|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Ученые из МФТИ выяснили, как влияет на мозг мышей низкодозовое нейтронное излучение (один из источников ионизирующего излучения, воздействию которого подвергаются космонавты). Оказалось, что оно подавляет нейрогенез (образование новых нервных клеток), но в целом не влияет на поведение и память.
While several agencies are planning to establish new orbital space stations and send expeditions across the solar system, a team of Russian scientists has found that space radiation could temporarily hinder formation of new cells in brains' memory centres.
The team from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), however, found that effects of low-dose neutron and gamma ray (γ-ray) radiation had no impact on rodents' intellectual capabilities, the Sputnik news agency reported.
It means the mice's mental abilities and behaviour remained almost unaffected by the radiation, with memorisation occurring as normal and the rodents behaving in ways that were no different from the non-irradiated control group.
Irradiated and non-irradiated mice "showed no differences in terms of exploratory behaviour or anxiety, six weeks after the irradiation," with their "ability to form hippocampus-dependent memory also unaffected," according to the study published in the NeuroReport academic journal.
"We are not asserting that the behaviour and memory of irradiated mice remained completely unaffected," Sputnik cited Alexander Lazutkin, a senior research scientist at the MIPT as saying to RIA Novosti news agency.
"The data on other types of radiation suggests that despite the apparent preservation of memories, its individual fine components may suffer. That means our work is just the beginning of this kind of research," he said.
The new research has filled an important gap in scientific knowledge in the study of the types of neutrons produced in the atmosphere or inside spacecraft during their atoms' interactions with cosmic rays, the researchers said.
Copyright: The Tribune Trust, 2015.
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Nature / 10 April 2019
Mars methane hunt comes up empty, flummoxing scientists
Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft did not find the gas in red planet’s atmosphere during its first months of operation.
Орбитальный аппарат для исследования малых составляющих атмосферы (ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter) Роскосмоса и Европейского космического агентства, начавший поиск метана на Марсе в прошлом году, до сих пор не обнаружил никаких следов его присутствия, хотя за предыдущие 15 лет оно неоднократно отмечалось. Ученые предположили, что метан лишь изредка выходит в атмосферу Марса и по какой-то причине быстро разрушается.
A spacecraft that was supposed to solve the mystery of methane on Mars has instead compounded scientists’ confusion. The European-Russian Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which began looking for the gas last year, has yet to find any whiffs of it in Mars’s atmosphere, says a study published on 10 April in Nature.
"It’s a huge surprise," says Dorothy Oehler, a planetary geologist at the Planetary Science Institute in Houston, Texas.
Earlier Mars missions have detected hints of methane wafting through the atmosphere. The TGO’s failure so far to find the gas suggests that an unknown process is scrubbing much of it from the atmosphere soon after it appears, says Oleg Korablev, a physicist at the Space Research Institute in Moscow and lead author of the study.
Planetary scientists are keen to understand where Martian methane comes from because most methane in Earth’s atmosphere is produced by living organisms. Pinning down how much methane is in Mars’s atmosphere, and where, would help researchers to determine whether the gas comes from geological sources, such as chemical reactions in rocks, or has a more exciting origin - potentially, Martian life.
Scientists have repeatedly spotted methane on Mars over the past 15 years. The reports include telescopic views of a plume of methane in 2003 and occasional detections by NASA’s Curiosity rover since it landed at Gale crater in 2012. The European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft has spotted the gas at multiple sites - including a plume near Gale in 2013.
Sniffing the skies
Aiming to answer the question more definitively, the TGO arrived at Mars in 2016 and began collecting atmospheric data in April 2018. Between April and August 2018, it found no signs of methane, even though its instruments can detect the gas at concentrations below 50 parts per trillion.
Curiosity sniffed about 500 parts per trillion of methane in mid-June 2018 - at the same time that the TGO flew overhead without seeing any, says Christopher Webster of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who runs the rover’s methane-measuring instrument. Models suggest that any methane plumes should drift upward and mix well into the planet’s atmosphere within a few months.
"Why do they disappear so quickly?" asks John Moores, a planetary scientist at York University in Toronto, Canada. "There’s some piece of the puzzle we are missing."
Researchers are looking for answers in the gap between Curiosity, which hunts for methane 1 metre above Mars’s surface, and the TGO, which takes its best measurements at least 5 kilometres above the planet. The scientists are trying to determine how methane could be destroyed relatively close to Mars’s surface.
One possibility is that methane seeping out of the ground is removed by some kind of low-altitude chemical reaction - perhaps involving dust - before it can drift higher into the air, says Michael Mumma, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. A team based at Aarhus University in Denmark, which has studied how dust particles could deplete Martian methane, will describe its ideas on 11 April at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna.
In June 2018, just a few months after the TGO began monitoring Mars's atmosphere, a giant dust storm spread across the planet. It obscured Mars's atmosphere and temporarily forced the spacecraft to focus its search for methane on high elevations and latitudes.
Still, some researchers are sceptical that the TGO will ever find the gas. "I’ve never seen a convincing detection of indigenous methane on Mars, and I don’t believe I ever will," says Kevin Zahnle, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, who has long argued that the reports of Martian methane are observational errors.
But Oehler says that methane probably wafts erratically out of geologically active regions on Mars, such as those riddled with faults. With the only on-ground measurements of the gas coming from Curiosity, scientists simply haven’t had the chance to observe how it might be seeping from different parts of the planet’s surface, or how methane might be destroyed as it drifts upward. Sushil Atreya, a planetary scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, would like to see a series of methane-measuring drones, dirigibles or balloons float over many areas of the Martian surface.
In the meantime, the TGO will continue to monitor Mars’s atmosphere through at least 2022. So far, it has observed only a fraction of a Martian year, which lasts nearly two Earth years. Hints of methane might yet emerge as the seasons pass.
"One thing about Mars is it’s never boring," says Oehler.
© 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG.
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Существует ряд гипотез о природе темной материи. Согласно одной из них загадочное вещество состоит из сверхлегких частиц аксионов. Международная группа физиков из России, США и Финляндии поставила эту гипотезу под сомнение после анализа наблюдений активных ядер галактик с помощью радиотелескопов. Если аксионоподобные частицы и существуют, то не в принятом диапазоне параметров.
Physicists have long sought to uncloak dark matter and get an actual look at the mysterious substance that makes up a quarter of the universe. One idea for what's hiding beneath the cloak of invisibility? Many tiny, fuzzy particles that behave like one gigantic particle.
But the most recent hunt for such fuzzy, ultralight particles, published on Feb. 28 in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, has come up empty-handed. The results suggest that if dark matter is really made of these miniscule particles, it is as elusive as its name suggests, and barely interacts with ordinary matter.
Heart of darkness
Dark matter is one of the universe's best-kept secrets. The stuff does not interact with light, yet exerts a gravitational pull on other matter. Though it makes up around a quarter of the mass and energy in the universe, scientists can't seem to find it, or even figure out what it's made of.
Many scientists speculate that dark matter could be comprised of weakly interacting massive particles, WIMPs. But WIMP theories come up short in several ways. For example, these particles should cause small structures in the web of galaxies that astronomers haven't seen. So instead, some scientists are looking in another direction for dark matter - to ultralight particles.
While there are many ideas of what dark matter might be, none of them have much supporting evidence, said Sergey Troitsky, a co-author of the paper and a researcher at the Institute for Nuclear Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences. "So one needs to consider, study, and exclude all possibilities one by one."
Some theories of ultralight, also known as fuzzy, dark matter, propose a particle that's around 10^28 times lighter than an electron. This "fuzzy" dark matter is so named because its low mass means it acts more like a smeared particle with blurry boundaries than a wave. The new research tested a way to look for these types of particles in the light from active galaxies.
Since dark matter makes up such a large portion of the universe, if it is made of ultralight particles, there must be a lot of them. So many, in fact, that they would exist in a unique state, like a field or a Bose-Einstein condensate - a state where particles, often at ultra-cool temperatures, clump together and act cohesively as one. While individual dark matter particles don't interact with light - which is why scientists have struggled to find them - on large scales, the field would have a noticeable effect on the polarization, or the orientation, of light as it wiggles through space. This would occur as the density of the field regularly oscillates, in effect changing the way the light traveled through the region.
The theory suggested that this effect could be seen in a region of dark matter at least 325 light-years across. The oscillation rate of the field depends directly on the mass of the ultralight dark matter particles, so by seeing this effect the scientists hoped they could measure the mass of dark matter.
To look for changes in the polarization of light due to fields of ultralight dark matter, the scientists looked at archival data from the Very Long Baseline Array, a radio telescope composed of 10 (82 feet) (25 meter) telescopes operated from Socorro, New Mexico. They focused on light from the hearts of 30 galaxies, which spew out huge quantities of matter in jets that can stretch hundreds of light-years across. The light from these galaxies is highly polarized and has been well-studied, so long-term archival data about them was already available.
"We often use astrophysical data from published papers or publicly available databases to constrain properties of elementary particles," Troitsky told Live Science. "But this time we contacted our fellow radio astronomers and they dug in their own data, carefully selecting observational series just for our task."
Analyzing two decades of data, the scientists found a lot of oscillations, but not the types they were looking for. Active galactic nuclei often pulse without a regular frequency. But oscillations from ultralight dark matter would all occur with the same length of time between oscillations.
Ultimately, the scientists did not see any signs of ultralight dark matter, at least at the types of masses that could explain the lack of small structures found in the web of galaxies. However, that doesn't mean they absolutely don't exist.
"There is no guarantee that a dark matter particle has any interaction with the visible world besides gravity," Troitsky said. "It would be very hard to discover such a particle with some mass and no other interaction, though that is indeed one of the simplest options to explain dark matter."
While the new research might make conventional ultralight dark matter unlikely, researchers aren't ready to rule it out.
"The only thing we know for sure about dark matter is that it lies outside of known particle physics," said Rennan Barkana, an astronomer at Tel Aviv University in Israel, who wasn't involved with the study. "So, until we have convincing observational evidence of the nature of dark matter, we should be careful about guesses and speculations … and keep an open mind."
Copyright © 2019. All Rights Reserved.
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Ученые из Томского госуниверситета впервые выделили и изучили бактерию Desulforudis audaxviator. Обитающий под землей на глубине до 3 км всеядный микроорганизм ухитряется добывать энергию в условиях полного отсутствия света и кислорода. «Поймать» бактерию до сих пор не удавалось, хотя о ее существовании стало известно более десяти лет назад.
Microbiologists from Tomsk State University (TSU) in Siberia have become the first in the world to isolate the bacteria Desulforudis audaxviator, using samples taken from water located deep underground in Western Siberia.
Interest in the bacterium has been high given its ability to derive energy from its environment in the absence of light and oxygen, making it a candidate for a type of life theoretically possible in space, or on a planet like Mars. But its isolation has proven elusive until now. The results are published in the journal ISME.
The existence of Desulforudis audaxviator, living deep underground, became known more than 10 years ago, according to Olga Karnachuk, head of the TSU Department of Plant Physiology and Biotechnology and lead author.
The genetic trail was first picked up by American scientists in 2008 via the DNA of a microorganism found in the mine waters of a gold mine located in South Africa. Sampling was carried out at a depth of 1.5 to 3 km, where there is neither light nor oxygen. Not so long ago, it was believed that life in these conditions was impossible because without light there is no photosynthesis - the energy-conversion process that appeared to underpin all food chains. But this assumption was later revealed to be incorrect. One of the clearest pieces of evidence in this respect is the "black smokers" - the hydrothermal vents found on the ocean floor. But, in contrast to those, the Desulforudis audaxviator lives underground in complete solitude. After the publication of an article by American researchers in the journal Science, scientists from different countries began a search for the bacteria.
Its DNA was found in water samples in Finland and in the US, but no one could isolate the bacterium itself. Its elusiveness was explained by the assumption that it only divides every thousand years. TSU microbiologists were able to isolate the Desulforudis audaxviator, working with samples found in the underground waters of a thermal spring located in the Verkhneketsky District of the Tomsk Region. The scientists had extensive practical experience in the isolation of complex sulphate-reducing bacteria.
Sulphate-reducing bacteria are among the most ancient microorganisms on the planet. This diverse group of prokaryotes is distinguished by the ability to receive energy in the absence of oxygen due to the consumption of sulphates and the oxidation of hydrogen or simple organic compounds. Among sulphate-reducing bacteria, there are thermophilic microorganisms that can live and multiply at temperatures from +50°C to +93°C.
The studies were conducted jointly with TSU’s partners at a testing centre for biotechnology affiliated with the Russian Academy of Sciences, a group with extensive experience in DNA sequencing, said Olga Karnachuk. A group of Moscow experts under the guidance of Professor Nikolai Ravin looked at the samples that TSU scientists had selected during searches for oil wells in the north of the region. The DNA of the bacteria was found in the samples taken in White Yar, in Western Siberia.
Sometime after that, TSU scientists managed to isolate the bacterium and obtain new data about it. First, it became known that the bacterium divides more than once every thousand years, actually once every 28 hours - that is, almost daily.
Second, it turned out that Desulforudis audaxviator is almost omnivorous: in the laboratory, it "ate" sugar, alcohol, and much else. According to the researchers, the bacterium appeared to thrive particularly when feeding on hydrogen, from which it receives the most energy. In addition, it turned out that a previously held assumption, that oxygen is destructive for an underground microbe, does not in fact hold true.
And third, the group identified the structure of the bacteria, and found that it travels widely throughout the world, thanks seemingly to tiny bubbles - or gas vacuoles - and this is seemingly a similar mechanism to the swim bladder of certain types of fish. However, the movement pathways of the bacteria remain somewhat mysterious, since the underground reservoirs in which the DNA of the microorganism was found were geographically isolated. The scientists’ hypothesis is that the bacterium travels through the air via small particles of aerosol, and falls to great depths from the surface of open water bodies.
And finally, another surprising fact is that the genome of the bacterium found in Siberia is almost identical to the DNA of the bacteria from South Africa.
"It shouldn’t be like that, a mystery that we don’t understand," said Olga Karnachuk. "The fact is that mutations are always present. Even when the same bacterium is cultivated in the laboratory, over time differences in DNA appear. In this case, they do not. And it is not clear why. The answer to this question is connected with some basic fundamentals of living cells that have not yet been studied, therefore the explanation of this genetic similarity is a matter of the future, something that scientists still have to work on."
The Latin name of the bacterium Desulforudis audaxviator comes from a quote from Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. His hero, Professor Liddenbrock, shows a Latin inscription: "Descende, audax viator, et terrestre centrum attinges" ("Descend, brave traveler, and reach the centre of the Earth").
© 2019 Peebles Media Group Limited. All rights reserved.
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Таяние вечной мерзлоты, занимающей значительную часть территории России, может «вернуть к жизни» замороженные возбудители различных болезней - от оспы и сибирской язвы до доисторических заболеваний, с которыми человечество еще не сталкивалось.
When authorities in Yakutsk invited participants in a youth government initiative to brainstorm ideas for an empty lot in the centre last year, it seemed like a smart way to get rid of an eyesore. But the project was held up after residents and officials raised concerns that the site could hold anthrax spores preserved in the permanently frozen soil.
Although specialists eventually said it was safe to build a skate park on the lot, which once held a laboratory making an anthrax serum, the incident raised further questions about the ancient diseases known to be lurking in the permafrost - and whether they could be unlocked by global warming.
"Anthrax spores can stay alive in the permafrost for up to 2,500 years. That's scary given the thawing of animal burial grounds from the 19th century," said Boris Kershengolts, a Yakutsk biologist who studies northern climates. "When they are taken out of the permafrost and put into our temperatures, they revive."
Yakutsk is the coldest city on earth with temperatures that can drop below -60C in the winter. But it's seeing the start of warming that could lead to the destruction of infrastructure and the revival of dormant diseases across the north, even as more people arrive to many new military bases and oil and gas facilities.
At an Arctic forum in St Petersburg on Tuesday, Vladimir Putin called the fact that Russia is warming two-and-a-half times faster than the rest of the world an "alarming trend". At the same time, he announced a new Arctic development strategy and promised to increase investment with tax breaks and subsidised icebreaker escorts through the northeast passage.
Two-thirds of Russia's territory is permafrost, including almost all of the vast region of Yakutia, where it can be up to hundreds of feet deep. Now these icy bonds are beginning to break. In many places the active layer, the top few feet that thaw and refreeze each year, is thawing earlier and to a greater depth. Permafrost in central Yakutia is shrinking by one to five centimetres a year and even more in urban areas, according to the Melnikov Permafrost Institute.
Meanwhile, precipitation has increased in 70 per cent of Yakutia since 1966. That thickens the blanket of snow that insulates the ground from the cold air, exacerbating the thaw. In Yakutsk, where most buildings stand on eight- to 12-metre stilts driven through the active layer into more stable permafrost, many walls are visibly cracking as foundations grow unsteady. In the nearby town of Khatassy, locals have been calling on the authorities to save six houses on the verge of toppling 30 feet into the Lena River as the degradation of the permafrost speeds up erosion. Permafrost thawing has also caused thousands of oil and gas pipeline breaks in Russia, Greenpeace has said. And most alarmingly, it has led to at least one disease epidemic.
In the West, anthrax is best known as the powder mailed to news outlets after the September 11 attacks, but here it's called "Siberian plague" for ravaging livestock and people in that part of the country in previous centuries. Caused by bacteria that can occur naturally in the soil, anthrax typically infects animals through plants or water they consume and has caused periodic outbreaks throughout history. Humans can similarly become ill by breathing, drinking, eating or coming into contact with the bacteria's spores through an open cut, often developing blisters with a telltale black centre. If complications like fever, vomiting and bloody diarrhea aren't treated with antibiotics in time, they can lead to death.
Warming has already been tied to the first outbreak of anthrax in the Arctic region of Yamal in 70 years. Amid temperatures of up to 35C in 2016, an estimated 2,000 reindeer died and 96 people were hospitalised. A 12-year-old boy died from eating raw venison, as is the local custom that was infected.
Experts on the ground concluded that the "appearance of anthrax was stimulated by the activation of 'old' infection sites following anomalously high air temperature and the thawing of the sites to a depth beyond normal levels". Anthrax spores can lay dormant underground until temperatures warm to 15C, creating conditions for their reproduction.
In previous centuries, residents of the far north did not want to waste scarce firewood burning carcasses and instead interred them in thousands of mass "cattle graves" scraped into the hard permafrost. Nomadic herders simply left reindeer were they fell and thereafter avoided these "cursed fields".
Today, the locations of cattle graves are kept secret since they are closed to the public. "Why increase the phobia about these animal burial grounds?" - Mr Kershengolts explained. But more than a third of the 13,885 cattle burial grounds in Russia did not meet sanitary norms, according to a state report in 2009.
As permafrost thaws, water flows through it more easily, carrying away spores to potentially infect new victims. When anthrax expert Vasily Seliverstov arrived to respond to the Yamal outbreak, he encountered scatterings of dead reindeer lying "in a chain" along several miles of the afflicted herd's migration route.
He blames that summer's drought. While precipitation is on the rise elsewhere, it's actually decreasing in the northernmost tundra zone.
Anthrax spores were washed into the silt of one of the small lakes that dot the swampy tundra, Mr Seliverstov believes. When the water dried up, hungry reindeer may have come to graze on the anthrax-infected grass that grew in its place.
"In the cursed fields, with all these lakes, the probability of animals being infected is pretty high during a dry summer," he said. The threat of anthrax spreading from cattle graves must also be better monitored, he added. Yakutia has more such sites than any other region. A 2011 study found there had been more anthrax outbreaks in districts where warming was the greatest, killing 21 people between 1949 and 1996.
Other diseases could be waiting as well. Researchers found smallpox DNA fragments on bodies in the Russian permafrost and RNA from the 1918 Spanish flu in Alaska. Some even fear that those involved in Yakutia's woolly mammoth tusk trade could pick up "paleo-pathogens" - prehistoric diseases that humans may have never encountered - after live bacteria was found in mammoth remains frozen for 20,000 years.
A 2014 study revived even older viruses from the Siberian permafrost, and scientists were able to bring an 8-million-year-old bacterium back to life from Antarctic ice.
Mr Kershengolts fears that disease could spread beyond the far north in light of mysterious craters believed to be caused by the explosion of methane hydrates.
These frozen "methane bombs" expand massively when they thaw, building up pressure until they erupt, said Mikhail Grigoryev of the permafrost institute. Since methane traps 30 times more energy than carbon dioxide, its widespread release could profoundly speed up climate change.
A dozen craters and 7,000 small hills probably containing methane hydrate have been discovered in Yamal. Yakutia is home to craters like the so-called "gateway to hell," which is more than half a mile long.
"If the area of these emissions overlaps with the burials of animals or humans who died from diseases in previous centuries, these spores and pathogens could spread over a huge area. It would be a disaster not just for the Arctic," Mr Kerhsengolts said. "The catastrophe could exceed Chernobyl."
© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2019.
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Science/Business / 16 Apr 2019
EU to vote on renewing scientific relations with Russia
Parliament is expected to back a new five-year research agreement with Russia, in a display of science diplomacy described as ‘an island of positivity in an ocean of negative relations’.
Первое соглашение о научном сотрудничестве между Евросоюзом и Россией было подписано в Брюсселе в 2000 году и с тех пор продлевалось трижды - в 2004, 2009 и 2014 гг. Сейчас ЕС готовится утвердить новое соглашение, несмотря на «политические обстоятельства». Российские ученые участвуют в работе по 81 гранту в рамках крупнейшей программы Евросоюза по развитию научных исследований и технологий Horizon 2020.
Five years after Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine sparked EU sanctions that have smothered science collaboration, Brussels is preparing to approve a new research agreement with its neighbour.
On Wednesday the European Parliament is expected to renew the EU’s science and technology cooperation with Russia for a five-year period. That is despite a sharp and ongoing deterioration in relations between the two, which has seen cooperation fall "far below its potential" in recent years, the text of the agreement says.
In part, this is explained by a change of EU funding rules in 2014, which means countries including Russia, Brazil, India, China and Mexico are no longer eligible for automatic research funding from Brussels. But "political circumstances" have also hampered collaboration, the Commission says. Following Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014, the EU responded with economic sanctions. These included banning the export of dual-use and sensitive technology, and deterring investments in areas such as offshore oil and gas exploration. In addition, research organisations in Crimea were banned from participating in EU R&D projects.
Five years on, mutual suspicion continues to grow. Ahead of European elections in May, Brussels has launched a "war against disinformation" that it says is being spread by the Kremlin. Russian president, Vladimir Putin, stands accused in Brussels of spending more than £1 billion a year to "spread lies" as part of a military strategy to cause division in the EU. Putin and his government have repeatedly denied claims that it has sought to interfere in foreign elections.
Yet even against this grim backdrop, officials from both sides see room to improve cooperation in research.
The science relationship remains "one of the few islands of positive cooperation in an ocean of negative relations," an EU official said.
EU officials are positive about Russian efforts in the past few years to improve entry conditions for foreign researchers, although there are still issues with registering foreign offices in Russia and getting visas for researchers from abroad visiting for more than three months in the year.
The first science cooperation agreement between the EU and Russia was signed in Brussels in 2000. Since then, the agreement has been renewed three times in 2004, 2009 and, despite the poor state of relations at the time, in 2014.
Geopolitics have not obviously affected Russian participation in EU labs. Russian scientists are found in all the major research centres, including the European Organisation for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France and X-ray Free Electron Laser in Germany. Russia is also co-financing the construction of both the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France and the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research in Germany.
Despite a feeling in Russia that science has languished under Putin, the country still ranks somewhere between Italy and the UK for research investment, and is placed just after the US and China as the EU’s most active international research partner. Putin’s government has gradually increased public spending on science over the past decade, to around 1 per cent of gross domestic product annually.
Russians are involved in 81 research grants under the EU’s current research programme, Horizon 2020, with the government putting up €16 million to cover this participation.
However, Russia’s involvement in EU science projects today is smaller than in the previous EU funding period of 2007-2014. EU sanctions and concern over cooperation in technologically sensitive areas "may have led some scientists to think that Russian partners in Horizon 2020 projects would not be welcome", a Commission note says.
In a bid to repair some of the damage done to the EU-Russian science relationship, the EU is putting aside more funding to increase cooperation on topics of mutual interest in the remaining two and a half years of Horizon 2020. For instance, the EU and the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education have recently devised a series of joint projects in infectious diseases and aeronautics.
© 2019 Science|Business.
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В сосудах сердца жеребенка ленской лошади, 42 тысячи лет пролежавшего в вечной мерзлоте, исследователи из Северо-Восточного федерального университета обнаружили жидкую кровь. Ученые считают, что это самая лучшая по сохранности находка представителя животного мира ледникового периода - уцелели внутренние органы, мышечные ткани, шерсть.
Scientists in the Yakutsk region of Siberia have managed to extract samples of liquid blood from a 42,000-year-old foal that was found embedded in permafrost back in 2018. The scientists are hoping to collect viable cells for the purpose of cloning the extinct species of horse.
The male foal was discovered in the Batagaika depression on August 11, 2018. Permafrost left the remains in remarkably good shape, raising hopes that its cells could be extracted. The specimen is thought to belong to an extinct species of horse known as Lenskaya breed (also known as the Lena horse), as the Siberian Times reported last year.
Collaboration between North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk and the South Korean Sooam Biotech Research Foundation is currently analyzing the remains with the explicit intent of cloning the prehistoric horse. To do so, however, the researchers would have to extract and grow viable somatic cells - something they haven’t been able to do just yet. More than 20 attempts to grow cells from the animal’s tissue have all failed. A detailed analysis of the horse began last month, with work expected to last until the end of April.
As the Siberian Times reported earlier today, the researchers have now managed to extract samples of liquid blood from the specimen’s heart vessels, which were well-preserved owing to favorable burial conditions and the permafrost, according to Semyon Grigoryev, head of the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk. It’s not clear if viable cells can be grown from the blood sample.
In an interview with the Russian news agency TASS, and as relayed by the Siberian Times, Grigoryev said the autopsy has shown "beautifully preserved organs" and muscle tissues preserved with their "natural reddish color." In addition, the foal still exhibits hair on its head, legs, and parts of its body. Having "preserved hair is another scientific sensation as all previous ancient horses were found without hair," said Grigoryev. When alive, the animal featured a bay color, with a black tail and mane.
"Our studies showed that at the moment of death the foal was from one to two weeks old, so he was just recently born," said Grigoryev. "As in previous cases of really well-preserved remains of prehistoric animals, the cause of death was drowning in mud which froze and turned into permafrost. A lot of mud and silt which the foal gulped during the last seconds of its life were found inside its gastrointestinal tract."
The conserved nature of the horse, plus the blood sample, signifies it as "the best preserved Ice Age animal ever found in the world," declared Grigoryev. Well, "best preserved" is in the eye of the beholder, but Grigoryev has a strong case. Back in 2013, Russian scientists found liquid blood in the remains of a 15,000-year-old wooly mammoth. The blood pulled from the foal is 27,000 years older.
As noted, a major goal of this collaboration between NEFU and Sooam Biotech is to revive this animal through the processes of cloning (as an important aside, Sooam Biotech is in the business of cloning pet dogs in South Korea, and its lead researcher is Hwang Woo Suk, the controversial geneticist accused of several egregious ethics violations during the 2000s). Apparently, the work "is so advanced" that the team is looking for a surrogate mare "for the historic role of giving birth to the comeback species," the Siberian Times reports with its typical unbridled enthusiasm.
Clearly, there are some serious ethical and technological issues that need to be addressed. Reviving species is controversial for a number of reasons, including the diminished quality of life for the clone (which will be subject to experiments during its entire life), the problem of genetic diversity and inbreeding, and the absence of an Ice Age habitat to host the revived species, among other limitations.
The Russian-Korean collaboration is also trying to clone a woolly mammoth, and the research gleaned from the foal research could be used as groundwork for that pending experiment. The resurrection of an extinct species, whether we like it or not, may happen sooner than we think.
© 2019 Gizmodo Media Group.
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Ученые впервые сравнили данные о полном геноме 55 этнических групп на территории России, а для трех из них проследили историю развития - с неожиданным результатом. Анализ показал, что около 7 тысяч лет назад предки современных жителей Пскова, Новгорода и Якутии были одной популяцией численностью около двух тысяч человек.
Scientists have for the first time compared complete genome data of different ethnic groups in Russia. Using a special algorithm, they traced the genetic history for some groups. In the future, such data can be used in other important studies. For example, it can help to identify genetic risk factors in various populations of Russian people. The results are published in Genomics.
The Russian Federation is a large country uniting many nationalities and populations. However, their genetic diversity is still understudied. Existing studies have considered either a specific population or a part of the genome. At the same time, a comparison of whole genome data from different populations can reveal information about the spread of diseases and resistance. Therefore, St. Petersburg State University initiated the Russian Genomes project, in which scientists from various organizations have created a database of Russian population genetic data.
The scientists analyzed 204 genome datasets of different populations from other papers and added 60 new genomes from Pskov, Novgorod and Yakutia. In all, 264 representatives of 55 ethnic groups were examined during the study.
The researchers used a special program written at ITMO University to predict the demographic history for three of these populations. This demographic history describes the population development: How and when they were one ancestral population, how the population size changed, and the rates of their migration.
"We developed a program to search for the optimal demographic history according to the genomes of samples of the populations. This required calculation and analysis of the occurrence frequency of different alleles. The program then built many demographic histories to find out which of them is more appropriate for this data," says Ekaterina Noskova from the Laboratory of Computer Technologies at ITMO University.
It turned out, for example, that in the past, the current inhabitants of Pskov, Novgorod and Yakutia were one population of about 2000 people. But 7000 years ago, the Yakuts separated from it, and about 1,200 years ago, representatives of Pskov and Novgorod divided. Since then, all three populations began to grow sharply in numbers.
According to scientists, comparing the genomes of different populations, as well as their development histories, helps to understand which gene variants cause diseases, and which protect from them. Therefore, for the next step of this study, the researchers plan to carefully analyze the data and look for correlations with diseases.
© Phys.org 2003-2019.
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Явление суперинжекции, лежащее в основе работы современных лазеров и светодиодов, было открыто в 1960-х гг. Жоресом Алферовым и Гербертом Кремером (Нобелевская премия по физике 2000 года). Они предложили создавать источники света на основе гетероструктур из нескольких специально подобранных и совмещенных полупроводниковых материалов. Однако именно в этом и состояла проблема - далеко не все полупроводники можно было объединить в одну структуру.
50 лет спустя Игорь Храмцов и Дмитрий Федянин из МФТИ обнаружили, что суперинжекция возможна и в структурах, состоящих из одного материала, причем для этого подходит большинство известных полупроводников.
A physical effect known as superinjection underlies modern light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and lasers. For decades this effect was believed to occur only in semiconductor heterostructures - that is, structures composed of two or more semiconductor materials. Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology have found superinjection to be possible in homostructures, which are made of a single material. This opens up entirely new prospects for the development of light sources. The paper came out Feb. 21 in the journal Semiconductor Science and Technology.
Semiconductor light sources, such as lasers and LEDs, are at the core of modern technology. They enable laser printers and high-speed internet. But a mere 60 years ago, no one would imagine semiconductors being used as materials for bright light sources. The problem was that to generate light, such devices require electrons and holes - the free charge carriers in any semiconductor - to recombine. The higher the concentration of electrons and holes, the more often they recombine, making the light source brighter. However, for a long time, no semiconductor device could be manufactured to provide a sufficiently high concentration of both electrons and holes.
The solution was found in the 1960s by Zhores Alferov and Herbert Kroemer. They proposed to use heterostructures, or "sandwich" structures, consisting of two or more complementary semiconductors instead of just one. If one places a semiconductor between two semiconductors with wider bandgaps and applies a forward bias voltage, the concentration of electrons and holes in the middle layer can reach values that are orders of magnitude higher than those in the outer layers. This effect, known as superinjection, underlies modern semiconductor lasers and LEDs. Its discovery earned Alferov and Kroemer the Nobel Prize in physics in 2000.
However, two arbitrary semiconductors cannot make a viable heterostructure. The semiconductors need to have the same period of the crystal lattice. Otherwise, the number of defects at the interface between the two materials will be too high, and no light will be generated. In a way, this would be similar to trying to screw a nut on a bolt whose thread pitch does not match that of the nut. Since homostructures are composed of just one material, one part of the device is a natural extension of the other. Although homostructures are easier to fabricate, it was believed that homostructures could not support superinjection and therefore are not a viable basis for practical light sources.
Igor Khramtsov and Dmitry Fedyanin from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology made a discovery that drastically changes the perspective on how light-emitting devices can be designed. The physicists found that it is possible to achieve superinjection with just one material. What is more, most of the known semiconductors can be used.
"In the case of silicon and germanium, superinjection requires cryogenic temperatures, and this casts doubt on the utility of the effect. But in diamond or gallium nitride, strong superinjection can occur even at room temperature," Dr. Fedyanin said. This means that the effect can be used to create mass market devices. According to the new paper, superinjection can produce electron concentrations in a diamond diode that are 10,000 times higher than those previously believed to be ultimately possible. As a result, diamond can serve as the basis for ultraviolet LEDs thousands of times brighter than what the most optimistic theoretical calculations predicted. "Surprisingly, the effect of superinjection in diamond is 50 to 100 times stronger than that used in most mass market semiconductor LEDs and lasers based on heterostructures," Khramtsov pointed out.
The physicists emphasized that superinjection should be possible in a wide range of semiconductors, from conventional wide-bandgap semiconductors to novel two-dimensional materials. This opens up new prospects for designing highly efficient blue, violet, ultraviolet, and white LEDs, as well as light sources for optical wireless communication (Li-Fi), new types of lasers, transmitters for the quantum internet, and optical devices for early disease diagnostics.
© 2019 Newswise, Inc.
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Палеоэнтомологи Александр Расницын (Палеонтологический институт РАН) и Кристоф Эм-Кюнле (Тюбингенский университет) описали новый вид ос, представитель которого был найден в куске янтаря возрастом примерно 100 млн лет. За впечатляющий набор челюстных и губных щупалец, предполагающих кровососущий характер питания, насекомое получило название Supraserphites draculi - в честь самого известного вампира.
So you've discovered an unusual winged insect preserved in amber, and it happens to have a superb set of mouth parts dangling from its head.
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You could name it after a president's body part, maybe. If not David Attenborough. Again. Or just do what one researcher did with a specimen that doesn't seem to fit in anywhere else - name it after that most famous of bloodsuckers, Dracula.
The tiny 2.5-millimetre (1/10th of an inch) winged fiend is a clear example of a Cretaceous period wasp belonging to a superfamily called Serphitoidea. Unfortunately that was as easy as taxonomy got for this discovery.
It shouldn't have been all that hard. There are just two families making up this group after all, Serphitidae and Archaeoserphitidae. But the tiny insect's family tree could have gone either way, because biology.
Based on the balance of key characteristics, palaeontologist Alexandr Rasnitsyn from the Russian Academy of Sciences and Christoph Öhm-Kühnle from Tubingen University decided Serphitidae would be the better fit in the end. But thanks to the number of segments making up its antennae, its wing design, mandibles, and a long set of maxillary and labial palpi at either side of its mouth parts, a new sub-category would be needed. So now we have the brand-new subfamily of Supraserphitinae, an exclusive club of one itty-bitty VIP. And what better name for this lonely long-jawed species than Supraserphites draculi? Just look at this thing. Exactly how it might have used its vampiric-looking mandibles and dangling palpi is anybody's guess, though we might want to rule out unholy blood-sucking rituals for now.
A clue might be found among other members of the Serphitoidea superfamily. Described as parasitoid, it's likely they laid their eggs in a host to provide their larvae with a nutritious early breakfast on hatching. Sure, it's not quite like the undead turning a fresh host into a new creature of the night, but as far as the animal kingdom goes, letting your young chew their way out of an unsuspecting victim is pretty darn close. The rock surrounding the amber was previously dated to just under 100 million years old. For perspective, wasps and their kind have their roots in fossils that date back at least 270 million years, so Dracula's namesake isn't setting any new records.
But the unusual find does help us better understand the geological history of the south-east Asian region. The chunk of amber containing the wasp was pulled from a mine in Myanmar's Hukawng Valley, an area well known for beautifully preserved fossils, including the oldest example of a bee found to date.
Along with a host of other unique insects trapped in amber around the same time, the evolutionary off-ramp represented by S. draculi heavily implies its ecosystem has been isolated for a while. For what it's worth, this sole specimen of a tiny wasp happens to have female anatomy, so perhaps the rather masculine-sounding Dracula is a little questionable after all.
Any other ideas?
This research was published in Cretaceous Research.
Ученые Сибирского федерального университета совместно с коллегами из КНЦ СО РАН работают над созданием многослойных позолоченных нанодисков для «прицельной» доставки лекарств в больные органы и ткани с помощью перьевой нанолитографии (DPN).
Young scientists from SibFU together with their colleagues from FRC KSC SB RAS are developing a technology for creating multilayer gilded nanodisks for targeted drug delivery and treating malignant tumors using dip pen nanolithography (DPN).
"Magnetic nanodisks coated with gold are in high demand in Biology and Medicine. They can be successfully used for magnetically induced apoptosis (the process of programmed cell death) and mechanical destruction of cell membranes. Nanodisks can be "programmed" to deliver drugs exclusively to diseased organs and tissues, and they can also mechanically destroy target cells (for example, malignant tumor cells). To place the nanodisks into the human body, they need to be "dressed" in a special coating that will reduce the toxicity of our agents, prevent their early degradation in the body and allow them to "increase" the aptamers on them for targeted delivery of medicines. Therefore, the structure of the disks is multi-layered and consists of a ferromagnetic metal coated with gold. Nowadays, a high-vacuum deposition method is used in combination with lithography methods and chemical etching processes to obtain such nanodisks, which determine the shape and size of the final product," - says Anna Lukjanenko, the assistant of the specialized department of Solid State Physics and Nanotechnology at Siberian Federal University, scientist of Kirensky Institute of Physics SB RAS.
To produce nanoparticles with a large variety of shapes and sizes and strict control of their parameters for manufacturing disks for the needs of medicine, university scientists are developing more economical and flexible technology compared to the existing one.
"We want to improve the technology of dip pen nanolithography so that multilayer thin films of metals can be used as substrates. Then, dip pen nanolithography will help us produce precisely those nanodisks which are required by the medical research groups involved in introducing new treatment methods (for example, researchers from Krasnoyarsk State Medical University named after Professor V.F.Voino-Yasenetsky). Also, this method can be implemented in almost any production such as a plant and or a research center," - the scientist states.
As of today, the project working group is determining the optimal parameters in the chamber of the device NanoInk, Ink. DPN 5000 to create nanoscale objects on the surface of a gold film. A comprehensive study of the obtained thin films is being carried out, along with the selection of chemical reagents and the calibration of etching rates. Testing with biological objects is scheduled for 2019.
AZoNetwork, © 2000-2019.
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Квазары считаются самыми неподвижными объектами звездного неба, что делает их надежными ориентирами, например, при определении тектонических движений. Однако международная группа астрофизиков из России и Германии обнаружила, что квазары не такие уж статичные. Впрочем, смещаются у них только «хвосты», тогда как ядра меняют лишь видимые координаты за счет изменения плотности выбрасываемых частиц.
Until recently, quasars were thought to have essentially fixed positions in the sky. While near-Earth objects move along complex trajectories, quasars are so remote that they were believed to offer stable and reliable reference points for use in navigation and plate tectonics research. Now, an international team of astrophysicists featuring researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology has found that quasars are not entirely motionless and explained this behavior. The findings were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
"The apparent positions of quasars change with the radiation frequency used to observe them. Researchers predicted this effect about 40 years ago based on the theory of synchrotron radiation and observed it soon afterwards," explains Alexander Pushkarev, a leading researcher at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory and Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "Our study aimed to find whether this effect varies with time, and if so, then on what timescales and to what extent the apparent position shift changes."
Quasars belong to a broader class of astronomical objects known as active galactic nuclei. Fortunately, none of them are located close to Earth. An AGN is basically a "fire-breathing" black hole incinerating its surroundings with two oppositely directed jets of plasma moving at relativistic speeds. Lurking at the heart of an AGN, the black hole itself is, naturally, invisible. This central object is shrouded with a region penetrable only to the highest-frequency radiation. As a result, an Earth-based observer sees an AGN differently depending on the radiation frequency used. For example, while optical observations reveal the jet and the glow around its source, radio telescopes can only discern the part of the quasar "tail" directed at us.
The most precise currently available technique for radio observation of remote objects is known as very long baseline interferometry. It relies on an emulated giant telescope that draws on many regular instruments scattered across the globe. Such a "virtual" telescope can obtain high-resolution data about a remote radio source. However, data reduction and restoring "a photo" of the target is not a trivial thing, because researchers need to retrieve an image from the bits of information gathered by many instruments.
The team developed an automated procedure for solving that task. They found that the apparent coordinate of the jet apex does not remain static but fluctuates back-and-forth along the axis of the jet. It would appear that the source itself "wiggles." However, astrophysicists consider these fluctuations to be a sort of illusion. They explain the phenomenon in terms of the complex nature of radiation. This implies that the quasar nuclei themselves do not actually undergo any motion in space.
"Back in the 20th century, a theory explained the apparent behavior of quasars in terms of fast-electron radiation. But this model does not explain how this radiation can vary," said Alexander Plavin, a researcher at MIPT's Laboratory of Fundamental and Applied Research of Relativistic Objects of the Universe and a doctoral student at Lebedev Physical Institute, RAS. "Until recently, it was more convenient to simply ignore this variability. AGNs were assumed to be positionally static for practical purposes. But we accumulated enough data and developed an efficient and accurate method for their automated processing. This enabled us to detect position variability and interpret it in terms of the jets' internal physics."
What could be the reason behind this phenomenon? To answer this question, the authors checked the apparent AGN positions for potential correlations with some of the variable quasar parameters, such as their brightness or magnetic fields. It turned out that the apparent coordinates of an active galactic nucleus are directly associated with the particle density in the jet: the higher the brightness, the more pronounced the perceived position shift. This could complement theoretical quasar models by indicating the role of nuclear flares injecting higher-density plasma into the outflow.
There is a practical dimension to this analysis as well. New precise data on the apparent shifts of quasar positions will enable a correction of astrometry techniques, leading to the most accurate navigation systems in human history.
© Phys.org 2003-2019.
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Ученые из Томского госуниверситета, университета Умео (Швеция) и обсерватории Миди-Пиренеи (Франция) изучили процесс выделения парниковых газов из термокарстовых озер арктической зоны Сибири и его влияние на изменение климата. Исследование было проведено в рамках международного проекта «Сибирские внутренние воды» (SIWA).
Scientists at TSU, Umeå University (Sweden), and Midi-Pyrénées Observatory (France), under the SIWA (Siberian Inner Waters) international project, have studied for the first time the emission of greenhouse gases from thermokarst lakes in the cryolithozone of Western Siberia on a latitudinal gradient. The scientists have found that bodies of water formed as a result of melting permafrost emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, and the maximum emission of carbon dioxide and methane is in the offseason. The research results of the international group are published in Nature Communications.
The interest in thermokarst lakes is very high, and they have been actively investigated over the past few decades; however, previously Russian and international scientists worked locally, paying attention to only a few details. As a rule, samples taken during only one season were studied.
The first comprehensive studies of lakes in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation were carried out by the TSU Bio-Geo-Clim Laboratory, headed by Oleg Pokrovsky, a scientist at TSU and the Midi-Pyrénées Observatory (Toulouse, France).
"Western Siberia has the world's largest frozen peat bog, which contains huge reserves of organic carbon," says Ivan Kritskov of the Bio-Geo-Clim laboratory. "In the process of permafrost melting, carbon is released and partially migrates to adjacent bodies of water. However, a high concentration of dissolved carbon in the lake water does not guarantee the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In the course of research, we were able to determine the factors influencing the activeness of emissions, such as the depth of the lake, the air and water temperature, atmospheric pressure, air flow, and the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere."
Sampling was carried out on 76 lakes in the Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Districts. Studies were conducted three times during the entire period of open water - in spring, summer, and autumn. The scientists measured the concentration of dissolved carbon in the lake water and studied the elemental composition and the volume of carbon dioxide and methane emissions from the water surface. As it turned out, the maximum emission of greenhouse gases occurs in spring, when lakes open up after winter and release reserves accumulated during the winter into the atmosphere, and in the autumn during the period of prolonged rains, when the water-covered area increases significantly.
"We tried to find out how strongly natural factors (size of lakes and watersheds, type of permafrost, and seasonality) affect greenhouse gas emissions," says Artem Lim of the Bio-Geo-Clim Laboratory. "The results showed that latitude and seasonality have the greatest value on emissions, so emissions grow from south to north and reach their maximum in the zone of continuous permafrost, where they are 2-5 times more than in the south."
The comprehensive studies conducted by this international scientific group obtained a large array of unique data on the contribution of thermokarst lakes in Western Siberia to the greenhouse effect. This will enable a better understanding of the environmental transformation processes occurring in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation and making much more accurate predictions about what will happen with permafrost and what climate changes humankind should expect in the future.
© Phys.org 2003-2019.
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