Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Декабрь 2018 г.

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Российская наука и мир
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    Professional Engineering / 01 Dec 2018
    Advanced defect check to prevent potential 'disaster' from use of new composites
    Сибирские ученые (Томский политехнический университет, Институт физики прочности и материаловедения СО РАН, Сибирский НИИ авиации) совместно с зарубежными коллегами разрабатывают новую систему определения дефектов композитных материалов, объединяющую вибрационный, резонансный, ультразвуковой и тепловой методы в одной установке.

Plane parts made from the constant stream of newly-emerging composite materials will be checked for potentially devastating faults with a new testing method.
Researchers at the TPU Research School of High Energy Physics in Tomsk, Russia, are combining multiple methods to create an advanced flaw detection system for complex and large composite products. The process, which will include resonant ultrasonic simulation, is initially aimed at the aerospace and automotive sectors.
The introduction of new composite materials, which are often used for improved strength-weight ratios, is a challenge for existing testing methods. Materials can contain very small defects such as cracks and separate layers that might be missed - potentially leading to "disaster".
"Every year, new composite materials appear and they challenge existing methods of non-destructive testing," said project manager Daria Derusova. "Joints between the materials are of particular complexity and importance."
The new system will combine vibrational, resonant ultrasonic and thermal testing, to make it possible to test large or complex parts while taking their physical properties into account. Classic ultrasonic and X-ray testing are currently used during production, said Derusova. "The latter is the most accurate but it does not fit to large-sized objects that are presented in aviation a lot. In turn, ultrasonic facilities consume kilowatts of electricity to stimulate materials with a mono-frequency acoustic signal… the developed approach will be an alternative to the existing methods."
Piezoelectric transducers will send resonant ultrasonic stimulation through components in a wide range of frequencies. A scanning laser Doppler vibrometer will then help identify the different resonant frequencies of any defects. The "intense" vibrations also lead to areas around defects heating up, so an infrared camera with specialised software will check temperature changes to help identify defects' location, form and size.
The new combination process will use several-times less electricity than high-power ultrasonic installations, the team said. They will build a laboratory testing facility over the course of a two-year, Russian Science Foundation-supported project.
The team will collaborate with peers from the Institute of Strength, Physics and Materials Science, the S.А. Chaplygin Siberian Research Institute of Aviation, the University of L'Aquila in Italy and the Symbiosis Institute of Technology in India.

© 2018 Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
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    Phys.Org / December 6th, 2018
    Russian scientists design unique installations to monitor NPP safety
    В Национальном исследовательском ядерном университете МИФИ разработали новые установки для контроля герметичности оболочек тепловыделяющих элементов реакторов АЭС. В установках используется метод ультразвуковой резонансной спектроскопии и метод высокочувствительного многочастотного вихретокового контроля.

Scientists at the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Russia) have suggested a new approach to monitoring the condition of NPP reactor fuel element cans, which makes it possible to estimate the state of nuclear fuel.
The fuel element cans that contain reactor fuel pellets form the first safety barrier that blocks radioactive fission byproducts from invading the reactor heat carrier that circulates through the reactor core. Thus, hermetically sealed fuel element cans are crucial.
According to Prof. Yevgeny Kudryavtsev of MEPhI, who is in charge of the project, the university has developed a series of installations for the non-destructive testing of fuel element cans based on the resonant ultrasonic spectroscopy method suggested by his team.
"The method is based on exciting local circumferential oscillations of the cans (or segments thereof) and recording the parameters - resonance frequencies and figures-of-merit (half-width of a resonance peak). Scanning can reveal spots of corrosion damage on the inside and outside surface of the cans and can identify the type of corrosion and its parameters," he explained.
The team is developing a new installation for highly sensitive multi-frequency eddy current testing based on analyzing interactions between the external electromagnetic field that is excited with a specially designed coil with the electromagnetic field of the eddy currents, as induced in a fuel element can by this field. The method helps to reveal a number of defects such as internal and external cracks, magnetic phase discharges, fuel column ruptures, fuel mass transfers, and local melt areas.
The research results have been confirmed by further tests using the destructive method, metallography, a MEPhI spokesperson said.
"The use of existing methods and installations will make it possible to identify corrosion damage at the primary non-destructive test stage, reduce the number of time-consuming metallographic tests, expand the capabilities of hot-cell experimental equipment and enhance the reliability of the results," a project participant, Ilya Rodko of MEPhI, said.

© Phys.org 2003-2018, Science X network.
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    R & D Magazine / Thu, Dec 06, 2018
    Paleontologists Piece Together Massive New Dinosaur from Vertebrae Bones
    • By Kenny Walter
    По найденным еще в 1980-х гг. в Ульяновской области позвонкам возрастом 130 млн лет палеонтологи описали гигантского растительноядного динозавра из группы зауроподов-титанозавров. Весивший при жизни около 17 тонн ящер получил название Volgatitan simbirskiensis.

The Volgatitan has now joined the ranks of dinosaurs in the Sauropod family.
Paleontologists from the Akson Russian Science Communication Association have gathered together the final puzzle pieces for a new dinosaur from seven caudal vertebrae bones that had remained in the ground for the last 130 million years on the banks of the Volga River in Russia.
Sauropods are giant herbivorous dinosaurs with long necks and tails that lived on Earth about 200 to 65 million years ago. The massive Volgatitan dinosaur weighs an estimated 17 tons. The bones likely belonged to an adult dinosaur because of its neural arches-the parts of the vertebrae protecting the nerves and blood vessels, which completely merged with the bodies of the vertebrae.
"The new taxon is characterized by strongly procoelous anterior and middle caudal vertebrae, a long centrum of the first caudal vertebra, a strong ventral ridge in the anterior and middle caudal vertebrae, a neural arch positioned at the anterior half of the centrum, hyposphene-hypantrum articulation in the anterior caudal vertebrae, and somphospondylous bone texture," the researchers write in the study.
The remains of the dinosaur were discovered near the village of Slantsevy Rudnik, where in 1982 three large vertebrae were discovered after falling out of a high cliff. Then, between 1984 and 1987, three nodules of limestone containing the remaining vertebrae fell off the same cliff. Along with the newly minted Volgatitan, 12 other valid dinosaur taxa in Russia have been recently described, three of which are Sauropods-Tengrisaurus starkovi, Sibirotitan astrosacralis and Volgatitan simbirskiensis. Tengrisaurus starkovi and Sibirotitan astrosacralis represent the first two sauropods in Russia.
According to Aleksandr Averianov, a professor at St. Petersburg University, the description of dinosaur taxa in recent years has become possible due to the progress in understanding the anatomy and phylogeny of dinosaurs. The researchers were also able to learn more about how Sauropods had lived and developed.
"Previously, it was believed that the evolution of titanosaurs took place mainly in South America with some taxa moving into North America, Europe and Asia only in the Late Cretaceous," Averianov said in a statement. "In Asia, representatives of a broader group of titanosauriform, such as the recently described Siberian titanium, dominated in the early Cretaceous.
"However, the recent description of the Tengrisaurus from the Early Cretaceous of Transbaikal Region and the finding of the Volgatitan indicate that titanosaurs in the Early Cretaceous were distributed much more widely; and, perhaps, important stages of their evolution took place in Eastern Europe and Asia," he added.
The study was published in Biological Communications.

© Copyright 2018 Advantage Business Marketing.
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    University World News / 07 December 2018, Issue 532
    Top universities call for expansion of 5-100 project
    • Eugene Vorotnikov
    Ведущие российские университеты призвали правительство расширить и продлить Проект 5-100, включив в него новые вузы.

Leading Russian universities have called on the national government to expand the existing Project 5-100 - a project that aims to get at least five universities from Russia into the top 100 in one of the leading global university rankings - starting from 2019 or 2020.
The call has been made by a range of university leaders and higher education analysts but is the initiative of the Association of Global Universities, a public association which unites leading universities in Russia. One of the leading figures behind the call, Yaroslav Kuzminov, head of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, one of Russia's most prestigious universities, said the expansion of the 5-100 project would ensure a high level of competitiveness of Russian higher education in the international arena. "The expansion could take place as soon as 2019 or a year later, in 2020, when the duration of the 5-100 project formally expires. It would help Russian universities to become more competitive in certain key areas covered by these global rankings, where the presence of Russia and its universities, so far, has been limited," he said.
The association believes that the proposal would allow Russian universities to enter rankings in such spheres as agriculture, transport, biotechnology, clinical medicine, urban studies and communications.
Plan to include 30 universities
According to some proposals put forward by Kuzminov and heads of other leading universities, including Victor Sadovnichy, rector of Lomonosov Moscow State University, the number of participants of the 5-100 programme could be expanded to up to 30 universities from the current 21. In the meantime, the Russian government is aware of the current proposal from the leading domestic universities and is planning to consider this issue by the end of the month. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Olga Golodets, who is responsible for the development of higher education in the Russian government, has previously said the project could be expanded by including universities specialising in agricultural sciences as well as social sciences and humanities. Golodets said in late November that some of Russia's universities are already represented in some of the global rankings and the government hopes their number will increase in years to come.
Situation has changed
She said: "When we started with this programme, we didn't believe that any of the domestic universities could be competitive in the field of humanities and social sciences with major rivals in the international arena. "We thought that we are not strong here, as we are in physics, chemistry, computer sciences, where our scientific efforts have been very noticeable in recent years. Social sciences and humanities have never been a strong point of domestic universities. However, in recent years the situation has changed."
She said this is mainly due to the increased attention being paid to social sciences by some leading domestic higher education institutions, such as the Higher School of Economics.
According to experts of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, the expansion of the project will require increased state funding, which is currently estimated at about RUB10.5 billion (US$159 million) per year. They want the amount increased to RUB17-18 billion.

Copyright University World News 2007-2018.
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    The Chennai Telegram / December 7, 2018
    Digital herbarium of Moscow State University was awarded by the Russian geographical society
    A collection of digitized plant specimens named best science project.
    • Chemmal Saheb
    Цифровой гербарий МГУ получил премию Российского географического общества как лучший научный проект. Работа по оцифровке коллекции растений МГУ началась в 2015 году, сейчас на портале представлено более 900 тыс. образцов.

Digital herbarium of Moscow State University named after M. V. Lomonosov awarded the Russian geographical society in the category "Best research project", the press service of the University. The ceremony was attended by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
The project "Digital herbarium of Moscow state University" implemented in the framework of the creation of the National Bank Depository of the living systems "Noah's ark" with the support of Russian science Foundation.
"Moscow University has a huge collections of biological material, which until recently was known only to a narrow circle of specialists, - said the rector of Moscow state University Viktor Sadovnichy. - With the beginning of realization of the National project for the creation of a Depository of the living systems "Noah's ark" we have inventoried all biological and medical collection of the University and began to translate them in an open information system, available online to anyone interested from anywhere in the world".
The holdings of the herbarium have been completely scanned in four years. The project includes almost a million samples. Digital collection, according to Sadovnichy, enjoys thousands of scientists from Russia and countries near and far abroad.
Digital herbarium of Moscow state University is the largest in Russia a collection of digitized plant specimens with free access. Now on the portal you can explore 960 263 sample from different parts of the world. Work on digitization of the collections of plants of Moscow state University started the 2015 year under the direction of leading researcher of the biological faculty of Alexey Seregin. Today is the first Russian digital collection of biological material of this magnitude, and the largest digital herbarium among universities in the world.
The collection consists of three interrelated blocks: a library of high-quality images of herbarium specimens, databases of textual information contained in the labels and geographic information system coordinates of the collecting herbarium specimens. In October 2016 was launched portal of Digital herbarium of Moscow state University, and the scanned images became public.
Also samples with precise geographic coordinates were uploaded to the international database on biodiversity GBIF. In November of last year, database integrated 786 000 samples, after which MSU has become the main supplier of data on plant diversity of Russia and foreign countries. Digital herbarium is among the ten leading flora databases in Africa, South and South-East Asia, which are virtually inaccessible to researchers and is still poorly studied in this area.

Copyright © 2018 The Chennai Telegram.
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    The New York Times / Dec. 11, 2018
    Russia Wants to Extend U.S. Space Partnership. Or It Could Turn to China
    • By Andrew E. Kramer
    Как долго сможет продлиться сотрудничество России и США в космосе и каковы перспективы международных космических исследований после окончания работы МКС?

Russia's Museum of Cosmonautics displays with rightful pride artifacts from its early years of storied achievements in space exploration: the first satellite, the first dog in space, the first man and, soon thereafter, the first toolbox. Labeled in blocky Cyrillic writing a "panel with instruments for technical service and repair," the toolbox held an array of handy items like pliers, two wooden-handled files and a hacksaw, spare blade included. Russian space officials are trumpeting this history of grit and ingenuity in orbit as they hope to persuade Washington to continue joint piloted exploration in the next decade rather than split into separate paths. They face significant hurdles.
The American incentives for engaging with Russia in space in the 1990s - political goals like the employment of idle rocket scientists to prevent missile proliferation - have mostly disappeared with the resumption of tensions.
The Trump administration has already proposed that by 2025 the United States should stop supporting the International Space Station, which is the principal joint project today. A final decision is up to Congress. The American role might be shifted to a commercial footing thereafter. In its place, NASA plans to place a habitable station called Gateway in orbit around the moon and send probes to the surface, while testing technologies for possible trips to Mars. Further complicating matters are the plans by some entrepreneurs to create private space stations for space tourism.
The talks between Russia and the United States promise to be difficult, and they have not been helped by a mysterious incident on the International Space Station. In August, a hole was discovered in the wall of a Russian Soyuz capsule docked to the station; air was leaking out. Dmitri O. Rogozin, the director of Russia's space agency, said in an interview that the hole had been drilled in a deliberate act of sabotage, but it remains unclear whether this happened before launch or in orbit. "It was intentional damage to the ship, we are convinced of this now," Mr. Rogozin said of the hole, about the size of a pencil eraser. Cosmonauts on board patched it with specialized tape. "This was intentional action; manual, intentional action." Russian news media outlets have speculated wildly about NASA astronauts sabotaging the Russian capsule. The United States commander of the International Space Station at the time denied the accusations.
The capsule was launched in June but started leaking air only weeks later, suggesting that if the hole had been drilled before launch it must have been plugged with a sealant that broke down over time and was sucked into the vacuum of space. On Tuesday evening in Moscow, two Russian cosmonauts, Sergey Prokopyev and Oleg Kononenko, exited the station for a spacewalk to investigate the exterior of the capsule. They planned to remove a panel from the craft and return it to Earth for an examination for signs of leaked sealant. The investigation has to be conducted in space, as the portion of the Soyuz ship with the hole is designed to separate and burn during re-entry, meaning that it cannot be examined on the ground.
Mr. Rogozin said he and Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, had agreed not to speculate on the causes or the political implications of the matter until the investigation is completed. Whether the hole affects talks on future space cooperation, Mr. Rogozin said, "depends on the result of the investigation."
The mystery of the hole notwithstanding, it is unclear how much longer the post-Soviet era of space cooperation between the United States and Russia can last in the more hostile environment now surrounding relations. In the interview, Mr. Rogozin said Russia wanted to carry on joint flights with the United States and its allies, despite the tensions over election interference, wars in Syria and Ukraine, and the chemical weapons poisoning of a former double agent in Britain. The American and Russian piloted space programs should remain merged, he said, as a symbol of coexistence and the peaceful pursuit of science. He also argued that it would be a mistake to leave the Russians out of any risky venture in space. Russian hardware would provide a safety net if something went wrong near the moon, he said, just as Russian rockets were able to supply the International Space Station after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, which grounded the shuttle program for more than two years. "Even if Americans make their own lunar transport system, there should always be a reserve, for the safety of the crew," he said. "That reserve can exist only if a partner - and now only Russia can do this, and nobody else - has another, alternative transport system capable of saving the astronauts in case of a very problematic situation."
Analysts say Moscow has a strong incentive to maintain the joint program: a decided lack of money to pursue a lunar station on its own. Russia's budget for its space program is something less than one-tenth what the United States spends on NASA. Mr. Bridenstine, the NASA chief, has said he would like Russia to participate in the lunar program, and he temporarily lifted sanctions imposed on Mr. Rogozin during the Ukraine crisis so that he could pay a visit and continue the talks. The negotiations opened in October in Baikonur, the Russian-operated spaceport in Kazakhstan, where a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a cosmonaut and an astronaut failed in flight, though an emergency escape system propelled their capsule to a harrowing but safe return.
"I'm not surprised by their support and how well they worked," Nick Hague, the American astronaut on board the faulty rocket, said in an interview on NASA television of the Russian system and quick work of search and rescue crews. "It's on display every day over there." The Russians successfully launched a fresh crew to the station on the same model of rocket on Dec. 3.
Russia's preference is to press on with a space program entwined with the United States', on either the lunar program or another venture, Mr. Rogozin said. But if talks fail, Russia can turn to China or India for partnership. "China is offering many initiatives for cooperation, is asking us to help them develop, though they have already achieved a good level of development," he said. "They are suggesting creating a joint station." There might then be two stations circling the Earth or the moon, one led by the United States, the other a Russian-Chinese enterprise. Mr. Rogozin even floated the idea of a "BRIC station," the acronym for the developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Mr. Rogozin in November ordered the Russian Academy of Sciences to study the prospects for a solo Russian program to build a habitable base on the surface of the moon. Ivan M. Moiseyev, the director of the Institute of Space Policy in Moscow, said in a telephone interview that any proposal for a lone Russian lunar station was fantastical, given the budget constraints. "The technical capability exists, but the finances don't." The Soviet Union, though beaten to the moon by the United States, was no slouch in lunar exploration. The Soviet Union was the first to photograph the far side of the moon and to land a rover and return a sample robotically. But it canceled its piloted program in the 1970s rather than strive for a second-place landing. "We were close," Mr. Moiseyev said.
Separate programs today, Mr. Rogozin said, are a fallback option. "It wouldn't be right," he said, to plan for a future of piloted flight after the International Space Station with multiple, competing national programs or alliances. What Russia can offer, Mr. Rogozin said, is a margin of safety for any future moon orbiting station. Over decades operating the Salyut and later Mir space stations, Russian cosmonauts tackled a range of in-flight emergencies and repairs ranging from fires to collisions that made the Russian program look like an orbiting Murphy's Law. But they survived.
"It's better, cheaper and safer to go together," Mr. Rogozin said. "Politicians will say, 'Let's do it alone,' but politics ends where the opinion of a serious scientist begins. That's what I say."
If the United States chooses to exclude Russia, and an emergency arises, he said, "Who will answer for that?"

© 2018 The New York Times Company.
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    Libération / 12 décembre 2018
    Climat : "D'ici jusqu'au lac Baïkal, tout a cramé"
    • Par Léo Vidal-Giraud
    За последнее десятилетие средняя температура в Сибири увеличилась на 2,5 градуса. Изменение климата делает погодные условия все более экстремальными. В Бурятии это вызывает засухи, усиление ветра и снижение уровня водоемов, что создает благоприятные условия для более интенсивных лесных пожаров. Для региона, 80% которого покрыто лесом, это может стать экологической, экономической и санитарной катастрофой.

Dans le sud de la Sibérie, les forêts sont depuis dix ans régulièrement ravagées par les flammes, un phénomène aggravé par la sécheresse. Malgré l'investissement de bénévoles, c'est une catastrophe écologique, économique et sanitaire.
Les troncs carbonisés des arbres contrastent avec le blanc de la neige. Souvent encore debout, parfois gisant au sol en un entrelacs inextricable, comme un jeu de mikado géant. Les collines s'étendent à perte de vue, des milliers d'hectares de forêt boréale où les cèdres et les sapins se mélangent à quelques rares bouleaux. Tout est carbonisé. Nous sommes dans la réserve naturelle du lac Baïkal, dans la République de Bouriatie, sujet de la fédération de Russie, au beau milieu de la Sibérie. En 2015, un feu de forêt d'une violence inédite a détruit 43 000 hectares sur les 75 000 de la réserve, inscrite au patrimoine mondial de l'Unesco. Le thermomètre indique -33 °C. Un froid monstrueux, mordant, un froid de gueux, qui traverse les vêtements et gèle les os. Rien d'inhabituel pour Guennadi Timofeïevitch, la soixantaine, qui conduit son 4x4 sur les routes défoncées. Lui et ses camarades bûcherons passent la journée entière à l'extérieur par des températures parfois encore pires.
"Toute la forêt est perdue", dit-il en désignant les troncs noircis. "On peut toujours couper et débiter, mais le bois ne vaut plus rien. Il n'y a plus que les Chinois pour l'acheter." L'incendie de 2015 était un "feu de cime", qui brûle non seulement le sol, mais aussi la couronne des arbres. La forêt ne s'en remettra jamais. "Tout ce que vous voyez, c'est mort, complètement et définitivement. Les arbres encore debout ? Ils vont tomber aussi. Les racines sont pourries." Guennadi arrête la voiture au sommet d'une colline. "Regardez ça, tout ce bois perdu. D'ici jusqu'au lac Baïkal, tout a cramé !"
"Avec tous ces arbres morts, c'est devenu dangereux de travailler", renchérit son collègue Nikolaï, qui s'efforce de faire démarrer le moteur gelé de son tracteur. "Et quand on revient au camp le soir, on est noirs des pieds à la tête à force de patauger dans la cendre", ajoute Guennadi.
"Réduites en cendres"
Depuis une dizaine d'années, les feux de forêts sont devenus particulièrement dévastateurs dans la région. Sergueï Anatolievitch, 61 ans, habite le village de Tcheremouchki, à quelques kilomètres d'Oulan-Oude, la capitale régionale. En avril 2017, son village a été entièrement détruit par un incendie. "L'herbe était haute et sèche et il y avait beaucoup de vent", raconte-t-il. "Le village a brûlé en une demi-heure. Toutes les 18 maisons, réduites en cendres." L'unique camion de pompiers du village n'a rien pu faire.
Difficile à imaginer alors que l'on tremble de froid au milieu de la taïga enneigée. Mais ici aussi c'est le réchauffement climatique qui est à l'œuvre. En Sibérie, les températures moyennes ont augmenté de 2,5 degrés dans la dernière décennie. En cause, l'activité humaine, surtout l'exploitation d'hydrocarbures, dont l'économie russe dépend largement. Le pays n'a d'ailleurs toujours pas ratifié l'accord de Paris de décembre 2015.
Pourtant, le réchauffement n'a rien à voir avec le nombre d'incendies, qui sont à 90 % dus à des négligences humaines. En revanche, il les rend nettement plus dangereux, explique Anton Beneslavski, responsable du "Greenpeace fire project" en Russie. "Le changement climatique rend les conditions météorologiques de plus en plus extrêmes. En Bouriatie, il provoque des sécheresses, des vents plus puissants, une baisse du niveau des lacs et des cours d'eau. Cela crée des conditions favorables pour des incendies plus intenses et plus rapides, et la végétation plus sèche est plus susceptible de s'enflammer."
Une analyse confirmée sur place par Piotr Mordovskoï, responsable des questions de sécurité au sein du gouvernement bouriate : "Les effets du réchauffement, nous les voyons chaque année. L'an dernier, par exemple, il n'a pratiquement pas plu de tout l'été. L'absence de précipitations, ce sont des feux de forêt plus importants et plus dangereux, et ces périodes sèches sont de plus en plus nombreuses." Au total, en 2015, l'année la plus meurtrière pour la forêt sibérienne, 800 000 hectares de taïga ont été réduits en cendres, avec des conséquences désastreuses pour la région. Le territoire bouriate est couvert de forêts à 80 %. Les dégâts causés par les incendies se comptent en centaines de millions de roubles par an. Le potentiel économique perdu pour l'industrie forestière, qui représente près de 10 % de l'économie de la région, est encore plus catastrophique. Une étude de l'académie russe des sciences estimait à 203 milliards de roubles (2,7 milliards d'euros) la valeur totale du bois parti en fumée pendant l'année 2015.
"Rien à respirer !"
Les conséquences sont tout aussi terribles pour la santé de la population. Si les feux de forêt font assez peu de victimes directes dans ce territoire très faiblement peuplé, les fumées qu'ils dégagent contiennent des éléments cancérigènes. Témoin, le village de Zakaltus, à deux heures de route d'Oulan-Oude, au milieu des tourbières. Recouvertes en hiver d'une épaisse couche de neige, elles brûlent en permanence depuis douze ans et enfument le village tous les étés. "On n'a rien à respirer !" s'écrie Pavel Ilitch, 69 ans et une vie entière passée à Zakaltus. "Le matin, en sortant de chez moi, je ne vois même pas ma grange ! Comment on fait, alors, pour sortir le bétail, pour entretenir le potager ? On ne va pas vivre avec des masques à gaz !" Les autorités ne tiennent aucune statistique officielle du nombre de décès causés par les fumées toxiques émises par les feux de forêt. "Allez voir le cimetière du village, s'emporte Pavel Ilitch, elles sont là, vos statistiques ! Dix morts de cancer du poumon en dix ans, sur une population de cinq cents habitants !" Il s'interrompt un instant et ricane. "Le voilà, le bon air frais de la campagne !"
Les feux de forêt menacent aussi le mode de vie des populations autochtones. Responsable d'une organisation de pompiers volontaires, Solbon Sanjeïev est engagé dans la sauvegarde de la culture bouriate. Pour lui, les deux luttes vont de pair : "Dans certaines zones, les gens vivent de la chasse traditionnelle, de la récolte de plantes sauvages. Avec les feux de forêt, leur source de revenus et de nourriture disparaît complètement. Pour pouvoir subvenir aux besoins de leur famille, ils se retrouvent obligés soit de couper du bois illégalement, soit de partir en ville. Mais notre culture bouriate est fondée sur notre mode de vie traditionnel, sur la cueillette et la chasse. Quand ces gens déménagent en ville, cette culture est perdue."
Les incendies catastrophiques de 2015 ont été un déclic pour Solbon. Choqué par l'ampleur des destructions causées, alors que le lac Baïkal et ses alentours sont considérés par les Bouriates comme des sites sacrés, il crée le Corps des volontaires du Baïkal. Les autorités locales, d'abord sceptiques, ont fini par accepter de travailler en bonne intelligence avec les organisations citoyennes. "Le gouvernement a commencé par nous dire de ne pas nous en mêler, mais nous avons appris à parler avec eux. Nous n'avons jamais été radicaux, nous avons essayé de proposer des solutions. C'est cette relation de travail qui a donné de bons résultats."
Bénévoles agressés
Les autorités régionales apprennent ainsi sur le tas à lutter contre la menace grandissante des feux de forêt. Il s'agit de restaurer les savoir-faire perdus depuis la chute de l'Union soviétique, qui avait mis en place un système de surveillance et de prévention des risques d'incendie dont tous nos interlocuteurs soulignent l'efficacité. Il s'agit aussi d'apprendre à travailler de concert avec la société civile. Dmitri Baklachkine, directeur adjoint de l'Agence des forêts de la République de Bouriatie, se félicite des résultats : en 2018, "seulement" 24 000 hectares de forêt ont brûlé, soit onze fois moins que l'année précédente. "Notre système fonctionne de mieux en mieux. C'est tout d'abord grâce à un meilleur financement, qui nous a permis de renouveler notre équipement et d'améliorer nos capacités aériennes pour repérer les feux dès leur départ, explique-t-il. Surtout, c'est le résultat de la bonne coordination de toutes les parties impliquées : les associations, les forces de l'ordre, les municipalités, les bûcherons."
"La Bouriatie est un exemple très positif
, confirme Anton Beneslavski. Le gouvernement y est loyal avec les associations et les bénévoles." Dans d'autres régions de Russie, la cohabitation se passe moins bien et les autorités locales se méfient ouvertement des mouvements issus de la société civile. En 2016, dans la région de Krasnodar, dans le sud de la Russie, des bénévoles de Greenpeace ont été agressés et menacés de mort par des inconnus.
Les feux continuent d'y faire rage sur fond d'incurie des pouvoirs publics. Des districts comme le Tatarstan et la Bouriatie, en revanche, font figure de bons élèves. Mais malgré leurs progrès dans la lutte contre les feux de forêt, la situation globale n'incite pas Anton Beneslavski à l'optimisme : "Les conditions dans lesquelles nous luttons contre les incendies ne vont faire qu'empirer alors que le changement climatique accélère. Nous sommes comme des gens essayant de remonter un escalier mécanique allant vers le bas : il faut s'activer rien que pour rester sur place, et faire encore plus d'efforts pour remonter la pente."

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    The Mancunion / 14th December 2018
    Soviet 'Zond 6' lunar mission audio recording surfaces
    • By Megan Robinson
    Обсерватория Джодрелл Бэнк Манчестерского университета опубликовала запись радиосигнала советской лунной автоматической станции Зонд-6, пойманного британским радиотелескопом в ноябре 1968 года. На пленку попали также комментарии сотрудников обсерватории и передававшиеся с "Зонда-6" заранее записанные (с целью проверить систему связи) голосовые сообщения.
    Запущенный 10 ноября аппарат благополучно облетел Луну, сделав множество фотографий, но разбился при возвращении.

Jodrell Bank Observatory has given the public a glimpse into the past by releasing a 50 year-old audio archive containing recordings from the Soviet Zond 6 Lunar mission.
Professor Tim O'Brien is responsible for the resurfacing of this extraordinary piece of history - as Associate Director at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, he has been sifting through the observatory's archives in preparation for a new exhibition set to open in 2021. The audio clip is said to be one of many recorded by the Lovell Telescope during, what Prof. Tim O'Brien describes as, "a crucial period of human history".
The 1960s were an exciting time for astrophysicists, but it was also a decade of severe international tensions between the USA and the USSR. The world watched on as the superpowers competed extensively in many aspects, but most notably, in the race to reach space. The huge investments in the space industry, by both governments, ultimately lead to some of the most colossal advancements in science and technology the world has ever seen.
The audio file is accompanied by a transcript where Sir Bernard Lovell can be heard introducing the tape, as well as beeps, signal noise, and Russian voices from Soviet communications. The transcript contains a translation from Russian to English, courtesy of Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov, one half of the pair of Nobel Prize winners credited for their work on graphene. He described it as "a great fun and honour simultaneously" to experience the piece of history from the age of space exploration.
The 'space race' culminated with NASA's Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong became the first ever human on the Moon on July 20th 1969. However, the Zond 6 mission recording was taken on the 14th November 1968, with the probe being a forerunner in the lead up to Apollo 8, scheduled for December 1968, to be the first manned mission to orbit the moon. Zond 6 didn't have a crew, so the voices in the recording could, therefore, have a number of purposes. For example, it could have been pre-recorded and sent into space to test communications. Or Russian scientists could have been practicing their broadcasting skills in preparation for future planned circumlunar missions.
This instalment in the space race successfully orbited the moon with a nearest distance of 2,420km. The mission did not turn out to be entirely successful, though. On its return to Earth, there was depressurisation in the cabin. The parachutes also went on to deploy prematurely and the probe crash landed in Kazakhstan. Some panchromatic film photographs of the lunar surface were at least recovered from the crash site.
Jodrell Bank Observatory's team of astronomers, led by Sir Bernard Lovell, tracked many space missions from both opposing sides of the Cold War. It's refreshing to look at history through a scientific perspective, as oppose to a political one, and it will be exciting to see what else is on show for the new exhibition opening 2021.
It's certainly awe-inspiring to think of all the lunar missions, some carrying the first humans into space, being observed with advanced equipment in a large field just south of Manchester 50 years ago. Listen to the audio clip and feel almost transported back to an otherworldly era.

Copyright © 2018 The Mancunion.
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    Live Science / December 14, 2018
    50,000-Year-Old Tiara Made from Woolly Mammoth Ivory Found in Denisova Cave
    • By Yasemin Saplakoglu
    Экспедиция ИАиЭТ СО РАН обнаружила в Денисовой пещере обломки диадемы из бивня мамонта возрастом около 50 тыс. лет.

Archaeologists recently discovered the remains of an ancient tiara that was worn by a man. The question now is whether the head crown was meant to mark its wearer's royalty - or simply hold back his hair.
The ivory tiara turned up this summer in the Denisova Cave in the Altai mountains of Siberia. The artifact, made from the tusks of the now-extinct woolly mammoth, is between 35,000 and 50,000 years old - likely the oldest one found in the North Eurasia area to date.
The findings, first reported by The Siberian Times, haven't yet been published in a scientific journal, but the authors plan to submit their report for publication next year.
Tiaras or headbands "made from bone, antler or mammoth tusks are one of the rarest types of personal ornaments known in the Upper Paleolithic of Northern Eurasia," said Alexander Fedorchenko, a junior researcher at the Department of Stone Age Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The Upper Paleolithic, or the end years of the Stone Age, began about 40,000 years ago. In addition to mammoth ivory, the items found in the cave from this time period were made up of a variety of raw materials, like soft stones, tubular bones of animals and birds, mammal teeth and shells from freshwater clams and ostrich eggs, Fedorchenko told Live Science.
"On the one hand, we were very surprised to find this unique diadem," Fedorchenko said. "On the other hand - when you work at Denisova Cave, you need to be ready for any, even the loudest, scientific discoveries."
The Denisova cave is famous for first revealing the remains of an extinct human lineage called the Denisovans. The tiara turned up in the same layer of the southern chamber of the cave where those first remains, such as a 40,000-year-old adult tooth was found. Even though no other remains from other human lineages have been excavated in that layer of the Southern Chamber, Fedorchenko said they can only guess if the head piece belonged to a Denisovan.
Making of a tiara
The Paleolithic dwellers of the cave would have needed to take several steps to craft this diadem, Fedorchenko said. After freeing the mammoth tusks, they likely cut them into thin pieces and soaked them in water so that they could be bent into shape. They then processed them by shaping, scraping, cutting, grinding, drilling and polishing the ivory, Fedorchenko said.
If it's anything like other tiaras from this time period found in the East European Plain and Eastern Siberia, it most likely had drilled holes at the end to attach it to the head with some sort of cord or strap, he added. Indeed, the largest fragment they found - one of three that together made up a third of the full piece - had half a hole on one side. Though not seen on this fragment, the outsides of such tiaras are also often decorated with engravings or "complex ornaments," Fedorchenko said.
Typically, tiara remains come in several pieces, making it difficult for scientists to know for sure if they came from an actual tiara, Fedorchenko said. However, in this case, "we can judge relatively confidently" that the new find is a tiara. First of all, the length of the biggest fragment - 5.9 inches (15 centimeters) - is too long to be a bracelet. Second, the tiara has a bend that's shaped to fit the temple of an adult man.
"If we assume that the part of the tiara that was not found so far continued to bend at the same angle as the preserved one, the dimensions of this product would be very suitable for a man with a relatively large head," Fedorchenko said.
Finally, when they observed the find under a microscope, they found "use-wear traces" such as scratches, microscopic traces of damage, abrasion marks and polishing that would have happened because of contact with organic material, like skin.
They don't know if this diadem was a mark of something "special," like royalty, or just an everyday headband to keep the hair back. But most diadems that are found at archaeological sites in Siberia and Europe are often marked with lines, dots and zigzags, which "indicate the special role of these objects in the culture of Upper Palaeolithic people," Fedorchenko said.
Perhaps, it could have also been a mark of a family or tribe, Fedorchenko said.
This year, the team also found other interesting artifacts in the Denisova Cave, such as an ivory ring, a bone needle and beads. "Together with the diadem, these new artifacts will allow us to more completely reconstruct the peculiarities of the life of the Upper Paleolithic inhabitants of the Denisova Cave," he said.

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved.
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    Ancient Origins / 16 December, 2018
    Ancient Colored 'Pencil' Up To 50,000-Years-Old Found in Siberia
    Еще одна уникальная находка в Денисовой пещере - кусок обточенного гематита возрастом 45-50 тыс. лет. Этот природный красный пигмент обитатели пещеры предположительно использовали в художественных целях.

Cave-dwellers used hematite crayon for art work in Altai Mountains, say archeologists investigating a latest find in Siberia.
The pre-historic artists were not Homo sapiens but Denisovans - a long-extinct branch of ancient man - or possibly Neanderthals, another vanished sub-species, believe scientists. The crayon was used to make reddish brown marks. It was found in a layer of the world famous Denisova Cave this summer.
This layer dates to between 45,000 and 50,000 years ago and was occupied mainly by the long-gone Denisovans whose closest modern-day descendants live thousands of miles away as the native peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea. However, the cave also had Neanderthal dwellers and it is known that there was cross breeding between the two branches of human. The disclosure of the ancient crayon - the first of its kind found among the treasures of Denisova - comes after the discovery of a 'tiara' made of woolly mammoth ivory dating to the same period.
Other finds include ivory and talc (soapstone) beads and a marble pebble with traces of ocher. The collection of ivory jewelry is believed to be the world oldest.
The crayon (or colored pencil) discovery was announced by Professor Mikhail Shunkov, head of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 'This summer we made a unique find for Denisova Cave,' he said. 'We call it a 'pencil', it has a natural pigment - hematite, which prehistoric artists, used for different art, while living in the cave. The piece of hematite was processed.'
'We previously found similar 'pencils' at Karabom Paleolithic site, some 120 kilometers from Denisova Cave. So far we do not know other similar finds, but we hope there will be more.' The 'pencil' was found in southern gallery of Denisova Cave, the excavations of which were resumed this year.
Older such drawing implements have been found in Africa but this would seem to be one of the oldest discovered in Eurasia. Denisovans appear to have been advanced for the period in which they lived. While this branch of ancient man became extinct thousands of years ago, their DNA lives on - but nowhere near Siberia. The native peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea have five per cent Denisovan DNA, say scientists, indicating a huge migration in prehistoric times.
The Denisovans were first identified a decade ago when a tiny finger bone fragment of so-called 'X woman' was discovered in this cave in Altai, a young female who lived around 41,000 years ago.
She was found to be neither Homo sapiens nor Neanderthal.
Earlier this year details were revealed in Nature journal of the discovery of a fragment of bone belonging to an inter-species love child called Denny who lived some 90,000 years ago. She was the product of a sexual liaison between a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father, according to DNA findings.

Ancient Origins © 2013-2018.
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    EurekAlert / 17-Dec-201
    Scientists revealed how water fleas settled during the Ice Age
    Гидробиологи Института проблем экологии и эволюции имени А.Н.Северцова РАН, Института систематики и экологии животных СО РАН и Лимнологического института СО РАН проследили историю расселения в плейстоцене по Северной Евразии ветвистоусых рачков дафний. Поскольку дафнии часто служат модельными объектами в различных областях биологических наук, эти знания помогут понять, как формировалась пресноводная континентальная фауна.

New study shows that the roots used by three close species of microscopic Daphnia crustaceans to settle across the territory of Northern Eurasia differed greatly. This findings shed light on how the continental freshwater fauna was formed. They are published in PLOS ONE.
Branchcrus crustaceans (Cladocera superorder), living mainly in freshwater bodies, are of interest not only to crustaceans. These microscopic animals are model objects of evolutionary biology, genetics, ecology, and other areas of the biological sciences. Most studies focus on crustaceans of the genus Daphnia. Despite being the most famous and widespread, Daphnia still holds some mysteries for biologists. For example, the distribution pattern of these crustaceans in Eurasia has been unknown so far. One of the reasons for that was lack of studies on the vast territory of Siberia. Recently, Russian scientists first collected several species of crustaceans in Siberian waters and examined them in order to learn more about the history of their settlement in the continent.
Three species of Daphnia found throughout Northern Eurasia were selected for the study: Daphnia galeata, D. longispina and D. dentifera. Samples of crustaceans were collected in 35 ponds of the European part of Russia, Eastern Siberia, the Far East, Austria and Mongolia. All animals were photographed before the study in order to preserve data on their appearance, and then the DNA of some of them was extracted. Genetic comparison of populations from different regions was based on two mitochondrial genes.
Mitochondria are small "energy stations" of a cell. Mitochondrial DNA in all animals is transmitted only through the maternal line, while the DNA of the cell nucleus combines the genetic material of both parents. Therefore, the kinship between different populations is easier traced using the mitochondrial genes rather than the genes from the nucleus. The data gained during the study was finally compared to the GenBank international database.
Scientists identified differences in DNA in different regions of Eurasia and determined the genetic differences between populations and the approximate time of their divergence. It turned out that, despite the proximity of the three species, they were differently settled in northern Eurasia. D. galeata spread in the region very quickly and relatively recently. The species D. longispina and D. dentifera were genetically very heterogeneous. The researchers concluded that during the Ice Age they survived in fragmented populations in the so-called refugiums (shelters) in Eastern Siberia in strong isolation from each other. As a result, each species have a strong genetic diversity.
"In this study, we applied phylogenetic and phylogeographic approaches, based on genetic data from native lines, which reveal the links between them and reconstruct the history of species spread through the whole European Union," emphasizes Alexey Kotov, the leading researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "Although Daphnia genus is the most convenient model object for such works, we plan to study the demographic history of other genera of branch-crustaceans, as well as some other microscopic animals of continental water bodies. All these studies help us to create a single picture of what historical processes shaped the modern biological diversity of Northern Eurasia."
###
The study was conducted jointly with scientists from the Institute of Ecology and Evolution named after A.N. Severtsov RAN, Institute of Systematics and Ecology of Animals SB RAS and Limnological Institute SB RAS. It was supported by the Russian Science Foundation.

Copyright © 2018 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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    Economic Times / Dec 24, 2018
    Indian and Russian scientists make pathbreaking discovery in mining industry
    • By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury
    Ученые Томского политехнического университета и Индийского технологического института изучают Бакчарское железорудное месторождение, входящее в крупнейший в мире Западно-Сибирский железорудный бассейн. 95 млн лет назад на этом месте было мелкое теплое море. Считается, что железо поступало в него с размываемых реками областей древних континентов, но томские политехники выдвинули другую теорию, согласно которой источник железа находится под месторождением, т.е. под дном древнего моря.

Russian scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) together with the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT Bombay) have been studying one of world's largest deposits of iron ore, the Bakchar ironstone deposit located in the Tomsk oblast, Russia, and made a new discovery new that may impact future of the mining industry.
About 95 million years ago, there was a shallow warm sea at the territory of the Bakchar ironstone deposit (in the Tomsk oblast, Russia). Scientists are trying to find an answer to a global question now: how such a huge amount of iron ore - over 25 billion tons - was accumulated in this deposit.
Russian and Indian researchers have published a paper detailing their findings. They refute a widespread theory that iron in such deposits came into the sea from the eroded mountainous areas of the ancient continents. Experts instead suggest that emissions of the solutions containing iron could have broken through the seabed and they could be the source of iron.
The Bakchar ironstone deposit is known as one of the most promising in the West Siberia iron ore basin, which in turn is one of the world's largest deposits. The total reserves of the West Siberia iron ore basin have been estimated at 400 billion tons. By compression, the United Nations Framework Classification (UNFC) of mineral resources indicates that total resources of iron ore in India is around 28, 5 billion tons. Western Australia is the world's largest iron ore producer and exporter, accounting for 38 per cent of global production and 53 per cent of global seaborne exports in 2016. The region's estimated iron ore reserves are a little over 60 billion tons. However, to date, there is no ore mining at this Russian deposit.
Maksim Rudmin, Associated Professor, TPU Geology Department, explained: 'This geological object is truly unique by scale. There is no precise answer yet where such a great amount of iron came from. The oolitic iron deposit was formed 90 to 56 million years ago within the ancient sea in quiet seashore conditions."
Rudmin said that the most common theory claims that iron was transported into the sea by the erosion of ancient mountainous areas by the river systems. A careful study of the geological situation and ore samples from the deposit allows us to disagree with it. First, currently there are no traces of giant sources of iron in the regions which were eroded in the period when the deposit was formed. Second, no major intermediate deposits were found in the areas of ancient rivers that should have transported iron. Yet another proof the coastline of the ancient sea repeatedly shifted while the Bakchar deposit was formed at a certain location, though its borders also had to shift and stretch. Scientists have established a link between past warming events and the forming of ore deposits, particularly iron ore deposits.
Santanu Banerjee, Professor of the Department of Earth Sciences, IIT Bombay, noted that Cretaceous to Eocene was a time of extreme warming, global sea-level rise and gas hydrate dissociation. "The past warming conditions have led to the increasing of methane and carbon dioxide emissions from marine sediments, causing the precipitation of iron ores."
Inclusions of methane bubbles in the ore from the Bakchar deposit were also found. Scientists believe that these could occur if in this area there were upward methane fluxes from the bottom through the sediments.
Maksim Rudmin said: "It is possible that different elements, including iron, could have come together with methane and water. Thus, in the ore samples, we found mineral forms of metals that accompany ore accumulation, i.e. lead and zinc sulfides (galena and wurtzite), lead selenide (claustite), cobalt and nickel arsenide and others. Their origin is beyond doubt. They got in the ore via the emission of gas-liquid fluids from the underlying layers."
If the further study of the West Siberian Iron Ore Basin confirms the theory, it could bring a fresh look at the exploration methods both for similar iron deposits and genetically related minerals, for example, lead and zinc deposits that are significant for industry.
According to Prof. Santanu Banerjee, current research results give an indication that most iron ore in Russia was formed within a short period, in geologic time, in Cretaceous and Palaeogene. "This is a very crucial clue for exploration. The results of our research have direct relevance for industry, as they provide predictability for further iron ore exploration," he said.

Copyright © 2018 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved.
* * *
    Phys.Org / December 28, 2018
    Scientists learn how to predict space radiation levels
    Специалисты МИФИ, Санкт-Петербургского физико-технического института и финского Университета Оулу сравнили эффекты солнечной модуляции космических лучей, зарегистрированных нейтронными мониторами и экспериментальной спутниковой установкой PAMELA. Это позволит точнее прогнозировать уровень космического излучения в околоземном пространстве, что очень важно при планировании космических полетов.

Experts from the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Russia), the University of Oulu (Finland), and the St. Petersburg-based Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia) have compared the effect of cosmic ray solar modulation as recorded by neutron monitors and the PAMELA (Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-Nuclei Astrophysics) satellite experiment.
According to the scientists, this will make it possible to predict radiation levels in near-Earth space more accurately, an important aspect of planning space missions. The results of this project were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics.
Launched in 2006, the PAMELA satellite experiment aims to locate and record antimatter and to measure the spectrum bands of cosmic radiation components, as well as near-Earth radiation conditions, and to establish the origin of dark matter.
The research paper's authors compare the effects of the solar modulation of cosmic rays, recorded by the PAMELA international experiment and neutron monitors. These neutron monitors are a chain of ground-based units that have been operating since the 1950s and which record secondary particles generated during interaction between cosmic rays and atmospheric nuclei. Russian scientists used data recorded in real time by a neutron monitor in Oulu, Finland.
These results will help gauge the neutron monitors' correct response function during solar activity. This was only made possible after launching the PAMELA experiment, said Sergei Koldobsky, a senior lecturer with MEPhI's Institute of Nuclear Physics and Engineering.
"The correct responses of neutron monitors, as well as huge statistical records of uninterrupted operation over the past 70 years, allow us to predict radiation levels in near-Earth space, and this has tremendous significance for planning space missions," Sergei Koldobsky told.
Direct measurements conducted during the PAMELA experiment made it possible to check the accuracy of the neutron monitors' response function, which links the cosmic ray spectral band that reaches the top layers of the terrestrial atmosphere with the number of neutrons being recorded by a given monitor. The research paper also mentions the calibration of ground-based neutron monitors using PAMELA experiment data.

© Phys.org 2003-2019, Science X network.
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