur fossil - the size of a bus - forced researchers to undertake a greater study with regard to the whole species and not the creature alone. After a comprehensive analysis and testing of the ecomorphology and the anatomy of the plesiosaurs, researchers were able to understand how several evolutionary convergences affected the final extinction of the marine reptile.
Evolutionary convergences may be described as the phenomenon where distantly-related species evolve to become similar to each other in many aspects. This occurs because their feeding type and the prey remains the same. Such a convergence took place in the plesiosaurs about the same time when the Jurassic period ended, which was 145 million years ago.
The new study also indicates that pliosaurs were able to survive the first extinction-like event at the Jurassic age's end. However, a second extinction event occurred at a later point, which finally wiped off these creatures and caused total and final extinction.
The study's results were published in the journal Current Biology.
© 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved.
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Физики из Российского квантового центра создали и протестировали первый в мире квантовый блокчейн - инструмент для создания распределенной базы данных, которую практически невозможно взломать, даже с помощью квантового компьютера.
Russian computer scientists have developed the world's first blockchain that is so secure not even a quantum computer will be able to hack into it.
Quantum computers don't exist at the moment - they are only a concept. But one day when the technology is realised, a quantum computer will be able to factor impossibly large numbers. This is bad news for current RSA encryption methods, which rely on complex mathematical problems that are too difficult for a regular classical computer or a human to solve. And if a quantum computer can crack current encryption methods, this means it could also crack the blockchain - a technology used to secure virtual currencies that is now of great interest to banks and the finance industry.
To prevent this, researchers from the Russian Quantum Center had to start from scratch and invent a blockchain with a completely new architecture that takes away all of the security vulnerabilities of the current blockchain technology. They have successfully tested the technology with Gazprombank, one of Russia's largest banks. Their paper, entitled "Quantum-secured blockchain", is published on Cornell University Library's open source database.
How does the blockchain work?
A blockchain is a shared ledger of transactions in a database used to verify all transactions relating to the virtual currency bitcoin. It is possible thanks to a combination of computer science concepts including distributed consensus algorithms, state machine replication, peer-to peer networking protocols and cryptography.
A copy of the blockchain is held by all the computers on a network (known as "nodes"), and as transactions occur, the blockchain is constantly updated and verified by the network with the data time-stamped into blocks, so no one person or computer can control any transaction on the blockchain. Because there is no core central source, the shared data blocks link up to form an encrypted chain that is both tamper-proof and completely auditable, via digital signatures. Digital signatures are a sequence of bits with the single binary value of 0 or 1 that a blockchain user attaches to their transaction message to authenticate themselves. Say that you have two people called Bob and Alice. Alice wants to send Bob five bitcoins over the blockchain, secured using the digital signature, which contains a private key. The private key is a secret password that is only known to Alice. At the moment, this is secure so no one can tamper with Alice's message. However, a quantum computer would be so clever that it would be able to figure out Alice's private key simply by looking at the message and its signature.
A hacker could then generate a fake message that looks like it comes from Alice, requesting that the blockchain transfer all the bitcoins in her account to the hacker, and there would be no way for Alice to prove that she didn't send the message.
Building a new architecture using quantum cryptography
"In our quantum-secure blockchain setup, we get rid of digital signatures altogether. Instead, we utilise quantum cryptography [a technology that uses photons to communicate between two parties] for authentication," Alexander Lvovsky, the group lead for quantum optics at the Russian Quantum Center and co-author of the paper, told IBTimes UK.
"Parties that communicate via a quantum channel can be completely sure that they are talking to each other, not anybody else. This is the main idea. Then we had to re-invent the entire blockchain architecture to 'fit' our new authentication technology, thereby making this architecture immune to quantum computer attacks."
One type of quantum cryptography is quantum key distribution (QKD), which is where quantum mechanics are used to guarantee secure communication by utilising quantum entanglement to detect any eavesdropping by a hacker on communications between two users.
Quantum entanglement makes it possible for bits to be in superposition known as 'qubits', so they can have the value of 1 and 0 at the same time, making it much easier for any interference to be detected.
The new blockchain works by having each pair of nodes in the network connected using a QKD link. The first layer of the network is the QKD network, but it is only concerned with establishing authentication between the two blockchain users. The second layer of the network is where the message data is transmitted, using authentication tags based on Toeplitz hash algorithm.
QKD networks are becoming more common in the financial industry and are used for financial transactions, smart contracts and other highly sensitive digital transfers, however this is the first time that the technology has been implemented into the blockchain platform.
© Copyright 2017 IBTimes Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
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Стоянка охотников возрастом 9 тыс. лет на острове Жохова (Новосибирские острова) - одна из самых северных археологических стоянок. Раскопки, проведенные археологами из Института истории материальной культуры РАН показали, что обитатели стоянки (тогда Новосибирские острова были частью суши) уже в то время занимались разведением собак - охотничьих и ездовых. Таким образом, жоховские собаки могли быть одними из первых в истории человечества не просто прирученных, а именно домашних собак.
The hunter-gatherers of Zhokhov Island were a hardy folk. Nine thousand years ago, they survived frigid year-round temperatures in animal-skin tents some 500 kilometers north of what is now the Russian mainland, and they were the only people ever known to hunt large numbers of polar bears without firearms. Now it appears these ancient Arctic dwellers did something even more remarkable: They may have been among the first humans to breed dogs for a particular purpose. An analysis of canine bones from Zhokhov suggests the dogs there were bred to pull sleds, making this the first evidence - by thousands of years - for dog breeding in the archaeological record.
"It's pretty convincing and very exciting," says Melinda Zeder, an archaezoologist at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The finding may help explain why people domesticated dogs in the first place: to put them to work. "It fills in a missing piece of the puzzle of early human-dog relationships, and even domestication itself," adds Angela Perri, a zooarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Zhokhov wasn't always an island. When Stone Age people lived there, and before seas rose, it was connected to Siberia. In addition to polar bears, which were mostly hunted in winter, the Zhokhovians pursued reindeer hundreds of kilometers across vast plains. "They needed a means of transportation," says Vladimir Pitulko, an archaeologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg who has been excavating Zhokhov since 1989. He previously found dog bones and the remains of wooden sleds on the island, but it was never clear whether the animals were actually bred for sledding.
Now Pitulko has evidence that they were. To confirm that the canines were indeed dogs, he and Aleksey Kasparov, an archaeozoologist at the same academy, compared the two most complete skulls with those of wolves and Siberian Huskies from the region. They found that two key ratios - snout height to skull length and cranium height to skull length - could reliably distinguish the two. By those measures, their samples were truly dogs - though one appeared to be a wolf-dog hybrid.
To figure out what the Zhokhov dogs looked like, the team extrapolated their sizes from the fossil bones of 11 individuals. Ten of the dogs weighed between 16 and 25 kilograms and may have resembled Siberian Huskies, the team will reveal next month in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. The remaining dog - the putative wolf-dog hybrid - weighed about 29 kilograms and may have been similar to an Alaskan Malamute. Good sled dogs typically weigh between 20 and 25 kilograms, Pitulko says, as dogs of this size are big enough to pull sleds yet don't overheat like larger dogs. He concludes that the inhabitants of Zhokhov probably bred the smaller dogs for sledding, and may have bred the larger one to hunt polar bears. "They were clearly shaping these animals to do something special."
"If this is indeed a breeding program, it would be the earliest evidence of dog breeding for any purpose," Perri says. The next closest example, she says, would probably be herding dogs in the Near East, which were bred about 7000 years ago. But she thinks the wide range of weights of the ancient dogs argues against strictly controlled breeding. "I think there were a lot of different kinds of dogs - and maybe even some wolves - mating with each other, producing random litters of pups." From those litters, however, humans may have selected the best sled dogs, which would still indicate some sort of focus on breed. "It's as convincing as you're going to get with the material they have," Zeder says.
The find may shed light on why dogs were domesticated in the first place. Though scientists don't agree on when this happened, recent research suggests it was at least 15,000 years ago. Significantly, this was around the time when Earth was beginning to warm, with large species like mammoths disappearing and smaller migrating game like reindeer starting to dominate the landscape. Dogs could help hunt down this smaller prey and even provide a means for people to follow them. "Before then, there was no real reason to have a dog," says Pitulko, who dedicates his paper to "Liverpool," a 15-year-old dachshund he calls a "true friend." "We turned to them when we really needed them."
Zeder agrees. Her own work has shown that a variety of animals - from foxes to badgers - were hanging around early human campsites, and that some may even have become tame. The reason we don't have pet foxes today, she speculates, is that we never found a use for them. "Starting a two-way street with dogs and shaping them into the animals we needed - that was the real domestication."
Another study published last year concluded that dogs may have been domesticated in both Europe and East Asia. The new work doesn't necessarily challenge that idea, though it suggests that early dogs may have played an important role in the Arctic as well. And Pitulko thinks dogs could have been domesticated independently in this region.
"The Arctic should be a bigger part of the domestication equation," Perri agrees. "It's holding some secrets. Something interesting is going on there."
© 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights Reserved.
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27 февраля - 3 марта этого года Коммуникационная лаборатория РВК совместно с МФТИ и Университетом ИТМО провели международный пресс-тур Russian Science Week - для зарубежных журналистов, пишущих о науке. Целью пресс-тура было установление прочных связей между российским научным сообществом и зарубежными СМИ, а также популяризация российского образования и науки для международной аудитории. В делегацию, побывавшую в лабораториях ведущих институтов Москвы и Санкт-Петербурга, вошли представители American Scientist, International Business Times, Motherboard VICE, Le Figaro, The Sun/The Telegraph/The BBC/Daily Mail.
I took a five-day tour of Russia's leading scientific research centers. This is what I saw.
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They call them the "golden brains." Perched 22 storeys high, they engulf the top floors of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) headquarters in southwest Moscow. Somehow both geometric and wildly rampageous, the copper and aluminum sculptures look like the kind of long-lost technologies that protagonists stumble across on deserted alien worlds in Mass Effect.
On a crisp evening in late February, we stepped out of a van and walked across a plaza, lined by ornate statues and a giant metal clock. Shepherded by Asya Shepunova, a lively public relations representative for the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), a university based in the northern suburb of Dolgoprudny, we made our way past a security checkpoint to a welcome dinner at a restaurant enclosed within the golden brains.
In tandem with the press team at ITMO University in Saint Petersburg, Shepunova and her colleagues organized this five-day tour of Russia's two largest and most scientifically active cities. A handful of science journalists from around the world, including me - hi, I'm Becky - RSVP'd yes. A little over a month after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, we arrived in Moscow.
The goal of the trip, for our hosts, was to establish stronger links between the Russian science community and foreign media outlets. Despite the significant historic impact of many Russian scientific contributions - the laser, the solar cell, the satellite, human spaceflight, graphene, and the periodic table of elements, to name a few - the nation lacks a robust infrastructure for circulating its advances outside its cloistered institutions.
In this uncertain time of global restructuring, as longstanding alliances deteriorate and strange bedfellows find common cause, the bonds of cross-border scientific collaboration are more crucial than ever. Russian science advocates seek inclusion and transparency in the face of a rising tide of nativism and disinformation.
From this friction, a new kind of scientific landscape is emerging within the borders of Earth's largest nation. Its future will impact us all.
The disconnect between Russian science and the global commons runs deep, and has challenged science enthusiasts for centuries. "Do we always have to get from foreigners what originated in our boundless homeland and died in loneliness and neglect?" lamented biologist Alexander Chizhevsky in his foreword to spaceflight visionary Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's 1924 treatise The Rocket into Cosmic Space.
For the organizers of the press trip, the answer is a resounding nyet. But this communication gap is not just a problem for Russians. Collective brainpower is, of course, the engine of discovery, and any fracture in the global scientific network has cascading implications.
On a geopolitical level, science is also a crucial agent of soft power between nations. Going back decades, scientific collaborations have tempered tensions between Russia and its rival nations, and allowed cooler heads to prevail. In 1975, astronaut Thomas Stafford and cosmonaut Alexey Leonov shook hands in space as part of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which reflected the policy of détente, or easing of strained relations, between the US and the USSR. The International Space Station (ISS), the crown jewel of science partnerships, is directly descended from this symbolic gesture.
Scientific soft power will be an important diplomatic tool as the world reels from current geopolitical turmoil. The elephant in our timeline is that members of Trump's inner circle are currently under FBI investigation for potentially coordinating with Russian operatives to help swing the 2016 election. A series of cyberattacks against the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, along with hacks aimed at other world leaders, are widely presumed to have been masterminded by the Russian government's intelligence arm. The scandal has engulfed former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, both of whom are reported to have lied about their past interactions with Russian officials.
There are shades of Sputnik here, as Russia startles the world by breaching uncharted territory on a shoestring budget, leaving its rivals scrambling to adjust to a new reality shaped by this nation's geopolitical ambitions.
At the time I visited Moscow and Saint Petersburg, "this Russia thing," in Trump's own words, had not yet snowballed into the epic presidential flameout it is today. Trump's election - and its implications for the world - did come up in conversation frequently during the trip. But at the restaurant inside the golden brains, the discussion centered around recent investments from the Russian government designed to revitalize the science sector.
President Vladimir Putin has been promoting entrepreneurism and internationalization in Russian science in attempt to burnish the nation's prestige while also diversifying its stultifying, oil-dependent economy.
"I'm confident that Russia is capable [...] of becoming a supplier of ideas and technology for the whole world, " Putin said in his 2014 annual presidential address (according to a Russian-to-English translation). "Russian companies will embody national success and pride, just as our nuclear and space projects once did."
Putin has sent mixed messages to the science community about these goals. At the same time that Russia is ostensibly reaching out to attract the world's brightest minds, for instance, state propaganda has sowed isolationist ideologies into alt-right movements in the West with alarming effectiveness.
The recent Russian economic recession, sparked in part by international sanctions imposed to admonish Putin for the Crimean crisis, is yet another variable thrown into this maelstrom of conflicting indigenous and foreign pressures.
It's difficult to predict what kind of Russian science culture will emerge from this kaleidoscopic clash of ideas. But one constant that binds the vast majority of scientists and science advocates, regardless of nationality, is an aversion to political interference with their work. As the Russian science world reboots under the direction of Putin, and the American science world defends itself from the onslaught of Trump, scientists in every sphere are likely to become essential vessels of soft power between nations, whether they like it or not.
About a two-hour drive north of Moscow, on the banks of the Volga River, lies the small town of Dubna. Though it looks like a sleepy community, Dubna is home to the Joint Institute of Nuclear Research (JINR), a major nuclear science hub comprised of nearly 6,000 researchers. About a dozen specialized laboratories and research facilities have sprouted up around town since JINR was founded in 1956, and two major next-generation projects are in development.
It was the last day in February, and snow still blanketed the ground as our van pulled into the town, past a Bioshock-worthy sign celebrating the element dubnium (atomic number 105), named for the town in which it was discovered.
As we swooped from one location to the next, trying to fit as many stops as possible, we took in the hulking facilities that distinguish JINR as Russia's hotspot for nuclear experimentation. (VR tours of select instruments are on the JINR website, if you'd like to see for yourself.)
Some facilities, like the IBR-2, a fast periodic pulsed reactor housed in the Laboratory of Neutron Physics, have remained steady over decades of operation.
Others, like the hulking 36,000-ton synchrophasotron magnet housed at the Veksler and Baldin Laboratory of High Energy Physics, are no longer in active use. Decorative lights now illuminate the massive structure's contours, as if it's a secret location for some extra-nerdy rave.
New infrastructures crop up around the older ones like mushrooms on a fallen tree. Looping around the basement underneath the synchrophasotron is the Nuclotron, completed in 1992, which will be incorporated into a new "megaproject" called the Nuclotron-based Ion Collider fAсility (NICA) complex which is currently in development. Slated for commissioning in 2020, NICA is designed to create quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter believed to have characterized the first milliseconds after the Big Bang, and will join CERN and Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider as a major particle physics center.
After an afternoon talk from nuclear physicist Yuri Oganessian, the leading expert in super-heavy elements (SHEs), we toured the SHE factory complex, which was under heavy construction, smelling like spackle, wood, and paint. Here, scientists hope to consolidate the JINR's lead in synthesizing the unknown SHEs that occupy the nosebleed section of the periodic table. Within the past year, the element Oganesson (118) was named after Oganessian, and Moscovium (115) was named for Moscow.
Dubna's landscape of old workhorse machines overlaid with newer ambitious projects casts JINR as essentially transitional; a butterfly in chrysalis. In addition to its technological makeover, the institute is also in the midst of a cultural metamorphosis. In 2005, Dubna was designated as a special economic zone, meaning that business and trade laws there have been tweaked to encourage commercial investments in new technologies.
JINR's management has also made greater strides to extend its sphere beyond its 18 member nations, most of which are former Soviet satellite countries. The institute's slogan - "science bringing nations together" - reflects a shift toward openness.
This combination of increased funding, international collaboration, and economic diversification turned out to be a theme at every location we visited. The day after the Dubna trip, March 1, we headed to the Space Research Institute (IKI) in southeast Moscow, which has been steadily regaining its exploratory footing after decades of financial strain. In addition to purely Russian space exploration projects, IKI has partnered with the European Space Agency on the ExoMars missions, and with NASA on a potential Venus mission called Venera-D.
In the afternoon, we drove north to the MIPT main campus in Dolgoprudny, which is also in a phase of active reinvention. The university has set ambitious goals for attracting foreign students and professorial talent, offering English-language courses to help sweeten the pot. We toured newly-minted laboratories devoted to nanooptics, plasmonics, and quantum circuits, and met with Artem Oganov, a world-renowned crystallographer and materials scientist, and his internationally diverse team of students.
After an overnight train to Saint Petersburg, we hit up the vibrant ITMO University campus. Ekaterina Boglaeva, head of the ITMO press office, escorted us through some of the university's laboratories, including a robotics room filled with a menagerie of mobile artificial objects. A 15-year-old student named Daniel, mentored by the lab staff, showed off his concept model of a robotic system for oil transport in the Arctic (a timely idea, given Russia's recent moves to dominate northern oil reserves).
Later, over dinner, we talked to the leads of ITMO's Innovation Department, which is actively working to spur startup culture in Saint Petersburg.
Everywhere we went, there was a sense that Russian science is on the upswing, thanks to substantial investments from the government. These efforts include the National Technological Initiative, an ambitious 20-year science roadmap outlined by Putin in 2014, as well as academic competitions like Project 5-100, which is designed to lift at least five Russian universities into the top 100 world rankings by 2020. The state has begun to offer "megagrants," valued at up to 150 million rubles ($5 million) each, to entice leading researchers - especially expatriates - to establish laboratories in Russia.
Perhaps no institution reflects this new direction better than the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), a small university founded in Moscow in 2011, in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Branded as "Russia's Silicon Valley," a nickname that was previously reserved for Moscow's Zelenograd technological hub, the Skolkovo complex is designed to bridge gaps between Russian science and the rest of the world by encouraging small businesses, investment in foreign talent, and open-source science.
"Ideally, these international cultural norms should be disseminated wider within the country," Irina Dezhina, head of Skoltech's science and industrial policy group, told me over email.
This explosion of activity follows a long and painful scientific hiatus. In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, science in Russia essentially flatlined for 20 years due to severe economic strain. The result was a devastating brain drain, in which droves of Russian scientists emigrated to greener scientific pastures.
"At that time, Russian science was dying from underfunding," Oganov, who left his native Moscow in 1999, told me. "We did not have state of the art equipment. We were cut off largely from modern scientific literature. It seemed that the country was going to die, and that science would die as well."
But Russia has a way of rebounding. The scientific community is beginning to reclaim its far-flung researchers back within its borders. Oganov, after 16 years abroad, accepted a megagrant in 2013 and set up his laboratory at MIPT. Two years later, he became a professor at Skoltech, and now splits his time between Stony Brook University in New York, and his Russian professorships. Oganov is one of many scientists we met who returned to the nation after a prolonged absence, and calls himself "a new guy in Russia" who is "still getting to know the ropes."
I asked Oganov if revived antagonism between Russia and the West might throw a wrench in this shift toward a more open science community, perhaps even discouraging foreign students from matriculating in Russian institutions. He said he doubts it will have a noticeable impact.
"If people really only went to countries which do not invade other countries and respect human rights, then they would stick to countries like Andorra or Bhutan," he told me. "Maybe it sounds a bit cynical, but in my observation, most people in science are driven by opportunities. Regardless of whether such an attitude is moral or not, it is clear that science should be free of any politics."
But holding that line is a challenge when politics infringes on science, as American scientists have learned. Many have been galvanized into activism by Trump's election, and the slew of anti-science legislation he has proposed since assuming office. The recent March for Science, on April 22, was attended by hundreds of thousands of protesters in over 600 cities.
During his 17 years in power, Putin has never inspired anywhere near the same public backlash from Russian scientists as Trump has received from Americans. There are numerous reasons for this, including Putin's outwardly pro-science attitude and the dangers of protest in his country. But Putin's administration has inevitably politicized the landscape of Russian science in ways that often interfere with his stated objectives.
One particularly troubling example is Putin's decision, in 2012, to introduce a law that allows his administration to label non-profit organizations as "foreign agents" if they receive funding from outside the country. In 2015, Putin doubled down with another law allowing the government to deem certain NGOs "undesirable" if they are perceived to pose a threat to Russian hegemony.
In the international community, these laws are widely regarded as slapdash legal cover for government intimidation, a charge that the Kremlin denies. Many organizations have been forced out of Russia after being branded "foreign" or "undesirable," including US-based science and education promoters like the MacArthur Foundation and the Open Society Foundation, as well as Russian science promoters like the Dynasty charitable foundation.
Scientists in Russia are disincentivized from accepting grants from any remaining organizations on the blacklist, Dezhina said, because they are required to highlight the fact that their work was "prepared with the support of a foreign agent."
"Just imagine this situation in the United States," she told me, in which a university produces a report labeled "prepared with Russian money."
These laws have an anti-foreigner bent that runs counter to the government's stated goals of opening Russia to the world. The new rules have enabled state harassment of immigrant scientists - like the 2015 firing and expulsion of investor Kendrick White - which some see as payback for Western sanctions. Those sanctions, too, have affected the science community in adverse ways, though many Russians I spoke with are proud that the nation is learning to manufacture and replace sanctioned items. A popular motto and social media hashtag - "импортозамещение" - celebrates the country's efforts at "import substitution."
Combined with Putin's steady consolidation of power over major institutions including the RAS and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, scientists in Russia, like their counterparts in the United States, have plenty to worry about in terms of state politicization of their work.
In fact, some experts have explicitly linked Russia's autocratic political tendencies to long-standing direct and indirect suppression of its scientific capital. Speaking to the Boston Globe in 2015, MIT science historian Loren Graham said that "Russian leaders keep thinking that the way to solve the problem is by government edict - you know, create Skolkovo, and so forth."
"I would say that the failure of Russia to adequately use the talents of its scientists and engineers is one of the important reasons why Russia has not been able to make the transition to democracy," he added.
Still, most scientists I spoke with shared Oganov's disinclination toward getting entangled in political activism, prioritizing their scientific partnerships over sabre-rattling between nations. According to David Senske, the American Venera-D team lead based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, waxing tensions between Russia and the United States have not interfered with IKI and NASA's joint dream of exploring Venus.
"We, as scientists, keep our eye on the prize," Senske told me over the phone. "We let the higher-ups deal with politics. As a science definition team, we operate as one."
This mindset was reinforced by a recent, as-yet unpublished survey of Russian and French scientists, conducted by Dezhina, in which most respondents claimed that political strains would not affect their work. In fact, many of them saw increased collaboration as a crucial bulwark against the dangerous whims of world leaders.
"[Scientists] continue to cooperate as before, and moreover, in such politically difficult times, science becomes a real soft power, because through scientific collaboration, countries continue to keep relationships," Dezhina told me. "I was amazed at how unified the answers were on this question."
On Wednesday morning at Cafe Pushkin, a historic restaurant in Moscow, we met representatives of scientific institutions in five-minute increments, "speed-dating" style. I took in the skinny version of what's going on at the Russian Quantum Center, the Higher School of Economics, Skoltech, the Russian search engine giant Yandex, and others. Shepunova rang a bell when the time was up, and reps moved on to the next reporter.
This musical-chairs breakfast was a microcosm of the trip. The MIPT and ITMO press teams ran a tight schedule, but they also punctuated the tour with games, jokes, and local flavor. On the bus between locations, for instance, Shepunova handed out some novelty meme postcards MIPT had created to advertise the university's specialty fields with trademark Russian gallows humor.
Only within the past few years have Russian institutions caught on to the value of marketing and PR skills, and our hosts seemed eager to make up for lost time. They were charged up with ideas, including science slams, science festivals, and media events starring scientists - and of course, press trips.
"I'm sure that in the United States and in Europe, talking to the public is a habit for scientists," said Elena Brandt, who spearheaded this tour as the head of the MIPT press office.
"Here, it's not a norm," added Brandt, who has since joined the Yandex PR team. "The people who do it are the early adopters, the innovators."
Progress is being made: The Russian Science Citation Index, a database of top-tier scholarly publications in Russia, was integrated into the global Web of Science in 2015, finally enabling Russian scientists to share and compare their work with the world on a much broader scale. Russian citations in influential global journals, like Nature and Science, have also increased by 25 percent since 2012.
Still, the Russian government's panoptical approach to curating the media has implications for every sphere. Science journalism in the West is meant to be driven by public interest, which ideally shapes the science policies and agendas of government. In Russia, that vector is reversed. "There is a joke among the PR people that our main audience is one person, and it's our president," Brandt told me.
Independent publications have begun to flourish in spite of this entrenched, top-down media foodchain, and the state's regressive attitudes toward journalists and free speech. When Kremlin officials orchestrated the 2014 dismissal of Galina Timchenko, editor-in-chief of the popular Russian news hub Lenta.ru, most of the staff resigned in solidarity, issuing a public statement decrying the downward spiral of independent journalism in Russia.
Much of the former staff of Lenta.ru have become innovators in the digital media environment. Timchenko went on to found the Meduza Project news startup in Latvia to provide a professional home for exiled Russian reporters frustrated at the suffocating media culture under Putin.
Meanwhile, Andrei Konyaev, who ran Lenta.ru's science and technology section until he quit over Timchenko's firing, created his own science news site, N+1, funded by private investors. It has since blossomed into one of Russia's most popular independent science websites.
Now that he has developed his own science readership, Konyaev's editorial instinct is to explore the journalistic autonomy that Lenta.ru was denied. With about a dozen people on staff, N+1 covers a range of scientific topics from around the world. When I ask him, over Skype, about reporting on issues that are controversial in Russia, such as commercial science figures like Elon Musk, he said he is "twice as cautious" to make sure all the facts are airtight.
"You give [readers] a good weapon so that they will shoot each other and not you," he said. "Don't get killed by your own product."
It's a topical metaphor, in light of the recent wave of weaponized information, much of it originating from Russia. In contrast to the kind of media weapon Konyaev is talking about - truth bombs, if you will - this disinformation campaign has been characterized by the terms "fake news," "alternative facts," and other Orwellian neologisms.
The reach of Russian state propaganda has been amplified by President Trump's eagerness to push Kremlin-friendly narratives, sometimes literally from the Oval Office.
Many of Trump's supporters now identify more with Putin's autocratic vision for Russia than with the Republican or Democratic platforms for America. As a result, Americans alarmed by Putin's apparent power over Trump have been backsliding into vestigial Cold War paranoia. When former US director of national intelligence James Clapper testified about Russian electoral interference on May 8, he said: "Going back to 2015, there was evidence of Soviet - excuse me, Freudian slip - Russian activity."
Could this revived "red scare" impact the efforts of the burgeoning science communication movement in Russia? Shepunova told me that since Trump was elected, a few of her contacts have expressed concern about reporting on Russian-sourced news of any kind, fearing that it might be propaganda.
Likewise, Brandt told me that when she initially started reaching out to foreign journalists in the midst of the Crimean crisis, she expected political blowback, saying that her team thought "everybody hates Russia, nobody will take news from us."
But most journalists, it turns out, still respect the authenticity of MIPT, and when combined with the rising tide of entrepreneurialism, Russian science popularization is poised to be propelled to new heights. Konyaev has helped pave this road within the media sphere with N+1, and Russian tech companies continue to sprout up, shaking off Soviet-era distaste for capitalist structures like startups.
Oganov, who is full of interesting factoids about Russian culture and history, told me that Russia essentially kickstarted its empire over 1,000 years ago by borrowing piracy from the Vikings. Entrepreneurialism, he said, may follow the same pattern.
"Russia is a funny country," he told me. "There are many things that Russia learned from foreigners over history. [Entrepreneurship] is something that is not innate to Russian culture, but piracy wasn't either - yet when Vikings came to Russia, they taught Russians to be first-class pirates very quickly. And when Peter the Great created the Russian Academy of Sciences in the 1700s, entirely from foreigners, because there was no science in Russia, it wasn't long until Russia mass-produced some of world's best scientists."
Mark my words, in 30 or 50 years, the top entrepreneurs in the world will come from this country," he continued. "With pirates, it took very little."
On our last night in Russia, we walked back to the hotel after a late dinner at a cozy restaurant named the Idiot, after the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It was snowing as we strolled along the Moyka River, and through Ostrovsky Square, where a statue of Catherine the Great stood tall in the chilly night.
Long regarded as one of Russia's most effective monarchs - in part because she promoted Western science - Catherine was a foreigner, born a German princess named Sophie. This outsider status enabled her to grasp Russia's untapped potential as a world player. She was one of many immigrants who helped define Russia's strong sense of national identity.
Now, centuries later, Russian leadership is once again flexing its brawn and systematically testing the defences of its rivals. Putin may have a reputation for slyness, but his vision of a dictatorial Russia as the dominant world power is writ large over the entire planet.
Scientists and science communicators will play a crucial role in shaping these new global dynamics. At the heart of science is the pursuit of empirical, objective truth, and ideas that transcend borders. This endeavor is more important than ever in our modern landscape of stealthy maneuvering, anti-science legislation, and rampant disinformation.
In the words of Dostoevsky, "it is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them - the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas." Russia's science community is now reawakening after a long, excruciating thaw. What happens next depends not only on the Russians themselves, but science advocates everywhere.