|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
В связи с увеличением финансирования в рамках проекта 5-100 ведущие российские университеты намерены обратить особое внимание на приглашение всемирно известных международных ученых и преподавателей, а также российских коллег, работающих за рубежом.
Top Russian universities are accelerating their battle for the world’s best researchers, according to statements by representatives of leading universities and senior officials in the Ministry of Education and Science. This will be possible thanks to a boost in funding for the ‘5-100’ university development programme, recently approved by the government.
As part of university plans, particular attention will be paid to attracting world-renowned international scientists and lecturers as well as Russian colleagues who are currently working abroad. The government wants Russia to be among the world’s top 10 countries in global university rankings by 2024.
In February this year, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that upgrading research facilities and equipment and providing support to young scientists were the priorities for the National Project for Science. The project also calls for the creation of at least 15 world-class science and education centres and advanced research infrastructure over the next six years.
In April the government approved the expansion of Project 5-100, a state initiative aimed at improving the quality of higher education and raising the competitiveness of Russian universities in the international arena. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said that from 2021, 30 universities would receive state support - instead of the current 21. Funding to implement the project from 2021-24 will reach RUB58 billion (US$884 million).
Attracting the best
Initiatives to attract top scientists have been announced by leading Russian institutions including Tyumen State University, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, the National University of Science and Technology or MISiS, and others. In addition to sending personal invitations, universities are conducting searches for scientists via popular social networks and specialised online resources, as well as by regular posting of new job openings. Priority is being given to young academics under the age of 39 years. According to data published recently by Russia’s Izvestia business paper, progress in recruiting top researchers has already been achieved since 2012 - this resulted in the attraction of more than 900 specialists to domestic universities, many of whom had left Russia due to a series of economic crises.
The plan is to greatly increase the number of such scientists by the end of this year. In contrast with previous years, there will be an emphasis on well-known foreign university professors.
In an article published on 31 May, Project 5-100 confirmed that since its launch there had been a "dramatic increase in the international teaching and research staff count at Russian universities", with international staff as a percentage of total staff more than quintupling.
"This year, universities have taken their talent hunt a step further," said Project 5-100, citing as an example the University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics or ITMO University, "which has been soliciting applications for as many as 468 positions. The reason behind this move is a desire to get ahead of other universities in the employment marketplace rather than any staff shortage."
Elsewhere Vladimir Vasilyev, rector of ITMO, commented: "There is a tough competition for talented scientists among the leading universities at present. We are a global university and are built into this global agenda. The competition is growing, therefore we are engaged in attracting talent not only from Russia, but from all over the world". The active rotation of personnel, according to ITMO, makes it possible to achieve academic mobility in the global teaching environment, which is one of the main trends in the international market for educational services.
According to Project 5-100, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology - one of Russia’s top technological universities - has this year advertised 111 faculty job openings. Since joining Project 5-100, MISiS has hired more than 200 staff with experience in lecturing at Russian and foreign universities, and earlier this year created a school for teaching excellence. And Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University "has been hiring entire scientific teams rather than individual professors and researchers", said the Project 5-100 article. "In this way, it has renewed about 70% of its research staff".
The universities initiative has been supported at the highest state level, by President Vladimir Putin, who has also promised to expand the existing presidential programme providing grants to young scientists.
Copyright 2019 University World News.
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Ученые Уральского федерального университета предположили, что слой из наночастиц редкоземельных оксидов в составе кремниевых солнечных батарей позволит использовать дополнительную часть солнечного спектра в ультрафиолетовой области, что повысит производительность на 25-30%. Создан прототип модифицированной солнечной ячейки.
A Russian research team believes that the addition of rare-earth ions into the structure of photonic nanoparticles could help to increase the efficiency of industrial solar cells to 25-30%. However, they also said that further research is necessary.
"We found that the intrinsic lattice defects of Gd2O3 nanoparticles (irregular cations with impaired oxygen coordination) can absorb UV radiation and transfer excitation energy to luminescent in the visible spectrum REE [rare earth elements] ions effectively," said researchers from Russia’s Ural Federal University in a new report.
The authors of the report claim that gadolinium oxide (Gd2O3) nanoparticles can lower nonradiative losses and increase the overall efficiency of UV radiation conversion. Gd2O3 nanoparticles, which are also commonly used as UV detectors, while enabling the creation of a new channel for the conversion of solar radiation, which is characterized by increased quantum efficiency, they said. Gd2O3 nanoparticles have a range of potential applications in PV devices, primarily due to their low phonon energy, good thermal stability, and chemical durability.
The researchers also affirmed, according to preliminary data, that the introduction of small additions of rare-earth ions into the structure of photonic nanoparticles could help to increase the efficiency of industrial solar cells to 25-30%.
"Some experiments suggest that, theoretically, this indicator can be even bigger, however, this requires additional detailed study," the researchers wrote.
Gadolinium oxide is one of the most commonly available forms of the rare-earth element gadolinium. Its nanoparticles are often used as contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and are very important as nuclear, electronic, laser, optical, catalyst and phosphor materials. They can also be used as additives, catalysts and dopants in cathode-ray tubes and field emission displays, as well as scintillators and sintering aids, or to produce solid oxide fuel cells.
© PV MAGAZINE 2019.
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The New York Times / June 5, 2019
Who Were the Ancestors of Native Americans? A Lost People in Siberia, Scientists Say
Genetic analysis of ancient teeth and bones suggests Native Americans largely descend from a vanished group called the Ancient Paleo-Siberians.
Археологические исследования позволяют предположить, что люди впервые прибыли в Америку в конце последнего ледникового периода 14500 лет назад по соединявшему Сибирь и Аляску перешейку через то, что сейчас называется Беринговым морем. Но кем именно были эти люди?
Генетический анализ зубов возрастом 31600 лет показал, что основными (примерно на две трети) предками коренных американцев были представители ранее неизвестной исчезнувшей популяции севера Сибири. Исследование было проведено международной группой ученых из 12 стран, в том числе Дании, России, Швейцарии и др.
A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday.
The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas.
"In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link," said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. "It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close."
Decades of research by archaeologists and linguists suggests that people first came to the Americas at the end of the last ice age, by 14,500 years ago. The route, most experts believe, was a land bridge that connected Alaska and Siberia across what is now the Bering Sea. But Siberia is a vast land that has been home to many cultures over thousands of years. Researchers turned to DNA in hopes of clarifying which of these were the ancestors of Native Americans.
Early studies were inconclusive: Native Americans didn’t seem to have many genetic links to any living group of Siberians. Dr. Willerslev suspected that the DNA of ancient Siberians could help solve the puzzle. Around the world, he and his colleagues have found, the people who live in a place today often have little genetic connection to those who lived there thousands of years ago.
The history of Siberia runs surprisingly deep. After humans evolved in Africa, they started moving to other continents about 70,000 years ago. About 45,000 years ago, humans had reached the northern edge of Siberia, where they hunted mammoths and other big game.
Vladimir V. Pitulko, an archaeologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and his colleagues provided Dr. Willerslev with two human baby teeth from a site in Siberia called Yana. His team extracted DNA from both teeth, which turned out to come from two boys. The teeth are 31,600 years old, making the DNA they contain the oldest human genetic material retrieved from Siberia.
When Dr. Willerslev and his colleagues compared genetic variants in the Yana DNA with living and ancient people, they found that the Siberian boys belonged to a previously unknown population. The scientists call them the Ancient North Siberians. Most of their ancestry can be traced back to the early migration out of Africa - in particular, to people who would eventually spread into Europe.
Several thousand years before the Yana boys lived, the Ancient North Siberians encountered people more closely related to East Asians. People from the two populations interbred, and as a result, the Yana boys inherited a mix of the two ancestries. To their surprise, however, the geneticists could not find any living people with significant Ancient North Siberian ancestry.
"The first people in northeastern Siberia are a people that we didn’t know, and they’re not Native American ancestors," Dr. Willerslev said.
What happened to the Ancient North Siberians? One clue emerged from a fragment of a skull that Dr. Pitulko and his colleagues provided Dr. Willerslev. These remains, dating back 9,800 years, were found at a site near Yana called Kolyma.
Dr. Willerslev’s team found DNA in the Kolyma skull as well. A small fraction of that individual’s ancestry came from Ancient North Siberians. But most of it came from a new population. Dr. Willerslev and his colleagues call them the Ancient Paleo-Siberians. The DNA of the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.
One reason that the Ancient Paleo-Siberians were unknown until now is that they were mostly replaced by a third population of people with a different East Asian ancestry. This group moved into Siberia only in the past 10,000 years - and they are the progenitors of most living Siberians.
"It might have been cold and windy, but it was really rich in resources like large mammals and people wanted to get up there," Dr. Willerslev said.
The Kolyma individual lived long after the origin of the Native American branch. Dr. Willerslev estimates that the ancestors of Native Americans and Ancient Paleo-Siberians split 24,000 years ago.
The story gets more complicated: Shortly after that split, the ancestors of Native Americans encountered another population with genetic ties to Europe. All living Native Americans carry a mixture of genes from these two groups.
The new study can’t pinpoint exactly where Native Americans emerged from the meeting of those two peoples. The ice age was at its peak 24,000 years ago, and so different populations across Siberia and surrounding regions may have retreated into refuges where wild game still survived.
Anne Stone, an anthropological geneticist at Arizona State University who was not involved in the new study, speculated that the Native American population may have emerged in one such refuge on the land bridge that linked Siberia and Alaska between about 34,000 and 11,000 years ago. But testing that idea will be hard, she warned. "I think it’s going to be frustratingly slow," she said. "Finding human remains of this age is truly daunting." Making the task even more difficult is the fact that melting glaciers drowned the land bridge at the end of the ice age, submerging any human remains that might hold more DNA.
Yet the disappearance of the land bridge did not stop the movement of people between the continents. Later waves of people moved across the Bering Sea. Teasing apart this traffic is proving difficult for scientists - and has led to debates about how the migrations shaped the origins of living Native Americans.
In its research on ancient DNA, Dr. Willerslev’s team found evidence that a second wave of Ancient Paleo-Siberians reached Alaska sometime between 9,000 and 6,000 years ago. They made contact with Native Americans there and interbred. Dr. Willerslev argues that some living Native Americans have inherited this extra Ancient Paleo-Siberian ancestry. These people, including tribes in Alaska, Canada and the Southwest, all speak a family of languages called NaDene. But in a separate study, a team headed by Stephan Schiffels of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany has come to a different conclusion.
That team’s analysis, also published Wednesday in Nature, traces the ancestry of NaDene speakers to an enigmatic people called the Paleo-Eskimos. Archaeologists have known about Paleo-Eskimos for years, thanks to their distinctive tools and artifacts. They first emerged on the Arctic fringe of Siberia and Canada about 5,000 years ago, and eventually spread all the way to Greenland. But signs of these people vanish around 1,000 years ago.
In 2010, Dr. Willerslev and his colleagues sequenced the genome of a 4,000-year-old Paleo-Eskimo from Greenland. They found that he had no genetic connection to the Inuit who live in Greenland today. To carry out a new study on Paleo-Eskimos, Dr. Schiffels and his colleagues gained permission from tribes in Alaska and Canada to get new samples of DNA from both living people and ancient skeletons. Their analysis indicates that after Paleo-Eskimos came to Alaska about 5,000 years ago, they split into three groups. "It’s a complicated sequence of mixtures and movements," Dr. Schiffels said.
One group spread along the empty Arctic coastline until they reached Greenland. A second group moved into Alaska, where they encountered people whose ancestors had come from Siberia some 10,000 years earlier. They interbred, and NaDene speakers carry this mixed ancestry today.
Dr. Schiffels and his colleagues argue that the third group encountered another group of Native Americans on the coast of Alaska and interbred with them. These people are the ancestors of Inuits and Aleuts. But some of them also traveled back across the Bering Strait to Siberia. And from there, about 1,000 years ago, yet another wave of people returned to North America, where they spread through the Arctic and replaced the original Paleo-Eskimos of Greenland.
Dr. Schiffels wasn’t surprised that he and Dr. Willerslev came to different conclusions about such intricate migrations. "In the next couple weeks, I think our team will analyze their data, and their team will analyze our data," Dr. Schiffels said. "I don’t know whether there will be a big eureka moment then." Dr. Willerslev hoped the new research spurred more searches for ancient DNA in Siberia and Alaska.
The migration that brought the ancestors of living Native Americans into the Americas might not have been the first. It is possible, Dr. Willerslev speculated, that the Ancient North Siberians got to Alaska or Canada thousands of years earlier.
"It opens the question, ‘Should we dig deeper for older sites?’" said Dr. Willerslev. "And now we know what to look for."
© 2019 The New York Times Company.
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111 лет назад, 30 июня 1908 года, над территорией Восточной Сибири в районе реки Подкаменная Тунгуска произошел сверхмощный взрыв. С тех пор исследователи выдвинули немало гипотез, объясняющих случившееся, но ни одна из них не стала общепринятой. Одна из причин - от того, что вызвало взрыв, не осталось никаких следов.
As we move into the month of June, it’s been 111 years since an explosion rocked a remote and sparsely inhabited region of Siberia, and what caused the blast is still nothing more than speculation. The only thing known with certainty is that on June 30, 1908, something coming in from outer space exploded over the Taiga Forest in the Tunguska region of Siberia with such tremendous force that all the trees in a 28 mile radius were laid at. The most puzzling part of the event is that whatever it was left absolutely no clue as to its identity other than the topped and burned trees.
Some researchers are beginning to wonder if there might be a connection with what’s known as the Taurid Swarm. This "swarm" produces more than the pebble-sized particles that make meteors or "falling stars" visible, but what about something that was so large its terminal burst could level a forest. Over the years, researchers have been backtracking the trajectory of the object and have come up with what they think may have been its cause. The trajectory of the impactor suggests it may have come from the Taurid Swarm. Several eyewitnesses living outside the impact zone reported having seen a tremendous re ball fall from the sky and although no impact crater has ever been found, a seismic shock wave was picked up on instruments 550 miles away. It’s still quite distant, but in November 2032, Earth will again pass through the Taurid Swarm, a cloud of debris from Comet 2P/Encke that makes brilliant reballs when its gravelly particles occasionally hit Earth’s atmosphere. Meteor, comet, asteroid, or whatever it happened to be did not, as I said, leave any conclusive evidence.
This lack of substantiating material has provided the fodder needed by more than one author to come up with a pretty amazing answers: the blast was caused when the nuclear power plant of an alien spacecraft malfunctioned and exploded. The suggestion of a nuclear blast is based, in part, on the reported radioactivity in the deep rings of fallen trees in the area. If it were a comet or meteoroid, it would have had to detonate above ground since there is absolutely no trace of an impact crater. From an altitude of 50 to 100 miles high an explosion of the magnitude of the Tunguska object would have created a shock wave that would continue forward resulting in the destruction of the trees. There must have also been a tremendous amount of heat associated with the event since eyewitnesses described "overpowering heat" that ignited res in dry grass and underbrush 8 miles away from the site. In one of my earlier columns, I mentioned a book "The Fire Came By" authored by John Baxter and Thomas Atkins. In their opinion, the tremendous amount of damage occurred when a nuclear powered alien spacecraft exploded and was pulverized.
They base their conclusion on "eyewitnesses" which said the object was observed changing directions prior to the explosion. We all know that comets and meteoroids to not make such alterations in their trajectories. Because no one to date has produced unimpeachable proof to support any one theory, it will be necessary for us to continue to accept one fact: we may never know.
© 2019 BH Media Group, Inc.
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Newsweek / 6/6/19
Extinct Russian Volcano Has Woken Up And Could Unleash 'Pompeii-Size' Eruption, Scientists Warn
Ученые СО РАН и ДВО РАН совместно с коллегами из Саудовской Аравии и Египта проанализировали данные сейсмостанций, установленных на камчатском вулкане Большая Удина в прошлом году, и пришли к выводу, что считавшийся потухшим вулкан проснулся. Геофизики намерены установить дополнительные сейсмологические станции и пристально следить за вулканом, поскольку извержение после долгого затишья может иметь катастрофические последствия.
A volcano previously classified as "extinct" in Russia's Far East has woken up, and experts are now warning it could produce an eruption similar to the one that wiped out Pompeii and Herculaneum almost 2,000 years ago.
The Bolshaya Udina volcano is a stratovolcano located at the center of the Klyuchevskaya volcano group on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. It stands at around 10,000 feet in height and, until 2017 it was considered extinct, meaning it has not erupted in a long time and is unlikely to ever erupt again.
It is not known when Udina last erupted. However, scientists recently noticed continuing seismic activity beneath the mountain, potentially suggesting the "awakening" of the volcano complex, scientists wrote in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.
As a result, a team of researchers from Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt carried out a detailed investigation on the volcano. They installed four seismic stations and monitored the complex for two months, over May and June last year.
Over this time, they recorded 559 events in the area around Udina. Further analysis suggested the activity was forming an "elliptical cluster" and that seismic events were taking place at a depth of at least three miles. "These seismic properties may indicate the presence of magma intrusions with a high content of melts and fluids, which may justify changing the current status of this volcano from 'extinct' to 'active,'" they wrote.
Researchers also observed a cluster of seismic activity connecting the volcano to the Tolud zone - a region thought to store magma. "Based on the results of this study, we conclude that during 2018, the Tolud magma source appeared to have built another pathway to Bolshaya Udina."
In an interview with the newspaper Science in Siberia, Ivan Kulakov, the lead author of the paper, said an eruption at Udina could be catastrophic. He likened the scale to the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
"When a volcano is silent for a long time, its first explosion can be catastrophic," he is quoted as saying. "A large amount of ash is thrown into the air, it is carried far away, and not only the surrounding settlements, but also large territories all over the planet can suffer. Recall Pompeii: the awakening of Vesuvius was preceded by a lull for several thousand years. And the eruption in Peru in 1600 led to a cooling in Europe and famine in Russia."
Kulakov said it is impossible to say when or if Udina will erupt, but that they will need to closely monitor the volcano. Vadim Aleksandrovich Saltykov, who was not involved in the study, said there are now plans to study the environment of the volcano next year, at which point they hope to find out where the magma is located.
© 2019 Newsweek.
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Российские и американские климатологи из Института леса имени В.Н.Сукачева СО РАН и
Исследовательского центра имени С.П.Лэнгли (НАСА) рассчитали, как изменится сибирский климат к 2080 году при условии дальнейшего роста среднегодовых температур. В Сибири может стать намного теплее и влажнее, особенно зимой. Например, средняя температура в январе может увеличиться почти на 9 градусов по Цельсию, при этом площадь вечной мерзлоты сократится до 40%. Все это может привести к смещению климатических поясов и сделать суровые регионы азиатской части России более комфортными для жизни.
The massive Asian side of Russia is often forgotten, as much of it consists often frigid and uninhabitable Siberian wilderness. But new research finds that our warming planet and its changing climates could make Siberia a more attractive place to live and visit in the next century.
A team of Russian and American researchers looked at a number of computer models that predict how various levels of continued carbon dioxide emissions are expected to raise temperatures for Asian Russia.
"We wanted to learn if future changes in climate may lead to the less-hospitable parts of Asian Russia becoming more habitable for humans," said lead author Dr. Elena Parfenova, from Russia's Krasnoyarsk Federal Research Center.
The results have been published in Environmental Research Letters. The scientists found that under the most extreme scenario, in which humanity basically fails to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we pump into the atmosphere, the region could become much warmer and wetter, particularly in the middle of winter. For example, average temperatures in January could increase by nearly 17 degrees Fahrenheit (9.1 Celsius).
That means that parts of Siberia where average January temperatures dip below minus 30 will be warmer but still quite cold. The less extreme parts of the region could move towards weather patterns and conditions that begin to look more like the habitable reaches of Canada. Uninhabited stretches of forest and tundra could be enjoying weather more like Winnipeg's in a century, and with 140 millimeters more of monthly precipitation.
"Our simulations showed that under (the most extreme scenario) by the 2080s Asian Russia would have a milder climate, with less permafrost coverage, decreasing from the contemporary 65 per cent to 40 per cent of the area by the 2080s," Parfenova explained.
All these changes could increase the area's capacity to support human habitation five-fold, according to the study.
"Previous human migrations have been associated with climate change. As civilizations developed technology that enabled them to adapt, humans became less reliant on the environment, particularly in terms of climate," Parfenova says. "Asian Russia is currently extremely cold. In a future warmer climate, food security in terms of crop distribution and production capability is likely to become more favorable for people to support settlements."
She also points out that a warm climate is just one part of making a region more habitable. Asian Russian would also need plenty of work in terms of creating the infrastructure to support a larger population.
Other northern locales are already dealing with similar questions as they are transformed by climate change. Greenland's ice cap is melting and making it finally begin to live up to its name a little bit more. The result is an increased threat of flooding, but also an opportunity to court more tourists as previously covered natural and archaeological treasures are being revealed, perhaps for the first time in millennia.
© 2019 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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Science / Jun. 10, 2019
Telescope designed to study mysterious dark energy keeps Russia’s space science hopes alive
21 июня c космодрома Байконур должен состояться запуск (перенесен на 12 июля - прим.) российско-германского космического аппарата « Спектр-Рентген-Гамма» с двумя рентгеновскими телескопами. Главная цель орбитальной обсерватории - нанести на карту около 100 000 скоплений галактик, изучение которых может пролить свет на эволюцию Вселенной и природу темной энергии, ускоряющей ее расширение.
Russia’s beleaguered space science program is hoping for a rare triumph this month. Spektr-RG, an x-ray satellite to be launched on 21 June from Kazakhstan, aims to map all of the estimated 100,000 galaxy clusters that can be seen across the universe. Containing as many as 1000 galaxies and the mass of 1 million billion suns, the clusters are the largest structures bound by gravity in the universe. Surveying them should shed light on the evolution of the universe and the nature of the dark energy that is accelerating its expansion.
First proposed more than 30 years ago as part of a Soviet plan for a series of ambitious "great observatories" along the lines of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Spektr-RG fell victim to cost cutting in cash-strapped, post-Soviet Russia. But roughly €500 million satellite, which will carry German and Russian x-ray telescopes, was reborn early last decade with a new mission: not just to scan the sky for interesting x-ray sources, such as supermassive black holes gorging on infalling material, but to map enough galaxy clusters to find out what makes the universe tick. The new goal meant further delays. "There have been many ups and downs," says Peter Predehl, leader of the team at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany, that built one of the satellite’s two telescopes. "Whenever we thought we were out of the woods, a new one came along."
Spektr-RG was born in the late 1980s. Glasnost was encouraging Soviet researchers to collaborate with Western colleagues, and studies of SN 1987A, the nearest supernova in modern times, had demonstrated the power of x-rays for tracing such violent events. Rashid Sunyaev of Moscow’s Space Research Institute (IKI) proposed an x-ray observatory to orbit above Earth’s atmosphere, which blocks x-rays. The 6-ton mission soon bristled with five telescopes and involved 20 institutes in 12 countries including the United States. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Roscosmos struggled to keep its Mir space station aloft and contribute to the growing International Space Station (ISS). "They told us the spacecraft was too large for Russia, too ambitious," says Sunyaev, now at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching. "It just died."
Resurrection began in 2003 with plans for a smaller mission with a U.K.-built all-sky x-ray monitor and MPE’s x-ray survey telescope, called ROSITA - which had been destined for the ISS but was grounded by the Challenger space shuttle disaster. The new impetus was cosmology. Studies of distant supernovae in the 1990s had revealed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Researchers wanted to know more about dark energy, the mysterious force that was causing it, and whether it varied in space or over time. Galaxy clusters are among the best indicators, says x-ray astronomer Andrew Fabian of the Institute of Astronomy (IoA) in Cambridge, U.K. "Clusters are the most massive objects in the universe, the pinnacle of galaxy formation, and are very sensitive to cosmological models."
They are best seen in x-rays because the gaps between galaxies are filled with gas that is heated to millions of degrees as the galaxies jostle together to form a cluster. By mapping the clusters, says Esra Bulbul of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who recently joined the MPE team, Spektr-RG "will study the evolution of the structure of the universe."
The challenge was to boost the capabilities of the existing ROSITA telescope, which could only garner up to 10,000 galaxy clusters. Discussions led to a €90 million "extended" eROSITA, paid for by MPE and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. It is an array of seven identical telescopes with five times the effective collecting area of the original instrument. Russia and Germany signed an agreement in 2007 with launch penciled in for 2012.
But mission development was not smooth. The U.K. instrument failed to win funding and was replaced with a Russian telescope, called ART-XC, which will complement eROSITA by detecting scarcer high energy x-rays. Though harder to collect, the higher energy photons are particularly useful for seeing the supermassive black holes at galactic centers, because they pierce the clouds of gas and dust that shroud them.
Making the mirrors for eROSITA also proved much harder than expected. Because x-rays would penetrate a traditional flat telescope mirror, focusing them requires cylindrical mirrors that gather x-ray photons in glancing, low-angle reflections off inner surfaces. Each of eROSITA’s seven scopes contains 54 gold-plated cylindrical mirrors, nested inside one another, that must be shaped precisely to bring the photons to a focus. Making them proved so difficult that the MPE team had to fire its main contractor part way through. "It almost killed us," Predehl says.
A decision to site the telescope at a quiet, gravitationally balanced point beyond the moon, outside the shelter of Earth’s magnetic field, meant electronics had to be hardened against solar radiation. Incompatibility between the German and Russian electronics delayed the launch, as did problems with the spacecraft’s communications system and a change in launch rocket.
Now that Spektr-RG is finally ready, expectations are high. "It’s going to be revolutionary in terms of numbers," says IoA astronomer George Lansbury, taking x-ray studies into "the big data regime."
It may also be a rare high point for Russia’s great observatories program. Previously, only one has made it into orbit: 2011’s Spektr-R, a radio astronomy mission that fell short of expectations and could not be revived after malfunctioning earlier this year.
Astronomers may face a long wait for Spektr-RG’s successors: the ultraviolet telescope Spektr-UV and Spektr-M, a millimeter-wave radio telescope. Spektr-UV has survived moments of near-death, most recently in 2014 when Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula caused major Ukrainian partners to withdraw. The mission is now slated for a 2025 launch, but, Sunyaev says, some collaborators, including a German team supplying a spectrograph, have dropped out. Spektr-M, which would come next, is not yet fully funded, he says. And in the meantime, rival telescopes launched by other countries may scoop up the science the Russian missions aim to do.
"Russia is doing as much as possible with the budget available," says Spektr-RG chief Mikhail Pavlinsky of IKI. He notes that Roscosmos’s lean budget, worth $20.5 billion over 10 years, faces multiple demands. Russia is building the landing system for the European ExoMars rover, due to launch next year, and like other countries it hopes to return to the moon with the Luna 25 lander in 2021. For Russia’s astrophysicists, Pavlinsky says, "It means slow progress."
© 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights Reserved.
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Nature / 10 June 2019
Russian biologist plans more CRISPR-edited babies
The proposal follows a Chinese scientist who claimed to have created twins from edited embryos last year.
Российский молекулярный биолог Денис Ребриков объявил, что рассматривает возможность до конца года создать человеческие эмбрионы с отредактированным геномом. Во многих странах подобные эксперименты запрещены, но в российском законодательстве в области вспомогательной репродукции нет четкого запрета на редактирование генов эмбрионов, что теоретически делает возможным получение разрешения. Это заявление вызвало серьезное беспокойство у международного сообщества ученых и биоэтиков. Система редактирования генома, которую предполагается использовать, не отработана до конца; не прояснен вопрос о научной осуществимости и этической допустимости таких экспериментов; существует возможность последствий, просчитать которые на данном этапе невозможно, например, случайные побочные мутации.
A Russian scientist says he is planning to produce gene-edited babies, an act that would make him only the second person known to have done this. It would also fly in the face of the scientific consensus that such experiments should be banned until an international ethical framework has agreed on the circumstances and safety measures that would justify them.
Molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov has told Nature he is considering implanting gene-edited embryos into women, possibly before the end of the year if he can get approval by then. Chinese scientist He Jiankui prompted an international outcry when he announced last November that he had made the world’s first gene-edited babies - twin girls.
The experiment will target the same gene, called CCR5, that He did, but Rebrikov claims his technique will offer greater benefits, pose fewer risks and be more ethically justifiable and acceptable to the public. Rebrikov plans to disable the gene, which encodes a protein that allows HIV to enter cells, in embryos that will be implanted into HIV-positive mothers, reducing the risk of them passing on the virus to the baby in utero. By contrast, He modified the gene in embryos created from fathers with HIV, which many geneticists said provided little clinical benefit because the risk of a father passing on HIV to his children is minimal.
Rebrikov heads a genome-editing laboratory at Russia’s largest fertility clinic, the Kulakov National Medical Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology in Moscow and is a researcher at the Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University, also in Moscow.
According to Rebrikov he already has an agreement with an HIV centre in the city to recruit women infected with HIV who want to take part in the experiment.
But scientists and bioethicists contacted by Nature are troubled by Rebrikov’s plans.
"The technology is not ready," says Jennifer Doudna, a University of California Berkeley molecular biologist who pioneered the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing system that Rebrikov plans to use. "It is not surprising, but it is very disappointing and unsettling."
Alta Charo, a researcher in bioethics and law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says Rebrikov’s plans are not an ethical use of the technology. "It is irresponsible to proceed with this protocol at this time," adds Charo, who sits on a World Health Organization committee that is formulating ethical governance policies for human genome editing.
Rules and regulations
Implanting gene-edited embryos is banned in many countries. Russia has a law that prohibits genetic engineering in most circumstances, but it is unclear whether or how the rules would be enforced in relation to gene editing in an embryo. And Russia’s regulations on assisted reproduction do not explicitly refer to gene editing, according to a 2017 analysis of such regulations in a range of countries. (The law in China is also ambiguous: in 2003, the health ministry banned genetically modifying human embryos for reproduction but the ban carried no penalties and He’s legal status was and still is not clear).
Rebrikov expects the health ministry to clarify the rules on the clinical use of gene-editing of embryos in the next nine months. Rebrikov says he feels a sense of urgency to help women with HIV, and is tempted to proceed with his experiments even before Russia hashes out regulations.
To reduce the chance he would be punished for the experiments, Rebrikov plans to first seek approval from three government agencies, including the health ministry. That could take anywhere from one month to two years, he says.
Konstantin Severinov, a molecular geneticist who recently helped the government design a funding programme for gene-editing research, says such approvals might be difficult. Russia’s powerful Orthodox church opposes gene editing, says Severinov, who splits his time between Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology near Moscow.
Before any scientist attempts to implant gene-edited embryos into women there needs to be a transparent, open debate about the scientific feasibility and ethical permissibility, says geneticist George Daley at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who also heard about Rebrikov’s plans from Nature.
One reason that gene-edited embryos have created a huge global debate is that, if allowed to grow into babies, the edits can be passed on to future generations - a far-reaching intervention known as altering the germ line. Researchers agree that the technology might, one day, help to eliminate genetic diseases such as sickle-cell anaemia and cystic fibrosis, but much more testing is needed before it is used in the alteration of human beings.
In the wake of He’s announcement, many scientists renewed calls for an international moratorium on germline editing. Although that has yet to happen, the World Health Organization, the US National Academy of Sciences, the UK’s Royal Society and other prominent organizations have all discussed how to stop unethical and dangerous uses - often defined as ones that pose unnecessary or excessive risk - of genome editing in humans.
Although He was widely criticized for conducting his experiments using sperm from HIV-positive fathers, his argument was that he just wanted to protect people against ever getting the infection. But scientists and ethicists countered that there are other ways to decrease the risk of infection, such as contraceptives. There are also reasonable alternatives, such as drugs, for preventing maternal transmission of HIV, says Charo.
Rebrikov agrees, and so plans to implant embryos only into a subset of HIV-positive mothers who do not respond to standard anti-HIV drugs. Their risk of transmitting the infection to the child is higher. If editing successfully disables the CCR5 gene, that risk would be greatly reduced, Rebrikov says. "This is a clinical situation which calls for this type of therapy," he says.
Most scientists say there is no justification for editing the CCR5 gene in embryos, even so, because the risks don’t outweigh the benefits. Even if the therapy goes as planned, and both copies of the CCR5 gene in cells are disabled, there is still a chance that such babies could become infected with HIV. The cell-surface protein encoded by CCR5 is thought to be the gateway for some 90% of HIV infections, but getting rid of it won’t affect other routes of HIV infection. There are still many unknowns about the safety of gene editing in embryos, says Gaetan Burgio at the Australian National University in Canberra. And what are the benefits of editing this gene, he asks. "I don’t see them."
Hitting the target
There are also concerns about the safety of gene editing in embryos more generally. Rebrikov claims that his experiment - which, like He’s, will use the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing tool - will be safe.
One big concern with He’s experiment - and with gene-editing in embryos more generally - is that CRISPR-Cas9 can cause unintended ‘off-target’ mutations away from the target gene, and that these could be dangerous if they, for instance, switched off a tumour-suppressor gene. But Rebrikov says that he is developing a technique that can ensure that there are no ‘off-target’ mutations; he plans to post preliminary findings online within a month, possibly on bioRxiv or in a peer-reviewed journal.
Scientists contacted by Nature were sceptical that such assurances could be made about off-target mutations, or about another known challenge of using CRISPR-Cas 9 - so-called ‘on-target mutations’, in which the correct gene is edited, but not in the way intended.
Rebrikov writes, in a paper published last year in the Bulletin of the RSMU, of which he is the editor in chief, that his technique disables both copies of the CCR5 gene (by deleting a section of 32 bases) more than 50% of the time. He says publishing in this journal was not a conflict of interest because reviewers and editors are blinded to a paper’s authors.
But Doudna is sceptical of those results. "The data I have seen say it’s not that easy to control the way the DNA repair works." Burgio, too, thinks that the edits probably led to other deletions or insertions that are difficult to detect, as is often the case with gene editing.
Misplaced edits could mean that the gene isn’t properly disabled, and so the cell is still accessible to HIV, or that the mutated gene could function in a completely different and unpredictable way. "It can be a real mess," says Burgio.
What’s more, the unmutated CCR5 has many functions that are not yet well understood, but which offer some benefits, say scientists critical of Rebrikov’s plans. For instance, it seems to offer some protection against major complications following infection by the West Nile virus or influenza. "We know a lot about its [CCR5’s] role in HIV entry [to cells], but we don't know much about its other effects," says Burgio. A study published last week also suggested that people without a working copy of CCR5 might have a shortened lifespan.
Rebrikov understands that if he proceeds with his experiment before Russia’s updated regulations are in place, he might be considered a second He Jiankui. But he says he would only do so if he’s sure of the safety of the procedure. "I think I’m crazy enough to do it," he says.
© 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG.
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Российские и бельгийские ученые выявили еще два человеческих хронотипа помимо уже известных «сов» и «жаворонков» . Новые хронотипы получили название «полуденники» (afternoon) и «дрёмы» или «сони» (nappers). «Полуденники» чувствуют себя лучше всего с 11 до 17 часов, а вот у «сонь» оказалось сразу два пика активности в течение дня - до 11 и после 15 часов.
If you don't quite fit in among the morning people or night owls, well, you might soon have your own, more relatable, sleep category.
Now, researchers propose two more so-called chronotypes: the "afternoon" person and the "napper." A chronotype is defined by the time of day a person is most alert and sleepiest.
A group of researchers in Belgium created and distributed a short online survey to over 1,300 people, ages 12 to 90, asking them questions about their sleep habits and tiredness levels throughout the day. They then analyzed the results in collaboration with a group in Russia.
They found that indeed there were 631 people who fit into one of the two well-known night and morning categories. While larks are wide awake in the morning and sleepier as the day progresses, owls are just the opposite.
But they also found, based on the wakefulness-sleepiness answers, that there were 550 participants (some of them repeats from the other two groups) that fell into one of two other groups, the nappers and the afternoon people.
Of all the chronotypes, afternoon people wake up the sleepiest and then they become alert around 11 a.m., staying that way until about 5 p.m., after which they get tired again. The "nappers" (so-called because they're prone to taking naps) wake up alert and stay alert until about 11 a.m., after which they get really tired until about 3 p.m. After 3 p.m. until about 10 p.m., they are alert and productive again, as was first reported byPsychology Today.
Still, the remaining 30% of participants didn't fall into any group.
Recognizing these categories is "important because some people can benefit from [an] afternoon nap and, you know, the conditions for an afternoon nap are not very good in the modern society," said lead author Arcady Putilov, a neurobiologist at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Maybe if the nappers, for example, took a quick 10-15 minute snooze during the day, their performance would increase, he told Live Science.
The authors also found that the results, for the most part, held true in men and women, in both day- and night-shift workers and in all ages. There were some slight differences in age, such as older people tended to fall more into the "nappers" group. What's more, one limitation might be that most of the people who took the survey were younger-aged people in Belgium (half of the participants were under the age of 25). But still, Putilov thinks the findings would hold true in a broader sample.
The scientists reported their findings May 27 in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved.
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Ученые из Академии наук республики Саха (Якутия) и Шведского музея естественной истории изучили голову доисторического волка с хорошо сохранившимися тканями, обнаруженную в 2018 году. Хищник, живший около 40 тыс. лет назад, был заметно крупнее современных волков.
A 40,000-year-old wolf's head was discovered in northern Russia - with its ears, fangs, brain and tongue perfectly intact in the permafrost. Scientists believe the beast from the Ice Age belonged to a now-extinct subspecies of wolf that lived during the same era as mammoths.
The furry head of the wolf was found in the Russian Arctic region of Yakutia last summer, according to a Russian newspaper, The Siberian Times. The wolf's head is about 40 centimeters (almost 16 inches) long, and the wolf was estimated to be between the ages of 2 and 4 when it died.
"This is a unique discovery of the first ever remains of a fully grown Pleistocene wolf with its tissue preserved," Albert Protopopov, a top researcher at the Academy of Sciences Republik of Sakha told the newspaper.
"We will be comparing it to modern-day wolves to understand how the species has evolved and to reconstruct its appearance," he added.
The Associated Press reported scientists said the Ice Age wolf was about 25% bigger than today's wolves. Experts at the Swedish Museum of Natural History will further examine its DNA, according to The Siberian Times.
The discovery was announced at the opening of a woolly mammoth exhibit at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo.
© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Весной этого года в Архангельске состоялась Международная конференция по вопросам промысла в Арктике. Ученые и эксперты из 9 стран и Евросоюза обсудили совместный план научных исследований биоресурсов в открытой части Арктики.
A two-day conference of scientific experts from Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, South Korea, China, Sweden, Japan, and the European Union in the Russian city of Arkhangelsk resulted in an agreement to conduct more research on Arctic fisheries.
The April meeting was the first after an agreement between the 10 countries was signed in October of last year. The legally binding accord prohibits all commercial fishing in the Central Arctic until the nations additional surveys of stocks, their sizes, and how the region’s ecosystems operate. The agreement also included a draft of a joint research plan, with details to be discussed later this year and with implemented stalled until all the participating states ratify the agreement.
There is almost no data on high Arctic stocks, as nearly all the Arctic countries have only surveyed their own 200-mile exclusive economic zones. The only known study of the high seas was conducted by scientists from the Stockholm University. Its results presented at the conference brought some surprise and made it clear that more extensive research is needed, according to Vasily Sokolov, deputy head of the Russia’s Federal Agency for Fisheries.
"The Arctic Ocean was supposed to contain no great marine biological resources to be of interest for commercial fisheries. But it turned out that stocks of Arctic cod seem to be there, which means that fishing there may be commercially attractive," Sokolov said. "The density of stocks increases toward the polar cap."
Sokolov called for additional research, saying the initial Stockholm University assessment was conducted solely using acoustic surveys, without taking any samples.
Scientists have called for a data-sharing initiative on fish stocks in the high Arctic, spearheaded by a special international body that would communicate findings with the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commision (NEAFC), the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). The initiative would be charged with leading the development of a new methodology for collecting data, including such issues as fishing gear, process of survey, information exchange between the countries.
However, numerous obstacles remain before the research project gets underway.
"We don’t know now which vessels will be deployed in surveys. Another issue is how to verify data collected," Sokolov said, as quoted by TASS news agency.
In addition to the methodology issues, an additional hurdle must be overcome in that the plan must be formally ratified by all the countries involved. Currently, only Russia, which initiated the conference, has ratified the agreement. It may take one to two years for the other countries to ratify, which is likely to create delays in the joint surveying agreed to by the parties present at the conference.
"We hope all the participants will go through the ratification process soon to be able to conduct full scale research," Sokolov said.
In the meantime, each country may perform surveys individually or within bilateral or multilateral cooperative agreements. Russia itself is pursuing studies in its own Arctic waters - in 2019, two scientific ships will explore the Bering Sea, the Sea of Laptev, the Chukchee Sea, the Barents Sea, the Kara Sea, and the East Siberian Sea to study their marine resources, environment, the availability of feed provision, size, and distribution of stocks. Scientists’ focus will be primarily on cod, Arctic cod, herring, halibut, flounder, opilio crab, candle fish, and navaga.
© 2019 Diversified Communications. All rights reserved.
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Lab Manager Magazine / June 19, 2019
Researchers Study Nanoparticles Synthesized by Method of Electric Explosion
Increased chemical stability and biocompatibility of the particles makes them useful for a number of applications, including sensing and biomedicine.
В Балтийском федеральном университете имени Иммануила Канта изучают металлические магнитные наночастицы, полученные оригинальным методом - электрическим взрывом проводника.
Physicists from the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University conduct a study on nanomaterials that have been synthesized by the method of the electric explosion. Research group of the Laboratory of Novel Magnetic Materials has studied the magnetic and structural properties of metallic α-Fe magnetic nanoparticles, which were covered with non-magnetic iron oxide.
According to Alexander Omelyanchik, the researcher of the Laboratory of Novel Magnetic Materials of IKBFU, the physicists used an alternative method of the explosion of an electric conductor. The obtained nanoparticles have a high value of magnetization saturation. The chemical stability and biocompatibility of the particles are increased, which makes them useful for a number of applications, including sensing and biomedicine.
The co-authors of the research are Valeria Rodionova and Alexander Omelyanchik, the physicists from IKBFU, and their colleagues from Russian Academy of Science Ural Divisions (Institute of Electrophysics), National University of Science and Technology MISIS and Instituto di Struttura della Materia (CNR-ISM). Recently, the Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials has published the scientific article, "High-quality α-Fe nanoparticles synthesized by the electric explosion of wires".
© 2019 Lab Manager, a division of LabX. All Rights Reserved.
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Химики из МФТИ, Сколтеха, ОИВТ РАН и МГУ нашли способ изучить состав сырой нефти, растворив ее в воде. Точнее, в сверхкритической жидкости, имеющей температуру и давление выше критической точки, при которой исчезает граница раздела жидкой и газовой фаз. Новый способ позволяет отказаться от экологически опасных растворителей, обычно использующихся для такого анализа.
Researchers from MIPT, Skoltech, the Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Lomonosov Moscow State University report a new approach to oil composition analysis. They used high temperature and pressure to dissolve oil in water and analyze its composition. The new method is compliant with green chemistry principles as it obviates the need for environmentally hazardous solvents. The paper was published in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.
Crude oil is almost never used in its raw form. But it is necessary to know its precise composition to make refining as efficient as possible. Crude oil consists of over 100,000 compounds, with the exact composition of the sample varying based on the field from which it was extracted. The extreme complexity of crude oil makes it impossible to separate into individual compounds. Heavier fractions, which are nonvolatile at 300 degrees Celsius, are yet to be properly studied. It is known that they consist chiefly of phenols, ketones, carbazoles, pyridines, quinolines, dibenzofurans and carboxylic acids. In addition to that, crude oil from some fields may also contain sulphuric compounds. Many hydrocarbons have identical formulas, with the same number of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, but differ in their arrangements, i.e., they are isomers.
The vastly different structures obviously exhibit different chemical properties. Heavier hydrocarbons consist of many atoms, which means more structural variability for each compound.
Mass spectrometry provides information on the elemental composition of substances and their molecular mass but often fails to distinguish between different isomers. Such information may be obtained through isotope exchange analysis. This method is based on the fact that, depending on which particular compounds constitute crude oil or some other sample, oxygen and hydrogen atoms will take more or less time to be replaced with their isotopes - essentially the same elements, but with a different mass. Water is the most readily available and the cleanest source of isotopes, but oil is insoluble in water under normal conditions, so potent acids and alkali have to be used instead. But acids tend to break down organic compounds, especially at high temperatures, thus altering the sample's composition.
It is known, however, that compounds insoluble in water may be dissolved in superheated, or supercritical, water at temperatures significantly over 100 degrees C, so it was decided to apply this method to crude oil. The researchers proved it was possible to achieve a water-based crude oil solution by increasing the temperature and pressure and analyzed its composition. The sample was heated to 360 degrees C in heavy water (in which the hydrogen is replaced with deuterium) at a pressure above 300 atm for one hour.
The researchers compared mass spectra of the original sample and the sample after the isotope exchange reaction. The data collected provided more information on the structure of the compounds comprising crude oil. This method may be used to study other complex nonpolar compounds at the molecular level.
"Isotope labels may only be incorporated at specific positions in the molecule, similar to the lock-and-key model," said Professor of Skoltech and MIPT Eugene Nikolaev, who also heads the Laboratory of Mass Spectrometry at Skoltech. "We can analyze molecular structure by using high-resolution mass spectrometry to measure the exchange rate even when it is impossible to separate individual compounds and identify their structure with other methods."
"Light crude oil reserves are depleting. Hydrocracking of fuel oil, which is characterized by its highly complex and poorly studied molecular structure, is playing an ever greater role in gasoline production. Hydrocrackers are expensive, they are not produced in Russia, and they require the use of special catalysts. We have found a way to identify furans, pyridines, and naphthenic acids in crude oil without having to resort to the complex distillation process," says Yury Kostyukevich, one of the authors of the paper and a senior researcher at Skoltech and MIPT laboratories. "We hope our research will help better understand crude oil structure and composition, contribute to the development of new catalysts for more efficient oil refining, and enable improved oil quality monitoring in trunk pipeline systems."
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Newsweek / 6/26/19
Two million years ago, humans may have been eating 11-foot-tall, 1,000-pound giant birds, scientists say
В одной из пещер Крыма российские палеонтологи обнаружили останки огромной нелетающей птицы возрастом около 1,5 млн лет. По оценкам ученых, птица достигала 3,5 метров в высоту, весила около 450 кг и могла довольно быстро бегать. Это первое свидетельство существования гигантских птиц в северном полушарии - ранее считалось, что они существовали только в Австралии, Новой Зеландии и на Мадагаскаре.
When ancient humans first arrived in Europe they may have lived alongside some of the biggest birds to walk the Earth - 11-foot-tall, 1,000-pound ostrich-like creatures.
Until recently, gigantism in birds was thought to be confined to the distant lands of Madagascar, New Zealand and Australia. The biggest known species are elephant birds, which lived towards the end of the Quaternary period (about 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago). These creatures were estimated to have had a body mass of up to 1,500 pounds. In comparison, the common ostrich weighs in at around 300 pounds.
"Fossil birds of such an impressively giant size have never been documented from Europe or the Northern Hemisphere in general," scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences noted in a paper published in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology.
However, excavations at the Taurida Cave in the Crimean Peninsula led to the discovery of an enormous species of bird.
The species is not new - it had previously been identified from fossils found at sites in Eastern Europe before. But until now it was not clear when it lived or whether early humans would have had contact with it.
Scientists say the bird, named Pachystruthio dmanisensis, was likely a flightless creature. Its femur, which was long and thin, suggests it was a fast runner. After analyzing the bone, the team say it probably reached around 11 foot in height and weighed in at almost 1,000 pounds - equivalent to a polar bear.
Pachystruthio was found alongside ancient bison bones and other fossils, allowing scientists to date it to between 1.5 and two million years ago. This is comparable with the age of a nearby archaeological site thought to be the earliest evidence of hominins outside of Africa.
Nikita Zelenkov, lead author of the study, told Newsweek these first people probably did not hunt the creature: We do not have yet evidence of any interactions with early humans, but any kind of them must have existed. I do not think that it was a dangerous animal, and it's running ability likely prevented from being a prey of early people."
Other animals living in the region at the same time as Pachystruthio include giant cheetah, giant hyenas and saber-toothed cats. Its ability to run was likely key to its survival, the researchers say.
They currently do not know which bird species Pachystruthio is most closely related to. Excavations are continuing at the cave site it was discovered in, and Zelenkov says they hope to unearth more bones to better understand the species.
© 2019 NEWSWEEK.
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Сезонный сброс воды из Саяно-Шушенского водохранилища позволил археологам Института истории материальной культуры РАН сделать на территории зоны затопления несколько редких находок эпохи Великого переселения народов.
An astonishing archaeological site dubbed the 'Russian Atlantis', rich with ancient treasures dating from the Bronze Age to the era of Genghis Khan, has risen from the deep after 15-metre waters in remote Siberia briefly receded.
The race is now on for researchers to uncover as many artefacts as possible before the 600-square kilometre zone is once again covered with water.
Ancient human remains in more than 100 burial sites have been discovered, along with a wealth of extraordinary artefacts, trinkets and jewellery belonging to the ancient nomadic Hun population from approximately 2000 years ago.
Last year a Siberian "sleeping beauty" was uncovered at the remarkable site which reveals itself annually and is located in the mountainous Tuva Republic in southern Siberia. Archaeologists initially believed "sleeping beauty" was a priestess, but she is now considered to have once been a leather designer.
"This site is a scientific sensation," Dr Marina Kilunovskaya from the St Petersburg Institute of Material History Culture, who leads the Tuva Archeological Expedition, said. "We are incredibly lucky to have found these burials of rich Hun nomads that were not disturbed by grave robbers."
What treasures have been found at 'Russian Atlantis'?
Some of the mummies have been described as "fashionistas" by Dr Kilunovskaya. They were found with fragments of leather, threads and spindles which could have carried a special role in Huns society, she told The Siberian Times.
"Huns cherished women," Dr Kilunovskaya said. "It wasn’t a matriarchy, yet women - mothers and skilled artisans - were treated with great respect."
Jewellery belonging to the nomadic Xiongnu warrior people, adorned with scenes of tigers fighting dragons, have been found during excavations. Dr Kilunovskaya's team have also marvelled over beautifully crafted and well-preserved bronze bulls, horses, and snakes. Other treasures from the underwater 'Russian Atlantis' are believed to have come from ancient China. Archaeologists have established silk, mirrors and coins at the site were made during the Han dynasty time (206BC-220AD).
How has 'Russian Atlantis' emerged?
But researchers fear the site, which will fill with water and freeze in the bitter Siberian winter, is at risk of damage in the future. Waters will rise again at the beginning of July, opening up a window of several weeks to conduct their work. The site sits on the so-called Sayan Sea, a giant reservoir upstream of the Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam, Russia's biggest power plant.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019.
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На острове Котельный (архипелаг Новосибирские острова) якутские палеонтологи обнаружили скелет мамонта со следами обработки на бивнях, оставленными предположительно древним человеком.
The remains of a woolly mammoth found preserved in Siberian permafrost were accompanied by man-made weapons dating back 10,000 years, according to experts from the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia. Located on Kotelny Island in the Russian Arctic, the bones and tusks both showed signs of human modifications.
"Traces of processing, presumably by an ancient man, were found on the tusk fragments," mammoth expert Innokenty Pavlov told the Siberian Times. "The state of tusk remnants clearly points that the humans sliced it to make implements (and weapons)."
Fragments of ivory had sharp edges that could have been used for hunting, which led the scientists to believe this site was used by ancient humans to carve off slivers of mammoth tusks to make spears and tools. Further research may reveal whether the giant animal was killed by the sharpened tusk of a previously hunted mammoth. "We will do radiocarbon dating of the remnants, but for now we can say that the age of the tusk is not less than 10,000 years old," said Pavlov.
During the Pleistocene Era, Kotelny Island was connected to the Siberian mainland, and the region is well-known as a burial ground for the extinct woolly mammoth.
According to the researchers, the "Golden mammoth" discovered this summer may be a member of a previously undescribed "mini-mammoth" species that lived during the last ice age. The fully grown specimen measures just seven feet tall, which is less than half the height of a typical woolly mammoth. The remains of the Golden mammoth are covered in sand and embedded in underwater permafrost, and are only visible at low tide on Kotelny Island.
In August 2018, Russia announced the launch of a $5.9 million cloning facility to attempt to bring back the woolly mammoth and other extinct species.
The experts collaborated with the Russian Geographical Society and the Russian Ministry of Defence to organize the expedition.
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Российские и японские ученые идентифицировали несколько видов клеток, участвующих в формировании зубной ткани. Полученные данные могут пригодиться в разработках по выращиванию имплантатов, полностью идентичных человеческим зубам.
A group of histologists and dentists from School of Biomedicine, Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), teamed up with Russian and Japanese colleagues and found cells that are probably responsible for the formation of human dental tissue. Researchers propose to apply the study outcome within the development of bioengineering techniques in dentistry aimed at growing new dental tissue for patients. A related article is published in the International Journal of Applied and Fundamental Research.
FEFU scientists used human prenatal tissues to study the early stage of development of the embryonic oral cavity during the period when the teeth were set up - from the 5th to the 6th week. They have recognized several types of cells that are involved in the formation of one of the teeth rudiments - the enamel (dental) organ. Among them, chromophobe cells with elongated spindle-shaped form have been identified which are also responsible for the development of human teeth in the first weeks of embryo formation. The data obtained can provide a fundamental basis for the development of bioengineering therapies in dentistry and gastroenterology.
"Numerous attempts to grow teeth from only the stem cells involved in the development of enamel, dentin and pulp, i.e. ameloblasts and odontoblasts, were not successful: there was no enamel on the samples, teeth were covered only by defective dentin. The absence of an easily accessible source of cells for growing dental tissue seriously restricts the development of a bioengineering approach to dental treatment. To develop technologies of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine - promising methods of treatment in dentistry - the cells identified by us may become the clue to the new level of quality dental treatment. Natural implants that are completely identical to human teeth will no doubt be better than titanium ones, and their lifespan can be longer than that of artificial ones, which are guaranteed for 10-15 years. Although for a successful experiment, we still have a lack of knowledge about intercellular signaling interactions during the teeth development", said Ivan Reva, Senior Researcher of the Laboratory for Cell and Molecular Neurobiology, School of Biomedicine, FEFU.
The scientist noted that large chromophobe cells reside not only the place where the teeth of the embryo form, but also exist at the border where the multilayers squamous epithelium of the oral cavity passes into the cylindrical epithelium of the developing digestive tube. This means that the new bio-engineering approach is relevant not only for growing new dental tissue but also for growing organs for subsequent transplantation and likely will be applied in gastroenterology.
The development of new biological approaches for the teeth reconstruction with stem cells is one of the most pressing tasks in dentistry for the upcoming years. There are still a lot of questions challenging the researchers. For example, scientists have yet to figure out how in the earliest stages of human embryo development, from the seemingly homogeneous, and in fact, multilayered ectoderm, which is located in the forming oral cavity, different types and forms of teeth develop. However, it is already clear that more kinds of cells are engaged in the earliest stages of human teeth formation than it was previously supposed. Thanks to the research of FEFU scientists in cooperation with their colleagues from Russia and Japan, it also became clear that the crown of the tooth and its root have different mechanisms of formation.
Copyright © 2019 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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Озеро Байкал оказалось под угрозой « избыточного туризма» - с января по август прошлого года там побывало около 1,6 млн человек. Основная проблема - строящиеся вдоль берега отели, во многих из которых отсутствуют системы канализации и сбора мусора.
If the spectre of "overtourism" has become a familiar one in the last few years, so too have the identities of the places that are deemed to have become afflicted by it. Venice, crowded out by cruise passengers; Dubrovnik, struggling under the epic weight of its Game-of-Thrones-fuelled celebrity; Machu Picchu, "welcoming" more visitors in "retirement" than it ever did during its "working life" as an out-of-town retreat for the Inca emperor.
But if we have come to expect too much and too many in some of the planet's most feted cities and historic sites, it is still a shock to hear that overtourism is now seen as an issue at the lake that stands out as one of the biggest geographical features of Siberia.
And Lake Baikal is certainly big. So big that if you look at a map of Russia, in even hemisphere-wide scale, you can see if with your naked eye - tattooed onto the atlas like a crescent of blue in a vast ocean of green. There it sits, barely 100 miles north of the Mongolian border, a hop (in Far Eastern terms) of about 1,000 miles from the frontier with China - an inland sea somehow dislocated from the broader Pacific; a long, curved abdominal scar on the lower torso of the globe's largest country.
Several noteworthy facts underpin its considerable enormity: Lake Baikal is the world's biggest freshwater lake by volume. It is also the world's deepest, plunging to a maximum depth of 5,387ft (1,642m). Research by the United States Geological Survey in 2012 suggested that it may even be the oldest, dialling back its story by some 30 million years. And although it is only the planet's sixth largest freshwater lake by surface area - eclipsed by each of the American trio of Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan - it contains more liquid than the entire Great Lakes system. It is colossal, stretching out to 395 miles at maximum length, and to 49 miles at broadest width. If it were a country, it would be the globe's 136th largest - bigger than Belgium, marginally smaller than Moldova. At 12,248 square miles in area, it is bigger, individually, than each of Armenia, Albania, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Rwanda, El Salvador, and Israel. It has been listed a Unesco World Heritage site since 1996, hailed by the planet's geographical and cultural guardian as "the 'Galapagos of Russia', [whose] age and isolation have produced one of the world's richest and most unusual freshwater faunas."
Such statistics should, you may think, shield Lake Baikal from the modern threat of overtourism. There should be, you might assume, enough of it to go around - particularly if you factor in its relative inaccessibility in a portion of the planet that is both tricky to reach by either air or road - and defiantly frozen for around half the year.
But its reoccurring coldness is part of the problem. It pulled in 1.6m people between the January and August of last year alone. Many of these tourists were attracted to the hard layer of ice - up to 1.5m thick in mid-winter - which coats Lake Baikal between January and April. Tourists come in numbers, not just to pose for photos next to icicle-clad cliffs and ground-to-sky vistas of ghostly white, but to take a drive across a surface that is stong enough to support most vehicles. The insistent urgent roar of snowmobiles is rarely out of earshot when tourist season is in full flow.
And this has helped to trigger something of a rethink in Moscow - a change of tack that could lead to a cap on visitor numbers. "We'll have to artificially limit the flow of tourists to Baikal, as sad as it sounds... to preserve its unique nature and purity," Sergei Ivanov - an aide to Vladimir Putin on environmental issues - said on Tuesday.
In some ways, this is more than a little rich. If there is a growing pollution problem at Lake Baikal - an official from the Russian Academy of Sciences raised eyebrows this week by saying that Baikal's water has become undrinkable - then part of the blame can be directed towards the Putin administration. You cannot blame the current regime in Moscow for the paper mill which sprouted on the lake's shore, in the town of Baykalsk, in 1966 - and belched chlorine and other chemical wastes into the lake for almost half a century. But you can certainly point fingers at the Kremlin for the legislative changes which allowed it to reopen in 2010, two years after it had closed due to unprofitability.
However, local issues run deeper than the side-effects of paper production. Tourism is biting via the widespread construction of hotels - many of them without proper sewage systems or waste facilities - which have been appearing along the shore. In part, these new properties are there to serve the growing Chinese tourism industry - although no one nation is at fault for the surge (of those 1.6m visitors to the lake in the first half of 2018, only 300,000 were foreigners). And the rubbish piling up on Baikal's banks is without nationality. There are "tons of garbage lying on the shore", Ivanov complained this week, adding that the new hotels also have no plan for what happens to its guests' human waste, remarking that "all of it is going into Baikal." The situation is not pretty.
Will anything happen? The Putin regime has hardly shown itself averse to turning a deaf ear to matters which do not suit its agenda, and the president himself is largely impervious to protest. But the Kremlin has also taken recent action when it comes to Lake Baikal. In March, construction on a Chinese bottling plant - in Kultuk, at the south-west tip of the lake - was halted amid environmental concerns and reported political pressure from Moscow brought to bear on the Siberian authorities. The plant was supposed to convey 190m litres of water a year to the Chinese market, but evidence of an oil spill and other industrial damage, uncovered during a site inspection, saw the non-negotiable downing of tools. Whether this will translate to a wider focus on maintaining what was once considered the world's largest source of clean water remains to be seen, but Russia is at least making the right noises - for now.
© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2019.
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