|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
University World News / 03 March 2018
Universities seek to strengthen commercialisation
Около 20 ведущих российских университетов, в основном из Москвы и Санкт-Петербурга, планируют в этом году значительно укрепить свое сотрудничество с бизнесом, увеличивая активные продажи и продвижение своих научных разработок и привлекая инвестиции для их дальнейшего развития, а также повысить количество государственных заказов.
Leading Russian universities are planning to significantly strengthen their cooperation with business, by increasing active sales of their scientific developments to producers and seeking investment for their further development, according to recent statements of representatives of some of Russia's leading universities.
A spokesperson for the Association of the Classical Universities of Russia, a public association which unites 24 of Russia's leading universities, said: "To date, domestic universities have paid insufficient attention to commercialisation of their developments; however there is a possibility such a situation will change. In recent years, the scientific potential of Russian universities has been significantly increased, which has created conditions for its commercial use."
The level of commercialisation of scientific developments and discoveries at Russian universities has been low to date - significantly lower than the levels at some leading Western universities in this field.
For example, according to the data of experts of the Russian business publication Delovoy Peterburg, the annual revenue of Saint Petersburg State University, one of Russia's largest and most prestigious universities, from the sales of its commercial developments to business last year amounted to only RUB64 million (US$1.1 million).
This is four to five times lower than the figures for neighbouring Finnish universities, such as the University of Turku, despite the smaller size of these universities.
Usually Russian universities cooperate with companies on the basis of direct contracts. According to the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, to date such cooperation was mostly limited to the conduct of research, sharing of expertise, and analysis. But under their new plans, at least 20 leading universities, mostly from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, intend to begin mass production and sales of their scientific products and developments this year.
According to universities, in addition to private business, they are banking on increasing the number of orders from the state.
A spokesperson for the Association of the Classical Universities of Russia said the biggest opportunities for the commercialisation of developments from domestic universities are related to the domestic military-industrial complex, as well as aircraft instrument-making, space instrument-making and some other areas, which are mainly related to the state defence order.
Currently, negotiations between some leading Russian universities and various state agencies are ongoing, and the results are expected to be announced later this year.
From their side, universities plan to strengthen cooperation with business with the help of so-called small innovative enterprises, which are business entities established within universities and with their support. For example, to date almost 15 such enterprises have been established by Saint Petersburg State University to promote its scientific developments and discoveries, both in domestic and foreign markets.
In the case of foreign markets, according to recent statements from the administrations of the Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University and ITMO University - one of Russia's leading universities in the field of IT and mechanics - both universities plan to start their expansion into foreign markets.
For this purpose, the Polytechnic University opened a representative office in China, while several of its small enterprises have signed contracts with Chinese car-makers for the delivery of their developments directly to the production facilities.
In the meantime, the Lomonosov Moscow State University has also announced its plans to increase revenue from sales of its scientific developments. As part of these plans, the university will expand the powers of the Technology Transfer Centre, which is the university's subsidiary responsible for the promotion of scientific developments of the university at all stages: from registration and research of commercial potential to audit of payments of remuneration to scientists and authors of developments.
Narrowing the gap
Still, representatives of Russian business believe domestic universities need to do much more to narrow the existing gap with Western universities in this field.
Nazim Turdumambetov, director of the research and development department of the Philips Centre in Russia, told University World News: "Russian universities strive for a European model of interaction with business, but, so far, everything has been limited to the organisation of investment platforms and scientific exhibitions, where universities show their ideas in the field of innovation."
The same position is shared by representatives of the Russian university community.
Konstantin Ivanov, president of the Baltic State Technical University, told University World News: "There are practically no ready-made investment projects [within the Russian system of higher education]. We do not have a detailed economic study of such projects yet; it's a resource that needs to be addressed while the volume of state support is insignificant."
Copyright University World News 2007-2018.
* * *
Nature / 13 March 2018
How Putin can restore Russian research
The sleeping bear of Russian science could finally wake - and China can show it how.
Редакционная статья в журнале Nature, посвященная ситуации в российской науке и тому, как она может измениться в новый срок Владимира Путина.
Почему Россия не в состоянии в полной мере использовать свои научные ресурсы? Ее ошибки рассматриваются в сравнении с Китаем, где наука также финансируется государством и имеет свои проблемы, но при этом создаются благоприятные стимулы для исследователей, проводится академический обмен с Западом, а промышленные исследования ориентированы на глобальный рынок и соответствие мировыми требованиями.
Vladimir Putin will hardly be remembered as a patron of science. Not for Putin the scientific philosophy of dialectical materialism that helped to drive research in the former Soviet Union and that remains influential among many of his contemporaries. His long rule over Russia, as both president and prime minister, shows that he is more inclined to line up with the nation's Orthodox Church. His 2016 choice of an ultra-conservative religious historian as science and education minister was no accident.
But Putin, who is expected to win another six years in power in the Russian presidential elections on 18 March, did not get where he is today without being able to play both sides. He acknowledges - and has often said - that Russia's poor research and development capacity is an obstacle to economic growth and prosperity. His clique of political cronies includes scientists and research administrators. And their lobbying has not been in vain. Russian science spending has palpably (if by no means fully) recovered in recent years from near-collapse in the 1990s.
Outsiders recognize this: international sanctions in response to Russia's occupation of the Crimea have spared East-West research collaboration. And Russia's demanding education system continues to produce a supply of excellent students and scientific talent. Yet too many Russian labs produce too little. Why is Russian science unable to take full advantage of its resources?
Putin would never admit it, but China - the other great power in the East - helps to highlight where Russia is going wrong. China also has a state-dominated economy, yet one that manages to create favourable research incentives. China's state-funded science system has its own problems, but is increasingly based on merit and competition and attracts foreign talent. Lively academic exchange with the West adds constant stimulus. And oriented towards the global market, industrial research in China operates in accordance with global demands, quality standards and management practices.
Russia, where anti-Western sentiment prevails, follows a quite different path. Fixed-term academic employment of postdoctoral researchers, who produce the majority of research in most countries, including China, is virtually unknown in Russian universities and research institutes. Instead, most academic scientists enjoy permanent positions for decades and feel little pressure to perform. Only a small fraction of public research spending comes as grants allocated through competition, with the rest being simply handed out by officials. The Russian Academy of Sciences - the country's foremost basic-research organization - is struggling to get on its feet after years of unproductive wrangling over money, direction and leadership.
Russia also puts too much trust in top-down innovation by state-owned companies - in aerospace and energy, for example. But these have struggled to develop, let alone export, innovative goods and ideas.
Russia's international political isolation, inflicted by Putin's erratic course and exacerbated by nationalistic rhetoric, is another obstacle. A recent crackdown on 'undesired foreign agents', including science-funding charities, sends a hostile signal to the outside world. Cronyism and corruption start at the very top and undermine trust in research (and business) opportunities.
Putin clearly understands this. He has promised to increase science budgets further and to tackle funding bottlenecks that hurt competitive science. And on the face of it, a new national science strategy he launched in 2016 looked positive.
Under that plan, government funding was supposed to focus on a set of societally pressing topics - including energy research, health, digitalization, and security - which many other industrialized countries have also prioritized. Underperforming institutes run by the Russian Academy of Sciences would be restructured, or closed, and funding decisions spread over more shoulders to eliminate wheeling and dealing. None of this has happened yet.
Russia must wise up. If it's serious about science, then the steps are simple. Most urgently, the scattering of scarce resources indiscriminately among many large research organizations must stop. Grant money should be targeted towards the best projects and research groups. That's a goal that requires transparency, fair competition and international expertise to review the research - all eminently possible. A competitive programme to encourage young researchers to run independent groups for up to five years was launched last year by the Russian Science Foundation, a government-run grant-giving agency, and is a first step.
The country must go further, and remove notorious bureaucratic hurdles to doing science, including obstructive customs rules and import restrictions on research equipment.
A stronger Russia relies on a strong research base. Russian scientists - and the watching world - are tired of empty words. Putin defines himself as a man of action. Let's see some.
© 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.
* * *
Nature / 13 March 2018
Russian science chases escape from mediocrity
With Vladimir Putin set to earn another presidential term, researchers wonder whether his government will reverse decades of decline.
На заседании Совета по науке и образованию в прошлом месяце президент России пообещал, что наука и инновации станут для правительства приоритетными областями. В последние годы российская наука начинает понемногу восстанавливаться, но все равно отстает от таких развивающихся научных держав, как Китай, Индия и Южная Корея - особенно когда речь идет о превращении научных открытий в экономическую прибыль.
After letting Russian science languish for years, Vladimir Putin has started to pay more attention. At a meeting of the Council for Science and Education last month, the Russian president promised that science and innovation are now top priorities. The presidential election on 18 March is likely to extend Putin's reign by another six years, but scientists inside and outside Russia wonder whether the country can reclaim its rich science legacy of Soviet times.
"Russia's research system isn't up-to-date any more," says polymer physicist Alexei Khokhlov of Lomonosov State University, a vice-president of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "It needs a thorough overhaul - otherwise the promises are just words."
Russia has a long way to go to recover its scientific might. Like many of the country's state institutions, its scientific infrastructure and workforce suffered after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Collapsing science budgets and scant salaries during the 1990s prompted thousands of Russian scientists to take up positions abroad, or to leave research altogether.
But there are signs that Russian science is starting to recover. Putin's government has gradually increased investments and public science spending over the past decade, and spending on research and development annually is now around 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) (see 'Russia rising').
Signs of progress
The government earmarked 170 billion roubles (US$3 billion) for fundamental research and development in 2018, a 25% rise over last year's basic science budget. The number of scientific papers produced in Russia more than doubled from 2006 to 2016, outpacing growth in both Brazil and South Korea. Russia is now in the top-ten countries in terms of number of research articles produced - ahead of Canada, Australia and Switzerland - according to statistics released in January by the US National Science Foundation.
"Russian science has greatly suffered, but we are now coming back to a reasonably predictable and well-organized situation," says Artem Oganov, a materials scientist formerly at the State University of New York at Stony Brook who took up a position at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in 2015. This private research university outside Moscow was created in 2011, in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "I would not have returned if there had been no opportunity to do cutting-edge science here," says Oganov.
For all its progress, Russia's state-funded science still lags behind that of emerging science powers including China, India and South Korea, especially when it comes to translating discoveries into economic gains. Decades of underfunding, excessive state bureaucracy and entrenched opposition to reform within the country's sputtering research institutions are hampering competitiveness, says Khokhlov. "What we need are new ideas, new labs, fresh talent and more freedom and competition."
Many Russian researchers are vexed by state control of their work. An investigation by Nature's news team in 2015 found that many are obliged have their work vetted before they can submit it to foreign journals. Researchers have also been aghast at a crackdown on science-funding charities deemed 'undesirable' foreign agents by the government, including the Dynasty Foundation and branches of the Open Society Foundations, founded by Hungarian-born US philanthropist George Soros.
Putin is eager to reduce Russia's reliance on oil and gas exports. But research-driven efforts to diversify Russia's economy, including a multibillion-rouble nanotechnology initiative launched in 2007, have not led to new blockbuster products or boosted the economy, say experts in Russian innovation. In 2016, the government launched a national science strategy that listed seven priority areas for state-funded research, including energy, health, agriculture and security. Scientist-led councils oversee funding and management of these efforts, a measure taken to cut down on cronyism by government officials and administrators.
Putin's government also wants to push ahead with reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which operates more than 700 institutes in all fields of science. An evaluation completed in January found more than one-quarter of academy institutes to be 'underperforming' in terms of publications, research citations, patents and other metrics. These institutes will now be asked to refocus under new leadership, or face closure, says Khokhlov.
The government plans to strengthen neglected university research, too. But, Khokhlov says, aspirations to bring at least 5 Russian universities into the global top 100 by 2020 seem to be unachievable because of scarce funding, poor infrastructure and the inability to attract talented scientists from abroad. Russian scientists will find "incomparably better" opportunities elsewhere, says Konstantin Severinov, a molecular biologist at the Skolkovo Institute. "Money alone cannot build institutions."
Long-simmering institutional problems are not the only drag on Russian science. Sanctions imposed in response to the annexation of Crimea in 2014 led to the suspension of civilian and military science and consultation under the NATO-Russia Council. Putin's top science adviser, Andrei Fursenko, has been banned from entering the United States.
Russian support for Syria's government in the country's ongoing civil war, along with accusations of meddling in democratic elections, has soured relations with the West further. But, so far, geopolitics has not affected Russia's participation in large international research efforts, such as the experimental fusion reactor ITER, under construction in southern France, or the European X-ray free-electron laser in Hamburg, Germany. Neither has it affected the country's involvement in many smaller bilateral collaborations.
But Russian scientists do worry about the future. "Science doesn't take place in a bubble," says Fyodor Kondrashov, a Russian biologist working at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria in Klosterneuburg. "There are substantial barriers to doing competitive science in a politically isolated country. I don't see how that should change as long as Putin holds the reins."
© 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.
* * *
The Telegraph / 13 March 2018
Russian scientists zap tiny asteroids with lasers to protect Earth from deadly strike
Сотрудники Росатома и Московского физико-технического института смоделировали уничтожение опасного астероида лазерным импульсом, имитирующим эффект ядерной бомбы, и рассчитали точную массу ядерного заряда, необходимого для предотвращения возможного столкновения небесных тел с Землей.
Tiny asteroids measuring less than an inch wide have been blown up with lasers in lab to calculate how to prevent Earth being wiped out by a giant space rock.
A team of Russian researchers from Rosatom, the state nuclear energy corporation, and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) constructed miniature asteroids based on the composition of a stony meteorite which landed in Lake Chebarkul following the Chelyabinsk strike in 2013. Using laser pulses to simulate the effect of a nuclear bomb they found that to eliminate a 650 foot wide asteroid, the blast would need to deliver the energy equivalent of three megatons of TNT - the equivalent of 200 Hiroshima bombs.
The most powerful explosive device ever detonated was the Tsar Bomba, or "king of bombs," built by the Soviet Union in 1961 which had an energy output of about 50 megatons of TNT.
"At the moment, there are no asteroid threats, so our team has the time to perfect this technique for use later in preventing a planetary disaster," says study co-author Vladimir Yufa, an associate professor at the departments of Applied Physics and Laser Systems and Structured Materials, MIPT.
"We're also looking into the possibility of deflecting an asteroid without destroying it and hope for international engagement."
Asteroids are celestial bodies consisting of carbon, silicon, metal, and sometimes ice and can be as big as 550 miles across. Travelling at 10 miles per second, the space rocks pose a threat of obliterating all life on Earth, similar to the destruction which wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Nasa has said previously that Earth is overdue a huge asteroid strike and programmes are in places across the globe to map rocks as the move through the Solar System. Professor Stephen Hawking has also said it is only a matter of time before the Earth as we know it is destroyed by a rock.
Last year a 100 foot asteroid named 2012TC4 passed within 27,000 miles of Antarctica, a distance that astronomers described as 'damn close.' If a giant rock did end up on a collision course with Earth the only options are to attempt to deflect it, or blow it up.
In some of the experiments, the laser was targeted at a cavity made in the miniature asteroids ahead of time and found that a buried nuclear bomb would be more powerful than one on the surface.
The research team now plans to expand the study by experimenting with asteroid replicas of different composition, including those containing iron, nickel, and ice. They also intend to identify more precisely how the shape of the asteroid and the presence of cavities on its surface affect the general destruction criterion.
Details of the experiment are published in the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics.
© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2018.
* * *
The Eagle Online / Mar 17, 2018
Russia, US To Hold Joint Test Flight To Moon In 2019
The press service of the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Science said this on Friday.
В следующем году Россия и США планируют провести совместный эксперимент по имитации полета международного экипажа на окололунную станцию и выхода на поверхность Луны. Эксперимент будет проходить на территории Института медико-биологических проблем РАН.
Russia and the US will hold a joint four-month experiment imitating a flight to the lunar orbital station Deep Space Gateway in 2019 in Moscow, Russian Institute of Science said. The press service of the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Science said this on Friday.
In 2016, the IBMP and NASA signed a cooperation agreement on conducting a series of experiments dubbed SIRIUS. Within its framework, a number of experiments dedicated to the flight to the Moon will be conducted by 2025.
In September 2017, NASA and Russia's state space corporation, Roscosmos, signed an agreement on the possibility of the creation of a lunar orbital station called Deep Space Gateway in the 2020s.
The press service said: "The scenario implies the imitation of a flight by a six-member crew to the Moon, docking at a space station similar to the Deep Space Gateway.
"Then within two months the crew will be conducting research and will decide where to land, after which four crew members will land on the Moon."
The experiment will take place on the IBMP's premises, where a complex for experiments isolated from the outside world has been built. The research itself will kick off in 2019. Apart from the flight and work on the station, the experiment implies the recreation of the experience of walking out on the surface of the Moon. This stage will take up to 10 days. After that, four crew members will have to lift off from the Moon and dock to the station and return back to the Earth with their colleagues. According to the IBMP, the crew will be international with at least two women.
The experiment aims at testing the equipment necessary to ensure the welfare of astronauts far from Earth, checking the medical aid system and other essential issues.
Before the four-month experiment, there will be two weeks of preliminary research at the end of 2018. Then in the second half of 2019 an eight-month experiment is expected to start, which will be followed by a year-long project due to kick off at the beginning of 2021.
Moreover, Russia and the US have announced their intention to keep the cooperation going after the end of the already planned missions during the period from 2023 to 2025, the press service concluded.
© 2018 - The Eagle Online. All Rights Reserved.
* * *
Health Thoroughfare / March 21, 2018
Russian scientists elaborated a theory that can solve the mystery of primordial black holes
Физики из НИЯУ МИФИ выдвинули теорию о происхождении первичных черных дыр, которые образовались не в результате взрыва массивных звезд, как "обычные" черные дыры, а в момент начального расширения Вселенной.
The most widespread hypothesis states that black holes form after massive stars explode. However, the existence of black holes which had formed during the early ages of the Universe question this theory. The researchers at Russia's National Research Nuclear University give an answer to this mystery as the Russian scientists elaborated a theory that can solve the mystery of primordial black holes.
The primordial black holes undermine the stellar origin theory
The data of the observations point more and more to the existence of the so-called primordial black holes, which were formed so early that it is difficult to explain their appearance in a conventional way as results of massive stars explosions. The possibility that these massive black holes coexist one near the other is minimal from the point of view of the hypothesis of their stellar origin.
The approach developed at the Russian National University of Nuclear Research MEPhI, by the scientific team of the Professor Sergei Rubin, tries explaining the appearance of those primordial black holes without ruling out the simultaneous existence of two massive black holes or the stellar origin of them.
Primordial black holes could've formed from the specific energy of some Universe's regions
"As is well known, energy tends to the minimum if there is friction, that is, space, in general, tends to a minimum value, while in a small region it tends to a different one, and this small region possesses a very large energy capable of becoming in a black hole," explained Rubin.
Unlike many other models of the formation of primordial black holes, the scenario proposed by the Russians assumes that the primordial black holes were formed in clusters. At this time, scientists are working on different hypotheses of the evolution of primordial black hole clusters after their emergence.
Rubin explained that "once formed, the primordial black holes begin to interact with each other, collide and merge, and the black holes that were in the periphery are trapped by the general expansion of space and leave the cluster forever".
In short, Russian scientists elaborated a theory to solve the mystery of primordial black holes, namely, that the primordial black holes were formed by specific massive energy in small regions of the Universe, under specific conditions.
© 2018 Health Thoroughfare. All rights reserved.
* * *
Photonics Online / March 21, 2018
Physicists reveal material for high-speed quantum Internet
Физики из Московского физико-технического института заново "открыли" забытый материал, который может стать основой для высокоскоростного квантового интернета - карбид кремния, с которого когда-то началась вся современная оптоэлектроника.
Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology have "rediscovered" a material that can lay the foundation for ultrahigh-speed quantum internet. Their paper published in npj Quantum Information shows how to increase the data transfer rate in unconditionally secure quantum communication lines to more than 1 gigabit per second, making quantum internet as fast as its classical counterpart.
The race for quantum computing is on: Industry giants, such as Google, IBM, and Microsoft, and leading international research centers and universities are involved in the global effort to build a quantum computer. It is not known yet when this new technology can become a reality, but the world is getting ready. The greatest expectation about the quantum computer is that it could break the security of all classical data transfer networks. Today, sensitive data such as personal communication or financial information are protected using encryption algorithms that would take a classical supercomputer years to crack. A quantum computer could conceivably do this in a few seconds.
Luckily, quantum technologies come with a way of neutralizing this threat. Modern classical cryptographic algorithms are complexity-based and can remain secure only for a certain period of time. Unlike its classical counterpart, quantum cryptography relies on the fundamental laws of physics, which can guarantee security of data transmission forever. The operation principle is based on the fact that one cannot copy an unknown quantum state without altering the original message. This means that a quantum communication line cannot be compromised without the sender and the receiver knowing. Even a quantum computer would be of no use to eavesdroppers.
Photons - the quanta of light - are the best carriers for quantum bits. It is important to emphasize that only single photons can be used, otherwise an eavesdropper might intercept one of the transmitted photons and thus get a copy of the message. The principle of single-photon generation is quite simple: An excited quantum system can relax into the ground state by emitting exactly one photon. From an engineering standpoint, one needs a real-world physical system that reliably generates single photons under ambient conditions. However, such a system is not easy to find. For example, quantum dots could be a good option, but they only work well when cooled below -200 degrees Celsius, while the newly emerged two-dimensional materials, such as graphene, are simply unable to generate single-photons at a high repetition rate under electrical excitation.
The MIPT researchers see the solution in silicon carbide, a semiconductor material long forgotten in optoelectronics. "In 2014, we were studying diamond and turned our attention to silicon carbide almost by accident. We figured it had vast potential," says Dmitry Fedyanin. However, as he explains, electrically driven emission of single photons in this semiconductor was only achieved one year later, in 2015, by an Australian research team.
Surprisingly, silicon carbide is a material that started the whole of optoelectronics: The phenomenon of electroluminescence, in which an electric current сauses a material to emit light, was observed for the first time in silicon carbide. In the 1920s, the material was used in the world's first light-emitting diodes (LEDs). In the '70s, silicon carbide LEDs were mass-produced in the Soviet Union. However, after that, silicon carbide lost the battle against direct-bandgap semiconductors and was abandoned by optoelectronics. Nowadays, this material is mostly known for being extremely hard and heat-resistant - it is used in high-power electronics, bulletproof vests, and the brakes of sports cars produced by Porsche, Lamborghini, and Ferrari.
Together with his colleagues, Fedyanin studied the physics of electroluminescence of color centers in silicon carbide and came up with a theory of single-photon emission upon electrical injection that explains and accurately reproduces the experimental findings. A color center is a point defect in the lattice structure of silicon carbide that can emit or absorb a photon at a wavelength to which the material is transparent in the absence of defects. This process is at the heart of the electrically driven single-photon source. Using their theory, the researchers have shown how a single-photon emitting diode based on silicon carbide can be improved to emit up to several billion photons per second. That is exactly what one needs to implement quantum cryptography protocols at data transfer rates on the order of 1 Gbps. Study co-authors Igor Khramtsov and Andrey Vyshnevyy point out that new materials are likely to be found, rivaling silicon carbide in terms of brightness of single-photon emission. However, unlike silicon carbide, they will require new technological processes to be used in mass production of devices. By contrast, silicon carbide-based single-photon sources are compatible with the CMOS technology, which is a standard for manufacturing electronic integrated circuits. This makes silicon carbide by far the most promising material for building practical ultrawide-bandwidth unconditionally secure data communication lines.
The study was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (17-79-20421).
Copyright © 1996-2018 VertMarkets, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
* * *
Times Now / Mar 22, 2018
Lord of Black Holes: Astronomers devote newly-discovered black hole to Stephen Hawking
Один из телескопов Глобальной сети МАСТЕР, расположенный на Канарских островах, позволил астрономам МГУ пронаблюдать от начала до конца гамма-всплеск, вызванный гибелью одной из звезд в созвездии Змееносца и образованием на ее месте новой черной дыры. Свое открытие ученые посвятили недавно скончавшемуся физику Стивену Хокингу, одному из главных исследователей и теоретиков природы черных дыр.
Russian astronomers have dedicated a newborn blackhole to renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. The black hole was spotted in the Ophiuchus constellation, and as a token of respect was dedicated to Hawking who had devoted his life to studying the mysteries of the universe.
A black hole takes place when a star collapses and as a result, creates an intense gravitational field where matter and not even radiation escapes from it. The 'gamma-ray burst' was spotted by Russian scientists from the Moscow State University two days after the demise of Professor Hawking. While gamma-ray burst takes place quite often and can be observed almost on a daily basis, it is almost impossible to refocus a telescope to capture the energy release which lasts anywhere from milliseconds to a couple of seconds.
The explosion of energy was captured by MASTER-IAC robotic telescope installed in Tenerife, Spain, according to rt.com. The telescope was able to focus on a star fast enough to capture an increase in its brightness and obtain information about its source.
"MASTER devoted this optical discovery to Stephen Hawking, the Lord of Black Holes," was published in The Astronomers Telegram. Stephen Hawking spent his life studying the mystery of black holes and had come up with theories of gravity. The recently discovered black hole was registered under the name GRB180316A on March 16, 2018, two days after the passing of the noted physicist.
The Ophiuchus constellation, meaning the 'serpent-bearer' in Greek, lies in the southern sky, near the celestial equator. It is the 11th largest constellation in the sky, occupying an area of 948 square degrees. It is located in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere and can be seen at latitudes between +80 degrees and -80 degrees. The neighbouring constellations are Aquila, Hercules, Libra, Sagittarius, Scorpius and Serpens.
© Bennett Coleman & Company Limited.
* * *
Scientific American / March 22, 2018
Primeval Salt Shakes Up Ideas on How the Atmosphere Got Its Oxygen
Our planet may have gained breathable air in the geologic blink of an eye.
Международная команда ученых (Россия, США, Великобритания, Норвегия, Эстония), исследовав кристаллы галита (каменная соль) возрастом 2,3 мрд лет, извлечённые из скважины в Карелии глубиной более 3 км, получили представление о составе атмосферы в этот период. Неожиданно высокая концентрация сульфатов указывала на то, что в морской воде, из которой выпарилась соль, было достаточно много кислорода. Соответственно, и атмосфера древней Земли была гораздо более насыщена кислородом, чем считалось ранее.
Ancient sea salt drilled from a geologic basin in Russia is providing dramatic new clues as to how Earth's early atmosphere became oxygen-rich - allowing life as we know it to evolve. Buried deep beneath the surface for billions of years, the salt reveals surprising clues about the chemistry of the ocean and atmosphere from long ago.
The salt, excavated by an international team led by Russian scientists, is about a billion years older than other, similar geologic samples. Its age puts it smack in the middle of Earth's Great Oxygenation Event, the ancient period in which oxygen began to dominate atmospheric chemistry. "This is a truly unique, one-of-a-kind deposit," says Clara Blättler, a geochemist at Princeton University. Blättler is the lead author of a study appearing in the March 23 Science on the salty new samples. They are made up of minerals left behind when water evaporates. "Because these evaporite minerals are our most direct way of sampling ancient sea waters, this deposit gives us a snapshot of seawater in the interval time when we don't really have any other direct constraints."
Within the three-kilometer-long, cylindrical core excavated from the Russian basin, Blättler and her colleagues identified a 600-meter-thick deposit of sulfate-rich materials, including halite (aka sodium chloride) - the crystalline progenitor of common table salt. The deposit's immense size and various trace geochemical markers, Blättler says, both suggest it formed in ocean water rather than in any freshwater source.
Over a billion years ago, the team speculates, ocean water covered the Lake Onega river basin in the Russian Republic of Karelia on the country's western border with Finland. Brine washing into a shallow part of the basin was trapped and eventually evaporated, leaving behind the salts it carried. The thickness of the deposit reveals the process recurred many times, gradually building up the reservoir the Russian researchers later excavated. "There's no way you can form that much from just evaporating one batch," says Mark Claire, a researcher at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland and a co-author of the research.
The team's analysis shows this ancient ocean water carried roughly 20 percent as many sulfates as are found in modern seawater. Sulfate concentration in ocean water is a key tracer of how much oxygen is the atmosphere - and how it gets there in the first place.
This is the first direct quantitative measurement of the otherwise-murky chemistry of the ocean more than two billion years ago, according to Timothy Lyons, a geochemist at the University of California, Riverside, who was not involved in the research. "What they are doing is as reliable as these things can ever be in rocks this old," he says. The results are consistent with other, more circumstantial records left by carbon and trace minerals, he adds.
Other sulfate evaporite samples are rare. The characteristic that allows the sulfates to dissolve into water can also make them hard to find; when water washes over a previous deposit it can redissolve the evaporites, erasing the records and laying down newer ones. That means similar deposits are few and far between. Blättler says her samples clearly did not interact with much water - or they would have disappeared. "For some unknown geological reason these were preserved, and they were a little bit unexpected," she says.
The "Smoking Gun"
Three billion years ago Earth's atmosphere lacked the abundant molecular oxygen (O2) that makes air breathable for complex life today. It was not until the Great Oxygenation Event, a mysterious transition that occurred from 2.7 to 2.4 billion years ago, that this gas - crucial to life as we know it - began to substantially accumulate in the atmosphere.
On the way to allowing life to evolve, the rise of oxygen also transformed Earth's rocks and thus fundamentally altered our planet's geochemistry. As oxygen in the atmosphere reacted chemically with iron pyrite in rocks, it bonded with the pyrite's sulfur, creating sulfates and other mineral by-products that gradually washed out of the rocks and flowed into to the ocean. This is why the amount of sulfate in a well-preserved salt deposit can be used to establish the oxygen levels in ancient air.
Previous research with carbon isotopes provided less-direct evidence of atmospheric oxygen, as did work done by Lyons's team with trace metals and sediments. The new findings, however, provide a stronger connection to the buildup of the life-giving gas in the atmosphere, Lyons says. "Carbon isotopes suggest a lot of oxygen was released," he notes. "But this sulfate is, in essence, the smoking gun of that process."
Scientists are not yet certain how all that oxygen entered the atmosphere in the first place. Some think it may have been a gradual geologic process - possibly a change in the mixtures of gases belched out by volcanoes or the atmosphere's gradual loss of lightweight hydrogen atoms to outer space. Others prefer the idea of a more sudden mechanism such as a geologic upheaval from planet-scale volcanic eruptions or Earth-shaking asteroid impacts. Life itself may have even have caused a rapid spike, via oxygen released by newly evolved photosynthetic organisms.
Blättler believes the new results provide a stronger case for a sudden jump than for gradual easing. "The large accumulation of sulfate that we see from our observations favors a much more dramatic transition," Blättler says. "You have to push the system really hard to accumulate this much sulfate. It's not a trivial amount."
"I could buy that," Lyons says of the quick-jump conclusion, calling the results "an important step forward" in answering "the million-dollar question" about why Earth's great oxygenation occurred at all - and in a larger sense, why we are all here.
© 2018 Scientific American, A Division Of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
* * *
ScienceBlog / March 26, 2018
New Climate Model Developed By Russian And German Scientists
Российские и немецкие ученые разрабатывают новую модель для прогнозирования климатических изменений.
Professor Aleksey Eliseev, Chief Research Associate at Kazan University's Near Space Research Lab, comments, "To find solutions for some tasks in climate research, we need calculations for hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years. Such tasks are, for example, ice age periodization. Another group of tasks that requires huge longitudinal calculations is climate forecasting, a type of research where we don't have definitive information about coefficients of used models.
"If we use models of the general circulation of atmosphere, then required calculations can take up months or years with the use of the most advanced modern computers. To accelerate research, scientists use simplified models - the so-called climate models of intermediate complexity. In Russia, the only such model has been created by the Institute of Atmospheric Physics.
"Our team, comprising employees of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Moscow State University, Kazan Federal University, and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, is working on one such model. We called it the Potsdam Earth System Model."
Currently, one of the components of POEM, called Aeolus, is ready for use. Two parts of the model, for large-scale zonal-mean winds and planetary waves, have been designed by Dr. Eliseev. He has also partaken in the creation of automatic tuning process for model parameters.
* * *
EurekAlert / 29-Mar-2018
Scientists found a new genus and species of frogs
Зоологи из МГУ обнаружили новый вид лягушек из семейства узкоротов (они же микроквакши), обитающих в одном-единственном месте на Земле - известняковой пещере на западе Таиланда и получивших название пещерные сиамофрины (Siamophryne troglodytes). Проведенные исследования показали, что сиамофрины существенно отличаются от своих ближайших родственников.
A team of scientists from MSU and their foreign colleagues discovered a previously unknown species and genus of batrachians Siamophryne troglodytes. These frogs live in the only one place on Earth - a limestone cave in Thailand. The location of the cave is not disclosed to protect the animals. The results of the study will lead to the reconsideration of evolutionary history of the relevant group of Amphibia and are valuable for systematics and conservation. The work was undertaken within the Animals branch of the Noah's Ark project (with the support of the Russian Science Foundation), and its results have been published in the Open access PeerJ journal.
The studies of recent 20 years revolutionized the understanding of how diverse the world of frogs, snakes, and lizards is, and in particular how rich is the herpetofauna in South and Southeast Asia. Many species of these animals are difficult to find and some of them are often almost impossible to differentiate from each other. The recent progress in molecular and genetic methods in taxonomy allows the scientists to discover new species every year - this has become a sort of routine. However, the discovery of a new genus is a fortunate event - especially when it happens unexpectedly.
The wonderful story of discovery of Siamophryne troglodytes began in 2016 when a Thai researcher Jitthep Tunprasert was working in a karstic region of Sai Yok District in western Thailand. In one of the caves he found a strange small frog with big eyes and finger tips enlarged to wide disks. He took a picture of the animal and shared it with his colleagues. It became clear that this species of Amphibia was absolutely new and unknown to the scientific world. Judging by many morphological characters, the frog was included into a large and diverse family of Microhylidae. However, it was unclear what group within the family it fell into.
"Thai colleagues contacted me because I'm interested in this family of Amphibia. Together, we conducted extensive work, collected specimens, analyzed the DNA and morphology of both adult animals and tadpoles," explains Nikolay Poyarkov, assistant professor and senior research associate of the laboratory for the ecology of terrestrial vertebrates, department of zoology of vertebrates, Faculty of Biology, MSU.
An international team of scientists including herpetologists from MSU took several trips to the cave. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the frogs belong to the subfamily Asterophryinae, the representatives of which live mainly on Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. These results allowed the scientists to reconsider the story of origin of this group. The fact that the close relatives of Australian and Papua New Guinean frogs were found deep on the Asian continent confirms that their ancestors moved to Asia from the ancient continent of Gondwana and then subsequently moved further east to New Guinea and Australia. Therefore, they did not come to Australia via Antarctica, as it was previously believed. Several other species of amphibians and reptiles took the same way.
Based on the results of phylogenetic analysis, the scientists described a new species and genus of frogs. The specific name "troglodytes" is of Greek origin and is translated as "cave-dweller". The genus name "Siamophryne" can be translated as "Siamese toad" reflecting biological, taxonomic, and geographical peculiarities of this animal. Skeleton structures of the species were studied using the method of X-ray computer microtomography.
Another interesting discovery was the tadpoles of the new species. All members of the subfamily Asterophryinae known to date develop directly from the egg without the larval stage (so called "direct development"). Young Siamophryne troglodytes have flat white guitar-shaped bodies and were found in limestone crevices filled with water. This fact confirms that the frogs did not get into the caves by chance, but live and procreate there permanently.
"The importance of our discovery is manifold. First of all, we've found an animal so different from all others that it is considered to be a separate genius. Things like that do not happen every day. Secondly, phylogenetic position of the new genus sheds light on the evolutionary history of a respective subfamily of microhylids. Finally, this discovery is important in scope of protection and conservation of Southeast Asian herpetofauna. Today we know about only one population of these frogs, and all our search attempts, however intensive, were not successful.
Therefore, to protect the animals, we do not disclose the location of the cave," concludes Nikolay Poyarkov.
The work was carried out by the employees of the Faculties of Biology and Geology of MSU together with scientists from the University of Phayao, Ranong Sea Fishery Station, Nakhon Pathom Rajabhat University and Kasetsart University in Bangkok (Thailand), as well as the Joint Russian - Vietnamese Tropical Center of Russian Academy of Sciences in Hanoi. The work was undertaken within the Animals branch of the Noah's Ark project (with the support of the Russian Science Foundation).
Copyright © 2018 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
* * *