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    University World News / 05 October 2018, N 523
    Why Putin's 5-100 project is doomed to fail
    • Ararat Osipian
    Амбициозный проект 5-100, призванный повысить конкурентоспособность крупнейших российских вузов на мировой арене и вывести не менее пяти из них в сотню лучших, пока не принес заметных результатов. Согласно очередному ежегодному рейтингу Times Higher Education (THE), ни один российский вуз не продвинулся дальше конца второй сотни.
    В статье рассматриваются фундаментальные проблемы, мешающие развитию российских университетов, одна из них - устаревшие структуры управления, создания и передачи знаний.

In 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a highly ambitious Russian academic excellence project, known as the 5-100 Project. It aimed at getting at least five Russian universities into the top 100 in world university rankings by 2020.
A special Council on Enhancing the Competitiveness of Leading Russian Universities among Global Research and Education Centres was established to advance towards this goal. The council, which includes leading Russian and international experts, is chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, with the Minister of Education and Science, Olga Vasilieva, serving as the deputy-chair. This shows the high level of the council's standing.
Significant financial allocations were authorised by the government, totalling well over RUB60 billion (US$915 million). Twenty-one universities competed to be selected to participate in the project. Soon the money started pouring in to the selected higher education institutions. These institutions were deemed the most promising at the time.
On 26 September, Times Higher Education (THE) released its annual World University Rankings 2019. The results for Russian universities are less than favourable. They show that Putin's plan has failed, and failed badly.
According to THE, the top Russian achiever is Lomonosov Moscow State University, which only occupies the 199th position in the ranking. Other top Russian universities are far behind the 'leader'. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology is in the 251-300th band, the Higher School of Economics is in the 301-350th band, the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI is in the 351-400th band and ITMO University is in the 501-600th band.
With only one year left until the THE 2020 rankings release (with, confusingly, the 2021 rankings due to be released in September 2020), Russian universities appear to be falling far short of what was hoped.
But Russians are not frustrated with their failure. In fact, they are proud of their results. So much so that they even titled the official report on the rankings "The Times Higher Education World University Rankings: Russia's success story". It has been published both in Russian and in English. This "success story" comes down to a few advancements made by the chosen universities.
For instance, the Higher School of Economics moved from the 351-450 band to 301-350th, which might be just a matter of moving one step up the ladder. After all, one has to justify the tens of billions spent on the 5-100 Project.
The former Soviet republics
This optimism should be understood in comparative perspective. The situation in the former Soviet republics is even worse than in Russia, much worse.
Kazakhstan, the oil rich Central Asian republic ruled by former Communist Party leaders, managed to get only one of its universities in the first one thousand. Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Almaty is placed somewhere between 801 and 1,000 in the THE World University Rankings. Another leading Kazakhstani institution that has strong Russian influence, LN Gumilyov Eurasian National University, is placed somewhere beyond 1001, meriting a mere mention in the rankings. Surprisingly, the much advertised Nazarbayev University that cost Kazakhstani people billions of dollars is nowhere to be found. However, Kazakhstan is the only former Soviet republic other than Russia that has at least one of its universities in the first one thousand. Other republics, including the most advanced, have not even achieved this.
Ukraine has no universities in the top one thousand. Four of its universities, including Karazin Kharkiv National University, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv and Lviv Polytechnic National University, are in the 1001+ category.
Russia's closest political and economic ally, Belarus, has only one university, the Belarusian State University in Minsk, in the 1001+ category.
Stalinist legacies
Why have Russian and other post-Soviet universities failed so badly? The immediate reason is obvious: they tend to have low level research output in terms of publications in Western journals, making their universities non-competitive. But there are more fundamental problems underlying their failure to achieve and retain the status of world-class universities. And these fundamental reasons come down to Stalinist legacies that remain very strong in Russia's higher education sector.
First, Russian universities continue to operate based on the Soviet model of knowledge creation and transfer. The separation of research and teaching is the norm, with research institutes performing the former and universities focusing on the latter. Russian universities are also characterised by overspecialisation. And this is no surprise since they were established or re-modelled under the Communist rule in order to supply specific branches of the national economy.
Another major challenge is the low level of faculty preparation due to undeveloped doctoral programmes, which also explains the low research output. Inbreeding and nepotism in hiring and promotion are also the norm. A very weak meritocracy and the non-transparent allocation of research funding result in an inability to publish in top Western journals with an international reputation.
Another issue is that Russian universities continue to experience a severe lack of internationalisation. Foreign faculty as well as holders of advanced foreign degrees are not hired, with very rare exceptions. The Russian higher education sector has a comparatively small number of international students relative to other major players on the world educational services market.
The old and outdated Stalinist structure of university governance and management, with academic bureaucrats retaining a monopoly over all university decisions, prevents university development. The heavy influence of the state on universities and university politicisation continues to be among the major factors that determine universities' long-term planning and day-to-day operations.
Above everything else, the absence of true university autonomy prevents Russian universities from realising their potential and talent. Without drastic changes in these areas, even mountains of oil dollars will not be able to move Russian universities upward in the world university rankings.
As 2020 nears, it becomes obvious that not one of Russia's universities will make it to the top one hundred. As a result, it would be accurate to conclude that Putin's 5-100 has failed and is more like 0-100.

Copyright University World News 2007-2018.
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    Smithsonian Magazine / October 10, 2018
    Oldest Known Macroscopic Skeletal Organism Was Masquerading as Fossilized Feces
    Some researchers initially dismissed the remains of Palaeopascichnus lineari as teeny turds from a bygone era.
    • By Katherine J. Wu
    Российские (ИНГГ СО РАН, НГУ, Институт геологии и геохимии УрО РАН) и французские (Лилльский университет) палеонтологи описали древнейшие макроорганизмы Palaeopascichnus linearis, у которых появился скелет. Эти окаменелости, найденные в отложениях возрастом около 540 млн лет, долгое время считались то простейшими, то макрофитами, то просто отпечатками других организмов, однако изучение поперечных спилов позволило обнаружить следы формирования кальцитного экзоскелета.

Sometimes in science, your findings can look pretty crappy - but here's something that might make you give your work a second look before you flush it all away. As Stephanie Pappas at Live Science reports, researchers are now unveiling the oldest skeletal remains ever discovered. Before the fossils were properly identified, however, the remains of Palaeopascichnus linearis, a little marine creature that may have resembled a globular amoeba, were believed to be very old pieces of poop.
P. linearis fossils resemble a series of closely packed spheres, which is why some researchers initially dismissed them as teeny turds from a bygone era, Pappas reports. As their fossils are found in rocks around the world, scientists speculated that perhaps they were footprints from a hungry creature shuffling along the ocean floor, or the remains of algae or another lifeform. Then, of course, someone posited fossilized feces.
It wasn't until Anton V. Kolesnikov, a paleontologist at Russia's Trofimuk Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics of Siberian Branch Russian Academy of Sciences, and an international cohort of colleagues stepped in that the debate was finally resolved. A new study, published this month in the journal Precambrian Research, details their findings.
Many of the regions that house fossils of P. linearis are protected - but the researchers struck gold in northeastern Siberia, where they harvested hundreds of new specimens. Sliced open and studied under the microscope, the fossils finally revealed their true, not-so-fecal nature. When the researchers performed the same analyses on fossils collected from other parts of the world, they found a global consensus: the existence of a true skeleton.
As it turns out, P. linearis used materials from their undersea environment to construct their own exoskeletons. That's pretty impressive - especially considering how laborious this must have been with no hands and only bits of sand at the ready. A chain of little ovoids, measuring between about 0.04 and 0.2 inches in diameter, comprised each fossil, giving the appearance of a string of uneven beads. The petrified pearls can stretch a few inches in length - hence the linearis.
P. linearis wasn't the first life form to bony up. Earlier organisms with similar exoskeletons did exist, dating back almost 750 million years ago, the researchers detail in the study. However, these organisms were a lot smaller - probably microscopic, Kolesnikov explains in an interview with Pappas of Live Science. The researchers estimate P. linearis was around as far back as 613 million years ago, making it "the oldest known macroscopic skeletal organism."
That means P. linearis predates the Paleozoic Era, which started around 540 million years ago and is when scientists previously believed critters big enough to be visible to the naked eye first evolved skeletons. Instead, P. linearis' appearance comes at the cusp end of the Proterozoic Era - and the researchers think these hardy little guys may have outlived many of their peers that were felled during one of Earth's first mass extinctions, which occurred just before the beginning of the Paleozoic.
Shortly after, though, the end came too for P. linearis. But it might have a modern doppelganger in an amoeba called a xenophyophore: a single-celled resident of the ocean floor. Though they are separated by hundreds of millions of years, both of these amorphous creatures have the ability to scoop up surrounding sediment and glue the grains to their bodies, anchoring themselves in place with a DIY skeleton. In theory, it's possible the two groups are related - but much of the evidence has probably been lost to time, alongside the years P. linearis spent in fecal anonymity.

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    The Washington Post / October 11, 2018
    Astronauts make harrowing escape, but Russian rocket failure roils NASA
    • By Anton Troianovski, Amie Ferris-Rotman and Joel Achenbach
    11 октября на второй минуте полета на МКС ракета-носитель «Союз» дала сбой - впервые с 1983 года, в результате чего два космонавта совершили аварийную посадку.
    В последние семь лет «Союз», при всех своих недостатках считавшийся надежным аппаратом, был единственным способом доставки экипажа и продовольствия на МКС. Поскольку до выяснения всех обстоятельств полеты в космос будут прекращены, а запуск коммерческих ракет-носителей Boeing и SpaceX состоится не раньше середины следующего года, после возвращения в декабре нынешнего экипажа орбитальная станция может остаться без человеческого присутствия.

A Russian Soyuz rocket malfunctioned two minutes after liftoff Thursday on a mission to the International Space Station, triggering an automatic abort command that forced the two-member crew - an American and a Russian - to make a harrowing parachute landing in their capsule, 200 miles from the launch site in the steppes of Kazakhstan.
U.S. astronaut Tyler N. "Nick" Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin had made it halfway to space before suddenly going in the other direction. They fell about 31 miles back to the ground, according to NASA. They were quickly located by rescue teams and flown back to the launch site for an emotional reunion with their families.
The failure of the Soyuz MS-10 rocket effectively halts all American and Russian access to space pending an investigation into what went wrong. For seven years, since NASA retired the space shuttle, the United States has relied on Russian hardware to ferry Americans to and from the space station.
Thursday's dramatic developments ratcheted up pressure on Boeing and SpaceX, the two companies that were supposed to have commercial spacecraft ready for launch this year but have experienced delays and are not expected to be ready until the middle of next year at the earliest.
Three crew members currently on the space station are in no danger, NASA said. They have adequate supplies for an extended mission beyond their planned Dec. 13 return and can get home in a spare Soyuz spacecraft currently attached to the space station. But there are limits to how long the Soyuz module can remain in orbit before its fuel is no longer reliable.
Another three-person crew is scheduled to launch in December for the station, but that mission is imperiled by Thursday's rocket failure. NASA officials said it's possible that at some point the astronauts in space will have to return to Earth with no crew to replace them.
NASA is not eager to abandon, even temporarily, the $100 billion orbital laboratory, which requires constant maintenance and has never before been operated solely by ground commands. Big decisions lie ahead, but on Thursday, U.S. and Russian officials expressed relief after the close brush with disaster. This was a terrifying day - but not a tragic one because the escape system worked.
"It wasn't quite the day that we planned, but it is great to have Nick and Alexey at least back on the ground," said Kenny Todd, who directs space station operations for NASA. "This is a very difficult business that we're in. And it can absolutely humble you."
Booster failure
The launch looked good until a red light illuminated inside the capsule.
"Failure of the booster," a translator called out at mission control near Moscow, according to a transcript on Russian state television. The computers took over. The capsule automatically separated from the rocket. The crew felt a jolt and then quickly reported being weightless: They were in free fall back to Earth. The crew members then initiated a "ballistic" trajectory that put Hague and Ovchinin under more than six times the force of gravity and put the capsule into a spin.
"We are getting ready for the G loads," Ovchinin reported to mission control. "G load is 6.7."
They were briefly out of contact during the 34-minute descent. NASA's deputy chief astronaut, G. Reid Wiseman, said his heart was pounding as he wondered where the capsule would come down. At that point only gravity was in control, and rescue teams in helicopters raced to where they thought the capsule would land.
Parachutes deployed automatically. The gray capsule tumbled onto its side on a grassy flatland. A photograph showed one crew member kneeling, the other reclining against the parachute fabric, while three rescuers approached.
Hague and Ovchinin were examined by medical officials and deemed in good shape.
"Glad our friends are fine," tweeted Alexander Gerst from the European Space Agency, the station commander. "Spaceflight is hard. And we keep trying for the benefit of humankind."
Russian officials said crewed space launches have been suspended pending an investigation into the malfunction. Russia's Interfax news agency also said all uncrewed launches could be halted for the rest of the year, citing space program sources.
Thursday's launch failure came at a dicey moment in the U.S.-Russia space partnership. The two nations have been congenial 250 miles above the Earth's surface even when events on the ground, such as the Russian annexation of Crimea or the interference of Russia in the 2016 election, have stoked tensions.
But the United States and Russia have been at odds over the cause of a small hole discovered in August on the Soyuz module - Soyuz MS-09 - currently docked at the space station. Moscow says the hole, now repaired, was the result of deliberate drilling and has suggested sabotage, while the U.S. space agency said this week that investigators will determine the cause.
Against that backdrop, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine traveled to Kazakhstan to witness Thursday's launch and meet his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Rogozin of Roscosmos. The summit turned far more dramatic than either had imagined.
Rogozin said he was forming a state commission to investigate what caused the failure. It was the first time the Soyuz had failed on a launch to the 20-year-old International Space Station. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov, who oversees space flight, promised to share all information from the investigation with the United States.
Commercial space race
The failure puts tremendous pressure on NASA and the two companies - SpaceX and Boeing - it is counting on to fly its astronauts to the space station. Both companies have faced repeated delays. NASA recently announced that neither would fly even an uncrewed test flight this year and that the first flights with astronauts on board wouldn't happen until the middle of 2019.
"We like having more than one operational system, and right now, by my count, we have zero," said Lori Garver, a former NASA deputy administrator who was a strong advocate for commercial crew during the Obama administration.
"You can look back at the decisions that were made - like retiring the shuttle, like Congress not providing the funding in the first years of commercial crew, which has delayed the availability of SpaceX and Boeing. In retrospect those don't look like wise decisions," said space policy expert John M. Logsdon, a professor emeritus at George Washington University. In June, the spacecraft Boeing plans to use to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station suffered a significant setback when officials discovered a propellant leak during a test.
SpaceX also has suffered setbacks but says it is ready to fly its first test mission to the station - without astronauts - in January. Still, Phil McAlister, who oversees the commercial crew program for NASA, recently warned that "launch dates will still have some uncertainty, and we anticipate they may change as we get closer to launch."
The last time Moscow's space program had a crewed launch failure was during the Soviet era in 1983, when a Soyuz booster exploded. Cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov jettisoned and landed safely near the launchpad.

© 1996-2018 The Washington Post.
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    EurekAlert / 15-Oct-2018
    Scientists found common genes in different peoples of the Ural language family
    Международная команда генетиков обнаружила общую генетическую составляющую у представителей уральской языковой семьи. Анализ генома 15 уралоязычных популяций, проживающих на территории от Таймыра до Северной Европы, показал, что общий компонент возник предположительно на территории Западной Сибири и отсутствует только у венгров.
    Работа проводилась под руководством Эстонского биоцентра Университета Тарту, российскую часть представляли ученые из Института общей генетики имени Н.И.Вавилова РАН, Института цитологии и генетики СО РАН, НГУ, Института биохимии и генетики Уфимского научного центра РАН и др.

The genetic diversity of peoples of the Ural language family living in Europe and Siberia are strongly influenced by geography. However, the genetics from Estonia and Russia found common genetic component in Ural-speaking populations. Presumably, it originated from West Siberia. This means that the Ural family languages have spread over a wide area due to population migrations.
The Ural family languages are the third after Indo-European and Turkic most common in Northern Eurasia. According to linguists, the Ural family languages were built from a single proto-language 6000-4000 years old, which was divided into two large branches: Finno-Ugric and Samoyed languages. Ural-speaking peoples live on giant territories from Baltics to West Syberia and include Finns and Estonians, Karelians and Hungarians, Mordovian Erzya and Moksha, West Siberian Khanty and Mansi, Nenets and others. Do this different peoples share common roots and biological history? And how did these related languages spread over such a wide territory? This questions are addressed to genetics.
The authors of recent paper in BMC Genome Biology tried to answer them. The international research team was coordinated by the genetics from Estonian Biocenter of the Tartu University, working in long-term cooperation with Russian colleagues from Moscow, Novosibirsk, Ufa and Arkhangelsk. Researchers analyzed the geographical location of the Ural-speaking populations and constructed a map, showing where different languages of the Ural family were spoken.
The scientists for the first time created a database of genetic data for the entire or full genome. The base includes more than 500 thousand positions for representatives of 15 Ural-speaking populations: from Finns to Nenets. Scientists have mapped the position of the Ural-speaking populations in the genetic space of Eurasia. These positions stretched from left to right in accordance with their geography: from west to east. Therefore, the authors concluded that geography is the main factor behind the genetic diversity of Ural-speaking populations.
The researchers also applied another standard analysis method for decomposing the genome into components derived from ancestors. It showed that the majority of the Ural-speaking populations except for Hungarians have a small genetic component in common. Scientists associate its origin with Western Siberia. If such fragments are found in people from different populations, they are likely to have a common ancestor, and if two populations have many common fragments, the are relatives. This way it turned out that many Ural-speaking populations are closer to other Ural-speaking populations, even geographically distant, than to their geographical neighbors who speak other languages.
Thus, Mari and Udmurts were closer to the Khanty and Mansi, living on the other side of the Urals, than to the neighboring Tatars, Bashkirs, Chuvash. At the same time, Finns and Sбmi showed greater commonality with the Volga Mari, Komi and Udmurts, and even with West Siberian Khanty and Mansi, than with geographically close Swedes, Latvians, Lithuanians and northern Russians. However, there are exceptions such as Hungarians and Mordovian peoples.
Since the researchers wanted to see if there were any correlations between linguistic, geographic, and genetic data for Ural-speaking populations, they took lexical distances between languages (calculated by linguists proportion of common words in a special list of stable vocabulary), geographical distances between populations and, finally, genetic distances between populations, which serve as a measure of genetic similarity. It turned out that all these data types have a positive correlation, which indicates their interdependence.
The common genetic component found in the Ural-speaking populations indicates that they share common history. Apparently, the spread of the Uralic languages was associated with the spread of genes or with migrations. Scientists consider the center where the migrating groups originated to be placed in Western Siberia. Thus, in their opinion, the peoples of the Ural linguistic family are linked by genetic roots of Western Siberian origin.
"This is the third joint article by Estonian Biocenter and Russian scientists," commented Dr. Oleg Balanovsky, the head of Genomic Geography Laboratory of the Institute of General Genetics. "The first was devoted to the Turkic-speaking peoples, the second to the Balto-Slavic peoples, and the third to the Ural-speaking ones. In all cases, it was shown that the geographic factor plays the main role in the formation of the gene pool, and linguistic kinship fades into the background. At the same time, the analysis of the Turks and the Ural-speaking populations revealed a common component in their gene pool. This small but real share can be connected with the people through whom these languages were spread initially."
"Yet, the article about the Ural-speaking peoples does not answer all questions," continues Oleg Balanovsky. "The thousand-year intrigue remains unresolved: the origin of the Hungarians, who historically and linguistically are descendants of the Magyars, relatives of the Ugrians who conquered the territory of present Hungary in the 9th century. However, genetically modern Hungarians are indistinguishable from their geographical neighbors and do not show similarities with other Ugric peoples (Khanty and Mansi). Perhaps the genetic trail of the Ugric origin of the Hungarians can be traced with the help of ancient DNA. Such a work is already in progress."

Copyright © 2018 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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    The Maritime Executive / 2018-10-15
    Russia Updates Maps of Radioactive Debris Sunk in Arctic
    • By Charles Digges
    По результатам работы экспедиции Института океанологии РАН, исследовавшей места затопления радиоактивных отходов в Арктике, были определены точные координаты объектов и составлены карты. Утечек радиации ученые не обнаружили, но заявили о необходимости продолжать наблюдения.

Russian scientists have said that radioactive waste sunk in the Arctic by the Soviet Navy has not leaked any contamination, but have urged Moscow to continue funding observation of the underwater nuclear wrecks.
Data on the scuttled cargoes - which includes several thousand containers of radioactive waste, as well as an entire nuclear submarine - come from a month-and-a-half-long expedition in the Kara Sea conducted by the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Oceanology.
Mikhail Flint, the institute's head, told reporters last week that scientists on the expedition had managed to significantly improve their maps of where the sunken waste lies, especially in the area of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, a former Soviet nuclear bomb testing site.
From Novaya Zemlya's craggy coast, the expedition conducted additional research mapping radioactive hazards in the White Sea and then progressed to the Laptev Sea some 2000 nautical miles to the east.
Since the first decade of the 2000s, these mapping and measuring expeditions have taken place on an annual basis. Environmentalists fear the waste could eventually rupture and spoil thousands of square kilometers of fertile Arctic fishing grounds.
Beginning in 1955 and continuing until the early 1990s, the Russian Navy dumped enormous amounts of irradiated debris - and it one case an entire nuclear submarine - into the waters of the Arctic. It was not, however, until 2011 that the Russian government admitted this on an international level.
That year, Moscow shared with Norwegian nuclear officials the full scope of the problem. The list of sunken objects was far more than had initially been thought and included 17,000 containers of radioactive waste; 19 ships containing radioactive waste; 14 nuclear reactors, including five that still contain spent nuclear fuel; the K-27 nuclear submarine with its two reactors loaded with nuclear fuel and 735 other pieces of radioactively contaminated heavy machinery.
Moscow routinely promises to lift the submarine, but actual plans to do have yet to materialize.

© Copyright 2018 The Maritime Executive, LLC. All rights reserved.
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    Forbes / Oct 17, 2018
    Russia's Silicon Valley Looks To China For Capital Impact
    • Rebecca Fannin
    Китайские инвесторы намерены вложиться в российскую инвестиционную платформу Skolkovo Ventures с целью разработки инновационных технологий. Соответствующие соглашения были подписаны на международном форуме «Открытые инновации», прошедшем в Москве 15-17 октября.

At the Open Innovations Forum this week in Moscow, Russia and China linked up to further boost Skolkovo Ventures, an investment offshoot of Russia's Silicon Valley mega tech project Skolkovo on the outskirts of the city. The high-tech park sports an ultra-modern huge convention space, a conference arena for high-level meetings, a science and tech university and a slew of facilities under construction as Skolkovo evolves.
The Russian-China Investment Fund for Regional Development has just signed on as an anchor investor in two new funds at Skolkovo Ventures with the sum of $300 million. The Russian-China regional fund will also pour money into Skolkovo's three funds for emerging companies in information technology, 4.0 industry and agriculture, which each have $50 million in capital currently.
Capital and innovation connections between China and Russia have been growing. Skolkovo has opened a Beijing office, partnered with several leading science parks from China such as Tsinghua Science Park, and worked with numerous Chinese companies including Alibaba on innovation initiatives. At the forum this week, Huaweii signed an agreement with Skolkovo to develop 5G network technology at the innovation center, and also do research in AI and IoT projects.
More collaboration will surely be in the cards. Only about 1.5 percent of Russian venture capital comes from China, according to figures cited by Oleg Remyga, China representative for the Moscow School of Management.
Russian venture capital is still relatively small but on a slight incline. Venture funds in Russia increased to $277 million in 2017 from $270 million in 2016 while the number of deals rose to 287 in 2017 from 254 the previous year, according to Remyga, who moderated a Russia-China investment panel where I spoke about China's Silicon Valley or Silicon Dragon.
From my interview with Igor Drozdov, chairman of the executive board at Skolkovo Innovation Center, I learned that Skolkovo has attracted nearly 2,000 startups with total revenues of $1.3 billion. At the convention center, I made the rounds of Russian startups displaying their wares, including those in e-retailing, neuro-robotics, AI, drones and HR mobile management systems. More successful international case studies are needed such as Skolkovo resident startup CDNVideo selling a controlling stake last year to Chinese company Wangsu Science and Technology. Russian engineering has long been respected in China due to Soviet and Russian achievements in space, a point that CDNVideo CEO Yaroslav Gorodetsky has made.
Certainly respect goes to Yandex, the Russian Google that dominates the local market over the American search company. Yes, Yandex is into self-driving cars just like Google is, and of course Didi in China.
This week, Yandex made news by agreeing with Skolkovo to launch autonomous driving vehicles within the innovation center. I hitched a ride in one of those Yandex cars in a test mode, made it safely and didn't get lost.
Yandex founder Arkady Volozh spoke at a session about the digital economy and Russia's progress in smart city, education and health markets. A celebrity in his home country, he addressed the conference alongside Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and the mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin. You can bet security was tight!
It's interesting to note that China and Russian venture markets started at about the same time, the year 2000. There's a big gap between the two in terms of venture capital markets and international impact but it appears that could change.
I've been in both China and Russia at the start of their entrepreneurial revolution, and seen the economic changes evolve. No doubt that China and the U.S. have the decided edge globally for now. From a look at the high-end fashion designs for sale at the mammoth, totally renovated Gum department store in Red Square and the five-star international luxury hotels such as Park Hyatt and Four Seasons that have sprung up, commercialism is alive and well in Moscow.

© 2018 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved..
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    IRSN / 19/10/2018
    Sûreté nucléaire : l'IRSN et son homologue russe SEC NRS renouvellent leur accord de coopération pour 10 ans
    Научно-технический центр по ядерной и радиационной безопасности (ФБУ «НТЦ ЯРБ») и Институт радиационной защиты и ядерной безопасности Франции (IRSN) подписали соглашение о продолжении сотрудничества в области ядерной безопасности. Организации осуществляют совместную научную и исследовательскую деятельность, имеющую первостепенное значение для безопасности атомной энергетики в обеих странах.

Le Centre scientifique et technique de sûreté nucléaire et de radioprotection russe (SEC NRS) et l'IRSN ont signé, en marge de la conférence de l'Agence internationale de l'énergie atomique sur des « Technical Support Organization » (TSO) qui se tient à Bruxelles, un accord-cadre de coopération dans le domaine de la sûreté et de la sécurité nucléaire.
L'accord vise à renforcer la coopération bilatérale entre les deux organismes de soutien technique aux autorités de sûreté nucléaire russes et françaises. Il porte sur le partage de leurs expériences et l'élaboration de positions communes concernant la conduite d'activités scientifiques et de recherche. Il reconnaît le haut niveau de compétence du personnel des deux organismes qui examinent les documents de sûreté à toutes les étapes de la vie des installations nucléaires.
Dans le cadre de la poursuite de leur collaboration, qui date de 1991, les deux organismes mènent des activités conjointes de recherche de première importance pour la sûreté du secteur de l'énergie nucléaire dans leurs pays, telles que la gestion des déchets radioactifs, en particulier le stockage géologique en profondeur ; le déclassement et le démantèlement des installations nucléaires ; les problématiques liées au risque hydrogène ; la quantification des incertitudes sur les codes multi-physiques ou encore les aspects sûreté liés aux processus chimiques dans les installations du cycle du combustible.
Pour Jean-Christophe Niel, directeur général de l'IRSN : « cet accord met en avant la conviction commune que la sûreté nucléaire repose sur l'excellence scientifique et technique. L'IRSN, en tant que membre actif du réseau ETSON, promeut activement le rôle de l'expertise technique scientifique afin de renforcer la sûreté nucléaire dans le monde ».

© Copyright 2018 - IRSN.
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    Science Codex / October 24, 2018
    Chemists disproved the universal nature of the mercury test
    Химики из МГУ, РУДН, Курчатовского института и Института элементоорганических соединений имени А.Н.Несмеянова РАН опровергли универсальность так называемого «ртутного теста» как метода определения механизма катализа. Метод используется уже около ста лет и основан на способности ртути растворять в себе различные металлы или адсорбироваться на их поверхности. Но оказалось, что в случае с гомогенными катализаторами палладоциклами ртуть ведет себя «неправильно».

The mercury test of catalysts that has been used and considered universal for 100 years, turned out to be ambiguous. This conclusion was made by a group of scientists including a RUDN chemist. The group confirmed that the test required additional control experiments to verify its results. The study might lead to the reconsideration of the existing experimental data and improving catalysis mechanisms in several chemical reactions. The article of the scientists was published in the Organometallics journal.
Catalysts speed up chemical reactions by dozens if not hundreds of times. The mechanisms of their activity may be heterogeneous or homogeneous. In the first case a catalyst takes part in a reaction in the form of separate atoms or ions, and in the second case - as a single solid body, a colloidal solution, or a nanocluster. To determine the mechanism of activity of each catalyst scientists make homing experiments, the most popular of which is the mercury test. It is based on the ability of mercury to combine with metals or to get adsorbed on their surface. Depending on the activity of mercury in a reaction one may conclude whether the catalyst is homo- or heterogeneous. A RUDN chemist together with his Russian colleagues disproved the universal nature of this test.
The authors studied the influence of mercury on the chemical structure of catalysts belonging to the homogeneous class of palladacycles and found out it formed organic compounds with them. Previously scientists believed that mercury only reacted with heterogeneous catalysts and had no influence of homogeneous ones. Still, palladacycles react with mercury, and therefore tests based on it can produce incorrect results.
For the main test condition to apply, mercury should not react with a metal catalyst. The phenomenon discovered by Russian chemists proves this condition false for palladacycles. The authors believe the mercury test may only be used together with additional experiments.
"The reaction between a catalyst and mercury was considered a proof of the catalysis process following the heterogeneous principle. We demonstrated that the reaction between mercury and palladacycles leads to the formation of organic chlorides. This disproves the existing belief. We've established that this process depends on the structure of palladacycles, conditions of the reaction, the palladacycles/mercury ratio, and the reaction environment. The results of our work show that for mercury tests to be used in chemistry in the future, the reaction between mercury and the catalyst should be prevented, and additional control experiments should be carried out," says Viktor Khrustalyov, a co-author of the work, PhD in chemistry, and head of the department of inorganic chemistry at RUDN.
The study was carried out by a team of scientists representing RUDN, MSU, and Nesmeyanov Institute of Organoelement Compounds of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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    Universe Today / October 24, 2018
    It Could Be Possible To Transfer Data Through Gravitational Waves
    • By Matt Williams
    Проанализировав некоторые свойства гравитационных волн, существование которых было подтверждено три года назад, российские математики пришли к выводу о возможности пространственной передачи информации при помощи этих волн на любое расстояние и без искажений.

On February 11th, 2016, scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) made history when they announced the first detection of gravitational waves. Originally predicted made by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity a century prior, these waves are essentially ripples in space-time that are formed by major astronomical events - such as the merger of a binary black hole pair.
This discovery not only opened up an exciting new field of research, but has opened the door to many intriguing possibilities. One such possibility, according to a new study by a team of Russian scientists, is that gravitational waves could be used to transmit information. In much the same way as electromagnetic waves are used to communicate via antennas and satellites, the future of communications could be gravitationally-based.
The study, which recently appeared in the scientific journal Classical and Quantum Gravity, was led by Olga Babourova, a professor at the Moscow Pedagogical State University (MPSU), and included members from Moscow Automobile and Road Construction State Technical University (MADI) and the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia (RUDN). For the sake of their study, the team conducted a three-stage study to determine if GWs could be encoded and used to transmit information. In the first stage, they analyzed the properties of GWs in a generalized affine-metric space (a three-dimensional algebraic construction that is independent of vectors or points of origin). This is similar to how the properties of electromagnetic waves (and General Relativity) are evaluated using the four-dimensional manifold known as Minowski space-time.
This allowed the team to move from their mathematical interpretation of GWs to their description in real space. In the second stage, the researchers sought to determine whether or not various functions of time would change in the process of the wave's distribution. What they found was that the characteristics of a wave could be set at the source, and then decoded unchanged at a second source.
In the third stage, the researchers tested to see if their non-metrical structure of gravitational waves could be used to encode an information signal. From this, they determined that of the four dimensions of a wave (three spatial dimensions and one time dimension), three could be used to encode an information signal using only one function while the fourth could be encoded using two functions.
As Nina V. Markova - an assistant professor at the C.M. Nikolsky Mathematical Institute, a staff member of RUDN and a co-author on the study - summarized in a recent RUDN press release:
"We found that nonmetricity waves are able to transmit data similarly to the recently discovered curvature waves, because their description contains arbitrary functions of delayed time that can be encoded in the source of such waves (in a perfect analogy to electromagnetic waves)."
Overall, the team demonstrated that based on their mathematical representation, there are functions with gravitational waves that remain invariable in the process of wave distribution. What this means is that it could be possible to encode information in these waves the same way we have been using electromagnetic waves to transfer encoded information via radio signals for over a century.
So if scientists can develop a method to incorporate information into a gravitational wave source, they could communicate it to any point in space without change. This would have tremendous implications for communications in space, where satellites and future space stations could transmit information using radio, optical and/or gravitational wave signals.
Yet another exciting opportunity for the future of space exploration. And it was all made possible thanks to a field of scientific research that has grown exponentially in just a few years.

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    ScienceAlert / 25 Oct 2018
    Dark Matter Could Be Forming Strange Cold "Stars" Out There in The Universe
    • Mike Mcrae
    Темная материя может сжиматься, образуя так называемые «звезды Бозе» - сферические капли квантового конденсата. К такому выводу пришли сотрудники Института ядерных исследований РАН, разработав математическую модель, описывающую движение частиц темной материи внутри гало небольших галактик.

Deep inside the diffuse haze of gas and dust that surround the smallest galaxies, dark matter could be clumping into cold droplets called 'Bose stars'.
Of course, we don't even know what the mysterious dark matter is, let alone have evidence of invisible 'stars'. But if current assumptions pan out, a new mathematical model suggests dark matter might have some strange interactions.
The model was proposed by a team of Russian physicists who considered the way hypothetical particles of dark matter might aggregate in the smallest of galactic halos. "In our work, we simulated the motion of a quantum gas of light, gravitationally interacting dark matter particles," says physicist Dmitry Levkov from the Institute for Nuclear Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Around 80 percent of the mass in the Universe is made of something we can't seem to detect. Whatever it is, it doesn't interact with normal matter through the usual channels, such as by exchanging photons via the electromagnetic field. The only sign of its presence is the added oomph it adds to the clumping of galaxies. Still, that's no small thing - this unseen gravitational tax has already been mapped out in detail, providing us with key information on its nature.
Thanks to its clear affinity for galaxies, we can assume the speed of the stuff making up dark matter isn't fast enough to shoot off into the voids of space. It has to be relatively slow moving. One candidate for this sluggish dark matter is a hypothetical particle called an axion. They're a type of boson - not unlike the photon - that was proposed as a solution for another perplexing paradox in quantum physics.
Another option is fuzzy dark matter. It's yet another type of boson, invented as a solution to a dilemma in astrophysics concerning the distribution of dark matter in galactic haloes. Neither of these bespoke bosons have been shown to exist. But if at least one of them turned out to be real, under some circumstances they could do some interesting things.
The authors claim the model is the first to look at the kinetics of such a dark matter Bose-Einstein condensate actually forming.
Bose-Einstein condensates are the Anonymous rallies of quantum particles. When the temperature drops to just above absolute zero, particles quit mixing and lose their individual identities to look eerily the same. Previous attempts have stuck to asking what happens when the bosons have already come together, such as in an infant Universe. In this case, they began with a jumble of interacting bosons. "We started from a virialised state with maximal mixing, which is kind of opposite to the Bose-Einstein condensate," says Levkov. "After a very long period, 100,000 times longer than the time needed for a particle to cross the simulation volume, the particles spontaneously formed a condensate, which immediately shaped itself into a spherical droplet, a Bose star, under the effect of gravity."
In effect, a cloud of 'dark' bosons becomes the same particle. Not only that, the physicists have worked out this cloud can pull together under gravitational effects to form a globe - a Bose 'star'. The conditions for these hypothetical objects would need to be fairly specific, such as concentrated in the middle of the relatively small halo surrounding a dwarf galaxy. And even then, while it should take place within the lifetime of the Universe, it would still be a slow process.
These kinds of 'what if?' scenarios might sound a little sci-fi, but they help us improve boundaries on where to hunt for clues on this whole dark matter mystery.
"The next obvious step is to predict the number of the Bose stars in the Universe and calculate their mass in models with light dark matter," says Levkov.
One day we will finally have a grasp on the fundamental nature of this ghostly mass. When we do, we're almost certainly going to find some fascinating new structures hiding in plain view among the stars.
This research was published in Physical Review Letters.

* * *
    Ars Technica / 10/31/2018
    Russian official says Soyuz rocket failure caused by an errant sensor
    The Russians plan to put people back on the Soyuz rocket in about a month.
    • Eric Berger
    Причиной аварии ракеты-носителя «Союз» 11 октября стало неправильная работа (возможно, в результате повреждения при сборке) датчика, отвечавшего за процесс разделения первой и второй ступеней ракеты. Запуски «Союза» планируется возобновить с 3 декабря.

Although the official report on the cause of a Soyuz rocket failure won't be released until Thursday, a Russian official disclosed its central conclusion a day early, the country's news agency TASS reports.
Sergei Krikalev, the executive director of "manned programs" for Russia's space corporation Roscosmos, said a sensor on board the rocket failed to properly signal the separation of the first and second stages. As a result, one of the side-mounted rocket boosters did not separate properly from the vehicle and collided with the rocket.
This collision triggered an automatic abort of one of the Soyuz's abort systems, pulling the crew of NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin safely away from the rocket and sending them on a ballistic return to Earth.
The Russians have conducted a rapid investigation of the failure, which occurred on October 11, concluding it within three weeks. They have been driven to do this because the Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only means by which NASA, Russia, and their international partners have of getting people to and from the station. Three people remain in orbit: American astronaut Serena Auсуn-Chancellor, German ISS Commander Alexander Gerst, and Russian Sergey Prokopyev. They are due to return to Earth around December 20.
After their investigation, Russian officials are planning to move up the next crewed launch from mid-December to early December to ensure a continued human presence on the station. The space station can operate autonomously for a period of time, but if something critical breaks and no astronauts are on board to fix the problem, the station could become severely damaged or even lost.
Krikalev said the next launch will now be moved forward to December 3 and will carry the same crew as originally intended on this mission, MS-11: Russian Oleg Kononenko, American Anne McClain, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques. The problems with the Soyuz rocket, he said, will be fixed.
NASA officials have consistently said they have full confidence in the Russian investigation, as well as the Soyuz rocket and spacecraft. It is inconceivable that the more cautious US space agency would suffer a total rocket failure in October and fly humans on that same rocket less than two months later. However, given their reliance on Russia, US spaceflight officials have little choice but to defer to the Russians until commercial crew vehicles under development by SpaceX and Boeing come into service, probably within about a year from now.

© 2018 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.
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